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PostPosted: Sat Dec 07, 2013 10:32 am 
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But I understand my fellow moderator's concern about "gaming the system". This is something that will happen and it's hard to put it into a CoC without the definition ending up: "Whenever the mods feel like you're gaming the system, you'll be banned anyway." That's a bit too vague to be helpful and can result in things that look like (or actually are) power abuse.

So the real question becomes: Do we want to risk people knowingly gaming the system? Is having someone who only posts "bad content" when they know they can get away with it okay? Do the benefits outweigh the negatives?
Yes, they do, imo.

I said this before, but it is highly dependent on the time period Althalus hinted at earlier. We can safely assume by his reply that the bar is set at more than 3 months.
In the case of 'gaming the system', it is only a issue if it occurs repeatedly. But the longer the warnings stay, the less disruptive gaming becomes. If it takes a year before one can even assume someone is gaming, and another year before it can be researched, I think it shows itself that the issue is so small that it really does not need extra attention.

At the other side, the one thing we set out to do when this was made was to at least be more open about stuff like moderation. So if warnings disappear after some time (I again propose at least 6 months), it should be known to the users. It prevents a lot of discussions about the expiration date of warnings.

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And something else: The real criminal justice system uses a tiered system. You've got minor offenses, misdemeanors and actual crimes (I don't know the proper terms in English). Only the last two are bad enough to permanently stay with a person (and even then you can ask for your slate to be wiped clean). So maybe that's something worth thinking about: Are some offenses bad enough they should stay with someone forever, whereas others should go away after some time?

I'm not saying that's a good idea, just some food for thought.
I'd probably disagree with this one. Instead, you already have the option of doing 'minor' infractions of with a PM to the user or something, warnings for a bit more serious and snap-bans for the really serious stuff.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 07, 2013 6:56 pm 
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We're on the same page regarding warning severity, JaC.

Most issues can be resolved with a simple PM or note in a thread that alerts users of violations or potential violations, but no one actually earns an official warning.

Sometimes an issue is serious enough, has continued despite repeated warnings, or was made with a clear knowledge that it was a violation, and in these cases we issue an official warning, along with a ban of some length depending on how many warnings the user has acquired.

Finally, we have the instabans. Only the most serious violations such as being a spambot, posting a bunch of shock images, malicious links, or any grossly illegal behavior such as posting child pornography or classified information warrant a permanent ban that bypasses the normal warning process. We also reserve the right to issue multiple warnings to a user over a short period of time if they have a high density of violations; for instance, if a user shows up and start spewing hate speech, even if they would normally only receive a single warning for a given post, we may elect to issue a warning apiece for each of their posts until they earn enough to be permanently banned. This is a departure from our typical process, which is to issue a single warning to a user in a given time period, and to not issue further warnings/bans unless the user continues to break the rules after that point.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 09, 2013 3:39 pm 
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But I understand my fellow moderator's concern about "gaming the system". This is something that will happen and it's hard to put it into a CoC without the definition ending up: "Whenever the mods feel like you're gaming the system, you'll be banned anyway." That's a bit too vague to be helpful and can result in things that look like (or actually are) power abuse.


Yep. This right here is really the sticky wicket.

IF the data is going to be open, we want a rule that prevents gaming the system
IF such a rule exists, people are going to (usually) try to be clever about their gaming
IF people are going to be clever about gaming the rule, we need to have the rule encompass that
IF the rule encompasses clever gaming, it pretty much says, "You can meet the banhammer any time we feel like it."

As was said last week, I see two overall "gamers" for this: Passive-Aggressive Guy and The Mathematician. P-A Guy doesn't really bother me. We can handle that, if we needed to, under trolling and baiting. The Mathematician is the one that troubles us. And the general consensus counter-point to The Mathematician seems to be, "If somebody is clever enough - and desperate enough - to count the timing on their previous warns such that they get right up to the line regularly but never actually hit the permaban count, then so what?" Here's what the "so what" is from our side of this discussion.

