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  1. #1
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    Default Edits and forum management

    I welcome feedback on we manage the Discussion Forum.

    As I wrote in another post:

    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post

    There are a couple of issues going on:

    One is that there is a lot of uncivil discourse, and I hope that the repeated warnings regarding it will remind everyone that the point of this forum is to allow for discussion, not to allow for attacks on people. I think this is the primary issue that Steve was addressing.

    The other is the issue of bringing in individuals who are not involved in the forum, aren't elected officials, and (understandably) don't want to be hung out for public discussion. This is the issue that we addressed when we edited the posts. (As anyone can see, the editing was minimal; XXXX's replaced a person's name in several instances.)

    The first issue is more difficult to address, because to edit or delete large numbers of posts seemed more radical a reaction than we thought necessary. Frankly, when someone writes a post that is uncivil, it reflects far more poorly upon them than upon the people they may be addressing in their post.

    The second issue was easy to address, so we did what we thought necessary.

    I welcome comment on the handling of this thread. Perhaps there's a better way? If anyone is interested, it probably warrants a new thread of its own, rather than cluttering this one.
    So here's the new thread. Comment away...
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 09-17-2008 at 04:52 PM. Reason: to add link to original post

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    I think that it is great for a forum such as this to contain lively, honest and direct opinions. People, particularly public officials, need to be thick-skinned enough to be able to hear that others strongly disagree with something that they have done or said. However, I really don't want to read posts that consist of personal attacks on individuals and/or name-calling. The fact that Person A may personally dislike Person B, even if Person B is a public official, is not in any way relevant to me or relevant to the substantive discussion. It feels like being in a public place and having 2 people standing right next to you having a horrible argument and calling each other names. It's uncivil, uncomfortable and unfair to the people nearby. It's a free country, and everyone has the right to say almost anything they want (subject of course to potential liability for defamation), but I would request that if anyone wants to call someone else names or hurl personal insults at them, I think that it would be most appropriate to do that personally. Give them a call, write them a letter or send them an email. That way, you can vent your feelings without involving others.

    With regard to the board editing posts, it is my suggestion that if it needs to be done, it is a power that should be used as sparingly as possible, and only in the most extreme situations.

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    Jeff Baron posted this on the "Our school reconfiguration" thread, but as he points out, this slice of the conversation fits better here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    This is beginning to feel like a different thread altogether, but until it makes it there, I'll drop my two cents in on this subject.

    I agree completely with Jeff on the idea that it is absolutely OK to accurately quote or relate the context of what anyone, elected or not, says in a public meeting. If someone chooses to speak out, they should also understand they are holding themselves out in a public manner.

    I also agree that e-mails and private communications should stay that way without permission from the party/parties involved.

    The only part I can't agree with is that it is not civil to do so. On this forum, where people MUST tie their name to their comments, posters should feel protected that short of massively defaming or suggesting injury to another person (I'm sure there are other equally malicious intents available, but the point is short of doing something really bad), the 1st amendment will trump all concerns over whether someone has hurt feelings. I'm not saying you have to agree with a poster or even like what that person says, but if you're willing to own up to your post (which you must do), I'd like to see less policing and more freedom.

    I think doing any of this anonymously is abhorrent, thus my personal boycott of the Crier boards.
    I've also given up on the Town Crier discussion board, but may occasionally post there to let people know that an important question/issue is addressed here.

    Regarding posts that accurately quote someone from another venue (Town Crier article/letter, meeting, etc.), I wasn't saying that doing so was uncivil, I was simply saying that omitting the name was more civil (or, perhaps more accurately put, less likely to upset).

    I'd like to hear more from others about when it is and is not appropriate to accurately quote someone from another venue.

    Q1: Is it okay to say, "Jeff Dieffenbach said XYZ at last night's meeting?"
    My answer: yes.

    Q2: Is it okay to say, "Jeff Dieffenbach said XYZ at last night's meeting, and I disagree because of ABC?"
    My answer: yes.

    Q3: Is it okay to say, "Jeff Dieffenbach said XYZ at last night's meeting, and he's spineless for doing so?"
    My answer: setting aside legal questions of libel, my answer is that the forum rules and protocol should prohibit this type of post. Instead, use the Q2 approach: "Jeff Dieffenbach stated that he was in favor of XYZ, but changed his mind in response to external pressure from ABC."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lawrie Glick View Post
    With regard to the board editing posts, it is my suggestion that if it needs to be done, it is a power that should be used as sparingly as possible, and only in the most extreme situations.
    Lawrie, thank you for posting. I'd be very curious what you think of the approach we took in this case, and any specific suggestions you might have for us.

