Hi, My name's Chris and I do a lot of work with this website, and have done a lot-- probably too much-- for the last two and a half years. I've worked on putting together features, moderating the wire, helping develop an official moderation policy, and outreaching to new volunteers to help more with the site. That said, I speak for no one but myself in this post. NYC IMC is truly a collective, collaborative project, both the website and the newspaper, and it's a product, in the end, of the interaction between IMC volunteers and the NYC community. This will probably be a long comment, and I wanted to mention two things right off the bat. The first is that, while I don't know Rosa personally, I have a lot of respect and awe for the Hip Hop Community Organizing movement that she is a part of. This weekend, I was fortunate enough to hear some of Rosa's colleagues-- Gavin Leonard, Darrin Osborne, llana Weaver, and Toki Wright-- speak to the Allied Media Conference about their work. They are an amazing group of people doing amazing things, and all of us at imc need to learn more about their work and work with them, as progressives and human beings, when appropriate. I posted some random thoughts about the panel here: http://indypendent.typepad.com/nyc_indypendent_/2005/06/panel_community.html Second, I wanted to preface this comment with the aknowlegement that it is difficult to know where to draw the line between an openness to self criticism and self-flagelation. Sometimes, it’s hard to know what sounds like a genuine defense and what sounds "defensive." Often, one sounds like the other to different people. I hope that Indymedia folks keep this in mind when they think about Rosa's comments, and vice-versa. The way I see it, there are really two parts to the recent criticism of IMC, especially on the Latin Kings thread. The first has to do with trolls, racism on the wire, and moderation. The second has to do with bigger (and in my mind, more important questions) of what makes a community media resource, and how we define community, diversity, media, and resource. Can an Internet site serve all people, even "leftists," all the time? Should it even try? Should it produce original content, or be more of a hub for others to post already produced media? Can it do both? 1. Re, trolls: Indymedia is fundamentally premised around the ability of anyone to post anonymously. This is buried deep within its organizational DNA. It’s also an increasingly rare phenomenon. Some sites, like the Juan Cole's blog, don’t allow comments at all. All the blogs hosted on Blogger require that you be a registered user in order to comment. Daily Kos, a popular blog, requires that you register first to comment and then wait two weeks before you can even post after you register. Etc, etc. Because Indymedia is anonymous, we were able to prevent the information about people who came here during the RNC from being seized by the DOJ and the FBI. We were able to fight turning over WEF protest information to the City of NYC in the spring. If a member of the Latin Kings chose to come onto this site and post anonymously about their thoughts on the arrests, they could do so without fear of the NYPD coming to us and seizing our IP logs. And activist trials and counter suits from the many protests of the GWB administration are only beginning-- there will undoubtedly be many other lawsuits. But because we do not log IP address, our posters remain safe from the DOJ. See http://subpoena.nycimc.org/ for more info. Of course, this policy of virtual anonymity, if you want it, attracts trolls, right wing Nazis, racists, and just assorted cranks and wingnuts. Believe it or not, until two years ago, NYC IMC had no moderation policy to speak of-- poster we vaguely moderated, if at all, and the policies were inconsistant. New visitors to this site-- try to imagine that if you weren't here to see it. You think its bad now?? You have no, no idea. Unfortunately, some right wing racism stays up on the site while moderators sleep, eat, and talk to other human beings. What a lot of this means, though, is that a lot of on and offline communities that refuse to deal with the kind of crap that NYC IMC chooses to deal with are understandably confused when they may stumble across some of the stuff that makes it through moderation. If you noticed, a lot of the sites Rosa pointed out are one-direction media (from author to reader) or have limited ways of commenting. There's nothing wrong with that at all, but people who may be used to more of that medium should realize that IMC is just not that way. That said, if I was a person of Puerto Rican descent who had never been to Indymedia before but was interested to read coverage of the parade and arrests I would be pretty shocked and appalled to see some of the comments made to the Latin Kings arrests thread. Even if they were hidden, it may have been, in some cases, too late. So, what to do? Its foolish to argue that we don’t have any choices, but the choices we DO have involve sacrifices, and trade-offs — basically, there’s no silver bullet that will keep this site anonymous and troll free simultaneously, forever. I honestly don’t know the right answer, but I can speak to some of the tradeoffs. In the end, volunteers with the NYC IMC collective will decide what’s best for the site, but site visitors might have some opinions or advice: Option 1. Keep things exactly as they are. Open publishing within tight moderation guidelines. Get about 80% of the crap off before it even gets noticed, count the impact of the rest of the 20% as the cost of operating within an anonymous, open system. Option 2. Install a “delay†in which posts are held for some amount of time and then moved directly to the open wire if there is no moderation on them. Basically, the equivalent of a “tape delay†following the Janet Jackson boob-incident. Posts wouldn’t need moderation approval to go up, but there would be a window during which to catch the crap. Option 3. Tiered “registration-delay†system. Encourage people to register “online identities†with valid emails, etc; folks with these identities would have their posts go automatically to the wire, those wishing to post anonymously would continue to be allowed to do so. This would basically create two classes of Indymedia posters. We don’t have the option to log IPs, which is the ultimate defense against trolling. Both of the last two options I mentioned would basically eliminate open posting as it has classically been conceived in favor of trying to make NYC IMC a more friendly, less intimidating (and less racist) place. We would certainly loose many posters. The question is, would we gain enough posters who have been unwilling or unable to come here with the current moderation policy? And would we be willing to give up our deeply-held principles about open publishing to do so (there’s also a question about if this kind of decision would be ok within the larger IMC network, ie, could we still be an IMC)? 2. NYC IMC as a community media site For me, this is different than point 1, although point 1 probably has something to do with the fact that this website is not used by more members of the New York community. Full disclosure: rather than framing my critique in racial terms, I simply want to ask: does NYC Indymedia look like the progressive New York scene, or at least, is NYC IMC a media site that resembles the New York we WANT to see? It seems to me that NYC IMC looks like a PART of New York (a part that is very valuable and important) with occasional additional content provided by other New Yorkers who may not be regular contributors to the NYC IMC site, for many reasons. Assuming that we want NYC IMC to look more like New York, what do we do? How do we get hip-hop organizers to post here? Members of Community Voices Heard, Picture the Homeless, DRUM, and on and on. As Bbaumer said above, “As a Indymedia collective member we have not done a good job at reaching out to people of color, to other organizations, to businesses who may want to buy ads, other media outlets and etc. We need to improve.†That said, we've come a long way in this, too. But there’s a second question: SHOULD New York IMC even try to look more like the NY left? Rosa mentioned in the thread above a number of amazing media sites-- WBAI, www.hiphopliveshere.com, www.daveyd.com, and www.blackelectorate.com, www.iwtnews.com. These are amazing websites run by groups doing amazing work. Maybe Indymedia should find a way to support what these sites and others like them are doing more than worry whether the majority of our posters are white, etc. The internet looks a lot different than it did back in 1999, when Indymedia began. I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. I do know that its pretty depressing to think that maybe I’ve wasted three years of my life helping a team of amazing people to address so many of these issues raised and, judging by the words of Rosa and others, maybe we haven’t really gotten anywhere. Yeah, that’s pretty depressing. But I also know that in a few days or weeks, we’ll be launching a new version of the site that we hope will start to at least grapple with these some of the points raised here, from moderation to a new RSS syndication service, and other stuff too. I don’t think there are any magic bullets, but at least we are moving forward. And maybe we’re not getting anywhere, but there’s no point in giving up. with love and solidarity, Chris