State of the Avocado – Feb 2019

It’s been a while since we had one of these, so here is your State of the Channel for 2019, guaranteed to contain less incoherence than the recent American State of the Union. Here are some updates, reminders, and refreshers on the glue that holds our site together.

Thread Posting

Open Threads should be kept relatively short for our many mobile readers, and we ask that posts with more than 3 static images or 1 gif/video use the slideshow feature on WordPress to keep loading easier and open threads more accessible. Instructions for the slideshow feature can be found here. You can also use the WordPress spoiler tag, which creates collapsed sections of content – see the Posting Walkthrough for instructions.

Special topic threads can be posted by any member with WordPress access and are encouraged when a topic is fresh or otherwise taking over other threads. Big news items, live events, and even some meme spirals that pop up can turn into in-depth conversations when taken to their own place, and it cuts down on spam for people who aren’t interested. Let a mod know when you post it, and we can feature your thread to help drive more traffic there as well. You can request to be a publisher here.

Commenting Etiquette

The Serious tag (/serious) exists for a reason. We will delete joking answers to a post that is tagged as serious, no exceptions. If you see someone violating this, please flag it so the mods are aware.

Vagueposting is not allowed. This includes rehashing drama from down the page in the same thread and bringing drama into one thread from another.

Spoiler tags don’t have to just be for movie/TV spoilers. Gross stuff like vomit or poop are good things to spoiler with a mild warning. Similarly, content / news items that may have something possibly triggering about sex or violence should have a warning and spoiler tag, please and thank you. When in doubt, err on the side of overuse of spoiler tags for sensitive images/topics vs. underuse.

Edgy jokes have a home on the Internet, and this isn’t it. If the point of the joke is to shock or offend, or to skirt the line of what is offensive, think before you post.

Mocking people’s physical appearance is also not allowed. Even criticism of terrible people should be limited to what they do and say, not what they look like; they may deserve ridicule, but consider who else you may be hurting by mocking physical characteristics that aren’t limited to that terrible person. Remember the Red Handle Rule.

Craig Ferguson’s rule applies to a lot of the above notes. Before you post, it’s sometimes good to ask yourself three questions: 1. Does this need to be said? 2. Does this need to be said by me? 3. Does this need to be said by me right now? Also, consider your intentions for a post. Are you hoping to rile people up or make them uncomfortable? If so, think twice before posting.

Live blogging can spam up a thread like nothing else, and we ask people to keep their live blogging of TV, movies, sporting events, books, and other real-time events to a single top-level comment or its own dedicated thread. Beyond the spam aspects of it, live blogging in the Open Threads and Politics Thread is confusing and inaccessible to people who don’t see the start of it.

The Open Thread is for general discussion, while the Politics Thread is specifically for political discussion. While we generally won’t shut down politics-adjacent discussions that arise organically in the open thread, if you want to specifically talk politics, we ask that you take it to the Politics Thread. If you feel the Politics Thread isn’t very active at the moment, it’s fine to make a comment in the Open Thread along the lines of, “Hey, I wrote something about Liberian-Malaysian relations in the Politics Thread; please check it out!” with a link back to the original comment (click on “Share>” or the time stamp of your comment to get a link to it directly). A lack of activity in the Politics Thread isn’t an excuse to bring political discussions to the Open Thread.

Take a breather. We all have our ups and downs on the site, and sometimes things rub us the wrong way (often for good reason). When you find yourself getting overly worked up or overly bogged down by something on the site, first, never hesitate to loop a mod in if warranted, but second, try walking away for a bit, either taking a breather from the site in general or, even better, visiting a less fraught corner of the Avocado than the hectic Open Threads and Politics Thread. Check out the monthly Pluggers thread for some of the other great, often quieter and more focused threads offered around the site.

