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Goal: Build a more friendly discussion environment here. Anyone in?
Thread poster: Henry Dotterer

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 21:40
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Some more replies May 15

Dan Lucas wrote:
A recent [newcomer] ... was promptly taken outside by the members and given a good kicking...


I saw a lot of "good kicking" in some recent posts, but I think that that may have been one of the problems: a good kicking should be "outside", and it wasn't. I'm not saying that we should never educate newcomers inside a thread itself, but when that happens, it should always come across as polite and helpful, and should not become the main topic of the thread.

There should be more moderators, and some of the moderators should take on a role as forum ambassadors, i.e. people who take steps to ensure that newcomers feel welcome and to point out harmful behaviour privately. Of course, anyone can write to anyone privately, but a moderator has more authority and when he writes to someone privately to point out something harmful, it carries more weight and can at the same time be perceived as less aggressive since he is only doing his job.

I believe a lot of the unpleasantness in recent threads could have been avoided with more pro-active moderating. Some of it was the result of knee-jerk upon knee-jerk coming from both sides. A lot of it was caused by the newcomer suffering from "must have last word"-itis, which had an exponential effect.

We do things on the forum because we are allowed to do it, and so we get used to it. If a moderator were to step in and tell the "good kickers" to "take it outside", and we all see this, it will result in more people taking things outside that should take place outside. Instead, we see threads being poisoned by inconducive behaviour and nothing is done about it (and those of us who wish that we could rescue the thread from early death, can't).

Just think: a forum system with a more sophisticated reputation system that was reflected in the visibility of posts, so that downvoted posts, or posts by members with low reputations, were shown at the bottom of the thread, or even hidden, would fix many of these problems touched upon in this thread. The community would become able to largely police itself.


I would not want to see the forum policed by the community itself. The average opinion or the common ruling is not always the best one. Instead, I would rather see more power in the hands of the original poster and in the hands of moderators (and more moderators, possibly some with lesser power).

I would like to see original posters have the ability to "half hide" posts for the first two or three pages (these "hidden" posts would still be visible but would be "folded in" until clicked on, or would be greyed but still fully visible. I would like to see moderators have the ability to split a thread into separate threads when it becomes apparent that the original topic is no longer the "main" topic and that replies to the original topic are getting drowned out.

And if you are pondering something, instead of this wall of silence, begin discussing things in the open: what you're considering, ...


I don't think making staff decision-making more transparent will solve anything. Lack of transparency isn't the reason why people who are impatient about site changes are impatient.

Chris S wrote:
At the moment, your strategy seems to be to stifle debate, which doesn't sit well with me.

and
Angela Rimmer wrote:
I've not seen anything rising to the level of bullying, but I have seen a rise in censorship.


There appears to be several people here who seem to think that they are being suppressed, stifled or censored, but I honestly don't have that impression. The fact that Henry is asking us "please be nice" isn't censorship by any definition.

Kay Denney wrote:
I don't see why we should be friendly and welcoming to a newcomer who bursts in with a one-liner question and no clues as to how to help in their profile, expecting us to spend time helping them.


I disagree. We should all be friendly and welcoming to newcomers.

However, if newcomers stir up trouble, or if they do things that cause unpleasantness (even if they don't seem to realise), then they should be taken to task (but not in the thread itself!).

As for "bursting in" (what does that even mean?) with a "one-liner question", I actually welcome that sort of approach in forums where people ask for assistance on specific matters. It saves time, and not wasting everyone's time is the most polite thing you can do.

Vetting every single non-member contribution prior to publication is ridiculous and means that their oft-valuable contributions go unnoticed. Members and non-members alike who behave badly on these forums should simply be given a warning, then blocked.


I disagree with such an aggressive approach. It can be difficult, on these forums, to determine when a rule was actually broken, and indeed when it was broken deliberately. Banning is only appropriate for members who repeatingly and unendingly break the rules.


[Edited at 2019-05-15 09:54 GMT]


Rachel Waddington
Andrew Morris
Tanya Quintieri
MollyRose
 

Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:40
Member (2012)
French to English
Puzzled May 15

Dan Lucas wrote:


Just think: a forum system with a more sophisticated reputation system that was reflected in the visibility of posts, so that downvoted posts, or posts by members with low reputations, were shown at the bottom of the thread, or even hidden, would fix many of these problems touched upon in this thread. The community would become able to largely police itself.



I'm not sure how this would work. Wouldn't it just give prominence to the people who administer the "kicking" that you condone and the numerous cowards that agree with them?


