We need to talk about talking

Hi everyone,
We struggled a bit on the title for this one. Can you tell?

Last year, a few issues were raised in the community and we promised to come back to these to discuss them more thoroughly. I thought it might be a good idea for the community to have several conversations about these issues and I wanted to kick off with a discussion on situations involving personal attacks.

The rule against personal attacks is a pretty standard one on discussion forums and communities of all sorts. But though it is standard, it can be one of the most important issues in a community.

Before we dive in, I’d like to let you know that from here forward the moderation team will be starting to move over to a new way of communicating – one that we hope makes everyone feel more at home, and to be honest…is a much nicer way for us to be! Previously we approached the community from a fairly ‘formal’ voice, but we’d like to be more free to just be ourselves and we think that this small change is one of the first steps on our journey to creating a new, more vibrant and healthy forum space.

Ok, so – back to the topic! I know that for many of you this may be a sensitive topic, and I would first like to apologise to anyone who may have been in a situation where they were wronged, and felt like help did not come in the way you expected. We would like to avoid this in the future! Avoiding these situations and creating a safe space for everyone is at the heart of this conversation today.

To start off I am asking that everyone contribute to this conversation in a friendly, helpful manner which is constructive to the community which we are all a part of.

Although sharing experiences is important, I think it would be really helpful to avoid rehashing the fine details and specifics of negative things which have happened to you, and instead focus on how to shape/channel our collective experiences toward something positive for everyone. (However, if you would like to speak privately about something in more detail, you are always welcome to email me on [email protected])

So, what do we mean by “personal attacks”?
Discussions and disagreements are a natural part of a community where people have different backgrounds, situations and different opinions on issues but attacks on individuals makes up no part of a good discussion. In fact, they often take away from a legitimate difference of opinion and in many cases, can drive a good argument off course… not to mention creating a situation where people don’t feel good about the community that they are a part of.

What does this mean in practice?
You can respectfully disagree with the point that someone is making but when it comes to attacking the person, by making derogatory comments about the individual, this moves into different territory.

An example from my own mind:
X’s argument that cats with spots tend to be mean is wrong because there is no evidence that cats with spots act any differently to cats without spots.


What would X know about cats anyway? He abuses animals.

I’ve found Wikipedia’s entry on this issue to be very useful. You can find it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:No_personal_attacks

I wonder if everyone could take a look at our current guidelines and give me your thoughts. You can find the guidelines here: http://www.parkinsons.org.uk/forum-terms-and-conditions/forum-help/forum-user-guidelines.aspx

For example, I’d really love to know:

• Do you think we’ve appropriately covered personal attacks in our guidelines?

• If not, what might you add?

• Do you have any other thoughts on how personal attacks have been handled, and how you’d like to see them handled in the future?

• Is there an experience which you’d like to share, which may help us better understand how to improve our approach?

I would like to thank you all in advance for sharing your thoughts with us - your insights are welcomed and appreciated.

So let’s get started!

Actually, I’m going to start this one off!

I think we could be better about reminding people of the difference between an argument vs a personal attack when a post has been reported.

Also, we've noted a number of cases where members of the community have stepped in to report a personal attack or diffuse a situation when this started to happen. We certainly could be a bit better at highlighting this and thanking community members where this happens.

I really look forward to hearing what the rest of you think!

It is an important topic and it deserves some airtime. I am fairly new here though I'm no stranger to online chat. I like this forum and I get a lot of support from the people here. I'm sure I'm not alone in being disappointed with the fights that have occasionally broken out. I went back and reread the rules and I think they are pretty clear & appropriate.

I think the moderation standard here is about right but occasionally should be applied more swiftly. I have seen a few posts that I felt had no positive intent. They were not aimed at me but I know they would have annoyed me if they were.

In contrast I think the comment that was inserted into the assisted dying thread reminding people that it is a very sensitive subject was a good piece of proactive moderation.

Something that might be worth consideration as a sanction against persistent offenders is to require their posts to be moderator approved for a while if they fail to self police?


Well said, EF.

Thanks for the response elegant fowl.

We think the idea of pre-moderation is a good one. Even though this could be a bit frustrating to the person who was subject to it, it may be something which would allow us to keep all members within the community inasmuch as that's possible.

