Moderation notes re: recent Said/​Duncan threads

Update: Ruby and I have posted moderator notices for Duncan and Said in this thread. This was a set of fairly difficult moderation calls on established users and it seems good for the LessWrong userbase to have the opportunity to evaluate it and respond. I’m stickying this post for a day-or-so.

Recently there’s been a series of posts and comment back-and-forth between Said Achmiz and Duncan Sabien, which escalated enough that it seemed like site moderators should weigh in.

For context, a quick recap of recent relevant events as I’m aware of them are. (I’m glossing over many details that are relevant but getting everything exactly right is tricky)

  1. Duncan posts Basics of Rationalist Discourse. Said writes some comments in response.

  2. Zack posts “Rationalist Discourse” Is Like “Physicist Motors”, which Duncan and Said argue some more and Duncan eventually says “goodbye” which I assume coincides with banning Said from commenting further on Duncan’s posts.

  3. I publish LW Team is adjusting moderation policy. Lionhearted suggests “Basics of Rationalist Discourse” as a standard the site should uphold. Paraphrasing here, Said objects to a post being set as the site standards if not all non-banned users can discuss it. More discussion ensues.

  4. Duncan publishes Killing Socrates, a post about a general pattern of LW commenting that alludes to Said but doesn’t reference him by name. Commenters other than Duncan do bring up Said by name, and the discussion gets into “is Said net positive/​negative for LessWrong?” in a discussion section where Said can’t comment.

  5. @gjm publishes On “aiming for convergence on truth”, which further discusses/​argues a principle from Basics of Rationalist Discourse that Said objected to. Duncan and Said argue further in the comments. I think it’s a fair gloss to say “Said makes some comments about what Duncan did, which Duncan says are false enough that he’d describe Said as intentionally lying about them. Said objects to this characterization” (although exactly how to characterize this exchange is maybe a crux of discussion)

LessWrong moderators got together for ~2 hours to discuss this overall situation, and how to think about it both as an object-level dispute and in terms of some high level “how do the culture/​rules/​moderation of LessWrong work?”.

I think we ended up with fairly similar takes, but, getting to the point that we all agree 100% on what happened and what to do next seemed like a longer project, and we each had subtly different frames about the situation. So, some of us (at least Vaniver and I, maybe others) are going to start by posting some top level comments here. People can weigh in the discussion. I’m not 100% sure what happens after that, but we’ll reflect on the discussion and decide on whether to take any high-level mod actions.

If you want to weigh in, I encourage you to take your time even if there’s a lot of discussion going on. If you notice yourself in a rapid back and forth that feels like it’s escalating, take at least a 10 minute break and ask yourself what you’re actually trying to accomplish.

I do note: the moderation team will be making an ultimate call on whether to take any mod actions based on our judgment. (I’ll be the primary owner of the decision, although I expect if there’s significant disagreement among the mod team we’ll talk through it a lot). We’ll take into account arguments various people post, but we aren’t trying to reflect the wisdom of crowds.

So if you may want to focus on engaging with our cruxes rather than what other random people in the comments think.