[Foundation-l] Letter to the community on Controversial Content

MZMcBride z at mzmcbride.com
Mon Oct 10 14:27:59 UTC 2011

phoebe ayers wrote:
> On Sun, Oct 9, 2011 at 9:10 AM, MZMcBride <z at mzmcbride.com> wrote:
>> David Gerard wrote:
>>> On 9 October 2011 14:18, Thomas Dalton <thomas.dalton at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>> On 9 October 2011 13:55, Ting Chen <tchen at wikimedia.org> wrote:
>>>>> The majority of editors who responded to the referendum are not opposed
>>>>> to the feature. However, a significant minority is opposed.
>>>> How do you know? The "referendum" didn't ask whether people were opposed or
>>>> not.
>>> I fear this point will need restating every time someone claims the
>>> "referendum" shows support.
>> I wonder what the image filter referendum results would have had to look
>> like in order to get anything other than a rambling "we march forward,
>> unabated!" letter from the Board.
> Hi MZM and all! Greetings from the end of a long -- but productive and
> inspiring -- meeting weekend.
> "Marching forward unabated" is not, in fact, what we are saying. The
> board, and individual members of the board, are quite aware of all of
> the criticisms from the vote and from the conversations on and off
> list -- believe me. This is not an official report on behalf of the
> board, but here is what we discussed doing:
> * not going ahead with the category-based design that was proposed in
> the mockups; it is clear there are too many substantive problems that
> have been raised with this. Although this design (or any other) was
> actually not specified in the resolution, it is obvious that many of
> the critical comments were about using categorization in particular,
> and we hear that.
> * we are asking the staff to explore alternative designs, e.g. for a
> way for readers to flag images for themselves, and collapse individual
> images. This isn't fixed yet because it shouldn't be: we need to have
> a further period of iterative community & technical design.
> * not changing or revoking the Board resolution, because we do still
> think that there is a problem with our handling of potentially
> controversial content that needs to be addressed. We don't want to
> ignore the criticism, and we *also* don't want to ignore the positive
> comments from those who identified a problem and thought such a tool
> would be helpful and useful in addressing it. Our view is holistic.
> The Board discussed amending the resolution (we think, in particular,
> that the word 'filter' has led to many assumptions about design), but
> decided that for now the language of the resolution is broad enough
> that it leaves room for alternative solutions. And we also do not want
> to ignore the rest of the resolution -- the parts that call for better
> tools for commons, and that lay out that we respect the principle of
> least astonishment.
> [...]

I found this e-mail very helpful and insightful. Thank you for writing it,

I think the issue of "I'll put down my gun when you put down yours" is still
being a bit side-stepped, but it isn't really the responsibility of a single
Board member (or even the Board) to make agreements not to impose this
feature on a particular wiki community. That has to come from the Executive
Director in this case, I think. As others have said, it might go a long way
toward more open and honest dialogue if people don't feel as though their
efforts will inevitably be futile. (And, it isn't as though this is without
precedent. Even less controversial new features like the Vector skin were
made optional on a per-wiki basis.)

With the categorization scheme now being re-thought, I'm curious if there
are any central brainstorming pages about an image filter, either on
Meta-Wiki or mediawiki.org. If not, I'd be happy to start one. I've had some
ideas about filtering based on thresholds and percentages. For example, if
90% of viewers in your country have hidden a particular image and you've set
your personal threshold at 50%, an image might be automatically obscured.
This isn't a perfect idea, but discussing and debating the merits of each
idea might reveal a solution that's tenable.


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