The BIG Issues, or: How I learned to stop complaining and love the system!
There's a "TL/DR" at the bottom for your convenience.
There's a "TL/DR" at the bottom for your convenience.
Now it's definitely not my intention to cause drama with this post. I feel I'm entitled to post my opinion, so that's what I'm doing... it's what I've always done.
Over the past couple of months, I've been on the receiving ends of a few users who have spoken out against certain aspects of this forum. The most common being:
- The rep-system and how it's currently operated,
- The “secret requirement” needed in order to gain VIP status,
- How the forum “just doesn't feel the same anymore”,
- A few users having a “Holier than Thou” attitude,
- A general increase in immaturity (and decrease in quality of posts).
Lately, these things have been cumulating and are starting to boil and evaporate our community away. I’m sure a lot of you people don’t want to see that happen, so instead of ignoring the issue and/or bitching about it, I want to make this a post as to what I personally feel about what’s been going on. I don’t expect anyone to agree with me, nor do I expect anyone to refute me. You’re more than welcome to do both however, but understand this is my perspective of it all, it’s opinion, take it to heart but don’t feel disheartened over it.
Let’s face it, these things are easy to sweep under the rug, but that will do us no good. We will eventually collapse under the weight of these things and the forum will quite literally implode in a flurry of paranoia, bigotry, accusations, insults, attitude and drama. That is something I would not like to see happen simply because I enjoy coming here and using this place as a podium to project and convey my thoughts on things to people who I know will give two shits about it, let alone it being a *B/DL community of all things as well.
Point One – The Reputation System (aka. The Drama Trigger)
Addressing the first point above, I can't think of anything else on this forum that has caused more drama than the reputation system. I find it ironic something employed to show appreciation has actually increased the frequency of unappreciative behaviour. Shedding that sort of light on it makes the rep-system feel highly redundant and useless, but not so if it weren't also used as a self-moderation tool and a great way of showing to someone on the forum that you respect their opinion. Apart from weighing up the good and bad things about the system, you also have to consider the impact each aspect has on the whole dynamic of the forum.
The battle over reputation often becomes the focal point for a number of threads. I've observed that people can argue as much as they want over it and still not reach any conclusion or agreement. By nature, the reputation system is always going to cause upset and unrest amongst users. Why? Because reputation is given on reputation is given on a personal opinion basis. Contrary opinions are something I don't foresee we'll ever overcome simply because everyone is unique and, as a society, we harbour and cherish values of individualism and the concept of "everyone is perfect just the way they are"... or at least we try to. Treading on someone else's ideals, especially if they are in conflict, will naturally cause bickering and disagreement and the reputation system is simply a medium for those disputes to channel through. We are an intelligent, insightful community with people who carry with them different ideas about how the world works. Drama is a typical part of our clash of thoughts and ideas. Consequently, this often gets out of hand and escalades into a bitch-fight more than anything. I would like to be correct in assuming we are above that sort of behaviour; I know we are because I've seen many people here demonstrate it countless times in the past.
People, I find, are way too trigger-happy to in giving out negative reputation when neutral-rep, a PM or a simple post outlining the problem and how to fix it would have sufficed. This is roughly akin to the old saying, "If you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all". People will take warnings very personally as it exposes a weakness or flaw within ourselves. That's just a part of being human and people really take these things to heart. To combat this, you just have to be more considerate and careful in your word usage. I might be slightly hypocritical in saying this, as I've been known to disregard my own advice in the past, but I do feel there are appropriate & inappropriate times to say certain things. Before hitting the post button, just sit back and think to yourself how you'd feel if someone said to you what you are about to say. Would it make you feel irritable, uncomfortable, angry, annoyed, etc...? If so, then perhaps consider not posting the message until you reword it to make it less upsetting and more constructive. If you feel the post really does deserve neg-rep, do so, but provide a good reason for it, otherwise, report the post using the report button and let a mod deal with it.
