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ACS Rules and Protocols: Proposal for an Update


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#1
Nemo KB

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Remember waaaay back when I became a mod, how I said I was totally going to review the rules and write up a revised version for us all to review?

I keep my promises, in time.

 

Disclaimer: The following Proposal does not represent any plan, commitment, or prior discussion - past or present - by the ACS Staff to change ACS rules and regulations, precedents, or protocol. The following Proposal does not reflect the opinions of any other ACS Staff or Member except Nemo KB, and was created explicitly without their prior knowledge. Any discussion herewithin or following is completely non-binding until it is officially announced and enacted otherwise by an ACS Site Administrator. The changes outlined in this Proposal are not intended to be effected verbatim, but only after review. Caveat lector.
 
 
 
 

I could write something pretty overblown here, but the fact of the matter is, ACS works kinda-okay-I-guess right now. Compared to some governments in the world, the stability and satisfaction rate here is miraculous! Our userbase is generally sedate, and nothing really worth noting from a governance perspective happens more than once a month or so. However, since ACS will only be growing more busy with ACI set to release in America shortly, now is probably a good time to iron out the kinks. No harm in reviewing what we've got, right?

 

We are also lucky, because the problems we do have are problems we can solve. Or at least, ameliorate. Our major problem is currently the lack of faith in the current mod staff. Some say the problem is with the rules, some with the people who enforce them, but I think a good deal of what's broken in our current system can be explained by one thing: a lack of accountability and an "old west sheriff" mentality.

 

For one, the lines of communication are fuzzy. The system as it is has members coming to individual mods with a problem, and that mod trying to solve it themselves without any communication with other moderators. The only way we would know of mass dissatisfaction is if one of us happened to speak often with members outside of the forums. We have to pool our information. And even then, there is no incentive for us to try and solve it, because we can simply suspend people who give us trouble. While there is no practical problem with this, it's hardly desirable that we should let things get to that stage. There must be a system in place to force us to deal with these things properly and peaceably before we have to go and get out the ban hammer.

 

Further, because mods think they need to solve their own problems, even when these problems are too complicated for any one mod to see the big picture, it leads to rash actions. There is no incentive for any moderator to check their plans with other moderators to make sure there is nothing they might've missed. Moreover, it is the nature of this website that often moderators are involved in the situation themselves and may not always act with a clear head. Simply put, there's no system to make us look before we leap, and that's something very sorely needed.

 

Lastly, and this is the most important part, there is absolutely no accountability. None.

 

Let's face it, if for some reason one of us went rogue, we could ban every single active member and run before another mod noticed, and there's not a thing any of you guys could do about it besides simply not come. Clearly that's not gonna happen, but what does happen repeatedly is one of us doing something ill-considered, and the only complaints we actually have to deal with are from the rest of the staff who don't want their jobs made any harder.

 

Simply put, there's no reason for any of ACS to trust us. No, let's not play games, ACS either doesn't trust us, or doesn't know us yet. They have no reason to.

 

Think of it this way. When we mess up, we mess up immensely and publicly. We mess up in a way that upsets forum stability for up to a week, or weeks, and we ferment dissent. We are, in essence, just as potentially disruptive as any troll can ever hope to be. I'm looking at the logs right now: almost every single forum incident that's resulted in someone getting suspended since September has been the result of one of our own screwing up in some way, not because the member in question was purposefully causing trouble. That is why we need a way to hold ourselves accountable for our own actions the same way we hold members who mess up accountable for theirs.

 

This isn't a question about whether we're trustworthy, and it's not a recrimination. A lot of people disagree with me on this, but I think the staff we have can do the job perfectly well. Nor is this me trying to bind our hands. I don't want it make it harder for us to do what we need to do, in fact, I want to make it easier in the long term. The only binding I want is binding that keeps us from shooting ourselves in the foot.

 

No, this is about finally taking responsibility for our own actions and giving the userbase a reason to trust us again.

 

So. Where do we start?

 

ACS’ nominal guidelines are determined by three documents. The first is the Forum Rules, which everyone can see. The other two are the Staff Agreement, and the Guidelines for Warnings. These last two documents are not public knowledge, but for us to proceed, they must be brought to light. Here they are in full.

Current Staff Agreement:

Spoiler

 

^Pretty admirable, actually.

 

Current Guidelines for Warnings:

Spoiler

 

It doesn't do to have vital information dispersed like this. I've calmed quite a few irate members just by disclosing to them information from one or the other. Just from that alone, the utility of having our protocols public should be clear. Though of course, we should have them public for the sake of accountability and trust as well.

 

And, one more problem reveals itself. There's currently a lot of use of suspensions and warnings, but nothing explicit for moderator preview. In fact, the rule on the book says that all punishments are to be followed by mod preview, but we don't actually enforce that (thankfully, because that's a terrible idea). However, Panda admits there's way too much banning in the list, but it hasn't been updated since 2010. More pragmatic measures need to be put in place.

 

I believe that to solve these problems, a new document, open to the public, which combines all three existing documents and fixes them, should be enacted.

 

And here's what I propose.
 
 
 
 
Posting on ACS.com:
 
General Rule to Post By: Stay cool, alright? Don't do anything that you wouldn't want done to you, but also keep in mind that what you consider normal for the internet may not come off the same way to others. Not everyone's so cozy with net culture.
 
Keep posts informative / useful: Posting with the sole intent to increase your post count is a waste of everyone's time. Please do not do it. Don't make useless posts in conversations you consider dumb either. Yeah, we know it's funny sometimes, but don't do it for its own sake, okay?
 
Sub-forums: There are many sub-forums that have been designed to help organize this website. Changes to these sub-forums is an ongoing process. Please try to make your threads in the appropriate sections. This will help to keep the website organized and will promote traffic to all of the areas. If stuff gets out of line, it will not represent too much an issue unless the process is ongoing.
 
General Disagreements: ACS sure has a lot of dumb opinions, huh? One nice thing about a forum is that if you do not like the discussion, or your feelings are being hurt, then you have the choice to leave the thread and move on. Rule of thumb: when you're in an argument, ask yourself, "what does anyone stand to gain by my posting this?" If you have to think about it for more than five seconds, don't do it. Just don't. Nothing good will come of it. If you are able to make this decision and carry this out, your enjoyment of ACS will most assuredly increase!
 
Continued harassment of another member will result in a warning and a message. Refusal to comply will result in at least one other mod reviewing your situation and giving consent, followed immediately by your posts being placed under moderator preview and/or a one week suspension.
 
Hate Speech: You've probably got less of a handle on what's offensive and what's not than you think you do. So when in doubt, don't do it. Don't make that post. Because if you so much as make one comment harassing a member about race, disability, or religion, you will be suspended for a month. Continuing will result in a ban. Appeals can be made, and forum conduct will be considered, but until such time after a formal appeal from a deliberation of administration, you're gonna get the boot.
 
Negatively Posting (aka Bashing): Excessive bashing based on race, sex, sexual preferences, etc. will not be tolerated. Bashing of ACS members will not be tolerated. Competitive smack talk is fine, so long as it is kept at a reasonable level. What is reasonable / excessive is, again, up to interpretation by staff of ACS. It should be clear to a majority of ACS members, that a person is repeatedly and excessively bashing another member by the time that ACS staff become involved and has to provide disciplinary action. This will usually be brought to the attention of the poster by a staff member in the form of a PM warning. If the behavior continues, then disciplinary action will be taken, probably in the form moderator preview.
 
Continued Disregard for the Rules: If a moderator notices that you continually disregard the rules, he or she will send you a message letting you know of the situation. If further action must be taken, the mod will report this to the rest of the staff and request confirmation. This request must be approved by one other moderator, after which you will be suspended for one month. If a mod notices you continuing even after this, he or she must write a full report detailing past offenses and arguing for your immediate ban. This report must be approved by at least two mod staff, and cannot be disputed by more than two others on the staff. When the report is approved, you will be banned.

 

Other Circumstances: Sometimes people do really stupid things in the heat of the moment that they later regret. In situations where a member is breaking the rules because they are emotionally compromised in some way, we will enact moderator preview instead of suspension. 
 
Usage of the ACS Forums:
 
Announcements / Stickies: Read them for each section. Specific rules for each subforum will be located in these threads at the top of each section. Failure to read / understand these subforum specific rules, is not an excuse for breaking them. If the rules are unclear, please PM a moderator or admin about them for clarification.
 
Account / Computer Usage: You are responsible for your account and should be the only person to ever sign on with it. Usage of another person’s user name / account is strictly prohibited. This also extends to your computer / IP address. Choose who uses your computer / IP address carefully. If they are found to be in violation of the rules in a severe enough manner to warrant an IP ban, you will be banned from ACS as well.
 
Avatars / Signatures: Must not contain inappropriate and/or offensive content. Signatures must be limited to text and/or small images and may not include embedded videos. Animated .gifs are permitted, but may not exceed 2mb in size. These are subject to removal without warning, at any time, as deemed necessary by ACS staff. If they are replaced, disciplinary action will be taken. We don't really have limits, but if they are too big, at our discretion, we will remove the signature and then ask you to resize. Sig sizes are not strictly enforced and Avatar settings are automatically re-rendered. We do ask that signatures are not to have wallpaper images, and do not stretch the page horizontally when viewed at 1024*768 resolution.
 
Offsite Representation: If you represent another forum, webcomic or other For-Profit organization, we ask that you contact administration for permission to post your links. Sponsorship is open of course, but single lines of text in sigs are allowed.
 
Private Messages (PM): In general, private messages should remain private. It betrays the confidence of others, when you publicly post their private correspondence to you. An obvious exception to this would be when someone is violating the general rules of posting. Then their PM(s) should be forwarded to an ACS staff member.
 
Alternate Accounts: Alternate Accounts are not allowed. If you create an alternate account because you have forgotten your old password or log in name, the admin will change it and email the log in information to the email address used to register the respective account. If you are using an alternate account to get around a suspension (seriously, do you think we wouldn't notice?), you will receive an additional warning on your main account.
 
Forum Invasions: Do not use ACS to formulate your plans to invade, annoy, or cause any harm to websites / forums. If we find out a plan is set towards this forum, there will be immediate perma-bans.
 
Besides, forum invasions went out of style in, like, 2004.
 
Illegal Software / Programs / Files: Simply put, no warez. Do not discuss illegally obtaining any copyrighted materials. This includes, but is not limited to: programs, CD-keys, key generators, cracks, or music files (.mp3, .wav, etc). Do not post any links, or even discuss ways to obtain these copyrighted works. This rule is less strictly enforced for things which are impossible or incredibly difficult to obtain in your own nation, but don't push it.
 
Attempts to Circumvent Rules: Please note that these are the general guidelines, but are not an all inclusive set of rules. This is intentional on our part, as we do not want a rigid set of rules that every post must be governed by. These rules are flexible. This is done with the best interests of the posters in mind. So please try to focus on following all of the above guidelines, as opposed to finding ways around them.
 
