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growing/changing former edgelord/cringe site, friction against edgelord greybeards & screenshot wokececutioners trying to keep it what it was, breaking cycle, SA case study
keeping lobby clean for noobs vs preparing noobs for hot mess just inside door to avoid sense of outraged betrayal

continued relevance of flamewarriors cartoons & netiquette guides, dig up other web1.0 wisdom & interface with modern woke considerations

no politics rule revisited, don't be a dick rule revisited

Thread housekeeping for those still reading:
This is long & it's getting some attention, pls be kind & considerate of those who showed vulnerable sides of themselves in the replies and might not want lots of people to see that side. Or who might change their minds in future & have the right to delete their posts. If I see you screenshotting or copypasting beyond the first couple toots you're blocked and you ain't the first, I'll do it again

Online Community Management Thread pt19, user differentiation

This is gonna be one where you see the tech side of things affect the social side of things. Round here I see a lot of folks talking about how you can't solve social problems with technical solutions, that's true to an extent but it does encourage folks to think of the social/technical sides in binary ways. That's not good because they're proper interwoven and changes to one affect the other.

You've gotta let users have avatars, and you've gotta put their names above or to the side of their post in the same font size as what they're saying.

You can even let users colour in their names, either as standard or as an optional feature for donators (to ensure accessibility you can have them pick from a limited palette).

This helps users tell each other apart and visually recognize folks they're starting to know and like, which helps friendships form.

Having your users able to tell each other apart easily, and giving them a way to express their identity outside of their actual posts, leads to a community of people who actually, like, know each other.

It also adds one more thing to moderate, but it's not that tricky. (don't allow animated avatars - trolls upload gifs of a minute of a lovely flower (for your avatar approval screen) and then a few seconds of porn or gore)

Some sites don't allow avatars and make the username really tiny, almost like they don't want you to know who made the post. These places have weird dynamics because folks spend a long time on them and even call them a "community" but unless they've been there a long, long time then they can't even name another person on the site.

To you and me, "community" means people who you know and recognize and talk to. Sites like Reddit and Slashdot, places were users don't really know each other, they have a different idea of what that word means - it's less like interaction and more like, IDK, kinda surfing a wave of emotion.

They tend to be full of lonely young men who remain lonely despite talking to people all day.

Let users differentiate themselves, visually and obviously, in as many ways as you can think of.

Internet Community Management Thread pt32: mod comms

I've been blessed on Improbable Island with a really awesome mod team. Now you'll likely have to set up a mod team at some point and it's good to get mods from all over the world, so that the timezones are staggered and you don't get "Mods are asleep post butts" events. Also so that you get international viewpoints on things - other countries aren't smaller versions of America, they're other countries and they have cultures.

It's important that you and your mods communicate. Have some kind of dedicated comms channel or subforum or something for mod chat.

Any time a mod->member interaction happens, first check the log before doing anything beyond locking or deleting posts.

Actions on content depend on the content and should be viewed as objectively as possible - actions on members take member history into account. If the member's doing something they've been told five times not to do, then you need to escalate.

After doing whatever, log what happened and ping the mods to tell 'em what's up.

If you're not keeping logs of member naughtiness then the same creep will do the same creepy thing five times before the mods figure out he's done it more than once. That's an environment in which creeps, predators and abusers can flourish.

Another reason you and your mods need to keep comms tight: creeps will lie about mods to other mods. They'll do the thing kids do, when their mum says they can't have a biscuit they just go and ask dad instead.

If your mods disagree on something - which they will, see examples of complex and difficult decisions earlier in the thread - don't do it where the members can see. Abusers know where to hammer in wedges.

If one member is an absolute prick (let's call 'em Prickles) and y'all roll your eyes and go "Oh, that's just Prickles being Prickles again," then you need to have aaaallll the details of their prickery written down, because years will go by and you'll forget and when they start doing it again you'll only get the faintest ring of a memory bell but you won't remember the deets. The deets are important.