For the argument here, lets say that after your first warning during a 2 month period, we send Sister Mary Magdeline over to your house to whack you on the knuckles with her wooden ruler; after the 2nd, we give you a one day ban; the 3rd, a one week ban; the 4th, you're outta here! (As JaC said, correctly, the longer the time period the harder the game becomes; but it's easier to demonstrate with a short time period.)

The Story of Joe Math


Who was the worse poster? Well, by the end of May NO_SC is long gone while JM is still here. So one could look at that and argue that NO_SC is far and away the badder of the two posters. But I don't think anybody would argue that in May - they'd all want to know why we weren't doing our job and kicking JM out of the site for good; why do we keep giving him chances to show he's a bad human being? And absolutely, my example about JM is to the extreme. And again, as JaC pointed out, the game JM plays here is harder with more time (but still possible). And my retort to that is to scroll back through some of the stuff here in meta. We've had a few folks not nearly as bad as JM who have nontheless caused some big discussions that boil down to, "Why is he still here?"

JM is the user who scares us if the info is public. It's in part because we never get to actually pull the trigger and ban him. But it's also because there is often a lot of work around somebody's warning other than the actual warning - cleaning up quotes, warning folks who fired back, answering PMs or emails from the warned person, answering PMs and posts about what sort of crazy policy allows the poster to stay, etc.

So... take JM. Turn down his vitriol just a bit to make him more likely be be somebody we'll encounter. (Again, I know very well the example goes to the extreme.) Tell us how to handle that; give us the rule we can add to the CoC that lets us ban JM before that 12th warning without the rule basically saying, "Oh, and we can also ban you whenever we want regardless of what these rules say."

***

Sorry for the wall of text, too. But I wanted to get the example in and show what a PITA JM can be to the entire site.

Overall, I do believe this is the only real issue that's still pending. As such, I'd love to see this conversation wrap up sometime this week - even if the "wrap up" is us saying thanks for the feedback, but for now it's going to be one of the few things we're not going to be open about.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 09, 2013 5:28 pm 
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I had been under the assumption that we're already working under a "tiered system", that warnings for different offenses carried different weight (depending on the offense). While I don't have the math/statistics skills to work out a number system, but I would prefer a system that could analyze the length of time between received warnings so that warnings received in a shorter time period expire later than if they were accrued over a longer period.

Not exactly how I would do it, but as an example: if a user got Warning1 [expires: 3 months], then in the same month got Warning2 [expires: 4 months]; but say another user got Warning1 [expires: 3 months], then later that week gets Warning2 [expires: 6 months].

Also, count me among the camp that believes warnings shouldn't be public. I do believe there needs to be a point where they expire, but personally I would put it at a minimum of 3 months, a more comfortable 6 months, or an outside 9-12 months (assuming at least 3 warnings for a ban of any length).

Basically what I'm saying is, I'd like an algorithm which I don't have the capability to make to decide on the "weight" of warnings, and for the mods, the actual people behind the GobO accounts, to dole out the punishment as the information suggests to them.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 09, 2013 5:44 pm 
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As admin mentioned, we're essentially working on a tiered system.

Soft Warn This is, at it's essence, a PM from a mod. A soft warning is intended to guide or nudge a user who has barely edged over the line. Soft warnings are not counted at all.

Hard Warn This is what most people talk about when they say, "I got warned." This is a notification sent via the system (and we also send a copy via email) that tells you that violated the CoC and are being issued a warning for it. These count.

The Nuke (for lake of better name) is what we give to spambots, and the tool we would use in other extreme cases (posting porn, hate-speech filled tirades as a first post, etc). This one isn't really tracked, because it's essentially a ban that bypasses the warning system.

So when we talk about it taking 4 warnings in 2 months (such as in my example), the staff means hard warnings. That user who gains those 4 warnings almost certainly has also been given several soft warnings from the staff in an attempt to steer behavior back over the line, give somebody the benefit of the doubt on a borderline cases, etc.

