[Foundation-l] hiding interlanguage links by default is a Bad Idea, part 2

Michael Snow wikipedia at verizon.net
Mon Jun 7 01:42:47 UTC 2010

On 6/6/2010 2:57 PM, Mariano Cecowski wrote:
> I can't believe that with all the complains no one has yet brought up the fact that the 'watch' has been replaced by a star that turns blue instead of yellow.
> I always think I don't have the page in my watchlist!!!
> Now, that's a reason to complain (Lynch the usability team!)
I trust that at least the last part of this was meant as a joke, but I 
think it's worth a comment anyway. This is not so much related to 
usability or interlanguage links, but the larger issue some people have 
been highlighting about communication and culture.

If you don't know the history of racial issues in the US, you might not 
realize just how serious a subject lynching is. In that cultural 
context, it is not something to be joked about. For African-Americans 
online, talk about lynching is arguably more offensive than violations 
of Godwin's law. For me, this highlights some of the issues that make 
our culture much more closed than it should be.

I think we are often far too careless in the tone and language we use 
with each other. We need to both be more careful in how we communicate, 
and more forgiving of those who inadvertently make mistakes in this 
area. I'm happy to forgive a comment about lynching made in ignorance of 
its connotations. In this discussion, there's been quite a bit of 
consternation about the attitude of the usability team, which seems to 
have grown largely out of a comment attached to the debated piece of 
code. I imagine the author may well regret it, but I don't think it 
should be seized upon in isolation from the productive dialogue I've 
seen. An administrator on the wiki might be a bit grumpy in an edit 
summary, too - that's not a good thing particularly, but not necessarily 
worth indicting the entire community, as some critics try to do. It 
happens, people are human, hence both fallible and capable of improving.

Because of the race aspect, this is also a good opening to talk about 
diversity and cultural awareness. As a community, we are overwhelmingly 
white (to use the racial constructs of the US; to express it another 
way, of European ancestry). We manage to have a smattering of Asian 
people, of various ethnic groups. But some groups are effectively not 
involved at all, and the European and American flavor is very dominant. 
Because of how that shapes our interactions, is it any wonder that black 
people might not feel welcome among us? We may be perfectly innocent, as 
exemplified here, yet our culture can appear hostile to people of 
African descent.

Similarly, we know that the community population skews young and male. 
That has important consequences, and some of those unfortunately 
reinforce our lack of diversity. It's been pointed out what a 
male-centric approach we sometimes have, in the enthusiasm and manner 
with which certain subjects are covered, and the oblivious attitude 
toward potential offensiveness of various images. This comes across to 
all too many women as a hostile culture. Most large online communities 
do not have the kind of gender imbalance we have. This is a serious 
issue we need to address. The foundation could do targeted outreach 
forever to recruit underrepresented groups (whether it's ethnicity, age, 
gender, or other factors), and it would accomplish very little without 
significant improvements in our culture.

--Michael Snow

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