Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Eli speaking for the panel on the panel's powers and on why Tas is now unlinked

As the panel spokesperson, I was asked by the panel to write down our thoughts for the community on why Tas was being unlinked. Those of us serving on that panel went through a variety of blog possibilities. We had been informed that Ron (Why Are We Back In Iraq) was talking Tas up and that Ron thought Tas did incredible work.

Near the end of the panel's four-week deliberation, C.I. reminded us that the decision was ours and also informed us that Ron was repeating his praise for Tas. To the panel, Ron was, in effect, vouching for Tas.

The comments that were passed on did influence our final vote. No blog was passed over in linking to Tas. There was no set number on how many we could link to. Nor were we required to approve any link. Since no one was losing a link, and due to the fact that Ron was vouching for Tas, we voted in favor of him in a close vote.

Ron's vouching should not have meant anything to the panel. I have advised C.I. that Ron's vouching probably influenced the panel and C.I. has apologized for that to each panel member in an individual e-mail.

In the apology, C.I. thanked us for the input and stated that in the future there will be no additional information passed on other than "here are the sites that are being talked about by members."

Ron was not a member of the community. He was liked by the community. If the panel had been doing their job from the start, we would have rejected Tas out right because the recommendation was not driven by the membership. The panel failed in doing their job. That is our finding after exchanging e-mails repeatedly today.

C.I. has apologized to the panel and stated that an apology would go out to the community. We have rejected an apology from C.I. to the community for the following reasons:
1) C.I. apologizes and someone has, Wally's terminology, "a tantrum" as they attempt to pick apart the words.
2) In the past, C.I. has taken on apologies that we do not feel should have been taken on.
3) The mistake was the panel's.

C.I. apologized to the panel for passing on additional input from Ron. That obviously did influence our vote. There is no denying that. However, the panel could have spoken up and stated, at the time, that we did not need any additional information.

We did not do that. We weighed Ron's opinion and considered it. At the time, we were happy to have it. It was the responsibility of the panel to note that Ron was not a member and to disregard his opinion.

A mistake was made and we are attempting to correct it. Loaded Mouth does not speak to this community. It was a mistake to include it.

Panelists who voted for it can identify the problem in retrospect and after much discussion. However, even panelists who voted against it in this close vote did not raise the issue of outside influence.

Our opinion for unlinking to Tas are based on the above reasons. However, even if a panel had not had outside influences, even if a panel had decided in full faith, through careful consideration, as the first panel to make such a decision, we reserve the right for all panels to make the decision to unlink to any site they have chosen. Such a decision would be made by the panel and it would be the responsibility of the panel to write the opinion of the panel. It would be the responsibility of the community leader to post the opinion of the panel.

The panel's purpose is to decide which voices speak to a community. If a panel determines someone should be linked to, for whatever reason, and later realizes that an error in judgement has occurred, the original panel should have the right to reconsider their opinion and vote on it again. Should the original panel number less than three among current members, decisions for unlinking would be made by the panel currently serving.

A new panel should determine the reasons for unlinking as they see fit. It is the opinion of this panel, however, that such determination should be made with great care and sound deliberation.

We realize that this could create confusion. Therefore, those serving on the current panel will propose a policy for unlinking. That proposal will be made available when it is written. It will not be posted. It will be made available via e-mail to members who chose to vote on it by requesting a copy of it. Based on the response from members, each plank of the proposal will be decided.

Blogs that were linked to by C.I. prior to the creation of the first panel will remain C.I.'s decision. Scientific blogs may be added at any time by requesting Bora of Science and Politics' input. The community has had no complaints about Bora's judgement and, as long as Bora is willing to provide input when asked, it will remain Bora's decision. Should Bora pass on providing input, science blogs will fall under the decision making power of panels composed by members.

Organziations, periodicals and other online services remain the decision of C.I. But the panel was given this responsibility over blogs and accepted it gladly.

Our comments are not meant to provide undue embarrassment for Tas. The basic facts are that he was never a fit with the community. Had we done our job, we would have rejected the recommendation outright since it was driven from outside the membership. We failed to do our job by not advising C.I. that we did not need additional input from Ron. Quite the contrary, we gladly accepted the input.

It was a new power and we were excited by the prospect of serving the community. We valued the input and valued it over the task at hand. We failed when we gave weight to Ron's opinions, a non-member, while making our decision. That was our mistake. Future panelists should avoid any discussions of potential links with anyone not serving on the panel, be it C.I., or a member that has your e-mail address.

