This was initially not meant to become an ed log because a lot of it is just personal thoughts and does not directly relate to my position on the site. The position, though, has made the issue at hand salient to many and forced me to reconsider a few things that relate to the site as such.
A few days ago, I asked ascorbic to take my messages out of the catbox archive, for reasons that follow and in a recurring fit of exasperation. That's a state of mind that's usually a poor adviser but hey, I'm only human. I submitted the request as a user, not as the site's chief admin. Ascorbic complied with my request and filtered out my messages. Reactions were varied but mostly neutral or negative. In the end I took what probably is the advice of the smarter and saner speakers and retracted the request. I'll apologise to ascorbic for letting it come across as an or-else demand, putting him on the spot like that, and exposing him to criticism that should have been mine. I hope that a small, penitent contribution to the beer fund will make up some for my waffling misdeeds and the time that he spent trying to accommodate me. But allow me to explain.
I won't mince words here: Apart from writeups, whose inherent goal is wide distribution, I disapprove of all mechanisms that make content that's posted by logged-in users available to anyone, anywhere, whether they're E2 members or not. More on the history and technical side of this from sam512.
I'm not paranoid and don't shun the public eye but I am fundamentally a rather private person. My mailing address is a PO box. I've had an unlisted phone number for as long as I've had a phone line. I give the press the time of day in public but am rude to pollsters at my door and on the phone. I sign my e-mails with my real name but I don't post it in public. I've been on very few listservs and such in my life, even fewer of them with a public archive. This, I realise, clashes with the reality of being on the internet in the 21st century. I still feel the urge to contest this reality.
In some ways this is a worrying time for people like me. Every one of us, online or not but especially online, can expect their every word or action to be put on the record for posterity and under someone else's control. I don't like it in general, I don't like it in the context of E2, and I positively loathe it when it involves me personally. This is just a web site and, although I occupy a prominent position on it, I'm not a fucking celebrity. My social interactions are nobody's business but that of the people directly involved and (unavoidably) those in whose presence they're conducted. But these are times in which everyone is treated like a public figure and every social event is a public one. If someone else wants to be a facebook exhibitionist, by all means, do what you wish. It's just not me. I believe that the correct reaction to seeing a fly on the wall is to get a fly swatter.
This attitude toward privacy, as futile as I realise it might be, is what made me go ballistic about the recent incident that involved the posting of what we call PII (Personally Identifiable Information) in the security business to the public catbox. This, I will state again and as often as I find reason to, is verboten, beyond the pale, unforgivable, a deadly sin, and many colourful expressions that I'm not taking the time to come up with. So having an incident like this happen on my watch and coming from someone who ought to know better, I was not a bit teed off. I was hopping mad.
Since I took the reins here, I think it's in the interest of the site and in line with the principle of transparency as I promote it, that I go on the record with the Word and respond to questions or concerns that come up. I still believe that the catbox is the wrong place to take things that specifically and definitely need *my* attention because I'm often working on other stuff and not watching it. I also think that it's probably useful to have a record of admin talk with the public. I even make a concession that in my mind is a major one by not asserting my rights over private messages that I send to users during the course of business, even though most of those that get posted are used in arguments against me. I still reserve those rights.
Here's what I really hate: I consider it useful to the site that its titular head mingle and talk shop in the catbox. Given that I am a bit reclusive but not an antisocial, stone-faced motherfucker with no sense of humour, I sometimes like to participate in the general wit and banter. But I do not like the idea of having a record of me dicking around with my friends, colleagues, or noders in general posted for everyone in the world to see for all time. This is not something I just whine about. There are periods totalling maybe five years during which my absence from the catbox precisely because of it was nearly total. As far as I'm concerned nobody has a legitimate interest in watching people bullshit a bit in an internet chat room. It's reality-show voyeurism. And if you're browsing other people's casual chat from 2003, well, that's just a wee bit creepy and you need to get a life. I'm a bit surprised that catbox participants have not gotten into real trouble with people who found their E2 comments by chance in the archive. Chat archives should expire soon and let bygones be bygones. Now if it were practically possible (which it is not) to divorce the shop talk from the larking about, put the former on the record, and make the latter go away, my disposition toward the Archive might be a bit more favourable.
On the upside as far my peace of mind goes, I've changed my mind about not having an ignore list. I was of the opinion that, as the final authority on many things, I ought to be available to everyone on equal terms. In the end, though, I'm still a volunteer on this site as much as everyone else and am entitled to be a wee bit selective about the shit I take and who I take it from. I get a lot of valuable, insightful opposition in the form of many people outside the staff who take the time to submit their disagreement. These folks are experienced, smart, respectful, and understanding. They're also persuasive and influence my decisions as much as those who submit their applause. Then there is a small group of muckrakers and self-important, self-appointed guardians who seek ulterior motives in everything. These people might command more respect if they were actually adding substance to the site's content and not just stirring up shit. As it is they're swiftly approaching irrelevance in Mine eyes and I do not feel compelled to notice what they're saying. But since there's something sinister in all my actions, I'm sure it's business as usual to them.
As far as maintaining order in the catbox goes, I'm not the Catbox Cop and don't need to see everything. There's a well-qualified corps of users to take care of things so I don't feel like I'm missing out by ignoring some individuals. I abolished the identity of admins and catbox cops for a reason and believe that this was one of my more successful moves. Of course there are still people who rail against the authoritarian, autocratic state but still manage to invent dark motives when observing The Man handing power to Not-The-Man. Go figure. If a matter is substantial enough that the chanops people think it needs my attention as a broader site problem, they will exercise their judgement before escalating it to their on-staff contact and then to me.
At any rate, if we disregard the shrill condemnations that involved a lot of shouting "UNCLEAN!!1!" about both me and ascorbic in public and not one substantiated (nor, in fact, any) argument in my inbox from the people yelling, I figure this incident has provided some food for thought. As usual, everything is on the table for discussion even if it doesn't stay there for long. And never let a crisis go to waste even if you unintentionally precipitated it.