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Old 11-18-2019, 07:52 PM
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Overarching board moderation/culure problems


We've had a lot of threads about transphobia, misogyny, racism, and trolling. Three are somewhat active in ATMB now, but there have been enough that I'm not going to dig them all up and most people who venture into ATMB are going to be familiar anyway.

While bigotry, or at least complicity/ambivalence towards the same is absolutely a problem, I want to have a thread that focuses on some underlying board problems that I think heavily contribute to the issues people have had with moderation.


Mod Notes are too soft, Warnings too severe

Mod notes read just like instructions to stop something, and are often eschewed if other members pipe up to express disapproval of a statement. I understand the mods do keep some record of mod notes and post reports, so they're not entirely innocuous, but it's a thread-local "stop doing this" except in very rare cases where someone gets topic banned for accruing too many notes (usually for bringing a hobby horse into unrelated threads).

Warnings, on the other hand, carry a very great weight. Depending on the poster, only a handful of warnings can lead to a suspension or later a banning. Warnings stick around on your profile forever (as I understand it, I don't have one), and they're strong enough that people will come to ATMB to appeal a single warning.

I'm not sure how to solve this. I'm not proposing this as a solution, but as an interesting counterpoint, I'd like to say how another board handles it. On that board, warnings don't exist (formally), they only have suspensions, bans, and permabans. Now this board is pay to be able to post (like how the Dope used to be) along with a few other features (it costs money to change avatars). The closest thing to warnings there are "probations" which are much closer to our suspensions, but probations can be short - I've seen 6 hours. They're mod enforced "cool down" time outs. Of course, they can be longer, probations have existed for 6 months-1 year, but generally I find it's a couple days to a month. Because probations are so cheap and easy penalty boxes, they're handed out with a fairly low degree of scrutiny. Not quite frivolity, but if you're a problem child, but more annoying/disruptive than actively heinous, you can collect a fair number of probations.

To complement this, particularly egregious problems result in a ban. This absolutely won't work here. A ban is essentially just an "idiot tax" that forces people to pay another chunk of money to get the privilege to post, set a new avatar etc. It's a useful "knock it off" stick (though it does have the same issue as police fines where it means if you're rich eating a ban is less bad than if you're impoverished). Permabans just mean you are banned and cannot reregister. (There are other components here, like a rap sheet any user can view, and a mod note appended to an offending post that says "user was banned/probated for this" that contribute to that board's culture around rule and culture violations, but they're not very relevant here).

Now, again, this model doesn't work here, not the ban system at least, but my point is more that getting a warning is so monumental here, and a suspension so earth shattering, that the mods really have very little power to punish people. Even further, the issue is while warnings have a high psychological amount of weight, they're also not particularly effective from the perspective of someone who is okay with running afoul of the rules (like trolls). They're effectively a more sternly worded mod note until oops suddenly they're not and you're suspended/banned. It also leads to mods having this mental overhead where only things they can be sure are bad "without bias" get the big scary warning, like canned phrases like "fuck off".

The Pit is toxic

I don't mean the Pit itself, I mean the existence of the Pit and the rules surrounding it and how it affects the rest of the forum. I legitimately think the Pit should be closed and the rest of the board should adopt modified Pit rules, perhaps excepting ATMB and/or CS/Game Room (I'd argue not excepting them, but don't care to go into why in this post since it's long enough already).

The Pit's existence allows people to wind others up, essentially baiting people into frustration and a "fuck off", which as mentioned is one of the things that actually consistently gets warnings (alongside ignoring mod instructions such as not sticking to a topic). It also adds significant overhead towards showing your opinions about a heinous point of view or situation, because it means you have to start a pit thread, or post in a megathread in the Pit which can be safely ignored by the problem posters or only engaged with on their terms devoid of context.

People completely obviously make jabs and attack posters anyway, it just leads to people getting right up to the line, or finding creative passive aggressive ways to say "fuck you". It also just stifles debate because you're never 100% sure what you can say about a post without eating a note or warning. "Attack the post not the poster" is a vaguely correct rule, but it's never clear where the line is -- is pointing out/attacking a poster's obvious bias a line? Catching them in a blatant lie is obviously a line. Calling out tactics they're using if they resemble trolling is a line.

