Should our Discussion Rules be finalized? [closed]

+37 votes
2.6k views

Hi WikiTreers,

Over the summer we discussed and developed Discussion Rules for G2G and comments on profiles. We decided to adopt them for a two-month trial period. That trial period is now ending.

Should we finalize the Discussion Rules as written? Or should we consider changes to them, or changes to how they are applied?

See:

  1. Help:Discussion_Rules
  2. Help:Application_of_Discussion_Rules

If you want to see significant changes, please consider making a proposal. For example, you could post "Do you support this change to Discussion Rule 1?" and then detail what you want to change. Link to your proposal from an answer here.

If you only have minor suggestions, or questions or comments, post an answer below or comment on another answer. Comments on this top message will be hidden after they are read once.

Note that the rules remain in effect while this discussion is ongoing.

Thanks,

Chris

closed with the note: discussion period over
in The Tree House by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
closed by Chris Whitten

This discussion is now closed, but any member is always welcome to propose new rules or rule changes. See Help:Developing_New_Rules.

I probably missed it, but will there be a post with the conclusion(s) coming from all the discussions below? And an explicit decision? For me that would be the expected logical step at this phase.

20 Answers

+17 votes
I didn't know about these. I see a lot of thought was put into them. I say finalize them.
by Nancy Wilson G2G6 Mach 5 (50.7k points)
+22 votes
How can we decide whether to accept/reject these new rules until we are presented comparative data on any increase/decrease in reported violations, conflicts, flagged comments, member interventions, etc.?
by Lindy Jones G2G6 Pilot (218k points)
Lindy, while measurements would be nice, surely the two month period is self-explanatory in that not everyone is on here every day? I mean, I am, but I'm weird.
Jonathan, please explain further.  How are the last two months self-explanatory?
Any attempt at quantifying would have to take into account the number of people who (1) stopped posting to g2g, (b) left g2g totally, (iii) left Wikitree because they no longer felt welcome due to the "new rules", (d) minimised their activity on g2g, (5) self censored their g2g posts for fear that their normal blunt truthfulness would be seen as rudeness - and so on.

Without data for the above (and possibly more criteria), it is impossible to state that the "new rules" work, or don't work.
I don't understand the last two months being self explanatory comment. Not every member is in G2G every day, or even in WT for that matter. Some wouldn't look at G2G at all.
I am in agreement with everyone above.  Concrete data what is needed and is more accurate than any "feeling".   I think the mediators need to chime in with some stats data.   As well as an overall look at the usage of G2G .... same, uptick, or down?
I'm weird, too, Jonathan, (and here every day) but I thought these new rules were proposed to see if we could improve communications, collaboration, and courtesy going forward as compared to before the probationary period.

Unless we know if that improvement has occurred, I don't see how we can - or even should - make a decision to accept or reject the proposed rules.
"Self-explanatory" meant that the proposal has to be out there for some length of time just for everyone to see it and have time to consider and give input. It wouldnt be fair to make a decision after a week, for example, because many people probably dont visit every day and have a chance to see it.

But, thats my asumption. Chris could probably clarify.

This comment won't address, specifically, the new discussion rules. So perhaps this is too far astray of the topic and should be removed. Risking that, what I can speak to is my past quarter century of professional involvement in business process management from very large corporations to governmental entities to small 501(c)(3) nonprofits.

There are a variety of tried and tested models to use in addressing process improvement. The first codification of these was a May 1924 one-page memo from a physicist and engineer named Walter Shewhart. A single diagram and some select words became the birth of process quality management. Though the man widely considered the father of modern quality management, W. Edwards Deming, continued to call it the "Shewhart Cycle" all his life, what we're most likely to recognize today is Deming's simple Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle for improvement that became well-known from his work in post-World War II Japan.

Later in his life, Deming changed the word "Check" in the cycle to "Study" because he felt that "check" implied simple inspection while "study" more correctly indicated careful analysis.

Three very trite maxims:

  1. Data without analysis is meaningless.
  2. Analysis cannot happen without data.
  3. You can't manage what you can't measure.

PDCA proved at times to be too simple. I've had highly intelligent people fail to grasp its continually repeating, iterative nature. You're either engineering (creating a process from scratch), re-engineering (scrapping a part of it and starting over; think Michael Hammer), or improving something that already exists...whether you realize it exists or not. Tangential discussion, but it isn't unusual to have someone in organizational management state that they have no process for XYZ. What they really mean is that the organization has never acknowledged or documented XYZ, not that XYZ doesn't take place...without their awareness or control. These are often called phantom processes.

Improvement is always incremental. You can't attempt to improve multiple facets of the same product or process simultaneously. Doing so would violate trite maxim #3, above. The Heisenberg Uncertainty principle. Anything you do to effect change in a single area of activity will almost always alter other areas of activity, will insert uncontrolled variability. If you introduce multiple changes, you have no hope of accurately evaluating--or measuring--any one change.

Underpinning every process model I can think of is that word "measure." I mentioned that PDCA often seems too simple. This is only a slightly more complex model that I've had better luck using for process management:

Key here is that to get somewhere you have to know a few crucial things, notably: Where are you now? Where do you want to be? How do you know if you got there? Different depiction, but still essentially Deming's PDCA cycle. And a little more illustrative of the fact that you can't manage what you can't measure.

The cornerstone of measurability underlies everything from marketing to accounting, from charitable fundraising to scientific research, from compliance with ISO 9000 quality standards to ISO 45001 safety management. And you'll also find it an indispensable element in frameworks and models like:

  • Six Sigma's DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control)
  • The Project Management Institute's PMBOK (all project requirements must "be unambiguous, measurable and testable")
  • Step 2 in the Theory of Constraints 5FS (5 Focusing Steps), "Measure OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) at the constraints"
  • Lean Thinking and the definition of operational goals as SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-bounded)

The wheels have already been invented and are in use. Experiential wisdom gleaned worldwide over many decades. Asking for comparative data, for sets of prearranged metrics, is quite reasonable.

Thank you for that information, Edison.  Also, thanks for the final statement : 

Asking for comparative data, for sets of prearranged metrics, is quite reasonable.

