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ForgiveAndForget follows from NonViolence. One must detach oneself from violence in order to end violence, not just to you, but from you towards others.

There are two meanings of ForgiveAndForget. One, we ignore transgressions (DissuadeReputation) when we have no emotional attachment, and therefore are already detached. Don't let violence enter your consciousness so you have nothing to forgive; don't even remember it, so you have nothing to forget. That is the easy one.

The second is to forgive and forget past violence remembered, lest the memory cloy from the inside. Through relating to others, we come to understand and accept our own lives. Talking about it will smooth the sharp edges until you can accept it. Then and only then can you forgive, and then and only then forget--that is, detach your consciousness from the memory. Out of sight, out of mind is a terrible fallacy.

This is very hard. This requires empathizing with others, especially the one who has done violence to you. We must first AssumeGoodFaith. But then you have to learn to talk about your suffering without laying blame, which is hard. Remembering to be strong when you are weak is the truly hard part, but that is why talking to others will help. They will remind you how to be strong. And they are responsible to hold you back from exacerbating the ConflictCycle, by transmuting blame and invective, and functioning as the missing empathetic bridge. From the strength of all comes one.

And if you cannot always Forgive and Forget, you can at least Forgive.

Connections to Social Dilemma and Game Theory

TitForTat argues that human memory of the past is a force for evolutionary pressure towards cooperation: People remember what happend in the past, If a desired outcome happened in the past, people will tend to reciprocate in a way that they perceive to be "in ind" or roughly equal to what was extended to them. If a person perceives that they were "cheated" or an undesired outcome happens, then the person either awaits reciprocation (scale to suit circumstances). Or, the person may decide ultimately not to reciprocate. This of course assumes the ability to identify the person being exchanged with over time.

If a person chooses to ForgiveAndForget, they are effectively temporarily "wiping the slate clean" of the perceived "debts" of reciprocation that tend to build up in the TitForTat Iterated SocialDilemma?. Although, this gesture is often extended with the assumption, or hope that the recipient of ForgiveAndForget will reciprocate by falling back into "synch" with mutually-satisfactory reciprocation over time.


This very old section is seriously contradicted by the discussion below. Reader beware.

[ed: I have started a new document, but it will take me a long time to digest what is below. There is a lot of hidden truth here and a lot of explicit fallacies. ForgiveAndForget is truly hard. -- SunirShah]

People make mistakes. In the vast majority of cases, the mistakes aren't important to remember. Sometimes, the mistakes are serious enough to cause changes in the society. In those cases, case history is important (especially as a UseCase). However, still details aren't always important. Moreover, hanging onto bitterness will only create more conflicts in the future.

Therefore, ForgiveAndForget. Forgive a person for their transgressions once the dispute is resolved, and forget that they made the transgressions. Or at least forget who made the transgression.

But, it's often difficult to forget who did something dramatic. Also, SoftSecurity relies on the continuum of a reputation. If you continuously forget a person's actions, they may just continue being mischievious with no pressure from the rest of the community. This is not the point.

In general, everyone feels better when their mistakes are forgiven. Wouldn't you like to forget some mistakes in your past? Just accept that people make mistakes. It's better to help others learn to not make the same mistake twice.

See ConflictResolution, ForgiveAndForgetInSoftware, ForgiveAndForgetInWetware

Behold, thou art made whole: go forth and sin no more

CategoryConflict CategorySoftSecurity


From [1]...


When you ForgiveAndForget attacks (or "crimes"), you also DissuadeReputation. That is, when you maintain a reputation of the person as being criminal, you undercut your ability to form a new mature adult relationship with that person. Not only will you not want to move forward emotionally towards them, but they will be ennerved as maintaining an AuditTrail serves actually to PunishReputation. On the other hand, you lose the context that allows you to determine a pattern of behaviour that could be more serious. The best strategy may be to ensure your community will be stronger than any individual future attack by the troublemaker, and then continue to DissuadeReputation until their emotional bond with the community evaporates.


