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Yet again, are we beating a dead horse? 
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 Yet again, are we beating a dead horse?
So, I am not sure why Jim seems to ticked off but he seems pretty fed up with this place. Others likewise. Hell, I don't even visit other sites anymore as I seldom have time for my usual long diatribes on RPGs. So, as is our want around here, I will ask again, should we just give up the ghost?

I will put forward my theory. Jim and I just do not have a passion for fors for the sake of fora. I could care less if this was "my" forum. I am not looking for a way to fight something or stand for something or be the big fish in an increasingly shrinking pond. My goals, and I know that few believe it, in starting this place was simply to have a place we could have discussions about games or whatever without the vitriol you see at larger sites. It was a small dream, a simple dream, but I thought one that had a shot. I think I was wrong now that I have seen it in action. If folks don't get that vitriol in there and get fired up or someone does not "own" a fora and make it theirs, you end up with stagnation, disinterest.

So, in all honesty, I am offering up the keys (and it seems like Jim has already) to anyone who would like to make a go of it. No strings attached (short of usual legal ones). Want to make a d20 site, go for it. Want your own mouthpiece, rock on. I obviously do not know what folks want and maybe clash or David can come up with something. I am certainly willing to help. If installing new software sounds like the way let me know or if you need help on the admin or even posting (although I believe I have shown i am not so great at that) I will do what I can.

So, again, I feel like folks want a change of leadership and either are reluctant to say something or disinterested. I can't do anything about the latter but hopefully, we can make a difference about the former.

Thanks!

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Fri Dec 23, 2011 12:01 am
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Post Re: Yet again, are we beating a dead horse?
I will do all that I can, Bill. I know nothing about administering a forum, so your continued presence - at least until I can learn the ropes - would be a godsend.

-clash

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Fri Dec 23, 2011 3:20 pm
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Post Re: Yet again, are we beating a dead horse?
I don't think a lack of vitriol is what killed this site. It's been partly a lack of focus, and partly a schizophrenic attitude to playing nice. The latter is amplified by severe deficiencies of internet fora as a discussion medium.

About lack of focus: the hobby really is badly fragmented both by interest and, more important, ideology. Furthermore there's a strong absolutist and totalizing streak in RPG discourse (interestingly, IMO this is reflected in academic electronic gaming discourse, where people ought to know better). This is so bad that attempts to build bridges and find commonalities constantly founder on one true wayism leading to radical emphasis of difference.

About the schizophrenic attitude: even though there haven't been the waves of bannings found on RPGnet, and really in spite of Jim's remarkable demeanor as a mod, determined dance-at-the-limit-of-politeness trolling has (in this case at least) won out as a sort of asymmetric warfare. Long before Jim burned out, I know that others lost interest for pretty much this reason.

I don't really have any good solutions. E.g. I'm not entirely sure that Sett's 100% free-speech* forum, which I help moderate, could survive an influx of thin-skinned posters and the trolls who like to follow them around.

One approach which I do not believe has been tried is frank & open bias. I'm tempted to try it myself: a forum where people who insist on rehashing points which IMO are settled, or who at least cannot agree to disagree on established controversies, are simply not welcome. Social enforcement of certain dogmas has at least provided a foundation for lively discussion at The Forge, Story-Games, TGD, and Something Awful (even though I don't dig the discussions at most of those places, most of the time). System-specific forums also tend to limit discussion in a useful way.

A possible technological approach might be a rating or feedback system akin to slashdot. I think a small number of people generate the overwhelming majority of pointless argument, due to the fact that when somebody says something dumb, other people feel compelled to respond so that silence isn't perceived as acceptance by some imagined observer. If instead you could just hit a +1/-1 (or some other feedback system) combined with being able to define a "threshhold" score--see slashdot--you could (1) filter out stuff that the forum as a whole sees as having limited value (2) observe that it isn't really necessary to rebut troll posts (3) also observe that it's not necessary to post contentless "me too" posts.

A further refinement might be to add a social network component such that a post's score is compiled based on feedback only from people you trust.

