Online punishments and who we should accept in our online community.

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 31, 2007 4:19 PM GMT
    I started this topic in response to some comments on the thread Obesity: Disease or just piggery.

    I find myself in the unexpected position of speaking in defence of ashpenaz, a former member of this site who has been (as I understand it) thrown off the site more than once for "name-calling". I'm quite certain regular readers/posters are quite familiar

    Let me first say what I do NOT want to do: I don't want to condone what he says ---- which I normally vehemently disagree with, even hold in contempt ---- nor do I wish to contest the *right* of the "gods", the moderators, to dismiss people from the site as they see fit. Whether they *ought* to use that *right* is quite another question.

    I do wish to say, however that :-

    Firstly, in my opinion, the deletion process is opaque in the extreme. One often sees in threads "hidden/deleted" member with no username or explanation. I feel that users who were deleted by moderators should be marked as such, and some rationale given for their deletion. All user-supplied information should of course be deleted from their profile.

    Secondly, I think it is useful to discuss the notion of online punishments, their relative effectiveness and their suitability for various crimes. Although the moderators are by no means bound to listen to them, I do feel that they ought to at least hear community input. There is some literature on this, but I think it is better to just hear what people think.

    My own view: I think for example, that trolls who make no contribution to our online "gay fitness community" probably ought to be banned if their trolling is meaningless or incites hatred. And by hatred I *do* mean HATRED (c.f. the definition of hatred in the UK's Incitement to Religious and Racial Hatred Bill:

    "Hatred is a strong term; which goes beyond ridicule, prejudice, dislike, contempt, anger or offence. Words, behaviour or material used must be threatening, abusive or insulting and must either be intended to or likely to stir up hatred. The hatred must be aimed at people, not ideologies. "

    I do not think ashpenaz fits into this category, unless he has directed this sort of thing personally at someone privately. In any event it is not possible to tell what his crimes are/were in the current administration. Granted he is obnoxious -- although I've never IMed or addressed him personally! -- bit did he need to be thrown off, if indeed he was? There are many eloquent intelligent people who post on this site (fastprof, obscenewish, DiverScience, Satyicon, Can_duathlete, NYCMusc4Masc, Mindgarden to name a mere handful.... ). Their words have, in my opinion, resoundingly and robustly defeated his views where they were offensive.

    Is that not sufficient? I will freely confess that I am in the perverse situation that if he had not made some statements, I would not have read some of the fascinating and worthwhile rebuttals.

    I would be delighted to read the thoughts of the community.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 31, 2007 5:14 PM GMT
    Touchy subject.

    I agree on principal. However, there are other issues to consider. IMO, skippy seems a little, er, crazy and while he made no threats, it seemed to me he had a hard on for one guy in particular, and I don't mean an erection.

    Personally, I'd love an environment where ridicule of one another was pretty much the call to the dance. I've opted out of quite a bit here for fear of rubbing the wrong guy the wrong way and getting booted off the site. Even some of my very mild banter has offended more than a couple. The more diverse a group of people you have, the more likely a spark will ignite into a full blooded flame fest. Not that I, personally, mind that. I loved slam dancing in the 80s.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 31, 2007 5:37 PM GMT
    I think anything but personal attacks (and, of course, racist, sexist comments) should be allowed. But as soon as someone resorts to obscenities, name-calling, and personal insult, they should not only be thrown off the site, they should never be allowed back.

    Note, that is different than calling an idea silly or idiotic. Or even getting very heated about an idea or opinion expressed...That's OK.

    In the case of ashpenaz/skjpm, for one, litally/cutemascjock/eatmeknow, for another, I make the following observations:

    (1) skjpm/ashpenaz often resorted to personal attack, cheap shots and, in his earlier guise, obscenity-laced tirades that, curiously, betrayed his own homophobia...he also made, what I felt, were borderline racist comments;

    (2) litally also known as those others handles (and a few others that I have forgotten) would proceed along making controversial comments, but then would inevitably make racist comments, personally insulting commments, to mention xenophobic and irrational insults.

    Both of these guys would have been banished forever from the professional forum I am on (for tornado researchers) as any personal attacks (as opposed to vigorously opposing ideas as silly or stupid) are not allowed.

    Yes, there is a grey area here. For example, you could say "so and so is an slobbering idiot" (or, as skjpm said "...is a fagotty slobbering idiot...") and get thrown off, rightfully. On the other hand, you can disguise that as "so-and so, your ideas are silly and idiotic..."

