Suggestions about improvements of the forum

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zigote
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This is a continuation of:

https://trisquel.info/en/node/#comment-141903

and a reply to chaosmonk:
--------------------

# The up/down voting system

This is an attempt to create a democratic police, so that the moderator's work is reduced. This is not a fair solution because people participating in a discussion are biased by it and by their previous experiences with other members. This makes their judgment biased too. This is an easy way to build up a reputation by being nice for a while and then use that reputation as hammer against others.

Also it is prone to abuse because downvoting can be used as a form of dislike which doesn't mean the post is against rules. So the poster cannot learn from the downvoting because he doesn't really know what it was done for. The only thing it can show is negativism which may push away the poster. Or he can simply ignore it.

So this:

"I would prefer to see the voting system used to express not agreement or disagreement with a comment, but to express that a comment violates the community guidelines."

is nothing but wishful thinking, just like the whole idea of "self-moderation".

What should be democratic is the agreement on what the rules and principles should be. But once set the enforcement of those should not be democratic. It should be done by an independent party who is not biased. That's the only way to have it fair.

# Staying on topic

This is something that needs moderation. I think there is no way around it (except with AI perhaps). It is OK to have a branch resulting from the trunk discussion but there must be a system to easily have that branch moved into another thread (to keep the original one cleaner). The two can link to each other at the point of splitting and at the beginning of the branch. Then anyone can keep following the line which interests him. That is the way to go deep into one topic, rather than talk superficially about 1000 things. Discussions would be more meaningful.

Also when there is a topic which appears often - there should be dedicated (sticky?) threads and any attempt to open a new one on the subject should be locked and linked to the master topic. Then anyone who wants to say something should rather read first instead of all things being repeated in many threads. Then newcomers can find info easier and long term members won't have to waste time chewing the same stuff.

# The discrepancy of forum and mailing lists:

There should be only one system, not 2 systems. There are forums which send email notification on new posts. I think this is better than having a mailing list because as discussed in another thread - mailing lists require making more personal data available to more people. That is not technically necessary for the purpose of having a discussion.

It is still possible to have a system in which one can reply by email. On GitHub for example one can reply by email to a thread and the reply goes public. The other members don't see the personal email address of the member which makes it impossible for 3rd parties to collect manually or crawl that data.

chaosmonk

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Thanks for your feedback. First, to clarify, I don't mean these suggestions to be a substitute for moderation. Improper behavior made in bad faith will require moderator intervention. My goal is to have a forum interface that makes it easy and obvious to do the right thing, so that fewer mistakes are made in good faith and it is easier to spot and deal with actual trolls.

> # The up/down voting system

My hope is that a "flag as inappropriate" vs "not inappropriate" would be more useful and less prone to abuse than "+" vs "-", because flags would have to be justified by identifying which community guidelines have been broken. Good faith actors who start to improperly flag a comment might change their mind when they are forced to stop and think about whether a particular community guideline has actually been broken. Bad faith actors may continue, selecting a community guideline which has not actually been broken, but since they had to give a reason, other users and the moderator can evaluate and contest the reason given. Reputation should not enter into it, since other users would not see who flagged the comment (although the system should keep track of this to detect serial abusers).

Perhaps you're right that this is naive and the moderator should handle everything. In this case, I think we should get rid of the voting system entirely. In its current form it invites improper use. "+" vs "-" suggests that you *should* use the voting system to express agreement/disagreement, so if it's not desirable for users to act that way then we should fix or get rid of the mechanism that invites them to do so. Perhaps another solution could be for "flag as inappropriate" to simply send an alert to the moderator, to help draw the moderator's attention to potential problems without actually allowing users to bypass the moderator.

> # Staying on topic

> It is OK to have a branch resulting from the trunk discussion but there must be a system to easily have that branch moved into another thread (to keep the original one cleaner). The two can link to each other at the point of splitting and at the beginning of the branch. Then anyone can keep following the line which interests him.

This is exactly what I'm suggesting. If we want users to make new threads for new topics and link the two together, the system should make it easy to do so and make this feature highly discoverable. It should be more convenient and obvious to do the right thing (start and link to/from a new thread) than the wrong thing (continue the discussion in the current thread).

> # The discrepancy of forum and mailing lists:

> There should be only one system, not 2 systems.

I think it is valuable to have both an email and web interface to the forum. Casual users generally prefer a forum, but as someone who spends a lot of time providing support in Trisquel Users, it is very helpful to be able to use my preferred email client. I would probably spend less than half as much time providing support if I had to use the forum.

However,

> It is still possible to have a system in which one can reply by email. On GitHub for example one can reply by email to a thread and the reply goes public. The other members don't see the personal email address of the member which makes it impossible for 3rd parties to collect manually or crawl that data.

