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Moderation issue - open discussion

Started by Ron Edwards, March 12, 2003, 09:29:29 PM

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Ron Edwards


Today, I moderated a thread in the Indie Design forum, EU States: Writers Block, which has turned into a difficult moderation problem.

I don't plan to lock the thread.

I don't plan to engage in public debate about my moderating, under any circumstances. Long ago, Clinton and I decided that the Forge isn't a democracy or consensus-run site.

I've already received private message about that thread (before arkcure replied) suggesting I've been too heavy-handed, and I welcome that - and listen to it. Even if it's not a democracy, the voice of the "Forge body politic" is important to me. I'll take it into account from now on.

I am not favorably inclined toward open defiance, however, which is what's happened on the thread. During the private exchange (not with arkcure; there's been none), I asked for some suggestions, and here's what one person said:

QuoteI recommend a Site Discussion thread, which a link to should be posted in the original thread. Posts to definitely make are:

a) How to actually post about a topic like his. For example, here's what I might have written:

"I have a game I'm working on - called EU States - and I've managed to flesh out the background and setting well. (include major bits of setting here). However, I find that when it comes to making my mechanics, I draw a blank and nothing seems to fit. Has anyone else had this happen with a game, and what did you do to move past it?"

That's a well-formed post. His original one wasn't.

b) The second point: his defensive attitude has absolutely no place here. Defensiveness is just asking to be hurt and to start a fight. I would tell him, with all seriousness, that his attitude or he needs to go away, his choice.

So, here's (a). If anyone wants to suggest general recommendations for moderating off-topic or "what do you think" posts, let me know. If anyone wants to pose alternate and better ways to moderate arkcure's thread, please do so.

[However, again, "Yeah Ron, you're such a meanie," posts aren't solicited. Private-message me if you think so.]

While (b) is harsher than I'd like to be (considering that I've already been pretty harsh and don't want to extend that further), I will re-state it as, "

- Don't debate moderation on this site.
- Do voice your objections to me privately. I have been known to retract moderation when convinced - but not based on public challenge.



In general, I think "A and B" is the way to go. That is, show how the original post COULD be validly phrased, but then follow up -- if recieving this style of open defiance -- with your re-phrased version of B.

The second part of your re-phrased version of B should probably go on a policy statement somewhere on the site. (If it's already there, I apologize...)
love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT

Mike Holmes

I know the fora are marked with the names of the moderators, but it might help if you were to change your tag from "Adept Press" to "Moderator". That might not have helped with the current problem, but it may have with that last one.

As for how to get people to understand the policies, I don't know that there's a good way.

I know it's probably a hassle, but instead of denying the validity of the post in cases like this, it seems to me that suggesting how to fix the thread direction so it is appropriate would be the most effective policy. And actually I know that's how you guys handle many posts. And I understand that it's a lot of effort. But it would have been worthwhile in this case.

This all said, arkcure took your terse post a bit too personally is all.

As always the solution seems the same: write more carefully, read more carefully. That said, in reading more carefully, people should remember that posters are imperfect (Lord knows imperfect doesn't cover my behavior), and should try to communicate about the subject first before getting steamed. And remember that heated responses sometimes happen.

I mean big deal, one little blow up. It's not like we're some internet fora where this would simply be an example of daily attempts at communication.

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.



A couple of general things that this situation brings to mind.

In any electronic community where regular "get to know each other" there's going to be a certain desire for interraction beyond the scope of the forum's stated topic. The Forge has a surprising low level of such discussion, mostly due to the careful moderation practiced by you and Clinton. (This might not seem to bear on the current situation. Stick with me. :)

I'm not so sure that this lack is actually a good thing, though. The desire to discuss something with people you like and respect is perfectly natural. I'm not talking about private discussion, I'm talking about group discourse. There's a lot of overlapping interest here at the Forge, but the Forge forums are extremely specific.

I agree that arkcure's post was poorly located. The Indie-design forum is for designing games. But - and this is the bad thing, IMO - it doesn't really fit in any of the other forums either. This is a problem, because I think that his post is certainly a valid topic for Forge discussion. It wasn't that long ago that I posted a "Where do you get your ideas?" thread to Indie Design. It wasn't a very appropriate thread for that forum, but it sure is a valid discussion topic. I think anyway.

