Happy New Year! A Letter from the Site Wizard to the Community

Happy New Year lovelies!

Your friendly neighborhood site wizard is back from her extended hiatus. I’ll be spending the next few weeks tweaking settings and finetuning functionality of the forum to get it back to running at 100% (hopefully, including turning back on the follower functions).

While I was, technically, on a sabbatical, I was still lurking a lot and communicating with the mod team. For the most part, things ran smoothly. However, I was perturbed to see a handful of incidents occur and escalate while I was away.

Interactions with the Mod Team

I feel it needs to be said explicitly that when I’m not around, the moderator team is acting in my stead with my blessing. I am always willing to listen in the event someone feels a moderator has been overly harsh or incorrect in their assessment of penalties, but there is a chain of command for a reason. Our mini-mods interact with our community and bring potentially problematic behavior to our attention. Our moderators have mini-mod responsibilities, as well as handling flags and forum cleanup and organization. Our head moderators have all the previously mentioned responsibilities as well as being the next level of escalation in the event a user feels they have been unfairly penalized. I am the final step on that ladder, and usually only get involved when a user has become belligerent or needs help with a penalty by a head moderator.

Let it be known that, despite this hierarchy, behind the scenes, we work as a team when a flag or issue comes to our attention. It is very, very rarely handled by a single individual. As a team, we discuss the issue and come to a consensus about penalties and/or messaging together. It is very rare that I am not involved in these discussions.

That being said, I want it also made very clear that while we understand getting penalized sucks and nobody like to get in trouble, the fastest way to escalate a penalty into a permanent suspension is to abuse the moderator team. No one is infallible, and we are willing to listen to a user’s thoughts or disagreements with their penalties as long as it is presented in a respectful manner. However, namecalling, cursing at the team, threatening the team, or other such behaviors will 100% of the time result in permanent suspension. The moderators are a volunteer team. They help with this forum in addition to their normal busy real lives. I do not, under any circumstances, tolerate the abuse of my team in any capacity. Here are some examples of acceptable vs unacceptable discussion re: a penalty:

Acceptable:
Hi,
I don’t agree with the penalty I received. The warning stated that I broke [[these rules]] but what really happened was [[this thing.]] Here are the facts and I’ve included screenshots (or other documentation) to back up what I’m saying. If you still don’t agree, please have the [[next level of mod/site wizard]] get back to me.

Our penalties and warnings always include the rule that was broken as well as screenshots of whatever post broke the rule. If you feel this was in error, we’re happy to listen and/or revise our warning/penalties if it’s explained in a way that shows we were in error.

Unacceptable:
You all are just power-hungry bitches who want to make everyone else miserable. You’re personally attacking me. I hope the site fails. I’m going to make it my personal mission to make sure everyone knows what terrible people you are. Fuck all of you. Eat shit and die.

This example may read like hyperbole, but these are exact phrases said to myself or my team at some point or another. Responses like this will always result in a suspension. We understand getting penalized sucks. But we have rules for a reason. These are rules that exist on many other forums and they are in place to keep the forum a safe and positive environment for all our users.

Public vs Private Penalties

We’ve had some users express concern that other users aren’t being penalized for their posts. We’ve even had some users go so far as to say that they are being penalized as a “personal attack” while other users who did [[insert thing here]] are going unpunished.

This is not usually the case. By design, we do not address most issues publicly on the forum. No one likes getting penalized—getting penalized publicly in front of every one else is worse. Public embarrassment has never proven to be effective and, in many cases, breeds more resentment and causes more problems. If a user is penalized, it is done via private message. That user is free to share the penalties they received publicly if they’d like, but I suspect you won’t find many users willing to do so. We do not want to add to ongoing drama by publicly chastising users—so we don’t. We understand some users are “justice crusaders” and want to see for themselves that another user has been properly admonished, but unfortunately, that will rarely, if ever, happen here.

We all have bad days, and in many cases, we do our best to remember that users are human too. We will usually err on the side of leniency if we’re conflicted about a penalty against a user. But if that’s taken advantage of, we don’t offer that chance a second time.

Helping the Mod Team

Now, this doesn’t affect the vast majority of our users, so the rest of you may be wondering, “okay, but what does this have to do with me?”

We are a small team. We all have real lives–school, jobs, kids, significant others, etc. It is literally impossible for us to be everywhere all the time and see all issues as they occur. There have been times when we’ve seen a problematic post weeks after the fact and at that point, there isn’t much we can do (with a few exceptions). So if you see an issue or a post that seems problematic, please please please bring it to our attention. You don’t even have to flag—you can send us a message with the post in question if you’re worried about the flag being seen publicly. It may not be a post we can do anything about, or maybe it’s not something that technically violates our rules, but we won’t ever discount something you bring to our attention. We need our users to help keep the forum a safe and welcoming space. Otherwise, things fall through the cracks and it looks like we don’t care/aren’t being fair when the reality is, we probably just didn’t see the post in question. If more users bring posts to our attention that aren’t listed in our rules, we’ll be able to revise our Code of Conduct accordingly to address posts of that nature in the future.

Which brings me to my next point in this long-winded post (hey, I’ve been gone a while, you know).

New Code of Conduct Changes!

