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A Moderator, a Moderator, My Kingdom for a Moderator

Dear Hashers,

This month’s rant is in response to the continued deterioration of Hash-L, the worldwide hashing community e-mail list. To those of you who are not list subscribers, my apologies for subjecting you to something you could care less about. To those of you who are subscribers, I hope you do care. Our little list has all the potential in the world, but in its present state we’re getting damn little out of it. And it’s all our fault . . . please help us make it better.

On On,
Flying Booger

This rant started with a typical Hash-L incident. Hasher X sent an e-mail with an attachment, and was immediately challenged by list member Hasher Y, who pointed out that the Hash-L FAQ asks members not to send attachments, for various good reasons. Here’s what happened next:

Hasher Z chimed in:

Hasher Y,

Here’s another thought. If you’re so concerned about bandwidth on hash-l, how about replying only to the person who sent the attachment instead of to the entire list!!

To which I responded:

Hasher Z,

I’ve got an even better idea. Let’s get the keepers of the list to rewrite the “welcome to Hash-L” letter so that it says “please read and comply with the FAQ, but only if you’re a considerate person . . . if you’re a boorish asshole who thinks the rules are for everyone else but you, don’t read the FAQ . . . you wouldn’t comply with it anyway.”

And then Hasher Y and the rest of us can just keep quiet as the assholes do what they’re gonna do anyway, which is to be assholes, because they always have been assholes, and until this list has a moderator, they always will be assholes.

To which yet another hasher rejoined:

Booger . . . I know you’re not advocating a moderator . . . I think Global Trash does all the moderating hashers need.

And now (finally), to this month’s rant:

Hasher Y, Hasher Z, et al,

Er, I am advocating a moderator.

Some Hash-L subscribers have a problem with off-topic posts and attachments. Because of that, all Hash-L subscribers, when they sign up, are asked to abide by three simple don’ts – don’t send chain letters, don’t send virus warnings, don’t send attachments. Most of us regard these restrictions as reasonable. But a few seem to think they violate a fundamental human right; i.e., the right to be an asshole.

If someone in your hash consistently got shit-faced and disrupted the Circle by doing or saying things the majority of your hashers found objectionable, you’d try to get him to change his behavior. If that didn’t work you’d ask him to leave. But suppose that only a minority of your hashers found this person’s actions or words objectionable. What do you do then?

This is where we are, I think, with people who send chain letters, virus warnings, and attachments to Hash-L. Only a minority of Hash-L subscribers has a problem with this behavior. Do we respect the minority, or do we look the other way?

I think we should respect minority opinion on this issue.

First of all, if chain letters, virus warnings, and attachments are not a problem for you, they are a problem to others. Not having chain letters, virus warnings, and attachments posted to the list is no problem for anyone.

Second, there’s a valid reason for protecting and respecting minorities. There was a time when the majority of Americans would have cheerfully supported rounding up Chinese immigrants and putting them to sea in leaky canoes. Majority rule without minority protection is mob rule.

Third, this Hash-L minority includes almost all of our remaining international subscribers. This list used to have a healthy international membership, but now there are only a few subscribers left to give us the Australian or Asian or European perspective on hashing. If we run them off, this’ll be strictly a North American hash list. Do we want that?

I would never advocate censoring Hash-L. The alternative list that hasher mentioned is a censored list. The owner spikes on-topic posts when he disagrees with the message or has a problem with the author. Subscribers don’t get to read anything that goes against the party line.

“Moderated” is a slightly different concept. On a moderated list, as long as a message is on-topic it’s supposed to be posted. If it’s off-topic or breaks clearly stated rules it doesn’t get posted. Of course, you’d have to be able to trust the moderator to always be able to tell the difference between “moderating” and “censoring.”

As long as I’m forced to choose between a censored list and an uncensored list, I’ll take Hash-L. But I yearn for a third choice: a moderated hash list.

If I thought we could convince Hash-L subscribers to quit sending chain letters, virus warnings, and attachments, I’d join the list police who make it their mission to remind miscreants of the “rules.” But after seeing the same folks break the rules over and over, it should be obvious to everyone that they’re doing it deliberately, not out of ignorance, and that they’ll never change. That’s why I’m in favor of a moderated list.

- Flying Booger

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