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Staff Responsibility/Accountability
Topic Started: May 30 2017, 02:31 PM (3,201 Views)
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Now you may be wondering, who was wearing the bolo tie? Me or the shark? Answer: YES!
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Alright, I'm going to throw my hat in the ring here. Be aware that this is MY response. I have run this past other staffers to ensure that my intent comes across properly and to get permission to quote Help, but this isn't a pr-filtered committee response and all the words here are my own. If you're looking for a messenger to shoot, aim here.

The first important thing to agree on, or at least to know, is that the inactivity appeal would have been denied on its own merits. I don't think this is a particularly controversial assessment since it's pretty elementary to what's going on here, but I thought it was worth repeating since it is so important. Simply put, there were no extenuating circumstances for going over 336 hours and that fact is going to be taken as a given from here.

In light of that, I'm really not keen on the characterization of this as a punishment for someone else's mistake. If the mistake had not been made, the appeal would have been denied. The only punishment being handed out is the one for inactivity, and the real question being raised is whether the miscommunication warrants a courtesy rescinding of that punishment.

For the record, the text of the reply to the first request for time is as follows:

In light of the fact that you were in the process of posting when this notice was sent, staff has agreed to rescind your terminal activity warning. Please note that this does not guarantee that you will not be notified of terminal inactivity at a later date if necessary.

Thank you for your time and attention.

-The SOTF Staff

The two sticking points I'm seeing are that the SotF_Help account was used, and that it contains the phrase "staff has agreed." Both unfortunately obfuscate the nature of the response as an improper exercise of authority by a single staffer. A personal PM with no "we" in it, certainly, would be much more obviously illegitimate. So I'm agreeing that it does seem official, or at least not obviously unofficial.

Aside from the potential out left by the PM's author at the end, which I'm mostly mentioning in passing since it's mostly notable in retrospect as an example reinforcing an issue with the PM rather than an argument itself, it's important to note that this was sent sixteen minutes after receiving the request. Sixteen minutes is blazingly fast. Inactivity appeals, like all major rulings, require majority approval by staff, which means catching notice of a group spread out through different timezones with different schedules within those timezones. If you get a reply within sixteen minutes, I can just about guarantee you that it was not brought to attention, discussed, voted on, drafted, approved, and sent by an effort of the majority. Especially if it happened, as in this case, at a time when most of us were asleep. If you'd be satisfied with an immediate response then consider the seven hour turnaround as immediate because that's how long it took to get enough eyes on the situation to make a legitimate ruling.

I'm not saying that either or both should have been obvious red flags, but the wording and the timing are certainly mistake-shaped. Really, it was pretty shady as far as official PMs go, which makes sense seeing as it technically wasn't one.

Which leads me to the main point: the correspondence sent through Help does not constitute an official ruling on anything because, as I mentioned, that sort of thing requires a majority to approve or deny. I've avoided calling the first communication an appeal proper to avoid the implication that the hastily-written one-line request was the one shot we allowed and then denial might have something to do with its brevity, but from the point of view of staff granting or denying that request held the same weight and required the same process because the fate of a character was at stake either way. Even if it's blindingly obvious what should be done in a situation with these stakes, we still need enough 'aye's or 'nay's to go forward. How we operate behind closed doors is important to us, even if much of it never shows on the surface. Granting legitimacy to the initial communication would be an arbitrary betrayal of the structure in place to ensure overall fairness. If we get to pick and choose when our own rules apply to us, we may as well not have them.

So, there's still the question of what will happen going forward. Bluntly, it's very unlikely that the final ruling on the appeal will be overturned. The intention here is to follow the rules as written in regards to inactivity. We do recognize that a serious error in communication occurred, and that it's caused some grief. But the current staff team has voted that disregarding the rules in a major ruling like this is not an appropriate courtesy to extend. At the end of the day, we're looking to recognize the hiccup in communication, ensure that it doesn't happen again, and treat the terminal inactivity as terminal inactivity. To boil it all down to a metaphor, the bank made an error in your favor, but you don't get to keep the money.
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