About recent forum doings, and some small changes

Some of you may have noticed there's been some discord in the forum here, which mod Syzygy has been dealing with. I wanted to weigh in on this sooner but I will admit I had to kind of figure out what was going on first!

I'll try to summarize it - there was a thread that was intentionally or otherwise very likely to be a place for potentially-incendiary statements and jokes, called (shorthand) the "disinformation thread." This thread started to get out of hand of the thread's original maintainer, who sort of started to regret making it.

The real issue (as I perceive it) began when jokes from this thread started to bleed into other threads. This is a natural result of friend hanging out, BUT this also reminded folks of when other forums and spaces got taken over by certain kinds of memes and behavior and more earnest discussion fell by the wayside. It wasn't so much the content of the jokes as it was the way it spread and the way some folks perceived culture here could potentially devolve.

I'll admit I didn't see this right away, because at first it just looked to me like fun times were expanding across the forum. But it hit home for me when I saw that some more earnest users were saying they needed to take a break from the forums and other more brash users were saying "get over it." We had a situation where some folks saw what they perceived as "writing on the wall" of a behavior slide, and others saying to deal with it, which would basically confirm those suspicions if left unchecked.

So I think Syzygy was right/prudent/smart to close the thread down quickly and ask me to step in, though it took me a while to figure things out (sorry about that!). While I don't think we actually got to a dangerous place here, certain behaviors were starting slide in a less positive direction and it's good to nip that in the bud early, which is part of the whole ethos here.

So a few small changes. I've added a mod, Antillese. They offered to be a mod a while ago, and Syzygy could use the help because as the forum grows that job gets bigger. This isn't about more stringent moderation per se, it's more about spreading the workload around. Also, one user who has been "abrasive" for a while is going to get suspended for the time being (entirely my choice).

Next, Syzygy suggested we perhaps revisit the idea of sub forums - I think this is a good idea at this point in the forum's life cycle, and if done right, might help newer people get in here. This change will take quite a while and I'll take a bunch of input on it in terms of how things should be broken down, and how much. It'll also take a while because we have to actually do it, which will be time consuming!

Ultimately I am grateful that Syzygy moved fast because the longer something is left to fester the greater chance of a schism forming within a community and things going A Bad Way.

In terms of actions for ALL of us, let's think about this stuff:

It's easy to let things slide and to forget that, while humor is truly part of the nature of this forum, once people start getting uncomfortable it can be both tough to identify and easy to ignore, and we need to make sure we don't ignore it. We have to make sure we actively take care of the majority of our community, which tends to be (tone: positive) sensitive, amiable, and accommodating. The fact we're all generally accommodating can lead to us accidentally accommodating behaviors we don't actually want to see, in the name of giving folks the benefit of the doubt.

We all want to see the best in people, but we also need to be sensitive to the idea that, when people are expressing discomfort, we need to acknowledge and address those concerns and determine whether something needs to be done about it. I realize this is a very hand-wavy and wiggly kind of thing, and it's not like we're incapable of having spirited discussions, or debate, or making jokes. We just need to be mindful of what others are telling us and make sure nobody is getting railroaded in the name of discussion or debate or jokes.

I hope that makes sense!! I'm going to be in and out today, but IF this thread gets weird or Syzygy wants to wait til I'm not out, I'll lock it, and otherwise I hope everyone understands and feels okay about this stuff!

Hi Everyone,

I'll keep this super short because this isn't about me: it's about helping a community which I'm a part of. I'm flattered to have been asked and am happy to give back to a group that has brightened my life for the last several years.

Here's a summary of the moderation team's philosophy that we were discussing as I was being brought on:

  • 1. The forums are here because of all of us and thus are bigger than any of us. We as a community need to collectively self-moderate. We already do an excellent job of this. Keep it up!
  • 2. Remember that because we're all here on the internet we do not get the kind of social cues from each other we would if we were all in the same room. Assume good intent, while challenging things when they don't feel right. Like Exodus says above, check with yourself to see if it's clear that you're making a joke. If the community is suggesting it's not coming across as a joke, or is mean spirited, please take the criticism from the community, move on, and be more aware of it next time.
  • 3. When something goes sideways, please use the "Flag Post" option. Hit the three dots next to "Reply" at the bottom of the post. This alerts the entire moderation team and we all get visibility to an issue. This is also important for you because the moderation team wants the community to get consistent treatment instead of having it change based on who you happen to contact.
  • Thanks to all the regulars, infrequent posters, and all the lurkers (yes, you count too) who make the forums what they are.