(Sometimes certain responses make one feel as though one's questions are not reasonable.)

Thank you, Edison, for taking the time to explain that concept so well.
+11 votes
Is there an option to eliminate the Discussion Rules?
by Lois Tilton G2G6 Pilot (128k points)

Or how about this, Lois?

Revise the Rules to say this and nothing more:

1.  Don't change someone else's topic (once in a while, there may be brief off-topic exchanges, but for longer discussions, start your own thread).

2.  Don't make personal attacks.

3.  Do not discuss a living person's genealogy or other personal information.

 Get rid of the Application page entirely.

 

Julie, what application page?
I suspect the Application of Discussion Rules page.
https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Help:Application_of_Discussion_Rules
Yes, thank you, Leandra.  Jillaine--sorry, I meant the Help:Application of Discussion Rules as mentioned above in Chris's opening post.  (Doesn't anyone ever sleep?)

Lois has posted a further analysis here.

+25 votes
Just to give an overview from my viewpoint as a Moderator ...

Things have been mostly peaceful lately with a few minor bumps that were smoothed out by applying the new rules.

When we first began implementing the rules, we had some discussions about how to handle situations where a post was hidden because it broke a rule, and we've worked out the mechanics and now have a consistent method of contacting the member whose post needed to be hidden and/or edited.

We haven't seen an up-tick in MIRs due to the rules.

We have been able to head off at least a few MIRs because of what we could call "early intervention." In other words, if we saw something brewing -- either just by observation or by being alerted because of a flagged post -- Moderators were able to step in before things got out of hand. This also allowed us to open up communications with the member who posted and suggest how they could change what they were saying to be better received.

We learned that we have very different styles of thinking in the Moderator group. Some moderators are more by-the-book than others, and these differences in styles seem to balance how we approach problems.

Prior to the rules being in place, there wasn't a lot of communication happening in the Moderator group. Having the discussion rules gives us something concrete to guide our discussions. It can be frustrating when one person perceives a post differently than another, but I feel we've made a lot of progress in sorting that out and finding viable compromises.

From my observations, the most frequent problem the Moderators have prevented is having conversations taken off track by comments that didn't address the original posters question or comments.

There were also a couple of threads where the original poster's only goal was to vent, and by having the "no venting" rule in place, Moderators were able to talk to the member and explain how that type of post disrupts the community without adding anything productive to the conversation.

To my knowledge, there was never any intention to quantify with statistics the effect of having these rules in place.

Witnessing productive conversations happening every day without angry or disruptive comments is enough to say that the rules have been effective.

Giving the Moderators a tool to use to guide conversations has also been very helpful.
by Julie Ricketts G2G6 Pilot (400k points)

we've worked out the mechanics and now have a consistent method of contacting the member whose post needed to be hidden and/or edited.

by Julie Ricketts

This is not consistent at all.  Some g2g moderators do the contact thing, while others simply remove posts and leave it to the poster to either remain in ignorance that the posts was removed, or have them do the contacting to ask why. 

I concur with Melanie. Some posts are removed with no contact at all.

If there was never any intention to quantify the effect of the rules, how would you determine whether or not application of the rules has had a detrimental effect on the G2G forum? It would be very unfortunate if the rules have led to people refusing to help others, for example, due to the quantity rule.

We have been able to head off at least a few MIRs because of what we could call "early intervention." In other words, if we saw something brewing -- either just by observation or by being alerted because of a flagged post -- Moderators were able to step in before things got out of hand. This also allowed us to open up communications with the member who posted and suggest how they could change what they were saying to be better received.

We learned that we have very different styles of thinking in the Moderator group. Some moderators are more by-the-book than others, and these differences in styles seem to balance how we approach problems.

Prior to the rules being in place, there wasn't a lot of communication happening in the Moderator group. Having the discussion rules gives us something concrete to guide our discussions. It can be frustrating when one person perceives a post differently than another, but I feel we've made a lot of progress in sorting that out and finding viable compromises.

From my observations, the most frequent problem the Moderators have prevented is having conversations taken off track by comments that didn't address the original posters question or comments.

I agree with everything that Julie has written here.

Melanie wrote:

This is not consistent at all.  Some g2g moderators do the contact thing, while others simply remove posts and leave it to the poster to either remain in ignorance that the posts was removed, or have them do the contacting to ask why. 

Complaining that a post was deleted, only minutes after it was deleted, while the moderator was in the process of writing an email explaining how the comment violated the rules is not the same as removing the post wtihout explanation.

Does it take weeks to notify someone that their post has been removed? If notification hasn't arrived after two weeks, is it reasonable to assume that no notification will be forthcoming?
If your post went missing and you didn't get a notification, you can email to leadership and ask about it.  It is now standard operating procedure for moderators to email a person when their comment has been hidden.

However, if a person makes a question or answer that violates the rules and it is hidden, all comments that were added to the question or answer will also be hidden and those comments won't be notified.
There were also some instances where someone would hide a post and then reply as a comment,  not realizing the person had unchecked the box to get email notifications and therefore not seeing the explanation.

The moderators have adapted for that by sending private messages either instead of a comment or in addition to.

Leaders and moderators aren't perfect so I'm sure there will always be times where something is hidden with the intent to let them know and then there's a distraction or something and it gets overlooked. It'd be great to assume they too have the best of intentions as well and not immediately assume that posts were hidden with no intention of notification.

From what I've seen the notifications have improved in the last two months.
If a sentence is followed by a question mark, it is not an assumption.

The irony of this thread is that I've seen 3 breaches of the discussion rules here already and they've all come from people who are saying that we need these rules.
I wasn't talking about your question,  I was speaking generally.
Thank you for the clarification, Eowyn.
I personally think it is very valuable that the moderators have more internal discussions. If they are helped by these new rules, that is very valuable and a pro for the new rules. But... the Standards (SOPs) moderators use when moderating is not something written/described in the rules under discussion. Most of my questionmarks (why did they (not) do that?) have arisen due to moderating, not because of the (new) rules themselves.
+7 votes
This is just a thought/idea...

