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PostPosted: 07 Jan 2009, 23:06 
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jess wrote:
If anyone would like a discussion about in general forum running, please feel free to start one. I'm sure we could all benefit from sharing ideas and good things, and not merely learning from each others' mistakes.
:twisted:

I think jess's idea here is a good one. We have threads discussing (sometimes vehemently :cussing: ) the faults and foibles of several different boards:

Now, it seems that there should be stuff that we can glean from those threads, not just in the interesting turns of events, but in the larger picture of the means of governance/ moderation/ freedoms allowed/ restrictions enforced/ etc.

I offer that this thread be one where the strengths and weaknesses of varying boards be discussed, toward the ideal of producing a picture of the 'perfect' board, while recognizing working/workable systems and looking to understand the functionality within an internet community.




There are, obviously, many different directions to go with this, but the one that interests me, at this point, is the reality of working a 'true democracy' as a means of governance. Can it be done successfully with a large user-base?

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PostPosted: 07 Jan 2009, 23:28 
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At my meeting tonight, our first speaker was the Executive Director of the Wellness Institue. Strangely enough, it had nothing to do with individual physical health and more to do with community health.

As I listened, I realized a great deal of what he was saying would apply to a board as well, as a community.

I will try to sum up, then go to bed.

Quote:
To have proper civic engagement, you need to understand change.
Change is dissatisfaction with the status quo combined with a shared vision combined with an inclusive market driven plan.

In order to create civil health and quality of life, you need to :
define the current reality, realisticly
create a shared vision
prepare a comprehensive strategic plan.

You need to have healthy public policies--- eg: here they have legislated that all road rebuilds and new construction look for ways to add bike and walking paths.
You need to build organizational capacity--- like block club conferences.
You need supportive environments--- eg: banning tobacco, or on the web, possibly banning hate speech.
You need to enhance personal awareness, knowledge and support skills
And you need to reorient community actions from reactive to proactive.

Inclusiveness is vital. Without it, the community will fail.


I see this as having a great ideas for building a board and preventing issues.

I think here, the Magrathean Workshop is a proactive feature other places do not have--- it's not a town hall, as I've been calling it--- it's a place where interested people can add things and tweak things before it gets to the dissatisfaction with the status quo. Hopefully that forum will keep ratpags from being static and reactive.


Am I alone in seeing this as helpful?

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PostPosted: 08 Jan 2009, 09:17 
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I liked this fromt he other thread. By livius drusus:

Quote:
Quote:
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You're not just you when you're moderating. You don't get to indulge yourself.

why not? Why should some people be held to a higher standard? Because they are willing to give up time and energy to work a board? While I do agree, I don't agree this is a firm rule. We are all human, and if we were not allowed to indulge ourselves sort of abusing power, then why volunteer at all?

Because you believe in what the forum is trying to achieve and you wish to help it get there. Indulging your personal impulses is not going to help, ever. It might not cause major damage, but even small pinpricks can add up to a large gash eventually.

On a more positive note, moderation can be a lot of fun. The vast majority of people are complimentary and grateful to the point of embarrassment. You are an integral part of making a forum flourish. You get to know people in interesting and surprising ways.

To this day I think of the CF Outcasts with great fondness, because we genuinely went through something together. It was an experience I value in many ways, and I would never have had it if I hadn't just happened to have been the MD mod when the first thread was started.

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PostPosted: 08 Jan 2009, 09:20 
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I have a question that may be major.

Is it possible to moderate a forum evenly?

Considering we are all human, and interactions are so different, and we all take things in different ways, and there is no one mod who sees all...

is it even a possibility?

(Not saying to throw caution to the wind, but rather is it really just to complain when a board is not moderated 'evenly' all the time?)

Even on photobucket, I've had cheesecake pics removed for 'violating rules' when other cake pics that are far more ... you know... have been left up for years...

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PostPosted: 08 Jan 2009, 10:31 
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Evenly is not my philosophy.

Fairly is not my philosophy.

Right is my philosophy. I'm more concerned with making sure that we reach the right outcome than letting someone say "he did the same thing by the rules that I did and you didn't punish him!" when, though technically true, the other person is not a habitual offender and said something far more mild than you did.

