Perspectives on the Insurgency #6: Mods are people too, and they are not the enemy

This is part #6 in a sequence of exchanges between myself and Jennifer Edeburn, on the appropriateness of complaints against Quora. See:

This is the final exchange based on Jennifer’s long PM to me. There will be two more where Jennifer gets to talk back. And I am thankful to Jennifer for providing the impetus for the exchange, through which we have both clarified our thoughts, and (some of the time) come to consensus.


A second point of perspective that I feel the average member of the movement is missing: mods are people, mods are not out to get you, mods are probably overworked, and they sit in their cubicles all day and read nasty, nasty stuff, the kind that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. (OK, I don’t really know these details, but you take my point). I write a fair amount in Parenting and Children, and some of the stuff that gets posted there is extremely vitriolic. I would *not* want to spend a good portion of my day reading and handling that.

Have some empathy for the fact that it is an unrealistic workflow to expect them to examine every posting in enough detail to untangle all the context, and take a little extra time to add that context yourself.

Police yourself when talking to friends and don’t make any comments that you wouldn’t make to a stranger. Save those comments for PM; it’s true that BNBR still applies here, but unless your opposite half reports you you’re not going to get dinged for violating it.

Last but not least on the topic of perspective; when a member of the movement attacks “the mods”, even as a collective group and not as individuals, have you thought that they are attacking a group of people who cannot fight back? They cannot just come back and tell you “Oh, we banned so-and-so and here are his violations that he earned it for.”; their ability to justify their actions is extremely poor. The fact that they must exercise restraint should inspire an answering restraint, expressed as respect. Remember that I said above that many agree that Quora is different because of BNBR, well without the mods there is no BNBR.

My response:

Mods are people too: Well, mods are people too except when they are bots. But I concede: I would not want their job, any more than I would want the job of the community mods back in the day, or that of trusted reporter (which most of them appear to have succeeded to). There is some bad stuff out there, and we have all seen it, though how much we see depends on where we hang out. Moderation is necessary, and moderation is thankless, and “moderation at scale” is overwhelming.

It is also true that Moderation can’t talk back, much of the time. Tatiana is the only mod who has (at least out here in public Quora, I have the impression more is said on Facebook), and Tatiana is very careful about what she does say. I think the corporate silence of Quora in general is a mistake guaranteed to inculcate mistrust, which is why I am grateful that Tatiana says anything ex cathedra. Even if I often don’t like what she has to say.

On the other hand, heartless as this may sound: the Mods are being paid for their labours, and we are not. And the Mods have corporate responsibilities for failures of Quora against its user body.

When the lightbox UI was announced by Elynn Lee, (Improving Reading and Writing from Feeds by Elynn Lee on Quora Product Updates), and everyone and their mate queued up to say how crap it was, Scott Danzig commented “Tough crowd”, and “Yeah, but have you ever met Elynn? She’s such a cheerful little person! :D. My wife liked her too.”

This is my response. Maybe it’s immoderate, but it’s been my take. And I hope it is still constructive, even if it is on the harsh side:…

But we’re not interacting with Elynn the human being here. We’re interacting with Elynn the spox for Quora Inc, putting the spin on yet another bad UI decision, after years and years of Quora fidgeting with its UI (it’s a running joke on this site, for gawdsakes), and conspicuously ignoring all but one constructive UI suggestion from its users (blocking comments per question, and I suspect that was more a reaction to Violet Blue’s hit piece).

Quora Inc’s attitude to its users is contemptible. You know it, we know it. We are not going to express gratitude for it. And Elynn may be lovely as a human being, but Elynn as a spox collects a paycheck and spins the unspinworthy; so Elynn shares in corporate responsibility. That’s how it works.

But I’m neither ad hominem-ing Elynn, nor seeing or wishing to see anyone else do likewise. Tough crowd, true; but, I hope, fair crowd too.

That aside, of course any criticism of moderation must be well founded, rational, not ad hominem, and not special pleading for your mates. I do not disagree, and if I do fail in that direction, I expect to be pulled up on it.

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