As I’ve mentioned a few times previously, I’m a message board moderator over at the ACLU boards. All of the volunteers got word today that in the very near future our services will no longer be required. This was apparently in the works for several months, and this is the first any of us have heard about it.
I’m of deeply mixed feelings about this. I’ve been volunteering on the boards for something like eight years. Good lord, in sitting here typing this up this is the first I realized that. Eight years I’ve been doing this. I hooked up with the boards back when they were on AOL, and to be honest at first they were just a way of exchanging a few hours of labor a week for a free ulimited AOL account. As I got to know some of the regulars there that changed. There were some I looked forward to reading and some that I struggled very hard with my desire to lash out at them through my position because they were such bastards. I’m pleased to say that in all that time I never lost that struggle, and while there may be some who tell it different, I can honestly say that I don’t believe there was a single time I treated a poster unfairly or unreasonably based on the rules of the board as I understood them.
Eventually AOL kicked us to the curb as they did with so many of their popular yet non-revenue-generating forums (but I don’t have to tell the old-timers here about that). AOL pretty much hated us anyway because the ACLU’s contract required that Terms of Service against language not apply to our “free speech zone” chat rooms and message boards. Our forum was the only place on AOL where anyone could say “fuck” with impugnity, and dammit, we were proud of that; we fought for it and won more than one battle with “Guides” who tried to polce our members.
We moved temporarily to some boards which were still accessible through AOL then finally completely to the ACLU site.
My area, the Equality forum, never recovered from the transition. The majority of “my” members didn’t make the transition to the new boards. Where before we had dozens upon dozens of active threads with hundreds of posts, we dwindled dramatically down to a few. Most of the new threads seemed to be of the “here’s my situation, please give me legal help” variety, along with a few dedcated bigot posters who, all the while slamming the ACLU as a haven for faggots and nigger-lovers and junkies, took advantage of the freedom we offered them to attack faggots and nigger-lovers and junkies. It was still important to me to help maintain a corner of the web like ours, but it just wasn’t much fun any more. I’d been spending less and less time there and had recently been thinking of giving my notice.
So, mixed feelings. On the one hand, moderating the boards has been a part of my life for a long time and that was pulled out from under me with basically no notice. On the other hand, I was coming to the conclusion on my own that it was time for me to move on.
The notice we got today was from our forum manager, also a volunteer. We’ll be getting official notice in the next day or two, along with information about what will happen in the transition from a volunteer staff to a centralized, ACLU-employee-moderated board.
My manager was very gracious in her email, telling us that the decision had nothing to do with the volunteers or our dedication to the forum, that the forum wouldn’t exist without our hard work and that she hopes we will remain as valued posters. I don’t know. My first thought is, I’m taking a break from the boards, something I haven’t done in forever. We’ll see how I feel after some time away, whether I want to continue to participate or whether the changes that will inevitably come with this reorganization will lead me to bail.