I printed out the entire TypeDrawers “diversity” discussion and the “postmortem” (37 three-column pages of 10½-point Freight Micro). Everyone here knows about saccadic reading, so I cannot claim to have read every word, but I do claim to have read the discussion more carefully than anyone else.
TypeDrawers is an Internet discussion forum. It is not “life.” Participants constantly mixed up what happens in this small discussion forum with what has happened elsewhere (not even what happened to them half the time); with their political ideologies; and above all with toxic neologistic slogans that actively repel many people. “Think of how women are treated outside of this forum” is an inducement to change the subject, which in fact is this forum.
The discussion was excruciating at times as people brought into it everything from a groping at a type conference to the kitchen sink. Most egregious was copying and pasting – not metaphorically but literally – theories, memes, and buzzwords from social-justice warriors as though they were applicable to this forum. It was barely endurable to read what must be the least credible “professional” type designer on earth lecturing us about our privilege.
“Stay out of this discussion” is no way to carry on a discussion. I read quite a few orders from aggrieved women and/or minorities that whites and/or males should stay out of the discussion (“[s]hutting up for a minute”). I respect women’s discussion spaces (e.g., Peak Trans Moment), but this isn’t that kind of forum. Telling people to shut up and get lost is the antithesis of discussion, but the previous threads took that as A‑OK if those issuing the diktats were of Correct Thought.
Besides, this isn’t a spoken conversation. Somebody made a comment you disagree with? Post your own comment. Nothing’s stopping you. You aren’t interrupting and you aren’t being silenced. But under the system advocated several times in the previous discussion, you would be told to keep quiet if you were, say, white and male or simply didn’t have an opinion the ruling junta agreed with.
No one ever explained how talking about type design would be improved by “diversity.” Stephen Coles: “This forum will only improve with increased diversity.” How? Another contributor: “The fact that this thread even exists proves there is a problem.” How?
Linguistic and cultural variation improves discussion of type design. The standard example is Belorussian forms of Cyrillic, but it’s easy to think of others (Arabic writing styles, Hebrew/Arabic/Cherokee “italic,” French insistence on dotting capital I, Basque letterforms). So let’s call that “diversity” and let’s all agree it would help this forum’s discussion of type design.
But being a woman, nonwhite, gay, or whatever else? It has not been explained how that would help discussion of type design, largely because those are irrelevant factors.
Women and racial minorities do not face barriers in type design. In the days of Beatrice Warde, when “typography” meant hot-metal composition on a factory floor, there were manifest barriers to entry.
And there were barriers to discussing type. That isn’t supposition: I looked through all 64 downloadable issues of The Monotype Recorder and took note of bylines. While only a couple were ambiguous or pseudonymous (“J.W. Printer”; “Member of a well-known Printing Office”), 38 bylines were men’s, 39 were initialized (half of those to R.C. Elliott), and zero were women’s. I would expect some of the initialized bylines would be women’s, but not many. In the first half of the previous century, typography – really typesetting – was a gentlemen’s club.
We don’t live there now.
The day it became possible to design your own outline fonts for computers was the day the guild system died. Yes, there are and were type vendors like FontShop (now Monotype owns seemingly everything), and within those houses overt or covert biases might be at work, but the fact remains you suddenly did not have to enlist a real foundry, one that melts metal ingots, just to produce a typeface.
As I like to say because it’s true, the typeface doesn’t know you’re a girl. Other people do, but the font doesn’t. Since shortly after the introduction of PostScript, there have been no barriers to entry into the field of typeface design for women and nonwhites. Or gays or transgendered persons or anyone else, save for one group.
There still are barriers for persons with disabilities, but the entire TypeDrawers discussion refused to deal with that issue, especially after I brought it up.
Now, that doesn’t mean there are no barriers within the industry. The previous discussion, while largely off-topic about TypeDrawers, established that there is sexism and in the type industry. TypeDrawers is not a discussion forum about “the type industry.” Or real life in general. It’s a vertical-market discussion forum with a tight focus.