And what about related genres, like the CYOA adventure idea I was discussing a while back? What if I want to discuss my space combat game in progress? These are not on topic for any Forge forum now, but I feel that a desire to discuss them with Forge denizens is reasonable, and should even be expected.

A possible solution to this is the addition of some sort of General Discussion forum. I don't mean a high-volume OT chatter forum; rather I'm thinking of a place to post more general discussions (hah). Things that might be *related* to game design, but don't specifically deal with games in progress or design theory. A place where arkcure could ask about writer's block with impunity. A place where I could ask about inspirations. A place where we could talk about that adventure board-game with all the cool art (can't recall the name) that's supposed to be released Any Day Now. A place where we could talk about literary concepts in gaming . . . "Show Don't Tell," for example.

If the feeling is that another forum would be too much extra of a moderation burden, what about combining GNS discussion and RPG theory into one forum? I've never quite understood why we need one place to talk about Director Stance, but another place to talk about Simulationism. As far as I'm concerned, it's all GNS.

What does everyone else think about this?


Quote from: PaganiniWhat does everyone else think about this?

I'm strongly in favor of more fora with a continued strict enforcement of posts being "on topic" to the forum they're posted in.

All the same, I'm not sure that I buy that the existing fora don't have a home for this particular topic.  There was a "general discussion" one, last I checked, no?

Edit: Aha, my bad. That's just what I think of the "RPG Theory" one as.  Maybe a more explicitly general or misc topic is in order...


I don't think that the Forge should have a social forum.  The rigorous focus around here is like my favorite part.  Maybe a sister Yahoo group to Indie Netgaming, though, for people who want to just hang?



I agree with Vincent that we don't need a social forum.  But the thread in question really wasn't that, and there ought to be a space for it.  I see RPG writer support as an important part of the Forge.  Perhaps the Publishing forum might expand to cover straight writing issues?  I recall there was a discussion of grammar and punctuation there; why not other writing issues?
Chris Lehrich


Chris, you're right.  

So Ron, can I ask?  Is writer's block, or finding the time or discipline to write, or "help me make this paragraph work!" not Forge appropriate, in general?  Or was it a problem with that thread in particular?



I think the major point about posting design, or any other issue is this:

-Post a directed and focused question/issue for discussion in regards to the forum in which its posted

To add a little more info on that, I think Ron puts it best in the Stickies at the top of the design thread... should have a clear coherent idea of what your game is about and where you want to go with it. If you cannot answer the question, "What is my game about?" do not start a thread.

The key component here is focus, and the Forge's focus is in regards to games.  While arkcure is correct that being unable to communicate one's ideas will have problems in creating a game, being unable to do math, or motivate oneself, lacking money to maintain a website, or having personal issues with friends or family also can affect one's design, but I doubt many people here would consider those valid posting topics.

What is the key difference as far as this goes, is that most of the information is available elsewhere, as well as discussion boards.  Creative block is addressed by many writing, painting, and music groups.  There's also a lot of issues that no amount of discussion will assist...  "I have low self-esteem!", "I'm broke!", etc.  The most people can say is, "Well, I feel for you, but that's up to you to handle..."

For folks who are dealing with related issues, I'd say the best stuff to do is to post up links in Publishing.  A link to a good site on probability, technical writing, layout, artwork costs/creation, etc. would all be good for sharing information that people can use, without cluttering up too much space.

The main thrust here is that unfocused topics spin out going nowhere...Hell, that's half of my posted topics right there...and I try to take time to narrow down ideas, questions or concepts as much as possible before putting it up.
Again, look at Ron's quote, if you know what you want, people can offer suggestions, but no one, and no one, can ever help you if you don't know what you're aiming for.


Jack Spencer Jr

Quote from: Ron EdwardsIf anyone wants to suggest general recommendations for moderating off-topic or "what do you think" posts, let me know. If anyone wants to pose alternate and better ways to moderate arkcure's thread, please do so.

OK Ron, consider this. You're a teacher, right. Perfect, actually. Let's say you screwed up somehow at your job. Exactly how isn't important. You're in the middle of a class full of students and you're boss comes in and dresses you down in front of them. Just chews you out in front of your students. Now imagine that instead of that, your boss pulls you aside, perhaps into his office to discuss the problem.