Also, in the above example, you should've banned Prickles YYYYEEEEEEAAAAAARRRS AGO

If you ever find yourself thinking "Oh, they're doing That Thing again," that's indicative of a Missing Stair (see further reading post earlier) and your frog is frankly overboiled, it's stew at this point

Now this is semi-related but it's an important dynamic to be aware of in spaces online and off, especially when thinking of how to present your "side" of a broader cultural conflict/change, and I'm gonna be talking about social justice in this example because it's relevant to a lot of Fedi but you can see a similar dynamic play out in other areas, operating systems, cooking, painting, same dynamic different issue, got me flameproof underpants on here we go

Most people get into social justice / woke issues because they want to make the world a fairer, happier place in general. A few get into it so that they can dig through post history and call out others for transgressions. The calling out is *the main focus of their interaction* for these few - and if these people weren't into social justice, they'd be born-again sorts telling folks they're going to Hell.

For these few, the joy comes not from being inside a community, but in identifying and punishing those outside. These are self-righteous, arrogant, judgy, shouty and generally disagreeable people - and they might well be right, but that's beside the point, being correct and being a total arse are mutually compatible.

These folk are poisonous and will turn a community inside out with constant, exhausting no-true-Scotsman oneupmanship, and the longer they're allowed to stay, the more air they'll suck out of the room. Worse, because they post so much, to those outside the community, they appear as a representative sample.

I've made this example about social justice, but you see this dynamic play out everywhere. Think of an atheist, a vegan, a Christian, a Linux user, hell even an anime fan. The majority of these people are perfectly nice but you might well be thinking of the angry ones, the ones who are only in it to feel superior to others - is that how people outside your community think of you?

Like, go on Pinside and ask a question about the best clearcoat to use on a pinball machine playfield, and you'll be judged and shouted at because Pinside is FULL of complete and total dicks. The point, to these people, is not to help others navigate a complex issue with a lot of nuance - it's to tell people they're wrong. THAT'S the draw, that's the point, that's why they're here.

Anyway, put the issue aside and concentrate on the people posting - this is a personality type to be aware of and remove proactively - they'll chase off other members (the new ones especially - they're attracted to ignorance, not to enlighten, but to scorn) and then fight among themselves until the community implodes.

I'll say again: doesn't matter if they're right. The ones who are right can often do the most damage.

(I'm gonna let this go wildly off topic for a second and we'll get right back on I promise, but I just wanna head off "Does it matter what nazis / people outside of the community think" - in most of my examples, no, it doesn't. In social justice, YES OF COURSE IT MATTERS. If you destroy someone in an argument it doesn't kill them. They STILL GET TO VOTE. It's not enough to prove someone wrong and embarrass them, you must persuade them to CHANGE THEIR MINDS and JOIN OUR SIDE. Derail over)

((for me personally, because pinball people trend conservative, this tends to manifest as explaining to folks why I should be allowed to remain in the country, while I'm up to the elbows in coil dust trying to make sure the expensive toy in their basement doesn't end up catching on fire and killing them. It's not *hard* to persuade someone, but it takes a completely different starting point than calling them out. I've had lots of these conversations.))

((anyone with any sense of self-awareness will recognise, given compelling and friendly detail of what life is like for those their actions may have been harming, that they were wrong. Most people will feel bad about this. Most people will call THEMSELVES out. I've had these conversations! I've hugged people who voted for Trump, regretted the harm it caused to my family and voted differently next time! Minds CAN be changed through empathy, but that has to be your intention going in!))

((persuasion takes a long time and can be repetitive and tedious and pretty much has to be done on a one-on-one face-to-face basis, but it works. I'm gonna leave off this topic for now because although this was an opportunity to talk about social justice issues, this thread's primary focus is silly shit that people do on the internet and how to deal with that))

Anyway, back on track, different area of online community management. It's important to have an area on your site where you can knock ideas around with casual users, ideas on how to improve the site or the culture or whatever. This area needs to be ephemeral - comments need to disappear after a little while.

