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Author Topic: Personal attacks and appeals process Back to Topics
gas_too_high

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Columbus

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Message Posted: Jul 8, 2013 5:38:33 PM

The forum guidelines say this about personal attacks:

"Feel free to attack ideas but please do not attack other posters. This forum is designed to be a discussion and exchange of ideas, so please keep in mind that other people’s ideas may well be different than your own. Please keep it civil."

That should mean that saying "This poster is stupid becauase..." is unacceptable, but saying "This post is stupid because..." is OK.

And yet, I have been warned at least twice, because a poster took comments I made against his post as a personal attack on himself. He then reported me and the moderators did not attempt (or so it seems to me) to make the distinction between a personal attack on a poster and an attack on a poster's ideas, and issued me a warning.

From conversations with other GB members, I think this might have happened to others.

I don't want to rehash the specifics in my or anyone else's case, but I do want to ask the following questions of the moderators in this forum:

- At what point, if any, do the moderators consider an attack on a poster's ideas an attack on the poster personally?

- Is it appropriate to update the forum guidelines to make this clarification?

- Is there any kind of appeals process, in case a moderator issues a warning in error, or even to get him to reread what was complained about and reconsider? Currently, questioning a moderator's decision seems to be a good way to be considered a troublemaker and get banned outright.

GTH
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RichWLIN
Champion Author Indiana

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Message Posted: Sep 26, 2013 1:52:37 PM

I've seen this scenario play out as well:

Let’s assume that member John Doe claims: “The OP was caught stealing gas” Readers really don’t know if this is fact or fiction and a lengthy debate ensues. Days later when the general consensus is that the OP did not steal gas, John doesn’t retract his statement but instead says: “I never said that the OP was caught stealing gas”.

The meaning of each of John’s sentences is clear and it is obvious what John has intended to say in both instances, yet the latter is patently and verifiably false. In the above example, John lied and left irrefutable evidence in writing, albeit somewhat buried earlier in the discussion thread. John has lied, ergo John is a liar.

However, the question posed most recently by GTH isn’t whether or not anyone can understand or identify what a lie is, but rather whether the moderators regard calling someone a liar as a personal attack? I think that they probably do; although, they haven't said so yet.

SUVFan's method of pointing out a falsehood without adding a label to the offender is probably the best and certainly the most civil way to handle discussion participants who actually lie. This avoids the realm of personal attack... that is, if you have the patience to respond this way.

RG

[Edited by: RichWLIN at 9/26/2013 1:54:11 PM EST]
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SUVFan
Champion Author Columbus

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Message Posted: Sep 26, 2013 12:25:26 PM

Having read back through the recent discussion, including Ryan's post, I think you have to look at the context of what was actually posted.

If you post, "Member X is a liar", that's a personal attack. And saying, "Only a moron would make such a statement" doesn't pass muster, either.

If you post, "The statement '___________________' is untrue", you are not going after the member and you're not calling the member a liar. That goes back to the intent issue that GTH has been pointing to. While liars post untrue statements, merely posting something that is not true does not a liar make. The member might have posted out of sheer ignorance, not realizing the statement was untrue.

That shift takes the focus of the attack away from the character of the poster to the truth or falsity of a statement, either side of which can be discussed and supported with links.

The inconsistent position seems easy to tackle without resorting to name calling. I'd just note that "On x/x/xx at xx:xx member A posted __________. Then on y/x/xx at yy:xx, they posted ________________. These positions are not consistent with each other." If explanations are needed, keep them aimed at the statements, and avoid terms such as "disingenuous" and the like.

[Edited by: SUVFan at 9/26/2013 12:30:54 PM EST]
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scoutmaster
Champion Author Pittsburgh

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Message Posted: Sep 24, 2013 7:00:14 AM

Still, kwzh, there is no call for name calling. Conversations like that happen all the time in these forums. But when someone resorts to name calling, the name caller should be forced to apologize or lose their forum privileges.
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kwzh
Champion Author San Jose

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Message Posted: Sep 24, 2013 6:22:41 AM

I have been involved in conversations in which X says something which Y finds ambiguous; Y asks for a clarification; X responds with "go back and read what I said" or "you know what I meant" or some such. If Y makes a best guess and responds accordingly, then X says "Stop putting words in my mouth".
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Scrapheap
Champion Author Virginia

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Message Posted: Sep 23, 2013 8:10:02 AM

maxstar wrote > Rather I respond to the issue at hand by agreeing or disagreeing or asking questions if I need clarification. If I disagree I include an explanation for why.

That is all well and good when you are conversing with someone who is engaged in a reasoned discussion. If you are dealing with a troll who is engaging in disingenuous discussion, disagreeing and asking for further explanation is worthless.
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RichWLIN
Champion Author Indiana

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Message Posted: Sep 23, 2013 7:34:04 AM

"I don't claim to know how to know what another members unequivocal intent or meaning is..."