Those most apt to complain about TypeDrawers seem to overlap with those who don’t understand interleaved posting. I cannot emphasize enough that those who are the most offended by “blunt” (really just concise) responses to questions here clearly overlap with people who top-post their E‑mail. They have no experience with interleaved posting (quote just the question, write your response below it, send). They need to essentially rewrite every question just to answer it.
TypeDrawers does not top-post. You quote little or nothing and you write your answer after the quoted part. This is highly unfamiliar to young people raised on Gmail, an E‑mail‑like online service that breaks completely if not top-posted.
One moderator mentioned “the differences in the ways people communicate” but missed this structural issue completely. A tightly-trimmed question immediately followed by a brief answer comes off as rude to young people who just don’t understand how this medium works. (Terms used: “bluff manners”; “male manners.”) It especially comes off as rude to young women of the precise and limited sort who tend to get offended at things. But this is how threaded discussion forums work. It isn’t personal and it isn’t about you.
It is a fact that the majority of the type designers with the most experience are men. So what’s the outcome if TypeDrawers shuns them? If you put everyone here in a room (I’ll get back to that in a minute) and handed each person an index card and a pen, we all could fill both sides with the names of female type designers, past and present. We’d need many more cards to fit the names of male type designers. This is simply the historical reality.
TypeDrawers is a type-design discussion forum. We want new designers to ask questions. Who do you think is going to know the answers to those questions – other newbies? Institutional knowledge is mostly vested in male type designers due to the history. If you deride or marginalize those men, you amputate limbs from the living organism that is type design.
Coles: “Everyone at TypeDrawers is deprived when someone chooses not to contribute – whether it’s a question or an answer.” We’re deprived more when a highly knowledgeable old man decides not to answer because he’s been discouraged from doing so. Knowledgeable contributions are worth more than others.
Nobody in the “diversity” discussion could quite figure out that spending an entire adulthood eking out a career as a type designer, amassing expertise in this pervasive but marginal and unappreciated field, getting your work stolen left and right, and just being isolated and fragmented might possibly make old-timers a bit snippy. Old men tend to be crotchety. The young people doing the most whining about diversity are naturally unaware of this fact because they aren’t old (or men). But please get a grip. When crotchety old type-design guys sound crotchety, it’s because they’re old. It isn’t about you. (So little is.)
The population of type designers, typographers, and those seriously interested in type is small. We can’t afford to ostracize anyone. Not only could you fit everyone in typography inside a lecture hall, we do exactly that several times a year at conferences. Yet TypeDrawers has been engineered, at great effort, to keep Hrant H. Papazian off it. We’re not really allowed to talk about that, but it’s the truth.
Hrant was a problem back in the day. I may be the only person to publicly tell him off (if you did too, please write in). But I read Hrant’s Twitter and these days he’s fine.
Do you think it really makes sense to set up enemies lists in typographic discussion forums? It’s happening. I don’t see much complaining about this official ostracism. The inevitable result of “diversity” complaints here would be to ostracize even more people (this means even more men). Throttling and limiting old-time males’ postings to TypeDrawers was openly contemplated several times.
How does muzzling some people improve diversity? It doesn’t, but it represents one of the quasi-fascistic undertones of the discussion.
Typophile already crashed and burned. If TypeDrawers does the same, we’ve got nothing. Back in the day, we had Typo‑L (also Usenet). That fell out of favour when Typophile emerged, because threaded discussion forums on the Web work better than in E‑mail (yes, due to top-posting). Typophile was shut down in a fit of pique, though Twitter also nibbled away at its raison d’être. TypeDrawers feels the same effects from Twitter, but it is still alive.
If, for any reason, TypeDrawers becomes an officially hostile environment, with rules coming out the ass that are specifically directed at men, old men, males, or anyone that young social-justice-warrior manquée wymmynz and racial minorities identify as the oppressor, I am telling you right now the result will be newbies word-policing other newbies while not knowing enough about type to solve their actual problems. Then TypeDrawers will die too.
