Return to article

Proposal talk:Suspending the private mailing list

(Redirected from User talk:John Vandenberg/Suspending the private mailing list)


Looks good to me. There are arguments both ways on whether we need a private mailing list, and this is a reasonable process for resolving it. --Chris Watkins 16:13, 1 December 2012 (EST)

Will you second this proposal, by putting your name in the template at the top? John Vandenberg 16:37, 1 December 2012 (EST)
Sorry, just catching up now. Since the above comments, several people have expressed concerns below, and I'm not 100% sure yet myself. Good discussion though. See my comments below. --Chris Watkins 23:28, 17 December 2012 (EST)

My thoughts

Thanks John for proposing this. I feel very strongly that the behaviour of some people on the private mailing list during the recent election process was disgraceful and embarrassing for the chapter. I think that having a “private” mailing list, which allows people to hide their poor behaviour behind a cloak of ‘privacy’ is not productive to the movement in the long term, and flies in the face of the values of transparency and accountability that the chapter should be fostering. The present situation is unsatisfactory, and it must change.

There have been a few comments made on the private mailing list which I’d like to address here:

  • There are some legitimate comments that should remain private, as they may be taken out of context. This has a core of truth to it, but the existing “private” mailing list isn’t really that private to begin with. Anyone with twenty quid (or a concession card and a tenner) can become a member, get subscribed, and then do what they want with the messages on the list. Any expectation of actual privacy on a mailing list with more than ten people, or where you do not personally know each and every subscriber, is rather fanciful in my experience. We shouldn’t be providing a forum that people think is “private” where it’s actually not private and can’t be made private.
  • Some of the comments in recent weeks are not the sort of thing we want made in public. Again, I agree with this. I’d anticipate that moving discussion to a venue where the comments are visible to the public and eternally preserved for posterity would make people think twice before sending heated or careless comments through.
  • Having a members-only mailing list provides an incentive for people to join the chapter. In my experience, this is not the place. I don’t imagine anyone (except for leakers) has signed up for the purpose of getting access to our internal squabbling. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong here =)
  • Removing a private mailing list will just mean that the squabbling goes underground to other private venues. Perhaps this will happen, but I can’t imagine how this would be worse than the current situation where a few hotheads can air dirty laundry in front of the whole membership.
  • The loss of privacy will mean people won’t feel comfortable making frank and honest feedback about the committee or the chapter’s partners. In my experience, our members have never been shy about being frank and honest, whatever the circumstances =).

One of the proposals being made has been to shift discussion onto the public chapter wiki. This has some merit; everything is done out and in the open, and with good organisation it’s easy to follow just the discussions you’re interested in and ignore those you aren’t. Personally, I find that while wikis are excellent tools for collaboratively developing content, they’re badly suited to hosting discussion and debate. Insisting everything take place on-wiki might create a barrier to those who are more comfortable engaging in discussion via an email mailing list.

The other alternative that has been proposed is to move discussion to the public wikimediaau-l mailing list. This list is already public, and anyone may subscribe or view its archives. However, this list is maintained by the WMF, not by the chapter. The chapter would not have any ability to sanction misconduct or take action to remove problematic content from the archive. My understanding is that the WMF intends it to be a list for people in Australia interested in Wikimedia, not a chapter list per se, and the existing community there might be a bit put out if a whole load of chapter business suddenly appears there.

Hope this provides everyone with some food for thought. Lankiveil 17:58, 1 December 2012 (EST).

WMF hosted email list

Following on from one of Craig's points, the UK chapter exclusively uses the public WMF hosted list for their chapter email communication.(and also uses a WMF hosted wiki for their main website as well) This did cause problems, when one gent objected strongly to an email which he considered libellous. The response was that the archives of the UK list (hosted by WMF) were set to be 'private', which means only list members can access them. After many months their list was restored to be a public list. I dont know what happened with the problematic emails in the archive.

The Australian public wikimedia list does include quite a few non-members, but they dont often send emails to the list, and many active members are not on the public list. John Vandenberg 18:39, 1 December 2012 (EST)

I object

As I understand it, once (if) this does get a seconder, only a majority of the current committee has to agree with this proposal and it will happen, so I want to voice my objection now.