    I'd also very much like to hear from others (particularly those who have been reading the Reconfiguration thread from the sidelines).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Barber View Post
    Jeff Dieffenbach was the poster who first used the name of a woman who has not been to this website. I understood that to be the offending post.
    Why did Mr. Perlman use that as an opportunity to attack the posters John & Jeff, but not Mr. Dieffenbach?
    I don't know if I was the first person to post a specific name in the latter part of this thread (this post) about what someone said at Monday night's meeting, but I certainly did so. In the future, I will do my best not to, in the spirit of Town Meeting Moderator Peter Gossel's "rule" that speakers cite "the previous speaker" and not "John Smith."

    To be sure, however, I'm not the first person to quote and cite remarks made by someone in a different forum. That happens to me all the time. I think that it's clearly okay in a thread that's on Topic A for someone to say that elected official Jeff Dieffenbach said X about Topic A at last night's public meeting.

    When we get away from such a use, however, the rules get grayer.

    Q: Is it okay to start a thread saying that elected official X said Y last night?
    Q: Is it okay to start a thread saying that citizen X said Y last night?
    Q: Does it matter if the quote/citation is accurate?

    My take is that it's okay to accurately quote or relate the context of what anyone says in a public meeting (but again, in the interest of civility, I'll try not to). As I looked back at the post linked to above, I don't think that I said anything derogatory--others can be the judge of whether the citation was "offending". It's not okay to do quote from an email or other private communication without the other person's approval. Alan Reiss and I have many an exchange with that understanding and it works quite well (I hope that mentioning Alan's name isn't straying into the gray area, but I think he'd approve).

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    Thumbs up Gray Area

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Alan Reiss and I have many an exchange with that understanding and it works quite well (I hope that mentioning Alan's name isn't straying into the gray area, but I think he'd approve).
    Many people believe that mentioning my name is definitely a gray area
    But its nice to be remembered.

    Jeff, you asked a question earlier about whether shareholders can (I'll use my own words), summon the evaluation of a CEO *directly*.

    Although this is not common place, the shareholders have a direct voice and veto power over the Board of Directors, who in turn, evaluate the CEO and make other hire/fire decisions associated with that.

    The shareholders, in essence, could get the CEO evaluation by force (that is if the board of directors like their jobs) and could affect the position of the CEO via their proxy power. I googled on this and found a number of instances where this analogy came close and I will cite one here.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/press...08+PRN20080618

    There are others of various permutations.

    This response may be somewhat off the main topic thread but it fits with your question, the introduction of my name and perhaps gives a reprise to ease some of the tension.

    One other thing, while I'm here... I really liked the 'Lets fix it!' suggestions of Ms. Stacey Adelman (above) and as she references the inputs of other people like Debbie & Jen. Perhaps we should concentrate on those collective suggestions and focus on a future that will work for the community. I have this gut feeling that the ultimate solution set will have to come from those who are directly affected because they (and their children) are the real stakeholders.

    I do hope that the bright light of those suggestions do NOT get lost 'in the eyes' of the SC or the administration.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    My take is that it's okay to accurately quote or relate the context of what anyone says in a public meeting (but again, in the interest of civility, I'll try not to). As I looked back at the post linked to above, I don't think that I said anything derogatory--others can be the judge of whether the citation was "offending". It's not okay to do quote from an email or other private communication without the other person's approval.
    This is beginning to feel like a different thread altogether, but until it makes it there, I'll drop my two cents in on this subject.

    I agree completely with Jeff on the idea that it is absolutely OK to accurately quote or relate the context of what anyone, elected or not, says in a public meeting. If someone chooses to speak out, they should also understand they are holding themselves out in a public manner.

    I also agree that e-mails and private communications should stay that way without permission from the party/parties involved.

    The only part I can't agree with is that it is not civil to do so. On this forum, where people MUST tie their name to their comments, posters should feel protected that short of massively defaming or suggesting injury to another person (I'm sure there are other equally malicious intents available, but the point is short of doing something really bad), the 1st amendment will trump all concerns over whether someone has hurt feelings. I'm not saying you have to agree with a poster or even like what that person says, but if you're willing to own up to your post (which you must do), I'd like to see less policing and more freedom.

