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Subject: Why we need censorship rss

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Michael Leuchtenburg
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Firstly, I need to define what censorship is. A lot of people here seem to think that deletion of messages and locking of threads is only censorship if they disagree with it. This is far from the truth. Deletion of spam is censorship. Deletion of personal attacks is censorship. Deletion of things the admins disagree with is censorship. Deletion of hateful messages is censorship. It doesn't matter what they're deleting - it's censorship.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't delete spam, or personal attacks. We *need* that censorship to keep BGG a forum worth using, worth speaking in. Otherwise, we'd all drown in the noise, or in our own vitriol. Certainly, the deletion of personal attacks makes BGG a more pleasant place to be.

The question, then, is not whether we need or want censorship - we clearly do - but what the policy on that censorship should be. I have few problems with the current policy, but they are still problems.

1) It is not clearly stated anywhere what the policy is.
2) There are no appeals, ever. In fact, it's not even clear who one would appeal to.
3) Criticisms of the policy are often censored.

I already know some of the responses you're composing. "It doesn't need to be clearly stated; it's *obvious*." I don't think it's obvious. I must not think the same way you do. I'd like for it to be clearly stated so that I know what the admins are deleting that I never see.

And then some people probably also think that there's no need for appeals. After all, an admin would never make a mistake - right? But that's baloney. Of course admins make mistakes. Most of the things they delete should be deleted, but they aren't always right, and there should be some process for appeal to handle such cases.

Finally, we have criticisms of the policy. I mean, very specifically here, criticisms of the policy itself. Anyone saying "Aldie is a moron for deleting such-and-such" is violating one condition of this site I *am* certain of: no personal attacks. While BGG is, and should remain, a dictatorship, it benefits from feedback from its users. I also think that allowing criticism makes people less likely to be angry about the censorship, and fewer angry people is definitely a good thing.

The more open the censorship process is, the more accepting people will be of it.

I think Aldie and the other admins are doing a great job, but that doesn't mean I think they're doing everything perfectly. Please don't take this post as an attack on them. I just don't agree with this one part of how they're currently running the site.

I'd like to ask the administrators of BoardGameGeek to:
1) Publicly post the policy for censorship, with categories of posts which will be deleted.
2) Create some sort of appeals process. It doesn't have to be complicated, but there should be some way to get them to give some content a second look. It does, however, include alerting users when their posts are deleted.
3) Not delete this post, or other reasonably phrased posts criticizing BoardGameGeek policy.
 
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Myke Madsen
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I fully support the admins' authority to moderate as they see fit... I'd just like there to be a little more visibility when they do it.

If I go to a geeklist or a review that I had looked at yesterday and it says: "Geeklist deleted by the admins" then at least I know what happened. If it gave a reason for the deletion, that'd be gravy.
 
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Matthew Gray
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HappyProle wrote:

If I go to a geeklist or a review that I had looked at yesterday and it says: "Geeklist deleted by the admins" then at least I know what happened. If it gave a reason for the deletion, that'd be gravy.


Patience.
 
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I run a server that has a similar problem, where there is content that the server is designed for, and sometimes that content gets drowned out, and users are scared off, when there isn't enough management/censorship. I don't run the server any more (now I only do the programming), but I did run it for a long time.

From the point of view of a server operator, I think there's little to no point in posting exactly what will and will not be censored. Generalizations is the best you can do. At one point I made a real effort for strict, exact, policies, and it made nothing better at all. The problem is that when you say "X, Y, and Z, exactly, are prohibited," you get a lot of problems:

* Every time you put the hurt on somebody for doing X, Y, or Z, it becomes a big argument over whether or not what they did counts as X, Y, or Z. It doesn't matter how specific you are. There will be arguments. So making X, Y, and Z general is just as good as being specific.
* You get a lot of arguments over whether X, Y, and Z *SHOULD* be prohibited.
* Some people love to test the boundaries, and will be as obnoxious as possible while clearly not doing X, Y, or Z. Eventually you'll have to tell/make them shut up, and then their friends all cry that you're ignoring your own rules and punishing the troublemaker for doing something that clearly isn't against your rules.

etc., etc.

