Any suggestions for what we should do with the Libcom forums?

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dark_ether's picture
dark_ether
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May 29 2018 22:45
Any suggestions for what we should do with the Libcom forums?


https://ibb.co/g5RgNd

Libcom is easily one of the best English language sites when it comes to libertarian communist theory, history, and analysis. It's definitely up there in terms of practical organising and news as well.

The forums, and to a lesser extent the comment sections of the above though... jeeze. Like, browse through them imagining you're new to this whole lib-com thing and this is your gateway into it. What would you think?

Anyone have potential solutions? (Please note this isn't a criticism of the libcom mods, more a critique of our community as a whole in terms of how it looks from the outside atm)

More mods with a tighter remit on posts deleted / moved to some 'bin/flame' foum, or temp / perm bans?
Only have certain forums visible to people not signed in (or none of them at all)?
A new / reenforced 'code of conduct' where we spell out what is and isn't acceptable on the forums?
Specific dumping ground with less rules?
Anything?

Unless I'm the only one that sees a problem atm.

jospanner's picture
jospanner
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May 29 2018 22:54

would be nice to be able to come on here without the tedious questioning of my existence tbh

radicalgraffiti
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May 29 2018 23:18

well there's a lot of people that favour the nuclear option, the forums are practically dead already compared to a few years back since most discussion moved to social media, so it might not be so bad to move the rest too. the main problems with that that i see are that discussion tend to get buried very quickly, and most social media is owned by cooperation's which are not exactly in favour of communism. Of cause its also possible to make your own social media with mastodon now, but thats extra work for the libcom admins.
i think my preferred solution would be something like keep comments on articles, sometimes they are useful, and direct people to where they can follow libcom on social media, and it would be nice if that included on mastodon, so people dont need facebook or twitter
maybe sufficiently harsh rules could make the forum work, but its much harder to ban people for bad posts than for harassing someone by @'ing someone whos told them to stop, so i think forums are at an inherent disadvantage compared to well managed social media

Fleur
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May 29 2018 23:48

I was going to suggest kill it with fire. The forums have been on life support for a while. There are are some pretty good people here that I'll miss but they are welcome to my social media deets if they want (I will screen them tongue)

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Noah Fence
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May 30 2018 06:36

For a while now, for the purpose of a project I’m helping out with, I’ve been trawling through the last five years of Libcom forums looking for posts that are particularly persuasive due to their use of language, humour or particular devices and I can state with some certainty, that as far as threads turning to shit is concerned, with all the elements that make that happen, it was always thus.
In an open space like this you will always have trolls, or reactionaries who’s posting illicits the same response as trolls and these often create train wrecks such as the current idpol thread. The thing is though, that with the right response, these posters can present a good opportunity for us to hone our beliefs and understanding, particularly for those that are less clued up about the topic at hand, and as with any discussion on the internet, there is little chance of the person with the opposing view changing their mind, but the lurkers, who are the majority of viewers, get a great opportunity to see a debate from various angles and then make their mind up for themselves.
As I say, that’s with the right response, the problem is that the right response generally develops into the wrong response, namely, that these debates get carried on for way too long - taking the idpol thread as an example, by the time it was a couple of pages in it was very clear that the anti crew didn’t have much of a case and if the matter had been dropped by the posters arguing against them, a pretty persuasive conversation would have been left there for the lurkers/passers by to read and the ensuing shit show needn’t have happened. So really, whilst the reactionaries are the catalyst, it’s really in the hands of everyone else as to whether things are going to turn to shit or not.
I know people will say it doesn’t matter about what goes on here, that it’s just the internet etc but for me personally it matters a lot. Libcom was highly instrumental in the formation of my politics and it fact, the shaping of the way I currently live my life. Whilst as a resource for radical literature etc, Libcom is second to none, for someone like me, reading and participating in the forums was easily the most effective way for me to learn. I have also met real life comrades and made important friendships with people I met on the forums. It would be a terrible shame if they were scrapped.
Essentially, I see the solution to at least many of the problem conversations on here as the regular posters having a bit of discipline, making their point and then walking away rather than repeating themselves and entering into the competition for the last word.
I also think that more silly entertainment libcommunity type threads would help the general atmosphere. They seem to have almost disappeared over the last couple of years which is a shame - some of the most enjoyable reading of my recent excavations have been pun filled nonsense and self deprecating mass participation comedy skits which whilst they were not usually of any political significance, certainly helped improve the atmosphere so that more serious conversations were set against a more comfortable backdrop.