This seems like bait, but I'll bite. If you really don't know what anyone else means or intends to communicate here, then how an you possibly agree or disagree with anything?

RG
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scoutmaster
Champion Author Pittsburgh

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Message Posted: Sep 23, 2013 7:09:59 AM

Wouldn't calling someone a liar be the same as calling them, say, a moron? While both might be true, I would say that is name calling. There are members who reduce themselves to doing this. Some try to disguise it with $5 words but it's still name calling. And name calling should not be allowed.
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maxstar
Champion Author Chicago

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Message Posted: Sep 23, 2013 1:12:01 AM

I am not a mind reader, so I can't. I don't claim to know how to know what another members unequivocal intent or meaning is so I do not use either as a basis to determine if a member is lying. Rather I respond to the issue at hand by agreeing or disagreeing or asking questions if I need clarification. If I disagree I include an explanation for why.
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RichWLIN
Champion Author Indiana

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Message Posted: Sep 23, 2013 12:38:56 AM

"How do you determine another members unequivocal intent and meaning or that it was written clearly?"

How do you?

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Retired-Coastie
Champion Author Arkansas

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Message Posted: Sep 22, 2013 10:21:59 PM

Thick skin keeps the bruising to a minimum. The author of the says Sticks and stones may break my bones......, has never eaten crow.
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maxstar
Champion Author Chicago

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Message Posted: Sep 22, 2013 7:46:03 PM

How do you determine another members unequivocal intent and meaning or that it was written clearly?
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RichWLIN
Champion Author Indiana

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Message Posted: Sep 22, 2013 6:33:11 PM

"Do the moderators consider calling someone a liar, or accusing someone of lying, to be a personal attack?"

Can't speak for how the moderators think of this, and they may yet respond. And, I would agree with the premise that lying "is almost always impossible to prove in an online forum".

However, there have been instances when a trolling member has made comments, that were clearly written with unequivocal intent and meaning, and then later in the thread denied that these statements were ever made in the first place. If that ain't online lying, I can't imagine what else is? It does happen from time to time.

Whether it is "necessary" to call a spade a spade is probably debatable. I imagine that the ruling here will be that calling a liar a liar is considered a personal attack, but if so would respectfully disagree that this is as it should be. If it is permissible to undermine a discussion with purposely disingenuous posts, then saying so should be allowed as well.

RG
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gas_too_high
Champion Author Columbus

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Message Posted: Sep 21, 2013 1:06:48 PM

Mariowerx: That was a question posed by Scoutmaster.

My follow-on question was directed to the moderators, who thus far have not responded. That question was:

"Do the moderators consider calling someone a liar, or accusing someone of lying, to be a personal attack?"

GTH
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MARIOWERX
Champion Author Vancouver

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Message Posted: Sep 21, 2013 12:21:43 PM

Did GTH ask and answer his own question?
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gas_too_high
Champion Author Columbus

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Message Posted: Sep 20, 2013 9:08:38 PM

Scoutmaster: "I wondering if there is a need to actually call someone a liar. Even if it's true, is it necessary?"

Calling someone a liar asserts both that that person as made untrue statements, and that he knows those statements are untrue.

The latter is almost always impossible to prove in an online forum. Therefore, that accusation is nothing more (or less) than an attack on that person's integrity. And that also goes for stating that someone is lying.

So to answer your question, it's virtually never necessary to call someone a liar, because you don't know that someone *intends* to lie, to tell a falsehood.

GTH
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scoutmaster
Champion Author Pittsburgh

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Message Posted: Sep 20, 2013 7:45:55 AM

I wondering if there is a need to actually call someone a liar. Even if it's true, is it necessary?
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CampKohler
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Message Posted: Sep 15, 2013 4:27:36 PM

Rich: After reading your illuminating post, one wants to take chisel in hand and put it up in stone somewhere (possibly substituting Vs for Us).
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gas_too_high
Champion Author Columbus

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Message Posted: Sep 14, 2013 7:20:32 PM

Let's not get distracted here. In my last post I was asking specifically if accusations of lying or calling someone a liar, is a personal attack.

It was not my intent to reopen the discussion. (But if there is interest in continuing it, given recent events, I could just open a new topic).

GTH
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RichWLIN
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Message Posted: Sep 14, 2013 3:57:48 PM

Yes reb4, it is apparent that "pack" attacks are found throughout the discussion boards. I'd also agree with you that standing up for someone or questioning the motives of pack members typically lands you in their sights as well. This is the nature of anonymous online discussion boards.

Pack behavior seems most prevalent when a group of like-minded participants takes it upon themselves to control the content, direction and last word termination of topics started in the categories where they consider themselves dominant. They essentially mark their territory, often even claiming that certain questions, suggestions or comments are unwanted or inappropriate on their turf.

So too, when a group of members decides to control or end a discussion and can't do so within the framework of the somewhat biased forum rules, they generate lengthy, off-topic dialogue purposely diverting the discussion and then call for a moderator to lock the topic because it is no longer relevant to the original post.

