Your feedback, positive or negative, but constructive, is always welcome as a direct message or a comment to this post. I take it to heart and incorporate it when I agree with it. This post is a result of the direct feedback of many users.
I’ve heard the feedback that I’ve received in private and public and after consideration I agree with a lot of it. The post quality is great, and that’s a win in my book. However, the provisions in the Part I post were an overreaction and a mistake, and I’m fully replacing them with the following.
- Always read posts charitably, never escalate, flag the post if suspicious.
- Do not call out or shame other users in public. If you have a problem with another user, flag the post or solve it privately.
- If you have influence acquired elsewhere, you’ll be held to a higher standard of responsibility in how you post, so that you’re not interpreted as trying to influence the forum culture to your liking—it can be damaging even if you don’t mean it.
- Quality over quantity.
- Self-reflection over showcase. Challenging each other, including me, is important.
- No limit on type of play you’re allowed to discuss, but I’m going to clarify the forum agenda. More information on this will be shared soon.
Pledges on my side:
- No zero-tolerance policies.
- No account wipes uless by request of the user.
- Action against users whose behaviour I find inappropriate will be progressive: first warnings, then silences, then suspensions.
- No permanent bans without previous action.
Previous action that I softened:
- @thebrand 's suspension reduced to 6 months.
- @jmstar 's suspension lifted:.
- @Deliverator’s suspension has already expired, but I struck it from his record.
Account sign-ups are also open to the public again.
A more thorough explanation of my thought process, why I took the previous action, and how I plan to move forward, is available in the collapsed main post below. I’ve tried to structure it so all of the important info is in the TL;DR, and you can only read the sections below that you care about.
If you’re new here, you likely won’t need to read this.
The Long Version (Click to Expand)
The provisions in the Part I post regarding this topic are nullified and replaced by this post. I’ve unlisted Part I, to prevent new users from being overwhelmed by outdated information, but it’s not an attempt at removing things from the record. It won’t be moved to Hidden/Off-Topic and it will still be accessible to the public through the link above.
So, I’ve received a mixture of negative and positive feedback about the space in the last few days. The positive is mostly about the quality of posts and the types of discussions that are being fostered—that’s a big victory for me and I want to thank everyone who’s been posting. The negatives generally regard the suspensions I dispensed last week and the lack of understanding of the reasoning behind them.
I’ve agreed with most of the people who gave me feedback that the suspensions last week were an overreaction and a mistake on my part, as well as the provisions in the Part I post—I will only stand behind Brand’s suspension, which I think was warranted. The softening of these actions is explained in the TL;DR of this post at the beginning.
I’ve come to understand that a number of people are concerned with me acting on whim and banning people for dubious or difficult to understand reasons, which had a chilling effect on posting, which is not at all what I intended. Generally, I want to make this place accessible to anyone that shares its goals. So if those feelings are present, I’ve obviously make a gross mistake in communicating my intentions, which I’m attempting to fix with this post.
To be clear, my reaction last week is not an example of how I plan to administrate Wynwerod moving forward, and as well not how I’ve managed La Locanda for three years. Many of the Italian users understand this, because they know and trust me—but understandably some of you do not.
I also hope this process acts as a demonstration of the culture of trust and open feedback that I want to foster in this place—more on that later.
I’d like to repeat, partially reworded, a few of the provisions I already established in Part I—the ones that were actually good.
Quality and thoughtfulness should come before chatting and immediacy. Your discussions shouldn’t be self-serving, but also act as an archive to others that are interested in the same topic.
I’m not looking for you to showcase your play to others, but to share your experiences to invite self-reflection spurred by the other users’ questions and challenges. Challenging each other, including me, should be normal and not taken as an attack.
As said in the guidelines, natively English-speaking users should not immediately assume that because the de-facto main language of this forum is English that their cultural assumptions about what tone is acceptable are automatically true. Talking in an international environment requires a lot of charitable reading.
If you are upset by another user’s post, you are never to escalate. Either reach out to the user in private, or flag the post and I’ll intervene. If the user has made a mistake, I’ll ask them to amend their post and apologise if necessary.
Don’t use the handshake button on posts that are needlessly debating, inflammatory, or escalating. If I take action against the user who made the post, I may decide to take a small proportion of that action on anyone that used the handshake button on it—no individual exceptions, either everyone gets it or no-one.
If you have influence acquired elsewhere, you’ll be held to a higher standard of responsibility in how you post, so that you’re not interpreted as trying to influence the forum culture to your liking—it can be damaging even if you don’t mean it.
I’ve said above that I recognise my strong reaction has created a chilling effect in some posters, who fear being banned permanently for difficult to understand reasons. Posting on a forum requires investment of time and effort, and it’s right to recognise the right of users for that investment not to be lost on my whim.
Therefore, I’m making the following pledges:
- I won’t institute any zero-tolerance policies. Whatever you do that irks me, there will be private reaching out, clarification, and warnings first.
- I’ll take action against users progressively: first warnings, then silences, then suspensions.
- I won’t wipe any account information unless requested by the user.
- I won’t dish out permanent suspensions without a history of previous action against the user.
This is not really hard for me to do, as this is how I do things on La Locanda—I haven’t banned anyone there, yet. But obviously, given last week’s events, some of you might want this on paper, and here it is.
I will reserve the right to permanently ban in cases where really grave things have happened, where I don’t see any ability to rectify things with the user. In case this happens, I expect you to hold me to this high standard.
I’d like to point out with these two points of the Posting Guidelines which will look weird to anyone used to traditional forum management:
- This place doesn’t have rules and never will. On almost all forums, rules are applied arbitrarily. The result is that the enforcement of rules is actually the result of a personal relationship between user and staff. I prefer not to hide behind rules and committees and flaunt false objectivity – when you post here, you interact with me directly.