Trust me, we dislike suspensions as much as you do.

this is a very good thread to be set up ezinda,thankyou:smile:i feel that your guidelines/rules that are set up now are very well done.i would say in the past steppin in to certain issues can be very hard for a moderater,but as we have found out in the past things can get out of control,leadin to a thread havin to be closed down.personal attacks/bullin,or even others from the community steppin in to help a vunuable person ,agin can be hard for a moderater to step in.i feel that now puk is movin forward with things,and new things are startin,new members are approchin the forum,we all need to look at certain issues goin on with in the forum.i like the fact that ezinda,tim and luis is now aprt of the forum ,not just behind the sceens,and are postin ,sayin hi to new members:smile:this then will show the community that the forum is bein monertered beter,bein watched and looked after,makin members of puk feel more relazed postin on puk,and able to feel free to speak with out attacks happinin.all of these things i feel makes a forum,i hope my opion counts,thankyou:smile:

Ezinda, I still think it would be exceptionally hard to police all the contents of all the threads. There are some very crafty posters here who still can stick the knife in by what they post. In this last week there have been 2 posters who have tried their hardest to rile me personally but I let them go, didn't report them because I would not give them the satisfaction of knowing that they got to me Having said this may I wish you and your team the very best of luck.

Radz x

Thanks Radar47

We really want to try to move away from policing the forum as this is no fun for us or for anybody else.

If anybody feels that another user is deliberately trying to rile you up in a subtle way then ignoring it might be a good option... hopefully they will get bored.

I think that this community can be really supportive and offensive users are thankfully rare. But if personal attacks are being made then I would like to try to find a way ensure that users are supported

It would be great to hear from as many users as possible. how could we deal with a situation like that?

When the riling is subtle it is not a problem because of it's ambiguity it can be a mistake and therefore ignored or clarification sought.
It's when it is like a sledgehammer battering the individuals personality and is so obviously the work of a vindictive that I resent. Any post that attacks the person and not the point of view is reprehensible and posters need to be protected from that kind of action. I have admired the many that have jumped to the defence of those less able and hope that if it is ever necessary they will do so again. They shouldn't have to! We are a community and not a tribe of savages!!
I know it would be nice if the Moderator did not have to step in but for a community to survive we have to have rules. If we have rules then someone has to police them and ensure they are being adhered to! It would be far better to have fewer rules and make sure that the punishment fits the crime. I am not in favour of lifetime bans but I think that once a decision is made then stick to it. A maximum ban of one year would be suitable as after all we are not talking about murder here!This Forum is for us all, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly and should continue to be so, to entertain, educate and provide succour. Not undermine, hurt and discourage.

Hi Everyone
I want to add my thanks to the moderators who have a very difficult job to do and are responding in a sensitive and thoughtful way to very real problems.
I think it is important to remember that all who post here have PD or care for someone who has and suffers from many problems associated with their condition or its treatment.
We are not executives attending meetings and can be hurting, anxious and confused.
If we all bear that in mind it is easy to see how posts can be made whilst not considering their impact on other troubled souls.
Of course it is vital to remove posts that are hurtful and to make the poster aware that it is not constructive, but to offer alternative sources of help.
I feel banning a suffering member should only ever be a last resort and then conditions set for a return to the forum.
We do all need each other and no-one should be denied that comfort unless all else has failed.
If we all try, we can ensure that that point is never reached.

I concur totally with Bogman's comments Thank you Bogman.
It is not the poster but the contents of the post that can offend. i.e I do not dislike you but I dislike your behaviour.
I do not agree with pre-moderating - that presupposes that a moderator is aware of any potential confrontation. It seems to me a bit like censorship, not to mention precognition
There is a role for "A Devil's Advocate" - to encourage debate, rather than to promote disharmony.
As an ex-voracious poster,and obviously someone who cares about this forum (since I still look in!) I wish you well in your "move forward" . I have received much help and support from this forum, and I hope and trust that others will continue to benefit from it's existance

I am relatively new to the forum, So my remarks are qualified. I have encountered a couple of testy exchanges, the moderators have been active and taken down offending posts.Any community will have difficult relationships from time to time and when the community is dealing with emotive and difficult issues tensions can be heightened further.
Some members have been active in deflecting more hurtful comments, with this and the measures already in place I am not entirely sure what more can be done. Suspending people is really sad but sometimes sadly necessary.

Thank you so much for your comments both on this thread and by email. It’s been incredibly helpful and positive! It’s also great to have feedback about what’s been working and I hope that you all keep that coming.

