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A follow-up to my earlier post on comments here at EqualityOnTrial

Community/Meta

Hi everyone–I wanted to write here to thank you all for your thoughtful responses on my earlier post about commenting and to follow up on that post.

First off, I want to assure you all that everyone at EqualityOnTrial and Courage Campaign cares about this community and cares about making it a place that people feel engaged and encouraged to participate. We want the comments sections to continue to be a productive place for discussion, as it has been for so long. The policies we’ve put in place–and that I outlined in my post–are important to us.

To clarify an earlier point, the vast majority of the community — including Scottie and myself — believe deeply in marriage equality.  However, we will not ban commenters simply because they have views against marriage equality. The site exists first and foremost to dissect the legal arguments being made as marriage equality makes its way through the courts. Often times, it’s actually helpful to understand the anti-equality argument, in order to make a better pro-equality case. That means that we will allow comments that many of our readers may disagree with as long as those views are being presented without threatening or aggressive language.

One adjustment we will make is to take action if a commenter is intentionally distracting from the discussion or stirring up animosity, even without necessarily using threatening or aggressive language. If a commenter posts the same message over and over or posts comments that are irrelevant to the post, we may take action if other users complain. This is inherently subjective, and we will do our very best to be judicious. In the end, as it says in the community guidelines: “EqualityOnTrial.com moderators reserve the right to terminate the account (ban or delete) of a user of the service for any reason at any time.”

We understand that trolls that are truly offensive can make the comments an unpleasant place for everyone. After corresponding personally with several members of the community, I understand how strongly people feel about this issue. I want you all to know that we have banned the user in question for that user’s crude and personally offensive remarks, and we have also deleted those comments.

Moving forward, we want to a better job about moderating comments on the site.  Obviously, we have to do within our limited budget (and thank you to everyone who has donated–this is the kind of work your money goes towards!), so we have hired a moderator who will work part-time to help enforce the rules.  In addition, some of the tools that allow readers to alert us to issues like this had been broken and are now fixed.  We apologize for the slowness over the long weekend in our replies, and we will work to get back to you more quickly!

I want everyone to know that you can reach me personally at jacob@couragecampaign.org if you think that a specific commenter is breaking the community guidelines or if you disagree with what we’re doing as moderators of the site. You can also reach Scottie at Scottie@couragecampaign.org.  Until then, we ask everyone to make a good faith attempt to maintain a constructive dialogue in the comments while also respective a variety of viewpoints. And please, keep in touch with us about your thoughts and concerns!

29 Comments

  • 1. Tinmanic  |  June 2, 2014 at 8:16 am

    Jacob, I appreciate this post and the fact that you and Scottie acknowledged the discontent among your readers.

    I was one of those who disagreed with the policy of letting people post here who oppose marriage equality. But I saw a comment here the other day from someone who opposed marriage equality, and the person managed to express his/her views in a way that convinced me he/she was not simply trying to be disruptive. I now realize that not everyone who has issues with marriage equality is trying to troll and sow chaos. I had been conflating the two in my mind.

    I trust that you and the moderators will continue to know the difference as well, and that you will ban those who are being malicious.

    Just wanted to say that I appreciate it. I'm glad this site exists.

  • 2. Chuck from PA  |  June 2, 2014 at 8:47 am

    Jacob, Thank you for being responsive to the concerns of many active contributors to this site. I am pleased that the actions will not eliminate all opinion that does not support ME. Sincere, thoughtful concerns need to be heard, and addressed. That is the only way we can continue to convince more people to become less resistant to ME. But, there certainly have been individuals who posted rants that were repetitive or inappropriately hostile (sometimes engendering rather hostile responses from posters who support ME. The site will be much better if we can minimize rants, inflammatory language, and obsessive, repetitive, irrelevant posts. Keep up the good work. I have not enjoyed reading legal matters this much since I dropped out of law school back in 1979. And I probably did not enjoy it that much then, expect my wonderful Real Estate Law prof., and my very handsome Administrative Procedures prof.

  • 3. davep  |  June 2, 2014 at 8:54 am

    Thanks, Jacob. This is reassuring. This has always been the best site for news and information about this issue, and I'm looking forward to things getting back to normal around here. Onward and upward.

  • 4. CowboyPhD.  |  June 2, 2014 at 9:06 am

    Thanks Jacob. I truly appreciate this site and the education it continues to provide regarding our legal system. The vast majority of commentators have given me an education in the Judicial system I never received in school.

  • 5. Dennis Dunnum  |  June 2, 2014 at 9:11 am

    I have to admit that, at first, I was annoyed that so much energy was directed at marriage as an issue, viewing it as a failed hetero meme. Later, both my partner and I sort of sour graped the whole thing.

    I have to say though, when the Supreme Court in NM announced their unanimous decision, it took us about 5 minutes to get in the car and drive to the courthouse to apply for our licence. The date is set for 3 weeks from now. I think it didn't hit us how much we wanted it until it was within reach – I'm sure a lot of others are in the same position.