RG

[Edited by: RichWLIN at 9/14/2013 3:59:21 PM EST]
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reb4
Champion Author Chicago

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Message Posted: Sep 14, 2013 1:14:38 PM

Sorry, I ran into the "5 minute" editing phenom... Chose to let it stay put since I didn't have time to re-type my posts...

I would like to see the "Civilized Discussion version 3.0" upgraded and not just put int he politics sections, but also in other topics.

Snarky posts are by no means only in the politics section. I was appalled to see the personal attacks and the "pack" attacks on one older poster who was ridiculed and attacked relentlessly. I posted on his behalf and was attacked as well with some innuendos of getting personal persecution (which was funny in itself)...

It would be good to have a civilized postings in the other topics as well. Many people only go to certain areas of Gas Buddy and it would be good to have in multiple areas. My understanding is this would not be a programming change and could be done easily...



[Edited by: reb4 at 9/14/2013 1:15:17 PM EST]
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reb4
Champion Author Chicago

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Message Posted: Sep 14, 2013 12:05:00 PM

Here is the own mods guidelines - so gass to high, guess the rules can be broken by moderators.

"Here is an example of attacking a post (and using arguments to back up assertions, which is how an argument works):

Member 1: Member 2's view that Politician A's stance on gasoline prices is a good thing is based on falsehoods (such as example X, Y and Z).

-

Here is an example of attacking a member of GasBuddy:

Member 3: Member 4's view that Politician A's stance on gasoline prices is a good thing is ridiculous. Therefore Member 4 is clearly out of their mind and probably stupid."

Nothing complicated there...

CampKohler's suggestion in thumbs up or down would only show what others voted, which could be based on popularity...
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RichWLIN
Champion Author Indiana

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Message Posted: Sep 14, 2013 8:41:04 AM

CK, You may be on to something here.

The validity of this suggested solution may be judged by the character and tenacity of those who come out in favor or against it.

RG

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TxJeans
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Message Posted: Sep 14, 2013 8:07:41 AM

CK, what you suggest may make sense on the surface, but I suspect would not work well in some forums, such as the POLITICS forum.

The voting has the same problem of each person's "interpretation" of the situation and you could end up with folks voting on like or dislike of the person rather than the idea. In the end, it really doesn't matter what WE think, but what the PTB that own the site think.

I suspect those on one side of a debate will end up voting down anyone on the other side. POL discussions tend, by nature to get heated and by nature folks tend to blur the lines of the opinion and the OP.
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CampKohler
Champion Author Sacramento

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Message Posted: Sep 14, 2013 6:29:08 AM

The root of this discussion seems to be the necessity for mind reading. If A says something about B (whether about him or his idea), A has to be judged as to its propriety. But the judging is done in two places, namely in the mind of the moderator—which we cannot see, but the published rules expect us see—or our own minds—where there is no difficulty at all. Currently we are operating on the murky former, whereas all would be clear if we were operating on the latter.

If we had thumbs up or thumbs down voting on a per post basis, then we could see how any given post is actually perceived by the readers and there would be no need to read tea leaves. Even if B stands up on his hind legs and shouts his opposition about A and how he is going to report him or shoot him in the public square at high noon, if 99 votes are thumbs up and 2 are down, then the readers have spoken. If it is obvious by the numbers that they see through B's bluster and recognize that A has not done anything egregious, then there there is no need to read the moderator's or anyone else's minds; it would be made obvious what everyone thinks (which is all that really matters) and no amount of complaining would color the facts. And there would be no need for appeals; you can't appeal numbers.



[Edited by: CampKohler at 9/14/2013 6:32:30 AM EST]
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gas_too_high
Champion Author Columbus

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Message Posted: Sep 13, 2013 9:31:25 PM

Follow-on question:

Do the moderators consider calling someone a liar, or accusing someone of lying, to be a personal attack?

GTH
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reb4
Champion Author Chicago

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Message Posted: Jul 16, 2013 8:35:10 AM

Gas_to_high, thanks for the topic. Very informative.
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kwzh
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Message Posted: Jul 14, 2013 2:50:23 AM

Correct guess on the group in question. (If you don't know much about them, Addicted To Hate is a pretty detailed reference; you can read the whole book online.)

[Edited by: kwzh at 7/14/2013 2:51:00 AM EST]
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gas_too_high
Champion Author Columbus

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Message Posted: Jul 13, 2013 9:33:46 PM

Thanks Ryan for your comments. I appreciate your explanation of how to appeal a moderator's ruling and your thoughts on personal attacks. I would agree with you and others that it is not possible to make that determination entirely objective. But the more specific and objective criteria that can be used, and made public, the better. The phrase "personal attack" in and of itself, is broad and subject to differing interpretations, as is "most people understand when someone is trying to be offensive." Much of your explanation, while helpful and forthcoming on describing what is a "personal attack," remains subjective, including your asking “Is my response constructive to the thread and will it provoke more involved discussion in a positive manner, or will it detract from the topic by causing unnecessary grief to a few select others?” Most of us realize, some of us express "grief" (that is, take offense), more readily than others, perhaps even unreasonably in some cases. Insofar as it is possible to be objective, that guards against those cases. I think that could be done while still dealing with obvious issues like racial epithets and trolls.