I’ve had a couple of users reach out and tell me that the way I administer the site seems subjective. It’s because it is, by design. A traditional forum here would have a moderator committee that would make decisions behind closed doors, and then issue formal statements in a neutral voice. I find this just gives the illusion of objectivity, without providing any. I prefer to be transparent with the fact that I will use my best judgement when administering the forum, and my biases and blind spots will come into play.
This is balanced by the second point:
- Almost all decisions and discussions regarding forum organization and moderation actions are made in public and are subject to user comments and criticism – in fact, I am fallible and I will need and expect your feedback. In the rare occasion in which I’ll need for circumstantial reasons to keep a discussion private, I’ll post a summary later, anonymising people’s names and identifiable details.
I’m fallible and I’ll make mistakes—I expect that users will hold me to certain standards and let me know when they think I’m wrong. I’d like to create a culture of open feedback, where the way I manage the forum is openly discussed. I am very serious about this, and it’s not just for show. The various feedback I’ve received as the result of the Part I post, and my open acknowledgement of it in that thread and as part of this post, should act as an example of what that looks like.
These two things also mean trust is a currency here. If I trust you and know you, I’ll know you’re probably in good faith, and that’ll affect the way I interact with you. But it goes both ways—you need to trust me as well, and I hope this post is a first step towards building that environment of mutual trust.
I would like to explain my thought process and how I arrived at that point of overreaction, not as an excuse, but so you can understand how I think, in the hope that it leads to higher trust through understanding.
My way of running forums is very unconventional, as I’ve explained above. It took a while to establish this culture in La Locanda, and partially it was possible through trial and error and because the influx of new posters was not that overwhelming, so each one got to get used to it with time. Additionally, new posters there are either newbs to online discussion or refugees from social media, so they are generally open to trying new things, and to the slower and constructed style of discussion. My expectation was to go through the same process here, slowly.
The main difference with La Locanda and the first days of Wynwerod is that I got a lot of users, very fast, way faster than I expected—additionally many of those users were veterans of previous communities and had strong pre-existing ideas and expectations of what online discourse looks like and a couple were really influential people. I dreaded finding myself in an Eternal September kind of situation, as those users invite their friends and followers and establish their own culture in my forum, with me unable to construct the space that I wanted.
This sense of dread quickly spiraled into anxiety (additionally fueled by some really bad external stress I was under that week for personal reasons), and I was just about to step back from the forum for a while when the @thebrand vs. @LordPersi incident happened. I never had to deal with public shaming on La Locanda, and I was sincerely floored. I first reacted by sending them to a private chat to calm down, but Brand’s lack of response to @LordPersi’s apology (where Alessio made himself very vulnerable) really didn’t sit right with me. When I learned that Brand complained about the incident elsewhere, while leaving us hanging for an entire day, it reached the point of no return for me.
At the same time, I was monitoring Jason’s behaviour. For context, in Italian spaces we have some really bad experience with influential people “parking” themselves in people’s chats and forums and acting maliciously to influence them out of the implicit threat of their followers acting out. Many of Jason’s interactions on the forum reminded me of those incidents, and read to me as red flags which indicated to me he might be participating in the forum to further his own agenda. Whether this was true or not is irrelevant to the story—I still have no way of corroborating it—so I’ll spare you the detailed argument.
At that point that I learned Brand was talking about us elsewhere, everything in my body was saying: This. Needs. To. Stop. Now. And after I banned Brand and Jason and suspended Matt and put the forum in invite-only mode, I immediately calmed down and didn’t feel under attack anymore. I still am pondering why I wiped the accounts, because it’s not really something I’ve ever believed in, but I ascribe it to the feeling I had at the moment of needing to remove those people from my vicinity.
Regarding Jason’s ban specifically, despite my suspicions, he didn’t do anything truly objectionable, and the perma-ban was a huge overreaction on my part. Red flags are red flags, but they’re only indicators and not proof of bad behaviour. What should have happened is me having a chat with him in private, which would have validated or disproven my suspicions—or not, in which case I should have continued to observe until I had more information.
Finally, I hope you understand then that the situation last week was exceptional for me, both for what happened on the forum and what was happening in my life at the time, and something like it is unlikely to repeat. I’ve definitely learned something from it and I’ll act differently in the remote case something like this happens again, so that users don’t have to feel the effects of my anxiety. For example, turning the forum temporarily invite-only and members-only really helped, but I did it way too late.
And yes—anxiety being mainly about the feeling of control over the future, the irony is not lost on me that while I’ve been advocating for emergence and not controlling outcomes in play, I’ve been doing the opposite in managing this space.
If you’ve read this far, wow! Thank you. I don’t have anything to wrap this up, other than I’d like to put this whole thing behind us and start talking about play. Feel free to write your feedback in the comments below, positive or negative.
I’ve softened it to 6 months to be consistent of the new policy of trying to avoid permanent bans. Otherwise, I stand by it—his behaviour was not something I want here. Due to the account wipe, his email isn’t associated with the account anymore, but I’ll restore it if he wants to, after that time has elapsed. ↩︎
Due to the account wipe, his email isn’t associated with the account anymore, but I’ll restore it if he wants to, pending an email conversation where we clarify a few things on both sides. He’s currently indicated he doesn’t want to, which is fine by me, but he’s free to change his mind. ↩︎
Particularly, if I had been wrong about him, then it would only cause unneeded offence with him. If I had been right about him, then it would only give excuse to further undermine the forum. In both cases, it was a mistake. ↩︎