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Monday, June 1, 2009

The Tangled Nets We Weave

I wanted to draw an image for you, but I don't has what it takes to do that. So, instead, imagine a bunch of dominoes toppling over into the distance so that it eventually looks like a tangled net.

I know, very M.C. Escher of me.

Through my wanderings around the blogosphere today, I was alerted to the fact that something was going down on the Forums. Curious, I started poking around. Now, I moderate my own little part of the Sonlight Student Forums, but I catch only snippets here and there from the "real" Forums.

It turns out that people were committing "infractions" on the Forums by not adhering to the guidelines. Once they had racked up enough "infraction points" (or whatever those are called) they were suspended for a few days. Unfortunately, one of the ways to get an infraction point is to bring up a post deleted for not adhering to the Forum guidelines (this was initially implemented to protect the original poster). Unfortunately, we homeschooler-types are a curious bunch, and so people started asking about why things were being deleted, which meant their posts were deleted, and that led to more questions, and...

Hence, the dominoes turning into a web.

Dominoes - I am no Escher

As an insider trying to look at things from outside the company--and really focus on the user experience--I can see why this whole situation is so frustrating and out of hand. Because, it many ways, it is. That's why that particular part of the Forums where everything was imploding has been shut down. The tourniquet had to be applied. The bleeding stopped.

But now, those who are involved in helping the Forums run are taking this time to reevaluate how we do things so this kind of thing doesn't happen in the future.

Wounds are never a pretty thing, but I am very thankful for the people who are doing their best to graciously stitch things back together. The scars will still exist, and I wouldn't be surprised if some people decided they didn't want to hang around those areas of our Forums in the future, but I am consistently impressed with everyone--both those who work for Sonlight and those who use the resources--who makes the effort to make things right.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father

One of the cool things about my position is that I'm good friends with both those who are inside the company and you on "the outside" please feel free to email me if you want me to do a little more digging for you about a particular issue. I may not be able to get you a satisfactory answer--sometimes there isn't one--but I love opportunities to help people get more information and insight.


Dana said...

Ah, the dreaded forum drama. What is so difficult is making a decision, knowing that no matter how things are dealt with, there will inevitably be those that cannot accept things for what they are.

Brenda said...

Luke, as a former "insider" who also sees both sides, thanks for a great post. When I was on the inside, it was very hard to deal with all the negative assumptions made and I have a lot of respect for those who do the job of moderating there. I wish there was some way to help people see that the ganging up and taking sides without enough facts to make informed opinions just makes things worse for everyone.

Morgan said...

whatever happened sounds complicated. Maybe making a public statement to those in the forum about what happened and why would answer their questions and therefore take care of the problem of the continued asking "why"/getting suspended?

Tammy said...

Blessed are the peacemakers, Luke! No doubt you'll figure out a way to make your way through the tangled net!

Tammy ~@~

Chloe said...

As one of those pesky "rule breakers" I'd like some answers above and beyond "they deserved it".

My dear friend Robin was banned. Why? One poster said Robins's idea that we are each responsible for our own reactions was "absurd". Robin very politely asked the poster to explain what was absurd about her idea and Robin was banned. The poster who said Robin's idea was "absurd" is still posting. IF this is about civility then why aren't the uncivil being punished? Why is it ok to call one person's ideas absurd but not ok to ask for clarification? Could you explain that to me?

I've been banned twice in less than a week for trying to understand why Robin got banned. Today I was banned because I guess I mentioned the banning of Robin in a post. Except that many people have mentioned that Robin got banned and are still posting and Judy, herself, says that we're allowed to talk about the banished. Another friend got infraction points for merely posting a thread about Robin, not even mentioning her banishment. Other people mention the banishment and get no infractions.

Was banning really the best way to handle this?

I appreciate that you've got to back your staff but they are out of control. Banning people left and right for merely asking for clarification and confronting bald-faced lies that are now free to spread like wild-fire because anyone who questions anything is banned.

My disappointment in SL cannot be over-estimated. I really thought much better of your company than this.

Chloe of the Mountain

Kim & Dave said...

I appreciate you taking the time to address this here, too, Luke.

Thanks, SL, for always trying your best!

Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

Aren't you glad to be back from vacation? Welcome home, Luke!


Monica@DailyDwelling said...

YIKES! This is why I tend to stay away from forums and message boards in general. These things can get out of hand quickly...I've seen it happen before. I pray that things will be resolved peacefully for everyone. I am impressed that you have taken the time to address the issue and try to stop the continuation of it all.

Unknown said...

My experience with conflict is:

a. conflict occurs
b. conflict can be ignored
c. conflict can be resolved
d. conflict can injure some
e. conflict can benefit all
f. conflict is inevitable

Therefore, as much as I dislike the conflict process because I like to get along with others, I do appreciate the new growth that occurs in me; in those involved when we finally hash it out to resolution.

May all parties involved be willing to go through the 'forest fire' in order to gain the 'new growth' on the other side of the charred remains.

Lush, green forests are my favorite. :)

Working Through said...

Should I send a rat to chew a hole in that net for you ? ( Sorry P3/4 coming out again )

I hope everyone can come to a resolutions soon and the forums can settle down. ;-)

Luke Holzmann said...

Dana, yes, drama is a reality because people really do get hurt... which is unpleasant for all of us.

Brenda, it is so hard to deal with negative assumptions, but it's also really hard not to make them too (I know I do it often). Yes, it would be great if we could somehow all get on the same page easily...

Morgan, I'm trying my best to clear up things as much as I can here. It's a little harder on the Forums, but a few people have tried that--with varying degrees of success. I hope it all gets resolved soon.

