Greetings, Guacs! We hope you’ve been enjoying the brisk fall weather (spring if you’re one of our southern-hemisphere community members) and imbibing copious amounts of pumpkin spice-flavoured beverages. It’s been a while since we’ve checked in with you, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to talk about some stuff that has been happening on the site.
But before we dive into the nitty-gritty of site moderation, let’s talk about some highlights from the year so far. Since our last State of the Avocado in January 2020, you folks have created over 5,000 threads, including new features like A Trek Through the Pages, 30-Minute Retro Reviews, and Crate Skimmers, and a handful of memorable one-off threads, such as the neural blender thread and the Tokyo Olympics discussion thread. There have been 56 Werewolf games and 12 tournaments, and more births and adoptions and other happy news than we dare try to count (but feel free to share any big moments for you since the last SotA thread in the comments below!). Plus Giftmas is coming up December 5th! Also, if you’re new to the site or just want to let others know who you are, please check out the recent Introduce Yourself! thread.
All right, let’s talk about site moderation. Before proceeding any further, allow us to make one thing clear right off the bat: With one exception — which we’ll get to shortly — site rules are not changing. If you haven’t been breaking the rules, then keep doing what you’re doing: sharing weird memes; making bad puns; and having the occasional thoughtful discussion. What we’d like to do today is talk about some behaviour we’ve seen on the site and let you know about some changes in our approach to site moderation.
Warnings and Bans
First, as noted in the site Warning and Ban Policy, while in most cases three warnings in 12 months invoke a ban (temporary or permanent), we do reserve the right to exercise discretion and deviate from this policy (e.g., issue “double warnings” for egregious behavior or move straight to a ban with fewer than three warnings). This happens rarely, but it does happen. Usually it’s a case of an obvious troll coming in and being banned out the gate. (With our pre-moderation system, you never even see these.) Sometimes, however, the mods reach a clear consensus on a community member who has not reached three strikes in a calendar year but whose behavior is consistently problematic, with no evidence that the community member has learned or will learn from pushback (by mods and the community in general). In short, if someone is clearly never going to change, then they don’t belong here, and mods will be less hesitant to “pull the trigger” on a ban.
That said, we pledge not to use this to exercise grudges or get rid of people who annoy or disagree with us. This is to address behavior that the community tells us is problematic. We also promise to continue to adhere to our policy that no community member will be banned by the mods without a 12-hour poll, majority consensus, and the opportunity for mods in the minority to appeal the decision. We don’t ban anyone frivolously or on a whim. We’re just not going to agonize as much over banning someone who posts infrequently enough or skates just close enough to the edge to avoid accumulating warnings quickly but for whom all roads seem to lead to an eventual ban. Finally, please remember that one or two mods alone don’t have the power to do anything by themselves (for instance, recent mod decisions were made with votes of 9-1, 10-1, and 10-0). We may have to use timeouts to immediately address a bannable offence while we wait for enough mods to weigh in over at least 12 hours, but no one (excepting obvious spambots and trolls) will be officially banned without due process.
Flagging and Emails
Keep flagging! Flags help. If the reason for flagging might not be clear to the mods, you can also email us to explain why you flagged something. Especially for complicated issues or arguments, or perhaps problematic behavior that has reappeared or crossed threads, emails to firstname.lastname@example.org with screenshots and/or links to comments help. We may not always publicly address the outcome of a flag, but all flags seen by the mods are discussed by the mods. So if we don’t publicly address a comment that you’ve flagged, it is because we don’t think it violates the rules (even if we don’t like it either). This is not to discourage you from flagging — just setting expectations.
Oh! Two more things: 1) Remember when flagging not to select “I disagree with this comment” as your reason (those don’t get reported), and 2) mods can’t flag or be flagged, so if a mod posts something you would flag if you could, please feel free to email us about it or tag one of us in an old post.
Xenophobia and “Region Bashing”
We’ve noticed an uptick in xenophobia and “region bashing” lately. It’s not acceptable and never has been in the history of the site. Please don’t make dismissive jokes or reference tired stereotypes when people bring up local issues. Please don’t post the Bugs Bunny Florida gif or its equivalent. Please don’t make sweeping generalizations about people from other regions or countries. Please don’t conflate governments with the people they govern. Finally, please don’t assume people know if you live in or have ties to whatever region you’re bashing, or that living in or having ties to a region automatically makes it okay to disparage it.
We will continue to delete such comments and warn as necessary. It falls under rules 2 and 3 (longtime Guacs will recognize this as the “red handle rule”) and will continue to be treated as such. Harmless gags and friendly ribbing between community members are fine, but err on the side of caution to avoid offensive or ignorant comments in this regard.
Fundraising Rule Change
Here’s the one aforementioned exception to the rules staying the same: After some discussion among the site moderators, we’ve decided to up the annual fundraising limit from two to three fundraisers per user. We think this strikes a good balance for both people seeking funds and potential donors, but it is possible that we will revise this again in the future. As always, the same conditions apply: Please ask us before posting a fundraiser; don’t make a separate thread; we won’t feature any fundraisers; and under no circumstances may someone directly solicit donations from specific users.
Regarding badges, we appreciate your feedback and hope that we’ve found a system that works for everyone — that badges aren’t “earned” or “awarded,” just flair that anyone can get or remove upon request. Just tag or reply to a mod with badge-related requests (no need for an email).
Pre-Moderation and Auto-Moderation
Regarding the pre-moderation system, we plan to keep it on for now. Pre-moderation just means that a commenter new to the site will automatically go to the mod queue to await approval. This really helps cut down on spambots and trolls making it on to the site. It’s a bit of a pain for regular community members with new accounts and for new community members posting in good faith, but the pros far outweigh the cons as far as we can tell (let us know in the comments if you disagree!). We’re in touch with the Disqus team regarding posting errors caused by pre-moderation, but unfortunately we don’t have an ETA on a fix yet.
If a comment of yours gets moderated, don’t assume the mods are actively canceling you! Comments can end up in the queue for a number of Disqus-only-knows reasons, and we rescue them whenever we see them. If a mod deliberately deletes your comment (as opposed to auto-modding glitches), we’ll always tell you.
Posting and Rescheduling Threads
Finally, please don’t reschedule a thread that was posted at the wrong time (and especially don’t retitle it)! You can save what was there by copying the post from the Posts page in WordPress or just copy-pasting the post’s contents directly from the editor (WP editor’s blocks make this very easy!). Also, don’t set a thread to private before posting and then make it public when you want it to go up. Disqus creates threads and URLs when the post first goes up, AND THESE CANNOT BE CHANGED. In short, once it goes live, you can’t put it back in the box and then pull it back out again. Rescheduling a published thread results in all kinds of kooky errors (like notifications leading to a borked URL), so please recreate threads; don’t just reschedule them.
Whew! That was a lot! To sum up: in rare cases we may deviate from a three-strikes-and-you’re-out policy; keep flagging problematic comments and send emails as appropriate; xenophobia and region-bashing remain big no-nos; you can now run up to three fundraisers a year; badges are completely optional; pre-mod is here to stay for now; and do not reschedule threads that have already been posted. If you have any questions, please post them in the thread below, and we’ll try our best to answer all of them. Feel free to goof off and meme below, but please keep joking replies to legitimate questions to a minimum.
Well, that’s all for now. Keep on guacin’ in the free world!