Changes in policing the StP community (1 Viewer)

Matt Derrick

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Hey everyone, this announcement is going to be a bit of a doozy, so strap yourselves in.

So a few months back we decided to implement first, the den of the banned (a forum where user bans were announced) and then later, the ability to let the community vote to overturn bans on members. In short, this has been a complete shit show for several reasons.

First, users rarely have useful input on the den of the banned threads. Responses are usually agreements or disagreements, or complaining about the staff being unfair. The 'unfair' complaints usually come from the same five or so people, so while these complaints were less than 1% of the community, they were the loudest, and made it easy for folks to latch onto ideas such as the staff being too eager to ban users, the staff being power hungry, etc. Providing a space for these complaints just perpetuated the idea that anyone in a position of perceived power on StP is a bad person.

In reality, if you look at the den of the banned forum, user bans have gone down significantly since we started documenting them for transparency (look at the dates between each thread/ban), yet complaints about us being unfair have pretty much skyrocketed. So despite the staff bending over backwards to make a very small percentage of people in the community happy (we honestly tried really hard not to ban people and gave users waaay more chances than they deserved), those same users have been given a space to point and say, "Look! Look! Everyone come see the violence inherent in the system! We're being repressed!" as if the bans themselves are proof of the personal bias of the staff.

Second, the voting system gives everyone the same amount of power whether they've been a user for 10 years or 10 seconds. The majority of these users have not even bothered to read what the ban was about, or examine the evidence. Unfortunately, the majority of votes are rarely based on whether the user broke the website rules (that we all agreed to on registering an account) but rather on how well that person was liked. This system has devolved our policing process into a popularity contest, where someone can theoretically post some fairly offensive stuff or spend all their time trolling/harassing the staff, and have their ban overturned because a small percentage of people were entertained by their posts.

So for these reasons, there will no longer be any polls on whether a ban is fair or not. In addition, I'm removing the ability to comment on threads in the den of the banned. Complaints and unproductive comments on bans will be removed.

The mods and myself are just normal people volunteering their time to keep StP from devolving into another 4chan or another one of the dozens of 'dirty kid traveler' facebook group shit shows. I've been doing this for nearly 20 years now. Some of our mods have been around for 10 years or more. They've done it for free and for a love of the community that make this website unique. Providing a space to complain and perpetuate the myth that the StP staff is 'power hungry' or out of control (despite hard evidence to the contrary) is an extreme disservice to them and the work they do every day to make sure YOU don't have to sort through 43 posts of nonsense to find something useful here. In addition, letting ANYONE overturn bans on users essentially rewards trolls and combative users as long as they are entertaining enough to win the popular vote. This is basically spitting in the face of the staff and myself and all the work we've done to provide this space, for free, to you.

That said, the staff is not in 100% agreement on these decisions. The above decisions are mine alone. I'll leave it to the staff to post their opinions in detail as replies to this thread.

As the creator of the Squat the Planet site, I feel like it's my duty to take back control and steer this ship back on course. I know everyone (myself included) would like everything here to be 'anarchism always' and more egalitarian, but unfortunately this is clearly an example of a situation in which that just won't work. The hurdles of our forum software along with other logistics just won't allow us to maintain the quality of information you've come to expect from this community when this kind of chaos can be ensued by anyone with bone to pick (whether it's deserved or not).

I'm asking you to believe that we have the best interests of the community at heart. To defend those interests, we need to be able to defend both ourselves (as the staff) and the community from trolls and other people who are more interested in fighting the staff than they are contributing to the community. Personally, I refuse to slave away an extra 40+ hours a week (on top of my IRL job) to be spat at online and called names when none of the people doing those things are willing to put in the same amount of work to make this community happen. If personal abuse becomes the norm, then I will simply walk away from StP and it will be no more. Not because something better will come along for the traveler underground, but because no one else is willing to step up to the task.

I know this is going to upset some people, and all I can say is I'm sorry; but this is the way it has to be. If you don't like it or think im a terrible person, then I encourage you to delete your account and find a space on the internet where you're more comfortable. I'm not saying that last line out of spite or bitterness. I genuinely want you to go somewhere you'll be happy and I want people here that believe in the vision I have for this community.