Vanda Nissen
Andrew Morris
Tanya Quintieri
 

Jan Truper  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:40
English to German
+ ...
... May 15

Henry Dotterer wrote:

Let's maybe just be a little friendlier, a little more welcoming, a post at a time.




I understand your concern regarding general friendliness, and I am often baffled by some of the spats I get to read here.

However, I personally find paid-for, fabricated (fake) marketing cheerfulness and the drowning out of dissent much more offensive than authentic forum contributors who are not keeping their bad character traits in check (and are ultimately just making an arse of themselves).

In other words, I prefer Sesame Street to a Mentos commercial.


Angela Rimmer
Kay Denney
Dan Lucas
Alison Jenner
Chris S
Ivana Kahle
writeaway
 

Adrien Esparron
Local time: 21:40
Member (2007)
German to French
+ ...
For a total refoundation May 15

Hello Henry,

My English is not good enough to express all the subtleties of my answer. It's not a big deal, though.

In almost 20 years, the promising site has become totally uncontrollable in almost all its parts and many have abandoned or deserted it, no longer finding their way around.

As precisely illustrated by this discussion and your call for help.

As an entrepreneur, you must be able to question your management and learn from it.
... See more
Hello Henry,

My English is not good enough to express all the subtleties of my answer. It's not a big deal, though.

In almost 20 years, the promising site has become totally uncontrollable in almost all its parts and many have abandoned or deserted it, no longer finding their way around.

As precisely illustrated by this discussion and your call for help.

As an entrepreneur, you must be able to question your management and learn from it.

The current site is no longer liveable, you have to leave it as it is and no longer touch it. Systems that pretend to touch everything do not do anything right, that is now the ProZ.com's situation.

Create a brand new platform that takes into account technological developments.

A technical site about translation. Only, just translation.

You have the technical skills in your team to offer a completely new service.

I am sure that many would follow you in this innovative path.

Very good continuation and maybe see you soon in other horizons?

Best, Adrien
Collapse


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:40
Member (2018)
French to English
. May 15

Samuel Murray wrote:

I would like to see original posters have the ability to "half hide" posts for the first two or three pages (these "hidden" posts would still be visible but would be "folded in" until clicked on, or would be greyed but still fully visible. I would like to see moderators have the ability to split a thread into separate threads when it becomes apparent that the original topic is no longer the "main" topic and that replies to the original topic are getting drowned out.

Kay Denney wrote:
I don't see why we should be friendly and welcoming to a newcomer who bursts in with a one-liner question and no clues as to how to help in their profile, expecting us to spend time helping them.


I disagree. We should all be friendly and welcoming to newcomers.

However, if newcomers stir up trouble, or if they do things that cause unpleasantness (even if they don't seem to realise), then they should be taken to task (but not in the thread itself!).

As for "bursting in" (what does that even mean?) with a "one-liner question", I actually welcome that sort of approach in forums where people ask for assistance on specific matters. It saves time, and not wasting everyone's time is the most polite thing you can do.

Vetting every single non-member contribution prior to publication is ridiculous and means that their oft-valuable contributions go unnoticed. Members and non-members alike who behave badly on these forums should simply be given a warning, then blocked.


I disagree with such an aggressive approach. It can be difficult, on these forums, to determine when a rule was actually broken, and indeed when it was broken deliberately. Banning is only appropriate for members who repeatingly and unendingly break the rules.


[Edited at 2019-05-15 09:54 GMT]


1. I have no idea what you mean by "half hiding", it's not something I've ever encountered elsewhere, could you elaborate please?

2. OK you can be friendly and welcoming and I'll sit those ones out. Compromising often works best!

3. by "bursting in" I mean exactly what I said, just arriving and asking a question, like "what's the average rate for x?" without filling us in on their language pair or why they need to know and what kind of experience or qualifications they might have, and showing no regard whatsoever for the fact that people don't like to disclose their rates on here. AFAIC, that's rude. They could find the information somewhere on the website for starters. And they could fill us in at least a bit. Swedish to Swahili isn't billed the same as French to English, and they probably would have to remain a generalist rather than specialising.

4. Blocking after a warning is not aggressive. It's a natural consequence. The warning would, I hope, include an explanation. That's how we used to proceed on the FB group I used to moderate. Once we started sending out warnings, people started to behave much better and we only banned one person (in a group of over 20,000) for repeatedly trying to sell stuff, when we had told her that commercial activity was prohibited.


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:40
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Karma May 15

Elizabeth Tamblin wrote:
I'm not sure how this would work. Wouldn't it just give prominence to the people who administer the "kicking" that you condone and the numerous cowards that agree with them?