Edit: And after all that I just commented on the idpol thread! Maybe there’s no hope after all.

jolasmo
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May 30 2018 07:43

Yeah it's a tricky one. Personally I have a lot of fondness for the libcom forums, dysfunctional as they are (and always have been). I do think there's value in having a space for pubic online discussion that isn't owned by one of like three silicon valley billionaires who can arbitrarily decide to ban or delete content they don't like and set the boundaries of acceptable discussion. The quality off discussion on Facebpok, Twitter etc. Is often pretty fucking dire and frequently every bit as toxic as the worst threads on here - it is also difficult for the uninitiated to find where those conversations are happening if they don't already know people in the libertarian communist scene.

That said, web forums in 2018 to seem like a bit of an anachronism, and maybe the time has come to kill them off and focus on the more popular parts of the site. I'd like it if they were replaced by *something* to direct people towards for general libcom discussion though. I dunno what are the kids using these days? Discord? Libcom.org mastodon instance anyone?

Mike Harman
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May 30 2018 09:02
dark_ether wrote:
More mods with a tighter remit on posts deleted / moved to some 'bin/flame' foum, or temp / perm bans?

It's no secret that we fail to moderate the forums as much as we could. This is a combination of time (libcom admins don't read every word written here, we've found some horrible threads months or even years after they happened) and also moderation decisions are tricky and time-consuming in themselves (witness me trying to split the idpol thread twice).

Short answer - more help with moderation would be welcome and that could start today...

dark_ether wrote:
Only have certain forums visible to people not signed in (or none of them at all)?

This is doable post-upgrade (note, more moderation help would also contribute to a quicker upgrade, because it'd free people up who are supposed to be working on that).

dark_ether wrote:
A new / reenforced 'code of conduct' where we spell out what is and isn't acceptable on the forums?

The current ones are 10+ years old, could definitely be updated: https://libcom.org/notes/content-guidelines/forums-posting-guidelines

dark_ether wrote:
Specific dumping ground with less rules?

We had that with libcommunity and it did not really help. You could move a train-wreck there in its entirety, but people landing on that thread from google can't tell it's the dumping forum, and as importantly, a lot of train-wrecks start out as OK discussions.

Mike Harman
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May 30 2018 09:17
jolasmo wrote:
That said, web forums in 2018 to seem like a bit of an anachronism, and maybe the time has come to kill them off and focus on the more popular parts of the site. I'd like it if they were replaced by *something* to direct people towards for general libcom discussion though. I dunno what are the kids using these days? Discord? Libcom.org mastodon instance anyone?

This is interesting but for it to actually happen it would probably need people other than the current libcom admins to take it on, but libcom as a site could then promote it and point to it instead of the forums. This would mean probably having both for a while, and not sure either could replace comments on articles (which with some exceptions tend to be a bit more constructive than forum threads so maybe it's fine to have a split like that).

Are there existing anarchist/communist discord or mastodon instances that are good though? Or even not very good ones for comparison?

I do think a big reason people have taken to social media instead of forums is because if someone is particularly annoying and disruptive, you can just block them yourself instead of having to wait for moderators to do it.

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spacious
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May 30 2018 09:25

All in all I also quite appreciate the forums, as a space outside social media to have slower-moving discussions that aren't dependent on who you follow, the content policies of whatever corporate network you happen to be on, or the turnover time of discussions determined by short attention spans and chronological timelines.

Part of this discussion can be had in the comments under articles, but not every discussion or question is related to a particular text, and it's not so attractive to have a long winded discussion under each article.

I can see flaming is a problem and moderation a very time consuming task, as I don't participate in either, I don't have any solution to offer there.

