Support Newsgroup Off-topic Cancelling

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Gervase Markham

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Feb 27, 2007, 6:34:45 AM2/27/07
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[Followup-To set to mozilla.governance; please respect it.]

Summary:

This is the start of a discussion as to when, if ever, it is appropriate
to cancel messages in the support groups (mozilla.support.*). (We are
not currently envisaging cancelling non-spam messages anywhere else.) We
may write a formal policy on the matter.

Background:

A week or two ago, Chris Ilias approached me to ask whether he might be
permitted to cancel off-topic posts/threads in the support newsgroups.

When we created the new newsgroups, we adopted a "wait and see" policy
to see if any sort of moderation or control was needed. Happily, in the
development groups at least, this has not proved necessary.

However, as one of the people who looks after the support groups and
spends time answering questions, Chris feels that the same is not true
there. He has made several requests over a period of months to be
allowed to deal with the problem of particular prolific participants
posting pages of irrelevant chit-chat, even when requested not to. He
feels this makes the groups less useful for their intended purpose,
because users are put off and question-answerers are discouraged from
wading through it all.

So, after discussion with Dave Miller, Dave gave him access to the
Giganews management console, and I sent him this:

"Chris,

If you take appropriate account of the "respected project contributor"
status of anyone involved, if you warn first (now that you have
something to back it up with) and cancel second, if you escalate the
amount of cancels gently as long as people don't learn their lesson,
then you may use this power for removing messages which are offtopic, on
the grounds that the more noise there is in the support newsgroups, the
less useful they are for support."

Chris's first use of this power has caused something of a stir (perhaps
unsurprisingly) and accusations of "censorship". Following a thread in
mozilla.general, Deb Richardson has suggested that we have a formal
policy for this. This message is to start a thread to determine what it
might be.

My suggestions will follow in a separate message.

Gerv

Gervase Markham

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Feb 27, 2007, 6:36:29 AM2/27/07
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Question 0 is whether it's ever appropriate to cancel messages. I
believe it is; censorship is when you are prevented from saying a
particular thing entirely (or perhaps, when you are prevented totally
from reaching a significant audience, like the banning of the
publication of a book). Given that this is the Internet, and we have
blogs, websites and mozilla.general, I don't think that removing
off-topic threads from a support newsgroup counts as censoring the posters.

Question 1 is whether we need a formal policy at all. We don't have a
formal policy for what code is included and removed; it's up to the
discretion of the module owner and reviewer. Can we leave it up to the
discretion of those doing the hard work answering questions in the
support groups?

If we feel we do need a formal policy, then whatever policy we have has
to leave room for discretion. The ultimate aim is to keep the newsgroups
useful. In the case of support groups, it means that, for example:

- people who subscribe to the mailing list to ask a question should not
have their inboxes filled up with irrelevancies while they wait for an
answer

- people who read the newsgroups to answer user questions should not
have to analyse extra material when looking for questions to answer

- searching the archives should return only on-topic results

A formal definition of what is off-topic and what is not might hinder,
rather than help, the achieving of those aims.

One last point: the newsgroup mozilla.general was specifically created
to allow off-topic discussion among Mozilla community participants. Let
it not be said that we don't provide a forum for such discussions.

Gerv

Iang

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Feb 27, 2007, 9:36:13 AM2/27/07
to Gervase Markham, gover...@lists.mozilla.org
Gervase Markham wrote:
> Question 1 is whether we need a formal policy at all. We don't have a
> formal policy for what code is included and removed; it's up to the
> discretion of the module owner and reviewer. Can we leave it up to the
> discretion of those doing the hard work answering questions in the
> support groups?


Yes, local policy seems uncontroversial, but global policy
would seem excessive.


> A formal definition of what is off-topic and what is not might hinder,
> rather than help, the achieving of those aims.

Agreed.

> One last point: the newsgroup mozilla.general was specifically created
> to allow off-topic discussion among Mozilla community participants. Let
> it not be said that we don't provide a forum for such discussions.


Right. I would have added to Dave Miller's directive that
"please also advise which group you think is a better place
for the cancelled/warned message." But maybe that is obvious?

iang

Robert Kaiser

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Feb 27, 2007, 10:44:42 AM2/27/07
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Gervase Markham schrieb:

> Question 0 is whether it's ever appropriate to cancel messages. I
> believe it is;

I agree.
And I think we also should allow removing double/triple/multi-posts, as
we have e.g. in the SeaMonkey support newsgroup atm, where one user
posted 5 or 6 top-level messages with almost identical text asking the
same question. Such multi-posts should be reduced to one ideally.

Robert Kaiser

Deb Richardson

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Feb 27, 2007, 10:58:57 AM2/27/07
to gover...@lists.mozilla.org
I feel very strongly that message removal should be an absolute last resort,
and not something that can be done lightly or without sufficient process and
definition.

Removal of messages should be subject to clear policies and definitions, not
done via judgement call on the part of an individual moderator. Once
removed, messages are gone, as far as I know, and potential disputes are
difficult to resolve after the fact due to the lack of messages in
question. As I understand it, messages cannot be restored should removal be
shown to be premature or against policy, etc. If my understanding here is
incorrect, please let me know :)

What's the procedure that will lead up to message removal? How many
warnings will users be given? What is the content of that warning going to
include? Will they be told where "off topic" discussions should be taken?
Will they be given an opportunity to explain how/why a discussion is
actually on topic before it is removed? Will messages be posted to the
group explaining that a message/thread has been removed and why? What will
the content of those messages include?

What's the stated and explicit definition of "off topic" or what is/isn't
appropriate for each newsgroup? Will users be able to read and understand
the rules that apply to a group before using that group, or will they be
made aware of rules only after an infraction? Obviously, I believe rules
should be written and communicated prior to enforcement.

What procedure will there be for lodging complaints about moderation
practices? Do users whose messages are removed have any way to make a
formal request for review? Is there any way they can get their messages
restored? If a formal complaint is lodged, what's the procedure for dealing
with and resolving that complaint? If the user is found to be in the right,
how will this be handled? Every message removal risks damaging a user's
reputation, so there should be some process in place for fixing that if the
removal was incorrect or premature.

I really don't think this sort of thing can be taken lightly as it is a
major change to Mozilla's newsgroup policies as I understand them. I
acknowledge that there may be a place for removing messages, I'm just
concerned that we do the right thing, in the right way, for the right
reasons. To this end, I think we need to formally define, review, and
publish the policies, rules, and procedures involved before enforcing them.

~ deb

Peter Potamus the Purple Hippo

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Feb 27, 2007, 1:43:09 PM2/27/07
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I would have to agree with deb, and add the following:

on what grounds does a message get deleted and who all is contacted for
removal? By this, I'm assuming from the latest round of deletions it
was because of the bad language. For example, person A asks a question.
Person B replies with good info but calls Person A an F-head for
thinking that. Person C replies to Person B and comments on his reply
only, not about the F-head part, but he doesn't snip out the F-head
part. Person D replies under Person C and he too doesn't snip. So,
according to the "now unwritten policy" regarding profanity, Person B, C
and Ds postings will all be removed. Will they also be contacted and
explained why their postings were removed? This leads me to the other
deletions . . .

. . . which happened in December 2006 and January 2007. An individual
was causing problems in the support groups. Someone classified him as a
Nasty Troll. And ALL his messages were removed including those who
posted under him. However, at times he asked a good question, and people
replied with good intentions and *helpful responses*. Yet, the entire
thread was removed. No explanation was given. I was one of those
helpful posters, and nobody contacted me regarding the removal of my
posting. The only way I found out was a "Mozilla Champion" mentioned
that his postings were being removed from the server. So, this is
"wibble" removal at its fullest.

--
Peter Potamus & His Magic Flying Balloon:
http://www.toonopedia.com/potamus.htm
http://www.bcdb.com/cartoon/46347-Peter_Potamus_Show.html
http://www.toonarific.com/show.php?s_search=Potamus&Button_Update=Search&show_id=2778

Please do not email me for help. Reply to the newsgroup only. Thanks

Michael Lefevre

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Feb 27, 2007, 3:12:01 PM2/27/07
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On 2007-02-27, Deb Richardson <d...@dria.org> wrote:
> I feel very strongly that message removal should be an absolute last resort,
> and not something that can be done lightly or without sufficient process and
> definition.
>
> Removal of messages should be subject to clear policies and definitions, not
> done via judgement call on the part of an individual moderator.

Unless you can write some code which understands the policies and the
newsgroup posts well enough to make the decision, it's always going to be
a judgement call. You can write more documentation about the judgement
call, and you can involve more people in discussing each judgement call,
but it's still going to be a judgement and I imagine many of the
judgements will be controversial.

