Request for comments on new feature


Recently, a few people have asked how to go about deleting their posts. This makes me a sad panda, but in principle the NB policy has always been that people should have control over what they write and that you can delete what you want so long as you don’t swiss-cheese the site while doing so. (Deleting the first post in a thread causes the thread to become inaccessible, which is a “feature” of the VBulletin software.)

Most of the people who contact me directly, seeking a way to delete their posts, do so because they’re heading onto the job market and don’t want anyone to draw any inferences about them from their copious NB records. I have a proposal to achieve that end without permanently removing your posts from NB, and wanted to run it by you guys before I waste time coding it up: you push a button on your control panel, and your posts go “private” (not visible to the outside world) for a certain amount of time, probably controllable. At the end of the period, they reappear on the forum without any additional work required on your part.

Reasons to prefer:

  1. As effective as sending your posts down the memory hole from the perspective of “Please don’t let the tenure committee find out about this”.

  2. Less work for me (it would require no marginal work to accede to these requests) means that this will be a more responsive option than the current policy, which requires a bit of persistence in reminding me to do it.

  3. Preserves your valued and educational contributions over the long run. There is a whole lot of timeless value in debate theory, political debates, and general community here. Its like a geeky, specialized, and rather less flammable version of the Library of Alexandria. All things being equal I strongly prefer not having to fire shotguns through the library.

  4. Doesn’t encourage the Hollow Hope that the “delete” button actually makes comments goes away for ever and ever. Google, et al, makes it essentially impossible to definitively unsay something. A time-limited Make Posts Private button exposes that fact, where the delete button largely obscures it.

Technical details: to be decided based on feedback and ease of implementation. I’m tentatively thinking that the process will not be real time, that it will not require advance approval from anybody, and that during the interval the post content is only accessible via the database (i.e. vanishes from the interfaces of the original poster, mods, and admins too – this is purely for my coding convenience.)