There have been a few issues here on the OAC lately that have mushroomed into bigger issues, mostly because we don't have a defined set of rules to live by. I think this place needs some rules. It also needs a defined process for reporting rule violations, and for the consequences that might follow such rule violations.

I'll provide some questions we need to answer, grouped by category:

MAKING RULES
1. What rules do we need?
2. Who defines these rules?
3. Who approves these rules?
4. How does this approval process work?
5. If additional rules are needed, how do we add more?
6. What if some members think a rule is wrong and don't want it?


RULE VIOLATION DETECTION AND REPORTING
1. How do rule violations get detected and reported?


CONSEQUENCES
1. Are there different consequences for different rule violations?
2. What should the consequences be?
3. Will warnings be issued before sanctions are imposed?


There are probably other questions that will need to be answered as we move toward toward formalizing our self-governance.

Please reply with your answers to any or all of these questions!

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Eric R. Price said:
The central idea in my comments above is really based on the first rule - remembering that it is a human on the other end, a human who is limited to only words in their attempt to communicate, words minus expressions, gestures, or tone to give meaning.

Eric,

That's an excellent place to start, especially as it can so easily be forgotten or overlooked (yes, even by anthropologists).
Paul referred in another thread, before opening this one, to an earlier discussion of the don'ts in the OAC. These included: no spamming, no pornography, no solicitation and a reminder that all members are personally responsible for observing the Ning terms of service. We have also consistently asked new members not to use pseudonyms and to give as much information about themselves as would be compatible with identifying them as a real person. But the first 'dont' was this one:

No flaming, insults or hate speech
Discussion of fundamental issues is likely to get heated at times. But personal attacks, insults, malicious behavior, bullying or taunting are incompatible with our shared life as a community. Personal disputes may be carried out in private; and, if these cannot be resolved, you are free to block any member. Incitement to hatred is banned, but not discussion of hate speech itself.

We have been slow to implement these rules as a formal structure, for several reasons. The admins team is temporary, part-time, asynchronized and reluctant to act in a heavy-handed way. We have seen our task as supervising the OAC's launch and developing the network's infrastructure, while doing as little as possible to interfere with members' self-organized activities. We have sponsored public discussion of the OAC's governance and have tolerated some quite forthright abuse of ourselves including by individuals who have confessed to be operating behind pseudonyms.

Many members will be aware that the OAC has suffered sustained attacks in the last month or more. The admins team has resolved as a result to be firmer in dealing with disruptive behaviour. Even so, it is often hard to find each other online at the same time and sometimes the need for action is urgent. In the last week we have banned four members, two for spamming and two for a combination of factors that add up to an attempt to disrupt our community's exchanges through public fora and personal comments. It is hard to formulate an objective rule that members will be banned for making trouble.

But the latest instance was someone who, soon after joining with a pseudonym, made a premeditated attack on the OAC, creating discussion threads and posting comments that were blatantly abusive and could under no circumstances be interpreted as willingness to take part in our community in a "open, friendly and cooperative" way. So, as Network Creator, I banned this person and deleted their threads, on a personal initiative in the absence of the admins team.

One reason for precipitous action is that, if other members add comments, these may be deleted along with those of the offender (a flaw of the Ning software). There are several individuals who have not been banned for this reason only, that it would create a Swiss cheese effect in several threads to the detriment of other members' posts.

The admins team has tried to behave in a principled way since the beginning and to keep the OAC open to diverse opinions. But our energies have been sapped by these sustained attacks on our community, so I give notice that we will not sit idly by and let guerillas hiding behind masks disrupt our common life here. In such cases, political judgment may trump adherence to the rules. When we can, we will issue a warning and we will always hear appeals from bona fide members who believe they have been unfairly banned. But we will no longer grant untrammeled access to our site in the manner that we have hitherto. The alternative would be to screen applicants and this method applied selectively against extremists is preferable to that.
I think it's a good thing to have some guidelines while still avoiding too heavy handed of an approach. The problem is not only how to come up with rules, but how to approve of them and implement them--especially since there is not a ton of participation in these matters from the vast majority of people here.

I do think that the basic guidelines you have set up make sense. If members have an issue with any rule they should contact admins. Rule violations or personal conflicts should be handled in the same way: contact admins. The only other way to handle rule violations is through participation and pressure from other members, but that can get ugly pretty quick depending on the situation. The plagiarism ordeal illustrated the limits of self-policing: the problem was brought to light but the member was either not sure how to correct it or unwilling to. At some point there needs to be a way for admins to handle these sorts of things.

By the way, I saw the posts you are referring to late last night and was wondering exactly what the point of them was.
I believe it is time to pull together the suggestions made here. I propose that I should create an initial draft of rules, run them past the other admins, and post them on a permanent page reachable from the About pages.

Just as the current admin team is provisional, so should we view these initial rules. The membership will be expected to follow them, and the admin team will enforce them.

Keep in mind these rules are a beginning, not an ending, and will be subject to discussion by the whole membership and modified if needed.
The rules have been posted here.

Paul Wren said:
I believe it is time to pull together the suggestions made here. I propose that I should create an initial draft of rules, run them past the other admins, and post them on a permanent page reachable from the About pages.

Just as the current admin team is provisional, so should we view these initial rules. The membership will be expected to follow them, and the admin team will enforce them.

Keep in mind these rules are a beginning, not an ending, and will be subject to discussion by the whole membership and modified if needed.
Thanks, Paul, to you and the other administrators for your efforts here and elsewhere.
I will happily second that. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu. Xie-xie.

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