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Some communities are easy to join and become quickly accepted into the community. Churches, self-help groups, and apple pie neighbourhoods are some. Some communities are cliques, and practically impossible to join. Many communities are somewhere inbetween, with individual CommunityExpectations that make each community distinct.

Some communities, like MeatballWiki and slave-holding America, tolerate newcomers at different levels. In America, slaves were second class citizens, outcast by birth even if they arrived to the New World over the same sea as their masters. On MeatballWiki, a full voice can really only be had by those willing to use their real names. Others are vanquished to anonymous point interactions in the debate. While potentially influential, they can never build the social credibility to lead.

This imbalance prevents anonymous individuals from ever changing this imbalance. Those that wish to change this are "CommunityOutcasts" from the normal social workings of the local community. Occasionally they speak out, granting themselves pseudonyms, only at the risk that their merely limited social credibility will be spent completely. This creates an underclass of likeminded individuals incapable of forming a collaborative collective voice against TheCollective that is MeatballWiki--in other words, OutcastNewcomers.

While this sounds insidious, there are cases where it is put to good use. KuroShin prevents untrusted users from reading zero-rated comments, and given the theory that spambots won't become trusted users, this system makes it very difficult to establish a SlashDot-like community of spambots.

On the other hand, it can become insidious. Landed immigrants are denied an equal voice in their status as they do not enjoy the rights of citizens, like voting or sometimes even holding property. Even if they do have these rights, their status can override their rights. This can lead to unbelievable inhumane atrocities, like the Japanese internment camps in Canada and the U.S. during WWII. These people are also OutcastNewcomers.

Unfortunately, it's not really as simple as handing over full rights to these newcomers. Without a full commitment to the community, either by becoming a citizen, or by using your real name, it's difficult to ask much of the people who are full stakeholders. However, even a partial stake is a partial stake. It's important to ensure that FairProcess applies to the OutcastNewcomers as well. In Canada, every person, citizen or landed immigrant or refugee or illegal immigrant, is afforded protection by the civil justice system and the Human Rights Act. On MeatballWiki, we treat anonymous opinions as real opinions. (Actually, often we treat anonymous opinions as more authoritative.)

Still, at least in the context this page was created from, it's clear that this strategy is unsatisfactory if listening to people doesn't elicit some movement in their direction. How long can you ignore the outcast before they form a revolution and become the overclass? Or in our case, before they become so frustrated with us they hurt us?

Then again, MeatballWiki has espoused a philosophy of encourage people to exercise their RightToLeave if they don't like it. While we don't like losing good contributors, anonymous contributors (as they have little or no SerialIdentity), have a hard time building that credibility as good contributors. For the problem of granting human rights to people living in your borders, this policy is not very good as it is too difficult for a family to relocate to a different land. On the Internet, though, the SwitchingCosts are so low that it's not necessarily an impossible policy. It may even be the best choice, encouraging people to compete for the best ways to accomplish their goals, instead of being stuck with what they might consider an inferior community.

Of course, the ultimate counterchoice is to not allow resident aliens at all. We could adopt a more extreme version of Why:BreakingBreadTest, or make membership invitation only like OrgPatterns?. Similarly, you could prevent outsiders from entering your country on punishment of death.

CategoryCommunityIdentity? CategoryRealNames

Considering I wrote that to can a flame war, I think it sucks. -- SunirShah


The analogy between slavery and Meatball is ridiculous. Every organization may decide for itself how to treat non-members. Why is that not obvious? -- AlexSchroeder

I don't know. These days in November 2002 as the Master's Tournament begins, there is a lot of hoopla in the United States about letting women into the Augusta private golf club for men. Some people don't seem to understand that it's reasonable to exclude them from certain organizations. These people cite rights and freedoms they don't actually have--in fact confusing the difference between rights, freedoms, and privileges. The right to be treated indiscriminately is one thing, the freedom of employment is another, and the privilege of joining Augusta yet another. Still, there is something to be considered in the demand to keep public institutions open. I think private institutions should fight to remain as accessible as possible. I think it's necessary to question why we're pushing back someone whenever we do it, or else we may choke ourselves from our own GroupThink. Let's not move to the suburbs, shall we? -- SunirShah