  • 6. Guest  |  June 2, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Couldn't be happier to hear this follow-up to the "troll" issue.
    I join the other posters in saying that we were never
    against conflicting viewpoints, just repetitive, mean spirited,
    childish posts that were clogging up what was a very interesting,
    adult discussion about ME. This coming year is going to
    be astonishing for our history, and I really was counting on
    this resource to stay informed, so I'm very, very glad that
    you're taking our concerns for site decorum seriously. TK
    seemed to be logging in under various guises, so it's going
    to be very difficult to show him the door, but we'll do our best
    to flag him when he makes his inevitable re-appearance. Thanks guys!

  • 7. Lance  |  June 2, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Thanks for the follow-up post on this most important topic on this site. We need a clean, organized, comments clutter-free vessel for all the upcoming equality related news to come through. This is a step in that direction. It may be a coincidence, but It seems I'm already seeing new commenters on the site in the past week and most of the "old" ones still appear to be here. Was that a result of EoT taking this issue seriously?

    One question remains for me… What about this suggestion/concern that wasn't addressed in this post:
    – Threads will remain open for a half a year. There were some suggestions to shorten that due to the spambots posting well within that window. Where are you with that suggestion?

    Thanks.

  • 8. Scottie Thomaston  |  June 2, 2014 at 10:05 am

    Hey,

    So, we're still working on the issue with the threads – not because of the time limit, but because of some other issues with the Intense Debate platform. So we're still dealing with that and unfortunately don't have an answer yet.

  • 9. brandall  |  June 2, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Thank you for the response and changes! I've been reading this site daily for over 2 years. It took me two years of reading all the amazing facts and opinions in the posts before I could consider myself "somewhat" literate on ME legal jargon, court workings, etc. There is no better ME site than this one and it is because of the posts. I actually just started posted in the last month because I feel educated enough to be able to chime in and not cause "slaps to foreheads" among the leading contributors who would read my contributions. The EoT posts are extremely important to me and keeping the level of civility is very important so we don't loose the brains that teach the rest of us!

  • 10. davep  |  June 2, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    And even for LGBT people who are not going to be getting married, it is absolutely essential that we end these bans. They are among the last major examples of unjust anti-gay discrimination being given state-sanctioned force in our civil laws. They MUST be overturned.

  • 11. Margo Schulter  |  June 2, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Jacob, and also Scottie, thank you for your thoughtful clarification of the rules and your actions to improve moderation!

    What I might quickly add is that we might encounter views here that marriage equality is desirable but should come about by the usual democratic process in each State rather than a federal constitutional ruling. Of course, I disagree: our rights are not to put up to a vote! But there are people who could hold this position in good faith, and they do by their perspective challenge us to refine our arguments as to why, in fact the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment — and also the provisions of some state constitutions, as in New Mexico and maybe Arkansas — make marriage equality not only a good policy but a necessity for our scheme of ordered liberty.

  • 12. ebohlman  |  June 2, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Is Quick Hits broken or have the people with posting privileges there just given up on it? It used to be a pretty useful feature and could help reduce thread clutter.

  • 13. Lars in SFe  |  June 2, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Hi Dennis, I had the same change of heart regarding ME. The change for me came about a year or so ago. As has been mentioned already, "the unjust anti-gay discrimination" must be overturned. It's as simple as that! I'm so grateful for this site's help in educating me on the legalities and for and keeping me up to date with that effort. It also gave me the joy of running into to you. Congratulations on the forthcoming nuptials! Lars in Santa Fe.

  • 14. Pat  |  June 2, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Thanks for the follow-up and for making this comment section a better space for all once again.
    While we are discussing the site, there is another (smaller) thing that is a bit problematic. It seems that almost every post gets the very same category tags "LGBT Legal Cases", "Marriage equality" and "Marriage Equality Trials" (exceptions are this post and those of Matt Baume as far as I noticed). If almost all posts have the same tags, it makes them pretty useless. Could you consider adding state-specific tags? For example an "Idaho" tag for posts about Idaho, etc?
    I sometimes wanted to look for earlier info on a certain state case, but the "search" bar on top of the main page does not seem to work at all (for example, entering the name of a state in the search field usually yields no results). If would be great to fix the search bar (so that it searches for words in the post title at least?) and to add more specific categories to your posts.

  • 15. Lance  |  June 2, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    Agree.. Open threads would help clutter too. Why not both? There are some sites where open threads auto-post at a set time each day. Maybe they could do something like that here.

  • 16. Loren  |  June 2, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Is the search link broken? It doesn't seem to work any more.

  • 17. LK2014  |  June 2, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    Thank you for the thoughtful response to many readers' concerns. This site is so valuable, we all want to work to keep it useful and illuminating on such a critical issue for our freedom and our relationships.

