Habitual Problem Posters

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Nalates
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Habitual Problem Posters

Post by Nalates » Sun Mar 28, 2010 9:10 pm

The recent moderator issues in the larger Myst-Uru community brings up an ideological issue for me and that ties into how forums are moderated. In some ways we have considered some of this but I think material takes on a different aspect.

I believe bad behavior on a forum cannot be corrected with silence; action needs to be taken. A long term approach to challenging and correcting poor posting styles as well as miss information needs to be in place and used. However, there is the problem of fanning the flames, so to speak, and a basic corrective action is to stop responding. The hope being they will have nothing to respond to and be quite. While it may work in some measure, that action is too subtle for some. It can also play into the hand of an agenda and be used to serve a purpose counterproductive to a forum.

There are also Public Relations matters to consider. How other uninvolved members see and interpret the threads. The impression it gives readers.

I think because in general people give the benefit of doubt and recognize that they don’t have all the information we assume others think and behave similarly, rationally. I recognize some people do not think along those lines. Some are gullible and believe whatever they read. Some are followers. Some are reactive. Handling these fairly remains problematic in the face of those with an agenda that are willing to abuse and distort.

There is the issue of privacy and NDA’s. Privacy on a forum is often a courtesy. For moderators and admins it can also be a matter of avoiding embarrassing members and personal respect. NDA’s Non-Disclosure Agreements are imposed by various entities, usually site owners, to protect information they wish to keep confidential or other legal issues. Admins and moderators can be restricted as to what they can say. Both can severely handicap those that could present facts germane to a subject. Unless one has read a Cyan NDA they can’t know how restrictive it can be. This is an even larger handicap for the forum based Myst community.

Combining all of these things it remains my belief that silence is a poor solution to most of these problems. Those that want to run an agenda can easily work that system. The idea being they can get their ideas out, push the point and have the thread locked. That leaves mostly their posts in place without counters. The more rational and reasoned comments are prevented. My belief is that leaves a slant and misinformation in place.

I have often seen a ‘locking’ or ‘closing’ post placed by the moderator/admin. I think that is a good idea. In controversial threads and especially when we have problem people posting in the thread, I think that final post becomes important. I think it is probably looked at by a significant number of readers, at least I look to see what they wrote.

Having the reason for the lock seems only practical and common courtesy to the forum readers. I also see it as a place to put forth the available facts for the closing. But, that requires moderator time. I also see problems with possible bias in the post when the moderator is involved in the discussion.

I think there is also an opportunity to provide corrective and educational information to the community. Many in the forum have shown they do not to understand various problems seen in posts. I believe people without a strong sense of respect of others are influenced by posting styles they see. Therefore a closing post is one of the few places available to educate and counter poor styles of posting. Rule violations are obvious things to point out and will go in a PM to the offender. Including similar in a closing post would, I think, help others. I think that would put on the record the reason for the moderator action and that could also defeat some agendas. It could also help with quality control for moderators in a public way.

The more subtle posting problems are where there is opportunity to start to make the problems apparent to the community and provide educational material. Moderators’ warning posts could use the same ideas and guidelines as closing posts.

There are community members that consistently use a poor posting style. I suspect in many cases that is lack of understanding or experience, especially in forums where there are lots of young people. For others I suspect it is just a matter of having never thought about it. For others it has become a learned habit. For a few it is deliberate and others their personality. For me the point of placing more educational material in warning and closing posts is to reach people in the earlier groups.

With a good set of rules, guidelines and definitions providing such information could be reasonably simple to provide and mostly impersonal, which of course I hope this section provides. Referring to sections on a subject would be somewhat more direct than what I have seen and yet allow less specific and blunt comments.

Whether or not these posts should be impersonal, avoid statements obviously targeting a specific individual or individuals, is a consideration. In many cases, especially with those repeating a problem, I think a direct response will be more productive. I see these warning and closing posts as needing to escalate as a problem continues. While I think warning posts should generally be more subtle and gentle and closing posts more direct and blunt, I think both would need to escalate the severity of language used when a problem is not resolving.

Not only should the purpose of warning and closing posts be understood by moderators and forum members the direction corrective action is headed should be known in advance. The purpose, in my thinking, is to maintain or improve the quality of posting and the forum environment. Corrective action is directed to eliminate the problem by education resulting in change or when problem posters fail to learn their removal from the forum community.

I think turning these concepts and considerations into guidelines for the fans and moderators is how one implements them. In doing that, the ideological conflict I have is over the effectiveness of ‘not feeding trolls’ and the need to educate and improve the quality of forum posting. (Matters on the philosophy around trolling is in another thread, please discuss those there, thanks).

In discussing a problem post in PM several quotes were provided by one showing the problem phrases a poster was using. None of the individual quotes were particularly offensive. They did set a consistent belittling tone and all were hyperbole. If such quotes were used in a warning post, I’m sure a problem poster would try to debate them. However, I think they would be very educational for all involved. That brings up the idea that discussion of moderator comments is not permitted on forum and must be taken to PM. To discuss even the concepts in a warning or closing post another thread needs to be started. I think the ‘no discussion of moderator posts, rules are in place as off-topic rules.

To some measure we have ideas and guidelines for how to address problem posters in warning posts. Here I am suggesting we add an educational purpose to them and use more obvious examples of the problem by using quotes and references to the writing that is problematic and formalize it in guidelines. Also, enoughs moderators to use references to larger explanatory material less specific to the immediate issue... less specificity about this issue and more generalization about style. It could be less personally threatening and embarrassing to the subject.