> What's the procedure that will lead up to message removal? How many
> warnings will users be given? What is the content of that warning going to
> include? Will they be told where "off topic" discussions should be taken?
> Will they be given an opportunity to explain how/why a discussion is
> actually on topic before it is removed? Will messages be posted to the
> group explaining that a message/thread has been removed and why? What will
> the content of those messages include?

There's no guarantee you can contact a poster outside of the group, so
much of that communication and warning, all of which will be off-topic,
will have to be done in the group. That is likely to cause large amounts
of further off-topic meta discussion about the group and the
implementation of the rules.

> What's the stated and explicit definition of "off topic" or what is/isn't
> appropriate for each newsgroup?

Whatever the definition is, there are still going to be grey areas, and
some people will work out where they are and try and push the limits. If
you want to reduce the amount of judgement required, then you're going to
have to make the rules and definitions more detailed each time someone
finds a grey area. You'll probably have to set up a whole new
documentation system just to store the rules :)

> Will users be able to read and understand
> the rules that apply to a group before using that group, or will they be
> made aware of rules only after an infraction? Obviously, I believe rules
> should be written and communicated prior to enforcement.

As far as I know, there is no way of implementing that for a newsgroup -
you can make rules available to those that look for them, but it's always
going to be possible for people to post stuff without reading anything.

> To this end, I think we need to formally define, review, and
> publish the policies, rules, and procedures involved before enforcing them.

I don't think it's practical to do that, or to enforce whatever you might
come up with.

Cancelling posts works fine for removing spam. Using cancelling to try and
moderate off-topic discussion is, I think, always going to be a crude and
awkward method of doing moderation. Usually moderation of newsgroups is
done by reviewing posts before they are made available on the server.
Also, decent newsreaders have a way for the user to ignore threads or
posters they don't want to see (so everyone is their own moderator, in a
way, which of course relies on readers having some understanding of how
newsgroups work).

If they don't exist already, then having some guidelines about how to post
and appropriate topics and stuff is good. If people unknowingly break the
guidelines, then certainly that can be gently pointed out.

But if you don't like it being an individual moderator making judgement
calls and nuking chunks of posts and followups from the group, then I
think it's probably better to not to do any removal (aside from stuff
that's clearly spam), rather than turning the moderation of a newsgroup
into something which will occupy the time of a whole bunch of people in
writing policies and procedures and trying to implement them on a system
which isn't designed for moderation of that kind.

--
Michael

Frank Tabor

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Feb 27, 2007, 4:03:37 PM2/27/07
to

I think you have summed up my feelings pretty well. IMNSHO, if control
of the postings is desired, then make the change to moderated groups.
Otherwise retro-moderation is going to create more problems than it cures.

--
Frank Tabor
Knock, knock!
Who's there?
Sam and Janet.
Sam and Janet who?
Sam and Janet Evening...

Sailfish

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Feb 27, 2007, 4:09:51 PM2/27/07
to
Gervase Markham wrote:
> Question 0 is whether it's ever appropriate to cancel messages. I
> believe it is; censorship is when you are prevented from saying a
> particular thing entirely (or perhaps, when you are prevented totally
> from reaching a significant audience, like the banning of the
> publication of a book). Given that this is the Internet, and we have
> blogs, websites and mozilla.general, I don't think that removing
> off-topic threads from a support newsgroup counts as censoring the posters.
>
> Question 1 is whether we need a formal policy at all. We don't have a
> formal policy for what code is included and removed; it's up to the
> discretion of the module owner and reviewer. Can we leave it up to the
> discretion of those doing the hard work answering questions in the
> support groups?
>
I don't think you can frame this issue using the "code" analogy. The
people who can contribute to the "code" is very small wrt to the entire
community and their main focus is new feature design, not support. Many
support threads tend to eventually filter down to offering opinions
where responders end up including anecdotal experiences in order to
buttress their position. This type of free exchange lends itself to
tangential, unrelated discussions at times. The development groups are
more tunnel-vision oriented.

> If we feel we do need a formal policy, then whatever policy we have has
> to leave room for discretion. The ultimate aim is to keep the newsgroups
> useful. In the case of support groups, it means that, for example:
>

Agreed

> - people who subscribe to the mailing list to ask a question should not
> have their inboxes filled up with irrelevancies while they wait for an
> answer
>

Partially agree. If the policy had a rule that all off-topic threads not
prefaced with and OT identifier ([OT], OT:, whatever) are open to
cancellation after the nth response then filters could be set to ignore
all such tagged threads. Sender plonking is also available.

> - people who read the newsgroups to answer user questions should not
> have to analyse extra material when looking for questions to answer
>

I think that allowing some of this "chatter" also makes the newsgroups
more approachable. In fact, I'd say that some responses that are very
much on-topic but come off as condescending can be just as detrimental
to newsgroup approachability.

> - searching the archives should return only on-topic results
>

Yes, but this goal has to be measured against the possibility that those
who provide valuable answers may decide to leave if the cancellation
process is too regimented.

> A formal definition of what is off-topic and what is not might hinder,
> rather than help, the achieving of those aims.
>

Agreed, it's better to leave it a little fuzzy and malleable but some
guidelines would be helpful; especially as it relates to the tolerance
levels, e.q., 3 nest/NO-Quibble rule, 2 warning and out rule, &c.

> One last point: the newsgroup mozilla.general was specifically created
> to allow off-topic discussion among Mozilla community participants. Let
> it not be said that we don't provide a forum for such discussions.
>

Most OT discussions are not planned nor do they the people participating
in them care to go to and OT newsgroup to chit-chat. Creating an OT
newsgroup is susceptible to "leading a horse to water..." disappointment.

--
Sailfish - Netscape/Mozilla Champion
Netscape/Mozilla Tips: http://www.ufaq.org/ , http://ilias.ca/
mozilla-based Themes: http://www.projectit.com/freestuff.html

Andrew Schultz

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Feb 27, 2007, 5:37:00 PM2/27/07
to
Peter Potamus the Purple Hippo wrote:
> was because of the bad language. For example, person A asks a question.
> Person B replies with good info but calls Person A an F-head for
> thinking that. Person C replies to Person B and comments on his reply
> only, not about the F-head part, but he doesn't snip out the F-head

He should have snipped it out.

> part. Person D replies under Person C and he too doesn't snip. So,

He should have also snipped it out.

In general (and I'd submit your post and my post as Exhibit A and B,
here), you should only quote the part of the message you're replying to.
In some cases, Person D is actually replying to A, but picks C's post
to reply to instead and so gets all the irrelevant cruft along for the
ride. If someone wants to reply to the content of A's post, they should
reply to A's post, not C's.

See "Trim your follow-ups" at
http://www.mozilla.org/community/etiquette.html

--
Andrew Schultz
aj...@buffalo.edu
http://www.sens.buffalo.edu/~ajs42/

Peter Potamus the Purple Hippo

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Feb 27, 2007, 5:51:06 PM2/27/07
to
Andrew Schultz wrote:
> Peter Potamus the Purple Hippo wrote:
>> was because of the bad language. For example, person A asks a
>> question. Person B replies with good info but calls Person A an
>> F-head for thinking that. Person C replies to Person B and comments
>> on his reply only, not about the F-head part, but he doesn't snip out
>> the F-head
>
> He should have snipped it out.
>

in theory thats the way its supposed to happen.

>> part. Person D replies under Person C and he too doesn't snip. So,
>
> He should have also snipped it out.
>

again in theory thats what supposed to happen, but it doesn't always.

My example was based on your recent deleted messages. You said
something, someone replied but didn't snip. Someone replied after that
and didn't snip all the other previous stuff. Now, all those messages
were removed.

> See "Trim your follow-ups" at
> http://www.mozilla.org/community/etiquette.html

that's the problem. Not every poster is aware of the so-called
etiquette, especially the new posters. Those that have been around the
block know about them, but even some of those people ignore them.

Andrew Schultz

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Feb 27, 2007, 7:48:05 PM2/27/07
to
Peter Potamus the Purple Hippo wrote:
> My example was based on your recent deleted messages. You said
> something, someone replied but didn't snip. Someone replied after that
> and didn't snip all the other previous stuff. Now, all those messages
> were removed.

Yes. And I should add that I'm not saying that they should (or
shouldn't) be removed. I'm saying that I'm going to have a lot of
trouble feeling any sympathy. If a post is 95% quote and 5% reply that
isn't really responding to anything specifically from the quote, then I
would consider that post 95% spam.

Deb Richardson

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Feb 27, 2007, 8:02:03 PM2/27/07
to newsreply...@michaellefevre.com, gover...@lists.mozilla.org
>
> Unless you can write some code which understands the policies and the
> newsgroup posts well enough to make the decision, it's always going to be
> a judgement call.


