In Response to Recent Concerns

With respect, not all forums are the same and have a uniform practice. What goes on behind the scenes here might be different from what goes on in other forums. It is unfair (at least in my mind) to apply cynicism derived from interaction of other forums to here.

I think the discussion is becoming a bit too vitriolic. Perhaps we should consider just focusing on the positions and process as opposed to people.

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Can there not be a subjective nature to a set of generalized guidelines, as @chocolatemix pointed out? There are always going to be situations that rules won’t cover, and, as has been pointed out already, strict rules can and will make it so that loopholes are found. I don’t think anybody wants super strict rules. I’ve only seen mentioned that there should be a set of guidelines that moderators should follow, as well as consequences for if they repeatedly break moderator or forum/user guidelines.

I don’t feel that, just because someone is seen as trustworthy by other mods or by staff, that they should be permitted to be above the law, so to speak. That’s corrupt. Moderators that break forum rules on a regular basis (particularly if they’ve shown they like to repeatedly break one rule, rather than they accidentally broke 3 different rules once, each) should no longer be permitted to be moderators.

I’ve said it before, so I’ll say it again: moderators are supposed to be the leaders of this community. They are supposed to be moral guideposts, as well as people meant to help keep the forum welcoming for everyone. At the moment, it really seems like, as a whole, neither of those two guidelines are being met.

Are there any consequences for moderators breaking rules? Because, if so, I have one particular moderator in mind whom I would like to report, either publicly or privately, for their poor judgement, breaking of forum rules, etc. If nothing’s going to even happen, I won’t bother reporting, since the status quo will just remain the same.

I don’t believe anyone is being vitriolic. I’d be very careful with statements like this, as attributing meaning to others’ words, when they aren’t being outright rude/angry, is a very good way to escalate things. I think everyone commenting has been very respectful and careful not to cross any lines of civil discourse. See below.

There isn’t much more for me to say that hasn’t been said already by myself, @Sinnie, @chocolatemix, or @DinkyWink, and I’d rather not constantly repeat myself, so I will avoid commenting/participating in the conversation until such time as I have something further to add. :slight_smile:

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Just in case anyone missed it, I’m an ex-mod (for about three years now) so I haven’t had a firsthand view of any of the specific controversies that people are demanding apologies over. I’ve been an active forum community member for just about a decade, a non-mod for half that time, and that’s the perspective from which I’m writing. Not sure if that was entirely clear, or whether references to “you mods” were being aimed at me too. :slight_smile:

@chocolatemix, as you noted, I was responding to the claim that “it’s not art, just clear rules”… but I would definitely agree that moderation is not just art, that clear guidelines play a crucial role, and that rules can be clarified and tightened without mods losing all discretion – it’s not at all a zero-sum tradeoff. There are plenty of clear rules and guidelines in the existing Forum FAQ, as well as ones that invite judgment calls. So the fruitful debate is whether the existing rules need to be tightened up in one or more areas beyond what was announced at the top of the thread, not over “rules” versus “discretion” in general.

I wouldn’t use the real-world justice system as an analogy, though. A system of laws has to be a lot more rigid than the rules of an online community; because so many thousands of different people are tasked with applying it, it has pretty minimal room for discretion. That often leads to awful and unjust consequences, as laws designed with one scenario in mind can’t be adapted to the reality of different circumstances. An advantage of smaller communities with fewer enforcers is that you can allow more flexibility in how rules are interpreted and outworked – and the example you give shows that you recognize the value of that kind of discretion in many cases.

We would I think also agree that it’s not always an advantage – discretion can be abused as well. I can’t speak to the specific abuses you’ve got in mind, because I didn’t see them. You want clearer rules-of-thumb on which punishments fit which crimes, and that’s a reasonable area to think that some clearer guidelines would help. At the same time, as long as the new guidelines leave the degree of discretionary space you described – which we both agree they should – we would still I fear periodically see flare-ups like the ones we’re having here. People will angrily insist that the mods are using their discretion in all the wrong cases… against harassers when they should have been tougher on bigots, or vice versa.

