Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Published on January 11, 2010 By Draginol In Everything Else

What is the best way to have a civil online community? There are lots of opinions on this.  My position has always been to eliminate toxic users as quickly as possible. Ban them.

Debating a topic: Good. Personalizing the debate: Getting onto thin ice.  Attacking people in the debate: Over the line.

Over on Neowin.net, we’ve been trying to find ways to clean up the forums. News comments and forum posts there are pretty rough and much of that is, I believe, because of the light hand given to punishing or eliminating users who are, well, jerks.

Like most discussions, it is HOW a point id expressed that leads to trouble. 

Most people who get moderated/warned feel they were unjustly picked on - even users who just got done using a string of profanity to describe someone's mother.

From a discussion on Neowin.net:

Quote -
The greatest thing about you, Brad, is that you are engaged with the community. Being the CEO of Stardock and a Moderator here is really a blessing. You have to realize though that not everyone is going to hold back just because you're in a position of power here.

Certainly, I realize that. However, the onus isn't on me to accept abuse. 

Quote -
I maintain that it was an opinion, but again, I'm trying to give you options to better your company. I didn't feel it was a true insult and remember, you insulted yourself a few times in that thread, using stereotypes of "Frogboy being X".


I would submit that a user insulting themselves is not a violation of Neowin's rules. 

However, again, *any* time you turn a discussion away from the topic and onto a person you are treading on thin ice. We can rationalize the validity of the personal discussion but at the end of the day, moving from discussing a TOPIC to discussing a PERSON is a move from green to yellow.

Quote -
I respect you, whether or not I said it. Maybe you are so used to people truly attacking you, that when someone slightly does, you put up a wall. I'm no psychologist, but I have a feeling there is a bit of truth to this. And yes, if you were throwing things and calling me an "ass" like you did.


This is why making it personal is a bad thing because people naturally want to respond in kind.

In your previous message you said "Don't throw a tantrum if you don't get your way." I can tell you that's a pretty provocative thing to say. 

Quote -
...and threatened to kick me out of your house PERMANENTLY and vow for me to never return, not only would I say that to your face, I would laugh and find a house that isn't made of glass, with rocks as foundation.


Then don't be surprised when you're not welcome at said house. If you can't behave in a way that is acceptable to the owners and moderators of a site, then you're not going to be welcome there.

Quote -
To continue though, you do need a thicker skin on here.


Except, no, I really don't. And more to the point: Neither do the users of Neowin. 

The answer is NOT for people to get a thicker skin. The answer is for those people who like to make discussions personal to tread carefully. 

Discussing the topic: Green.
Discussing a person in the conversation: Yellow.
Attacking the person: Red.

The issue of "consistent moderation" boils down to someone saying they didn't really go through a red light but an "orange" light whereas someone else was clearly going through a red. The best route imo is to simply avoid the yellow light.

(original http://www.neowin.net/forum/index.php?showtopic=862112&st=345)


Comments (Page 1)
on Jan 11, 2010

You will always have a small minority who believe it is their right to say what they like. I've seen here recently people referred to as 'morons' or 'retards'. It is so easy for them to do it, and, with no recriminations, is reinforced as being acceptable behavior.

It is never acceptable to call other people names or exchange insults. Put across a point of view strongly, yes, but not at the expense of others. You have no right to call someone a retard simply because they have a different opinion to you.

I've long been a believer in moderating with a strong hand. By that I don't mean interfering, I mean sorting out individuals who make being online a pain for others.

There are some fine communities here amongst the various Stardock sites, why let a small minority spoil the enjoyment of everyone else. I wouldn't be afraid to ban if the whole is benefitted.

 

on Jan 11, 2010

Another guy trying to change sins players, the fact is it cannot and will not change, I could write an essay on this, but it is pointless, becuase I think you can figure it out urself mate.

on Jan 11, 2010

Freedom(s).

There, i said it.

Shame on me? Well, shame on anybody who can't see the whole concept of communicating in this realm of ours called the web.

It's a new "way of life" in fact. Not far from the cantine talky around the noon meals... any & all people would fit in as much as they're allowed to.

Sure, there's a line to be drawn where objectional behaviors must be controlled, but tell me - seriously - have you ever been able to shut up someone on any subject in casual conservations (these of the real kind, that is).

Sure, there's always the tavern chit-chat that leads to some all-out brawls of the grunt crowd. But, behind the curtain of alllllmmmmooossstt anonymity, can you claim that any particular person *IS* drunk - online - at that specific time - and with that reply?

See, how complex this issue becomes?!?

Moderating the casual is easy, censoring the whole mob for whatever reasons much more risky.

I believe stuff such as guide-lines, policies, user agreements, local membership rules are quite enough to maintain control over who & what is acceptable on any given site. Anything beyond these strict limits (presumed understood by users & members, btw) should and must be fixed by the system & people (be it moderators or even CEO!) in place.

Otherwise, both sides of the soooooo precious Freedom equation simply fails.

So, shut the f**k up - too. Or, as a result, take me seriously -- somehow. Now. Online.

 

on Jan 11, 2010

The basic red-yellow-green framework makes sense to me, especially because I've let myself lapse again recently. Sometimes it's just terribly hard to put your values where your fast-typing fingers are...

on Jan 11, 2010

Zyxpsilon
Freedom(s).

Responsability.

Civics.

Coexistence.

on Jan 11, 2010

I enjoy a site like joeuser.com because of the majority of people here who usually tend to have very interesting replies to the topics I follow the most (politics, computers and sometimes little bit of religion). I also enjoy when some people get into a "go to hell", "you first" argument but I also admit it does distract from the topic and can sometimes be boring when the same peopson does it over and over and sometimes for no real reason than to just pick on someone who they argued with before and were probably cute off by the article being locked.