The conundrum may perhaps be solved by imagining the state as an organization formed by people. This organization gives itself laws, and grants certain rights, etc. From this it follows that there must be some sort of hierarchy of organizations. The default is that the organization determines who can join. Currently the state has the highest priority. So if the state mandates, that everybody may enter a public library, then anybody wanting to run a public library must allow this. This reduces the golf club problem to a legal problem. Returning to the subject of Meatball: We may select our members, unless some higher ranking organization has other rules concerning the subject. -- AlexSchroeder

A bit OT. I think this [Scale Free Granularity] might be a general priciple of how efficient systems are built. See also [The Fractal nature of the Web] by Tim Berners Lee. -- ZbigniewLukasiak

I used to live in Goldsboro, North Carolina, on Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base. I'm a military brat. About 2 blocks from my house, but on the other side of the barbed-wire fence that separates the base from the town, was a bunker with a neon beer sign outside, but it was called a social club or country club or something. The reason they called it that, I'm told, rather than a bar or dive or whatever was that this allowed them to legally bar access to black people. I was 15 when I moved there and had just turned 18 when I left, so even if I was even remotely interested in entering, I was legally to young to enter. Of course, I had no interest in entering a bunker full of drunk rednecks. But the point of this story is the law and the loophole. In the United States, national law says that businesses cannot discriminate on grounds of gender, race and a whole bunch of stuff. The reason they are have that power is that there's a chance that for any business and any consumer in relation, that consumer may be a resident of another state than the business, so that it becomes a matter for the [interstate commerce clause] of the Constitution. (The Congress shall have power to .. to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes) Because clubs are more First Amendment than Interstate Commerce Clause (about peacefully assembly, not about commerce), there's not been much grounds to legally open them up. For the Boy Scouts of America, the main tool they've been using to allow|force homosexuals and atheists have been access to public grounds and funds. (Most of the meeting places I was involved in as a Scout were public schools.) I seem to recall that it was public funding that opened up [VMI], while few, if any, are trying to use the same tools to open up [Sarah Lawrence], which differs, most importantly to this discussion, in which gender it forbids. But I'm veering away from my point, which is that you can regulate things only when you have a legal hold on that thing. The Masters allows women to use the club and the course, which follows the commerce angle, but not become members, which follows the assembly angle. The only means available to those who would have it open are public outrage and boycotts, it seems. If the law is unable or unwilling to handle an issue, it reduces to an economic problem. Connecting to Meatball, I was under the impression that membership was self-selected. --DaveJacoby

That's just the law. The law, we hope, is based on some humanistic level, like ethics. If it wasn't, I'd hope it would be changed accordingly. So, the question is, why does our society currently tolerate and even expect private clubs for men and private clubs for women? At least in the case of Augusta, many people feel that the issue is akin to letting men into organizations like investment circles for women. Also, as always, there is more to the story. One reason why the issue has blown up as large as it has was that the president of the members club of Augusta reacted so emotionally towards the accusation that he was a sexist because at his own company he has been very progressive towards the advancement of women in corporate America. Many members also don't have problems admitting women as members. The question is not a clear cut case of sexism, much like the investment circles for women.

All volunteer organizations have self-selected membership, more or less. The question then comes down to how accepting the organization is of newcomers wanting to join. After all, it's not necessary to resort to the law to maintain segregation. In the case of your "redneck" bar, you didn't go in either. Even though you were allowed, I'd guess from the way you frame it, you'd feel unwelcome, and then leave. This is the good ol' CommunitySolution in action.