With that point, I feel non-mod users on the forum should just take a backseat when it comes to moderation and that the mods should step up to the plate more often. As a non-mod, you should just come onto this site and enjoy what’s here, it isn’t your duty to “take out the trash”, so to speak, and it’s definitely not your duty to punish people when they have done the wrong thing. I know the mods can’t be online all the time, but more often than I like, I see users giving other people an unnecessary verbal or reputation bashing over something that might as well be reported. Sometimes you just have to let it slide. In this, I feel the rules of the site should be reviewed as to allow the mods to remove those users who continually incite stupid bullshit and/or drama on the forum, regardless of whether it is done purposely or not. Yes, I know you can stick up a sign that says, “Do not feed the trolls”, but just seeing them around really does wear thin after a while and they more or less become spam on the forum. Whilst I have called for leniency in the past, this is one thing that I’d love to see tightened up and restricted a bit more.
Furthermore, those with higher rep than most other users may not see it nor believe it, but their words can influence how other users act and what they say on the forum. Reputation does define some sort of status to people on this board. It may be interpreted differently amongst different users, however, that still means those with a greater rep are looked at in an elevated manner. On a more personal, inter-user basis, those with higher reputation are sometimes seen to be role-models for the community. Through their words (or actions), they have demonstrated how users can gain positive reputation. Don't feel disheartened if someone doesn't take to you too well. After all, if someone doesn't like something, then there's no way to forcibly change their opinion. But you are more than welcome to have a healthy debate with them, which means not resorting to insults and immature behaviour. A good exchange of opinions is where both/all parties are open to all the ideas that others are presenting to them, you don’t necessarily have to accept them, but see that they could be a plausible alternative to your ideals. It should be noted that reputation does not give you any authority over other users on the forum and in no way should it be used to intimidate people with lower rep. Conversely, if you have a lower rep than another user, do not feel intimidated by them. It may simply be a matter that they've been on the forum longer and have had the time to make many posts.
Point Two – The Secret Requirement (...why can’t I know!?)
On that note, I get taken to my second point - status, particularly the idea behind gaining VIP status and the whole mystery surrounding the "secret requirement" to gain it. For those who don't know, the old system used to be that you gain 10 positive reputation points and that was all that was required to gain VIP status. Moo, our admin, then introduced a new system whereby users were given VIP status on the forum based on an unknown and mysterious requirement where only Moo knows what it is. This has been the subject of much speculation and the cause of a lot of drama on the forum lately as people are dropped from a VIP to a Regular without any apparent reason why. Instead of spending our time on the forum talking about, well... *B/DL topics and other interesting things, we are bitching and moaning that our usernames aren’t bold green and that Moo may creating his own circle of friends for unknown reasons (not that I personally believe that).
VIP status does elevate you above other users in that you have proven yourself trustworthy enough and that you are now recognised for your efforts on this forum. It does not, however, make you any more of a person or a user on this forum. You are still the same person you were before you gained VIP status. If you stick to your guns, people will continue to appreciate you being here. Don't change your attitude simply because you've gained a small, insignificant promotion and some bold-coloured letters. You probably didn't care about gaining VIP status before you first became one, so then why complain when you lose your status and drop back down to a Regular? Possibly because you probably feel you've lost something that you've rightfully earned. With this point, I am on your side 100%. Whilst being a VIP is not much of a meaningful promotion in terms of forum usage, it does dictate that you have proven yourself a trustworthy and likable user. Since reputation is given by people based on their opinion, having VIP status based on the old-system was a sign that you were respected amongst your fellow users here.
With the current system and the secret requirement, that whole aspect of respect is lost since it no longer matters what other people think of you (well, you still do need to gain 10 pos-rep, but that doesn't cut it anymore). This secret requirement has been more trouble than it's worth. I'd like to think an admin shares all information and aspects of the site with his users, gains their opinions on things and works with them accordingly. I cannot bring into question that Moo hasn’t done that in the past; however, it's only been since this secret came to fruition that I began to question what was really going on here. Why are people being demoted for no clear and obvious reason? Do we not have a right to know what the reasoning behind all this is? What are the true motives behind this decision to have a secret requirement?