Rules are general guidelines, which we can rely on but not use exclusively to the detriment of using our own judgment. "Rules are rules!" is always said by someone who's about to do something wrong, though technically within the boundaries of the rules. Things need to be judged on a case by case basis, and if we get things right while seeming uneven, so be it.

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PostPosted: 08 Jan 2009, 10:59 
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Hex wrote:
I offer that this thread be one where the strengths and weaknesses of varying boards be discussed, toward the ideal of producing a picture of the 'perfect' board, while recognizing working/workable systems and looking to understand the functionality within an internet community.
Quote:
Damn, that's a tall order. I guess we'd better get on it then. :D

I think it begins with figuring out what you want to achieve. Forums are an interesting phenomenon in that management approaches can in and of itself be a goal of the message board. So for instance if you value free speech and wish to enshrine that in the way you actually run the forum. TR, as I recall, was created based on a management approach: more moderation than RnR, more opennes and respect for members than II.

So if perfection is to be achieved, it's a multiverse of perfections rather than a single bright shining example.

Quote:
There are, obviously, many different directions to go with this, but the one that interests me, at this point, is the reality of working a 'true democracy' as a means of governance. Can it be done successfully with a large user-base?

Okay, let's pinpoint the elements of democracy.
  1. universal sufferage
  2. guaranteed liberties
  3. checks and balances on power
  4. everyone has equal opportunity to govern
Do those sound right to y'all? Anything else you'd add?

I think those are achievable in a forum, but not particularly desirable using the standard software. The Slashdot-style approach probably comes the closest, and not only is it done successfully with a large user base, but the user base is so huge that more conventional forum administration would never, ever work.

(Not to mention the software itself would likely fail. Enormous forums like Gaia Online run on a phpBB platform but it is so customized it's barely recognizable. They also have something like 10 servers to split out the load. Avatars on one, images on another, user tables on another, etc.)

Sticking with the more vanilla phpBB/vB system, I'm not sure about elections and equal opportunity on forums. What the membership wants may not be in concert with the goals of the founders, and in my experience, people already pick staff based on social elements like activity and interest rather than whether they are in harmony with the forum ethos and have the personal characteristics that make for a good mod. Opening the choice up to the whole community means a thousand people will pick based on their own standards, not on the ones you'd wish them to use.


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PostPosted: 08 Jan 2009, 11:11 
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jess wrote:
Quote:
To have proper civic engagement, you need to understand change.
Change is dissatisfaction with the status quo combined with a shared vision combined with an inclusive market driven plan.

Market driven plan? I don't know what he means by that.

Quote:
In order to create civil health and quality of life, you need to :
define the current reality, realisticly
create a shared vision
prepare a comprehensive strategic plan.

Sounds good to me.

Quote:
You need to have healthy public policies

Not roads but rules and administrative policies in the case of forums. Check.

Quote:
You need to build organizational capacity

Hmm... Would that translate to things like moderation standards or even subforum structure? I'm not sure exactly what this bit would describe in a forum context.

Quote:
You need supportive environments

Do you? I think it's possible to have a successful online community without a supportive bone in its body. Unlike rl communities, forums are often designed to appeal to a very specific subset of people, so there doesn't have to be something for everybody.

Quote:
You need to enhance personal awareness, knowledge and support skills

Maybe among the staff, but I don't see that as a necessary goal for the membership.

Quote:
And you need to reorient community actions from reactive to proactive.

True that, as much as possible, of course. There will always be new challenges.

Quote:
Inclusiveness is vital. Without it, the community will fail.

I think this depends on expectations. If people don't expect to be included and you don't piss them off to much in other ways, I think the community can chug along quite merrily.


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PostPosted: 08 Jan 2009, 11:48 
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This is a copy of a post I made at Garnet's forum:
Quote:
Ideally, I would like to see an internet discussion board that caters to people who like to socialize (e.g. arts, culture, hobbies, life, etc...) and discuss a variety of intellectual issues (e.g religion, politics, science) in a relatively civil environment. This board would cater to many people who come from a variety of religious and political worldviews.

