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Thread: Are you happy with this forum?
October 26th, 2009, 03:39 PM #16
And I can see that. I wasn't a member of SFFWorld before the two genres were brought together, but I can see how it would have increased the horror discussions. They also do cross-over at times. Just look at authors like Tanith Lee.
I am going to support others in their urgings to allow more formatting in the stories section. Even if it were just the ability to use italics. Maybe allow it the use of HTML?
October 26th, 2009, 05:34 PM #17
...a bit, of course. Like I said, this is a great forum with great posters and decent mods, and this fantasy/horror thing is little more than a nitpick.
October 26th, 2009, 06:42 PM #18
Well, I had posted some constructive criticisms a few months ago but it seems like no one cared for them lol:
Anyways, in all I think more thread merging should be used instead (as noted above) of a mod coming in and simply posting links to 7 different threads that the OP might find useful for example. It just clutters the forum and it makes the search function less useful when you simply lock threads or leave inadequate threads hanging around.
I also think that more attention to "on topic" discussion needs to be employed. For example, we have a thread called "Empire in Black and Gold" yet we're discussing the full series in there for whatever reason... myself included. So either that thread should be renamed to simply be known as "Shadows of the Apt" to better represent and reflect what is being discussed, or simply some thread splitting should be employed. I don't know... it's something I've found that is common around here with many thread topics.
Those are my 2 cents.
October 27th, 2009, 12:00 AM #19
You know, there is one other problem I have with SFFW, and I intended to mention in my earlier post, changed my mind and have now changed it back.
I'm tired of posts like...
I read such-and-such book and thought is was good/ok/bad. One generic sentence here so it looks like I'm actually discussing the book, blah, blah, blah. More details at my blog.
I come to SFFW to discuss fantasy, not find references to other places to go discuss fantasy. I know we have several members with blogs, so I imagine this will ruffle a few feathers, but posts like that serve no purpose (at least for me). If the review has already been written any way, why not just copy it into a post here at SFFW as well (and no I don't actually need an answer to that question)? At least a summary would be nice, so there's actually something to, you know, discuss...here at the discussion forum. Otherwise, it's just advertising.
I realize from a forum administration perspective this may be a difficult issue to tackle and I expect it is a blurry line separating good posts from what I call advertising, but surely we can have some kind of guidelines in place.
October 27th, 2009, 09:09 AM #20
I agree with Obtuse and have been an offender in the past. I would like to take a time out to state that the poster/blogger crowd does, in a sense, police itself. Adam made a comment, that I realized applied to me as well, and I stopped to think about it for a moment and realized what it actually looked like and he was right. Sometimes the desire to share one's opinion, co-mingled with the desire to drive personal site traffic, creates inappropriate posting. I imagine authors struggle with the same issue when attempting to promote a book without appearing to be shamelessly shilling their work. [/ramble]
Bottom line, Obtuse makes a decent point. Those of us who may belong to the post/blog crowd ought to be at the forefront of policing the matter here, in order to maintain the integrity of the discussion forums.
October 27th, 2009, 09:18 AM #21
I'm an admin in another forum (not a book/novel forum) and it really annoys the heck out of me when someone does this. When I see this happen I either delete the post, or just go out of my way to make the first post better with relevant information.
October 27th, 2009, 04:45 PM #22
- Join Date
- Oct 2007
- The Fung Küniverse (Currently: Toronto)
- Blog Entries
While I sympathize with Bastard, Obtuse, and PeterWilliam (one of these things is not like the others... ), I don't think any action is required.
In fact, these suggestions are somewhat counter to the community feel promoted here -- the moderators would have to become more authoritarian. I would encourage you to consider the benefits of the system in place, and the negative side effects that could occur from the changes you suggest.
Mostly what you three are talking about is user-submitted content -- something which moderators could have total control over, but here elect not to. The historical attitude is that anything goes so long as it doesn't directly counter the rules (basically: keep it PG-13, don't post what isn't yours). As a long-time user of discussion forums, from usenet on up, I have seen more than a few discussion groups ground down into silence by a sudden autocratic shift in board moderation.
Bear in mind that the moderation of message boards is a bit of a free speech issue. Every action to regulate or control the content freely submitted by users is a limitation. That includes mundane things like regulating thread subject titles. In the end, controlling the board content always, always results in a general dumbing down of the conversation in my experience. The conversation always comes to reflect the interests of a smaller group. It's death to diversity, and promotion of segregation.