    But, at least the latter conveys the sense that the other person is being treated with respect, and that y ou are attempting a dialog, even if there's name calling of ideas.

    Think about debates. Name calling and obscenities, and racist comments are not allowed...but you're allowed to respond "that's stupid..."

    I believe even that language should be tempered, but it's still acceptable.

    John (aka fastprof)
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 31, 2007 5:40 PM GMT
    Oh. I agree with TigerTim, though, it would be helpful for "Rules of Behavior" or something like that to be posted on the site FAQs section.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 31, 2007 5:54 PM GMT
    One of the things I like about this forum is the relative invisibility of the mods. There's not a whole lot of over-regulation, as I've encountered on other forums.

    That being said, however, their invisibility can become a liability because the rest of us have no idea how their decisions are being made or why. I understood why skippy got booted last time, but I haven't a clue why he did this time. I normally don't know the reasons why anyone gets booted on here, because there's no information on why they got booted. A little bit more information would be helpful.

    I don't think, however, that people should be booted except in the most extreme cases. Constant derision of other members is certainly grounds for expulsion, and I think, from what I've been able to see, that that's basically the only occasion it's been used. Please correct me if I'm wrong about that, and from your post, Tiger, I think that you might disagree with me in the case of Ash. Derision of an opinion, however, should not be grounds for expulsion unless that derision also turns into an attack on the person holding the opinion. I find it absolutely acceptable to say that an argument is stupid or idiotic, especially if you go on to explain why.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 31, 2007 6:07 PM GMT
    chewey said: "...I find it absolutely acceptable to say that an argument is stupid or idiotic..."

    What an idiotic point of view!! :-) Just kidding. I agree.

    OK. You guys should realize that if a banished member said something threatening or suggestive of stalking, or something that suggests a mental disorder...that guy should be banished forever.

    If that occurs, the moderators should not explain, nor on a free site like this, should we expect an explanation.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 31, 2007 6:10 PM GMT
    The problem with banning is that it's impossible to enforce. One can simply come back with a new handle and/or IP address. Banning domains is useless as you wind up banning non-problem people as well.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 31, 2007 6:16 PM GMT
    Sir, I challenge you to fisticuffs!

    If that occurs, the moderators should not explain, nor on a free site like this, should we expect an explanation.

    Regardless of what expectations we should and should not have, it would be helpful to know why a member was deleted. Perhaps, however, all that's really needed is an enumeration of the grounds for deletion in a "forum rules" section. That might serve just as well.
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    Aug 31, 2007 6:25 PM GMT
    On that note. I do believe I rubbed some people the wrong way with the PETA thread. I don't hate or dislike anyone here. And although the thread was meant to be funny and a place to talk about meat, which is do enjoy, I may have gone overboard. My bad. I do however think its messed up to exclude people from conversation. To disagree is one thing, but to flat out say, " no, you can't speak here" is unacceptable.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 31, 2007 6:25 PM GMT
    Thanks for those insightful and useful posts. I think I might draw my "grey area" a little more liberally than fastprof's -- I agree that in a professional forum (and I'm in a few myself) quite rigorous standards of etiquette should apply -- but this is not a professional forum. I'm not even certain that racist language should be banned, although I think fastprofs criterion about whom it is directed to (everyone vs. a particular person) is a very useful one.

    Incidentally, I have heard it said that Ash threatened to expose the identity of a member. This is a serious violation of the rules of the game, and a suspension or ban is, I think justifiable.

    The lack of transparency is something that would be better corrected - it is not appropriate that McGay has opted out of discussions because he is afraid of "rubbing the wrong guy the wrong way and getting booted off the site".

    Chewey_Delt: Great post - Invisibility is a virtue, opacity is not!
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 31, 2007 6:40 PM GMT
    McGay said: "...I've opted out of quite a bit here for fear of rubbing the wrong guy the wrong way and getting booted off the site..."

    Steve, in the two cases I cited, "rubbing" the rest of us the wrong way was not the issue. For example, I've tussled with my friend italmuscbttm here, and he's tussled back. Neither of us have gotten booted, because we kept the thread comments on his silly ideas!! (Just kidding, Joey...) :-)

    I'm certain that no one has been booted from RJ just because his comments on someone else's ideas rubbed the other guy the wrong way.

    I haven't seen you ever post an insulting comment (as in, "...fastprof, you stupid jerk..." Oh, wait...maybe you did...No, you didn't). I think sarcastic, ascerbic humor is great. And your wit is now legion on RJ!!!