Things work best if everybody keeps in mind that the server operators really want the site to be as fun as possible. They want people to come and have a good time. Precise rules of what the server operator will/will not permit don't help the server operator, and really don't help most of the end users either. Having general "If you post something spammy, offensive, annoying, or obnoxious, an admin may take it down" rules is probably the best possible policy for a place like BGG.
 
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Alexander B.
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My suggested rules for top quality moderation:

1) thread deletion: never, including by OP.

2) thread locking: avoid in most cases, ok if thread has become truly pointless.

3) thread moving: best to leave the thread where it was created, lock it, post a link to the moved thread, and put a copy in the moved to location.

4) post deletion: never.

5) post edited due to voliation of TOU: highlight area of infraction, include infraction reason, give warning to poster via pmail. Finally, disable the "edit" on this post so that the user cannot "un-moderate" it.

6) 3 warnings = either suspension or ban.

7) TOU is up to board, but "bad language" is a bad limitation usually, and should be handled by a filter if needed (I personally don't see any need for this at all, the time of "that word offends me" is basically over). Personal attacks tend to be very hard to moderate but I would say that unless they are severe I would not moderate them. Hate speech and such should probably be handled under #5. Note that this is not censorship since nothing is deleted, it is highlighted and the person is instead "shown the door" which is part of the right of any owner to decline service to anyone.

This all amounts to no deletion of user input, which is the goal IMO. Get rid of those who intentionally violate the TOU in the face of warnings, use these warnings to help show all users where the "line" is, and keep the TOU focused on very serious issues. If someone cannot handle a minor or medium personal attack then they should maybe grow-up a bit, but real hate speech is boring enough that banning such people seems reasonable.

The important TOU issues, to me, are spam, advertising, and such. That really CAN ruin a forum! It must be dealt with ruthlessly in all cases.

 
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The forum guidelines are actually quite clearly stated. You can see them at the bottom of the screen whenever you post a thread. They should probably be in a more visible location as well, since people seem not to know about them.
 
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Chris Bailey
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Whatever. It's a private site and they can do what they want. I don't worry about it since they don't really have to allow me to be here if they didn't want me.

I've always been curious though why someone would want to be an admin when it means work and they don't get paid.
 
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Matthew M
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ixnay66 wrote:


I've always been curious though why someone would want to be an admin when it means work and they don't get paid.


Chicks dig the admin badge.

-MMM
 
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Gabe Alvaro
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dakarp wrote:
The forum guidelines are actually quite clearly stated. You can see them at the bottom of the screen whenever you post a thread. They should probably be in a more visible location as well, since people seem not to know about them.


Hear hear! That's the first place I looked when I read this thread. I thought I remembered seeing the guidelines before. What more do people want? Sheesh!

Perhaps the link could be formatted or placed to be more noticeable, but it's not any less noticeable than anything else on the screen.
 
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Alexander B.
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dakarp wrote:
The forum guidelines are actually quite clearly stated. You can see them at the bottom of the screen whenever you post a thread. They should probably be in a more visible location as well, since people seem not to know about them.


I'd guess that the problem is that these issues can never be stated in a way that is "quite clear".

"common courtesy"?
"excessive"? "profanity"?

Nothing is clear about that and anyone who thinks that that is clear is... wait, would it be common courtesy or a personal attack to imply that another person might be less that fully clear about what they are posting? Would my saying so get this entire thread deleted? Why am I worrying about all of this when I just wanted to participate in a forum?

As stated above, the only way to show users where the real "line" is, is to provide examples of TOU violations IN CONTEXT, give warnings that all can see, and let all know when a suspension or ban occurs. Deleting things does nothing to help the users understand... anything.
 
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ixnay66 wrote:
Whatever. It's a private site and they can do what they want.


I wish people would stop responding to suggestions and constructive criticism as if they were an appeal to the government to intervene. Of course they can do what they want, but I think it's in everyone's best interest -- owner, admins and users alike -- to come up with a way of handling potentially explosive situations that is fair and appropriate.
 