So there is a tier, from that perspective. But for the ones that count towards earning a ban, there's only one.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 09, 2013 5:58 pm 
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(As JaC said, correctly, the longer the time period the harder the game becomes; but it's easier to demonstrate with a short time period.)
But the point is, that you have to take it into account when discussing the mathematician.
You use short periods to make your point (And I understand that, it is an annoying archtype after all), but Althalus already posted here that the minimum period is at least 3 months.

So until this period is known, it's not really feasible to discuss the influence of the mathematician and if it's really necessary to counteract it. Again, no-one in their right mind will keep the thing up if it already takes a year or more to think a Mathematician even exists (if the period is 6 months).

Or you could hire a mathematician to counter the mathematician :P

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 09, 2013 8:02 pm 
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I don't think you should be working out strategies to counter these kinds of people. The system should be, to an extent, gameable.

Laws aren't meant to prevent behavior, because if that were the metric by which laws are measured, then all laws have been failures. Rules being broken are a natural step of evolving rules.

No, Fire, I don't know of a forum that has effective separation of powers, which is the point. I said it, not because I believe such a system needs to be implemented here, but because I wanted to give you a reminder that it is the case that there isn't separation of powers. Because there's no separation of powers, it should be even more important to consider the networks of rules that you decide on implementing (which you then get to judge and enforce) before actually doing so — and to limit the amount of rules that get implemented.

It should not be the purpose of the CoC to attempt to prevent people from breaking it. It should outline what actions are deserving of some kind of restitution to the community (in terms of temporary or permanent ostracism), and how long before those actions are forgiven. Once forgiven, they should be forgiven in full, not later continue to be used to determine some future restitution of any amount for breaking another rule.

Trying to game the gamers of the system at their own game just means that your forgiveness is not actually sincere.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 25, 2014 12:05 am 
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Wow, look what discussion is being resurrected!

*ahem*

We listened. We discussed (sometimes argued, even). We did some research. We discussed some more. And then we got sidetracked by holidays and hiring new staff and... oh, look! A squirrel!

*ahem*

So, anyway... we have decided it is in the best interests of the community to make the warning / banning information public. I'll be updating the CoC with this info shortly, but I wanted to post it here so it's obvious to see (since simply editing the CoC wouldn't tell anybody the changes were there).


Only warnings earned within the last year are counted when determining if a ban should be administered, and if so for how long. The following apply:

  • Two "Hard" warns in the one-year period earn a one day ban
  • Three warnings results in another one day ban
  • Four results in a one week ban
  • A fifth results in another week ban
  • A sixth warning results in a "permaban".

Note that a ban applies to all known accounts of a user.

Education is the primary purpose of the warning system--when people break the rules we tell them why what they did is wrong and give them a chance to correct their behavior. Temporary bans serve as a cooling-off period to give users some time to gain perspective as well as a pointed reminder that access to the site is a privilege, one that we don't have to continue to extend to people who are going to continually cause trouble.

In cases where it's clear that education would be meaningless because the user has no intention of following any kind of rules in the first place, such as someone who joins up for the sole purpose of spamming shock images or racist diatribes across the forums, we reserve the right to accelerate the warning process. With Lead and Site Owner review, a non-spambot user who falls into this category may be moved directly to permaban status. (Spambots come pre-approved!)

And for clarity, the definition of a hard warning that was posted in this thread previously still applies:

GobO_Fire wrote:
Soft Warn This is, at it's essence, a PM from a mod. A soft warning is intended to guide or nudge a user who has barely edged over the line. Soft warnings are not counted at all.

Hard Warn This is what most people talk about when they say, "I got warned." This is a notification sent via the system (and we also send a copy via email) that tells you that you violated the CoC and are being issued a warning for it. These count.

The Nuke (for lack of better name) is what we give to spambots, and the tool we would use in other extreme cases (posting porn, hate-speech filled tirades as a first post, etc). This one isn't really tracked, because it's essentially a ban that bypasses the warning system.

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