This is where I want to be really careful to avoid destructive speculation in an example; I’ve got no idea how common it really is for (to use your e.g.) someone innocently asking about updates to get a first-time suspension rather than a warning. I find it pretty hard to imagine that’s become commonplace. If it had been, of course I’d agree that the rules should be tightened up in that area, but it sounds to me like the real issues here are more complex. When the charge list against the mods ranges from overzealousness to negligence, I’d guess there’s a balance being struck that (even if it’s the wrong one) would be hard to resolve just by tightening rules.

There’s a clear cost to a community when it litigates lots of cases of misbehavior in public, with pile-ons and harassment becoming part of forum culture. That’s what’s led Discourse to encourage forums using its software to adopt a flag-it-don’t-argue-about-it policy. That approach has its dysfunctions and dissatisfactions too, of course; we’re seeing them play out now. But on the whole I still think it’s best for a community when discussions about general principles and rules are carried out in public while the details of specific complaints are hashed out in private.

I started off this post distinguishing myself as a user from myself as a (former) mod, but I’d wrap up with the reminder that at the end of the day, mods are forum users; they’re the ones who care about the community enough to be willing to carry out an almost entirely thankless job to keep it a fun place to hang out and share stories. That doesn’t mean they can’t get things wrong and end up being destructive to the community… but it’s a tragedy as and when they do, because their intention has invariably been the opposite, and a lot of (metaphorical, thanks Mary) blood sweat and tears has been spent on that moderation with the intent of helping and protecting rather than harming.

If I were one of you all who felt strongly that a mod had got the job badly wrong and was hurting the community rather than helping it, I’d be angry too, and I’d bring my complaint to CoG management; but I’d do my best to keep in mind that tragic element to the story as I did so. Not because it alters the problem, or the necessary solution if you’re right… but because it might help me handle my own hurt and anger, and stay a bit more open-minded to the mod’s own perspective.

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I feel like this seems kind of convoluted. I like the idea of accountability for mods, but I think it can be simpler. I don’t know if you saw the interaction on Gower’s thread, but there are notes that moderators can/should add to users’ accounts, when an action is taken. If this becomes a required thing, at least there’s some level of accountability for appeals process and for moderators to be less likely to take hasty action, such as deleting comments in a thread, giving warnings to one person rather than another, etc. It doesn’t seem like it’s done every time, for now, but that seems like a reasonable request for them to start doing so. Every note is tagged with the moderator’s name, so there isn’t the chance for avoidance, and this could be used for warnings, suspensions, bans, etc.

I think this, in combination with a more publicized way to report moderators - without fear of retribution - would go a long way towards rebuilding trust between moderators and the community, at large. It still won’t resolve the issue of “what can and can’t we question/talk about” and “should we be able to talk in broad strokes, not specifics, publicly”, etc., but I think it might be a good start.

We, the community, would have no real way of knowing it was happening, sure, but I know I’d feel better, knowing it was a way to defend myself, later, especially in cases of deleted messages. Plus, it would act as a way to audit specific moderators’ behavior - are they notating the actions they’ve taken to discipline users? Are they being honest and tactful in their notes? Do they have a habit of doing x action a lot, but y action rarely? Seems like the notes on the accounts could really help. Idk, I could just be talking out of my rear end, right now.

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No, no, I think these a good ideas. I especially like the “more publicized way to report moderators”; it feels like a good steps that isn’t quite as much work as “mod mods”. I missed most of the conversation in “Moderation and Forum Norms” and “Shameposting Is Not OK” as it was happening. I have now read through all the posts on both threads that I missed.

Seeing the whole conversation straight through has given me more of a bird’s eye view, as it were, and mostly it seems people want accountability. I want that too, and as someone who has started to feel more and more put off by certain moderation practices/moderator behavior in this forum, I’d be thrilled to have such a feature.

Still, the idea is a bit vague. What did you have in mind when you said a “more publicized” way to report moderators? What would that look like?

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This is a little interesting tho

lets say i got banned a year
would i get information about this? that i could have appealed to Choice of games about a moderation dicision?

also could i come with an apology to the injured parties and say i am sorry
would this be taken into consideration?

why have so few people not appealed a moderation decision to Choice Games?
i think thats healthy to look in to for the community

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It says it in the FAQ.

