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TDPF complaint department

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TDPF complaint department

Postby jjoyce » Wed Jun 27, 2012 10:45 am

We've been receiving complaints about the level of discourse on the boards recently, particularly in the past week. We're aware of what you're talking about, but I have to admit that I'm not really motivated to do anything about it, primarily because posting repetitive, hackneyed, eye-roll-inducing and unoriginal content is not against the rules here. The best way to deal with that is not by deleting posts and banning those responsible, but by overwhelming it with quality content.

Could we be doing more to foster quality discussions? Maybe. We're busy on other projects and this place seems to get about the same level of traffic regardless of the commitment to moderating it. I used to spend a lot of time outside the office dealing with Forum, trying to post new stuff and participate in discussions and trying to convert the cynics. That level of commitment became decreasingly fulfilling over the last four or five years as Facebook started to scratch the social media itch and the interesting, provocative and community-minded members of this board curtailed their activity here. I think Forum had a great run for a much longer period than 99% of message boards and participation during that run paid off. But that hasn't been the case in a while.

Lately, those most interested in posting here actively despise the board and others on it. If TDPF is like a bar, their behavior is similar to walking into that bar multiple times a day, ordering a drink and proceeding to call everyone else in the joint a drunk. Ridicule is common, angry and overwhelmingly humorless, as it is on talk radio. And they seem to have a lot of time on their hands to lob these insults, but there's a crowd that seems to have just as much time to try and catch every single one of those insults and lob more back. Fun!

Old timers bemoan the current state of affairs. I sympathize, but know that in the decade-plus I've been paying attention to TDPF, things get bad around elections and we've now had a non-stop election environment for a couple years. Discussions about music, food, the city vibe, etc. are quickly drowned out by those who are focused on politics only. What's the best response? To 86 all political discussion? That would make for a better board, but a much-less-visited one. Should I just kick off all the malcontents and trolls and troll feeders, in essence creating a group blog for a couple dozen of the best posters? I've thought about it. Adopt a Gawker-style commenting system that forces participants to earn the right to post to the full audience... There are lots of possibilities out there, but nothing that would solve anything in the short term.

If you're really interested in helping come up with a solution, let me know. But the job of making that happen doesn't have much room for complaining.
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Re: TDPF complaint department

Postby Detritus » Wed Jun 27, 2012 11:45 am

I can think of two suggestions that have been made in the past:

1. Require real names for posting.
2. Ban all sock puppetry.

The first one was heavily (and nastily) debated by forons, but I don't recall admin weighing in. I don't recall any response to #2.

You could also consider giving forons responsibility in maintaining standards of decorum and relevance by shifting some moderation to volunteers. Volunteer moderators could warn and/or hide abusive or persistently off-topic posts, with official admin stepping in on appeal, or to resolve disputes between volunteer admins. Lots of boards have taken this approach all the way back to CompuServe and Usenet.
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Re: TDPF complaint department

Postby scratch » Wed Jun 27, 2012 11:59 am

Detritus wrote:I can think of two suggestions that have been made in the past:

1. Require real names for posting.
2. Ban all sock puppetry.

The first one was heavily (and nastily) debated by forons, but I don't recall admin weighing in. I don't recall any response to #2.


The obvious problem I see with #1 is that forons who don't want to reveal something or another to employers or neighbors would face difficulty or at least the spectre of difficulty, in posting in some threads, but it would undoubtedly cut down on the rabid posts. I'd probably comply if that policy were implemented, but then I'm closing in on early retirement and my neighbors are already familiar with my social and political failings. Another downside to that solution is that people with fairly unique names, at least unique in the immediate area, might find themselves receiving interesting and unwanted contacts through other media, just as what happens with signed letters to the editors of print media. I've experienced this and heard from others who did in the past, but I have no idea how widespread it would be currently.

As for #2, eliminating sock puppets and mults is effective on other message boards, but it likely adds a good bit of work for the admin. Also, it's not a perfect solution since there are fairly well known ways around it.

Do what you must, Jason. I realize I've contributed to the devolving situation you describe.
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Re: TDPF complaint department

Postby Michael Patrick » Wed Jun 27, 2012 12:17 pm

I know this is a radical idea, but one could choose not to engage those who they feel are simply being trolls.
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Re: TDPF complaint department

Postby other i » Wed Jun 27, 2012 12:41 pm

Make it less depressing for me to come here to see if there is any useful content and get out quickly if there isn't. Provide some kind of interface that outlines ALL the subject areas, shows the most recent poster and number of replies down through the whole forum so I can take one look at one frame and know if it's worth spending time. Make it so I can just pull only the subject areas that I care about and get that outline form up in one click. If it was easier to come and check to see if there was anything interesting I could (and go) more often and more quickly.

Are there options like that available?
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Re: TDPF complaint department

Postby massimo » Wed Jun 27, 2012 12:51 pm

other i wrote:Are there options like that available?

I bookmark and use the Active Topics link. I can see all the threads that were posted to since I last checked, and know pretty quickly if I can just move along nothing to see here.
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Re: TDPF complaint department

Postby TheBookPolice » Wed Jun 27, 2012 1:23 pm

jjoyce wrote:What's the best response?

Said it before, sayin' it again: Scoop. (Or something like it, since I see it's a legacy CMS now.)
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Re: TDPF complaint department

Postby Detritus » Wed Jun 27, 2012 1:26 pm

Michael Patrick wrote:I know this is a radical idea, but one could choose not to engage those who they feel are simply being trolls.

I joined TDPF in May, 2009. For the first three years, I had no one on my ignore list, and I had a habit of browsing the forum without logging in, then logging in only long enough to post.

