[KI-LC] Community Banning Thoughts

Joe Andrieu 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, 
wikis, etc.)

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 Andrieu
joe at switchbook.com
+1 (805) 705-8651

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