I was a former moderator/administrator for a large forum about several years ago and we used to have the following that I believe would be a great idea (personally).

It would be great to use a feature similar to "Flagging" whereas an individual could indicate/ask for a Moderators Intervention when it comes to a confusing/unclear post for additional member guidance for the member asking the question and/or requiring additional clarification like tagging, adding the profile in question, etc...

I'm just suggesting an idea that I didn't notice within the proposal and I Deeply Apologize if it is there and I had accidentally overlooked it.

I hope I had explained this okay via text... :o)

Thank you for your time and understanding with this suggestion.

~Brian Kerr
by Anonymous Kerr G2G6 Pilot (308k points)
Brian, I believe that flagging serves that purpose. Moderators now receive notification of all flagged posts.
Well then why was I recently emailed by a Moderator who stated "I've been noticing that you are flagging a lot of posts in G2G that shouldn't be flagged. The flag is intended to alert the Team and Moderators that there is spam or a post that violates the rules for discussion."?

I would never state that the Moderators doesn't do/know what's going on and does do a great job (for the most part), but it just appears to me that not all the Moderators are on the same page regarding the use of the Flagging system.

The rules that outline the use of the flagging system (to me) just looks so broad and the guidance is not very "bottom line" as to the responsibility/guidance of the members who can and cannot use it for.

I tried to explain this okay via text...

~Brian Kerr
It must have been a Team member (staff/sysadmin) who contacted you because Moderators do not have the ability to see who flagged a post.
I wasn't aware of that fact...

I do have the member info it was from, but as a personal & ethical courtesy, I'm not going to announce who this individual is specifically.

If it was from an administrator, member, etc... The individuals should really state their role when messaging something like this. For example... Stating their comment/feedback as a member recommendation/clarification or similar.

Just to clarify... I'm confident that Administrators and such does provide their title/position when emailing a member.

The good thing is that I don't recall ever receiving any messages from anyone who has any Administrative, Moderator, etc... like Title from WikiTree within the message.

Anyways, I just hope someone who handles (and such) what's being addressed in this conversation takes some type of note as to the subject matter.

I think WikiTree is an awesome tool and I hope it keeps up the great work it provides! :-)

~Brian Kerr
If I am not mistaken, I believe the Team is looking at expanding the flagging system to include a message box that will require the 'flagger' to input a comment on why they are flagging the post. This may cover the feature you are looking for.
+12 votes

I wouldn't finalize them yet - we haven't had the Control stage of the trial - to see what happens without the rules.

For the next two months have No Discussion Rules.

This will generate the data we need in order to decide just what rules may be needed. A direct comparison will be possible.

We will see whether our good-intentioned, hard working volunteer work force, can self-regulate in an open forum.

Any offence caused during this new trial period should be regarded as unintentional, as per the Honour Code ( we would still have the Honour Code, of course). 

It will give Mentors a break from policing the forum, allowing them more time to Mentor people who need help with Genealogy. This will improve the Tree, which is why we are all here, after all.

by Joe Farler G2G6 Pilot (122k points)
You've shown the results of the second rules debate, SJ.  The results from the first debate were remarkably different.  By the time of the second debate, many people who spoke up the first time were disgusted, discouraged, defeated, or silenced by MIRs.
I don't think those numbers are a valid representation of all wikitree users, either - just the more vocal and prominent posters to g2g.

Not at all representative.
An agreement to a two month trial period is not an agreement to permanently adopt the new rules.

Julie, the second version of the proposed rules was very different than the first and received a much higher approval rate because it was changed to fit the desires of the majority of the community.

And none of the "disgusted, discouraged, defeated, and silenced by MIRs" folks were unable to place a vote for whether or not they believed the rules should be implemented.  Indeed, you and most of the dissenters here offered opinions in the second discussion thread.

Lets be frank: no one was discouraged, defeated, or silenced for their opinion.  Other members filed compliants in the form of MIRs when they saw behaviour that was rude, disrespectful, overly confrontational, and detrimental to the conversation.  There were a lot of other members who also voiced their opinion that they did not like the idea and did not receive an MIR.  No one got an MIR because they disagreed, they got one because their behavior violated the honor code.

With respect SJ, no one here has said that they were denied input to the previous discussion. The vote was strongly in favour of a two month trial period. People were invited to vote on the proviso that "At the end of the trial period we would open a new discussion on whether to keep or revise Help:Discussion_Rules and Help:Application_of_Discussion_Rules."

Now we are asking for quantified data to make an informed decision. That's not an unreasonable request. 

In trying to have a civilised discussion we're being met with comments like "here we go again", "piling on" and an insult. That's not a discussion. Those comments are intended to shut down discussion - the very opposite of what we were assured would happen. People tend to get unhappy when goalposts are moved. It promotes distrust and bad feeling.

An agreement to a two month trial period is not an agreement to permanently adopt the new rules.

Leandra, that is what this post is.  The previous discussion reads (in part):

I propose that we implement the rules on a two-month trial basis. During this trial period we would fully apply the rules and the consequences for ignoring them would be the same as after the trial period. But we would keep a conversation open here in G2G for discussing them. In addition to the rules themselves and any problems they are causing, we would be discussing how they are applied/enforced. I think the application is a really important part of this, but I don't think it can be fully worked out in advance.

At the end of the trial period we would open a new discussion on whether to keep or revise 

Help:Discussion_Rules and Help:Application_of_Discussion_Rules.

Chris has now posted this discussion to bridge the temporary to permanent status of the new rules.

Yes SJ, and in response to Chris opening this discussion, a number of us have asked for quantified data so that we can now make an informed decision. That would qualify as a discussion.

The request has been met with a number of belittling remarks. In all the organisations I've worked and been active in, that doesn't qualify as discussion.

this discussion to bridge the temporary to permanent status of the new rules.

A mandate to go from temporary to permanent is hardly a discussion.

A discussion usually requires some give and take, some back and forth.  Not a statement of "this is what it is". 

If this is truly just to go from temporary to permanent, then it is not a discussion at all - and the opinions of the posters do not matter.

"If this is truly just to go from temporary to permanent, then it is not a discussion at all - and the opinions of the posters do not matter."