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Gabe Alvaro
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diamondspider wrote:
dakarp wrote:
The forum guidelines are actually quite clearly stated. You can see them at the bottom of the screen whenever you post a thread. They should probably be in a more visible location as well, since people seem not to know about them.


I'd guess that the problem is that these issues can never be stated in a way that is "quite clear".

"common courtesy"?
"excessive"? "profanity"?

Nothing is clear about that and anyone who thinks that that is clear is... wait, would it be common courtesy or a personal attack to imply that another person might be less that fully clear about what they are posting?


It's nice that all I have to do to see the guidelines again in their full and contextual form is click "reply" below.

We are presumably all functioning literate adults. This shouldn't have to be spelled out in intricate detail that would only serve to ignite further useless debate.

Why don't you just imagine what common courtesy might be in a world you would like to live in and then use that for your definition. Why is that enough for some people and not enough for others?
 
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Michael Leuchtenburg
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HappyProle wrote:
ixnay66 wrote:
Whatever. It's a private site and they can do what they want.


I wish people would stop responding to suggestions and constructive criticism as if they were an appeal to the government to intervene. Of course they can do what they want, but I think it's in everyone's best interest -- owner, admins and users alike -- to come up with a way of handling potentially explosive situations that is fair and appropriate.


Entirely agreed. I'm not making a moral argument, I'm trying to make the site better. I think that a better site will result from a more open censorship - or, if you prefer, moderation - process. I'm not saying "What you're doing is ethically wrong! Wrong wrong wrong! Stop it right now, because it's wrong!" I'm saying, "What you're doing right now works pretty well, but I think it'd make an even better site if you did it a little differently."

Capisce?
 
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Frank Teplin
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For reference, here are the posted guidelines:

Quote:
BoardGameGeek Forums Guidelines
Welcome to the BoardGameGeek Forums!

We intend for BoardGameGeek to be the *first* site on the Internet that people go to to learn about the new and exciting boardgames we love. We would like the forums and geeklists to be open, friendly, and welcoming to new users, especially the main, game-related forums. Toward that end, we ask that you follow these guidelines when posting in the forums and in GeekLists. Our number 1 rule is: If you feel that another user has posted something inappropriate, please contact a moderator, and they will take care of the problem. Do not confront the user directly in the forum, as that can exacerbate the problem.

* Please use common courtesy in your posts. Excessively rude posts - in particular, complaints about other people's posts, spelling, or grammar, nasty sarcasm, or other impolite comments may be deleted by the moderators at their discretion. Impolite contributions are not welcome.
* Please refrain from posting any of the following:
o Personal attacks on individuals or groups of people.
o Excessive profanity.
o Ads or auctioning announcements (except for geekgold auctions or sales in Geekbay). If you would like to sell an item, please consider using the BGG Marketplace or buying a text or banner ad.
o Repeatedly posting articles consisting primarily of links to your own or someone else's site, blog, or podcast. If you have posted material on your site that you think would be of interest to the BGG members, we encourage you to repost it here.
o Trolling (i.e., posting in order to intentionally start arguments or flamewars)
* When creating a new forum topic, place it in the most appropriate forum. If a discussion in one topic goes too far off-course, consider creating a new topic in the appropriate forum. In particular, try to keep discussions that are not related to games in the off-topic section of the forums.
* Posts and discussions may occasionally be deleted by moderators or users. If something disappears, there is usually for a good reason for it. Please do not post questions such as "Where did that thread go?"
* Please keep discussions civil. Threads which degenerate into flame wars or repeated restatements of the same points by the same people will be locked.
* While designers or publishers may participate in "their" forums, they do not "own" them. However, here more than anywhere, the rule about refraining from personal attacks is in full force. While it is OK to discuss what you might like or not like about a particular game, personal attacks against individuals will not be tolerated.

The moderators may move, edit, lock, or delete anything that violates these guidelines or which otherwise seems inappropriate to them. In addition your posting priveleges may be suspended or terminated. Please, don't argue with them. If everyone is considerate of their fellow geeks, the moderators will have very little work to do.