I now have eight accounts ("people") on my ignore list, all but the first having been added only in the last two months. I log in to browse now, so I won't be tempted to read & respond to trolling. Now when I View Active Posts, I often see a whole string of messages marked "This message was posted by So-and-So, who is on your ignore list." More than once I have seen 4-5 of these, all referencing the same So-and-So, who is apparently trolling himself.

Although this don't-feed-the-trolls approach does keep me from responding to them most of the time, it is also dispiriting in general, especially when I log on and look at a promising thread and see a string of ignored posts. Why should I post to a thread that has been shot to hell already? It also discourages me from posting new threads, because I can see what is likely to happen to them.

Oh, suggestion #3: ban emoticons.
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Re: TDPF complaint department

Postby wallrock » Wed Jun 27, 2012 1:34 pm

Detritus wrote:
Michael Patrick wrote:I know this is a radical idea, but one could choose not to engage those who they feel are simply being trolls.

I joined TDPF in May, 2009. For the first three years, I had no one on my ignore list, and I had a habit of browsing the forum without logging in, then logging in only long enough to post.

I now have eight accounts ("people") on my ignore list, all but the first having been added only in the last two months. I log in to browse now, so I won't be tempted to read & respond to trolling. Now when I View Active Posts, I often see a whole string of messages marked "This message was posted by So-and-So, who is on your ignore list." More than once I have seen 4-5 of these, all referencing the same So-and-So, who is apparently trolling himself.

Same here. I never had "ignored" anyone before but now I've got the usual characters on there.
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Re: TDPF complaint department

Postby nutria » Wed Jun 27, 2012 1:44 pm

Detritus wrote:Oh, suggestion #3: ban emoticons.


I feel conflicted about this. On one hand, nothing screams "nothing of value here" like a post riddled with emoticons. No argument there. On the other hand, it's a quick way to know to disregard a post without having to read it or ignore anyone (since I am usually not logged in when I cruise by here, similar to how you described above).
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Re: TDPF complaint department

Postby Henry Vilas » Wed Jun 27, 2012 1:49 pm

nutria wrote:
Detritus wrote:Oh, suggestion #3: ban emoticons.

... it's a quick way to know to disregard a post without having to read it...

Bingo.
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Re: TDPF complaint department

Postby Detritus » Wed Jun 27, 2012 2:02 pm

Henry Vilas wrote:
nutria wrote:
Detritus wrote:Oh, suggestion #3: ban emoticons.

... it's a quick way to know to disregard a post without having to read it...

Bingo.

Hmm, good point.
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Re: TDPF complaint department

Postby snoqueen » Wed Jun 27, 2012 4:13 pm

I've been thinking about this more than I wish I would.

Maybe the forum has just lived its lifespan. Nobody wants to read the crap spewed by the full-time trolls over the long run, so have you seen board traffic drop? Or haven't people figured out yet that the place has been infected, nobody's managing it, and it's on its deathbed? Or do you want to simply turn it over to the trolls and let that represent the level of discussion that represents Isthmus readers to the internet public?

No public forum lasts forever on the internet, so this isn't a defeat for reasonable discourse. There will always be a place for that, but it's a moving banquet and changes form/venue over time. By that token, it just might be the end of this particular forum. Personally, I place absent moderation at the head of the list of contributing factors. I have read the moderators' reasoning and would simply point out the effects of continuing in this manner are becoming amply clear. This is not the fault of the regular posters, even though ideally we would all just put the trolls on Ignore and forget it.

And it reflects very badly on the forum (and on Isthmus) when non-members or new people try to read discussions and are treated to seven Cornbread posts in a row. (Yes, I think the record is seven.) Who would come back after that?

I doubt banning emoticons will help any more than a few days.

I've already given my opinion of requiring full names: people will simply make up plausible-sounding "real" names and carry on as before. What are you going to do? Ask for their voter ID? And does using a "real" name (or two) stop someone like Meade?

I think one reason for wishing not to let the forum die (aside from the fact we've had good contributors and good discussions here for the eight years I've been playing, and we'd miss it) is the feeling it means the trolls won. That is a false impression. They're loud and persistent, but I can't point to a single time when they changed the opinions of a thoughtful regular. Success would mean they were responsible for changing someone's mind, and if anything they've done the exact opposite.

Even Dman, who is not really a troll in my opinion, has managed to do little but call the attention of many of us to the problematic nature of the SC's present interpretation of the second amendment. When the pendulum swings the other way -- and it will, in time -- you'll see fixing that thing high on the agenda of many states of the union where citizens have become sickened by too much carnage and regular abuse of legislation like "stand your ground" by people with no problem-solving skills or interest in developing any. I'd never have reached that conclusion without following the gun discussions.

So even that tedious thread has not been valueless.

But are we done here?

I think the choice is between active moderation and letting the ship sink. You're not attracting a lot of good new contributors leaving things as they are.

Do I want to turn this into a Facebook account? I dislike that format and that company intensely, but I'd give it a brief try. I doubt much good will come of it, but I'm not the only person to ask. And what makes you think it'd be any improvement?
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Re: TDPF complaint department

Postby Henry Vilas » Wed Jun 27, 2012 4:18 pm

At one time "disrespect for the community" was grounds for action.
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Re: TDPF complaint department

Postby jman111 » Wed Jun 27, 2012 4:29 pm

snoqueen wrote:I think one reason for wishing not to let the forum die (aside from the fact we've had good contributors and good discussions here for the eight years I've been playing, and we'd miss it) is the feeling it means the trolls won. That is a false impression.

I disagree.
I think it signals a win for the trolls.
Or, at least, for their masters
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