Question about locked threads?

General discussion about the RAILROAD.NET site, forums, or content ONLY. Please do not post your general railroading questions, please choose an appropriate forum. For help using the site, please post in the Help Using RAILROAD.NET Forum.

Moderator: Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith
Site Admin
Posts: 8512
Joined: Tue Nov 07, 2006 9:28 am
Location: MP 67.2 Georgia Southern Railway

Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by Jeff Smith » Mon Mar 28, 2011 10:08 am

(thinks to himself: "I should lock this thread! With no explanation!" followed by evil laugh......)

Seriously, I appreciate the input. It's a tough balance not just for me but for all moderators. Overall, I think we do a pretty good job. While I'm working on "universal guidelines", they are more general in nature. I will let some things go in certain forums but not in others, just based on the community that participates there. A lot has to do with the traffic in the forums.

Just to restate: drift is not necessarily bad, and I will re-title a thread if the drift is a logical path from the original topic, and still falls within the general parameters of the discussion. Some topics will be more specific than others. But when the topic gets hijacked, if the information is useful, it should go in a new topic. This is so when someone is searching for information, they can find it in an appopriately titled topic. See above.
Next stop, Willoughby
~Jeff Smith (fka "Sarge") :: RAILROAD.NET Site Administrator/Co-Owner

User avatar
MEC407
Posts: 10921
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2004 8:15 pm

Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by MEC407 » Mon Mar 28, 2011 11:11 am

Jeff Smith wrote:Just to restate: drift is not necessarily bad, and I will re-title a thread if the drift is a logical path from the original topic, and still falls within the general parameters of the discussion. Some topics will be more specific than others. But when the topic gets hijacked, if the information is useful, it should go in a new topic. This is so when someone is searching for information, they can find it in an appopriately titled topic. See above.
Exactly. As a moderator, I've gotten some complaints about doing just that because some people took it personally when I re-titled their thread or moved their posts to a different (more topic-appropriate) thread. Like you said, the purpose is to make it easier for people to find what they're looking for. It's not as if we moderators are on some kind of power trip or something. If a member writes a post that is really useful and interesting, but puts it in the wrong thread or with a title that isn't descriptive, how are people going to find it? By re-titling it and/or moving it to a better thread, I'm trying to help that member get his or her post out there and seen by more people. Basically it's a good thing, not a bad thing.

Of course, now I'm drifting away from the topic of locked threads. :wink:
MEC407
Moderator:
Pan Am Railways — Boston & Maine/Maine Central — Delaware & Hudson
Central Maine & Quebec/Montreal, Maine & Atlantic/Bangor & Aroostook
Providence & Worcester — New England — GE Locomotives

F-line to Dudley via Park
Posts: 7355
Joined: Fri Mar 11, 2005 7:26 pm
Location: North Cambridge

Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue Mar 29, 2011 12:44 am

I would just like the moderation rules on things like threaddrift and on/off-topic to be made more clear since those are inherently more subjective areas open to interpretation and requiring judgment calls from the mod. I liken the mod's role in that to a baseball umpire with his strike zone. Each ump is going to vary a little bit on where they call the plate boundaries, and each has his own habits. That's human nature; no two brains will interpret exactly the same way. But these umps' habits are known and scouted by teams, so it's rarely ever a problem if the terms are clear...i.e. if they don't go willy-nilly around what MLB defines as the regulation strike zone and they call their own interpretation of the zone consistently. Players start chirping, giving bad body language, and getting tossed when the same pitch is called a different way every time, they can't get an explanation as to why that borderline call was made, and they're given no means of reconciling the logic between one call that went one way and one that went another.


It gets to be a problem on forums when. . .
-- What gets a warning or threadlock varies too widely week to week or topic to topic. That induces more off-topic threads from confusion alone, since folks are going to measure themselves by most-recent levels of moderation and (especially if not a very regular visitor to a forum) judge by how the first 10 or so threads on the first page play out.