In some minds, the scales were tipped too far in favor of the staff, and in others, the scales were going too far in the direction of anarchy (not anarch-ism). Fortunately, I have some ideas I'd like to try in order to balance those scales. What I would like to propose is a participation-based model of how much say a person has in how things are run on StP. Believe it or not, my ultimate goal is to be able to walk away from StP for good (I have other things I'd like to do), but only when it's in capable hands. Exact details will be forthcoming, but the short version is that the more you put into the community, the more say you get in how it's run. This means a tiered system of user groups. Newly registered accounts will start at the bottom, and work their way up through participation. Exactly how 10 posts are required to view the train hopping forum, you'll earn more 'powers' the more you participate. This participation will not just be based on number of posts. It will be based on dozens of factors, from having a completed profile to how many of your threads get promoted to the 'best of' section, how many wikithread edits you make, how many positive/negative votes you get from other users, and more. All users will be able to see where they are on the ladder on their profile (achievement badges will likely be given out automatically based on your level and will also appear on your profile).

Eventually, being a benefit to the community and it's members gives you more and more moderator powers and eventually you can be the one making the decisions around here (along with the rest of the staff). As long as you don't break the rules (which will be placed somewhere easier to find) or completely piss off the current staff, there's no reason you shouldn't be able to make it to moderator status. This filters out people that aren't interested in contributing, and hopefully means that the community itself will be rewarded with both good content and invested individuals who care and are willing to put in the time to make StP what it is. Then I can finally move on and worry about other projects. Unless there's something I'm forgetting, it's my hope that everyone wins this way.

This will probably be my last major revision for StP. I'm too old, have too many places I haven't seen yet, and too many other projects I want to pursue. Once people step up, and I walk away, you're free to run this thing into the ground if you want. All I can do for now is give you what I hope is the framework for success and pray this community is responsible enough to handle it.
 
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Barf

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@Matt Derrick

Thank you for all you do to keep this site up and running.

There was another forum that I loved and frequented for years.

It was incredibly hard to watch that forum burn to the ground.

After all the fallout had settled, there was an empty space in my internet heart.

It was painful.

While there are decisions that you and the staff made that I don’t agree with 100%, I respect what has to be done to maintain the forum, little bit o sanity, and keep it up and running.

PS~ @Eng JR Lupo RV323 who‘s feet getting painted?
 

TheDesertMouse

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I really like this idea!
I’m curious how will certain things be weighted for contribution, donations for the website for example.

It also sounds like there will be a veto system in place. As many pointed out in the OTD shitshow he did contribute a fair bit to the community, under this new system he could, theoretically, have been auto-elevated to mod status. Will this be anymore complicated than if a majority of staff don’t want this person in a mod position they can’t be?
 

Matt Derrick

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I really like this idea!
I’m curious how will certain things be weighted for contribution, donations for the website for example.

It also sounds like there will be a veto system in place. As many pointed out in the OTD shitshow he did contribute a fair bit to the community, under this new system he could, theoretically, have been auto-elevated to mod status. Will this be anymore complicated than if a majority of staff don’t want this person in a mod position they can’t be?

good questions! i do not currently have any plans to include donations in the participation ladder system. if you feel strongly that i should i'd be interested in hearing those opinions. my fear tho is that i don't want anyone to be able to 'buy' their way into leadership, if that makes sense.

as for your second question, the ladder system is going to be long. this isn't something someone is going to be able to achieve in a weekend. we're talking probably twelve months at a minimum. so if someone wants to contribute enough to qualify for moderator-ship, theoretically this should be enough time to vet that person by the staff. will the staff get final say or will it be automatic? the answer is im not sure yet. it seems unlikey someone that made it a whole year without breaking the rules AND contributing enough to qualify to be a mod would be a troublemaker that is going to turn around and destroy as much as possible right after they get some mod powers.

also, i plan to post the specifics of the participation ladder as it develops, so folks can chime in and we can make adjustments as needed.
 