The advertising issue that you mention (referring to your blog, your recently written review at another site), while often annoying, is not perfectly cut and dry. Obvious, unsanctioned advertising is usually reported and removed. But, some content is considered more-or-less OK.
This site purposely tries to foster the development of individuals within the broader SFF community -- that is, the world beyond this website. Members of the forum are "allowed" to post links to their own personal, unique content out there in the interweb (perhaps it's more like "politely tolerated") -- most of this content does not generate revenue for the poster, but does generate name awareness. (This is also in accordance with modern copyright law, which argues for backlinking as the preferred method of content-sharing, as opposed to copying/pasting. So there's no argument against it in that respect.)
Because of the emphasis on independent artists, self-promotion is a topic with much discussion behind it here. There's a how-to discussion thread in the Writing forum, for example. The ethical issues are discussed, and different members try different approaches. You have to remember that this isn't just a disinterested discussion forum -- it's also a haven and support group for budding and established authors, too.
So for the advertising issue, I think the "rule" in place works well. The obviously bad stuff is removed, but the grey-area stuff is judgment-called. Remember, if you find something suspicious, you can always report it to the mods with the reporting link on every post. This system has worked reasonably well, I think. It doesn't feel autocratic. It encourages member participation in the community. And it encourages people to try to be responsible for themselves; you can't rely on a legalistic set of rules to govern your behaviour -- you have to do it yourself.
I think this is the reason for the general lack of flaming and trolling that we see here (this is the tamest forum I've ever been on -- the worst flames are usually really, really intelligent ones, and almost respectable for it!). Without a set of strict rules, flamers have less fuel for their fire. Trollers have nothing to rail against.
Rules create rule breakers. No rules means those who act like asses inevitably become social pariahs or exiles. Personally, I think less regulation improves self-directed social control (but the economy is a whole other question...).
As to the formatting of thread titles, consolidation of topics, reduction of clutter...
I agree with you that posting links to 7 other threads in a new thread doesn't do much of anything to foster discussion. On this we agree. Thread merging could certainly be warranted in these cases. There is a counter argumnt, though, that this puts the new user's post on top of a much longer, older thread, which usually looks like a newb reviving a long dead thread that everyone was tired of discussing. Also not necessarily a good fostering of discussion...
But, I'd join you in petitioning mods to find a good way to change this approach to something more like what you're suggesting.
One thing to bear in mind, too, is that the moderators here are (generally) members first, figures of authority second. They are also all volunteers (I think). Promoting a more strictly regimented and highly moderated forum has a variety of negative side effects that dramatically change the natural developed social organization of the place.
The moderators would have a lot more work to do. Or, they would be required to bring in a lot more mods to perform mundane, administrative tasks. As Heinlein would say, a top-heavy organization is sick. I suspect this would decrease moderator involvement in conversations (and they are some of our most important resources of knowledge), as they'd be more worried about regulating the conversation than participating in it.
This latter point goes to controlling Off Topic derailments as well. What conversation have you ever had in real life that stayed strictly within topical bounds? Especially when you're discussing art...? Personally, the Off Topic (but still related) stuff is usually the more interesting.
When something is totally off topic, though, it's dealt with the same way here as with flamers/trollers/advertisers. That is, someone rats the person out, and the post is deleted or the thread locked. Seems to work just fine.
I do sympathize. What you describe are also pet peeves of mine. But I think the approach here works well enough. The pluses are many, the negatives few. And if it ain't broke, why fix it?
But, if you don't buy my arguments... let's tango!
Seriously though -- I'm always open to counter argument. Arguing is, after all, one of my favourite things to do!!!
Last edited by Fung Koo; October 27th, 2009 at 04:49 PM. Reason: clarity?
October 27th, 2009, 05:56 PM #23
Necro-posting > new crappy thread hehe.
Yeah, and I don't even want to get into the "controlling" or regulating "issue"... I think we're quite fine in that regard. But I see some good coming out of a bit of a standarization of thread titles when book discussion threads are concerned primarily and also paying a bit more attention to how representative the thread title really is for what is being discussed in the thread.
All these things can be applied quite subtly by the mods when necessary. I don't think many threads are created in a day that would require any action from the mods, so I don't think overall it would be much of a burden. vBulletin does make it a lot easier.
In all, the idea behind it is to create some sort of pattern that from over time the members here will start to follow because it will become the norm, even new users will notice it and probably follow suit more often than now. I've experienced it in the forum in which I'm a mod of, and I have to say that discussion improved substantially over time.
