Winds of Change.NET: Liberty. Discovery. Humanity. Victory.

Formal Affiliations
  • Anti-Idiotarian Manifesto
  • Euston Democratic Progressive Manifesto
  • Real Democracy for Iran!
  • Support Denamrk
  • Million Voices for Darfur
  • milblogs
 Subscribe in a reader

Some New Marshals in Town


Deadwood Marshall's BadgeAs blogs grow, the general rule seems to be that their comments sections deteriorate. Winds is determined to buck that trend - and fortunately, we have a pretty solid community on hand. As Chip Morningstar and Randall Farmer explained in The Social Dimensions of Habitat's Citizenry and Habitat Anecdotes, there is a cure:

The path of Ascension

Passive -> Active -> Motivator -> Caretaker -> Geek God

Encourage everyone to move one role to the right, and the result will be a living, self-sustaining and thriving community where new members can always feel encouraged to become vital citizens.

In light of recent events with Paul Lukasiak, we've decided to accelerate a program that has been on the drawing board for a while - and deputize a few Blog Marshals. Allow us to introduce:

Old Range Hands

  • "Smokin' Joe" Katzman - joe@...
  • Marc "Armed Liberal" Danziger - armed@...

In addition to their conventional moderation powers, Joe and Marc operate the blog's Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator in situations where more permanent solutions (like IP bans) are required.

Newly-Deputized Deadwood Marshals

  • AMac a.k.a. "Marshal Festus" - amac@...
  • Marshal Cicero, a.k.a. "The Quiet Man" - cicero@...
  • Lewy14, a.k.a. "Marshal Leroy" - lewy14@...
  • Marshal Robin "Straight Shooter" Burk - robin@...

All of them have already spent considerable time improving the Winds comment section by their presence, their example, and their diplomatic skills. These individuals will still use those approaches most of the time. When those approaches fail, however, they will be armed with the same moderation powers A.L. and I have - the power to edit or disintegrate any comment in any post on Winds.

Comment editing powers will almost always be used to make changes requested by a commenter in their own comment, or to replace a deleted comment with a warning and/or rationale. See here for a recent example (for which Raymond apologized).

All Marshals have Winds of Change.NET email addresses if you need to call on them. They're apt to speak softly - but they do carry a big .44... and more Marshal positions may open up in the future as Winds evolves and likely candidates declare interest and/or follow the Path:

Passives [Readers] -> Actives [Tips & Comments] -> Motivators [Bloggers and/or Major Community Members] -> Caretakers [Marshals] -> Blog Gods [Administrators]

As our new Marshals begin their service, please join me in welcoming them and thanking them all for their willingness to step up. We sure do appreciate it, out here in our little town on the frontiers of cyberspace.


This is what separates credible sites like WOC from the moonbat asylums. Over there, extremely irrational comments are welcomed and rational argument is discouraged. The natural trend in any community is toward entropy, disorder. This is observed in the corrupt machinations of third world governments and the united nations. It is hard work to oppose that powerful trend.

I want to be a jailhouse snitch!!!

It's saloon rules: Ya'll are welcome to come in to knock back a drink and play some poker with the folks. Lively conversation and even argumentation is all part of saloon life. But if you start shooting, well... this marshal will whip out the canons while simultaneously knocking back a few more whiskeys. Watch out. The Feds are way back East and won't show up for weeks.

Anyway, I'll wear my badge with honor, and try and keep the image of Don Knotts out of my head.

Is that your gun in your pocket Marshal, or are you just happy to see me?

We have no jailhouse snitches because our methods once a Marshal shows up are either less extreme or more, uh, direct than jails.

But community members can call a Marshal any time, or even work to handle situations themselves. The ones who demonstrate good sense and proficiency without the .44s on their belts will demonstrate that they can be trusted with them, and earn a badge.

It is unfortunate you have had to result to designated marshalls. It appears the real problem is zealotry, an inability to discuss an issue without resorting to stereotypes. I suggest the marshalls look for words, phrases that are for no other purpose than to provoke. If you edit them out, which I realize is tedious, you may have more success achieving your goal.

I encourage your marshalls to be quick on the trigger. In particular I suggest they not edit, except for grammar. If there is something sufficiently offensive to edit, the idea should not be just to clean up the mess, but to prevent future messes. That should mean that if somebody goes over the line, their comment is gone. This is punishment as opposed to teaching them how to skirt the line.

Then, three strikes you're out.

Just my $0.02 worth $0.00.