I've been told that is the reason why some people no longer come into G2G. 

Technically speaking you cannot have a stage without rules anymore. They have been in place, the group has used them, the group has changed. (lacking control group, lacking blindness). A way to get some data would be to score the number of emails with regard to G2G sent to "staff" before and after and the number of members that left/stopped posting. But those can only give an indication if there was a real effect.
+18 votes
I personally feel that G2G is a kinder gentler place since the rules have been in place and I'm loving it! I'm all for keeping conversations on track without insults and personal attacks. I don't understand why anyone would disagree to implementing them.

Rules need to be in place so moderators and mentors have some guidelines to follow. They're a GOOD thing.

G2G scares a lot of people away as attacks are so common and conversations turn into needless/useless bickering so quickly. Nobody want to read through pages of squabbling when all they want is a simple answer to a question. G2G is not a debate club.

I vote to put the new discussion rules into effect ASAP!
by Traci Thiessen G2G6 Pilot (200k points)
edited by Traci Thiessen
Please give some examples of pages of squabbling where a simple answer would have sufficed.

Of course G2G is a debate club.  And that's what WikiTree guidelines require of it - call it Collaboration if you wish. The debates happen here, or via comments, or on Discord, or via personal emails and direct messages.  To work out some genealogical questions requires debate.  

also: Forum definition: a meeting or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged. e.g.

"we hope these pages act as a forum for debate"
I seldom see attacks in G2G. I think most people are reasonable. Disagreeing with people should not be construed as an attack. Often opinions are discussed here. They're different, not right or wrong. I think sometimes discussions drag on because some people are very rigid in their views and not willing to accept that there are other valid points of view, or not willing to accept the limitations in their own view. Civil debate should be encouraged. It promotes improvement and growth.
I completely agree with Leandra.  I have seen extremely few attacks on G2G.

I personally feel that G2G is a kinder gentler place since the rules have been in place

by Traci Thiessen

Personally, I find it is lacking in variation of "voices", due to more than a few of the non-American posters either quitting g2g, or quitting wikitree totally.  Many of those who have stayed have self-censored.  I find myself self-censoring, as I am very well aware that what Aussies see as humour, simply is not seen that way by Americans.  But, then, humour is not welcome on g2g under the "new rules", so that point is probably moot. 

Also words used by one culture may appear to be the same as those used by another culture, but the meaning may be drastically different. 

Censorship, either by self, or by others, does not make for a happy, friendly environment that is conducive to collaborative discussions where there must be different points of view.

I find myself in agreement with Melanie again. I too have experienced personally and witnessed in other discussions, where Americans have completely missed humour in a post from an Australian or an English person. I have noticed those expressions, that provide a little colour to the posts, and help to convey the mood and intent of the poster, have largely disappeared and to me, G2G has become a more sterile environment. It is already very difficult to accurately determine emotions from posts. Studies show the majority of readers incorrectly determine emotions from the written word. I also get the impression that there are less people volunteering with information from records, to help those researching a person. I would like to see data to determine whether or not my impressions are correct.

 I find myself self-censoring...

Re-affirms my belief that the new rules are a good thing and working well.

This whole exchange is why people stay away from G2G. The negativity, piling on, etc. is unproductive and very unwelcoming.
Well, really, who's unwelcoming?  The members or the Leaders?

 I find myself self-censoring...

Re-affirms my belief that the new rules are a good thing and working well.

Self censoring for humour in comments should NOT be required, just because someone else sees that particular humour as "rude".
Self censoring for cultural differences should NOT be required, just because someone else sees something being said that was never actually said.

Self censoring for honesty should NOT be required, just because someone else sees honest as "rude".

Sorry -- I do not see self censorship as a Good Thing.

The new rules are a good thing and working well if the goal is to have a very small group of active people who agree 100% with the leader. It isn't conducive to improvement or growth. Improvement may or may not be a goal of the owner, but I'm fairly certain growth is.

I find myself self-censoring...

Re-affirms my belief that the new rules are a good thing and working well.

commented 5 hours ago by SJ Baty G2G Astronaut

In my "culture" this could be considered a public personal attack...

(edit, trying to format... pasting stuff really does unwanted things to a post).

Leandra wrote: "Disagreeing with people should not be construed as an attack. "

I agree, but unfortunately, others do not. In fact, the discussion rules currently include the statement "Most people become defensive when you disagree with them..." leading at least some readers to perceive that  the rules are aimed at discouraging the expression of disagreement.

Kinder and gentler?

I hadn't noticed that it was particularly rude and aggressive before. In my perception, and it can only be that since there is no data,either quantitative or qualitative. Peoples perceptions in this discussion are the only thing that can be assessed. )

 I think the forum appears to have become less interesting, less busy and  less vibrant.  I also feel that  there have been fewer responses to genealogical  questions and possibly a reduction in such questions. There could be a roll on effect in this, why ask questions if there are no worthwhile replies?

If my perceptions are valid* this could be as  a result of some members who had previously been more active  in the forum reducing their presence or even completely abandoning it. I can think in particular of two helpful contributors who are now absent, one has left wiki-tree entirely (I have no knowledge as to whether that is coincidental or forum related). Even before this I've been uneasy when other often very helpful  contributors have been censored for their perceived tone in responses on the forum.
*(who knows?)

I find myself self-censoring... (Melanie Paul)

Re-affirms my belief that the new rules are a good thing and working well. (SJ Baty)

I don't think self-censorship is per se a good thing. It depends upon the motivation for that self-censorship.Is it a desire to communicate more effectively or the fear of consequences of being misinterpreted or failing to conform to the norms of another culture?

If Melanie was a person who I thought made frequent ad hominum attacks on others then  I would agree that being advised to self-censor  was a good thing .That hasn't been my experience of her posts. If she now has to think twice about whether to answer and how to answer then there has definitely been the predicted  'chilling effect' on her participation. Not, in my opinion a good thing.

Lastly I read this thread earlier. I notice that it has been censored with posts removed. How on earth are we to get a true reflection of peoples feelings; on either 'side'  if we cannot read a discussion in it's entirety?

