17

The particulars of the most recent incidents aren't particularly important. What matters is chat is causing far too many problems. How do we address this issue in a way that keeps as many people as happy as possible?

The things that seem to cause trouble are, in my opinion, as follows (and I myself have been guilty of all of these things at various points):

  1. Contentious political and social issues - e.g., gun control, reproductive rights, occasionally party politics, and in a rare instance or two, race relations. By far the biggest problem in Mos Eisley, never productive, always provoking heated debate, and frequently intense, if usually short-lived, animosity.

  2. Suspensions: This has already been covered in a post by Pureferret, and doesn't require additional explanation here.

  3. Profanity/obscenity - there have actually been relatively few flags for this in the past few weeks, but it still happens from time to time.

We elected room owners to help mitigate these issues, and when they are present, it is almost unheard of for serious problems to occur. Slytherincess and Praxis have done an outstanding job of keeping chat on track. However, and through no fault of their own, they obviously can't be in chat at all times. When they aren't there, a slight nudge can send the room careening off the rails.

How do we deal with this?

  • 6
    What are the consequences of these 'problems'? Are they actually problems? People getting into arguments and debates != problems. As someone who has managed communities before, it's easy to overreact to situations like this. Are people leaving Mos Eisley because they don't like the subject matter? Or does it make people more engaged and active? Does it totally dominate the chat to the exclusion of all else? What do you want to accomplish? What kind of chat do we want to have? One where we share a common interest but speak freely about whatever comes to mind or one of modded vanilla convos? – Shamshiel Nov 14 '15 at 16:31
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    Or any shade between - perhaps a time limit on how long any conversation can dominate the chat, for example, especially if it's clear other people are trying to talk about something else but get drowned out. (I am, by the way, disappointed that shog9 went and deleted all the apparently problematic comments, preventing anyone from evaluating the problems.) From my readthrough the problem looks like shog9's overreaction! – Shamshiel Nov 14 '15 at 16:37
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    As a frequent flyer in the Mos Eisley chatroom, I find myself guilty of flippant off topicness, infrequent (yet timely) swearing, the occasional light hearted political jab and of having such poor timing that I continually miss being present to witness the drama that brings us to meta. I thought our chat sessions were between adults with shared interests and a certain amount of common sense. Come on people. Can't we all get along? – Major Stackings Nov 14 '15 at 16:42
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    @MajorStackings: As best I can tell, a moderator was upset by a discussion, which they completely deleted and then froze the room while complaining about the activity of every user present and about how they had to 'babysit' them. It looks like some mods just don't like the SF&F chat community and want the chat to be something else. – Shamshiel Nov 14 '15 at 16:45
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    @Shamshiel It's easy for me to believe our "problems" are molehills rather than mountains. But since, as you mentioned, the mountains were paved over via deletion, all I have are rumored molehills, and the mountain censorship has put in the way of a group consensus. – Major Stackings Nov 14 '15 at 17:02
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    Mos Eisley Chatroom. In all the StackExchange network, you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious. – Mason Wheeler Nov 24 '15 at 19:22
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Ok, here's the deal. I don't often come to this chat often and do not frequent it. But when I do it's not because the chat has set off a lot of flags. I come because I occasionally ask questions on Scifi and want feedback or just to discuss them.

The fact that I feel I have to make that disclaimer about why I visit should say something.

I want to address your comments, from an outsider perspective who has been exposed to this chat room on and off over the past years and consistently had a negative impression.

Contentious political and social issues - e.g., gun control, reproductive rights, occasionally party politics, and in a rare instance or two, race relations. By far the biggest problem in Mos Eisley, never productive, always provoking heated debate, and frequently intense, if usually short-lived, animosity.

There is nothing inherently problematic with these topics. I am part of multiple other chat rooms on this site which can talk about these subjects, with significant disagreement, and have never seen the problems Mos Eisley seems to have. Other chat rooms have a non-trivial amount of cursing too - and yet to my understanding I've never seen a flag there for it.

The problem is not the content, it's the way it's handled and the attitudes/actions of users. A symptom might be certain topics causing flagfests, insults, whatever, but... people need to take responsibility for their actions. Seriously.

In other words: it's not the topics that are the problems, it's the users who can't maturely handle those topics.

I really dislike how both this question and your answer here imply that the problem is the topic of conversation. "If we fix the conversation topic, then Scifi's chat problems will be fixed." Treating symptoms can work. But if your core problem is users cannot be mature? All you will do is kick the can down the road.

What I would suggest is for everyone to:

  1. Accept that it's OK for someone to be wrong on the Internet. No, really. It's OK if someone has viewpoints that are wrong. It's OK to not go to war over things you feel strongly about. Part of maturing is not emotionally getting pissed off and reacting as such.
  2. Treat everyone else with respect. No matter how wrong someone is, that doesn't mean you can disrespect them.
  3. Take the high road. Is someone else being immature/wrong/dumb/whatever? Don't engage. Don't "make it so!" and react the same way. The phrase, "it takes two to tango" applies here.
  4. Don't be a jerk. This really could be the tl;dr of this whole thing. Understand that "being a jerk" can often be in the eyes of the beholder.