ACS Staff Protocol
 
Staff Availability: The admins and moderators of ACS are here to help keep the forums running as smoothly as possible. We will be happy to handle any problems you have, and it is our job to be available to do so. If an admin or moderator asks you to do something, please comply with their request. If you do not agree with what they are asking, please do as they ask and then contact another moderator or admin, in an attempt to obtain resolution to your complaint(s) or issue(s).
 
Staff Conduct: The staff are not guardians, the staff are not parents. The are not police, they are not sheriffs, and they are not paladins. Some of us have this position because of site politics, some of us have them because we own the servers, some of have them because we filled a hole. None of that matters. We are moderators, and we have a job: to moderate. We solve problems. We do not make them worse. We look before we leap, we cover all the angles, and we try to resolve situations peaceably. We do not let our ties and personal hangups cloud our judgement as to the most effective course of action. There is always a solution. It is our job to find it.
 
Moderators are beholden to the same rules of conduct as everyone else, and we must be very vigorous in calling each other out for self-defeating or unseemly behavior. Our power gives us significant responsibility. Our responsibility is this: to make ACS a pleasant website. This is what is mean when we say we are not police. We as a staff should never forget that our duty is to the members, not the rules or personal ethics. It is all to easy to loose the trust of the members. Be wary. Be smart. Be fair. Be a moderator.

 
Staff Activity: In order to do their jobs, staff must have the right to move, merge, split, edit or delete any thread / post / signature / avatar that they deem necessary. The fluidity of the rules mean that sometimes these actions may not strictly cohere with written rules. A mod who does this must send a message to the affected member explaining why. The mod must report this action and release this message to other mods. Failure to do so will result in a warning.
 
Do NOT attempt to retaliate against an admin or moderator by making threads about it with negative comments about them or what they have done. If any user has a problem with an action taken by the staff, please contact another mod and explain your situation.
 
Mods who receive such complaints are required to share them with the rest of the staff within a week. If more than three people come forward with complaints about the same action from the same moderator, this moderator is forbidden to do do this action until it is approved by at least two other mods, and not disputed by more than two. Disregarding this procedure will result in a warning and possible temporary suspension of moderator powers.
 
Warnings: Moderators are required to report all messages and warnings - including full text - they issue. Any warning issued for something not specified by punishment in the rules must be approved by one other staff member. Not doing so will be met with a message first, then if it happens again, a warning. Continued disregard is possible grounds for a one month suspension and/or suspension of moderator powers.
 
Transparency: Often in the course of their jobs, moderators set precedents for their actions that are not in the rules. Any such precedent set behind closed doors must be made public within one week in the ACS News subforum. If it's discovered that we've been doing something without letting people know what's going on, it's grounds for public inquiry, at which point all pertinent discussion must be made public.
 
In regards to complaints sent to any staff member, while they are generally required to share them with the rest of the team, some exceptions may be made if the content is sufficiently personal. Discretion must be used by the reporting mod, in these cases.

 

It is part of an effective staff that we make sure members have easy access to all the information they need to not transgress, and that when we use punitive measures, they understand why. Not only must punishment be understood if it is to be an effective deterrent, it's only fair to the member in question.
 
Usage of ACS by Individual Squadrons: For Squadron Specific Rules, Please Refer to the Squadron Forum Rules Thread.
 
Remember, membership is a privilege, and power demands responsibility.

 

 

 

 

So, am I insane, or what?


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#2
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Certifiable.   :lol:


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#3
The Protector

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Overall I agree with most of this. Good work KB. I have a minor suggestion that you include "sexual orientation / gender" under Hate Speech instead of Bashing to make clear the severity of this offense.

 

I'm also going to recommend you guys formulate a policy on profanity since there seems to have been some inconsistency in enforcement.

 

Other Circumstances: Sometimes people do really stupid things in the heat of the moment that they later regret. In situations where a member is breaking the rules because they are emotionally compromised in some way, we will enact moderator preview instead of suspension. 

 

Can you clarify what sort of circumstances would fall under "emotionally compromised?" I have a general idea, but I want to be sure before I comment on this.


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#4
Nemo KB

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Overall I agree with most of this. Good work KB. I have a minor suggestion that you include "sexual orientation / gender" under Hate Speech instead of Bashing to make clear the severity of this offense.

Oh shit, I can't believe I forgot that. That was on the list of things I meant to put in. Thanks.
 

I'm also going to recommend you guys formulate a policy on profanity since there seems to have been some inconsistency in enforcement.

I was waiting until some more input came in from Broth3r's thread.
 

Can you clarify what sort of circumstances would fall under "emotionally compromised?" I have a general idea, but I want to be sure before I comment on this.

I mean situations where a member is in violation of the rules due to existing personal conflict, and would be well-behaved otherwise. Take the situation earlier this year between two of our mutual friends. One of them was 100% off to Alpha Centauri pissed at the other and it was bleeding over into the forums. Normally, this would have warranted a one-week suspension, but this guy was ordinarily pretty well behaved, so he was put on moderator preview instead.

Now, this real life situation was complicated by the fact that the other party was a mod, which seems to me libel to make the situation even worse, since it's asserting a new power structure over an already fucked relationship. The real life case made things worse, not better. Which is why I would say that in cases where the mod is involved, the case should be handled by someone else, so as to avoid such complications.

 

Just to be perfectly clear, this is an alternative to already delineated punishments, not a punishment in and of itself.

 

This is all coming from the perspective of the doctrine of sufficient force. One should not use more power than necessary to resolve a situation, else you'll usually end up causing problems down the road. Moderating is like surgery: there is a time and place for the bone saw, and a heart valve transplant is not one of them.


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#5
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Okay, that's understandable and fair, thanks.


Edited by The Protector, 21 May 2014 - 02:00 PM.

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#6
Nemo KB

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I see why you might've been concerned by the phrasing though. That was bad on my part.

 

In fact, a lot of this isn't as polished as I wanted. I'd have liked to sit on this a while longer, but circumstances kinda forced my hand.

 

But then, as I said, these rules were never intended to actually go into effect verbatim.


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OK, this is my first, knee-jerk response to KB's proposed revamp of the forum rules, etc.   Right now, I want to say that I respect what KB is trying to do, but I do not agree with all of it. 
 
My comments are in RED under the issue being commented upon, so that other Staff members can add their comments in different colors (Yellow would be too hard to read).  Pardon my blunt speaking.  I come from a generation where we spoke plainly (and in small words).
 
Overall, I would say that, were this a much bigger forum with more active Staff on duty, this might serve as a start to a 'kinder, gentler forum'.  However, with the situation as it stands, you would only hobble the few Staff that actually DO come here to do something other than play in their own high-level sandbox. 
 
That being said, I will try to maintain as much of an open mind as I can.
 

I could write something pretty overblown here, but the fact of the matter is, ACS works kinda-okay-I-guess right now. Compared to some governments in the world, the stability and satisfaction rate here is miraculous! Our userbase is generally sedate, and nothing really worth noting from a governance perspective happens more than once a month or so. However, since ACS will only be growing more busy with ACI set to release in America shortly, now is probably a good time to iron out the kinks. No harm in reviewing what we've got, right?

We are also lucky, because the problems we do have are problems we can solve. Or at least, ameliorate. Our major problem is currently the lack of faith in the current mod staff. Some say the problem is with the rules, some with the people who enforce them, but I think a good deal of what's broken in our current system can be explained by one thing: a lack of accountability and an "old west sheriff" mentality.

That’s two things.  I bet you think it doesn't matter, either, huh? 

For one, the lines of communication are fuzzy. The system as it is has members coming to individual mods with a problem, and that mod trying to solve it themselves without any communication with other moderators. The only way we would know of mass dissatisfaction is if one of us happened to speak often with members outside of the forums. We have to pool our information. And even then, there is no incentive for us to try and solve it, because we can simply suspend people who give us trouble. While there is no practical problem with this, it's hardly desirable that we should let things get to that stage. There must be a system in place to force us to deal with these things properly and peaceably before we have to go and get out the ban hammer.
 
Deal with things 'properly'....who determines that?  Shall we vote?  Yeah, that works sooooooo well... 

Further, because mods think they need to solve their own problems, even when these problems are too complicated for any one mod to see the big picture, it leads to rash actions. There is no incentive for any moderator to check their plans with other moderators to make sure there is nothing they might've missed. Moreover, it is the nature of this website that often moderators are involved in the situation themselves and may not always act with a clear head. Simply put, there's no system to make us look before we leap, and that's something very sorely needed.

Lastly, and this is the most important part, there is absolutely no accountability. None.

I am accountable to my superiors, the Admins of this site. They set the limits of my operation and can remove me at their pleasure, without warning or reason. I am only a volunteer.

Let's face it, if for some reason one of us went rogue, we could ban every single active member and run before another mod noticed, and there's not a thing any of you guys could do about it besides simply not come. Clearly that's not gonna happen, but what does happen repeatedly is one of us doing something ill-considered, and the only complaints we actually have to deal with are from the rest of the staff who don't want their jobs made any harder.

This is why any attempt to ‘reform’ Staff actions and duties will fail. Other Staff members do not care enough to provide direction or even opinions on our actions.

Simply put, there's no reason for any of ACS to trust us. No, let's not play games, ACS either doesn't trust us, or doesn't know us yet. They have no reason to.

Think of it this way. When we mess up, we mess up immensely and publicly. We mess up in a way that upsets forum stability for up to a week, or weeks, and we ferment dissent. We are, in essence, just as potentially disruptive as any troll can ever hope to be. I'm looking at the logs right now: almost every single forum incident that's resulted in someone getting suspended since September has been the result of one of our own screwing up in some way, not because the member in question was purposefully causing trouble. That is why we need a way to hold ourselves accountable for our own actions the same way we hold members who mess up accountable for theirs.

It only becomes messy because the members think they actually have a say in how Staff do their jobs and believe that, by 'community' protest, (usually evidenced by members 'bandwaggoning', and repeating the original offense) they can bring pressure to bear on Staff to accept their interpretations.   As in the latest disagreement over a call by a mod, who wound up suspending 3 members because they didn't accept the second chance they were given (WITH an explanation of why their content was disallowed) and repeated the offense.  Also, the timing of events shows that the original malefactor had to contact the other two offenders AFTER he was suspended and talk them into their actions.  They didn't get what they wanted, so of course they're going to blame the mod and try to stir up controversy. 

This isn't a question about whether we're trustworthy, and it's not a recrimination. A lot of people disagree with me on this, but I think the staff we have can do the job perfectly well. Nor is this me trying to bind our hands. I don't want it make it harder for us to do what we need to do, in fact, I want to make it easier in the long term. The only binding I want is binding that keeps us from shooting ourselves in the foot.

No, this is about finally taking responsibility for our own actions and giving the userbase a reason to trust us again.

What is this ‘trust’ you speak of? What does it do to make my job easier, because I’ll tell you, there are very few members here that I trust to do the right thing.

