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Appreciating the modded communities - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Appreciating the modded communities
As a mod, I'm not writing this to say, "Go, appreciate your mods."

What I want to write about is why I like very heavily modded communities, and will frequent them more than free-for-alls when the choice is available. I don't just mean the ones where, yes, you will be slapped on the wrist if you make a death threat. I mean ones that say, "Okay, this is an Anakin-loving, prequel-supporting, George Lucas-respecting community. Act like a basher, you can grab your traveling shoes. Get it? Got it. Good."

This seems not to be a popular position, so I thought I'd give some reasons.

Objection #1: But it stifles discussion!
Not really. I mean, yes--it does stop the long, circular discussions about things no one has any intention of bending on, but do those really promote discussion? Once you get to a certain point, it's safe to say that those things just keep recycling themselves. People get emotionally invested because they've been doing it for so long, and those threads just eat up a forum or a mailing list. How many posts can you possibly have on R/Hr vs. H/Hr? Well, the answer seems to be "a whole bloody lot of 'em." But there are only so many actual arguments to be made--the texts are finite sources.

My position is pick one or the other--whichever is right for the community that's formed--and move on. Talk about other things. Is Percy redeemable? What did Peter Pettigrew do for twelve years in the Weasley household? What's the significance of the triumphant gleam in Dumbledore's eyes? It seems to me that there's more emotional freedom to go there and have a pleasant discussion about other things when there's not a nasty fight going on eternally right next door.

In SW, I don't mind bashers having their own communities. I don't get it, but hey, it's a free internet. But having the basher/prequel-fan wars going on (and trust me, HP folk; the basher/prequel-fan wars in SW make the ship wars look kind and gentle... at least no ship captain has declared war on JKR and insisted that someone else should write the remaining books), it's very, very difficult to have a conversation about anything that's actually meaningful. For instance, you could get a thread going about symbolism in Attack of the Clones... only to have it come down to "Lucas is an idiot who wouldn't know symbolism if it bit him in the ass" vs "What are you talking about? Of course there's symbolism!" Which stifles all discussion about what that symbolism is and how it functions in the story. If the question on the table is, "What is the meaning of the inverted pieta image that precedes the Tusken attack?" and someone responds by saying, "You're imagining things, it's just a dumb movie and you're only pretending it's smart"... well, that kinda kills any chance of actually playing with the question. So I'm a very big believer in stating flat-out: This is our board bias. Take it or leave it. I think it ultimately increases both the depth and the breadth of conversation, though yes, of course, it cuts off those arguments that everyone wants to claim victory on and no one will ever win. I don't think they're a big loss.

Objection #2: "Aw, c'mon, people are too thin-skinned."
I agree that people are often too thin-skinned. And I wouldn't dream of stopping a hearty in-community thrashing of something. It's cathartic... when everyone agrees it needs to be thrashed.

But people are emotionally invested in the stories they choose. (Most specious argument ever on a fansite: It's just a movie/book! Chill out!... Excuse me, but the whole point of going to a fansite is to indulge that freaky little passion.) And there are real people there on the other end, being browbeaten and bullied.

Now, if I deliberately go over to a community called "I Hate Tonks!" and disturb people who are gleefully skewering her, I'm the one at fault and in need of being kicked out--I should know better. And a Tonks hater who went to tonkslove would also know better. But in day-to-day interactions on a common level, I greatly prefer the site to be modded, so that "You dumb T/R fans... you're just a bunch of junior high students!" would get a severe slap on the wrist. Why? Because it's nasty. Because someone is the hostess, and the hostess's job is to do her best not to let her guests insult one another.

Objection #3: "It's my First Amendment right!"
If the government tries to stop you, I'll be the first to bake you a file in a cake. But on a private site, that doesn't even apply, as long as there is no attempt to get you to stop speaking elsewhere. If I went to theonering.net and went into my normal rant about the LotR movies, the mods would have every right in the world to say, "Take it to your LJ, sweetie, we don't want to hear it." As long as they didn't then start trying to get LJ to insist that only laudatory reviews of Jackson's movies went up, or--worse--try to get the government to issue a decree that no criticism of Peter Jackson will be allowed on any part of the Internet, that's fine. It's not my First Amendment right to misbehave when I'm a guest in someone else's house. If I don't like the house rules, I can always go home or visit someone else.

