Theistic Satanism Blog Network: draft of rules, etc.

June 10, 2007

Zalbarath says he finds my draft page Theistic Satanism Blog Network: Tag topicality and other rules and guidelines to be more confusing than the rules for my Yahoo groups.

This surprises me. Zalbarath, are you sure that the blog network rules are actually more complicated, or are you just disappointed that they aren’t several orders of magnitude simpler? Offhand, I don’t see any ways that the blog network rules are more complicated than the Yahoo group rules, except that some issues are discussed as gray areas rather than as absolute black-and-white prohibitions.

I would appreciate it very much if you could take another look at the page and tell me specifically what parts you find confusing and, especially, what parts are more confusing than the corresponding rules for my Yahoo groups. Perhaps there are some specific issues on which the blog network rules need to be clarified or simplified? Or perhaps there are some ways that the page could be organized better?

The blog network rules are in various ways more lenient than my Yahoo group rules. As I originally envisioned it, the blog network rules would also be a lot simpler. Alas, on further reflection, I see no good reason to believe that most of the problems addressed by my Yahoo group rules will simply go away. Hence most of those same issues will still need to be addressed by my new rules, in one way or another, to achieve the goal of a forum which welcomes a wide range of dissent, yet gives people a choice as to which kinds of dissent they are willing to expose themselves to. (And the blog network WILL function, in effect, as a de facto forum, albeit a physically decentralized one. The automatically generated lists of posts will be very much like a forum.)

Remember, most high-profile Satanist forums either (1) don’t allow much dissent at all or (2) quickly degenerate into a total cesspool. To allow lots of dissent and yet keep most of it non-acrimonious is a difficult challenge, in a high-profile Satanist forum. (It’s easier in a lower-profile forum, especially a private forum, or in a forum that doesn’t have a hot-button word like “Satanism” in its name.)

To the top of my page about the tags, I’ve added a section explaining what tags are, since that in itself might be confusing to many newbies, who would then be totally lost for that reason. I’ve also added a section titled “Why all these rules? The blog network as a de fecto forum,” explaining some of the reasons why my guidelines are necessary. I’ve also reviewed the section titled “Blogger discretion on comment policy” and clarified/simplified a few things there.

Anyhow, you wrote:

Topical limitation rules are pointless or at least I don’t understand their purpose.

Are there any other specific rules/guidelines that you don’t understand the reason for? Perhaps some specific rules seem onerous to you because you don’t understand the reasons for them, and might seem less onerous if you understood the reasons for them?

Anyhow, one reason for quarantining sociopolitical discussion is that it can be extremely upsetting and offputting to a lot of people who would otherwise be interested in discussing spiritual matters with us. For example, I’m reasonably sure that at least one of our prospective bloggers would leave us in total disgust if I were to allow even moderately right wing political views to be expressed without limit on every single one of my pages of listings of posts, with no place to avoid them. And I’m sure that there are others who would feel the same about even moderately left-wing (on economic policy) views.

There’s also a bunch of other reasons for quarantining political discussion, some of them unique to the Satanist scene, and some of them common to nearly all high-profile online forums. I discuss them in the latest version of the new section titled Why all these rules? – The blog network as a de facto forum in my latest draft version of Theistic Satanism Blog Network: Tag topicality and other rules and guidelines.

Do my explanations on that page make sense to you? If not, please let me know.

For instance if I start thread for theistic Satanists only and among many topical and personal proper posts there will be one interesting comment from non Satanist, should I not let it through?

It’s okay to allow occasional spur-of-the-moment exceptions to announced comment policies. But there’s no point in announcing a comment policy if you don’t intend to enforce it at all. If you do make exceptions, then it would be a good idea though not required for you to follow those exceptions with comments of your own stating explicitly that you’ve made an exception amd why, so that other onlookers don’t assume they have carte blanche to break your stated rules.

(I’ve added a clarification about this to my page.)

