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

Henry Dotterer
Local time: 05:37
SITE FOUNDER
May 15

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
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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.

------

Update: Thanks to those who read and responded to this request, both here and outside of the thread. I appreciate the support and look forward to an even friendlier environment here.
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Maxi Schwarz  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:37
German to English
+ ...
my impression May 15

is that it is already a friendly discussion environment. Of course people have different and disagreeing opinions at times, but that is the nature of discussion as I understand it. Also, since we are professionals, it has to be kept real.

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Henry Dotterer
Local time: 05:37
SITE FOUNDER
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks, Maxi. Please consider a change of some sort May 15

Maxi Schwarz wrote:

is that it is already a friendly discussion environment. Of course people have different and disagreeing opinions at times, but that is the nature of discussion as I understand it. Also, since we are professionals, it has to be kept real.

Hi Maxi. Thanks for responding. I'm all for keeping things real and I appreciate your readiness to engage in frank back-and-forth discussion in these forums. I believe you are a professional and I respect your intelligence.

But have you noticed that there is a point at which disagreement, depending upon how it is wielded, can begin to look (and feel to others) like unwelcome behavior, even bullying?

Let's say that every time a given person posts, a certain other person posts to disagree. Let's say, too, that the disagree-er throws in the odd comment along the lines of "I can't make out what you are trying to say." Further, let's say that they make a point of aligning themselves with others who are doing this, so as to form a group appearing to reject not only the person's point of view, but the person her/himself.*

Can you see how a person might begin to feel unwelcome? To feel bullied?

I am using generalized language here not because I am shying away from mentioning the recent issue with Andrew and his postings, but rather, because that was only a case in point of what has unfortunately been a not-uncommon occurrence.

Many new people, and many site staff members, have reported being made to feel unwelcome over the years. (Right or wrong, it is how they feel.) A good number of ProZ.com members, and even ProZ.com employees, will tell us that they stay away from the forums because of this. It shouldn't be this way. I don't think it needs to be this way.

Maxi, you are an honest poster, often a blunt poster, so I feel authorized to be direct with you, realizing that there are others to whom this posting will apply. Although you have never been a member of the site (I think?), you are a frequent poster. So I'm asking for your help, to turn the tide, not to be part of the group that makes the forums sometimes feel uncomfortable to new people, to staff members, and to people who don't necessarily share your views. This would involve an adjustment, a change in demeanor, on your part. I hope you are willing to make a change, or at least to consider the situation (that some people are scared to post here is a fact) at arms length, as it were, and maybe make a try in the positive direction.

Thank you for your consideration.

* I'm not saying you or anyone does exactly this; I am exaggerating a bit to try to make my point clear. And I'm basically saying what I said in the first post: can we try to be a little friendlier?


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Maxi Schwarz  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:37
German to English
+ ...
supportive May 15

Mine was intended to be supportive. I have liked the attitudes I have found here in general, and was expressing appreciation.

In regard to your request, I don't think we can do things about other people's behaviours. Only our own. If I have ever been amiss in that regard, that I'd hope to be alerted to it. I may be dense in not seeing negativity. I've been told from time to time that I'm a babe in the woods in that regard. I certainly would hope that everyone would feel welcom
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Mine was intended to be supportive. I have liked the attitudes I have found here in general, and was expressing appreciation.

In regard to your request, I don't think we can do things about other people's behaviours. Only our own. If I have ever been amiss in that regard, that I'd hope to be alerted to it. I may be dense in not seeing negativity. I've been told from time to time that I'm a babe in the woods in that regard. I certainly would hope that everyone would feel welcome here. Forums are funny places.
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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 11:37
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Henry May 15

Henry Dotterer wrote:
Unfortunately, people are not always made to feel welcome here. Can we change that? ... Let's maybe just be a little friendlier, a little more welcoming, a post at a time.


The "one post at a time" thing is not going to be a successful strategy, Henry. I think most people who poison the forums do so unintentionally, i.e. they don't know that they are the ones who are doing it. So asking for people to be more polite or more friendly or more helpful etc. isn't going to work because those who need to be more polite etc. think that you're talking to other people.

What complicates matters is the fact that not only are we all from different cultures but we also have different personalities. The "rudeness" of some people here are certainly cultural. Such posters are not really rude -- they simply fail to sugar their speech as excessively as some other cultures do. On the other hand, the sarcasm that I read in almost every single post of some other members are certainly not cultural, but after many years I have discovered that most of those people are not actually trying to be mean -- they just have lousy forum skills.

