User:JDWpianist/JDW's unsolicited input on blocking policy
I realize that only admins and editors with blocking rights have been invited to weigh in about blocking policy reform. However, I thought that having been blocked several times -- a few of which I'll admit were justified -- and having lived through them all to become one of the only non-admin editors who's stayed around to watch a lot of editors come and go, I have a unique perspective on what Conservapedia could do to make more good users want to contribute.
Exodus tells us that when God had problems with the Israelites constantly sinning, he gave them a list of commandments to abide by. One might wonder why this was so. I would argue that one reason was this: without knowing what an authority expects of you, you don't necessarily feel freer, rather the opposite. The constant wondering what kind of offense might get you zapped creates a tension which can make a person feel subject to the whims of capricious authority figures, God in the case of my example. Why, for example, did God not smite Moses for murder after he killed the Egyptian, but the Israelites' complaining earned them 40 years' wandering in the wilderness? Was this fair? Was every single person on the face of the earth (even the kids?) wicked when God decided to send a flood to kill them all? A Christian or a Jew must assume that the God of Genesis and the fist 20 chapters of Exodus is the same one as after, so the problem wasn't that God was unfair, but that the people needed to be told what the law was.
What the Ten Commandments gave the Israelites was a clear blueprint for what it takes to live in favor with God. This was a great contrast to other ancient religions, like the Greeks for instance, who were never sure what action was favored by which god (see Plato's Euthyphro), and must have lived in constant fear of enraging some god or another.
In my opinion, the problem with the way blocking is currently handled at Conservapedia is that it's more like the Ancient Greek system than the Hebrew covenant. There is a list somewhere of ostensible block reasons, but they're extremely subjective, and in practice the sysops each have their own personal likes and dislikes which may or may not be set off by a particular user's edits depending on the sysop's mood.
- One sysop, whom I'll call Hermes, likes to greet new users by saying "Welcome, I'd like you to write such and such article" and then bans the user for not agreeing.
- Another former one, whom I'll call Eris (question of gender aside), would constantly ban users who made no controversial edits, simply because he had a suspicion that they also edit at RWiki.
- There's also a Poseidon, who often appears to relish using his blocking powers as a form of intimidation, an "earth-shaking" if you will, and although he claims it's based on clear principles, it's more of an ad-hoc "I know it when I see it" code of behavioral infringement.
Even rules which are clearly put down in the commandments are capriciously enforced:
- Many people sign up and immediately get blocked for their username not conforming to the "first name, last initial" rule, one which almost no sysop actually conforms to with their own names -- neither does my own, by the way, but JohnW was taken when I signed up. Some sysops enforce this rule, and others ignore it. Either it should be policy, enforced by everybody, which means that every single user of Conservapedia has to change their name, even the sysops, or get rid of the rule.
- The worst is the 90/10 rule. Now, having a number ratio in the title makes it sure look like an objective guideline. And yes, the goal to keep users creating content instead of getting into non-productive debates is certainly a valid one. But I've seen users with only five edits get banished for eternity using this rule, as well as ones who have contributed hundreds of pages of content, and the last 15 edits or so were talk, so BAM. I had a particularly hard time with this rule when I first started editing, because Conservapedia does not welcome new users to edit articles directly, but are asked to first contribute on the talk page. Then comes a reply, and then you reply to that one, and suddenly you've racked up 4-5 talk edits in a few minutes. Beyond this, how do you measure 90%? Where do you start counting with long-term users? How many edits should a new user have made before being fairly blocked? Therefore, the 90/10 rule is effectively an "I know it when I see it" law masquerading as an objective one.
Just like no single Greek god could be considered "evil," I'd venture that most of the sysops have their own noble motives for doing things the way they do them. Hermes fashions himself as a teacher and a guide to new users. Hephaestus saw himself as a master of counter-intelligence in the war against vandals. Poseidon probably thinks that as a self-styled security officer, he should show no mercy in order to weed out the troublemakers. But the problem is, when you let sysops make up their own policy as they go, the people who have to account to them are enslaved by the lack of clear guidelines.
"I know it when I see it" wasn't a good enough definition of sin for God, and it shouldn't be here either.