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AE – A Collaborative Critique: Part 3

Posted by Zeke on November 7, 2009

These are written by anonymous writers, who choose to remain so. I am merely a messenger of sorts. If any of the following posts offend you, please do not place the blame on United Lore, for it may be us hosting the post, but it is not necessarily our own thoughts.

These posts are basically critiques on AE; be it the games they host, their management, etc. It can be seen as a type of “shout out” to AE, an attempt to try and improve the status quo where it need be improved.

This next writer, under the alias of Rayne Mysthawk, is talking about AE’s moderation system.

_____________________

Moderation on the BattleOn Forums

All personally identifying information has been changed, meaning that this was not written by Rayne from the BoF, and I- whoever I am, though some of you know and I’m sure others have guessed- won’t be naming any names. This is for practical reasons only, as it doesn’t make much sense for me to argue against the current BoF mod system in place while still posting there as if nothing had changed. However, I’m not exactly known for my abundance of good sense.

I do have some…issues…with one or two mods on the AE forums, as with one or two members. However, I keep it to myself, and have done my level best not to let those feelings affect my judgement while writing this. Everyone deserves basic respect, and the quirks certain mods have which annoy me have never broken the rules. Personal bias is not a reason to take a matter public when the receiving party has done nothing to merit it.

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http://forums2.battleon.com/f/fb.asp?m=2616844

22) Staff may delete and lock messages at their discretion.
24) Staff have the final say.

Read: Moderators have inordinate power at the official Artix forums.

No, this is not an “OMGTEHMODZREVIL!!1!!1!1!!!eleven” rant. (In fact, I rather like most of them. They’re generally nice people, unless you start a flame war or somesuch.) No, I’ll argue that the moderating system itself could use some rethinking.

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Rule-by-Rule Dissection

22) Part of the job of moderators is to keep the boards clean. Messages deemed inappropriate, old, or off topic may be deleted/locked by moderators at any time.

A moderator’s stated job is to make sure forumites and forum threads adhere to the rules. If mods can also determine the rules on the fly, it will result in a great deal of unneeded and confusing variation. Now, I’m not saying mods should adhere only to the written versions that members see, without any leeway in case-by-case judgement. It is impossible to list what should be done in more than a handful of basic situations. However, with this wording, which threads are locked and which stay up depend almost entirely on the judgement of whichever mod/AK happens to be online.

Case in point: Once upon a time, an attentive forumite noticed that the DF Login News-Screen had not been updated for some time and posted about it in the DFGD. Perhaps an hour later, an AK logged on and locked the thread, stating that it was not ingame discussion. Which, in fact, it wasn’t, but it had an indirect impact on ingame discussion. Rather like DN or Twitter/Facebook update threads – but you never see them being locked for not being ingame discussion, do you? In fact, the only difference is that we hear it from official sources. Suppose that a staff member responsible for updating the Daily Dragon had logged on beforehand and posted in the thread. Would the AK still have locked it? Would anyone? (I’m not talking about theory, since in theory, yes, they would have. I’m talking about practical application, where I do not believe it would have been locked. Die out, perhaps, but no lock.)

This is a trend I’ve noticed among niche threads: if a staff member posts in them, they are much less likely to be locked. If that section’s moderators are interested in the thread’s particular niche, the chances of it being locked drop almost to zero. That doesn’t encourage me. If threads that have meaningful content in them are being locked because the section’s mods don’t like it, the board wilts into ‘safe topic’ mode quickly. Safe topic mode does not help AE improve their release quality. Safe topic mode does not allow for innovative and/or radical new ideas. Safe topic mode does not get people banned, but it doesn’t promote new Helpful/Creative/etc. people either. (Which is also a completely arbitrary system in my not-very-humble opinion, but I’ll open that can o’ worms some other time.)

24) If you are told by a staff member to stop doing something, you cannot claim that it was not stated in the rules. It is impossible and impractical to list every rule possible. Attempting to circumvent a rule will result in a more severe warning. Also, the determination of things such as begging, flaming, spam, whining, etc. are dependent on the mod, not the users. Any complaints involving attempts to find loop holes in the rules and complaining that it was not explicitly stated in the rules will not be acted upon. Disagreeing with them in anything other then a private, respectful manner will be considered not only harassment but trolling.