    So, if you THOUGHT (I don't know...maybe you have specific cases in mind) that someone was booted for criticizing an idea strongly, I think that's not the case.

    My comments above pretty much outline what I know to be the case about those two booted guys.

    As for them coming back, a leopard can't change his spots. I spotted cutemascjock immediately when he came back, even though he had no pictures. The posts eventually had the same hateful language and tenor.

    Same with ash...from the very first post I knew it was skjpm.

    Both eventually resorted to the same outbursts, or other behavior.

    By the way, anyone that threatens to "out" or stalk someone on RJ is engaged in real reprehensible behavior. Anyone that overtly or subtly threatens violence is not only doing something reprehensible, but illegal.

    Not only should he booted...as soon as the rest of us notice he's back under another assumed identity, he should be booted again.

    I do agree that some statement on the Forum Rules should be posted as guidelines.

    I believe racist language/insults are inappropriate for this site (or any).

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 31, 2007 6:42 PM GMT
    My guess that ashpenaz/skpjm was probably permanently banned the first time around, and that his second disappearance is related to that, and not what he said this time around. That is my guess and I could be wrong.

    He did, however, bring up again a certain point -- joking of course -- that had been a particularly sore point last time around, and one that lead to some of his obscenities. So, I don't know, but I think he may have been heading down the same path where he lost control like last time. And I emailed him and told him that, and told him that bringing up that particularly sore point was probably not wise, or humurous.

    Personally, I found him more amusing than anything -- I mean no matter what he says, obscenities and all, can you really take him and what he says seriously? Entertaining and fun for a good ol' internet brawl, but not serious.

    The threads I like best are those that wander and meander all over the place, and yes even turn into flame fests. There much more interesting and spontaneous and passionate than the sedate, carefully manicured ones.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 31, 2007 6:45 PM GMT
    Well, this site still seems remarkably congenial. I participated on another (paid) site that had taken censorship to ridiculous levels that eventually caused most people to quit. For example, they had lists of "banned words" that would automatically cause a post to be rejected - but it was impossible to figure out which words were the offending ones. Really innocuous stuff couldn't get through.

    I can't find anything to really complain about here.
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    Aug 31, 2007 7:09 PM GMT
    Just a few thoughts:

    1) A hidden/deleted member may have removed themselves, rather than have been removed bny a moderator. Some guys who have a propensity to go overboard frequently on the forums may feel that they're current identity had run it's course and they'd insulted too many people. I wonder how many users are wiping their *own* slate clean and starting over as "someone else".

    2) On the gayborhood thread, I constructed a lengthy diatribe on Oak Lawn and Dallas and why, basically, I think those places suck. I was also feeling like I was "taking the bait" from RedKoste. So it still sits in a saved document on my hard drive but I never posted it. I felt I made some strong and opinionated points, but was afraid of a flame war with anyone from Dallas, or especially Oak Lawn. Still, I think a lively and intelligent discussion was lost because I held back. It's such a fine line to tread.

    3) This site needs blogs as much as discussion forums. At least then it falls mostly on the blog owner to moderate.
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    Aug 31, 2007 7:34 PM GMT
    Rugger: "...So it still sits in a saved document on my hard drive but I never posted it. I felt I made some strong and opinionated points, ..."

    I think that's great. That's the first rule of email forums too...or email etiquette in general. Anything that you type in an email that sounds strong to you, will sound even stronger to the recipient, who will not be able to see the words softened by your facial expression or body language.

    It's the same idea when a parent disciplines a kid verbally, but at the same time gently holds the kid. The kid knows he is hearing something he doesn't want to hear, yet is reassured that the parent still loves him by the contact.

    I know that's a bit far fetched, but it's the same idea. BTW, you call out RedKoste, a buddy of mine!! How dare you? Don't make me come out there... :-)

    All in fun, and in good spirits. We're all big boys, and, damn, what an intelligent group.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 31, 2007 7:41 PM GMT
    ---> "3) This site needs blogs as much as discussion forums. At least then it falls mostly on the blog owner to moderate."

