Taking OP to the next level: editors!

For the folks who missed our OP Happy Hour on Friday, you missed my big announcement. Ever since I launched this site in 2003, I have always wanted OP to be led by a team of people who can bring in a wider range of perspectives. This month, we are beginning an experiment that is a first step toward establishing something like a board of editors or formal leadership team for the site!

The inaugural board of editors is: Damon SeilsMolly DeMarcoJason Baker, and Erin Crouse. They have alrerady had a positive effect on the amount and quality of discussion here on OP. I'm so excited to have their energy and ideas invested in this community.

We aren't convinced that "editor" is the right term, but are using it for now. (I call them the posse.) Each person will be responsible for either writing or soliciting a minimum amount of substantial content monthly, and will also play other roles such as outreach, tweeting, comment moderation, etc.  The group of editors has already begun meeting in person regularly. These meetings will be publicized when we feel comfortable with opening them up.

 We will evaluate this experiment in 3 or 4 months, and if all goes well we will probably be interested in both formalizing the role, and expanding to include more editors. As always, I'm always interested in your suggestions (especially about their "title" should be).

Also, bonus present for OP readers: posting "Blurts" will now be available for all authenticated users. Have at it! 


Congrats on picking a fantastic posse and I think this is a good change for OP.  

Very exciting. I hope it works well for community discussion, OP, and Ruby's undoubtedly busy life. I like OP because anyone can post. Public meetings often are a series of short, passionate statements amounting to a numbers game. To play it well you create a strategy that considers how many people show up, how many speak, and very importantly, when to speak (beginning or end), etc. When OP is operating at its highest, it provides safe scaffolding within which considered dialogue can occur, especially between people who hold significantly different points of view. 

Just more moderators to erase any differing opinions.

Not if they're posted by people who log in, or just raise good points (or points we want to respond to, in this case). So, care to explain what you are talking about, anonymous commenter?

...am I the old anonymous, or I am a new one? :^)Can you describe what a "good point" is so I can keep within the guidelines? I mean lay it out, put it in your FAQ. Has you managed to find a way to measure the immeasurable? And maybe you could be more specific on how you feel about anonimity. It seems, by your comment; "So, care to explain what you are talking about, anonymous commenter?"  that you already have a bias about it on your blog.   P.S. I am sure you have captured an IP address, but are you sure it is from the same place I am located? ;^) https://www.torproject.org/

I'm guessing you don't have a lot of formal rules (yet?), but I'm curious what your expectation for these folks in regards to ethics.   Are they "journalists" subject to some level of expected behavior (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalism_ethics_and_standards)?  I would hope so.   But then again we're a small town, and there are entanglements aplenty from folks that you use here that you would hope are well-connected to the community.I'm  not saying I have the answers here; I'm curious if you have considered and have guidelines for this new position? 

"Journalist" lets hope not, journalist are on the same level as lawyers. Ethics and journalist don't mean alot. When was the last time a journalist was fired for unethical conduct? At least lawyers try to enforce there code of ethics.Have to wait and watch on how diverse in opinions this anointed group is. Maybe they should be called the "The Anointed Ones" .

I really don't think that's true.  Granted there are a lot of people in the TV news business with no ethics at all, but they are not journalists - they just play journalists on TV.

I thought I just had to clean out the spam filter every so often. Now you're telling me there's a code of ethics?

I'm just curious.  Would Ruby be ok if you run for local office while
doing this job?  Would she be ok if you were somebody's campaign
manager?  A dedicated volunteer?  A big $ contributor?  Do you have to disclose any of the above when you post?I don't know that there's an easy, clear line to draw, but I'd be interested in how the position is envisioned vis-a-vis those boundaries. (this isn't intended to be "against" anyone on this list or not on the list.  Just comes to mind because Ruby has taken heat in the past in this regard and I would think having some clear expectations up front would make it easier for you all)

Just my two cents, but I think it would be appropriate to take a leave of absence from being editor while one is an actual candidate.  Key campaign volunteer (such as Campaign Manager or Treasurer) should at least be acknowledged.  But I don't think that means an Editor can't have a privately held opinion about a local election.Bear in mind that OP does not purport to be a news reporting website (even though it occasionally fulfills that role).  It is explicitly a place for discussion of political views and has an explicitly stated editorial bias. "Progressive perspectives on Orange County, NC" is the subtitle of site, after all.I would guess these issues have not been mapped out, but James is right that they should be considered now, rather than bumped into during campaign season. 