-- People can't interpret why this thread was cited when this other very similar by-topic or by-situation one wasn't, and are confused at what signs they've missed. When both newer and veteran posters alike have to ask themselves this with some regularity, there's a communication gap that goes beyond any individual poster being too thick to interpret the obvious.

-- People start posting in avoidance of a scolding. Things like having to preface a post with "I know this is slightly off-topic but it's not too far off and I can't find another thread specific enough and I SWEAR there's a point to this so just give me a sec to explain 'cause it'll eventually make sense okay. . ." Sidebars within a topic should absolutely have some sort of point to them and not come flying totally in and out of left field. But it should never get to the point where people feel hesitant about posting a relevant related point that does ultimately loop back to the topic, out of apprehension that they're going to accidentally ruin it for everyone by getting the thread killed. That prevents interesting discussion from taking hold, and it can make people feel it isn't worth it to contribute as much as they'd want with it taking a thesis writer's precision to safely play the angles.

-- Being required to file posts neatly in very old topics not easily found. The search box on a board like this doesn't have Google-level precision. If a topic falls off page 1 of the forum it gets hard to find unless it was a 9+ page barn-burner of a thread that floods the zone when you punch up the search term. If it takes digging 4 pages deep on a fairly specific search to find the precise on-topic thread, assume that the majority of members are not going to be able to find it. Some topics do repeat when they're not in running threads that get occasional bump. It's fine for mods to keep the clutter down, and it's fine for mods to move stuff; that helps everyone by improving readability. But be clear on what the leeway is before it does trigger legit clutter cleanup, and always be clear on where the go-to thread is. See also previous point...nobody wants to be apprehensive about their posts inadvertently causing extra housecleaning work for the mods. We know and respect that they have day jobs.

-- Cutting off discussion before confusion is settled. I'd preface that by saying obviously the mod's got to preemptively intervene for the greater good when a thread, posts, or poster are doing more harm than good or the dead horse has been beaten to glue. But when a thread's civil and mundane and somebody asks for general clarification on moderation for the forum at-large, then an explanation is usually warranted. As is some *extremely* limited constructive commenting back, as it relates only to clarifying for the membership-at-large. I realize that one's gotta have a very hard line against abuse, but the alternative of not clearing up a legit point of confusion means it just keeps happening again and again. There have been times when posters have asked after a warning for clarification and those posts have either disappeared without a trace, the thread's been locked, or there's been a blanket "Any questions...PM" statement. All that does is send an unintended message that feedback is permitted but not really encouraged, and shapes posting habits to avoid moderation over advancing discussion.


I think the individual forum mods need to spell out what their definitions of threaddrift and off-topic are before they start locking or warning. It's important that members be able to deduce their strike zones easily and be able to measure with some degree of confidence where the boundaries are when they step to bat. Particularly when hopping forum to forum given how sprawling the site is. This wouldn't be something formal and notorized like the main site rules because it's going to evolve with intra-forum discussion trends and new judgment calls that pop up. But there should be somewhere open, public, and on-topic for this to get hashed out. Maybe a stickied 'Forum Business' thread at the top of each individual forum with strict discussion rules about keeping the questions and comments purely constructive. I think it would be a terribly unfortunate thing for interesting thoughts to not get expressed on RR.net because people don't have a confident enough feel for what is and isn't in play. That's a loss for all of us.

apcjr01
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Jan 01, 2007 3:20 pm
Location: Rockaway, NJ

Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by apcjr01 » Sun May 08, 2011 6:37 am

I feel, some of these moderators have way too much time on their hands; this obsession with rigidly organizing topics for example. I suppose if one of them were to walk into a room where groups of people were carrying on conversations, they would feel compelled to attempt to shuffle the people around according to the topic of their conversation. As for information being easier to find as a result of these efforts, I have my doubts.

I was also disturbed to see that a topic had been locked and a member banned due to his calling the moderator a Nazi. There are two sides to every story. Of course we only heard the moderator's version of events since he excercised his incredible administrative power to ban that member. I'd say the name used was appropriate.

But that member can easily re-subscribe with a different user name and will certainly have a score to settle.

