Code of Conduct / Community Standards

(Old Admin) #1

This is a really difficult thing to get right. Impossible, even. But there has been some discussion that a Code of Conduct is needed here. Knowing that there will be a dozen differing opinions and no consensus, I still think it’s best to get community feedback. My hope is that something usable will come of it. If left up to me, I would keep it extremely simple:

  1. This forum is moderated. It’s not ideal, but it’s necessary.
  2. Listing everything that isn’t allowed is a trap. It can’t be done.
  3. Arguments are fine, but please keep it civil and respectful.
  4. Tolerance levels differ. If in doubt, err on the side of caution.

It has been pointed out that #1 should list the kinds of actions that might be taken (warning a user, moving a post, locking a thread, worst case scenario banning a user, etc) and that #4 implies that a person is in the wrong for being offended.

I have two main questions. You may have others. Mine are:

  1. What problems are we trying to solve?
  2. Is a Code of Conduct the solution to those problems?

Looking at the “IF is Dead” thread, I see more than one problem. It isn’t just that people were offended because of the anti-Twine, anti-CYOA, vote-'em-all-a-1 part. It’s also the part where it morphed into claims of misogyny. A leap in logic was made that (a) people are being unfair to a section of entries, (b) the people making those entries are female and minority, so © the people being unfair are expressing misogyny. The original sentiment, rude and ill-conceived as it was, didn’t make that same leap. It seemed that the original instigators were criticized not only for what they said (which makes sense), but for what they didn’t (which doesn’t). To me, this was equally inappropriate.

Does a Code of Conduct address both these things? At what point do community standards become thought-policing? And can this be fair to all involved?

Some reference links that were given to me:

plausiblydeniable.com/opinion/gsf.html
ashedryden.com/blog/codes-of-conduct-101-faq
geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Conf … ent/Policy

In short, I don’t know how to approach this the right away, nor should it be my decision. I’m bringing it up because it’s necessary. This isn’t the Merk Forum.

How to handle Code of Conduct violations?
(Marco Innocenti) #2

I think the duty of a judge is to take decisions. A mod is a judge of sorts. So you have to give rules, and then tell when those rules are broken.
To avoid witch-hunts and turn moderation into tyranny (which should be tolerated, as this is a moderated forum, anyway) a good judge should give an explanation of their decision. If none are given… well, we are guests in somebody’s house. We must accept them.

I’m in for a complete “free-for-all” discussion, as long as it 1) has something to add or prove; and 2) it isn’t plain, gratuitous violence. This can be judged easily, sometimes. But sometimes can’t. That’s why being a mod is a hard work.

Imo, with such a large community, a CoC should be required.

As for the actions to be taken: just a set of subsequent action (warning --> second warning --> silencing for a while --> banning). Step by step.

(Old Admin) #3

Enforcement is also a tricky subject. I don’t want it to be tyranny. And I don’t think anybody – myself included – wants to be the deciding factor on what’s actually actionable. In “IF is dead,” I saw it as kind of train wreck of misunderstandings, assumptions, and (sorry folks) spots of stupidity. Others saw it very differently. I didn’t see any actual harassment. I didn’t see any actual misogyny. No racism. No violent outbursts. So to me, it’s hard to see exactly how things went wrong, and what should be done to discourage or prevent it.

The end result seems to be people stating that this is why they don’t visit the forum, wouldn’t recommend it, or would actively recommend against it. The effects are damaging. That’s obvious.

So a third question, if the answer to “is a Code of Conduct the solution” is yes, is how’s it to be enforced? I’ve already identified that my opinion about what should or shouldn’t be allowed differs from others. At least one moderator has expressed not feeling comfortable making those decisions either. Moderators originally volunteered to help combat spam and trolls, not tell people what they could and couldn’t post within gray areas. So maybe there needs to be a separate committee that decides those things. Not moderators necessarily, but a group. But who’s in it? And does that become an “elite circle” leading to further problems?

In my perfect world, everybody suddenly becomes nice to each other, self-censors as needed, and thinks a little more before making rude, blanket statements that can’t possibly do anything but alienate others. But it’s not my perfect world. :frowning:

(Marshal Tenner Winter) #4

I’ve been guilty of many wrong things on this forum but I really have been trying to behave and bail out when things start getting heated. So bear in mind that I’m not perfect when I suggest something along the lines of “No Personal Attacks”. That makes sense but I’m not sure stopping people from being alienated by others’ opinions should be considered or would even work. People need to express their opinions on subjects (civilly) but if personal attacks happen, then that’s when corrective action should maybe take place? Just thinking outloud really.

Again, I am aware of the irony that it’s me saying the above. I’ve called people names here and I pretty much regret past behaviors. Still not perfect, but trying here.

(Marco Innocenti) #5
  1. It was nothing, according to you: why should you avoid it? Just a “silly”, but civil, exchange of thoughts and you may want to avoid it?

  2. You can’t be liked by everyone. I guess that a good explanation (and the will, on the other side, to listen) should be enough in cases like this, where no harm was intended. And apologies given.