+24 votes
Yes, we should finalize the Discussion Rules as written.
by David Selman G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
I agree the Discussion Rules should be finalized as written.
+18 votes
Yes, they should be finalized.  G2G has had a lot less bickering these past weeks.  It is quite refreshing.  I'm sure I'm not the only one that saw the replies on this page and  sighed, "here we go again."
by SJ Baty G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)

Rule #2 Do not insult, accuse, or criticize any person or group of people in a public message.

A difference of opinion is not bickering. 

In the previous discussion threads we did indeed have bickering - to the point that posts were hidden and some complaints were made and escalated.  Because a lot of the more drastic posts/comments get flagged and hidden, most members don't see them.  I can attest to Julie's answer - since the new rules have come into play we have probably fewer MIRs filed.  In one case a member wrote a post that was vague and could be interpreted two different ways.  Giving that member the benefit of the doubt, I assumed the benign version.  But two members assumed the worse, flagged, and the comment was hidden.  I emailed the member and suggested they clarify their post.  In other cases, when we have seen "bickering," a moderator can hide the post and remind the member to follow the rules/Honor Code and that is usually the end of it.

Referring back to Mindy's comment in the last discussion:

If you are actively participating in the G2G, aren't seeing a lot of issues, and haven't had posts hidden by moderators - you most likely will not see any changes after the above help page is created.

The vast majority of G2G participants haven't seen any changes to their experience except perhaps, fewer comments to flag.

How have you measured the experiences of the vast majority?
We measure the sentiment on rules proposals based on votes cast for the yes or no answer.

We shouldn't confuse G2G comment content for consensus.  5 or 6 members can generate more G2G comment traffic than a 100 genealogists who only visit the forum once in a while.

And just because a handful of people make vocal opposition doesn't mean that this is community sentiment.  Most of the genealogists I engage with don't want to engage in pedantic debate about policy applications.  I've had 2 or 3 cousins leave G2G this past spring because they were tired of the bickering.  Quite a few have commented on how peaceful G2G has been lately; I've also noticed it myself.

Joe has suggested a control period and I've disagreed.  Some folks will argue to make the rules permanent and some will argue against.  And in the end, we will find a concensus.
I'm sorry, just to clarify, are you saying that a vote to agree to a two month trial period with the intention to review, revise and decide whether or not to keep the proposed rules is synonymous with knowing the experiences of the vast majority of users since that vote was taken?

in the end, we will find a concensus.

Consensus is not possible when there are those who disagree.

When there's a consensus, everyone agrees on something. If you're going to a movie with friends, you need to reach a consensus about which movie everyone wants to see. Whenever there's disagreement, there's no consensus: consensus means everyone is on the same page.  

I doubt, very much, if everyone posting here is on the same page as everyone else who is posting here.

We do not, and will not, have consensus.  It will be "this is the rule as handed down".

I have read this discussion and sighed "here we go again". The interval of peace has been short. This will be my only comment here, and I'm opting out of email notifications.
I agree with the discussion rules. I think they have helped clarify communication expectations, as well as set in place an effective way for Moderators to handle comments that might have otherwise been escalated. I have seen a marked decrease in MIRs due to the G2G, and have also enjoyed the peacefulness of the forum.
+4 votes

I am missing the link to the large discussion on possible changes to the rules (can't find the post anymore sad), and the posts made to the previous question "What do you think about the new rules".

Those are now just there, while I miss the reflection to the points made in those well documented G2G posts.

So how to deal with the remarks made there? For  me, it would be okay if the moderators and staff simply state how they have taken those points into consideration and what conclusion has been made.

If that is not done, then I wonder why they were there in the first place really, besides having 'the community' get to grips with the new rules (and the question posted here has been answered already).

by Michel Vorenhout G2G6 Pilot (223k points)
+11 votes
I have just read these, if these were in force then maybe I would not feel so emotional over some answers and feel like leaving WT as I have done
by Stephen Davies G2G6 Mach 2 (29.5k points)
+37 votes

Thank you, Chris, for asking for discussion.

This is a comment.

Lacking the data that has been requested by others, we do have our direct experience of these rules. Here's mine.

In one of the threads here, SJ wrote, "Lets be frank: no one was discouraged, defeated, or silenced for their opinion."

Speaking from personal experience, since the discussion rules were even proposed, I have felt discouraged, defeated, and I have definitely silenced myself. 

And I am saddened by the absence of diversity that used to be present in g2g. I miss Eddie. I miss Ros. There are others I have worked with who when they post, I worry: will they get kicked off wikitree?

Neither g2g, nor the Leaders or Moderators groups feel safe to me anymore. My active participation in all those places has decreased. Even writing this post feels like a risk.

I have received comments from Leaders and Team members that expression of my opinions, expressing disagreement with a process, or even asking a question about process, is interpreted as a criticism, a lack of loyalty. Since that was not my intent (I remain hugely loyal to wikitree), but obviously has had that impact, I have minimized asking process questions or drawing attention to process inconsistencies-- something I used to think was a contribution to wikitree. 

Some might conclude that I should step down as a Leader, but I remain committed to the projects that I became a Leader for.   I spend more time there now, and do the minimum required of me on the other roles. (Do all wikitree members know that project Leaders must sign up for at least one other duty? Moderator, Mentor, Mediator, Ranger.) I remain proud of my work as a Mediator. I have also served as a g2g moderator from long before and separate from the Leader requirement, because I thought I could be helpful.  The discussion rules have not made the implementation of the Moderator role clearer to me. 

Finally, I have always believed that the Honor Code was sufficient and we do not need the discussion rules. I remain saddened by the perceived need and desire for these rules. I feel that they have divided more than united us. 

This is my personal experience. 

[font differences above were not intentional, and I can't seem to change them. I tried.]
by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (781k points)
Thank you for your honest and open remarks Jillaine.
Jillaine, all I can say is thank you for your post.  It must have taken a great deal of courage.  I hope no one ever doubts your loyalty to WikiTree.  

And for the record, I thought you did an excellent job as Mediator in a case I was involved in, way beyond what could reasonably have been asked of you.