Another thing that complicates the issue is the fact that some users are new and still have to learn how these specific forums work (i.e. they don't realise that some habits are detrimental). And people who visit or join these forums who have long participated in other types of online forums may not realise that the things that work well on those other forums do not work well here.

And of course, the specific design of the ProZ.com forums make certain infractions far more devastating than they might have been on other forums that are designed differently.

I myself have a very impersonal forum personality. I zoom in on the main point of a post, quote it, and respond to it, without salutations and sometimes even without signing the post. Every now and then I become aware that some people believe that my posting style is "incredibly rude", whereas I consider myself to be quite polite. I do use politeness words and phrasings, but not excessively (though what is excessive is in the eye of the beholder). For example, when someone asks how to do something, I tell simply them, without saying "please" in every sentence (i.e. "Click here, then click here, then click here" as opposed to "Please click here, then please click here, then please click here"). And I did not, for example, start this post by writing "Thank you, Henry, for your kind opinion. Please allow me to respond by saying..., etc." because I would consider that extremely patronising if anyone were to do it to me.

I understand that it must be a shock to newcomers to discover that not everyone on the forums behave in the way that they believe are the polite way to behave. But I agree that being especially welcoming to new users would do a lot of good in convincing them that the forums are worth visiting often.

I'm sorry to hear that some staff members feel unwelcome. It is perhaps unavoidable -- a lot of us feel that things are often moving too slowly at ProZ.com, and so I understand that whenever a staff member posts, it can quickly turn into a complaints fest.

There are a couple of things that can be done to the existing forums to make it a friendlier place, but it may simply be that the 20-year (!!) old design is due for replacement.

[Edited at 2019-05-15 07:21 GMT]


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Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:37
Member (2012)
French to English
I'm in 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.


People should feel welcome. If they don't, we are doing something wrong, and I for one will make more effort to be welcoming.

And, of course, we should all challenge bullying, right?

[Edited at 2019-05-15 10:19 GMT]


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Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
Great idea Doc, but if you're not going to ban people..... May 15

Having stayed away from Proz forums for years for exactly this reason, I would love for Proz to be a friendlier, more professional place.
I absolutely agree with Samuel that cultural differences can make someone seem blunt but imho there are some on here who simply love to pick a fight, be provocative and try to belittle others to lord it over them and draw attention to themselves because they feel safe in their offensive ways hiding behind their keyboard.
Something to think about,
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Having stayed away from Proz forums for years for exactly this reason, I would love for Proz to be a friendlier, more professional place.
I absolutely agree with Samuel that cultural differences can make someone seem blunt but imho there are some on here who simply love to pick a fight, be provocative and try to belittle others to lord it over them and draw attention to themselves because they feel safe in their offensive ways hiding behind their keyboard.
Something to think about, sure this gets you noticed but I for one would never work with someone like that. There are several good pro translators on here I would never offer work to because they have too much attitude. So if you’re here for work…………
It’s true that we should try not to overreact to provocation but imo the only way to effectively deal with some of these ….ers is to get rid of them.
They can always create another profile, but that takes time and they will have lost any kudoz credits they had, etc. so even if you don’t actually ever ban anyone, just the fact that these lovely warm-hearted people know you’re willing to show them the door will be a huge deterrent, and in most cases enough to make their behaviour much more professional and less pub rowdy.
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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:37
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Be the change you want to see May 15

Samuel Murray wrote:
On the other hand, the sarcasm that I read in almost every single post of some other members are certainly not cultural, but after many years I have discovered that most of those people are not actually trying to be mean -- they just have lousy forum skills.

My first point: I agree with Samuel that most are probably not genuinely unpleasant, they're just not very perceptive. On the other hand, there are some people who are repeatedly mean to others, and it seems quite deliberate. As Jo says above, they like to belittle others.

One well-known example is somebody who makes nit-picking criticisms of the English used by other forum members, which creates unnecessary unpleasantness. I am not saying that all such criticism should be avoided, because sometimes it is entirely relevant, but if a newcomer makes a post, and somebody swoops on them and points out numerous small errors in their English not germane to their question, what impression does that leave? What message does that send?

