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Official Flamewars - How The Forums Team Will Handle Them Going Forward

Discussion in 'Forum Discussion' started by Lionatthezoo, May 16, 2020.

  1. Flamewars - New Prevention & Resolution Procedures

    Hello!

    Several months ago it came to the forum team's knowledge that the forums community had concerns over the way we handled flamewars and the way in which we prevented them from occurring. After discussion within the forums mentoring team and the rest of the forums team we have decided to make changes to the procedures involved and in order to make sure the community is aware of the new changes and so that we can get feedback on the updates we have decided to create this document outlining the changes and why we have made the decisions for each step in the new procedures.

    What concerns did people have originally?

    Threads were being locked for flamewar prevention - This was one of the biggest concerns noted previously, there was a long record of forums staff locking threads when a flamewar was about to start instead of when a flamewar was in full swing. This wasn't a huge issue in theory however due to the Reversing Staff Actions rule this would completely shutdown the discussion which was taking place.

    The definition of a flamewar was miss understood within the team and the community - It can be quite difficult to determine when a thread is a flamewar and when it is not, this coupled with a common miss-understanding of the term meant threads were being locked prematurely

    Knowledge on some areas within the forums team was lacking - Some areas have been badly defined previously and this has caused some common miss understanding within the team. Myself along with the rest of the mentoring team have already identified this and have already made huge strides in order to fix this and will continue to work towards improving the knowledge and accuracy within the team.

    What do we aim to do with the new changes?
    The main aim of the new procedures is to prevent the need to lock threads and instead use alternative methods in order to ensure that threads remain open so that discussion can remain free and open. As I will outline below the changes introduce 2 stages to the procedure, prevention and resolution. The aim of prevention is to prevent a flamewar before it starts to ensure that further methods are not required. After this avenue has been exhausted and a flamewar has started the forums team staff will use methods to resolve the flamewar, these include locking the thread as a last resort as detailed below.

    What are the procedures?

    Preventative

    The forums team now have clear definitions and indicators as to what a flamewar looks like and what the common signs of a flamewar has before it starts. These include the thread going off-topic and/or the tone of the conversation-starting to become much ruder. We do have additional indicators which are not listed here.

    Given this, we have opted that the best way to prevent a flamewar from starting is to prevent the people involved in the starting of a flamewar from replying to the thread. Going forward if you are identified by a member of the forum moderation team as the likely cause of a flamewar then you will be temporarily banned from replying to the thread (if after this ban has expired you continue you will be banned again if after this you continue you will lose the ability to reply to the thread forever.)

    When you are banned from replying you will likely receive a warning on the post that was most relevant to why you were reply banned (in some cases your posts may not warrant a punishment but may warrant a reply ban) this warning will be accompanied by the regular automated message (that you get when you are warned) which will be edited to indicate that you were warned for "Flamewar Prevention". The message you receive should contain an explanation of why you were warned and if you were reply banned why you were and how you can prevent it in the future and it should also contain a link to this document.

    Resolving Procedures

    When the above fail to work and a flamewar starts anyway we have introduced some new measures to stop us from having to lock the thread. The main difference is that forums team members will no longer have the ability to be lenient when deciding whether to warn for a rule violation, if something even slightly breaks a rule it will be warned for. In addition to this reply bans will continue to be issued.

    If these measures fail to work as well a flamewar notice will be posted. This will be a message sent by a member of the forums team indicating that the thread has become a flamewar and if steps are not taken to get back on topic and resolve the flamewar the thread will have to be locked. An example FMs have been given of what this message could look like is shown below.


    If none of the new measures work then the thread will be locked explaining the reasoning.

    Summary

    We have implemented these new changes with the community in mind so we are looking forward to being able to get feedback on the new changes and we are always wanting hints as to how we can improve. If you have any concerns or feel like a member of the team is not following this new procedure at any point please feel free to message myself or the members mentor findable here.
     
    Posted May 16, 2020,
    Last edited May 16, 2020
  2. I feel like this is a very good way to combat "Flamewars". Personally, I don't have much experience in participating or viewing these, but I am excited to see how this works. I have faith in the Forum Moderation team and I think this will work out great :)
     
    Posted May 16, 2020
    WowTamman and ScarletBlood37 like this.
  3. Aren't reply bans punishments?