In the past, some people have tried to go this route, but it really depends on the infraction. There are some things, like harassment, that no amount of apologizing will change the situation.

Other times, I’ve passed the apology on to the aggrieved party, and if the aggrieved party accepted that apology, I’ve done something like halved or quartered the suspension. But, again, this is a matter of it being a situation where an apology would matter, and that the affected accepts it. There’s no guarantee and no playbook.

As Ashes has said, users seem to fear retaliation. I see this as a trust issue, one which there isn’t a clear/easy way to overcome. All I can say is that the mods don’t have access to the Choice of Games emails, and we’re not going to retaliate against a user for appealing a decision. However, if we reject an appeal and you write an asinine response or try to circumvent the suspension, sure, we might lengthen the suspension. But the act of appealing itself would never be punished.

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My summation of the main points that are causing tension in this discussion (note: not my views, just my summation of the prevailing views) are that:
a) Moderators may, at times, be something of a law unto themselves, in some situations
b) Moderator actions do not appear to be readily up for review, either by a forum member requesting such, or other mods/CoG actively reviewing those actions
c) The official CoG position that discussion of individual issues should be done privately with either mods or CoG
d) There seems to be a certain distrust, or lack of belief, that any such review would be honest and meaningful if it did take place

My personal read of @jasonstevanhill’s, @dfabgmail’s and CoG’s collective responses via @KaiDeleon is that they are genuine about wanting to be responsive to all the issues raised here - and that their position to contact them directly is genuine.

From what I gather from official responses, is that very few people have ever raised a concern about any moderation actions directly with CoG - and of those that have been raised, CoG have nearly always (always?) agreed with the decision. I notice that as I am typing this, @ihauk has raised the exact same point above.
For me, it does pose a rhetroical question - have people raised individual issues with CoG directly? How has that gone? Do we actually have any evidence to suggest that CoG are not genuine in their position here? Because much of these issues might resolve if that avenue of appeal is in fact open, honest and actually used.

I don’t want to get into specifics, but there have been many comments about decisions made by individual moderators. It seems to me that the appropriate route here is to raise these issues with CoG directly and await the outcome and then revisit this topic from there. It feels to me that there is a little too much hypothetical judgement being cast on this whole process - that the idea of contacting CoG is being dismissed without being tried.

To be clear, I am not suggesting anyone rush off to write to CoG bashing any individual. I am talking about an instance where you feel a situation was handled inappropriately and you respectfully and politely raise that issue to CoG. @KaiDeleon, @dfabgmail, @jasonstevanhill - please correct me here if I am wrong in the intention of the idea of contacting CoG directly with issues (and edit this post if required)?

One other point I would raise again is about moderators acting individually versus acting on behalf of CoG. I know that the FAQ states that moderators are not representatives of CoG - unfortunately, moderators de facto represent the company and that is a fact that can never be changed.
The public view mods as representatives of the company, the community and all that it stands for and how it operates.

I don’t bring this up with respect to the issue of ‘moderators should be kept in line because they represent CoG’ - that’s an entirely internal business issue for CoG.

I bring it up because moderators are the interface between CoGs policies and their front-facing service and in almost all cases should be viewed as such. Thus, when an individual moderator undertakes a moderation action, first and foremost, that should be conceptualised as ‘CoG taking a moderation action’. The issues as to whether the forum rules and moderation actions are fair sits solely, and squarely, within the responsibility of CoG and no one else.
To re-state a previous point I have made: Our default approach should be to assume that everyone is acting in good faith and that cases where some tension arises are more likely due to misunderstandings and miscommunications. That goes for all sides in a discussion.

And, if you feel that a moderator has injected too much bias into their approach or actions, then you raise that to CoG - as per the above points.

As to introducing more accountability for moderation. I think that tying these two ends together might help with that - that when a moderator undertakes an action, the user is clearly signposted to the process for discussing and appealing the actions.