It's not like productive debate doesn't happen in the Pit, but it being the dedicated "slapfight zone' I think artificially degrades discourse sometimes and gives the illusion that if it didn't exist, everywhere would be just like the Pit. I think debate across the board would be more productive and less prone to blowups over "decorum" warnings and walking on eggshells if we just allowed Pit rules everywhere, but with modifications that posts have to be at least somewhat substantive/on topic and can't consist of just insults. I guess the Pit would still have some use as a "lol fuck off" forum for petty insults, rants about current events, or dedicated "okay but this poster sucks tho" threads, but not having this incredibly artificial fuzzy constraint on decorum would do the board good.

Miscellaneous issues

Some of the board distinctions are a bit odd, which would be fine if it wasn't for the moderator gap between them and the culture that moderators don't do so outside their assigned boards. For instance, there's not that much separating IMHO from GD. There are a lot more "frivolous" threads ("what would you do with this dating situation"), but for instance the thread on trans dating could easily go in either forum and aside from small topic differences quite a few threads belong in both (with the more frivolous threads being more MPSIMS material).

Again, this would be fine if it wasn't for the moderation gap. GD is moderated by 3 active mods (Gaudere hasn't been on in a year). IMHO is moderated by two semi-active mods (Gfactor hasn't been on in a month). The Pit has one mod due to the perception that since it's the slapfight zone it doesn't need/shouldn't have much moderation. But big debates with warnable offenses happen in all of these forums, and it significantly affects response time, what is warnable/mod note-able (since different mods have different opinions even if warnings are discussed "in the mod loop" first), and other things, despite all 3 having very similar content at times.

I think there's a couple more things, but I'd like to let this all sit before I bring more points into it (I have a feeling the thread it going to get railroaded into discussing one hyperspecific point as it is, and adding more things just adds to the number of miscellaneous things it can get stuck on).
  #2  
Old 11-18-2019, 09:02 PM
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I think most of us take warnings pretty seriously. I wish there were more options between warnings and suspensions/bans, but I believe I’m very much in the minority on that.
In all, the moderation is very good here, but we manage to get quite worked up when there is disagreement.
The pit is a place to have interactions that would be unpleasant or distasteful to some, possibly many posters - so they are given their own spot. Some really enjoy that forum, some occasionally visit, and those who don’t, just don’t visit.
In all, I disagree that this place needs fixing.
  #3  
Old 11-18-2019, 09:46 PM
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Maybe I'm green, or privileged, but I just don't see the problem. From where I'm sitting things look pretty good as they are. There might be individual things I disagree with the board administration on, but their overarching policy looks good to me.

I've only been in the pit for a couple posts, and then only by accident, but if I were invited I would bring the same attitude that I have everywhere else on these boards. I certainly think it's a bad idea to let people pit each other in Cafe Society or IMHO. And while there is some overlap between IMHO and Great Debates, there's a different attitude in each subforum and I don't want to see that go away. Both as to the topic of the thread, and as to how well arguments are built therein.

~Max
  #4  
Old 11-18-2019, 10:03 PM
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Yes, we need more moderators in here. My bad. It's been on my to-do list for too long.

It's a combination of being overrun with other things and also allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good. Moderators set the tone here and they're really special people, I have erred on the side of caution, perhaps too much so.

I know this needs correcting. I AM working on it.

This board is an unusual place in a lot of ways. It's like when people who have never had a pet say to you, "Oh, it's just a dog." Well, to most people it's not justadog, that's a member of your family. As you are emotionally attached to your family members, people have made an attachment to this place that is deep and enduring.

People care -- a lot -- about what happens here.

People invest -- a lot -- in what goes on.

This is why things like warnings and even notes can absolutely rip people out of the frame. Because of how it feels.

So it's not justamessageboard.

Everyone cares and wants this place to be better. And everyone has a vision of how this place should be. Not all these visions play well together.

We're committed to this place too. And to you. That's why we do what we do, everyone that works here. We're aiming for the most and the best. Do we always make it? No; we're all too damn human. But we're working on it.

And we want this place to be as open and inclusive as possible. That means sometimes seeing an opinion you don't agree with, written by someone you despise, said in a way that really pisses you off.

We do have rules here and we generally try to interpret them as broadly as possible. For some people, this is not going to be sufficient. But we are trying to make house room for most everyone. You are free to let us know if you disagree at any time. Sometimes we get things wrong; we can take a correction. But we're not always wrong, even if you disagree.

