On 2/19/01 9:58 PM, "Peter Losher" <email@example.com> wrote:
> I have recently been dealing with an issue that I hope I can get some advice
> on here. On one of the lists that I maintain & administer, I have had
> individuals reportedly attack individuals via personal email about things that
> they have posted on this particular list. In the list rules, I only specify
> that there be no personal attacks publicly on the list, or they are removed.
I've been following this for a couple of days with some interest -- lots of
interesting perspective here. I just now have time to toss my thoughts into
the ring and see if they bounce.
I've always been a proponent of the "if it happens because of my mail list,
I have a responsibility to it", so my rules have always made it clear that
abuse by private mail isn't tolerated. This has gotten me some flack from
other admins at times, who prefer a more hands-off approach, and from users
who want to tell me it's none of my business -- but when situations are
unclear online, I look for real-world comparisons to judge with.
In this case, since I like the sports-bar analogy (and I'm the bartender),
it's similar to the case where two folks get into a argument in the bar, and
then one leaves and waits for the other in the parking lot, and then jumps
him. Virtually, you're still on bar property, but not IN the bar, and the
situation was caused while they were in the bar.
There's a responsibility (and to some degree, a liability) here. As
bartender, I'm inside, not outside. If I never hear about the fight or of
the fight, there's not a damn thing I can do, obviously. So if neither side
comes to me -- it's not my problem. But when one comes to me for help, given
the fight started in "my place", I can't NOT get involved. And IMHO, I think
there's a potential for legal liability if you refuse to get involved, but
I'll leave that for the lawyers to argue. I just refuse to be the precedent.
I still feel there's a moral responsibility to protect your parking lot as
best you can, even if legally it's not fully under your control.
These days I deal with this situation with a couple of rules. First, I make
it explicit that if nobody complains, it's by definition not against the
list rules (but as admin, I reserve the right to complain to myself, just in
case). And if someone does complain, I agree to investigate and see if
something needs to be done (never, ever assume that the person who agrees is
right, or say something that can be construed as assuming that). My other
rule says abuse of my users is not tolerated. I specifically don't say WHERE
that abuse happens, public or private. Abuse is abuse.
> I have been loathsome to deal with personal attacks via personal email because
> it comes down to a "he said, she said" a lot of times.
For me, it's simple. I tell both sides that I want copies of all email. I
don't care who said what. I care who DID what. I ask both sides to stop
talking to each other during the investigation, to let tempers settle, I ask
both sides to explain their side of the discussion, and I ask both sides to
send copies of all e-mail they sent to each other for the last N days.
If the accuser can't give me copies of the e-mail, I won't do anything
except tell them to forward me copies of anything in the future. I won't act
based on what they said -- I'll act based on evaluating the e-mail itself.
99% of the time, the situation will cleanly resolve itself. Many times,
whichever side is being the real idiot in the situation will make it clear
to you (mostly by moving the hostility to you), making a decision easy.
Pretty much the rest of the time, the simple knowledge that I'm asking for
all e-mail and will judge it when I get it will cause the twit back off and
shut up. If it's the accuser at fault, asking for evidence usually causes
them to get huffy and then shut up, because they have none, and if its a
case that someone is being too sensitive to criticism, I can talk to them
privately about dealing with it (surprisingly enough, some folks have thin
Only once have I had to deal with someone forging email to get someone in
trouble. By getting copies of everything, especially with full headers and
received lines, you can almost always figure that out quickly. When I did,
that person sure wasn't happy...
Once in a while, you simple want to kick both sides in the butt and tell
them both to shut up. And in any number of cases, you'll see it's just two
people headbutting, and tell them it's not something you need to deal with
and they should figure it out without you. Two people fighting is not abuse,
and there are good reasons to not choose a side, but tell them t not get
blood on the floor and leave them to it.
The key, I think, is to get the evidence, don't act on the accusation. And
make your own judgement. Just because someone complains doens't mean the
complaint is justified. But many times it is, and I think you have to go
figure out which is which. I have, by the way, kicked people off the list
for accusing others of abusing them, when I found that what was happening
was the accusation was the latest round of abuse. The couple of times I've
run into that, boy, those folks weren't amused... But that's why you need to
play domestic-abuse detective. Get them separated, get their statements, get
the evidence, and then decide what's best. Most of the time, the answer is
obvious -- which one to slap, whether to slap both, or neither.
Chuq Von Rospach, Internet Gnome <http://www.chuqui.com>
[<firstname.lastname@example.org> = <email@example.com> = <firstname.lastname@example.org>]
Yes, yes, I've finally finished my home page. Lucky you.
I tried to get a life once, but they were out of stock.