This secret has been more trouble than it's worth, for all we know; it could ultimately be Moo's own personal opinion on people and that wouldn't be fair in the slightest, although I do suspect it has something to do with the pos/neg-rep ratio. People are edgy, confused and just blatantly pissed off that they are being judged by something of which is unknown to them. It’s like taking a math’s test only to be told afterward that you were really being examined on how neat your writing is. Of course, I can see the logic in that if people did know, they would probably try to fulfil that requirement purposely – but that would defeat the purpose of having the requirement in the first place. As it stands, this is a two-way street. People either get annoyed and angry over the secret, or they focus their efforts on trying to fulfil the requirement and in doing so making their VIP status hardly worth anything.
The best option, I see, is to just scrap the whole secret altogether and base VIP status on a known set of factors, or an equation that takes into account a user's overall contribution the site. Or perhaps even just going back to the old system, but create one or two more user-levels above VIP. One factor, I feel, that has contributed to this whole issue is that we don’t have enough “typical” user-levels, and by “typical” I mean disregarding special status like being a moderator or being in moderation. Taking those things out, we are only left with Newbies, Regulars and VIPs - only three levels which doesn’t mix things up a bit at all. If this secret requirement were all about exclusion (which I sincerely hope it isn’t), wouldn’t it make more sense to have more exclusive user-levels anyway. I’m not saying that these higher levels should have private boards as well; the VIP Forum is dead enough as it is. Although I do feel there should be higher levels and something (like a special title or something) to denote this.
To me, the whole secret requirement seems like highly defunct and outdated way of going about things, and I only need to point out the drama is has caused as a reason for its removal. Last I checked, the rules state we shouldn’t induce drama on this forum... well that’s exactly what this secret is doing. Adding to that, I don’t feel that this secret should be made known either, but I can foresee people bitching about what it is. The only viable solution to the problem is to remove the secret, throw it into the abyss and never speak of it again.
Point Three – “This Place Ain’t what it Used to Be!”
Points One and Two cumulate into one huge issue that I feel needs to be addressed and sorted rather quickly, because I have seen and spoken to a number of users who feel that the site is no longer the relaxed and fun place it used to be. I'm going to dub this the "TBDL Reminiscent Syndrome" - people always seem to reflect back to how TBDL used to be and compare it to how ADISC is today and criticise everything about this place. People with this syndrome feel that this place has just taken a turn for the worse over the past few months, or as far back as when we made the switch to the new domain. I can't quite express this feeling in an analytical way, so rather I hope my own sentiments get my point across.
There are quite a number of reasons people are feeling this way, most notably the fact of the two above points and how much tension and drama it has caused on the forum. This place has been stripped of it relaxed and fun atmosphere and given a serious and paranoid tone to it. People aren't so open anymore and (through no fault of their own) newbies aren't respecting the trends and ideals that older members held. Call it a revolution, but the whole vibe I get from this place just isn't what it used to be. Sure I still come on here, and I'm as active as ever, but to some extent I feel it's all done in vain since we don't have that closeness amongst each other anymore.
But this is to be expected as the place grows and develops. I can't blame Moo for changing over to the new domain and taking that action to see this place become much more dynamic and experience a steroid-injection of contributions. I have to admit, I saw all of this coming - a large number of people join up and the price we pay is losing the closeness and strong inter-personal relationships we had here. I am definitely not pointing the finger at anybody, particularly not newbies. You're all very much welcome here and have just as much right as I do to be here - so don't take this so personally. But for older members, I can see where they are coming from. We are losing the ability to become defined, unique people and are becoming just another face in the crowd at the cost of seeing this place become active beyond what we could have imagined it would ever reach. I am both thrilled and disheartened at the future of the website. I like seeing new faces around here as I feel it adds to the already bountiful pool of knowledge, resource and insight, but I fear that as we grow to unfathomable proportions, I will fade into the background too much.