True, but you can have a judgement call that is informed by written, agreed
upon, and published policies/guidelines, or you can have a judgement call
that is seemingly arbitrary. I'm saying that the former is preferable to
the latter.


> but it's still going to be a judgement and I imagine many of the
> judgements will be controversial.


Less controversial if the policy the call is based upon is readily available
to everyone involved in the dispute.


> There's no guarantee you can contact a poster outside of the group, so
> much of that communication and warning, all of which will be off-topic,
> will have to be done in the group.


I think this could easily be accounted for in the policy. Most people do
use a recognizable-if-slightly-munged address when dealing with these
groups. In the edge cases where someone cannot be contacted outside of the
group, something could be included as part of the policy to deal with this,
such as "three attempts at contact is considered sufficient effort on the
moderator's part".


> > What's the stated and explicit definition of "off topic" or what
> is/isn't
> > appropriate for each newsgroup?
>
> Whatever the definition is, there are still going to be grey areas, and
> some people will work out where they are and try and push the limits.


Again, this can be accounted for in the policy itself. Having the majority
of cases accounted for in the policy and having to work out the edge cases
on a case-by-case basis is preferable to just making it up as you go. And
yes, when those edge cases come up, the final decisions should be recorded
as part of the policy. I don't think this is unreasonable.

> Will users be able to read and understand
> > the rules that apply to a group before using that group, or will they be
> > made aware of rules only after an infraction? Obviously, I believe
> rules
> > should be written and communicated prior to enforcement.
>
> As far as I know, there is no way of implementing that for a newsgroup -
> you can make rules available to those that look for them, but it's always
> going to be possible for people to post stuff without reading anything.


Ignorance of the rules is not an excuse for breaking them. Having written
rules gives moderators something to point at when asking people to behave.
Without written rules moderators have little ground upon which to stand.
First warnings should always include a clear pointer at the stated
policies/rules.

But if you don't like it being an individual moderator making judgement
> calls and nuking chunks of posts and followups from the group, then I
> think it's probably better to not to do any removal (aside from stuff
> that's clearly spam), rather than turning the moderation of a newsgroup
> into something which will occupy the time of a whole bunch of people in
> writing policies and procedures and trying to implement them on a system
> which isn't designed for moderation of that kind.


Perhaps I stated my original point poorly. I simply want there to be a
stated and agreed upon policy before anyone starts nuking anything. As it
stands, messages have been removed without any such policy or set of
guidelines in place, and I think that's a mistake.

~ deb

Jay Garcia

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Feb 27, 2007, 8:14:50 PM2/27/07
to
On 27.02.2007 15:03, Frank Tabor wrote:

--- Original Message ---

Frank, you remember how we handled it on secnews. One user in 11 years
of secnews was "officially (by Netscape)" banned and posts cancelled.
Another user, not officially banned had posts removed only after we
discussed the issue in length. And then along came ChrisI who requested
that we give him the authority to take the matter of warnings and
subsequent cancels into his own hands and proceed as he saw fit. He took
the issue under control (his) and shortly afterwards was when the melee
broke out. I see the same thing happening here. BTW, this is not a slam
against Chris (doing a good job), just some insight as to what "is" and
"may" be happening all over again.

My suggestion, based on experience, is to moderate the dev groups and
establish protocol in the .support.xx groups based on written guidelines
after which offenders are private emailed and asked to please follow
posting protocols with cancellations and/or banning as a very last resort.

--
Jay Garcia Netscape/Mozilla Champion
UFAQ - http://www.UFAQ.org

Tony Mechelynck

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Feb 27, 2007, 8:41:29 PM2/27/07
to
Jay Garcia wrote:
[...]

> My suggestion, based on experience, is to moderate the dev groups and
> establish protocol in the .support.xx groups based on written guidelines
> after which offenders are private emailed and asked to please follow
> posting protocols with cancellations and/or banning as a very last resort.
>

Of course, whoever takes responsibility to police these groups will have to be
conscious of the posters who use invalid from-addresses such as
"nob...@example.com" (which not even a human can resolve) or, yes,
J...@JayNOSPAMGarcia.com (which a human can resolve, but not by using merely
"Reply to Sender"). In the former case, no private-email warning is possible.
The answer _might_ be to immediately escalate to canceling, or it might be to
issue the warning publicly, but IMHO how to address that kind of posts will
need to be thought of in advance.

Best regards,
Tony.
--
Speak roughly to your little VAX,
And boot it when it crashes;
It knows that one cannot relax
Because the paging thrashes!

Wow! Wow! Wow!

I speak severely to my VAX,
And boot it when it crashes;
In spite of all my favorite hacks
My jobs it always thrashes!

Wow! Wow! Wow!

Jay Garcia

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Feb 27, 2007, 9:13:23 PM2/27/07
to
On 27.02.2007 19:41, Tony Mechelynck wrote:

--- Original Message ---

> Jay Garcia wrote:
> [...]
>> My suggestion, based on experience, is to moderate the dev groups and
>> establish protocol in the .support.xx groups based on written guidelines
>> after which offenders are private emailed and asked to please follow
>> posting protocols with cancellations and/or banning as a very last resort.
>>
>
> Of course, whoever takes responsibility to police these groups will have to be
> conscious of the posters who use invalid from-addresses such as
> "nob...@example.com" (which not even a human can resolve) or, yes,
> J...@JayNOSPAMGarcia.com (which a human can resolve, but not by using merely
> "Reply to Sender"). In the former case, no private-email warning is possible.
> The answer _might_ be to immediately escalate to canceling, or it might be to
> issue the warning publicly, but IMHO how to address that kind of posts will
> need to be thought of in advance.
>
> Best regards,
> Tony.

Right, forgot about the munges, never had that problem on spam-free
secnews .. :-(

Chris Ilias

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Feb 28, 2007, 1:41:29 AM2/28/07
to
On 27/02/2007 10:58 AM, _Deb Richardson_ spoke thusly:

I know you mean well, when you say that you want to do this right, however:
I implore anyone who wishes to form an opinion on this, to subscribe to
mozilla.support.firefox and mozilla.support.thunderbird, and read every
message in the past two weeks. When it comes to decisions regarding
Mozilla newsgroup policy, my biggest problem is that no-one at Mozilla
reads the support newsgroups. Policies are then created based on what
happens in the developer newsgroups, then applied to the support
newsgroups. As I've said before, the support newsgroups are an entirely
different animal.

People in the support newsgroups generally know what is and what isn't
off-topic. They have been told many times, over the past year, to take
OT discussions to mozilla.general or private email. The problem is that
they don't care. There are those that couldn't care less about
reputation. They couldn't care less about the complaints of others. They
do whatever they want, so long as there are no consequences.

To answer your questions...

What constitutes OT: As I told Terry in mozilla.general (based on
discussions in the support newsgroups in the last few days),
<QUOTE>
If you have to ask yourself whether or not your post is inappropriate,
ask yourself if the intent of your post is to help people in their use
of the product the newsgroup is for. There are cases, where people talk
about how to fight spam, how to stop pop-ups, the eccentricities of
certain OSes, comparing Thunderbird to Outlook, comparing mail services,
methods of internet parental control, and they all directly help in the
use of Firefox/Thunderbird. Whereas discussions like how far you have to
drive tomorrow, and how to deal with a flu, have nothing to do with the
use of Firefox/Thunderbird, and should be considered off-topic.

If you're still in doubt, set the follow-up to mozilla.general; and that
will prevent me from removing the message. (and honour the follow-ups :-) )
</QUOTE>

*If there's an OT discussion*, where the notice goes depends on who the
people in the discussion are. If the OT posters don't have a habit of
going OT a lot, a message is sent to the thread, saying something like
"This thread has gone too far off-topic, and does not belong in the
support newsgroup. Please take this to either private email, somewhere
where it is on-topic, or the mozilla.general newsgroup. [Follow-up set
to mozilla.general]"

If the OT posters do have a habit of going OT a lot, then a private
messages is sent. Here's one I sent to a poster named Ed on Friday (his
message was not removed):
<QUOTE>
Ed, please be sure to take OT discussion to either private email, the
mozilla.general newsgroup, or any place where it is not considered
off-topic.

The Mozilla Foundation has recently sanctioned the removal of OT posts;
so in the future, if you post a message to either
mozilla.support.firefox, or mozilla.support.thunderbird, without taking
it some place proper (like setting the follow-up to mozilla.general or
poster), then be warned that such a message may be removed.
</QUOTE>

If I can't contact the poster privately, the message is sent to the
newsgroup, with a follow-up set to poster, and a note saying that if
he/she wishes to reply, he'll need to include a valid return address, if
he wants me to be able to reply back.