User avatar
charlie6017
Posts: 3128
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2004 9:42 pm
Location: Rochester, New York

Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by charlie6017 » Sun May 08, 2011 7:11 am

I moderate several forums here......I do not have the authority to ban anyone. I would believe the only person here now who has that authority is Jeff Smith. Also, I'm not completely sure a banned member can "re-up" with a new account with a different email, either if it's from the same ISP. I do not know. I do know that each mod has their own style......personally, I won't close a thread unless I feel it's absolutely necessary, however, I do try to keep threads in their proper forum so that members will get their proper answers and the most out of their discussion.

And no, name calling is not appropriate in any way.....if members have issues with a mod, it's best to discuss those via PM. In my humble opinion, name calling is juvenile and doing so in a public forum should be grounds for removal of account. But moderators do not have authority to ban.

<stepping off soap box>
Charlie
~Charlie Ricker

Patrick Boylan
Posts: 3469
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 1:44 pm
Location: Here is a stupid picture, pay attention to me. Burlington Township, NJ 08016

Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by Patrick Boylan » Sun May 08, 2011 10:01 am

Jeff Smith wrote:(thinks to himself: "I should lock this thread! With no explanation!" followed by evil laugh......)
I prefer, and have said a couple of times in private messages to moderators, that I'd prefer a lock with no explanation, and of course I imagine the moderator's evil laugh. As opposed to a "I'm locking this thread", or "simmer down boys" message. We know the thread's locked, it's got a different icon and we can't post anything new in it, we didn't need the moderator to tell us they locked it. What we probably needed to know is why they locked it.
F-line to Dudley via Park wrote: -- People can't interpret why this thread was cited when this other very similar by-topic or by-situation one wasn't, and are confused at what signs they've missed.
If we have to guess at what's the lockable behavior we're going to self censor a bunch of innocuous, and maybe constructive things, and maybe continue to post some borderline or lockable things because we're unsure about what's acceptable.
F-line to Dudley via Park wrote: -- People start posting in avoidance of a scolding. Things like having to preface a post with "I know this is slightly off-topic but it's not too far off . . ."
...
But it should never get to the point where people feel hesitant about posting a relevant related point that does ultimately loop back to the topic, out of apprehension that they're going to accidentally ruin it for everyone by getting the thread killed.
I've often wondered: a troll hijacks a thread, the moderator's solution is to lock the thread. Isn't that probably what the troll wanted to happen anyway? So who gets punished, or what behavior gets discouraged and what behavior gets encouraged?
F-line to Dudley via Park wrote: -- Being required to file posts neatly in very old topics not easily found... Some topics do repeat when they're not in running threads that get occasional bump.
Why do people, when posting in a long dormant thread, say something like "bump", and in fact to add extra punctuation like "*bump*". Just like the above "I'm locking this thread" message, it's not necessary, we can tell that it's an old thread resurrected. And why should bumping an old thread ever bother anybody? Don't we want to encourage folks to search to see if there's an appropriate existing thread before they create a new one? Of course we should have some balance. A 200 page thread titled "New high speed" whose first post was 5 years ago might have some posts that should be in a different thread, but it's also probably not a good thing to have 20 threads only 10 pages each.
And for what it's worth, I probably would not have made this post if you guys hadn't bumped the thread to the top of the list after it had been dormant more than 1 month.
F-line to Dudley via Park wrote: -- ...There have been times when posters have asked after a warning for clarification and those posts have either disappeared without a trace...
The agony of delete. I had one of those within the last month or so. I sent the moderator a private message as soon as I noticed the deleted posts. A week later with no response I sent another message, this time copying the 2 or 3 other users whose posts I remembered being deleted. The moderator replied, apologized for not getting back sooner, he didn't remember the particulars because since he deleted the posts even he couldn't tell what was in them anymore.
apcjr01 wrote:I feel, some of these moderators have way too much time on their hands; this obsession with rigidly organizing topics for example. I suppose if one of them were to walk into a room where groups of people were carrying on conversations, they would feel compelled to attempt to shuffle the people around according to the topic of their conversation.
It's just a lot easier to do with electrons than it is with people. Let's give the moderators the benefit of the doubt. They want to be good party hosts and have the guests mingle with folks with whom they'll get along.
apcjr01 wrote: As for information being easier to find as a result of these efforts, I have my doubts.
I doubt it too
apcjr01 wrote: But that member can easily re-subscribe with a different user name and will certainly have a score to settle.
But if they make the re-subscribe too obvious God might smite that new username, eventually either the user or the administrator with God like powers must give up.
charlie6017 wrote:I'm not completely sure a banned member can "re-up" with a new account with a different email, either if it's from the same ISP. I do not know.
I tend to think one must be able to re-up. After my 30 day Zuma Deluxe free trial expires they won't let me get another freebie, so they seem to record IP addresses, but I don't see how that's appropriate for a social networking site. There could be households with 1 shared computer but more than 1 railfan, each of whom I'd expect rr.net to want to allow to be users. Of course if banned member 1 used the same computer as questionable new user 2 that would be one sign that they're the same person.
charlie6017 wrote: But moderators do not have authority to ban.
I'm guessing Jeff Smith has such authority. When one or 10 moderators ask for a ban does the authority holder listen more attentively than if it's 10 users?