  3. Yes, that would be an elite circle. No buts. And it would spoil everything. If there’s one thing worse than tyranny, it’s oligarchy. (Not that these forums hasn’t one running already. I just wish it was the mods…)

  4. In my perfect world, one would have no hard in understanding who’s being rude to people and act accordingly, and not judging intent by the rank of the offerer.

#6

Two principles I think would help:

  1. Don’t exasperate problems. People will get emotional, but when they do, don’t post in a way that will rile them up even further. You can do that without being seemingly offensive yourself, but it’s still wrong.

  2. Don’t declare a person or work to be something bad. Don’t say “X is sexist”, but “I thought X felt sexist”.

#7

Elite group? Why such a moniker? I wouldn’t feel inferior to a group of volunteers who are willing to tackle a tough job that, I’m assuming, not many of us would want. I think Somebody, or a group of people, has to do it, and right now we have moderators that don’t feel comfortable with the responsibility. I’m sure such a group, like the current moderators, would be sensible, polite, and responsible individuals who have the Forum’s best interests in mind. They might make decisions I don’t agree with, but I’m willing to accept that, recognizing that what I think is solely my opinion as well, no more or less valid than the group’s.

I actually think that the moderators are doing a great job as it is. Making a Code of Conduct may be in order, but as far as enforcement is concerned, if the current moderators don’t want to do it, then we’ll need some people who do.

Neil

(Dan Fabulich) #8

IMO, I think we did a pretty good job with our forum rules at the Choice of Games forum, especially the civility section. forum.choiceofgames.com/guidelines

It starts with the Discourse forum rules, which I think are very well considered. blog.discourse.org/2013/03/the-u … discourse/

(Note that Discourse allows “flagging” a post for inappropriate tone/content, instead of replying; PHP BB doesn’t have that. At a minimum, if there is a council of moderators, there needs to be a REALLY visible mechanism for how to contact the council privately.)

And then it adds the “no subtle-isms” rule from the Hacker School Social Rules. hackerschool.com/manual#no-subtle-isms

I’m going to quote the good part here, because it’s really important.

One point which we especially drew from the Hacker School Social Rules is to ask people to use formal mechanisms to report rule breaking, (especially flagging, which Discourse allows but which PHP BB does not) instead of discussing rule breaking on the thread. Our rules say, “Apologize. If you make other people uncomfortable on our forums, especially by mistake, apologize, or say nothing. Don’t argue about civility on public channels. Don’t defend yourself, don’t defend others, and don’t pile on to someone who made a mistake. If you see a problem, flag it; don’t reply.”

But to follow rules like this, everyone has to know and trust that we won’t discuss charges of misogyny like this:

When people say, “You’re being sexist,” that is never and can never be “equally inappropriate” as the behavior that made the person feel that way. At our forum, when X makes Y feel uncomfortable, X has broken the civility rules. If Y then breaks the “don’t argue about civility” rule, that is emphatically not equally bad.

It’s really important to state that publicly, because otherwise people won’t feel comfortable even calling out bad behavior in private, which is very difficult to do for people with less social power. Women have to know that if they report sexism on the forum, they won’t just get a dismissive response from the man who moderates the forum that reporting sexism is as bad as sexism.

David might well argue, “well, Porpentine made me feel uncomfortable when she said I was misogynist” but even to say that argument aloud is to make it obvious that it’s just nowhere near as bad. For example, white people usually feel bad when black people call them racist, and they imagine that it must feel as bad as racism itself, that the feelings must be equal and opposite, but they’re totally not, not even close, and a socially conscious moderator needs to be sensitive to those people who are just “way too sensitive” like women and minorities. (Is there any wonder they don’t want to hang out with us when we call them “too sensitive,” as David did?)

#9

You can report posts here, it’s what the ! button in the bottom right of each post is for.

I’m uncomfortable with your final suggestions because it sounds like guilty until proven innocent.

But I think this is good: “Apologize. If you make other people uncomfortable on our forums, especially by mistake, apologize, or say nothing. Don’t argue about civility on public channels. Don’t defend yourself, don’t defend others, and don’t pile on to someone who made a mistake. If you see a problem, flag it; don’t reply.”

#10

From reviewing the Choice of Games forum guidelines and reading dfabulich’s discussion here, I think this would be an excellent model.

(Old Admin) #11

I know I’m picking one thing, but I have read it all. Not the links yet, but I will.

My point wasn’t that it’s inappropriate to report sexism, or that reporting it is in any way bad. What’s inappropriate is to use that claim when it hasn’t happened. There was a clear bias and discrimination against a certain kind of game. But it wasn’t a bias or discrimination against a specific gender. Yet that correlation was drawn anyway. You’re absolutely right that a person should feel safe and justified in reporting it. But at the same time, it doesn’t seem like something that should be tossed around casually either, or as a way to basically end the other party’s argument by making it seem like something it’s not. Understanding that being accused of sexism or any other discrimination is nowhere near on par with discrimination itself, it’s still not something I want to see thrown around unfairly and as a weapon.