My opinion is that any issue can bee seen from many points of view and that if you plan on expressing your point of view you have to be willing to have it attacked (not in an insulting way) by an opposing view and be ready to defend it not with insults and name calling but with facts and proof. I also think if your opinions gets "blown out of the water" then maybe you should learn to accept defeat as oppose to resorting to name  calling and insults.

Some people can't stand being challenged and defeated; they believe their opinions are absolute and while acting as if they are open minded they really are bias and don't really plan on excepting an opposing view as even possible. Therefor when you argue against their points, even if you can prove them wrong, they will simply dismiss you and continue to rant about their opinions except from there on any reply to you will be made with dislike, annoyance and anger which then adds insults and name calling to the replies.

In the end very little gets done on the argument that started as a debate.

on Jan 11, 2010

Personally on the boards I moderate, I follow the "Futurama God" philosophy to moderation: if you do things right, people won't know whether you've done anything at all.

Now, mind you, the boards I moderate tend to be populated by young adults and older teenagers that are less likely to get into a flame war to begin with, but most of the time I find quickly deleting the offending posts and sending private messages to the offenders gets things cleared up.  Even if they do want to go on a tirade about "draconian moderation" it'll be in a nice sandboxed private message box where no one else gets to hear about it.

on Jan 12, 2010

Just follow the house rules or get kicked out. It has nothing to do with "freedom of speech" or liberty or growing a thicker skin or... whatever really. When you join a forum, you agree to follow a set of rules and to behave in a civil fashion towards other members. If those rules don't suit you, prepare to find somewhere else to vent your "opinions". I really don't see what's so hard to understand about that.

Don't like it? Door's over there.

on Jan 12, 2010

I hate red, can you change it to blue?  I don't like feeling red...

on Jan 12, 2010

psychoak
I hate red, can you change it to blue?  I don't like feeling red...

Red probably doesn't like you feeling it either <hides>

I don't really get why people so often feel like being trolls, even though I am a disagreeable son of...ahem, anyway.

I'm not entirely non toxic myself but I prefer people not be outright jerks.  I don't care how much people complain about it, if they can't be civil they have no business in a community, online or off.

Anyone talking about the ideal of freedom needs to realize that ideals only work when supported by everyone.  I could list examples of this pretty easy, but I'm sure anyone can figure that one out.

on Jan 12, 2010

I've moderated one particular forum for a number of years, and in a pseudo-advisory position on another. There's really two effective methods to have a better community; harsh punishment and participation. With flaming, warn them. If they do it again, suspend their account or outright ban them.

However, a good moderator also has to be a member of the community. Far too many times I've seen staff members of other places simply not participate in discussion unless someone was infringing the rules. The first forum I joined actually had no active administrator! You have to really understand the community you moderate in order to do the job properly.

Also, there's no reason for members to insult one-another. If there is such a problem though, it might be a cause of miswording and can be fixed up without any punishment. Regardless, such flaming here does make things look a bit bad, no offense intended.

on Jan 12, 2010

However, a good moderator also has to be a member of the community.

I would argue the opposite:  a good mod has to NOT be a participating member of the community.  That's like a ref also being a player.  The minute the mod participates, the discussion is colored, because you know if you alienate the mod, that mod becomes biased, and now you have to worry about that mod searching for loopholes to cite you for "infractions".  And as a mod, even you know that when you participate--particularly on a controversial topic--you are acquiring a bias.  OTOH if the topics you're participating in are pretty innocuous--like cooking, technical stuff, travel, bricks--I don't see the big deal.   Like the mods on the Galciv2 forum:  customer support issues I consider to be "technical" stuff.  Sure, participate.  But if you start getting into something like sports, you're starting to enter a grey area.  I know I, personally, wouldn't regard your conformance to the rules any differently because you were a New York Jets fan.  But if you are someone who chose to be a mod for a sports board, chances are you're passionate about the topic.  It would be inappropriate for you to openly favor one team over another.

on Jan 12, 2010

I'm not entirely non toxic myself but I prefer people not be outright jerks.  I don't care how much people complain about it, if they can't be civil they have no business in a community, online or off

My thoughts exactly. I've certainly called people morons, idiots and other names on this forum, and I've been called worse in return. I do so when someone displays a level of intelligence that makes me question how they're even able to direct their browser to the forum's URL in the first place, let alone form completly absurd or unreasonable or unrealistic opinions on matters. As I've also said, if I need to cop a temp. ban to call an idiot and idiot, then so be it; the 'entitled' attitude many gamers have these days is something that needs to be kept in check.

on Jan 12, 2010

tetleytea
I would argue the opposite: a good mod has to NOT be a participating member of the community. That's like a ref also being a player.

I really like the idea of impartial judges, so I wanted to agree with you on a first reading. But the sports analogy doesn't hold up. A game like basketball can have refs because the NCAA and NBA provide fairly clear, simple rules to govern action on the court. Web forums, even when they're centered on a game, are not games.

Sports refs provide rapid, hopefully-consistent enforcement of clear, formal rules. Web moderators work with broad guidelines (very fuzzy 'rules') to help groups stay civil even when they discuss very 'hot' topics. Formal sports have clear calendars and specific team membership lists. Web forums have a bunch of people who come and go, agree and disagree, and are otherwise far more like a jungle than they're like a posh English garden.

 

on Jan 12, 2010

I'm not toxic....just destructive and creative.