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Author Topic: Proposed major change to the Forge  (Read 16732 times)
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 16490

« on: July 31, 2006, 05:01:43 AM »


Clinton and I had one of our Dark Admin Discussions a couple of days ago. There's a problem to acknowledge, and a couple of possible solutions. We decided that neither of us was 100% sure about what to do, so as happens very occasionally, the Body Politic (that's you) are now included in the discussion.

OK, some ground rules.

1. It's still not a democracy. This is not a "thumbs up, thumbs down, count'em" discussion, nor do you get more points by showing how brilliant, upset, or whatever you might be. We're looking for ideas, for some data, and for solutions, not votes in whatever guise.

2. We've seen it before and we'll see it again - propose any sort of change at the Forge, and everyone instantly gives birth to little green hopping frogs. Oh My God. You're Changing It. I'm Birthing Frogs. Oh My God. So, this time, I'm gonna ask you to look back over the years, and remember the first time we changed the color scheme, and the time we did this or that, and when the two big-ass forums were closed, and also remember that the Apocalypse did not, in fact, arrive as predicted. Please, this time, try to Birth Your Frogs for a while by yourself, and return to posting after you've recovered.

3. The Forge is in a state of stepwise reduction. Very few features will ever be added, starting from over a year ago, and you can count on things getting folded up and put away. Remember, very slowly, in functional series of steps, the Forge will be shut down. So observing that today's proposal will be a "loss of function" isn't very insightful. We know. That's why it's proposed.

OK! So, with that buildup, this is going to be a doozy, right? I'll start with an observation.

In the past and in the present, people abuse the function of the Forge using the private messaging feature. Yes, I know, most of you use it for individual socializing. Yes, I know, being able to PM a moderator is often important. I'm talking about something else.

I'm talking about when someone new who's posting, and getting answers or whatever, and then some of you swim up under the guy like U-Boats and nail him with PMs. I am well aware this has been used to dissuade people, occasionally, from continuing to post here. I am also aware that in some cases, a person has received friendly reassurance and felt better about the discussion, but you should know that this often goes sour.

I'm also talking about people instigating flame-wars by PMing everyone who's participating in a discussion, therefore carrying on a kind of shadow conversation that only they can see all of.

All of this stuff is just plain no good. It abuses the transparency and responsibility of the Forge, in which points of view and commentary are supposed to be right out in front of God and everybody. It abuses me and Clinton - when you PM someone to "explain" how they are being a jerk or whatever, then the person sees you as a moderator, as if you were an agent of me and Clinton, and goes off thinking this place is run using secret police. If a person doesn't like the way I moderate and then leaves, that's one thing; if they feel like they were covertly beaten up in an alley with my tacit approval, that's another.

And furthermore, it's redundant. If you really need to talk to person X, why then, email him or her. If you don't have their email, then that's the signal that says "I don't want to talk to you," and that's just your tough luck. The PM function here should not be your way to get into the face of whomever you want, in the guise of "being at the Forge."

So Clinton and I are considering turning them off.


Frogs all birthed? Remembered that Clinton and I aren't idiots and have already considered lots of things about it? Here are a couple.

  • A lot of us, me included, have a huge personal archive of personal messages, some of which we really don't want to lose. So we're not talking about deleting those.
  • Communication with moderators should still be easily available. If PMs are turned totally off, then that will have to be by email. But maybe there's some way to retain moderator PM function; Clinton's looking into the various software options.
  • Some other sites, the most obvious probably being Story Games, now offer a more social/casual environment (including private messages) that the Forge no longer needs to provide.

So! Here's what we need from you, in this thread.

What are the most positive and most negative functions of private messages, here, that you have actually experienced?

Can you think of alternative methods that will maximize the former and minimize the latter? Clinton and I are totally not sold on what I described above! If you can propose something that can solve the problems and will be less work, then we want to know about it.

Let the Wild Rumpus begin!!

Best, Ron (following suitable kicks in the shin from Clinton)
Jason Morningstar

Posts: 1428

« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2006, 05:34:40 AM »

What are the most positive and most negative functions of private messages, here, that you have actually experienced?

