A recent tempest in a teapot makes me think that I should restate our policy and process on limiting and/or locking user accounts. I think that I have covered some of this before, but it's good to be open about how this works.
The senior admins, a.k.a. 'the gods' (ref: The Power Structure of Everything2) have both punitive and beneficial powers for managing the user base, over and above the content-management powers* with which we are all familiar.
Punitive powers and their usage have evolved considerably from the early days of e2. In the elder days the punitive tools were rather coarse: locking accounts by replacing the user password, silencing a user in the catbox with EDB, and 'cursing' users by removing XP. dem bones long ago began moving us away from these negative-feedback options. As well, the e2 coders gave us more fine-grained control over user permissions. As such both the 'curse' and EDB are largely retired, and account locking, while still sometimes used, is reserved for a last resort.
In preference to fully locking an account, which denies a user all access, we can restrict an account from posting writeups. This power is used not infrequently to control overt trolling, posting of commercial content and hate speech, and other antisocial-to-e2 behaviour. I have used this a few times in 2006. Reasons include blocking semi-commercial content from a user with an amateur porn site and to prevent the continual reposting of semi coherent holocaust denial material. In the vast majority of cases, this power is used to block level 1 users who have no intention of really contributing to the site.
Senior admins can also suspend a user's ability to cool, vote, or post home node pics. I can't remember the last time that any of these was used ... usually folks who have earned the levels that grant these powers don't abuse them.
Accounts are rarely fully locked. If they are it is typically for flagrant anti-social behaviour, such as abuse of fellow noders in the chatterbox. Instead of password changing we now have a "lock/unlock" function which simply disables user log-in. It if very rare that an active user with a history of acceptable content will have an account locked. Usually these folks value the community and know our rules of conduct.
Sometimes users themselves ask for the account to be locked as part of leaving the site. More often they want the account deleted. Why don't we do that? It is more problematic for us than it seems -- much of the code and data keeps hooks to the user account (node heaven, message tables, etc.) so we prefer to simply lock accounts. In cases where the user insists that the account be 'deleted' we can rename the account and clear any personal data from it. I've taken to renaming an account using the nodeID in such cases, so if I was removing, say, Dman I'd rename his account something like DMan12345. This also lets me 'free up' the account names of long-fled users when someone else wants to use the same name.
In closing, two things: First, you can assume that if a user account is locked, the entire admin team will be aware of the reasons and in agreement, and that I'll tell you about it here if I possibly can. Second, sometimes a rumour of barbarous and Draconian admin behaviour is just that, a rumour.
Magic powers of Lord Brawl
Simply put, there are none. Some folks seem to think I have special access to e2's innards. Nope. I have the same powers as all of my peers in e2gods. Any advantages I have are largely due to longevity on the site, so that I know how and where to do things. My programming background also occasionally lets me manipulate minor things in perl. I'm deathly afraid of corrupting the database or bringing down the site, though, so I'm ultraconservative about messing with the code.
Slow times in New Writeups
There's been talk that we're having a content drought. Perhaps so, but I don't think it's because we are frightening away droves of new users. Perhaps we need to freshen up the look -- ktherjoker's proposed new front pages may help when ready. Maybe we need to recruit new users more actively? Where would we find the sort of folks who would like it here? Well, odds are you all know someone. Invite them to e2! If that's something you're not comfortable with, I'd love to know why. Day logs might be the best place for responses to this question -- private messages to me will take a while to collate and post. If a theme or themes emerge, I'll try to fix any problems that I am able to tackle.
Which brings us to another item. paraclete has presented a proposal on her home node:
Limited terms for Content Editors
While I'll assume you've just popped off to read it, and are now back, I'll recap it so that she can remove it later on and this log will still be somewhat coherent. In a nutshell, paraclete opines:
- that the pool of Content Editors is a little stagnant.
- there was very little in the way of rotation of new blood.
- some CEs have been hanging onto their sheriff's badge for over 4 years now.
Let me address some of those points.
When I took over for dem bones back in November, I spent a month or two getting used to the different demands of the role, and then I embarked on a project to refresh the CE pool. I also wanted to make the process more transparent, to reduce the appearance of cronyism. In December I asked for bios from current and potential CEs. I then spent most of two months confirming the interest of current CEs, talking to applicants, and trying to pick a balanced crew of people for my first CE intake.
I think that worked pretty well. I tried to pick folks with different perspectives, to respect the input of current admins and senior users, and get a team of folks who'd loved e2 and would try hard. Not everyone was happy and there was some pain, but in the main I think the new folks are doing well. I mishandled communications with some of the folks I didn't pick, which was probably my biggest mistake.
