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  1.    #1  
    Recently there has been some ado about how the off-topic forums have been moderated. I'd like to share the results of extensive conversation between Marcus, the other moderators, and myself.

    First: Please read the forum guidelines.

    Second: The moderators have exercised their powers in what I can only describe as a fair and restrained manner. Moderating discussion boards is a difficult and (increasingly) thankless job. They have done an excellent job, without qualification or exception.

    Third: Civility of discourse is a difficult thing to judge, which is why we take care in choosing moderators. Recently, the level of civility in the forums dropped precipitiously and the moderators took appropriate action. These moderators have a tough job. They deserve your respect. Neither I, Marcus, nor any of the moderators will allow otherwise.

    Fourth: There have been and will be some complaints about moderation decisions. The first appropriate place for them is a private message to the moderator. Or you may email me anytime at dieter@treocentral.com . Finally, you may also private message me. Because bans are often quite personal to the people involved, all of us have decided that concerns about them will be dealt with privately.

    The following are clarifications rather than changes about how we moderate:

    Post moderation will occur as follows:

    1st time) PM/Email warning. The text of your post will be replaced with "Sent to user for re-wording". (a second warning may be sent out at the moderator's discretion)

    2nd time) 1 week suspension.

    3rd time) Permanent suspension.

    ...of course, egregious cases and spam will result in an escalated process - at the moderator's discretion.

    Thread moderation will occur as follows:

    A moderator will close the thread with an explanation. Unless the thread is especially egregious (or spam), it will remain visible. Again, this falls within moderator discretion.

    ----

    I'll also note that while we do not intend to close down political, religious, or other off-topic threads en masse, I do intend on keeping a close eye on them. Heated is fine, getting personal is not nor will it ever be.

    Questions and concerns about the above are best directed to me - dieter@treocentral.com . As Community Editor - I've taken responsibility for the forums off of Marcus' shoulders. I'll leave this thread open on the assumption that we can keep it civil.
  2.    #2  
    On a more personal note - I do think that the off-topic forum is a valuable way to build community. I understand that it's natural to want to discuss politics and religion and that these sorts of discussions can quickly become very personal or heated. My own personal rule of thumb for participating in these threads is to assume that everybody is posting in 'good faith' - i.e. not trolling, baiting, insulting, etc. For the most part, that's how it's been here and I really think these are interesting discussions. The off-topic forum is a fun place, I hope we can all work to also keep it safe and civil.
  3. #3  
    Just call me Berd.
  4. NRG
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  5. #5  
    I have emailed my thoughts.
  6. #6  
    I really like the idea of having the mod offer his/her explanation for closing a thread. It helps teach (and remind) us where the line is on 'heated' v. 'personal'.

    Thanks.
    Palm III-->Palm IIIxe-->Palm 505-->Samsung i300-->Treo 600-->PPC 6600-->Treo 650-->Treo 700wx-->BB Pearl--> BB Curve

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    #7  
    Quote Originally Posted by t2gungho
    I really like the idea of having the mod offer his/her explanation for closing a thread. It helps teach (and remind) us where the line is on 'heated' v. 'personal'.

    Thanks.
    I second that, and although TC has decided otherwise, I think it should apply to suspensions/bannings as well. The primary purpose of any such "disciplinary actions" is (or should be) deterrence. Others cannot be deterred by an action they do not understand or of which they are unaware.

    Thanks to the mods for all they do.
    ... Als sie mich holten, gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.
    ... Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out.
    -- Rev. Martin Niemöller

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  8. #8  
    I do not have the time to do so right now, however, an email will be forthcoming. For the record, and I hope this isn't seen as inappropriate, I see very little in your post that answers the many questions myself and other TC'ers had regarding certain actions. I do, however, thank you for your response. Again, I'll email my thoughts when I have the time to formulate them.
    Go here if you're tired of being .
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  9. #9  
    Quote Originally Posted by kvcobra
    Others cannot be deterred by an action they do not understand or of which they are unaware.
    We have an expectation that our users are aware of and understand the forum guidelines. The deterrence is explicit... do this or that and you risk thread deletion, banning, etc. For example, all the threads that were closed or deleted during this latest episode were done so (at least IMHO) because they contained personal attacks against other users and/or moderators. That's clearly spelled out in the guidelines as behaviour that is not tolerated. For someone to say they don't "understand" or were "unaware" is not acceptable as far as I'm concerned. As they say "ignorance of the law is no excuse".