All that said, I think I can count on my fingers the number of bans I've done at either TFN or SQ (that would be 0 at SQ, and maybe seven at TFN). And if I went down to the permanent bans, I could count it on one hand... and make a fist with it.

Which makes me realize that I should mod myself and insist that I have a point to an LJ entry... ;D
26 comments or Leave a comment
shellebelle93 From: shellebelle93 Date: August 4th, 2004 04:31 am (UTC) (Link)
Just chiming in to say I totally agree. :-)
rabidsamfan From: rabidsamfan Date: August 4th, 2004 05:08 am (UTC) (Link)
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: August 4th, 2004 06:17 am (UTC) (Link)
at least no ship captain has declared war on JKR and insisted that someone else should write the remaining books

Maybe no ship captain, but one FictionAlley mod pretty much said she ought to leave it to her fans from now on.
readerravenclaw From: readerravenclaw Date: August 4th, 2004 06:45 am (UTC) (Link)
What I like best about the modding at sugarquill is not just the fact that everyone is required to control the tone/content of their posts, but also the fact that only moderators can start topics. This is just about the highest level of modding, and I that's what really produces all the many page, in-depth discussions. (Of course, it can be annoying - such as when you'd like a topic to be started, and you suggest it in the the New Thread Suggestions thread and are not given the thread you requested, or even given an explanation of what's wrong with the topic - but overall, it's by far worth it.)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 4th, 2004 08:12 am (UTC) (Link)
I wasn't sure how I'd feel about that at first, but I've gotten to really love it. Now I get frustrated if I go elsewere and find fifty topics that are minor variations on the same theme. Granted, this can be controlled by the mods going in every time a redundant thread is started and saying, "This is a redundant thread; I'm locking it." But it seems better to me to stop it before it starts. And now that we're controlling the unmanageably long threads by locking them and starting "sequel" threads (and working on indexing monsters like "All things British"), it solves the problem of a thread being forbiddingly long for a newbie to get into.
narcissam From: narcissam Date: August 4th, 2004 07:52 am (UTC) (Link)
People really also assume that the mods have way more interest in them than they do. When a mod takes a point away from you at FAP, it doesn't mean that they have a grudge against you, it just means that, while going through dozens of posts, they noted yours broke a rule, and took a point for that. It's not even a terribly shameful thing to happen. Everyone forgets the rules at times.

What gets me is the people who get a point taken away, and act as if it wasn't a warning, but an open declaration of war on them by the mods. Then they fire back by breaking more rules, and the more they do, of course, the more they'll feel justified in their belief.

I've seen this on a few sites.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 4th, 2004 08:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, yes. My favorite example (she says quite sarcastically) was on TFN when a poster complaining about slash said that he didn't want "those deviants" on the site. I pointed out that this was offensive. (Heck, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and assumed that maybe he didn't realize it.) All of the sudden I was a politically correct Nazi bent on stifling his free speech, since he was using it in its technical, sociological sense and only a moron could possibly argue and...

Given that this wasn't long after a big kerfluffle about the admin being homophobes because the site had a no-slash rule and I'd agreed that the site owners had every right to decide such a thing (see "objection #3"--that's a vote-with-your-mouse-clicks kind of thing, which is what I ultimately did on the refusal to moderate Lucas bashing), I was very confused as to which corner of hell I was meant to be burning in.
buongiornodaisy From: buongiornodaisy Date: August 4th, 2004 07:55 am (UTC) (Link)
*nods* It's real annoying to go to a thread that's gone horribly off topic, without any moderator telling them otherwise. In fact, I go to a message board where topics go off topic quite frequently, and moderators participate in the off topic discussions! Heavily moderated threads really do invite intelligent, mature discussion.
gentlespirit From: gentlespirit Date: August 4th, 2004 08:12 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't usually do much with message boards, but you actually have me interested. I should probably know this, but what board(s?) do you moderate? My biggest issue has been not having enough time online, and not wanting to waste it on boards that are just petty bullshit and attacks for no reason.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 4th, 2004 08:21 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm a mod at SugarQuill, in HP. (Bias: R/Hr over H/Hr, foot stomped down on that argument, period. Pro-Weasley.) In SW, I modded at TFN, which is just huge general site. I mainly stayed at fanfic until I switched fandoms. Other sites accused it of being modded to a Nazi extent, but I actually got frustrated in the discussion boards because I thought they were under-modded. My current SW modding is at a_p_'s Home Page Forums, attached to the Anakin Skywalker Homepage (bias: pro-Anakin/Vader, pro-prequels, pro-Lucas; no bashing PERIOD).
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 4th, 2004 08:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Oops, that'll teach me to use bookmarks. I mistyped the SQ forum address. It's here.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 4th, 2004 08:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, and I almost forgot mincot's Godric's Hat, a fun genfic based board with a lot of good discussion. Not much modding has been required!
mincot From: mincot Date: August 4th, 2004 11:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! We're working on keeping it that way. I tend to the low key as long as everyone on the board is being adult (which they are at the Hat) and on-topic, but I will get firmer if I have to. The joys of a small board are that you can get away with doing that. If it gets too big, you need firmer rules.
silverhill From: silverhill Date: August 4th, 2004 10:07 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't think that a community has to take an official position on debates such as shipping wars. H/Hr, R/Hr and even D/Hr shippers can coexist peacefully. But it is appropriate to say "Let's knock off this 'discussion' that isn't going anywhere."

