The Change in Babble Culture

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MegB
The Change in Babble Culture

I've been a babble participant since its first year (nearly 11 years now), and in the early years it wasn't just the technology that was different, the culture of the board was light years away from where it is now.

Even without the "oh, it was so much better then" sentimental artifice,  the babble culture in its first several years was much more of a community. It was still an ass-kicking place, but not so much a mean and bullying place.

We had one moderator - Audra - and we had many many participants, a far more diverse group than we have now.  Yes, there were arguments, sometimes pointedly personal, but it was rare that a babbler (non-troll) was so nasty that they caused another babbler to leave.  And generally, when Audra called attention to the personal attack, it stopped. Suspensions were extremely rare.  Bannings never happened unless the individual was an obvious troll.  Yes, people flounced, but it was rare.

This is the last time, for a very long while, that I will post anything personal or experiential.  Babble is simply no longer a place that is safe for me to do so, and I refuse to cling to the idea that babble can ever be the community it once was. I still hope that it will be a welcoming but shit-disturbing community as it should be, but it's time to move on.

Babble will never be everything for everyone on the progressive left, and it would be a crime if it were, but there is such a lack of compassion, such a lack of positive community culture here that people, good people, are reluctant - even afraid - to express anything that gets them really stoked.  It's not even so much about it being a monoculture.  It's just plain toxic.

I'm not leaving - I don't have that luxury - but I am going to be here purely as a moderator.  I will do my job, and then some, I will contribute to both babble and rabble.ca, but I can no longer consider this a community. I can no longer invest myself in this space beyond what is necessary to do the best job I can as moderator.

This board's culture is the sum of its contributors, and if I find it toxic there is little or nothing I can do, as an individual, to change it. I'm work-to-rule now, and will enforce policy like any good bureaucrat.

It's up to you babble contributors to decide what kind of space you want this to be.  I will be here to help, in any way I can and in any way you wish, insofar as it is reasonable, as a moderator.  Just as a moderator. For now.

Slumberjack

Anything in particular that bought this on, or was it the steady grind down effect?

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Sorry to hear that you will limit yourself to moderating, RW, but as someone who's been around about the same length of time I completely understand.  I know that there are times where I ask myself if it's worth it before I hit post - and a lot of the time I don't anymore. 

Cheers.

Caissa

This makes me very sad.Cry

MegB

Caissa wrote:

This makes me very sad.Cry

It makes me sad as well, but I've put a lot of thought into this, and I have to abandon the things I can't change myself in favour of the things I still think I can.

Quote:

Anything in particular that bought this on, or was it the steady grind down effect?

A combination of both. I've devoted a lot of thinking time wondering how I could possibly make babble a better place -- not out of some girl guide sense of conformist duty, or because of a need to fulfill a job description, but because I believed that I had a role to play here.

I still have a role to play here, but it won't be personal.  I will do the unthinkable and divorce the personal from the political ;D

Slumberjack

Rebecca West wrote:
I will do the unthinkable and divorce the personal from the political ;D

Good luck to ye.  I've been trying for years, with mixed results to put it mildly.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Does that mean, RW, that you won't attend babbler meet-ups? I had hoped to someday attend one and meet you and as many other babblers as I can. Wearing my Mafioso get-up. :spy

Bacchus

Babbler meetups are usually very relaxed friendly things with mostly staff and very little babble gossip occurs

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I haven't been to one yet. Might have something to do with my location. Babble meet-up in Kegaska*, anyone? Laughing

 

*bring a sleeping bag and warm clothes!

Caissa

Is there anyway to restore the old culture? How can toxicity be replaced with compassion?

DaveW

I dunno; 10 years ago I lurked a lot and there was plenty of fireworks -- before the pro-Audra strike, of course -- back when Audra lightly moderated, and various babble stars (Haephestion, skdadl, Fidel, many others I forget), got into pretty lengthy and full-throated debates

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

New members are key, but many interesting political questions are being discussed elsewhere, mostly on the corportaized mediums of facebook and twitter. There are lower-tech, non-corporate models babble could learn from -- notably metafilter (whose user policy is based on "trust" and a five-dollar entrance fee) and reddit (whose user policy seems to be based on the politics of pubescent rich boys). So in this sense I still think babble has something to offer. It would be nice if we could clean up our software, but since that doesn't seem forthcoming, we have to look to ourselves.