*If that poster goes OT again*, the action I take depends on how they
reacted to the previous warning. Sometimes a person may say "Screw you.
I'll post what I want." I'll try to engage a discussion with the
individual about why his/her posts should be taken elsewhere; but I
don't see what good a second or third warning will do. Let's say the
"screw you" OT poster is the one posting OT messages again. /That's/
when I remove his/her post.

On the other hand, there are people that rarely ever go off-topic; and
if they go off-topic only twice in a very long timespan, they're going
to be given leniency. Another reminder should do.

There is also a third set of people, that apologize for not taking OT
discussion somewhere else, but make no effort to control themselves in
the future. If that poster, can't control his/her actions, there's no
point in another warning. Message removal is the next step. Implementing
this policy is mainly a way of dealing with those who make no effort to
take OT discussion elsewhere.

*Will they be notified, when I remove it*: I'll do it privately. Doing
it in public, not only creates more noise, it usually isn't needed. Most
people don't notice when a post has been deleted. It takes specific
circumstances. I would have to remove the message in between the time
the headers are downloaded, and the time the newsreader tries to
retrieve the post.

In conclusion, removing posts may seem a little drastic to some people
in here; but for the past fourteen months, people in the support
newsgroups have been told to take the OT discussions to mozilla.general,
and they have ignored that request.

I suppose I could try summarizing the intent into something more clear,
to publish on www.mozilla.org. If anyone wants to help, I'd appreciate it.
--
Chris Ilias <http://ilias.ca>
List-owner: support-firefox, support-thunderbird
mozilla.test.multimedia moderator
(Please do not email me tech support questions)

Chris Ilias

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 1:49:24 AM2/28/07
to
On 27/02/2007 1:43 PM, _Peter Potamus the Purple Hippo_ spoke thusly:

> on what grounds does a message get deleted and who all is contacted for
> removal? By this, I'm assuming from the latest round of deletions it
> was because of the bad language.

You've read the "censorship" thread in mozilla.general, correct? I
assume you have, because you've posted to that thread. In that thread,
I've stated three different times, in three different posts[1][2][3],
that message removal is about OT content, not profanity. In fact, you
even replied to the third message.

[1]<http://groups.google.com/group/mozilla.general/msg/9c446194431d05a>
[2]<http://groups.google.com/group/mozilla.general/msg/503ce5d09a6e9435>
[3]<http://groups.google.com/group/mozilla.general/msg/a5a3e305af060f59>

> . . . which happened in December 2006 and January 2007. An individual
> was causing problems in the support groups. Someone classified him as a
> Nasty Troll. And ALL his messages were removed including those who
> posted under him. However, at times he asked a good question, and people
> replied with good intentions and *helpful responses*. Yet, the entire
> thread was removed. No explanation was given. I was one of those
> helpful posters, and nobody contacted me regarding the removal of my
> posting. The only way I found out was a "Mozilla Champion" mentioned
> that his postings were being removed from the server. So, this is
> "wibble" removal at its fullest.

This policy change happened a little over a week ago, not December or
January. The poster you are referring to is "Garth" [4]. The removal of
his posts, has nothing to do with this policy. I did send you an email
on the 13th of January, explaining that his posts were being removed.

[4]<http://groups.google.com/groups/search?enc_author=xpoNKRMAAACmOIux4mWfH1UA9GoDVk41WMj6vob75xS36mXc24h6ww>

Michael Lefevre

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 5:38:43 AM2/28/07
to
On 2007-02-28, Deb Richardson <d...@dria.org> wrote:
>>
>> Unless you can write some code which understands the policies and the
>> newsgroup posts well enough to make the decision, it's always going to be
>> a judgement call.
>
> True, but you can have a judgement call that is informed by written, agreed
> upon, and published policies/guidelines, or you can have a judgement call
> that is seemingly arbitrary. I'm saying that the former is preferable to
> the latter.

Certainly.

>> There's no guarantee you can contact a poster outside of the group, so
>> much of that communication and warning, all of which will be off-topic,
>> will have to be done in the group.
>
> I think this could easily be accounted for in the policy. Most people do
> use a recognizable-if-slightly-munged address when dealing with these
> groups. In the edge cases where someone cannot be contacted outside of the
> group,

But the problem, AIUI, isn't with most people. It's with a few people that
are awkward - if they want to be awkward and they see it's more awkward,
they can change their posting address.

>> Whatever the definition is, there are still going to be grey areas, and
>> some people will work out where they are and try and push the limits.
>
> Again, this can be accounted for in the policy itself. Having the majority
> of cases accounted for in the policy and having to work out the edge cases
> on a case-by-case basis is preferable to just making it up as you go. And
> yes, when those edge cases come up, the final decisions should be recorded
> as part of the policy. I don't think this is unreasonable.

I don't think it's unreasonable, but I think it may be hard to do in
practice. If someone is deliberately being awkward, they can come up with
a new edge case every day, and the policy will be a constant topic of
discussion, and constantly needing to be revised and added to.

> Perhaps I stated my original point poorly. I simply want there to be a
> stated and agreed upon policy before anyone starts nuking anything. As it
> stands, messages have been removed without any such policy or set of
> guidelines in place, and I think that's a mistake.

I wasn't intending to disagree with that. I'm just saying I'm not sure a
policy that doesn't involve a lot of judgement is workable. What's needed
is someone that can implement a basic policy in a way which won't cause
much disagreement with the implementation.

--
Michael

Jay Garcia

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 9:02:32 AM2/28/07
to
On 28.02.2007 00:41, Chris Ilias wrote:

--- Original Message ---

> I suppose I could try summarizing the intent into something more clear,
> to publish on www.mozilla.org. If anyone wants to help, I'd appreciate it.

There ARE other MozChamps that could be enlisted to aid in this venture
as well as advice from the N.Champs.

Frank Tabor

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 10:56:41 AM2/28/07
to
On Tue, 27 Feb 2007 19:14:50 -0600, Jay Garcia wrote:

> On 27.02.2007 15:03, Frank Tabor wrote:
>
> --- Original Message ---
>
>> On Tue, 27 Feb 2007 14:12:01 -0600, Michael Lefevre wrote:
>>
>>> On 2007-02-27, Deb Richardson <d...@dria.org> wrote:

Snip a lot of good stuff.

Fortunately, I wasn't around by then. I think I'm also beginning to see
why I started losing interest in participation on secnews.

--
Frank Tabor
It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.
-- Mark Twain

Gervase Markham

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Feb 28, 2007, 11:02:57 AM2/28/07
to
Chris Ilias wrote:
> I know you mean well, when you say that you want to do this right, however:
> I implore anyone who wishes to form an opinion on this, to subscribe to
> mozilla.support.firefox and mozilla.support.thunderbird, and read every
> message in the past two weeks.

In order to have some light rather than heat, I downloaded the last 5000
messages in mozilla.support.firefox and mozilla.support.thunderbird. The
Firefox newsgroup runs at 100 messages a day; the Thunderbird newsgroup
at 80. So these are high volume groups.

I assume that the vast majority of non-accidental off-topicness comes
from newsgroup regulars, i.e. those who post reasonably frequently.

I made a list of anyone who posted more than about 50 messages. I worked
out a "on-topic percentage" for each poster over 100 messages, by random
sampling, plus people who are participating in this thread. There is
some play in the figures because it's not always possible to tell with
certainty if there's little context, but it should be good enough for a
"finger in the air". I then used that to calculate an approximate number
of off-topic messages posted in the time-frame (60 days for Thunderbird,
50 days for Firefox).

The results are as follows:

Firefox
-------
-Name- Msgs On-T (Stats) Off-T
Nir: 476 100% (37/37) 0
Brian Heinrich: 353 63% (17/27) 130
David McRitchie: 231 95% (16/17) 12
Peter Potamus the Purple Hippo: 205 83% (24/29) 35
Chris Ilias: 178 100% (27/27) 0
squaredancer: 166 44% (11/25) 93
Ron Hunter: 160 62% (15/25) 60
Ed Mullen: 131 60% (12/20) 52
Phillip M. Jones, C.E.T.: 119 44% ( 8/18) 66
Irwin Greenwald: 88
Tony Mechelynck: 80
Ron K: 62
Jeff: 59
Moz Champion (Dan): 58
Leonidas Jones: 57
Jay Garcia: 56 30% ( 6/20) 39
Herb: 50

Thunderbird
-----------
-Name- Msgs On-T (Stats) Off-T
Brian Heinrich: 451
Nir: 442
Peter Potamus the Purple Hippo: 190
squaredancer: 170
Moz Champion (Dan): 160 79% (19/24) 34
Ron Hunter: 116
Tony Mechelynck: 106 94% ( 1/16) 6
Phillip M. Jones, C.E.T.: 102
Chris Ilias: 97
Jay Garcia: 88
Pete Holsberg: 77
Andrew de Farla: 75
Ron K.: 63
Frank Tabor: 62 64% ( 9/14) 22
Terry: 57
Leonidas Jones: 52
Irwin Greenwald: 51
Herb: 50

It seems to me that most posters fall into one of two categories - the
"more than nine-tenths on-topic" camp, and the "less than two thirds
on-topic" camp (with M.C. Dan, who gets into arguments about posting
style, and Peter P. being in the middle). But when you consider the
volume, a couple of people rise to the top as the off-topic kings.