I belong to a modded Harry Potter discussion board and modded Lord of the Rings discussion board. (They are sister sites.) The LotR one is generally pro-movie, but people are allowed to post why they didn't like the movies. And even if people don't like/accept different opinions, they know that being mean is not an option (unless they want to get banned).

Oh, and I hate it when people mention the First Amendment. The First Amendment is one of the things I feel most passionate about. But it doesn't apply to message boards. And it shouldn't. Instituting some standards of decency can be a good thing. Some communities can have no rules and be fine (i.e. mostly polite with only occasional, non-gratuitous use of obscenities). In other communities that's just asking people to take advantage of the no-rules situation. Communities like that might be "free," but they're also a lot less pleasant.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 4th, 2004 10:14 am (UTC) (Link)
With the "hot questions," it would depend on whether or not they were likely to derail other conversations. If they tend to do so, then ban 'em. If not--if it's just not an issue that preoccupies people on the boards--then it's probably not necessary.
mafdet From: mafdet Date: August 4th, 2004 11:45 am (UTC) (Link)
I post on both FA and the SQ. Sometimes I wish I could just up and start a new thread on the Quill, but by and large I appreciate the fact that it is a heavily modded board. The "civility quotient" is so much higher that way. A strong moderator presence can do a lot towards making sure posts don't stray wildly off-topic, or degenerate into flamewars, and that any trolls that pop by get banished promptly and not "fed." (I hate it when people feed obvious trolls. It's often a matter of being new and naive, but if trolls weren't egged on, they'd have no reason to exist.)

I do remember an old board I used to frequent, which imploded partly because the mods got really heavy-handed and asshatty. The founders and their mods were a little clique, and one day they decided that they were going to start banning anyone they didn't like. Not trolls, not people who couldn't abide by standards of good Netizenship, but just people who they took a dislike to for one reason or another. Pretty soon even "oldbie" posters were being banned left and right. As a result - surprise! - no one wanted to post anymore and so the boards shut down.

I don't think this is something characteristic of heavily modded boards - in this case, I am sure this was a case of power corrupting, and personal vendettas carried to an extreme. I don't think the SQ mods would ever stoop so low. :)

Aside from FA and the SQ, I frequent the Earth's Children fan board. This board really is not heavily modded, but people behave themselves for the most part. In the four or five years I've been participating there have been only a handful of kerfuffles and/or banned posters. I think this is partly because of the kind of people who are EC fans, and partly because while the board isn't "heavily modded" per se, there are moderators, and they do mingle with the other posters. Most of the mods are very active posters, so the feeling is that they are not "beings on high" who step in only when things get rough, but are active everyday participants. I think the fact that everyone knows who the mods are and that they are there, cuts back on the troll/flamewar factor.
sophonax From: sophonax Date: August 4th, 2004 01:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

My ideal mod

-Gives posters a warning when thread is going off-topic
-Deletes flames
-When a question that often leads to flamewars is brought up, warns posters that if they can't come up with arguments that haven't been rehashed a thousand times and don't make people want to kill each other, that the thread is going to be toast.

Unfortunately, with a lot of mods, these principles lead instead to deleting entire threads that have gone off-topic (or moving them to more topical threads, getting people thoroughly confused as to where their posts went), banning flamers for a single post, and deleting anything that might hint of being even slightly controversial. The right balance is really hard to strike, and I think that SQ gets it for the most part.