I can't say I have a perfect model of how all this would be accomplished but it's obvious that the common Internet concept of free speech--I'll paraphrase it as "not just the right to speak freely, but the right to broadcast one's speech in any given forum" isn't at all something that the experience of normal non-Internet interaction prepares us for. E.g. college seminars limit the number and quality of participants, FTF social circles exclude people and give instant public feedback, etc.

*Subject only to legal concerns, officially.


Mon Dec 26, 2011 4:06 am
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Post Re: Yet again, are we beating a dead horse?
BTW if what I wrote about forum structure needs clarification, shoring up by authority, or laundering to remove the taint of my own past history & opinions: http://shirky.com/writings/group_user.html


Mon Dec 26, 2011 5:13 am
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Post Re: Yet again, are we beating a dead horse?
I vaguely remember some discussions at the Haven as to whether it was too sanitized and Jim asking whether more controversial posts and topics would help generate discussions. If people loosen up and post controversial opinions, you run the risk of having war of words. Now, a fallout between a few members of a forum that is heavily populated is nothing to worry about but the Haven is sparsely populated. At the time I stopped participating, there was maybe half a dozen really prolific posters still active. If you have a fallout with two of them, the Haven loses a lot of its usefulness for you.

I'd compare this with an arena rock concert VS dinner with friends.

With a 20000 attendance, you won't really care if your ex is in the building, or that guy you can't get along with. But that cozy dinner with 6 in attendance? You may not be enjoying yourself if you're at odds with two guests.

The Haven is a very, very small community. Vitriol works against this site. Controversial topics and opinions... not so much but you have to find that balance where it doesn't degenerate into filth. There are other forums better suited for internet crusaders, IMO.

I'm not sure why the Haven didn't gain more momentum. I'm not sure it had to do with administration. But it can't hurt to try new people and I hope these people will try new things. Best of luck and I for one hope the Haven can flourish and I can call it my RPG home again one day.

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Mon Dec 26, 2011 7:18 pm
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Post Re: Yet again, are we beating a dead horse?
Well, Elliot, I am not sure that is a cause for the state of the Haven. I am not saying I have a definitive "Answer" but merely my guesses. I suspect that the social system you outline would improve quality, but I do not believe Jim or I scared anyone off. For that matter, I doubt anyone did. I will say that some may use that kind of thing as an excuse but what really is going on is just disinterest or...perhaps a better way to put it is an interest in a different site. Heck, Jim, shortly after we (or possibly before) we started up the Haven started posting over at CM. Well, I can't blame him as it has a larger community, some of which he has met IRL. Walker has Roludo, CD seems to have sworn off the internet, Clash has tried but I think even he has found it kind of lonely.

So, we come around again on why? Why no takers? Do you REALLY think we have some sort of abusive environment around here that runs people off? I really can't buy that. I have seen the down right abusive nature of mods on other sites that people just soak up and seem to praise.

As to free speech, seriously, I could be missing it but I doubt you are going to find a place with less moderation here, even less intimidation. Apparently Jim banned Cordry but then unbanned him and now is stepping down as the admin here. I doubt admins from other forums would take such steps.

So, in the end, I don't think it is any one thing. Possibly it is a combination of the site software, the features here, the amount of traffic, possibly the culture or maybe a lack of it.

I will agree with you that limiting it might work. Focusing it in on a system. My problem is that I have little interest in such a site.

Which bring me around to asking if it is dead? It seems a reasonable conclusion. Since Aug1 this year we have had 450 unique visits. Now, can that be turned around, sure. But we would need to look at what we do here and why we do it.

So, here is an alternate to the like, 5 people reading this thread, what should the haven be? Obviously, Jim and my idea of a haven away from standard internet vitriol did not work (blame implementation or idea, it is moot at this point). What should the next idea be? Burn it all down and start a guest blog? Drop the forum and go with FaceBook? Put up a vBulletin board? I am looking for ideas. I just do not think another 4e site will be all that interesting. Part of me wants a site that is so focused as to be comical. Something like "Post your Characters" where you post characters and their histories, on-going adventures, portraits. Sure, if someone asks you can describe the system but don't get hung up on it.

In the end, I am just kind of sitting here shrugging. Sorry guys.

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Tue Dec 27, 2011 10:36 pm
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Post Re: Yet again, are we beating a dead horse?
I think the mistake was thinking "very casual moderation, welcoming for all RPGs" was enough of a feature in and of itself. I like the general nature of the forum. But you can do that and still have features. Hooks, if you prefer.