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fingers malone
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May 30 2018 10:13

I am nervous about saying much on social media and I only have locked accounts, I post stuff here and discuss politics in a way that's important for me. However I am also often strongly emotionally affected by people being patronising, sexist or dismissive and it leads to me not posting on many threads where I do have quite a bit of experience. So I would rather that we kept the forums but that people were less horrible on them.

Spikymike
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May 30 2018 12:19

The people suggesting dumping Forums seem to be those most annoyed by the latest 'identity politics' discussions that they with the help of one particular poster seem to spend so much time keeping going. One or two annoying threads does not invalidate all Forums (though I have often suggested dumping/slimming down the number of dead Forums). I have made strenuous efforts in the past to try and get discussion going on library texts and to link discussion on different texts with only limited success but will keep trying that as I find that more rewarding than some of the other discussion threads that already look like a twitter fly-past.

zugzwang
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May 30 2018 14:37
Mike Harman wrote:
Are there existing anarchist/communist discord or mastodon instances that are good though? Or even not very good ones for comparison?

I do think a big reason people have taken to social media instead of forums is because if someone is particularly annoying and disruptive, you can just block them yourself instead of having to wait for moderators to do it.

I tried searching for mastodons a while back, and I think there was someone promoting theirs on here (as well as a discord). Didn't find much really.

https://anticapitalist.party/about
https://anarchism.space/about
https://chaos.social/about

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May 30 2018 12:48

Sort of up to the libcom collective really. There's only a handful of forum posters left. Most of the forum posts that have any level of participation are about conflicts and splits in the European anarchist left. Do they really want to put in the work required to provide a space for that? How would the site change or be impacted by the removal of the forums?

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May 30 2018 13:27

As long as people like Serge and Noa are allowed to keep posting like this, the forum is going to become more and more of a boys' club. Threads aren't even crashed by trolls, they are dragged into the fire by regular posters who have been here for years.

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May 30 2018 13:55

Leninist Girl, you have a point about long termers although there is a regular turnover of newbie trolls and wank stains with a chip on their shoulder as well. I don’t think we’re talking about more than a handful of posters though and there is also a lot of great input from probably the majority.
You mention Serge - I don’t know what he’s said, I don’t read every thread and I sometimes skim the ones I do read, but I’ve seen him on the forums for years and always enjoyed his posts, in fact, more than once I’ve hoped to meet up with him IRL although it’s never actually worked out. So I’m not saying you’re wrong but I’d appreciate if you could let me know what he’s been saying that leads to you putting him in the same category as Noa?

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May 30 2018 14:07

I put him in the same category as Noa because he often comes of as trying to fit into the "cool rational bro"-trope, just often commenting about how wrong everyone is without contributing with anything really(at least around social issues). He even has the big lewboski profile picture to match. What really put me over the edge is that he used the t-word...

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May 30 2018 16:08

I disagree with Serge sometimes and he can on occasion be dead wrong, but I'm not sure it's a good idea to start writing people off because of their avatars on a libertarian communist board when your name is "LeninistGirl".

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May 30 2018 16:45

I must say having always appreciated Serge's posts I am finding some of his views now increasingly difficult to stomach.

A particular low point was when he started defending a poster who made up ridiculous claims that black factory workers had tried to exclude whites from their workplace, as they felt "unsafe". That poster eventually admitted that he made it up, but Serge defended him nonetheless.

TBH things like this are why I am normally sceptical of people who start complaining about "identity politics", because they do things like this. Complain about "identity politics" one minute, then defend crazy racist lies the next.

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May 30 2018 16:49

Rob, I'm not writing him of because of his profile picture, I'm just saying it fits the way he acts.

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May 30 2018 17:13

I’ve noticed that at the most, the posts of Serge’s I’ve seen lately he may have seemed a little more irate than expected but even if there is some disagreeable or worse stuff that’s been posted I couldn’t write off someone who up until now has been a poster I’ve appreciated for years. I say that as somebody that’s acutely aware of his own lapses into shitposting in the past and also bearing in mind that we don’t know what shit comrades may be dealing with at the time as was the case with me.
I hope I don’t sound like some sort of apologist, people should be called out when appropriate but not written off completely.

dark_ether's picture
dark_ether
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May 30 2018 20:19
Mike Harman wrote:

Are there existing anarchist/communist discord or mastodon instances that are good though? Or even not very good ones for comparison?

