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Message Board Rules and Attitudes

by Chris Lobban, Message Board Moderator

24th February 2011

As the main message board moderator, I've always tried to be fairly generous how I judge people. I always try to see the best in people, I always try to give the benefit of the doubt, and I tend to avoid taking a "hard line" stance against behaviour on the forums. The forums are meant to be fun, and I think having an extremely strict set of rules on the forums would put a damper on that fun, if everybody constantly had to look over their shoulders for fear that they might accidentally say something that might get them banned. I generally have trust in the fact that Trek CCG players are the nicest CCG players out there, and trust that people can generally police themselves and have some respect for each other, the same way that I usually see at conventions and tournaments.

And whether you agree with those methods and ideals or not, they've generally worked. I've been a moderator at one ST:CCG community or another for over 13 years now. First at the ST:CCG Online HQ, then at the Decipher forums, and for the last three years, right here. And across all of them, I've tried to keep the same general policies. Unfortunately it appears that at this point, that is no longer sufficient.

Over the last several months in particular, the atmosphere on the forums here has gotten progressively more toxic. It started off with just a handful of people that kept trying to push the limits and find where the breaking point was. The problem with that, is that when those people are constantly acting so close to the imaginary line, on the occasions that they do cross the line it's hard to identify what the problem was, because it requires such a little escalation over what they have set as the "norm" for their behaviour. But since then, the poisonous atmosphere has seemed to spread, as other see what's happening and decide to push the line themselves. I see more and more posts everyday, from users that've been around for years or even from brand new users posting for the first time, that are insulting, demanding, or just down-right derogatory.

I can understand that some of the posts are considered "good natured fun", but the problem with the internet is that things don't always come across that way. And your "fun" might come at the expense of somebody else's own enjoyment of the website. So while I don't want to put a hamper on anybody having a good time here, I can no longer sit back and allow anybody to have their fun at the expense of any other users. If you want to have a good time here, that's fantastic. But do so respectfully towards the other users.

And I think that's the keyword that seems to be missing here recently: Respect. No, I'm not going to break into song. But I haven't seen a lot of respect going around the message boards recently. That doesn't mean that you need to post long platitudes thanking everybody for everything they've ever done. I don't think anybody is expecting that. It just means that when you make a post, think about the people that will be reading it. Is your post respectful of them, or disrespectful? If you feel the need to complain about a card that was released, that's fine. But do it respectfully of the people that put their time and effort into designing the card, and the other users that will be reading your post. That means you don't complain about what a waste of skin the designer is, or continue to spam the exact same complains over and over again across every thread on the forum. You simply write a respectful argument as to why you feel the way you do, and hopefully the designers will respond in kind.

What to do if you're having trouble with some of the posts that you're seeing on the forums? Well first off, don't retaliate. Retaliation (and the escalation that inevitably follows) doesn't help anything or anybody, and will be considered just as bad (and punished just as severely) as the original offense. "But he started it" is not a valid defense. If you have a problem with what you see, bring it to the attention of the moderators. Every single post on the forums has a "Report" icon at the bottom of it, which looks like this: . If you click that icon you have a chance to fill out a report explaining why you feel the post was out of line. This will bring the post to the attention of the moderators, and make sure that they take a close look at it. Obviously not every post reported will be deleted or locked, that is still up to the moderator's own judgement. But by reporting it, you at least make sure that they see it and take a good hard look at it (because there are a LOT of posts here, and the moderators might not have time to read every single one otherwise). The second option, if you're finding yourself increasingly agitated by the posts of a single user, is to ignore that user. From any of the posts the user has made, click on the Profile link at the bottom. That'll bring up the user's profile page, and you can click the "Add Foe" link from there. That will flag the person as your "foe", which means that you will no longer see any posts that the person has made. You'll still see a small place-holder to indicate that they posted something, but you don't have to be exposed to the actual contents of the posts, if you're afraid they'll just upset you.

So effective immediately, I'm going to be cracking down a lot on all types of insults and hate-speech, asking the other moderators to do the same. That means that there will be more posts being deleted, and more threads being locked over the next couple weeks until we get this under control. But I hope that it won't have to come to that. I hope that everybody can join with me in trying to make this back into the welcoming community that I know it can be, where everybody can relax, talk Trek, and enjoy each other's (virtual) company, without the need to constantly be on guard against insults and disrespectful behaviour.

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