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Recent changes in General Chit-Chat and the Personal Announcements section

Recent changes in General Chit-Chat and the Personal Announcements section

Old 07-22-2009, 11:50 AM
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A few people sent me PMs about recent changes to the General Chit-Chat and Personal Diaries and Announcements sections.
I would like to open a discussion about it and collect some ideas.

I talked to Patrice, and we decided to see if we can find a more suitable solution. If we get good ideas, we'll test them out to see what works best for individual users and the board as a whole.

If you want to post an argument for or against something, that's great. But please make sure to back your point of view with logical reasons and try to provide a solution. Please refrain from posting "empty" opinions such as "I like it" or "I don't like it" without any justification attached to it.

Below, you'll find some of the points/reasons that I have to keep in mind. So please read them, and let me know if you have any feedback that might help us form better guidelines.

I assembled those based on my experience of running this board. Please don't take it personally. I'm sure a lot of people are going to "recognize" themselves. And even more would do so mistakingly. The point of this post is to find a good solution to the real challenges of running a community, not to taunt anyone.

Common sense vs. strict guidelines

I'm a big fan of common sense, and I prefer not to use fine-grained guidelines at all. Instead, something rough, outlining intent, should be enough. After all, we are adults here, so we should be able to easily infer the "spirit" of a few general rules and act accordingly.

I'm sure everyone would agree and say the same thing about themselves. Who wants a million specific rules telling you what to do and what not to do? "Not me. I can think for myself."

For some reason when it comes to enforcing the "intent of the rules" people forget that they are fans of the common sense. Immediately, they want to see a specific rule that clearly prohibits the exact thing they were doing.

Some even start to pretend they don't understand what's going on. The adulthood evaporates somewhere and the kindergarten sets in :)

Here is just one example of what I'm talking about:

I ask people to not bump the topics. (Bumping is posting just a word, usually, "bump" to bring the topic back to the top of the recent list.) Bumping is bad because everyone who posted in the topic or enabled the "watch" will get an e-mail notification of a fresh reply. They'll re-visit the topic only to find a "bump" post there, and no new information. It's really annoying.

I say don't bump topics. They ask me why not? I explain why. They say it's not in the guidelines. I add it to the guidelines.

What do the common-sense-loving adults do then?

Instead of posting "bump" people start to post some other word or phrase with little informational value. The intent is still to bump the topic, yet since they don't post the word "bump" -- "it's not longer bumping, is it?"

And when I ask them not to do that, they shift into the kindergarten mode on me. After that, communicating further is pointless.

So I want to ask you to remain adults. When your actions get restrained by the administration, don't think about how to get around it (or how unfair it is), but instead think about the intent behind those decisions. It will make my and moderators' job a lot easier, and at the same time will cause a lot less disruption to your message board experience.

This brings me to my next point: trends and escalation. Every decision is made with the entire community in mind, not individual posters. So sharing my view about how things work on a larger scale, might explain why we manage things the way we do.

Escalation of joking (or anything else) on the board

I'm going to talk about jokes, but this can be said about many other topics.

Imagine the following situation. A small crowd of people is hanging out somewhere. They are having a conversation, and generally everything is fine.

Then, one person decides to make a somewhat vulgar joke. The joke pushes the line a bit, but it's still funny and not too offensive. Everyone laughs and the conversation continues.

A few minutes later, another person decides to top that joke with another one that pushes the line a bit further. It's still funny, and the crowd is still OK.

A few more minutes, and someone else makes another joke to top the previous one. And another one. And one more. And so on.

At this point, the conversation has degraded to an exchange of dirty jokes. While it might be fun to the people exchanging the jokes, it's no longer much fun for the rest of the crowd.

And since it happened "gradually", the people making the jokes don't seem to notice how bad things have gotten.

Now imagine a new person joining the crowd. What's that person's first impression?

Does she even want to stick around to learn what a wonderful group of people this crowd really is or will she simply move on based on what she just heard?

That's what happens in the GCC section with jokes. It's not the jokes themselves, but the fact that in a group of people, things tend to get escalated.

Although some jokes are definitely over the line and should be deleted right away, mostly the problem lies in the fact that once someone starts posting jokes, other people lose the sense of when enough is enough.

So the section gets filled with such topics.

Result? When it gets too far, someone's post get deleted. And that someone starts asking "why is my post deleted while other people's posts are still there?"

The same applies not just to jokes, but to any kind of discussions "positive" or "negative" that have a tendency to be escalated. Once a trend is formed, the only way to stop it is to break it.

If you don't want to read it, then don't open it

Often, I get the following argument from people who want more liberal guidelines on the board.

"If you don't want to read about something, then simply don't open that topic."

One person made an analogy about a newspaper where you can scan the headlines and then decide which articles to read.