Just a couple of points:

Sadly, it is true that sometimes people need to be asked to take a break from the community. While we’d like to try move away from ever having this be permanent, it does have to happen from time to time.

It’s worth thinking about that though the person being asked to leave may be suffering, the person they attack may be suffering as well. It helps if we’re all fair in our assumptions. At the same time we’re doing our best at present to keep everyone within the community and active. We’ll have a separate conversation on suspensions later.

Also, pre-moderation would never be used on the assumption that a community member might do something. Instead, it would be an alternative to asking someone to leave the community temporarily.

Some mentioned that though there have been improvements, but moderators need to respond more quickly to diffuse difficult situations.

We’re looking at the resources we are able to dedicate to the forum. Still, no matter what this resource is, we’ll never be able to catch everything. Our hope is that we can form a partnership with those who are in the community throughout the day and evening. We rely on information you give us about what is happening.

I’ve seen situations in the past where some have been criticised for reporting a post. This shouldn’t really happen and I think that the fact that it is has been partially our fault. This should be our community and we should work towards getting rid of an “us against them” attitude between staff and community members. Reporting posts that might be inappropriate is a way that everyone can ensure that the community sticks to its purpose and doesn’t turn into a place where people are afraid to participate.

Would you feel uncomfortable about reporting another member’s post if you felt it could be hurtful someone?

What about if you felt it could be a subtle attack but you weren't sure?

i would only report amembers post if i was bein attacked by that person,and i needed the moderaters help, to step in,i would feel uncomphy about doin it though ,but if i was feelin uncomphy about the post i would still feel i would have to do some thing about it,cus it makes the rest of the forum and community feel uncomphy about postin them selfs then.im afraid if posts were not reported if needs be,the forum would not be able to move forward propley ,like we all wont it to to,and feel free to post happy.:smile:

if everyone, including moderators,had a photo of themselves against every post it would stop aggressiveness and unpleasant behaviour - instead of just being cyphers we would be real people. People would have more respect for each other(though that might depend on the photo).

Hi All moderators
how can we ensure that when someone is suspended, for say 6weeks, what stops them registering as a new user.
Can anything highlight or stop this problem?:confused:

happy new year one and all:grin:

Hi all,
I think your comments and question are related.

We’re hoping that any forum we have in the future will allow for a bit more “personality” than the current one does. And I think I agree with you Turnip, that if people have a personality to protect—even a virtual one—they tend to want to keep it positive.

I’m not sure if I’d support you on having staff pictures up, though!

That said, even without pictures, members here still have personalities here that others get to know:

Think about it:
Cutiepie hates to see a question left unanswered and knows our publications better than we do,
Lin and Bogman are very protective of their poet’s corner,
Eck’s always got a clever (and sometimes very strange) answer.

This brings me to the hard question you’ve asked Tina. There are a few things we can do to stop people starting new accounts when they’re asked to take a break from the community.

But if we’re honest, we can’t stop this entirely. We have to hope that the fact that people post often here means that the community is important to them. Creating new personalities and false personalities just creates an environment where we don’t trust each other.

As well, starting a new account just means that the person either loses whatever respect that’s attached to their personality in the community or they out themselves as someone else.

Does that makes sense?

On the reporting of posts - I think we should all feel free to notify moderators of any posting that we think is out of order. A different way of looking at is that it is almost a responsibility to do it.

It's hard to be definitive about what is allowed and what is not. It depends on who said what & when & where etc. If it could be mechanised there would be a machine doing it already.

so - In the dark humour thread you can expect to allow things that some might find

In a thread dealing with a sensitive topic (assisted dying, dementia etc) you would expect a higher standard of care and attention.

Another example of 'sensitive' is the first post or two a user makes in the meet & greet area. That isn't a place for other arguments.

I think Golden Girl put it quite nicely in her post in this thread.


Thanks Ezinda
Makes sense. thank you very much

Hmmnn...........i have to agree with the thread title, BUT my feelings are the same as i experienced a while ago that when comunications between people on here got fraught and posts were deleted by moderators i tended to skim rather than scan through each individual posts. Basically what i see happening here(although in good faith to the community) is an indescreet conversation about ONE person in particular??? If i'm feeling this 'dig' how perpetrated must this person be feeling right now? Don't get me wrong, i have been in two mind sets overtime about these shenanigans but deal with it as it arises rather than bring the whole sordid episodes to the fore again!
Appologies if i've misinterpreted this thread but as i said before...it's become skimming material to me!