Member Feedback on what stops people using the forum / hope to make people comfortable on the site

Continuing the discussion from "Yer not from round 'ere" - should we challenge posts from non-SE23 residents?:

Dear all,

Firstly thank you to all members for taking the time to provide feedback on the site, moderation and the issues that stop or reduce your, or others, participation here. The message is clear - some people do not feel comfortable posting here and that is not an acceptable position for us as a team, or for a local community forum.

So we’d like to start off with an apology to all members who feel that way. We will do our best to remedy the situation and hope that people who might want to use the forum will, if they do not now, feel comfortable doing so in the future.

Issues noted:

Some common themes listed above or by multiple people include:

  • A minority of people or one person taking over topics
  • A minority of people or one person being overly aggressive / dogmatic / relentless with their arguments
  • People responding to each other in quick succession in a heated way or directly attacking each other, or others
  • The tone of responses making it feel unfriendly
  • General politics being brought into local topics
  • People feeling the forum is overly political in a certain direction
  • When general politics or other non-local issues, these can and are divisive
  • Moderators not taking swift enough action to the above, or in some cases no action
  • Difficulty understanding / using the flagging system.

How we can make things better:

So how can we remedy this? Well the honest answer is only in partnership with our members, you. Moderation, ideally would be light touch and allow us to focus on key issues as they arise, and everyone can help us with that.

That said, as moderators we have some tools at our disposal that we could and should have used more in the past, that would have reduced some of the friction. We will aim to utilise these further in the future. We trialled in this thread ‘slow mode’ which stops members posting more than once an hour - we think this will be useful is potential contentious topics where we want to keep the thread open, but give people time to fully consider their responses. There is a disadvantage to this of course in that members cannot post as often as they would like, but it’s probably a good middle ground.

We also of course have the option to close topics. This is something that is done fairly regularly on some other forums and Facebook groups and might be something we can implement more if a discussion has effectively run it’s course.

In terms of general politics creeping in, we will just take a firmer line on it, but also ask members to try to be mindful not to introduce it, and if you do see it to not respond and just flag it so we can deal with one post, instead of the following 5-10 posts. It can be difficult to separate local and national politics, sometimes it is clear, and sometimes it is grey. We will make a judgement call on those - in the current climate that is incredibly difficult to police.

What we do fairly often, that is unseen publicly, is to message members directly to edit a post where it contains a political post. Often 90% of the post is fine, we just need the political slant removed (eg Tory this or Labour that). Sometimes members just ignore the request or refuse, which means we either have to move the whole post out, or delete the text ourselves (which can be difficult to do if it affect the sentence structure). Additionally, as we wait for the member to take action, people can respond to the post, making the thread then difficult to edit and giving us more posts to look at - in these instances if the flagging system can be used instad of responding it’s very helpful to us .

So this brings us to the individuals who dominate, are overly aggressive in their responses or unrelenting in pushing their views, and whose tone is off-putting to some, not to mention direct, or indirect attacks on members. In hindsight, there is no doubt we have let some things go which we should not have. There is a suggestion above for a yellow card or sin bin type type system, and we will look at that. We have a number of options from speaking to users offline, silencing them, suspending or banning. Some of this we do already, but it is hidden from view.

What we will say is that we will make a renewed effort to make sure that this sort of behaviour is identified is eliminated from the forum. Repeat offenders will receive guidance and warnings, and ultimately will be banned if their behaviour does not improve. That will apply to anyone.

A fresh start

Tomorrow is a new day and we will aim to start afresh, implementing the above, and tweaking things as we go along.

We can’t do this on our own though, we will need your assistance. We will provide more guidance on the flagging system in the coming week or so to make it clearer. In affect every member can help us moderate the forum by being mindful of their posts, and helping to alert us when posts fall below that standards expected. We are a small team of moderators all with our own personal lives that keep us busy - we give up our time to try and keep the forum going and friendly (and clearly as above some further work is needed) however we really do need your help also to achieve this.

To our regular members, thank you for your continued support and use of the site, as well as your feedback to improve. We have some truly incredible members on the site and we know how useful your input and posts are to many people - thank you. To those considering coming back or joining, we would urge you to give us another try and help make the forum one SE23 can be truly proud of.

If anyone would like to discuss any particular issues or concerns privately you can message the @moderators as a group, and we are listed below individually.

If you have further feedback or suggestions please detail it below, or in due course if appropriate start new topics in the site feedback area of the forum.

Thank you, from the moderator team.

