Author Topic: internal conflict  (Read 19705 times)

Ben Phillips

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on: October 02, 2009, 03:26:37 AM
If you're over here in metachat land I assume you've gotten bored with reading about stories and other things that actually matter, and have taken a fascination of some incomprehensible kind with things more internal to the company.  If not, then please disregard this post and proceed as you were, with my blessing and more than a little of my envy as well.

For some time, conflicts of an unsavory sort have plagued us, mainly personality conflicts between Rachel Swirsky, Russell Nash, and others.  Although I count myself lucky to have worked with each of these hard working individuals, their behavior on our forum has not always made me proud.  The incidents of which I speak are hopefully fewer and farther between than I estimate, and maybe you haven't even noticed them.  I hope not.  It is not too late to stop reading this and go play Picture Association or something fun like that.  Go on.  Go.

Okay...  The long and the short of it is that my desperate wish of the past year, that all of this would just simply get better on its own without some clumsy, heavy handed interference from above, hasn't panned out.  The first PodCastle tagline poll, as posted by Zorag/Zathras, was upstaged and eventually shut down.  The first flub was thanks to Z's own brilliant indiscretion in posting the entries, many of which were not sincere entries at all but really quite unreasonable insults aimed in PodCastle's direction -- and about which he was talked to by Bdoomed and Heradel both -- the (IMO) least offensive yet most inane of which still made it into the finalists listed in the poll...  somehow.  Rachel complained about this on the poll thread, people blasted her, someone -- probably Rachel -- edited out the entry and reset the votes, Zathras overreacted and trashed the entire poll, and Russell Nash criticized Rachel publicly for complaining publicly.  On the same poll thread.

Not really our proudest moment, all around.

Meanwhile, I've been laid off from my day job and I'm trying to get Pseudopod's production schedule caught back up, procure some legal documents so we can get some sponsorships underway, and generally actually accomplish things.  Not that I don't love taking breaks to deal with garbage like this.  In fact, in general editors shouldn't have to, and I've told Rachel this; but the sense of ownership and dedication she has, combined with an understandable sense of camaraderie with, and protectiveness of, the contributors just won't let her rest.  However, it would appear that in the opinion of, say, Russell Nash (whose own loyalty and protectiveness of EA is completely impeccable and beyond dispute -- albeit with the possible exception of PodCastle and its staff...), she is too heavy handed as a moderator.  And frankly, with that general assessment I tend to personally agree.  Skillful forum moderating is in no way a trivial task, and like Russell and a (thankfully small) number of other people around here, she may have too much of a tendency to post, etc., before entirely calming down first.

So, I am asking Rachel to let Heradel do the moderating.  And with great reluctance, I am also asking Russell Nash to step down as a moderator.  I take no pleasure in doing this, as I fully recognize that, like the editors, hosts, and other staff, he's spent an immense quantity of time helping shape the company -- of course, particularly the forum -- into what it is.  I sincerely appreciate his considerable past contributions and empathize completely with the zeal he has for seeing the forums run in an appropriate way; and with any luck at all he'll stick around, keep chatting, and report what needs reporting.  But I think it is reasonable of me to ask of everyone working with us that they not decry each other mercilessly in public.  It is not, and never will be, the policy of this company to suppress someone's opinion from being expressed; but we certainly do reserve the right to tell you to calm your tone, post in a more appropriate thread, or take it to private messages -- at some point there is a limit to what constitutes constructive public discourse at all.  In general, given any alternative whatsoever, I personally do not use text communication -- even private messages -- to discuss matters that are likely to be personal and emotionally charged for anyone I'm addressing.  And I am definitely going to go to great lengths to avoid having to do such things in a public forum (hence, among other reasons, my extended hesitation to get involved in this matter).

If you haven't figured it out by now, EA is a shoestring operation.  No one pays us jack to put in the kind of hours it takes to keep this thing running, and that is no small number of hours for the moderators, editors, producers, hosts -- everyone.  We are all essentially just dedicated volunteers who do this because we like it.  So let's, all of us, please do everything in our power to maintain the kind of environment that keeps it fun.