The more people here take personal responsibility for how they act towards other, the fewer problems you will have.

  • 6
    You make some very good points. Another anecdotal example: in a recent conversation in Mos Eisley (which became fairly heated but thankfully did not lead to a flagfest, probably because a RO was present), a widely respected user felt it necessary to say "YOU DO UNDERSTAND I KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A RACIST AND AN ASSHOLE CORRECT?" I was watching this conversation without taking part, and my conclusion was that some of our most active users - all clearly intelligent and knowledgeable - sometimes have trouble respecting each other's intelligence and knowledge. – Rand al'Thor Nov 14 '15 at 18:06
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    (As an aside, I don't see any issue with the message you quote. It's clear that some mods have serious issues with the way our chatroom is run, and it's natural that users want to know whether it's local mods or CMs. The choice of phrasing was a piece of typical Stackings humour, and not at all intended to be offensive (IMO).) – Rand al'Thor Nov 14 '15 at 18:08
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    @randal'thor maybe I should bold (4)? If you have to explain or justify why something is not meant as an insult... that is probably a good sign that the way it was said was not really the best. – enderland Nov 14 '15 at 18:15
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    Spot on sir.... – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 14 '15 at 18:25
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    Nailed it. I used to be a Mos Eisley semi-regular, and drifted away because the conversation kept turning sour. – alexwlchan Nov 14 '15 at 18:28
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    I apologize in turn for the confusion I wrought in chat last night, @MajorStackings; I find it challenging to communicate clearly at the best of times, and Friday night is never the best of times for that. The three of us on the team who intervened all tried to be as clear as possible in the time we had, but all of us had family obligations as well and all of us worked later than we should have; hence my urging in Mos to take the matter to meta, where I do believe we've all been better served. – Shog9 Nov 14 '15 at 18:46
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    "There is nothing inherently problematic with these topics. I am part of multiple other chat rooms on this site which can talk about these subjects, with significant disagreement, and have never seen the problems Mos Eisley seems to have." Indeed, I've been a part of debates on these very topics in other rooms and they remained very civil despite the disagreements. – Nathan Osman Nov 14 '15 at 18:51
  • Trust me. I understand a Mods task is not an easy one. – Major Stackings Nov 14 '15 at 18:55
9

How do we address this issue in a way that keeps as many people as happy as possible?

I don't really see this about making sure as many possible people are happy.

It's about this negativity apparently being so pervasive that the entire chat had to be frozen, 3 or 4 meta topics have been created, 3 members suspended, and Shog9 voicing that he has considered permanently freezing the room (although it's currently only temporary).

So, it's less about making people happy, and more about participants not being hostile, antagonistic, rude, etc. Part of the problem, as I see it, is the blatant disrespect also given to blue names when these issues come up. Users can't complain moderators are taking comments out of context, when their direct rudeness to moderators is exemplary of the problem.

I've seen the chat get overly negative, or offensive comments get posted, and this is how I've personally tried to resolve it:

  1. Tell the user what they said was too much. I've done this a couple times, and the user edited or deleted their message. I personally wasn't much bothered by what they said, but I recognized that it would be over the line for some users. I want to emphasize here that the other users acknowledged the comment and modified it, after only a simply prodding. It didn't resort to arguing or a big discussion.
  2. I edit my own messages, sometimes before I say them. Mentally, I try to keep my comments PG-13, which I think is a suitable guideline for public chatrooms that store content indefinitely. There are times where I've wanted to say something like "What the f***?", but censored myself to "What the hell?" (<--- Like when I logged in to find chat frozen, I did that exact thing)
  3. I'll try to change the subject. This one is sometimes a bit harder. Recently, there was a heated discussion and I made the mistake of restarting it. I stepped back, and with several other users worked to move on to another topic.
  4. I don't star inciting comments. Too often our star-board contains negativity, which makes it difficult to move past. I try to star light-hearted, funny, or truly interesting comments. For me, it's pretty demoralizing to come into the room 2-3 hours after a "heated discussion" and get the full, negative synopsis just by reading the starboard. I come to chat to escape stress, not be bombarded with it.

I've only been an active chatter for a few weeks, because of a confluence of work and life events has allowed it to be so, but I've definitely seen some ugliness in the chatroom in such a short time. It's generally an enjoyable experience, and I like being able to discuss SF&F stuff with people who know what we're talking about (except for certain somebodies who haven't watched Star Wars) as well as talking about adult subjects.

In fact, if the chatroom was only about SF&F, I'd likely not enjoy it as much. Chat is a way for me to have conversations that I otherwise don't have the opportunity to have.

How do we deal with this?

If people can't be respectful, and follow some internal guidelines or those laid out by Shog9, then they need to be kickbanned and/or suspended.

I see absolutely no reason why this should have ever come to the point that the entire room needed to be frozen. That shouldn't ever have to happen again. Instead, the offending individuals should be removed. If they're abusing their privilege, and risking my privilege, then I don't see any reason to allow the behavior to perpetuate without reprimand.