Tammy, thanks for the vote of confidence <smile>. May God give me the wisdom and grace I need to play my part well.

Chloe, thanks for chiming in here! Getting the other side is super important to me, so your comments are very helpful. I hope my comment on your blog helped clear some things up... but I can't tell with your last post. If you've tried to share more of your side with me, I haven't received it yet. Please feel free to drop me a line. Your insights are invaluable!

I will poke around so more about the thread you mention with Robin and see what I can come up with... as it is now, I know nothing and can offer no insights. Sorry, but I will work on that!

As for your suspension for trying to understand, I'm very sorry. That's one of those issues where the system is very obviously flawed. I'll see what I can do about getting you an answer.

"My disappointment in SL cannot be over-estimated. I really thought much better of your company than this." Please don't give up on us yet! This issue with the Forums is certainly not cool, but I am committed to trying to sort this out, and I know there are others who are as well. Your insights and will be very helpful in figuring this all out.

Kim, thanks!

Mrs. C, I was going to post something about it being a Monday after vacation <laughing>... but it was already too long.

Monica, thank you for your prayers. We all need more grace and wisdom.

Angi, I like lush green forests too... I was just in one this last weekend <smile>. And, amen: May we all grow from this!

Jana, an internet rat could be very nice if it can chew throw this mess <smile>.


Luke Holzmann said...

Chloe, after more digging, I have an answer for your question now. I will gladly discuss it with you, but due to privacy issues, I can't do it publicly, so please drop me an email and I'll share what I know and keep this conversation going.


Mamadala said...

I would be interested to know how many of those recent infractions occurred on the LLL board. That board was basically empty with very few posts in previous days until people started noticing and asking why and then Wayne piped up with his own thread. The infractions weren't because of regular LLL threads, and yet, LLL is the board to get "punished." It just perpetuates the idea that LLL is the big bad mean forum, while the other forums are the where the good nice people hang out.

tanyarejoyce said...

I think that LLL is taking the heat for a forum-wide problem.

You have some customers/forum members and some mods who have an agenda.

Luke Holzmann said...

Mamadala, that's a really good question. I honestly don't know how many infractions were on the LLL board vs. elsewhere--mostly because I haven't been following it on the Forum side of things. However, LLL is the one that got suspended because things started heating up there; that's where things really became a problem. It is true that once LLL was closed the issue tried to move to Dear Sonlight, but that was a little more manageable at that point [too my understanding].

And you're right: What happened did help perpetrate the "mean forum" view. But if I'm not mistaken that was the place where the first things that started this ball rolling were posted. As I said: This is a very tangled net with lots of little pieces that make this even harder to untangle.

Tanyarejoyce, it does not surprise me that people have agendas--we all do <smile>. But if you have any information on particular mods who are misusing their power to push their agenda, please privately contact me so I can alert "the powers that be" and we can make this right. Thus far, I've heard the moderators have been working well within the limits of the guidelines--which are now being reconsidered because of how all this went down--so if mods are out of line, as I keep reading here and there but I have yet to have any bring anything to my attention. Please let me know personally (not publicly for privacy reasons) so I can look into that. Thank you! (my email is linked on the right)


Prisca: said...

I also had a negative experience on the forums the very first few times I posted there and have not been back. Sorry, Luke, but I havent been too happy w/ the SL forums though I love Sonlight itself. I think you have a hard job there! mMybe the whole thing needs to be approached differently??

Mamadala said...

I think you are mistaken about where the heat was. In fact there were (and still are) some very heated threads in Current Events, too.

My point is that those 'heated threads" in LLL were in threads talking ABOUT LLL, not regular threads. Closing LLL was not a legitimate response to the heat. Sonlight could have easily closed those threads and asked it not to be discussed, just like they did in the other forums. Very few LLL regulars were posting in regular LLL threads at that time anyway.

In the meantime, a thread that was just as heated on the same issue continued to rage in CE, as well as various threads in M&S and Dear Sonlight. Why weren't those forums closed?

Closing LLL just reinforces the false stereotypes and signals a bias against that particular forum within the company.

Luke Holzmann said...

Prisca, I'm sorry you had a negative experience on the Forums. And we're working really hard to figure out a better approach. Any insights or ideas on how we could do that are most welcome!

Mamadala, I'm sending your thoughts on to the "powers that be" because I think those are great insights. Thanks for sharing, and hopefully someone who knows more than me can figure out a better way of handling this.


Heather the Mama Duk said...

I've always gotten a rather negative vibe from many of the SL forums posters. That's part of why I don't go there much.

I do think infraction points are weird though. I've seen them on various message boards over the years and they always - ALWAYS - end up causing contention. No one ever thinks they are given fairly and things like this happen. I've found that forums where people are expected to be civil adults without the infraction point nonsense work much better.

As an example, I go to JustMommies message board regularly (read: way too much). It's a gigantic board with tons of regular members. Each forum is "hosted" by one or two people. I host the homeschooling forum. My job is to keep the conversation moving and to report any "bad" posts (spam, attacking, etc.). I can't remove anything. Only someone on the mod/admin teams can. So, basically, in order for a post to be removed it has to go through two levels. (Any member can report a post, not just hosts.) Posts are removed as needed and the person who posted is told about it via PM. If a thread gets out of hand it is locked rather than removed. That way people can see for themselves why rather than be left wondering.

Sometimes, of course, people get in disagreements and heated arguments (a lot of hormones are involved since a lot of the women are pregnant!), but for the most part everything is kept nice and civil. No infraction points needed.

Luke Holzmann said...

Heather, that's a very interesting point, and I don't have much trouble believing it. I'll pass that along.



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