scouts-l Mail Archive for November of 1999: A Tale Of Two Lists (Censorship)
Anthony Mako (ajmako@NLS.NET
Sun Nov 28 1999 - 13:43:14 CST
I'd like to tell you all a little story. Several years ago when I first
discovered the convenience of email lists I found two that interested me. I
subscribed to both and spent plenty of time posting to both. One was this
list. The other was a basic HTML list.
Both lists had rules, forbidden subjects, plenty of newbies, and a cadre of
antagonists. The major difference between the lists is that one list had a
higher set of rules guiding conduct that was understood by most
participants. In the beginning, Scouts-L was mostly self-moderated while
HWG-Basic was un-moderated. While Scouts-L dealt with the occasional thread
concerning one or more of the 3G's, HWG-Basic dealt with monthly battles
over which is the best browser or HTML editor.
After about a year on both lists, I began to notice a subtle change in
HWG-Basic. It started with an announcement that the list would now be
moderated. At first it wasn't too bad. Whenever discussion got out of hand,
the moderator would send a simple "cease and desist" message to the list.
This lasted for about six months before the list owners announced a new
policy. Each list would have a couple "List Guides" whose job it would be to
moderate discussion. This lead to problems immediately. Interpretation of
the job was inconsistent. Interpretation of the rules was inconsistent. And
there was no appeal.
Three months after the "List Guides" took over, the list owners published a
new set of rules for the list. Several subjects you would expect to see on a
beginning HTML list were now forbidden (merits of various software,
new set of rules also included a graduated set of punishments for breaking
the rules, and a complicated bureaucratic process for appealing the rulings
of the List Guides. The intent of all of this was to make the list a better
place for people new to HTML to learn about it. Almost immediately, though,
the list became a place where those the rules were intended to help were the
ones being hurt by them. It wasn't long after that that the "List Guides"
were referred to as "List Nazis."
Scouts-L, on the other hand, has changed very little since that time. We
still occasionally have discussions that test the rules, but every member of
the list does a very good job of moderating him or herself. Each of us must
remember that we are only visitors here. We don't own the list, but we do
have a say in how it's administered. By following the few simple rules set
for this list, cooperating with the owner, and moderating ourselves we can
keep this list as enjoyable and open as it is.
As a member of this list I have been admonished for things I've said, and
moderated by the owner. I have also dumped many posts before sending them
simply because I felt they weren't right. It's a small price to pay for the
invaluable resource we have. Censorship, on this list or in the "real"
world, is only a problem when we fail to censor ourselves.
AJ Mako, Scoutmaster, Troop 381 http://www.scouts381.org/
Great Trail Council, Old Portage District