However, the modding at SQ distresses me for reasons I can't quite articulate. For me, the defining aspect of SQ discussion **isn't** that it's Ron/Hermione-centric. It's that it's so bloody *reasonable,* and I treasure that in a fandom board, especially a fandom as wanky as HP. So when anti-R/H posts get modded from existence, the reasoning behind it strikes me not as "Well, this is an R/H 'safe haven' (so to speak)," but rather "This is a reasonable place, so we're banning this post because no reasonable person could possibly hold this opinion." Which strikes me as bewildering, to say the least. I realize most of this interpretation is just mine and the first line of reasoning is probably more accurate, but the fact that SQ isn't really advertised as "A Ron/Hermione Site" and the sheer bizarreness of some of the anti-H/H attitudes I've encountered--essentially, that it's no less immoral, anti-canon, unlikely, or just plain squicky as, say, Hermione/Draco or Hermione/Snape (god forbid) make me unable to really accept this.

I'm actually not even a little bit an H/H shipper--my OTP is Harry/Ginny and, while I'm not crazy about Ron/Hermione, I think it'll probably happen and I have no real problem with that--but it doesn't strike me as squicky or wrong--just unlikely and not an especially interesting mesh of personalities, so when it's treated on the same level as "Draco's a sex god and Hermione changed over the summer," I can't help thinking the modding's gone a bit overboard. I have no problem with one-viewpoint-only individual threads, as in the "Gush or Get Out" movie thread, and I guess I wouldn't mind the whole board being that way if a) SQ clearly advertised itself as R/H-centric and b) there were a multitude of other so polite, interesting, subtle, canon-respectful and generally reasonable boards so that I could seek out another one with no shipping biases. Sadly, politeness, creativity, subtlety, respect for canon, and reason seem to be in pretty short supply in this fandom, so at SQ I stay.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 4th, 2004 02:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: My ideal mod

My general position is that a board can take any weird position it wants to, as long as it's open about it.

I came in after the rule went up, but as I understand it, it happened because it was an argument that had gotten out of hand frequently. If people argue too much about whether Hogwarts is made of stone or wood--whether either side is reasonable or not--I think it's a fair approach to just say in the registration screen and FAQ, "This is a stone-castle site."

It's probably just my experience at TFN, where too much bashing was allowed, but it's a big draw for me when the administration of a site just says, "This is the way it is. Deal with it." (Personally, I never thought it was an odd notion to require posters on a fansite to be fans, but maybe that's just me. Oh, yeah, I forgot. By basher logic, they're the only true fans. The movies could have been great--just look at that opening sequence on the Tantive IV--if only the characters had never opened their mouths and started talking.)
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: August 4th, 2004 03:57 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: My ideal mod

Actually, the impression I've gotten is that public opinion has SQ as far more of a shipping site than it is -- as in, people are more likely to come in with the impression that that's all that goes on than otherwise, or that all the archived stories are ship-based, when in fact it's a great place to find genfic. (And for that matter Snapefic.)

But perhaps that's just because the headache-inducing people are the most memorable....
rikibeth From: rikibeth Date: August 4th, 2004 02:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
You know, now I have to go and pop the original in the VCR to look for the inverted Pieta image, because I *think* I know what you're talking about, but I want to be sure, and the first thing that springs to mind is AFTER the attack...

Just sayin.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 4th, 2004 02:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's right after Shmi dies. Anakin, in the traditional spot for Mary, cradles her bloodied body, which is positioned like Jesus's. Off to the side, the A-frame on which she's been bound is cut by the edges of the film so that all you see is the cruciform shape, lying on the floor of the tent. Then the psychotic strings of doom kick in, and Anakin goes crazy.
rikibeth From: rikibeth Date: August 4th, 2004 02:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
I am an idiot, I was thinking of the wrong EPISODE, of COURSE I noticed *that* inverted-Pieta, thank you, I'll just shut up now, OK?

says the girl whose HP fanfic, were it filmed, would include a Snape/Rosier Pieta...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 4th, 2004 03:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Would you believe that when I brought that up on a thread, I was told I was imagining things, and even if I wasn't, it was an accident? (And you can imagine that if it were confirmed to be deliberate, the response would be, "Well, jeez, what a hit-you-over-the-head thing!")
ashavah From: ashavah Date: August 6th, 2004 04:28 am (UTC) (Link)
WORD. Thank you.
manicwriter1271 From: manicwriter1271 Date: August 8th, 2004 05:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
As one of the seven people you banned on TF.N (and blushing furiously with embarrassment right now--there was a period there when my Dark Side was making such a presence as to dominate my entire personality, and I'm not saying that with pride), you might find it surprising that I agree with everything you say here.