User avatar
MEC407
Posts: 10921
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2004 8:15 pm

Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by MEC407 » Sun May 08, 2011 10:26 am

Patrick Boylan wrote:
apcjr01 wrote: As for information being easier to find as a result of these efforts, I have my doubts.
I doubt it too
You're both welcome to have your doubts. :wink: But let me use a real-world example:

A couple of weeks ago, someone posted a message about New York freight service upgrades in a thread about Maine passenger service.

Now, if you're interested in New York stuff, are you going to think to look in the Maine thread? I'm guessing the answer is no.

So, I moved the poster's New York message to the appropriate thread where people would expect to read stuff about New York. And the poster got mad at me and wanted to know why I did it.

This happens far more often than you might think.

I just don't understand why people take it so personally. It's not as if having your post moved is some form of punishment or something. On the contrary, it's an effort to give your post the exposure it deserves, so that others can see it / find it.

The comment about moderators reorganizing party-goers into different conversation groups is amusing, but I really don't think that's the case. Well, maybe with one or two moderators. I'm not naming names. :P

In regards to banning members, Charlie is correct, only the site administrators can do that. It's something that they take very seriously and I'm sure they don't do it unless the member has repeatedly violated the rules. Members are generally given warnings before it ever gets to the point of being banned. If someone was banned after calling a moderator a Nazi, I can assure you that there were other rules that the member also violated that resulted in the ban.
MEC407
Moderator:
Pan Am Railways — Boston & Maine/Maine Central — Delaware & Hudson
Central Maine & Quebec/Montreal, Maine & Atlantic/Bangor & Aroostook
Providence & Worcester — New England — GE Locomotives

Patrick Boylan
Posts: 3469
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 1:44 pm
Location: Here is a stupid picture, pay attention to me. Burlington Township, NJ 08016

Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by Patrick Boylan » Sun May 08, 2011 10:46 am

I too wonder why someone gets upset about moving a thread. I was thinking more on the lines of if deleting and locking things make it easier to find info.

So you say calling somebody a Nazi once might not cause dismissal. How about calling somebody a Nancy?

"But of course I'm a Nancy boy, I'm from Nance"

3rdrail
Posts: 5641
Joined: Thu Jun 29, 2006 11:10 pm
Location: Boston

Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by 3rdrail » Sun May 08, 2011 11:05 am

...to say nothing of the fact that to call someone a "Nazi" is to call them a vicious sociopathic killer. It is not the folksy guy selling soup as seen on Seinfeld. It's the group who murdered men, women, and children because the Nazi's thought that they were the "master race".
~Paul Joyce~
Moderator: Toy Trains, Model Railroading, Outdoor and Live Steam
Paul Joyce passed away in August, 2013. We honor his memory and his devotion at railroad.net.

