Insomnia (insomnia) wrote,

A perspective on LJ Abuse... or flagellations with a wet noodle.

I wrote something up in a thread elsewhere on the topic of LJ Abuse that I thought I should clean up a bit and share with the rest of you.

Just as a simple statement of fact, let it be known that LiveJournal Abuse isn't perfect. There, I said it. It sucks sometimes, but it's true.

Part of the problem with LiveJournal Abuse is that we would practically need a court / legal system to sort through a lot of the complex interpersonal crap we deal with in order to reach a higher degree of what one might call justice. Unfortunately, I don't see that as happening anytime soon, primarily because we just don't have the infrastructure, coding, and coordination level to support it. I don't think any web host out there does, even though some of them make some real money and could better afford to put such a system in place. We have to rely entirely on volunteers.

In that sense, the best we can do is just make the policies as fair as possible. With time, new precedents are made and the system gets further refined though. One thing that I am very happy about though is that abuse has many more volunteers than in the past. What this means, long term, is that there will be a greater degree of peer review, which is really important at times.

There are also some deeper psychological factors at work that effect the quality of Abuse decisions. Volunteering for abuse is fairly unrewarding yet necessary work. We have some really good people that give their time to help, but I think there's a real risk of people helping out too much. Maybe a view of my history with the Abuse Team would clarify this statement.

Although I only deal with the most seriously escalated abuse decisions anymore, when the department was first formed, I worked extensively on it. I wrote a lot of the TOS with steve, and Steve and I (often along with Brad) would frequently argue back and forth on particular cases in reaching decisions, researching the law, liability issues, etc. That's what led to the creation of our internal docs on how to interpret the TOS.

I would like to think (and I suspect that managers in the abuse department would back me up on this...) that I was probably the best person that abuse has ever seen at resolving interpersonal disputes. I did things that frankly surprised myself, getting people who were ferociously angry at each other to talk through their issues and even apologize to each other... and some of them are still on each other's friends lists.

Well, over time abuse grew to be a bigger and bigger part of what I worked on, and I had less and less time to deal with each case. It also began to be something I resented - there were lots of people doing bad things (and sometimes blatantly criminal things) to others, and it really, really got to me. It tended to give me a false impression of what LiveJournal was, since I only saw the negative aspects of the site.

The end result was that I had less time to work on each individual case, that I tended to view the people who were reported to abuse as "the enemy" more than I would have liked, and that I was more prone to make quicker and sometimes harsher decisions. I am a pretty introspective person, however... I noticed this happening, and I decided to change the structure for abuse so it was more scalable, and then I walked away from the day-to-day of abuse as much as I could.

For me, this was important. My job is to represent LiveJournal as best and as positively as possible, and that is a really hard thing to do when you are only seeing the dark side of things. Well, people who are working abuse today still have the same issues. The best thing that could possibly happen for abuse would be to have more people stepping forward to help with support, and from there to abuse. (I recommend working in support before doing abuse.) The more volunteers we have, the less rushed or overworked our staff will be. They'll have a better shot at mediating disputes without anyone getting suspended, and they'll make better decisions. Best of all, it will reduce the burnout factor involved.

Abuse generally works in three steps: someone makes a complaint, Abuse sees if there's a violation, and then they do something about it. They don't take kindly to people doing things that might be seen as circumventing decisions or tweaking noses, even if they don't happen on LiveJournal. Nobody gets an account with LiveJournal in the hope that it will better facilitate people harassing them on IM or via email, for instance. The best rule of thumb is to not abuse people, and if you are warned about it, to comply with not only the letter of the decision, but the spirit of it as well.

An ye harm none, do as ye will, essentially. Be conscious of the impact you might have on others or on LiveJournal itself.

Yes, the Abuse Team isn't perfect, but I can't tell you how valuable they are in maintaining some degree of civility out there. Nobody wants to write about their innermost thoughts, just to become a victim of them. If people want things to improve, by all means, they shouldn't just complain about it -- they should get involved. LiveJournal can still use more volunteers and it is only as good as we make it.

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