Mods locking threads

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Mods locking threads

Postby smallwhite » Fri Mar 24, 2017 6:45 am

It's nice to visit, but don't try to live here...

rdearman wrote:OK, number of reports about politicisation of this thread. So I'm going to lock it. I realise given the topic, it is very difficult not to stray into politics.


How to irritate different europeans

rdearman wrote:OK, I'm locking this thread because it is becoming too political.


I appreciate mods doing work for us, but how can I tell what it was that was unacceptable? Offending posts don't get marked so I can't tell which of them were unacceptable. And offending posts apparently got kept so that should mean it was acceptable for them to stay? So what was unacceptable, then?

Though I must say I prefer vague posts like rdearman's above to Serpent's taking sides and throwing in her own opinion as the last word right before she locks a thread.
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Re: Mods locking threads

Postby emk » Fri Mar 24, 2017 2:05 pm

smallwhite wrote:I appreciate mods doing work for us, but how can I tell what it was that was unacceptable? Offending posts don't get marked so I can't tell which of them were unacceptable. And offending posts apparently got kept so that should mean it was acceptable for them to stay? So what was unacceptable, then?

I don't have the time right now to dig through both those threads and point out specific examples of problematic posts. So I can only give you a more general answer.

For questions like these, I think it's useful to start by looking at the forum rules:

Religion and politics: Some families have a rule that says, "No political or religious arguments during holiday dinner." This forum has a similar rule year-round, for much the same reasons. We have people here from all over the world, with incredibly diverse political and religious views, and we all get along much better if we avoid these subjects.

If the politics or religion is genuinely related to language learning, then you have a small amount of leeway—as long as people remain respectful and refrain from fighting. But if a moderator asks you to stop, please stop. You can fight about politics and religion on almost any other site on the Internet. This site is for language learning.

The basic rule here seems pretty clear: no politics and no religion. These two subjects are off topic, they're a pain in the neck to moderate, and if we allow them, then sometimes it seems like every single thread eventually devolves into
"Trump-Obama-Marine Le Pen-Brexit-Russian speakers in the Baltics-the French are rude-war in the Ukraine-Brussels sucks-etc-etc-oh god shoot me now."

Now, sometimes politics are hard to avoid completely when learning languages. Maybe you're travelling to a place with touchy language issues and need advice. Maybe you study Middle Egyptian or Old Church Slavonic, and most native text is religious. Or sometimes you make a short semi-political comment in your log and it doesn't cause a giant argument and the moderators really don't want to be jerks about it.

So we try to strike a balance here: The rules very clearly say "no politics", but sometimes we let a grey area slide a little bit. But as the rules say, "if a moderator asks you to stop, please stop." Unfortunately, we're human, and our judgments will be slightly inconsistent from thread to thread, from day to day, and from moderator to moderator. If you're in a grey area, then the results will depend far more than usual on the judgment of whichever moderator is around and whether we have the energy to babysit a thread.

But this has been coming up lately, and people have been been starting more political threads than usual, and sending more angry PMs to the moderators criticizing us both for doing too much and for doing too little. So here are some general rules of thumb:

  1. If you feel the urge to post a political rant, please don't.
  2. If you feel the urge to respond angrily to somebody else's political rant, please report it instead.
  3. If you feel the urge to send angry PMs to the moderators saying, "I reported such-and-such a post, and I can't believe you didn't criticize user X publicly / lock the thread / punish the user severely," maybe take a deep breath, wait 24 hours, and re-read your PM before sending it. We're definitely open to feedback via PMs about our moderating policies, but we'd appreciate it if people calmed down a bit before sending them. We appreciate reports even when we don't act on them immediately. If we were forced to err, we'd to prefer to "See everything, overlook a great deal, correct a little", than to respond too aggressively to everything that happens.
  4. Finally, if you feel the urge to make a non-political post titled something like "Why I like country X more than country Y," please consider very carefully before proceeding. Even if your initial post is apolitical and funny and interesting, the thread will turn political by post 4, and it will devolve into an angry fight by post 12, and it will get locked before post 30.
Also keep in mind that while we try to run this forum in a way that serves the community, and while we try to be reasonably consistent and fair, that this forum does have posted rules (which are highly similar to how we moderated at HTLAL), and that our moderation will involve judgement calls, and that not every situation will be handled 100% consistently.
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Re: Mods locking threads

Postby Arnaud » Fri Mar 24, 2017 5:54 pm

And now "Why Are Europeans Thinner than Americans?"
Rdearman has a "lock" crisis :lol:
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Re: Mods locking threads

Postby jeffers » Fri Mar 24, 2017 6:15 pm

Arnaud wrote:And now "Why Are Europeans Thinner than Americans?"
Rdearman has a "lock" crisis :lol:


I didn't follow that thread, but it doesn't appear to have much to do with language learning. I had a quick glance at the last few posts and it certainly looks like it was descending into arguing, and ... not about language learning.

