PDA

View Full Version : Cursing Thread Locked?



Robert Michael
01-07-2011, 10:53 AM
I've lurked here a bit, but the cursing thread and the one about pics of hot chicks "inspired" me to register and post.

There appear to be two possible reasons for shutting down the cursing thread:

1. You're not interested in feedback that contradicts staff preferences.

2. You felt the thread was getting out of hand because there was some bickering going on.

I am a moderator on a website that gets a lot more traffic and is far more ideologically diverse than this one is. While it is hardly the Wild West or even close to the worst that's out there, it gets its share of off-topic discussions, flame wars, profanity, and trolling. Here's some advice from my experience:

If the first reason was why you closed the thread, that will not sit well with members. When you post something and leave it open for discussion, you leave it open or at least announce a time or page limit from the get-go. When the moderators at my site made a highly controversial decision about this time last year, they left it open and let people have their say for 100 pages. Yes, 100. Then they locked it and we all moved on.

If it was the second reason, I can tell you that the "bickering" was so mild that it wouldn't even be considered bickering on most forums. No one would get out any popcorn for that thread, and the person who commented that another's post was rude wouldn't survive too long on a lot of forums.

Through experience, I know that rules are hard to make, enforce, and interpret online. Rules governing profanity and offensive language are especially thorny, and you are just going to create needless headaches for yourselves as your membership here grows and diversifies. Offensive language is a massive gray area. People will use euphemisms, test the limits, argue endlessly about the nature and the intent of something, etc. If I write that the bike I bought is a piece of crap, will that get zapped? If not, then what's so much worse than writing that it's a piece of s**t? And really, what is the difference between writing f**k and writing the real thing? Everyone knows what it is, and I've already seen people employing that tactic on this site, though not with that word. Should LMAO be banned? Again, everyone knows it's abbreviated profanity.

Should you feel the need for specific rules, make them simple and with little or no gray area. For example, we banned pictures depicting nudity or porn, with nudity defined as bare buttocks, genitals, and females' nipples. With porn, it's the "I know it when I see it approach." We've had very little trouble with this rule.

Rather than moderate for language, you should moderate content and behavior, especially personal attacks. It's pretty easy to tell when someone is being a jerk. Disagreeing vehemently about something is not being a jerk; disagreeing vehemently and calling the other person an ignorant pr**k is.

On the site I help moderate, we have a policy that basically says that people need to act like grownups, that the more they act like jerks, the more likely we are to delete posts and threads or ban users, and that the moderators will have to make the calls about what goes too far.

Problem users will moan that such an approach is too vague (and they did), but they will game the system if you try to be super-specific (which they also did). Eventually, most get the message, and those that don't eventually get sent tumbling into the Internet netherworld. I've locked or deleted threads that got out of hand, and I've banned and deleted users, and that helps others get a sense of the level of decorum expected.

You might also eventually consider creating an off-topic forum that is visible and accessible only to registered users who are logged in. As your membership grows, there might be a need for that. Plus, it may encourage site loyalty and traffic if members also have a place to BS around in addition to discussing biking matters.

If the people signing the paychecks want really heavy moderation, then that's the way it is. Otherwise, as I said already, you're just going to make headaches for yourself and waste a lot of your time.

Finally, try not to take dissent and criticism personally, or at least try not to let it get to you. Many users hide behind avatar names instead of their real ones, so there is virtually no accountability for what they write. I tend to treat posts from such users with far less regard than I do those from people whose names are behind them, whether by username or otherwise. Especially when you're new at the moderating game, it's easy to let things bother you, but you have to accept that people will question you and even sling some s**t at you. After taking action to protect some female members that were being targeted, I learned that said females were thanking me with some pretty interesting sexual favors. And so it goes.

And not all criticism is an attack; some is constructive and well intentioned, and if you can differentiate it from the whining and the garbage, it can help you.

Good luck!

