Trying something new here: A podcast. The text portion is similar, though not identical to, my monologue.
Here's a link…
…but I'll précis the important parts: They're doing away with the trolling/flaming rules. No, you didn't read that wrong. When this goes into effect, people can now tell you "Your a idiot" to their heart's content. Some people are happy about this change, while others are less optimistic. I am in the latter category.
I don't think this is a positive change. The trolling/flaming rules kept discussions centered around ideas. The natural move for idiots when they are unable to convince smarter people of their stupid ideas is to begin name calling. At that point, the discussion is essentially over. And like employing a dutiful nanny, the flaming rules allowed the mods to come in, collect the crying children, and remove them from the forum so that the adults could continue their conversation.
There are some forums that have very loose guidelines on flaming. An example of where this works is RPG Codex or TDH; when someone ceases posting content and is just being a childish ass, he's mocked from every corner. Derision from the community keeps most people in line, and the mods are only needed for extreme cases. An example of this failing miserably is GameFAQs; a new user will show up and troll a forum for weeks before he gets tired of it and leaves. You can only rely on a self-policing community up to a certain size. When there are too many new people coming through a forum every day, with next to no restrictions on their behavior, the signal to noise ratio gets too low, and any given thread ends up looking like a YouTube comment page. So let me ask you, fair reader, do GameSpot's public forums qualify as a large community, or a small community?
My problem with GameSpot moderation has never been the ToU. It's the way the mods interpret the ToU, in very specific circumstances. Now generally, the interpretation is straight forward: A mod sees censor bypassing, advertising, or porn suicide, and deals with it appropriately. At least 90% of what I see on Ask the Mods makes sense. The problem is in the interpretation of trolling and flaming. How many times have you read something like the following on Ask the Mods? When someone is complaining about an absurd interpretation of their post as "trolling"…
How is my comment trolling? All I did was tell User2 I hope he has fun on his trip. He's my friend, and I was just wishing him a good time. How could this possibly be trolling??
The rules are the rules whether you like them or not.
Hey Mod, the user wasn't complaining about the rules; he was complaining about your ridiculous interpretation of the rules! For years, I have been browsing Ask the Mods and reading exchanges like this. It boggles my mind how the mods are unable to understand this distinction, between the written law, versus their application and interpretation of law.
It's so boggling, that I actually cannot accept that the mods (some of them, anyway) are that goddamn stupid. They understand the distinction. In my opinion, there are two factors at play here: A.) Everyone's natural inclination on the Internet and in life to be correct when their decisions are questioned, and B.) A culture amongst (at least some of) the mods of automatically siding against the user, and only admitting fault in the most extreme cases.
I don't have a problem with the ToU. I have a problem with the nauseating arrogance dripping off certain threads in Ask the Mods and elsewhere:
There is nothing flawed with the system, the user is the one that is flawed.
This is getting lengthy, so I'm going to split this into a two-parter. Tomorrow I'll discuss some ideas on how to deal with the above.