In theory, it sounds great. But that doesn't work out they way it's supposed to.

The whole idea of "scanning" for the topics you want to read only works if the ratio of topics that interest you vs. all other topics is high. Sure you might want to skip a few topics here and there, because you know that you won't be interested in the contents based on the title.

But what if you open up General Chit-Chat, and see the first page listing posts about the stuff you don't want to read? You hit the next page and again get a list of topics you are not interested in.

What if there are only 2 or 3 topics out of 50 most recent ones that you want to read?

What if you are not interested in reading jokes, prayer requests, discussions about personal problems and so on? Yet, the first 3 pages of the GCC section are filled with them.

You'll end up spending more time reading and filtering out topic titles than you would spend actually reading and posting in topics that interest you.

And since everyone has different interests when it comes to General Chit-Chat, the only way to prevent such situation is to limit the topics of any specific nature from dominating the section. Which brings me back to the point about escalation.

Newspapers have strict editorial guidelines specifically so that everyone (in their target audience) will find something interesting to read. There are plenty of articles that get dropped by the editors and never make it to the issue.

Message boards are different. So it's either self-control or moderation.
I like the idea of self-control more and would like to avoid moderation.

But it seems like everyone thinks that they can squeeze "just one more post" in before things get out of line. And such thinking is perpetual. So we end up in a situation when another trend is being formed.

Not enough time to check all sections of the board

With the introduction of the PDA section for diaries, a few people told me that they don't have enough time to check all sections. They said it was more convenient to check only General Chit-Chat to catch up on all personal posts.

That's true. But there are also people who made the same (limited time) argument in support of the new section.

They said almost the same thing, but with the opposite outcome: "When everything is put in GCC, there isn't enough time to go through all the personal stuff I don't want to read to get to the other posts."

So it seems like either way would be good for some users and bad for others.

Attention seeking and negative posts

We love attention. That's human nature. Unfortunately, it's easier to get attention when you post about problems than when you post about achievements. In short, negative stuff gets higher response than positive stuff.

The more you complain about something, the more simpaty and attention you get from the friends you made on the board. And it's hard to stop posting more and more negative stuff when you get so much support about anything you post.

So people do what they naturally do and post about their problems, illnesses, bad luck and anything else that can get the response of others on the board.

Again, we get escalation -- a never-ending cycle that would consume the whole GCC section if left unchecked.

There are people who genuinely need help. There are people who really need to vent. There are real problems that need to be shared. But there are also people who post simply to get the replies. The latter is what I'm worried about.

I don't see a way of controlling it other than to prohibit such posts completely. An alternative would be to delete posts that I or the moderators feel don't "deserve" to be out there. This would not be a fair system, so I would like to avoid it.

Sharing on a personal level is what turns people into friends. So instead of completely prohibiting such posts or "randomly" deleting them, we set up the diary/personal section. Aside from other things, it allows people who really need help and support get it.

And if someone wants to troll around, they can do it in their dedicated diary section without affecting the experience of other message board users. Their friends can read it, while others won't have to go through the topic listings on daily basis.

Right now, I'm leaning towards allowing "positive" and "neutral" posts in GCC while containing "negative" posts in PDA. In part because negative posts seem to have higher "troll rate".

Separating posts like that might be a good compromise given what I said above.

If you have any suggestions/feedback about such approach, then please let me know.

My post is deleted

The most common response from users when a post gets deleted is this: "why did you delete my post when there are plenty of similar posts on the board?"

Some people take it personally. Some, even send links pointing out to similar discussions that weren't deleted.

Well, there is always one person at the end of the line. That's why it's the end of the line. Today, that person happened to be you.

If your post or topic got deleted because in the context of the entire message board it escalated things too far, then don't think of it as a personal attack on you.

Your post is "when" the moderators decided to put a stop to it. It could have been the previous post or the next one. But it just happened to be yours. Don't take it personally. And don't look at it in a vacuum, but instead look around at other posts on the board.

Was your post a continuation of some negative trend that's happening right now? Was it pushing the "established line" of posts next to it further? Yes? Then, that's the reason it was deleted. Simply to stop the trend of joking/religious discussions/personal problems, etc. from escalating even further.

That's why asking why your post got deleted while there are plenty of similar posts on the board is pointless.

This doesn't apply in situations when a post is clearly outrageous. It would get deleted simply because it should be deleted regardless of other posts. But in 90% of cases, deletions happen simply because things have gotten out of hand. And it just happened to be that your post or topic was the last one before the moderators put the foot down.

Personal vs. interesting

When setting up the PDA section, I first formulated the guidelines based on the concept of "interesting".