Alex is right that members get to choose how to treat non-members and how to select members. Dave is right that membership to Meatball is not like membership to Augusta. It's even more different than Dave suggests because there are no "members" to Meatball; LoginsAreEvil, after all.

I'm not saying that what we are doing in terms of UseRealNames is wrong. I am saying that we should at least realize there are regular contributors who are dissatisfied with the current system. That doesn't mean we have to change the culture in their favour either, or at all, but it does mean we should keep it in mind. I wrote this page in response to something one of our regular anonymous authors wrote, to say I understand his position, but I'm not sure what we should do about it, if anything. I also was travelling to the United States at the time, one of the most segregated societies on earth, so I was particularly perturbed about this issue. Of course, this situation is a general problem for all healthy organizations to resolve, so it's interesting enough to continue discussing. -- SunirShah

I'm not sure whether Sunir's right on the membership deal. There is nothing physical, and not much virtual, to connote membership in Meatball, and the only difference between a member and nonmember is that a member, by participating, claims membership. Unlike American Express, membership does not have it's privileges. In contrast, there's my [LUG], which has three groups of members: the people who come to meetings and installfest; those who participate on the mailing list (a large number of them are former Purdue students or staff now in other states); and those who paid dues and are awarded a login on the LUG machine, where they can host pages and send email. There are social pressures in this group (if I wore a .NET t-shirt, I would be heckled -- it's a LinuxUserGroup, y'know) but really, anyone who would claim to be a member of PLUG can be assumed to be one, and by establishing the social relationships, they become one. The "official" membership is just access to the machine; it makes no difference for votes or for leadership positions (although membership in the school is important -- we're organized as a student organization, so non-students can't hold office.) But it seems that the social relations are pretty much what defines Meatball. -- DaveJacoby

(Separate thought) In the case of the redneck bar, it was a liquor-serving establishment and I was under the legal age. Time-shift me back to there, and you're right. So, the correct legal situation for the Masters is to allow women but freeze them? I dunno. Of course, I'm not a big fan of segregated golf clubs, but I'm neither a fan of segregation nor of golf. -- DaveJacoby

I think the "privilege" of being a "member" of Meatball is only that you meet new interesting friends who are doing interesting things. Maybe not. It seems to me that we don't have a good vocabulary for this discussion. The people aren't newcomers, they aren't outcast, we aren't members, there are no "rights" nor "freedoms" infringed, there are ambiguous privileges if any at all. Meatball doesn't even have a good definition. Are we an OnlineCommunity or a CommunityOnline? And either way, JulieLissner brings up a good question, what does "belonging" to a community like ours really mean, especially given our unique (*) property of WikiNow?

(*) It's not really all that unique. Many societies who maintain an active spiritual domain of their ancesters also have "belongingness" issues to grapple with.

Yeah, good point. It's easy to get caught up in the membership rhetoric.


I'm torn between tentatively agreeing and passionately disagreeing with Sunir's statement about America being one of the most segregated societies on Earth. I would like him (you? How do you phrase this?) to expand that some. Perhaps elsewhere, as this seems to be TopicCreep?ing away from the one at hand. -- DaveJacoby

Maybe I was just smarting from travelling through the United States still living in the halo of the World Trade Center bombings. It's probably not the best time to judge Americans; or, then again, maybe it is the best time to judge Americans. -- SunirShah


I wanted to change the title of this page to ResidentAlien?, but I don't think that fits with the negative tone of the writing above. Perhaps it needs to be expanded and reworked to discuss all levels of ResidentAliens?.

Maybe just "OutCast?" because this applies not just to newcomers. However, the anonymous voices aren't outcast either. Even pseudonymous authors aren't outcast, just asked (strongly) not to use their pseudonyms. -- SunirShah


I am guessing that you are just covering the extremes to cause us to think, but I'll say that of course I would not want to adopt any sort of Why:BreakingBreadTest or anything more extreme either. -- BayleShanks


See also FringeMember?, not quite the same thing


Discussion

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