META: Pool Rules

Russ Allbery eagle at
Wed Jun 20 14:53:02 PDT 2012

Scott Eiler <seiler at> writes:

> Last weekend I realized, this *is* a moderated group.  (I posted
> something heavily off-topic here by mistake, but Russ caught me,
> thanks.)  So if we want to have these as formal rules, we could actually
> put a moderator to serious work, at least if we can find a new Martin to
> stir up the storytelling.

Your friendly neighborhood moderator would rather not do that.  :)

Here's a bit more information about how the moderation actually works, for
those who are interested, since I've not mentioned this on the group in a
few years and we've had various turnover:

* If the post is from someone who's regularly posted here for a while and
  seems to know what the group is for, *and* it has a valid keyword (as
  required by the charter), it gets posted automatically with no human
  intervention on my part.

* If the post is from someone I recognize but it doesn't have a keyword, I
  add some keyword and then post it.  This happens a lot with replies from
  Google Groups when the original poster used a keyword in [], since
  Google Groups unhelpfully removes that keyword automatically.  (I have
  no idea who thought that was a good idea.)  Please note that I generally
  still don't actually read the post any more than is required to figure
  out what keyword to use.

* If the post is from someone I don't recognize but has a keyword, I skim
  it to be sure that it looks like it's on-topic and then post it.  After
  a few of those (around five or so, with the actual metric being "when it
  starts annoying me to manually approve them all the time"), I add that
  person to the whitelisted list so that their stuff gets posted

* If the post doesn't seem to be on-topic, I send mail back to the person
  with a copy of the post, either asking more questions or rejecting it.
  This happens pretty rarely (maybe three or four times a year).

* If the post is spam, I just delete it.

The primary effect of moderation here is to eliminate the spam, which is
on the order of 10-25 posts a day otherwise that y'all never see (and that
mostly I never see either, since I have a Bayesian filter that discards
most of it).

All of this takes me all of about ten minutes a week, which is good since
that's about as much time I have to spend on it.  :)  Nearly all the posts
go through automatically.  The only reason why I caught Scott's accidental
post to the wrong group was because it didn't have a keyword.

Other than that, the main effect of moderation is to enforce the keywords.
Honestly, I'm dubious about how important that is now.  Originally, there
was a concern that the group would be high-traffic and people would have a
hard time finding the stuff in the universes they care about and ignoring
the stuff in the universes they didn't care about, but I really doubt this
is an active problem for anyone at this point.  But it's in the charter,
so I keep doing it, and it's also a *great* way of catching spam, even
spam that comes from forged email addresses of regulars (which happens).

If y'all want the moderation to do more social policing, well, there are a
couple of problems with that.  One is that it takes a lot more time, and
it's not time that I really have or want to spend on doing that.  Another
is that it puts the moderator in the center of every argument, which is
kind of stressful for the moderator and may or may not be actually healthy
for the group dynamics.

I generally figure everyone's an adult and people will sort things out
amongst themselves given some time and opportunity, and that's generally
been the case.  People get upset, have public arguments, leave the group
in a huff, come back later (or not), and occasionally yell at each other,
but to me it's always seemed within the realm of fairly normal
interpersonal drama for a group of people collaborating.  I don't know
that it's actually better to try to stifle all of that; I'd be worried
that it would just break out in some other way, and possibly more
unpleasantly and more passive-aggressively.

What I can do as moderator is keep people from coming in from outside and
stirring the pot just for the hell of it, which has been attempted a few
times in the past and for which I have no tolerance.  But when it's an
argument between people who are all invested in the group, I think I'd
normally do more harm than good by trying to get in the middle of it.

Russ Allbery (eagle at              <>

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