So. Where do we start?

ACS’ nominal guidelines are determined by three documents. The first is the Forum Rules, which everyone can see. The other two are the Staff Agreement, and the Guidelines for Warnings. These last two documents are not public knowledge, but for us to proceed, they must be brought to light. Here they are in full.

There is also a rule, maybe unwritten, now, that Staff members to not discuss things from the Staff forum in the public forum.  Again, this is to avoid the forum becoming a discussion place for how Staff does their jobs.  The attachments below (see original post) violate that rule, IMO.

Current Staff Agreement:
^Pretty admirable, actually.

Current Guidelines for Warnings:

It doesn't do to have vital information dispersed like this. I've calmed quite a few irate members just by disclosing to them information from one or the other. Just from that alone, the utility of having our protocols public should be clear. Though of course, we should have them public for the sake of accountability and trust as well.

And, one more problem reveals itself. There's currently a lot of use of suspensions and warnings, but nothing explicit for moderator preview. In fact, the rule on the book says that all punishments are to be followed by mod preview, but we don't actually enforce that (thankfully, because that's a terrible idea). However, Panda admits there's way too much banning in the list, but it hasn't been updated since 2010. More pragmatic measures need to be put in place.

I think you mean mod review, as punishment has already been meted out.

I believe that to solve these problems, a new document, open to the public, which combines all three existing documents and fixes them, should be enacted.

As has been discussed many times, it is difficult to lay out all possible options. This is why ‘mod discretion’ is allowed and assumed.

And here's what I propose.

Posting on ACS.com:

General Rule to Post By: Stay cool, alright? Don't do anything that you wouldn't want done to you, but also keep in mind that what you consider normal for the internet may not come off the same way to others. Not everyone's so cozy with net culture.

Keep posts informative / useful: Posting with the sole intent to increase your post count is a waste of everyone's time. Please do not do it. Don't make useless posts in conversations you consider dumb either. Yeah, we know it's funny sometimes, but don't do it for its own sake, okay?

Sub-forums: There are many sub-forums that have been designed to help organize this website. Changes to these sub-forums is an ongoing process. Please try to make your threads in the appropriate sections. This will help to keep the website organized and will promote traffic to all of the areas. If stuff gets out of line, it will not represent too much an issue unless the process is ongoing.

General Disagreements: ACS sure has a lot of dumb opinions, huh? One nice thing about a forum is that if you do not like the discussion, or your feelings are being hurt, then you have the choice to leave the thread and move on. Rule of thumb: when you're in an argument, ask yourself, "what does anyone stand to gain by my posting this?" If you have to think about it for more than five seconds, don't do it. Just don't. Nothing good will come of it. If you are able to make this decision and carry this out, your enjoyment of ACS will most assuredly increase!

Continued harassment of another member will result in a warning and a message. Refusal to comply will result in at least one other mod reviewing your situation and giving consent, followed immediately by your posts being placed under moderator preview and/or a one week suspension.

Hate Speech: You've probably got less of a handle on what's offensive and what's not than you think you do. So when in doubt, don't do it. Don't make that post. Because if you so much as make one comment harassing a member about race, disability, or religion, you will be suspended for a month. Continuing will result in a ban. Appeals can be made, and forum conduct will be considered, but until such time after a formal appeal from a deliberation of administration, you're gonna get the boot.

Negatively Posting (aka Bashing): Excessive bashing based on race, sex, sexual preferences, etc. will not be tolerated. Bashing of ACS members will not be tolerated. Competitive smack talk is fine, so long as it is kept at a reasonable level. What is reasonable / excessive is, again, up to interpretation by staff of ACS. It should be clear to a majority of ACS members, that a person is repeatedly and excessively bashing another member by the time that ACS staff become involved and has to provide disciplinary action. This will usually be brought to the attention of the poster by a staff member in the form of a PM warning. If the behavior continues, then disciplinary action will be taken, probably in the form moderator preview.

Continued Disregard for the Rules: If a moderator notices that you continually disregard the rules, he or she will send you a message letting you know of the situation. If further action must be taken, the mod will report this to the rest of the staff and request confirmation. This request must be approved by one other moderator, after which you will be suspended for one month. If a mod notices you continuing even after this, he or she must write a full report detailing past offenses and arguing for your immediate ban. This report must be approved by at least two mod staff, and cannot be disputed by more than two others on the staff. When the report is approved, you will be banned.

Again, Staff apathy kills this. This is one reason why we use the warn system, which, IMO, should be updated as to what constitutes a warning. This is a member’s ‘rap sheet’, so to speak, a record of his violations, and, like a real criminal record, is used to help determine sentencing for later offenses.

Other Circumstances: Sometimes people do really stupid things in the heat of the moment that they later regret. In situations where a member is breaking the rules because they are emotionally compromised in some way, we will enact moderator preview instead of suspension.

How would you know? Take their word? “Yeah, I didn’t mean it when I said you were a cocksucking, motherfucking prick. I had low potassium that day and was not in a good place.” Yeah, right.   Hyperbole, yes, but the situation happens.

Usage of the ACS Forums:

Announcements / Stickies: Read them for each section. Specific rules for each subforum will be located in these threads at the top of each section. Failure to read / understand these subforum specific rules, is not an excuse for breaking them. If the rules are unclear, please PM a moderator or admin about them for clarification.

Account / Computer Usage: You are responsible for your account and should be the only person to ever sign on with it. Usage of another person’s user name / account is strictly prohibited. This also extends to your computer / IP address. Choose who uses your computer / IP address carefully. If they are found to be in violation of the rules in a severe enough manner to warrant an IP ban, you will be banned from ACS as well.

Avatars / Signatures: Must not contain inappropriate and/or offensive content. Signatures must be limited to text and/or small images and may not include embedded videos. Animated .gifs are permitted, but may not exceed 2mb in size. These are subject to removal without warning, at any time, as deemed necessary by ACS staff. If they are replaced, disciplinary action will be taken. We don't really have limits, but if they are too big, at our discretion, we will remove the signature and then ask you to resize. Sig sizes are not strictly enforced and Avatar settings are automatically re-rendered. We do ask that signatures are not to have wallpaper images, and do not stretch the page horizontally when viewed at 1024*768 resolution.

Actually, since we became independent and changed servers, there does appear to be a limit on sig sizes, I believe I recently saw it as 750 X 300.

Offsite Representation: If you represent another forum, webcomic or other For-Profit organization, we ask that you contact administration for permission to post your links. Sponsorship is open of course, but single lines of text in sigs are allowed.

Private Messages (PM): In general, private messages should remain private. It betrays the confidence of others, when you publicly post their private correspondence to you. An obvious exception to this would be when someone is violating the general rules of posting. Then their PM(s) should be forwarded to an ACS staff member.

Alternate Accounts: Alternate Accounts are not allowed. If you create an alternate account because you have forgotten your old password or log in name, the admin will change it and email the log in information to the email address used to register the respective account. If you are using an alternate account to get around a suspension (seriously, do you think we wouldn't notice?), you will receive an additional warning on your main account.

Forum Invasions: Do not use ACS to formulate your plans to invade, annoy, or cause any harm to websites / forums. If we find out a plan is set towards this forum, there will be immediate perma-bans.

Besides, forum invasions went out of style in, like, 2004.

Illegal Software / Programs / Files: Simply put, no warez. Do not discuss illegally obtaining any copyrighted materials. This includes, but is not limited to: programs, CD-keys, key generators, cracks, or music files (.mp3, .wav, etc). Do not post any links, or even discuss ways to obtain these copyrighted works. This rule is less strictly enforced for things which are impossible or incredibly difficult to obtain in your own nation, but don't push it.

Attempts to Circumvent Rules: Please note that these are the general guidelines, but are not an all inclusive set of rules. This is intentional on our part, as we do not want a rigid set of rules that every post must be governed by. These rules are flexible. This is done with the best interests of the posters in mind. So please try to focus on following all of the above guidelines, as opposed to finding ways around them.

ACS Staff Protocol

Staff Availability: The admins and moderators of ACS are here to help keep the forums running as smoothly as possible. We will be happy to handle any problems you have, and it is our job to be available to do so. If an admin or moderator asks you to do something, please comply with their request. If you do not agree with what they are asking, please do as they ask and then contact another moderator or admin, in an attempt to obtain resolution to your complaint(s) or issue(s).

Staff Conduct: The staff are not guardians, the staff are not parents. The are not police, they are not sheriffs, and they are not paladins. Some of us have this position because of site politics, some of us have them because we own the servers, some of have them because we filled a hole. None of that matters. We are moderators, and we have a job: to moderate. We solve problems. We do not make them worse. We look before we leap, we cover all the angles, and we try to resolve situations peaceably. We do not let our ties and personal hangups cloud our judgement as to the most effective course of action. There is always a solution. It is our job to find it.

Moderators are beholden to the same rules of conduct as everyone else, and we must be very vigorous in calling each other out for self-defeating or unseemly behavior. Our power gives us significant responsibility. Our responsibility is this: to make ACS a pleasant website. This is what is mean when we say we are not police. We as a staff should never forget that our duty is to the members, not the rules or personal ethics. It is all to easy to lose the trust of the members. Be wary. Be smart. Be fair. Be a moderator.

Yeah, sorry, I don’t buy it.

Staff Activity: In order to do their jobs, staff must have the right to move, merge, split, edit or delete any thread / post / signature / avatar that they deem necessary. The fluidity of the rules mean that sometimes these actions may not strictly cohere with written rules. A mod who does this must send a message to the affected member explaining why. The mod must report this action and release this message to other mods. Failure to do so will result in a warning.

Pretty much, KB and I are the only ones who do this.

Do NOT attempt to retaliate against an admin or moderator by making threads about it with negative comments about them or what they have done. If any user has a problem with an action taken by the staff, please contact another mod and explain your situation.

Mods who receive such complaints are required to share them with the rest of the staff within a week.
 
Actually, I like this one, but not the rest.
 
If more than three people come forward with complaints about the same action from the same moderator, this moderator is forbidden to do do this action until it is approved by at least two other mods, and not disputed by more than two. Disregarding this procedure will result in a warning and possible temporary suspension of moderator powers.

Yeah, bullshit. You will never get a quorum (2-4 other mods). NTM mod suspension has always been at the pleasure of the Admins.

Warnings: Moderators are required to report all messages and warnings - including full text - they issue. Any warning issued for something not specified by punishment in the rules must be approved by one other staff member. Not doing so will be met with a message first, then if it happens again, a warning. Continued disregard is possible grounds for a one month suspension and/or suspension of moderator powers.

Again, not gonna happen because, lol, apathy.

Transparency: Often in the course of their jobs, moderators set precedents for their actions that are not in the rules. Any such precedent set behind closed doors must be made public within one week in the ACS News subforum. If it's discovered that we've been doing something without letting people know what's going on, it's grounds for public inquiry, at which point all pertinent discussion must be made public.