Jeff Smith
Site Admin
Posts: 8512
Joined: Tue Nov 07, 2006 9:28 am
Location: MP 67.2 Georgia Southern Railway

Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by Jeff Smith » Sun May 08, 2011 1:12 pm

apcjr01 wrote:I feel, some of these moderators have way too much time on their hands; this obsession with rigidly organizing topics for example. I suppose if one of them were to walk into a room where groups of people were carrying on conversations, they would feel compelled to attempt to shuffle the people around according to the topic of their conversation. As for information being easier to find as a result of these efforts, I have my doubts.

I was also disturbed to see that a topic had been locked and a member banned due to his calling the moderator a Nazi. There are two sides to every story. Of course we only heard the moderator's version of events since he excercised his incredible administrative power to ban that member. I'd say the name used was appropriate.

But that member can easily re-subscribe with a different user name and will certainly have a score to settle.
And you're exactly the kind of jackass that gets banned with that type of attitude. You post on a free forum and complain and whine instead of saying thank you to the volunteer moderators who do a tough job.

Do you want the context of the "Nazi" incident? I combined a thread in the NJT forum on the 7 line extension into a thread in the NYC Subway forum, since it was a subway proposal. I thought it was logicial to have one thread, so you may have your doubts about the info being easier to find, but you'd be wrong. For that, I got called a Nazi. I'm sorry, I don't take that kind of abuse.

The fact that you think the name was appropriate means you're just as big of a jackass as that previous poster, if you're not actually the same poster given your number of posts and the fact that you brag on how you can just re-register. If you're so disturbed that I locked a thread and banned someone for calling me a Nazi, go start your own blog, let me register, and I'll come over there and call you names.

Like Jackass.
Next stop, Willoughby
~Jeff Smith (fka "Sarge") :: RAILROAD.NET Site Administrator/Co-Owner

Jeff Smith
Site Admin
Posts: 8512
Joined: Tue Nov 07, 2006 9:28 am
Location: MP 67.2 Georgia Southern Railway

Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by Jeff Smith » Sun May 08, 2011 1:35 pm

3rdrail wrote:...to say nothing of the fact that to call someone a "Nazi" is to call them a vicious sociopathic killer. It is not the folksy guy selling soup as seen on Seinfeld. It's the group who murdered men, women, and children because the Nazi's thought that they were the "master race".
Paul, you are absolutely right. That term is abhorrent.

I consider myself a very reasonable person, but when someone approaches me in an immediately hostile manner, calling me a Nazi or saying I impinged on first amendment rights (which don't exist on a privately owned forum where one agrees to the terms of service) is a quick way to get banned because basically I don't have the time for such nonsense. Sooner or later, you're going to inevitably cross that line, and I might as well get it over with. And I back my moderators on this.

By the way, the member banned for calling me a Nazi had been a long time poster here, but went on a rant about previous admins, moderators, saying we had double-ruined railroad.net. Jeez. Grow up. I even offered a chance to be reinstated; no apology required. Never heard from the person again.

I don't lock topics arbitrarily. If you have a question on the moderation, or an issue, all you have to do is ask. I've reopened threads; ask MEC407; I've reopened threads, on previously controversial topics. I want a divergence of opinions. If I delete posts, I usually PM the person involved with an explanation, or leave a note in a thread that we'd gotten off-base, and apologies to those who'd posted that I had to delete.

As for the person who agreed with the member who called me a Nazi? By by.
Next stop, Willoughby
~Jeff Smith (fka "Sarge") :: RAILROAD.NET Site Administrator/Co-Owner

apcjr02
Posts: 6
Joined: Sun May 08, 2011 7:42 pm

Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by apcjr02 » Fri May 13, 2011 9:41 pm

So, a person can waive his Constitutional rights by agreeing to a TOS huh? Kinda like how Tony Soprano would be able to enforce a loan agreement in a court of law where the borrower agreed to a rate of 2 & 1/2 points per week.

