Does the NI Forum Community Culture need a change?

MyStudioOne
MyStudioOne Member Posts: 249 Pro
edited December 2023 in Social Club

There is no such thing as a perfect recipe for how to moderate online forums. It is not good to allow the "inmates to run the asylum" as they say. But nor is it good to over police and steer the narrative unfairly. And freedom of expression only works when others can/will say things you don't agree with and even don't like. It is a slippery slope. But I really do think that moderators on any forum have a responsibility to work towards maintaining a healthy middle ground and I am not sure we have that at the moment.

What I can say for sure is that I have witnessed an increasing amount of very abusive behavior and it often left me feeling like leaving and never returning and I am sure I am not alone. No doubt many have left. And I am also not sure that anything is being done about it and so I think there should be some kind of ongoing communication from the moderation team about this. But we are also adults here, and we certainly have the ability to moderate ourselves.

We just saw a thread closed because it was "getting out of hand". Maybe that was the right thing to do, maybe not. But it shone a much needed light on why it is so hard to moderate forums.

That said, it was closed just as a discussion was starting about forum behavior and I, for one, think it is a discussion worth having/continuing!

I don't have all the answers, but I know one thing. I would like to see more of a culture of "serving others" and fewer people serving themselves. And I am also wondering if monetizing forum participation might have been a mistake? It encourages over posting for the sake of monetary gain and I think it may have made the problem worse?

Lastly, I want to raise my hand and say that I too, allowed myself to get sucked into confrontation on the aforementioned closed thread and I now regret that. But we can all get "triggered" at times by aggressive behavior and things just unravel (get out of hand) from there.

But I am still here and I want to be here. I hope I am one of many.

It is also my hope that this post isn't interpreted as a rant but rather as an act of leading by example.

Tony

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Comments

  • Matthew_NI
    Matthew_NI Product Team Posts: 696 mod

    I'm certainly open to feedback on how we could do better from our position as moderators.

    It has certainly been a challenge to try and explore critical feedback with users amidst peer-to-peer abuse.

  • Vagus
    Vagus Member Posts: 393 Pro

    I don't take this as a rant at all.

    For me, the most important thread on this forum has been closed because some decided they couldn't listen to the opinion of others. I understand why it was closed and agree with the reasoning, but what I think was excellent engagement from @Matthew_NI is now another closed door, because some had to be heard above others, or were agitated by responses they didn't like.

    The thing is, how boring would the world be if we all agreed?

    Then again, does anyone really need to be abusive online? No.

    It's a huge shame the actions of a few have resulted in a closed, but vital thread, but we just need to find ways to keep communicating, without taking everything personally.

  • Vagus
    Vagus Member Posts: 393 Pro

    One thing to add - I also don't agree with points for prizes. You can achieve similar things by asking the community to vote for those that have contributed in a meaningful way, say once per year. That encourages ongoing generosity of time and experience, rather than encouraging questions to be answered for personal gain.

    Ultimately, none of us are likely here for freebies - I don't have NI's data, but most forum demographics consist of small group of power users, and the remainder are everyday users. Most will already have bought into the ecosystem in some way, otherwise we'd be typing this on VI-Control.

    In the work I do, there's always ways to engage and encourage positive impact in communities, including the monthly leaderboard stuff. Personally speaking though, I much prefer building those communities based on trust, interaction, and respect.

  • LostInFoundation
    LostInFoundation Member Posts: 4,043 Expert

    @MyStudioOne Never a thread has been more on time.

    I will not post here what is happening right now, otherwise your thread will be deleted too (even if at least this time they will not be able to use the “Infringed rule: Stay on topic” excuse…)

  • MyStudioOne
    MyStudioOne Member Posts: 249 Pro

    One thing I would like to add...

    Being a moderator should gain a measure of respect from users because it implies a level of commitment to the community that is beyond that of all other users. I am grateful for moderators but perhaps due to the current culture and an apparent policy of anonymity, it feels like they are sort of in hiding even if they aren't. I wish that wasn't the case. If I am a new user, I would feel most safe following the advice of someone who had "Moderator" in their signature. But it is often a thankless and even tiring job, so dedicated users could take turns committing for a defined period, sort of like jury duty for the sake of the community.

    Being out in the open also creates a level of accountability for respecting the position undertaken. I would certainly consider doing that for the grester good of the community. An online presence by moderators might also discourage abusive behaviour by some.

