Warning: about to get something off my chest, this isn’t a technical post!
Ok, so first off all I totally agree that the community should strive to avoid some of the, shall we say, less sociable interactions that we’ve seen. And I’m glad to see longstanding community members including some who are specifically designated as such (@logankilpatrick) participating and to some extent intervening. I really appreciate their efforts in the Julia Discourse and I’m sure it’s overall such an unusually high-quality corner of the Internet in no small part because of this!
But at the risk of (ironically) fanning the flames I’m posting this nevertheless to offer a perspective, in all respect to everyone, including the OP, that I don’t think has been expressed, at least not in this thread:
I think that ‘changing history’ to sanitize threads is overall not the best way to go. Edits can be viewed to see what has been changed but IMHO that only makes it potentially confusing for someone encountering the thread only after such edits have been made (especially if there are then more subsequent edits that they don’t end up seeing).
AFAICT posts can be removed ‘permanently’ (after the 24 hours) by their authors which actually I think is even more problematic. Post whatever you want, no matter how inflammatory! As long as nobody of consequence notices within a short amount of time, you can ‘take it back’ without ever having to say you’re sorry. I don’t think this is how (small ‘d’) discourse in a community of grown-ups should work. We should all take responsibility for what we say.
Certainly there can be cases (though in this community I expect only very rarely) where messages really should be deleted forever–hate speech, obscenity and the like–but I think those cases should be handled by moderators and probably, if it’s that bad, the offender should be banned anyway. I’m not talking about such extreme cases (to be clear this thread is far, far away from being one).
To try to be constructive now: I don’t know if it’s possible with Discourse, but it seems to me that having the ability to only append to a post (ideally with a timestamp and a way to refer by link to such edits) and not change it, would allow one to make clarifications/corrections without resorting to sanitization. And I think the social pressure of knowing that it’s not possible to fully censor oneself after the fact might help people to think twice about what they post in the first place.
If only appending edits were possible then there could still be recourse from the author’s side in a case of remorse but I think that this should require a moderator to intervene; that way moderators would over time be able to gain some indication if someone is demonstrating a pattern and might need to be sanctioned in some way. In a case like that the moderator should have the ability to remove the original message but with a community norm that such is always done conspicuously in some way (“This message has been removed by a Community Manager at the request of the author”) so that others aren’t left scratching their heads and wondering if they are imagining things about what they’re sure they saw earlier on a thread.
Finally I’ll just mention that I don’t do a lot of forum participation online generally, and only selectively read threads here, so I may be retreading somewhat perennial internet-forum arguments over how to maintain civility without censorship (hmm, maybe this is on my mind in part because of current events…). Apologies if so, though I will say that if there are expected norms documented somewhere they aren’t easy to find (unlike, for example, the excellent PSA post). So another hopefully-constructive suggestion would be to make it super easy to link to something like the PSA but geared more towards community norms. Upon encountering a post/thread that starts to be problematic then a more gentle nudge, in the form of a link to such a ‘social PSA’ similar to the above mentioned PSA that’s geared more towards the mechanics of getting help here, could be issued, in exactly the same way that I’ve seen the ‘technical PSA’ be used many times here.
P.S. I actually originally came to offer some additions to some of the technical thoughts to the thread–which have generally been quite interesting and productive IMO–but I’ll do that in another post. This one is long enough already!