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2018-11-27 13:10
People who have read the Wall in the past few months might think that Tatoeba is a site where people alternately contribute sentences in a handful of Algerian languages and fight with each other about them. The fighting is an enormous disservice not only to the Algerians, but to the members of the Tatoeba community who speak the other 99% of the world's languages and cannot use the Wall to discuss essential Tatoeba business.

I have hidden the posts in question, and I have suspended the people who have been warned repeatedly not to engage in this behavior. Other admins may choose to unsuspend them. I leave that up to them.
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2018-11-27 13:20
That the Wall appears to be dominated by North African languages is not really the users' fault as much as a technical limitation of the Wall system.

I think a switch to a more conventional forum/discussion board interface has been a long time coming. Being able to visit only the threads you want to see and ignore the rest will be a massive step-up as far communication on this site goes.

The problem of a debate on the Wall drowning out other discussion is a problem that's only going to get worse as Tatoeba picks up more contributors.
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2018-11-27 14:10
I agree that the problem could be mitigated by a threaded forum interface. However, we always start from where we are, not from where we wish we could be, and we need to choose how we're going to focus our limited resources. In any case, given that bad behavior can subvert even the most sophisticated system, we always need people not to behave in a way that sabotages the community.
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2018-11-28 09:21
At the same time, their activity in translating is really beneficial and helpful; it's a wonderful thing to have so many Berber and Kabyle sentences in the corpus, considering these are historically underrepresented languages in general. In the future, maybe we should either give people a place to have discussions like this (such as a threaded forum, even an external one on free forum hosting) or redirect them to a place where they can.
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2018-11-28 12:53
To be clear, the problem is not really that the Wall is flooded with messages about Berber and Kabyle, but the fact that this particular topic is very volatile.

If the people involved in the discussions could just keep it civilized, that would be fantastic and we would let the discussions go. But the people involved could not refrain themselves from being provocative or from replying to provocation, and regularly, a seemingly innocent post would sparkle into a flame war. A conventional threaded forum wouldn't solve the root of this issue.

To be clear on another point: we don't suspend forever. Technically we cannot, because people can always create a new account. To this day, we have always given multiple chances to everyone who behaved against our etiquette. And from not so long ago, we have an example of someone who caused us really a lot of problem in the past, but came back as a better person and we have no problem welcoming them back:

But nobody is going to get VIP treatment just because they're contributing a lot to the corpus or because they're contributing in an underrepresented language. Just like we have quality requirements for the sentences in our corpus, we have quality requirements for behavior.
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2018-11-29 11:37
Calling it "VIP treatment" is missing the point. People who speak languages such as English and French get VIP treatment by default. It's VIP treatment, for example, that English sentences are most likely to be translated, and will always have the most links to other sentences.

I don't think it makes sense to ignore the political dimension of language, and moreover, it seems like a very easy thing to do for speakers of languages with strong political backing. A person speaking Catalan is likely to be more accutely aware of the relationship between politics and language than a person speaking Spanish.

Clearly flooding the wall is an undesired outcome, but there might be a way to redirect people to better places to have these discussions, without being punitive about it.

Also, could it be possible to implement a system where people can be temporarily suspended from the wall, but not from contributing?
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2018-11-29 15:35
It sounds like you're saying that there should be some kind of handicapping system. Namely, speakers of languages that are disadvantaged either because the language is not spoken by many people, or because they lack political power, should be given more freedom to break the behavior guidelines because suspending them could lead to their being further behind in the language race. Not only does that strike me as misguided and unfair, it's totally unworkable. How could there be enough hours in the day to decide which languages are disadvantaged and which behavior is thereby justified?

A simple web search for "language forum" gives many hits. Whoever wants to find such a forum can perform such a search and do a better job of determining what suits their needs than we ever could.
2018-11-29 20:32
>Also, could it be possible to implement a system where people can be temporarily suspended from the wall, but not from contributing?


Suspending from contributing sentences is really not necessary.
2018-11-29 20:43
I feel there is a gap between what you are expecting from Tatoeba and what Tatoeba can humanly provide in terms of community management. I feel there is a gap as well between your perception of why we suspended users and why we actually did it.

To put things back into context, the core mission of Tatoeba is to build a corpus of sentences and translations. Because we chose to do this in a collaborative/crowdsourced way, we inevitably grew a community around this project. We acknowledge that a having a good community is important for our mission to be successful, so we do what we can to provide Tatoeba members a place to interact with each other, and we do what we can to maintain a healthy atmosphere. But we have *very* limited resources to do that and managing a community is not our main job.

There might be ways to redirect people to better places to argue against each other on politics and ideologies, but this would have to be into other communities that are not managed by us. Because we definitely do not have the staff for that.

Honestly though, if the members we send away will behave the same way they behaved here, they're not gonna be welcomed in any other serious community. For this kind of behavior, we might as well redirect them to 4chan. But if you know of a place where we could send them to when we cannot manage them anymore, then please do let us know, and we can try it next time. I personally don't know any.