I guess that's just how life works though. You can't always stay on top forever; even if you tried you'll still have to succumb to real life issues which take away from your time here. I don't necessarily believe that anyone will be purged off the site, but it's hard to imagine anyone will be here for the entire journey. As this place grows, so will the egos of members who strive to be apart from the crowd, holding their heads high and screaming with over-confidence. It will ultimately make this place a hot-headed, status worshipping culture of which I despise. The atmosphere of this place will become like the sky over a city struggling to deal with the pressures of a wasteful, inefficient society and in doing so become more volatile and out-of-control.
Then again, I probably read too many dystopian-future novels for my own good and that outlook is rather extreme. Nevertheless, I feel we should adopt principles that everyone has a right to be here, but that everyone should also respect what is already established. We are like any other society; there are unwritten rules that can only be learnt as you assimilate within the culture. People often try to take the easy path and skip these points, and I'm glad people here still have a level-headedness about them as to not let these other types of people through easily. I don't feel I need to elaborate on what these things are; after all they are unwritten for a reason. But I will say that this place does have a culture of its own, separate from other AB/DL websites, and just like any culture, there are values we hold dear and values we reject.
Nonetheless, people still need to re-evaluate how they are perceived on this forum. I’d love to have newbies join up and have all of them as insightful as the VIPs, but that’s just not the reality within this fetish. We have to take the good with the bad and try to demonstrate to these people that that’s just not how we roll here. I’d love to see regulars continue the trends that the VIPs have set, but we are all very different people in the way we think and act, so it’s not going to happen in all cases. I’d love to see the VIPs take a more proactive approach in developing this forum. We are still a set group of people who have the ability to change how others talk and act on the forum, but the reality is that it shouldn’t be our job to get people to behave. I understand that we all come onto this forum for our own reasons and that we shouldn’t have to care about what other people do here, but we should at least care to the point where if all this shit continues, we won’t have much of a good forum left to visit.
Point Four – Attitude: You’re not God’s Gift to Humanity, surprisingly.
One thing I could never seem to sit comfortably with is how people let their status get to their heads and they dictate things as if their word is law or the snub people because they deem that person to be lower than they are. The fact is no one should be directly insulted or put-down for any of their demographical points, nor their actions, behaviour, words or beliefs. To do so is just flat-out bullying and harassment. It’s not something you do in real life as you go about your day-to-day activities, so why all of a sudden have that attitude on online, in a community like this of all places. I think people take the anonymity aspect of the internet a little too far. As if being anonymous in your words makes it less condescending, or instils a less-personal feeling about the message you are sending to the other person. Thing is, people are always going to take negatively to unsavoury comments made about them or to them (whether indirectly or not) and the instigator always seems to wonder what they’ve done wrong. It doesn’t matter if it’s on the internet or not, words do have the ability to cut deep.
Online communities such as this one, where the user-base knows each other on a more personal level, really do mirror most aspects of real-life social groups and communities. We can’t deny the fact there’s always going to be tension, drama and inter-personal issues and, consequently, insults will get thrown around, egos will get broken and feelings will be hurt. I’ve noticed here that people have a great ability to not admit when they are wrong. They prefer to hurl the flame bucket whilst ignoring all evidence to the contrary about their point. Yes, it is hard to admit you are wrong. No one likes to be proven wrong or pointed out that they’ve messed up their information, it is demoralising when you’ve been backed into a corner with no way out. In such an instance, it’s easy to come out, guns blazing and childish behaviour ready to fire, but as adults we hope to have developed beyond that stage. The real question is: are you mature enough to accept defeat? Can you honestly say that you can stand proud at the fact that you’ve been corrected and, in doing so, improved your knowledge? It’s true when they say you learn something new every day, but what they don’t tell you is how that knowledge comes about. Sometimes it is hurtful, but we simply just have to get over it and focus on becoming stronger people because of it.