Thanks.



deflective

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Reply #1 on: October 02, 2009, 07:27:15 AM
as one outsider perspective, it's too bad that things came to this point but i'm glad that something has been done.

the bits that i noticed looked like everybody was put on edge after the blog comments were shut down and the moderators were braced to be more proactive & hands on.  this inevitably lead more more conflicts and things spiraled from there.  of course i only see what happens on the open forums in the areas that i read but it looked to be a result of circumstances.

i really hope that Russell sticks around as well.  i've known Russell the moderator for years, it'd be nice to meet Russell.  when you drop the blue stars it can be very liberating.  just the simple freedom to post what's on your mind without worrying about how it reflects on impartiality is a huge weight off, you may be surprised how relaxing it can be.

dunno if you're interested Ben but it could be helpful to arrange things so that moderators can cover for each other.  specifically i'm thinking of creating accounts with the names escape pod, pseudopod & pod castle (or maybe just one account named forum bot) and use these accounts to create the episode threads each week and handle appropriate announcements.  if the passwords were available to all moderators anybody could log in to create the thread when someone is running late and it allows the moderators to change avatars & signatures freely without it becoming associated with the stories themselves.

i'm sorry to hear about your day job.  if you show the same professionalism in a job search that you show here i expect people to be impressed.



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Reply #2 on: October 02, 2009, 08:39:48 AM
As a long time forum member, I am saddened, but not entirely surprised by these news. Russell has done an amazing job moderating over the years, and Rachel is wonderful editor and does a spectacular job running my favourite of three great podcasts, but they both are too similar in many ways - too passionate and strong-willed. This is great for getting things done, but not necessarily great for creating a good atmosphere in the forums, especially when they are in disagreement. I have immense amount of respect to both, and I hope that removing the burden of moderation from their shoulders means that they can participate in the forums more comfortably, rather than less so, in the future.

I have had experience, in the past, of being a forum moderator and volunteer in small, passionate communities, and I know how difficult a task it is, how frustrating, and how easy it is to make mistakes and make minor problems worse out of good intentions. What we, as a forum community, should find surprising is not that there were some friction and some questionable decisions along the way, but how few those were. I'd like to thank Russell and Rachel for all the work they've put in so far, and the rest of the moderating team as well. And thanks, Ben, for stepping in despite your reluctance and doing what needed to be done.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2009, 05:09:33 PM by eytanz »



Jason M

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Reply #3 on: October 02, 2009, 09:56:50 AM
Okay...  The long and the short of it is that my desperate wish of the past year, that all of this would just simply get better on its own without some clumsy, heavy handed interference from above, hasn't panned out.  The first PodCastle tagline poll, as posted by Zorag/Zathras, was upstaged and eventually shut down.  The first flub was thanks to Z's own brilliant indiscretion in posting the entries, many of which were not sincere entries at all but really quite unreasonable insults aimed in PodCastle's direction -- and about which he was talked to by Bdoomed and Heradel both -- the (IMO) least offensive yet most inane of which still made it into the finalists listed in the poll...  somehow.  Rachel complained about this on the poll thread, people blasted her, someone -- probably Rachel -- edited out the entry and reset the votes, Zathras overreacted and trashed the entire poll, and Russell Nash criticized Rachel publicly for complaining publicly.  On the same poll thread.

Not entirely accurate.  Only 1 (or 2, depending on your point of view) of the submissions was posted publicly, the one (or 2) that made it to the poll.  The others were posted after the poll had been modified.

Just setting the time line straight, as can be verified by looking at time stamps for the original Podcastle Poll and the edited posts being referenced.

There is more to it, but really, it's just details and moot now.

Z



Swamp

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Reply #4 on: October 02, 2009, 05:06:36 PM
NOTE: Not that anything I said below is inappropriate, I just wanted to note that I wrote this prior to becoming a moderator.

This is so unfortunate.  I do see the need for something to be said/done in general, but it is still unfortunate.  The public arguments are not good for anybody.  Disputes should be conducted behind the scenes by the EA staff.

Regarding the Podcastle taglines contest, I think the attack entries should have been eliminated upon receipt, not have even been sent on to the judges.  They were only meant to be cruel.  It was cruel of whoever entered them in the contest; and it was cruel of Zathras to air them in public.  I understand him being upset that the contest he set up was altered without any contact or requests, but the reaction was severe and only meant to hurt.