My experience has been entirely positive.  It's been a substitute for email on most occasions.  I've never received a "U-Boat" message, or sent one to my knowledge.  I've never been part of a sub rosa conversation facilitated by PM. 

Can you think of alternative methods that will maximize the former and minimize the latter?

If there is a group for whom they are really important social or productivity tools, maybe they can pay for them individually and contribute to the upkeep of the site.

Ricky Donato

Posts: 156

Just chillin'

« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2006, 05:41:26 AM »

Ack! I'm having frogs! They're hopping around the floor! ACK! :-)

What are the most positive and most negative functions of private messages, here, that you have actually experienced?

I have never had a negative experience with PMs here.

My most positive experience with PMs here has been getting extra information about a particular topic that was discussed in a thread. In other words, I mention something in a thread, and the OP says "That's a bit off-topic for this thread so let's discuss it by PM."

Can you think of alternative methods that will maximize the former and minimize the latter? Clinton and I are totally not sold on what I described above! If you can propose something that can solve the problems and will be less work, then we want to know about it.

I don't know whether it will be less work, but one possible solution is to be able to report PMs to the moderator, same as with posts.

Ricky Donato

My first game in development, now writing first draft: Machiavelli

Posts: 3702

« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2006, 05:46:55 AM »

Frankly, email does the same function better.  It's specialized, it's a huge and robust system, and it is completely independent of Forge resources.  I can keep archives better and more centrally, I can filter ... all that jazz.

I hadn't thought of it until you mentioned it, but now that you have ... sure.  I've never had a negative PM experience ever, and so what?  If it were removed today then by the end of a few weeks, people would be fine.

Just published: Capes
New Project:  Misery Bubblegum
Ben Lehman

Posts: 2094


« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2006, 05:59:52 AM »

I've largely used it as a substitute for e-mail, which I consider a humongous hassle, actually, since my e-mail is easier to manage and short (my PM box is a wild and hairy wasteland that makes me wince and wish I could get around to cleaning out.)

The best use of PMs, for me, has been to say "this is my e-mail address, contact me here" in a private manner that doesn't expose either side's e-mail address to the whole damned world.  Now that I have a public e-mail address, this function is largely obsolete.


Matt Wilson
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 1121

student, second edition

« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2006, 06:09:20 AM »

I can't think of a time any use of a PM was of paramount importance for me. My contact info is visible, and anyone who wants to get ahold of me can.

I mean really, think about this: I get an email telling me I got a PM, and the contents of the PM are in the email, but I can't reply there. I have to go to the Forge and reply, and at work I can't access the Forge because I work for Fascists. That must be the case for many people. So I get messages I can't reply to for like 8 hours, and my short-term memory is total ass.


Posts: 5574

« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2006, 06:13:51 AM »

For me Forge PMs are currently the only way to stay in touch with any Forge related discussions at all during the day.  My office firewall blocks just about any form of personal email so simply "using email" isn't an option for me.

But then all in all I find the whole "diaspora" thing to be a huge disappointment and a major pain in the ass.  So I'm rather biased about the whole process.

joshua neff

Posts: 949

« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2006, 06:51:23 AM »

For me, PMs have almost entirely been as an "email substitute," and isn't anything I couldn't do with email. On the positive front, it's been nice having side conversations with people that would've been frowned upon in forums. On the other hand, those side conversations could've just as easily been done over email.


"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes

Posts: 149

« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2006, 06:54:14 AM »

Well, I'm one of those guys that isn't often struck with something substantial to say in a particular thread.  Others on this forum are much better versed in the language than I and are capable of posting with greater frequency, so I normally let other people talk everything out unless there's something really glaring that I think needs discussing. 

Because of my personal tack when it comes to the Forge, I really like having the PMs available.  I use them chiefly to just send little messages of support, stuff that doesn't contribute to the conversation and shouldn't clutter up a thread.  "Hey, that's a great idea.  I'll be following this."  That sort of quick little booster thing.  I've recieved a couple of booster PMs in my day for criminal element that have really lit a fire under my ass. 