In saying that, one thing I see here that’s been rather annoying is how people are quick to jump in and pass judgement on someone else. This includes fallacies, being highly condescending and just generally being an asshole to the person in question. One side of the story is that, yes, it does weed out those untruthful, creepy or otherwise unwelcomed people on the forum and for that I am thankful that there are some people who harbour this sort of attitude. More often than not however, people use this way of thinking as a tool for their own image and/or for a cheap joke. For the latter point, you’re really walking on thin ice when you do it. I’ll admit there have been times I’ve done it myself, laughed at other people’s jokes or even given positive reputation to them, but that’s because they (or I) have differentiated between good and bad taste in humour. This is not a skill you can learn, but rather something that is just friends with common sense. I’ve always felt that if more people got some common sense about themselves, the world would be a much better place. Unfortunately for me, this isn’t bound to happen and it’s demonstrated when people make a joke that’s clearly in poor taste. My personal belief is that if you don’t know how to make a joke in good taste, refrain from making a joke at all. Chances are people won’t be laughing at the joke, nor laughing at you, rather they’ll be thinking was a presumptuous dick you are.
As for the former point (people having a bad attitude for their own image), all I can really say is that’s nothing short of schoolyard bullying. The whole “internet tough-guy” thing has really worn thin in the past few years and people have really taking a shining to turning the tables on these sorts of people. For starters, there’s no real benefit in doing it; what do you get out of it? Oh wow, you’ve managed to insult someone over the internet. Oh wait, what’s this? You’re e-penis is growing! I wonder how many girls you’ll impress with that! Give me a break, seriously. If you feel the need to insult someone over the internet, then that just shows how insecure you are about yourself in real life. Adding to that point, the only people who witness it are other internet users, people who really couldn’t give a shit about the entire issue. There are more pressing matters in their lives that they don’t have to care about your petty insult. It’s not like the insult affects them nor are they willing to give you respect for it. As far as they are concerned, it’s just another of life’s most stupid moments, so they aren’t going to stop and applaud you for it. The best you’ll probably get is a laugh from a few of them. In the grand scheme of things your insult is so infinitely insignificant that it’s hardly worth the effort to even write it out, so why bother. Sometimes it’s just best to leave things like that unsaid, even if it’s for your own time and consideration.
Point Five – “O Maturity, Where art Thou!?”
Looking at this objectively, I officially cannot make any statement as to the supposed decrease in the quality of posting lately. However, I will say that from a personal standpoint my sentiments are that there has been a pervading lack of maturity and, as a result, the post quality has dropped off rather dramatically. Just addressing the former point, “maturity” is a fairly broad term that gets thrown around quite unthoughtfully, so I feel it’s best to define what I actually mean here. To me, maturity is the ability to recognise & perceive something and respond in a formal, appropriate and well-handled manner. I’m basically talking about an accumulation of all the above points into one grand, unified ideal: if you can’t conduct & present yourself in mature manner, then reconsider why you want to be here.
As I said back in Point Three (Oh I know! It seems so long ago now!), there are unwritten rules to any community, online or not. Long-standing people have established a “way of things”, something they accept and are comfortable with enforcing and following. The thing about TBDL/ADISC that has always struck me rather quizzically is how new people tend to mention that this place is vastly different from other online communities (not just *B/DL ones) and how they feel the need to integrate with the current system. Furthermore, how the long-standing members tend to impose these constraints onto the new people as if it were second-nature. I believe that it’s within this point that people feel as if the maturity levels have decreased. There are two reasons for this. The first being that new people aren’t integrating into what’s already established and this is firing up some of the older members to the point where they don’t feel there’s that mutual respect between each other.