Mod notes are more common than formal warnings. The majority of people who have notes or warnings modify their behavior and that is the end of it. Suspensions come in the wake of serial negative actions that go uncorrected over time; they don't just happen out of the blue. (We also temporarily suspend people in the wake of meltdowns or when they need to not be on the board and doing other things, like real work. See "Posting Sabbatical.") Bans for bad behavior (unless you are a spammer or some other major nuisance, those comes swiftly) only come after we have exhausted every other alternative and there is nothing left. We do try to keep all enforcement to a minimum but sometimes you gotta go there and then so do we. You'd hate it more if we didn't do it.

Most of all we want you to hang out here and have fun. To share views, to answer questions, to give opinions, to play all our reindeer games. We'd like to think we offer an assortment of things -- different things -- enough things to please most anybody. If not, tell us what you'd like to see. Maybe it can happen. Or, worst case, there's lots of other places on the internets and one may be more to your liking. We hate to lose people but sometimes it's just not a good fit and life is too short to be miserable. But we hope you stay.

And it's always something going out outside, you know. If you're really bugged, sign off, go take a walk, come back. Take a deep breath. Try again. We will too.

Love always,

Jenny
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  #5  
Old 11-18-2019, 11:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jragon View Post
Mod Notes are too soft, Warnings too severe
You seem to be arguing that those "probations" are less severe than our Warnings. I don't see it. If we were to institute more short term suspensions, they would be perceived as more serious than a Warning, because they are an actual break in posting ability, as opposed to a formal instruction.

And I disagree that Warnings are too severe. I think they serve the purpose of saying "We really mean this", I think having a variable threshold for number of warnings before suspensions and bans is a valuable feature. It serves to prevent gaming the system. "I'm allowed five Warnings, this is only Warning 2, so whatever."


Quote:
The Pit is toxic

I don't mean the Pit itself, I mean the existence of the Pit and the rules surrounding it and how it affects the rest of the forum. I legitimately think the Pit should be closed and the rest of the board should adopt modified Pit rules, perhaps excepting ATMB and/or CS/Game Room (I'd argue not excepting them, but don't care to go into why in this post since it's long enough already).

The Pit's existence allows people to wind others up, essentially baiting people into frustration and a "fuck off", which as mentioned is one of the things that actually consistently gets warnings (alongside ignoring mod instructions such as not sticking to a topic). [snip]


It's not like productive debate doesn't happen in the Pit, but it being the dedicated "slapfight zone' I think artificially degrades discourse sometimes and gives the illusion that if it didn't exist, everywhere would be just like the Pit. I think debate across the board would be more productive and less prone to blowups over "decorum" warnings and walking on eggshells if we just allowed Pit rules everywhere,
I disagree. I think if we wanted to reduce the carrying of frustration around the board, we would stop allowing pitting of members. Use it as a place to vent against the outside world or whatever, but not insult members.
  #6  
Old 11-18-2019, 11:20 PM
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Thanks, TubaDiva, I agree with all of that. This place is a community that is kind of my virtual home on the internet.

I just want to add that I disagree with the OP about the Pit being toxic. I think we all have different ideas about what the Pit is, but it's a lot more than just a place to hurl invectives at another poster. It's just a place where there are far fewer rules than on the rest of the board. As I've often said, just because you can be insulting in the Pit doesn't mean you always have to be. There have been a number of long threads there that have gone on at great length over substantive arguments that could easily have been in GD or IMHO (except maybe for the occasional insulting zinger!). The part I like best is that somehow the freewheeling nature of it offers an opportunity for creative humorous criticism of a kind that wouldn't be acceptable elsewhere on the board. Like ATMB, it's one of the unique features of this board that most places don't have. Both serve unique and important purposes.
  #7  
Old 11-18-2019, 11:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jragon View Post
The Pit is toxic

I don't mean the Pit itself, I mean the existence of the Pit and the rules surrounding it and how it affects the rest of the forum. I legitimately think the Pit should be closed and the rest of the board should adopt modified Pit rules, perhaps excepting ATMB and/or CS/Game Room (I'd argue not excepting them, but don't care to go into why in this post since it's long enough already).

