So according to a blog comment or two the rules are too strict in chat. It is a proposal on this blog that we should only be censoring words that are specifically censored on television. I note with some hesitance that our current system is actually trying to follow that ideal. There isn't a list of words that are disallowed on Cartoon Network, so we do have some guess work. Most of the words that are banned are pretty clear no-nos.
One specific case: "Piss" is allowed because it's said on Regular Show. It was censored until that came up, and the fact that RS used it is a pain to me because it makes the line between cuss and not cuss more obfuscated. If they were to use more of our banned words on Cartoon Network we would allow them as well I am sure. At any rate, the banned words in the US and the UK don't sync up perfectly and reconciling the two cultures isn't 100% foolproof as a result.
The rules are not religious in any way; they're geared around a PG audience. The current list of banned words is based primarily in Wikipedia unless the word is obviously offensive. If there are specific words that need to be discussed feel free to suggest which ones should be uncensored.
Rules, brief explanations
- Listen to what the Mods tell you to do.
- This is a straightforward rule meant to prevent anyone from teetering on the edge of breaking the rules consistently.
- If saying or doing something will make others upset or angry, then it's best that you avoid such behavior. This includes stating personal affiliations and beliefs. When requested to drop the subject, drop the subject.
- An extension of the last rule. Personal affiliations and beliefs may be a way to express common ground, but it is much more appropriate in private messages because if you find that you don't agree with something other people believe the result is more often than not an immature and unnecessary argument where the two arguers just get mad at one another.
- Refrain from speaking about such controversial topics as religion and politics.
- This is redundant to the last point for the purpose of clarity.
- Please speak in sentences that people can understand.
- This is the rule commonly adapted to mean "only speak in english." Basically, it should not be a hassle to understand the things that specific users say. It is best for the general interest of users in chat for users to speak in coherent english sentences. Not having perfect english is obviously fine and understandable for non-native speakers, but it is appreciated that users try their best to be understandable to one another.
- No spamming, which can be defined as excessive posting of the same message multiple times, or posting numerous messages of gibberish with no legitimate meaning. This can also include song lyrics and copy-pasting.
- Spam is difficult to define as it turns out. Often this comes down to stopping when you have been warned that a behavior is being viewed as "spam." As far as I can think, there are no regular users who have been banned multiple times for spam. This generally does not warrant a ban unless it is excessive and deliberate.
- Do not use uppercase excessively.
- Uppercase is the screaming of the internet. Nobody wants to be screamed at. Inside voices. Sometimes it makes sense to be excited or to say things enthusiastically, but if uppercase is used enough to merit a warning then perhaps we should remember that it is the words we use and not the volume with which we use them that matters.
- Do not use emoticons excessively.
- Emoticons make the chat lag much more quickly than regular text. As such, doing lines of ten can be bothersome for users with computers that have low RAM. They don't have a lot of purpose much of the time as well. They're fun and we have them so we can use them, but be considerate and try to avoid what could be considered excessive.
- Do not post ASCII artwork.
- There is no ambiguity here. Don't use ASCII. Oftentimes it will be broken and thus become complete gibberish, and even when it doesn't it takes up a huge amount of chat for something with little purpose.
- Do not use foul language in the chat room, even if you censor it.
- This is the rule I expect to get the most debate. Foul language is obviously a highly subjective phrase and recognizing what should and should not be censored is a hard thing to decide. Ultimately, I do believe this decision should be left with the community, so I will have a poll in this blog for the matter.
- Do not talk about sex, drugs, violence, or real world weapons.
- The point about this rule is that these topics rarely are suitable for all members of chat. Not everyone wants to hear about all of them, and the goal is that chat can be PG. Real world weapons are a bit more debatable than the other topics, but the general break of the rule isn't a discussion of weapons so much as roleplaying killing one another.
- Do not advertise other wikis.
- Our wiki is not a place to spread the news about your own wiki or some other wiki. If people wanted to be at other wikis, they would be there. Do you appreciate it when there are advertisements on webpages that play noises without you interacting with them? I'm assuming not, and this is basically the same thing. It should be noted that advertisement is not synonymous with "referring to in an appropriate context."
- Also, do not advertise your blogs in chat.
- Same sort of deal. Even if you're super proud of something that you've done, bear in mind that it is basically spam from everyone else's point of view.
- Do not excessively advertise other websites.
- This generally refers to youtube links and the like. People do not all have the same interests, so please don't just link your own interests excessively.