Good questions. The Community Guidelines summarize Ruby's expectations for all OP participants—including participants with editor privileges. I try to be mindful of the guidelines (often by keeping my trap shut). 

Would Ruby be ok if you run for local office while doing this job? Would she be ok if you were somebody's campaign manager? A dedicated volunteer? A big $ contributor? Do you have to disclose any of the above when you post?

We should be clear here about what the "editor" duties are at this point:

  • generate and/or solicit content
  • outreach
  • tweeting, Facebooking, etc
  • comment moderation 

Any registered user of OP can generate and solicit content, so your question about posting isn't specific to people with editor privileges. If an editor became a candidate for elected office, I imagine she or he would give up the editor gig for emotional stability. But this isn't an issue of disclosure—unless the campaign is so poorly run that OP readers don't know the candidate is running. However, if an editor or other content poster is also a campaign volunteer or campaign donor, I think it might depend on the content in question. As Mark points out, OP exists to support political discussion, so it would be odd if many of its participants weren't also volunteers or donors or otherwise engaged in the political life of the community.I suspect most of your concern relates to comment moderation. My joke earlier about cleaning the spam filter does, in fact, reflect the large majority of what is involved in comment moderation. I've been thrilled to discover how many robot visitors OP receives. We are modern!

  • Comments posted by registered participants are not moderated. Only if a question is raised about whether that content conforms with the Community Guidelines is moderation considered after the fact.
  • Comments posted by Anonymous are moderated. Anonymous is usually one of our robot friends. Comments from other Anonymouses are published by an editor if they conform with the Community Guidelines. Comments by Anonymous that are abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening, sexually oriented, etc, or that may violate applicable laws are not published. Comments by Anonymous that criticize people instead of ideas, that demand responses from other participants, or that seem to have the purpose of disrupting rather than contributing to the discussion are also unlikely to be published.

Your questions deserve more discussion among the editors. Thank you for raising them. And now I have gone on too long and plagiarized shamelessly from the Community Guidelines, two qualities to which an editor probably should not aspire. 

I'm glad those who post anonymously are edited before they are published. The trouble in the past (as seen by someone who really only knows what she reads on OP) is that on occasion, especially around election time, it was the postings of registered users that did not always conform to the rules of engagement. Assuming that the esteemed editorial posse knows more people than I do, the question for them is, "Will they be willing, if required, to set appropriate limits on postings made by friends or acquaintances?" Only time will tell. I think this is a positive development. Thanks to these people who along with Ruby, are doing the heavy lifting. 

So, I wanted to first acknowledge that I completely agree with what Damon wrote. Amen.But since we're talking about a small, identified group of people, I think I should address directly what I feel comfortable doing, and what I don't. I wouldn't feel comfortable continuing to have  editorial control of other people's comments on this site if it should ever happen again that I run for office or directly manage another person's campaign at the local level. I know each of my fellow co-editors personally and I trust completely their judgment when it comes to approving, and if ever necessary, editing comments on this site. But at the same time, I value OrangePolitics as a trusted and reliable community resource and would not ever want to endanger that status with any perceptions about my own behavior. So simply, I would not want those responsibilities while being the primary manager of any campaign including my own.As for being a volunteer or financial contributor, I don't see those as conflicts. Being interested and engaged in local politics is why I'm here to begin with. I'll continue to be forthright about what organizations or campaigns I volunteer with; my individual profile pages might be a good place to house that information. And in terms of contributions, the biggest contribution I've ever given to a local candidate was my "maxing out" of my VOE contributions to Penny Rich and Mark Kleinschmidt in 2009. I expect I'll give a contribution to any VOE candidate in this cycle who asks me, regardless of whether or not I ultimately plan on supporting them, because I support the program. The truth is, though, I don't think any of us see comment moderation as the main aspect of our roles - instead, I see my main intent in this position as producing and curating meaningful content and commentary on a regular basis.  I'm not personally comfortable editing a registered user's comments without first talking to my fellow editors about it, and thus far the only comments I've touched at all have been those that are clearly submitted by spam robots, not real people. I take these responsibilities seriously. But I'd rather err on the side of taking them too seriously than not enough.