Agree with the above two comments - Jillaine, a definite thank you for your honest and open response.

Neither g2g, nor the Leaders or Moderators groups feel safe to me anymore. My active participation in all those places has decreased. Even writing this post feels like a risk.

by Jillaine Smith

When what some see as a peaceful atmosphere is perceived by (many?) others as an atmosphere of fear, there is a problem.  Many posts I would like to make, I no longer do -- because I FEAR being sanctioned for speaking out.  Some I type out, then delete, saying something different.  Some I simply click away from before hitting "add comment".  Even this post has me afraid of being flagged, or other.

I have received comments from Leaders and Team members that expression of my opinions, expressing disagreement with a process, or even asking a question about process, is interpreted as a criticism, a lack of loyalty. Since that was not my intent (I remain hugely loyal to wikitree), but obviously has had that impact, I have minimized asking process questions or drawing attention to process inconsistencies-- something I used to think was a contribution to wikitree.  

by Jillaine Smith

A climate of fear is not a happy situation.  That one cannot express one's own mind without it being seen as "disloyal", or "criticising", is a sign of a deeper ill.  Many who have left have expressed similar.

I am not in Jillaine's position.  I am not a leader, nor a project leader, nor a moderator, nor mentor, nor mediator.  Never likely to be, either — because I manage to annoy too many people by being honest, by asking questions that seem to make people uncomfortable, by NOT answering questions (I have been reprimanded by private message for that one), and - I'm sure - a whole list of other things.

BUT — I do believe in what wikitree says it stands for.  I do believe in the expressed vision (one tree for everyone, collaboration, etc).  Once given, my loyalty is hard to shake loose — unless something so egregious occurs to cause it to lessen. 

As with Jillaine, there are things I will no longer mention because I fear being reprimanded as though I were a small child (when I am older than most of those doing the reprimanding), things I will no longer post, things I think but do not say.

Fear of chastisement != happy, peaceful, contented. 

Dislike of being treated as recalcitrant children != happy, peaceful, contented. 

Fear of being "flagged", or otherwise reported, for disloyalty, rudeness, whatever != happy, peaceful, contented.

Fear of being kicked out != happy, peaceful, contented.

Groupthink, where everyone only repeats the "party line" != happy, peaceful,  contented.

A discussion forum should be a place for a free and proper exchange of ideas, etc, without any of the fears many now have due to the rules.  This discussion forum should be a place where one can post without being afraid that cultural differences will be seen as rudeness.  One should be able to post without fearing one is going to offend someone who does not understand those cultural differences.  Just because a person posts in English doesn't mean they THINK in English, and, sometimes, the mental translations aren't always as "polite" as some seem to think they ought to be.

I am breaking my boycott of g2g once and once only. 

Jillaine, you are a Lady. You know I love you. Well done.heartkissyes

What They All Said

My position before the DRs were adopted was that they would be used to quash dissent.

My observations since then are that they have indeed been used to quash dissent.

We have the Honor Code. It should suffice. And ofttimes I see the DRs being used in a manner directly contrary to the Honor Code, which presumes good will and intent on the part of those who post here. Under the DRs, posters seem to be deemed guilty unless proven innocent, with insufficient opportunity to mount a defense.

I agree, Jillaine and especially with, "Finally, I have always believed that the Honor Code was sufficient and we do not need the discussion rules. I remain saddened by the perceived need and desire for these rules. I feel that they have divided more than united us."

add me in chorus w/Eddie kiss

Eddie, I miss your posting as well. I miss your humor, and the above-and-beyond you demonstrated in helping members with their questions.
I am in agreement with the comments here by Jillaine, Melanie and Lois. The new rules are being used to quash differences of opinion. People are worried that they will punished if they say something that shows disagreement with a leader.

I have never seen Melanie post anything remotely rude. The fact that someone so friendly and helpful like Melanie is self-sanctioning should be a big warning sign. But no, it is greeted with great joy that the rules are working. Likewise, Jillaine, who is always friendly, respectful and helpful feels the need to self-sanction. Some of the people who jumped in and helped with research in G2G have reduced their participation here. That's our unfortunate loss. There are people with Autism Spectrum Disorder who don't post in here because they know it would be disastrous, and people with mental health issues who don't post in here because they don't need the extra stress.

Kudos to those who see differences of opinion as an opportunity to bridge divides, learn to compromise, bring people from all walks of life together to work in harmony, learn something about other cultures, and experience personal growth.
Leandra, yes! When those who have been some of the most generous and gracious posters G2G in the past express reservations with the rules in their present form, the leadership should be listening and considering how to address their concerns. G2G needs people like these!
I concur with Jillaine and Melanie. I, too, decided for myself to be less active in G2G. I often only look in my e-mail telling me my feed and have a look there what could be interesting for me or where I could be a bit of help. Sometimes the questions are already answered so there is no need to add my two cents anymore. But in general I simply don't look in G2G as often as I did, my main posts are now in the Weekend Chat. And this is out of the same fear that Melanie names. I am also outspoken and direct in my opinions and fear to be sanctioned. And this is exactly the reason why I do my stuff in the tree, but get less and less involved here.

And don't tell me: "You don't have to be afraid, you won't be sanctioned", when you delete posts that aren't in your accepted opinion.

And NO, these "Discussion Rules" should not be finalized without having the two month trial without the rules or at least without having figures how many posts have been deleted before and after, how many different people were active before and after, without considering (and I mean really considering) if those people who write they are afraid of posting are *maybe* right, etc. pp. There are more than enough points in the comments here saying why people don't like these rules (as they were in the original post when they were introduced).

Diverse kernleden van het Netherlands (voorheen Dutch Roots, zucht) project, waaronder ik, hebben onderling ook besloten G2G deelname zeer te beperken, zeker waar het gaat om dit soort beleidsregels. Staan haaks op de Nederlandse cultuur.


Verschiedene Kernmitglieder des niederländischen Projekts (ehemals Dutch Roots, Seufzer), darunter ich, haben sich ebenfalls gegenseitig entschlossen, die Teilnahme an G2G stark einzuschränken, insbesondere wenn es um diese Art von Politik geht. Sie stehen im Widerspruch zur niederländischen Kultur.