Moderating adults is a tough job. I might not always agree, but I want to thank Rdearman and the others for doing this work for us. I wouldn't want that responsibility.
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Re: Mods locking threads

Postby Arnaud » Fri Mar 24, 2017 6:37 pm

jeffers wrote:I didn't follow that thread, but it doesn't appear to have much to do with language learning. I had a quick glance at the last few posts and it certainly looks like it was descending into arguing, and ... not about language learning.

Moderating adults is a tough job. I might not always agree, but I want to thank Rdearman and the others for doing this work for us. I wouldn't want that responsibility.

The whole thread is not about language learning, as its title says. Either you close it immediatly, either you let it live its life as long as people are not insulting themselves.(is it the case ?)
If people are not interested, they are free not to read it (as yourself and myself).
Some people are writing political bullshit in their logs that I don't agree with, I don't complain, I don't ask for a locking. They are free to rant if they want, I'm free to stop reading them, and that's what I do. Are we going to lock all these logs ? No, of course.
I agree with you that moderating is difficult, no problem with that.
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Re: Mods locking threads

Postby rdearman » Fri Mar 24, 2017 7:40 pm

OK, I'm going to wade in here even though I know I shouldn't and I should let it slide and count to 100. I'm also not speaking for the moderation team, just myself.

I don't believe it is any good saying people are free not to read these posts, because although others have that luxury, I don't. I have to read everything looking for racist or sexist remarks, copyrighted material, rule violations, etc, etc. So when I log in I have to do this:

  1. Disapprove all the Viagra, pornography posts and other spam, then ban the account(s).
  2. Read and respond to all the PM's from all the people who are having a problem with the site, or another user, or some other thing which only an administrator can help them with.
  3. Then I go into all the foreign language forums and google translate all the posts which are in languages I can't read to make sure there isn't any racist/political/sexist/extremist posts.
  4. Then I start at the top of the forum and read each and every post checking for violations and/or commenting or adding to the discussion.
  5. Read each and every log (google translating where required) and sending a few PM's to people who are really pushing the mark. We are more forgiving in logs because it is your personal space, but still have to stop serious infractions. I have deleted posts in peoples logs, but haven't yet had to lock one.
  6. Read through all the official complaints to the moderation team to catch anything reported which I may have forgiven.

I'm sorry but by the time I've done all that and reached the complaints, my tolerance level is very near zero, if not less than zero. So normally I try pass ask another moderation to review the threads and see if we should lock them or take other action. But recently there has been a lot of political and semi-political threads started and I'm only human, so when a thread starting to gather complaints it was easier for me to shut it down than to respond to a half-dozen PM's about the thread over the next couple of weeks.

I'm not asking for sympathy, I'm just explaining what I'm doing and the reason why I might close down a thread and you think "bloody hell, that rdearman guy has a short fuse".

Some of these threads I just look at the title and think; this isn't going to end well. I do want to allow people to express views and opinions and some of the threads which I thought were going to cause all hell to break loose, or weren't 100% language related actually pulled themselves around and turned into interesting relevant discussions. So I didn't immediately shut-down the American/European thread hoping it would either die, or come around, but then behind the scenes the complaints started rolling in. When the complaints about the already questionable thread started, I pulled the plug because honestly I have better things to do.

I do apologise if anyone feels wronged because a thread they were interested in was locked, but there are alternative sites for the discussion of health, politics, or non-language related things. I realise this forum has a large number of highly respected minds, and it would be great to have all of the opinions on a wider range of topics, but it would just become moderation hell.

EMK gave an excellent outline of the reasons for the rules, and I'm just trying to give some insight into what I am doing as an individual to apply the rules. I'm not perfect and I realise many people will not agree with the way I apply the rules.
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Re: Mods locking threads

Postby emk » Fri Mar 24, 2017 8:02 pm

Hah! rdearman responded while I was writing! I've kept my post below, because it says almost exactly the same thing, just phrased a bit differently. So consider this from my perspective as a moderator.

Arnaud wrote:The whole thread is not about language learning, as its title says. Either you close it immediatly, either you let it live its life as long as people are not insulting themselves.(is it the case ?)

I agree that the "Why are Europeans thinner that Americans" thread was about as polite as we could have hoped, given the subject matter. So thank you to everybody for your restraint. I know that lots of people get impassioned about the subject. :-) (Seriously, I was tempted to post an analysis of my food logs and the number of steps I walked in France versus the US.)

Under other circumstances, we might have left the thread open. But over the last few weeks, the number of sort-of-political and/or off-topic threads has been higher than usual, and we've been relatively generous about about interpreting the rules to let these discussions continue. But from a behind-the-scenes perspective, we're seeing more and more fatigue with these threads—there are multiple people sending PMs saying, "I want to write a really angry flame about X, but I know I shouldn't, so I'm being good, but I really wanna have a flame war, and how come so-and-so gets to bend the rules and I have to be good" and so on and so forth. And the moderators are spending more time keeping an eye on off-topic threads than usual as a result.

So we've decided it's time to cut back on the sort-of-political threads for a while. This doesn't mean we're upset at the people who were posting in those threads! People were acting with a fair bit of restraint, as a whole. But we're thinking it's time to take a break from politics for a while. And weight-loss threads. :-)

Arnaud wrote:If people are not interested, they are free not to read it (as yourself and myself).