Now this is not going to happen, IMO, because discussion dissolves into a pissing contest, or a 'vote' where the deck is stacked in favor of the offenders.  At the least it will dissolve into members trying to debate and change said precedent (see http://acecombatskie...ty/#entry836878 ).
 
Long story short;  Members do not set policy.

In regards to complaints sent to any staff member, while they are generally required to share them with the rest of the team, some exceptions may be made if the content is sufficiently personal. Discretion must be used by the reporting mod, in these cases.

It is part of an effective staff that we make sure members have easy access to all the information they need to not transgress, and that when we use punitive measures, they understand why. Not only must punishment be understood if it is to be an effective deterrent, it's only fair to the member in question.

Usage of ACS by Individual Squadrons: For Squadron Specific Rules, Please Refer to the Squadron Forum Rules Thread.

Remember, membership is a privilege, and power demands responsibility.
So, am I insane, or what?


Yup.
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#8
Nemo KB

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Post moved into correct thread, full response later.

 

Looks like there's a lot here to cover, I wasn't expecting such a detailed response.


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#9
ZerstorungBiscuit

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“Yeah, I didn’t mean it when I said you were a cocksucking, motherfucking prick. I had low potassium that day and was not in a good place.” Yeah, right.

 

 

I'm sorry, if one was suffering from hypokalemia, you would not be calling people derogatory terms on a middle of nowhere internet forum.

 

You would be in the ER if it was severe enough.

 

A more apt thing would be hypoglycemia ersumshit.  Since people can get irritable from that and not have to go to the ER.

 

Yes I know you said hyperbole.  But please try to make it seem like something more plausible.


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#10
Nemo KB

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It's fine, Biscuits. I addressed that point in my response to Prot, Y13 misread my point because I didn't phrase it well enough, and didn't catch my correction in time. My bad.

 

...though hypokalemia was a bit of an odd choice.

 

(Like I said, full response to follow soon)


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#11
FREE THE [email protected] 1

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Moderators are beholden to the same rules of conduct as everyone else, and we must be very vigorous in calling each other out for self-defeating or unseemly behavior. Our power gives us significant responsibility. Our responsibility is this: to make ACS a pleasant website. This is what is mean when we say we are not police. We as a staff should never forget that our duty is to the members, not the rules or personal ethics. It is all to easy to lose the trust of the members. Be wary. Be smart. Be fair. Be a moderator.

Yeah, sorry, I don’t buy it.

See this right here? This is why you're one of the worst mods I've ever seen anywhere.


Avatars / Signatures: Must not contain inappropriate and/or offensive content. Signatures must be limited to text and/or small images and may not include embedded videos. Animated .gifs are permitted, but may not exceed 2mb in size. These are subject to removal without warning, at any time, as deemed necessary by ACS staff. If they are replaced, disciplinary action will be taken. We don't really have limits, but if they are too big, at our discretion, we will remove the signature and then ask you to resize. Sig sizes are not strictly enforced and Avatar settings are automatically re-rendered. We do ask that signatures are not to have wallpaper images, and do not stretch the page horizontally when viewed at 1024*768 resolution.

Actually, since we became independent and changed servers, there does appear to be a limit on sig sizes, I believe I recently saw it as 750 X 300.

 

Oh, one more thing. That is the size of the signature I had of a rainbow flag that you decided to delete. According to yourself, that sig was right on the limit for acceptable mod sizes. Thanks once again for your even-handed and judicious moderation.


Edited by FREE THE [email protected] 1, 21 May 2014 - 05:20 PM.

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#12
The Protector

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13's comments jogged my memory and brought up some good points. I'm in general agreement with the sentiment of what KB is doing, but I think we need to focus on changing the way staff operates, not their attitude. Like Y13 said, all the guidelines and policies in their world won't make an apathetic staff member better. So I'll argue that we need both staff changes and policy changes.

 

 

For one, the lines of communication are fuzzy. The system as it is has members coming to individual mods with a problem, and that mod trying to solve it themselves without any communication with other moderators. The only way we would know of mass dissatisfaction is if one of us happened to speak often with members outside of the forums. We have to pool our information. And even then, there is no incentive for us to try and solve it, because we can simply suspend people who give us trouble. While there is no practical problem with this, it's hardly desirable that we should let things get to that stage. There must be a system in place to force us to deal with these things properly and peaceably before we have to go and get out the ban hammer.
 
Deal with things 'properly'....who determines that?  Shall we vote?  Yeah, that works sooooooo well...

 

I think KB is trying to say that if a disagreement between users arises, you should try to mediate between them and find a solution before resorting to bans. Ideally, that is a good alternative, but mediating disputes is generally not something most moderators are expected to do. Fewer still are skilled at doing it. In general, I'm in favor of keeping the mods out of member disputes unless they spill over into conduct that violates the rules.

 

13 is right, with the diversity of backgrounds and approaches to moderating, plus the apathy of the staff you mentioned, you'll have a hard time finding a consensus here. A clear procedure must exist and be followed, which should include documenting and instructions on what actions to take.

 

 

Lastly, and this is the most important part, there is absolutely no accountability. None.

I am accountable to my superiors, the Admins of this site. They set the limits of my operation and can remove me at their pleasure, without warning or reason. I am only a volunteer.

 

We have no horizontal accountability, where staff actions are clearly documented and justified. Hell, even Something Awful manages to do this. We do have vertical accountability, where the moderators are subordinate to the admins and owners of this site and are required to abide by the policies set forth.

 

There has to be some leeway for mod discretion; if a mod has to receive approval for all of their actions from the rest of the staff, nothing will get done. I don't mean to suggest that staff should be able to unilaterally ban users at will; what I am suggesting is that if a moderator feels they can resolve the situation with a simple warning or one-day suspension, they should be allowed to do this. Documentation is the key. Those records are there in case it's discovered that a staff member did act inappropriately, or if the user is being considered for harsher punishment.

 

Oh yeah, and the reason we get complaint threads and users talking shit about staff in off-topic posts is because there is no formal process for appealing moderator actions.
 

Let's face it, if for some reason one of us went rogue, we could ban every single active member and run before another mod noticed, and there's not a thing any of you guys could do about it besides simply not come. Clearly that's not gonna happen, but what does happen repeatedly is one of us doing something ill-considered, and the only complaints we actually have to deal with are from the rest of the staff who don't want their jobs made any harder.

This is why any attempt to ‘reform’ Staff actions and duties will fail. Other Staff members do not care enough to provide direction or even opinions on our actions.

 

KB, I think a situation like that is very possible. At least one full-on forum wipe has happened during my time here as a direct result of the actions of a rogue moderator.

 

If what 13 says is true, maybe it's time we consider adding staff who will care.
 

It only becomes messy because the members think they actually have a say in how Staff do their jobs and believe that, by 'community' protest, (usually evidenced by members 'bandwaggoning', and repeating the original offense) they can bring pressure to bear on Staff to accept their interpretations.   As in the latest disagreement over a call by a mod, who wound up suspending 3 members because they didn't accept the second chance they were given (WITH an explanation of why their content was disallowed) and repeated the offense.  Also, the timing of events shows that the original malefactor had to contact the other two offenders AFTER he was suspended and talk them into their actions.  They didn't get what they wanted, so of course they're going to blame the mod and try to stir up controversy.

 

The owner(s) have the ultimate say in how staff does its job, correct. But the users can affect it too. If everyone stopped posting and left, what point would there be to maintain the site?

 

If you own a business and no one likes your service, your business will fail.

 

The fact that the "troublemakers" haven't left is proof that they care enough to stay, and want the site to be enjoyable. That, or they're trolls. The worst thing you can have are angry trolls who won't leave the site. I think the majority of people who have complained about the staff's handling of ACS recently are not trolls. If they break the rules, by all means, suspend them, but you have to understand the reason that some of these incidents have escalated to the point where users have been banned is because there is no designed process for submitting suggestions or complaints to the staff. That is why people, quite literally, turn to bitching and trolling, because that is behavior the mod staff can't ignore. This forces a response, whether in the form of punishments or action to rectify the original problem.

 

Just because some people have resorted to rule-breaking behavior to express their annoyance does not mean a problem does not exist.

 

 

There is also a rule, maybe unwritten, now, that Staff members to not discuss things from the Staff forum in the public forum.  Again, this is to avoid the forum becoming a discussion place for how Staff does their jobs.  The attachments below (see original post) violate that rule, IMO.

 

What's wrong with the public membership understanding how the staff does their job? They don't need to know what they are discussing or what they think of a particular user, but I see no reason why the procedure needs to be hidden.

 

 

Again, Staff apathy kills this. This is one reason why we use the warn system, which, IMO, should be updated as to what constitutes a warning. This is a member’s ‘rap sheet’, so to speak, a record of his violations, and, like a real criminal record, is used to help determine sentencing for later offenses.

 

I can view all of my prior warnings via my profile. I have no problem with what 13 is suggesting here.

 

 

Other Circumstances: Sometimes people do really stupid things in the heat of the moment that they later regret. In situations where a member is breaking the rules because they are emotionally compromised in some way, we will enact moderator preview instead of suspension.

How would you know? Take their word? “Yeah, I didn’t mean it when I said you were a cocksucking, motherfucking prick. I had low potassium that day and was not in a good place.” Yeah, right.   Hyperbole, yes, but the situation happens.

 

If someone is exhibiting behavior like this, they need a suspension anyway. Not so much as a punishment, but to give them an opportunity to get away from the computer and sort themselves out.

 

We lose our cool, or do stupid shit, because of extenuating circumstances sometimes. These should not preclude a punishment, but can be taken into account when evaluating the user's overall behavior. For example, I'd be less inclined to punish a user harshly for telling a poster to "fuck off" if they did not instigate the situation.

 

Regarding KB's proposed Staff Policy and comments made towards it, I've already mentioned how we can solve the apathy problem.

 

 

Yeah, sorry, I don’t buy it.

See this right here? This is why you're one of the worst mods I've ever seen anywhere.

 

Their duty is all three. The owners expect the staff to uphold the rules and policy they set, the members expect to see those rules enforced fairly and impartially, and the staff must conduct themselves in an ethical manner. All three facets are necessary for a successful and stable community.

 

EDIT: Format and spelling


Edited by The Protector, 21 May 2014 - 05:54 PM.

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#13
FREE THE [email protected] 1

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tl;dr remove Y13 as a moderator, replace him with someone who does care about the site, and most of the problems will be ameliorated, if not solved.


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#14
Nemo KB

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I could write something pretty overblown here, but the fact of the matter is, ACS works kinda-okay-I-guess right now. Compared to some governments in the world, the stability and satisfaction rate here is miraculous! Our userbase is generally sedate, and nothing really worth noting from a governance perspective happens more than once a month or so. However, since ACS will only be growing more busy with ACI set to release in America shortly, now is probably a good time to iron out the kinks. No harm in reviewing what we've got, right?