Joe Chapline
01-07-2011, 01:41 PM
Welcome to the forum! Thank you for your thoughts on forum operations and best practices. You are correct, comments have been closed to the cursing thread. All members have the ability to start new threads to discuss bicycling in the Washington DC area, or to make suggestions for making this forum a better tool for discussing bicycling.

CCrew
01-07-2011, 01:41 PM
Not a moderator, just a user with an alternate opinion.

When I look at the bottom of the page, I see a logo for Arlington County Commuter Services. Subsequently I assume that this is a site run either by a government or quasi-government organization. I expect as a user a bit less freedom, a lot more oversight, and less shades of grey than you'd see in most public forums. The picture thread and cursing? Put it to a litmus test. Does it belong in a government office, or most businesses? I know mine it would get you a discussion with HR and possibly even shown to the door. Why should it be different here?

People seem to think in this day and age that the anonymity of the internet excuses them from polite behavior. Would you waltz through your office ranting about the "f'ing cafeteria" or discussing the hot admin that the new director got? I'd like to think not. Better yet, while Amuzing, would you think that a meeting of the Arlington County Govt that carried on this way would be something that would make you glad you voted?

I don't think I've seen any admin or moderator here say that you can't have a spirited discussion. I've just seen that that there are expectation of limits. I for one don't have a problem with it. And I sure didn't sign up because there was a thread with hot chicks in it.

Now, that said,.. I have one for the admins..

Did a whois on the domain name to see who it belonged to. You realize it's owned by a hosting company and not the county? Might want to change that as it means you don't technically own the name, but that may be your desire in the event of litigation.

Registration Service Provided By: Host Ventures Inc
Contact: domains@urljet.com
Visit: http://www.urljet.com

Domain name: BIKEARLINGTONFORUM.COM

Registrant Contact:
Host Ventures Inc
Greg Middlesworth ()

Fax:
2710 Thomes Ave Ste 1462
Cheyenne, WY 82001
US

Administrative Contact:
Host Ventures Inc
Greg Middlesworth (domains@urljet.com)
+1.18886992609
Fax: +1.18886992609
2710 Thomes Ave Ste 1462
Cheyenne, WY 82001
US

Technical Contact:
Host Ventures Inc
Greg Middlesworth (domains@urljet.com)
+1.18886992609
Fax: +1.18886992609
2710 Thomes Ave Ste 1462
Cheyenne, WY 82001
US

Status: Locked

Name Servers:
ns1.urljet.com
ns2.urljet.com

Creation date: 06 Dec 2009 17:04:53
Expiration date: 06 Dec 2011 17:04:53

Joe Chapline
01-07-2011, 02:43 PM
Did a whois on the domain name to see who it belonged to. You realize it's owned by a hosting company and not the county? Might want to change that as it means you don't technically own the name, but that may be your desire in the event of litigation.

Registration Service Provided By: Host Ventures Inc
Contact: domains@urljet.com
Visit: http://www.urljet.com

Thanks for that; I'll check into it. We're advertising "WashingtonAreaBikeForum.com" now, and we own that domain name. But we just redirected that to the original domain, BikeArlingtonForum.com. The original name was registered for us by the hosting company, who have a reputation to maintain, but I'll be sure to check and see if we need to do anything about it.

You are correct, this forum is operated by Arlington County, now in partnership with WABA and goDCgo, a program run by DDOT.

Mykeru
01-07-2011, 02:58 PM
Robert,

I agree. And it's odd the thread was locked or that it even got slightly contentious because the only point I was making -- myself having administered forums, comments and way-back-when mIRC channels, it that trying to apply vague standards like "offensiveness" is a huge can of worms. Especially when everyone who ever dealt with this sort of thing knows whatever standards are adopted, or not adopted, are never equitably applied.

Frankly, vague policies like that should be the third rail of forums. They quite literally cause far more problems, hurt feelings, anger, and generate tons of hypocrisy, over and above whatever problem with language or attitude they are ostensibly addressing.