I also see why the inclusion of "me likey" upset Rachel so much due to the previous thread (which I didn't even know about until Heradel provided the link).  As editor, Rachel should not be required to use a tagline she finds offensive.  Regardless of whether the inclusion was meant as a dig or not (I'm betting it was), she had a right to object.  Taking over the poll was not the best way to go about it, however.  I hope she will be able to moderate again in the future.

I am sad to see Russell step down as well.  I have enjoyed his debates and he has been a part of these forums for so long, it seems odd that I won't see his name on the EP episode post or have him warning somebody not to sell their stuff in a story thread.  I hope he continues post as a forum member.

I think a lot of this is EA going through growing pains.  The most important thing in these forums is that we observe the founder's prime dirrective:  Have fun.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2009, 02:39:35 PM by Swamp »

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Praxis

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Reply #5 on: October 02, 2009, 09:20:55 PM
Light-hearted response:  This is bringing me down, man.  Bad vibes.

Serious response: I don't think this thread, or the details of past events, are known or relevant to the majority of EA podcast listeners (the minority of which use the fora, mind) or even to the majority of EA discussion board users.

After it's been up and seen, so that all parties involved can see that this was said publicly, I think it should be removed, to be honest.

I agree with Swamp: growing pains.  This will develop and improve, I'm sure, so let's move on.



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Reply #6 on: October 02, 2009, 09:30:58 PM
I agree, let's move on.  I hope Russell & Rachel keep posting.

I moderate on another forum and we have a private mods' forum where we go to discuss problems, alert each other about spam, and use each other as sounding boards for difficult situations on the public board.  It has helped diffuse conflict.  Not completely, of course, but maybe this could be tried here?  Just a thought.

When will all the rhetorical questions end?


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Reply #7 on: October 03, 2009, 12:22:49 AM
I agree, let's move on.  I hope Russell & Rachel keep posting.

I moderate on another forum and we have a private mods' forum where we go to discuss problems, alert each other about spam, and use each other as sounding boards for difficult situations on the public board.  It has helped diffuse conflict.  Not completely, of course, but maybe this could be tried here?  Just a thought.
:D we have that already.  You just can't see it! :O

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


stePH

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Reply #8 on: October 03, 2009, 02:30:19 AM
It's all gonads and strife.


Gonads.


And strife.

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-- some guy interviewed in Nerdcore Rising


Heradel

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Reply #9 on: October 03, 2009, 03:11:03 AM
It's all gonads and strife.


Gonads.


And strife.

Oi, oi, oi — there are ovaries in there too.

—————

This situation, in a number of ways, sucked.

However, there is some good news out of it and is that Swamp has become the new moderator for EP. I'm sure me and Bdoomed will be helping him settle in over the next few weeks, but I can't think of a better choice, though some may have gotten close to equaling it.

So exult and fear, and be careful with the electronics, because he's a bit damp.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2009, 03:15:36 AM by Heradel »

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stePH

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Reply #10 on: October 03, 2009, 05:10:24 AM
It's all gonads and strife.


Gonads.


And strife.

Oi, oi, oi — there are ovaries in there too.

d00d, ovaries are gonads. 
From Merriam-Webster:

Quote
Main Entry: go·nad
Pronunciation: \ˈgō-ˌnad\
Function: noun
Etymology: New Latin gonad-, gonas, from Greek gonos
Date: 1880

: a reproductive gland (as an ovary or testis) that produces gametes

— go·nad·al \gō-ˈna-dəl\ adjective

"Nerdcore is like playing Halo while getting a blow-job from Hello Kitty."
-- some guy interviewed in Nerdcore Rising


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Reply #11 on: October 03, 2009, 02:57:02 PM
This is Mrs. Zorag/Mrs. Zathras/Mrs. Jason M...

While I don't contribute to this forum very often I enjoy listening to the podcasts and reading the discussions on the forum.  It is unfortunate that facts have been misconstrued to protect someone who is obviously NOT open to objective thinking or allowing people to express their own opinion.
Quote from: Ben, first post in this thread
It is not, and never will be, the policy of this company to suppress someone's opinion from being expressed
  By saying "This discussion is closed" it is limiting people from freedom of expression.