This does not mean that while a blog is being considered by the panel it can not be highlighted at this site. Nor does it mean that members comments on a blog a panel is currently considering cannot be posted.

As a resource/review, whether a blog is a permalink or not, it should be highlighted if members find something that speaks to them. But panelists should make a point to strive towards avoidance of undue influence from outside the panel. That will be difficult if a member is excited by a blog and writes a post to be shared by the community.

As an example, Democracy Now! is not a blog. Marica's comments of "always worth watching" are noted each time. The panel agrees with Marcia's evaluation of Democracy Now! but what if similar comments were made about blogs under consideration by the panel? If they are made, they should not effect the panel's decision nor should a member's comments be censored because a blog is under consideration. It is the panel's job to evaluate the blogs under consideration and only the panel's.

This may sometimes be a difficult task but, as Kara noted, with a panel at least one person should be able to say, "That's fine, what the member said, but we're dealing with the blog as a whole and we're here to make the judgement. It is our responsibility and only our responsibility."

The line may be crossed and we realize that; however, we think that panelists should strive towards not being influenced by comments made at this site by members about blogs that are under consideration. Should they fail, the process of unlinking should provide them with an opportunity to address their failure.

When an unlinking is done, the panel should comment on why. The panel is the final say on this matter and should take that power seriously. Along with the power of linking comes the corollary power of unlinking. Such a power should rest with the body responsible for making the original decision.

The panel extends an apology to Tas for unlinking from Loaded Mouth. We made an error and we take responsibilty for that. We have argued our position repeatedly with C.I. today.

We did not base our argument to C.I. upon the sort of blog Tas runs. We based our argument on procedural rules and the power of the panel. C.I. was aware of where this was headed; however, we did not engage in those discussions. When C.I. responded at one point opposing unlinking to Tas, we did not engage on that point. We argued our points on procedural grounds. Those were the arguments that convinced C.I. Mistakes will be made, the panel must reserve their right to correct those mistakes.

Having established our right to this power, the panel, and only the panel, then addressed the issue of the link itself. Linking to Loaded Mouth was a mistake. The mistake lies with the panel and only with the panel. Outside influences from Ron and C.I. did effect the vote. That is not Ron's fault, that is not C.I.'s fault. The panel failed to reject outside advice just as the panel failed to object to outside voices.

On behalf of the panel, I apologize to the community. The panel apologizes to Tas as well.

To avoid outside influence on the proposed policy, only members will be allowed to vote on the proposal. Membership will be defined as participation in e-mails to this site. C.I. will determine when a person qualifies as a member as opposed to a visitor. New members will be allowed to request a copy of the policy after the policy has been voted into effect.

We are a community and anyone is allowed to visit. But membership requires more than a visit and an occasional e-mail. C.I., Ava and Rebecca have spoken of crank e-mails in roundtables at The Third Estate Sunday Review so the decision on who is a member and who isn't will belong to C.I. Should C.I. pass on the leadership of the community, to Ava or anyone else, the person leading the community will be the one to decide who is a member and who isn't.

When our proposal has been completed by the panel, C.I. will announce it at this site. There will be three days of announcements. Fourteen days after the first announcement goes up, the voting will be closed. It will be the responsibility of membership to contact C.I. and ask for a copy of a proposal. C.I. may pass the responsibility of distributing the proposal onto a designated member. If you do not receive the proposal, it is your responsibilty to contact the site.

At the bottom of the proposal, you will see three e-mails. One will be mine, one will be Keesha's and one will be C.I.'s. You will do one e-mail which you send to all three addresses. All three will tally the results. Results will be e-mailed within 24 hours to all members who voted and to any member who does not vote but requests a copy of the results.

Once you have voted, you will not be able to revote. In the past, members have been asked to identify their favorite film or song. Those lists then resulted with some members asking to change their pick. Some even went so far as to request a change after the results were posted. For that reason, when you do your e-mail vote, it is final.

Each plank will offer you five choices and you will rank them so that we will be able to do instant runoff voting. Shirley's e-mail address will be provided on the proposal should instant runoff voting be confusing to you or should you need assistance with questions regarding your ballot.

There is an exception to that. Should the community have a long life, we recommend that every few years a new proposal be voted on. On that plank and only on that plank, the choices will be limited to two: a new policy every five-years or a new policy every two-years.

As an independent body, no one serving as leader of the community should ever serve on the panel while acting as community leader. Should community leadership be passed onto someone currently serving on a panel, that member leaves the panel. No replacement will be sought for the missing panelist.

I have written this statement on our findings and proposals; however, it has been agreed to by the entire panel.