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Well, I just came to know that we have got a new primary chatroom with the same name. When I visited the old one, I saw that it was frozen (by @Shog9♦) and there were 37000+ users inside it. This certainly is a rare event and people are curious. So, I think @Shog9♦ himself should answer this.

Here's what I saw in the post-apocalyptic debris:

  • Hundreds of messages were deleted.

  • Several users are banned even from the main site (presumably, due to the chat incident).

My question is: Why didn't these two things solve the problem? What was the point of nuking the entire chatroom? Did it solve any problem? How can a new chatroom prevent an inflammatory debate in future?

Update:
I just stumbled upon a message by @Shog9♦:

PSA: Mos will remain frozen until the SciFi mods decide otherwise. ALL mods have been instructed to freeze any SFF chatroom if a valid flag is raised unless/until a SciFi mod is able to intervene.

Such temporary freezes could solve the problem provided that Mos Eisley was one of the most active chatrooms in SE network and SciFi mods weren't that active in chat. But, why was a permanent freeze required?

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    I'm not sure how much we're supposed to talk about this ... nevertheless, have you read the transcripts of On Topic is Off Topic and Trash (the latter being where a lot of relevant messages got moved)? – Rand al'Thor Nov 14 '15 at 16:02
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    I think we need to flag down someone to look into shog9's modding behavior, which seems rather extraordinary. – Shamshiel Nov 14 '15 at 16:46
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    @Shamshiel According to the CEO, he's "the closest we have to an ultimate authority", so we might have trouble finding someone to rein him in... – Rand al'Thor Nov 14 '15 at 17:03
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    Well, that's extremely unfortunate. But perhaps after he cools down we'll see a more level-headed statement from him beyond what he said (and did) in the chat, which was not at all reflective of an effective community manager. Nobody is 100% 100% of the time. – Shamshiel Nov 14 '15 at 17:07
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    @Shamshiel If you want to escalate an issue to the Community Managers (which Shog9 is one of), use the 'contact us' link at the bottom of every page. – user1027 Nov 14 '15 at 17:38
  • I blame Mike Edenfield, who said "BTW: we haven't even come close to the record in weeks" and "chat didn't get shut down or anything." That was clearly tempting fate. – CodesInChaos Nov 16 '15 at 14:42
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    @shamshiel - I'm smiling at the idea of escalating an issue with the behaviour of a Community Moderator to... (wait for it) a Community Moderator. – Valorum Nov 22 '15 at 14:37
  • @Richard It might be possible to go 'over his head' and find somebody who outranks him in SE, but as you say, that's extremely unlikely to have any real effect. – Rand al'Thor Nov 22 '15 at 14:42
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    @Richard Drop your grudge and return to the site please. Just remember, nobody's perfect. – Captain Cold Nov 22 '15 at 14:42
  • @Richard: Yeah, I was unaware. Last time I was paying attention Atwood was still fairly active but given shog9 was appointed to be the community point man...yeah, pretty pointless. – Shamshiel Nov 22 '15 at 14:45
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    @SS-3.1415926535897932384626433 - I am present considering whether or not to return. Honestly, the way I've been treated is pretty crappy and when you're not having fun doing something, there's very little mileage in continuing to do it. – Valorum Nov 23 '15 at 15:37
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    @Richard I gave lots of thoughts on it. I'd only suggest that you should ignore CMs. They aren't part of community and they are playing gods. If gods turn against you, would you commit suicide? – Captain Cold Nov 24 '15 at 8:27
  • @SS-3.1415926535897932384626433 - I've yet to decide what to do. I'm mulling. – Valorum Nov 24 '15 at 12:05
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    @Richard In my experience, having a CM with a grudge against you isn't that much skin off your nose, since they're usually not active participants in the community. Having site mods with a grudge against you is much worse, as they can pick on you in little ways every damn day. As far as I know, you get on well with all four remaining mods here, so you should be able take an illegitimi non carborundum attitude towards the CMs and carry on without worrying about them. – Rand al'Thor Nov 25 '15 at 2:59
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A problem has been festering in SFF's chatroom for some time now. And in spite of the best efforts of your moderators and room owners, it doesn't seem to be going away. I've observed the activity in SFF chat for some time now, and I've come to believe that the problem boils down to a fundamental lack of respect for each other by some of the most active members of the chatroom.