    I think this is a good step forwards, although I'm still not sure what you would say a flame war was - where's the line between general rudeness and flame wars?
     
    Posted May 16, 2020
  4. Reply bans are just a timer for which you cannot reply to a thread. They're not punishments as they aren't as severe as something such as inappropriate posts or any other rule on the fourms. The content that is posted that could warrant a reply ban might not break any rules which is why they are not counted as punishments and do not show up on your punishment history for the forums either.

    As for general rudeness and flame wars, flame wars are pretty much when it's strayed off topic and its mainly two people arguing about something else, but it's not directly attacking something or the person are therefore doesn't really break any rules.
     
    Posted May 16, 2020
  5. @ScarletBlood37 has given an excellent explanation of what reply bans are.

    For your question about flamewar the guidance is based on the dictionary definition of a flamewar - "a lengthy exchange of angry or abusive messages between users of an online forum." Given this the general difference between GR and a flamewar is the rudeness is returned or there is more than one person involved
     
    OP OP
    OP OP Posted May 16, 2020
  6. Haha Niervaco more like Niertaco :pogchamp:

    While I enjoy seeing big improvements to the Flame Wars rule and I'm overall happy with the intentions behind... there's still an underlying core issue that will still hamper it. Just not anywhere near the same degree as the previous version of the Flame Duels rule.
    Knowing how mild you can be on the forums sometimes and still receive a General Rudeness warning, this worries me on how somehow interpretation might be even more lax on what can be a reply ban or not.
    Relates to above. Usually when it comes to the rules nowadays, the interpretation is more of a peculiarity than the rules themselves. I'd also prefer to use more rude instead of ruder but both are words I think so w/e.
    Again still related. The definition of rude and negative is hazy at best and, even though it has to become a "Flame War" at that point, I still question the interpretation of negativity versus actual flaming and being rude. Someone like me would basically have to entirely avoid posting on a thread with that warning on it to avoid even seemingly slightly critical if I didn't have 7 warning points to spare to use, just in case.

    See a theme yet? Well if you do you're still going to read below the dashed line so go ahead.
    -----

    This issue not only applies to the Flame War rule, but the interpretation of rules and definitions across the entire span of rules on the forum. General Rudeness, the honestly worst possibly implemented Mini Modding rule, and the ironically unused Spam rule are probably the most obvious cases of poor interpretations and definitions. The new Flame War rule does a really good job at preventing bad interpretations from doing the worst kind of damage, locking, and would only at worst serve as warning fodder for someone looking to pad their warnings given to actual contributions ratio. Structurally and theoretically, this is a big improvement going step by step to try and slow down flaming on a thread before having to finally clamp a lock on while making it obvious with many more red flags to users beforehand.

    While I see this remake as being well thought out, with good intentions, and an overall big improvement compared to the "this thread is scary I'll lock it" style of the Flame Wars rule, it probably will still be afflicted by the same underlying poor interpretation, definition, and enforcement issue that affects many rules as before. I don't know if I should be happy that poor enforcement of a rule gave rise to a much better one but it'll serve to increase discussion when previously impossible and quell actually rude reply chains as intended to some degree. Just try to work for fixing the definitions, interpretations, and enforcement of forum rules as a whole. It's not like you don't know it's a problem.

    You said so yourself. :sigils:
     
    Posted May 17, 2020
    Susie, ClassN and Xukuwu like this.
  7. Threads rarely develop into huge flame wars that can't be prevented with reply bans so I see this as a good procedure going forward. Perhaps the participants of the threads who are reply banned could receive a notice to take the conversation in question elsewhere (say PMs)? That way, potential minor flame wars are more easily resolved.
     
    Posted May 17, 2020
    yulufi / Sean likes this.
  8. This is a step in the right direction, and I'm glad the forums team has finally come to an agreeable solution on the matter. I do wish it came sooner, though, because many a thread has been locked for flame wars despite no involvement by the OP.