But yeah, I respect your position and your reasons are quite valid. I do think it's worth the consideration. I just know that half a time that I want to discuss a book, I really don't know where I should post... for example with the Wheel of Time and overall "just pick one of these many WoT topics" doesn't really do it for me particularly when none really represent what I'm interested in discussing (whatever it was at the time).
And when a low/bad content OP book discussion thread is created, I think the forum would really benefit from a mod simply finding some summary, some description, and/or posting some relevant details like the name of the author etc. and just editing the first post. You don't even need to address the OP, just edit it, insert some good information in addition to what is already provided by the OP and let it go from there. Overall, in a normal forum usage day, I don't think it's too much work. The forum I'm a part of, at the moment I rarely need to moderate anything because there's a good precedent and pattern in place, and I think we've really benefitted from it (though I admit that it took some work when we started cleaning the forum up a bit).
I'll just leave it at that. Thanks for the feedback on our feedback.
October 27th, 2009, 06:01 PM #24
- Join Date
- Jul 2001
- Hobbit Towers, England
- Blog Entries
Thanks for all your input here. Your honesty is appreciated.
I've hesitated to comment up to now in case anything I might say was interpreted as staff becoming overly defensive.
I hope that that is still the case. However I am going to try and respond to some of the points made above so that our reasoning can be understood, if not agreed with!
I'm pleased to say that what has been mentioned so far is surprisingly similar to the conversations we've had amongst us as staff.
We are in the process of rewriting the Forum Rules into something more streamlined and hopefully clearer than those of present usage.
From the comments made above here it seems that the new rules may be not that different from what we were thinking. We might actually be getting it right, or at least that our intended purpose and management style are about where we want it to be.
That's not to say that we're perfect or we've got it totally right. Which is why we're interested in what you have to say.
The debate about the Fantasy/Horror issue and the Authors Forums is clearly an ongoing one. I'm not sure what the solution is yet. I will be honest and say that the combination of Fantasy and Horror is not an issue for me, personally. There are more links between Fantasy and Horror than there are between Fantasy/Horror and SF. To my mind it makes sense for those two to be linked rather than the rest, particularly as we seem to be going through a phase where the 'barriers' between the genres (if they ever existed in the first place, cue KatG!) are becoming less clear. Much Urban Fantasy seems to meld the two, for example. By joining them together it made these connections clearer and the need to bounce between two Forums less. We were finding more of that before we merged.
Currently the volume of Horror posts is still low and not enough IMO to keep them as separate entities. Hopefully the majority of our Fantasy Forum visitors are not inconvenienced by one or two Horror posts a day (if that!) as opposed to the dozen or so Fantasy posts. There's few enough of them there to bypass if needed. On the positive side, it was felt (with apologies to Randy and others who were doing a sterling job of putting detailed and literate posts of quality in the Forum) that before the merge, Horror was becoming a dusty disused ghetto at SFFWorld. Interestingly, some posts have generated more interest since the merge, simply by being in a place where more people visit.
As for the Author Forums, we seem to be in a situation where whatever we do, some will dislike. We were criticised before for keeping some authors separate from others and by creating an elite list for some and not others.
We decided to try and be modern and use the search/tagging systems, which many members are comfortable at using elsewhere. It has had some success, though personally I'm not sure whether it has been universally accepted. Jury's still out on that one. However, I do know that if we brought the Author Forums back again we would get just as many complaints about them as we do about not having them.
Kung Foo's post above was very good. In there are all the discussions that we've had as staff over an administrated website. Where do we draw the line? What's acceptable/ not acceptable? How dictatorial could we/should we be?
Most of our members seem to be happy with our benign dictatorship. Most of them seem to get what we're trying to achieve, though I will admit we do get it wrong on occasion. In both ways. There are some who should have been culled faster than perhaps we did, though in the interests of debate and discussion we stayed our hand. We still do, often, if truth be told.
For the record, it's usually me or the owner that has to pull the plug. Usually that decision is made with serious and extensive staff involvement, though ultimately someone has to do it.
And yes, we're all volunteers, who do this for fun, in our spare time. Even the owner. And these days it means for me that comments are not always as lengthy as I would like, nor in as much depth as they used to be. C'est la vie.
We do appreciate self moderation: it has been our long-held belief that, in our opinion, that leads to lively informed debate, without the need to hurl insults or abuse at other members, and allows members to feel they can contribute without fear of reprimand or belittling.
