Perspectives on the Insurgency #3: Where Jennie dings Quora and not just the Movement

This is part #3 in a sequence of exchanges between myself and Jennifer Edeburn, on the appropriateness of complaints against Quora. Unlike the first two sections:

the following sections are revised from what Jennifer first wrote me; different context, different audience, different week. Same format, same effort to reach consensus!

And I ain’t gonna call Jennifer Jennie, just like I can’t bring myself to call Edward Conway Ed. “Where Jennie dings” is her title.


Just so you don’t think I can only complain about the movement, many of the complaints about Quora’s management and handling of moderation issues are legitimate. I have seen the goal of the movement stated as transparency, but I don’t think that’s required. Constructive engagement and consistency, however — those are. Otherwise moderation is a force for punishment of users, not rehabilitation.

  • There have been numerous complaints about receiving BNBR warnings without even a link to the reported content, enough that it is difficult to believe they are all without merit. When users spontaneously post questions on Quora asking about when they can expect to hear about their appeal because it’s been two weeks, or inquire why Quora admins have stopped responding to their emails, it seems likely that these are not just empty protestations to support a claim of innocence.
  • There are users who are legitimately confused about how they have violated BNBR; users who would be happy to modify their behavior. It may be a bit much to expect a full explanation with every violation, but a checkbox message is not too much to ask, and a pointer to the offending material seems only a reasonable request.
  • A FAQ showing some common examples of unintentional violation of BNBR, with explanation, would be helpful.
  • Putting the link to the Quora guidelines and policies somewhere blazingly obvious, so that people are more likely to see and actually read it instead of just trying to “osmose” the meaning, is not too much to ask either. The current point of access is just completely obscure.
  • Making sure users actually receive a concrete resolution of every appeal … well, let’s just say that the practice of giving users the feeling that they have sent their appeals into a nameless, faceless black hole does not leave them feeling that anyone is listening to them, or appreciating that they might actually like to understand, in order that they may improve.

In short, there is *plenty* that Quora could do here to be more constructive and teach people how to do a better job in the future, that they appear not to be doing. It’s true that the lack of faith in the accuracy of moderation that is visibly evinced by the movement is not doing Quora any good, in my opinion. However, neither is Quora exactly helping themselves to put their best foot forward.

My Response:

I don’t have much to add here. I agree with criticisms of Quora after all!

Onboarding has been a problem with Quora since its inception, and a problem that Quora won’t address by putting any clear links to resources in, when users sign up. That is a design philosophy that won’t change, and that will get my continued disgruntlement.

But the community does desperately try to remedy this; Ins and Outs of Quora by Heather Jedrus for example is an effort to collate how-tos in general, and there are any number of FAQs and blogs, both official and not, about how Not To Poke The Beast. ACTION: I’m happy to promote such resources through Necrologue, which seems to have more eyes on it than this blog does.

I am also very happy to hear from Christopher VanLang that the community mods are still there, are still speaking to the Behind The Curtain mods, and are making the Behind The Curtain mods aware of their interpretations of policy; VanLang had the analogy of Supreme Court rulings. Whatever education effort there needs to be to smooth things over, the community mods are allies and resources, not opponents.

I have little confidence Quora Moderation is going to change anything, or is motivated to change anything. That’s me. But then, as I’ve started telling people, I don’t write this because I think I will bring about any change. I write this because I cannot acquiesce to injustice.

We have talked, you and I, a fair bit about transparency vs constructive engagement. You haven’t elaborated here on the difference between the two, so allow me to tendentiously quote you.

  • If you trust moderation, you don’t need a blow by blow account of what went down. You just need confirmation that what they’re doing is fair, and follows the rules without favour or malice, and provides helpful feedback and constructive engagement. Aiming to rehabilitate rather than punish.
  • If you do not trust moderation, you do want to see transparency, to restore that trust.

It’s uncontroversial to me that moderation has lost the trust of a significant section of the community. I’m not a fan of Feifei Wang’s, but I’m happy to cite I’m not angry, I just want to see some changes by Feifei Wang on This is CHINA!!!. Feifei after all was at the epicentre of RunOverPedestrianGate, an incident which severely dented users’ trust in Quora moderation (and that Bodnick was involved in). Feifei calls for both transparency and consistency. And it’s easy to see why.

Something is broken. Something needs to be done. On both sides. But that means both sides. If Quora Moderation continues to be Moloch, and impassively and mutely receive burnt offerings… well, no point getting angry at Moloch. He’s just an oven. But the anger of those who see the smoke billow will persist.

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