Occasionally the old days comes up as a model, with reference to some "lighter" moderation style like the post above. I don't think that's true -- there were different goalposts like abortion and ssm whose subsequent moving we now benefit from -- but I'm not going to debate people's perceptions. What did mark that time as different was the respect and support people showed dedicated members of the community, including the moderator. That doesn't happen here enough. Instead, babblers seem to use this place as a venting ground for their daily stresses, taking them out on each other (and on the mods). That shouldn't be what it's for.

What it's for, in my opinion, is for threads like the Quebec protests and (at times, dare I say it) the NDP leadership threads. Both are examples of great aggregate info updates not found in the MSM (or anywhere), original analysis and inside perspectives. They also brought in new voices who drifted into other threads. Kaitlin's babble book club is another source of potential. But like any community, we need to want this to work and not use it as a punching bag to get rid of our 3D grief.

Ken Burch

Any chance they could do the sensible thing and bring Audra back, with apologies? 

Her dismissal was never justified, nor was the insistence on doing it so quickly that notifying her by email was necessary.

C'mon Rabble management, eat some humble pie, do a little self-criticism, and admit you were wrong to kick Audra out.

Ken Burch

On another note, I think everybody should take a hard look at themselves and try to see if we all could communicate here in a less toxic way.  The tone has apparently cost us Rebecca...we need to ask if the cost is worth it for whatever objectives and agendas each of us might bring to this board.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Why would Audra come back? She has a very successful career and babble pays current mods about one third of what they paid her then. She is also not the answer to the problems Rebecca outlines in the OP, nor is her dismissal the reason for the problems in the first place.

Caissa

When did the culture of Babble noticeable change? Was it before the schism? at the time of the schism? or is it a more recent phenomenon? 

oldgoat

Ah that glorious and innocent summer of 2001.

 

 "You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory."

 

Rebecca, I completely understand.  You gotta look after yourself.  I take periodic breaks when I very seldom look in.  I'm taking one now, this post notwithstanding.

 

There was a moderation style back in the day which endeavoured, mostly successfully, to meet the challenges of the day.  There is a moderation style today which endeavours mostly successfully to meet todays challenges.  To the extent that it's not successful will determine how it evolves and what it looks like tomorrow.  This is a vastly larger community, and it just can't be moderated the way it once was.  I still see it as a noble task and one very much worth doing.  Having said that, when I retired just over two years ago I confess I had about 5 minutes of balanced and objective moderating left in me.  Yes, I cut it that close.

 

I don't have a lot of wisdom to offer here. I really do care a great deal about this place and I've made some wonderful friends.  I hope to make more.  I am hugely grateful that Catchfire and Rebecca are carrying the torch for now as babble plods along through the never ending bumps, patches of thistle, patches of glory and bottomless self doubt and self examination that have come to pretty much define the board.

onlinediscountanvils

Catchfire wrote:

Why would Audra come back?

To win? To get the last word?

I'm kidding, of course. But all kidding aside, I think the need psychological urge to 'win' an argument, to have the last word, or to save face, can all have an enormously negative effect on the overall culture of a message board.

Learn to let stuff go.

MegB

Caissa wrote:

When did the culture of Babble noticeable change? Was it before the schism? at the time of the schism? or is it a more recent phenomenon? 

I don't think the "schism" has anything to do with it.  A culture is defined by those who most actively participate in it.  When did the bickering, bullying, and petty vindictiveness have always been a part of babble become its dominant characteristic?  Does it really matter?

Perhaps the more appropriate question, one that each participant should ask themselves, is, 'what role have I personally played in creating this culture and what can I do to improve it?'

Caissa

I suppose the question doesn't matter, Rebecca. (I ask I suppose because as an historian I find the evolution of a phenomenon helps me to better understand it.) I know I have played a role in creating the culture that exists here. I have tried very hard over the last month or so to be positive and respectful. I am sure some days are better than others for me.  First and foremost I need to listen, really listen. I need to respond empathetically and respectfully.   And above all else I need to remember that it doesn't matter if someone is wrong on the internet.Wink I pledge to do my utmost to make Babble a pleasant place to visit. Will others join me in the pledge? 

MegB

oldgoat wrote:

This is a vastly larger community, and it just can't be moderated the way it once was.  I still see it as a noble task and one very much worth doing.  Having said that, when I retired just over two years ago I confess I had about 5 minutes of balanced and objective moderating left in me.  Yes, I cut it that close.

No way. Really?  I've always considered you the poster child of reasoned debate and balance around here.  Thank you. I will now proceed to prop up my ego on your self-confessed fallibility. :D

oldgoat

Reasoned and balanced on the outside.  Loading rounds into the clip of the AK47 of my mind on the inside.

 

A wise person once said, "beware the wrath of the patient man".