Reputation in Internet forums (sometimes called "karma") is an interesting subject, and is still evolving. The idea of a reputation system is that the community votes on posts. In some cases it also takes into account the existing credibility within the forum of the person making the post.

Typically, if somebody makes a post criticising somebody else's post, and the consensus in the community was that the criticism was deserved, that post will be heavily upvoted by other members. If on the other hand people feel that the post was inaccurate or unreasonable, it will be downvoted by other members. So it gives you a good sense of how the community feels about specific contributions by its members.

If multiple critical posts are upvoted, that suggests that the community doesn't think much of the original post that is the subject of the criticism. In that case, the poster of the original post should probably have a careful think about what they have written, and why it has sparked such negative feedback.

Once you have a reputational system in place in a reasonably large forum, it may reveal a consistent "personality" to the community. I don't think there is much you can do to change that personality other than ban large numbers of people who you think are being unreasonably critical or unreasonably positive. (Though this is reminiscent to me of Brecht's comments about dissolving the people and electing a new one.)

At the end of the day, you either agree with the dominant ethos of a community or not, and if you don't like it - given that by definition a community has the advantage in numbers over an individual - the only thing you can do is leave. I have done that in certain other forums that I felt were non-productive or unpleasant places to be.

To get back to the case you mention, you may have found it deplorable, but clearly many other forum members did not, because there were many posts supporting criticism of the new member of ProZ staff. A voting system would probably have made it very clear what the consensus was, and given an early warning to the person in question (and ProZ) to back off, probably saving a great deal of vituperative commentary. As it was, that person suffered from, as Samuel puts it "must have last word-itis", and it just kept on getting worse.

Would it have given prominence to individual people? Yes, it might well have, but only if the majority of the community agreed with them. That is, they would have been gained approval. Conversely, if the majority of the community disagreed with the people administering the kicking - as I put it - and the cowards - as you put it - who supported them, then those people making the criticism would see significant negative changes in their reputation. In other words, they would have been punished.

In some systems I have seen, members whose reputation dwindles below a certain threshold have their posts hidden automatically. The posts can be revealed, but the reader needs to click on a button to reveal them. It does not, therefore, prevent people from upvoting posts by people with poor reputations, so it is possible to recover a bad reputation, but it would be an uphill struggle. That creates an incentive to avoid drawing the ire of the community.

We have a crude "like" system here on ProZ, so we can upvote to say "I agree" but we cannot downvote to say "I disagree". So arguably we only have half the functionality needed. Less, in fact, because those votes do not accrue to change a person's reputation over the longer term.

Regards,
Dan

[Edited at 2019-05-15 11:13 GMT]


writeaway
Irene McClure
mughwI
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MollyRose
 
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Mair A-W (PhD)
Germany
Local time: 21:40
Member (2016)
German to English
+ ...
fine as is May 15

Henry Dotterer wrote:

Hi folks.

I would love to have the ProZ.com forums be a place that feels welcoming to all. Including new people, non-members, even site staff members.

Unfortunately, people are not always made to feel welcome here. Can we change that?

If you are reading this posting and are active in the forums, I am asking for your help!

Can we try to turn the tide here?

Let's maybe just be a little friendlier, a little more welcoming, a post at a time.

Please be part of those making the forums comfortable. And not one of those making them uncomfortable.

That's all I had to say.


I have always found these forums friendly, longstanding posters remarkably welcoming and patient with newbies asking the same questions over and over again, and a lively interest taken in new questions/discussions.

The exception seems to be when a poster does not get involved in the forums, except for the purpose of marketing/advertising -- themselves, their blog, a conference they're involved in, a facebook group. This has happened once or twice and has not met with very positive responses on the whole.

It also happens sometimes that a "newbie" requests advice, but then argues about why the friendly advisors are mistaken about them. This can, naturally, lead to bad feeling and negative threads.

On the whole, though, I think that as long as the forums are not used for marketing purposes, they work just fine...


Chris S
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Sandra& Kenneth
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IrinaN
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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 04:40
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Vote up and vote unup May 15

Dan Lucas wrote:
At the end of the day, you either agree with the dominant ethos of a community or not, and if you don't like it - given that by definition a community has the advantage in numbers over an individual - the only thing you can do is leave.

I agree, stopping wrongthink is doubleplusgood.


Chris S
Robert Forstag
 

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:40
Member (2004)
English to Italian
It needs... May 15

a more active moderation, with a proper warning system. All fora are like this. After x "misbehaviours", you are temporarily banned.