We do encourage people to avoid reading threads they dislike! Not every thread will be to everybody's taste.

But at the same time, the forum does have rules. These rules have existed in one form or another since 2009, and we've tried tweaking them in various ways over the years. Sometimes these tweaks have been successful. Other times, the entire forum suddenly remembers why we had the rule in the first place. It's like Chesterton's Fence, where some mysterious old rule turns out to exist for a good reason.

Forums exist in a weird balance: They do exist to serve a community, and if we were to approach moderation with a "my way or the highway" attitude, it would be disastrous for the community. So we try to always keep the needs of the community in mind. But at the same time, it does us no good to adopt policies which eventually exhaust our administrator and cause him to hide somewhere in the mountains! And of course, if there's no moderation at all, the community eventually starts looking like the comment section of an online newspaper.

We don't have all the answers, and we will sometimes make bad calls. But at the moment, we feel like we're keeping an eye on too many potentially contentious threads lately—despite the mostly-admirable restraint people have been exercising!—and we'd like to cut back a bit. So some threads have been locked. This doesn't mean that we're about to go on the warpath and start enforcing the rules ridiculously strictly, and it doesn't mean we might not allow a bit more leeway in the future. All it means is that we're doing more moderation work than usual, and we would like to get back to our usual equilibrium.

Now, this is distracting me from working on subtitle OCR software, and I need to figure out which BDs I want to buy in Montreal, so I'm going to sign off for a bit. :-)
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Re: Mods locking threads

Postby Serpent » Fri Mar 24, 2017 11:04 pm

smallwhite wrote:I appreciate mods doing work for us, but how can I tell what it was that was unacceptable? Offending posts don't get marked so I can't tell which of them were unacceptable.
(...)Though I must say I prefer vague posts like rdearman's above to Serpent's taking sides and throwing in her own opinion as the last word right before she locks a thread.
It's pretty much impossible to have it both ways ;) To get the more simple question out of the way, if you're not sure which post(s) were unacceptable, you (general you) can always ask the mods by PM.
And sometimes we do try to point out what exactly was unacceptable (though one single post is never the sole reason for locking a thread). We might also reassure someone privately that their post was not the problem. That's not taking sides but doing our best to ensure that people understand what happened in a specific thread and get a chance to learn from their own and other users' mistakes. Again, if you disagree or have further questions/thoughts/comments, feel free to send a PM. Locking a thread is generally a permanent decision, but you may be allowed to start a new one on a related topic (if it's about language learning).

Also in the context of a mod post "I personally think" or "I personally agree" often means "that's how I interpret the rules and that's the call I'll make here". This implies that other mods may have different opinions.

And offending posts apparently got kept so that should mean it was acceptable for them to stay? So what was unacceptable, then?
Some things are removed without exceptions, like racist or otherwise discriminatory slurs, any other insults, illegal links, spam, blatant political remarks etc. Otherwise it's more complex, especially when things escalate quickly and the offending post gets a bunch of replies, including some good responses (or some people have continued discussing the original topic). That's exactly the case where it might be more appropriate to lock the thread, depending on whether there's any chance to resume a civil conversation and how many posts will have to be deleted if the thread is not closed. However if you consider a post to be particularly awful and find yourself coming back to check whether it's been removed, please ask the mods to do so. (I think it's possible to report a post in a locked thread but I'm not 100% sure) If the request can't be granted we'll try to find another solution.
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Re: Mods locking threads

Postby tomgosse » Fri Mar 24, 2017 11:09 pm

rdearman wrote:So when I log in I have to do this:

  1. Disapprove all the Viagra, pornography posts and other spam, then ban the account(s).
  2. Read and respond to all the PM's from all the people who are having a problem with the site, or another user, or some other thing which only an administrator can help them with.
  3. Then I go into all the foreign language forums and google translate all the posts which are in languages I can't read to make sure there isn't any racist/political/sexist/extremist posts.
  4. Then I start at the top of the forum and read each and every post checking for violations and/or commenting or adding to the discussion.
  5. Read each and every log (google translating where required) and sending a few PM's to people who are really pushing the mark. We are more forgiving in logs because it is your personal space, but still have to stop serious infractions. I have deleted posts in peoples logs, but haven't yet had to lock one.
  6. Read through all the official complaints to the moderation team to catch anything reported which I may have forgiven.

Wow! I had no idea what went into moderating this forum. My hat is off to you! Thank you for all the hard work you do to make this forum available to us. :D
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Re: Mods locking threads

Postby neofight78 » Fri Mar 24, 2017 11:21 pm

Thank you to all the mods who work so hard to keep this site going. We owe you a big debt.

If someone is unsure why a thread is locked, it's worthwhile reading the forum rules. Why a thread is locked is never a source of confusion for me, only perhaps why it was allowed to continue for so long. This thread has reminded me why, the mods are trying to be relaxed about the rules whilst at the same time respecting them. An approach which in my opinion is spot on.

I want to say thanks again to the mods, it's clearly a lot of work and a hassle to keep this site going and to moderate all the posts. If there's anything we can do to make life easier for you please let us know. I appreciate what a thankless job it can be.
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