I joined TF.N back in 2000, after having lurked since the time TPM came out. Those days were good--either I'm imagining things or those were the "no bullshit" days. Sure, there were fan wars--two of my favorites are the "love triangle/Obidala wars" and the "who was more evil, Anakin or the Tuskens?" wars (both of those, IMHO, have such obvious answers that I don't know how people argue their points, but it was interesting anyway).

As a friend of mine said on IM recently--a friend who joined TF.N recently and then gave up after less than 100 posts--no one there cares about having a discussion. They just want to scream at each other. Once upon a time when I thought it was worth the effort, I pointed out in Coms some posts that I felt didn't contribute to discussion but just served to try to piss people off. Case in point: I don't really care that much if people don't like or approve of Anakin's character, but there are better ways of explaining one's viewpoint than to say "Anakin is a psychotic stalker baby killer!" I mention this in Coms, and I was told, "Not everyone comes to TF.N to discuss or debate points" and "Intelligent posting is not required here" (well, that's obvious *eye roll*). I was also told that I was "trying to make TF.N just like my classroom" (I missed the part of the statement that explained why that's such a problem) and that I was stifling free speech.

I run a site (Skywalker Journey that is pro-Anakin, pro-Vader, pro-A/P romance, and allows absolutely no bashing. I posted in the rules and regulations examples of acceptable and unacceptable posts. Acceptable: "I don't think Anakin should have killed the Tusken women and children," or, "I think Padme should have encouraged Anakin to turn himself into the Jedi Council." Unacceptable: "Anakin is a stalker," "Anakin is a psychotic baby-killer", or "Padme is an enabler who should have never married that psycho." In other words, Star Wars characters (especially Anakin and Padme) and Star Wars actors and creators are protected under the "no flaming" rule.

In other words, I ban people for not contributing to the discussion and for just trying to piss people off. I, unlike the current TF.N staff, can recognize the difference between "expressing an opinion" and just trying to start fires.

As far as fan fiction there, not sure if you knew but the old "standards" debate came up again when one of the moderators posted a generic warning about some stories toeing the line--and then didn't lock the thread immediately. KnightWriter linked to your old thread and mentioned that you had gotten barbequed last time this was discussed, and asked why the hell we were discussing it again (which is what I wanted to know). Fortunately another moderator did go in and lock it--thankfully I was moving that week and had a very good reason for not checking into that argument. If I had posted, it would have been "Who the hell had the brilliant idea of poking a stick into this particular hornet's nest?"

I'm a member at Sugar Quill but I've never gotten into the R/Hr or H/Hr wars. I'm a R/Hr fan but I guess I just don't feel strongly enough about it to get my panties in a wad if JKR decides to take it another way.

The only thing I've got strong feelings about so far with Harry Potter is, I hope Book 7 isn't going to be a HP version of Episode III, with Voldemort winning.

Is Percy redeemable? Yeah, I think so. Will he want to be redeemed--that's the question.

I think another interesting debate would be, "Who is a worse human being, Snape or Sirius?" My vote would be Snape--I think someone who is still nursing a high school grudge at age 34 is in far more need of an attitude adjustment than an arrogant teenager who picked on a classmate and played a prank on him, albeit a dangerous prank.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 9th, 2004 08:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Agreed on Snape/Sirius... though that's one that, depending on the tone of the board, I'd be more than willing to suspend discussion on. It can get very ugly ("I was a picked on child and anyone who thinks Sirius is anything but a big old bully with a sadistic streak a mile wide--or that Snape is anything but a perfect angel--is just an ass!"... ad hominem. I hate it above all other things on the internet), and if the tone of a board started to lean that way--yeah, I'd lock it.

The funny thing about the standards thread was that I was trying to be democratic... give people some voice in the definitions. The other option wasn't to not have standards, but to simply dictate them and say, "This is the way it's gonna be, end of story, deal." I've sort of wondered if I should have done that, from time to time. With things like actorfics and Obi-torture, that did come from on-high (and I didn't disagree, to be fair), but trying to figure out where the lines were on other things is a messy business.
26 comments or Leave a comment