As long as you have something good to share, you can stick around...

Note the similarity to the TitForTat [2] strategy of Game Theory[3]. TitforTat? argues that the memory of the past provides for an evolutionary pressure towards goodness: Remember the past, If a good exchange last time, be forthcoming. If you were taken, then await a gift. (scale to suit circumstances) If no gift, simply do not share again. (you are already a benefactor until they balance). Simple math and behaviour rules that quickly teach sharing instead of taking. Only a pattern of theft is rewarded with ostracism. This encourages balanced commensualism between network elements, promoting system complexity, interdependence, stability and evolutionary diversity. And even parasites feed someone when they die...


Also, on the Internet, it should be well understood that anything you say can and will be used against you for the rest of your life. Be careful what you say. Many didn't quite realize that in the eigthies and early nineties. Who knew then that today some company called Google would make 20 years of Usenet postings with over 700 million messages easily available to the billions of people, at http://groups.google.com?

on the subject of GoogleArcheology?... try searching for yourself. Do you remember writing any of what you find? Does it at least seem like something you might write? Would it be nice to be able to email some people & say "hey! You were right! I was young and a little pigheaded."


On wikis with limited VersionHistory like UseModWiki and its KeptPages, or WikiWiki and its EditCopy, this principle is fundamental. However, it exists in balance with the WikiNow. So, words you write may last five years, but words you wrote five years ago may be forgotten. Thus, on a wiki like these, the community can choose what it wants to remember. This is what makes these systems ideal for sifting good knowledge from the bad. More BalancingForces.


When an author changes over time (see AuthorSwizzling), sometimes their past works may not be representative of their current personality (changing TemporalContext). Thus, it might be good to ForgiveAndForget their past opinions. You find this failure a lot in politics when politicians are run out of town for smoking marijuana when they were kids. Growing up is making mistakes and learning from them. Being held accountable to something forever is wrong. In fact, that's why discriminating against former prisoners can be legally wrong (in the right contexts).


This reminds me of the adage about working to make the pie bigger, rather than working for a bigger slice of pie.

I agree with the "forgive" part, but I'm not so sure about this Orwellian desire to rewrite history. It seems dishonest. ContextSwizzling is more of a reader problem than a writer one. Readers need to beware of QuotingOutOfContext. -- DaveHarris

Some people advocate a technical infrastructure to forget (that is really a lack of infrastructure to remember). Personally, I think this is appropriate for this site at least. I don't really care what someone said four years ago on this page if it isn't part of the current contents. I'm not going to go through the page histories of the site unless I was a some sort of nutty ContentJunky?. A wiki is hard enough to navigate as it is without WayBackMode.

Sometimes, the desire to remember (as on a wiki) is for retributive reasons. I don't like this. But I recognize the need to version to protect against attacks, and the Wiki:EditCopy is inadequate to protect the server against attack. Two AnonymizerDotCom? sessions and that's it for security. So, KeptPages was born.

Nonetheless, history doesn't need to be erased. Nothing stops someone from making their own archive of material. It's just that the technical infrastructure doesn't do this by default. Making it do so is an equivalently heavy moral decision as making it forget: On one hand we have an Orwellian desire to remember everything, log everything, track everything; on the other, we have an Orwellian desire to change "history". At least in the sense that history is what we remember of it.

The technology is valueless, after all, and it doesn't care whether it remembers or not. The choices we make for it are a reflection of the values we have. In general, I'd personally prefer letting people decide what to remember, and I encourage them to be very frugal with what they remember. Or at least gingerly remember the past. If others disagree, and prefer memory baked into the wires, that's a reflection of their values. Nothing wrong with that. (In fact, I'd like them to speak up.) -- SunirShah


One place where it is necessary to remember all the history is in a corporate environement where full VersionHistory of all material is necessary, both from a legal and from a practical point of view. I'd really like to see the progression of the source code from its creation to its current form so I can back out of changes, or follow the history of bug fixes. For documents (as each wiki page is), it's also useful to be able to go back to a certain time frame to examine what the state of knowledge of the organization was at that time. This can be once again for legal reasons (e.g. liability), or to do detective work on the motivations behind decisions. To that end, features like PeterMerel's WayBackMode are brilliantly useful. Easy to implement, too.


