thenewgreen et al., I have followed the moderation discussion with interest but haven't spoken up because (1) I didn't have any constructive suggestions and (2) I was muted on the most relevant posts. But eventually I came up with a suggestion.
The "ignore" features seem to give little offense. "Filter" is recognized as useful, and "hush" seems pretty innocuous. Most of the angst has been over muting. I feel that kleinbl00 was on the right track in looking at the feature from multiple perspectives. For every user who mutes, another user is muted, and we should consider what's best for everyone.
In my view, moderation should have three goals:
1) Encourage contributions from those whose input is generally valued, while if possible not letting it annoy those with minority tastes.
2) Discourage contributions from those whose input is generally shunned, sheltering those who don't want to be exposed to such content, without making it hard for new arrivals to find an audience.
3) Strike a balance for those who are charming to some and annoying to others, with a compromise that gives the best value to the community.
The site has been aptly likened to a cocktail party. People are milling around, some clustered in little groups, many participating in multiple dialogs at once. For every conversationalist, there are many more nearly invisible lurkers who don't speak up but enjoy following along.
When someone says things you find annoying, at a real party you have to wait for them to shut up or else leave the conversation. On the site we have the miraculous power of the TV-B-Gone, which we can point at an oaf and shut them up directly.
Right now the tool does not work well, and neither side is happy. The Muter cannot make the oaf shut up everywhere, only in those conversations the Muter happens to have started. If conversation drifts to new topics, the oaf is still locked out — unless the oaf knows about the back doors that allow breaking in to conversations where they are muted. If the Muter joins a conversation somebody else happens to have started, the oaf is free to spout irritating nonsense and there is no recourse but to walk away or endure it.
We need a better remote control. Suppose the Muter can make the oaf's idiotic drivel inaudible, and also fast-forward them so their nonsense takes no time. Anyone else in the conversation who cares to can hear and respond to the oaf. If everyone in the conversation has muted the oaf, no one will see or respond.
Wherever the Muter goes in the party, the oaf's contributions are automatically inaudible and therefore far less irritating. If others respond to the oaf and the conversation looks interesting, the Muter can choose to rewind and replay selected bits of the oaf's dialog, to see what the fuss is about.
Let's see how well this compromise accomplishes the goals.
1) Valued contributors are free to add content anywhere they like. The rather arbitrary circumstance of who happened to post an article first does not restrict them. Anyone who doesn't want to see these contributions, anywhere on the site, is automatically (but not irrevokably) protected from seeing them.
2) Spammers and pinheads will be able to pollute wherever they like, but in the worst case scenario this is unavoidable, since they have the nuclear option of creating new accounts. The approach above makes it easy to follow correct procedure for dealing with these types. Some widely-shunned users have been extremely vocal in complaining about the current mute behavior.
3) For the middle cases, there is benefit for everyone. The muted user can still express the ideas that many want to see, wherever they like. The Muter suffers the minor inconvenience of knowing that unwanted contributions exist from that user, but this was already the case for conversations started by others and via back doors. The Muter might even enjoy seeing friends deliver staggeringly witty rejoinders to oafen stupidities.
Lurkers far outnumber contributors, and we should look out for the interests of the silent majority. At present the mute feature has no effect when they use it. Users they want to hear from may be blocked by others. And they have to see content from users they don't want to hear from when it appears in conversations they want to read.
There used to be a function to collapse old comments from newly-muted users. I say we make this the entire result of muting, and nothing else.