    If you have a blog, either on your own site or someplace like Blogger, isn't there some way to publish it to your profile page using an RSS feed? Not that I could do it myself, off the top of my head, but it seems possible. I guess you'd have to leave the site to follow a thread, but I don't really know.
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    Aug 31, 2007 7:50 PM GMT
    Even after softening it up quite a bit, I still felt like I was escalating a Dallas vs. Austin war. I was tempted to post it. I loathe Dallas and Oak Lawn. But I think another thing at issue was credibility. There are already some posters I automatically skip over because I know they're just releasing their own dysfunction. I didn't want to become one of those guys (I had a couple of dysfunctional experiences in Oak Lawn. It's just that kind of place...uh oh...zip...never mind). ;-)

    As a side, I think sarcasm is one of the most easily confused and imflammatory methods for responding to a post. It probably seems funny to the poster most of the time, but to everyone else, the poster is coming off like a total prick. But maybe that's the subconscious intent of the poster.
  • zakariahzol

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    Aug 31, 2007 8:10 PM GMT
    I was booted once, but return back. Frankly , I have know idea why, but respect the decision of whoever that run this site.After all this is a free site and I am merely a participant.

    Personally I found this site really great. Living here in a conservative country, it kinda open my mind and free my capture spirit to the more gay liberated West. I really think there shouldnt be to many restriction or do or dont in this site. Hey , If I want that I may else well read a local newpapers.

    Guys here is great. They are goodlooking, smart, inspiring and very sexy. Of course , not everybody will agree with me and my opinion. I get a good lecturing from NYC (anybody know what happen to him) and Fastproof after posting a remark on gay families. I dont take that personally, just my view different than them.

    Every Real Jock should have a right to express their view . Even hunky Chucky/Scally should said what they want eventhough some of us find it mean and arrogant (I personally dont think so and just love this guys).

    By the way , I do read Skip last comment before he was booted out and yes, it really nasty. But his second reincarnation as Aspenaz are certainly much milder , more polite and less confrontional.

    Anyway, I am just a participant. Just my view.
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    Aug 31, 2007 8:28 PM GMT
    Owl, I was a little shocked that the PETA thread was created because it was clearly designed to annoy a particular individual. But, it has turned out to be, for me at least, one of the more fun and interesting threads. And, for that, I thank you.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 31, 2007 9:42 PM GMT
    Paradox: Heh. Flame wars are so much easier when names are actually named.
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    Aug 31, 2007 10:57 PM GMT
    zach said: "...I get a good lecturing Fastproof after posting a remark on gay families. I dont take that personally,..."

    What, you want proof that I am fast? :-)

    (Who am I to lecture about typos?)

    It wasn't a lecture...gad, it wasn't intended to be. But it was a response. That's what a Forum is all about.

    As for NYC, he's taking a needed break from the site.

    John
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    Aug 31, 2007 11:13 PM GMT
    Tiger Tim,

    Once again, thank you for keeping the integrity strong. My hope for this site is that it will create a process of bringing together a community that needs to strengthen itself on a daily basis. There is so much room here to grow, and the foundation has been built for us, so why not take advantage of that and let us all build something strong and lasting. I have recently had the difficult task of weeding a few friends out of my life who would make negative remarks to me in a 'joking' kind of way about my sexuality. Why put up with anything that in any way is negative, or derogative. You give people who are mean by nature an inch and they will no doubt take a mile. They do not know any better. What I have learned to do is wish them well, but make sure they know that they are not permitted into my space. By osmosis, I want to be around people who are good, or at least who want to be, or are trying to be. it's so much easier that way, eh ?

    oh, and ....


    GRRRRRRRRRR !!!!!!!!! ( for T.T )
  • zakariahzol

    Posts: 2241

    Aug 31, 2007 11:34 PM GMT
    Sorry Professor.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Sep 01, 2007 4:03 AM GMT
    I value freedom of speech very much and have developed thick skin over the years. I am fairly empathetic though and find myself questioning if I approach things in the right way or get misunderstood.

    I believe in being as peaceful as possible, but know I am not perfect. So anyway I guess I believe in self-regulation, but know how people can be. Some people are just plain psycho. I wonder if there might be legal liabilities for site owners and thus rules of conduct.

    I like this verse from the Tao Te Ching about the relative usefulness of all people despite their dispositions, and the value of open-mindedness. It always possible to use adverse situation to one's advantage :

    A good traveler has no fixed plans
    and is not intent upon arriving.
    A good artist lets his intuition
    lead him wherever it wants.
    A good scientist has freed himself of concepts
    and keeps his mind open to what is.

    Thus the Master is available to all people
    and doesn't reject anyone.
    He is ready to use all situations
    and doesn't waste anything.
    This is called embodying the light.

    What is a good man but a bad man's teacher?
    What is a bad man but a good man's job?
    If you don't understand this, you will get lost,
    however intelligent you are.
    It is the great secret.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Sep 01, 2007 4:36 AM GMT
    At the risk of being deleted; site moderators are AWESOME! =D