Am I asking too much here? Am I being a utopian dreamer? Is it possible for a discussion board like that to exist without disintegrating into either a 1984 or Lord of the Flies scenario? Can a board like that succeed and avoid the pitfalls and failures that occurred at places like CF, IIDB, TR, UC, HH and RnR?


I'd personally prefer a board that didn't cater to a predominant worldview (e.g. HH, RnR, IIDB for nontheists, UB and CF for Christians, RatPags for Pagans, etc...). Instead, it should cater to a diversity of people who share an interest in intellectual discussion and social discourse. In other words, it should not be just an "atheist board" or "Christian board" but a board for human beings.

Regarding the troubles at TR, here's a post I made in the In Confidence forum recently:

Quote:
I think the root of the dysfunction among staff lies in the social assumptions present. They seem to assume that everyone is well-intentioned and structure is all that matters.

"If we just had the right procedures then everything will be just hunky-dory." Nonsense. I'd hate to see this mistaken assumption result in the death of TR.


You can't have a board community that will have much confidence in its leadership if it means compromising with people who are there just for "shits and giggles".

Finally, I think it's best for the mods to rely on discretion and general guidelines rather than a complicated bunch of rules and procedures that could be gamed. But if you must have some written rules, use the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Simple Stupid). I agree with the simple "Don't be a jerk" rule. It can be difficult to define a "jerk" but it's kind of like pornography -- you just know it when you see it. A board community would just have to place their trust in the administration that their understanding of what a "jerk" is are sync with each other. If not, then they can vote with their feet.

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Last edited by Redshirt on 08 Jan 2009, 11:57, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: 08 Jan 2009, 11:49 
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(From another thread--- I hope it's ok...)

Maverick wrote:
Hey Liv, you know I like you and value your opinion, but I do find issue with quite a bit of what you are saying. Yes, IIDB had many issues, but a good percentage of them boil down to the fact that it got too big to manage using the old methods. Take your complaints about the quality of moderators and their moderation. The sheer number of posts to read with no good way of job sharing leads to skimming and using crutches like "report a post". This was a known issue for years, but we never found a good solution for it. Also, because of the size it was hard to really get a good feel for a person before you made them a mod.

Now, don't take this as disparaging your site, but it is orders of magnitude smaller than IIDB was and even what FRDB is now. I am sure you have a good feel for almost all of the regular posters and know them enough to know which ones would be good mods. At IIDB a mod candidate would be presented and I would often need to rely of the opinions of others that supposedly "knew" this person to make a decision. Yes, I would read up on their posts, but reading posts in isolation from the rest of the ebb and flow of the discussions doesn't help much.

Yes, we held on to questionable mods too long. It is not an easy thing to fire a volunteer that is actually trying to help you. There is also the inevitable backlash from one faction or another over any type of move like that.

I know that IIDB had many problems, but I contend that any forum that had reached the size that IIDB did would have just as many. Add to that the fact that the topics covered lend to heated arguments doesn't help either. I just don't think there are easy answers. RnR, HH, TR, FF, and others have tried to find their own answers to varying degrees of success. I am happy for you that FF has a stable base of posters and seems to be thriving at that level. RnR had a wild ride upward and just as quickly has fallen back down, and I don't think they are done sliding. I think TR is at a tipping point. The actions taken now are going to make a big difference on what direction it will go. I hope it does well because it has a lot of good people running it, but unfortunately good people and good intentions sometimes are not enough.


....hmm that was a rambling post - sorry about that, but work calls....



I think size has a lot to do with it, and I think TR is suffering from iidb baggage even as they are a new board. Probably all the spinoff boards did at the start. While ratpags is a iidb child, it doesn't have the same issue, probably because it was founded not so much as a response to a problem seen at iidb so much as it was a recognition that individually, we were not the only pagans who found solace at iidb as opposed to a pagan board, and we could create a more appropriate home for us.

Regardless, I think that our Magrathea is a good idea and will hopefully help us grow. It's a positive way to grow and develop without waiting for pressure to build up and we crack.