Folk are much more inclined to have a natural, casual, low-stakes back-and-forth when it mimics everyday chat, and this is where really good ideas tend to come from.

It can be hard to remember, sometimes, that online chat isn't like face-to-face chat. Having everything you say stored forever for later reflection and analysis is frankly WEIRD, it's not something we've evolved for, it's not something we've particularly well adapted to, it's something that Gen X kids and millennials cringing at their younger edgier selves are now realizing might have actually been a REALLY TERRIBLE IDEA ALL ALONG.

So yeah have a chat and a forum and spend more time in the chat. If something comes up in the chat that's actually important or a good idea, just make a note!

Online Community Management Thread pt 22: what time is it

People on your site, if they're friendly and like each other and the community's big enough for this to happen, would like to set up events. Things like cocktail hours, group watches of silly movies, that kind of thing. You're a savvy admin and you know these make good bonding experiences so you want to encourage them.

Put a clock on your site!

It doesn't have to be a big obtrusive fancy clock that looks bad, you can put a little one in the footer. It doesn't have to take up any extra resources, you can just echo the current timestamp as YY-MM-DD HH : MM : SS UTC.

The UTC part is important. That means everyone sees the same clock, set to the same time, and that's the point.

The clock is there to remind people that they're all on different timezones, and give them a common reference point by which they can plan their events.

(mistake: YYYY-MM-DD, not YY-MM-DD. Still waking up. Also the spaces between the colons in the HHMMSS bit are only there to stop mastodon turning the letters into flags?)

Anyway people will still tend to plan events around their local timezone, unless you tell them that that's what the clock's for, it's to help cut down on people turning up an hour early or late because they were thinking of a different timezone.

Don't make "use the clock" an actual capital-R Rule of the site, that's a bit heavy-handed. Just talk a little bit in the FAQ about how it helps people, and folk will use it.

I'm thinking of the clock thing right now because I've just made my semiannual "Reminder that our server clock doesn't go back and forth with DST and not all players enter DST on the same date" announcement on Improbable Island. The UK and much of Europe will adjust their clocks later in March, and Australia and New Zealand will adjust in the opposite direction in early April, and a lot of (most?) places have decided that semiannual clockbothering is nonsense and don't do it at all.

I make these announcements on my site 'cause folks do a lot of events (and maybe they do so many events because we've got the coordinating-times-worldwide thing sorted out and agreed upon as a community).

Other time-related suggestions you can make to your community:
* Be wary of planning events to start at midnight because people often get the date wrong (this is why ppl say "one minute past midnight")
* Try to get used to 24-hour time
* Check smoke alarm batteries at DST start/end

In similar spirit, remind your American users that if they want to be understood online they should use the metric system and the YYYY-MM-DD date format.

Again, don't make this a capital-R Rule with Consequences Should It Be Broken, just phrase it in the FAQ to be clear that people will have an easier time understanding and interacting and helping if they don't have to convert back-and-forth between units.

I have a whole section in my Code of Conduct about common misunderstandings that arise from having different timezones, measurements, date formats etc, and it's right upfront that these were suggestions and hints and not enforced rules - nonetheless, people very quickly decided that everyone being on the same page was a good and useful thing.

Don't expect people to find this information in other places online. Put it on your site, and tailor it to your users.

(in similar thinking, we celebrate the winter solstice, because that's the same date for everyone and there's enough other celebrations going around that time of year that there's a general festive celebratory vibe going around. We describe the solstice in terms of the shortest day or longest night, and folk recognize that there's a lot of celebrations around about the same time and people don't feel left out.)

Speaking of annual celebrations, you might be tempted to get user's birthdays so you can send them a "happy birthday" message or whatever.

There are many reasons not to do this. First, if you make birthdates mandatory then your site will spend the first half of New Year's Day running slow 'cause it's sending out ten thousand happy birthday emails to people who are now over 120 years old. Second, for those who tell the truth, you're now holding and processing personal data. You don't want that.

