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    I understand the rules as posted:

    I have to say I believe they miss a vital point, simply deleting posts and closing threads doesn’t clean up a forum, especially on the internet. Mostly, it just cuts people off or justifies peoples responses when the opposing viewpoint disappears.

    This isn’t fark or slashdot or even slog, but the *voice* of the WSB is increasingly the voice of people who have time to camp out and post during all hours of the day, and it is beginning to take on the dreaded groupthink that has a tendency to kill forum traffic.

    People frequently post subjects and replies that are a result of the core demographic of the readership, which occasionally are mildly offensive ( anything about prowlers, sexual orientation or politics are very polarized ) factually incorrect, or willfully without research.

    I post to WSB because I live here, and I realize that most of you do as well, despite the novice experiences of the group with web forums its at times informative, interesting, and infuriating. I have many friends and neighbors who would never post here, who post on other communities online, because of the content of responses on WSB.

    My only suggestions would be to look at online forums that are successful ( egullet comes to mind, with its membership for posting requiring an essay of interest. ) Group moderation by shared admins with opposing viewpoints. ( for every JanS you get a House to veto ) or consider rather than deleting threads or posts that often veer wildly off topic, with clear locks or edits from the moderator on *why* a particular entry is inappropriate.

    I understand forums are a hassle to admin, I have refused creating them for many clients and friends. I prefer mailing lists for this reason ( the barrier of entry keeps the novices at bay) but your exposed to the big bad internet and between your current signal to noise ratio, and the current trend of controversial posts to degrade into flames and trolling, I think WSB forums are headed into a direction you didn’t expect, or wanted to avoid. A brief look at who posts to front page blog posts vs the limited number of forum users should be proof enough of how many are reading the blog and commenting, but avoiding the forums all together.



    Sorry to be thick here, but I’m not getting this.



    Patrick – I think vincent is simply trying to give some advice. He, from what I can tell, is seeing this forum going in a certain direction.

    I don’t really understand all that is included in his post, but I am very computer illiterate and don’t pretend otherwise.

    I do agree, however, with the advice of explaining “why” a post is deleted rather than just deleting it, pretending it never happened. I have had offensive posts to myself deleted without explanation and have never felt satisfied with that. People should know why their posts are deleted, otherwise, I thinks it’s entirely possible that the behavior will continue.

    Anyways, I know that it could be very time consuming, but I do second that suggestion, at least.



    I appreciate people taking the time to offer advice.

    As I said to at least one person in private e-mail, we are not going to explain every post that we delete. If you break the rules, you run the risk of deletion. If you see one of your posts disappear and you don’t think you broke a rule, e-mail us to ask. Our “contact” info is prominently accessible from every page on the site, and we usually answer quickly … between me staying up late and Patrick getting up early, we really are as close to 24/7 as we can get.

    This is the model that many successful websites run on – Craigslist included: Posts are flagged, posts disappear. You don’t see a note from someone turning up saying “here’s why your post was flagged.” Happened to me when I posted something on CL a few weeks ago. That’s the rules of the road. I have participated in zillions of discussion forums, e-mail lists, bulletin boards in my almost-15 years online, and I know that’s the “price” of taking advantage of this kind of free service. For a while we tried to post a public explanation every time we did this, and that is an absolutely unsustainable practice time-wise.

    I absolutely agree this forum doesn’t run perfectly – and I don’t know of one that does. I have been deeply involved in philosophical discussions with many other website administrators from around the country/world in recent months. Everyone is agonizing over how to manage forums/comments, and no one has come up with the magic solution, which leads me to believe there probably isn’t a one-size-fits-all methodology. We have even studied the site of a very successful neighborhood-news entrepreneur who I was lucky to meet at the first-ever “placeblogger” convention in Minneapolis in June — his entire SITE is built on a forum program:

    (His rules are very long and very entertainingly written. He’s been at this for five years now and we are hoping to learn more from him.)

    Meantime, all I can say is that the WSB Forum section is truly something we put up because there was a request for it, not because it was something we ever expected to do. I think it is managed fairly responsibly and it does have multiple moderators – anyone who cares to flag a post that we don’t see first – in other words, you are all moderators if you care to accept that responsibility.