I feel uncomfortable that http://web.archive.org has been archiving this site. I'm inclined to ask them politely to stop, and then erase their archive. Before I do that, I'd like to hear what others think. It's not as if they are archiving it constantly, but it has archived [a lot].

Bear in mind that due to running the development script with the live database and other issues (like the destruction of MoinMoin, and the continual destruction of KuroShin), I have been making occasional backups of the PageDatabase and burning them less occasionally to CD. I suppose it was implied that I was making backups for the whole two years as a "responsible" admin from the MeatballWikiCopyright, even though I wasn't. I'm sure our no longer pseudonymous friend, M. NameWithheld?, is happier with the prior arrangement. Note the complete lack of OpenProcess.

I am always encouraged that Ward has never used his backups of WikiWiki to defend against community action, only errant Linux crashes. -- SunirShah Of course, this isn't true any longer.

Fascinating. They've archived a number of my wikis, including one I put up just a couple of months ago! The "Way Back Machine" sees six weeks as a reach far into the distant past. Of course, you'd have to save it now in order to have a look into the past sometime in the future....

ForgiveAndForget is a social function used to deal with persistent memories in the Information Age. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, sometimes folks won't let it play out. Corporate clients do the forgetting by standing on your consultancy airhose until you're cut off completely, and they can forget the good you did while still remembering the pain you caused by exposing that one bit of managerial idiocy.

The archive of a misdeed is ethically and morally neutral, though the onus of the misdeed clearly belongs to the perpetrator. The act of archiving may be subject to moral judgment, which may change with time. The Nixon Tapes come to mind, and the Clinton escapades archived in various Special Prosecutor's reports and throughout the global news organism are all too fresh.

In the case of archive.org, the act of archiving is morally neutral. Saving web pages is no different than taking photographs. They are there to be viewed, and you don't know who is viewing them, or when, or why, or what they will do with them. Those considerations are outside your control. The only way to prevent the archiving and possible misuse of something on the Web is to keep it off the Web -- and hope that someone else has not seen fit to put it up on the web for you.

Chasing old page images to hasten their forgiveandforgetness could be an endless task. After web.archive.org, what about Google's cached pages? What about links or descriptions on pages archived from other sites? I think the ultimate capture and possible misuse of material on the Web is simply a fact of digital life. It's the way of the Web. ForgiveAndForget is a human coping function, not a technological resolution. -- JerryMuelver

We could consider the possibiliy of adding <META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOARCHIVE"> in the <HEAD> section of each wiki page. It is of course questionable how many bots would respect that request. -- DavidAndel

my feeling is that all forms of archiving are not a bad thing. there is a lot of wonderful content on meatball, but if that content can never be archived than it will all disappear if meatball is ever taken down. for example, what should be done in the case that traffic on meatball slowed down so much that it no longer justified the hosting bills (an unlikely occurance, but this is one of those theoretical dilemmas). if the content cannot be archived, then no one but SunirShah will ever be able to read it after that point.

one could get around this by saying that individual readers may archive the content for "private" use, and even shared with friends, but that the content should not be put into a public (searchable) archive on the internet. This would give us most of the benefits of disallowing public archiving while allowing us to be secure that the content in MeatBall can be as permanent as we each desire. -- BayleShanks

Maybe what that says is that people should ensure that Meatball never runs out of money for its hosting bills. If Meatball went away, only Cliff will have access to the last image. (I have a number of backups of the PageDatabase due to script development, but then again so does the WebArchive?.) To date, it's generally been beneficial that Cliff has ultimate technical responsibility, because then I have had to work hard to justify Cliff's time and cost. However, it's possible that I will be responsible for everything one day. Then I can slack off because then I'd really be a GodKing. Maybe what that says is that people should enjoin The Cliff to never abandon his role. Of course, then I think Cliff would punch me.

