Censorship issues and community behavior


#1

In this thread I would like to externalize the feeling that I constantly get when trying to discuss technical topics on this forum. The feeling of constant censorship.

Multiple times I’ve seen topics opened with the single intent to discuss a technical subject about Julia, but because of community behavior, they get converted into flaming discussions, where people start telling you what you should write or not or who you can tag or not in a thread. I’ve never seen that before in my life as a programmer and open source community member.

For the members of this site that share this feeling, please don’t stop contributing with answers and expressing your opinion without bias. For the members that have this tendency to over sentimentalize sentences written by others, please step back and read twice before you start a flame. Let people express their opinion, specially if it is different than yours.

Today, for the first, and after years discussing topics on programming language forums, I got one my posts hidden by “admin”. I want to stress that this censorship is bad for progress, bad for users, and needs to be rethink.

Thank you for your time in reading this, I hope this writeup can serve for both sides of the history, the ones being censored and the ones with censorship power.


#2

Give an example.


#3

Hi @ChrisRackauckas, I don’t think pointing to examples is a healthy way to solve the issue. It is about educating people on this forum to become educators instead of forum dictators.


#4

As a casual reader of this forum, I haven’t noticed the behaviour patterns you are pointing out but I am open to the idea that its happening on a level that I don’t observe so giving concrete examples would certainly help me evaluate if what you’re saying needs attention.

Otherwise, its just guesswork for me.


#5

The problem with examples is it pisses off the people they quote // which is what he’s getting at


#6

If you think someone has done something wrong, please point out exactly what it is. There’s nothing wrong with pissing someone off if you’re right that what happened wasn’t beneficial to community and you give a way that it should be handled instead. However, without a concrete example this conversation is just “people do everything wrong!” “who?” “I can’t tell you”, in which case we might as well close this.


#7

I won’t point to examples because I don’t feel comfortable doing it.

Thank you all for your replies. Have a nice Friday and upcoming weekend.


#8

I haven’t had (yet) any censorship myself, so basically I cannot tell anything regarding this issue.

However, I do feel similar to what @juliohm feels. In the topic regarding Plots.jl, which has been closed due to getting off-topic because of the blast of complaints and other messages, you can find examples if you skim through. When I check the profiles of the posters under the thread, I can see that the average level of education there seems to be post-graduate. For this reason, I assume everyone there is somehow a grownup. However, some people try to “educate” others, as if it were up to them.

As for the specific example… In my opinion, tagging some person here or there is something that considers the two persons: the tagger and the tagged person (borrowing from the original post in this thread). It is not up to any third party to judge whether it is appropriate to tag that person, or not (assuming that there does not exist some specific rule under Julia Discourse which prevents tagging others). If the tagged person gets disturbed by this, she can speak for herself. If, on the other hand, tagging a person here when that person has not been involved with the forum for some period is deemed an ethical issue, again this should not be expressed publicly under the thread. The reason is simple: if we do not have common ethical codes on this forum, you cannot expect the other person sharing the same ethical codes as yours (some parts of ethics might change based on the society/profession you are in).

Should you read thru the aforementioned thread, you will find other examples where some person tries to teach others something in a not-so-nice way.

EDIT. By the way, I forgot to mention about the beautiful private messaging functionality in Discourse. Basically, we can try to convey our thoughts/feelings first through a private message, and then go public, if we still feel the need for doing so.


#9

As far as the hidden post, the only one of yours I see within the past year was in the “ugly Plots.jl” mega-thread: one of your posts was flagged as inappropriate by community members, and another moderator (not me) affirmed the flag. I’m not sure if you were sent an explanation why the post was moderated, but if you would like an explanation, let me know (I support the decision, and I’m quite sure all of the other moderators do too).

We get maybe 2 flags a week and mostly ignore them, so I don’t think it’s accurate to say this forum is moderated with a heavy hand.

There is, however, a strong tendency to discourage overly abstract “expressions of unhappiness” in favor of actionable specifics and minimum working examples. Sometimes it might be overdone, but I think the Slack/Gitter channels provide a better outlet for this kind of open-ended discussion –
there is even a #gripes channel on Slack! Chat forums are more opt-in and ephemeral whereas Discourse has a large userbase and generally needs to maintain a higher signal/noise to be useful.


#10

@juliohm I was one of the people who flagged your post because I felt (and do feel), that it violated our official community standards, not because I disagreed with it. I hope this won’t discourage you from sharing your technical opinions, and in particular I hope it won’t discourage you from posting things I don’t agree with, because if we all agreed then there would be no point in discourse.


#11

Even though you are unwilling to provide details, I am considering the possibility that you are referring to my reply to you here. My understanding of the whole thing is the following: you were pinging Tom Breloff (who is, AFAIK, not a current maintainer of Plots.jl) about his plans for the package; in a topic that was about a very vague claim about the asthetics of Plots.jl plots.

I maintain that mentioning people with the @ feature should be used sparingly, and overusing it is rude. I understand that we all want to get replies to our questions, want them quick, and ideally from the people who know most about a topic. However, it is important to understand that people participate in this forum in their free time, and may prefer to do so in a time-constrained manner, or not at all for a while. Overusing the @ feature to compete for their attention may drive them away from this forum.

Also, specifically, I think that Plots.jl maintainers have been getting a lot of flak lately. I think I did the correct thing when I asked the OP of that topic to provide an MWE and/or open an issue. I think that pinging an ex-maintainer on an unrelated issue in that topic was not helpful in any way.

Finally, if I am indeed the person you are referring to, if would prefer to be told about it, instead of having to guess from vague references like above (especially in a context where words like “censorship” and “dictator” come up). I absolutely do not mind open discussion about these things (in fact, the opposite), and I think that giving references to actual comments you consider out of line is the healthiest way to solve the issue.


#12

One small thing I’ve noticed is that people get pissed off and answer when someone just complains or points out issues without offering concrete solutions. While this reaction is understandable, it’s not very helpful. If you feel like reacting negatively or defensively to someone comments just abstain from answering, or better provide some clear explanations how to start to tackle the issue. For example in the ugly Plot thread nobody pointed OP to the code that define Plots.jl defaults, so he could try to improve them.


#13

But note that he was referred to PlotThemes.jl, which is a way of doing that.


#14

Opening a thread like this as a reaction to getting one of your posts hidden by the community seems quite excessive.

I hope I am wrong but phrasing things like this really make it seems like you are actively drying to stir up drama and create an “us vs. them”-mentality.


#15

#16

unlisted this after 4h? I think it is wrong decision. At least 24h could add minimal possibility to see this for people in every time zone…


#17

If you have any concerns about misuse of admin power or censorship I would like to refer you to the https://julialang.org/community/standards/ which encourages you to seek resolution of your concerns through the Julia community stewards https://julialang.org/community/stewards/

Remember to follow the community guidelines even if you feel attacked! Response calmly and respectful and if you take issue with a post raise it to a moderators attention and if you take issue with a users behaviour seek arbitration.


#18

I would rather prefer people ping me in my spare time with thing where I am involved. It could help me to save my time for important things. But maybe you could prove overusing and show that Tom was pinged by juliohm several times?


#19

#20

Ok, point taken. Re-listing for now with auto-close tomorrow 24 hours after the last post. Please keep it civil!