We are about to move ahead with the Caucus Project, and look forward to having some focused, lively, productive discussions that hopefully will lead to actions both online and off. Many thanks to all those who have participated in the conversation thus far, and for all of your good ideas (many of which I have incorporated below). So, this is the Next-to-Last Meta Caucus diary.
It was going to be the Last, but it seemed to me that the discussion of finding/creating an offsite working space is not part of the discussion of how Caucus diaries are going to work, but more a discussion of how we’re going to continue to organize as a community if they don’t work (by getting an offsite place to do the work and then publishing it here). So there will be one more diary after this, to discuss Plan B: Offsite Options..
Summary of how we got here
Many of us on Daily Kos were getting very tired of the constant flame wars, which we felt were actively impeding our ability to have any other kind of productive conversation on the site. To address this, I proposed a new kind of diary: the Caucus Diary. First Caucus Diary
My belief was that there’s a place in political activism both for fierce debate with opposition, and for meetings of like-minded people to plan action. In other words, if a group of people want to repeal the Patriot Act, they should be able to write a diary entitled Let’s Figure Out How to Repeal the Patriot Act, and strategize and plan actions in that diary, without having to debate in that diary whether the Patriot Act was good or bad. (Of course, anyone who disagreed with the premise of a Caucus diary was free to publish their own diary disagreeing with it).
Markos ruled that Caucus as a space where debate was limited was not allowable on his site. However, enough people still wanted to do Caucus that I wrote another diary with a proposal for how to effectively have Caucus diaries within Markos’ rules. Second Caucus Diary
Follow me below the orange squiggly for Caucus Mark II.
Caucus Mark II
I went through the comments to my last diary to pull out the concrete suggestions people had and combined them with my original one, which was:
1) Tapping. In a Caucus diary, the diarist picks two or three people at the beginning of the diary to serve as tappers.
“Tapping” works as follows: Someone comes into a Caucus diary and starts an off-topic thread. A Caucus Participant gets drawn into responding to the off-topic thread. The tapper “taps” the Caucus Participant on the shoulder and encourages him/her to bring his/her voice back to the discussion, where it’s needed. When tapping, it’s encouraged to use language that is as de-escalating and tactful as possible, as in “Southern Liberal in MD, remember we’re discussing how to repeal the Patriot Act. We need your input in the discussion,” rather than “Dammit, SLMD stop feeding that fracking troll. He’s fracking up the whole diary.”(h/t Catte Nappe).
One important piece of this that I may not have stated clearly enough: I see shoulder-tapping as something the Caucus community does within itself, as a gesture between people who have agreed that Caucus is a good idea. Tapping would be worse than useless against trolls, as the diary would simply be hijacked into discussions of “Come back to the discussion--But I’m not off topic! Yes, you are—No, I’m not!” That’s why tapping should be directed at those who respond to off-topic threads, not those that start them.
2)Specific titles. (h/t indycam and gulfgal98) The writer of a Caucus diary should strive to make his/her title as specific as possible, to make it clear what the purpose of the diary is. A suggested format is: This is a Caucus Diary requesting that we come up with strategies for action on…diary topic.
3)Polite boilerplate response for threadjackers (h/t indycam and Lisa Lockwood) This technique is for use on people who initiate threadjacks whether deliberately or inadvertently. No implication of trollery needs to be made, as it’s perfectly possible to hijack a thread without bad intentions. A polite boilerplate response saying “This is not the topic of this diary. Please return to the topic,” would be provided in the hopes that the hijack is inadvertent. If the hijack continues, the boilerplate would be followed by…nothing! Anyone who responded to the hijack would be “tapped” (see “tapping,” above.)
4)Politeness in commenting (h/t erratic) It’s important to remember that a Caucus diary is comprised mostly of light, not heat. When you’re commenting, if you feel yourself getting hot under the collar, step away from the screen for a moment, or take a few deep breaths. And when you compose a Caucus diary, remember to keep focused on what you’re trying to achieve. This will go some way toward deterring trolls in itself.
5)Organizing/communicating in Kosmail (h/t 3goldens, although I’m not exactly using her idea) 3goldens had the idea of caucusing in Kosmail, but I think Kosmail is too clunky for an intricate discussion of tactics, should one arise. Nevertheless, I think Kosmail will be very useful for announcing upcoming diaries to Caucus members so that they can show up, and for ironing out problems in the early stages of Caucus.
6)Swarming: a problem. Solutions? (h/t dance you monster). It’s certainly the case that groups of trolls could come into a diary and subvert the tapping solution by answering each other. As I struggle with these issues, I keep coming back to the community, and how we can withdraw ourselves from these fights which drain our energy and time. Although it’s no fun to have a long thread between trolls cluttering up the diary, I think that will have far less capacity to damage our conversations if we stay out of the thread. The question is, what can we do for ourselves, to protect ourselves and nourish ourselves and our work? I think if we use the tools here, we’ll have a good shot of making a go of this. That said, if anybody else has any suggestions on how to deal with swarming, I would be happy to hear them.
So that's it! I feel like we're almost there, and only await the community vetting these guidelines to move forward.
To quote one of my favorite movies, The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, "Onward, to waffles!"