It seemed simple to me. If you think that what you are about to post would be interesting to the majority of users, then post it in GCC. If you think it would only be interesting to your close friends on the board, then post it in PDA.

That didn't work out well. Some people believe that everything they post is interesting to other people. Otherwise, they wouldn't be posting it in the first place. On some level, it makes sense.

So we changed the guidelines to be based on the concept of "personal". If it's personal then post it in PDA, otherwise post in GCC.

That's not working out well either. Things like pictures of a new house or a description of a vacation trip or some interesting occurrence at work are personal in nature. But it could be argued that such posts are interesting to many users. So they should be in GCC, not in PDA.

If you can come up with a way to clearly formulate the gist of what's required to address all the points I mentioned -- without a huge list of "do's and don'ts" outlining every conceivable topic for discussion, then please let me know and we might adopt it as the official guidelines.

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Old 07-22-2009, 01:01 PM
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Let me start by saying I feel for you and Patrice; IMHO all of this has put both of you in a position that is completely unfair.

The only thing all of the problem posts outlined here have in common is that they are off topic. It's not that I am not interested in what is going on with people; finding the time to try to keep up with hundreds or thousands is an art I have yet to master. I have always used PMs to carry on topics that I felt weren't appropriate for the board. If I try to use the link for Recent Topics, a lot is filtered out - but I still miss posts. If I check Posts Since My Last Visit, I am bombarded. I go to the Main section, and the posts actually related to quilting seem to be dwindling. I, for one, came here to share my love of quilting, see new projects and read about all things quilting. Life events were in Chit Chat, but it was manageable. It's just not anymore.

I may be a minority of one, but I would like this to be The Quilting Board. I am not anyone's lawyer, business consultant, health practitioner, moral compass or conscience. My only advice in any situation such as those would be not to take advice from any Internet message board! If the off-topic posts are causing the problems, and we haven't done very well with policing ourselves, then the remedies are limited:

1) Have the moderators delete problem posts - unfairly putting a tremendous burden on a few instead of practicing discretion ourselves;
2) Isolating the problem type posts into a separate area, which obviously isn't working well because it allows the posting to continue to get out of hand; or
3) Eliminating it all together.

It is sad that it has come to this. I remember posts about Guam, totally off topic but I came away having learned about a different culture and a place I'll never go to (Thank you, Terri!) We can chit-chat about many, many things without getting too personal. The internet isn't the place for personal. Do you really know who I am? Do I really know who you are?

Just my nickel's worth :oops:
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Old 07-22-2009, 01:51 PM
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I had no idea that things were so problematical.

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Old 07-22-2009, 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by bearisgray
I had no idea that things were so problematical.
If you see a post this long and detailed from Admin, you can pretty much bet that it has been problematical - I doubt seriously that one or two complaints would garner this kind of attention.

I didn't read it as all being complaint oriented, and I don't mean this to say that at all. I can see the problems from sheer number of posts, server issues, moderator time issues, tone of the board in general issues, etc. - thinking of the board as a whole, not individually. ie: One off color joke multiplied by many = problem.
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Old 07-22-2009, 02:42 PM
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WOW OK
first admin PLEASE shave ;)
I know I have been "gone" so I really havent seen any problems. I know I posted a couple weeks ago about being laid off and it was moved. Patrice told me where it was and after I read the guidlines of the topic I was ok with it....hey I didnt even know there was a new PDA section ..cool idea.
I also know you wouldnt be doing this unless you have had a BUNCH of pms gripping about one thing or another....
Yes we are adults BUT it seems common sense rule is lost. We cant do it or I should say some wont do it for what ever reason.
Not to get political BUT without some law there can be NO FREEDOM.
With the laws there has to be consequenses since "we" are not taking responsiblity for our words and posts.
My only real suggestion would be to get 2 maybe 3 more mods to help Patrice out. I know shadow will be back and that would be 5 mods. Another board I am a member that does not have the numbers we do have that many and it works very well ...since both boads have people on different time zones.
I know it would help you and Patrice out to spread the work around. Maybe the "rest" of us could help by not responding once a thread gets out of hand....pm the poster a NICE note suggesting where a thread should go. I say NICE cuz I have seen some get a tad snappy over a slight misplaced thread or photo...Not to me I was just a reader.
This is OUR board and WE need to take responsiblity for what happens here.
We are suppose to be frineds/family yes we care about each other and want to be part of each others lives. But there are some on here who are the crazy uncle ( I know some of yall think I am him) yall still love him some just need to ignore and skip over. We have alot to learn from each other if we give each other the understanding and accpetance to express themselves. This is about sharing and growing.
Sorry but this seems to be happening on a lot of boards . :?
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Old 07-22-2009, 02:44 PM
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One off color joke multiplied by many = problem.
Yep. That's the core of the problem with many things not just jokes.