It is of course possible to implement a system where people are only blocked from writing on the Wall and still allowed to add/translate sentences, but again, we have very limited resources. It is not something we would be able to implement anytime soon. To be more specific, we elaborated this idea already years ago, in 2015:
To this day, we still are not able to get this done. Simply because 1) nobody has stepped up to work on this and 2) there are many things that were and are much higher priority.

Even if we wanted to start working on that today, it wouldn't be possible because we are working on upgrading the framework on which Tatoeba is built. We cannot work on anything else until we complete this upgrade. It's a huge task, we have to rewrite a large chunk of our source code and even after we're done, we will likely go through a some weeks of instability, with some regressions to fix and some optimizations to do.

The implementation of this permission system is not trivial at all and it could take a couple of months to implement. So in short, we're not likely to have such a system before at least several months. As long as we don't have that, anyone who participates on the Wall really needs to learn to behave according to our etiquette.

I'd like to stress that we will never suspend someone out of nowhere. We always give people the chance to express themselves, and even when they're crossing the line, we'll give them warnings first. Then again, and again. But when we feel that warnings don't work, we have no other choice than suspending. This is the only thing we have left, to give them a wake up call.

And please do not interpret this as us ignoring the political dimension. If you would browse back to past threads, you will find many political messages that we have not hidden. But there's a point where political fights become cancerous for the participants, for the community, for the project. When we judge that too much is too much, we will take the necessary measures to stop it and we will not treat anyone differently. If you're being toxic and you've been warned several times to watch your behavior, it doesn't matter if you're a new member or a veteran, it doesn't matter if you're contributing 10 sentences per month or 1000 sentences per day, it doesn't matter if you're contributing in a popular or in an exotic language. If we have to suspend you, we will suspend you.

I personally don't think it's such a bad thing to force members to take a short break from Tatoeba when we're reaching a critical stage. Oftentimes I feel that people who get unreasonably agitated are also people who are spending too much time on Tatoeba and not enough time on themselves. So really, it's okay to "lose" some contributions if in return people don't lose their sanity.
2018-11-27 14:48
> people who have been warned repeatedly not to engage in this behavior.

I only remember they were told to stop discussing the Kabyle flag issue otherwise they would be suspended.

Unless I missed something and there were other warnings, I don't think suspending them was entirely fair.

Besides, their discussion was sometimes interesting to read. Tatoeba is effectively dead as a community, that brought some life to it.
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2018-11-27 19:25
They were not only asked to stop discussing about the Kabyle flag, they were asked to stop flooding the Wall about Berber and Kabyle in general. There has been a few warnings:

It's one thing to share and explain your culture/language and obviously we have nothing against that. It's another thing if a same topic systematically turns into endless threads of personal attacks.

I have scanned through the last thread that Alan has hidden, and really, I see nothing new in there. It's the same fight over and over again, no progress, no attempt of mutual understanding, just people who are continuously hating on each other publicly. Suspending them was not unfair from my point of view. It may be inadequate because suspending a user prevents them from contributing to the corpus, while the problem here is with the Wall, but that's the only measure we had left.

Tatoeba is definitely not the most outgoing community out there, but (at least speaking for myself) I would rather have a quiet and respectful community than a lively but toxic one.
2018-11-27 23:23
This is not only overkill, but also a bit unfair, I believe.

If you check the last threads ending up in debates you can see that it was the Kabyle team who came (as a group) and started debates under Amastan's valid threads.

As you can see in the last statistics, Amastan is one of the most active contributors here. He's a 6-year member of Tatoeba and a corpus maintainer. Without him, the development and maintenance of the Berber corpus will be crippled. The Kabyle team, on the other hand, has other active contributors. They won't suffer a lot from this 'suicide attack', so to speak. Their suspended members are normal contributors anyway. They can simply create new accounts and continue to contribute without losing any privileges. But Amastan is a corpus maintainer. It's not that easy for him.

I think this decision is tipping the balance in favor of the Kabyle team. There should be a better way to solve this more fairly. I hope you unsuspend them all and give them one more chance. This time, they will probably restrain themselves from future debates.

I also agree with sabretou's suggestion. Such an improvement would eliminate many Wall-related problems like this. A limited suspension system that prohibits users from only sending posts on the Wall for a period of time would be useful for this purpose, too.
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2018-11-27 23:51 - 2018-11-28 13:37
Tatoeba is not a soccer game between a Berber team and a Kabyle team (though it has come to resemble one). Keeping score of how many more sentences are contributed for one language than for another might be entertaining, but it's not the point. Tatoeba is a project designed to let a great variety of individuals work together peacefully and constructively. When an individual consistently violates the guidelines, he/she needs to be suspended to protect the community and the project. That is true regardless of how many sentences he/she has contributed, how long he/she has been here, and what type of contributor he/she is. In fact, we expect better behavior from longtime active contributors, not to mention corpus maintainers.

As for "he didn't start it", any parent or teacher knows that being provoked does not give someone free license to display unacceptable behavior in return.