Left Turn Left Turn's picture

Back when I joined here in October 2004 (under my own name and with a different account), there was definitely a different culture here. The dominant dynamic that I recall was of socially "progressive" babblers who were pro-choice, pro-ssm, and against poor-bashing and ironic racism; socially moderate babblers who were either not entirely in favour of abortions or ssm, or who would resort to ironic racism and/or poor-bashing; and then out-and-out conservative trolls. Those who were proponents of a more libertarian, small government type mentality would mostly get banned, often for poor-bashing.

Somewhere along the way the dynamic seems to have evolved to one that's more along the lines of small l liberals and libertarians on one side, and anti-capitalists of various stripes on the other side. The debates around abortions, ssm, ironic racism, poor bashing ect., have been replaced by reform vs. revolution debates, debates on the nature of the NDP, and debates around anti-opression politics. There's no one reason for the culture shift here: it's partly due to the shift in babble's mandate, which relates partly to battles around policy here, so to speak, it's partly the shift in the active membership at babble, and partly due to a shift in the political conditions under which we find ourselves.

In some ways, I find the debates we have now to be more frustrating, because it forces us to acknowledge that not everyone who fits on the "left" that rabble and babble encompass is fighting for the same thing. At the same time, it's nice not to have conservative trolls coming on here all the time, and to not have to fight battles around the basic tenets of socially progressive politics on a regular basis.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I'm too tired to fight any battles, so I either skip those threads or visit a different forum until things calm down.

CMOT Dibbler

I find this insistance that Babble be a safe space quite perplexing. How can a medium as intensley public as the Internet be considered a safe place to express dark secrets, radical opinions an personal tradgadies?

Safe spaces have doors and locks, clearly marked exit signs and comfortable chairs cofee and donuts, someone to listen and a big sign that says BUGGER OFF OUTSIDE WORLD, WE'RE PLANNING THE REVOLUTION THERAPUDICALLY! Babble is a virtual environment, and as such can never really be secure.

Ken Burch

Catchfire wrote:

Why would Audra come back? She has a very successful career and babble pays current mods about one third of what they paid her then. She is also not the answer to the problems Rebecca outlines in the OP, nor is her dismissal the reason for the problems in the first place.

OK.  Point taken on the salary thing.  Still, the management could at least publicly admit that they were wrong to fire her and send her apologies. 

It may not be the major issue, but perhaps at some cosmic level it would help.

CMOT Dibbler

"OK. Point taken on the salary thing. Still, the management could at least publicly admit that they were wrong to fire her and send her apologies.

It may not be the major issue, but perhaps at some cosmic level it would help."

How?

milo204

The same thing happened when punk rock became popular.  All the people who had been around for a number of years felt the culture had changed and not for the better.  Over time the people who weren't really into it weeded themselves out.  

Babble is experiencing something similar i think.  Over the last few years more people have found it and become involved.  Not everyone is at the same place and that causes friction, especially when there are rules and ego's mixed with relative anonymity. over time those people who aren't interested in communicating, learning, etc. will disappear and those that are really interested and open to it will hopefully come around.

one thing someone said here made a lot of sense to me as well:

"these discussions are as much for the many people who read but don't post as they are for he people having the discussions"...

and we have to keep in mind for many people this might be their first exposure to any kind of progressive ideas/people!  the kid growing up in the small town, from a conservative family, saw a mention of rabble in a news article, etc.  not everyone has read the same books, been involved in activism for years, etc. and so i think it's only natural that we shold all disagree on a great many things.

sometimes babble feels like the "cool kids club" and newbies get "what are YOU doing here" or "how COULD you not consider x,y,z..." treatment from the regulars and even between regular posters and i think that has to stop if the culture is to improve.    

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

But I'd love to be one of the 'cool kids' for once in my life! Sealed

Bacchus

Um Milo there are less people participating here than in the past. More people might be finding it but they aint staying

Jacob Two-Two

Actually, that's an interesting point. I'm pretty sure there are less regular posters than there used to be, but how does the viewing traffic compare? can the mods give us some figures on this? I'm curious.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Where does one find babble stats, anyway?

MegB

We do keep stats on visits to the rabble site (if I'm not mistaken, it's something like 300,000 unique visits per month).  I'm not sure we have anything specific to babble, but I've put in a request for those numbers if they're at all available.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I wish there had been annual reporting of babble stats since the first year. May have given an interesting perspective.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

@ Ken Burch - The Great Schism was a long time ago.  Audra has moved on.  There was information on both sides none of us are, or should be, privy to.  Leave it lie, I say.

MegB

Boom Boom wrote:

Where does one find babble stats, anyway?

