The Xenforo "Discourage" Feature

Discussion in 'That's So Meta!' started by palindromordnilap, May 14, 2018.

  1. rigorist

    rigorist On the beach

    A reading from the Book of Kintsugi

    1. It came to pass that Microcosmic God looked upon the forum and saw that it was at peace.

    2. But lo! A spirit of disruption entered into one of the Kintsugijin saying "Let us go forth and disrupt all of Kintsugi. Yea, even the forum and the discord and even the most secret parts of the forum let us disrupt."

    3. And the spirit of disruption said many terrible things in the discord and on the forum and even in the innermost parts of the forum.

    4. And Microcosmic God was troubled and cried out "This disruption is more than we can bear!"

    5. So Microcosmic God stretched forth their hand and frustrated the spirit of disruption and its posts were frustrated. And the spirit of disruption saw it was frustrated and uttered many threats and rent its garments in rage at its frustration

    6. And Microcosmic God called upon their servant the Rigs, saying, "Look upon what we have done and judge it."

    7. And the Rigs returned from walking to and fro upon the face of the Internet and looked upon the forum and the discord and saw the disruption and the frustration and the threats.

    8. And the Rigs called to mind the long ago time when the Rigs had been frustrated by the evil Gurdur in its Hangout.

    9. And the Rigs said unto the Microcosmic God, "This was not done wisely. For surely the frustration will work upon the Kintsugijin possessed of the spirit of disruption great wrath and sadness. It were better to ban the spirit of disruption for a season then to frustrate it.

    10. "For as Gurdur once did, so now have you."

    11. And others of the Kintsugijin looked upon the frustration and saw that it was not good.

    12. And Microcosmic God heard the voice of the Rigs and of the Kintsugijin, and their heart was hardened. For Microcosmic God was much wroth with the spirit of disruption.

    13. And Microcosmic God stretched forth their hand and posted a wall of text upon the forum. And written upon the wall of text were these words:

    14. "We are the Microcosmic God. We giveth and we taketh away. For the sake of the moaning of the Kintsugijin, we will refrain from frustrating for now. But we will not repent of it. We are Microcosmic God who brought you up out of the Land of Tumblr. We have spoken."
    • Winner x 9
    • Like x 2
    • Informative x 1
    • Witnessed x 1
  2. Ipuntya

    Ipuntya return of eggplant

    rigs is wonderful when he isn't terrible
    • Agree x 7
  3. prismaticvoid

    prismaticvoid Too Too Abstract

    I really, strongly think temp bans are a better idea than this feature. Bans, you know what's happened. With discourage, you don't know, and that easily leads to paranoia and gaslighting.
    I know banning, even temporary, isn't a thing people are super enthusiastic about, but better an explicit ban than something that you can't attribute for sure to your own behavior.
    • Agree x 9
  4. Codeless

    Codeless Cheshire Cat

    My objection to discourage is similar, it has a gaslighting effect and splash damage in the form of anxiety prone oeople worryong it might be being used on them even if they're not involved because anxiety is a dick.
    • Agree x 4
  5. Petra

    Petra space case

    I do think temp bans are better than discourage without being a break in your stance against permabans. It's up to you, of course, just throwing my two cents in.
    • Agree x 6
  6. Petra

    Petra space case

    Like I can see how discourage is helpful in a very narrow set of situations that this was not, but even if the goal is to make posting inconvenient to a spammer even just letting them know upfront might not make it less effective, and in other cases set lengths of temp bans can be super helpful. We are definitely run much different than, say, Something Awful, whose permabans and long probations basically hinge on the fact that accounts are paid to act as a deterrent to just making alts, but I do think in certain cases giving someone, say, a six-hour cooldown and making it transparent that's what is happening lets people cool their heels.
    Last edited: May 17, 2018
    • Agree x 3
    • Like x 1
  7. Verily

    Verily surprised Xue Yang peddler

    My own stance on mod policies (for a places where I’m a primary policymaker, not here ofc) might align pretty well with policy here, though maybe a bit less nice. It’s been informed far more by immediate pragmatism than larger concerns such as community planning and ethics. I don’t think that’s how it should be, just how it has been to date.

    I’ve found banning to be extremely ineffective. The people most likely to get banned are the people who tend to transgress against community rules. (Please note that transgressive != bad.) It’s quite a lot to hope that an angry, transgressive user will just accept a ban. What tends to happen, ime, is that the user comes right back, maybe with a new IP, or with a botnet, or worst case with a friend.

    You have just signed yourself and all the other moderators up for a million years of toil and paranoia. The other users may get dragged in. The banned user now has a reason to obscure their identity, so every new or less known user becomes an object of suspicion. Is that them? You don’t know! You better be at or near your computer constantly in case you need to drop a new ban. Oh and you now have literally no recourse left if it doesn’t work. You are the parent fruitlessly saying, “okay now it’s two more minutes” to the kid in time out.

    The instant you cut someone off from a community, you have burned your own influence. A person who is shut out of the community has no stake in abiding by its rules. If the stakes were insufficiently influential before, banning is not likely to improve the situation. Temp bans don’t fix this. I have not met many angry people on the internet who seem to think “it’s only for an hour” is a convincing statement.

    I probably would be using discourage. Not here, just in a general sense if that were a tool and I owned a forum. Doubt and delay tend to make users unhappy, but they’re not the same kind of “road closed, use alternate route” sign. Talking is by far the most effective thing, but I won’t always be able or willing, and I don’t owe anyone uninterrupted access to myself or my service.