Follow

Every bit of personal info you have about your users is a legal liability and bait for hackers. Treat personal data like toxic waste, keep it as far away from you as possible and minimize your exposure.

What you actually need from users is a known-good email address and the last few IP addresses and browsers they used (to help spot when an account has been compromised). That's it. Anything more than that is WAY more trouble than it's worth.

· · SubwayTooter · 2 · 12 · 25

So what do you say to users who want a special yearly thing? Use the anniversary of when they joined the site. That's not something that'd be terribly useful to a stalker, and you still get to send out happy forumday emails - which will prompt inactive users to either log in and see what's new, or remind them to delete their account if they don't need it any more.

Online Community Management Tips From When The Internet Made A Noise, part 78: this is not specifically about community management but there's some overlap with how one starts and promotes one's website and it's good to take a holistic view of the whole kinda Situation because all the parts are interconnected and changing one affects another...

There's a bloke on my website who runs a furry fantasy basketball league.

HOW INCREDIBLY SPECIFIC IS THAT?

Like, think of how many people are furries.

About half the people I'm following okay, yeah, granted, but Fedi is pretty furry - in the general population of the world, or even the English-speaking world, not THAT many people are furries.

In fact if you walked down a Pittsburgh street two weeks before Anthrocon and pointed your Furry-Detecting Ray at random people, I bet it'd only make the fox noise for... maybe one person in fifty?

So we're already pretty specific!

But that's not specific enough for this guy, oh no! Of those bare handful of people who are into the furry, he then whistles his audience down to furry basketball fans.

And not ONLY basketball fans, mark you, but basketball fans who are enough into basketball to understand and enjoy a numbers-based fantasy basketball league AND who are furries!

Just imagine the Venn diagram of this guy's potential target audience, imagine that tiny amount of overlap in the middle.

And yet, this guy's website has been online for a long time, and remains popular, and brings this guy a lot of joy.

It's probably because although there are very few people who would be into his thing, to those people, his thing is ABSOLUTE CATNIP. It's a thing that's incredibly tailored for them, and it's the only game in town.

This is a degree of specicifity that is ONLY possible on the internet!

(*whittles not whistles, damn autocorrupt)

Anyway, this is how I run my website too. It's not for everyone! It doesn't *try* to be for everyone! Instead it scratches an itch that people can't really get scratched in the same way in other places.

Don't try to make something that everyone loves. That's a recipe for mediocrity. Make what YOU want to make, and let people fall in love with it.

Never worry about your thing being too niche.

I've said it before in this thread, but I'll say it again harder for incredibly niche projects: promote widely, don't target, spend the same money showing your thing to a hundred random people as you would one person that an algorithm thinks (incorrectly) will like it. The best community members are often the ones who didn't know they'd fall in love with your thing or anything like it until they did.

Like, I say of Improbable Island, "It's not for everyone." That's kinda euphemistic. Seeing the success of massive websites recalibrates our expectations and our goals, it makes us kinda hesitant to say things like "It's not for everyone," this kinda soup of maximum-reach propaganda creates an atmosphere in which it actually feels like sticking your neck out a bit by admitting that not everyone will like your site.

Try this: "Most people WON'T like what I make."

Uff that gives me shivers

In fact make a thing that most people will just be totally confused by. If one person out of a thousand actually likes it, it'll feel like it was made just for them.

If I could go back in time, I'd tell my younger self to really *lean into* the hypernicheness, tell him "Quit trying to make everyone like it, just find the ones who love it."

I'm retiring the default font on Improbable Island and introducing a range of new ones to replace it. One potential stumbling point of Cosy Mode is that the people left on the site are there because they love it very much, and might find even small changes and improvements upsetting.

You have to keep changing and improving - the devices that people use to look at the website change, the underlying technology gets updates, the world moves on.

We've got ourselves to a place where the site has a charmingly retro aesthetic but with more modern usability features, and we're trying to tread the line between retro and usable.

Nostalgia is a tricky thing to satisfy, because people aren't nostalgic about the thing itself but about their lives at the time they experienced it, and how it made them feel. They want to feel that way again.

