Saturday, September 8, 2007

Forum Moderation 3

Background note: Last July 30, I started a thread in the USCF Forum where I offered my ideas on policing forums. I had offered to be a Moderator for the USCF Forum and these comments were in that context. The USCF Forum was and remains a deeply troubled place. At the time most of the Moderators and the Forum Oversight Committee had resigned. They were down to just 1 Moderator and he has since died. I reproduce my posts here.

The trade-off we face is the values we place on freedom of speech and the values we place on civility. We want both. But to turn the dial towards one, we have to turn it away from the other.

My General Priority

As for me, I tend to value freedom of speech more. My skin has thickened in the last few months. We ought not regard things as “attacks” when they arise from the ordinary hurly-burly of discourse.

Application to the Forum

We do have a problem with too much negativity here. There is the outrageous. But there is also the low-level hostility that drags everything down. There is the black area but there is also the grey area, too. This has lead us to too much policing in the past as well as too little. I propose a common-sense middle ground.

People still ought to be sanctioned. Repeat violators ought to be subject to ever more lengthy sanctions. But what do we do with the low-level negative attacks about trivia that irritate more than outrage?

On the first day I became a Moderator, I would put up two new threads. One I would call, “Negative Politics” and the other “Against Moderator Jack”. Stuff like all that hoo-rah about Paul’s Vietnam chess, Susan’s marriage, their laptop, and other stuff like that that are sort of important but not really pertinent to ongoing USCF activities, I would just use the Moderator’s forum powers to reclassify to the “Negative Politics” thread. Depending on your point of view, this thread would become the garbage pit or the gold mine of the USCF Forum. As for the complaints about me, (and you just know there will be plenty), they could go to the “Against Moderator Jack” thread.

I would reclassify on a prospective rather than a retroactive basis.

That way, the readers don’t have to see a screen full of attack threads every time they open the forum in the browser. Also, substantive threads don't have to be hyjacked with attacks. And the attackers aren’t unduly censored.

Legitimate criticism of serious issues should still be untouched. Serious criticism of chess politicians and chess players should also be untouched. For example, see Donna’s criticisms on the USCF finances. It is the stuff of doubtful significance that I would reclassify.

As for ending all attacks/criticisms, no it isn’t going to happen. Heck, even Susan herself has stated that her and Paul have disagreed and voted against each other on issues. I would not be surprised in coming years to see posts from Paul criticizing Susan on some issue and vice versa. All of us will disagree with each other from time to time. A forum restricted to just “happy talk” will be a dull place to visit. A good, healthy debate will have a lot of robust give and take.

P.S. I would find attacks on other people like those attacks on Goichberg and Schultz actionable, too.