We are also lucky, because the problems we do have are problems we can solve. Or at least, ameliorate. Our major problem is currently the lack of faith in the current mod staff. Some say the problem is with the rules, some with the people who enforce them, but I think a good deal of what's broken in our current system can be explained by one thing: a lack of accountability and an "old west sheriff" mentality.

That’s two things.  I bet you think it doesn't matter, either, huh?

 

For one, the lines of communication are fuzzy. The system as it is has members coming to individual mods with a problem, and that mod trying to solve it themselves without any communication with other moderators. The only way we would know of mass dissatisfaction is if one of us happened to speak often with members outside of the forums. We have to pool our information. And even then, there is no incentive for us to try and solve it, because we can simply suspend people who give us trouble. While there is no practical problem with this, it's hardly desirable that we should let things get to that stage. There must be a system in place to force us to deal with these things properly and peaceably before we have to go and get out the ban hammer.
 
Deal with things 'properly'....who determines that?  Shall we vote?  Yeah, that works sooooooo well... 

 

On that first point...whoops. Yeah, like I said, this could've been proofread a few more times ^^;

 

As to the second, I mean properly as determined by what we, the ACS Think Tank, believe the most efficient course of action. The most efficient course of action is the course of action that encourages the best forum atmosphere. This entails that the proper course of action is one that does not unnecessarily estrange members, retains the Staff's effectiveness in dealing with problems, and is generally as unobtrusive as possible.

 

What we are doing right now is how we decide on it.

 

 

Further, because mods think they need to solve their own problems, even when these problems are too complicated for any one mod to see the big picture, it leads to rash actions. There is no incentive for any moderator to check their plans with other moderators to make sure there is nothing they might've missed. Moreover, it is the nature of this website that often moderators are involved in the situation themselves and may not always act with a clear head. Simply put, there's no system to make us look before we leap, and that's something very sorely needed.

 

Lastly, and this is the most important part, there is absolutely no accountability. None.

I am accountable to my superiors, the Admins of this site. They set the limits of my operation and can remove me at their pleasure, without warning or reason. I am only a volunteer.

 

Let's face it, if for some reason one of us went rogue, we could ban every single active member and run before another mod noticed, and there's not a thing any of you guys could do about it besides simply not come. Clearly that's not gonna happen, but what does happen repeatedly is one of us doing something ill-considered, and the only complaints we actually have to deal with are from the rest of the staff who don't want their jobs made any harder.

This is why any attempt to ‘reform’ Staff actions and duties will fail. Other Staff members do not care enough to provide direction or even opinions on our actions.

 

First, you're right, we can't count on Panda to keep up with internal politics. You said it yourself, mod apathy is as much of a problem as any of this. I didn't say anything before, because I didn't see any possible solution. And clearly being accountable to Panda isn't enough if even when Panda comes along to clear things up it's already too late and the forums are already in disarray.

 

And yeah, the apathy thing is a valid concern, and one which my suggestions do not adequately address, but we'll get to that later.

 

 

Simply put, there's no reason for any of ACS to trust us. No, let's not play games, ACS either doesn't trust us, or doesn't know us yet. They have no reason to.

Think of it this way. When we mess up, we mess up immensely and publicly. We mess up in a way that upsets forum stability for up to a week, or weeks, and we ferment dissent. We are, in essence, just as potentially disruptive as any troll can ever hope to be. I'm looking at the logs right now: almost every single forum incident that's resulted in someone getting suspended since September has been the result of one of our own screwing up in some way, not because the member in question was purposefully causing trouble. That is why we need a way to hold ourselves accountable for our own actions the same way we hold members who mess up accountable for theirs.

It only becomes messy because the members think they actually have a say in how Staff do their jobs and believe that, by 'community' protest, (usually evidenced by members 'bandwaggoning', and repeating the original offense) they can bring pressure to bear on Staff to accept their interpretations.   As in the latest disagreement over a call by a mod, who wound up suspending 3 members because they didn't accept the second chance they were given (WITH an explanation of why their content was disallowed) and repeated the offense.  Also, the timing of events shows that the original malefactor had to contact the other two offenders AFTER he was suspended and talk them into their actions.  They didn't get what they wanted, so of course they're going to blame the mod and try to stir up controversy.

 

If members aren't happy with what the staff is doing, then what can I say? Maybe the staff should seriously consider the possibility that they're right.

 

Look, all I'm saying is that the warning signs for each and every one of these situations were clear and present, and if we had been taking a step back, talking to each other, and thinking about the long term consequences of your actions, we could have avoided all of them.

 

In other words, remember the blow up we had about piracy?

 

No?

 

That's because it didn't happen, despite violations popping up a good twice a month, and nobody I've talked to liking the rules. Only this time, we saw the warning signs and defused the situation through PMs before it got to the same point as language use. Even if they don't like what you're doing, you can still make them respect it by choosing your words right.

 

 

This isn't a question about whether we're trustworthy, and it's not a recrimination. A lot of people disagree with me on this, but I think the staff we have can do the job perfectly well. Nor is this me trying to bind our hands. I don't want it make it harder for us to do what we need to do, in fact, I want to make it easier in the long term. The only binding I want is binding that keeps us from shooting ourselves in the foot.

No, this is about finally taking responsibility for our own actions and giving the userbase a reason to trust us again.

What is this ‘trust’ you speak of? What does it do to make my job easier, because I’ll tell you, there are very few members here that I trust to do the right thing.

 

And quite frankly, very few members here who have had to deal with you trust you to do the right thing. You don't see this, but I defend your butt all the time. Ask yourself, why is it that we both do the same job and get the same results, but people look up to me and not to you? It's not because you're a bad mod, it's because of your record of not seeing complications soon enough and having to resort to force. You may be 100% right every time, you may have no other choice, but it surely doesn't make your life easy when you do it, so why let it get that far?

 

I swear this isn't meant to be a critique of you, I just mean this as a general reflection of the way ACS Staff goes about its business ^^;

 

 

So. Where do we start?

ACS’ nominal guidelines are determined by three documents. The first is the Forum Rules, which everyone can see. The other two are the Staff Agreement, and the Guidelines for Warnings. These last two documents are not public knowledge, but for us to proceed, they must be brought to light. Here they are in full.

There is also a rule, maybe unwritten, now, that Staff members to not discuss things from the Staff forum in the public forum.  Again, this is to avoid the forum becoming a discussion place for how Staff does their jobs.  The attachments below (see original post) violate that rule, IMO.

 

Current Staff Agreement:
^Pretty admirable, actually.

Current Guidelines for Warnings:

It doesn't do to have vital information dispersed like this. I've calmed quite a few irate members just by disclosing to them information from one or the other. Just from that alone, the utility of having our protocols public should be clear. Though of course, we should have them public for the sake of accountability and trust as well.

And, one more problem reveals itself. There's currently a lot of use of suspensions and warnings, but nothing explicit for moderator preview. In fact, the rule on the book says that all punishments are to be followed by mod preview, but we don't actually enforce that (thankfully, because that's a terrible idea). However, Panda admits there's way too much banning in the list, but it hasn't been updated since 2010. More pragmatic measures need to be put in place.

I think you mean mod review, as punishment has already been meted out.

 

If that policy exists officially, I haven't seen it evidenced. But even as de-facto, look where it's gotten us. I have additional arguments on the utility of having this stuff open to the public, if I need to provide them.

 

But yeah, on the mod review thing, I guess I must have misread. Whoops.

 

But in that case, isn't it a problem that this usually doesn't get enforced. Looking through the staff forums, there really wasn't too many cases of mod actions getting called into question before you made the mistake of bringing me on board =P

 

 

I believe that to solve these problems, a new document, open to the public, which combines all three existing documents and fixes them, should be enacted.

As has been discussed many times, it is difficult to lay out all possible options. This is why ‘mod discretion’ is allowed and assumed.

 

And here's what I propose.

Posting on ACS.com:

General Rule to Post By: Stay cool, alright? Don't do anything that you wouldn't want done to you, but also keep in mind that what you consider normal for the internet may not come off the same way to others. Not everyone's so cozy with net culture.

Keep posts informative / useful: Posting with the sole intent to increase your post count is a waste of everyone's time. Please do not do it. Don't make useless posts in conversations you consider dumb either. Yeah, we know it's funny sometimes, but don't do it for its own sake, okay?

Sub-forums: There are many sub-forums that have been designed to help organize this website. Changes to these sub-forums is an ongoing process. Please try to make your threads in the appropriate sections. This will help to keep the website organized and will promote traffic to all of the areas. If stuff gets out of line, it will not represent too much an issue unless the process is ongoing.

General Disagreements: ACS sure has a lot of dumb opinions, huh? One nice thing about a forum is that if you do not like the discussion, or your feelings are being hurt, then you have the choice to leave the thread and move on. Rule of thumb: when you're in an argument, ask yourself, "what does anyone stand to gain by my posting this?" If you have to think about it for more than five seconds, don't do it. Just don't. Nothing good will come of it. If you are able to make this decision and carry this out, your enjoyment of ACS will most assuredly increase!

Continued harassment of another member will result in a warning and a message. Refusal to comply will result in at least one other mod reviewing your situation and giving consent, followed immediately by your posts being placed under moderator preview and/or a one week suspension.

Hate Speech: You've probably got less of a handle on what's offensive and what's not than you think you do. So when in doubt, don't do it. Don't make that post. Because if you so much as make one comment harassing a member about race, disability, or religion, you will be suspended for a month. Continuing will result in a ban. Appeals can be made, and forum conduct will be considered, but until such time after a formal appeal from a deliberation of administration, you're gonna get the boot.

Negatively Posting (aka Bashing): Excessive bashing based on race, sex, sexual preferences, etc. will not be tolerated. Bashing of ACS members will not be tolerated. Competitive smack talk is fine, so long as it is kept at a reasonable level. What is reasonable / excessive is, again, up to interpretation by staff of ACS. It should be clear to a majority of ACS members, that a person is repeatedly and excessively bashing another member by the time that ACS staff become involved and has to provide disciplinary action. This will usually be brought to the attention of the poster by a staff member in the form of a PM warning. If the behavior continues, then disciplinary action will be taken, probably in the form moderator preview.

Continued Disregard for the Rules: If a moderator notices that you continually disregard the rules, he or she will send you a message letting you know of the situation. If further action must be taken, the mod will report this to the rest of the staff and request confirmation. This request must be approved by one other moderator, after which you will be suspended for one month. If a mod notices you continuing even after this, he or she must write a full report detailing past offenses and arguing for your immediate ban. This report must be approved by at least two mod staff, and cannot be disputed by more than two others on the staff. When the report is approved, you will be banned.

Again, Staff apathy kills this. This is one reason why we use the warn system, which, IMO, should be updated as to what constitutes a warning. This is a member’s ‘rap sheet’, so to speak, a record of his violations, and, like a real criminal record, is used to help determine sentencing for later offenses.

 

Agreed 100% about mod discretion. What I want to fix is the circumstances under which this mod discretion happens. I think we need mod discretion too, just not in the way that we currently employ it.