The Pit's existence allows people to wind others up, essentially baiting people into frustration and a "fuck off", which as mentioned is one of the things that actually consistently gets warnings (alongside ignoring mod instructions such as not sticking to a topic). It also adds significant overhead towards showing your opinions about a heinous point of view or situation, because it means you have to start a pit thread, or post in a megathread in the Pit which can be safely ignored by the problem posters or only engaged with on their terms devoid of context.

People completely obviously make jabs and attack posters anyway, it just leads to people getting right up to the line, or finding creative passive aggressive ways to say "fuck you". It also just stifles debate because you're never 100% sure what you can say about a post without eating a note or warning. "Attack the post not the poster" is a vaguely correct rule, but it's never clear where the line is -- is pointing out/attacking a poster's obvious bias a line? Catching them in a blatant lie is obviously a line. Calling out tactics they're using if they resemble trolling is a line.

It's not like productive debate doesn't happen in the Pit, but it being the dedicated "slapfight zone' I think artificially degrades discourse sometimes and gives the illusion that if it didn't exist, everywhere would be just like the Pit. I think debate across the board would be more productive and less prone to blowups over "decorum" warnings and walking on eggshells if we just allowed Pit rules everywhere, but with modifications that posts have to be at least somewhat substantive/on topic and can't consist of just insults. I guess the Pit would still have some use as a "lol fuck off" forum for petty insults, rants about current events, or dedicated "okay but this poster sucks tho" threads, but not having this incredibly artificial fuzzy constraint on decorum would do the board good.
That place was much better when Lynn was Pitmaster; there wasn't much she put up with. It's like every mod since her can't be arsed to determine what is trolling at what is run-of-the-mill name-calling. Even when someone pretty much flat-out admits to trolling there.

Last edited by Skywatcher; 11-18-2019 at 11:25 PM.
  #8  
Old 11-19-2019, 12:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Jragon View Post
... It also adds significant overhead towards showing your opinions about a heinous point of view or situation, because it means you have to start a pit thread, or post in a megathread in the Pit which can be safely ignored by the problem posters or only engaged with on their terms devoid of context. ...
Why does it bother you that Pit threads "can be safely ignored"? Do you think those posters would feel more obligation to read / respond to Pit-style posts if they were sprinkled in other forums? I don't.
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Old 11-19-2019, 01:03 AM
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Why does it bother you that Pit threads "can be safely ignored"? Do you think those posters would feel more obligation to read / respond to Pit-style posts if they were sprinkled in other forums? I don't.
Because, gosh darn it!!1!, when someone is WRONG on the internet sometimes the just thing is to let them know how WRONG they are. With stern language and a tsk tsking!

Being able to avoid all those corrective measures and constructive criticisms the people have decided upon is just not right.
  #10  
Old 11-19-2019, 07:13 AM
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I think the Pit is necessary.

There are times people need to spew out what is boiling inside, and civil words just won't cut it. Do some of the interchanges border on/step over into trolling? Yeah, probably. But I'd rather keep trolling in the Pit since it's going to happen anyway (trolls are the cockroaches of the internet) so that I can avoid them if I'm not in the mood for asshattery. I also don't need to read personal attacks on a daily basis, and keeping that sort of thing in one spot makes reading contentious topic threads much easier. I hate when an exchange of differing opinions gets bogged down into personalities - I want to know how people think, not what they think of another poster.

By the same token, if I'm spoiling for a fight, I know where to go where I won't hijack a perfectly good discussion. It doesn't happen often, I'm a pretty infrequent poster and generally not one to dive in at the deep end, but I do enjoy reading some of the takedowns and tantrums.

I agree more Mods might help, and I'm grateful to the ones we have. I've modded a small board in a small way, and it really is a MUCH tougher task than it would appear.

Personally, I'm happy with the current situation despite the need for Mod assistance.
  #11  
Old 11-19-2019, 08:53 AM
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My perception of how the Pit:

Back in "the day:" The Pit is a place where a poster can safely blow off steam before returning to the board as a productive poster in good standing.

Nowadays: The Pit is a place where a poster can go to satisfy their desire to be an internet jerk (profanity warning), shielded from the majority of board rules.

Look at this thread. This is not blowing off steam. This is a thread with a specific purpose, and the OP got exactly what he wanted.* Threads like this are not healthy for the board.

*oh gosh, no, I was just expressing admiration for a few posters, who could have guessed that it would turn into this kind of thread?