  • If a moderator makes a ‘moderator post’ in a thread (i.e. ‘stay on topic’)
  • If a moderator removes posts, then they send the user a DM (maybe this happens already)
  • If a user is being warned, or alerted that they may be suspended
  • If a user is suspended, then a DM is sent to the user

In all these cases, I think laying out clearly which rule(s) have been broken and why the action is being undertaken. But also clearly signposting within that message, the routes of discussion and appeal.
Would it help that when posts are deleted from a thread, that the moderator makes a mod post to explain why (and again, signpost to the appropriate routes)?

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I think one of the issues on the fourms is that you can’t tell someones tone over the internet so sometimes a comment may look aggressive or argumentative but it’s not meant that way at all I mean obviously sometimes we can tell when someone’s being rude but not all the time and that goes for everyone on the fourms mods,users, writers, ect. But it’s a tricky thing…

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Specifically, I would like to see a dedicated, hopefully anonymous, way to report - even a Google form could work. I don’t mean public shaming- just a known practice, aside from just “DM or email us!”. Like a tip box in an office.

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Hello everyone,

I apologize for creating the thread titled: Shame Posting. I am also sorry I did not step back from further engagement in that thread. I understand that in the future, situations like this should be handled with care and compassion in PM directly with the person or people involved.

Mocking through shame is still an activity that should not take place in this community, regardless of circumstances.

In an attempt to prevent such postings in the future, I posted this thread in haste, which in this case was not a virtue.

I am truly sorry that this thread was perceived to be a callout of @ClaimedMinotaur. That was never my intent.

I, also, sincerely apologize to @Jackpot1776 for using a quote that he intended to delete from the discussion. Using that quote was a mistake on my part.

It is my goal, as a moderator, to guide community members towards empathetic and supportive discourse. Going forward, my focus will be to operate with both deliberation and discretion in pursuing this goal, and to earn back any trust that was lost.

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I don’t intend to stir anything up here, and I am slightly unsure whether to post about this here, since my motto is usually “when in doubt, leave it out”. However I feel like this is more than relevant to what’s being discussed here, so here goes.

One of my friends was banned from the forum a couple years back, a respectful and generally polite guy(at least to people who aren’t me). I don’t remember the exact thread or the reason why, I could look it up if it becomes relevant. I believe he still has the e-mail exchange, but anyway… he was banned, tried to appeal it, and the one who responded to the dispute was the person who carried out the ban, again I could look up the details if necessary, but for this post I would assume it’s better to leave out any details? I can’t say as to why so few dispute their bans, generously assuming this is the case, but I can at least tell you why when the person who replied to the dispute was also the one who carried out the ban, my friend said “forget it don’t bother”, basically.
I remember he had had a few arguments with this person on other threads about non-related stuff before this too, adding to him feeling there was no point in disputing it, at least that’s what he told me.

Again, I am hesitant about posting this, and I usually wouldn’t, so if anything I’ve mentioned is against any rules I’ve missed or misunderstood, please tell me and I’ll edit/delete this post. But part of this threads purpose being about open discussion about this I thought I could chime in with an anecdote,I guess. This is not a personal attack or slight at the person or anyone else involved, hence no mentioning or even hinting of who was involved.

I like this community, I enjoy my time here, and my intention isn’t to casually “throw this out” as a “look this was a bad thing they did”. And perhaps this process has changed since that time, I have no idea. But regardless, IF this is how it’s still handled/is intended to be handled, I would see that as part of the issue, that is my point, I guess.

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Thank you for the apology; it does mean a lot. However:

The issue wasn’t that you used the quote and thereafter then I deleted the post. My post was deleted well before you quoted it.
:point_up_2: That is where the issue was. Not that you quoted me, but that you quoted me well after I deleted the post. Several hours later.
Just to clarify :grin:
No hard feelings.

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Need your help guys attaching the link see yourself
I am little confused

https://forum.choiceofgames.com/t/is-asking-for-update-and-asking-for-progress-report-from-an-author-same/101824

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Romero – your question was answered and the thread was closed. What more are you wanting someone to say? No, you’re not allowed to ask authors for a progress report; if the forum rules weren’t sufficiently clear on this, which I think they are, the mod response on your thread should have been. I get that it’s not the answer you wanted, but it’s a clear answer in keeping with a clear rule.

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Could you explain

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