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Beyond One Syllable

Beyond One Syllable Volume 2 #3 “Whack-a-Mole”

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Being a Moderator on a site like the TMF is an interesting experience. When I took on the job of being the forums Administrator almost ten years ago, I never imagined the many details that would go into running the site. What I thought would be a pretty black and white job turned out to be almost 100% composed of shades of gray. That took a bit of adjusting to on my part. I very much learned on the job. Sometimes I got things right, sometimes not. I always did learn though.

One of my early lessons was that moderation should involve being moderate. That sometimes doing less, or nothing, is the biggest act of moderation that I, or my staff can take.

Another lesson I learned is that while I often think my actions and choices are clear, to you, the members who use the forum, things are often not clear, and I seem like some distant authority acting randomly. Not to be questioned, just avoided.

I frequently get the feeling that a lot of members are confused by this philosophy and my silence, and wonder why we let some things happen, let some members stay on forum, and so on. I wanted to take some time to address this question about “Not happening” here, as it deals with the philosophy of how I have chosen to run the forum, and my personal blog is the perfect spot to talk about things like that. Consider this a comfortable fireside chat with your friendly Tzar. Pull up a chair, crack open your favorite potable.

Today’s topic is “Whack-a-Mole”

Sometimes a member gets banned. This being an open registration forum, these people often just return with a shiny new name. They are amazingly easy to spot, mostly due to the fact that posting styles tend to match over time. Like finger prints we all ‘type’ with a style, and use some phrases and structures over and over. These are tip offs, and we usually know we have our old ‘friend’ back pretty fast. Members are sharp and tell us, or we see it ourselves when a favored topic draws the person like a bee to honey. People often ask us why we don’t just ban the person again under the new name, since we obviously wanted to be rid of them because of what they did. Is it fair that they are allowed to be back after what they did?

Good question. Fair question.

I call the series of actions where a user is banned, rejoins and we kill the new ID, and then the process repeats (because it always does) “Whack-a-Mole” It’s very much like the carnival game we all know. Pop! Bang! Pop! Bang! It can be satisfying. But rarely is it a solution to the problem that we, the forums caretakers want to solve.

When a user gets banned it’s because they did something that we felt hurt the forum or the community that uses it. We decide that removing them is the best solution to the issue. Our vision is simple. To remove the problem, and restore stability to the flow of discussion on the forum. That is the solution we want. The goal we aim for. If the person turns around and returns with a new name and starts the exact same behavior they get banned again. It’s the same problem, just a new face. If this is how they choose to act regardless of name then they will see ban after ban. We will not tolerate such disruptions. Period. We will keep at it longer then they will, and make it hard for them to create new accounts that work also.

But sometimes they return and don’t cause issues. They lurk around. They post here and there. They don’t break rules. Oh, they almost always push the envelope here and there, slyly try to see what they can get away with, but overall they are in bounds. Now I can still whack them, the reason I banned them for has not vanished with a name change, and they are still open to it. But as long as the problem they were causing is gone, I’m willing to let things lie. Our goal is achieved. Things are working as we like, and the forum is stable. All a game of Whack-a-Mole will do is introduce instability. It creates more tension, and can cause the very problems we want to avoid. So we let things sit.

This also has the bonus of giving us a name we know. If former problem “X” is now under name “Y” then they are much easier to keep tabs on then if they were constantly creating new names. And trust me, if “Y” steps over a line, the hammer that killed “X” is waiting for them.

This may not seem ‘just’ or ‘fair’ to many of you. A person who behaved badly and perhaps hurt you or someone you care for here is back. I can understand how that could irk you. My response is that I see you all as responsible adults. Each of you has the ability to put names on your ban list, and then never see a word they say ever again. It’s hard to be bothered by that which you cannot see. Or you can just do it old school; ignore them and don’t read what you see them post. Life is too short to give a bit of it over to being upset that someone whom you dislike is using a new name on an internet tickling forum. There are new clips to be seen in A/V! Good friends to play with in Silly Stuff! And interesting discussions with people who discuss with ideas and not insults in the Gen and TK discussion forums. Just like we remember what problem we were looking to solve, you guys need to remember why you came to the TMF, to have fun and relax and see friends, not seek fights. And oh yes, the tickling porn too.

It’s was a hard lesson for me, but NOT acting is often the best thing I can do for the forum, and getting it along the path that I want it to follow. I know that it often looks like we are ignoring an issue, or not listening to what you, our members are saying, but we are acting as we are with reason and plan. And never worry, a real troll will always get whacked by us when or if they drop the mask they happened to find and put on.

I encourage any of you who want to ask questions about the forum, how I see it, and how I guide it to feel free to directly ask me them here in reply to this blog, in a PM to me, or even a thread that says “Question for Myriads” in the title. I am always happy to have interesting talks with all of you, our forum members.

As always, thank you for listening.
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    It's nice to know how you decide things so we can at least try to understand. Thanks for posting this.

    And I'll say this, which I'm sure many will agree, you admins/mods have a very difficult job. Thank you for putting up with us.
    Brilliant post, as usual.
    I was just reading a book that a father wrote for young girls about life, and it had quite a bit to say about the power we have over whether we let bullies hurt us. A lot of this post rang in a similar chime
    Believe it or not, I can understand the way you're looking at this. However, do you really think it's ok to give someone who's already been banned the same considerations as you would to others? I'm sure there are many of us, myself included, who have said things that come close to crossing the line, my earlier post in the WTF thread for example. But we are ALL afforded a certain amount of leeway because everybody gets riled sometimes and most of us just needs a friendly reminder. Others who persist get the hammer.

    BUT, if a user has already been banned for such offenses and comes back under a different name, why should they get those same "friendly reminders" when their own past history has proven that they will not stop? It's basically like you're allowing these banned members a new membership with a spot-free record. That right there is what I think many take exception to.

    I think I worded this all the way I wanted, though I'm not above making mistakes. You can always contact me if you want further discussion or need clarification to my ramblings.

    They are not getting a spot free record. We will ban much faster and with less debate if we see a second chance ID start to act poorly. There is a lot less leeway. But we are not going to be looking for any excuse to whack 'em either.

    Banning is always a last resort in my eyes. Sometimes there is no other option, and we need to take action. But mostly I think situations can be guided to better outcomes in most cases.