Jeff Smith
Site Admin
Posts: 8512
Joined: Tue Nov 07, 2006 9:28 am
Location: MP 67.2 Georgia Southern Railway

Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by Jeff Smith » Sat May 14, 2011 6:18 am

Wow. You really don't get it, do you? In my previous post, I referred to those who come on here and assert some type of constitutional right to free speech, claiming censorship. My prediction is that these members are inevitably trouble. I have yet to meet one who is not. This is why when this occurs, I usually just ban, because I just can't waste the time in the endless argument that takes place.

What you don't get is that no such constitutional right exists here, TOS or not, and I find your Tony Soprana comparison ludicrous. After all, what's 2.5% interest a week cost on a FREE SITE?

This is a PRIVATELY-OWNED AND OPERATED web-site, and I am the moderator. This is not a government operated web-site. Railroad.net is not Congress. No one has passed a law preventing you from exercising your rights. Like I said, go get a blog.

You're free to disagree with the way the site is moderated. I welcome an open discussion; this topic is not locked, after all, is it? I posted your opinion, didn't I? All I require is that you ask in a civil manner. No one gets banned for disagreeing, whether it's in a PM or in this topic.

Nevertheless, I do not tolerate abuse of the moderators, myself included. You can not call me a Nazi on this site, and expect me not to react. You can not call me a Nazi on this site, and then pretend to serve some loftier goal of "free speech". Attack my position, my method, that's fine. Call me a Nazi, or make that allusion, not so much.

So I see you agree with a now banned member that I'm a "Nazi" and allude to such here, and then skirt your ban by re-registering, as you also pointed out previously? There are other ways I could make sure you don't return. My reaction above might have been "over the top" as you mentioned in your email. I had considered not banning you. Do I wield an inordinate amount of power? Really? In my little corner of the internet? Please.

That's the way it is. Accept it, or move on. I wish you no ill will.
Next stop, Willoughby
~Jeff Smith (fka "Sarge") :: RAILROAD.NET Site Administrator/Co-Owner

User avatar
Otto Vondrak
Posts: 20285
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2004 6:47 pm
Location: New York

Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by Otto Vondrak » Sat May 14, 2011 6:55 pm

Not that it's my call anymore to make sitewide policy, but for all the crybabies whining about their precious opinions they want to offer in a locked thread... You ever ask a moderator or an administrator to UNLOCK the thread in question? Or is it more satisfying to stand on a soapbox and blow hot air and call names?

I think It's obvious the first occasions "nazi" appeared were slung at me, for some ignorant slobs figured my name has germanic roots... Boy, could not be more wrong. Nothing like a public forum to expose your ignorance though, right?

Like I said... Not my call anymore...

-otto vondrak
----------------------------------------------
Moderator: New York State Railfan :: New York Central :: Toy Trains
NYW&B Fan Site :: A Magazine I Read Often :: A Museum I Volunteer At

User avatar
Tommy Meehan
Posts: 3345
Joined: Tue May 11, 2004 7:00 am
Location: Yonkers

Re: Question about locked threads?

Post by Tommy Meehan » Mon Jun 20, 2011 8:59 pm

I think everyone can agree the use of the term "Nazi" is pretty stupid. I moderate several Yahoo Groups, close to a combined 5,000 members before I had to cut back. I agree it's very upsetting the first time you see someone calling you that.

Several years ago I was repeatedly referred to as "the list Nazi" by someone in a Yahoo Group because of my efforts to referee an on-list flame war. I had emailed this person off-list and asked them to please refrain from replying back to a flamer until I had time to read through the thread. I contacted him because I recognized his name as someone who has had a lot of photos published and I thought he was probably a pretty serious guy. I asked him to hold any reply until I figured out what action to take. And I promised I would take some action. That the list owner and myself were determined to stop this type of thing. (And we did stop it.)

This was all in the first week of January and I told him I wondered if it was all just a case of post-holiday blues infecting the list. I meant it in a light-hearted way but for some reason he became absolutely furious with me. Again, this was no troll, I see his photos in books and magazines all the time.

Sad to say I'd bet he still bad mouths me every chance he gets. :(

Return to “General Discussion: About RAILROAD.NET”