Question about locked threads?

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WSH
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Locked Threads

Post by WSH » Thu Feb 25, 2010 2:46 pm

I'm no expert but I'd think you guys would want to facilitate discussions here on the forums. I belong to about 7-10 various forums on different topics and I have never seen anywhere close to the number of threads that are locked on this forum. Often they seem to be locked with no explanation. I can acutally count 5 times in recent history where I was going to ask a question or post some follow up information and found the post locked.

Here are two of the most recent examples of what I mean:

http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopi ... 54&t=69436

http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopi ... 36&t=68179

I guess I'm just venting a little but it seems like the moderators around here can be a little "trigger-happy" when it comes to locking threads.

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Re: Locked Threads

Post by Otto Vondrak » Fri Feb 26, 2010 1:50 pm

I'm no expert but I'd think you guys would want to facilitate discussions here on the forums.
WSH, thanks for taking the time to write. We do facilitate conversation here. What's more, we try to encourage intelligent, rational discussions.
I belong to about 7-10 various forums on different topics and I have never seen anywhere close to the number of threads that are locked on this forum.
Either those forums have low volumes of traffic; or everyone is always polite, civil and factual; or the owners of those sites have different standards than what we use to gauge what is relevant conversation. I cannot comment on the practices of other sites.
WSH wrote:I can acutally count 5 times in recent history where I was going to ask a question or post some follow up information and found the post locked.
Did you ask the Moderator if the thread can be unlocked to ask your question or post your follow up? Unless the topic is truly toxic, it never hurts to appeal to the Moderator or the Admins. But you have to ask, or else they don't know your frustration.
Here are two of the most recent examples of what I mean:

http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopi ... 54&t=69436
It was a railroad fatality, plain and simple. In my opinion, what else is there to talk about? Railroad trespassing fatalities happen all the time. I locked the thread to prevent the usual barrage of posts that range from empty sympathy for a railroad crew they do not know ("The crew is in my thoughts and prayers..." Really? Do you know them personally? If you do, you might want to contact them privately) to daggers and poison and "Darwin" comments regarding the trespassers ("They deserved to die, those idiots!!"). I'm trying to cut down on the time we waste with circular discussions of railroad safety appliances versus the public intelligence ("Why don't they have gates and fences and cameras and lights and sirens and police and helicopters and...").
The moderator asked that the topic not be discussed, and he also requested people with questions to contact him directly. Did you?
I guess I'm just venting a little but it seems like the moderators around here can be a little "trigger-happy" when it comes to locking threads.
RAILROAD.NET is probably the most tightly moderated railroad forum around, and we don't apologize for that. Sometimes when we lock a topic, we dont have time to post a full-blown explanation besides a directive to "please move along." You can appeal any lock if you feel you have something important to add, just send a PM or email to the Moderator or one of the Admins. Hardly trigger happy, locks occur so infrequently that some people tend to get excited about them. Sometimes a forum runs a little "hot" for a day or two and a few toxic threads in a row are locked, and it just happens to seem like a lot. In general, we enjoy some very good conversations here, and most folks only need a gentle reminder to steer back to topic when we wander too far afield.

Hope this answers your question. PM or email me privately if you have more questions about the operation of this site.

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Re: Locked Threads

Post by WSH » Fri Feb 26, 2010 2:09 pm

Thanks Otto!

I never thought of contacting the Mod. who locked the thread. That would probably solve a bunch of the issues. My comments were more of a "vent" than a complaint. I should have added that either way I do appreciate the forum and its management! Keep up the good work guys!

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Re: Locked Threads

Post by Otto Vondrak » Fri Feb 26, 2010 3:39 pm

WSH wrote:My comments were more of a "vent" than a complaint. I should have added that either way I do appreciate the forum and its management! Keep up the good work guys!
We appreciate all feedback... positive or negative.

