Today marks a pretty big policy change for Slashdot. $rtbl, the database flag whose presence indicated a user had disagreed with the Editors and been "blackholed" from the Mod system, has been totally removed. There is no $rtbl flag, no secret list of banned users. Thousands of banned accounts can now participate in MetaModeration and Moderation. Moderator eligibility appears to be affected only by your click count.
What happened? Did they listen to us?
I'd like to believe that, but sadly evidence points towards a different scenario. When the Zoo (journals/friends/foes) system was first introduced, Starship Trooper predicted that it was a plot to maintain an interlockling blacklist of verboten users. I wasn't so sure. ST went on to propose that the account No More Trolls was an Editor-maintained blacklist. Not surprisingly, Mr. Trooper was right all along.
Trading $rtbl for ~rtbl
The secret blacklist $rtbl has been replaced with an open blacklisting system. The first step was implemented today. Take a look at your friends list and your foes list. If you have enough friends and foes, you should see new, pill -shaped icons that represent the second degree of seperation: "foes of friend", "friend of foe", "friend of friend", etc. The next step in this system will be the addition of user-assignable penalties for each relationship. Example : "Don't show me comments by foes of my friends". This would allow you to subscribe to an Editor maintained troll blacklist and drop all comments posted from accounts that that blacklist is tracking. Some users may eventually surpass editors in their dilligence of tracking new accounts they disagree with, and users will be able to subscribe to these blacklists as well.
It is probably a better blacklisting system than SurfWatch ever dreamed of having. A huge, opt-in based referral network which will allow thousands of people to subscribe to lists which will filter out all comments except the ones they agree with.
P.S. This change is a huge step in the right direction. At least now there isn't undocumented secret blacklisting and skewed M2 voting results.
P.P.S. There may still be ways of banning users from M1 & M2, but I'm getting the news out as fast as I can. Please correct any inaccuracies in the comments section. Jamie mentions "revoking M2 access" in this comment but I haven't found any new mechanisms for permanently revoking M1/M2 access - let me know if you find them.
P.P.P.S. The messaging system notifies Moderators of the voting results of M2 that affected their Moderation. In my opinion, this is the kind of visibility that has been sorely lacking. A good change, even if it took me too long to mention (ok guys?).
P.P.P.P.S. As tps12 points out, I belive that for better or worse this is a good change. Sorry if I came off too negative. At least now, it's all in the open. For now..... things look decent.