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SoylentNews is people

posted by NCommander on Monday May 12 2014, @08:00PM   Printer-friendly
from the #define-soylentnews dept.

You know, this is probably one of the hardest things I've had to write since we went live. My first few attempts just lead to writer's block and frustration, so I tried to take a different tack with this and do it the way I usually do my write-ups for anything; by the seat of my pants. The staff have poked and prodded my early attempts, and I think we're ready to open this up to everyone to add their two cents in as we work towards a final version.

Since we've gone live almost three months ago (yeash, time flies), we've already had our fair share of debates, strife, and conflict, yet at the end of the day we remain operational with an involved community that keeps growing day after day. As I continue my relocation to NH, we're getting scary close to the point we're going to need to start drafting the bylaws and operating principles for this site. One of the pressing questions that have been asked time and time again is, "What will we be?" I'm ready to give you that answer.

Without further ado, let me present the current draft copy of the site manifesto. I'll read through and debate feedback below, and keep refining this until it becomes the defining statement for what SN will be.

SoylentNews Manifesto: Version 0.1

Preamble:

In recent years, many alarming trends have surfaced regarding the free interchange of news and ideas on the internet. The practice of selling users' information for profit, without their approval or even knowledge, has become rampant. People are being prosecuted simply for expressing their opinions. A "Big Brother is Watching" mentality from both state and commercial actors, with universal surveillance now becoming common, has created a chilling effect, preventing people from exercising their rights or speaking up.

Unpopular or unusual views are being actively suppressed, diversity of opinion is too often deemed a problem, and actively restricted, at the whim of corporate and political power.

Too often, the focus upon profit has led to owners forgetting that sites exist for the benefit of their community, and the leadership and staff live to serve that community.

Too often, useful help and input from a site's community is ignored by staff and management who are so out of touch with the very people they serve that they will destroy the support of the community they built, and eventually the business itself.

Statement of Purpose

Our aim is to stand in stalwart opposition to these trends. We will be the best site for independent, not-for-profit journalism on the internet, where ideas can be presented and free discussion can take place without external needs overshadowing the community.

Our Principles

Right to Privacy

We will limit the amount of data collection we do whenever and however we can.

Our user database, and the information in it, is not, and never will be for sale.

Any data collection we do will be done with the consent of the community, and destroyed once we are finished with it.

Any information we collect for legal purposes (i.e., DCMA safe harbor protections) will be destroyed as soon as legally possible.

We will continuously look at ways to shore up users' privacy, including, but not limited to, the tor proxy presently available to our users.

Right of Opinion

Diversity will be respected and encouraged as an important aspect of our community, as groupthink can easily prevent people from seeing other, perhaps better, ideas.

Except as required by law, no one will be banned or have their comments deleted due to stating a fact or opinion, no matter how unpopular or repugnant it is. We will not ban or silence a user for merely stating an opinion.

Freedom of Access

Access to information needs to be available to all members.

We will, to the extent possible, attempt to accommodate members of this site with disabilities, such as those dependent on screen readers.

Content produced by this site shall be available in a format that does not require proprietary or patented software. Non-free methods of access in addition may also be provided for sake of convenience (i.e., a YouTube video)

Freedom from Financial Backers/Handling Advertising

Media can be influenced by those who fund it; to prevent us from becoming slaves to a new overlord, the LibreNews Foundation shall be funded independently by the member sites (such as SoylentNews) which comprise it.

Should fundraising efforts prove insufficient, at the discretion of the staff, we may run advertising on this site in an attempt to supplement income.

No attempt to block access to this site shall be made by those who use ad-blocking software, though we urge such users to subscribe.

Permissions granted by the user to this site shall not extend to other sites (i.e., if you give us permission to email you, we're not going to give anyone else permission to do so).

Third-party media hosted on this on this site shall be limited to a form which is non-distracting, and non-disrupting.

Freedom of Topic

We recognize that the free flow of ideas can only take place in an environment free of taboo subjects.

No topic will be deemed unsuitable for our community to discuss.

Right to Criticize/Right of Reversion

A true community can only exist when communication can flow in both directions.

The right of our community to criticize, make suggestions, and help us improve our site will be respected. No staff or leader will ever be above criticism.

We recognize that mistakes will be made, as we are all human. It is both the right and privilege of others to correct us when needed.

If serious errors are made, we promise to revert them and fix the problems.

 
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  • (Score: 2) by Tork on Tuesday May 13 2014, @05:45AM

    by Tork (3914) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday May 13 2014, @05:45AM (#42547)
    "Diversity will be respected and encouraged as an important aspect of our community, as groupthink can easily prevent people from seeing other, perhaps better, ideas."

    What sorts of things are you looking at to break up the GroupThink?
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  • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Thursday May 15 2014, @03:41AM

    by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Thursday May 15 2014, @03:41AM (#43574) Homepage Journal

    Moderator rework: http://soylentnews.org/article.pl?sid=14/04/07/134 228 [soylentnews.org]

    I haven't had the time I needed to really get behind it, but I think a lot of the base concepts are solid. THen again, I realize I'm trying to use math to fix a people problem, so it might be a loosing battle.