    Like Niervaco, I'm really concerned about the definition you guys have in place for flame wars, but more so than the definition, how it's enforced. Forum mods have a history of playing fast and loose with the meaning of words to suit their punishments. You defined flaming as "the thread going off-topic and/or the tone of the conversation-starting to become much ruder" with "additional indicators which are not listed here". Something I've always said is that just because a conversation is heated (i.e. having a "rude" tone) does not mean it's a flame war; likewise, an off-topic discussion cannot be a flame war just by virtue of being off-topic. In my opinion, what distinguishes a heated discussion, which is allowed, from a flame war, which is not allowed, is specifically the use of personal attacks in the absence of substantive points. For instance, let's say you and I strongly disagree on post-boosting being a problem. Our argument (yes, it's an argument technically) is long, obviously heated due to our strong convictions, and at the end of the whole thing, we still end up disagreeing. Just with the information provided, that is not a flame war. Now let's say we both sprinkle some pointless insults here and there; I say you're x, you say I'm y. At that point, the discussion becomes a flame war. This concept may very well be reciprocated in the guidelines you guys have behind the scenes, but I really felt it was necessary to hammer home because people have a bad habit of looking at heated discussions on the forums and assigning them the title of flame war based on that alone- that is not okay, nor should it be what forum moderators do.

    All of that is mostly a **potential** problem with your definition of flaming. What truly has been more of an issue judging by my past forum experiences here and on Enjin is enforcement of the rules. It seems you guys have attempted to eliminate the gray area here by removing leniency... but I also don't know if that's beneficial in this case? My first instinct is that it will result in you guys reply banning anyone that even comes close, and by the definition you provided, that worries me. I strongly, strongly do not want people who express controversial, heated opinions to be reply banned and therefore censored because they violate some arbitrary criteria you guys have chosen not to share with us.

    Altogether, this change is not a bad one, and I'm pretty sure I've even advocated for it in the past. But perhaps I neglected to realize the red flags that a reply ban would raise. I'm willing to at least see how it turns out, but if it doesn't turn out well, I hope you guys will be open to further feedback and changes.
     
    Posted May 17, 2020
    Monkqy, Jarif, Susie and 1 other person like this.
  9. I mean, this sounds like a great way to censor specific people that mineplex doesn't want sharing their opinions. Someone could be blocked from replying to a thread because they're responding with a valid argument that staff deam is "rude".
     
    Posted May 17, 2020
  10. Not a big fan of this, considering I just asked someone to explain their decision and it awaits moderation. Cool new system I guess?
     
    Posted May 17, 2020
  11. The thing you're talking about is something completely unrelated to this and is not a new thing at all. You can DM me for further info on this
     
    Posted May 17, 2020
  12. Much needed change, threads were being locked because of flame wars even if the OP was not involved, meaning that there would be no more discussion on their topic. Love these new procedures!
     
    Posted May 17, 2020
    SpitefulNick likes this.
  13. You know I wish Jarvis followed this

    Anyway it's an excellent change and also very needed one! Great job FMs!
     
    Posted May 17, 2020
    cerns likes this.
  14. I like the idea, a little worried that you can get reply banned for something that doesn't warrant a warning though.
     
    Posted May 17, 2020
    ClassN likes this.
  15. To cover a few things mentioned, firstly in terms of people getting reply banned in order to silence someone's opinion. The reply ban tool has been around for a long time and has never been used in this way, the forums team has no interest in silencing opinions which are being shared in a non-malicious way. In addition, all reply bans are reviewed by the mentoring team and myself personally, given this I can assure you that if someone is unfairly banned from replying the ban will be removed and the issuer will be retrained to ensure it does not happen again.

    I'll discuss the rest of the feedback below in more detail however most of them are covered already in our internal documentation which is not shared on this thread for privacy reasons.

    Many of you have mentioned the General Rudeness issue, when I joined the mentoring team I identified this as an issue as well, the internal documentation and the public documentation had discrepancies and were quite unclear. Since the change of leadership and mentoring changes, we have made huge strides to ensure that the rules and the information behind them is clear so that no false punishments are issued when possible. The general rudeness guidance has been improved hugely and all warnings issued are reviewed by the fm's mentor and I review all warnings on a monthly basis and any which are insufficient are removed or altered and the issuer is told what mistake was made and how they can make the correct decision going forward. In terms of people being reply banned for something which doesn't merit a warning, this was put in place to ensure that people can't bypass the new changes by ensuring they don't fully break a rule, reply bans are much less serious than warnings and are only temporary in the case of your first 2 reply bans on any given thread. Like I have already mentioned our own internal documentation clearly defines what is appropriate and changes are being made to ensure everything is fair when we find areas which need to be changed.