Last edited by Johnny Bravo; 11-19-2019 at 08:54 AM.
  #12  
Old 11-19-2019, 10:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jragon View Post
Mod notes read just like instructions to stop something, and are often eschewed if other members pipe up to express disapproval of a statement. I understand the mods do keep some record of mod notes and post reports, so they're not entirely innocuous, but it's a thread-local "stop doing this" except in very rare cases where someone gets topic banned for accruing too many notes (usually for bringing a hobby horse into unrelated threads).
Mod notes are issued for a variety of reasons. Sometimes a poster has violated a board rule, but we decide to be lenient. Sometimes a discussion is edging into a fight, and a moderator steps in to tell posters to cool it before it escalates to the point warnings have to be issued. Sometimes a thread is being hijacked, and while no individual poster has done anything wrong, the discussion would be better served in another thread or another forum.

We don't keep a formal record of notes like we do for warnings. However, I generally aware if I have previously issued notes to a poster for the same offense. A poster who continually ignores notes is likely to get an official warning.

Quote:
Warnings, on the other hand, carry a very great weight. Depending on the poster, only a handful of warnings can lead to a suspension or later a banning. Warnings stick around on your profile forever (as I understand it, I don't have one), and they're strong enough that people will come to ATMB to appeal a single warning.
This ignores the fact that not all warnings are created equal. A single warning doesn't carry much weight at all. It's usually only when a poster keeps ignoring warnings and violating the same rule over and over that we consider a suspension or eventually a banning. And we do take into account the severity of an offense. If a normally well-behaved poster insults someone in the heat of the moment, that may be considered less severe than someone who consistently behaves like a jerk.

Warnings are intended as a behavior modification tool. What we are most interested in is if a poster changes his or her behavior after a warning, and shows an inclination to comply with the rules. Except for the most severe offenses, it usually takes a significant number of warnings over a period of time before we consider suspension or banning.

Suspensions and bannings are discussed in the mod loop and many factors are taken into account, including the nature and frequency of offenses, whether a poster has made a positive contribution to the board, and whether the poster is capable of changing their behavior. So this is a much more nuanced process than you are describing. I don't see that a more complicated set of sanctions is going to end up with a different result.

Last edited by Colibri; 11-19-2019 at 10:04 AM.
  #13  
Old 11-19-2019, 11:02 AM
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I would like to see the prohibition on saying "fuck you" in the Pit reimposed. It leads to lazy argumentation.

The Pit is supposed to be like playing the dozens, where creative insults are encouraged because they are creative. Any idiot can say "fuck you". It takes a special kind of idiot to say "you were fired from your job in the stage show in a Tijuana whorehouse because even donkeys have standards" , and the special idiots are the ones we want as Dopers.

Raising the tone of discourse, IOW.

Regards,
Shodan
  #14  
Old 11-19-2019, 11:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Shodan View Post
I would like to see the prohibition on saying "fuck you" in the Pit reimposed. It leads to lazy argumentation.

The Pit is supposed to be like playing the dozens, where creative insults are encouraged because they are creative. Any idiot can say "fuck you". It takes a special kind of idiot to say "you were fired from your job in the stage show in a Tijuana whorehouse because even donkeys have standards" , and the special idiots are the ones we want as Dopers.

Raising the tone of discourse, IOW.

Regards,
Shodan
I endorse this post. I'm bored with being told "fuck you" and "fuck off" and the supremely tiresome "go fuck a cactus." Also, I think that the ban on the word "cunt" should be reinstated as it is, not only a lazy insult, but a clear example of misogynistic language.
  #15  
Old 11-19-2019, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Scumpup View Post
I endorse this post. I'm bored with being told "fuck you" and "fuck off" and the supremely tiresome "go fuck a cactus." Also, I think that the ban on the word "cunt" should be reinstated as it is, not only a lazy insult, but a clear example of misogynistic language.
Rather than trying to legislate other people's behavior, why don't you modify your own so you don't give them reasons to say those things to you?
  #16  
Old 11-19-2019, 03:44 PM
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Rather than trying to legislate other people's behavior, why don't you modify your own so you don't give them reasons to say those things to you?
You completely missed the point and I just don't care enough to explain it to you.
  #17  
Old 11-19-2019, 07:08 PM
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lso, I think that the ban on the word "cunt" should be reinstated as it is, not only a lazy insult, but a clear example of misogynistic language.
You're joking, right?
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