    --
    Still always moving
    • (Score: 2) by Tork on Thursday May 15 2014, @05:08AM

      by Tork (3914) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 15 2014, @05:08AM (#43603)
      When we discussed this before, on the topic of Ethanol Fueled, my stance was "Throw the bum out". It wasn't popular and I think the reason for that is I have an almost completely opposing view of how a site like this should be run. I come from a couple of different forums (run by VBulletin if that gives you an idea) and we've always valued the community over the content. It seems like here, though, the content is more important than the community. We'd throw people out for being disruptive, but SN would keep the content and tell the community to deal. Which is cool, I think I understand that now. But the reason I asked you this specific question is that it was made clear in the manifesto that the offensive content would remain. From my perspective that could really tie your hands behind your back in certain scenarios.

      I do appreciate what you guys are doing to maintain openness. I hope I'm not coming off as poo-pooing it, it's not intentional.
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      • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Friday May 16 2014, @12:28AM

        by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Friday May 16 2014, @12:28AM (#44041) Homepage Journal

        I've come from it on the other side as well, as I used to be run and admin several Invision Boards (competitor to vB), and my stance on it comes from that experience as well.

        Some people are, to be blunt, shitheads, and moderation will (in theory) weed them out and send their posts straight to -1. Furthermore, we're larger than most forum communities are already, w/ approximately 3250 user accounts as of writing. Most forums I used to attend had a small number of regulars who you could more or less identify on site. Now that may be in part it was easier to ID a user (the user field here is kinda small), but with that many users, with only a small subset posting on each story, our community is never going to be one where everyone knows everyone.

        With an effective moderation system, in theory, no one ever need be hardbanned from the website; granted, I don't think the system is up to snuff right now, but I'm working to fix that. The staff acts as judge, jury, and executioner, and as history shows, that's far too much power for just one person with limited grounds to appeal.

        --
        Still always moving
        • (Score: 2) by Tork on Friday May 16 2014, @12:46AM

          by Tork (3914) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 16 2014, @12:46AM (#44046)
          It's appreciated. I'll tell ya something, I'm a Slashdotter going back to around 1999. I left them a couple of years ago (long before Dice...) because the community has turned rotten. This site, however, reminds me of why I liked Slashdot back then. I mean that as a sincere compliment. I thought you'd want to know that.
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          • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Friday May 16 2014, @01:19AM

            by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Friday May 16 2014, @01:19AM (#44058) Homepage Journal

            I'd like to say we'll never turn rotten so to speak, but as the community grows, change is inevitable, though I'd like to think w/ a steady hand, we can at least prevent it from coming what /. became. If I may ask, what sort of rottenness did you see on /. that caused you to leave?

            --
            Still always moving
            • (Score: 2) by Tork on Friday May 16 2014, @01:57AM

              by Tork (3914) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 16 2014, @01:57AM (#44061)
              Somewhere in the last decade it became fashionable on Slashdot to become a snarky asshole and argue your point into the ground, as opposed to having an actual two-way discussion.

              Here's an example: http://games.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3056285& threshold=0&commentsort=0&mode=thread&cid=41033647 [slashdot.org]

              There's a lot to read there so I'll give you a summary: There's a guy who used the On-Line service, where video games are streamed over the net, and he gave his account of how well the service worked. Another guy insisted on telling him that his opinion was wrong despite admitting he hadn't had first-hand experience with the product. (The juicy bit is 3rd post from the bottom.) So many people have been modded up for complaining about the theoretical problems with that service that they thought their opinion was sound. You'll notice that he never once asked questions about that guy's particular experience, he just spouted out what he thought he was right about.

              Somewhere Slashdot reached a point where it just wasn't cool to ask questions anymore. I *think* it happened because there were too many average joes equipped with mod-points that were drawn into flamebait articles. Sooner or later topics with high polarization (smartphone oeprating systems, game systems, etc...) don't really require thoughtful replies, just jabs thrown at each other back and forth.

              Eventually Slashdot stopped being a place for me to come by and either see something cool or have a laugh, but it eventually became a game of Verbal Kombat. I reached my fill of it when one guy's argument sank as low as to ask me why I'd ever worry about running somebody over with my car when it couldn't possibly injure me. "Really? Your last avenue of attack in this debate is to get me to explain why I value human life?"

              I believe this can be avoided if at least a significant fraction of the moderation is professionally controlled (and not solely driven by the users...) and if SN stays away from pushing their own agenda like Slashdot did with Microsoft. (I personally wouldn't have approved of this story: http://soylentnews.org/article.pl?sid=14/05/14/124 9251 [soylentnews.org] .. 'Windoze', really...?)

              I hope that helps.
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              • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Friday May 16 2014, @08:17PM

                by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Friday May 16 2014, @08:17PM (#44409) Homepage Journal

                Well, the moderation system will forever been one of those work in progress things that will be constantly tweaked to keep things interesting. THe "professional" thing is covered by supermoderation if and when I get around to implementing it >.;

                --
                Still always moving
                • (Score: 2) by Tork on Friday May 16 2014, @09:06PM

                  by Tork (3914) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 16 2014, @09:06PM (#44439)
                  Sounds great! Thank you and have a great weekend.
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