I don't do meta like I used to -- and for those of you who have been here less than three years or so that was A WHOLE LOT -- and I missed most of the current uproar in real time. I'm sad about it, but in doing more reading than I should have done today I realized something about myself as a member of this community that might point a way out of the problem.
That insight into myself is simple: there are some people to whom I will really listen about matters of deportment. They are probably not the same people to whom each of you reading this will listen, but I'll bet that we all have our people here who, if they were to admonish us privately, would have our attention. We tend to be a self-confident bunch in writing and interacting here, trusting in and honoring our own takes on the world, so the status of being someone who can quietly take us to the back room and tell us when we've gone beyond where we should be may be a special and rare one. But it's a resource of which we might consider making more use.
These people might be seen as serving as unofficial site administrators or moderators, but quietly, in a limited range, and to a limited group. Because their job would be to admonish people when necessary, from a position of friendship and respect, I'm going to refer to them as admonishtrators. Surely that horrific of an appellation will quickly stimulate someone else to come up with a better term.
Note that "admonishtrators" will not be your closest friends (although they would generally be considered one's online friends) or your closest play pals on the site (with whom ones dances in excursions of wit, political analysis, glurge, and squee) or even the people whom one most respects (although surely that helps.)
Your admonishtrators are people to whom you'll listen closely when they suggest that you're out of bounds. For me, among those on the masthead, if Susan Gardner, Hunter, and Georgia Logothetis all let me know that I was either wrong or so far beyond the question of "right and wrong" that I had entered the domain of "it doesn't matter if you're right you still have to stop," even as hard-headed as I am I would probably have to concede that there is a good chance that I'd just gone around the bend. And then I'd probably stop before things got out of hand.
Nevertheless, as has been pointed out to me on more than one occasion (yes, I still remember, David Waldman!), it's not fair to presume that front pagers have plenty of time (and will) (and stomach) to -- as I've heard it expressed -- "babysit us." (As Meteor Blades can attest, it is one suckeriffically sucky job.) This really isn't a job for front pagers. It's a job for each others. This is what self-moderation means -- being willing to write that kosmail and ask for a quiet, private conversation with someone one respects because one is concerned that they're damaging themselves and the site.
I get the sense from some people that I may serve as one of their admonishtrators, although I am generally tactless enough to say something in a comments section itself rather than by kosmail. (I'm not being cruel when I do so; I'm just being stupid.) For me, if occams hatchet or clammyc wrote me about something in the old days, I'd surely have thought very deeply before continuing in a course of action; I hesitate to name anyone very active right now who could serve that admonishtrative function for me because I'm afraid that they'd be deluged with people asking them to somehow get me to hush up about one thing or another. (If people really want to know, I'll ask permission to divulge a few of them.)
What I know about these people is that, having seen them in action for a very long time, I trust their sensibilities and their judgment. As stubbornly hesitant as I am to substitute someone else's opinion for my own, for some of these now-longtime online friends, I know that I would feel strongly inclined to do so. And isn't it handy to have people like that around?
This diary itself was prompted when I was reading another meta diary recently -- one that sounded good to me, but again I haven't been that active lately -- and deciding whether I should plant on it one of my relatively few daily recommendations. I saw this person as a recommender and realized that if she thought that the diarist was right -- not about facts, which one should supposedly check onself, but about meta and values questions -- I was extremely likely to agree with her, even if she was admonishing me. And that, in turn, let to my coining the extremely beastly word you see in the diary title.
This may be silly, I wish that on each of our accounts there might be a secret file with the names of our admonishtrators, behind a glass case labeled "break open only in event of emergency," that could be used to summon the wisdom and tact of those to which someone would listen. I've been mistakenly chosen by aggrieved parties to be someone's admonishtrator in the past -- and I tried to comply -- and from those episodes I know that imposing that role from without does not work. I also recognize that such a role might be abused by those with complaints, especially if the identities of one's admonishtrators were widely known. (That's why, in my fantasy, it would be a secret file.) I wonder if it could have served some role in tamping down some of the latest sturm und drang on the site.
Markos won't want to do this, of course (although who knows if Susan Gardner might be intrigued) and I can't blame him. (For one thing, the coding would probably be expensive.) So, if we can't formally nominate three-to-five names to be included on a secret list of one's "admonishtrators," maybe we just have to act as if we serve that role for those Kosters with which we have to most rapport. When they're frantic and dug in, maybe we just need to send that message more often, unsolicited, ourselves, and let them know that we're worried about them, that we value their participation on this site, and that if they feel the need to go away for a while we want to help them do so on their own terms -- ideally their revocable terms.