Divers membres clés du projet néerlandais (anciennement Dutch Roots, soupir), dont moi, ont également décidé d'un commun accord de limiter considérablement la participation de G2G, en particulier lorsqu'il s'agit de ce type de politiques. Ils sont en contradiction avec la culture néerlandaise.

+14 votes

There has been a lot of activity since my last comment, so I will start here with an answer as my formal response.

To the original questions posed: Should we finalize the Discussion Rules as written? Or should consider changes to them, or changes to how they are applied?

Yes, we should finalize the Discussion Rules as written.

My only suggestion for improvement is to the flagging system in G2G, which I believe is already being looked into, but which would require a reason to be entered before the flag is saved. This would help combat flagging by members who misinterpret this function as a way to 'save' conversations for future reference, or can help identify why the flagged was placed in the first place.

----

In regard to Moderators - Julie has mentioned elsewhere that these rules have given Moderators the ability to collaborate and balance out discussions on how to address any issues that arise - and I 100% agree with this statement. As a Moderator myself, I can attest that there has not been an significant increase in MIR's due to the application of these rules. Mindy has also indicated that she has seen a decrease in MIR's due to G2G related issues. I am sure this is because Moderators now have a way of working out issues before anything is ever escalated to the MIR stage. In short, Moderation is actually helping to deescalate issues and resolve disagreements before they ever reach the MIR stage to begin with.

In regard to Comparative Data - Melanie stated that "Any attempt at quantifying would have to take into account the number of people who (1) stopped posting to g2g, (b) left g2g totally, (iii) left Wikitree because they no longer felt welcome due to the "new rules", (d) minimised their activity on g2g, (5) self censored their g2g posts for fear that their normal blunt truthfulness would be seen as rudeness - and so on."

And the truth of the matter is that she is totally correct in her assessment. There are too many factors that would have to be considered (and still remain unknown) that if even some numbers could be presented, would be skewed and not represent actual data because there are some numbers that we just cannot accurately acquire.

In regard to Application of Discussion Rules - I saw it mentioned somewhere (and I can't find it now) that "Posts are hidden with no contact to members." What I would like to point out is that there is much more to this then what was implied. First, everyone would have to understand that not just Moderators can hide posts. Project Leaders, the WT Team, and Moderators all have the ability to moderate G2G activity (hide posts). But members also have this ability through flagging. If a post receives two flags, it is automatically hidden. So there are quite a few different scenarios that could have played out. The standard method of contact from Moderators now is through private messaging, so I don't think this problem has existed since these Discussion Rules have been in place.

by Steven Harris G2G6 Pilot (513k points)
Thank you, Steve! This is helpful.

Steve, 

I agree with your suggestion re "flagging." I have been here for almost two years and the only thing I've ever flagged was obvious spam advertising dubious products. I hope that if your suggestion is implemented that moderators/mediators make note of who is flagging and keep track of "frequent flaggers." What we don't want here is anyone using the ability to flag maliciously against a WikiTree member.

Thank you for attesting that the discussion guidelines are working for you as a moderator. I believe you (even though I am disappointed that it didn't seem important to anyone to keep track of data so we could objectively assess the affect of the discussion guidelines.) I hope you will believe and acknowledge the feelings of members who are not moderators who have a different perspective as to how they are working for them since all it seems we have to make an assessment is how we each individually feel.

+10 votes

In trying to answer this yes-or-no question "Should our Discussion rules be finalized?" some of us have asked for information to help understand the effects the rules have had during the last two months.  Edison Williams wrote about process improvement above and concluded by stating "Asking for comparative data, for sets of prearranged metrics, is quite reasonable."

 

However, we have been told by several Leaders that a before-and-after comparison could not be made, that the results weren't quantifiable, that an analysis could not be done or would not be useful, that no one had ever agreed to provide data, that there are too many factors to measure and some are unknown...

 

Apparently there were no prearranged metrics.  And now I think I see why.  I had to go back to the first rules debate to try and figure out the purpose of the new rules, and found this statement in Chris Whitten's introduction:  " The idea was to make simple rules that can be objectively enforced, even if it means restricting some legitimate conversations."

 

Rules for the sake of rules, to make the Moderators' jobs easier.  If that is the purpose, then all we need is for a few Moderators to note, as they have, that G2G is more peaceful now and they like it better.  The new rules are working for their intended purpose.

 

But does that serve G2G well?  Or WikiTree?  Or all its members?  And at what cost?  

by Julie Kelts G2G6 Pilot (434k points)
+10 votes

Hi all,  I would like to see something added.  

I recently posted a message about a potentially life-saving vaccine (MMR vs. COVID-19).  It received one up vote, two down votes, a flag and was then hidden.  I still do not know why it was negatively reviewed.  Granted, it was not a genealogy topic, but given the large number of seniors that contribute to the WikiTree, I thought the Tree House was a good forum.  Whatever the reason for the negative reception, shouldn't someone tell me and give me the opportunity to amend my message? If an explanation is not provided, improvement can not follow.

Anyway, I suggest that hidden messages require an explanation and an opportunity to amend.  I also suggest that down votes and flags encourage a brief explanation of the reason for the negative reception so that amendments can be made for improvement.