Personally, I think it's valuable to live on the edge of death. It keeps you from slacking off. -- SunirShah


This is a very interesting discussion. At least, the generic part of it near the top.

I would like to bring in an example of something I am suffering from on another wiki.

A page can be very active for a time, and then the authors may get tired of the thread and abandon it. Some time later, somebody comes along who is ignorant of the original context, and decides that one of the original authors was way wrong, and needs to be chastised in context.

The possible result (which I am suffering through now) is that the author singled out for attention now sees himself endlessly flogged by people who have no idea who he is or what the original context of the discussion was.

It can get really bad when somebody with a guilty consciense comes along and magically reinvents the context (which seems to him to have centered on some transgression of his own) and everybody goes hog wild. -PhilEhrens

This is why it's good to refactor discussions once they are resolved, to prevent the "fossilized argument" syndrome.

Alas, the wiki that I experienced this in has a whole passel of GodKing wannabees, and they decreed that nothing would ever be removed from the wiki (unless it reflected badly on one of them). "Fossilized Argument" describes the situation perfectly. ;^)


Ok, I'm going to argue against the flow here. I believe that a complete VersionHistory can benefit ForgiveAndForgetInWetware, which makes up for forgoing ForgiveAndForgetInSoftware.

Basically, I don't like to forgive, and I don't tend to forget. This is perhaps a character flaw, but I think I share it with other folks. However, while I don't tend to forget, my memories do tend to mutate over time (in fact, sometimes I get a completely FalseMemory? of something). And almost invariably they mutate so as to paint myself in a better light, and my mortal enemies in a worse light. So, what happens when two people like myself have a disagreement? Well, we both make mistakes and both say things we regret. And, over time our memories of the event mutate until we both believe that the other guy is totally evil. And probably we both bring up the old disagreement in fresh disagreements, and then start accusing each other of lying... well, you've seen it happen.

But suppose Fred like to ForgiveAndForget, and Ben likes to BearGrudges?. Well, then Ben will remember the old disagreement, and bring it up. And Fred won't be able to defend himself, because he'll have forgotten. So Ben gets an advantage. Classic PrisonersDilemma, of course. Note that a TitForTat approach doesn't work well here, because once you've forgotten something you can't remember it again - you're locked into that approach, and your opponent/partner is free to take advantage indefinately.

Now, if there's FullHistory, then the PrisonersDilemma is solved - you can apply simple TitForTat - if someone digs up dirt on me, I can retaliate in kind. Plus, I can be sure that if someone does dig up dirt on me, then it'll be accurate dirt, and if it's accurate dirt then I've probably already apologised, retracted, or reached an understanding. In fact, because the system will remember what was said for you, people are less likely to remember it in their head. And if they're not carrying around old slights in their head, then chances are that they're going to feel more goodnatured about people in general. Finally, if people dig for dirt, rather than relying on their memories of the event, then they're likely to be reminded that they were a jerk too. The resulting humility is a good thing. -- MartinHarper

It's not just a character flaw to seek retaliation, it's deeply neurotic. Bearing grudges is not healthy. It indicates that you cannot accept mistakes in others, which means most likely that you are unable to accept mistakes in yourself.

In the scenario you mention above between Fred and Bob there are a number of possible solutions. The solution you present, TitForTat is nearly the worst. While you may win today, all you'll do is create more battles in the future. If you're going to resolve a conflict, it's best to do it in such a way that not only will there be no further conflict, but that your interlocutor will end up helping you in the future.

If Ben is broken enough to bring up old wounds, then accuracy of fact (i.e. logic) will not be sufficient to alleviate his issue. In fact, it will probably only aggravate things further as you would have only frustrated his actual concern, which is likely an emotional problem. Deal with his feelings. Find his deeper issue if you can.