Perhaps if the goal is to keep discussion in the forums "civil" rather than emotional, which often generates strong feeling and misunderstandings, maybe that should be the emphasis in the guidelines, rather than talking to "personal attacks." Just a thought, but that seems to be the emphasis of Ryan's remarks. (I also suspect that would be difficult to do in many forum topics that of their nature, generate strong feelings before discussion ever starts, such as abortion or "gay marriage" topics.).

SUVFan and RG: Thanks for your comments. Even though I have used the ignore link several times, I think in a discussion, using ignore, which in effect prevents you from responding to someone else who can still respond to you, has its limitations. A mutual forced ignore, in my opinion, is often preferable to a one-way ignore. Again, just a thought. Also, as to convincing others, many times I post to convince passive readers of the topic, not so much other posters with entrenched opinions.

BTW, I think the "Kansas group" is the Westboro Baptist Church. Discussing this classic troll group is a whole separate topic.

GTH

[Edited by: gas_too_high at 7/13/2013 9:34:35 PM EST]
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RichWLIN
Champion Author Indiana

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Message Posted: Jul 13, 2013 9:29:45 AM

kwzh, I'm not familiar with the Kansas group you mentioned, but it certainly sounds analogous to what we sometimes see in message forum debate.

I think we all understand the idea/personal attack rule as written, and that it is clearly biased in favor of allowing ideas to be undermined by any poster who is in disagreement. However, all too often, attacking an idea is accomplished with blatant misinformation and repeated ludicrous remarks intended to challenge another member or members in an obvious effort to divert or otherwise purposely curtail a discussion.

An inequity occurs when an individual follows other members around the forum commenting on every topic, thought or concept in a similar contrary manner and under the guise of “legally” attacking ideas. Surely this crosses the line of personal misbehavior, but in the interpretation of the rule as it is currently written, it is verboten to accurately describe the offending member’s unbridled behavior since this is considered a personal attack. Personally, I’d like to see the gloves come off in dealing with these kinds of challenges to the sensibilities of discussion participants, but that’s just me.

In the final analysis, we all just need to understand that there is partiality towards allowing trolling members their voice, and that the GB forum rule provides them the upper hand. The ignore button is supposed to address this issue, but unfortunately it doesn’t prohibit offenders from controlling the tone and topic of a discussion and or discouraging others from participating in the conversation.

RG
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scoutmaster
Champion Author Pittsburgh

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Message Posted: Jul 13, 2013 7:53:44 AM

Fantastic explanation Ryan! Thank you for as well thought out response.
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kwzh
Champion Author San Jose

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Message Posted: Jul 13, 2013 2:15:26 AM

> explaining that the rude poster is being purposely contrary and disingenuous is considered a personal attack, reported by the originator as abuse

In fact, this reminds me of what I'm told is the M.O. of a certain Kansas group that masquerades as a church -- they act as offensive as possible, while still never directly saying that YOU are going to hell; they hope to incite you into throwing the first punch, either physically or verbally, to give them grounds to sue you.
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SUVFan
Champion Author Columbus

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Message Posted: Jul 12, 2013 5:09:14 PM

Excellent commentary, RG!

It is quite broad, and especially since enforcement is going to be situational, it is almost guaranteed to appear uneven to folks who may have been involved in many threads over time with the same players. In the politics forum particularly, it's normally fairly rough and tumble.

If someone reports abuse in the context GTH noted in the original post and it's not that poster's first rodeo, the site should really think twice about stepping in. The more experienced the member, the more likely it is that there's a lot more going on. At most, remind the experienced complainer about the ignore button. If they continue to complain, force them to ignore the poster they're complaining about.

I do believe that if you want to try to change anyone's mind, you're not going to make it happen by getting in their face, by getting personal or by engaging in ridicule. As the discussions grow stronger emotionally -- and that's obvious usually -- that's a pretty good time to save the document if you compose in word, or to copy the post into a word document if you don't, and come back to it later.

But when barbs have been flying back and forth, I suppose it's tough to notice, and then when someone finally says their offended by a post, the site is often being faked into taking action, much like a basketball player faking contact and trying to gain a charging call, or soccer guy almost every time they get stripped.
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GM
Moderator
Message Posted: Jul 12, 2013 4:56:07 PM

gas_too_high

As Don said, in regards to someone attacking an idea versus attacking someone on a personal level, the line can often become blurred, but most people understand when someone is trying to be offensive.

For example:

#1
Member X: This is my idea/thought on a subject/interpretation of a subject…

Member Y: That’s a stupid idea, mainly because reason A , reason B, and reason C

Vs.