 

You're right on the money about staff apathy too, I think. How would you lessen the load so as to make this less prone to staff apathy?

 

As for what constitutes a warning, I was under the impression that we were talking about warning points, and messages meant verbal warnings. Correct me if I'm wrong in this (it's a very real possibility).

 

Thanks for pointing this out, btw.

 

 

Other Circumstances: Sometimes people do really stupid things in the heat of the moment that they later regret. In situations where a member is breaking the rules because they are emotionally compromised in some way, we will enact moderator preview instead of suspension.

How would you know? Take their word? “Yeah, I didn’t mean it when I said you were a cocksucking, motherfucking prick. I had low potassium that day and was not in a good place.” Yeah, right.   Hyperbole, yes, but the situation happens.

 

Usage of the ACS Forums:

Announcements / Stickies: Read them for each section. Specific rules for each subforum will be located in these threads at the top of each section. Failure to read / understand these subforum specific rules, is not an excuse for breaking them. If the rules are unclear, please PM a moderator or admin about them for clarification.

Account / Computer Usage: You are responsible for your account and should be the only person to ever sign on with it. Usage of another person’s user name / account is strictly prohibited. This also extends to your computer / IP address. Choose who uses your computer / IP address carefully. If they are found to be in violation of the rules in a severe enough manner to warrant an IP ban, you will be banned from ACS as well.

Avatars / Signatures: Must not contain inappropriate and/or offensive content. Signatures must be limited to text and/or small images and may not include embedded videos. Animated .gifs are permitted, but may not exceed 2mb in size. These are subject to removal without warning, at any time, as deemed necessary by ACS staff. If they are replaced, disciplinary action will be taken. We don't really have limits, but if they are too big, at our discretion, we will remove the signature and then ask you to resize. Sig sizes are not strictly enforced and Avatar settings are automatically re-rendered. We do ask that signatures are not to have wallpaper images, and do not stretch the page horizontally when viewed at 1024*768 resolution.

Actually, since we became independent and changed servers, there does appear to be a limit on sig sizes, I believe I recently saw it as 750 X 300.

 

See: my response to Prot. You're right, I phrased it badly. I don't mean like "hurr I had low blood sugar/mouse died/bad day at work." Because you're right, that would be all kinds of stupid.

 

Ah, and I didn't know that about signatures. I just took this from Panda's rules, so who knows how out of date they are. If we get nothing else out of this discussion, at least we'll have that.
 

 

Offsite Representation: If you represent another forum, webcomic or other For-Profit organization, we ask that you contact administration for permission to post your links. Sponsorship is open of course, but single lines of text in sigs are allowed.

Private Messages (PM): In general, private messages should remain private. It betrays the confidence of others, when you publicly post their private correspondence to you. An obvious exception to this would be when someone is violating the general rules of posting. Then their PM(s) should be forwarded to an ACS staff member.

Alternate Accounts: Alternate Accounts are not allowed. If you create an alternate account because you have forgotten your old password or log in name, the admin will change it and email the log in information to the email address used to register the respective account. If you are using an alternate account to get around a suspension (seriously, do you think we wouldn't notice?), you will receive an additional warning on your main account.

Forum Invasions: Do not use ACS to formulate your plans to invade, annoy, or cause any harm to websites / forums. If we find out a plan is set towards this forum, there will be immediate perma-bans.

Besides, forum invasions went out of style in, like, 2004.

Illegal Software / Programs / Files: Simply put, no warez. Do not discuss illegally obtaining any copyrighted materials. This includes, but is not limited to: programs, CD-keys, key generators, cracks, or music files (.mp3, .wav, etc). Do not post any links, or even discuss ways to obtain these copyrighted works. This rule is less strictly enforced for things which are impossible or incredibly difficult to obtain in your own nation, but don't push it.

Attempts to Circumvent Rules: Please note that these are the general guidelines, but are not an all inclusive set of rules. This is intentional on our part, as we do not want a rigid set of rules that every post must be governed by. These rules are flexible. This is done with the best interests of the posters in mind. So please try to focus on following all of the above guidelines, as opposed to finding ways around them.

ACS Staff Protocol

Staff Availability: The admins and moderators of ACS are here to help keep the forums running as smoothly as possible. We will be happy to handle any problems you have, and it is our job to be available to do so. If an admin or moderator asks you to do something, please comply with their request. If you do not agree with what they are asking, please do as they ask and then contact another moderator or admin, in an attempt to obtain resolution to your complaint(s) or issue(s).

Staff Conduct: The staff are not guardians, the staff are not parents. The are not police, they are not sheriffs, and they are not paladins. Some of us have this position because of site politics, some of us have them because we own the servers, some of have them because we filled a hole. None of that matters. We are moderators, and we have a job: to moderate. We solve problems. We do not make them worse. We look before we leap, we cover all the angles, and we try to resolve situations peaceably. We do not let our ties and personal hangups cloud our judgement as to the most effective course of action. There is always a solution. It is our job to find it.

Moderators are beholden to the same rules of conduct as everyone else, and we must be very vigorous in calling each other out for self-defeating or unseemly behavior. Our power gives us significant responsibility. Our responsibility is this: to make ACS a pleasant website. This is what is mean when we say we are not police. We as a staff should never forget that our duty is to the members, not the rules or personal ethics. It is all to easy to lose the trust of the members. Be wary. Be smart. Be fair. Be a moderator.

Yeah, sorry, I don’t buy it.

 

Staff Activity: In order to do their jobs, staff must have the right to move, merge, split, edit or delete any thread / post / signature / avatar that they deem necessary. The fluidity of the rules mean that sometimes these actions may not strictly cohere with written rules. A mod who does this must send a message to the affected member explaining why. The mod must report this action and release this message to other mods. Failure to do so will result in a warning.

Pretty much, KB and I are the only ones who do this.

 

 

As to the first point, well, what's your view on this? I didn't post this just for y'all to say "I don't like it," of course what I propose isn't gonna be the best possible rules. That's why it's a discussion.

 

And wouldn't it be really weird if I came in here expecting to dictate rules to you guys anyway?

 

As to the second, holy shit yes this. I honestly do not feel safe with just us two running the joint like it was a buddy cop movie.

 

But like I said, how would you attempt to make this work without having to rely on more mod presence?

 

 

Do NOT attempt to retaliate against an admin or moderator by making threads about it with negative comments about them or what they have done. If any user has a problem with an action taken by the staff, please contact another mod and explain your situation.

Mods who receive such complaints are required to share them with the rest of the staff within a week.
 


Actually, I like this one, but not the rest.

 

If more than three people come forward with complaints about the same action from the same moderator, this moderator is forbidden to do do this action until it is approved by at least two other mods, and not disputed by more than two. Disregarding this procedure will result in a warning and possible temporary suspension of moderator powers.

Yeah, bullshit. You will never get a quorum (2-4 other mods). NTM mod suspension has always been at the pleasure of the Admins.

 

Alright, so we have a place to start! Do you think we should integrate the part about mods having to share complaints as verbatim, or is there anything we should change about it?

 

And as for the other part, you're right, we should reduce the number to one approval, two disputes. And I put the "possible" in there because I would definitely leave that up to the discretion of the admin too. Can you imagine how much bickering there'd be if we had the power to relieve each other of duty? Holy crap.

 

Besides, we don't want to stress ourselves out either.

 

 

Transparency: Often in the course of their jobs, moderators set precedents for their actions that are not in the rules. Any such precedent set behind closed doors must be made public within one week in the ACS News subforum. If it's discovered that we've been doing something without letting people know what's going on, it's grounds for public inquiry, at which point all pertinent discussion must be made public.

Now this is not going to happen, IMO, because discussion dissolves into a pissing contest, or a 'vote' where the deck is stacked in favor of the offenders.  At the least it will dissolve into members trying to debate and change said precedent (seehttp://acecombatskie...ty/#entry836878 ). 
 
Long story short;  Members do not set policy.

 

You're talking about that thread like it's bad. I encouraged Broth3r to write that, you know.

 

I'm not asking for any kind of "ACS General Assembly" or anything, because that would be really dumb. All I'm saying is, we have some decently intelligent people here. If there's a problem, we need to give them a place to kvetch about it productively, not destructively. What Broth3r, Shack, and PC did to get them suspended was destructive. What they're doing now is productive. If we had made that thread ourselves at the first sign of trouble, then we could've saved both them and ourselves some pain.

 

It's about giving an outlet, not letting them dictate policy. Like I said, we hold all the keys whether they like it or not.

 

And besides, they might come up with something worthwhile to implement into policy. Listening once in a while is a good thing too. Being overly paternal in our modding habits has gotten even me into trouble.


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#15
Nemo KB

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tl;dr remove Y13 as a moderator, replace him with someone who does care about the site, and most of the problems will be ameliorated, if not solved.

Nah, we can't boot Y13. He does a lot of hard work behind the scenes weeding out bots and stuff. Besides, he's helping pay for the servers, so it'd be difficult politically.
 

Like Y13 said, all the guidelines and policies in their world won't make an apathetic staff member better. So I'll argue that we need both staff changes and policy changes.
 
I think KB is trying to say that if a disagreement between users arises, you should try to mediate between them and find a solution before resorting to bans. Ideally, that is a good alternative, but mediating disputes is generally not something most moderators are expected to do. Fewer still are skilled at doing it. In general, I'm in favor of keeping the mods out of member disputes unless they spill over into conduct that violates the rules.

Yes, which is why all the substantive rule changes I've made have been about putting "moderator discretion" under more safeguards. It'd be nice if we had more negotiators, but I know that's not happening. Y13 can't, Sinner can't, Ender and Panda won't.
 

13 is right, with the diversity of backgrounds and approaches to moderating, plus the apathy of the staff you mentioned, you'll have a hard time finding a consensus here. A clear procedure must exist and be followed, which should include documenting and instructions on what actions to take.
 
 
We have no horizontal accountability, where staff actions are clearly documented and justified. Hell, even Something Awful manages to do this. We do have vertical accountability, where the moderators are subordinate to the admins and owners of this site and are required to abide by the policies set forth.
 
There has to be some leeway for mod discretion; if a mod has to receive approval for all of their actions from the rest of the staff, nothing will get done. I don't mean to suggest that staff should be able to unilaterally ban users at will; what I am suggesting is that if a moderator feels they can resolve the situation with a simple warning or one-day suspension, they should be allowed to do this. Documentation is the key. Those records are there in case it's discovered that a staff member did act inappropriately, or if the user is being considered for harsher punishment.
 
[...]
 
Oh yeah, and the reason we get complaint threads and users talking shit about staff in off-topic posts is because there is no formal process for appealing moderator actions.

 
Technically, we're already required to document our actions. Just not all of them. And, for situations which are more complicated than can be solved by a simple suspension, there's no way to make mods to check themselves before they wreck themselves.
 
And that last part may be true, but we gotta be careful about this. It'd suck hugely for us if we had to deal with a thousand appeals, and since we'd end up denying most of them, would that really affect member attitude?
 