    I think doing any of this anonymously is abhorrent, thus my personal boycott of the Crier boards.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    I agree completely with Jeff on the idea that it is absolutely OK to accurately quote or relate the context of what anyone, elected or not, says in a public meeting. If someone chooses to speak out, they should also understand they are holding themselves out in a public manner.
    My fear, Jeff Baron, is that people could become afraid to attend public meetings and state their opinion. Many already are. It is clear to me from the many phone calls and emails I received regarding the School Reconfiguration thread that people do not feel comfortable speaking out, and are afraid of how they might be ridiculed. That is not what this forum is about.

    This forum is here to enable discussion of issues and to enable neighbors to provide help and information to each other. Who among the public citizens that speak at a public meeting is far less important than what was said. So I tend to agree with Moderator Gossels/Jeff Dieffenbach's "the prior speaker" point.

    I am not suggesting that it is never appropriate to quote somebody; merely that the entirety of the thread needs to be taken into consideration. This forum cannot be used to make people feel threatened or ridiculed. Period.

    The edits that we made to the forum yesterday in no way diminished the messages being sent. The points made by those posters are still clear. While we will make every effort to let discussion continue unfettered, I am fairly certain there is no First Amendment right to post whatever you want on the WaylandeNews Discussion Forum (since there are two attorneys on our editorial board, I will leave it to them to correct me if I'm wrong on that point)

    I do wish, however, that this part of the discussion could continue on the new thread I opened for precisely this purpose.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    My fear, Jeff Baron, is that people could become afraid to attend public meetings and state their opinion. Many already are. It is clear to me from the many phone calls and emails I received regarding the School Reconfiguration thread that people do not feel comfortable speaking out, and are afraid of how they might be ridiculed. That is not what this forum is about.

    This forum is here to enable discussion of issues and to enable neighbors to provide help and information to each other. Who among the public citizens that speak at a public meeting is far less important than what was said. So I tend to agree with Moderator Gossels/Jeff Dieffenbach's "the prior speaker" point.

    I am not suggesting that it is never appropriate to quote somebody; merely that the entirety of the thread needs to be taken into consideration. This forum cannot be used to make people feel threatened or ridiculed. Period.

    The edits that we made to the forum yesterday in no way diminished the messages being sent. The points made by those posters are still clear. While we will make every effort to let discussion continue unfettered, I am fairly certain there is no First Amendment right to post whatever you want on the WaylandeNews Discussion Forum (since there are two attorneys on our editorial board, I will leave it to them to correct me if I'm wrong on that point)

    I do wish, however, that this part of the discussion could continue on the new thread I opened for precisely this purpose.
    Look, this is a privately owned forum and as the admin, you have the right to define the rules for how you want it to operate (that is, those that are on the editorial board). If I don't like the rules, I can choose either not to participate or just grin and bear it. The 1st amendment argument still applies, though, in that freedom of speech should, in my opinion be maximized.

    As to people being afraid to speak out at public meetings, I guess that is a different question. There is no threat to doing so. The ramification of doing so is that there may be some passionate responses to what you have to say. In the case of Monday night, while I found it in very poor taste for certain individuals to speak in the manner in which they did, I still support their 1st amendment right to do so, no matter how angry such speech made me. It is my firm belief that they should support my right to respond, no matter how uncivil they may have found it (short of, as I've said before, threats to health or welfare which I would NEVER engage in). This isn't a tea party, it is a debate about a very sensitive topic.

    I will reinforce one more time that this board requires ID along with posts. When I think of ridicule, I think of the Crier boards and the people who hide behind monikers to question people. In those forums, posters (many of whom I've come to learn the identity of) chose to rip me, my honesty, my integrity, my family, my business, and all other aspects of my life. That's ridicule. What went on here, in my opinion, is sharp commentary that didn't hold punches. In my mind, there is a difference.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach
    Q3: Is it okay to say, "Jeff Dieffenbach said XYZ at last night's meeting, and he's spineless for doing so?"
    My answer: setting aside legal questions of libel, my answer is that the forum rules and protocol should prohibit this type of post. Instead, use the Q2 approach: "Jeff Dieffenbach stated that he was in favor of XYZ, but changed his mind in response to external pressure from ABC."
    I'm not a lawyer, but I don't believe referring to a decision that a public official made as spineless qualifies as libel. It is the opinion of a taxpaying, voting member of that official's electorate. I know there were references to taking it personally, but I cannot view it as such and I most certainly did not mean it as a referendum on Jeff or anyone else. I was commenting on the decision not to ask the Wayland electorate to fund a three-school ES system for the year 2008-09.