-otto-
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Re: Locked Threads

Post by Tadman » Thu Apr 22, 2010 11:51 am

As a mod at a busier forum, it might be helpful if I lend some insight too. Sometimes, a forum is locked because there is no new material and we're beating a dead horse. I try to note that. Sometimes we're way off-topic and it's time to put the thread out of its misery. Different forums have different purposes - here, we're trying to share railroad knowledge and preserve that knowledge. That's why reposts are frowned on here, as is off-topic comments. You don't want an encyclopedia with six entries for Acela and an entry about Metroliners that has discussion of ink cartridges or mushrooms [as I look at my printer and sandwich...]. Sometimes the site owners have asked that we not discuss a topic because it leads to arguments or flame wars every time. Politics is taboo here, but it's hard when railroads are regulated or funded by the government. Turboliners are taboo here with respect to resurrection to service - it's not going to happen and a few posters take a lot of bandwidth arguing otherwise. I'm not aware of the finances of the forum here, but bandwidth costs money and we don't pay for membership. Finally, there are a few bad apples. I'm not going to name them, but a few guys think they are smarter/brighters/better than the others. If you look closely in the last two weeks, you have guys telling railroaders how to move a train properly, guys telling lawyers how the law works, and a few other amusing comments.

This is overall a great place to spend my time. I really like the people here. I enjoy hearing different perspectives and different stories, as well as learning quite a lot. And we moderate pretty tightly to make sure the bandwidth isn't wasted and the flame-wars don't start. But after those two considerations, the mods usually lay off because many of us have day jobs, families, and other time-constraints and we don't want to spend our day being the internet police.

Hopefully this sheds a little light on how we do what we do.
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Question about locked threads?

Post by boblothrope » Thu Mar 24, 2011 11:33 am

Jeff Smith wrote:First, I appreciate everything that the moderators do. It's a tough job, and I appreciate the help.

Some of you I've had the pleasure of communicating with already. If I haven't had a chance yet, I apologize. It's a part-time job, so performing my daily duties takes up quite a bit of that time. If you have any immediate concerns, PM me.
Hi Jeff,

What's the right place to discuss a proposal to change a forum's moderation rules?

I'm a little unhappy about how quickly threads get locked down when the focus of the discussion shifts from what it originally was. Several interesting transportation-related discussions have been unilaterally stopped this way.

I read a lot of online forums, and this is the only one where this happens. Other forums manage just fine allowing all posts, except ones that are harrassing or totally off-topic drive-by spam.

Thanks!

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Re: Attention Moderators - New User Moderation

Post by Jeff Smith » Thu Mar 24, 2011 11:53 am

Bob, that's an interesting question, and I appreciate you asking it in this thread, rather than somewhere I might miss it. I haven't noticed too much locking lately. Sometimes a conversation just runs its natural course, and drifts off course.

In order to help us target readers, we like to keep the conversation within the original or at least related to the original poster's post and subject heading. On occasion, when I've thought a conversation has progressed naturally and is still useful, I'll re-title the thread to keep it going, and not cut off that conversation.

In most cases, though, if a thread has gone into an area where there is no relation to the original post/title, it's best to just open up a new topic and title it accordingly. You can always insert a hyperlink back to the original if it's what made you think of the new question.

We're a highly-indexed site, and people who come for answers on a specific topic are not going to look in a thread entitled with something unrelated, and the search terms may lead them to the incorrect topic title, and they'll just ignore it in the search results. Keeping topics "on course" actually helps us quite a bit, and is why our site is highly regarded (at least by some). So if I search for New Haven 4400 MU's, and I get a result in a topic titled 1100 ACMU's in the New York Central forum, I'm probably not going to read it.

If you have something to post relevant to the original topic, you can always PM that moderator and ask that it be reopened, or start a new topic if it's not quite directly related. If the PM doesn't respond (and I know some moderators are no longer active on the site) then PM me. It doesn't mean the moderator will unlock it, but at least you've given them the chance to respond as to why it was locked.