    ...

    On a personal note, I object to the insinuation by some that we (the mods) are always at fault. Now, I'm not saying we're perfect, but we're not the bunch of ogre's that some would lead you to believe either. As far as I can remember, all mod actions have been taken as a result of one or more users actions. We have never swooped in and banned users or closed threads because we don't like them or what they're saying (well... we do do that with spammers, but that's another story ). I don't think we've ever "censored" anything. There's been plenty of touchy subjects discussed in OT over the years. It's only when that line (acknowledged to be a very thin, gray area) has been crossed that we've intervened.
    .
    .....
    MarkEagle
    .....<a href="http://discussion.treocentral.com/tcforum/index.php?s=">TreoCentral</a> | <a href="http://discussion.visorcentral.com/vcforum/index.php?s=">VisorCentral</a> Forum Moderator - Forum Guidelines
    .....Sprint PCS Treo 650
    .....God bless America, my home sweet home...
  10. #10  
    Quote Originally Posted by MarkEagle
    We have an expectation that our users are aware of and understand the forum guidelines. The deterrence is explicit... do this or that and you risk thread deletion, banning, etc. For example, all the threads that were closed or deleted during this latest episode were done so (at least IMHO) because they contained personal attacks against other users and/or moderators.
    The fact that you clarified your statement with 'IMHO' gives me the indication that you're not 100% sure why every single thread was closed. That's ok (not to be 100% sure) but it would be much easier to say if a very short explanation was given when the thread was closed. (Then if it still wasnt clear, PM the mod.)

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkEagle
    It's only when that line (acknowledged to be a very thin, gray area) has been crossed that we've intervened.
    That is kind of the point though...that "very thin gray area" is often subjective and difficult to see (especially for new members). I am sure if I sit down I can find some threads where they were closed and its not quite clear why (the last one I PM'd a mod on was a thread on Flag Burning. I looked over the thread and didnt see the personal attack that was evidently the reason for closing it per what a Mod told me via PM).

    Proof of the difficulty in seeing the gray area is probably in your PM's...I know if I don't understand why a thread was closed, I have PM'd a mod. I bet you have had this happen to you. If it has (i.e. you've been PM'd), then thats evidence that at least someone wasnt clear why the thread was closed.

    It also has the added benefit of giving the perception that it was not closed arbitrarily. (I'm not saying anyone is...but you addressed this 'insinuation' above in your post because its floated around...so doing something to improve the perception seems helpful.)

    (I understand why a mod might not want to provide an explanation (because putting a reason gives someone something they can argue about)...but I think the pros outweigh the cons...IMHO )
    Palm III-->Palm IIIxe-->Palm 505-->Samsung i300-->Treo 600-->PPC 6600-->Treo 650-->Treo 700wx-->BB Pearl--> BB Curve

  11. #11  
    Quote Originally Posted by t2gungho
    The fact that you clarified your statement with 'IMHO' gives me the indication that you're not 100% sure why every single thread was closed.
    I used the "IMHO" simply because I knew others would disagree.

    Actually, I am very certain why each thread was closed. It was discussed at length amongst the mod staff before, during, and after. We even questioned ourselves on several occasions. There was no dissention in the ranks.


    That is kind of the point though...that "very thin gray area" is often subjective and difficult to see (especially for new members).
    Agreed... but IIRC there weren't any "new" members involved in the latest adventures. They were all "seasoned" OT veterans.