#2
Member X: This is my idea/thought on a subject/interpretation of a subject…

Member Y: Can anyone here tell me how anyone could say something so far out of reality such as that? Only people who are _____ and _____ would say something that stupid. What is wrong with humanity in this day and age?

In the first example Member Y is attacking an idea and they are explaining why they think said idea isn’t in their favor. It would probably be ill-perceived because people are entitled to their thoughts and opinions, in their mind they “own” them and someone is calling their thought or opinion stupid. There is undoubtedly a more civil way to approach displaying one’s disagreement, but nonetheless they are still attacking the idea, not the individual.

The second example is a personal attack constructed to be offensive and indirect.

If you need to ask why, the message is offensive by means of implying the user is out of touch with reality (some people would take this to the extreme as being called delirious), the “_____” and “_____” could be any number of objectionable adjectives to describe the poster, and the last sentence implies that the posting user is what’s wrong with the world in this day and age.

The above examples are NOT the only way a personal attack can be perceived or delivered, there’s really no black and white guideline that could be used to describe the subtle-to-blatant personal attack spectrum.

If you have to ask yourself “Is my response constructive to the thread and will it provoke more involved discussion in a positive manner, or will it detract from the topic by causing unnecessary grief to a few select others?” . If the latter crosses your mind at any point, there is a good chance that it will be perceived as a personal attack and be reported.

One issue with users interacting in debates and discussions online is that when people are online, they often disregard being sensitive and respectful to other people and their thoughts/ideas/opinions. There is a disconnect between how someone would respond to a particular discussion in person, and how they respond to a discussion behind a desktop/mobile device.

We’re not saying you should tread on eggshells all the time when interacting with other users, but understand the means by which you converse could lead to problems if you’re using certain language in a certain context or situation.

We love when a good discussion or debate is going on in the forums, and we can appreciate when people disagree with one another. In some situations there are many other civil alternative ways to approach disagreements.

As for the appeal process, anyone can contact the moderators via PM or email us to communicate directly with the GB mod team in regards to your account details. Most discussions about account status’, standings and other related account information is discussed internally. We will discuss most account banning with one another to make sure that we agree an account should be banned or unbanned. We don’t aim to single out or treat any members unfairly. If you feel like you are being “picked on” by any moderators during a request to be unbanned, feel free to request communication with another moderator.

You’re right, we are all humans and sometimes a second or third opinion can help make a situation is taken in a direction that’s best for the members, and the site.



- Ryan (RD)
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RichWLIN
Champion Author Indiana

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Message Posted: Jul 12, 2013 8:35:53 AM

I've been reading this thread with some interest, and would agree that the FAQ rule: "Feel free to attack ideas but please do not attack other posters." is too broad and vague in many cases and, as a result, some members purposely skirt this in an obvious effort to instigate argument with others.

For instance:

An obnoxious trolling poster is permitted to repeatedly undermine discussions by offering ridiculous assertions and blatantly contrary comments that are not only ill-conceived but not based in any fact. Even out and out fabrications are entirely permissible following the GB guidelines. Remarks such as these are often a direct assault on the sensibilities of other discussion participants; however, somehow manage to slip past interpretation of the general rule.

In the above example, explaining that the rude poster is being purposely contrary and disingenuous (calling a spade a spade) is considered a personal attack, reported by the originator as abuse and vulnerable to admonishment. This is particularly evident in discussions of personal behavior. Accurate descriptions of misbehavior are considered personal attacks.

Not complaining about the rule, just the irony of its vagueness, as well as, the implementation and misuse by those who enjoy disturbing other members trying to enjoy competent discussion.

RG
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scoutmaster
Champion Author Pittsburgh

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Message Posted: Jul 12, 2013 8:19:01 AM

I stay out of the political forums. Too snarky.

And there is a fine line between attacking the idea and the poster. I also feel there are times when the idea is attacked the poster takes it personally and complains to the moderators. I also feel there are times when the moderators don't judge the situation correctly but they have a tough job.
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TxJeans
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Message Posted: Jul 12, 2013 8:10:59 AM

It is impossible to provide what you are asking for guidelines as you can't take the situation out of the decision but must consider the entire tone of the thread and what was said prior to the mark to see if there was trolling and baiting and egging a person on to step over bounds they don't normally do.

My recommendation is that if you don't like the moderation in the political forums of this site, you stay out of them and argue in a political forum you feel more comfortable in their "objective" rules and requirements and moderation.

My impression is that the rules are really pretty lax here unless you use truly inflammatory words or stalk and argue heatedly and repetitively with a particular poster.

I could be wrong, but that is my impression.

Moderators have requested that if you don't like certain posters posts that you use the ignore button liberally rather than continual altercations with the said individual. It doesn't sound like they have the time or desire for constant babysitting supposed grownups but try to keep a reasonable modicum of civility here.