Exceptions are for me always allowed, if they’re not annoying tendencies.

There are some serious practical problems with being too flexible about this sort of thing in a high-profile public Satanist forum (and, as I’ve said, my automatically generated listings of posts will indeed function as a de facto forum).

For example, a problem with allowing even non-annoying Christians to comment on posts listed on a “Theistic Satanists only” page is that other theistic Satanists, less mature than you, are likely to react to the Christian in a hostile manner, even if the Christian is not saying anything offensive. thereby derailing your thread into an unpleasant debate about Christianity. It is much easier to keep a debate about Christianity rational and civil if it occurs in a place where people are expecting it (e.g. a post linked from a page titled “Theistic Satanist interfaith discussion”) than if it occurs in a place where people are not expecting it (e.g. a post linked from a page titled “Theistic Satanists only”).

Also, if a comment thread consists primarily of a discussion with a Christian, even a friendly one, it is just plain false advertising for that post to be listed on a page titled “Theistic Satanists only,” and that in itself is likely to irritate some readers.

I should mention here one relevant bit of history about my public Yahoo groups. The first one I created was the main Theistic-Satanism forum, which at first didn’t have very much in the way of rules at all. I then created Theistic-Satanists-and-others NOT because hostile outsiders were trying to make trouble in the Theistic-Satanism forum, but, on the contrary, because one of my theistic Satanist regulars (who was also my partner in trying to organize an online group at that time) insisted on picking fights with even some friendly and open-minded symbolic Satanists whom I had invited to join us. So, I made the main Theistic-Satanism forum theistic Satanists only and created a new, separate forum for rational and civil dialogue with people of other belief systems. Since then my forums have attracted many other irritable theistic Satanists who would not be capable of having any rational and civil discussion at all with either an atheist or a Christian, even a genuinely friendly one. I was able to keep the peace only by keeping them segregated.

More generally, in any highly public forum, if there isn’t a formal policy on how various categories of dissidents are to be handled, then the forum tends almost inevitably to devolve into having an informal policy of “we’ll allow the dissidents to post, but we’ll all gang up on them and denounce them.” That is one thing I want to avoid, and it seems to me that the only way to avoid it is to divide the forum into sub-forums, some of which welcome the dissidents with open arms, whereas other sub-forums exclude them more-or-less completely. There is a natural and inevitable human tendency for groups of people to want to draw territorial boundaries. If the boundaries aren’t drawn formally, they will be drawn informally and much more nastily. This seemt to me to be true of almost all human groups, but even more so for Satanists, since Satanism does attract more than its share of hot-tempered people.

If you’re planning as a general rule to welcome posts from non-annoying Christians, then it would probably best to tag most of your posts Theistic Satanism interfaith discussion and end them with a note saying something like “No proselytizing comments, please” (or prohibing whatever other common Christian behaviors you personally find annoying) and reserve the Theistic Satanists only and Satanists and Pagans and occultists only tags for posts to which only a theistic Satanist (or only a Satanist, Pagan, or occultists) could make a relevant response, such as post asking to compare notes with others about your experiences involving a particular god or demon.

One thing I should point out that might help the tag concerns seem less onerous to you is that, in addition to the separate pages on my site for each tag, I plan also to display unified listings. I plan to have a page listing all recent posts by all bloggers with all tags, so that those readers for whom the tags really don’t matter can access everything from one page. I plan also to have a page listing all posts, with all tags, by those bloggers who are eligible to use the Theistic Satanists only tag, for the convenience of those readers who are looking for posts by theistic Satanists only, but who don’t care about the topic or about avoiding even comments by Christians. So, even if all your posts carried either the Theistic Satanist interfaith discussion tag or the Satanisms and society tag, they would still be listed on all the unified pages too, because you are a theistic Satanist, and thus would still be accessible to many readers who might not care to check the Theistic Satanist interfaith discussion and Satanisms and society pages individually.