What have you done to stop that kind of subtle nastiness over the past decade?
Why are you worried about it now? I suspect it is not out of the kindness of your heart, but because a recent appointee of ProZ made some clumsy, patronising posts and was promptly taken outside by the members and given a good kicking, justifiably in my opinion. So you're upset and annoyed. You know what? So are we.

My second point: I agree with Samuel about the lack of perceived changes. Unlike many members here I accept that ProZ is a commercial enterprise, so I don't mind paying for membership, but the glacial pace of change is extremely frustrating and creates an image in members' minds of a remote, uncaring, distracted management. That creates a sense of vacuum that has its own consequences.

I have discussed business with thousands of managers in literally hundreds of companies across dozens of industries. I have seldom seen an organisation so apparently ossified, in which there has been so little change noticed by customers (members). It's almost a Japanese mindset - stability at all costs. Don't rock the boat! I've been on ProZ for 5 years now. I cannot think of a single change that is relevant to me other than the ability to like posts. Very disappointing.

Really, Henry, as the boss of this place, you need to find the psychological wherewithal to make some sweeping changes. I appreciate what you've done with ProZ, but business is about risk as well as reward. Shake stuff up. Upgrade the forum software to Discourse or something. That alone would send a huge signal to members, indicate that things are changing.

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.

And if you are pondering something, instead of this wall of silence, begin discussing things in the open: what you're considering, the pros and cons of the various options. Be open about your thoughts instead of secretive. Report on progress. Engage in a low-key way, instead of occasionally appearing to make plaintive requests, then disappearing again in a puff of smoke.

(You may feel that you're omnipresent, because you see all and decide all with ProZ, on a daily basis, but I don't think any other members feel that you're engaged in an ongoing way at all. Perhaps if there were a thread where you post a steady trickle of comment, members would see that you are actually "doing something".)

I realise that this might be exactly the kind of trenchant post that you think is damaging to the atmosphere in the forums, but in this case you own the problem - literally. If the buck doesn't stop here, where can it stop?

Regards,
Dan

[Edited at 2019-05-15 07:40 GMT]


Erik Freitag
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@Henry May 15

My spontaneous response is that I don't really recognise this forum in your comments, but what does shine through is the position taken by your colleague.

The only time I see anything approaching bullying is when someone new comes in like a bull in a china shop and asks for trouble, as has happened a couple of times recently. Even then, I think it's just collective disagreement (or shock); there is no gang. To read more into it than this suggests to me a degree of paranoia.
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My spontaneous response is that I don't really recognise this forum in your comments, but what does shine through is the position taken by your colleague.

The only time I see anything approaching bullying is when someone new comes in like a bull in a china shop and asks for trouble, as has happened a couple of times recently. Even then, I think it's just collective disagreement (or shock); there is no gang. To read more into it than this suggests to me a degree of paranoia.

There are, of course, odd individuals who post unprompted rudeness. Give them a warning and then ban them if you wish.

And then there are people who have strong beliefs or oddball humour and are sometimes misunderstood. And minor tiffs can erupt from time to time between any of us. In other words, we are a bunch of humans like any other.

But yes, we can make this a better place. At the moment, your strategy seems to be to stifle debate, which doesn't sit well with me.

My immediate suggestion is to divide the site into "discussion threads" and "help threads". Perhaps all the good advice for beginners won't then drown in off-topic debate.

But above all I would take your colleague out of the equation. Those who subscribe to his vision of a positive forum already have Translation Mastermind.

PS I was shocked to see you single out Maxi here. I spend enough time here to know who is trouble, and Maxi is not.
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Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:37
Member (2012)
French to English
We all saw it May 15

Dan Lucas wrote:

was promptly taken outside by the members and given a good kicking, justifiably in my opinion.


It's never justified, in my opinion. The ones doing the kicking then turned on anybody who challenged them.

Edited, much later to say: look at how many people agree with the fella who thinks it is ok to give someone a good kicking. I'm surprised, because in my world, there is zero tolerance of bullying.


[Edited at 2019-05-15 21:28 GMT]


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Matthias Brombach  Identity Verified
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Member (2007)
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Same applies for certain KudoZ areas May 15

Jo Macdonald wrote:


there are some on here who simply love to pick a fight, be provocative and try to belittle others to lord it over them and draw attention to themselves because they feel safe in their offensive ways hiding behind their keyboard.