This is the thing. To be rebuked in front of others, peers or subordinates,  causes one to lose face. A natural response is to this is to become defensive, to try to regain some or to save what little face you've got.

My suggestion, that is if you don't do this already, is to privately message the person before posting your moderator's post to the forum. This will mean slower moderator action in some cases, but it will lessen the blow to some member, especially new ones because they won't feel like they'd been yelled at in front of everybody.

The exact method of this, we can leave to your own discretion. Perhaps a time limit thing or the private message placates the person so that the know it's no harm no foul nothing personal...and here are the posting guidelines. That kind of thing.


At the risk of a "me too" post, I think Jack's suggestion is excellent. I have to admit the first time one of my own threads was moderated by Ron in this fashion, I was very taken aback, tho I didn't become too defensive... I think.

On the other hand, if you don't make a public post the thread can and will meanander uncontrolled. There's usually more people involved in a thread like that than the author.
love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT


I have a few opinionated observations:

I am 100 percent behind point B.  I would recommend sending a gently-worded but firm PM to Arkcure.  Basically, Arkcure's post was a flame, and those are a strict no-no around these parts.

Were I Ron, I would have worded the moderation a bit differently, and left out the "nice and all" part, which is what I think really set Arkcure off.  That said, I am 100 percent behind the moderating of that particular thread.  It was unfocused and way too general to be in Indie Design.

In moderating future similar threads, it might be better to post a message that attempts to push the discussion in a more appropriate direction rather than simply attempting to put a stop to it.  If that suggestive post doesn't do the trick, the harsher "cut it out, guys" post becomes more appropriate, and less sudden for the person whose thread is being moderated.

The Forge should not have a social forum.  For those who want to socialize outside of the Forge's area of discussion, there's a place for email address in the user profile.

Ron should change his tag to indicate he is a moderator of the Forge.

All IMO, of course...

Ron Edwards


Many thanks to everyone so far, here as well as the private messages. I'm reading and thinking.



Quote from: ethan_greerI am 100 percent behind point B. I would recommend sending a gently-worded but firm PM to Arkcure. Basically, Arkcure's post was a flame, and those are a strict no-no around these parts.

Lying @$$hole! Why must u keep on making these unfounded character attacks on arkcure? (It's a small 'a' you moron!) Why dont u take your ignorant opinions over to You should fit rite in! Your trolling is ruining the forums for EVERYONE!

(See the difference? See why the Forge is a great place? ;)

The idea that arkcure's post could be seen as a flame is just mindboggling to anyone who's ever spent time on usenet.

The Forge should not have a social forum.  For those who want to socialize outside of the Forge's area of discussion, there's a place for email address in the user profile.

Please understand, that's not what I'm proposing. I specifically said "not a high volume OT chatter form." Arkcure's post was hardly "social" in nature. (I.e., "Duuude! You should a' seen the size of the beer I had last night!") It was a general issue that's certainly relevant to RPG-writers, if not specificaly to RPG design or theory. I feel that it has a place here on the Forge, and there should be a place to put it.

You know, Ron didn't smack down my "inspiration" thread from last year. He easily could have though. It didn't have any more to do with RPG theory than arkcure's post had to do wiht RPG design.

So there's that element also. What general topics are acceptable, since they're always going to be OT for whatever forum one posts them too?



Heh!  Granted, my standards are pretty high, and I don't spend a lot of time on any message boards, so I guess I slap the "Flame" label on things pretty easily...

Regarding the social forum issue: I can see what you're saying, but I disagree that your inspiration post was as OT in RPG Theory as Arkcure's writers block post was in Indie Design.  On the other hand, Arkcure's post could probably/maybe have gone unmoderated in RPG Theory...?  For the most part, I think we are in agreement on the issue - I do recognize the validity of Arkcure's thread as it concerns RPGs.

I just see a "General Discussion" or some such forum being a slippery slope, a moderator time-hog, and far too nebulous to provide good guidelines for what threads are OT or not.  Which is why I cast my vote for no social forum.  The RPG Theory board is, I think, as much a "catch-all" board as the Forge needs.