This is a controversial and experimental project for EdgeRyders. The aim of the project is to protect, encourage, and facilitate the reporting of risk with regard to members projects, or indeed the EdgeRyders project as a whole. It is a sort of Whistle Blowing Manifesto for EdgeRyders.
So what's the problem?
The problem is that there are hard and important limits to radical transparency, especially when you add the requirement to discuss all issues on a text based online platform - however good the platform is. This topic is a place to constructively discuss this thesis, and to propose patches or fixes to the problem.
Another aim of the project is to come up with community techniques to prevent unnecessary flame-wars. Not all flame-wars are unnecessary, but there is a specific category of flame-war which is detrimental to effective knowledge sharing within an open topic - and that is not simply the problem of trolling, and bad online etiquette. The problem I am referring to is a structural problem, regarding deep criticism of an individual or groups work.
What sort of criticisms are problematic?
Most criticisms are fine to post directly and transparently on EdgeRyders. Indeed this is to be encouraged. The regular early, and open participation of a wide range of members is vital to the process of tapping into the collective intelligence of the group. However this founding principle of EdgeRyders has it’s limits, and it is the purpose of this topic to discuss and elaborate these limits.
One of the forms of criticism, that appears to be deeply problematic to EdgeRyders current philosophy, is worth elaborating here. It is subtle and a little hard to express, but I believe it is essential to the health of this community. The difficulty arises when:
- The topic of criticism is a piece of work that an individual or group has invested significant time or energy in.
- The criticisms is complex, philosophical, and may take time to listen to and comprehend.
- Or the criticism is highly novel
- Or expressed in a language or cultural tradition very different from the person being criticised.
In this circumstance, the natural reaction of the people intimately involved in the project, and wider community, is to protect the individual, their reputation, and the work they have invested. This is true even if the critic is proposing a positive alternative. This is because the positive alternative can at the same time be a deep and highly personal criticism of another individuals competence, or it can fundamentally undermine a groups ethos - provoking a backlash. The motivations are all good, but it results in important critical feedback being missed from the planning process, only for these problems to hit the project hard at a later date.
Why is this topic private?
The aim of this topic is for it to evolve into a safe place for critical thinking or whistle blowers. It is a place where I’d like to discuss problems and issues from both the recent past (by way of example), and more importantly of present and future projects. One initial proposal for a methodology that would address this is that the following principles should apply to all discussions:
- Discussions are private - this is a safe place to Black-Hat.
- Conversations are constructive - if you criticise you must offer a positive alternative.
- Conversations should not refer to individuals unless absolutely necessary. However it will almost always be very clear which individuals or groups are being referred to.
- Conversations will be made public (in order to keep the content respectful). However exactly when and how these conversations are to be made public is a matter to be planned and discussed in this topic.
A Practical Start
To make a start the plan is to slowly invite people, particularly people intimately concerned with these topics, and to discuss through the way of real-world constructive examples how to proceed. If this experiment works out to the satisfaction of the group, the entire proceedings of this project including all proposed methodologies, and the details of individual discussions help here will be published. To be precise:
- All discussions in this topic will be made public within 12 months of this post.
- Given unanimous consent from members of this groups certain topics discussed here may be published earlier.
- Unless there is a formal vote of members of this group and the decision to delay or cancel publication is unanimous.
Does this seem like a good idea?