I would be fine with this solution, as long as you could do by email everything important that can be done from the forum, including starting a new thread branching off from an old one.

zigote
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> Good faith actors who start to improperly flag a comment might change their mind...

The recent mass downvoting of my posts in various threads which are all on-topic and don't violate any rules is an example of how this system is abused by someone who thinks he may act against another in a stupid sneaky way. So in this example the actual abusers are not punished. Legitimate posts are.

This is supposed to be a community of people caring about freedom of speech and ethics. However in practice it is a place where a lot of bigotry, desire for domination and off-topic aggression is easily ventilated. The only thing that can change this is moderation. But it doesn't seem that anyone cares, so there is the result.

GrevenGull
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I think this sort of subject don't belong in the "General Free Software", I think this sort of subject would be more fitting to the "Trisquel".

chaosmonk

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> The recent mass downvoting of my posts in various threads which are all on-topic and don't violate any rules is an example of how this system is abused by someone who thinks he may act against another in a stupid sneaky way.

It appears to be two people. I don't know who the second person is, but I suspect that the first would not have done it if the voting system replaced downvoting with "flag as inappropriate." There isn't any rule or warning against downvoting a comment because a user dislikes it, which is a problem, but not a moderation problem. If we were to change the system to discourage downvoting for that reason, I think that would be the point where moderation is necessary to deal with the people who continue to do it anyway.

> This is supposed to be a community of people caring about freedom of speech and ethics. However in practice it is a place where a lot of bigotry, desire for domination and off-topic aggression is easily ventilated. The only thing that can change this is moderation. But it doesn't seem that anyone cares, so there is the result.

There are certainly problems, some caused by what I think are honest miscommunications and a lack of consensus as to what is the proper etiquette for the forum, and a few caused intentionally. I see the problems you see and understand your frustration, but I hope it doesn't sour you against the whole community. Your thoughtful and detailed posts about computer security (an issue adjacent but germane to software freedom and something many of us care about) are appreciated by me and I'm sure others. I hope that your negative experiences with some users do not deter you from continuing to contribute.

@ David

If you agree that the voting system causes some problems and aggravates many others, I strongly suggest either removing it, or defining and enforcing a less destructive use for it.

david

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Yes, the voting system is indeed problematic, but it has sometimes been useful (and necessary) according to its initial purpose.

Leaving aside the overall controversial aspects of these systems, the implementation has never been very good and even though we've tried to tweak it a bit to be a better fit for the usage it's been having, there's clearly room for improvement.

We're currently focusing on the next iteration of the site when it comes to new features, but I'll discuss with Ruben our options regarding the current and future implementation of this one.

I'm aware of the suggestions many of you have made regarding this subject, I'll try to compile them all and take them into account.

zigote
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david,

I am sorry to point a finger again but these "innocent" self-excusing 1-2 screens long and completely off-topic posts about "the absolutely 100% free and perfectly secure laptop", "efficiency" nuclear bombs, earthquakes etc. by the same person keep popping all around. Even your reminder in the petition thread not to derail threads didn't help. In what way tolerating that is useful to the forum? Demonstrating liberalism for the sake of perpetuating netiquette abuse? Obviously this won't stop without moderation.

So what is your plan about it? Let it be as it is? Anything else?

Masaru Suzuqi
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Joined: 06/06/2018

david,
I totally agree with zigote. You should send the stuff soon. I would like to refrain from criticising you here persistently for the moderation of this forum or something.

zigote
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> I totally agree with zigote.

No, you don't. If you did you wouldn't continue with your endless off-topics.

> I would like to refrain from criticising you here persistently for the moderation of this forum or something.

No surprise. In a moderated forum you wouldn't survive more than a week.

Masaru Suzuqi
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OK, OK, I will never post except in troll lounge, then everyone happy, good? so don't get so mad. I don't understand well why you are so angry. Easy, easy.

EDIT: added "will". I think after I edited, it was showed as the newest post before... :P

Masaru Suzuqi
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zigote, I'm sorry to post this immediately after the comment though, where is the moderated forum that you say? I want to check those moderated forums to study how the forums are governed. I thought you might not read posts in troll lounge since iirc you haven't posted on there. Well, anyway this my question won't get answer though.

zigote
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I don't have a list. Most forums are moderated based on general netiquette. So browse around (e.g. linux distros or other software forums).

Masaru Suzuqi
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>I don't have a list.

I don't think so.

>Most forums are moderated based on general netiquette.

Are they? I was thinking it was the other way around. I don't know the current situations except google forum's though. Well, after all now, there might have been no difference.

>So browse around (e.g. linux distros or other software forums).