I don't like the forced positiveness of the posts either. We are all professionals and some of the posts come across as patronising, imo. We are not children. If the new aim of the site is helping newcomers, then open a new section where these posts will be welcomed. It's a simple solution.


Jo Macdonald
Chris S
Samuel Murray
Robert Forstag
ahartje
Natasha Ziada
Giuliana Buscaglione
 

Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:40
Member (2012)
French to English
Interesting May 15

[quote]Dan Lucas wrote:

Elizabeth Tamblin wrote:




At the end of the day, you either agree with the dominant ethos of a community or not, and if you don't like it - given that by definition a community has the advantage in numbers over an individual - the only thing you can do is leave.


If the dominant ethos is that it's ok to kick the shit out of someone, then I will never go along with that.

I don't agree with the desire to silence the lone dissenting view, the person who will not join in throwing stones.

And I would not allow the herd mentality to drive me out either. I'm sticking around.


Jo Macdonald
Tanya Quintieri
Andrew Morris
Christine Andersen
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 21:40
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Democracy is irrelevant to freedom of expression May 15

Fiona Grace Peterson wrote:
What is more democratic at the end of the day? What is more revealing, and representative of the community's opinions?


Yes, but we're not interested in the community's opinions here. The purpose of the forums is not to reach consensus, or to discover what the majority position is. The application of the forum's rules should not be determined by the [vocal] majority. Simply giving control to the majority will not make the forum a more productive place. At best, it will turn the forums into an environment where average opinions are kept safe from dissent and where participants can flock to if they need confirmation of their beliefs.

Dan Lucas wrote:
The idea of a reputation system is that the community votes on posts.

Typically, if somebody makes a post criticising somebody else's post, and the consensus in the community was that the criticism was deserved, that post will be heavily upvoted by other members. If on the other hand people feel that the post was inaccurate or unreasonable, it will be downvoted by other members.


Sadly, I suspect that most people do not behave as rationally as you make it out. Most people don't downvote or upvote messages for their accuracy or reasonableness, but for the content (and sometimes also for the identity of the poster, but let's not go there). Posters whose messages get lots of upvotes are not posters who are most reasonable or who spend most time crafting careful responses, but simply those whose opinions resonate best with the voters.

If I recall correctly, the reputation system was suggested as a potential solution for the problem of misbehaving participants. Such systems have quite a bit of success on forums where there are thousands upon thousands of users, where it is impossible to moderate on an individual basis. But the ProZ.com forums have a sufficiently low participation rate per subforum that moderating is viable.

At the end of the day, you either agree with the dominant ethos of a community or not, and if you don't like it ... the only thing you can do is leave.


The ProZ.com forums are not meant to be a place where like-minded individuals gather, to the exclusion of others who think differently. This represents the opposite of what we're trying to achieve here.

What brings us together here is not our opinions but our profession. On other forums, "all are welcome who agree with such and such ethos", but on the ProZ.com forums, "all are welcome who are translators".

A voting system would probably have made it very clear what the consensus was, and given an early warning to the person in question ... , probably saving a great deal of vituperative commentary.


What is needed instead is to empower users to complain effectively and to empower moderators to moderate effectively. At this time, if a user wants to complain, he has to contact a moderator using a personal message, and then just sit back and hope that his complaint will be heard. Instead, there should be a mechanism to report contravening posts and misbehaving posters easily. For example, a link at the bottom of every post like "Report this post" that pops up a short report form that is sent to the moderators. And moderators should have [some] powers to intervene, and a clear mandate to engage with posters whose behaviour tests the boundaries.

In some systems I have seen, members whose reputation dwindles below a certain threshold have their posts hidden automatically. The posts can be revealed, but the reader needs to click on a button to reveal them.


This is the worst kind of censorship: to silence a user based on who he is and what his previous opinions were, regardless of what he is saying now. Instead, I would favour a system that allows one to hide posts that are individually deemed (by whatever means) to be off-topic or disruptive, regardless of the opinion raised in the post.


[Edited at 2019-05-15 12:43 GMT]


Erik Freitag
Elizabeth Tamblin
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Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:40
Member (2012)
French to English
Interesting May 15

Fiona Grace Peterson wrote:

What is more revealing, and representative of the community's opinions?


That is quite revealing in itself. Do you really want to be represented by the homogenised view of the majority? Do you want to be part of a collective mind rather than an individual?

Edited to add "an".

[Edited at 2019-05-15 12:33 GMT]


 
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