First of all, thanks for the great and candid feedback today. I think the Festivus thread has been a huge success, and you guys have given me a number of ideas on how to improve things around here. We'll have a saber-newbies series for you guys coming up, and I'm also hoping to up the editing standards around here as we gear up for the season. It's going to be a process, but this had slipped under my radar so thanks for kicking it back up again.
But the largest complaint that I'm seeing is in regards to our current moderation policy, and in general, I agree with you guys. I have personally put very little thought or effort into site moderation over the past couple months, and upon reflection, I've let things slide too far away from what I intend for this community. I'm terribly sorry for this, but I'm hoping to get things kicked back on the right track.
I've spent a lot of time today looking at our DRB Community Guidelines, and honestly, I think they are still very strong and complete. However, our interpretation and implementation of these guidelines has been spotty and inconsistent, so I'd like to clarify our site-wide moderation policy for everyone involves -- both mods and users alike.
Obviously, it's difficult to catch everything and moderation will never be perfect. But this is my ideal-world scenario; it's what I shoot for in our site, and it's what I want to see going forward. I've run it by the DRB staff and a couple other people whose opinions I value, and I believe it's fair. But if you have any concerns with it, please don't hesitate to speak up below and I'll try and address them.
1. We like logic. We're not a "numbers-first" site -- we're a facts and logic site. You don't have to understand advanced stats to understand logic and to make a rational argument. We encourage debate and discussion, since there is rarely only one "correct" side to a debate, but you'd better be ready to argue with facts and not your gut.
2. Keep an open mind. If you disagree with an argument, make sure you understand before disagreeing with the results. Ask questions. Be willing to learn. Everyone is going to be wrong sometimes, so instead of defending your point of view incessantly, just move on and maybe even admit you're wrong. That's a great way to earn the respect of other users.
I don't think these guidelines have ever been an issue for moderation, as they basically just spells out the modus operandi for the site. It's warning users to be prepared to back up their arguments or else they will have people challenge them.
3. You can disagree with everything and everyone, as long as you don't make it personal. While we don't expect everyone to get along here, personal attacks on other user will not be tolerated. You can disagree with someone's point and argument, but once you cross that line to calling others names, then debates stop being fun and informative.
This is probably the most important rule in our guidelines, and it's also arguably one that's gotten out of control. I never intended for this rule to mean "Thou cannot poke fun at others" or "Thou shall not jest or have fun". It also was never meant to mean that people could not criticize DRB or its writers, as I definitely welcome feedback. And the same goes for other commenters...if someone writes something you don't agree with, you have every right to let them know and I won't stand in the way of that.
So where am I drawing the line? Don't call people "fucking morons" or saying they're being "stupid as hell". You can poke fun, joke around, whatever...just don't flame the user.
I don't understand what's so difficult about this concept; it seems to be a sticking point every time the guidelines get brought up, but I'm not about to change it. I may be ridiculous, but I firmly believe that the internet isn't an excuse to be a douche. If you wouldn't say something to that person's face, then don't say it -- it's as simple as that.
4. No slurs of any kind. And no sexist/racist/intolerant statements. This should be common sense. Curse words are acceptable as long as you're not going over the top (or attacking another user with them), but any sort of offensive slur is just not cool.
Big clarification to be made here: technically, there never was a "Fuck-Free Front Page" guideline. All I'm asking here is that users don't use any sort of slurs -- racial, sexual, ethnic, etc. -- and don't load their posts with 15 curse words. I honestly don't mind having curse words on our front page, even in articles. After all, this is a blog and we are all passionate fans. We just shouldn't go overboard.
After these top four rules, the rest are all of middling significance. Use proper capitalization, use headers, keep images to a small size, use the reply feature. Those are all important, yes, but they're not ban-worthy...they're more like "best practices" for commenting. Mods should remind users if they fail doing any of these things, but it's not worth warning them unless they keep making the same mistake over and over despite instructions.
No nudity? Yeah, that's ban-worthy, but it's also not a large problem.
Keep posts on topic? Yes, this is important, but mods shouldn't be too militant about it. This rule is there in order to prevent off-topic discussions from ruining baseball threads -- I hate when a writer's hard work gets almost no attention while the comments section goes off on a tangent -- but that's not to say we need to smack people over the head for going slightly off course every now and then. In general, if an OT thread is less than 3-5 comments long, I mean, who cares?
And in terms of enforcing, I do think that it's best to wield the lightest stick possible that will get a job done. We should never close threads down, as that's the ultimate form of censoring, and I also think mods should be careful with passing out bans. There are only a handful of cases that I think actually merit banning: flaming/attacking others, posting slurs or nudity, and trolls. Otherwise, mods should use warnings to let people know if they're toeing the line on an issue...if they dropped too many curse words in a particular post, came dangerously close to flaming, etc.
As for hidden and deleted posts, comments should only be hidden if they obviously cross a line against our guidelines. If someone flames another user, if they make a racist comment, if nudity is posted - then yes, hiding a post is in order. But if someone is just voicing criticism about the site, then no, we shouldn't hide it...that's weak sauce. And I apologize to everyone that's had that happen to them in recent days; that shouldn't have happened.
Also, I generally think that writers shouldn't moderate comments that have to do with them. If someone is critiquing you or your work, you're not going to be an impartial judge; you can alert others to comments that seem like attacks, but I don't think we should be banning users for perceived slights against ourselves. It's sketchy territory. Let other authors/mods on site decide if that comment comes across as an attack or not, and if not, it might be worth doing some self-reflection to decide if they have a valid point or not.
And the same goes for DRB as a whole. If people want to air complaints about the site, that's totally fair game and I have no problem with it. I just ask that users still follow the above guidelines: don't flame and don't use an excessive amount of profanity. If someone raises a criticism or critique that does neither of these things, we should let it stand and not hide or delete it...otherwise, again, that's weak sauce.
And of course, no anime. That goes without saying.