    I am sure if I sit down I can find some threads where they were closed and its not quite clear why
    Sure, especially if it's a topic that's near and dear to your heart. But just because you don't understand doesn't mean we were wrong, does it?

    For example (and I'll refrain from using the terms "left" and "right" ), let's say there's a group of users over "here" and another over "there". Someone "here" crosses that thin line and we take action. Everyone over "there" cheers and applauds while those "here" moan and complain. Sometimes, a few from BOTH sides will join together and voice their displeasure. Certainly someone's bound to not understand (or at least claim not to).


    I bet you have had this happen to you. If it has (i.e. you've been PM'd), then thats evidence that at least someone wasnt clear why the thread was closed.
    To be honest, I can count on one hand the number of PM's I received myself pertaining to my (or any other mod's) actions. And that's in 6 years of doing this!


    I understand why a mod might not want to provide an explanation (because putting a reason gives someone something they can argue about)
    We all know that no matter what, why, or how something happens, at least one person won't be happy about it.

    ...

    Another personal interjection: as a moderator, while I may not like someone's "politics" (or any other topic for that matter), I really can't (and don't) take that into consideration when evaluating a given situation. And yes, I admit it's sometimes subjective. The bottom line is you (or anybody for that matter) may not like or understand why something was done. That, in and of itself, does not make the action wrong, and it's that insinuation that bothers me. Again, IMHO, all the explaining in the world won't make that go away. It may help some to understand, but just as easily incite others. It's the proverbial "no-win" situation.
    .
    .....
    MarkEagle
    .....<a href="http://discussion.treocentral.com/tcforum/index.php?s=">TreoCentral</a> | <a href="http://discussion.visorcentral.com/vcforum/index.php?s=">VisorCentral</a> Forum Moderator - Forum Guidelines
    .....Sprint PCS Treo 650
    .....God bless America, my home sweet home...
  12. #12  
    First off, thanks for the willingness to clarify/answer questions. My intention is not to critique but rather make the argument for providing explanations to thread closures.
    Quote Originally Posted by MarkEagle
    I used the "IMHO" simply because I knew others would disagree.
    Fair enough...but based upon what you say below, no mods would disagree, only posters.

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkEagle
    Sure, especially if it's a topic that's near and dear to your heart. But just because you don't understand doesn't mean we were wrong, does it?
    Of course not. Like I said before, I don't think mods are necesarilly doing anything wrong...its a tough job finding the line. A lot of the discussion here is near and dear to my heart...I care a lot about many things. My point is only that I think providing a short explanation does more good than harm.

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkEagle
    For example (and I'll refrain from using the terms "left" and "right" ), let's say there's a group of users over "here" and another over "there". Someone "here" crosses that thin line and we take action. Everyone over "there" cheers and applauds while those "here" moan and complain. Sometimes, a few from BOTH sides will join together and voice their displeasure. Certainly someone's bound to not understand (or at least claim not to).
    I agree...but I think that the complaints will be less in number if a short explanation is given. The reason (and the process) is more transparent and the less arbitrary (at least its perception).

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkEagle
    To be honest, I can count on one hand the number of PM's I received myself pertaining to my (or any other mod's) actions. And that's in 6 years of doing this!
    Fair enough...(you're just not popular ) but why would someone complain to you about another mods actions? Is there a moderator hierarchy that I don't know about? Are the PM's recent over more current moderator actions and do people raise the question why? It seems like there are threads that pop up whenever there is a closure (and people cannot figure what was offensive).

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkEagle
    We all know that no matter what, why, or how something happens, at least one person won't be happy about it.
    I agree...you can't make everyone happy. But we shouldnt let that be an argument to not try to make things better. That being said, you already admitted that insinuations fly about moderator heavy handedness and bias...I think those would be lessened by providing the short explanations.

