Author Topic: An open letter to all forum members, from an Admin  (Read 2230 times)

worktroll

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An open letter to all forum members, from an Admin
« on: 28 September 2014, 23:42:41 »
Hi! I'm Worktroll, and I'm one of the Admins here.

First, I'd like to thank all of you for helping make the BattleTech forum community the great place it is. Without all of your passion, input and humour, seasoned with a dash of chaos, this forum would be like so many other special-interest forums - a handful of posters making the occasional post in one of a few active sub-forums.

I just do want to cover a few points, though. Most people seem to pick these things up osmotically, but it might well be useful to be up-front about them.

1) This is the official Catalyst Games Lab forum for BattleTech.

Why does this matter? It matters because
a) CGL are fronting the money to make this forum possible
b) As a consequence, the forum needs to meet certain expectations CGL has.

For example, CGL wants a welcoming forum that supports all levels of interest in the game we love - not just the boardgamers, not just the mini painters, not just the fiction junkies, etc etc. All levels. In order to do that, we need to keep the forum  a welcoming and safe place.

2) Why are your rules so restrictive?

Well, I have to disagree here. Our rules could be boiled down to Will Wheaton's (in)famous statement, "Don't be a dick." Remember, this is CGL's place, so it's not cool to swear excessively, pick fights, harrass people, actively promote opposition products, etc etc. When you visit your friends, don't you behave how they would like you to? It's up to your friends to determine if they're cool with swearing, smoking, drinking etc. And you can accept their preferences, or choose not to visit.  Same thing here. These forums are CGL's gaming room for BT fans. They're more than happy to share, but they have their preferences.

3) Hey! You warned me! I didn't realise what I did broke the rules! Why so harsh?

There are a couple of points to make here:

1) "Ignorance of the law is no excuse". Firstly, because if it was as simple as saying "I didn't know!", everyone would be using it as a "get out of Warn free" card.
2) More importantly, when you created a forum account here, it specifically said something like "I agree to abide by the forum rules." If you have an account here, you ticked that box.

We choose to believe forum members are mature enough to understand what they're getting into, and to accept consequences of their actions. Anyone who doesn't recall the forum rules might want to do so, soon - there's an easy link in the upper left of your screen.

Some other details on forum moderation:

1) We don't discuss disciplinary action against other members with anyone but them. Why not? Because good people sometimes make mistakes too, and embarrassment is not part of our plan of action.

2) Having read the rules, you'll know that warnings expire after 12 months. This means
- you really have to work at breaking the rules to get permabanned
- if you, a good forum member, does make an accidental mistake, it will go away in time. As long as you don't keep making mistakes.
So there is absolutely no point in getting your knickers in a knot over a warning, unless you plan to make a habit of breaking the rules.

3) Moderation here on the forums is a team effort. All Reports and Warning are logged for the record, and are viewable and open for discussion by the entire moderation team before being finalized. Given that the moderators come from at least 5 countries, and are spread across multiple timezones, this can take some time. The debates are open and vigorous, and more often than you'd think the result is that the reported or identified post is judged not warnable.

Once a decision is made by the mod team, it can still be appealed to a third party (the details are in the Rules link). So, while some have felt that they have been unfairly targeted by a particular moderator that they feel has something against them, our system is set up so that there is no way that a single moderator could target one poster unfairly. The converse is in fact more likely - a moderator will often say "I don't want to deal with user Y because it could look bad; can someone else check this out please."

Processing and documenting a Warning is work. All our moderators are unpaid volunteers. None of them really enjoy issuing Warnings, but they enjoy a happy forum enough to act when necessary.

You may see one moderator appearing to take action more often than others. This probably means only your habitual posting times are similar to their habitual posting times.

4) Some feel that moderation is infringing on their right to free speech. Different countries handle this issue differently (and bear in mind that BattleTech has an international fanbase and is owned by an international corporation), but in general there is no right to free speech on a private (i.e. non-government owned/operated) internet forum. By signing up here, you agree to abide by the rules, which includes their enforcement by the moderation team (specifically, the removal of posts deemed at fault).

Further, we do our best to allow people to have an open discussion on issues, but painful past experience has shown that some topics, such as religion and politics, are too close to people's hearts to allow on a board game forum unrelated to those topics. If you wish to discuss something we do not allow here, we ask that you find another place to do it. This isn't an attack on free speech, but simple pragmatism on our end: less time arguing about <controversial topic X> on here means fewer arguments, fewer people banned, and more time to discuss stompy robots.

I'm leaving this post open for rational discussion, and will reply to reasonable posts where appropriate. Please note that normal forum rules apply - as at all times - in this thread.

Cheers,

Worktroll, Administrator.
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skiltao

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Re: An open letter to all forum members, from an Admin
« Reply #1 on: 07 October 2014, 23:16:54 »
My visits of late have been too rare and brief to know what could have inspired this open letter. However, I think I can make some general comments.

If you take a reasonable forum user, a reasonable real-world person, and a reasonable moderator, you'll end up with four opinions about what precisely is and is not against the posted rules. I cannot know if the staff are still interpreting the rules as strangely as they were some years ago, but you cannot ask users to "be aware of the rules" without also acknowledging that at least several of the rules are intentionally vague and unbounded.

Yes, the staff don't have time to review every incident in depth, they don't have time to identify every disagreeable post themselves, and certainly there are too many potentially ambiguous situations for them to disambiguate personally.

Yet as moderators, your top priority is to make sure users understand what behaviors are and are not within community standards. A mod who discusses a single post in isolation, with naught else for context, has undertaken a sizable handicap. Given that the rules are poorly understood (if users weren't having issues with them you'd not have written this letter); that varying degrees of poor behavior regularly escape official notice; that it's impossible for other users to know which poor behavior has not escaped official notice, nor what exactly about any such behavior might have been deemed poor; and that the evaluations the staff do make in public can be bafflingly off the mark; how, then, is anyone (violators, bystanders and lurkers alike) to know what the community standards are?

I think this article is relevant. Moreso the last parts than the first parts.

At this point I must apologize: I am frequently lacking computer and internet access lately, so if you think something here bears further discussion, be aware that it may be days (though hopefully not weeks) before I respond.
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cavingjan

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Re: An open letter to all forum members, from an Admin
« Reply #2 on: 08 October 2014, 07:47:24 »
Rules are written to be short and easy to read, particularly by those who do not speak english as a native tongue. It sure beats reading 3 pages of rules that folks will either skip because of length or from the legalese language used.