Unfortunately my reasons are mostly those listed by Lankiveil in My thoughts above; I just decide that most of these reasons are enough to keep a private form of communication just to members. Mark Hurd 12:23, 2 December 2012 (EST)

In agreement. In practice when such a forum is not available, people will tend to create their own - this results in fragmented, unofficial and unmonitored communication between groups (cliques, if you will) of individuals which can have consequences for the organisation. Have seen this exact thing happen in another organisation I'm involved in. However I'm in favour of the balance shifting towards announcements being made on the au-l list so that non-members know and can see what the chapter is doing. Historically (prior to the 2010-11 term of the committee) the private list was barely used at all, except around elections and such, and au-l was the main forum for communication. Andrew Owens 02:59, 3 December 2012 (EST)

don't appear to be (back) on the list

Like any good wiki-citizen, at the first sniff of intrigue, I reach for the akashic records to review / sticky beak - fwiw, I vastly prefer using a public list, and would porbably support a suspension of the private list, but I also would quite like to be back on the list - I think after my blazing return to financial status and activity, I failed to get popped back... hopefully someone suitable informed will be able to check :-) thanks! Privatemusings 11:49, 3 December 2012 (EST)

Sorry I forgot to add you again. I will do this once I have access to the server, which should be Real Soon Now. John Vandenberg 12:01, 3 December 2012 (EST)

Agree (it's not private anyway)

I agree with Lankiveil's point above about it not really being a 'private' list at all. Anyone can become a member. Let's make everything explicitly public, because it is anyway. Sam Wilson 12:26, 3 December 2012 (EST)

Disagree - let's deal with core issue here

Firstly, can I get some clarification as to the terminology here?

By private list do we mean

By public list do we mean

I agree with the concern about the nature of the emails we have seen sent on the private list of late, but note some of them have also been sent to the public list and other public forums, suggesting that the private/public nature of the forum is not the primary issue here.

I think we need to establish a code of conduct on the private list and that people who violate that code of conduct get a warning the first time and then get suspended from the list for (say) a month the next time. Lets deal with the problem directly, rather than redirect it to somewhere else (public list or wiki).

I believe the private list should remain as a forum where *members* discuss the business of WMAU. If we use the public list, then this is a list of the WMF not the WMAU. We have no control over who is subscribed or whether or not they are members or, unlike the private list, no way of prescribing or enforcing acceptable conduct. As a committee member, I have a responsibility to listen to and consider the views of the membership in making committee decisions; I don't have the same responsibility to listen to the views of any random person who chooses to sign up to the public list; indeed, I have no obligation to be subscribed to the public list itself (although I am in practice).

I think the private list should remain as there are matters that are solely the private business of WMAU. We are a legal entity with consequent legal obligations. We have a number of partner organisations. Unless the partner is willing to have their dealings with us discussed in public, I don't believe we can discuss our dealings with them on a public list. Maybe it's just the nature of my day job, but I have to shred most of the paperwork in my office before disposal because it relates to activities carried out under collaborative arrangements that are routinely subject to non-disclosure or commercial-in-confidence. And I suggest that should we ever have the misfortune of finding ourselves as a party to a legal action or an adversial/competitive relationship with another organisation, then a public forum is not appropriate. Competitive relationships are quite normal, every buy-sell transaction is competitive(the buyer wants it cheaper, the seller wants it more expensive). If we discuss our views on financial arrangements with a supplier or partner in public, we disclose our position which loses all negotiating power. Saying in public "We're willing to pay $10K but we'd like to get it for $8K" ensures you will end up paying $10K!

I don't see on-wiki as a viable alternative. Personally I find wikis good for some things (collaborative editing) but not for a conversation (which is a series of individual comments, not requiring collaborative editing). Secondly it's not private (see my comments on the need for privacy above).

If we have a problem with conduct on the private list, then lets establish a code of conduct. Kerry Raymond 08:14, 8 December 2012 (EST)

The insistance that all proposal are made on wiki kinda kills any commercial-in-confidence applications already Gnangarra 11:37, 8 December 2012 (EST)
Yep, the public nature of the proposals worries me too. I would prefer if they were restricted to WMAU members. For example, by making people's travel details public, we reveal when their home may be empty, which is pretty much contrary to any "stay safe online" advice. And all this enthusiasm for doing everything in public overlooks the issue of any member who has taken out some domestic violence order or anti-stalking order, or the possibility that some of our members are children. Etc. Kerry Raymond 14:00, 8 December 2012 (EST)
Agree 110% with everything you've written here Kerry; especially in relation to keeping from the world at large one's travel plans; especially important given that we really have no idea who is looking at the public list. Also especially agree with a code of conduct for the members list. Russavia 14:08, 9 December 2012 (EST)
  • I also agree with Kerry. We have lots of public avenues for discussion (let's use them), please keep our private one available. I'm not a fan of the censorship layer (send to the committee for approval), but obviously guidelines would be fine. Please focus committee energy on developing those instead of shutting down a list. --99of9 14:21, 9 December 2012 (EST)
  • Agreed with Kerry in entirety. Regarding the list, a basic (and enforceable as Kerry has suggested) set of core principles which people sign up to would be a better way of doing things than restricting the list. Andrew Owens 19:57, 9 December 2012 (EST)

Ideas (not necessarily good ones) for a resolution

Several peoples are opposed (#I object and #Disagree - let's deal with core issue here). I lean towards using a public list, but having read through this page, I'm not yet convinced either way.