What about known trolls? (like HTW or Double Standard)
Shoot on sight?

Amy Jo Kim goes into some greater detail about that role progression, and talks about what you need to make it work. Nice to hear that WoC is "growing up" in this sense.

Incidentally, have you defined a Code of Conduct for Marshalls and commenters? Now that people who are not the blog owners are wielding moderator powers, it might be a good idea to make sure it's sparkling clear to everyone in the community what's acceptable and unacceptable behavior on both sides of the six-shooter.

Incidentally, have you defined a Code of Conduct for Marshalls and commenters?

Oops, just noticed the "Comment Policy" link. Might I suggest this be updated and a bit more comprehensive, to incorporate the new order of things?

Also, the power for any Marshal to edit a comment is something I realize is necessary, but that I also find kinda spooky. Is there some way to add a trail (e.g. "comment last edited by X")?

Richard Heddleston (#7):

For me, no intention to be quick on the trigger, or to edit for grammar (that's too close to home). I had a good email exchange with a reader who dissents from this whole idea, and his point is worth bearing in mind:

Why would I want to listen to or participate in something I really care about when it has been sanitized to fit in the comfort zone of the blogger?

It's a darned good question, worth bearing in mind. I think the answer follows from a reader's ideas of what a blog's comment space ought to be. Every answer will find some people disagreeing. Threads strewn with insults, provocations, pseudofacts, and illogic are disagreeable. A series of amiable ditto!!'s, each sincere, and each in agreement with the poster's preconceptions and prescriptions--they teach us nothing. Scylla and Charybdis.

Many of us have witnessed Comments sections turn sour, then close. I think some of the toughest challenges are represented by writers who start out literate, with a whiff of antagonism: like many of us. Unlike us, I hope, these folks progress to adding comments that make it difficult for others to contribute to the topic that the poster has selected.

This doesn't have to be by over-the-top language, or ad hominem attacks, though these are effective.

For example, one issue is how to calibrate raw carbon-14 dates to calendar-years before the present: the ratio of 14C to 12C in the atmosphere hasn't stayed exactly constant over the centuries. There are religions whose adherents don't believe in carbon-dating at all, since God only recently created the World.

How should a science-blogger with a post on advances in dendrochronology treat a commenter with such a perspective? For the most insistent, it may come down to a choice between "OK, you can dominate my blog's conversation," or "please visit Google and get your own blog."

Scylla and Charybdis, each dangerous.

Code of conduct for the Marshals is a good idea - suggestions welcome re: what that should be.

Part of the code is actually the Marshal nicknames. I worried that the Marshals would be seen to have a "hidden gun" advantage in normal debates, so using "Marhsal Robin 'Straight Shooter' Burke" in the ID field creates role separation and announces seriousness. It's like your Mom calling you by your full name. And thanks to the graphic above, they can even "show people their badge" via a link.

Part of that code isalso noted above in the post, re: edits. Because of the creepy factor, edits are used to make changes requested by the person who wrote the comment (I've been asked on occasion), or to delete either a section of the comment or the comment wholesale, replacing it with a clear stamp of identity and warning/rationale. You can see that in the example I used.

We won't be micro-editing posts for language or whatever, that's not cool. That's actually part of the reason I used the Marshal/.44 analogy, and didn't call them editors... it makes that part of the role & code clearer.

Marshal Festus (AMac), good thoughts. Here's my take, others can add theirs. In your science blog example my inclination is to leave the first comment of that type alone. The second time, you explain that this is not science, and what the distinction is (falsifiability), and that anyone is entitled to their religious beliefs but this blog is for and about science and (explains or links to rules of conduct). Then, if you have further problems, you can draw. But meanwhile, another perspective has been freely expressed, readers get to see that it's out there, and the reply has taught the readers something valuable.

In political debates, of course, it's less clear cut and so usually more stetched out and focused around behaviour rather than content, but a similar sequence applies.

The exception is if Winds ever has a Rathergate experience and shatters the traffic model. At that point, Marshals may have to get quicker on the draw for a little while just to cope, and to clearly establish standards for the influx.

Jinn (#8), good question. Think of the Marshal in the Westerns who sidles up to the known outlaw and says, essentially "I know who you are, and this place is under the protection of the law. I'll be watching you."

The clear implication is that one false move will mean a gunfight, and the bad guy will lose.