Failing everything, NameTheConflict. Indicate clearly that Ben is rehashing an issue that has already been resolved to your satisfaction. If it wasn't resolved to his satisfaction, maybe he'd be so kind as to articulate his remaining issue. You may still feel that it's not worth the pain and agony of going backwards--you really just have to move on in life. SeekThirdParties? if you must to intervene and explain that the issue is dead. While that won't actually make Ben feel any less angry, it may be necessary to move the discussion along.

However, you still will have to deal with Ben. Ben may be holding grudges because he is so insecure that he cannot stand to lose, thinking that failure invalidates him. His lack of self-esteem and confidence are the issue, in which case it's necessary to make Ben feel better about himself. Compliment him on his contribution to the discussion in that case if possible, or the general quality of his contributions otherwise. Help him understand how his opinions influenced the outcome, assuming they did, or that they were considered duefully but rejected for good reasons independent of him personally. Once Ben is satisfied, take care to raise his self-esteem over time until he feels confident enough in himself to lose a conflict without feeling that it is a personal evaluation.

In another case, Ben may feel the resolution was unsatisfactory. He may feel that his feelings were not adequately assuaged in that case. If you paste over his frustration again and again, his anger will only mount into a larger conflict. It's important to empathize with Ben and at least recognize that you hurt him in some way, and then explain how you felt about the situation so he can empathize with you. However, if Fred does not have the maturity to do this, they may need a third party to intervene to explain each other's emotions. This is all part of FairProcess.

As a side note, consider the value of belonging to a collective. If you need a third party, one will present herself. If you need long-term support in order to grow, TheCollective can be there for you. While this sounds vaguely cultish, it's pretty basic. After all, no conflict in a community is only between the two parties involved. It's really a concern for everybody. -- SunirShah

Hmm, I think I was less than clear! Let me try to boil this down to the essentials. You seem to be arguing in this page that:

I agree with your two premises, but I disagree with your conclusion. Perhaps you could explain to me how you came to it? Maybe I'm not understanding your point... --MartinHarper

You write, "if someone digs up dirt on me, I can retaliate in kind." That's your central design philosophy as described above. I responded to that. If your motivation for having a FullHistory is vindictiveness, then I'm sticking with the original thesis to ForgiveAndForget. -- SunirShah

Deterrence, not vindictiveness. A complete VersionHistory leads to a CommunityOfGlassHouses. People should ForgiveAndForget, software should not. Reliable software histories allow you to defend against ContextSwizzling by allowing you to provide the context in which a comment was made. --MartinHarper

I agree with Martin; I think accuracy or truth are the motivations, not vindictiveness. That is, the ability to figure out what's going on, what really happened. You don't seek FullHistory because of the CommunityOfGlassHouses, but for the system's safety. Similarly, "if someone wipes a page, I can restore it," is not vindictiveness or punishment, nor is vindictiveness or punishment the reason we like having a page history. -- LionKimbro

If a statement seems like FlameBait when it is missing its context (cf. QuotingOutOfContext), then the average reader will not look up the original context. It is cheaper to just change the text in the WikiNow to be clearer rather than force readers to consider a wider embedded web of gook.

If the issue is that important historical context gets forgotten, that's true. net.archaelogists would really hate this policy. The WebArchive? alleviates some of this pressure. Chronicles like OnlineDiaries and the MeatballDigest are also invaluable historical records. But if you want to ensure the community doesn't become only a historical memory, you should work to counteract the effect the WikiNow's timelessness has on flamebait. -- SunirShah

The HumbleRefactorer? is aided by access to the gook, so that she can edit the WikiNow, so that later readers don't need or want to access the gook. This is especially true in second and third generation reworking, to avoid the ReworkingProblems of gradual distortion and semantic drift. It's ForgiveAndForgetInWetware that counteracts the effects of fossilised flamebait, and this is easier with a full history. --MartinHarper