I can't be arsed to do it. So I asked.

zigote
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> >I don't have a list.
> I don't think so.

Are you telling me you know better what I have and what I don't? If you know better - why do you ask at all? Or are you saying I am deliberately hiding some secret list of moderated forums because you are too lazy to search the web?

> Are they?

I don't have accurate statistics. My observation is that they are. Try to flood with your random thoughts (like you do here) Arch Linux, openSUSE, Claws Mail's mailing list or another discussion board and see what happens.

> I can't be arsed to do it.

Arsed?!

chaosmonk

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Thanks David. My technical suggestions were meant to be things to keep in mind for the redesign. I didn't expect them to be implemented now. In the meantime, I think that the problem could be mitigated by a post from you clarifying some things:

> Yes, the voting system is indeed problematic, but it has sometimes been useful (and necessary) according to its initial purpose.

Can you explain what the initial purpose was? I don't think that it is clear to the community how the voting system *should* be used, so a downvote might mean different things to different users, resulting in miscommunication. Some guidance from you might be helpful.

It seems that 1-2 people are downvoting almost all of Zigote's comments, as opposed to individual comments they might have a problem with. This is not the first time I've seen this happen to a user, and to me it comes across as a direct attack on the user, needlessly exacerbating conflict. If this is not the intended outcome of the voting system, some clarification might be helpful for everyone.

chaosmonk

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> It seems that 1-2 people are downvoting almost all of Zigote's comments, as opposed to individual comments they might have a problem with.

It might just one user doing this. The comments with two downvotes tend to at least be in some way controversial, whereas the comments with one downvote tend to be stating a fact or an uncontroversial opinion. See this thread[1] for examples. Downvoting comments a user doesn't like is not particularly helpful, but indiscriminately downvoting every single comment by one user looks to me like bullying.

[1] https://trisquel.info/en/forum/tor-really-any-help-all-and-other-privacyanonymityfreedomsecurity-thoughts-and-questions#comment-142245

Libreshop
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I have 3 Suggestions for improvements:

1) Markdown: Creating a new thread, commenting/replying to a thread. Can we use (simple) Markdown.

2) Rich Content: This one is also related to the first suggestion.
Allow email/code-blocks/images/urls, so when posting piece of code, it's easier to read and we can also our public emails in our signature?
Don't allow bold/italic/h1-6/..., some people can use it to make some statements, and this can be annoying to read sometimes(eg. a post using only h1 tags and setting some words in bold)

3) Api: Maybe create an json formatted api, for some who want's to create their own version of the forum, or create wrappers around it? So if Trisquel Dev didn't implemented mobile version, someone else can host his own version, with same content(forum threads)?
- Api URL: https://trisquel.info/api
- get latest 10 threads: GET /forum/general-free-software-talk
- get current thread: GET /forum/suggestions-about-improvements-forum
- post a comment: POST /forum/suggestions-about-improvements-forum BODY {"content":"simple markdown [with](urls) and `code blocks`"}
- post a reply: POST /comment/reply/12345/678901 BODY {"content":"simple markdown [with](urls) and `code blocks`"}

Magic Banana

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Libreshop
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Nice thanks.

Missed that one :)
Wonder why last time my a-tag didn't work...

Just testing, so ignore the rest

example dot com
info@libreshop.eu , so you need to write & #64; to get the at symbol

This is awesome


Code syntax, maybe highlight

chaosmonk

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> 1) Markdown

This would be great for reducing miscommunication between mailing list and forum users. Markdown is readable enough that mailing list users could receive the markdown source to see formatting by forum users.

zigote
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Joined: 03/04/2019

Personal policy (until I see any change):

I will reply with an "Off-topic" post to each new off-topic message which I see in threads opened by me. Surely that won't flood the forum more than the actual off-topic stuff + it will be clearer than the meaningless "-".

zigote
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I just want to mention that the new text which shows up:

"Please use the rating system to mark posts that go against the Community Guidelines"

is just a way to perpetuate the lack of moderation. "Please do this" does not mean anyone will do it. This voting system is completely ineffective and useless. +10 or -10 - who cares?

strypey
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Zigote, I appreciate your passion for order and your desire to see the forums become more readable and more useful. I share this desire, as I'm sure do all the regular contributors to this community. That said, it's one thing to say that there ought to be a moderation team. It's another thing to identify the people who will actually volunteer the hours of work that effective moderation requires.

One of the first online communities I was involved with was the Indymedia site I helped to start. Even with a relatively large group of 'clerks' moderating our open-publishing newswire, it took hours of each person's volunteer labour every week. As they always do, complicated edge cases would come up that the clerks couldn't agree on how to handle. As the project went on, users outside the clerks group who disagreed with our moderation decisions started giving us grief about it, in some cases very abusively. These added fuel to the fire, and it sometimes got to the point where the mailing list where we had our moderation discussions started to need moderators ;) The rancour of these disagreements on where the draw the line between free expression and abuse or discrimination, and what was and wasn't on topic, and so on, eventually drove most of the original volunteers away and effectively scuttled the project.