TypeDrawers is not operating with the consent of the governed. Before writing this posting, I E‑mailed all the moderators to ask them two questions: Are you a native speaker of English, and what is your lived experience with online discussion forums? My contention is that non-native speakers will miss important nuances (they will), and inexperienced persons simply will not have what it takes to “moderate” a medium they barely know.
All six TypeDrawers moderators ignored the questions. Three of them clearly are not English native speakers. I have no evidence that any of them are really experienced with discussion forums (or to the contrary). Whereas I’ve been using them for 25 years, so I feel qualified to judge.
Coles again: “Please let me know how the management... can make TypeDrawers more welcoming and inclusive.... How can we do better, both as members and as moderators?” Answering that question for the new moderators: Stop threatening experienced users – and burn the banned-persons list.
The flagging system does not work if there isn’t also a special forum to talk about TypeDrawers. I say this every time a discussion forum is on the brink of failure. Quit doing what is known not to work and only do what is known to work. And what is known to work is the model of MetaFilter.
You can flag postings on MetaFilter. Moderators may edit or delete such postings if they deem it necessary, and/or add to the relevant thread. But, crucially, there exists the entire MetaTalk forum just to talk about MetaFilter. If your comment gets flagged or if anything else at all is going wrong, you can bring it up in MetaTalk.
I made the same point to and about Typophile and the Mormons ignored me. MetaFilter works and type discussions kind of don’t. TypeDrawers makes mob rule possible with its flagging system, with behind-the-scenes moderators who can bury a post or ban a user, all of that without providing a forum to talk about the talk. The previous discussion included many complaints about the flagging system and how it was abused. And guess what: Women made some of those complaints.
This is another way in which TypeDrawers does not operate with the consent of the governed. We are structurally prevented from talking about what happens on TypeDrawers.
Maybe the best revenge is making good type. Don’t like the atmosphere here? Design good typefaces and make a good living selling them and you’ll have the last laugh. A typeface discussion forum is kind of optional at that point, don’t you think?
Start a Newbie Questions forum. “No such thing as a stupid question” would be the theme of this forum, which the previous discussion identified as a need several times.
Start a MetaDrawers forum. Exactly like MetaTalk on MetaFilter, set up a forum where we can meta-discuss TypeDrawers, its rules, and what could be called the People Factor in general. The existing bug-reports forum could be renamed and merged into MetaDrawers.
Drop the banned-persons list. That is conduct unbecoming a profession and is – again – quasi-fascistic.
Quit threatening members.
In short: I agree with your first two recommendations, and not with the latter two.
You make a reasonable number of intelligent points, as well as plenty of more dubious ones, and a few which you will only get agreement on from a few reactionaries.
But you do all this with a tone and wording that may cause all your content to be ignored by many of the people involved. Remember Wheaton’s Law.
If a discussion is excruciating for you, it could be that it isn’t a discussion meant for you. There are a few conversations in which the technical aspects of the topics are beyond my comprehension, therefore, having nothing to contribute, I choose not to.
I don’t know why you have such an issue with diversity but everything is improved by the inclusion of a more diverse group of participants.
We do not have a banned persons list and we don’t threaten members.
If TypeDrawers does not meet your standards you do not have to contribute.
What good is the discussion if the same voices are the only ones that are worth listening to? Experience is important, yes, but it is not the only important thing. Ours is a richly diverse community, but the fact that only a portion of this community feels entitled to participate and speak in these forums is a problem for everyone who is not part of that portion, and it should be a problem for the rest of us too.
I sure as shit hope that when I'm an old white dude that some fresh young voices are talking more loudly than myself. I want to know that the things I am interested in continue to thrive after I'm gone, and limiting the audience to those approved by some supposed gatekeepers is no way to promote vitality. (And frankly, if some old white dudes feel pushed out by people who aren't the same as them, I'm not going to fight for their right to continue dominating the conversation.)
(I'm assuming that's what you meant.)