I don't always agree with Zathras and he and I have had many discussions that are left as agreeing to disagree.  We both have strong opposing opinions on a few subjects.  I respect his tenacity in his beliefs and allow him to express them even if I don't agree and vice versa. 

It is one thing for a moderator to say that your tone is out of line and quite another to say this conversation is over.  When I am reading a thread that offends me I simply stop and move on.  If you don't like the direction a thread is heading, you have the choice to simply not read it instead of getting so emotionally charged and halting the open discussion.

I wasn't involved in either of the discussions that this post is referring to.  I do; however, feel that Rachel is wrong for not allowing members to voice their own opinions that differ from hers which is in direct conflict with Ben's statement quoted above.  This issue has been addressed, but I feel it is too little, too late, and terribly one sided.  Yes, Zathras over reacted, but this thread makes it appear that the blame is mostly his.

I have never seen Russell Nash act in a manner that was ascribed to him in this thread.  He has always seemed to me to be an ideal moderator, even when he and Zathras had their little blow up.

I will be leaving the forum and we will be discontinuing our support of EA in all forms.  If you have any questions, PM Zathras.

Good bye.



Heradel

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Reply #12 on: October 03, 2009, 04:00:47 PM
This is Mrs. Zorag/Mrs. Zathras/Mrs. Jason M...

While I don't contribute to this forum very often I enjoy listening to the podcasts and reading the discussions on the forum.  It is unfortunate that facts have been misconstrued to protect someone who is obviously NOT open to objective thinking or allowing people to express their own opinion.
Quote from: Ben, first post in this thread
It is not, and never will be, the policy of this company to suppress someone's opinion from being expressed
  By saying "This discussion is closed" it is limiting people from freedom of expression.

I don't always agree with Zathras and he and I have had many discussions that are left as agreeing to disagree.  We both have strong opposing opinions on a few subjects.  I respect his tenacity in his beliefs and allow him to express them even if I don't agree and vice versa. 

It is one thing for a moderator to say that your tone is out of line and quite another to say this conversation is over.  When I am reading a thread that offends me I simply stop and move on.  If you don't like the direction a thread is heading, you have the choice to simply not read it instead of getting so emotionally charged and halting the open discussion.

I wasn't involved in either of the discussions that this post is referring to.  I do; however, feel that Rachel is wrong for not allowing members to voice their own opinions that differ from hers which is in direct conflict with Ben's statement quoted above.  This issue has been addressed, but I feel it is too little, too late, and terribly one sided.  Yes, Zathras over reacted, but this thread makes it appear that the blame is mostly his.

I have never seen Russell Nash act in a manner that was ascribed to him in this thread.  He has always seemed to me to be an ideal moderator, even when he and Zathras had their little blow up.

I will be leaving the forum and we will be discontinuing our support of EA in all forms.  If you have any questions, PM Zathras.

Good bye.

I'd rather not relive events here, but I believe a response is necessary.

Actually, it's not that rare for a moderator or an editor to lock a thread and say the discussion is over. Steve did it on a number of occasions, usually after things had gotten well past the point of no return. I know I've locked a few. Anyone who has been here since the flash contest has seen their share of locked threads. 

You can say that Rachel locked the thread prematurely, but I seriously considered locking it myself overnight when I was making my last post because I felt the thread could only lead to more bad things. I have no issues whatsoever with her locking it when she did, and had I not be somewhere in REM looking at some abandoned metropolis I would have been very near clicking the lock button myself.

Zathras made a significant error in A. posting any of those taglines to the main thread, and B. actually putting them in the poll when he was posting it. Those taglines were attacks both on Rachel and Podcastle, and personal ones at that. We may have just had a linguistic discussion of 'me likey', but we had a moderator openly criticizing an editor instead of the much more normal route of using a PM or using another private channel of communication. After that, the discussion would have gone nowhere good.

We who moderate on this forum do stop discussions. It is the tool I like least, but it is a necessary one, and one that was deployed justly in this situation.

—————
It's all gonads and strife.


Gonads.


And strife.