Thanks again for the question.
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Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by MEC407 » Thu Mar 24, 2011 3:41 pm

In addition to what Mr. Smith wrote, I would add that each individual moderator has his or her own "style" in terms of how they moderate. On top of that, each individual forum has its own culture, so to speak; some are more laid-back, others are a bit more strict. I tend to be fairly easy-going with the forums I moderate, and try to lock topics only as a last resort. Sometimes locking is necessary when arguments erupt and it's clear that there's no way to bring the discussion back to a civil and on-topic place. Other times it just takes a gentle friendly reminder from the mod, and things will be fine from there on out. Sometimes a temporary lock (24 or 48 hours) can be useful to give people time to cool down before resuming the discussion. It's amazing what a good night's sleep can do. :wink:

When in doubt, send the mod a PM. This is usually the best first step to take. (As opposed to starting a new public thread that says "WHO DOES THAT JERK MODERATOR THINK HE IS TO LOCK MY THREAD OR DELETE MY POST?!" Yes, I've had a few of those in my forums, and it's definitely not the right way to get me to change my mind! :-D)
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Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by Otto Vondrak » Fri Mar 25, 2011 5:52 pm

Not my place to comment any more, however this topic has come up in the past.

See also: http://railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=141&t=69560

and also: http://railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=141&t=56812
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Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by 3rdrail » Fri Mar 25, 2011 8:24 pm

I have to agree with Boblothrope. I agree that sometimes a thread needs to be locked if it's reduced to just name calling, although sometimes some very pertinent information comes out in the heat of battle. However, I think that a normal human response is to drift in a thread - just like in conversation. This is natural, and like it's been stated, sometimes the best conversation is had during those departures that aren't strictly within the original topic. They're usually close enough to be of interest to anyone who is reading, such as a faulty part on PCC's in a thread about the Highland Branch on the MBTA forum. Honestly, what I think is the most disturbing for the membership are the threads that are locked because of the controversial nature of the posts. We should all be big boys here, and if we're not, we can learn something. Nobody is showing porno flicks. I had a conversation going regarding frivalous expenditures made by a supposed rehabilitation team taking government money, who are supposed to be rehabilitating a famous engine set. There was a lot of interest, discussion, debate, and input. When I attempted to show how these frivalous expenditures were being made, my points were labelled "ridiculous" (outside the thread, everyone else thought that my points were right on target), posts were removed, and the thread was locked...again. It had been getting locked repeatedly, then finally for good. (Has anyone ever seen me "ridiculous" in a serious thread ?) The thread recently was re-opened... again. It was no surprise when few wanted to participate anymore.

Jeff, if you want my honest advice, and I have every reason to believe that you do as we both want to see this thing be as large, entertaining, educational, and a "voice" as it can be, this is my suggestion. I'm not trying to tell you or anyone else how to run your business. This is just what I would do. The moderation thing is way over done. It turns away a lot of very interesting people from joining and posting. It stymies a lot of very interesting conversations, which have the domino effect of frustrating readers and posters who have invested ideas into locked threads and disappearing posts. How about a moratorium on moderation except in rare instances ? I believe that the calibre of RRN posters is such that we don't need it generally. I can honestly tell you that in the time that I have been a member, I have only seen two instances where I thought that a cut-off was necessary (outside of spam). One was a dispute between an individual who was retired from an eastern RR and workers who were currently on the RR in which remarks were made back and forth which were very personal and vindictive. The second instance is a case where a moderator was insulted by a faction in the previous group that I just mentioned. Other than those two times in my years here, that's it. I would make a general notification that you were conducting a trial to see if less moderation would work and ask people to conduct themselves with decorum so that we can have a better RRN. Just sit back, relax, and see what happens. If it's not to your liking in say, two weeks, bring on the moderators !
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Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by DutchRailnut » Sat Mar 26, 2011 11:52 am

If moderation is so bad how come Railroad.net has following Statistics :
Total posts 862632 • Total topics 66098 • Total members 11973 • Our newest member ........
How many forums do we all know which are now either moderated, nearly dead or totally shut down because of bickering and other childish behaviour.
Railroad.net is very succesfull and not duplicated anywhere, not for free anyway, closest would be Railroad.net.
If Conductors are in charge, why are they promoted to be Engineer???