I hope we get to that point... ;)

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PostPosted: 08 Jan 2009, 11:57 
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A market driven plan in a board's case would be a plan that focuses on pleasing the membership, and growing it, as far as who is desired as members.

Organizational capacity I assume would be that the system works, and that mods and admins don't have their hands tied or have to run for advice every time they need to do something.

Quote:
Quote:
You need supportive environments

Do you? I think it's possible to have a successful online community without a supportive bone in its body. Unlike rl communities, forums are often designed to appeal to a very specific subset of people, so there doesn't have to be something for everybody.


I'm under the impression that all boards are for support. Not 'poor baby, have a drink' support but 'no, you aren't the only one! I like XXX as well!' support.

A board populated by people who want to tear down the board or it's members is not supportive, and members will leave.

Quote:
Quote:
You need to enhance personal awareness, knowledge and support skills

Maybe among the staff, but I don't see that as a necessary goal for the membership.


I think members need to have basic skills and knowledge. We are here to grow and to have fun. We need to provide a place where than can be done.


Quote:
Quote:
And you need to reorient community actions from reactive to proactive.

True that, as much as possible, of course. There will always be new challenges.


I think it's important to watch for the canaries. Not to obey them, but not to think 'it ain't broke' because boards move too fast. They need to constantly evolve, or they will snap under the pressure.

What changes has FF made over the years to prevent spliting open?


Quote:
Quote:
Inclusiveness is vital. Without it, the community will fail.

I think this depends on expectations. If people don't expect to be included and you don't piss them off to much in other ways, I think the community can chug along quite merrily.


True--- but having the option to help make a decision and the proof that they are listened to is vital. (Even if the answer is no).

While most of a community will not care where the library is put, you don't include any of them, and then part of the community will be up in arms against it.

Kinda like the 'don't whine if you didn't vote'. :)

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PostPosted: 08 Jan 2009, 12:18 
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jess wrote:
I have a question that may be major.

Is it possible to moderate a forum evenly?

Like I said in the other thread, it's an asymptote. I think it's important that it be a goal because fairness matters a lot to me, and I've witnessed (hell, I've done) some seriously shady shit.
Quote:
(Not saying to throw caution to the wind, but rather is it really just to complain when a board is not moderated 'evenly' all the time?)

Depends on the board. If it's the "don't piss off the mods" type of forum, and man are there lots of those, then you take your chances and stfu. If the board wants to incarnate principles like rational discourse, however, then it does have a responsibility, I think, to reflect those principles in its administrative approach.

Quote:
Even on photobucket, I've had cheesecake pics removed for 'violating rules' when other cake pics that are far more ... you know... have been left up for years...

You gotta rat people out to get action on those kinds of places.


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PostPosted: 08 Jan 2009, 12:30 
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Redshirt wrote:
You can't have a board community that will have much confidence in its leadership if it means compromising with people who are there just for "shits and giggles".

I think you can. I think "shits and giggles" is as good a reason as any to post on most boards, unless there is some specific underlying membership requirement, like a board for people with x illness, for instance.

Quote:
Finally, I think it's best for the mods to rely on discretion and general guidelines rather than a complicated bunch of rules and procedures that could be gamed. But if you must have some written rules, use the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Simple Stupid). I agree with the simple "Don't be a jerk" rule. It can be difficult to define a "jerk" but it's kind of like pornography -- you just know it when you see it. A board community would just have to place their trust in the administration that their understanding of what a "jerk" is are sync with each other. If not, then they can vote with their feet.

I actually really hate the "jerk" standard. I have seriously never once seen it work. It's just not sufficient. Things will come up to which "don't be a jerk" is a total non-sequitur.


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PostPosted: 08 Jan 2009, 12:43 
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I'm willing to throw up our current guides to be ripped apart.

Quote:
Things we want to make clear about the board:

1) We'd love to see the serious discussion of all things scientific and rational. On the flip side, we also love to see silly and fun discussion of all things as well.

2) We'd love to have a community of tolerant people, capable of respecting the views of others, even if they disagree.

3) To maintain support and resources especially for pagans, but also for those who frequent the board.

