It’s been a wild weekend, hasn’t it?
You may notice that all the “Merk” posts now say “Admin”. I had hoped to find somebody willing to take over as admin, but it’s not something anybody wants to do. From my long periods of absence in the past, it doesn’t seem that anybody even necessarily needs that role. What needs done, moderators can do. So for now, Admin is kind of a placeholder. I can still log in that way – and may still need to for a time – but this paves the way for my plan to phase myself out. For most purposes, I’ve already exited that role.
Many things have been going through my mind about the events of the past few days. I doubt anything good will come of expressing them now, but with luck, no bad will come of it either. We’ll see.
The forum was started – not by me, actually; I only offered to host it for somebody else, and kind of fell into the admin role as a result – not to replace Usenet, but just as another venue for discussion. One of the early decisions made was that it shouldn’t be heavily moderated. In fact, early visitors expressed concern that they had no desire to be in a community that censored what they said. Some didn’t even want the “edit” option, because it meant people could change history. When moderation was necessary, it usually came with some backlash.
Then, several years later, we’ve collectively agreed not only to step up the moderation, but basically sanitize the forum of dissent, negativity, and posts that make people feel even a little uncomfortable. I’m not necessarily saying that this has happened; only that it will. We’ve agreed that this is what we want. We’ve agreed that it is our responsibility to shield forum members from whatever might offend them.
Through it all, I kept expecting somebody to step up and ask “whoa, isn’t this getting just a little bit out of control?” That happened to a small extent, but opposition was met with explanations that it only needs to be fair for some, not others, because of who those others are.
When I was a kid, I was pretty lonely. I was ridiculed in school for various reasons: my family was dirt poor; my clothes were strange and outdated; I was ugly; I was skinny; I had a habit of using “big words” my classmates found amusing or simply didn’t understand. I was bullied, mentally and sometimes physically. This was in a small Oklahoma town, where there weren’t enough people to even find a group of friends in the same situation. I was raised by my divorced mother, with two brothers: one a little younger and the other much younger. When I say we were poor, I mean it. I grew up in a very small trailer house that was little more than a shack. Poverty would have been a step up, since my mom had a seizure disorder and couldn’t work.
It hasn’t felt easy to get to the point I am now. Being ultra-poor helped, at least a little, because I was able to get college grants and loans. I spent my high school years shy and introverted, writing silly little video games and text adventures, which ultimately was the best thing I ever did. Through some bad times, low-wage and under-appreciating jobs, and a dedication to what I loved so much – programming – I managed to not only come out of my shell (to some extent), but also break the cycle of poverty that can easily be a generational trap.
Then four years ago, a heart attack (at 38) let me know that bad luck’s not quite done with me yet. A triple bypass and daily medicine may give me a few more years. It’s something I constantly worry about though.
Now, I’m told that it’s not my place to be concerned if I’m falsely accused of something. It’s not my place to defend myself. It’s not my place to say that maybe everybody deserves a fair shake. And why is that? Because I’m not gay. Because I’m not female. Because I’m not an ethnic minority. Because I am “privileged” – something I wish had been made a little more clear to me during much of my life when I felt like anything but. I have a gay brother (the youngest one; the younger died a few years ago of heart and lung problems). But he isn’t me, so that’s a moot point.
I’m grateful for and honored by the kind words I’ve received since announcing that I wanted to hand off the forum to somebody else. It’s probably clear by now that I feel like an outsider here, in light of recent events. Times have changed, but I haven’t changed with them. I still cling to old fashioned ideals like “innocent until proven guilty” and “nobody should have to walk on eggshells.”
Despite my best efforts to address the needs of the unprivileged and disenfranchised, it seems it’s either not enough, or it’s too late. People still don’t feel safe, and are leaving. On the flip-side, those who prefer a slightly less sanitized forum may also leave. At the start of this, I anticipated a community split (although realizing that this forum isn’t really even the whole community). I just didn’t think it possible that both sides (and I cringe at even using the term “sides” but I’m at a loss for a better word) would split. Maybe it’ll blow over, as the saying goes. I hope it does. But will too much damage be done before that happens? I really don’t know. Reputation matters not just for people, but for communities and forums. If neither “side” (sigh) is satisfied by what has happened, nobody wins anyway.
Anyway, I really need to get to bed. I have a lot of work to do tomorrow, and I wanted to get this all wrapped up so it’s not weighing on me. I’m sure it still will.
Anyway, the word is out that an admin is needed, and a server/host, although it doesn’t necessarily have to be the same person. I’m leaving it up to the community and the moderators to figure out the next step. When ready, I can provide a database backup and a domain transfer to get things moved as smoothly as possible. I’ll be around at least for a while, I’m sure, but maybe in lurk-mode. I’ll check Admin PM’s until a new Admin is found, although it might not be daily as time goes by. The best way to reach me is to email firstname.lastname@example.org or maybe both, just to be safe.
It was a good run. At least, I think it was. I’m just ready to focus on other things; less stressful things. At least for now.