Oi, oi, oi — there are ovaries in there too.

d00d, ovaries are gonads. 
From Merriam-Webster:

Quote
Main Entry: go·nad
Pronunciation: \ˈgō-ˌnad\
Function: noun
Etymology: New Latin gonad-, gonas, from Greek gonos
Date: 1880

: a reproductive gland (as an ovary or testis) that produces gametes

— go·nad·al \gō-ˈna-dəl\ adjective

Arg, the connotative meaning overrode what I should have known was the denotation.

I Twitter. I also occasionally blog on the Escape Pod blog, which if you're here you shouldn't have much trouble finding.


Jason M

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Reply #13 on: October 03, 2009, 04:48:58 PM
Clarifying for Zobmie:  As to locking threads, she wasn't talking about the recent events but the original events that were linked to, and locking threads while civil discussions are taking place.  I am being intentionally vague to keep from rehashing things.  This is her response, not mine.  People know the back story or they do not.

Any questions for her can be PMed to me.  She was very upset, and frankly doesn't care anymore and has moved on.

I'm planning on not posting for a while, but needed to reply to this.



Talia

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Reply #14 on: October 04, 2009, 01:25:38 AM
Thread needs less
 

and moar






Anarkey

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Reply #15 on: October 04, 2009, 01:34:08 AM
Talia, you made me go "awwwww", then giggle.  This is dangerous for my reputation as it may lead to someone actually thinking I have a heart and/or am occasionally sappy.  Please desist at once.

Winner Nash's 1000th member betting pool + Thaurismunths' Free Rice Contest!


Bdoomed

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Reply #16 on: October 04, 2009, 04:59:51 AM
Hey, I heard Anarkey had a heart?
Can I get a confirmation of this?

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


Swamp

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Reply #17 on: October 04, 2009, 02:48:28 PM
However, there is some good news out of it and is that Swamp has become the new moderator for EP. I'm sure me and Bdoomed will be helping him settle in over the next few weeks, but I can't think of a better choice, though some may have gotten close to equaling it.

So exult and fear, and be careful with the electronics, because he's a bit damp.

Yes, I am damp and a bit the color of Kermit.  But I am very glad to be more a part of the forums.  I wish it hadn't come on the wings of such a calamity, but that was not a decision in which I was involved.  I have tremendous respect for Russell and all that he has done for these forums, especially after becomeing a moderator myself.  I will just say that you have no idea what Russell, Heradel, and bDoomed have done on behalf of this forum and these podcasts.  That goes for everyone else on the staff as well.  I hope I can measure up.

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Talia

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Reply #18 on: October 04, 2009, 03:03:08 PM
I will just say that you have no idea what Russell, Heradel, and bDoomed have done on behalf of this forum and these podcasts.

Does it involve chickens, sword swallowing, a small donkey and paper mache?


I thought so. I THOUGHT SO.



Swamp

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Reply #19 on: October 04, 2009, 03:20:53 PM
I will just say that you have no idea what Russell, Heradel, and bDoomed have done on behalf of this forum and these podcasts.

Does it involve chickens, sword swallowing, a small donkey and paper mache?


I thought so. I THOUGHT SO.

I can neither confirm nor deny these reports.

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stePH

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Reply #20 on: October 04, 2009, 11:05:32 PM
... and strife.

"Nerdcore is like playing Halo while getting a blow-job from Hello Kitty."
-- some guy interviewed in Nerdcore Rising


Thaurismunths

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Reply #21 on: October 06, 2009, 03:40:57 AM
I'd rather not relive events here, but I believe a response is necessary.
Actually, this is the perfect place to rehash the events, as there are no other threads open to the forum members in which to do so. The original thread was locked, the mod thread is private, and this is perfectly on topic.
I could always start a thread called "Tharusimunths Beats Another Dead Horse", but that'd just be another thread for you volunteers to keep up on.

Quote
Actually, it's not that rare for a moderator or an editor to lock a thread and say the discussion is over. Steve did it on a number of occasions, usually after things had gotten well past the point of no return. I know I've locked a few. Anyone who has been here since the flash contest has seen their share of locked threads. 

