Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Published on January 5, 2012 By Draginol In Internet

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All this has happened before. All this will happen again.

 

I first started moderating “online communities”back in the mid 80s. Back then, they were called BBSes and the title “Sub-Op”.  Without moderation, Internet communities ultimately die off for the same reason: They become toxic. 

What causes them to become toxic is predictable and preventable. Identify and remove people who are toxic before toxic cliques form. It’s easier said than done because every time I’ve seen it happen, the people causing the harm have no idea that they are the problem. That’s because, in the beginning, they weren’t.

In the beginning of a successful online community, you have a core group of prolific, high quality contributors to the forum. Their contributions help the community grow and thrive.  In time, a certain percentage of these users will believe that they are entitled to judge others and abuse them if they are found wanting.

Eventually, the entitled group will cross some line that the owners of the site object to. This confrontation leads to the debate on what rights the site owner has over the community. And this leads to the following flow chart:

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I’ve seen all three paths over the years.

The end result is the same, it’s just a matter of how long it takes to get to the end point. Of course, the other option is for the site owner to get fed up and shut down the site.

WinCustomize Example

I took the hands off approach for WinCustomize.com at one point as some users may recall. I subscribed to the view that the community had evolved beyond the site owners and could police itself. That merely led to many of the “old guard” bullying those they disagreed with.

Many of the problem people were friends and I would message them to lay off with the response being “That guy deserved it”.  That is usually how you can tell you’re going to have problems with someone because nobody deserves to be griefed.  (Anyone remember the “Community” er “The Council” and the first GUI Olympics? That still stands out as the most blatant example of entitled).

Neowin Example

Neowin.net took the path of making their Entitled group into moderators. And for awhile, it was good. But pretty soon, the same problem came up except now the Entitled group had the power to ban users. The site owner had to step in and it was doubly painful because the moderators had built a considerable following who departed with them. That one I watched from the sidelines.

JoeUser Example

JoeUser.com took the third path a few years ago as some reading this may recall.  In a blogging community it is particularly tough to lose people whose posts are the primary source of traffic. I won’t mention the names but anyone who’s been on here for awhile know the people I speak of.

In every case, the newly banned go to or create some splinter site. I’ve never seen one thrive (they often stay around in a kind of near death for years to come).

I wish I could say I knew what specifically causes people who start out being outstanding contributors to a community to becoming toxic users. They are usually very intelligent people. The only thing I’ve seen them have in common is the belief that some people deserve to be griefed and that they are entitled to make the determination on who deserves the griefing.


Comments (Page 2)
on Jan 06, 2012

Draginol
Is this a shot across the bow or is the naughty list already compiled?

No,

whew!!

on Jan 06, 2012

Draginol
After LW, we still had people leave due to a different type of problem and that is people who don't break the rules but are still very opinionated. JU became very right wing over time because of that which in turn took away a lot of diversity.

I agree.  Politics was much more fun when there were two sides, or three, or four...

 

I still like JU, though my blogging is at an all time low.  It is my first on-line community.  It's home, as much as the net can be.

on Jan 06, 2012

This brings back painful memories of my last job, where I had to handle a very volatile community, and I failed at it miserably. I pretty much went through all three stages. I actually found a fourth stage, where the entitled brake into your site, deface it a few times a month, steal data and smash stuff.

Very unpleasant memories that made a tough job dang near impossible. 

 

on Jan 06, 2012

Draginol
No, I'd say our community is the healthiest I've seen it in years.

One great indicator is a thread on any one of the 'taboo' subjects...."politics", "Religion" and "abortion". - taboo in that they will almost always devolve into argument and flame [personal assault/bullying]... and yet we have that 'Science or God' one that's been ticking along happily for 3 years or so.

A decade ago that wouldn't have lasted a day...

on Jan 06, 2012

and yet we have that 'Science or God' one that's been ticking along happily for 3 years or so.

you're trolling, right?

on Jan 06, 2012

you're trolling, right?

Certainly...

No, I don't like them as topics, either.  I find them the most pointless of subjects for 'debate' as there are only 3 types of contributors....those on either side of the 'fence' who have no intention of being 'converted' and the third bunch ... who really don't give a damn either way and won't be swayed, anyway.

You'd have better results grabbing a shovel and attempting to dig a hole in the Pacific Ocean...

on Jan 06, 2012

As for the Entitled group, you're right, but the fact that a group is entitled does not make them by default wrong. I can also see why you'd view that group and that other forum as enemy territory given who is there.   The sad thing is I can literally see everyone's point, and it's hard to disagree with any of them, but impossible to agree with all of them- it's frustrating.

 

People hate the perception of unfairness, and that's the perception that is being given off over there.  Whether that's the reality or not is a judgement call, and one I feel unworthy to decide. 

 

As for JU, I think the fact it skews so far to the right- people perceive that to be a reflection of your views. 

on Jan 06, 2012

Draginol
A big part of that is the even handed moderation of people like Jafo and Kyro.

We would be up to our asses in spam, never mind the trolls. All the Moderators deserve a tip of the hat for all the long hours and hard work they put in to keep things running cleanly and smoothly. The least we as members can do is try to make their job a little easier, imo.

You'd have better results grabbing a shovel and attempting to dig a hole in the Pacific Ocean

Really, what would be the point? Once it rained, it would fill right back up.

on Jan 06, 2012

There was a sizable number of 'left-leaning' participants here for several years, far as I could tell having no connection or relationship to an Entitled group or the 'LW circle', who really made the political discussions lively but for some reason they all packed up & disappeared after GW won re-election in '04.  A couple have returned briefly since, only to go missing again.  There was a lot of good give & take back then, mostly argued aggressively but respectfully.  Miss it a bit, actually.

I think that has a lot to do with the perception of JU as 'right wing' - most of the 'left wingers' went home long ago.

on Jan 07, 2012

As for the Entitled group, you're right, but the fact that a group is entitled does not make them by default wrong. I can also see why you'd view that group and that other forum as enemy territory given who is there.   The sad thing is I can literally see everyone's point, and it's hard to disagree with any of them, but impossible to agree with all of them- it's frustrating.

There isn't necessarily anything wrong with the entitled group. It's subjective. From their point of view, they're trying to keep the site's quality up to its historical standards.

on Jan 07, 2012

@Wizard, Indeed, moderating is a thankless job. Hail Jafo and Kryo.

on Jan 07, 2012

Wow, I had never even looked at JoeUser forums before...god damn.  I might have to take a longer look, it's like some kind of zoo, but one only for the really loud and deranged Elephants.

You can probably appreciate the job Jafo goes through when a thread (like this one) is on JU, WinCustomize, and the game sites at the same time.

on Jan 07, 2012

The best way I have found to debate on these forums is to Ender's Game the system. I am actually three or four of the people on this site. Guess which ones. 

on Jan 07, 2012

seanw3
I am actually three or four of the people on this site. Guess which ones.

Typically when found duplicates are removed.

A chap called T-Man did set me up with several, years ago.....hardly 'anonymous' though....Jafo1....Jafo2....Jafo3....

on Jan 08, 2012

Mine are much more devious. I could be you!   (I was really just trying to point out the awesomeness of the book's idea.)

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