    I guess I'd close my thoughts in this post by speaking to a reality. I have not and do not intend to make it a practice to spend my time writing posts like the one that has been part of this debate (I'd quote here, but for the purposes of keeping that thread out of this one, please see the ES thread if you need to read it). In that situation, I felt and still do that my post was warranted. Every situation requires its own evaluation.

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    Regarding Kim's fear that heated debate will cause people to not want to attend the public meetings...

    This may be true, but it's equally possible that some of the things expressed here (on both sides of the issue) will inspire some people to attend, who otherwise would not bother.

    So, it may be a wash.

    That said, I don't like it when it gets personal, either and leaving names out it probably a good idea.
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    Look, this is a privately owned forum and as the admin, you have the right to define the rules for how you want it to operate (that is, those that are on the editorial board). If I don't like the rules, I can choose either not to participate or just grin and bear it. The 1st amendment argument still applies, though, in that freedom of speech should, in my opinion be maximized.

    As to people being afraid to speak out at public meetings, I guess that is a different question. There is no threat to doing so. The ramification of doing so is that there may be some passionate responses to what you have to say. In the case of Monday night, while I found it in very poor taste for certain individuals to speak in the manner in which they did, I still support their 1st amendment right to do so, no matter how angry such speech made me. It is my firm belief that they should support my right to respond, no matter how uncivil they may have found it (short of, as I've said before, threats to health or welfare which I would NEVER engage in). This isn't a tea party, it is a debate about a very sensitive topic.

    I will reinforce one more time that this board requires ID along with posts. When I think of ridicule, I think of the Crier boards and the people who hide behind monikers to question people. In those forums, posters (many of whom I've come to learn the identity of) chose to rip me, my honesty, my integrity, my family, my business, and all other aspects of my life. That's ridicule. What went on here, in my opinion, is sharp commentary that didn't hold punches. In my mind, there is a difference.

    I'm not a lawyer, but I don't believe referring to a decision that a public official made as spineless qualifies as libel. It is the opinion of a taxpaying, voting member of that official's electorate. I know there were references to taking it personally, but I cannot view it as such and I most certainly did not mean it as a referendum on Jeff or anyone else. I was commenting on the decision not to ask the Wayland electorate to fund a three-school ES system for the year 2008-09.

    I guess I'd close my thoughts in this post by speaking to a reality. I have not and do not intend to make it a practice to spend my time writing posts like the one that has been part of this debate (I'd quote here, but for the purposes of keeping that thread out of this one, please see the ES thread if you need to read it). In that situation, I felt and still do that my post was warranted. Every situation requires its own evaluation.
    The issue is not the legalities (e.g., whether a post here has First Amendment protection [it doesn't] or constitutes defamation [it may or may not]).
    The issue is civility vs. incivility (e.g., abuse, insults, bullying, and the like).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Perlman View Post
    The issue is not the legalities (e.g., whether a post here has First Amendment protection [it doesn't] or constitutes defamation [it may or may not]).
    The issue is civility vs. incivility (e.g., abuse, insults, bullying, and the like).
    I'm afraid you missed my point. I started off my post by outright stating that this is a privately-owned forum and that the owners can enforce whichever rules they want. My mention of the 1st amendment is in the broader context of the country we live in and the protection this amendment affords us in our everyday lives. I'd like to apply that standard to this forum. I am, however, not the decision maker.

    I'm not prepared to speak to defamation as I'm not an attorney, but I would at least hope that people would not resort to legal tactics because they don't like what someone said on a discussion board.

    Civility vs. incivility is a matter of opinion. People will differ on the boundaries of such. I don't think I can say which definition is right or wrong, but simply acknowledge that the difference of opinion exists.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    If I don't like the rules, I can choose either not to participate or just grin and bear it. The 1st amendment argument still applies, though, in that freedom of speech should, in my opinion be maximized..
    Jeff B., would you call this your way of "maximizing" freedom of speech:

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    "Nobody in that room cared about your perspective, Tracy. You were perceived by all as gloating, arrogant, and obnoxious. That would have been a great opportunity to stay quiet and listen to people whose community you so happily helped to rip apart. Instead, you took the opportunity to blather on in a room full of people (SC and administration excluded, along with the four or five of you who always sit up front and gossip with each other about everyone else in the room) who would be happy to never hear from you again. Don't bother to post about how angry I am, how rude my comments are, etc. I stand behind it all no matter what your response, if any.