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkEagle
    The bottom line is you (or anybody for that matter) may not like or understand why something was done. That, in and of itself, does not make the action wrong, and it's that insinuation that bothers me. Again, IMHO, all the explaining in the world won't make that go away. It may help some to understand, but just as easily incite others. It's the proverbial "no-win" situation.
    I can agree with that...but at least if there was an explanation...other members could understand it and explain it. As it is now, even if I agree with the mods actions...its not always easy to pinpoint why the action was necessary.

    The insinuation that you dislike above occurs because of the ambiguity of closing something without saying why. When its unclear why, then anyone can pretty much say anything in blaming the mods because they left no reason why. Therefore, if the insinuation is really the issue, posting a short explanation would go along way to make the process more transparent.

    I won't keep dragging this discussion out...you've taken some valuable time and made some valid points. I can (and will) live with however the moderation is done...I just care about the board and would like the decisions that are made be more transparent and less vulnerable to personal attack by claims of bias.
    Palm III-->Palm IIIxe-->Palm 505-->Samsung i300-->Treo 600-->PPC 6600-->Treo 650-->Treo 700wx-->BB Pearl--> BB Curve

  13. #13  
    I just want to confess how embarrassed --- chagrined -- I am that anything that I said here might have been perceived as having been at all critical of the mods.

    I truly think the mods are doing a wonderfully fabulous job. Thank goodness for their work. I have always thought that in my heart of hearts.

    I never had any doubt whatsoever as to why any thread got closed.

    Oh there were some moments of weakness when I let myself get influenced and manipulated by those malcontents and troublemakers. I wanted them to like me -- but really I didn't mean any of those stupid things I wrote.

    In fact I feel so strongly about this that I'm willing to even inform on my own family -- beginning with my twin brother. I know where he and his friends secretly meet and conspire. To prove my loyalty I'll gladly continue to pretend like I agree with their bad beliefs and tell you what they're saying and planning.

    It is my sincere hope that each and every one of the three thousand + people who have followed this saga by going out of their way to read about this controversy, similarly express their heartfelt appreciation and loyalty to the mods.

    Long Live the MODS !!

    (nurse, I'm ready for my electroshock therapy now ... zzzzz...zzzzz...zzzZZ!!!)
    Last edited by BARYE; 07/13/2006 at 03:25 AM.
    755P Sprint SERO (upgraded from unlocked GSM 650 on T-Mobile)
  14. #14  
    Septimus writes:

    "Second: The moderators have exercised their powers in what I can only describe as a fair and restrained manner. Moderating discussion boards is a difficult and (increasingly) thankless job. They have done an excellent job, without qualification or exception."

    If this is now the official position of TC, then the days of reasonable and open discourse in the OT forums are dead and gone.

    Mark Eagle said:

    "We have never swooped in and banned users or closed threads because we don't like them or what they're saying (well... we do do that with spammers, but that's another story ). I don't think we've ever "censored" anything. There's been plenty of touchy subjects discussed in OT over the years. It's only when that line (acknowledged to be a very thin, gray area) has been crossed that we've intervened.
    "

    Well, many here disagree with that. The truth is that the mods have been arbitrary and capricious. You close threads with no explanation and no warning, and it's often impossible to figure why one thread gets closed when other, similar threads stay open. You delete posts based on the flimsiest of complaints (it seems that your unstated goal is to create oatmeal: if ANYONE complains about a post, that complaint is automatically assumed to be valid, so posts must be cleansed to the point where they offend no one), and you ban members for increasingly capricious reasons (most often, it seems, for critcizing a mod).

    The mods here act as if they are not only judge, jury and executioner, but as if they stand at God's right hand, and cannot be questioned or criticized.

    In truth, TC's moderators have become among the most ham-fisted of the boards and maillists I've used. And those boards that are worse have, surprise surprise, memberships that stabilize at a very low level, as those who are able to handle real discussions go elsewhere.

    I don't think it's coincidence that ratio of really useful information to noise has declined precipitiously. Many of the forum members who provided the most help to me when I had my 600, and when I first got my 650, seem to be gone, or to check in only occasionally. And TC is poorer for their absence.