Eng JR Lupo RV323

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Once this system is put into effect, will people who have already contributed for years grandfather in with whatever "points" they would have received had the system been in place all along? Or does everyone start at the bottom the moment it's implemented? Would there be some sort of.. glados bot in a sense that would detect all these factors and just kick them down their past efforts points upon signing in once it's effective? I imagine that would require more work to begin with but feels fairer to long time members. I've played MMOs before where they introduced an achievements system later on in development and when we logged in after those were patched in, we were spammed with a shit ton of achievements we'd already got even though the system was brand new. That to me seems ideal but idk how that looks on the coding side of things.
 

Matt Derrick

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Once this system is put into effect, will people who have already contributed for years grandfather in with whatever "points" they would have received had the system been in place all along?

for most things, yes. there might be some types of achievements that all users will start at zero, but the majority should be counted; all forum content will definitely be counted, things like wiki edits though will likely start from zero, although this shouldn't impact things too much since only newer parts/options of the site that haven't been around long enough to rack up a ton of achievements will start at the bottom of the ladder.

when we logged in after those were patched in, we were spammed with a shit ton of achievements

This is likely to be a side effect of the new system. It might happen several times as well as I'm developing it and working out the bugs. I'll try to make an announcement when false/reset achievements happen though.
 

trashswag86

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So I looked at my forum ratings for the first time a few weeks back, and which ones were positive/negative/neutral didn't seem to be intuitive -to me, at least.
So I'm suggesting the reactions themselves be reviewed. Maybe even trim them back a bit, streamline em a bit, so that it's easier for us to know what kind of rating we're giving to a post, cause obv we do want to reward good ones, and downvote bad ones.

I'm curious how people's reactions might change because of the new importance given them. Like maybe the number of positive reactions will drop noticeably. maybe the negative ones will go up.

Also, it might be a good idea to do badges the way reddit does? You get a limited number of them, maybe based on your reaction score, or maybe just automatic. Cause I might react positively to two different posts, but one of them might be a super epic rad post, whereas the other is just regular good. Or maybe this is taken care of in the number of reactions, more or less?

My whole response is about reactions, but of course I'm on-board about real-life vetting through the current mods.

I'm also interested in hearing from other mods. Matt's write-up was a really good, thought-out response (Maybe he could be a future mod?😜) but I'm all-ears for more input.
 

Matt Derrick

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So I looked at my forum ratings for the first time a few weeks back, and which ones were positive/negative/neutral didn't seem to be intuitive -to me, at least.
So I'm suggesting the reactions themselves be reviewed. Maybe even trim them back a bit, streamline em a bit, so that it's easier for us to know what kind of rating we're giving to a post, cause obv we do want to reward good ones, and downvote bad ones.

i agree these need to be reviewed, and it's on my list of things to do. i want to start a public thread for it though so we can decide together what would work. people get pretty defensive though when their posts are rated negatively, but that might just be something people need to get over.

i also think certain post ratings should have more 'weight', which is possible. right now all ratings are either +1 or -1, but i think changing some of these like the 'useful' rating to say, +10 points would be a good way to reward people that post useful information.

we also have the ability to automatically hide posts that get a set amount of negative ratings (say, 20 or more) and I think that's a good way of letting the community self-regulate, but this was kind of shot down in this poll. well, maybe not shot down, but rather undecided was the poll winner there, so maybe this is still a possibility.

I'm curious how people's reactions might change because of the new importance given them. Like maybe the number of positive reactions will drop noticeably. maybe the negative ones will go up.

so far positive to negative ratings are a ration of 100/1 or more, so even a small uptick in negative ratings wouldn't have all that big effect.

Also, it might be a good idea to do badges the way reddit does? You get a limited number of them, maybe based on your reaction score, or maybe just automatic.

badges/achievements (achievement badges?) are planned. i recently finished mapping out what options are available to me, and there's quite a few. so many it's easier to ask what you'd want to see as a badge than to tell you all the possibilities. there will definitely be post ratings badges and # of posts per form badges.

speaking of reddit, the xenforo software (that we use here on stp) is releasing a major update in the next few months that includes the option to start reddit-like threads, where each post can be up-voted or down-voted, and the posts with the most up-votes will automatically float to the top, theoretically placing the best information at the top where it's easiest to find. this will be optional per-thread so you don't have to use it if you don't want to, but that long with some other planned features i think will make it much easier for the community to decide what's relevant.
 

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