One impractical idea I had for a compromise, which I'll share in the hope that someone can do better, is to have a private channel with strict guidelines, only for special cases that need to be private, including the examples above of commercial-in-confidence information and travel plans. Most conversations should default to the public list - either the existing list, Wikimediaau-l, or a separate chapter list. (As John said, non-members don't often send emails to Wikimediaau-l, so I don't think it's a big problem to have an open public list as our main channel.) If most conversations happen on the public list, people might think twice before going to a private list just to make a personal attack.

Fatal problems with this idea include having to join two lists, working out what the difference is, and the mental overhead of deciding which list to post to, each time. Surely someone suggest a better compromise?

Or perhaps we address the concerns about privacy - e.g.:

  • Commercial-in-confidence information: Give details to the committee, and at the same time notify the list of the generalities of the proposal, letting members know that they can get details privately if they wish.
  • Travel plans - if it's public, you'd obviously only post what info, if any, you're comfortable with sharing publicly, but you could also contact people directly for any communication beyond that. It's not as convenient, but is it a big problem? My feeling is that this isn't a core function of the list.

--Chris Watkins 23:24, 17 December 2012 (EST)

My 2c

While the concerns over behavior are valid and need to be addressed the solution isnt shutting the list down its addressing the behavior issues and setting standards otherwise it'll just see the public list shut as well, then the wiki. As part of the transition to that standard sure moderate all messages initially but everybody shouldnt be disadvantaged to address the actions of the few. A private mailing list is great way for members to interact in an environment where we can discuss matters important to us as members, unlike like other organisations who can have a venue we are scattered across the country most of us will never meet in person so it become more important that people have some assurance that they are talking to members and getting members advice about that which affects WMAU, that is something that cant occur on wiki here nor on a public mailing list. Gnangarra 16:01, 1 September 2013 (EST)

Putting everyone on moderation until we untangle it all is certainly an idea worth considering. Lankiveil (talk) 22:07, 3 September 2013 (EST).

Current discussion on the private list is in the right place

As far as I know the current discussion initiated by Tony1 has not been made public.

If the private list was not available, his options are:

  • Post his intentions straight to the public.
This opens his issue directly to external people who have no dog in the fight.
IMHO, it also locks in his intentions with little chance to change his mind.
  • Post his intentions to the committee list only.
No one else even knows about it, and
He doesn't see any discussion about them.
Sure, that should be happening anyway, but no input at all seems wrong to me.
  • Post his intentions on some other venue; en.WP; meta.WM or his own blog for example.
Definitely wrong forum.
  • Don't post his intentions anywhere.
Then they just percolate internally and at some stage we see the outcome.
  • Discuss his issues on the public list without mentioning actions.
That would be nice, but again many have no dog in the fight; it is effectively the wrong forum.

In summary, even if we don't like his actions, the private list is the right forum for these "discussions".

Mark Hurd (talk) 15:02, 2 September 2013 (EST)

The problem is not the issues themselves that have been raised, the problem is the abuse and bullying that we're seeing on the list (not naming names here). Criticism of the orgnaisation and of me is one thing, allowing that toxic nonsense to persist behind closed doors without consequences is another.
With that said, and I'll put this in an announcement to all members in the next couple of days, I would only intend this to be temporary until a code of conduct and agreed scope for the list was drafted and agreed to by members. Lankiveil (talk) 18:24, 2 September 2013 (EST).
I'd hoped to respond to this further, but having just put away a couple of glasses of red with dinner, I'm not going to be able to do this tonight. Lankiveil (talk) 21:39, 2 September 2013 (EST).

Code of Conduct

I've put some notes on a proposed code of conduct here:

Proposal:Suspending the private mailing list/Proposed Code of Conduct

It's very much still a draft so feel free to edit away at it! Lankiveil (talk) 22:08, 3 September 2013 (EST)