Saturday, February 14, 2009

Respect is Everything

Respect is the cornerstone of a good environment. You create a respectful community by requiring that everyone treat everyone else with the respect that they deserve. You do this by having written policies and by actively enforcing those policies. Don’t let people get away with disrespectful comments. All members of your community (regular members and staff members) must treat one another with respect at all times.

You should encourage your members to attack the point and not the person. Address what people say, don’t try to attack them as human beings for having a given view. This extends to respect of choice.

[Managing Online Forums by Patrick O’Keefe pages 219-220]


  1. One would hope forum staff hold themselves to a higher standard of behavior as forum hosts and will enforce as well as treat all participants with complete respect.

    Unfortunately sometimes the way forum moderation works is a staff member sees something they don’t approve of then tries to find something in the dictionary or forum guidelines to justify the action they want to take in the matter. Conversely when called out about their own behavior they will search the dictionary and guidelines to justify same. This action is called parsing…examining closely or subject to detailed analysis, especially by breaking up into components. For a tongue and cheek explanation of how to be a bad moderator see:

  2. I agree with the sentiment, but I have some concerns about the specifics. Here are the problems that I see:
    1) Lots of disrespectful stuff is posted on the USCF forums, and very little of it is removed by moderators.
    2) When they do become active and remove stuff it generates endless discussion about moderation policies.
    3) Everybody seems to have a different opinion about what is disrespectful and what isn't. The sly remark, the subtle gibe, seems to fade almost continuously into the rude retort and the outright insult.
    4) What you call parsing is the result of the circumstances. The moderators have to draw a line somewhere or else permit everything. Once drawn, the line is vigorously attacked, and the moderators naturally feel inclined to defend it. Hence the parsing of the AUG to justify the action.


  3. Jim,

    Very good points. Is what is disrespectful an absolute or in the eye of the beholder – or somewhere in between? There once was a gentleman who was greatly offended by my reference to the Spanish inquisition. Even though I did not have the same sensitivity to the comment, I honored his request to change the reference to something less offensive. Note your number 4 is particularly insightful as I have seen this happen from the inside of the forums. Perhaps we can learn from how other forums handle these situations.

  4. My own personal philosophy is to avoid pulling bad comments as much as possible. I prefer to call out the offender rather than censor him.

    BTW, I just had a case at Chess Discussion. One guy (a moderator on the USCF's Forums, a member on Chess Discussion), started to hyjack a thread on USCF Candidates to prosecuting GW Bush/Dick Cheney, et al for war crimes. How to handle something like that? I called the opinion dumb and let it go. It that continues, then obviously I will have to do something else. As long as the discussion remained somewhere in the realms of civility, I will just split it out and move the GW Bush war criminal stuff to the non-chess thread.

    Still, it's hard to figure out how to do things.

  5. Jack,

    Saying a persons opinion is dumb is not a bad thing but as a member of the staff the forum member may not want to get into a debate with you to explore why you believe that is so and may attack you personally instead. The real harm comes when the staff personally attacks those with whom they disagree, or calls them names, or makes snide comments. This sets an example of what behavior is acceptable on the forums – but sometimes it is only acceptable for those in charge and not others. In either case it is not good for the forum. It can get even worse if you take it off line and the forum staff tries to publically embarrass you by presenting their view of the dispute to the forum community. See

  6. Jim,

    You are frighteningly correct. Many who participate in the USCF issues forum appear to not have a good understanding of polite discourse as personal attacks are all too common. The problem is that those who have been given the responsibility as forum staff often have set the wrong example in their own postings and messages while having the ability to judge others in this respect. As a result only the most extreme examples of personal attacks are addressed which appears as very arbitrary and inconsistent to those who are impacted. The results are many heated or unproductive arguments about moderation or sanctions on the forum. When I was on the FOC this translated to behind the scenes activities complaining about or finding reasons to ban those (who were not board or forum staff members) that were critical. Today current or former forum staff combatively tries to shut down such discussions by using personal attacks. Improving organizational behavior must start at the top. Thus the USCF must have those who represent it to lead by example. To do so the forum staff and our delegates must truly learn to be more respectful of the forum community and its members.