4) Please remember this is a discussion board. People are expected to ask you questions and want to discuss your posts and comments. Do not post here, have people question you, then refuse to answer them on the grounds that it 'makes you uncomfortable' or that you 'do not have an obligation to defend your views'. There are plenty of places where everyone on the board will agree with you. Post things you do not want to actually discuss there.

5) "Shut up" (and the like) is not considered a valid argument or counter-argument. Also, single-line responses should be avoided in serious discussion, unless extremely poignant; please avoid 'snarky-ness'.

6) In The Commons discussion area, please make every effort to attack an argument or fact/ evidence/ assertion in a post, and not the poster themselves. Also, please recognize that this is not, in any way, a popularity contest. Each poster should be treated as an equal in the debates.

7) Every area on the board has a different set of 'civility rules'. Some are solely for support, some are for light discussion, some for debate, and some are for hands-off rough-and-tumble exchange. Please pay attention to where you are posting. Posts that do not fit with the 'theme' of the forum in which they've been posted will be moved to one where they are, edited to fit, moved to storage, or eliminated completely. While such actions may be appealed, please recognize that such actions will be taken by mods and admins as they see fit for the situations. In short, please police your actions yourself and we'll have no need to step in.


That said, we do have places for the 'gloves to come off' and where one can call a troll a troll. As long as you can hold up the decorum where and when needed, then you're welcome.


7A) Due to the fact that your avatar and signature are viewable everywhere you post, and if changed after posting they will change on all of your previous posts, no matter where, please keep both safe enough to be posted in Kwan-yin's Tea Room.

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PostPosted: 08 Jan 2009, 12:43 
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jess wrote:
I think size has a lot to do with it, and I think TR is suffering from iidb baggage even as they are a new board. Probably all the spinoff boards did at the start.

Not FF. :D I know, I know... I might just be a tad biased there. Seriously though, vm and I spent 6 months designing FF. The II experience was certainly a large element in the process, but TR is actually trying to fold various aspects of II into itself. That's a whole different monkey.

Quote:
While ratpags is a iidb child, it doesn't have the same issue, probably because it was founded not so much as a response to a problem seen at iidb so much as it was a recognition that individually, we were not the only pagans who found solace at iidb as opposed to a pagan board, and we could create a more appropriate home for us.

Makes sense.

Quote:
Regardless, I think that our Magrathea is a good idea and will hopefully help us grow. It's a positive way to grow and develop without waiting for pressure to build up and we crack.

I hope we get to that point... ;)

You need warm bodies to grow, though. Have you done any recruiting? Since your threads are not Googleable, you don't get many drop-ins, that means you have to actively seek out membership through word of mouth, and get the URL out there. One way of doing the latter is to include a link in your sig at other boards. Another way is to join higher traffic, nicely SEO'd forums about forums and post about your place.

The Admin Zone is the best of the bunch, even though they sneered at us when we were building FF. (They're big on moderation, needless to say.)


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PostPosted: 08 Jan 2009, 12:45 
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livius drusus wrote:
Redshirt wrote:
You can't have a board community that will have much confidence in its leadership if it means compromising with people who are there just for "shits and giggles".

I think you can. I think "shits and giggles" is as good a reason as any to post on most boards, unless there is some specific underlying membership requirement, like a board for people with x illness, for instance.


-- as long as their "shits and giggles" don't get in the way of other people's serious discussions. Someone who's there to have fun, sure. Someone whose idea of fun is to annoy other people can fuck off.


As for "jerk," IIDB changed it to "disruptive," though I had and have no problem with "jerk." That's genral enough that it can be enforced against people who are doing the message board of equivalent of "I'm not touching you! I'm not touching you! You can't get me in trouble 'cause I'm not touching you!" These are the people who seem to think that it is their job to dance around the boundaries of the rules and be as annoying as possible.

When the rules have flexibility, sometimes these people can get trapped over a line they hadn't thought they'd crossed, and that's a good thing.

Note that, in the case of someone who was on or over the edge who hadn't had a history of "I'm not touching you," then they can be forgiven while the person who's just there to cause trouble likely will not be. That's the benefit of doing as much as you can on a case by case basis.

Rob

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