[KI-LC] Community Banning Thoughts
joe at switchbook.com
Wed Dec 2 20:20:36 EST 2009
On the call today, I was asked to summarize some thoughts about rules &
procedures for maintaining community coherence by banning particular
individuals from meetings and/or online conversations (emails, forums,
As background, it is my understanding that this is timely because of
issues that came up recently with the OpenID Foundation regarding
inappropriate comments and the subsequent banning of the individual who
made those comments.
Also, I understand some have proposed looking at the microformats
mechanisms for moderating community participation. I have had my own
run-ins with the microformats approach, having been banned temporarily,
ironically, for trying to raise questions about the banning process (in
regards to the banning of another community member). So, I find the
microformats process problematic.
Here are some principles I would like to suggest as a foundation for our
own policy--including how we go about creating it.
First, process over content. Define a process for addressing
inappropriate or unwelcome behavior, rather than attempting to define
what is or is not appropriate. Every community defines its own norms,
and norms change over time. Rather than attempting to define the
behavior, let's define the process we will use when a community finds a
member acting in a way that is inappropriate in the eyes of the
community as a whole.
Second, proactive rather than proscriptive. To the extent that we do
need to specify a boundary for acceptable and unacceptable behavior, so
so by stating the behavior we are looking for, rather than behavior that
is inappropriate. It is essentially impossible to list all possible bad
behavior--any such list would be incomplete. In contrast, it is possible
to proactively state our community behavior goals in a clear, concise
way. Then, we can manage exceptions to those goals when they arise.
Third, distributed rather than centralized application. Allow each
workgroup to be the primary determinate of what is acceptable behavior
and what isn't for their activities. Each work group is a
microcommunity; while the Kantara community at large embodies a set of
shared norms, the individual work groups have the closest perspective in
any given incident, both to the context of the behavior and the history
of the individual(s) engaged. Should the banned party feel the process
was unfair at the work group level, there should be an appeal mechanism
to the full Kantara Leadership Council. Focus on a standard process
creates benefit from a community-tested means for each work group to
resolve its issues. So, standardize the process, but distribute its
Fourth, transparent, documented, and accountable. Banning from comunity
activity is the harshest form of correction we have available to us
(prior to resorting to legal or criminal systems). As such, it should be
used judiciously and in a manner open to scrutiny by the rest of the
community. Secret panels, backroom hearings, and anonymous voting
undermine the ability for a representative leadership to maintain
credibility with members. All proceedings related to banning should be
public and available in a static form (permalinked documentation) in
what is effectively the Kantara public record, including the authorship
of complaints, witnesses, participants in the debate, defenses,
rebuttals, and the final votes leading to acquital or censure.
Fifth, separation of intervention from working processes. Arguments and
debates over banning and related behavior can quickly swamp the
productive channels of collaboration. Since Kantara exists for the
purposes of developing working solutions for Identity and /not/ as a
bureaucratic or judicial end in itself, the banning and associated
review & appeal processes should be cleanly separated from the regular
working meetings of the work groups. We should provide a mechanism
where offending behavior can be called out, the individual notified of
their disruption, and a judgment call made by the moderator/host of the
activity effected if the behavior is so disruptive as to need immediate
intervention, e.g., calling security to get the raving beligerant drunk
out of the work group's session. Then, all subsequent processes related
to that intervention should be off topic for the work group proper,
instead channeled to an appropriate, quasi-public forum for resolving
the issue in due process.
Sixth, correction and not punishment. The goal of a community like
Kantara when banning an individual is to protect the community, not to
punish the individual. Vengeance isn't the appropriate role for a
collaborative organization. Intervention in the case of inappropriate
behavior should be judged by, and implemented for, its effectiveness in
ensuring a healthy, productive environment for quality work.
My guess is that this will eventually require an update to the operating
procedures allowing for the banning of individuals from particular
contexts (meetings, calls, mailing lists, entire work groups, etc.),
since currently any IPR signatory can participate in any work group.
And since we are talking about restricting the ability of an individual
to participate--in effect restricting their liberty--I feel strongly
that we should think through our goals and first seek consensus on the
desired outcome (with buy in from both the LC and BoT) before we start
hashing through proposed language other than strawman illustrations.
That's my $.02 on the topic. Hopefully we can craft something that
incorporates most if not all of these principles.
I look forward to feedback and commentary; I see this as a starting
point for figuring out how we want to deal with correctable problems.
joe at switchbook.com
+1 (805) 705-8651
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