Hey everyone, I’m posting this rather informally because I don’t think it’s necessarily a problem in need of addressing at this point, but more a synthesis of what I’ve seen on the internet before and what’s in the back of my head as I’m watching these wonderful conversations going on across Beehaw.
If you have a few minutes to read a blog post, I would like to recommend reading this excellent post where the author uses the term ‘evaporative cooling’ to insightfully evaluate what they’ve noticed about nice people in communities and how it’s really hard to keep them around. If you don’t have a few minutes, the short version of a summary would go something like “nice people have a very low tolerance for people who aren’t nice and their participation has a lot to do with the average amount of jerk-like behavior in a community - if it raises too high, you lose (and likely never regain) the community’s nice people”. They use this as a starting point to discuss why jerk behavior needs to be monitored and kept in check, even when it falls within the rules of a community. This very post helped to shape some of my current ideas and was behind why I pushed so hard to have an extremely limited set of rules and to keep them open to interpretation as much as possible. We had a short stint where we itemized specific kinds of not nice behavior like doxxing, but decided to simplify it down after it was clear people didn’t realize that being nice was actually a rule, because the other rules were much more specific.
I bring all this up because I’ve seen some replies which aren’t openly hostile or not nice, but could reasonably be interpreted as not welcoming. I also have seen a lot of discussion which isn’t explicitly an echo chamber, but I can see how through certain lenses, people might view it as such. As I mentioned before, I’m not exactly worried about these discussions and I think the community has already done a wonderful job self-moderating and calling people in, that is to say, encouraging nice behavior. However, there are a few places where emotions are rather charged. There have been some rather active discussions about political leanings on the internet and the behaviors often exhibited by members of these political groups that rightfully should not be tone policed. However, I would also like for you to take a second and consider how individuals who happen to share these political leanings but do not exhibit the behavior you are calling out might feel accessing or interacting with content on Beehaw. I’m calling on your inherent compassion, to give people the benefit of the doubt and to spend a second considering how others might view what you have to say, and whether it feels inclusive or not. I understand that we’re all human and aren’t going to be perfect at all times and sometimes we need to vent and I’m certainly not here to tone police you, but the more of us are paying attention to how inclusive and nice and safe the space is, the more inclusive and nice and safe the space will ultimately be.
A lot of people have spent time in the last few days to call out that they don’t like echo chambers on the internet. I completely agree with this statement and it’s an important part of our philosophy to do our best to minimize this while still creating a safe space for minorities. However, I’ve often seen this sentiment proposed alongside behavior that is unintentionally a driving force towards creating an echo chamber. A rather minor way which this might play out is the fact that we are currently dominated by the voice of technically proficient individuals - we are currently a tech echo chamber. This can be seen by the relative activity of tech related communities as compared to others (we do a fantastic job with activity for some of our non-tech communities here as compared to most other instances, and I’d like to thank you all for that participation), and the way I’ve seen this play out in a non-inclusive or accepting way is when people are struggling with something technically, and someone else responds with a “oh just do <insert technically complicated thing here>”. They are intending to be helpful, but simply do not know what life is like for someone without their skill set. This can push these people away from interacting with content like this in the future, or even away from the platform entirely. The latter is not particularly likely to happen over something like tech literacy, but I absolutely worry about this for much more emotionally charged issues. We haven’t seen issues with this on Beehaw, but I’ve seen discussions around sex/gender result in some rather non-inclusive behavior because of sex/gender disparities on certain platforms. The most common example of this being problematic is when people post feminist articles in a male-dominated space where the replies reflect this, providing a barrier and incentivizing women to not participate since they correctly read that their voice may be disregarded or that their replies would be met with a slightly increased level of hostility.
We also need to be hyper aware of minorities which are relatively rare due to the law of large numbers. Even if only 1 in 100 people on the internet are jerks, we have to think about how roughly 1 in 2 are women. In this case there’s way more women then jerks, and so articles about women aren’t particularly likely to be overrun with jerk behavior. But if only 1 in 100 are trans, we now have an equal amount of trans people and jerks on the internet. If even 1 of these trans folks don’t want to engage with a jerk, a single bad actor can quickly drive all transgender people off the platform. Please take a moment to think about this through the lens of genuinely nice people who are diverse from you in other ways. We’re here because we want to be nice to each other and want a platform that is a safe space. This necessarily means that there will be people on here who share traits with people you do not like or with people who represent behavior you do not condone. Please do your best to not write them off as an entire group, or present arguments/thoughts which do the same. There is a difference between the words neo-nazi, white supremacist, alt-right, conservative, authoritarian, etc. and we need to be careful about which words we use. Hateful behavior is not allowed and we are explicitly intolerant of intolerant individuals. While a neo-nazi is by definition an intolerant individual, a conservative is not and we should be careful when we feel the need to rightly vent about people being intolerant towards us, so as not to alienate people who are tolerant but do not share the same characteristics be it political leaning, gender, hobbies, or anything else.
I don’t want to end this by only focusing on negative be(e)havior, so I’d like to take a second to stop and reflect that the vast majority of what I’ve seen has been really heartwarming to see. This place has grown massively over the last week, but I do not feel like we’ve shifted too much when it comes to the core values and the feeling I get when I read what you are all posting and commenting. There’s been a lot of content which I so rarely see on other places on the internet that feels so much more welcoming and human than many other spaces on the internet. You’re all wonderful human beings and I’m glad we’ve found a place we can encourage each other and have nice interactions and discussions.