I entirely agree on the part about polite disagreements. I would not want to spend hundreds of hours ‘cleaning up’ after people on an entirely volunteer basis and then get yelled at for it. However, you cannot expect us (i.e. the forumgoers) to follow the rules if they are not written down. I realize that it’s humanly impossible to list every nuance, but please take the time to elaborate on what you want and don’t want posted in each section’s guidelines. Otherwise, we may innocently earn ourselves a rotten vegetable pelting.

If you do not want us to post about ‘old’ topics, please say so- and please define a cutoff date for ‘old’. Otherwise, the rule is essentially useless. Suppose I were to post about a coincidence between a cutscene in the Nythera’s Storm war and an old movie I just finished watching- would that be considered old because it doesn’t refer to something released in the past six months? Or would it be considered old because the forumgoers who posted in the Storm release threads noticed that, and even created a thread in the S&T forum? Well, while both of these example reasons have their flaws (if you can’t post about something if it wasn’t released within a recent timeframe, the DFGD might as well be renamed the DragonFable Weekly Release General Discussion, and if you can’t post about something which other people noticed, the mods might as well prohibit anyone new there from posting, because they will invariably bring up something the regulars already know about) I would much rather have these clearly-defined rules than the mod-reliant “old”. It also cuts down on overall work for the mods. If people know what following the rules actually means in practice, they are that much less likely to break them. (Well, I’m that much less likely to break them, but I can’t speak for the people who don’t read the Rules and/or Rules updates.)

It is impossible and impractical to expect us to follow every mod’s variation on the Rules, and if you have a system for making sure that all those variations don’t conflict, I would appreciate it if you dusted it off, reworded a bit here and there to be more applicable, and added it to the Official Rules. Otherwise, we won’t know how to follow some of those those frustratingly vaguer rules.

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Solution

Would any of my rants be complete without a solution? This time, I’m proposing not only a solution, but a way to test it without a massive makeover (which would be expensive both in time and reputation should my proposed solution worsen matters, or should the problem prove imaginary to everyone but myself).

When the next board or sub-board comes out, make some changes to the standard set of rules. (Despite some assertions that AE’s design process is none of our business, I’d suggest a MQ Game Design Discussion board as a sister to the MQ GBD. Some players have very well-thought-out critiques on the way AE is taking the MQ story. It could help AE out tremendously in the long run.) When you think them out, add limitations to each rule. Define what you mean by ‘old’ or ‘controversial.’ If by the latter you mean intentionally starting something along the lines of a SC vs. non-SC or House vs. House argument, not whether or not a recent plot twist is Deus ex Machina, please say so. If each mod has a specific jurisdiction in the board, please tell us as much as you can so we know exactly who to complain to- or about. If you want us to not criticize AE, tell us where critique stops and criticism begins.

Try it. You might be surprised at how friendly and well-behaved a forum can be if both forumgoers and mods know exactly what is expected of them, rather than offloading all responsibility for keeping things clean onto the latter.

Members are the backbone of the AE community, not moderators. I think it’s about time we all remembered it.

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2 Responses to “AE – A Collaborative Critique: Part 3”

  1. StJason said

    Amen! I’ve had a few run-ins with mods before, due to my excessive habit of flaming, baiting, posting misleading or just plain wrong information, rickrolling, spamming, and off topic threads. And while I admit I’m over the usual demographic for AE’s games, that doesn’t mean that I particularly like finding my postings constantly deleted, moved, or otherwise shuffled off. I’ve done forums from the good old days of pre-internet BBS’s, so I think that I have a decent amount of netiquette. I’ve never seen a board as over-moderated as AE’s, and view it as nearly impossible to use due to it. (“The only acceptable posts are fawning fanboyishness” might be the unsaid rule.)

    …Because, as we all know, a decent observation about a fundamental flaw in a game is far inferior to “AWSUM NU GAM DUDS!”. Frankly it reflects poorly on AE as a company, and leads to banal threads along the lines of the infamous ‘What does your mech eat?’ thread.

  2. Seriyu said

    I dunno, I’ve never had a problem with it, and I hardly consider my self fawning over the place. I do mainly keep to the AQ section, however. And once more, to be fair, flaming, baiting, rickrolling (aside from maybe in OOC), spamming, and off topic stuff (again, except in OOC), is against the rules. :p

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