@oakr (Al) @Londondrz (John) @applespider (Dom) @ForestHull (Mike) @moderators (for all of us).

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A post was split to a new topic: Posts moved from Member Feedback Thread

We’ve also tweaked the site guidelines a little.

There is now a section describing tea breaks and slow mode, and taking on some of the feedback, we’ve added the following suggestions to the Always Be Civil section:

Thanks to @ThorNogson as I borrowed some of your words there - I hope that’s ok :slight_smile:

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I welcome the clear concerns highlighted by @oakr - well expressed and recognising real concerns by many forum contributors and visitors.

I would add one additional issue that I have heard expressed and felt myself: moderation favouring some individuals (that may include moderators/admins/owners as well as local councillors). We should all have to abide by the same rules and judged to roughly the same standards (with some leeway given to those who are infrequent posters and don’t know the rules and how to subtly bend them).

But I think that this recognition and slight change in approach by the moderators is most welcome.

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I think this is helpful. As I mentioned before the problem I have is threads where local issues are discussed, particularly those to do with traffic and housing, seem to attract certain contributors with an aggressive debating style and entrenched political views. This leads to those threads becoming wider political debates with contributors to threads challenged robustly and sometimes aggressively on every point they make. This may be fun sport to some, but it is intimidating and puts off people who are not keen on that debating style or simply want to talk about a local issue.

I don’t want to reopen the non resident debate but would humbly suggest if there are posters, resident or not, who want a robust political debate about the wider politics of car use, housing, role of public sector workers etc… a hyper local forum is probably not the best place to scratch that itch.

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I just wanted to clear up that this was a joint post from the moderator team after our call and discussion last night - we’ve now changed the post author to show that (my technical ineptitude meant I didn’t do that last night).

Absolutely

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It was a long meeting for all four mods last night talking through the concerns and coming up with the consensus that @oakr has posted.

Fairness in moderation was one of the topics covered and we agree that everyone should have to abide by the rules and be held to the same standards. It is possibly worth noting here that although the results of moderation should be visible in a friendly forum where local issues predominate, interactions with any member who is being asked to edit posts etc, will be via private messages rather than publicly on threads.

2 posts were split to a new topic: Posts moved from Member Feedback on what stops people using the forum

I find this very sad, but accept I am in a small minority (possibly of one)

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I agree with Leo entirely, and this point is definitely key.

One person’s fervent opinion or point of view out in the ether could be dismissed as being just that – one person’s moment of anger and frustration. But if 15+ people click to like/support it, that indicates they too are similarly frustrated, and that speaks volumes.

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Also, can I ask why posts keep being moved to a separate subsidiary? It’s happening so much over the recent discussions and I find it quite confusing.

Disclaimer: Not a criticism! Just wondered if there was a reason that’s unclear to me.

Thanks!

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It’s very easy to click on the like symbol but not clear what element of a very long post, with links to numerous links that may be being quoted out of context, is being liked. Without the alternative choice of a thumbs down symbol, you really can’t tell much about the consensus of opinion.

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That’s completely fair. I should have been more specific, I was talking about the single-paragraph posts that can be seen as individual outbursts, but garner a lot of supporting clicks.

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Sometimes it is pretty obvious. Other times, not so much. In this topic there was a lengthy, though well considered post which has been consigned to Moderator Action. I cannot understand how that post broke any guidelines but I also recognise that perhaps my unconscious bias may be at play.

Moving forward I expect we will see what many might consider over moderation and I can accept that. After all many have asked for more moderation, not less. But in the spirit of a new dawn it would be helpful to understand why a post might have been removed when perhaps to the casual observer it may not be so obvious.

I also appreciate that explanations may not be immediate. The moderators have jobs, kids and other things to do. Thoughtful moderation can be better than hasty moderation.

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Yep - we’re lucky that some homeschooling hasn’t been posted here yet as @oakr’s sharing a laptop with one of his children!

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Here is my second attempt! Wish me luck :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

To reiterate for some, I’ve explained in my first post, why I am getting involved. I think SE23.Life has the potential to be a fantastic noticeboard, discussion forum, and local virtual meeting place. It can also be a very useful tool for councillors to interact with our residents and hear about issues in the area. However, the refusal of moderators to effectively tackle the very small minority, who regularly make attacks on others, needlessly politicize debates, and respond in a harassing manner to those they don’t agree with - has, for a lot of people, made this forum an unwelcoming place. It has meant the ward councillors, other than me and Sophie, have chosen not to get involved. I think this is a legitimate problem for me to involve myself in, both as a councillor and forum member.