I believe in ForgiveAndForget as human principles, but I find that "therefore" link rather mysterious. Food is good in communities. Food is good in individuals. Therefore, food is good in software? -- LionKimbro

Software is completely socially constructed. Software encodes value judgments. We are not victims of some arbitrary Platonic god programmer creating our community software. We create the software. Consider that it is possible to create software that kills people, but we don't. -- SunirShah


Additional failure modes to be folded in. ForgiveAndForget often is unilateral; the community may "forget" about a troublemaker, but the troublemaker will continue to remember, maybe becoming a RecordKeeper. You cannot forget and then forgive. You must first forgive, and then forget. Not talking about something is only ForgiveAndForgetInSoftware, but it only reinforces memory as it frustrates expression of the feelings. You have to talk about something to get over it. Failing to forgive an incident can be used against you as someone can push your buttons by re-enlivening the problem. As time goes by you accumulate more and more incidents to ForgiveAndForget and more incidents you have failed to forget. The old timers may have more mental LandMines than the newcomers (move text from NoRespectForHistory). If you cannot write down how you feel, newcomers unaware of the problem will hit those invisible LandMines unaware there is latent animosity and you will appear random or psychotic. No one is perfect; it takes perfection to forgive and forget. If you "forget", the other party may assume (reasonably) that you have forgiven, even when this is not the case. It may be better to be honest than to lie that nothing is wrong. Excessive fear of conflict only creates more conflict as you need to argue to resolve a conflict, and suppression of argument massively increases frustration and therefore animosity.


Forgive and Forget is a contradiction, except for the very first moment, which begins to fade immediately. If you have forgotten what you forgave how can the act remain forgiven? When you forgive a person you are making allowances in spite of their offence. If you take away their act, by forgetting it, you also lessen the power of your forgiveness, it becomes hollow and meaningless.

To forgive is divine. Its power cannot be lessened by the merely human ability to forget.

Instead, ForgiveAndRemember?. Past offenses are not forgotten, but equally they are not held as a cudgel in current exchanges. This means leaving things in the past. (In the context of wiki-dom, the record of forgiveness would also be recorded). See CommunityWiki:RememberThePast --anon.

All of this is true, but one must balance the competing tensions of perfect recording + global indexability + trolls + forgiveness. Consider the legal system we have today. Justice is only preserved so long as court proceedings and rulings are recorded and public so that there can be no mistake of what has transgressed; however, the legal system limits the ability to use that material in future proceedings. Nonetheless, the information is public. If we presume that once "time served" the sin is abolished, then a paroled convict should be treated as a citizen once again. However, greater public access to court documents, media, and to each other has created difficulties in resituating a paroled convict in society as his or her neighbours occasionally get very agitated when one of them finds out the truth.

While criminals are criminals, our cases are just bad mojo. It's even less desirable to hold someone permanently account on the global network because they had a rough week. This information does come back.

So far, the BalancingForce has been resolved where it is cheapest: in the minds of the community (a CommunitySolution). However, failures of memory and mismatches between what is remembered and what is recorded are already creating serious secondary problems here. Another solution is to limit the technological reach of the archives so that they are unlikely to be indexed and searchable globally. For instance, we could use the RobotsExclusionStandard. We could also bury the archive in gzips or something even more arcane, like RotThirteen (seriously). We could make the archive incredibly painful to get to, so that one must really want to look at it to see it, but it is there whenever actual history is required. -- SunirShah

Stuff in the FullVersionHistory? on Wikipedia isn't indexed by either internal or external search engines. Also, stuff in the history doesn't show up on BackLinks. It's PracticalObscurity: it'll be secure enough unless I become an MP or some such. It could be made more obscure by implementing a DeepLinkDefense against direct links to history pages.


CategoryConflict CategoryJargon [TrailFire] CategoryGeneralPatternLanguage


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