The advertising issue has also been raised. It is one of our biggest bugbears and causes of upset. However we do try to keep a line between posts made purely to promote and advertise and those from long-term members who wish to discuss books, films, TV they've seen/read. I would personally hate it if our intelligent, thoughtful and enthusiastic members were kept on a leash, just because their efforts were sometimes elsewhere. I think that that would be our loss, not theirs.
The discussion issue is another one of my own personal annoyances. I would prefer as was mentioned above people to discuss books rather than just comment on them.
However I have come to realise over the last few years that the nature of the web is changing and that this might be the consequence of such changes. As Twitter dominates the world, perhaps comments will become even shorter?
To some extent, the answer to that one is partly down to you, the committed Forumite. If there were more 'discussion posts' rather than just short comments or adverts, would that generate more lively debate? We have tried it in the past. I would admit that it hasn't always worked.
Because of our age (we are quite an old site, comparatively speaking these days!) our style is a little old-fashioned, and our methods of working (dare we say it, including our thread usage) is a little woolly at times. However, we tend to try and use comments made earlier as links to current topics, especially when they appear and reappear a lot. We have merged more in the past, and still do, but try not to where the consequence is lengthy threads of 30 pages, or whatever. But the organic nature of the Forums mean that it doesn't always happen. We're a bit like an old bookshop where a bit of rummaging around can uncover all sorts of lost gems. Some can cope with that, others less. Again the changing nature of the Internet seems to suggest that the links may be the way forward as looking through old and lengthy threads may be just too much effort for many.
OK: ramble over. I hope that some of this has tried to explain where we're at. Please feel free to continue comments or hack this post apart. As I said before, we do appreciate hearing your thoughts.
[Later point, re the post above, which appeared in the time I wrote this. A lot of what we do is behind the scenes that you don't see. You'd be surprised how much work there actually is daily, on a site as big as we are. It's surprising how many 'It wouldn't take much extra work...'s there are a day, just that you don't normally see them. That and the fact we're global (lots of conversations from me in the UK to others at 2am local time!) means that we only survive by working as a (sleep-deprived!) team. Mark]
Last edited by Hobbit; October 27th, 2009 at 07:27 PM.Mark
October 27th, 2009, 06:25 PM #25
I can understand the position, and surely I'm not taking into consideration the scope of the forum since I really only care about the Fantasy section, so yeah I might be missing a bit of perspective there. But I wouldn't ask of you something I wouldn't do myself were I in your same position... but yeah, considering the whole forum it might be a bit of a task.
Maybe you need more mods lol.
Last edited by Bastard; October 27th, 2009 at 06:39 PM.
October 27th, 2009, 07:10 PM #26
- Join Date
- Apr 2000
- NSW, Australia
While I'm a less active member than I used to be, I have a couple of comments that I hope are of value:
Firstly, I'm not so sure the tagging experiment has worked. As a strong proponent of this function I'm a bit disappointed, and think we need to attribute some of this failure to the way we communicated the change, and the usability of the function itself. I still believe having the tag cloud more obviously displayed would've made a big difference in the uptake of the function. Having said that, I don't think I'd support a reversion to the author sub-forums - I wasn't a fan of the behaviour they encouraged from some members, and the additional moderation required to maintain them.
Secondly, I'd like to agree on some of the above posters in regards to comments vs. discussion. I'm increasingly frustrated by the "Reading in..." threads where someone says something like "I just read X". So what? Was it good? Why? The only thing that riles me more is when someone says "I just read X. More comments on my blog soon." To be honest, I wonder if we'd be better of without these threads, but then I'm not sure what unintended consequences of stopping them would be. As it stands I'll continue to lower my opinion of anyone making these sorts of posts, and prompt anyone commenting on a book I'm interested in for more info.
Finally, I'd like to extend my thanks to Dag and the mods for providing us with this great service. I've been hanging around here for a little while now and am constantly amazed at the patience, efforts and passion that they provide. Thanks to everyone involved.
October 27th, 2009, 07:39 PM #27
All good points and things I know we take to heart behind the scenes, and as is often the case Hobbit has provided a good response from the behind-the-scenes folks.
I'm personally finding myself switching sides between dropping 5 links in a new recommendation thread, closing it, or merging it. I know members have been annoyed by, for example, four topics in three days being started on the same subject.
One thing we've been trying to do is rename some of these threads that are simply titled "Looking for a book" to something more specific as noted in the original poster's post.