I honestly think this all started because of the changeover to the new domain. We lost some people, both from a disdain for a new domain and how things have currently been running here. This has mostly had an adverse affect on the older members of this forum and along with having a new site, there’s also a new style of things. In the transitional period we lost some of what this place was, we went from “uptight, but in a friendly manner” to “uptight with intent to destroy”. People haven’t been conducting themselves as formally as in the past and this is one aspect of a lack of maturity. Instead of politely informing someone that their thread is a repeat and taking it no further, they deem it worthwhile to throw a tantrum about how pissed off they are that the thread has been done before and how God almighty should smite someone for not using the “Search” feature. That in itself is a lack of maturity and it’s mostly the longer-standing members who are to blame. It takes no more effort to point someone off in the right direction than it does to show your untamed fury over something so pointless and meaningless. I understand and actually side with those who don’t want to see this place lose it charms, but I’m sure we can all handle matters in a much more effective, helpful and sensible way.
The second reason that I can see is how this place has grown to such large proportions, that there is a greater user-base that is unfamiliar with how current things are running. This leads off to those friend-circles where the members feed off each other and act in similar ways, all in the name of trying to fit in. More often than not, a lot of people find it disrespectful that they get pushed aside to make way for a less intelligible attitude. Just as the above paragraph was aimed as long-standing members, this one is aimed at newbies. One thing that must be understood is that this place really isn’t like other online communities. There’s pride here about that fact, as well as the fact that we focus more on social bonds that actually mean something on a personal level instead of the superficial banter that goes on elsewhere. To come in here and disregard that is to literally come in here and give a big “**** You!” to those people who have been here a while. That is maturity at its lowest point. To combat this, we implore that you to get to know how things operate here before you decide to make your own rules and regulations. That’s not to say you can’t have your own style and individualism about yourself, and in fact we love to see varying personalities here, but please just be considerate of what is already established.
To all members, one thing I will touch on lightly here is how a lack of maturity pervades and seeps into your posts, thereby dramatically reducing the quality of them. This is mostly seen when people just post useless, thoughtless garbage that has absolutely nothing to do with the thread topic or any subsequent conversation that occurs. Posting only one or two sentences isn’t bad and it’s definitely not against the rules, but it’s how you deliver your words. When posting on the forum, it is crucial to remember that what you write is the biggest factor in how you are perceived and judged as a person by others. How you present yourself will ultimately determine whether you are a welcome member or an uncouth nuisance. So even though you only post a couple of sentences, as long as they of decent quality (informative, helpful, insightful, etc...), you will demonstrate that you actually do have some maturity to you. If you feel you fall into the category of useless posting, I urge you to put a bit more thought into your threads/posts, it really isn’t that difficult.
Conclusion (...and you thought it’d never happen!)
In conclusion, all I can really say is that this place not only needs an oil change, it needs the whole bloody engine redone. Call it a change in perspective of how we think and interact with each other. We can’t do these things ourselves and we require Moo to hear us and make the appropriate changes to the site. In my rather elaborate opinion, the above points should be seriously considered amongst all willing people. People need to stop looking at how things were and start making changes today so they can influence what the site will be like in the future (with respect to already established, communal ideals). Like I said before, I’m not presenting this as a definitive; it’s just my opinion on what the problem is and how we can fix it up.
In saying all that, I’m just simply going to say three words that surmise my entire post: Respect Each Other. There’s an old saying, “A little respect goes a long way”, and I think that holds true here. We’re are tense about what’s going on and we’re tense because of the way we interact with each other. People take things too personally, too seriously, too literally that we all get head-****ed and sent off in a daze about what’s really going on. Before posting, sit back, relax, and take a deep breath, whatever gets you calm and just consider the impact your words, decisions and actions might have on another person and the forum as a whole.
We do have a “Preview Post” button for a reason – and if you can understand the underlying context of that statement after what I’ve just said, I applaud you.