I know this is a lot of information to go over. Please if you're going to respond, please be sure to read all of this first.
Lately there have been some members who haven't been around for a while who have come on the forums and expressed concern about the moderation practices of this forum.
This thread has two purposes:
1. To share with the forum population the vision I have of what this forum once was, a place where people came to have positive discussions about a car they loved with people who were friendly, welcoming, open, and respectful, and the tools I'm currently using to try and bring that community back.
2. Allow positive and constructive discussion between the forum community and moderation staff about how that goal can be achieved.
Forum History from my perspective
When this forum was created the Kappa platform was just finishing it's transition from a concept car to a production vehicle. Membership was made up of those who were enthusiastic about the new car and discussions ranged from what will it be like to My car arrives on this date threads. It was a simple and somewhat naïve community. It was, however, always welcoming and open to new members. We were all sharing the same experience waiting for our new babies. No idea was dumb. No question was repetitive. The forum grew by leaps and bounds and became a great social forum discussing the Sky. For those who were more into the performance side of things, our sister forum, the Solstice forum, was far more honed in on that aspect of the Kappa platform though often times ideas were shared from there to here.
It was during this time that I joined and became one of the first moderators on this forum. Moderation during that time was fairly easy and mainly consisted of combining duplicate threads (meaning threads of the same topic that were started within days...sometimes hours...of each other) and clearing out spam posts. After about a year I sold my Sky, retired as an active moderator here, and moved on all the while knowing someday I'd get another Sky and be back.
When I returned last year after having got my second Sky, I retuned to this forum. I quickly noticed the lower activity and, at first, attributed it to the discontinuation of the car and of Saturn and Pontiac in general. However I quickly noticed that there was more to it than that. There was a certain negative attitude that prevailed on the forum. While the main point of contention was MarlboroMike's (MM) attitude and the attitude of those who wanted him banned, other posts by other members all displayed a similar, if lower, negative attitude. The fun and friendly attitude of the days when I was active on the forum were gone and replaced by something less enthusiastic.
This is where we find ourselves today.
What are the goals of this whole process?
The goals we are trying to achieve here are simple:
What have I done to try and achieve these goals?
- Respect. First and foremost we want to reinforce respect between our members. Over the time I've been gone the moderation staff has had more of a hands off approach in dealing with conflict between members. While I believe adults should be adults and be able to resolve conflict maturely, sometimes emotions run hot and logic and reason fly out the door dragging respect along behind them kicking and screaming. I feel this has allowed to go on in such a way that now, sometimes, members don't think about respecting one another and simple comments that would normally be shrugged off and forgotten tend to alight past wounds all over again causing the fight to be back on.
- Positive. I am trying to make this forum a more positive place. This isn't to say I'm asking members to bury your heads in the sand and pretending everything's roses, but rather making criticisms, posts and threads more productive, not personal, and not bullying.
- Comfort. I don't know about the rest of you, but I have enough conflict and stress in my everyday life that I don't want to come to a forum and have to deal with more conflict and stress. I want to come here and enjoy the discussions here. I want other members to come here and look forward to what others have responded with not dread how they may be picked on today. I understand the car culture is a "manly" culture where **** talking and ass grabbing is commonplace. You will run across that stuff here. However, that kind of behavior shouldn't overshadow the conversation and be so prevalent that EVERY post is full of peeing contests and chest thumping.
There have been a couple things I have done to try and address some of the major points outlined above:
Short Term Results
- Personal Conflicts I could entitle this MM vs. The World but it really is beyond just that issue. There has been a lot of tension between members on this forum and to address this I've started to give warnings and edit or delete posts that promote conflict between members.
For MM, I have stipulated that he is not to personally attack any forum member directly. "You're stupid for doing X" is attacking them directly. "That's stupid to do X" is not. One is calling the person stupid, one is calling the idea stupid. It may seem like a very fine line but there is a big difference between the two. I feel this should go without saying but this rule goes both ways. You can't call MM an azzhole for calling someone else stupid. BOTH are personal attacks against another member and I have warned anyone who does this to that affect.
Second, I've told MM that he is only allowed one "This thread is stupid/redundant/etc" post per thread. This is to strike a balance between allowing members freedom of speech and not allowing a thread to be filled with every other posts stating "this is stupid". Now while this has been directed at MM specifically, that is only because he has been the one that has done this most often. However, this rule applies to EVERYONE. You think a thread is silly, great. You can say that, but once you've expressed that you don't need to KEEP expressing it.
Lastly, I have sent MM many PMs whenever I feel he is pushing or crossing a line. He respects my requests and I want to take a moment to thank him for his understanding. I appreciate it. If you look over the last few months, MM has been less MM than normal. His posts have been more helpful, more positive, and less "this is stupid". Sure he is still gruff and not always sugary sweet friendly, but that is who MM is. He's still MM, but he is doing what we've talked about and, as I will talk about later, I feel it has helped the overall feel of this forum.
That said, I have also addressed others here about personal behavior and they know who they are and what we've talked about. MM isn't the only one who has gone after someone personally. I've had to talk to some more than once but all of the discussions have ended on a positive note. They understand what I'm trying to accomplish and they appreciate me sharing with them why I make a certain decision. I have to thank everyone I've had these discussions with for believing in my process and doing their part to make things better.