[Edited by: TxJeans at 7/12/2013 8:12:26 AM EST]
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gas_too_high
Champion Author Columbus

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Message Posted: Jul 12, 2013 7:51:22 AM

As I stated in the lead post, I did not want to rehash my case, even though some partially rehashed it. The point was not to complain, but to elicit guidance and information that would benefit everyone.

I try very hard to respect the line between attacking a poster's position, which I often do in the political forums, and attacking a poster personally. It seems that the moderators draw the line differently than I do. That's fine, but the reason I started this topic was to find out just where the moderators draw that line, so I could better comply with the forum guidelines as they interpret them, and to allow everyone to do so. Unfortunately, a response that begins with "This is entirely situational and contextual" does not provide that information.

While the forum guidelines may state "Feel free to attack ideas," I don't think that's really true. Attack an idea too vigorously and you run the risk of stepping over that invisible line and be seen as "attacking the poster."

As far as making suggestions on rewriting the guidelines, in the absence of objective criteria that don't depend on someone arbitrarily taking offense, I don't know how that can be done.

Finally, an appeal, formal or informal, is different from an apology. The latter presumes that the person is in fact guilty, whereas an appeal asks for reconsideration of guilt. And an appeal can be used not only to get unbanned, but perhaps to have a complaint removed from the record kept on that person, or at least annotated so it is not used against him in the future. An appeal would guard against moderator error. Yes, posters are human. So are moderators. I don't think it is disrespectful of any of the moderators, who as we all know do a difficult job, to say so.

In any case, thanks Don for the response.

GTH
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Don
Moderator
Message Posted: Jul 10, 2013 7:48:03 PM

In respect toward gas_too_high I won't disclose what they've been warned for in the past, but what I will say, is that gas_too_high never been force ignored from another members/had posts removed/warned without any reason or undue cause, whether it be through moderator discretion or at the request of other members (specifically, force forum ignores).

Blatantly offensive subject matter in abuse reports will usually go without any form of investigation, and more articulate posts or situations will be researched accordingly.

We do keep track of warnings/bannings/messages removed (if notable), and responses to notifications (if notable).

A person does not have to use direct language in order for a post or member to be recognized as brash/rude/undercutting/combative/etc.

Some members are very good at articulating responses that are designed to upset other members.

When members are reported frequently, we like to check out why they're being fingered by others for being problematic (which has been the case of gas_too_high in the past).

One user can banned for making one (major) misstep, another user might be banned after being contacted several times.

Some users are quite obvious in their abuse, others are more involved.

In the end, if someone is offended by a post, and it looks like it requires more attention, then we're looking into it. If someone is being reported by other members for the things they are saying, or for the manner they're representing themselves, this begs the question as to what the problem or issue is.

Abuse reports are reviewed objectively and any actions performed moderators are done at their own discretion. Occasionally multiple mods will review a situation and a cumulative decision is reached of what action should best be taken.

"At what point, if any, do the moderators consider an attack on a poster's ideas an attack on the poster personally?"

This is entirely situational and contextual. A basic example, outright calling someone stupid would be considered a personal attack. A statement such as "I'm tempted to comment on your English comprehension abilities (not to mention the quality of your schooling)." will generally be interpreted the same. Two similar messages, one more intricate than the other, delivering the same message.

"Is it appropriate to update the forum guidelines to make this clarification?"

Here is the related general forum guideline on the matter. Due to situational/contextual variances on personal attacks we'd hope users realize that personal attacks or otherwise inappropriate/objectionable behavior is subjective. Feel free to make suggestions of improvement:

"2. Feel free to attack ideas but please do not attack other posters. This forum is designed to be a discussion and exchange of ideas, so please keep in mind that other people’s ideas may well be different than your own. Please keep it civil.

I can not emphasize this enough - IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH A THREAD, OR A POSTER IN IT, PLEASE PRESS THE REPORTABUSE BUTTON. Please do NOT engage in arguments on the forum. Sorting out these problems is what we are here for. Please report the member rather than responding to them."

"Is there any kind of appeals process, in case a moderator issues a warning in error, or even to get him to reread what was complained about and reconsider? Currently, questioning a moderator's decision seems to be a good way to be considered a troublemaker and get banned outright."

Questioning a moderator decision will not normally a user banned (not to say that if an ill-mannered message is receive, that it may or may not be considered in the dismissal of that user).

There is no formal appeals process, I'm not sure (but cannot positively say) many would agree that the formality is entirely necessary.

For example (and this happens frequently) if someone is banned for using racist epithets, there's really no appealing or arguing the fact we don't want that kind of content or behavior displayed on our sites. There's no concrete way of "appealing" the use of racist epithets. Moderating resources would be expended on trying to explain to the offending user why these are not appropriate. What are the odds that a) the user will agree not to do it again (but most likely will anyway), b) not understand what they did was wrong (or act like they didn't know what they did was wrong) and c) that the original outcome would change?