Gerv

Gervase Markham

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 11:25:34 AM2/28/07
to
Deb Richardson wrote:
> What's the procedure that will lead up to message removal? How many
> warnings will users be given? What is the content of that warning going to
> include? Will they be told where "off topic" discussions should be taken?
> Will they be given an opportunity to explain how/why a discussion is
> actually on topic before it is removed? Will messages be posted to the
> group explaining that a message/thread has been removed and why? What will
> the content of those messages include?

The danger of this is that you end up with more messages in the group
than you removed!

It seems to me that the envisaged use is something like as follows:

- Email to a particular person: "A lot of your posts are off-topic (here
are examples); please try and stay on-topic"
- If no change, a further email "If you don't stay on-topic, I will
start removing your off-topic posts without warning"
- If no change, then the threat is carried out (perhaps with a single
message at the start of any period of removals, explaining what is
happening)

If email isn't available because they've obfuscated their address, then
you'd have to post the "emails" to the group instead.

> What's the stated and explicit definition of "off topic" or what is/isn't
> appropriate for each newsgroup? Will users be able to read and understand
> the rules that apply to a group before using that group, or will they be
> made aware of rules only after an infraction? Obviously, I believe rules
> should be written and communicated prior to enforcement.

I think that, in the cases, in question, it's obvious enough from the
newsgroup name what the groups are for - support of Firefox and
Thunderbird. So they are not about, for example, personally abusing
other group members, reminiscing about the time of Netscape 1, or
complaining about how stupid Mozilla developers are.

> What procedure will there be for lodging complaints about moderation
> practices?

The same procedures that we have for complaining about anyone else in a
position of authority in the Mozilla project :-)

> Every message removal risks damaging a user's
> reputation, so there should be some process in place for fixing that if the
> removal was incorrect or premature.

What sort of content are you imagining these messages having? I'm
thinking about the following examples from my recent trawl:

news://news.mozilla.org:119/Qbidnf4dnvQmfDvY...@mozilla.org
news://news.mozilla.org:119/Q4OdnZLAC_TmGjbY...@mozilla.org
news://news.mozilla.org:119/v9GdncSgJ9H4STbY...@mozilla.org

Gerv

Gervase Markham

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 11:28:36 AM2/28/07
to
Sailfish wrote:
> I don't think you can frame this issue using the "code" analogy. The
> people who can contribute to the "code" is very small wrt to the entire
> community and their main focus is new feature design, not support. Many
> support threads tend to eventually filter down to offering opinions
> where responders end up including anecdotal experiences in order to
> buttress their position. This type of free exchange lends itself to
> tangential, unrelated discussions at times.

Well, don't let it. It's not that hard.

> Partially agree. If the policy had a rule that all off-topic threads not
> prefaced with and OT identifier ([OT], OT:, whatever) are open to
> cancellation after the nth response then filters could be set to ignore
> all such tagged threads. Sender plonking is also available.

...to those who know how to use it. But if a newbie manages to work out
how to subscribe to the newsgroup to ask a question, they should not
have their inbox filled with reminiscences about Netscape 1 or personal
abuse of other participants. And they have no clue what [OT] means.

>> One last point: the newsgroup mozilla.general was specifically created
>> to allow off-topic discussion among Mozilla community participants.
>> Let it not be said that we don't provide a forum for such discussions.
>>
> Most OT discussions are not planned nor do they the people participating
> in them care to go to and OT newsgroup to chit-chat.

Then they are subject to having their messages cancelled :-)

Most parking on double yellow lines is not planned, and the people who
park there clearly don't want to go to an official car park. That
doesn't stop them getting traffic tickets.

Gerv

Sailfish

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 12:06:02 PM2/28/07
to
That is illuminating. Is there any way you can put an additional filter
on the above which records the percentages based on off-topic (OT)
threads only, i.e., if someone posted several OT messages in a single
thread then that would only count as 1 OT thread by that individual
(just with the samples above)? If it wouldn't be too much effort, it
would be a more complete picture to see the percentage of OT
threads-to-total this represents.

I stuck the above numbers in a spread sheet and came up with:

Fx

Totals: Msgs Off-T OT%
2529 487 19.26%

TB

Totals: Msgs Off-T OT%
2409 62 2.57%

Offhand, it looks like the TB newsgroup OT post are in the noise level
and Fx may need some individual managing but not necessarily a need to
implement OT-cancelling?

Sailfish

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 12:20:49 PM2/28/07
to
Gervase Markham wrote:
> Sailfish wrote:
>> I don't think you can frame this issue using the "code" analogy. The
>> people who can contribute to the "code" is very small wrt to the
>> entire community and their main focus is new feature design, not
>> support. Many support threads tend to eventually filter down to
>> offering opinions where responders end up including anecdotal
>> experiences in order to buttress their position. This type of free
>> exchange lends itself to tangential, unrelated discussions at times.
>
> Well, don't let it. It's not that hard.
>
There's a reason my name is not on your little list, methinks? However,
I've sinned at times, oh yes, I have sinned :-)

>> Partially agree. If the policy had a rule that all off-topic threads
>> not prefaced with and OT identifier ([OT], OT:, whatever) are open to
>> cancellation after the nth response then filters could be set to
>> ignore all such tagged threads. Sender plonking is also available.
>
> ...to those who know how to use it. But if a newbie manages to work out
> how to subscribe to the newsgroup to ask a question, they should not
> have their inbox filled with reminiscences about Netscape 1 or personal
> abuse of other participants. And they have no clue what [OT] means.
>

Again, is it worth disenchanting the core support responders versus
simply educating a newbie? Are we attempting to "solve the exception"?

>>> One last point: the newsgroup mozilla.general was specifically
>>> created to allow off-topic discussion among Mozilla community
>>> participants. Let it not be said that we don't provide a forum for
>>> such discussions.
>>>
>> Most OT discussions are not planned nor do they the people
>> participating in them care to go to and OT newsgroup to chit-chat.
>
> Then they are subject to having their messages cancelled :-)
>

EEEEK! I thought that wasn't going to be the official line until AFTER a
consensus was reach here??? :-)

> Most parking on double yellow lines is not planned, and the people who
> park there clearly don't want to go to an official car park. That
> doesn't stop them getting traffic tickets.
>

A traffic ticket doesn't magically erase the perp. The penalty proposed
here may not fit the crime; especially, with drive-by OT posters.

Sailfish

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 12:35:50 PM2/28/07
to
Gervase Markham wrote:

Hmmm, food-for-thought.

What if the "OT Executioner" saves each OT post as s/he finds them in a
by-group OT folder. Then, say on a monthly basis, simply posts a thread
with a breakdown similar to the above in the group. This might be a more
user-friendly, less Queen-of-Hearts, way of managing the problem?

Andrew Schultz

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 12:42:14 PM2/28/07
to
Sailfish wrote:
> Again, is it worth disenchanting the core support responders versus
> simply educating a newbie? Are we attempting to "solve the exception"?

Why would the core support responders want to wade through off-topic
posts any more than the newbies? And/or perhaps more people would
participate in support if the current level of off-topicness was curtailed.

Sailfish

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 12:53:24 PM2/28/07
to
Andrew Schultz wrote:
> Sailfish wrote:
>> Again, is it worth disenchanting the core support responders versus
>> simply educating a newbie? Are we attempting to "solve the exception"?
>
> Why would the core support responders want to wade through off-topic
> posts any more than the newbies? And/or perhaps more people would
> participate in support if the current level of off-topicness was curtailed.
>
That's the flip-side of the argument, sure. I don't know the level of
pain this problem represents to "core support responders" so I can only
speak for myself (admittedly, I wouldn't consider myself a core
responder) but the ratio of Off-to-On Topic posts doesn't bother me
enough to where I think canceling is in order. At least not yet and not
before attempting a more creative approach, if possible.

Michael Lefevre

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 12:58:32 PM2/28/07
to
On 2007-02-28, Andrew Schultz <ajsc...@verizon.net> wrote:
> Sailfish wrote:
>> Again, is it worth disenchanting the core support responders versus
>> simply educating a newbie? Are we attempting to "solve the exception"?
>
> Why would the core support responders want to wade through off-topic
> posts any more than the newbies?