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Old 07-22-2009, 05:54 PM
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I agree with one of the previous posters that this is "the QUILTER'S Message Board. That being said, isn't the definition of General Chit-Chat that it is for NON-QUILTING related posts? If all you are interested in is Quilting, and you don't want to read non-quilting related posts, DON'T GO THERE!

I can see your point about many of the posts, especially such as "cute story" and the joke of the day. If those were coming into your e-mail inbox, you would have them sent directly to your spam folder. But some people evidently like them, and sometimes they are fun to read, so how about a separate folder under General Chit Chat called "Joke of the Day" or some such thing. Or, if you really like to post jokes and funny stories, post THEM in your diary section. Your friends will know where to look for them, and if you want to tell an off-color joke there, no one can object.

I do like the Diary section, and believe that it is a good place for us to be random, perhaps a little pithy, and express personal random opinions or tell personal stories or exchange information. There is a member who just got a new machine, and one of her board friends is teaching her how to use it. And NO, it is not a TUTE, it is an "OK, what next".

As far as news posts go, we all are aware that Farrah Fawcett/Michael Jackson/Cronkite and Elvis are dead, and Reuters and the AP do much better reporting.

I believe that much of the "complaining" has been that one person is responsible for determining if something is of "General" or Personal Interest based on their interests and beliefs, and that the rules are not being equally applied. I LOVE seeing barnbums postings about her foals, and based on the number of views and responses it is obvious that a whole lot of other people do to. I WANT to see photos of Guam and Spain and France and Australia and some beautiful places here in the U.S. I believe those, too are of general interest, but don't take my word for it, just look at the numbers of views and responses those posts get.

And that leads me to "bumping". I had never even heard the term before I read your post, Admin. And frankly, with all due respect, I think you are completely wrong. Sure sometimes people post only one word. Or even a smiley. But not to bump (reminds me of an old song). It is because SOMETIMES either that one word or smiley is enough to convey what they mean, or perhaps pretty much everything superlative has already been said/posted about that pretty quilt, but you want to let the poster know that you saw it and liked it, so one word will do. Or maybe it's because you really don't like the colors/pattern/workmanship/etc. but you know that the person did their best and you just want to be encouraging without gushing or lying. Or maybe, the post is an old one that you missed the first time and just found, or one that you are revisiting and now want to comment on.

Just my never to be humble opinion. Thanks for listening.

Thank you for all you do for the Board. Managing anything with a bunch of women is like herding cats, and we DO appreciate your efforts.
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Old 07-22-2009, 06:14 PM
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I LOVE seeing barnbums postings about her foals, and based on the number of views and responses it is obvious that a whole lot of other people do to. I WANT to see photos of Guam and Spain and France and Australia and some beautiful places here in the U.S. I believe those, too are of general interest, but don't take my word for it, just look at the numbers of views and responses those posts get.
And those posts aren't the problem. I think they are appropriate for GCC. But right now, we are in the all-or-nothing situation because as I mentioned above, we changed the guidelines from "interesting" to "personal". It happened because some people... well, read above.

How would you formulate the guidelines to explain that the posts you outlined are welcome in GCC, without creating a long list with all possible topics a person can and can't post?

And frankly, with all due respect, I think you are completely wrong.
You misunderstood what I wrote :)

I never said that every single one-word post is an attempt to bump a topic.
As a matter of fact, majority of them aren't.

It's about the intent -- an example of people intentionally doing something to circumvent the guidelines.

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Old 07-22-2009, 06:15 PM
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My only real suggestion would be to get 2 maybe 3 more mods to help Patrice out.
We might get more mods, but how would that solve the problem of deciding what goes into GCC vs PDA?
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Old 07-22-2009, 06:40 PM
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I hear a lot of good points being made. Things that were easy to overlook when there were fifty new posts a day are swallowing me whole when every time I log in there are more than a hundred new posts. Call it growing pains.

Addressed earlier in the guidelines were other common sense things also overlooked. Some folks put tantalizing titles that have nothing to do with the contents. I see this trend growing lately, and I find it frustrating to open a post only to see a chain e-mail that has been circulating for 15 years.

The people I "know" are more from the chatroom. Whatever you've done there, Admin, is working just fine. Getting bumped off is no longer a daily given. A big Thank You there!

I also enjoy seeing quilt shows and the wider world I would otherwise not have access to.

I'm not sure you will ever convince the attention seekers that every utterance is not golden. It's the way they are in other areas of their lives, too. We all know folks like that.

My final thought is that some folks think everyone in the world has the same advantages as far as connections and equipment are concerned. If someone is only posting a link to a video that is not accessible to dial-up users, it would be considerate to add a couple sentences describing what it is about.

Theres my two cents.
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