Have I not made a positive contribution here? I will accept help on opentype scripting issues for Indic fonts as atonement.
I deleted a post that, on reflection, seemed liable to derail the thread.
Exactly because the industry is small and specialized, we have to take care to be inclusive to population groups under-represented in type design. I can live with this forum losing two men and in return reaching lots new participants who stayed away from it due to an uninviting discussion climate. If we can reach new participants while keeping those men on board, too, even better.
As I’m 30 I couldn’t realistically boast of 25 years of forum usage, but I’ve moderated various forums for more than a decade, up to a few thousand members. I can’t speak for the moderators of this forum, but in my view you simply don’t have the right to make them take time out of their surely busy days to answer your requests. They don’t owe you anything. They provide you, for no monetary reward, with a discussion forum. A discussion forum, not your discussion forum.
But as you said, this is a forum, not real life: I’m positive the moderators are just trying to keep the peace with a minimum amount of work and leading to a maximum amount of good forum content.
Lastly, non-native speakers might miss a nuance here and there. But they add an international view of things that native English speakers will never be able to contribute in that same way. So I’ll simply quote you: “The population of type designers, typographers, and those seriously interested in type is small. We can’t afford to ostracize anyone.”
Thierry's last point is an important one. These are subjects that express themselves in subtle turns of language, in which those who are native speakers have a hard enough time, let alone those who are not native to English. There are cultural differences, too, not only from country to country, but within groups, as well, and from generation to generation. In the U.S., after all the years of the Civil Rights, Women's Rights, and Gay Rights movements, we still lack a neutral dialectic in which fruitful discussions can be held across group lines. That's not to say that we haven't made real strides, but that progress is very slow and sometimes takes backward steps. Be that as it may, I believe the subjects set out by Joe Clark stretch the possibilities of a forum such as this one beyond its natural boundaries. We'd be much better off sticking to the subjects we can discuss fruitfully, and by that I mean the world of type design in an era in which every script has been, or is being, liberated from its earlier confines. There's a lot worth celebrating and even more worth learning more about. (Note that I wrote "type design," not "typography," which is a poor relation around here.)
No one is asking you to be altogether nice, just to be nice enough so that discussions and participants don't get squashed. We value opinions, but we can only get to them through tolerance.
or anyone that young social-justice-warrior manquée wymmynz and racial minorities identify as the oppressor...
It would appear that you are unaware that this is the kind of language which some may find objectionable. I think your heart is in the right place so I point it out with some reservation. It adds nothing to your point. Identifying these groups in a pejorative, dismissive way stigmatizes those who identify or sympathize with such causes.
Was rather intrigued by your points about threaded forums. Will try to quote more from now on.
It may make the people who wrote about it and those being written about feel good themselves, but it does not help those who actually suffered.
I'm sorry Hin-Tak, I don’t understand your analogy either… I can figure out about 3 or 4 different interpretations.
Diversity and inclusion is not so difficult. Why not encourage it?
I had a lot of nasty bantering with Hrant Papazian on Typophile, but we are quite friendly at type conferences. I don’t think it’s worth getting upset about what people type on the internet, it’s not the same as speaking with someone in person.
And when you ban somebody from a forum's very inception, that's what you've created.
I have an old schoolmate who is very, very profane on Facebook. The jerk posted something on somebody else's timeline and got banned for a month. He deserved it and he knows it, too.
I think everybody should be given a chance. And if there's a history of rudeness or any inappropriate behavior, exluding someone for a short period of time as a dust-off; a cooling off period, will usually do the trick. And how about an old fashioned apology?
I seem to remember feeling the need to deliver a few of those back in the days of Typophile.
I don't see any need for a policy that is all black or all white.
We read Joe’s questions regarding our experience, and decided there was no need for further action. This response, which we intended to give him privately, did not reach him in time.
On that note, we have received private comments regarding this thread and have decided that a clarification of the rules is in order to continue to keep TypeDrawers a positive environment.
This thread is now locked while we discuss.