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Message Board Warts

Sanya Weathers Posted:
Columns Developer Perspectives 0

I love message boards. (One moment while I get out my Metamucil/dentures/cane.) Some of you may not remember a time where you couldn't chat with people from all over the world who shared your particular interests. Me, I was chronologically an adult before such things were possible for anyone but the technically competent, so I remember quite clearly the rush I felt when I realized there was a place where I got all the jokes, where I was not alone in my interests, and where status wasn't based on looks or money. Where I... belonged.

I hasten to add that approximately ten minutes after my epiphany, someone said "show me ur tits." Anyone trying to tell you that the internet had a golden age of civil discourse must be so old they're nearly senile. Also, one's internet status in the old days might not have been based on looks or money, but irony as a currency has its downsides.

At any rate, irony and casual misogyny aside, I've never ended my love affair with message board communities, warts and all. I've also learned that moderation is best wielded like a scalpel. If you must cut, cut deep and fast, but always remember that even the best-intended cuts leave scars and are prone to infection.

You just don't use a scalpel on a wart. As such, there are some things I rarely moderate, but I'd still rather never, ever see them again:

  • Fanboi. It's almost always spelled that way when the person wielding it is being an insufferable prig, too. But occasionally you see it spelled properly. There might be a legitimate place for the word, but for ten years now, I've only seen it used as a means by which to dismiss someone's entire argument.
  • Asskisser. This is universally applied to someone being nice to a dev or a mod. And by nice, I mean "the bare minimum of courtesy." Now, I've been a dev in some form or another since 2001. I have had my ass kissed. It doesn't happen nearly as often as you think, and it makes me uncomfortable when it does. The person doing it is never talking to me openly on the freaking forum, though. Acknowledging our fellow humanity is not asskissing. If you want to be entitled to your opinion that I am an ass, you need to tolerate someone else thinking I'm an unintentional ass.
  • Free speech.  The people using this one almost always have a fundamental misunderstanding of what the right to free speech means. (Crash course: It means you can say nearly anything you want about me on your own message board within the terms of service defined by your ISP. It does not mean you can say whatever you want about me on my own message board.) Every game company I know with a launched MMO allows a staggering amount of borderline abuse, accusations, and suggestions for ways the developers can shuffle off this mortal coil. Any moderation at all brings out the wails of "free speech."

  • The sensitive snowflake. It's all about him. All the time. Every patch note is aimed at him, every offhanded remark in chat is a pointed message to him, and the sensitivity meter is cranked to eleven. You can't ban him for having tender feelings, but after awhile, the crying gets to you and you start to wonder how this person functions at all.
  • Slippery slope (aka reductio ad absurdum). I know those aren't the same thing. The reason I include them on a list of things I allow but wish I could douse with napalm? They BECOME the same thing on message boards. The minute someone says slippery slope, I know the thread will not rest until we have gotten to the most ludicrous possible exaggeration of the concept.
  • The badass. I tend to seek out PVP games to work on because I like the communities best of all the various MMO flavors out there. I am a connoisseur of trash talking. The difference between trash talking and the internet badass is that the trashtalk is both for fun and backed up by something concrete. The badass really does rely on being a Big Man Online in order to look at himself in the mirror. It is not a mod's place to offer or suggest therapy. The distinction between the two groups can be hard to spot. Nuking it all would spoil half the fun, so I bite my tongue and tolerate the badass.

I mean, maybe it's unintentional.

Got any other examples of things that shouldn't be modded, but you wish they were?


Sanya Weathers