And even with all of that, there were still more problems.
It became increasingly apparent that we had some severe behavior problems in our forums. Moderating the forums two years ago was a tiring, thankless job, filled with unceasing rounds of thread locks, suspensions or bannings, warnings, warnings, and more warnings. Then, a Moderator would get a raft of angry PM’s or emails or follow-up threads demanding to know why they did what they did, what right did they have and how biased they were. You name it.
In my opinion, it was getting to the point where nobody wanted to do the Moderator job any more. People get enough aggravation in life, why should they take on a whole bunch more simply for trying to help out the community and the site?
I began to think that pretty soon the Moderators would say “This is what I want to do with my free time? Take constant abuse and scorn for trying to help? No thanks, I’ll find something else to do that doesn’t raise my blood pressure 25 points. Maybe I could be a rodeo clown and get chased by angry bulls.”
Thus was born one of the most controversial decisions we ever made, worse than the “no WCE” edict, worse even than “no babe / copyrighted image” rule. This one touched off quite a ruckus through the site. If the image posting rules were like an anvil falling off the Empire State Building, this was The Anvil Chorus. Why? What was decision that ignited such angst?
Here it is, again excerpted portions from my November 7 address:
In addition, we have seen a clear trend with the moderation of the forums taking more and more time. Our Moderators do one heck of a good job and we are very proud of the work they do. They are all volunteers and as I said, they put in a tremendous amount of their personal time, all non-paid, in keeping the forums open and running smoothly. It can be a difficult and a thankless job at times. We have made the decision to help our Moderators do their jobs more effectively and efficiently, so that they in turn have more time for their personal lives, and more time for simming!
Second, we are changing the moderation process. Effective immediately, the Moderators will remove and archive any posts and/or threads which, in their judgment are inappropriate with our rules of conduct. No explanations will be offered, since the rules are clearly stated in the Forum Registration and Use Agreement. In addition, we ask that members not contact Moderators via any means with reactive comments or questions concerning a post or thread of theirs which was removed. If a member disobeys this and does send a message to a Moderator, we will not respond other than to remind the member of the rules. Subsequent and continuing messages will be subject to suspensions.
We realize this is a significant change. However, I would ask you to consider that if you post material that is consistent with rules of good conduct, that does not contain inappropriate materials, language, personal attacks, etc., you will see no change whatsoever. The Moderators are spending an inordinate amount of time responding to a multitude of questions, follow-up questions, comments, suggestions, and some, quite frankly, hot tempered messages. They simply don’t have the time or the energy to devote to answering these.
There it was. We were installing a barrier, a wall between our Moderators and our members, and further we made it clear we would delete all or portions of posts, or entire threads. Without notice and entirely based on our judgment. The “wall” was perceived as an attempt to stifle dissent, and the deleting of posts and/or threads was considered censorship.
As I said, the response was not good, I began to see post after post complaining that people’s rights were being trampled on. How dare we do this? In the pre-November 7, 2004 days, members had this right and that right, and some left over. Now, they had neither right nor left. We attempted to explain that SimHQ is a privately owned site, not a country or a province, not a town, city, village, or political subdivision of anything.
The better analogy was that of a private residence. People are invited to come on over, as long as they behaved themselves. But they didn’t walk through our door and acquire rights to anything. Take your shoes off and sit a spell, but don’t throw your shoes at the television — or the host — because if you do, the host may ask you to leave, at which time expounding upon your rights in that home is probably not going to go over well.
None of which made much difference. No forum was immune to the reaction. Day-after-day, week-after-week I sifted through and responded to posts about what “dictators and tyrants” we were, We were called petulant, childish, arrogant, Nazis, ego-maniacs. Who the heck did we think we were, sitting up in our ivory towers, dictating to people we called our “members”, but who could never communicate directly with us regarding differences of opinion? Who were we to decide that portions of a post could be deleted at will, whole posts suddenly go *poof*, or maybe an entire thread?
Some folks decided to test our resolve and push back. We banned more people in the span of a month or so than we had in whole time prior to November 7th, and probably since. The “insult-grams” in response to the bans I would get were not something enjoyable. Again, we anticipated the reaction, but going through it was something else altogether. There were days I didn’t want to come into “work”.
And, lest you be thinking “Don’t expect me to feel sorry for you. That’s all fine from your perspective! Have you ever considered what the view from the other side was like?”
The short answer is yes, we did. Before, during, and after the changes.