 

KB, I think a situation like that is very possible. At least one full-on forum wipe has happened during my time here as a direct result of the actions of a rogue moderator.
 
If what 13 says is true, maybe it's time we consider adding staff who will care.
 
[...]
 
The owner(s) have the ultimate say in how staff does its job, correct. But the users can affect it too. If everyone stopped posting and left, what point would there be to maintain the site?
 
If you own a business and no one likes your service, your business will fail.
 
The fact that the "troublemakers" haven't left is proof that they care enough to stay, and want the site to be enjoyable. That, or they're trolls. The worst thing you can have are angry trolls who won't leave the site. I think the majority of people who have complained about the staff's handling of ACS recently are not trolls. If they break the rules, by all means, suspend them, but you have to understand the reason that some of these incidents have escalated to the point where users have been banned is because there is no designed process for submitting suggestions or complaints to the staff. That is why people, quite literally, turn to bitching and trolling, because that is behavior the mod staff can't ignore. This forces a response, whether in the form of punishments or action to rectify the original problem.
 
Just because some people have resorted to rule-breaking behavior to express their annoyance does not mean a problem does not exist.


Really? Oh lol.
 
Wait, now I remember, wasn't that the Boners thing?
 
As for the rest, this is the underlying motivation for why I'm doing this. Because I still do believe, that despite being the worst ACS fan site ever, we are also the best, not because of the content, but because people stick around and are more active here than anywhere else: ES, ACWiki, the AC Reddit, etc. We have a responsibility to those people.
 

What's wrong with the public membership understanding how the staff does their job? They don't need to know what they are discussing or what they think of a particular user, but I see no reason why the procedure needs to be hidden.

 
Procedures should be hidden if they'd make anyone really angry for personal reasons.

But, I think that if what we do behind closed doors would make anyone angry, we should reconsider what we're doing behind closed doors.

I'm not calling for anything crazy like "ALL STAFF ACTIVITY MUST BE PUBLIC" or some such bullshit. Not at all.
 

If someone is exhibiting behavior like this, they need a suspension anyway. Not so much as a punishment, but to give them an opportunity to get away from the computer and sort themselves out.
 
We lose our cool, or do stupid shit, because of extenuating circumstances sometimes. These should not preclude a punishment, but can be taken into account when evaluating the user's overall behavior. For example, I'd be less inclined to punish a user harshly for telling a poster to "fuck off" if they did not instigate the situation.
 
Regarding KB's proposed Staff Policy and comments made towards it, I've already mentioned how we can solve the apathy problem.
 
Their duty is all three. The owners expect the staff to uphold the rules and policy they set, the members expect to see those rules enforced fairly and impartially, and the staff must conduct themselves in an ethical manner. All three facets are necessary for a successful and stable community.
 
EDIT: Format and spelling


I think we're basically on the same wavelength here, but thanks for the reply. There's a lot of useful stuff here.
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#16
PositronCannon

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It only becomes messy because the members think they actually have a say in how Staff do their jobs and believe that, by 'community' protest, (usually evidenced by members 'bandwaggoning', and repeating the original offense) they can bring pressure to bear on Staff to accept their interpretations.   As in the latest disagreement over a call by a mod, who wound up suspending 3 members because they didn't accept the second chance they were given (WITH an explanation of why their content was disallowed) and repeated the offense.  Also, the timing of events shows that the original malefactor had to contact the other two offenders AFTER he was suspended and talk them into their actions.  They didn't get what they wanted, so of course they're going to blame the mod and try to stir up controversy.

Nah, we did it just because we're pseudo-trolls who lost faith in this site long ago. If I expected anything to actually change, I wouldn't do something that I knew would get me suspended for sure, because I understand that's really not very productive. Shack and I just thought Broth3r's suspension was ridiculous and we figured what the hell, it's time for Tally Hoe 2.0 (well, you know what they say about second parts). I for one was pretty much laughing when I got suspended so you can guess how much I was bothered and the huge interest I have in "blaming the mod and try to stir up controversy". No, I still think many of the policies are dumb, but I don't expect anything to change, and there's more issues than that anyway (like the fact that, I don't know, I can't stand 90% of the userbase on this site? You know something's fucked when you only visit it for morbid curiosity anymore), so you're looking too deep into this, there's no conspiracy going on here.

 

However, I will say that "second chance" was a little weird. I found I got suspended literally after reading that PM and trying to go back to the ACS main page, so I guess either I saw it too late or there was too little time in between. It used to be that it showed a pop-up when I got a PM, but unless you're glued to ACS 24/7 it's not hard to miss one now. I'm not really complaining though, I knew what I was doing so I don't think I should even get a second chance in the first place, and besides it's not like I actually planned to change my sig either way for exactly that same reason.

 

And for the record, I didn't jump on any bandwagons, I started it. :) In no way did Broth3r "talk me into" posting that, he only told us what happened which, last time I checked, is not a crime.

 

I feel like I want to say more but it's almost 4 AM and I need sleep and actually who cares.


Edited by PositronCannon, 21 May 2014 - 08:40 PM.

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#17
Yellow 13

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Thank you all for your input.  There is a lot to think about and discuss here.  Hopefully, we can get more Staff participation in this process.


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Nemo KB

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Yeah, I know for a fact most of them know about this too.

 

And this is another reason I hate that it's basically us two running the place, because if I were looking in on us, I might think "oh, this is just another one of Y13 and KB's 'lets take some shitty fan site for a dying franchise way the fuck too seriously' debates, I'll just stay clear of this and let them settle it."

 

...well, they might not be wrong =P

 

Edit: You know what, if they don't want in, I'll keep the discussion going for awhile until we have something workable, then make a tl;dr report to Panda about what we've discovered so he can write an actual update himself.

 

But that's only a contingency plan.


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#19
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Insane? Oh yes, most certainly so. But I relish that insanity. Because given the crippling insanity that has reigned since time immemorial around here, it's only normal some is needed to counter it.

 

First of all, thanks to every participant in this discussion, and specially to KB. This discussion was sorely needed, and it pleases me that it is finally happened.

 

I have to start by commenting on the very definition of a staff member. The guidelines proposed by KB make a really good job of transpiring what a staff member should be, but with the idea both staffers and members have of what that is at this time, I think that will require reinforcement beyond just setting it in said guidelines. So I will start by stating, at least, what I believe to be obvious in regards to what a staff member shouldn't be: no staff position, admin or moderator, is a god-given title. It is a position, vested with powers for the fulfillment of a task: administration and moderation, respectively. The need for those tasks to be done is the sole reason those positions exist. It's a position for a job, and a person is tasked with with that job; it's not a position for a person. Going a tangent here, but this is by no means an issue exclusive to ACS, I've seen it in many other forums, and, indeed, in many people occupying positions of management and administration in any enterprise, but there is sometimes a mental association of the person with the position (I am X, impemoderator). This can be, of course, be harmful. However, it is in our power to prevent such a situation. My personal beliefs that staff members should bear little difference from the population at large, other than in the characteristics specific and needed to their task; and that a moderator is but a forum-goer who also moderates conflicts where needed.

 

I also believe that contrary to some statements, the staff's job IS to be discussed in public. My aversion to smoke-and-mirrors conducts is well known, both from a practical and ideological point of view. There are few things as divisive as a knowledge gap between two groups of people. ACS may not be a democracy, but it still exists solely for its users benefit. And thus, whatever power invested on the moderator indirectly comes from them. It's not just their right to know how they act, it is their duty to decide upon issues pertaining to the community as a whole. That is what we're doing here.

 

On the issue of apathetic staff, which is indeed an obstacle to their implementation and success, I am hopeful these guidelines, by making their jobs easier, will help to solve that. If not, remind the above: it's merely a position, but we need someone to do it. Staff apathy is not something to be assumed and accepted, but amended. If a staff member is neglectful of his duties, he should be reminded of them. If such apathy remains, the staff member should be thanked for his duties and relieved, to be replaced by a more active one. It's as simple as that. I think it's consensual that a staff member who is absent from duty is of no use to the community. Granted, admins are allowed some leeway in this regard as their duties pertaining to site management, however important, require less frequent presence and community engagement. This is not a luxury afforded to the task of a moderator, and thus this should be held to a higher standard in their case.

 

And I will say that as it stands, if the majority of the current staff cannot be bought to active duty, something will need to be done about it, because we are grossly understaffed - it's clear KB and Y13, despite their best efforts and being ever present, need backup. That's a problem for another day, though.

 

And before I forget, it's also important to stress the need of the moderators to be connected to the community. Generally speaking, the more a moderator is connected to the community, aware of who they are - which is certainly possible in a forum with this size -, how they post, what are their concerns in relation to the forums, the more likely things will go smoothly. A lot of misunderstandings come from the lack of this link. A moderator should be regularly engaged with the community, be part of it to an extent, to fully understand it and be better prepared to take action when needed. And I must say here, KB has done a terrific job in this regard.

 

A lot of what's been suggested both in the guidelines and in the comments goes in line with the above, so it would be redundant to comment on them directly, but will focus on some other points I find important.

 

Also, if I recall correctly, the Staff Agreement has always been public. The warning guidelines, however, were not.

 

Hate Speech: You've probably got less of a handle on what's offensive and what's not than you think you do. So when in doubt, don't do it. Don't make that post. Because if you so much as make one comment harassing a member about race, disability, or religion, you will be suspended for a month. Continuing will result in a ban. Appeals can be made, and forum conduct will be considered, but until such time after a formal appeal from a deliberation of administration, you're gonna get the boot.

 

I wholeheartedly agree, of course, but I urge some caution in the enforcement of this rule. ACS has wholeheartedly embraced internet culture, and with it, the casual use of some words or expressions whose intent may be detached from their original meaning - for example, the use of the otherwise extremely offensive word "cigarette" as an suffix to an action, such as buyfag or, our favorite, drawfag (<3), to demonstrate commitment to an action, and used without the slightest hint of homophobic prejudice. Moderators should be aware of this, although, honestly, it shouldn't be a problem - clear and purposeful hate speech tends to be really easy to spot.

 

Avatars / Signatures: Must not contain inappropriate and/or offensive content. Signatures must be limited to text and/or small images and may not include embedded videos. Animated .gifs are permitted, but may not exceed 2mb in size. These are subject to removal without warning, at any time, as deemed necessary by ACS staff. If they are replaced, disciplinary action will be taken. We don't really have limits, but if they are too big, at our discretion, we will remove the signature and then ask you to resize. Sig sizes are not strictly enforced and Avatar settings are automatically re-rendered. We do ask that signatures are not to have wallpaper images, and do not stretch the page horizontally when viewed at 1024*768 resolution.

 

We've had issues before relating to what constitutes "inappropriate or offensive content". Although it should be obvious anyway, I suggest adding a simple "as described in the general posting rules" line after a comma for full clarity.