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Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by MEC407 » Sat Mar 26, 2011 6:28 pm

I can appreciate the arguments from both sides. On one hand, I've experienced some discussions on here that I thought were locked unnecessarily (and in some cases the moderator did not give a reason for locking the topic, which just upsets people and leaves them guessing); on the other hand, I know some people who prefer RAILROAD.NET precisely because of the quality of the discussions we have here and because we don't allow things to get messy and uncivilized (unlike many of the aptly-named Yahoo groups).

The challenge is finding a happy medium. And when you have a couple dozen moderators, each with their own styles and points of view, that can be difficult because what one moderator deems to be a healthy debate might be deemed a pointless argument by a different moderator. I think we do need to be more consistent. It's not fair to have an "XY&Z Railway" forum, with a moderator whose philosophy is "anything goes!", and also have an "AB&C Railroad" forum, with a moderator whose philosophy is "If you sneeze, I'll lock the topic!" The question is, how do we fix that?
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Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by 3rdrail » Sat Mar 26, 2011 8:01 pm

I think that it's an easy fix, 407. You just give moderators a schematic of when to push the button. I think that the hard part lies within those grey areas. If a standardized policy were to be adopted, I would recommend that locking and "disappearing posts" should only be for serious offenses. If I were making the rules, this is what I'd ban:

-all spam
-anything commercial that a legitimate poster puts up that is not railway related
-vindictive posts that aren't knock down and get up to dust yourself off fights. (I would not ban all personal insults because they are necessary from time to time. I poster that laughs and criticizes a 14 y/o girl who is horribly killed underneath a locomotive because she wasn't where she was supposed to be should be called heartless (or worse). What it shouldn't be is a 3-day argument back and forth.
-real obscenity. If it can be heard on TV, let it go. Somebody should be able to call the 14 y/o victim basher an a ssh ole without being censured. He shouldn't be able to call her the c-word.
I think that moderators must understand that as moderators, a post may not be to their liking. That doesn't mean that it doesn't deserve to be heard. Timidity in moderation should not be tolerated. Level headedness, calmness, with a reflective approach should be encouraged.
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Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by GOLDEN-ARM » Sun Mar 27, 2011 9:28 pm

why would it feel appropriate for you, to want to allow people to be called a'holes in the forum? saying you should be able to use any language you hear on tv is ridiculous. tv channels and programs have ratings. are we supposed to rate forums and topics now? the individual mods work under the blanket rules of the forum. how they run their forums is mostly up to them, as long as they dont operate in a manner contradictory to the forum rules. just because you heard a word on tv, doesnt mean it's appropriate here. i see lots of stuff on tv, thats not a good fit here. it's very simple to include a list of words that cannot be posted here. the forum software can include a list of words, that if you typed them, they wouldnt appear. this includes all of the "clever" ways to spell around them. even if the admin enabled this, you still need to keep topics relevant, and on topic. i dont see any excessive locking of topics, really.

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Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by David Benton » Mon Mar 28, 2011 3:08 am

I think the balance is pretty good at the moment . I can remember the days when the Amtrak forum in particular was paddlock city , becuase of over zealous moderators . Railroad.net forums are successful because most of us regular posters have been around a long time and know the ropes . I cant think of anyone on here that is nasty , or consistently trying to cause trouble .
There does need to be moderation , but it should be like the referee in a football game , keeping the players from offending , not dictating how the players should play .
as i said earlier , i think the moderation is pretty fair now . I think most people know the boundaries .like kids , we will alll give them a push now and then . just play fair , and expect to be treated fairly . if your not then by all means complain to the moderator or admin .
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