    Are the mods always wrong? Of course not. Do some posters go well over the line? Of course they do. But so do the mods.

    (If this criticism of the mods gets me banned, so be it. I don't believe anyone is above criticsm, and if the mods are really that arbitrary it pretty well proves my point, doesn't it?)
    Bob Meyer
    I'm out of my mind. But feel free to leave a message.
  15. #15  
    I am sad that the question I posed refarding toolkits banning threats and name calling of me have been ignored.

    a shame.
  16. #16  
    I have been on line isnce the late 1980's and started running forums in 1991. I still run (wizop) Compuserve's Home & Building Forum and serve as a "sysop" on the PC Hardware and Windows NT/2k/XPPro Forum. Compuserve stands out as the most "flame free" series of sites I have had the pleasure of visiting.

    I accredit this to sevral factors:

    1. Until relatively recently and as a result of the AOL logic settling in from when AOL bought CSi, forum users were required to use their full names. People are much less likley to stop being civil when such behavior is attributed to their person.

    2. Off topic was offsite. Csi has / had hundreds of forums covering every topic. When a political discussion popped up on PC Hardware for example, a staff response referring the poster to the "Politics Forum" was posed and the thread moved from public view. I mean we did have an open section where we tell jokes and give our "howz the family" kinda posts....but anything that "brought strife" was moved to a closed section. No one is curbing free speech .... we just sending you to the approrpriate corner and have a soapbox ready and waiting for ya.

    Personally, I much prefer that structure....I come hear to read Treo stuff and would prefer not to have to sift thru diatribes from either side as I wade my way thgru the "New Posts" lists.
  17. Haggar's Avatar
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    #17  
    I'd like to place my final 2 cents on the table here...

    As someone who prides himself in being rather…irreverent…I honestly never found myself interested in visiting the OT threads. I'm not known around here as one to be particularly "helpful" when it comes to technical questions. In fact, I’m honestly surprised that I have never received a PM from ANYONE (mods, or otherwise) telling me to "cool it". I’d say I had a tendency to posts very OT in some of those inappropriate places…and was never once asked to stop it.

    Right around the time this whole “situation” began, someone had PM'd me and said "have you seen this..." They pointed me to several of the OT threads...including the one in which dstrauss was essentially berated for his political views.

    I spent several hours sifting through the OT threads. It became patently obvious to a conservative guy like me that straussy was being called on the carpet not for a personal attack -- but for his point of view. And upon review of dozens of other threads it I became angry as I saw the tendency that mods (and certain posters) had to ignore inflammatory remarks from some users while ignoring others.

    Call me a right-wing wacko (I’d agree to the first 2/3 of that statement) but just as I don’t believe that a journalist can provide a truly “unbiased” story, I don’t buy for one second that a moderator’s personal opinions don’t affect their regulation of the boards. This isn’t an indictment of the mods -- we are ALL human and humans are biased creatures by nature.

    What I object to is an unequal application of the rules and regulations. And that is exactly what I saw – and continue to see – in the OT threads on TC. Before posting this, I reviewed several current topics and could point to at least 4 specific personal attacks that were made by 2 different individuals that have gone unchecked. These are posts from within the last 48 hours. I was offended by them. I’m not saying this sarcastically or cynically – I was truly offended. And yet the posts remain…the threads remain…and the 2 individuals who posted these statements have not been banner nor, to my knowledge, spoken to about their comments.

    Now – did I mark those posts as offensive? Did I even name those people or threads here? No. I’m a big boy. Those folks are entitled to their opinion and if I really wanted to, I could simply post my rebuttal.

    The problem is that folks like me don’t feel comfortable posting our rebuttals because some how WE become the ones who are inflammatory. When we get offended and defend our point of view, it seems that some how our point of view is viewed as a personal attack. From what I’ve surmised this kind of behavior is most commonly occurring with some specific mods and usually against some specific posters and/or specific points of view.