    The definition of a flamewar we use comes directly from the dictionary to ensure the team does not have any issues interpreting it, we have a set of criteria which defines the difference between general rudeness and a flamewar, the main difference is in a flamewar the personal characteristics of someone start to become the focus of a reply appose to the OP's idea. I can't share the exact criteria because if I do people can easily read the criteria and create a flamewar whilst bypassing the specific criteria.

    In terms of the rules and the interpretation of them, I identified this as a problem early on, the main issue came from forums staff warning for one thing and not the other making it harder for the community to get a grasp as to what will result in a warning. To combat this myself along with the forums admin and the rest of the mentoring team completely overhauled our internal documentation and introduced much more hands-on reviews of the actions of the forums staff. My personal opinion was that the internal documentation should match the public documentation as close as possible to ensure that false warnings aren't issued and this is one of the first I worked on fixing mainly with the General Rudeness rule and the forum's admin has made some huge changes to the spamming rule and post-boosting rule to ensure that false punishments were not being issued. As I have already mentioned the mentoring team are always looking for ways in which we can improve and we are always looking for feedback, with this said if you ever have an idea feel free to send me a message on the forums or if you see a thread which has a particularly good idea and you feel I would benefit from seeing it feel free to send me a message and I'll check it out.

    As you mentioned, having a discussion which becomes heated would not be a flamewar and our internal documentation stresses this. We have no intention of stopping discussions which are productive when you start to insult each other this is when it starts to be a flamewar and eventually the thread is likely to go fully off-topic which is when we would be comfortable saying it is a full flamewar and this is when the second layer of procedures would be used.

    To go back over the reply ban issue the main aim of it is to give you a "cooling off" period in order to reorder your points and come back with a fresh mind and get back to the discussion at hand instead of insulting people etc. You would have had to been reply banned twice before you would get permanently reply banned and even in that case you can message me or another forums mentor to get it reviewed and removed if needed.

    The aims of the forums team is not to censor people but instead, our aim is to ensure good constructive discussion can take place, we know we have problems and we want to know about them and we want to be able to discuss them in a safe environment where someone will not be personally attacked because they are sharing their opinion.

    I hope I have managed to answer your questions in full but if you have any remaining questions feel free to let me know.
     
    OP OP
    OP OP Posted May 17, 2020
  16. I think this is a great idea, as recently I had a thread that was developing into one. I had to lock it, when I really didn't want to (because the majority of the replies where positive and on topic) but I didn't want to start one. I think these are some great ideas from the Mineplex team and I am excited to see them come into effect.
     
    Posted May 17, 2020
  17. I feel this could be a very positive change, but I think a flamewar should only be intervened when the “hate” is being targetted towards a person or group. Open discussions of showing opinions and dislikes towards certain topics shouldn’t be suppressed because this is what the forums are for! Everyone should be able to express their opinions on topics without fear of being punished as long as they are within a certain measure.
     
    Posted May 19, 2020
    yulufi / Sean likes this.
  18. A thread only becomes a flamewar when the discussion starts to show hate directed from one player to another, the procedure in no way affects the ability for rule-following discussion participants to continue discussing a topic.
     
    OP OP
    OP OP Posted May 19, 2020
  19. Ah ok! Thanks for the clarification. A flame war becomes one when the severity of hate is on a high level.
     
    Posted May 19, 2020
  20. I think this is a little bit better because it makes the image of mineplex staff better. A ton of threads on the forums are locked and they say that are locked by the staff. This gives off the impression that staff members are the iron fist ruling police of this place. You guys are the leaders, however just shutting everything down made it look like you were the bad guys. This solution is much better, and more fair to the rule abiding majority of the forums.
     
    Posted May 26, 2020

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