Numerous members have contacted GBModerators to fully explain their actions or apologize for their behavior. Most users are let back in after agreeing to refrain from the behavior they were banned for.

If a user were banned for being a jerk towards others, and we received a message from them saying they want back in, they flew off the handle because of reason X and Y, we're people too. Reconsideration isn't out of the realm of possibility.

We would ask them to meet requested improvements. If the answer is "I agree not to ______" then the user will be let back into the forums (not to say this would be an immediate change).

-Don
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SUVFan
Champion Author Columbus

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Message Posted: Jul 10, 2013 9:35:18 AM

Scoutmaster, I think that discretion being the better part of valor, GTH is using discretion appropriately here. If they punished GTH for posting it once, they might hammer GTH for posting it again.

While it is chik today to have rules that prohibit name calling, as a kid, anytime anyone complained about being called virtually any name, they were told, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me." Somehow, that attitude has been lost in the last two generations. "Helicopter" parenting is probably a huge part of it. Today's society seems to fall over itself to find victims in every corner, to a point that I'm concerned that as a people, we are rapidly losing our mental toughness. How the Russians and the Chinese must laugh at what they see.
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scoutmaster
Champion Author Pittsburgh

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Message Posted: Jul 10, 2013 7:42:32 AM

gas_too_high,

I understand what you are getting at. My point is answering without knowing what you got slapped on the wrist for is pure speculation.
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gas_too_high
Champion Author Columbus

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Message Posted: Jul 9, 2013 9:30:33 PM

scoutmaster: The point is, not just what happened to me or anyone else, but to get answers to my general questions.

TxJeans: "They could solve the problem by closing the political columns where most of this stuff happens."

Sometimes I wonder if that would not be such a bad idea. It would certainly make moderating these forums easier. I know the mods have complained they have other things to do than police the forums. Another special interest website I'm on, which has discussion forums, bans politics and religion (except for a special opt-in section of the website) to avoid the arguments those subjects generate.

SVF: 'I think using the, err, "s" word (lower case to differentiate from the other one) is risky.'

Hmmm, you might have a point. I don't think I ever used the word "stupid" but I have said "foolish" which is not quite as bad. I myself had had my posts call "bigoted" and that word applied to my posts is the only such comment I would take as a personal attack. That "b" word is outright inflammatory.

CK: Thanks for your support.

GTH
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CampKohler
Champion Author Sacramento

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Message Posted: Jul 9, 2013 4:45:15 PM

gas-too-high: Your questions are clear and well written and deserve a good answer.
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SUVFan
Champion Author Columbus

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Message Posted: Jul 9, 2013 4:43:04 PM

I think using the, err, "s" word (lower case to differentiate from the other one) is risky.

I consulted Websters for confirmation. Def #1a: "Slow of mind: Obtuse". The Warden's reaction to Andy asking him why he was so obtuse in The Shawshank Redemption, though fictional, lends perspective. Def #2b: "given to unintelligent decisions or acts : acting in an unintelligent or careless manner" and def #1c: lacking intelligence or reason : brutish" are not much different. Applying the "s" word to an inanimate post could easily be interpreted to extend to the post's creator, as the post didn't self generate.

The second definition doesn't really apply, unless the use was accompanied by a reference to alcohol or drugs. The third definition, "marked by or resulting from unreasoned thinking or acting : senseless" seems more like 1d, definitely a personal connection.

The 4th definition, "lacking interest or point", may be the closest to what GTH intended and is probably the least personal of the four. But if that's what is intended, it's probably a lot safer to say, "The post seems pointless" or "The post is wide of the mark", avoiding the highly charged "s" word.

This discussion reminds me of a statement I first heard long ago. "Tact is the ability to tell someone they are open-minded when, in fact, they have a hole in their head."

Regarding the rest, I think its safe to say that communication between the administration and we plebes here in GB land is somewhat less than perfect. Complaints about lack of warning or explanation are legion. That applies to temporary suspensions, outright bans and even just deletion or moving posts. Most of us see how much better the site could be with seemingly little effort, though none of us can agree on what priority should be assigned when we are even able to agree upon the fixes!

The forum guidelines do need attention, as does the faq. Examples on how one might go about attacking a post without being seen as attacking the poster would help. In another thread, recently I suggested that the very first guideline needs to be reworked, as the site certainly seems to accept jff style posts everywhere.

I believe the original faq was the product of a volunteer, unofficial committee of members. Maybe it's time for another?
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kwzh
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Message Posted: Jul 9, 2013 8:44:02 AM

I think it's entirely possible to say or imply derogatory things about a person, when you believe that you're "only" attacking the idea.
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scoutmaster
Champion Author Pittsburgh

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Message Posted: Jul 9, 2013 7:35:57 AM

"The mods do not have the time to "really investigate" reports and have to take it on the surface evidence, and tend to give benefit of doubt to the reported poster until enough evidence builds up."