The thing is that the journal is mine (so to say, apart of provider policy and so on) and I don’t let so easily other to tell me what I should do.

Yep, it’s your blog, but the use of certain tags determines which page(s) of my site your blog posts get listed on. I want to maintain certain standards as to what gets listed on certain pages of my site.

Also, many of the guidelines are presented as gray areas, things that are discouraged rather than prohibited absolutely. So, you don’t have to follow them 100%. However, if a blogger does too many of the discouraged things too often, then that blogger will (at least temporarily) lose one’s ability to have one’s posts listed using the more-restrictive tags, while, in most cases, retaining one’s ability to have one’s posts listed using the less-restrictive tags.

Do you like to struggle continuously with TS BN members about properly using of tags or any so complex rules as you propose? It sounds like a more troubles for you as it was before.

I’m still hoping it will be a lot less trouble for me than it was before, for the following reasons:

1) I would expect most of the more transient participants not to have blogs in the network, but just to post comments on other people’s blogs. It is my hope that those relatively few people who are interested enough to go to the trouble of setting up a blog and configuring it to work with the network will also be willing to read the rules/guidelines and to discuss any issues they don’t understand. The commenters will not need to know the rules/guidelines in as much detail as the bloggers.

2) I won’t have to worry about terms-of-service violations except in the most extreme cases. The more serious violations could still cause problems for me, e.g. if my site were to link directly to a libelous post for a long period of time, I could perhaps be sued for aiding and abetting the libel (or whatever the correct legalese for that might be). But I won’t need to worry as much about the borderline cases.

3) I won’t be doing nearly as much moderating. I’ll still need to moderate comments on my blog. But with the other bloggers, I’ll just be explaining the guidelines and giving them advice, not telling them what to do with every single post or comment.

Dancing between tags and commentaries like “please to avoid topic X” (maybe in particular case I don’t wish to avoid that topic?) are unpleasant and I can’t imagine that majority of TS BN members will like it too.

I guess we’ll just need to have occasional discusssions about the rules and why they are necessary and what the consequences would be of not having whichever rule a given newcomer doesn’t understand. To save time, I’ll link to this post and other similar posts from the section titled Why all these rules? – The blog network as a de facto forum on the page Theistic Satanism Blog Network: Tag topicality and other rules and guidelines.

6 Responses to “Theistic Satanism Blog Network: draft of rules, etc.”

  1. zalbarath666 Says:

    I need some time to answer on this. I hope I’ll be ready tomorrow. Probably I will post it on my WordPress blog with link to this posts as you did.

  2. Wolf Says:

    The rules seem straightforward to me, and essentially the same as the rules for the Yahoo groups, though a little more flexible. At least in theory they should require less moderation, I think. It will, however, require that you (Diane) or a team of moderators read all posts marked with network tags and recognised by the network script, in order to be able to spot violations of the network’s rules and to make sure that posts are appropriately tagged.

    I like the decentralised nature of this network, compared to the Yahoo groups. It should be more accessible to everyone, compared to closed email lists. If passersby are intrigued by a post, they can explore the network.

  3. Diane Vera Says:

    Instead of having to read every single post and every single comment, I’m hoping I can get away with just making sure that all bloggers have a solid understanding of the rules and the reasons for them. To that end, I hope that requiring all new bloggers to post some in-depth commentary about the rules will suffice.

  4. […] BN rules discussion Diane answered here on my previous post “TS Blog Network rules“. She also updated TS BN rules site and […]

  5. […] commentary on the tags and the rulesTS BN rules discussion « Zalbarath’s Notes on Theistic Satanism Blog Network: draft of rules, etc.Diane Vera on Theistic Satanism Blog Network: draft of rules, etc.Diane Vera on More bad history by […]

  6. Burnell Says:

    I am very glad I found your site on stumbleupon. Thank you for the sensible critique. Me and my girlfriend were just preparing to do some research about this. I am very happy to see such good info being shared for free out there.
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    Cloten from Baltimore city

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