The nature of the third place

Chat exists to serve the main site. That should be pretty obvious; Stack Exchange doesn't sell chat, or serve ads there, or even let folks join it unless they've participated on the main sites to some degree. Chat exists simply to be that third place for folks who call SFF home to meet and commune with one another:

Third places are nothing more than informal public gathering places. The phrase 'third places' derives from considering our homes to be the 'first' places in our lives, and our work places the 'second.'
-- a quote from urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg

This definition is important; even though it's trivial to observe that chat is a public gathering space (anyone can join, anyone can read your conversations there) folks still seem to forget that, when they converse in chat, they are speaking in public.

Conversation in public and in private

The rules of etiquette for conversation in public and private spaces are different. If I invite you into my house, you can leave if you're uncomfortable, and I can make you leave if you disrespect me... But if we happen to be sitting next to each other in a tavern, conversing while waiting for our beer and burger, then neither of us wishes to leave and yet may still find the other's choice of conversation unpleasant. It is therefore considered rude to bring up inflammatory topics in the public context, or to continue discussions after someone has expressed discomfort with the topic.

The folks in SFF's chatroom are brought together by a shared interest in... Science Fiction and Fantasy. They can and do have wildly varying interests and opinions when it comes to areas of life outside of that shared interest. Expecting the folks who drop into chat to agree on matters of politics, religion, art, philosophy or human rights is naive; there will be people who love Harry Potter just as much as you do but whose views on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership strike you as abhorrent and who feel the same about yours.

You wouldn't drive the person next to you away from their plate of food, so why would you seek to drive someone away from their discussion of Star Wars? And yet... That's what keeps happening.

Showing respect for others

In a public place, in a diverse group, it can be all but impossible to know what someone else will find off-putting. If you care about the people around you, the best you can do in most cases is to listen and watch for signs that they've become uncomfortable and, when you observe this, to back off: stop the conversation and either move to a different topic or move the conversation to a different space.

There are a few areas where you should generally anticipate problems however. For instance, if you're bringing up a topic that large groups of people have physically marched to protest in real life, then you should not expect a calm conversation from random folks on the 'Net.

Similarly, if a word or image came to your attention in the context of "something that bothers people", then you should expect that repeatedly posting it in chat will, in fact, bother people.

If you know something is likely to cause a negative reaction and you bring it up anyway, then you're already being fairly disrespectful; if you raise the topic knowing that others will express opinions that you vehemently disagree with, and then proceed to take umbrage at those opinions... Then you're straight-up trolling, demonstrating a complete lack of respect for others in this public space. Trying to give yourself a fig leaf by claiming cultural ignorance really only works once; you may have led a sheltered life in a small country with a fairly uniform culture, but you're on The Internet now - so respect the diversity of opinion and learn from it.

What happened last night

The three sections above are intended to help explain the background; what happened last night is the culmination of the problems hinted at there:

  • Several people began a conversation on a controversial topic
  • They then proceeded to get offended at each other's opinions
  • Flags were raised. When a moderator responded by entering the room to try and calm things down, he was ignored and then mocked.
  • More moderators and employees entered the room, at which point the conversation pivoted into finger-pointing as to who started it (nevermind that no one tried to stop it).
  • After deleting the original conversation, warning those in the room, and putting the room in time-out (and then freezing it), we contacted the moderator team.
  • The first moderator to arrive later that evening found that the finger-pointing had continued well into the night.
  • The moderators responded by freezing additional rooms, leaving some guidance, and suspending some of the worst offenders. Then, finally, everyone went to bed.