Marshals are encouraged to take that approach to known trolls from elsewhere, and issue that public warning. Then shoot from the hip at the first sign of trouble, deleting the comment and explaining why (known troll, unacceptable behaviour, we don't hold with that here). This reframes the question for the troll, correctly, as "do I work within these rules or do I move on?"

And if the Marshals are shooting and the known troll either escalates publicly or clearly isn't even trying to shape up over time... well, thats what the Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator is for.

We CAN nuke 'em from orbit. And we will.

Interesting stuff about on-line community building from Amy Jo. It's a book link, but her 9 design strategies were useful food for thought:

(1) Define and articulate your PURPOSE

Hmm, we ought to start doing that more explicitly.

(2) Build flexible, extensible gathering PLACES

Got one; a WIKI would extend that, and that's in testing.

(3) Create meaningful and evolving member PROFILES

Don't have that. Integrating that capbility would be either a time sink for us or a major site relationship - but that may change. Ideas welcome.

(4) Design for a range of ROLES

Starting to, as we cover more options along the path of Ascension. Ideas welcome.

(5) Develop a strong LEADERSHIP program

Frequent guest blogs, promotion of good commenters, to full blogging status, assistance with real-life positions, and now the Marshal program give us one of the blogosphere's better leadership programs, IMO. Since I believe in building on strengths, Winds ought to keep improving in this area.

(6) Encourage appropriate ETIQUETTE

I think the Marshals are another step forward. Good reminder, though.

(7) Promotic cyclic EVENTS
(8) Integrate the RITUALS of community life

Well, we have Good News Saturdays as an important ritual, and other regular features. I suspect we might want to go beyond that, and think about the idea in conjunction with the cyclic events idea.

(9) Facilitate member-run SUBGROUPS

Interesting. Ideas?

The book also proposes 3 design principles:

(1) Design for growth and change
(2) Create and maintain feedback loops
(3) Empower your members over time

Trying to do all of the above.

Felicitations and best wishes on yout deputization, Marcus C., and I promise to never call you "Marshal Sissy". To your face, that is. :) Mebbe someday I'll grow up enough to qualify as Quietboy.

All best, always,


The closing of the frontier.

I kind of liked the wild west.

I will miss it.

Well, you can always do what Dan'l Boone is reputed to have done--the very day he saw the smoke of another settler's chimney--pull up stakes and head out to the real frontier. Godspeed.

Leave a comment

Here are some quick tips for adding simple Textile formatting to your comments, though you can also use proper HTML tags:

*This* puts text in bold.

_This_ puts text in italics.

bq. This "bq." at the beginning of a paragraph, flush with the left hand side and with a space after it, is the code to indent one paragraph of text as a block quote.

To add a live URL, "Text to display": (no spaces between) will show up as Text to display. Always use this for links - otherwise you will screw up the columns on our main blog page.

Recent Comments
  • TM Lutas: Jobs' formula was simple enough. Passionately care about your users, read more
  • Just seeing the green community in action makes me confident read more
  • Glen Wishard: Jobs was on the losing end of competition many times, read more
  • Chris M: Thanks for the great post, Joe ... linked it on read more
  • Joe Katzman: Collect them all! Though the French would be upset about read more
  • Glen Wishard: Now all the Saudis need is a division's worth of read more
  • mark buehner: Its one thing to accept the Iranians as an ally read more
  • J Aguilar: Saudis were around here (Spain) a year ago trying the read more
  • Fred: Good point, brutality didn't work terribly well for the Russians read more
  • mark buehner: Certainly plausible but there are plenty of examples of that read more
  • Fred: They have no need to project power but have the read more
  • mark buehner: Good stuff here. The only caveat is that a nuclear read more
  • Ian C.: OK... Here's the problem. Perceived relevance. When it was 'Weapons read more
  • Marcus Vitruvius: Chris, If there were some way to do all these read more
  • Chris M: Marcus Vitruvius, I'm surprised by your comments. You're quite right, read more
The Winds Crew
Town Founder: Left-Hand Man: Other Winds Marshals
  • 'AMac', aka. Marshal Festus (AMac@...)
  • Robin "Straight Shooter" Burk
  • 'Cicero', aka. The Quiet Man (cicero@...)
  • David Blue (
  • 'Lewy14', aka. Marshal Leroy (lewy14@...)
  • 'Nortius Maximus', aka. Big Tuna (nortius.maximus@...)
Other Regulars Semi-Active: Posting Affiliates Emeritus:
Winds Blogroll
Author Archives
Powered by Movable Type 4.23-en