And this is probably where a volunteer committee makes sense. How to report things to that committee, well, I’m not sure. We can create groups, and possibly link to a “PM to Group” type thing. Maybe. It would need to be investigated. But I’d like to see a variety of viewpoints and opinions represented by that committee.

What I don’t want is for the whole thing to backfire, with people feeling paranoid to even discuss things. I wouldn’t want to participate in a community where I felt like every little thing I said was subjected to microscopic scrutiny, analyzed for possible subtexts, being potentially yet unintentionally offensive. There needs to be a balance between being polite and respectful, and being able to be yourself.

(Edit) And yeah, the “!” icon under a post does allow for reporting. Another category might be helpful, but reported posts show up for all moderators with the category and full description entered. That can be helpful as a start.

(Dan Fabulich) #12

Wow, nifty. I guess next we’d need to tweak the list of reasons, which currently just includes “Warez” “Spam” “Off-topic” and “Other.”

Is it possible to put some text on that button? Even just the word “Flag” would be a big help.

(Old Admin) #13

I bet a replacement of that specific icon would probably do the trick. As for adding an additional category, hopefully that’s built into phpBB. We’ll need to look.

(Dan Fabulich) #14

That’s where we disagree, or at least we disagree if you think that false charges of sexism are “equally inappropriate” as the behavior being criticized.

When Porpentine says “that’s misogyny,” that’s just not “equally inappropriate” as the behavior she’s criticizing. Even if you think she was objectively wrong, it’s still not “equally inappropriate” to be wrong about misogyny as it is to make people feel ostracized and discriminated against.

If false charges of sexism are “equally bad” as sexism, then before you report it, you hesitate. “When I report sexism here, some people will say that I’m equally bad because they disagree with me. If I’m wrong, then perhaps I am equally bad. Well, this was a subtle case of sexism; maybe I can’t prove my case. I don’t want to take the risk. I won’t report it. My feelings are hurt, but I don’t want to hurt his feelings and be equally bad.” And then subtle sexism rules the discussion.

But the real point is that if it’s well known that Merk thinks false sexism is equally inappropriate, then the “don’t use public channels rule” falls apart. Then we can’t trust you to enforce the rules, because the accuser will be on trial, too, and might be equally bad as the accused.

This remark comes from privilege. Women and minorities are constantly being subjected to microscopic scrutiny, analyzed for possible subtext. If you’re not worried about whether you’re offending someone, then you probably are.

Charges of sexism are the only weapon we have. If using that weapon is bad, then the privileged majorities will cheerfully “be themselves” and offend/exclude everyone else.

#15

I thought the “IF is dead” post was a bit of a troll-posting and was surprised to see it. Reminds me why we left Usenet.

Discussions for or against CYOA/Parser are fine, but should be appropriately categorized and as Merk mention, be polite and useful.

The occasional rant is fine…have your wild hair day. But I would view someone with consistent wild hair days as a troll and clearly not interested in engaging in useful conversations.

There is absolutely no place for personal attacks. That deserves one very clear warning and then that user is banned.

David C.
www.textfyre.com

(Old Admin) #16

“Equally” was poor word choice. I should have said “also”. But I won’t back down from that.

Maybe you’re missing the point that I don’t want want to be the one making these decisions. I’m not the right person for it. It sounds like you agree. But this can’t be one-sided, even if the other side comes from a privileged majority.

(David Whyld) #17

I feel uncomfortable when people accuse me of things that are untrue, but then I guess the same applies to everyone. My main issue with Porpentine’s comments, though, was the way she tries to see everything as a personal attack on women. When she sees negative comments about her games, maybe it’s because people didn’t like the game in question, not because they’re sexist.

1-voting games for the sake of it is wrong full stop, but here it sounds like she’s trying to make out that people who do it are making personal attacks on women. Do men never get their games 1-voted? Or does it not matter if the person being 1-voted is male?

And when I asked what she meant by that, she responded with

which is a heck of a long way from the textbook definition of misogyny.

My comment about people being too sensitive was just that. If someone says a bad word about your game, just accept they didn’t like the game and move on. Don’t paint them as a racist, sexist pig or soon you’ll reach the stage where people will avoid your games like the plague for fear of being branded if they comment negatively on them.

(Old Admin) #18

A couple of things might not directly relate (ex: the part about specific interactions with Choice of Games authors), but yeah, most of it could. This is a commercial endeavor, though, right? I can understand the need for all-encompassing rules in that case. Is that something we need here, though? I’m not saying we don’t. I’m asking.

Another suggestion submitted was more complete than my original brief version, but still short and simple.

#19

Yes!! Absolutely. I’m sick and tired of all the arguments that happen here constantly.

(Dan Fabulich) #20

That’s understandable. But you’ll be fine. You can handle Porpentine’s comments. You have thick skin, you have way more social power, and you don’t have to deal with people misgendering you every day of your life, which might put you a bit more on edge.

So don’t be too sensitive about oversensitivity. Be empathetic, and try to make this forum a safer space for everyone, including people who are really sensitive about this stuff. Those sensitive types are becoming more common every day, as you note, and if we don’t take care to be welcoming, they’ll just leave us alone, and we’ll all be the worse off for it.