We have made some noteworthy changes to the Code of Conduct that will go into effect on JANUARY 15. Before then, you may be notified that you’ve broken a rule if we see it (to give you a chance to get familiar with the new rules), but after that date, penalties will occur.

Here are the most noteworthy changes:

2.B Positive Language

This has been updated to allow some exceptions at the mod team’s discretion.

Reach out to a moderator if you are unsure if your post meets these guidelines or if you have concerns. Some exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis (ie. “Please do not suggest books with graphic sexual/violent content”) at the moderator team’s discretion.

2.C Personal Attacks

We have expanded on this language to hopefully help clarify a little more about what is unacceptable on our forum.

2.H Unsolicited Advertising and Self-Promotion

A positive change, I think, for most of you. We are relaxing our rule about posting links to your stories. If another user asks for your book unprompted and unsolicited you may post the link to your story in the context of the conversation. You don’t have to send private messages anymore.

2.K How You Can Help

We are empowering our users to try and help de-escalate rising situations (if you feel comfortable doing so).

2.L.i.f Other Sexual Content/Innuendo

This is a new rule. We’ve seen several instances of posts that edge pretty close to the “sexual content” rule without actually crossing it. This is a minor-friendly forum. Please keep that in mind when you are interacting with other users.

2.L.ii Violent or Obscene Content

We have added a few bullet points to this rule.

2.L.iii Self Harm

We have added a bullet point to this rule:

2.L.v Personal Attacks, Call-Outs, and Harassment

We’ve added a bullet point to this rule.
Don’t engage in behavior that:

2.L.xi Another Person’s Identifying/Personal Information

We are relaxing another rule re: screenshots. If someone has posted a public comment or message somewhere, screenshots are allowed as long as all identifying information is removed (this is for the protection of the other user).

2.M Alternate Accounts

We’ve added a bullet point to this rule:

3. Category-Specific Rules

We’ve added information about each category to help users properly navigate the forum. I recommend reading it in its entirety, but here’s the noteworthy items:

6. Rules of Moderator Behavior

This has been expanded to help users know what their recourse is in the event they feel a moderator has unfairly or incorrectly penalized them. It’s mostly a reiteration of the rest of my post above.

We are always looking for suggestions or feedback about our Code of Conduct. If you think a rule is too strict or you feel a rule doesn’t exist that should, please let us know. We’re not infallible and we’re not all-knowing. We don’t always think of everything, so we appreciate help and suggestions.

This post was long and probably exhausting to read, so thanks for sticking it out to the end. We love all of you and want this to be a fun and positive place to interact with other writers. We want to keep it as drama-free as we can, and we always welcome feedback—positive or negative (as long as it’s respectful and/or constructive). Our community doesn’t exist without our users, so we want you all to know you have a voice in how things are managed. We’re hoping to plan some fun events this year and I’m always looking for new functionality to make the forum more engaging. Again, if you have suggestions, let me know!

Much love to you all,
CJ :wackywriters:

As a side note, the writing site is currently closed to new registrations (we were getting inundated with spam). If you know someone who wants to make an account or want to make an account yourself, reach out to us, we’ll get you set up until I can figure out how to get the spam registrations to stop without breaking the site. :grimacing:

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Bot level spam or humans that can’t help but ruin things?

Bot spam. None of my anti-bot measures are working, and the one I’ve found that does makes the site break.

What they do for these annoying surveys is have a question that goes something like this:

"We need to know you are human, so, G.r.e.e.n is the answer. 1+1=

A. 4
B. Green
C. 200
D. 2"

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Yeah I’m trying to avoid that one because it turns off just as many human users as it does bots lol.

Yeah, I do hate those surveys. But then, the Recaptcha thing has been annoying for about 2 decades. I’m tired of trying to find the bicycle.

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HA yeah that one is obnoxious. The method I want to use is a kind of hidden input that bots will see but humans won’t, but it seems to keep breaking actual user logins.

Along this line?

Wait, is it possible to have a question that requires a yes or no written where the user can’t see it, and the default gets you in, but something about it would trigger the bot to try the other answer?

No, different type of framework.

That’s basically what the hidden input is. A user shouldn’t put anything in it, because they won’t see it, but bots will so they’ll try to input something, which triggers the block.

Hey, I’m just trying to catch up. 20 years avoiding programming and I’ve got a serious case of wth?! every time I see it.

Is it because it’s set up in a way that users cannot access it at all, or just can’t see it to change it? And is that enough to make a difference in messing up the whole thing?

Haha no worries.

Users can’t access it unless they intentionally go looking for it and have a browser extension like Firebug or something to show it. And no, that’s the not the difference. It’s something about the payload sent to the site that seems to be parsing and then outputting an array instead of sending it through the actual login process and redirecting to the site. The user gets logged in, but they see a bizarre line of code before they can get to the site, including their password. Since it’s doing that, it means it can be hacked, so I have to find an alternative.

I was surprised I followed that.

Even without the security issue, aesthetically, that would be enough to drive a programer nuts.

Exactly :joy: I don’t like weird bugs and lines of code that shouldn’t be there, so it needs to get fixed.

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Welcome back, CJ! :heart: Happy New Year :confetti_ball:

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