[Martin Taylor 2003.12.09.1647]
As a drop-in, drop-out contributor to CSGnet for many years, maybe I
shouldn't comment on the "moderator" issue, but I will anyway.
If there is to be a moderator, make sure the "volunteer" ("you, you,
and you" knows that it is going to take not only diplomatic skill
but an awful lot of time.
Personally, I empathize with all sides of this tempest in the
CSG-pot. As a non-target, I found certain postings by all parties to
be unnecessarily inflammatory (even if the author had not seen them
that way). Bill P's recommendation not to post anything written while
in an emotional state might help, but there's another way to achieve
much the same thing. Leave messages that contain any non-technical
material unposted until after a night's sleep.
Like Bill, I don't like moderation of an e-mail list. But they can
work well. I belong to the System Dynamics (moderated) list. CSGnet
does some things better, other things worse. What CSGnet does better
is to gently warn newbies of the posting conventions, such as the
time-stamp to start the message, and the quote of the time-stamp in a
response. I sometimes find it quite hard to link messages on the SD
list with what they are commenting on. What the SD list does better
is to keep focus on the technical questions. I don't know whether the
moderation or the moderator has this effect, but it does make the
list a more pleasant one to read.
One inherent difference between any CSG mailing list and the SD list
is the fact that there are a lot of "canonical forms" of SD, but only
one of PCT. The SD list has many contributors with the status of
"guru." CSG list has one plus a "loose canon" (to dredge up some
ten-year-old history). At least some of the unpleasantness of recent
postings has probably been enhanced by this. Changing to a moderated
list won't help.
On balance, I come down on the side of "social moderation" rather
than formal moderation. If we could develop a convention similar to
the one we use to get newbies to post their time-stamps, we might get
a list that we could point our friends toward. That convention is to
encourage non-involved readers to point out to a poster that their
words might be misconstrued as provocative (or worse, correctly so
construed). That kind of intervention might slowly bias the
conversations toward the more purely technical and less hurt feelings.
As Rick said a couple of weeks ago when Bill said he and I were
doomed to fight--we can argue enthusiastically about technical
matters, while still thinking of each other as good people. Good
technical fights, particularly those that end in agreement, are a way
to advance a science (or even a technology, sometimes). I remember
the first time I met Rick was after an e-mail fight, before I knew he
was really a nice guy. My name badge said "Canon Fodder", and I think
the joke made it easy to make friends. Jokes can be useful, but only
if they are obviously jokes--and in e-mail it's hard to write a joke
that is guaranteed to be seen as one.
I'm rumbling ... rambling, sorry--I didn't mean to pick a fight.