Because (as Gerv's rough counts indicated, I think) the off-topic posts
mostly from people who are also "core support responders", and they (I
guess) want to banter with each other while providing support.

> And/or perhaps more people would
> participate in support if the current level of off-topicness was curtailed.

That's possible. I guess it's possible that harsh measures could drive
away the off-topic posters along with their off-topic posts, in which case
we would be relying on some new people participating - otherwise instead
of getting off-topic chatter along with their answer, the people asking
questions may not get a response at all.

--
Michael

Gervase Markham

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 1:39:35 PM2/28/07
to
Sailfish wrote:
> That is illuminating. Is there any way you can put an additional filter
> on the above which records the percentages based on off-topic (OT)
> threads only, i.e., if someone posted several OT messages in a single
> thread then that would only count as 1 OT thread by that individual
> (just with the samples above)?

Not without reading every thread and assessing when, if ever, each one
went off-topic. :-|

> Totals: Msgs Off-T OT%
> 2529 487 19.26%

That's a very high percentage. Compare the level in the dev groups,
which is (to a first approximation) 0%.

> Totals: Msgs Off-T OT%
> 2409 62 2.57%
>
> Offhand, it looks like the TB newsgroup OT post are in the noise level

You've missed a big thing there. I didn't do most of the people! You'd
need to apply their offtopic percentages for the Firefox group to their
totals for the Thunderbird group to get an estimate.

Gerv

Gervase Markham

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 1:40:15 PM2/28/07
to
Sailfish wrote:
> What if the "OT Executioner" saves each OT post as s/he finds them in a
> by-group OT folder. Then, say on a monthly basis, simply posts a thread
> with a breakdown similar to the above in the group. This might be a more
> user-friendly, less Queen-of-Hearts, way of managing the problem?

And what's the sanction? Embarrassment? I think the people concerned are
unlikely to take notice, given that they ignore specific requests to
reform their behaviour.

Gerv

Gervase Markham

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 1:41:39 PM2/28/07
to
Sailfish wrote:
> EEEEK! I thought that wasn't going to be the official line until AFTER a
> consensus was reach here??? :-)

I was speaking as if the policy had been implemented. Like "What if I
park on a double yellow line?" - "Then you'll get a ticket". It doesn't
mean I actually have one.

> A traffic ticket doesn't magically erase the perp.

With the perp being the car, of course. No, sadly, it doesn't. It would
be great if it did - then the road would be clear again. But you have to
wait for the tow truck to come along. Then it erases the perp.

Gerv

Sailfish

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 2:12:49 PM2/28/07
to
Gervase Markham wrote:
> Sailfish wrote:
>> That is illuminating. Is there any way you can put an additional
>> filter on the above which records the percentages based on off-topic
>> (OT) threads only, i.e., if someone posted several OT messages in a
>> single thread then that would only count as 1 OT thread by that
>> individual (just with the samples above)?
>
> Not without reading every thread and assessing when, if ever, each one
> went off-topic. :-|
>
I understand, that's why I added the "If it wouldn't be to much effort"
caveat.

>> Totals: Msgs Off-T OT%
>> 2529 487 19.26%
>
> That's a very high percentage. Compare the level in the dev groups,
> which is (to a first approximation) 0%.
>

Yes, that's a given but, again, I'm not convinced that holding the
support groups to that level is realistic nor even beneficial ...
something that might be determine from this discussion, I suppose?

>> Totals: Msgs Off-T OT%
>> 2409 62 2.57%
>>
>> Offhand, it looks like the TB newsgroup OT post are in the noise level
>
> You've missed a big thing there. I didn't do most of the people! You'd
> need to apply their offtopic percentages for the Firefox group to their
> totals for the Thunderbird group to get an estimate.
>

I'm not sure what you're suggesting? I simply used the data that was
available to me. I was not attempting to do a per-person, per-group
percentage but rather just a per group one. I'm not sure what benefit
there'd be with combining individuals percentages from both groups (if
I'm understanding your suggestion correctly)?

Sailfish

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 2:15:07 PM2/28/07
to
Perhaps ... perhaps not? If it provided a 80/20 solution that it may be
worth the try to find out...

Sailfish

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 2:16:53 PM2/28/07
to
Gervase Markham wrote:
>
> With the perp being the car, of course. No, sadly, it doesn't. It would
> be great if it did - then the road would be clear again. But you have to
> wait for the tow truck to come along. Then it erases the perp.
>
Car don't cross yellow lines, drivers do :_)

Robert Kaiser

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 2:23:57 PM2/28/07
to
Sailfish schrieb:

> Gervase Markham wrote:
>>
>> With the perp being the car, of course. No, sadly, it doesn't. It
>> would be great if it did - then the road would be clear again. But you
>> have to wait for the tow truck to come along. Then it erases the perp.
>>
> Car don't cross yellow lines, drivers do :_)

Sure. And we wouldn't erase users or their computers, just some posts. ;-)

Robert Kaiser

Sailfish

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 2:37:09 PM2/28/07
to
Removing, in a sense, their "raison d'etre" may well remove them?
Anyway, admittedly, it's mostly conjecture on my part but that's why I
found Gerv's stats post beneficial.

Tony Mechelynck

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 5:59:39 PM2/28/07
to
Sailfish wrote:
> Gervase Markham wrote:
[...]

>> Most parking on double yellow lines is not planned, and the people who
>> park there clearly don't want to go to an official car park. That
>> doesn't stop them getting traffic tickets.
>>
> A traffic ticket doesn't magically erase the perp. The penalty proposed
> here may not fit the crime; especially, with drive-by OT posters.
>

People obstructing the traffic by parking where it's not permitted are also
liable to have their car removed by the police, to a closed police park from
which they'll only get the car back by paying the cost of the removal plus a
fine. That does "erase the perp" from the scene of the crime (well, of the
misdemeanour at least).

IIUC, occasional, infrequent "drive-by OT posts" shouldn't as much get removed
as repeat perpetrators.


Best regards,
Tony.
--
This fortune intentionally not included.

Tony Mechelynck

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 6:09:29 PM2/28/07
to
Sailfish wrote:
> Gervase Markham wrote:
>>
>> With the perp being the car, of course. No, sadly, it doesn't. It
>> would be great if it did - then the road would be clear again. But you
>> have to wait for the tow truck to come along. Then it erases the perp.
>>
> Car don't cross yellow lines, drivers do :_)
>

Sure, and posts don't disregard netiquette rules, posters do. But tow trucks
remove cars parked in violation of laws, and moderators remove posts posted in
violation of rules.


Best regards,
Tony.
--
"How do you like the new America? We've cut the fat out of the
government, and more recently the heart and brain (the backbone was
gone some time ago). All we seem to have left now is muscle. We'll be
lucky to escape with our skins!"


Sailfish

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Feb 28, 2007, 6:32:23 PM2/28/07
to
Tony Mechelynck wrote:
> Sailfish wrote:
>> Gervase Markham wrote:
>>>
>>> With the perp being the car, of course. No, sadly, it doesn't. It
>>> would be great if it did - then the road would be clear again. But
>>> you have to wait for the tow truck to come along. Then it erases the
>>> perp.
>>>
>> Car don't cross yellow lines, drivers do :_)
>>
>
> Sure, and posts don't disregard netiquette rules, posters do. But tow
> trucks remove cars parked in violation of laws, and moderators remove
> posts posted in violation of rules.
>
Rules! Rules! Rules! If only everybody obeyed the Rules, what a
wonderful 1984 set of mozilla newsgroups we'd have here.

Jay Garcia

unread,
Feb 28, 2007, 10:09:54 PM2/28/07
to

--- Original Message ---

Not too much going on with secnews other than the fact that we're
getting all the hardware upgraded (new server) and re-locating to
another network. Also getting rid of Collabra and installing INN as
well. With NS 8 coming along as well as Netscape 9 release on the
horizon, secnews will live once again.

Gervase Markham

unread,
Mar 1, 2007, 7:01:34 AM3/1/07
to
Sailfish wrote:
> Gervase Markham wrote:
>> Sailfish wrote:
>>> That is illuminating. Is there any way you can put an additional
>>> filter on the above which records the percentages based on off-topic
>>> (OT) threads only, i.e., if someone posted several OT messages in a
>>> single thread then that would only count as 1 OT thread by that
>>> individual (just with the samples above)?
>>
>> Not without reading every thread and assessing when, if ever, each one
>> went off-topic. :-|
>>
> I understand, that's why I added the "If it wouldn't be to much effort"
> caveat.

