Ethics of Posting Chat Transcripts

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An issue has come up recently (twice, in fact) where I wanted to post transcripts of #SluggySquad as a way of dealing with some people's objections to a particular chatter's behavior.


A handful of chatters -- call them Objectors -- had identified a certain section of chat in 'squad as being a good example of bad behavior from the one chatter (call that person The Subject), and wanted to take some action regarding Subject. My thinking was that while these few people seemed to feel very strongly about the matter, I didn't know how everyone else felt. Further, a lot of people weren't there for either of the incidents in question, and in fact might tend not to be around when Subject was most active. It came down to two essential questions:

  • How do people in general (not just chanops, though their opinions would weigh more) feel about Subject?
  • How do people in general (as above) feel about a chatter who behaves as this chatter did in the sample?

So I posted the entire dialogue, unedited (except to format nicely in the wiki), identifying Subject and explaining that several people (most of them chanops) had had problems with Subject's behavior, and that we were tentatively planning to take Subject aside to explain the problem.

However, one chanop (call this person Concerned) objected strongly to the transcript, saying that it felt very much like it was intended as a put-down of Subject, and seemed like it was trying to persuade other people to dislike Subject.

So I thought about it for a bit, and decided there was no reason to identify Subject on the page in question; I removed all references to Subject's name and gender.

Apparently this was not sufficient; Concerned still felt that the page was too accusatory, and removed the dialogue altogether (Note: I don't have a problem with that).

The Issue

So the question in my mind is this: When and why is it not okay to post transcripts from a public channel? I would say the following:

  • Quotes taken out of context can be unfair (but I don't think I was doing that).
  • Perhaps the surrounding text started out with too accusatory a tone; I typed it in a bit of a hurry. Possibly I should have started out just posting the dialogue with a request for comments, not suggesting that there was any problem with it. (At the time, though, I felt like I was trying to get people to back down from a "this person should be banned NOW!" point of view -- so a strong negative statement seemed appropriate.)
  • In general, though, if you say something in a public channel -- especially one with a strong community sense (and a wiki, and a quote database) -- you should be prepared to be quoted on the web.

I'd like to hear what other people think, though. I could be wrong. --Woozle 09:02, 26 Jun 2005 (EDT)

I'll claim ownership of "the Concerned" identity. However, for the record, we discussed this matter to death for two days, during which serveral other chanops voiced concern for the contents of the wiki page, Thorog and Drazahoib among them. Here is a quick rundown of why *I* had issues with the post.

1) The transcript was quoted surrounded by sharp criticism and overtly, as well as subtley, threatened inevitable banning. This was either ridicule or harsh discipline, neither of which should be publically posted. I refuse to endorse ridicule and discipline should be kept *private*.

2) If this was to be a trial by peers, the transcript and known history of the subject should have been sufficient evidence, without tainting the jury with a whole page of criticism.

3) The web and those busy archiving it, is far more public and permanent than the ethereal chat that is typed off the top of one's head, first and only draft, and scrolls off the page in the blink of an eye. Even if you know it is being logged, it is more a dynamic real time conversation than a finished thesis.

4) Even when the "identities" were stripped from the transcript and posted opinions, *everyone* still knew exactly who we were talking about, and the stripping wasn't nearly complete. Pronouns were left in place all over. Plus subtle references to that exact person were not removed. Even someone who hadn't been around for all this hoopla could have read that transcipt and know exactly who's nick had been deleted.

The content of the post would have been appropriate perhaps for a chanops only forum, to discuss and compare notes *in private*. I do not think this is even in the same realm as posting humors or significant events from the channels, as those entirely (or should entirely) be devoid of criticism and belittlement. Vee 17:46, 27 Jun 2005 (MDT)