    I was a lurker for several years and finally took the step a couple of months ago to become an active (and hopefully somewhat fun) poster around here. Regardless of what was said at the beginning of this thread I do not see ANY attempt to honestly and serious address the issues that many of us had. It appears to me that early on someone said “this will blow over…just give it a few days” – and that didn’t happen. Finally someone decided they needed to address it so we could all exhale and be done with it.

    From the responses so far…this one included…I hope the TC staff can see that the heavy handedness -- and the apparent blindness to it – has turned off MANY of us.

    Losing me as a regular contributor isn’t a big loss. I don’t add much to the “treoness” of TC…but there are MANY quality posters around here who, if not totally leaving TC, will divide their time elsewhere.
    Luminary? You've got to be kidding!
  18.    #18  
    We'll have to agree to disagree about the 'heavy-handedness' of moderation here. I would like people to report posts without too much hesitation. Or barring that, PM me directly.

    In an email to a user that wrote to me about this I said that "reasonable people can and will disagree about" where the line should be on moderation. I'll also add that reasonable people can perceive the same act of moderation completely differently.

    I'll note that it not reasonable to say that the mods act "as if they were god's right hand."
  19. #19  
    Septimus,

    I have dealt with the OT forum by liberal use of the "ignore" function targeted at the obvious poo-flingers. (I am not using this metaphor to point at the late Insertion here. I miss his presence on TC. I am using the metaphor to approximate the true flavor of much of the OT Forum's tone).

    I wish that TC had an "ignore" function for the entire OT Forum so I wouldn't be bothered by seeing topics when I hit "New Posts."

    I would echo many of Haggar's comments -- I stay away from the OT Forum except for occasional forays into the "New Game - One Letter" thread. I do so because of the participants' behavior.

    There are a few participants who really attempt to listen to the other person and respond with civility. On the whole, however, there appears to be no discourse -- just a pack of dogs barking at every passing car and then congratulating themselves on chasing That Thing away.

    I know it will stun some people to hear this, but it is entirely possible to discuss politics and religion without name calling. It is entirely possible to discuss politics and religion without the discussion becoming "heated." There are even some people in the OT Forum who show how this can be done. Unfortunately they do not often have a similarly mature participant in the conversation.

    Assuming that TC chooses to host an OT Forum, some moderation is necessary. As you noted, this is a judgment game. Where you draw the line and how you handle enforcement is a judgment game. Opinions will differ about your performance. Sometimes (gasp) you might even make mistakes. Oh well.

    Being a moderator is a thankless job. By and large you guys do great work. I'm thinking of a thread that Ronbo2000 cleaned up -- it started talking about Fry's and Treo pricing and ended up talking about porn and parental responsibility. He deftly fixed that problem.

    Sometimes the moderators goof up. No hard feelings. You fix the problem and move on. I think many of us on TC have made mistakes of judgment at once or twice. Not recently, of course.

    So thank you. Draw your gray lines. Use your best judgment. As t2gungho has been suggesting, the sooner everyone knows how the lines are being drawn -- by example and by explanation sometimes -- the sooner you might get people to understand what works and what doesn't.

    As for those who persist, well, the old saw of "a resentment and a coffee pot = a new group" is about right.
    Last edited by Tastypeppers; 07/13/2006 at 11:20 AM. Reason: Couldn't spell the word "well" properly. Fixed.
  20.    #20  
    have dealt with the OT forum by liberal use of the "ignore" function targeted at the obvious poo-flingers. (I am not using this metaphor to point at the late Insertion here. I miss his presence on TC. I am using the metaphor to approximate the true flavor of much of the OT Forum's tone).
    I'm guessing this is a monkey joke here?

    I wish that TC had an "ignore" function for the entire OT Forum so I wouldn't be bothered by seeing topics when I hit "New Posts."
    You make two really good points about ignore. As to your second one, that might happen. In the meantime, you can use the following link for new posts to all the forums except off topic:

    http://discussion.treocentral.com/se...tnew&exclude=6
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