AFed is currently testing out various different options (discord, riot IM, etc), as we have found our own forums increasingly less active. As people move over to mobile and to social media in increasing amounts. Currently our communications are a mess of email and forum and signal instant messaging app, and it'd be good to consolidate!

If we find out a sytem that works, we'll let you know, maybe lend a hand setting it up post upgrade if that's useful.

I think the IWW are working on or have just implemented a new chat/forum hybrid type thing? Anyone from the techy side of IWW about to comment on that?

Would be up for volunteering some time as a Mod, but would be concerned i'd be seen as too partisan wink

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May 30 2018 21:25

I would miss them, but I am not sure how useful they are any more. I do sometimes wonder if it isn't just a mix of people who don't want to do politics on social media and people who get blocked from social media.

Moderation is very hard, making those judgement calls is extremely dififcult and time-consuming. And a code of conduct helps but doesn't make the decisions for you. I stick to dealing with spammers etc because that is easy. I have been tempted to ban Noa, but that is up to the admins. Moderation help is very useful, but it requires a big commitment on both sides to get mods trained and up to speed and it also requires a lot of trust because mods become part of the website.

The forums used to be quite unwelcoming in some ways but I don't think they are unwelcoming now, but there isn't much of a welcome either. I don't know how to get more people onto the forums but I am not interested in the alternative.

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May 30 2018 22:56

Per request I'm reposting this comment,

At this point I'm just frustrated that really no space is safe and that it is allowed to turn into such a debate. Like why is people using the t-word(especially in a negative way) and making up conspiracy theories about queer ideology turning into a such a big debate instead of just being cleaned up? And who are the people up-voting it? It's like nobody seems to get how serious it is to just casually use the word t-word. Does the admin team have any trans representation?

dark_ether's picture
dark_ether
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May 31 2018 01:39

If I was a mod i'd be tempted to kick anyone who downvoted leninistgirls latest comment and jospanners comment at the top of the page. Cuz, wtf?

ticking_fool
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May 31 2018 05:55

Should apologise for introducing the t word. I am trans and I often use it about myself and in anger at phobes, but I should be more careful about it. Sorry.

ticking_fool
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May 31 2018 06:00

I'll also add to 'this shit is incredibly draining' chorus. I try to remember that the overwhelming majority of my comrades, including on these threads and in some of the orgs involved (not all of them, but I won't open that one), are as horrified by this bullshit as I am and have trans people's back. Thankyou to them for being decent human beings.

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Noah Fence
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May 31 2018 06:05
Quote:
being decent human beings

Did you just call me a liberal?!!!

ticking_fool
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May 31 2018 06:32

Actual lol!

Sadie
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May 31 2018 08:31
ticking_fool wrote:
Should apologise for introducing the t word. I am trans and I often use it about myself and in anger at phobes, but I should be more careful about it. Sorry.

I also did this so I apologise if it made cis people being shitty think it was okay for them to do it too.

Sadie
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May 31 2018 09:05
dark_ether wrote:
If I was a mod i'd be tempted to kick anyone who downvoted leninistgirls latest comment and jospanners comment at the top of the page. Cuz, wtf?

Tbh I’m not sure what the point in the downvote button even is. An upvote or “like” button serves a useful purpose in allowing people to signal that they agree with something without discussions getting clogged up with a lot of repitition and “Yes, this!” Downvotes seem to mostly be a way for cowards to get at people without meaningfully contributing to the conversation.

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AndrewF
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May 31 2018 11:34

Remove forum content from 'latest posts' so people can link to Library content without fearing new people being early pulled into a very off putting swamp

Impose a low limit on the number of times anyone can post per day on a thread to stop threads becoming dominated by the same angry bloke over and over.