Lately, I have noticed a troubling trend in these forums, the growing resentment against the moderators of this Community. I find this troubling because what we are, and always have been, trying to do is provide a respectful environment where ideas can be shared and collaboration can happen. Instead, the very people who VOLUNTEER their time, spending hours in the trenches putting out flames and asking people to keep a cool head are being vilified for following a moderation policy developed and endorsed by the Dev Team Leads. Our rules are not many, and most of them center around being respectful of each other’s ideas and not using inflammatory language or tactics (like logical fallacies) to inflame a topic. Another thing that won’t tolerate is threatening someone’s well being or misrepresenting the truth in an attempt to slander the team or members of the community. We don’t squelch dissenting opinions, negative feedback, or healthy debate as long as it is conducted in a way that is RESPECTFUL. In the time that we’ve been live (the forums that is) we have only issued a few dozen forum bans, with almost all of them being temporary (which, by design is like a time-out, designed to give the person some time away from the forums to gain some perspective on their choice of words). In order for the average person to receive a temporary ban, they must receive 3 verified warning points (and YES I do review each one and ONLY I have the power to ban someone). So if someone says they have been threatened with a ban, especially by a Moderator, they probably mean that they received a warning point. Now I say the average person, because there are obviously exceptions. If a Spam Bot registers and starts posting ads for free cruises… instant-ban. If an obvious alt is made with the sole purpose of trolling, or someone is making threats against another person’s safety, they are also instantly banned pending an investigation. So back to the process… If a temporary ban is issued, the person takes their break and then rejoins the community. Once returned, if the behavior that earned the temporary ban continues, then the person may be considered for permanent removal from the community. I can count the times this has happened on one hand, and still have some extra fingers to wiggle. My long winded point in all this is that we are not as heavy handed or ban-crazy as some have claimed. On the Feeding of Trolls, and other ponderings. So these are some of the things I hear a great deal when warning points are issued. But FireLotus, I was defending you guys against the Trolls! DO NOT feed the Trolls...even in our defense! And remember, we do encourage dissenting opinions, so just because someone says they don’t like something, it does not make them a Troll. But that’s another discussion. True trolls are clever, and one of their favorite games is to get YOU to react to their post so they can report you and get YOU in trouble. Don’t take the bait. Just let it go, or if they are violating the forum rules, report them. But FireLotus, I’m one of the GOOD GUYS! The reason we have rules is to protect the community and create a positive experience for our players; to give them a place to gather together, collaborate with us, and have FUN. If I didn’t apply the rules to everyone fairly, how much fun would that be? That’s why ANYONE who violates the forum rules can, and will, earn a warning point. If we didn’t, that would be FAVORITISM, and we don’t play favorites. Yes, even Moderators can be warned, though that is handled offline. You guys are picking on me! You’re playing favorites! Believe it or not, we have better things to do then find people to pick on, and so do the Moderators. Even if there were a decision made with bias, we have a spot-check in place where the Moderators can check with each other (and with me) before a warning is issued . Then, for good measure, I review all moderated posts (especially if a warning point is issued) to ensure that they were, in fact, actionable. As for the last line… see the previous paragraph for our stance on favoritism. But so-and-so said something bad too! So my mom used to say, “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” I hated when she said that… but now that I’m grown up, I realize that she was a wise woman. To put a sharp point on it, another person’s bad behavior does NOT excuse OUR bad behavior. Also, any action taken against another player is NOT going to be open for discussion, and as warnings are given privately, don’t assume they didn’t get one too just because you don’t know about it. And please don’t ask… we are not going to violate their privacy by discussing their situation with you. But my post didn’t break any rules! So there may be times when a post is deleted without breaking any rules, and it is unfortunate. It usually happens when it quotes a post that was moderated. This is unfortunate, but necessary to maintain some readability in a thread that has been moderated. In this case, NO warning points are issued on the removed post. The other time I hear this, is when the person has carefully worded their post to TECHNICALLY not break any rules. An example that comes to mind is circumventing the “no cussing” rule by spelling with letters and numbers, using asterisk, or linking to the word in the Urban dictionary instead of saying it. In cases like these, all I can say is …. “Yes, I can see that you are clever, but I’m clever too. I can see what you did there.” But the Troll made me do it! This is the internet. There are going to be trolls and haters. Remember how I said they are clever? Well, they know how to work the system to keep their posts up… they know how to push the three-strike system. But, relax, we’re working on it… Chances are, warnings have been issued, the process is in motion… some of them have even gotten perma-banned. But they also know how to create alt accounts. They know how to post just shy of breaking an actual rule. But they are being monitored and dealt with. This is the internet, there are going to be trolls. The trick ~really~ is not to feed into them. Now, on to the rules…. I want to end by posting the Forum Rules and spelling out in plain-speak, the most common ways they are violated, both by trolls (remember, trolls are clever), and by good people just trying to be part of our community. Act with Virtue: Disagreeing with someone is perfectly alright. Telling them you are going to explain it again to them the same way you explain things to your toddler is not. This is the most common rule people swear they weren’t breaking. But even a thinly veiled insult, innuendo, or snarky comeback can be meant disrespectfully. And yes, this includes embedding meme’s and youtube videos that depict the disrespect for you. Speak with Virtue: I talked a bit about the cussing earlier, but to restate, this rule is also being broken if you link to inappropriate content, images, or videos hosted on another website. And I must point out that cuss words are not the only language that will not be tolerated. Calling people, (even the Dev Team) liars, cheats, stupid, incompetent, etc is considered a personal attack of character and is never appropriate. Speak with Clarity and Truth: Spreading misinformation, half-truths, and logical fallacies is the most common way I see this rule violated. Trying to derail a thread (“Oh no! Not ~this~ conversation again!” Sound familiar?) or leading a thread off topic is also all too common. Be not a Troll: Again, true trolls are clever. They’ll drop an innocuous sounding comment here, a half-truth there. They’ll keep arguing politely until the other person loses their cool. DON’T FEED THE TROLLS. Spam not thy Kingdom: There is some spamming going on in the Player Marketplace (no surprise there), but other common violations of this rule are continuing an argument that has already run its course, creating multiple threads on the SAME TOPIC that has already been discussed a thousand times (beating that poor dead horse), and using any excuse to make the same point over and over, even if it is not on topic. Likewise, spamming Devs and moderators with frivolous reports (crying wolf) also falls into this category. Participate in thy Kingdom: I am including this one, even though it’s not exactly the same type of "rule" as the others…. But it is IMPORTANT. We want everyone in the community to feel like they can come to these forums and feel like they are heard and can participate. I know several people, good people I would even call community leaders, that refuse to even visit these forums any longer because of all the negativity, argumentativeness, and entitlement. That makes me profoundly sad. And I see their point. There are days even I don’t want to read the forums. But we made a decision to allow dissenting opinions and debate, and so, there are going to be times when things get ugly. All we can do is try and minimize HOW ugly it gets. In a way, we have made our job (and our Moderator’s jobs) that much harder. It would be so much easier to just delete all the negative stuff, ban people as soon as they “step out of line” instead of having a warning system, or close the forums all together. But we WANT to hear what you have to say, good or bad. But that does not give any of us the right to be abusive in how we say it, nor does it give us the right to harass the moderators for providing a difficult and thankless service to our community. Let’s all work together to foster an environment of collaboration, creativity, and mutual respect even when we disagree. That way, together, we can make Shroud of the Avatar the kind of place where we can all enjoy spending our time.