For those of you who don't know, Markos recently published his draft of the new Community Guidelines for Daily Kos. There are two sections that have particular impact on the Caucus Project. Here's the most important of the two:
I'M SYMPATHETIC, BUT WILL STILL NOT ALLOWMarkos rules diary
1. Debate-free zones.
Some users have asked about the ability to declare their diary off-limits to their detractors, so that they can discuss a topic without having opponents intrude. This would apply to internally contentious issues like Israel-Palestine, Snowden-NSA, and guns. Or primaries where the community is divided among the contenders.
While I find some validity in the request, and considered it deeply, fact is it conflicts with the debate-centric focus of the site. We're not an echo chamber, nor do I want it to become one. So if you want to be spared dissent, Daily Kos just won't be the place for you. If you can't handle dissent, then maybe political activism is not the thing for you.
There is one exception to this rule (the I Got The News Today diary highlighting those who lost their lives in our wars). There might be cause for additional exceptions in the future, but permission to do so can only come from site administration.
When I conceived the Caucus Project, my idea was to create a space on Daily Kos that was not a mosh pit, not because I don't like mosh pits--as most of you can attest, I wade into most flamewars around here--but because I don't want to be in a mosh pit all the time, not even in my capacity as activist. Why? Because it's very hard to get anything done in a mosh pit. And you sure as hell can't make plans in there.
While Daily Kos does plenty of work around campaigns, especially in the generals, and also does some very praiseworthy charity and solidarity work, I felt there was a lot of energy around here that could be put toward asking "What can we do about x?" instead of just hurling flaming pies at each other nonstop.
Some others agreed, and the Caucus Project came to be. The idea was essentially that the diarist would establish the baseline premise of the diary-- for instance, I want to repeal the Patriot Act--and people would not be able to fight against repealing the Patriot Act in that particular diary, because the diary would not be for the purpose of debate, but for the purpose of like-minded people coming together and figuring out what to do. Instead of the diary's basic question being "Should the Patriot Act be repealed?" the basic question was "How should we, who want to repeal the Patriot Act, best act to get that done?" My argument was that people can, of course, oppose the premise of any Caucus diary in their own diary and have a rousing debate. There was plenty of room on the site to debate, in my view--it's not like the old days when you got only one diary per day. And as I said repeatedly, any diary critiquing a Caucus diary would get far more eyes than the Caucus diary itself, because vigorous debates and flamewars get far more eyes than dry diaries about strategy and tactics and action planning.
Well, Markos has said no to that, as you see above. We can't prevent people from coming into Caucus diaries and doing everything from debating to trolling. People have remarked that we can use the rules against threadjacking to keep trolling to a minimum in Caucus diaries, but here are the threadjacking rules:
7. Threadjacking.Language like "can't be easily defined" "easiest to call it out when it occurs together with violation of other rules" and "subjective on a variety of levels," does not lead me to place much reliance on this rule as a way of keeping the discussion troll-free, even while I acknowledge that Markos' points in this regard are well-taken. I see the problems in site administration making a definitive judgement for all time about threadjacks, but the fact remains that this rule is unlikely to help us much in practice.
This is a fun one, because it truly is subjective on a variety of levels. Threadjacking is diverting a comment thread from its original focus. Based on this definition, it's actually hard to find any comment thread with more than 10 comments that doesn't have some threadjacking involved. Our diaries are less of a dictate on what to discuss, and more of a starting point for a free-wheeling discussion. So 99 percent of threadjacking is fine, and actually is what makes our comment threads so much fun.
The actual problem is with malicious threadjacking — the kind of threadjacking designed to derail a productive conversation, whether because the 'jacker hates the diarist, or because s/he is unhappy with the topic of discussion. This is obviously a problem in areas in which the community is internally divided. And it's one of those things that can't be easily defined.
The best way to call out an explicit threadjack is when it occurs together with a violation of one of the other rules — usually the one against personal insults.
I have two ideas as to how we can proceed. Follow me below the Escher orange squiggle of meta for a caucus on how we might successfully have caucuses. :-)
Here's my two ideas, the second of which is not mine, but cosmic debris'. :-)
My first idea is a variation on "ignore them," which I know has a very poor history of success on the Net. This is however, "ignore them" with a difference. In my original diary on Caucus, the idea was that a couple of caucus participants would be designated at the beginning of each caucus diary as moderators for that particular diary. One of their functions was to "tap on the shoulder" caucus participants who had gotten drawn into responding to trolls whether through insults, threadjacking, or whatever. This way, when caucus participants found it difficult to resist responding to a troll--and it happens to all of us--a friendly voice would be there to remind them of what we were actually there for, to ask them to disengage from the fight and come back where their voice was needed--because a caucus participant who is engaging with a troll is a voice lost to the real discussion. It's essentially a way for us to care for ourselves and the community that wants to discuss strategies and plan actions. I also feel this role need not be limited to designated moderators; I just want to have a couple people who definitely will be doing it.
I see nothing in the rules to preclude this.
We all have to commit to this to give it a chance of working, but I think that responding to a friendly voice asking me to disengage and come back to the discussion would be easier for me than relying on some internal "will power." It is extraordinarily hard for people with a certain kind of temperament or training to allow false statements, illogical statements, or cruel statements to simply stand unchallenged. In fact, part of what activism is all about is challenging just those kind of statements. That's why it's very hard to choose not to take the bait. I think we can do it better as people who trust each other and remind each other what's really important than as individual tough guys and gals who have so much intelligence and will power that we never ever take troll bait. Because at the end of the day, we all take troll bait at least occasionally.
The second idea comes from cosmic debris. She or he notes that Meteor Blades and other environmentalist Kossacks do some work coming up with action ideas offsite and only publish the products of such planning on Daily Kos. This is certainly another possible way of approaching the problem. We can go to Facebook (or elsewhere) and set up a space where we can do strategic debates, tactical discussions, and action planning, and bring the end results here as Action Diaries. I think it might be best to hold this idea in reserve and see if we need it, but if people want to begin it right now, I'd be open to the idea. I actually think it's a very good idea, but one which may not be necessary.
These are my two ideas for continuing to take the Caucus Project forward.
I'd like now to throw the floor open to see what ideas you guys have for how to take this forward.