  • 18. SeattleRobin  |  June 2, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Yep, I'm actually one of those people. I'm a middle-aged lesbian who is extremely content being single. I can foresee no situation in which I want to get married. But not only is this issue important to me on a civil rights level, but a few years ago I realized what a difference it makes in so many other aspects of our lives as a minority.

    Being visible and coming out is so much less awkward when you can say "my wife" in a sentence. No need for long explanations about the word partner, no need to explain that you're gay or bi. That one word of wife or husband instantly accomplishes so much. Additionally, as average people become accustomed to increased visibility and the normalness of gay families, so many other areas in which we struggle with discrimination will automatically get better with time. Which means the number of bitter fights we have to wage are reduced.

    That latter bit is where I still personally benefit, even though I'll never be walking down the aisle.

  • 19. SeattleRobin  |  June 2, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    I've been wondering this too. I loved the Quick Hits section for when nothing much was going on with marriage court cases, or for being informed about other queer news not necessarily related to marriage or legal cases.

  • 20. SeattleRobin  |  June 2, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Thanks for the follow up, it's really appreciated. I have never liked heavily moderated forums, but I also dislike it when a community is helpless to deal with an individual who is there only to stir up trouble. It feels like you're striking the right balance between those two concerns, so I'm pleased.

    For the record, I have been regularly following this site since a few weeks before the Prop 8 trial started, though I never commented very much until recently. As others have said, you provide an invaluable service, and I'm very thankful you've been able to maintain such a high quality resource.

  • 21. Zack12  |  June 2, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Thank you for the follow up.
    I understand there will be opposing viewpoints but I hope in the future that when someone like TK comes in, he or she is dealt with in a timely manner.
    This is still one of the best sites out there and let's hope it stays around for a long time to come.

  • 22. KACinSTL  |  June 2, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    Thanks! It's a shame we can't thumbs up vote an article as well as comments!

  • 23. Straight Ally #3008  |  June 2, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    I'm going to upvote you as a proxy, KAC. 😉

  • 24. Eric Koszyk  |  June 3, 2014 at 6:10 am

    Please see what's happening right now in the thread dated December 9, 2013, "Administrative judge rules against Colorado bakery that discriminated against same-sex couple" and an obnoxious troll named gphett.

    It makes the "Recent Comments" section meaningless. Instead of seeing new, relevant posts we are seeing posts from a troll on a story from six months ago.

  • 25. Eric Koszyk  |  June 3, 2014 at 7:09 am

    Jacob,

    Thank you for this response to our feedback. As someone who has been reading this website and its predecessor for several years now and who has been involved in this struggle for more than a decade (first volunteering against CA's Prop 22 in 2000), I appreciate all of the work you do on behalf of all of us. I also live in northern VA and met a few of you guys last year at the Supreme Court.

    It is because of this that I was saddened by how this valuable website was seemingly being taken over and run into the ground in the past few weeks.

    I appreciate your comments and your efforts to keep this site going. That said, I feel that I must respond to you. While you say that your team cares about this community and its concerns, it seems that a lack of caring was a huge problem in the first place. For weeks many of us tried to express our frustrations to you. Even if your contact tools didn't work you would have noticed our concerns if you had taken the time to read our posts. It appears that no one at your organization actually read the comments sections. That was a huge problem. I am very grateful that you have now hired someone to monitor them.

    I am also very grateful that you plan on taking action against commentators who "posts the same message over and over or posts comments that are irrelevant to the post" or who are "intentionally distracting from the discussion or stirring up animosity, even without necessarily using threatening or aggressive language". If you actually do this then it would go a long way in maintaining the quality of the site. At this very moment there is a commentator that is doing this very thing. They are named gphett and they are posting over and over again. They are also posting in a thread that is 6 months old (December 9th, 2013), which is another problem that we have called to your attention.

    Your response to commentators such as gphett will show us if you take our concerns seriously or not.

    This website has been an extremely valuable tool for us in the past. It is an informational clearing house where people can discuss ongoing trials and strategies for the movement in going forward. It will continue to be useful as long as it is not derailed by trivial arguing and posts by trolls. Thanks for reading this and working to rectify our concerns. We appreciate it.

  • 26. Ryan K.  |  June 3, 2014 at 7:41 am

    Great site, love the information and links to orders and opinions. I discovered the site probably six months ago, and I visit it my now multiple times a day (and all the comments!) along with scotusblog. Looking forward to rulings soon in the 4th and 10th circuits on ME rulings.

  • 27. https://tallybros.zendesk.com/entries/35675735-Timeless-Wisdom-On-Middle-Age  |  July 10, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    side bed

  • 28. https://asme.zendesk.com/entries/46615010-Eating-Strawberries-Will-Allow-You-To-Shed-Weight  |  July 10, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    calories burned walking up stairs for 10
    minutes

  • 29. support.cloudypedia.com&hellip  |  August 20, 2014 at 12:44 am

    support.cloudypedia.com

    Equality On TrialA follow-up to my earlier post on comments here at EqualityOnTrial » Equality On Trial

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