It depends on the report. I feel they should look into everything reported and then make a determination. By not doing so, there is a distinct possibility they are not addressing the problem.
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TxJeans
Champion Author Tampa

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Message Posted: Jul 9, 2013 6:51:19 AM

They could solve the problem by closing the political columns where most of this stuff happens. I suspect the moderating in those areas is at a looser level to allow those to get their strong opinions out w/ less overflowing to the more gas related threads. It always amazes me on another forum how fast those that hang out in the political forums can take a non-political thread and turn it political. Even two 4th of July threads - the first one wishing folks a Happy Independence day and then a heavily loaded political closing statement. The next thread was labeled "A Non-Political 4th Thread" and immediately the folks on the opposite side of the table flocked to the thread like moths to light.

The fact that they allow a forum to discuss such heated topics of abortion is generous of them. If they start too heavily moderating such forums, both sides will tend to perceive that the moderators are favoring one side or another. I see that response frequently on other political boards.

The mods do not have the time to "really investigate" reports and have to take it on the surface evidence, and tend to give benefit of doubt to the reported poster until enough evidence builds up.

[Edited by: TxJeans at 7/9/2013 6:53:24 AM EST]
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scoutmaster
Champion Author Pittsburgh

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Message Posted: Jul 9, 2013 6:50:48 AM

It would be helpful to know what you posted, gas_too_high. These things are sometimes subjective.

I think even when you attack the idea, some people will take that as a shot at them and they report you. I would hope the moderators would look at what is posted and come to a determination.

[Edited by: scoutmaster at 7/9/2013 6:51:37 AM EST]
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mexicomaria
Champion Author Minnesota

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Message Posted: Jul 8, 2013 11:43:47 PM

One thing I find frustrating is we are encourage to let the mods know if we have a problem, but on the other hands they say, they keep track of all the complaints. Folks who actually report problems may be getting themselves in trouble because they get on the "many complaints" list. So you are guilty because you do as asked.

I do not think the mods take time to really investigate some reports...example... a note showed up from the mods, in a topic in the political forum ,"to stay on topic"... There was a video in the opening statement that discussed abortion, therefore some of us were talking about abortion. I do not believe the mods watched the video or they would have known the video was on abortion. Perhaps they just do not have enough time to really investigate things.

The other point is...........they can do as they want, they run the place...this is not a freedom of speech center.

I probably guess who reported you GTH...common happening.

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Gas_Buddy
Champion Author Maryland

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Message Posted: Jul 8, 2013 6:42:27 PM

Not knowing the wording of the warning the moderators sent you, based on experience, with few exceptions (and the exceptions are for very blatant wording in the posts), the moderators make every effort to try to resolve the dispute and allowing the "accused" (for lack of a better word) every opportunity to explain him/herself and the intent of the post.

Blatant vulgarity in a post and/or slur name calling isn't allowed, but moderators have, again based on my experience, allowed comments that said (not simply implied, but said) "That's stupid...That's a stupid idea, suggestion or point of view, that's showing ignorance, how ignorant can you be" etc. It's a matter of perspective and context. And, in some cases, what was objected to depends on the topic being discussed; moderators are understanding that some issues are more volatile than others. Granted there should be no name-calling, but again, it can often be context and wording. I, for example, wouldn't say "This poster is stupid..." but I might say that "This poster continues to show ignorance..." or "is blind to facts and common sense or reality." That might touch some nerves as being an attack, but (without knowing the post I'm responding to) it has to be taken in context.

That said, not knowing what the particular issues are, I would suggest that, if you haven't already done so, contact the moderators via the help link and explain yourself, explain the post and what you were trying to get across to the other member(s).

As for "At what point, if any, do the moderators consider an attack on a poster's ideas an attack on the poster personally?", I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all standard, nor should there be/can there be. A new member jumping on others might not get as much benefit of the doubt as a more senior member who's taken part in multiple substance topics and displayed a more balanced or nuanced history of posting. That may not seem fair but if a long time member, one who's shown a history of Y-disruptive posting, had a single episode of "You're a ------", the member may get a longer deep breath by the moderators before they take action; and an explanation from the member may carry more weight for an "overlook this" than from a new member who spouted off early in his/her membership or who's shown a history of bait-posting. But that's just my opinion.

As for an appeals process, yes, there is with few exceptions. Moderators have shown a history allowing explanations and have on many occasions allowed a member to resume his/her participation, though in some cases they suggested a cooling off period. And, moderators have responded positively to the "appeal" of others sticking up for a "banned" member, based on the commentary and comments of the other members as to what happened, etc.

As for "Currently, questioning a moderator's decision seems to be a good way to be considered a troublemaker and get banned outright." I haven't found that to be the case. I can't remember any stories of someone questioning a moderator's decision being considered a trouble maker. I've heard of stories in which the moderators more or less told the questioner that the issue is over or to "cool it", but none in which the questioner wasn't allowed a fair chance to "appeal" or to make his/her case.

Just my opinion.
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