Been thinking about this for a little while. The HR, as noted here is somewhat painful.
That diarist has similar thoughts to my own, observing correctly that it is the same Kossacks thrashing on one another regularly.
Of course, this isn't the first time. We weather these storms from time to time. The topics vary, the players vary, but the common element is a lot of non-productive comments, diluting of what should be otherwise growing community and thought and inspiration to action.
What to do?
In the past, I've tried putting material out there people can use to stiffen up their responses to other people and or clarify things to a core argument, perhaps agree to disagree.
Then there was "Hey, let's put daylight on it!" And I would tag people with something like, "THERE IT IS!!" searchable for others to understand just who was getting after it a little too much. Really, I don't think most of that did any real good, though some people did get some good info out of the "anti-meta" material.
Kos has picked up the ban hammer a few times, and I hate that one. I hate it because it tends to be a scorched earth kind of thing that leaves scars on a lot of the remaining Kossacks, and we need MORE Kossacks that have more unity and through that influence and impact, not less. Don't blame him though. It's not about that at all. I would have done the same thing.
So here is a thought:
Maybe we can change the core nature of the HR. Right now, it's sort of a badge of approval or disregard. Effects can range from the mild "trusted user" by not getting them and making contributions, which can interestingly fuel more HR events, to warnings and up through the autoban, which I kind of like because it works early on to filter people fairly well.
Because of this, the HR tends to be hostile. We can't actually impact people with the moderation tools without doing some potential harm to them, and really the pie fighting isn't always something that should result in harm. Truth is, people just need to step back and think about it.
And it's really easy to get trusted user status.
Some people lose their ratings ability in these things. Sort of like cutting off one hand to prevent future fighting kind of thing. Messy, and maybe necessary, but I want to propose something else.
What if one of the early impacts of the HR was to simply deny users vowels in their comments? The same could be true for diaries / posts where appropriate, which is where some people might move their commentary now that we don't have a post / diary limit anymore.
So there they are, just going at one another, each thinking it's really important, some HR'ing because they still can, some just commenting a lot, whatever.
People like me see it, and I don't want to just start HR'ing people out of hand. I think I've maybe handed out 5 total since '03? It's just not all that often I see something really ugly, just sort of ugly and that gets abused as Kossacks are well known for skirting the boundaries for long periods of time... Gather a bunch of sharp, politically minded people and what else do we expect?
So then, it's another option! They still remain connected in that they aren't banned, can still comment, but no vowels is going to make them think about it and very likely limit their communications to those things they need to do, which would give them some time to cool down and get their head out of the meta storm.
I've been there. Many of you have too.
Let's disemvowel them! Get a few HR's and it starts, or maybe this can be a blanket thing to make a statement and get people to think a little without cutting them off. Make a list of the people with their heads too far in the game and just assign some random period of time and let them all sort it out and return in fine form sometime in the future after thinking about the mess today.
Here is that last paragraph sans vowels:
Gt fw HR's nd t strts, r myb ths cn b blnkt thng t mk sttmnt nd gt pepl t thnk lttl wthut cttng thm ff. Mk lst f the pepl wth thr hds t fr n th gm nd jst assgn sm rndm prd of tm nd lt thm ll srt t t nd rtrn n fn frm smtm n th ftr ftr thnkng bt th mss tdy.
Well, minus one or two I might have missed, but you get the idea. Maybe take it down to 80 percent vowels, because some key things disappear when they are all missing, and the intent really is to trigger a thought exercise before escalating things any farther. Or a variation could be vowels stripped on words that contain more than 4 letters.
Further, maybe combine some percentage of missing vowels with word letter limits, say 5 or six? Enough to communicate, "Boy that all sucked, I'm sorry" but not enough to really continue to get after it long enough to think it all through?
Just thinking out loud here.
I think it was BoingBoing, who first alerted me to this option. Not sure, but I do know it is not original and I'm not claiming it is. Just putting an idea out there. Who knows, we might turn what is a fairly intense meta conversation into a bag of laughs?