But there's no reason that this has to be done through PMs.  Honestly, if you want to keep around that kind of personal conversation funcionality, require posters to have a public email.  Set one up at hotmail, yahoo, gmail, wherever if you don't want to use your personal email.  This takes some weight off of the servers.  It could also have the maybe possitive effect of dragging those private conversations out into the public.  Just as many smart things are said in whispers as are said in open forums.

Hope this helps, Ron and Clinton. 

Michael P. O'Sullivan
Criminal Element
Desperate People, Desperate Deeds
available at Fullmotor Productions

Posts: 54

Feeling Scairy

« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2006, 07:02:44 AM »

Speaking of PM's...I just received Spam this morning via a PM from another poster.

It was my first negative experience and seems to me to be a very big violation.

Ron or Clinton, I can forward the spam for you to see if you want....but I doubt I'm the only one.

- Brent Wolke
Currently writing Scairy Tales for Savage Worlds.
Currently mucking with Animated Heroes for myself.
Darren Hill

Posts: 861

« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2006, 07:11:28 AM »

If that spam is from "Don Johnson", I just recieved it as well.
Barring that, the primary use of PMs for me is when someone in a thread says, "I have this file for this game, anyone who wnats it should contact me by PM."
That's a very valuable resource. But if everyone (that offers such a service) has a email link in their posts - as is often the case now - then email would work just as well.

BUT - if that email link is present, the people who are abusing PMs will just use that email link to do the same. So, I'm not sure that removing PMs will solve the problem, unless you also remove public emails as well. That might create more problems than it solves.


Posts: 2807

« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2006, 07:54:14 AM »

I've had good use out of it, discussed some useful stuff.  I  like to keep forge stuff on the forge as it were; I don't use email much privately.  It has served as an escape route from the dogpile.

Impeach the bomber boys:

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
baron samedi

Posts: 137

« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2006, 08:06:51 AM »

Hi there,

My opinion is similar to Ben Lehman's : I never used the PM function much, but never had trouble with it. I don't care much what happens to it.

Personally, I find sharing with other designers' experience very insighftul, but I don't need PM, and I believe though moderation is necessary to prevent the forums from degenerating, the main reason why I avoid most other public forums. Still I'm surprised that The Forge is expected to die. Perhaps I understand wrong, though.

I'm a newbie : getting immersed in The Forge's social contract and customs is a lot to swallow and I often feel like unvoluntary stepping on toes, like I miss some Forge-specific social conventions, which is confusing a bit. Thus, I might miss the whole point, but IMHO Ron Edwards and Clinton Nixon have put forward very solid decisions so far so they're probably right about shutting down PM.


Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 2591

« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2006, 08:14:09 AM »

I haven't had particularly negative experiences with PM. Sometimes somebody asks me to discuss something or other in more detail, and I do. Not a problem. My most important positive usage of the PM function has been contacting the various designers en masse about, say, getting together a retail package for me. PM is better for this because I haven't gotten around to creating any kind of central database of you all's email addresses. I also notice - this might be my imagination - that the reply percentages are better with PM compared to email; I don't know whether this is because folks switch email addresses frequently, or because they don't read their email as religiously as their PM, or for some other reason. Some people who take a month or more to answer email, if they answer at all, will be very prompt when using the PM feature.

I think that removing PMs, while not earthshattering to me personally, is not so significant as to warrant action. Like, why do it, again? Because somebody somewhere got annoyed by something somebody said in PM? If that is the case, I recommend the people in question stop reading their PM. The system is socially autonomous from the rest of the Forge because the moderators do not read those messages, so I see no point in worrying about what people do in PM. As Darren implied, the very same things might just as well happen in email, and nobody expects Ron to go shut down our email servers...

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Posts: 407

« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2006, 08:24:16 AM »


I find PM to be awfully convenient.  I don't use it for anything I couldn't use e-mail for.


I write games. My games don't have much in common with each other, except that I wrote them.

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