Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Can I Get a Ticket, Please?

During the late night/early morning hours of December 4th/5th, there was an incident in the Occupy Nashville live stream chat in which a chatter posted about illegal drug use.  There were three mods in the room at the time, but in spite of the fact that there's been a chat rule since day one that there is zero tolerance for discussion of illegal drugs, only one of the three mods made any attempt to stop the posts.  That mod repeatedly told the chatter to stop the postings, but the posts continued.  This went on for a period of time, all the while, only one mod engaged and the other two offered no support.

When that mod left the chat,  she cleared the posts because of the drug comments.  In case anybody was wondering if the other two mods who had been signed in throughout the exchange were merely signed in but not in fact in the room, please note that they chose when the chat was cleared to finally jump in and comment.  And their comments indicated they thought it was unnecessary and inappropriate action taken by the other mod.

Hours later, that mod wrote an email to members of relevant ON working groups expressing consternation about what had happened and cited me by name as a chatter whose voice had been repeatedly stifled in the chat room.  She indicated her solidarity with me in the face of misogyny and more in Occupy Nashville, and I was bcc'd the email.  She went on in that email to express the opinion that the chat should perhaps be shut down until ongoing issues were resolved and she resigned from the live stream team due to her distrust with the the process and her lack of confidence in the team.

As a result of that email, coming as it did amidst discussions about other live stream issues, a meeting was hastily called for the evening of Tuesday, December 6th.  Attending the meeting were members of the media, tech, and social media working groups that are part of ON.  The ON member who facilitated the meeting followed up on the morning of the 7th with an email in which what was discussed and agreed to in the meeting were outlined.  There was one item that was labeled immediately "actionable" and others were noted for further discussion.  I was cc'd that email.

The actionable plan was to be the development and implementation of a "ticket" system through which issues and complaints related to the Occupy Nashville live stream and chat experience would be handled in a uniform and timely manner.

Any complaint from a supporter is serious and should be dealt with respectfully and effectively

Although we have had discussion on the potential impact on donations, this is only an issue insofar as (a) people who make donations are supporters and (b) those donations enable us to do more for the groups that we campaign on behalf of.  Being a donor does not give your opinion more weight.  But we have a responsibility to help ON to achieve its goals for social justice and losing a supporter or donor because we could not implement our code of conduct is a great pity.

We will strive to rebuild confidence that we are capable to implement the code of conduct:

- A ticket system will be implemented so that Livestream / tech teams have clear information on any issue, and can supply transparency on what was done to fix it.
- The ticket system will be easy for supporters to access.  An email to the live stream email list will be connected to automatically create tickets.
- The Livestream page will be updated to summarize the code of conduct and tell people how they can easily report unacceptable behavior that is not promptly corrected by a mod.
- The ticket system will automatically send an acknowledgement of the issue to the supporter and a commitment to respond within 48 hours (ideally 24 if the team can commit to that)
- The Livestream team will review the complaint.  If it is not actually an infraction of the code of conduct a polite email will be sent to explain that.  Boilerplate text will be prepared for this.
- If it is actually an infraction of the code of conduct, Livestream team will discuss with the relevant moderator or broadcaster and note the agreed corrective and preventive actions in the ticket.  
- An email will be sent to the supporter summarizing the action taken and closing the ticket.  - The Livestream team will provide transparency on the number of tickets received and the actions taken.  Ideally the tickets will be classified to show how many were actual breaches of code, and from time to time analyzed to ensure that permanent actions are taken regarding repeat offenders.  This information will be provided in an easy to use format. People interested in this information will not be required to learn the ticket system or install special software.
- **** will help with boilerplate text for the various responses
- We will reach out to people who have been complaining to show them our good faith attempts to improve process to address concerns, and ensure they understand how their concerns can be most effectively addressed in future.
That was a week ago.  In the interim, I've asked several times in the chat about this plan in an attempt to ascertain if it's been implemented.  To date, the best I can say is that the responses were confusing.  In any event, it appears there is still no system in place.  At best, if there is, nobody, including chatters and team, appears to know about it.

I suppose it's possible that everybody's just really busy and hasn't had time to get to this, but I will note that on the evening following this meeting, the night after the email went out clearly identifying an actionable plan that should be implemented, because, as noted by the meeting facilitator, "Until these actions are in place it is as if our meeting never happened," several stream team members did in fact have time to go to a bar and live stream taunts to Occupy Nashville Chatters about their good time.  Frequently peppered throughout their frivolity were comments like, "Wonder how much trouble we'll be in for this?  (laughter)"  Another one, in-your-face for whoever was watching, "Don't like it?  Fuck you!"  Further raucous boasting about how unconcerned they were if supporters of Occupy Nashville didn't buy them things any more...even a wallet whipped out and a stack of cash displayed for emphasis.  Classy all the way.  To assure that they had an audience, one of them posted a link to the stream in the chat at Occupy Nashville's live stream site and posted it on Facebook as well.  When, predictably, there were complaints about streaming this mess online under a Ustream channel named OccupyNashvilleLive, the team became indignant and it was suggested that anybody who thought there was a problem with getting drunk in a bar and acting stupid while you live stream the experience under the name OccupyNashvilleLive to an audience you were sure you'd piss off as evidenced by your taunts but, nonetheless, made sure they'd have a link to so they wouldn't miss it should mostly just S.T.F.U. and/or get a life.  In other words, it's our party and we'll do what we want to.  Try to stop us.  Just try to ask us to be accountable.  We'll show you.

So.  Here we be.  Where's the accountability and transparency here?  I don't know.  But I do think it's legitimate to question whether or not the Occupy Nashville live stream and chat is doing more harm than good at this point in time.  What's related here is only a little of what's been going on with this team.  To be fair, not each and every member of the team has acted in the same manner.  But, if people are attempting to step up to the plate and rein in their own, they're both invisible and unsuccessful in their attempts.  It does appear they're ceding to those who are responsible for the dismal numbers in Occupy Nashville's live stream and chat.  As one person noted to me recently, "There's really not much reason to go there anymore."  That's a shame.  So much potential for outreach and goodwill squandered.  For what?  For who?

The fact that this team would stage a provocative event within hours after being called out for problems and then compound their offense by making it appear that those who didn't like it were the offenders is indicative of something that I'm not sure even a ticket system can address, but I don't think it's unreasonable to ask for accountability from them nonetheless.  There was a meeting.  A plan.  Do it.  Or shut it down.  This is not your party, it's our movement.