Hang in there. The mods are listening to your concerns and are working to get a feel for how we can make the Avocado as healthy and welcoming as possible, not just on the level of individual comments, but also as a community. The long-awaited Politics Survey results will be posted on Monday, and we’re hoping that will generate some productive conversation and valuable changes. An Open Threads survey will soon follow. 

Mod Stuff

The Mayor McSquirrel Rule is our way of reminding all of us not to make threats or endorse/encourage violence against people, including public figures, no matter how awful they act or what terrible things they say. This includes threats that are outlandish or non-actionable. The rule isn’t just about good taste; it’s about making sure that the site is in compliance with the Disqus Terms of Service. You can think it all you want, but writing it out is not okay, and we will remove posts that violate that rule.

Flagging posts/emailing the mods: We get 10-20k posts a day at the Avocado, and even with 16 mods we can’t see every one of them. If you see something in violation of the rules, please flag the post to bring it to our attention. It’s important to note that there are multiple options to pick when flagging, and we ask that you not chose “I disagree with this post,” because it doesn’t put the post in our moderation queue. We can’t see what other option you chose, so don’t worry about flagging something as a threat when it’s just a personal insult; we only see that it’s flagged, not what it’s flagged for.

If a flagged post has more background to it than the mods might know about, or you think it’s worth our attention without wanting to flag it, you can always send us an email at avocadomods@gmail.com. It’s helpful to include a link to or screencap of the comment in question and any other background on the situation. Please also include your display name or Disqus username in the email so we know who’s contacting us.

Everyone’s mileage may vary,  and the mods may decide something isn’t actionable, even if lots of people don’t like it. Do debate and discuss within the rules and guidelines when this happens. Healthy community pushback is often just as powerful as mod admonishments.

We cannot emphasize enough how important it is for users to flag comments and/or email us when something is upsetting. Frequently, someone will allude to some over-the-line behavior that occurred earlier but was not acted upon, and invariably it is something that no one brought to the mods’ attention at the time.

We’d also like to note that there are things mods can’t do. We cannot moderate outside sites (there’s a note below about that). We cannot oversee personal grievances, though we may step in and ask people to take them off site or take a breather if things are getting extremely heated. We will always work to make this a place free from -isms and cruelty, but it’s impossible to make a site where no one ever feels uncomfortable, left out, or offended. We can, however, ask that all of us work together to make this place as friendly and kind as possible. We love the Avocado and want people to be happy here. If we all strive to be intentional with our posting, we can keep a good tone here, together.

The warning and banning process: Modding on the Avocado is a group activity, and when a poster receives a warning or a ban, that is something that has gone through multiple mods and much conversation. It’s very rare that a mod just makes a unilateral decision about something  This is why we have 16 mods over several time zones. Some mods have different styles, and that’s why we usually try to get a quorum or something if we feel like something is actionable. We take a lot of things into account when it comes to bans, including the severity of the rule broken and time between warnings. After 6 months a warning will become deprecated and essentially cleared.

Banning members is not something we take lightly. It goes through a lot of discussions and weighing behind the scenes. We also ask that active members not discuss banned users. It’s fine to ask where someone is, and if a mod sees the question, we’ll usually respond with a simple “They were banned,” but the discussion should not go beyond that. No need to rehash.

Stuff posted elsewhere: There may be mentions / criticisms of the channel or particular users elsewhere on the interwebpipes.  The mods are not able to do much about that. However, if you feel there is something that is threatening, includes personal information, or includes encouragement to troll or invade the site, or that a pattern is emerging, do keep screenshots and let us know. And use your own knowledge of Internet safety to report things you are concerned about off channel.

Sad mod announcement: Inndeeeeeeeed has done absolutely fantastic work as a mod for us over the years. He’s been fair and kind, and has added humor and excellent perspectives to the mod chat. Sadly, he has decided to step down as a moderator. Don’t worry, he’ll still be an active Avocado! But I think I can speak for the mod team when I say he’ll be missed as a moderator and missed in the chat.