I dunno, it seems pretty clear and comprehensive to me.
 
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Diane Close
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Octavian wrote:
Chicks dig the admin badge.


If you had some (heterosexual) female admins then your answer might be different!
 
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Octavian wrote:
ixnay66 wrote:


I've always been curious though why someone would want to be an admin when it means work and they don't get paid.


Chicks dig the admin badge.

-MMM


phwoar. Look at that badge.

::swoons::
 
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pdclose wrote:
If you had some (heterosexual) female admins then your answer might be different!


Hmm... She has a point. BGG has plenty of admins but none of them are women. What's up with that?
 
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Alexander B.
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blindspot wrote:

Why don't you just imagine what common courtesy might be in a world you would like to live in and then use that for your definition. Why is that enough for some people and not enough for others?


Perhaps because in the world I live in, there is little agreement about what these terms mean. So my "imagination" does not help a bit.

I'm not asking for anything to be spelled out further. What I did was suggest that giving examples, in context, of what is and is not considered a violation of TOU that we can all see, is the best approach I know.

That you didn't see this offends me and was not at all courteous! I am reporting you for a violation of the TOU!

Seriously though, I was clear that I was making a suggestion and that you didn't read my post really is more insulting to me than you calling me some four letter word. This is why such guidelines, without examples in context, are essentially meaningless.
 
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-=[Ran Over]=-
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blindspot wrote:
We are presumably all functioning literate adults. This shouldn't have to be spelled out in intricate detail that would only serve to ignite further useless debate.

Why don't you just imagine what common courtesy might be in a world you would like to live in and then use that for your definition. Why is that enough for some people and not enough for others?

Rules are for men. If we were all angels, we wouldn't need rules.

The challenge, as I see it, is to formulate rules that encourage the best behavior. What is being advocated here (i.e. clearly, exactly, with definitions and examples, etc.) is to "draw a line in the sand," so to speak. This will only encourage people to "walk the line" when what is desired is for people to stay as far away from the line as possible. Furthermore, as others have suggested, I do not believe it is possible to define the line. It will always be a "gray zone" because what is said matters, how it's said matters, why it's said matters, how often it's said matters, and a bunch of other factors undoubtedly matter. It's a judgment call and always will be. No matter what guidelines are posted, ultimately all content will have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. In that light, I'm with blindspot (quoted above) and I see no problem with this:

Rule 1: Be nice and exhibit good taste. If you are unsure whether your post satisfies this rule, rewrite it until you are sure or don't post it. If your post is deemed to violate this rule, expect it to be edited or deleted. The decision of the judges is final.

Obviously, people shouldn't be fearful. Fear is not the point. The point is using the consequences as a deterrent. Don't try to be as bad as you can be. Use your good sense and behave and you won't have any problems. Or if you're intent on being a jerk or whatever, don't put a lot of work into it.

I can understand the "never delete" position, but I don't support it. I don't want the place cluttered up with garbage. The whole point of the guidelines is to keep this stuff out of the community; preserving it forever is antithetical to that goal.
 
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rgmnetid wrote:
Obviously, people shouldn't be fearful. Fear is not the point. The point is using the consequences as a deterrent. Don't try to be as bad as you can be. Use your good sense and behave and you won't have any problems. Or if you're intent on being a jerk or whatever, don't put a lot of work into it.

I can understand the "never delete" position, but I don't support it. I don't want the place cluttered up with garbage. The whole point of the guidelines is to keep this stuff out of the community; preserving it forever is antithetical to that goal.

It all sounds very nice and rational and civil in theory, but in practice what's happening is that innocent material (like Ryan's) is being deleted and discussion threads are being locked (like this one soon will be). It's a bit of a strawman to say "just be courteous and don't make personal attacks", when the censorship (for want of a better word) has a much wider scope.

I'm all for removing the personal attacks, but I'd prefer to retain the jokes and discussion.
 
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Matthew Gray
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sbszine wrote:

I'm all for removing the personal attacks, but I'd prefer to retain the jokes and discussion.