Especially the English - German KudoZ boards related to engineering / electronics / technology can be considered as taken over by one person only, a German engineer, who refuses to take points for his suggestions and who shows are very intelligent and subtle way to bully and belittle other participants with his contributions. This person has not only driven away long year experienced and established KudoZ contributers, but also any newcomers in that area of specialisation, who won´t be able to gain a handfull of points to make themselves visible for potential clients. I wonder how many (potential) full paying members you (Henry) may have lost in the engineering section, because proz seems not to work for them thanks to that person.


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Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 11:37
Member (2018)
French to English
(insert stupid title here) May 15

I have already said I find this forum to be pretty typical among Internet fora.

More grammar nazis than elsewhere, it's only to be expected in a place frequented by linguists. I agree that it's not very pleasant to be constantly corrected, although in the case of those who claim to be able to translate into English, while making all manner of non-native mistakes, I think they deserve to get called out. Sheila does it beautifully, others are more direct, we're all different after all
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I have already said I find this forum to be pretty typical among Internet fora.

More grammar nazis than elsewhere, it's only to be expected in a place frequented by linguists. I agree that it's not very pleasant to be constantly corrected, although in the case of those who claim to be able to translate into English, while making all manner of non-native mistakes, I think they deserve to get called out. Sheila does it beautifully, others are more direct, we're all different after all and diversity needs to be celebrated.

There's a thread lingering somewhere here at the moment where non-native speakers are asking about grammar rules involving articles, and someone accuses the native speakers of maintaining a "deafening silence" (or something like that - if I go to check the exact wording I'll lose what I've written here - this is not a problem I have in other fora with a more recent interface). Have you noticed that none of us have charged in screaming that no we jolly well won't help them undercut us? I have resisted the temptation so far, despite starting a response on several occasions. Suggestions have been made to try to make the system fairer or at least clearer with respect to the "native speaker" status, but nothing has changed.

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. Especially as nine times out of ten they do not bother to come back to thank anyone.

I recently came across instructions for noobs on hacker fora, the writer insisted on the noobs first spending time reading previous forum posts to see if they could find an answer, and reading the manual, and only then posting, and the post had to explain their problem in detail, outlining what they'd done to try to fix it and where they'd looked for answers, just to avoid getting a RTFM as an answer. I haven't seen anyone here giving a RTFM answer here... despite many noobs coming in and asking questions that have been asked and answered many times before.

I agree fully with all those who say the fora here need radical updating. 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 fora should simply be given a warning then blocked. I've seen fora where trolls are first blocked for a few weeks or months, then permanently if they carry on. Blocking doesn't have to prevent them from using the other features of the site. Then there are long threads here, dating from years back, where members request particular features such as an easy way to use bold or italics, or a button to jump to the first new message on a thread you've already read, or getting rid of the unnecessary post titles, and nothing has ever happened. Yet you wonder why members jump on site staff whenever they make an appearance here?

If you don't want us to be critical and grumpy, perhaps you could start by listening to what we've been grumbling about, and doing something about it?

I'm not sure how you were expecting us to react to your post, Henry. We're all adults here, lots of us are free-lancers, and lots of us free-lance because we enjoy not having a boss and being bossed around. Personally, as an adult making an effort to remain polite here even when I read something that makes me angry, I don't much like being asked to play nicely. I hope you appreciate that I'm saying this in a spirit of constructive criticism, rather than just moaning.

Oh and a signature feature at the bottom of each post would be great too so we don't have to sign off for fear of being thought rude!
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Vanda Nissen  Identity Verified
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Member (2008)
English to Russian
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Friendliness May 15

I am a bit surprised to read that the staff members have been feeling unwelcome for years. If it is, indeed, the case, why no one has ever raised their concerns before?
Bullying is a very popular word nowadays, it is easy to call someone a bully, then you do not really need to explain yourself or justify your own actions and behaviour.
I am not sure how friendly the environment needs to be, we need to define the word ''friendly'' first, but it was certainly diverse until recent. Now
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I am a bit surprised to read that the staff members have been feeling unwelcome for years. If it is, indeed, the case, why no one has ever raised their concerns before?
Bullying is a very popular word nowadays, it is easy to call someone a bully, then you do not really need to explain yourself or justify your own actions and behaviour.
I am not sure how friendly the environment needs to be, we need to define the word ''friendly'' first, but it was certainly diverse until recent. Now, I see a dangerous tendency for a solo performance which I personally do not like.
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