This needs to change

Frankly, this was far too much drama, far too much work for a problem that could've been solved easily by the folks involved. It's become apparent when talking to the room owners that this problem isn't one of ignorance; these issues inevitably arise when the room owners aren't around, suggesting that certain folks encourage them when they know they won't get called on what they're doing.

This hurts everyone. Especially the folks who just wanted to sit down and share a moment with others who share their interests. It's not fun, and it's completely avoidable.

What YOU can do

The moderators and room owners will sort out the locked-room situation next week (the freeze is temporary). But starting now and going forward, you - as a participant in chat - can do your part to help avoid problems. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Respect your peers. You don't need to agree with them on everything, but if you're gonna all hang out together you do need to respect their right to believe differently than you do. Don't intentionally make them uncomfortable.
  2. Be Nice. The rules are the same in chat as on the main site.
  3. Speak up when you see folks becoming uncomfortable with the topic. Suggest changing the topic or moving the discussion to a different room.
  4. Listen when someone speaks up. If you're told that someone's uneasy about the current topic, then ignoring them is a slap in the face; be respectful of others (#1) and stop intentionally hurting them.

Have fun and be good to one another.

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    Thank you for your straight forward, common sense response. I was frustrated by the situation as I wasn't able to get a clear idea of what happened. Your guidelines are spot on and I concur. There is a huge difference between off topic humor for humor's sake and nefarious trolling. – Major Stackings Nov 14 '15 at 18:00
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    This is an excellent response. I encourage everyone to take Shog9's observations and suggestions to heart. In particular, the tavern analogy is very apt. We may be speaking to one another through computers, but this is still real life, and we should offer each other the same level of respect and consideration that we would offer in the real world. – Praxis Nov 14 '15 at 18:28
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    This doesn't actually answer why the entire SFF chat community is being effectively punished for the actions of a few, and why a temporary freeze and the suspension of key individuals was insufficient. – user31178 Nov 14 '15 at 19:57
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    The freeze is temporary, @CreationEdge. See the last section of this answer, and keep in mind that it's a weekend and folks are busy elsewhere. – Shog9 Nov 14 '15 at 20:12
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    @CreationEdge : I think Shog is placing particular emphasis on the fact that this is not an isolated incident. Out-of-control arguments / drama / finger-pointing have happened on numerous occasions since the spring, and they have not involved the same individuals every time. The creation of additional room owners at the end of the summer was precisely because yesterday's drama was not the first of its kind (although yesterday's was arguably the worst). – Praxis Nov 14 '15 at 21:23
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    1) Thanks for a well written and honest account of this situation. 2) Also, thanks for summarizing and avoiding "gossipy" details. (That's not always easy!) 3) I don't know SE's actual policies in terms of handling such things, but since it appears it's the same people, repeatedly, why aren't repeat offenders just suspended for longer and longer periods of time for each offense? Yes, they can blame others, but, as I would tell my students when I was a teacher, "He may have started it, but you were quite eager to participate. I'll deal with the other person separately." – Tango Nov 16 '15 at 19:45
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    As tempting as it is to blame everything on a few troublemakers, the truth is there are an awful lot of folks who stand around and watch or cheer-on the troublemaking and step up to defend or excuse the behavior that leads to it, @Tango. Y'all don't need a chatroom that's free of trouble; you need one that actively resists it, recognizes its seeds, consumes it core stem and peel, and moves on with nary a burp. – Shog9 Nov 16 '15 at 22:04
  • I don't think I've ever been in chat when you were there, and I can't remember ever being in the room when it gets frozen or when there's something like this happening. In other words, I haven't been clear on just what happens when things go bad. Thank you for giving me a clearer picture of just what the issues are. – Tango Nov 17 '15 at 1:35
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    @CreationEdge I think the entire community got "punished" because the entire community didn't stand up for the chat room when it was being abused. – Möoz Nov 19 '15 at 3:00
  • You know, this whole post would sound a lot more meaningful if you and the moderators were not completely ignoring things like this. PLEASE don't tell me it fits in your definition of "respect" and "be nice" – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 17 '16 at 23:06

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