Is it acceptable to quote a section of a problem post, point to a rule, a definition or example in the guidelines and warn a poster publically?
Does one start warning levels in private (PM) and then move to public?
When one locks a thread and posts the reasons is it acceptable to again quote and point to rules and examples in public?
When one does lock a thread is a note made in the moderator reference material for future use?
How many warnings and closings are allowed before more serious action is taken?
Nalates
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Re: Habitual Problem Posters

Post by Mac_Fife » Mon Mar 29, 2010 12:01 pm

There are a few things Nalates post that I'd like to comment on, but I can only spare a little time just now, so I'll just pick a point or two for the time being...
Nalates wrote:There is the issue of privacy and NDA’s. Privacy on a forum is often a courtesy. For moderators and admins it can also be a matter of avoiding embarrassing members and personal respect. NDA’s Non-Disclosure Agreements are imposed by various entities, usually site owners, to protect information they wish to keep confidential or other legal issues. Admins and moderators can be restricted as to what they can say. Both can severely handicap those that could present facts germane to a subject. Unless one has read a Cyan NDA they can’t know how restrictive it can be. This is an even larger handicap for the forum based Myst community.
Privacy is certainly an issue, probably NDAs are less so, but it will vary. Here, on OpenURU.org, we operate on a basis of openness in how we manage (almost) everything, so our policy on "bad thread", for example, would be to leave it in place and hold it up as an example: "This is how not to do it", sort of thing. But I'm not sure that it would be proper to publish, say, PM exchanges between a "problem poster" and the site admin. The clue is in title after all, "Private" Message. This becomes especially true if you find that the reason for apparent bad behaviour on the forums is some deeper rooted cause - depression brought about by illness, financial worry, etc.; such things are very personal, very private and not appropriate for public dissemination. These cases can influence the moderation actions, not in respect of the problem posts but how the individual is dealt with.
Nalates wrote:Combining all of these things it remains my belief that silence is a poor solution to most of these problems. Those that want to run an agenda can easily work that system.
I agree, but as commented above, sometimes it may be difficult to say anything that assuages the readers without exposing some private details or opening the way for more questions. Now, taking the other side of the coin, you can argue that if too much is known about how moderation is conducted then hypothetically you can end up giving the "problem posters" more means to prolong any arguments - "Oh, it was reviewed as a team? So how did the vote go? What the views of the other moderators?".
Nalates wrote:I have often seen a ‘locking’ or ‘closing’ post placed by the moderator/admin. I think that is a good idea. In controversial threads and especially when we have problem people posting in the thread, I think that final post becomes important. I think it is probably looked at by a significant number of readers, at least I look to see what they wrote.
That should probably happen in all cases, but again, the level of detail that it may be possible to give might not satisfy everyone.

As, I said, this was just a quick response to a couple of points, not a fully formed reply. I hope to get time to go through this more thoroughly later.

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Nalates
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Re: Habitual Problem Posters

Post by Nalates » Mon Mar 29, 2010 4:17 pm

I think we know not everyone will NOT be pleased. So, it is really a matter of what do we think works best for the most members and moderators. Or... if there is a principal to be held to, regardless of popularity.

I agree content from a PM is expected to remain private. I would consider it a basic rule or guideline. However, a PM can give a moderator information that should color a response.

The bad behavior and objectionable content of a post are already public. Whether it stays should probably depend on whether it is an example of poor behavior, a violation of rules, or misinformation. Posting a link to an illegal download site would be taken down. An example might be made of a subtle ad hominem attack and left up. Misinformation probably should not be left up. However, it's removal may make the rest of the thread unintelligible.

I would rather have a 'misinformation post' removed and suffer a loss of the train of thought in a thread than have it remain. Human memory being what it is, this seems a safer more productive choice.

Once a thread is locked using it for an example then becomes a matter of; that post has these problems... or this is the problem in that post (reference rule, guideline, and examples or definitions) and quoting it. I am advocating the later in situations where a poster is repeating the objectionable behavior.
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Re: Habitual Problem Posters

Post by Nalates » Mon Mar 29, 2010 6:10 pm

The original post is gone... and this is a good example of a warning post and removal.

:) MOUL Warning/Removal Post

It lacks a quote or example but that may be appropriate in this instance.
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Re: Habitual Problem Posters

Post by JWPlatt » Mon Mar 29, 2010 6:20 pm

I saw the unabridged post. It was unacceptable as a quoted example. But it was a good example of how to totally undermine one's own message. Sometimes jumping the shark is naturally self-limiting when all credibility is lost.

Edit: I am reminded, however, that taking some measure of contrite responsibility is an entrace on the road to redemption if they are not unrecoverably habitual.
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Re: Habitual Problem Posters

Post by Nalates » Tue Mar 30, 2010 1:06 am

JWPlatt wrote:I am reminded, however, that taking some measure of contrite responsibility is an entrace on the road to redemption if they are not unrecoverably habitual.
That brings up a good point. How people respond to criticism. One of the games I play in is a rough and tumble role play. People break the rules, loose, cheat, and more. GM moderation is often point docking and short vacations. Ripping on the GM or admins can get one a permanent ban.

They have a public appeals area on the game's forum. One can go there and ...repent... (probably the best word) and get the penalties reduced and the bans lifted. The relief is from convincing GM's of their sincerity. The idea is they have learned and will not repeat the offense. I'm not advocating a public process for most forums. But, we have not discussed much on how people treat moderators. That is information that does not make it out into the general community. I suspect it often shades how the moderators see a person.
Nalates
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