At the time, dann and I had discussed the idea that all admins ought to be *active* users of the site. I was reluctant for a couple of reasons - I hadn't yet gotten a good feel for what every admin was doing, and I myself wasn't noding the way I wanted to. I wasn't going to ask the CE team to do something that I wasn't doing myself!
Enough time has passed that I now feel comfortable making 'active noder' a requirement for the Content Editor team. For now this will simply mean "has made meaningful contributions to the database in 2006" but I expect to make it more concrete (maybe "contributes a meaningful writeup every month") down the road. This means that some longtime CEs will be asked to step up or step out.
After some thought (not to mention getting privately ripped!) I am not going to hold the e2gods team to the same standard. I'm going to strongly recommend it, but not require it. MY main reason for this is that a number of the e2gods contribute to the site in specific ways that don't generate writeups. Some of them are our coders. Some offer us legal advice and guidance. Some are responsible for e2's servers and/or access to U. Mich. bandwidth. In short, there are folks in 'gods' who are important to the site in ways that the user base can't always see. In an ideal world they would be in a different category than 'gods'. However they often need some admin access, and this is a case where the site design thwarts major change. It tends to say "if god or CE" on permissions in several hundred places, each in slightly different ways. It's just not worth the hassle of trying to make a big change. So, not all of the e2gods will be active noders. (one or two current CEs are moving to the e2gods team for this reason.)
I'll promise you this -- gods who are actively working as CEs, editing user content, marking writeups for removal, etc. will be held to the same standard as the CEs.
Ahem. Dude! Limited terms for Content Editors?
Oh yeah, right. I'm not yet ready to go there. I see the appeal in some ways - I'd love to be actively rotating in qualified users, and to give some current CEs a break so they could node more and enjoy the site. At the same time, I have a number of qualms. Among them:
- Managing CEs is a bunch of work for me. I manage at my real job, and now I manage at my hobby.
I am not eager to make my hobby into yet more work.
- Some of the long-time CEs are the backbone of e2 - they have been a long time in the traces, but they're active, helpful, and not too obviously loco. I don't want to lose the services of these folks due to a time limit. But I also don't want to create yet another class of editors.
And I don't want to solve this by making even more e2gods.
It may be possible to solve these problems, but I'll need some time to think of the ramifications, and talk to some folks. So I'll do that and report back in a future ed. log. In the meantime, perhaps some of the CEs will volunteer to take sabbatical.
Paraclete touched on a few other items:
- The level system and opportunity for 'advancement': This is a big topic which I'll leave for now, in hopes of doing justice to it later.
- The "one out, one in policy" for CEs that she alludes to isn't fully accurate. It's more the case that I thought the CE pool was overstocked. I really want less CEs who are more active, but at the same time I want CEs from different time zones, specialties, etc. which drives the numbers up. 30 seems to be a "sweet spot" in terms of having CEs around without swarming the site, and without overloading my span of control. But it's not an absolute.
- "There may be users out there who would be just as good, given the chance. But who just aren't being given the chance, and just won't ever be, under the current system." I've managed the CE alias for just over 6 months and have made one set of changes. I've been planning to make another set soon anyway, and this gives me the necessary nudge to get it done now. I think I can keep it reasonably dynamic without term limits. I'm not sure I can make a specific commitment though - again, I need to consider and discuss this further.
dann suggested to me once in another context that we hold some sort of vote. An e2 election has all kinds of interesting implications: campaigning, voting, ballot stuffing, and possible victory by a "troll ticket" (I'll let you guess who I imagine would be on it). Yet the idea of letting the user base vote on some CE positions does have appeal. If nothing else it'd be an interesting way to generate a short list for a new CE intake. But yet again, the mechanism and controls need some thought.
This raises the obvious question "Who is Lord Brawl that he gets to decide all these things?" Fair enough. I'm someone that dann (and dem bones) picked to manage the CEs. Somebody has to do it, I had lots of admin experience here, and I think I do a decent job of it so far. The time may come when it's my turn to take a sabbatical, too -- but not quite yet, I think. In the meantime the admins and I do try to listen to your comments and criticism and to make e2 an open place. Please keep asking, suggesting, and questioning.
* One of my peers notes that I could also mention "the 5 XP penalty that was sometimes invoked when nuking a wu." To be honest, I don't remember this mechanism clearly. Long discarded, I think. In any case, writeup removal on e2 as implemented today subtracts 1 XP, to balance the 1 XP that was granted when the writeup was created.