Some users have complained that long bans for small offenses is not appropriate. However, being banned for a long time for a simple word that is known to be disallowed is perfectly sensible because nobody is banned without numerous warnings. If the behavior persists, the bans get longer - so yes, you could be infinitely banned for using the word "damn" because if you have already been banned 3 times totaling ban-time of about a month and a half for frequent rule-breaks then it is pretty clear you are not going to learn a lesson.
It should be noted that the growing ban lengths system was adapted for editors of the wiki prior to the chat system. It is entirely possible that extending ban lengths isn't as appropriate for the chat system. I would leave this decision to the community, but it should be noted that even if this were to change the bans would still happen if rules were broken. The simplest solution is to not break the rules, believe it or not.
If you disagree with the list of banned words then that's fine, but simply refusing to acknoledge the rules will get you banned. Following systems you don't agree with might not be in accord with the principles of some users, but it certainly doesn't help any cause to get banned when you're trying to make a positive change. Chat moderators and administrators are not going to ban you for stating non-rulebreaking opinions. We are here to enforce rules, not stifle discussions focused on improving them.
Currently we have only three full chat moderators. These are BLAUGHUM, AwesomeFelix, and Vampire King of Ooo. This leaves two open seats. In the other aforementioned blog post there have been a few suggestions that we should not have the seat limit, and I agree with that claim. However, the problem is currently not that we have no availability so much as that we don't believe there to be a great deal of appropriate candidates.
In our current system, chat moderators need to have a few traits:
- Willingness to enforce on small rule-breaks. If a rule-breaking behavior isn't warned against in a small degree but is considered bad at a slightly smaller degree, then that is logically inconsistent. This may be "textbook" but it is not arbitrary.
- Maturity. We do not need moderators acting on their feelings about specific users if it doesn't coincide with the rules. In addition, being able to accept criticism and not getting a power-rush from being a moderator is necessary. Moderators should not feel that they are significantly different than other users, ideally.
- Rule following. If a user breaks rules, they are obviously unfit to moderate on them.
- Activity in chat. An inactive chat mod is no better than no chat mod at all. There is no concrete expectation to be met at this time.
Promoting chat moderators is left almost solely to SabreSworn and myself. Before promoting someone, we always have a discussion with one another about their positive and negative qualities as a user, how well they fit the above criteria, and furthermore we ask moderators and some users their thoughts on the matter. Both of us are relatively critical people, which sets the bar for modship pretty high. However, as none of the other administrators invest a great deal of interest in chat or can't be active in it, we're left with a high bar.
Temporary moderators is a bit of a misnomer. The intention is that temporary mods are essentially in a test run of sorts to see if they handle the extra rights of modship appropriately. In light of this, it is probably sensible to give out this role more easily and take it away more easily as well.
Topics to discuss: tl;dr
- Rules. Should we change them, remove certain rules, remove certain parts of rules, or add new ones?
- Rule enforcement. Should there be longer bans for repeated offenses, do we need to enforce small rules, or should mods only prevent big problems?
- Chat moderators. Do we need more, and if so at what times? Are the standards in place currently too high, and if so what users are appropriate candidates?
I think that a month should be long enough for that poll to be valid consensus.
I honestly don't see a problem with our rules. I don't see any rules that exclude things that are bad for the group of chatters. I can see where there are certainly things that are banned that I might want to do myself (such as lyrics) but not doing them doesn't upset me and it could be annoying for others. Another example is the discussion of real world weapons - I really don't see how that makes any sense to do in an online chat anyway. I used to play Halo 3 on xbox regularly and I used "foul language" quite a lot, and I have no problem with not using it in chat. It doesn't make you look clever, it doesn't express anything more than negative emotions, and it doesn't offer more elaborate expression. It is actually kind of sad to me that people who love a show that uses such creative and funny language to cover cussing would not enjoy following the example of the show.
I think our rule enforcement is about as well done as it can be. If we could design a bot that would watch chat for rulebreaks it would not distinguish between minor and major rulebreaks, and in my view that is accurate because with such a system you are very clearly aware of whether or not you are breaking the rules (assuming you know them). In addition, there is significantly less subjectivity with rule enforcement, ie. the rules do not depend on which mods are in chat.
We probably do need to promote more temporary moderators for the purpose of having chat watched more effectively at all hours. We'll see what happens there, I guess.
Chat is supposed to be fun and agreeable. If it's really not fun and agreeable because of the rules, then we will strongly consider changing them. I will update this post as is appropriate with new polls about particular opinions that seem to be worthy of mention. Considering nobody views the forums, I am going to go ahead and consider this the official "talk about chat" discussion blog.
SabreSworn has yet to endorse this decision