Indeed. And I was answering your "if" by explaining that it was :-)

> Yes, that's a given but, again, I'm not convinced that holding the
> support groups to that level is realistic nor even beneficial ...
> something that might be determine from this discussion, I suppose?
>
>>> Totals: Msgs Off-T OT%
>>> 2409 62 2.57%
>>>
>>> Offhand, it looks like the TB newsgroup OT post are in the noise level

My point is that you said there were 62 offtopic messages in
Thunderbird, when in fact there were far more. I only did stats for the
three people in the Thunderbird group who were not over 100 messages in
the Firefox group.

Gerv

Sailfish

unread,
Mar 1, 2007, 10:00:18 AM3/1/07
to
Gervase Markham wrote:
> Sailfish wrote:
>> Gervase Markham wrote:
>>> Sailfish wrote:
>>>> That is illuminating. Is there any way you can put an additional
>>>> filter on the above which records the percentages based on off-topic
>>>> (OT) threads only, i.e., if someone posted several OT messages in a
>>>> single thread then that would only count as 1 OT thread by that
>>>> individual (just with the samples above)?
>>>
>>> Not without reading every thread and assessing when, if ever, each
>>> one went off-topic. :-|
>>>
>> I understand, that's why I added the "If it wouldn't be to much
>> effort" caveat.
>
> Indeed. And I was answering your "if" by explaining that it was :-)
>
I know. And I responded that I understood in acknowledgement. Yikes!
we're caught in a loop here??!! :D

>> Yes, that's a given but, again, I'm not convinced that holding the
>> support groups to that level is realistic nor even beneficial ...
>> something that might be determine from this discussion, I suppose?
>>
>>>> Totals: Msgs Off-T OT%
>>>> 2409 62 2.57%
>>>>
>>>> Offhand, it looks like the TB newsgroup OT post are in the noise level
>
> My point is that you said there were 62 offtopic messages in
> Thunderbird, when in fact there were far more. I only did stats for the
> three people in the Thunderbird group who were not over 100 messages in
> the Firefox group.
>

ah-ha! I did mis-interpret the TB numbers, then. Hey, if it's not too
much trouble ... :-)

squaredancer

unread,
Mar 1, 2007, 3:38:18 PM3/1/07
to
On 27/02/2007 12:34, CET - what odd quirk of fate caused Gervase
Markham to generate the following:? :
> [Followup-To set to mozilla.governance; please respect it.]
>
> Summary:
>
> This is the start of a discussion as to when, if ever, it is appropriate
> to cancel messages in the support groups (mozilla.support.*). (We are
> not currently envisaging cancelling non-spam messages anywhere else.) We
> may write a formal policy on the matter.
>
> Background:
>
> A week or two ago, Chris Ilias approached me to ask whether he might be
> permitted to cancel off-topic posts/threads in the support newsgroups.
>
> When we created the new newsgroups, we adopted a "wait and see" policy
> to see if any sort of moderation or control was needed. Happily, in the
> development groups at least, this has not proved necessary.
>
> However, as one of the people who looks after the support groups and
> spends time answering questions, Chris feels that the same is not true
> there. He has made several requests over a period of months to be
> allowed to deal with the problem of particular prolific participants
> posting pages of irrelevant chit-chat, even when requested not to. He
> feels this makes the groups less useful for their intended purpose,
> because users are put off and question-answerers are discouraged from
> wading through it all.
>
> So, after discussion with Dave Miller, Dave gave him access to the
> Giganews management console, and I sent him this:
>
> "Chris,
>
> If you take appropriate account of the "respected project contributor"
> status of anyone involved, if you warn first (now that you have
> something to back it up with) and cancel second, if you escalate the
> amount of cancels gently as long as people don't learn their lesson,
> then you may use this power for removing messages which are offtopic, on
> the grounds that the more noise there is in the support newsgroups, the
> less useful they are for support."
>
> Chris's first use of this power has caused something of a stir (perhaps
> unsurprisingly) and accusations of "censorship". Following a thread in
> mozilla.general, Deb Richardson has suggested that we have a formal
> policy for this. This message is to start a thread to determine what it
> might be.
>
> My suggestions will follow in a separate message.
>
> Gerv
>
I would reply to this post but, as I am not subscribed to the FU group -
and nor do I intend to - I will not be able to read any further replies
by other posters!

I would tend to presume that many other subscribers are in a similar
situation!

reg

Deb Richardson

unread,
Mar 1, 2007, 4:07:43 PM3/1/07
to gover...@lists.mozilla.org
Reposting this response because I managed to put it on entirely the wrong
thread this morning.

---
It's likely my fault, but I think this discussion has gone a bit off the
rails. My original post was a little over the top (it happens) and has lead
to much more controversy than intended.

I'm only saying that I would like there to be something written down about
when posts will be removed and why. It doesn't need to be an excessively
detailed policy, just _something_ explaining that posts can and will be
removed in such-and-such a situation. I'm not trying to be difficult, I
just think that removing posts without any written policy whatsoever is a
very bad idea that has very high potential for abuse.

~ deb

Gervase Markham

unread,
Mar 2, 2007, 5:37:06 AM3/2/07
to squaredancer
squaredancer wrote:
> I would reply to this post but, as I am not subscribed to the FU
group -
> and nor do I intend to - I will not be able to read any further replies
> by other posters!
>
> I would tend to presume that many other subscribers are in a similar
> situation!

Tough. mozilla.governance is the newsgroup for governance issues. It's
called "being on-topic" - maybe you've heard of it? Although, given the
stats I did on offtopicness in mozilla.support.firefox, perhaps not.

The alternative is either a) people having to read the same message
twice, or b) them all having to come into mozilla.general and be
subjected to a flood of off-topic wibble. (This is by design; I'm not
objecting.) But neither is acceptable.

Gerv

Gervase Markham

unread,
Mar 2, 2007, 5:43:01 AM3/2/07
to
Deb Richardson wrote:
> I'm only saying that I would like there to be something written down about
> when posts will be removed and why. It doesn't need to be an excessively
> detailed policy, just _something_ explaining that posts can and will be
> removed in such-and-such a situation. I'm not trying to be difficult, I
> just think that removing posts without any written policy whatsoever is a
> very bad idea that has very high potential for abuse.

I agree with this restatement of deb's position; I probably erred when
giving Chris cancel power without any discussion. Let's put something
together which is lightweight, clear and usable.

Gerv

Moz Champion (Dan)

unread,
Mar 2, 2007, 7:53:07 AM3/2/07
to

You have been given the opportunity to participate in the discussion
pertaining to the subject matter. If you dont intend to subscribe to the
FU group, then you accept that you are not part of the discussion (and
ultimate decision reached thereof)

That the discussion will not be in this specific newsgroup
(mozilla.general) is as Gerv points out, a matter of being on-topic.

If you still dont intend to subscribe to the follow-up newsgroup
(mozilla.governance) then for all intents and purposes you should
refrain from discussion pertaining to the subject matter. You have your
chance, take it or dont, it's up to you.

Chris Ilias

unread,
Mar 2, 2007, 10:54:31 PM3/2/07
to
On 02/03/2007 5:43 AM, _Gervase Markham_ spoke thusly:

> I agree with this restatement of deb's position; I probably erred when
> giving Chris cancel power without any discussion. Let's put something
> together which is lightweight, clear and usable.

How about an addendum to the Forum Etiquette page under "Stay on topic":
Stay on topic.

These are generally high-traffic groups, so please pay attention to
the topic of your messages, and check that it still relates to the
charter of the forum to which you are posting. Off-topic discussion not
taken to private email, mozilla.general, or any place where it is not
considered off-topic, by someone who knows they should be taking it
elsewhere, is eligible for removal from the news server.
--
Chris Ilias <http://ilias.ca>
List-owner: support-firefox, support-thunderbird
mozilla.test.multimedia moderator
(Please do not email me tech support questions)

Irwin Greenwald

unread,
Mar 4, 2007, 11:59:29 PM3/4/07
to
On 2/28/2007 8:02 AM, Gervase Markham wrote:
> Chris Ilias wrote:
>> I know you mean well, when you say that you want to do this right,
>> however:
>> I implore anyone who wishes to form an opinion on this, to subscribe
>> to mozilla.support.firefox and mozilla.support.thunderbird, and read
>> every message in the past two weeks.
>
> In order to have some light rather than heat, I downloaded the last 5000
> messages in mozilla.support.firefox and mozilla.support.thunderbird. The
> Firefox newsgroup runs at 100 messages a day; the Thunderbird newsgroup
> at 80. So these are high volume groups.
>
> I assume that the vast majority of non-accidental off-topicness comes
> from newsgroup regulars, i.e. those who post reasonably frequently.
>
> I made a list of anyone who posted more than about 50 messages. I worked
> out a "on-topic percentage" for each poster over 100 messages, by random
> sampling, plus people who are participating in this thread. There is
> some play in the figures because it's not always possible to tell with
> certainty if there's little context, but it should be good enough for a
> "finger in the air". I then used that to calculate an approximate number
> of off-topic messages posted in the time-frame (60 days for Thunderbird,
> 50 days for Firefox).
> It seems to me that most posters fall into one of two categories - the
> "more than nine-tenths on-topic" camp, and the "less than two thirds
> on-topic" camp (with M.C. Dan, who gets into arguments about posting
> style, and Peter P. being in the middle). But when you consider the
> volume, a couple of people rise to the top as the off-topic kings.
>
> Gerv

I think it would be interesting to have data on who first takes a thread
off-topic; I have seen threads in which the first response to the OP
goes off topic and he never does get his question answered.