    As to staying to listen to the rest, I can only speak for myself but listening to you and XXXX talk is what drove me out of the room. I could not listen to even one more word and have no respect for your point of view as it is both one-sided and totally devoid of sympathy. The other subjects probably would have been interesting. Even though I didn't stay, let me guess how it went -- SC against the income tax repeal, if it passes we will have to cut, cut, cut, and the new HS is critical to our kids and we're doing the greatest job in the history of the modern world in working with the State. I think I must be close...

    I hope I have been as perfectly clear as possible."
    You were perfectly clear until I read this latest post. What I am gathering is that we should ask you when it is "a good time to stay quiet and listen" or when it is a good time to "maximize [our] freedom of speech"? And as for my opinion being "one-sided", I guess the one side might be mine?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    As to people being afraid to speak out at public meetings, I guess that is a different question. There is no threat to doing so. The ramification of doing so is that there may be some passionate responses to what you have to say. In the case of Monday night, while I found it in very poor taste for certain individuals to speak in the manner in which they did, I still support their 1st amendment right to do so, no matter how angry such speech made me. It is my firm belief that they should support my right to respond, no matter how uncivil they may have found it (short of, as I've said before, threats to health or welfare which I would NEVER engage in). This isn't a tea party, it is a debate about a very sensitive topic..
    Regarding your comment about my point of view, you know, that one you have "no respect" for, being "devoid of sympathy"....I am confused about your support for rights to respond, no matter how uncivil people find it. I don't believe I was uncivil, but if you experienced my SC public comment as such, I don't understand why you didn't just "grin and bear it"?
    Point is, it appears to me that your rules often change depending on where you are sitting. But as you ended your post with, I guess I better understand what you mean by "every situation requires it's own evaluation".


    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    I will reinforce one more time that this board requires ID along with posts. When I think of ridicule, I think of the Crier boards and the people who hide behind monikers to question people. In those forums, posters (many of whom I've come to learn the identity of) chose to rip me, my honesty, my integrity, my family, my business, and all other aspects of my life. That's ridicule. What went on here, in my opinion, is sharp commentary that didn't hold punches. In my mind, there is a difference...
    I agree, there is a difference, you were running for public office. In doing so, you opened yourself up to full disclosure of your views, actions and records as they applied to your qualifications and motive. In running, you asked voters to consider you. I would say that if there is ever a time to "grin and bear" people's freedom of speech, that might be a big one.

    I believe incivility is unnacceptable in any form. There are ways to express and respect differing opinions without bullying.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    I was commenting on the decision not to ask the Wayland electorate to fund a three-school ES system for the year 2008-09....
    Maybe you had already walked out when I mentioned this at the meeting, but I still believe there is a point to be made here. There was a motion put to the Wayland electorate to fund a 3 school ES system for 08-09 on the floor of town meeting. It was not successful.
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 09-18-2008 at 02:06 PM. Reason: to fix quote formatting

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    I respond only to say that I won't be baited by you, Tracy. I said what I have to say on the subject. Twist it however you want, use sarcasm how you want. Suffice it to say, I think it is fair you and I will never agree on almost anything. I'm more than comfortable with that. However, I support your right to post as you did in this forum.

    I will say this on the subject of running for office, though. It is an eye-opening experience that makes the discussion of "civility" on the bulletin boards seem like a day at the circus. I took a lot that most people will never see or hear because I chose not to share it. I think I stood up pretty well, worked hard, came awafully close to pulling off the near-impossible and am proud of the campaign I ran.

    One other point, I would point out that all the bold in Tracy's post was not how it appears in the other thread. I did not accentuate those statements, she edited it in her re-post above. A minor point, maybe, but it makes it appear like I was trying to drive home certain phrases.
    Last edited by Jeff Baron; 09-18-2008 at 12:40 PM. Reason: Clarifying Point

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    I welcome feedback on we manage the Discussion Forum.

    So here's the new thread. Comment away...
    Any form of censorship, no matter how well-intentioned, produces endless debates about what can and can't be said -- to the detriment of open discourse in general and the issues at hand in particular. As long as posts are accompanied by the author's authenticated identity, freedom of speech should prevail. Yes, things will be posted that make you cringe; there's a delete key in the upper-right corner of your keyboard.

    Kim, I am not challenging your right to impose censorship, but rather your wisdom in doing so.

    Dave

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