The best we have are the number of views listed for each thread in a particular forum.  Compare those to the number of actual posts in the thread and then you'll get a better idea of how many babble readers are also participating.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Okay - thanks.

Sven Sven's picture

Timebandit wrote:

@ Ken Burch - The Great Schism was a long time ago.  Audra has moved on.  There was information on both sides none of us are, or should be, privy to.  Leave it lie, I say.

I agree.  Besides, there are so many new people here since that time that I suspect that most current posters don't even know what "The Great Schism" even is...

jjuares

The Great Schism? I am not sure how the fracturing of the Russian Social Democratic party into Mensheviks and Bolsheviks has anything to do with Babble culture.

Sven Sven's picture

jjuares wrote:

The Great Schism? I am not sure how the fracturing of the Russian Social Democratic party into Mensheviks and Bolsheviks has anything to do with Babble culture.

See what I mean, Timebandit?!?  Tongue out

NDPP

So obviously the fact that nobody wants to talk about it means it was probably important - which is probably why nobody wants to talk about it...if anyone wishes to break the conspiracy of silence on this significant Babble historical event from the hoary past - we're all ears...

Ken Burch

Sven wrote:

Timebandit wrote:

@ Ken Burch - The Great Schism was a long time ago.  Audra has moved on.  There was information on both sides none of us are, or should be, privy to.  Leave it lie, I say.

I agree.  Besides, there are so many new people here since that time that I suspect that most current posters don't even know what "The Great Schism" even is...

Fine.  Never mind, then.

Caissa

The Great Schism took place in response to a labour relations decision taken by Rabble management. Many of those who left founded EnMasse. Subsequently, the Little Schism took place when some members of EnMasse left the site to found Bread and roses.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

What was the cause of The Little Schism? I forget.

CMOT Dibbler

Audra being fired.

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

The change in babble culture can be seen by looking at the active topics page today.

In the past, babble was where I came to learn the latest news and the missing pieces of the story. It is no longer the portal-hub that leads me to the latest; for example, a thread on Bill C38 is nowhere to be found today - not on the active topics page, at least.

6079_Smith_W

@ LTJ

Well, you see something not being done, there's an easy solution to that. 

I tuned in for a couple of the votes while I was working last night. Personally, I just assumed there wasn't much interest here in that process. 

Speaking of which, I don't know about any old history and I don't care to, because I don't think it's any substitute for dealing with what is here and now. 

More importantly, from a few comments - so yeah, I'm guessing - sounds to me like people have as much information as is really necessary, and what is not known is private information that is really no one's business.

What's the use of having more information if what there is already is not acted upon?

 

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

CMOT Dibbler wrote:
Audra being fired.

That was the cause of The Big Schism - I don't think it had anything to do with The Little Schism.

Sean in Ottawa

If we acknowledge that the culture and many of the people are different today than way back then then we are acknowledging that the old history has no relevance. I was around at the time and I have to agree there is nothing from that time that would inform on where things are now or what would help.

One big change in my opinion is the use of twitter. Through your choice of follows you can create your own community and customize what you want to see. I feel that makes Rabble/Babble largely obsolete in terms of a place to go to for news.

But that was only one of the values of this place and I would argue not at all the most important.

Here was and still is a place to go and collect ideas and share them in more than a sound-bite. Here ideas can be laid out, receive comment and grow. Other ideas can win support. People can bat back and forth their interpretations of ongoing events in a community that everyone shares (each twitter feed is unique so you can't converse in the same context as another person as you can here).

I would also say there are people here who have found connections that lead them back here to see how so-and-so responds to a certain context or event.

Also unlike Twitter you can catch up here when the volume of twitter makes catching up impossible.

The investment for people is high however so there is a lot of passion flying around and unfortunately pockets of animus.

There are other less positive things as well but I think they have been explored and commented on. I think some of the decline of the place also relates to the alternatives and why people come here as well as any of the more noisy encounters.

Wilf Day

Lard Tunderin Jeezus wrote:

The change in babble culture can be seen by looking at the active topics page today.

In the past, babble was where I came to learn the latest news and the missing pieces of the story. It is no longer the portal-hub that leads me to the latest; for example, a thread on Bill C38 is nowhere to be found today - not on the active topics page, at least.

That's what bothers me. I see very little toxic, except when a moderator plays thought-police unnecessarily. I miss a lot of people who left. Maybe they'll gradually come back. That's all we need, I think.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Can't get Twitter here, and we don't even have access to cellphone service. Even if they were available, I wouldn't subscribe to them. So rabble and babble will thus always remain relevant to me.

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