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December  29


'Tis the season to be bashing...the Montclair Watercooler, that is. Over at Montclair Unmoderated, the inconsistency of posts that are allowed or rejected on the Cooler is being analyzed ad nauseum. Posts are being picked apart, as members of the Unmod squad try to decipher the inconsistent, often cryptic screening process of the not-so-secret society known as the Benevolent Despots. Posts in question include a thinly-veiled commercial for a penthouse apartment masquerading as a goodbye letter to Montclair and numerous queries about lending support for the Tsunami disaster, which thankfully did not occur in Montclair, but is still on a lot of Cooleristas' minds (when they're not stressing about squeaky stairs). Relegating Tsunami posts to a files folder (which appears to be empty) seems to be the response of the BDs. One Unmoderated member shares the frustration of getting a post on the Cooler:

"I too have tried to post perfectly reasonable responses to posts on the Watercooler --- only to get a curt authoritarian, almost cult like response from a particular moderator."

Here’s our question: Can Cooleristas whine about being ridiculed by posters on the Unmoderated, or would those posts be deemed “off topic?”

December 29, 2004 in Controversy | Permalink


"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

- Lord Acton, 1887

Posted by: Right of Center | Dec 29, 2004 9:49:30 AM


Posted by: Gonzo Journalist | Dec 29, 2004 10:57:25 AM

Oh, the vast, enormous and unmitigated power of running a free listserv!

Gosh, the affront to chose to serve free of charge those whose gratitude for the efforts to focus and guide is all too often immeasurably small!

Gee, they really must hate our freedom, hmmm?

Golly, can't imagine why so many people still retain their membership!

Willikers, I'm sounding like Secretary Rumsfeld!

Posted by: poetess | Dec 29, 2004 12:39:48 PM

"Over at Montclair Unmoderated... the [Montclair Water]Cooler is being analyzed ad nauseum."

You've got THAT right!

Posted by: Montclair Lover | Dec 29, 2004 3:21:41 PM

I think that the cooler is what it is. The people who run it have every right to run it the way that they see fit and frankly, I do think that there is way too much over-analysis going at RFM.

Private forums and mailing lists are really not free speech zones. Anyone can start their own list if they think that they can run it better. Anyone can leave a list if they don't like it or the way that it is run.

After having many posts denied for reasons that were annoying but were explained, I had a post denied that would have helped people to make immediate cash donations. Donating to the International Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent would have been put to immediate use on Sunday and Monday.

The mods decided to only post regarding local efforts from Montclair organizations for fundraising, none of which was taking place at the time and, even if it were, none of which would fulfill any immediate need.

This offended my sense of right and wrong and I removed myself from the list. I think that ONE POST regarding Tsunami relief is more important than squeaky stairs. I exercised my right to leave a forum/list that did not meet MY needs.

After I left the cooler in a snit, the mods (to their credit) did set up a file folder for people to enter information. The moment, the time, and the need for that particular information had passed.
The agencies had finally gotten it together in order to collect money via AOL and the news stations.

I wish peace to the watercooler!


Posted by: Resa | Dec 30, 2004 12:30:42 AM

if town folk can presume to tell the owner of a defunct inn what to do with it for "the public good" then why can't townfolk tell the "owners" of the watercooler what to likewise do for the "public good"?

At least *they* don't have millions invested!

Posted by: Right of Center | Dec 30, 2004 8:30:28 AM

Whats up stupid?

Posted by: LC | Dec 30, 2004 10:01:13 AM

Richard O Colgan writes:
if town folk can presume to tell the owner of a defunct inn what to do with it for "the public good" then why can't townfolk tell the "owners" of the watercooler what to likewise do for the "public good"?

uh, er, cuz tha watercooler will never have a whit of impact on our taxes?
or cuz no elected official betrayed his or her trust in so permitting?
or cuz no matter how much you may hate the look of the watercooler no one's ever gonna say, 'what happened to that cool old listserv that used to sit on the corner over there?'

Posted by: Friend In Deed | Dec 30, 2004 10:31:59 AM

Actually the real fun we're having is cooking up spoof posts and competing to get them thru the gates. Way more entertaining and creative than idle kvetchng!

Posted by: Thom Kennon | Dec 30, 2004 2:25:17 PM

There is a place for moderation, but something with a stated mission as broad as that of the Watercooler is not it.

I'm a `Cooler member and still read the messages, but I've given up on posting for the time being after my two most time-intensive messages were rejected as being off-topic.

In both cases, I was attempting to provide troubleshooting and technical information to people who had posted questions about computer and/or Internet problems.

In both cases, similar messages (both before and after mine) were approved. I don't know why, and my comments to that point were ignored.

Resa is right -- it's a private forum, and your First Amendment rights aren't guaranteed there. But as someone who's been participating in various electronic forums since 1984, I've learned through trial and (mostly) error that content moderation is a task best left to the collective will of the community.

When wielded only by a subset of that community, the subset, however well-intentioned, will always wind up throwing some babies out with the bathwater. No matter how objective the moderation guidelines are, the moderators are human and inevitably apply subjective criteria to the task. It just can't be helped.


Posted by: David P. Powell | Dec 30, 2004 9:30:40 PM

i, too, was attacked by watercooler moderators for trying to find a person in montclair who had a business for dog/health/food products because my dog was in need of a dietary change. all i wanted to do was find this person.
i was bombarded with nasty e-mails by watercooler whatever that dorkey name they call themselves as if i was trying to promote someone's business.
it was completely bizarre since people on that site are constantly asking and getting referrals in all kinds of businesses.
i was perplexed with their violent reaction to someone who wanted to do whatever possible to help an aging dog.
i will never use the watercooler again. why risk that kind of reaction?
neighbors like that i don't need.

Posted by: lisa kalb schaffer | Jan 5, 2005 2:54:18 PM

Welcome to Montclair or the Montclair Water Cooler. Uptight people abound. Who is surprised and why? Judgemental oversight. Isn't that in the town charter and part of the oath of citizenship?

Posted by: Not really friendly | Jun 3, 2006 9:49:17 AM

"Welcome to Montclair or the Montclair Water Cooler" not the same thing. The watercooler is virtual and charges no taxes. The same can't be said for Montclair

Posted by: I am the Walrus | Jun 3, 2006 7:18:11 PM

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