--
Irwin

Please do not use my email address to make requests for help.

Knowledge Base: http://kb.mozillazine.org/Main_Page

Gervase Markham

unread,
Mar 5, 2007, 6:11:58 AM3/5/07
to
Irwin Greenwald wrote:
> I think it would be interesting to have data on who first takes a thread
> off-topic; I have seen threads in which the first response to the OP
> goes off topic and he never does get his question answered.

Again, that would require more time than I have. However, I would be
very happy if anyone else was to do that analysis and report back here.

Of course "the first off-topic message" is a rather woolly concept.

Gerv
Gerv

Gervase Markham

unread,
Mar 5, 2007, 10:17:22 AM3/5/07
to
Chris Ilias wrote:
> How about an addendum to the Forum Etiquette page under "Stay on topic":
> Stay on topic.
>
> These are generally high-traffic groups, so please pay attention to
> the topic of your messages, and check that it still relates to the
> charter of the forum to which you are posting. Off-topic discussion not
> taken to private email, mozilla.general, or any place where it is not
> considered off-topic, by someone who knows they should be taking it
> elsewhere, is eligible for removal from the news server.

Sounds good, as far as it goes. But that doesn't say anything about who
does the cancelling, after what procedure. How about the following?
(This wouldn't go on the etiquette page, but somewhere else.)

A to-be-determined group (minimum 2) of those people who offer technical
support in the newsgroups, and who have a good track record of being
on-topic and complying with etiquette, will monitor the groups. If they
agree that someone is regularly off-topic or repeatedly violates the
etiquette document in other ways, that will warn them by private email
(or in the newsgroup if the email address cannot be determined). If they
later agree that the behaviour has not changed, they will notify the
person by email (or newsgroup post, as above) and then start to cancel
any and all infringing posts from that person.

At least the first time round, an emailed assurance of reformation, plus
a practical demonstration of a couple of weeks in length (where the
group feels the need to cancel no or very few posts), will reset the
process.

Is this lightweight enough and yet has sufficient controls? It
concentrates on particular people rather than particular posts or types
of content - but I think that's the right way to go in order to give
ordinary users the assurance that their posts are not just going to
disappear.

Gerv

Deb Richardson

unread,
Mar 5, 2007, 11:09:52 AM3/5/07
to Gervase Markham, gover...@lists.mozilla.org
On 3/5/07, Gervase Markham <ge...@mozilla.org> wrote:

A to-be-determined group (minimum 2) of those people who offer technical
> support in the newsgroups, and who have a good track record of being
> on-topic and complying with etiquette, will monitor the groups. If they
> agree that someone is regularly off-topic or repeatedly violates the
> etiquette document in other ways, that will warn them by private email
> (or in the newsgroup if the email address cannot be determined). If they
> later agree that the behaviour has not changed, they will notify the
> person by email (or newsgroup post, as above) and then start to cancel
> any and all infringing posts from that person.
>
> At least the first time round, an emailed assurance of reformation, plus
> a practical demonstration of a couple of weeks in length (where the
> group feels the need to cancel no or very few posts), will reset the
> process.
>
> Is this lightweight enough and yet has sufficient controls? It
> concentrates on particular people rather than particular posts or types
> of content - but I think that's the right way to go in order to give
> ordinary users the assurance that their posts are not just going to
> disappear.


This seems sufficient to me. The only thing I would suggest is the addition
of a mozilla.support.general newsgroup (or somesuch) where meta-issues such
as removal can be discussed and/or disputed, and perhaps to give the OT
chitchat a proper home. This is optional, however, and might be a bad idea
for reasons I've not yet thought of.

Thanks Gerv. With this sort of written explanation and process in place,
I'm much more comfortable with the thought of removing messages.

~ deb

Sailfish

unread,
Mar 5, 2007, 11:29:40 AM3/5/07
to
Is it possible to leave the OT post but to replace the Subject with
something like "OT CLEANSED" and replace the OT information (or entire
content?) with something like, "This content has been cleansed due to
repeated OT violations, after being warned. See
http://mozilla.org/you_have_been_spanked.html" for more information."?

One, it doesn't actually "cancel" their post two, it removes the OT
stuff from subject and content which should hide it from most searches
and three, it will act as a subtle reminder to other would-be OTers of
the rules regarding cleansing. Of course, the above is not meant to
replace the warnings outlined above.

I suggest this without any knowledge on how difficult it would be to do
or implement.

Peter Potamus the Purple Hippo

unread,
Mar 5, 2007, 2:38:01 PM3/5/07
to
Gervase Markham wrote:

> Sounds good, as far as it goes. But that doesn't say anything about who
> does the cancelling, after what procedure. How about the following?
> (This wouldn't go on the etiquette page, but somewhere else.)
>

why not there? The more pages you have the more confusing
its going to be. First you direct people to the etiquette
page about how to post. Then you direct them to another
page about off topic posting. This is going to result in
confusion. One page for everything and you only have to
direct people to only one page.

> A to-be-determined group (minimum 2) of those people

why a minimum of 2? If one person says delete and another
says no, then you've got a stalemate. Who wins? That should
be a minimum of 3.

> who offer technical
> support in the newsgroups, and who have a good track record of being
> on-topic and complying with etiquette, will monitor the groups. If they
> agree that someone is regularly off-topic

this needs defining. Are you talking about going OT within
one thread, or a multitude of threads.

> or repeatedly violates the
> etiquette document in other ways, that will warn them by private email
> (or in the newsgroup if the email address cannot be determined). If they
> later agree that the behaviour has not changed,

again this needs to be defined. Within one thread, or a
multitude of threads.

And how are you going to define that. If I post one OT
today, and two tomorrow, and three the day after, but all
within different thread, do I get the notice. Or if I post
an OT within one thread, then post 2 tomorrow in the same
thread, then 3 the next day, all within the same thread, am
I on notice.

IMO, I think you're opening up a can of worms, and it could
get very ugly here. Already one helpful person was pissed
off by a threat of cancellation from Chris I, that he put in
his notice, told C.I. where to stick it, and left.

--
Peter Potamus & His Magic Flying Balloon:
http://www.toonopedia.com/potamus.htm
http://www.bcdb.com/cartoon/46347-Peter_Potamus_Show.html
http://www.toonarific.com/show.php?s_search=Potamus&Button_Update=Search&show_id=2778

Please do not email me for help. Reply to the newsgroup
only. Thanks

Peter Lairo

unread,
Mar 5, 2007, 2:50:26 PM3/5/07
to
Gervase Markham said on 27.2.2007 12:34:

> [Followup-To set to mozilla.governance; please respect it.]
>
> Summary:
>
> This is the start of a discussion as to when, if ever, it is appropriate
> to cancel messages in the support groups (mozilla.support.*). (We are
> not currently envisaging cancelling non-spam messages anywhere else.) We
> may write a formal policy on the matter.

I would like to add that fixing bug 11054 would solve a great portion of
this problem. ;-)

Ignore (kill) a Subthread (branch: not the whole thread) (Troll)
https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=11054
--
Regards,

Peter Lairo

The browser you can trust: www.GetFirefox.com
Reclaim Your Inbox: www.GetThunderbird.com

Peter Potamus the Purple Hippo

unread,
Mar 5, 2007, 3:55:17 PM3/5/07
to
Peter Lairo wrote:
> Ignore (kill) a Subthread (branch: not the whole thread) (Troll)
> https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=11054

I think being able to filter on IP addresses would be even
better

Peter Lairo

unread,
Mar 5, 2007, 4:35:48 PM3/5/07
to
Peter Potamus the Purple Hippo said on 5.3.2007 21:55:

> Peter Lairo wrote:
>> Ignore (kill) a Subthread (branch: not the whole thread) (Troll)
>> https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=11054
>
> I think being able to filter on IP addresses would be even better

Why better? I agree for (the IMO rarer) cases where the person you want
to block *always* trolls/spams. Do trolls really change their names that
often? Will users understand how to filter on IP address?

I usually just want to ignore a (sub)thread that has gone too far down
the rabbit hole. Often it is a too-detailed-for-me OT discussion by
people who are usually very ON-topic.