by Kitty Smith G2G6 Pilot (558k points)
edited by Kitty Smith
Kitty, I saw your post. I didn’t flag it, instead made a comment that perhaps it was not appropriate for WikiTree given that it is a genealogy website. I did so in the nicest way I could, as I knew your intentions were good. I could see that it would be in breach of the “Discussion Rules”.
If you received nothing from anyone, then that also means that the rules for Moderators, etc are not being followed.  Are 2 flags on a post the cause for it to be removed and no communication is given to Moderators or the person submitting the post?  If so, that should be changed, an explanation should be given by someone.
I did get a private message from someone that indicated that it wasn't appropriate for a genealogy website, and it was a very nice message and appreciated.  It was the only feedback I received.  Fiona, could you point me to the area of the Discussion Rules that I may have violated?  Thank you for your comment.
Kitty, it's just something that I see as inappropriate for dissemination at WikiTree, even within our population. Information like that should be sought out from medical providers. I run a Facebook group and I don't allow people to post such things, since I don't want to be responsible for any false/bad information that could be passed around, and I'm not a medical professional who can assess such things. I didn't see your post though, so I know nothing about it.
Thanks, Natalie. The message was just a heads-up so that seniors could ask their doctors about it and Google additional information.
Don't you think they will do that anyway? I don't find that I need a heads up for any medical thing here (I'm 63, so a younger senior). I do appreciate that your heart's in the right place though.
Well, let's see.  My Veterans Admin doctor suggested I get the MMR as it may protect against Covid-19.  Based on that bit of information, I did my own research, but if she had not mentioned it to me, I never would have known to do the research. It isn't on the news, it isn't on a drug commercial.  I have to hear or read about something before I can begin to research it.  But I think I am getting off topic.  Thanks, Natalie.
It was Discussion Rule 1. Given that it was not a genealogy post and some people find vaccination controversial, even political, I could see that it was likely to violate these rules.
Thanks, Fiona.  I know you did not hide my message, but now I am concerned that someone may hide my message because it might be controversial to someone, somewhere, sometime, even if it is basically a public information message.

Now I feel even more strongly that if a message is hidden, it should require an explanation and an opportunity to amend.

I also agree with Jillaine above.  The Honor Code covers all of this adequately.
I am only able to hide my own posts, Kitty. Posts only get hidden automatically if they are flagged twice or if someone with “admin rights” does so. In both cases, I agree with you that the poster should be informed why the post was hidden (or not reshown).
The system does not send notifications of this, or shows a message that a post was hidden. Having that technical feature could really help in knowing 'what happened' and possibly 'why'.

I made a comment on the post as well to talk with your own doctor about it, but did not flag it. It really is a very touchy subject (but I am self censoring and not showing the links).
+4 votes

Chris, as I feared when I saw your post, the suggestion to make a new proposal might scatter our discussion all over G2G with no easy means of keeping track of it.  

There is now a new proposal, but how are people supposed to learn of it?

Update:  On the thread linked just above, Eowyn suggested I make a post of my own, so here is that one.

by Julie Kelts G2G6 Pilot (434k points)
edited by Julie Kelts
I think Chris said to link it as a new answer in this thread.

You are quite right, Eowyn.  I guess I've done it for her.  smiley  Sorry if I seemed critical.

And the ever present anonymous downvotes are another reason for the extreme chill effect on g2g.

You cannot disagree with something, or post a new proposal, or several other things, without the anonymous fly-by downvotes appearing as if from nowhere.
Thats why, I do comments not answers most of the time, but that does not always stop someone writing emails to you.
+3 votes
Here is some quantitative:  35 people gave 102 comments (give/take 2), as of this answer.  Comments equal how many G2G points?  How about giving out points for each profile improved, instead?  Finalize the discussion rules and get on with making other improvements, but first accept thanks/appreciation for the rules.
by Anonymous Britain G2G6 Mach 2 (24.9k points)
Profile improvement (contributions) are counted.
Leandra, you are right to a point.  Some of us make a lot of changes and sources to a profile with one save.  Others will add a source, save, add another source, save, add a line to a bio, save, etc so number of contributions isn't number of profiles updated or even the number of things done to a profile.

Hi Leandra,  I asked the same sort of thing a couple of years ago and it was put on the to-do list.  Instead of a button (like the monthly 100 and 1000 contributions) of “100,000+ contributions” that I was hoping for, a surname list of top contributors was created.  Here is the Smith top contributors:  https://www.wikitree.com/genealogists/SMITH. You can replace Smith with any surname to get a list of top contributors for that surname.  

You can also tap the yearly tab for a yearly count on a surname.  And this is interesting, it is a list of the top surnames by contribution.  FUN!  https://www.wikitree.com/index.php?title=Special:SurnameContributions&y=2020

+9 votes
As a minor proposal, I first suggest changing the name of the Discussions Rules help page to Public Comments Etiquette (or something similar).

I believe the referenced Help page is specifically geared to our public comments on G2G and on profile pages, so the Help page name should clearly reflect the page's purpose.

I also believe we should not call these guidelines rules, as some of us find that term suggestive of an attempt to quash opposing viewpoints.
by Lindy Jones G2G6 Pilot (218k points)
I think the Help page's title correctly reflects its purpose.  Guidelines would not be subject to the strict enforcement we were promised and have received.
Is "strict enforcement" of these rules an actual stated goal of this proposal? I don't see any such statement in either of the proposed Help pages.

Lindy, the first draft of the Discussion Rules stated in bold type:  These rules are strict.  The current version omits that language, presumably based on widespread member objections to it.  Although the words were removed, I believe the underlying intention remains.  I think experience during the two-month trial period supports my opinion.  In any case, I don't see even the faintest indication that 'Guidelines' accurately describes these Help pages.

Stated or not, it is being enforced that way - when you have people removing the name of a previous poster from only a few posts above their own, for fear of being chastised for mentioning a living person without their permission.  Even though that is NOT one of the "rules". 

It would be nice if these "rules" were instead "guidelines", as that is a much friendlier and less restrictive term.  Something such as "Guidelines for Public Comments" (the public comments would be for g2g and profiles).

Herbert, the rules proposal has evolved from draft to draft, so some statements from the first draft may no longer be valid in regards to the current draft version that we are evaluating.

If/when we adopt a final version of the rules/guidelines, I would hope and expect that all relevant factors would be explicitly stated within the rules/guidelines.

If strict enforcement of the end-version rules/guidelines is a relevant factor in their application/implementation, then that factor should be specifically stated in the rules/guidelines to prevent any misunderstandings of intent and policy.
+9 votes
Yes, please.
by Jacqueline Girouard G2G6 Mach 6 (63.4k points)
+4 votes

Please see this G2G thread for additional discussion.  https://www.wikitree.com/g2g/1126266/can-we-pass-on-the-new-discussion-rules  My question is WHY do we need these new rules.  Explanations would be appreciated.  

by Kitty Smith G2G6 Pilot (558k points)

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