So I think the approach we use here is much healthier. My understanding is if a user engages in unambiguous abuse of the forum, flooding with gibberish, death threats, pron links etc, the moderators step in to remove their posting rights. For the edge cases, or occasional misbehaviours or losses of temper by folks who are usually constructive, we all take a role in moderation. We share the workload of making nuisance postings disappear (for users with JS), and we share responsibility for making this a pleasant technical watering hole, so the moderators don't become the target of everyone's frustrations.

There are two changes I would suggest:
1) I don't know if it's wise for users get a say in moderation just for setting up an account, including those who might be doing so with the intention of being disruptive. It might be better if there was a probation period. I suggest that users who are subscribed to the mailing lists ought to get the rating buttons for their forum user accounts, along with users who have been posting regular for a certain amount of time, or a certain number of posts, without being kicked off as trolls. Before the buttons appear for a user who has completed probation, or joined a mailing list, they ought to get an auto-mail explaining in some detail how they are meant to be used.

2) This is probably more a note for the redesign. I think it would be better if red-labeled comments disappeared for all users, not just those using JS. The way Indymedia handled this was to move moderated comments to their own page, with its own URL, leaving only a link to that URL on the page where it originally appeared. The Indymedia CMS allowed this to be reversed, if an appeal on that moderation decisions succeeded, restoring the comment to its original location. I still think this is a good approach. Once a thread is locked, the same process that locks it could delete any remaining red-labeled comments from the database and remove the URLs from the thread page.

evilive
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I agree with users who propose that original posters (or at least moderators) should be able to sticky an important or informative thread, because the forum in its present state looks rather messy and inconvenient without a sticky feature.
(By the way, notice how we discuss forum improvements in the General Free Software Talk sub-forum - shouldn't it be in "Trisquel users" instead? Any moderation as regards off-topic threads is absent here, isn't it. This also contributes to a larger mess.)

zigote
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This site has not moved a millimeter in direction to improvement. I keep seeing things like (random recent examples):

- A topic about Invidious but when I click last post I read a discussion about Replicant and phones.

- A topic about phones - last post discussing libreboot on laptops.

And what is even worse - the site continues to operate in an illegal way (anti GDPR) even though I have spent (or rather - wasted) my time to explain that this needs urgent attention:

https://trisquel.info/en/issues/26008

It is ironic to see people discuss the search for ultimate privacy and freedom on a platform which doesn't even respect the basic and mandatory regulations about personal data protection.

Doh.

chaosmonk

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> And what is even worse - the site continues to operate in an illegal way
> (anti GDPR) even though I have spent (or rather - wasted) my time to
> explain that this needs urgent attention:
>
> https://trisquel.info/en/issues/26008

Sorry, I would not have asked you spend your time doing that if I had
known it would be blown off. I'm disappointed.

Masaru Suzuqi
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Were you still thinking that you can do sane discussion here? That's your fault.
A certain libreboot vendor has pooled my ¥40000 for a few months. No sane explanation. Of course I got mad but somehow they got mad too. A certain new RYF router broke after two months. No sane support. I still have not received the USB key from Trisquel. BTW, it seems that recently Apple try some drastic change. I can feel it from the contents of upgrading of iOS and you would be able to tell that they have lost their sense of direction if you have been seeing the process of changes. They seem to keep in mind that "iPhone should be minimum, simple, anyway. That is the iOS's advantage. That is why customers love iPhone.". But of course stupid simpleness is basically equal to bad usability, even they seem to be aware of the defects, then it shows something unfinished confused ideologies/functions throughout their OS. I think basically employers of Apple use an iPhone. Despite the usability is terrible, I wonder why they do not try to improve the bad usability. What we should keep in mind is always "Benefit of customers". It is neither simpleness nor whatever your stupid selfish stubborn own ideologies. We would call Apple's fussy simpleness masturbating. How does their clever marketing work against the usability??
For example, despite most Japanese cannot speak English, we can see a lot of explanations or a troubleshooting manual of iOS which are often written in English on the Apple's websites. It might similar to Land Rover. I have heard the cars frequently break. If you really did not love Land Rover, you won't want to keep it. That would mean paying a wad for expensive parts and wages frequently is the status symbol of a certain kind of people. They would want to say "That broke again, besides I was in jungle then. It cost me £17000." to someone. That is just a private preference. I do not have complaint about it. It would be good that there is such a car in the world.

edit: typo