However, having said this, I am very grateful to see @oakr considered and lengthy post here which suggests to me that the moderator team have taken our concerns seriously. I look forward to working with them to improve this forum along with others.

My two pence on things that can be done to improve things:

Moderates take a bit more of a hands-on approach to when posters are clearly riled or enter the site looking for a fight and to attack others. Moderates need to step in early by momentarily blocking the poster and offering them some feedback on why they’ve taken this action to protect other posters. (Take this as a yellow card). After a brief cooling-off period, if the person returns in the same manner, then the posters get a longer sin-bin. If this becomes a persistent pattern of behaviour, and a poster is regularly attacking others, then permanent blocks are in order.

Sometimes, someone account might not warrant a momentary block, but moderators might have a word and give them a little warning for the way they’ve entered or added to a debate and make a note of this behaviour (like a referee does). I know there are certainly times when I have responded in the [wrong manner](Thorpewood Avenue Half One Way and School Street Poll, and not helped further discussions in an appropriate manner.

Then, once in a while, moderators should meet together and can compare notes and work out who the persistent offenders are who drag down the tone of the debate and attack others.

I urge others to continue to offer their feedback and suggestions as @Oakr suggests.

DO NOT use examples of when you’ve felt attacked, or felt that moderators have not responded appropriately to unpleasant hassling or barbed-politicisation - while you may think it is important to offer examples to illustrate your points - by calling out people’s behaviour, you will be accused attacking or marginalising then. This relates to my original post, in which I argue that rules protect people from being challenged about your their tone or conduct.

Therefore, I would recommend that you Direct Message the moderators instead to offer examples of conduct you’ve seen or received that has made you uncomfortable and made you want to disengage from this forum.

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Well said Leo - it’s hard to find anything in your thoughtful post to disagree with.

Just to add my two cents on slow mode, which I think is clearly a helpful tool. I can understand why it would not apply to moderators, as they need to be able to intervene if necessary. However, I think it would be appreciated by users if moderators could behave as if they needed to wait an hour between posts, as there were several breaches in the now-locked thread from yesterday, which I suspect may have put others off from contributing.

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Hi @Fran_487

As mentioned above, we are trying to more pro-actively target early posts which do not meet site guidelines.

Posts that don’t meet these are moved, and either permanently consigned elsewhere, or we will ask the poster to amend their post, explaining where they have broken the guidelines. If the poster amends the post so that it meets the guidelines, we will then move it back, or allow the poster to to repost as such the new version.

In particuliar, as @LeoGibbons alludes to, we want to ensure that members do not target other members - a repeated complaint so we are being very proactive on that front. If there are concerns about about individuals, the moderator team can be messaged @moderators , or the site owner individually @ForestHull.

It is possible we will be accused of over moderation, and we may be guilty of it over the next few days and weeks, but on the balance of where we are if the matter is grey that is the approach we will take to make sure all users feel the environment is safe for them.

I hope that clarifies things for you and @starman.

Thank you Jon. I think if we are responding as users as opposed to moderators, we should absolutely do that, and if we don’t (we are human and make mistakes also) we should be pulled up on it - again the flagging system can be used. In a moderator capacity we may post more regularly (though we will aim not to) - it’s new to us also and we will need to learn from it and take the feedback like yours, but certainly sometimes we will need to interject to respond to questions or alleviate issues more regularly than normal.

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Hi Leo. Your profile pic includes a LBC symbol noting that you are local councilor. While a nice feature, it could cause some confusion to readers as it would suggest that any post you make is in the capacity of a local councilor when clearly that is not always the case.

This area of confusion is not new. For a very long time it was impossible to know if a moderator was posting as a moderator, or expressing their own opinion. Particularly if one was contributing to a topic in both capacities. This led to the addition of a moderator “tag” which they could engage when appropriate so that it was clear in which capacity they were posting. The “yellow” highlighting came later.

For yourself and Sophie it might be helpful if admin can offer the same. I’m pretty sure this can be done though would require you to consciously engage the badge when in your official capacity.

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Except in this case I think it is:

Also:

Sadly not - moderators and admins have special status baked into the software. Perhaps a simple disclaimer to say “I am posting my own views” is enough though - in other dealings with Councillors I know they have always been clear to point out when they are expressing their own opinion rather than council policy and such, and I think Leo has done a good job to be clear here, though I’m sure he can clarify further if needed - though let’s not get too far off topic :slight_smile:

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