I think you've hit on a central point here. What one person considers to be joke, another considers to to be a personal attack. Some people build rapport and camaraderie by what they consider playful ribbing of others. Others, more numerous but less publicly vocal, find it insulting and off-putting. Further, this kind of "poking fun" is often misinterpreted as hostile by someone new to the site, and that's not what Scott wants.

So, jokes are one thing, but if by joke you mean making fun of someone, however well-intentioned, recognize it will be more closely scrutinized. If an admin considers it to be over the line into "personal attack", it will be removed. Not everyone has a thick skin, and not everyone should have to.
 
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Michael Leuchtenburg
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As I heard it, Ryan said "this review is much better than your last one", and his comment was deleted. How is "this review is much better than your last one" an insult? If someone is working on something, should I refrain from telling them that they're getting better, and only speak in absolute terms?

"This review rates a 7.3"
"Ah, my last one was a 7.1 from you. Does that mean this one is better?"
"I'm sorry, I can't say - that'd be an insult!"

Quite a ridiculous idea, really. Perhaps I missed something that made his comment deserving of deletion. I would check but, well, it's gone now.

Also, if I "playfully rib" someone I *know* with *certainty* is fine with it, having spoken to them in private, will that also be deleted? It appears that the answer is yes, but I'm quite uncertain.
 
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dyfrgi wrote:
As I heard it, Ryan said "this review is much better than your last one", and his comment was deleted. How is "this review is much better than your last one" an insult? If someone is working on something, should I refrain from telling them that they're getting better, and only speak in absolute terms?


Not only that, but he added a thumbs-up emoticon AND gave the review a thumbs up. The only thing I can think of is that the admin who deleted it thought the comment was a backhanded insult. While I understand it is still gray, it's only slightly so, maybe #080808.
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Matthew Gray
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I don't know about the deleted comment, so I can't comment on it.


dyfrgi wrote:
Also, if I "playfully rib" someone I *know* with *certainty* is fine with it, having spoken to them in private, will that also be deleted? It appears that the answer is yes, but I'm quite uncertain.


It will be decided on a case-by-case basis, but it may be. The point isn't just how the person being "ribbed" perceives it. It's how other people perceive it. These are public forums. Private, well-received ribbing in private GeekMail is fine. When someone is made fun of in public, it discourages others from participating, if they don't want to be made fun of.

That said, obvious playfulness is not deleted in general. It's only stuff that isn't obvious, and yes, that's a judgment call. If I call a friend an "idiot", publicly, he may know I'm kidding and I know I'm kidding, but to another person, that sounds like a pretty uninviting forum to participate in. I've seen people be called much worse on BGG, in what I assume was meant to be a "friendly" way, but it's discouraged me from participating in that discussion, because I don't want to jump into a name-calling argument, and I can't tell for sure the participants' intent. If it discourages me, it certainly discourages a new participant.

Making fun of a friend in private is one thing. Making fun of someone on a public Internet site is another thing altogether.
 
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mkgray wrote:
I think you've hit on a central point here. What one person considers to be joke, another considers to to be a personal attack. Some people build rapport and camaraderie by what they consider playful ribbing of others.

Definitely, and this is something that varies wildly by culture. Personally I think it's okay to rib your buddies providing you know that they're okay with it (i.e. versus hassling a random user not of your acquaintance in the same way). It would be a shame if we could no longer hassle Jon Power about the cricket for fear of offending some third party, is what I'm getting at.

mkgray wrote:
Others, more numerous but less publicly vocal, find it insulting and off-putting.

The silent majority! They were big in the eighties, as I recall. Of course we could never agree where their loyalties lay, on account of the whole silent thing, but they were influential nonetheless.

mkgray wrote:
So, jokes are one thing, but if by joke you mean making fun of someone, however well-intentioned, recognize it will be more closely scrutinized. If an admin considers it to be over the line into "personal attack", it will be removed. Not everyone has a thick skin, and not everyone should have to.

Sounds very reasonable. Just adding a voice to the OP's call for context and transparency being a bigger part of the equation.
 
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