    I expect to put in the “flag this post” feature when we do a technology upgrade for which I am still interviewing contractors, and that should make the process even easier. I didn’t really want to have to do that but it’s clearly needed.

    Ultimately, though, it really is a matter of people voting with their feet, as Vincent suggests. And so far that is not happening. In fact, almost every other neighborhood-news site in town has tried/is trying forums. Almost all of them are ghost towns … but not this one. Whatever it is about this forum, messy as it is, it works reasonably well.

    The traffic bears it out – not just the number of posts you see listed on the index page, but the number of pageviews and visitors we see from our various stat programs. While you may notice a relatively small number of people posting, there is a rather high number of people reading. And that’s the way it works for the main section of the site too, as for many other websites (although the main site traffic continues to be a multiple of the forum traffic, and that’s what I would have expected – but both are very healthy and heartening, and humbling, numbers).

    It seems clear that most people are not interested in ever commenting or participating — they come here for West Seattle news, which is our main mission. But they read the posts and they read the comments that others who DO like offering their opinion, take the time to leave. And when they have something to share, if they don’t want to post it directly here, they e-mail us and we share it with you.

    People agonize over relatively few threads – the political ones where things get heated (and of course, as in real life, political discussions get heated) – while real help is offered and progress is made in the vastly larger number of other threads about reader recommendations, jobs offered, etc., all the reasons we originally launched this area and continue to offer it even though it would be easy to say “oh, this is a hassle, never mind.”

    I would like more help in discovering trouble posts more quickly, and as we have said before, we welcome that help, and we appreciate those who have offered it. Otherwise, while we continue to work on offering a better experience, I do respectfully disagree that the “forums are going in the wrong direction.” Every day I see new posts about recommendations, raves, rants, people sharing their stories. And that to me is the right direction.

    I regret that some people choose to violate the rules and insult and/or provoke their fellow participants, and we address that as soon as it comes to our attention, but I have to say that kind of atmosphere has not killed off other sites where it IS allowed … so sometimes I have wondered whether it was a bad decision to have rules at all – since “no insults,” for example, can be interpreted in many ways, our decision on what qualifies as a violation may not always match your view.

    However, at least for now, my gut says no, you need to have some boundaries, so onward we go, learning something new every day, and appreciating those of you who continue to be part of this grand experiment, which is indeed messy and imperfect just like F2F IRL discussion, discourse, engagement, interaction.


    (edited since original posting)



    I chime in with Vincent on the polarity of the WSB discussions — We all know whose viewpoints we like and don’t like, and I would add there are topics that I don’t even read (like anything to do with the names of the current candidates).

    I would much rather if the more acidic of the community would just let a comment go — For instance, read it and click off the discussion and think of a reply. If the person is name calling, insulting and rude then ignore them or report it–I would think one of those “do you find this posting offensive?” buttons would be useful. Accumulate more than 10 negatives, and a moderator would look and see what the fuss is.

    I frequently lurk and read the commentary on the Mariners at the U.S.S.M. blog. The community has specific rules enforced by a handful of moderators with the ability to delete posts. The rules on that blog are simple–No personal insults, no unfactual arguments like “Yankees Suck”, and no discussions about steroids. When such an off-topic comment is posted, the moderators delete it and leave a comment like [off-topic] or simply [Deleted] It lets those reading the blog know that abuse is not tolerated and gives them feedback.

    We should try and keep this valuable “commons” as civil as possible–disagreement is OK, just think if your mother would approve of your post before you hit send.

    I support WSB by publicizing it, by giving content, and by donating money because I think the WSB blog, despite the growing discussion warts, is valuable–I can see stories here two days before a local news channel finds them of interest.

    My two cents.



    Thanks, JayDee.

    As I wrote in my ramble, a “report this” type button is definitely in the future plans, much as I wish it wasn’t needed – if we are going to be in the “everyone’s a moderator” mode (and maybe someday when we have paid staff, which is my goal before the year’s out, we’ll have help there), it will be more convenient than having to open an e-mail, paste in our address, and explain what you’re writing about.


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