    But it is not for everyone, and so I agree that being a guru or even a pro should also carry weight if for no other reason than for the sake of everyday users looking for advice and guidance. After all, isn't that at least in part the whole point of the forum?

    And it should certainly be considered a privilege by those regarded as such!

    I HUMBLY suggest that this would go a long way towards improving the culture in general.

    That is in stark contrast to encouraging users to over-participate by way of non-quality over posting and then further rewarding them with underserved titles together with the lure of trophies and prizes.

  • Matt_NI
    Matt_NI Administrator Posts: 1,086 admin

    Thanks for starting this discussion @MyStudioOne.

    + 1 as to what @Matthew_NI is commenting, we're all open for feedback and suggestions on how to improve things around here.

    I'm happy to explain the reasoning behind specific situations but I think the topic at large is more interesting, especially since it feels like the old days are creeping back and I've seen first hand what it means on overall engagement from users and the company.

    Maybe to make this thread actionable too, everyone could start listing what behaviours they would like to see more of / less of and practical changes we should consider regarding how the community operates.

  • Matt_NI
    Matt_NI Administrator Posts: 1,086 admin
    edited December 2023

    I love this suggestion and the reality it is true that right now, we don't have enough eyes on the community from a moderation perspective, simply because the volume of discussions and comments is too high.

    I was gone for quite some time this year and I don't have enough data right now to comment on the rewarding system but I will check with the team to see if we measured results already or if we could gather more evidence to prove that it is "not working" and fostering low-quality contributions.

  • mykejb
    mykejb Moderator Posts: 885 mod

    ..... so I agree that being a guru or even a pro should also carry weight if for no other reason than for the sake of everyday users looking for advice and guidance. After all, isn't that at least in part the whole point of the forum?

    I'd suggest that "guru" or "pro" should be linked to the quality of the posts, and not the number. The problem there of course is how the quality of the posts is rated. For example, if someone says "I can't get blah-blah to work", I reply "reinstall Windows and all your software" and they reply "that worked" does that mean that suggesting "reinstall Windows" is a sensible decent quality answer?

    -- Mike

  • Matt_NI
    Matt_NI Administrator Posts: 1,086 admin
    edited December 2023

    To some degree that's the thinking behind the point system already. You don't get points by simply commenting and we already removed the one point that was attributed to an answer after discussing it with some folks.

    Right now, you earn points if someone mark your comment as a solution, reacts to your comment with insightful or like, or you earn badges (only one of them relates to the amount of post but you only get 1 point per level which is not significant). What drive the most points is an approved solution which needs to be set by the user asking the question and hopefully preventing people getting points for low quality posts.

    Maybe we should remove the points assigned to "Like or simply increase the requirement for each level.

    I would have to confess that while the point / reward system might not be optimal, I have my doubt that it is the root cause of the problem. We've had challenges with culture / moderation / behaviours long before this system was even a thing. To me, it seems to be a mixture of us not finding the right balance between moderation and letting members do their thing vs members thinking they can behave the way they want.

  • mykejb
    mykejb Moderator Posts: 885 mod

    Is the level based on points? I always thought it was based on posts but if it's points the levels make more sense.

    -- Mike

  • Matt_NI
    Matt_NI Administrator Posts: 1,086 admin
    edited December 2023

    Based on points. The # posts doesn't have an impact on the rank. Maybe its confusing because the amount of posts is displayed just before.

  • MyStudioOne
    MyStudioOne Member Posts: 249 Pro

    I too made the wrong assumption about ranking by number of posts. So that is 1 less problem to solve.

    Could you then clarify how flags potentially come into play if at all? For example, if a user is very helpful but also posts abusive or otherwise inappropriate comments, is there a system of cheques and balances so to speak?

  • Matt_NI
    Matt_NI Administrator Posts: 1,086 admin
    edited December 2023

    Flags do also have a weight into the point system. Spam and Abuse both heavily deduct points. It does help balance things out but we also get into issues where people are using it quite loosely or to retaliate against each other.

    From a moderation standpoint, we can’t immediately see if someone gets an abuse flag and so the best would be to actually report if someone is abusive / inappropriate so we mods get notified.

    I’ve been wondering if it wouldn’t be best to rely only on the report flag so we can actually see what everyone is flagging.

    To recap : Abuse/Spam flag gets points down but don’t get a mod notified. Report flag don’t change points but creates a hidden discussion to notify a mod/admin.

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