And then, when such disciplinary action takes place, we need to realize it's for the health of the community. Suspensions are temporary. People come back. And when they do, hopefully they've cooled their jets and learned where the line is.

  • 5
    There are a lot of superb points in this answer. The problem really isn't so much about the topics discussed, it's about the way in which people address one another when doing so. Hostility rarely makes others see the merit in your point of view. – Praxis Nov 15 '15 at 4:28
3

Here's my take - note that all of the following apply to everyone, whatever their stance on the issues involved, including myself.

  1. As unfortunate as it may be, it appears that we should simply prohibit certain subjects from Mos Eisley.

    • First and foremost among these topics is gun control. Many people have strong opinions about it, and although some of them may enjoy debating the issue, it clogs up chat, leads to endless bickering, and no matter what is said, it can never produce any useful results.

    • Although it comes up far less frequently, reproductive rights should probably also be prohibited from discussion in Mos Eisley.

    • Party politics is inherently divisive, and we aren't going to change each other's opinions, so we should either prohibit such discussions outright, or at least try to limit their frequency and duration.

    • I would be strongly opposed to enforcing a ban on discussions of race relations, in part because most people are much more respectful during these conversations. However, we should all remember to respect each other's experiences and opinions.

  2. As mentioned in the linked post, talking about suspensions is not only useless, but often actively harmful. Let's not do it.

  3. My personal take is that generic curse words aren't offensive, but plenty of people feel otherwise, and I respect that. As such, I see several options, any number of which can be applied in tandem:

    • As a general rule, try not to curse at all. If you do curse, do so in moderation.

    • Avoid the words most likely to cause the greatest amount of offense: F__k, c__t, t__t, etc.

    • Adopt a loose set of guidelines about what is and isn't acceptable: I would suggest that "ass", "damn", "hell", "crap", and "shit" are all mild enough, as long as they aren't directed at anyone in particular, especially in a hostile manner.


More generally:

Off Topic Room:

As Shog9 suggested, we opened a new room specifically intended for off topic conversations about subjects that are likely to cause problems. If a user in Mos Eisley wanders into dangerous territory, they will be politely asked to take it to the off topic room.

This obviously won't prevent the potentially offensive comments from being made, but it will theoretically ensure that they are seen by fewer eyes, and only by people who have chosen to take part. At the same time, it will make Mos Eisley a more pleasant place to be for everyone who doesn't like the drama inherent to political and social arguments. The site's main chat room will be easier to keep on topic, friendlier, less contentious, and when conversation strays away from science fiction and fantasy, it will only be allowed to wander into relatively unemotional areas.

Active Involvement, Early Intervention:

By far the most difficult-to-implement aspect of my suggestion. We all need to step up and take responsibility for what happens in chat. If someone is skirting the line, let alone crossing it, don't wait for a mod or room owner to do something, and don't wait until all hell breaks loose - speak up and say "Let's change the subject", or encourage whoever is involved to head over to Off Topic.

Mod Elections:

When we lost Richard as a mod, we lost the only mod who was almost always in Mos Eisley. We need to fill that gap as best we can. Mod elections, held as soon as possible, would go a long way towards reducing the number of incidents.

Add a Third Room Owner:

More room owners means more people ready to divert chat from dangerous ground to safer territory.

  • I don't see a linked vote and would like to see the reference you have about suspensions. – Tango Nov 14 '15 at 5:48
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    Also, while Richard may not be a mod, should we consider making him a room owner? Or would that lead to the same issues as came up before? – Tango Nov 14 '15 at 5:50
  • @Tango I added the link I assume Wad was thinking of. – terdon Nov 14 '15 at 11:46
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    With the creation of an "off-topic" room, are we going to start requiring Mos Eisley chat to be "on-topic"? – phantom42 Nov 14 '15 at 13:30
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    Additionally, I'm not 100% what another mod would afford us that having an additional room owner or two wouldn't. – phantom42 Nov 14 '15 at 13:58
  • Maybe the main room should be renamed Mos Eisley Light. Less villainly, all 1984. – Major Stackings Nov 14 '15 at 17:51
-6

Wow. I have to suggest some folks grow thicker skin. Yes. People need to know when to back off, and even when to not even go there, but now I'm getting the impression that a single person can bring an entire room to it's knees without even posting. All they need to do take it upon themselves to feel insulted, outraged, a stranger jumping in mid conversation, or otherwise unfriendly and raise a flag.

It may be their right, but that doesn't make them right. In some cases, it makes them seem a wee bit selfish.

  • I'll probably get banned for this. I'll see you on the other side. – Major Stackings Nov 14 '15 at 18:53
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    Selfishness works both ways. Wanting to never see things that bother me is selfish and naive; wanting to say whatever I want and never hear someone say it bothers them is just as selfish and even more naive. This only works if everyone is willing to be considerate of one another, to be less selfish. – Shog9 Nov 14 '15 at 19:01

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