- Negative threads/posts This has been a touchy subject today. What constitutes a negative post, why did I delete them, why did I leave them up. In general, the moderation staff does not believe in deleting posts. Overall, we have left posts up and it has protected the forum when certain members have threatened legal actions against the forum or fellow members (those that have been involved in these actions please do not talk or "hint" about them here...this isn't what this is for). Sometimes threads get out of hand and posts need to be deleted. Sometimes those posts get left up or we may close a thread rather than delete it so that other members can see what kind of posts will cause a thread to be deleted or closed. It's a case by case basis.
However, we have deleted some threads or posts whose existence, either by design or tone, will result in a negative conversation. These threads or posts are generally relatively new (and thus no one has gotten riled up by reading them yet) or they are obviously and deliberately made only to cause trouble. New threads that fit this category are usually deleted as to reduce their visibility to the overall forum populace (threads that get activity will show up in the active threads page and on the forum front page under their respective section causing them to get more visibility even if the user doesn't click on the thread).
By keeping these kinds of threads and posts out of circulation, it keeps the overall feeling of the board more positive. By leaving a select few up along with the reasoning behind why they are inappropriate or deleting them along with an explanation (especially if there are replies after the offending post even if they do not reference them specifically) help to provide guidance to other forum members as to what exactly are the boundaries and expected code of conduct.
- Bullying Posts that directly attack another member, call them names, or in other ways bully that member will either be edited or deleted depending on the severity. The moderation team does not like editing or deleting posts but this is one such instance where we will use both options to enforce this policy.
- Fairness I am trying to be fair across the board with all my decisions. I know some people can't believe I'm threatening them with a mini vacation (temporary ban) for reacting to another person's post but what most don't realize (until I explain it) is that the other person has gotten the same warning or that there was a part of their post that went over the line while the other person was just pushing the line.
For instance, MM says "Well that just is a dumb idea to do that because of X, Y, and Z." then someone else comes on and replies "MM, you are such an azzhat! You just just crawl up somewhere and shut up. If that's what he wants to do with his car he should!" The second person will get a warning and the post will be edited or deleted while MM may just get told to lighten up a bit. Why? Because MM didn't attack the poster, he attacked the idea while the responder attacked MM directly. Now, if the replies were flipped and MM is the one attacking the poster, then his post would be the one edited and he'd be getting the warning.
For those wondering, both scenarios have happened and I responded to both just as described here. Being fair about addressing the behavior regardless of it's source is a big thing for me. Be fair. I don't deal well with cheaters, foul play and injustice.
So far I feel we have made some progress. I am seeing the following positive changes:
Where to go from here?
- MMs Posts and member respect Some of you may see this as me kissing MMs azz but considering how many requests for us dealing with him that I use to get as opposed to how many I get now, the number has drastically decreased. Not only has the tone of MMs posts improved and he's following the "one 'this thread is stupid' post" rule, but other members are less likely to jump all over him as well. That reduction in negative interactions between forum members, in my eyes, has been a huge positive and has made this forum more enjoyable on it's own. Thank you to all of you who have helped this situation by the way you've been posting! Keep it up!
- New members We have seen an influx of new members but, more importantly, a number of them have stuck around and contribute to the activity on the forum. I feel this reflects the result of not having so much conflict between members is how we will grow the forum populace.
- Returning old members A lot has been made of folks saying their goodbyes because of what has gone on in this forum. Some may be gone for good but I've talked to a couple members who have come back to give this new moderation stint a chance. Many of them will be my true litmus test as to whether or not improvements have been made and are effective.
- Post activity and diversity With the new members we're also seeing an increase in new threads and the different topics of those threads. I'm sure we will also see some threads that post previously asked questions but that's the nature of forums with old members leaving and new members joining. With respect, openness and helpfulness in us referencing old information or even engaging in a new discussion of an old topic we continue to encourage these new posters to stick around and help breathe new life into the forum.
So what next? The forum isn't "fixed" and we have a long way to go undoing the damage that has been done. I think we're on the right road. I've been dealing with this for a while but I want to hear what you think. Now, I don't want this descending into being a gripe fest so some rules to keep this positive.
- Suggestions with examples not rants I want to hear suggestions on how to improve the forum. These can be supported with an (the word an means one) example of the problem the solution addresses followed by how the example would be better addressed with the suggestion. I do not want this turning into "Well, this happened and so-and-so said this and no moderator did anything so why did they do that?" because then this just becomes a gripefest with the forum populace giving explanations as to why that did or didn't happen. I'm trying to keep this productive and positive. There may still be discussion why the suggestions may or may not be implemented but that's part of the process.
- Respect Be respectful of other member's ideas and suggestions. This is the one thread where I will not allow a "That's a stupid idea!" posts. If you think an idea is flawed, respectfully and logically explain where you see the problem and then, if possible, a suggestion on how to address that flaw or why that flaw cannot be overcome.
I know this is a lot of information to go over. Please if you're going to respond, please be sure to read all of this first. I may wind up editing or adding to this post but will be sure to try and highlight the edits to make it easier for those who have already read all this to find the changes.
Thank you for actively participating in this discussion in attempting to make the forum a better place.