We had a pretty good idea of how these things would be perceived, and this article is about how we did things and why. Do I understand why people would be upset? Absolutely, then and now. But we had to get a handle on things, and sometimes reactions to an otherwise worthwhile plan can make you temporarily wonder if the cure is worse than the disease.
As I said, we weren’t happy about some of this either, but that didn’t change the necessity to do it.
And with all of that, believe it not, there were more problems.
Have you looked lately at the footer in tiny type at the bottom of every forum page? Haven’t seen it, don’t know what I am talking about? Well, quick, go take a look, it’s there. I’ll wait… See it? Right, that’s a little recap of the WCE rules, some moderation reminders, and the photo rules. Only on November 7, 2004, they weren’t footers, they were headers. And instead of tiny type, they looked something like this:
Forums Use Agreement
This Forum is for the use of our members. By your participation, you agree to abide by the Forum Registration and Use Agreement located here. You agree not to post any prohibited material as outlined therein… Do not post images originally published on another enthusiast web site. In all other cases beside these examples a link to the image at the source site must be used in lieu of the reposted image. We ask that members not repeatedly embed images in their posts, similar to a signature image. Any images not complying with those criteria will be deleted… (and so on).
We thought this “disclaimer” was obnoxious looking, but our members, or at least many of them, felt it was something else. Some felt it was an attempt at intimidation, forcing our will on people by making them read something they didn’t want to read or be reminded of every single time they came into the forums. Others said that we were turning the site into some sort of legal fortress and that what had once been a friendly place was now a decidedly unfriendly one.
Truthfully, we weren’t happy about the ugly legal disclaimer being plastered across the top of the forum pages either. They really were obnoxious. They took up a lot of space, made people have to scroll down every page to get where they wanted to be, and it did look intimidating in a legalistic way.
We wanted to get everyone’s attention, initially anyway. If we had started out with a little footer as we have today, no one would have ever seen it, much less read it. We didn’t want anyone saying“Well, hell, I didn’t know I couldn’t post that picture! Where do you tell us that stuff?”
So we made it large type, hard to miss, but knew it was only temporary. In a couple of months, it was moved and downsized.
By now, dear reader, you may be thinking “What in the world were you guys smoking back then? Didn’t you have a clue what the reaction would be, and why in the world would you drop all this all at once?”
We weren’t smoking anything, and we went through the various changes and subsequent probable reaction scenarios over and over. First, we had to decide what kind of a site we wanted to have. What would it look like in a month, three months, six months, a year later? Then, what would we have to do to make that vision possible? What were the obstacles, the things we would have to change to achieve our goal. The Staff discussed these issues at length. Not everyone agreed with everything, but the plan focused on the problem areas:
Fix the WCE, stop the embedded images, make the Moderators lives a little easier, fix the forum behavior. We discussed implementing these changes in stages, but quickly discarded that idea. Since we knew what needed to be done, better to get it out all at once and let the tempers run hot for a while than dribble it out part-by-part and have people get madder with each new change, and stay angry for a longer period of time.
Change is always difficult for people, some more than others, but difficult. Clearly we were not passing out new goodies with all of this, these changes were negative in nature. Things that our members liked, and were used to having, or being able to do, were being taken away. Hardly a situation most people would warmly embrace.
Our estimation was that it would probably take about a month for the initial wave of discontent to pass, and another month after that before things returned to something resembling normalcy. That’s about how it worked. The plan was to implement the changes all at once, deal with the reactions, analyze and monitor the results, then adjust the plan accordingly.
We did make some other changes, some of which are with us today, namely the Feedback Forum. Along with establishing an appeal process for members who felt they had treated unfairly, we opened that new forum which was intended as the place to go and ask questions about site policy, the new rules, etc. Initially, it was a bit wild for a while in that forum.
Did the 2004 changes have the desired effects? I’d have to say yes, eventually they did. As things simmered down, we did make adjustments. The obnoxious oversized header became a tiny type footer. The “wall” between members and Moderators was eventually torn down as the forum atmosphere became more amicable. We have, on specific occasions, lifted the no-WCE rule, and allowed certain topics to be posted on a case-by-case basis. The no embedded image rule remains.
I recognize that this discussion may be more information than some of you wanted to know, but I think it’s worthwhile in that it illustrates an important period in SimHQ history, a look behind the scenes and what our thought process was, and how we got where are today.
And that, as the saying goes, is all I have to say about that.
In Part 3 of “All Things in Moderation”, we will talk about Moderators, who they are and what skill set they need to be effective.
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