Monday, March 04, 2024

My Questions for NaNoWriMo

I became aware of the issues that had been raised to the NaNoWriMo board last year, during NaNo and wanted to give them time to respond, though it was quite clear there had been an egregious lack of oversight. 
Well, NaNo has now provided a roadmap of sorts for going forward, though no clear way to respond. So here are the questions I have. 
NaNo states they will reopen the forums, but going forward limit them to folks age 13 and up, rather than allowing all ages. How will they verify ages?
NaNo states all volunteers will receive criminal background checks.
First, I want to note that this is likely to dissuade great volunteers. Because it requires sharing info like national ID's and real names, which not everyone is willing to do. I'd also love to know if these checks will be run in the country the moderator lives in, or just the US. Or somehow in every country the moderator has lived in. But let's be real, criminal background checks show you who has been caught, which means it is more likely to demonstrate which of your volunteers are overpoliced where they live. 
In general, the best policies when you have kids and adults together, is basically a buddy system. Adults should not be alone with kids, kids should not be alone with adults. That means things like more mods, not allowing DMs. Does this eliminate all bad behavior? No. 
I worked with teens in the nascent days of Facebook, we had a policy that the adults wouldn't send friend requests to be teens, only the teens could initiate that. If they DM'd us, we shared that message with another adult. 
And yes, the place I volunteered also background checked us. 
NaNo has said regional forums will be moderated by people in those zones. That way moderators will be in the same time zone and familiar with the language. Cool. Does this mean NaNo is going to have no oversight? With NaNo reducing staff, is the remaining staff going to be fluent enough to check in on those, or is it going to be a free for all situation? 
And what processes will they have in place, if any, to monitor the safety of teens operating in those spaces? 
It's also worth noting that one of the issues raised involved a volunteer moderator making racist comments about someone. What, if any of these processes, will help NaNo catch or address that in the future?
And look, I do absolutely understand that running a global forum is a huge undertaking. My hope of for NaNo to succeed, rather than end up right back in a place where we have issues again. No set of systems will be perfect. 
And if you are a kid who wants to do NaNo, maybe the answer is that the NaNo site is not the place for you to make friends. With hashtags and whatever else, you don't even really need the forums. Not to say that literally every social media isn't also problematic, but find people where you are. Treat the internet like the shark infested waters that it is. And definitely don't trust adults who tell you to join another site where you can talk more freely. Sites where you can block people are probably your best bet. 
Also, in past years, particularly with the pandemic, regions were encouraged to set up discords, zooms, basically lots of ways to communicate outside of the forums. Will NaNo discourage that going forward? And if not, will NaNo state anything that happens off the NaNo site is not their business?
I have questions. 
But please, whatever your age, keep writing. We need your stories.