Jason, I think you've touched on another role that isn't explicitly in Damon's list.  I would include in the definition of "curating" the bully pulpit that you all have as the posse in an ongoing discussion.  If you were to put on a thread that we shouldn't discuss a topic (for whatever reason), it would have more weight than if I did it.  We all have less ability to get a discussion rolling  -- I'm sure Ruby will share plenty of examples where she's thrown a topic to the masses to "have at it" over the years and nobody bites (for whatever reason).  Although "power of the front page" has value here, which I assume is either in your ability or Ruby would more quickly promote content you write.I say all of this just so that you (and we) understand there's more to your informal power than just the ability to approve anonymous comments.  And while I'm sure you'll use it for good, with power hopefully comes some responsibility to be up front about your "outside connections".   (when we develop the ability to convey sarcasm in text, I will re-write that previous sentence to say "I'm sure you'll use it for good, but I'm not sure about Molly".  I'm seeing her for coffee on Monday, so she's the easy target to pick on)

I agree with both Jason and Damon's characterizations of our new roles. Moderation of comments is just a small role. I have, so far, only deleted one Anonymous comment that was clearly spam (or a robot - whatever that means, I am not a techy like my fellow editors). My primary motivation for agreeing to be a co-editor was that I wanted to see more discussion of social justice issues on OP. As for outside connections, I conduct research at UNC and as I have stated in several of my posts, I am a member of Orange County Justice United (James and I both serve on the strategy team). I volunteered for and donated to Mayor Kleinschmidt's last campaign and, like Jason, I plan to donate money to any VOE candidates next cycle.That all being said, this co-editor gig is a trial and we are still working to fully define roles. I appreciate comments here that make us consider issues that we have not thought of.See you Monday James. 

To be clear, there have always been candidates, donors, & active supporters of candidates participating on OP. This certainly isn't new, but it would be interesting to think about how to make this information clearer to all. For example, I always thought it would be great if each member could easily add a slate of their favorite candidates to their profile. Sort of like wearing your "biases" on your sleeve. (If I didn't have a job and a kid, I could take the time to play around and create new features like that.)Similarly, I have thought about some ways to share more information about the comments that aren't approved, but it's hard because they are usually moderated for a reason. We could post a gallery of examples of what does not get approved on OP, but context is critical. Ultimately there is still no "right" to publish on OP, and one of the standards we choose to maintain here is that people have to be accountable for what they say. This is a big improvement over the early wild-west days of OP (check out the archives pre-2008). I have no ambivalence about that.Editing or moderating comments of registered users is extremely rare. I can only remember doing it 3 or 4 times in the past 7.5 years. Barabara makes a valid point about dealing with "regulars." It's possible that I have given more leeway to people who have a more established repuation (but even on them there have been limits). Reputation is exactly why certain behavior is less tolerated when it comes from anonymous or pseudonymous commenters. I'm OK with that, too.Damon, Jason, and Molly are quite right in pointing out that this moderation role is actually the least of their responsibilities as editors, but I am enjoying having more heads to confirm or deny my instincts about some of the more marginal comments.

Thank you Ruby.  I'm glad you have added some editors to the site and delegated some responsibilities so that the site can continue to be what you envisioned --a place for community discourse and engagement. 

OP had a similar group of editors back in the old days. What is different except the names?

Terri, while I always envisioned there being fellow editors, there has never been anyone in that role before. You may be thinking of the days back when the site had no ability to publish entries without promoting them to the front page. There was a group of people who had the ability to post blog entries without going through me, but their privileges ended there. I think I referred to them as bloggers, not editors.I have also had friends administer the site when I've been out of town, but that was usually behind the scenes.The new structure is a bit like a combination of those two roles, but a much more proactive responsibility to solicit community participation and an involvement in setting and enforcing the policies of the site. 


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