You can say that Rachel locked the thread prematurely, but I seriously considered locking it myself overnight when I was making my last post because I felt the thread could only lead to more bad things. I have no issues whatsoever with her locking it when she did, and had I not be somewhere in REM looking at some abandoned metropolis I would have been very near clicking the lock button myself.
I don't think anyone here is saying "Me Likey" should have made the short list for the contest, if only for fear of Rachel's reaction (though I'd like to point out that she is still wrong about the phrase's origin and shut down that conversation "prematurely" after being called out for using UrbanDictionary.com as a source.). And should it have somehow made it through to win the contest, she could have easily shot it down then. It was the taking of it upon herself to change Zorag's pole that started this hubbub; not the inclusion of "Me Likey" in the contest.
In fact, the pole had been up for better than twenty hours before you made a comment about it; a full eight hours after your first post to the thread. The entry might have been irritating, but I don't see how it could have been missed for so long if it was worth such swift and dictatorial reaction on Rachel's part.

Quote
Zathras made a significant error in A. posting any of those taglines to the main thread, and B. actually putting them in the poll when he was posting it. Those taglines were attacks both on Rachel and Podcastle, and personal ones at that.
"Me Likey" was only poking fun at Rachel's dislike of conflict, especially when she's wrong. The dozen or so other entries that were submitted about her were definitely personal attacks.

Quote
We may have just had a linguistic discussion of 'me likey', but we had a moderator openly criticizing an editor instead of the much more normal route of using a PM or using another private channel of communication. After that, the discussion would have gone nowhere good.
Please don't confuse the title with the job. She is an Editor; a provider of content. Russell is a Moderator of the forums. She stepped in to his part of the world, not the other way around.
Russell did not criticize Rachel's introductions or story choices; he criticized her poor moderating style, the disrespect for the other mods (yourself included), and us forum dwellers. Russell protested Rachel's chronic overreaching in the forums, and made a public rebuttal for a public act.

Quote
We who moderate on this forum do stop discussions. It is the tool I like least, but it is a necessary one, and one that was deployed justly in this situation.
And we respect and appreciate your reticence to use it.
We do no respect Rachel for her over-eager use of it, and other tactics, to defend her indefensible actions.

edit to fix quoting.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2009, 10:40:32 AM by Thaurismunths »

How do you fight a bully that can un-make history?


Thaurismunths

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Reply #22 on: October 06, 2009, 03:41:16 AM
After it's been up and seen, so that all parties involved can see that this was said publicly, I think it should be removed, to be honest.

I agree with Swamp: growing pains.  This will develop and improve, I'm sure, so let's move on.
I disagree pretty strongly.
The forum, and by extension the community that makes it up, has its own history. It isn't always pretty, but it's all still there; all the fights with Mr. Tweedy, the allegations of Rachel's sexist agenda, and the commentary on Steve's social life. Going back and redacting history so you don't have to see the ugly parts is exactly what this thread is about. Rachel went through and wiped clean something she didn't like, and then all objections to it.

Growing pains? Quite possibly.
Hopefully ignoring them won't cripple the forums.

How do you fight a bully that can un-make history?


Thaurismunths

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Reply #23 on: October 06, 2009, 03:41:24 AM
This is so unfortunate.  I do see the need for something to be said/done in general, but it is still unfortunate.  The public arguments are not good for anybody.  Disputes should be conducted behind the scenes by the EA staff.
Yes. Absolutely.
And, as you are now aware, Russell tried to have that discussion in private; but in addition to having his public comment deleted, his private thread in the Moderator's Forum was deleted just as soon as it was posted.
Not locked. Not ignored. Deleted.
One of the other people with Moderator status decided that they knew best and there would simply be no discussion of their actions, even in private and among "peers", without even the courage to stand up and admit to it.

How do you fight a bully that can un-make history?


Thaurismunths

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Reply #24 on: October 06, 2009, 03:41:32 AM
I moderate on another forum and we have a private mods' forum where we go to discuss problems, alert each other about spam, and use each other as sounding boards for difficult situations on the public board.  It has helped diffuse conflict.  Not completely, of course, but maybe this could be tried here?  Just a thought.
Just wanted to reiterate that the forums have this, and some mysterious person decided to delete the Mod Only thread Russell started for discussing.

How do you fight a bully that can un-make history?