For instance, RPG.net is much more than a forum. It's got reviews, a database of RPGs, columns. Now, these things necessitate time and human resources the Haven does not have but there may be other things along those lines.

I've long thought the Haven should have reached out to small publishers. One way to do that would be to offer them their own company sub-forum, which they would moderate themselves. A lot of publishers are not that tech savvy and might take this offer. Courting posters is a good thing to do but courting companies helps as well. You win the company, you may win some of its fans.

I'm pretty sure there's a bunch of small things that were not tried, simply because nobody thought about it.

But I don't think administration or moderation have been a problem.

Come to think of it... the Haven podcast was one of those good things, a feature. It's a pity it disappeared.

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Tue Dec 27, 2011 11:27 pm
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Post Re: Yet again, are we beating a dead horse?
Consonant Dude wrote:
I've long thought the Haven should have reached out to small publishers. One way to do that would be to offer them their own company sub-forum, which they would moderate themselves. A lot of publishers are not that tech savvy and might take this offer. Courting posters is a good thing to do but courting companies helps as well. You win the company, you may win some of its fans.


I have always been a fan of this idea!

Quote:
Come to think of it... the Haven podcast was one of those good things, a feature. It's a pity it disappeared.


Agreed! If anyone would like to step forward, that would rock!

-clash

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Flying Mice Games/Better Mousetrap Games: http://jalan.flyingmice.com/flyingmice.html
Designing: Lowell Was Right!
Last Release: IHW: Pigboats, Volant - Kingdoms of Air and Stone
I FLY BY NIGHT Blog: http://iflybynight.blogspot.com/


Tue Dec 27, 2011 11:41 pm
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Post Re: Yet again, are we beating a dead horse?
I agree, that's a good idea.

Bill, I'm not entirely sure I got my point across to you re: moderation. My point may be wrong but I want it to be understood. And that is: enforcing the form of politeness without enforcing actual politeness is basically what Rpgnet tries to do, and I think that is something like what happened here. Though Rpgnet does it through bannings and here it's through trying to create a vibe, the fact is if it's easier to be a dick while pretending not to be than it is to call someone out on being a dick, then the system fails. And the Internet has developed and perfected tried and true methods of innocent-looking dickery that take advantage of the public nature of forums--e.g., while its possible to "just walk away" from an obvious loon in a 1-1 interaction, the temptation to respond is too strong in public. Somebody is going to feed the trolls, and then we are off to the races. Again:Shirky covers it.

I forget if it was Shirky but I think a very simple structural experiment might be to add a button that lets you nominate a post for a weekly "best of theRPGHaven". I'd let everyone make unlimited nominations. A post's "score" would be permanently visible, and a page would also list all the current week's nominees in order. At the end of the week nomination would end and then some method (voting, moderator selection) would be used to choose among the top 10 to be permanently enshrined. Obviously a post would only be eligible for the week in which it was posted.

Note this might encourage creative posting of gaming materials, well-thought-out play reports, as well as the usual banter.


Wed Dec 28, 2011 4:12 am
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Post Re: Yet again, are we beating a dead horse?
CD- I agree, the podcast was a cool idea. It was an example of precisely what I wanted for the Haven to make it stand out. As you say, a feature. One problem with the small publisher idea is that it has been tried at far larger fora and failed due to lack of interest. Perhaps it is time to try again.

Eliot- ah, I see what you are saying now. Well, my only counter point would be that I do not think you understand what I (I won't speak for Jim) was trying for. That is my fault though. You use terms like enforce and make comparisons to RPG.net and that is unfortunate because it says that somewhere you got the impression that I was somehow pulling the strings or banning or intimidating people into decent behavior. My goal was to create a haven, away from the standard bullshit that I saw on other forums. In someways I think it worked. I was not trying to do it by enforcing a vibe but by creating a culture. You do not go to a coffee shop for a bag of cement. I was trying to make the Haven be the place you go for reasoned discussion not vitriol.

That said, I think your idea is a good one, will see if phpbb has a mod for that.

Thanks guys.

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Wed Dec 28, 2011 8:29 am
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