I agree Eventine, the tagging hasn't worked quite as well as some of us hoped. I know I don't always remember to tag new threads. What the solution to that is, I don't quite know.
In the end, we want to keep this community as affable and inviting to both old and new members as possible.
October 27th, 2009, 09:13 PM #28
Just as an aside
To show how ancient the site is, the newer members may want to try this:
Scroll to the top of the page. Click 'User CP' on the left. Scroll down and click 'user options.'
Under Thread Display Options, change the default thread age to 'show all threads' and save preferences (this alters the forum view of threads and the search parameters to include older stuff).
At the mo, there are 283 pages of threads in the fantasy/horror section alone (not including what we've shifted to other places on the forum). Pick through the older threads- there's still stuff in there that's pretty interesting. Reading tastes can vary over a number of years, and you may find yourself going back to join in discussions of less well known authors who didn't appeal to you when you were younger but may stike a chord with you now.
I agree Eventine, the tagging hasn't worked quite as well as some of us hoped.
I'd still like to see more people involved in the book clubs- the SF one's on hiatus until we can get more than 2 or 3 people to read the book of the month. If anyone has any suggestions...
Last edited by fluffy bunny; October 27th, 2009 at 09:22 PM.
October 28th, 2009, 03:55 AM #29
I'm really happy with this place. I think the staff do a wonderful job at maintaining it, the members are all really great and topics are interesting and oftentimes, quite informative.
I joined a couple of years back, though must admit that I didn't really expect to still be posting today.
My only major gripe with the place, if you can call it that, is as other people have mentioned in this topic: fantasy and horror sharing a forum. I personally would prefer that they have seperate forums.
Other than that though, I can't think of anything that I personally, as a member, have a problem with.
October 28th, 2009, 09:38 AM #30
- Join Date
- Oct 2007
- The Fung Küniverse (Currently: Toronto)
- Blog Entries
For myself, I've noticed that the main issue seems to be actually having the book on hand to read. Usually I'm in the middle of reading something else, and have another 5 or 6 books in the queue. So when a book I'm interested in comes up in the book club, I add it to my list. But usually I don't get to it in time. Only once or twice have I come across a book of the month that I already owned (which speaks to the breadth of texts covered by the clubs).
The other thing is that involvement is strictly voluntary -- there's not really any built-in obligation to participate. I imagine that this causes a high degree of change in the already-limited membership of the clubs.
So, I look to real-life bookclubs. What are the draws? The booze and snacks are the biggies. Can't really do that online... But also, I've noticed that book clubs make an effort to provide the next month's book to the members. That strikes me as key.
So... would it make any sense to add an optional "subscription fee" to the book clubs? The subscription fee would only be used to pay for the book of the month, to be ordered and shipped to the subscriber. Non-paying subscribers are not prohibited from participating, though.
To pay, a PayPal account (or something similar) would probably be ideal. Users could transfer cash to the SFFWorld account, tagged with their username, and maintained by a trustworthy SFFWorld mod. As book and shipping costs vary -- and you have to allow for the fact that someone might not need to buy a new copy -- a transfer through PayPal, held by SFFWorld, of say approx $120-180 for the year (12 books @ roughly $10-15 each) should cover the majority of costs. Left over funds could be pro-rated, returned, or donated. Maybe provide a 3-, 6-, or 9-book option, too? Of course, account reckoning would be a task...
An Amazon order (linked through with the advertiser-tag, of course ) could then be set up with a prepared order and delivery info for the members. Books are decided at least a month in advance to allow for shipping. Or perhaps decided in quarters (3 months of books shipped at a time -- this would allow for different reading speeds).
Profit to SFFWorld is indirect, earned through the Amazon link ad revenue, so there shouldn't be any legal issues. It wouldn't be rude to suggest a donation to the site, either, with the subscription. I'd suggest $1-2 per month.
I figure that would ensure that everyone at least gets a copy of the book. Having paid for the book, but with someone else getting it for you, would promote a feeling of obligation to read it and participate in the discussion.
You could even make pre-arranged book packages available through the site in a similar fashion. Say, a series of "SF Starter Kits" that include a collection of SF titles (perhaps thematic, topical, whatever). Or Award Nominee packages, including the full set of Hugo/Nebula/etc nominees. Or a holiday-themed set of packages. Etc... And also make the full, historical The Book Club's Year of Books package available for order.
Could be a way to increase the site's revenue through existing channels.
Anyway, that's one option. Thoughts?