 

Staff Conduct: The staff are not guardians, the staff are not parents. The are not police, they are not sheriffs, and they are not paladins. Some of us have this position because of site politics, some of us have them because we own the servers, some of have them because we filled a hole. None of that matters. We are moderators, and we have a job: to moderate. We solve problems. We do not make them worse. We look before we leap, we cover all the angles, and we try to resolve situations peaceably. We do not let our ties and personal hangups cloud our judgement as to the most effective course of action. There is always a solution. It is our job to find it.

 
Moderators are beholden to the same rules of conduct as everyone else, and we must be very vigorous in calling each other out for self-defeating or unseemly behavior. Our power gives us significant responsibility. Our responsibility is this: to make ACS a pleasant website. This is what is mean when we say we are not police. We as a staff should never forget that our duty is to the members, not the rules or personal ethics. It is all to easy to loose the trust of the members. Be wary. Be smart. Be fair. Be a moderator.

 

I felt compelled to making my own comment on this, but despite saying it would be redundant, I still need to highlight and compliment this section. Dare I say, this is the most important of these presumptive guidelines, and it sums up the desired staff conduct to a tee. Fantastic job, mate.

 

Lastly, and this is the most important part, there is absolutely no accountability. None.

I am accountable to my superiors, the Admins of this site. They set the limits of my operation and can remove me at their pleasure, without warning or reason. I am only a volunteer.

 

Superiors yes, but mostly just in duty to the members. The job of a moderator is to the community he or she moderates, and so he/she should also accountable to them. Well, "is" would be the most correct word: wherever such public accountability doesn't exist in the rules, it will exist in the form of public appraisal or condemnation - the issue is whether or not that has any bearing on the conduct of the staff. Even if the current admins were active in their roles, to be accountable to them alone would be far, far too little. There needs to be accountability by all parties, because it is well established one single party cannot be entrusted with the power of scrutiny alone, on pain of it not existing at all. Ill actions should have consequences, a fact most of members are well aware, but that's not the case with some of the staff. And, to be blunt, it doesn't suit you well to claim there is accountability when, given the current status quo, only under the direst of circumstances (and I only recall one) will you be held accountable by the site admins.

 

Furthermore, on being a volunteer, we thank you, and~sure, that may have been how you originally rose to the position. However, I think you worded it poorly. As it is, it sounds as if you volunteer your services to some sort of ACS overlord, and the members but are sheep to be shepherd. That is simply not how it works within the current paradigm.

 

It only becomes messy because the members think they actually have a say in how Staff do their jobs and believe that, by 'community' protest, (usually evidenced by members 'bandwaggoning', and repeating the original offense) they can bring pressure to bear on Staff to accept their interpretations.   As in the latest disagreement over a call by a mod, who wound up suspending 3 members because they didn't accept the second chance they were given (WITH an explanation of why their content was disallowed) and repeated the offense.  Also, the timing of events shows that the original malefactor had to contact the other two offenders AFTER he was suspended and talk them into their actions.  They didn't get what they wanted, so of course they're going to blame the mod and try to stir up controversy.

 

 

To be clear to everyone, this refers to my latest suspension, and of two of my friends. I did NOT in any way, shape or form incite those two members into action. As friends, I casually told them what happened. Their actions occurred when I was away from home, and were solely out of solidarity with me through civil disobedience, and act I did not wish for, but for which I have gratitude. Most of the instances of what you call "bandwagoning" are, indeed, merely a display of solidarity between members against what they perceive to be an injustice.  Some of them, however, in particularly grievous situations (the Skull 2 case comes to mind), were not even that, but spontaneous and unrelated displays of disapproval. As Positron said, there are no conspiracies here, and it shouldn't be so strange that a number of members share a dislike for certain actions.

 

Further, it remains to be ascertained if what I did actually constituted an offense, because there's clearly some public disagreement there. But that's an issue for another day.

 

Actually, this reply does leave me with a question: what should be ACS' attitude in face of civil disobedience, for protesting purposes? For starters, we are here to try and prevent such instances from occurring, but in case they do, there probably should be a way to clearly differentiate them from other instances of rule violation.

 
ACS’ nominal guidelines are determined by three documents. The first is the Forum Rules, which everyone can see. The other two are the Staff Agreement, and the Guidelines for Warnings. These last two documents are not public knowledge, but for us to proceed, they must be brought to light. Here they are in full.

There is also a rule, maybe unwritten, now, that Staff members to not discuss things from the Staff forum in the public forum.  Again, this is to avoid the forum becoming a discussion place for how Staff does their jobs.  The attachments below (see original post) violate that rule, IMO.

 

I'll refer to my intro here.

 

I believe that to solve these problems, a new document, open to the public, which combines all three existing documents and fixes them, should be enacted.

As has been discussed many times, it is difficult to lay out all possible options. This is why ‘mod discretion’ is allowed and assumed.

And here's what I propose.

 

*gud stuff*

 

I have to say this line sounds like an attempt to shoot down everything that follows, and it comes off as being inelegant.  Furthermore, a large part of why this discussion is taking place is the belief that mod discretion, while most certainly needed, cannot be boundless (or limited only by ghosts),but must be set to public guidelines and accounted for. It's important to accept this in order to discuss further.

 

How would you know? Take their word? “Yeah, I didn’t mean it when I said you were a cocksucking, motherfucking prick. I had low potassium that day and was not in a good place.” Yeah, right.   Hyperbole, yes, but the situation happens.

 

I understand that is a difficult situation, however benefit of the doubt should be given. Of course, benefit of the doubt is something subjective and discretionary to the acting moderator, which complicates things. Personally, I have seen several instances where it was clear the member's posting behavior was remarkably different than what is usual for him - I've had a few of those myself -, and thus it was clear they were emotionally compromised. That is not always the case, however, which is why I say it is a difficult situation. Beyond KB's good guideline here, I'd say this is another situation which strengthens my case for having mods recusing themselves of situations they are invested in: after all, no one would be able to apply proper moderation after being called a cocksucking, motherfucking prick - but another mod might.


Yeah, sorry, I don’t buy it.

 

It's important that you clarify your opinion on this. Personally, and as I stated above, I wholeheartedly agree with it and find it hard to see where it may be questionable.

 

Now this is not going to happen, IMO, because discussion dissolves into a pissing contest, or a 'vote' where the deck is stacked in favor of the offenders.  At the least it will dissolve into members trying to debate and change said precedent (see http://acecombatskie...ty/#entry836878 ). 

 
Long story short;  Members do not set policy.

 

First of all, do note that over the course of your post, even if unconsciously, you refer to "offenders" in multiple instances where you imply a majority of users, as if they are an evilswarm held back by you, standing alone. It'd be best to part from such beliefs and try not to emnify the members.

 

Honestly, I think that post is one of the best things I've made on this site. Against my better judgement at the time, I went ahead and tried to be constructive, and it seems to be working. So I do not understand your opposition here.

 

However, I must point something out. You say members ought not to set policy. According to you, they should not get to see it either, and you owe no accountability to them. So where do they do stand? "Merely beneath you" would simply not be an acceptable answer. That is tantamount to saying you are bound only to yourself. And that is, of course, not agreeable.

 
To Prot's post because I hit the quote limit: Oh yeah, and the reason we get complaint threads and users talking shit about staff in off-topic posts is because there is no formal process for appealing moderator actions.

 

Agreed. As I've made abundantly clear, I'm a supporter for clarity and public discussion of matters; however a private moderation appeal process would be a welcomed improvement, as it could prevent conflicts between users and staff from escalating.

 

Finally, I also learned the word kvetch today. Toda.


Edited by Broth3r, 22 May 2014 - 12:33 AM.

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Nemo KB

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Alright, sorry guys, I kinda took a break from ACS politics for a day and a night. But it'd be stupid if we just let all this stuff go to waste.

 

I've been contacted by someone from outside ACS who I probably shouldn't name who pointed out some problems that maybe we haven't been considering. Potentially, having an outside perspective could be very useful. Since I was given permission to post it, here's what I was sent.

 

 

- Elitism. Who fucking cares if people don't play on Ace mode? Who cares about your high score or fast time or the fact that you've been playing since 1995? NO ONE. Shut the fuck up and let people new to the series enjoy it. My best friend is terrible at Infinity, and I still invite her to my matches when I play. Ace Combat is about fun. ACS thinks the complete opposite.

 

- Hate Speech. Tying into the elitism thing. When I [REDACTED], 99% of the active community attacked me. Why the fuck would I come back or suggest this site to Ace Combat fans? Get everyone to stop attacking other members, and enforce this as heavily as possible. Not a single moderator involved themselves with me getting attacked, and I believe that was partially because you all agreed with the member base. You need to care for all of the members, and read the posts in all of the forums to see what's going on.

- Greening. No one seems to care at all about the new members. "Oh hi there, welcome to ACS, you'd better not fucking think that AC6 was a bad game or ACAH was a good game, now fuck you and just fucking post." I haven't noticed anyone with less than 50 posts make posts recently in the Infinity or Assault Horizon forums, the only two games still active. You need to engage with the new members as they join.

 

And here was my response.

 

>Elitism.

 

Agreed that it's a problem, but unfortunately, there's not much I think we'd be justified in doing besides popping into conversations every now and then to say "hey, this is really unimportant, calm down you guys." The staff did that a few times back when ACAH was a thing, I seem to recall. I certainly do it.

 

If it's still going on though, that might not be enough. The problem is, running your mouth about this stuff is endemic to any sufficiently large gaming community with a competitive online component. I guess we'd have to draw a line between showboating and abuse. But, we already have rules about abuse.

 

Which leads me to believe that, if there is a problem here, it's a problem with enforcement. That's an issue I'd have to take up with the other mods, and the other mods are not exactly cooperative.

 

>Hate Speech.

 

This is something I've tried to get the rest of the staff to care about, but with only limited success.

 

That said, if 99% of the active community attacked you, I'm absolutely sure I would have said something, because that sounds like a really shitty thing to have happen. Which is why I'm almost certain this must have happened before I was on board. The closest thing I could find to what you're describing is [REDACTED], which has three overtly derisive posts, and even those are only derisive towards the idea that [REDACTED], not towards you.

 

But it does happen, just in general. Unfortunately, like I said, we already technically have rules about this stuff, so this is another problem with enforcement. Which means it will take a lot longer for me to have any hope of fixing than simply updating the rules.

 

>Greening.

 

You haven't? I count 1 2 3 and 4 different users with less than 50 posts in the ACI discussion just within the last two pages, and one more with 61 posts.

 

You're not wrong that we have a problem retaining new users, but that's because the general atmosphere is too high-key, not because the mods aren't harsh on people who are mean to new people. I for one don't abide by it. I've even given advice to new members by PM.

 

That said, there might be more we could be doing. It's something to think about, anyway.

 

 

 

Anyway, if nobody has anything else to say, I'll just wait a day and then write up a report for Panda and SkyEye so they don't have to read through everything, then they can start thinking about what they want to implement.


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