Take videogames for example. Nobody's nostalgic for wired controllers, or having to repeatedly replay a ten minute cutscene before a boss fight, or not being sure whether the Start button would pause a cutscene or irredeemably skip it forever, or the title page screaming its own name at you, or the half an hour that every old game insisted you spend wading through a sewer. People are nostalgic for a general sense of how they felt playing the game.

So when you're making a change to a Cosy Mode website, it'd damn well better be one of those quality-of-life improvements that doesn't have a dramatic effect on the general *feel* of the place.

Also, the way I approach making changes has evolved over the years - I spent a long time trying to please everyone, and this just made me miserable because there are lots of people who hate ANY kind of change just because it's a change, and people who love it for the same reason.

These days I'm very upfront with people that if they have strong immediate feelings about the change, I'm not interested in hearing about it for at least a week, because that feedback just isn't useful.

Because we're in Cosy Mode and I have a good relationship with my players, people actually go along with this! They even pre-empt it! They say "I hate it, but I hate change in general, gimme a couple days and we'll see." That's enormously useful.

My wife this morning: Dan, here's something for your community management thread!

nitter.pussthecat.org/erinbiba

The New York Times ran (well, kind of ran) a cooking Facebook group for a while and now they're washing their hands of it entirely.

(twitter link in case pussthecat's Nitter instance is down: twitter.com/status/13723800214)

I'm not a member of the group but I've read two pages of twitter comments and I can predict at least a couple of the dynamics that went down here, because they're the same dynamics that happen everywhere. I bet this was once a cookery group that became tangentially a cookery group and then had a crisis of identity about whether or not it was a cookery group and the ratio of posts to metaposts got all cocked up and much navelgazing ensued until it disappeared into its own bellybutton.

I dunno whether I'm right or not and I don't really care, 'cause it's reminded me of a story I've seen played out hundreds of times.

Site about gerbils appears, attracts gerbil enthusiasts. Member makes thread about gerbil sightings in film and TV. Thread meanders and begins to talk about the media and not the gerbils in it. Some pedant says hey is this a gerbil site or a TV and movies site, and the Off Topic Section is born!

What happens next is a complex series of choices, interactions and minor-to-major crises that all contribute to whether you're going to Heartbreak Mode or Cosy Mode, and I'm heading out the door in a couple of minutes so now was possibly not the time to start this subthread. I'll have a think about it on the drive and come back to this later.

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@ifixcoinops I'm kinda nostalgic for wired controllers... having to recharge them all the time is a bit annoying.
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@Felthry That's what's so awesome about them, when they run low on battery you plug them into the console and boom, wired controller!

An inbuilt feature to remind you how much previous versions sucked, genius really

@ifixcoinops It's not really the same, though.

I also like the knowledge that this controller is definitely player 1 because I can follow the wire attached to it and see it's plugged into port 1, or the way you didn't have to pair a controller or anything, just plug it in and start using it
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@ifixcoinops and just something about the ergonomics of having a cord there is nice?? i don't know why but it's just kinda nice
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@ifixcoinops by "having a cord there" i mean permanently attached to the controller

though that does mean if that cord breaks you need to open the controller up to replace it

fortunately they tended to be durable cords
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@ifixcoinops oh yeah also no losing the controller (as long as it's plugged into the system)--just follow the wire until you find the controller on the other end
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@Felthry There is something to be said for plugging in a wire and having the controller INSTANTLY respond to commands, that's cool.

Ergonomics-wise nothing beats arcade controls. ;) Those are wireless too! Kind of! They're bolted in place and you couldn't move the wires if you tried so that's the same, right?

Ooh BOLTED-IN-PLACE GAME CONTROLLERS, there's a thought

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@ifixcoinops I am absolutely nostalgic for wired controllers because unlike every wireless device ever, they work reliably.

@ifixcoinops

That's good security regarding PII.
This stuff you're giving away is solid gold.

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