    I think that once you’ve held that kind of power for a while, you start forgetting what it’s like for people who don’t have it. Not because you’ve succumbed to corruption (hopefully) but because your point of view is not the same. Sometimes it helps to be reminded that people want bans because they want justice, and they probably aren’t thinking about effectiveness or difficulty of enforcement any more than you’re brainstorming alternate methods for providing a sense of justice. Maybe I’m just speaking for myself there, but that didn’t occur to me at all until very recently.

    If I were to found a forum, which I am definitely not planning to, but hypothetically, I would have to rethink the use of discourage-like features in light of this incident. I have new information now about how much it might frighten the general userbase. Fear of mods is poison to a community. It makes rules unenforceable and users vulnerable.

    So I’m not sure how to conclude this... TED talk joke?
    • Informative x 5
    • Like x 1
  8. Exohedron

    Exohedron Doesn't like words

    I don't really see how discouragement is significantly different from banning or shunning except perhaps with more passive-aggression and plausible deniability, neither of which I find particularly palatable in a governing body.
    Any action that cannot survive being revealed even to those it involves is not an action a supposedly transparent government should be taking, and I would be quite surprised to find out that Kintsugi is besieged enough to warrant playing dirty.
    • Agree x 3
  9. seebs

    seebs Benevolent Dictator

    It depends some on how discourage works. If it's relatively mild (and I think Xenforo's isn't), it does not actually prevent participation, just makes participation somewhat more work. That's how it's different from a ban.

    Basically, there exist users for whom a temporary ban will just mean a ton more work and not much effect, and there exist users for whom a temporary ban is an effective "okay cool it for a bit" communication. My experience in the past, with Alix in particular, has been that once she's calm she is firmly convinced that a ban-like-thing would help with control, but when the thing is actually happening, anything she can detect to be an attempt to make her chill results in large and dramatic escalations, but nudges she can't detect work pretty well. Because, when the thing is happening, she's absolutely convinced that the problem can't possibly be her escalations, it must be someone being evil and needing to be stopped no matter the cost.

    So I concede that "discourage" is a bad feature, but I have exactly zero ideas about things that will actually deal with the thing. (Partially because of the godawful interactions between subaccounts and basically any and all permissions settings.)
    • Informative x 2
  10. palindromordnilap

    palindromordnilap Well-Known Member

    You could actually try it out for a bit, it's more annoying than the description makes it sound like. Especially when you've got lots of watched threads, because opening multiple tabs is a guarantee that one of them will redirect you to the home page.
    What else did you do, seebs.
    Also, still not a huge fan of "We're not trying this thing Alix told us might work, because it won't, which we already know despite not having tried it because [train noises]".
    I don't get mad at "attempts to make me chill", I get mad when I consider them unfair. "Hey, you're making a bunch of people upset so I'm muting you for a while" works every time. Ask the Nickscord mods!
  11. spockandawe

    spockandawe soft and woolen and writhing with curiosity

    I'm going to say that I'm not loving this thing where you compose a message on here and immediately copy the text over to the nickscord ~just in case~. It happened a number of times during the blowup too, and I approved a lot of those just-in-case copied messages on here, and I did it in a plenty timely manner.


    Considering how much spin doctoring was going down during the meltdown with avoiding giving context for why the discourage flag was applied in the first place, etc., and considering the splash damage that scaremongering does, I'm not a huge fan of the insinuations that you have to copy this over because the mods might try to silence you. You're still totally allowed to do it, and this one is relatively benign, I just personally find it irritating. But it really isn't helping me believe the suggestion that temporarily muting you will be a solution for the problem.
    Last edited: May 18, 2018
    • Agree x 6
  12. seebs

    seebs Benevolent Dictator

    Nothing specific I remember, but there's a lot of forms of social-nudging, like redirecting to other topics. Sometimes it works!

    I don't actually remember having been previously told about it, but sure, we could try that? I just don't think it'd actually work, because once the thing hits, you come up with plans like "pick a bunch of random people for no apparent reason and attack them so everyone will finally understand that seebs is evil", so I'm really not sure how we're supposed to have any kind of predictive ability about how things will work out.

    Does it, though? Because you've previously reacted insanely badly to "hey you're making a bunch of people upset so we're restricting access to this one specific bit of forum functionality", and to "hey maybe knock it off a bit" and so on. I dunno. I thought that "temporary ban by request" had happened in the past, but I don't actually remember, it's been a long couple of years.

    FWIW, muting doesn't solve the actual problem I have with the discord thing, which is that the otherwise-sane default of "allow private messages from people you share a server with" can't be controlled by anything like "muting" on a server-wide level; there's nothing I can do to tell discord "allow continued use of public channels, but don't allow user to initiate private conversations that are possible only because they have this server in common with someone".
    • Informative x 2
  13. palindromordnilap

    palindromordnilap Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I'm kinda paranoid. I should also note, however, that this is a thing some mods have done before, that is, wiggling some posts because they thought it was too confrontative/not appropriate/whatever.
    But yeah, you know what, I'll just switch to doing that on a more private chat.
  14. palindromordnilap

    palindromordnilap Well-Known Member

    Ah, yeah. I actually notice it, but this-- Oh, shit, I think I never mentioned it to you, only to I think Grim.
    But essentially, a usually pretty great way to make me stop a meltdown is presenting me with another thing that catches my attention, like an interesting problem to figure out. So, yeah, this works, but is not really related to the "without Alix realizing this is happening" component.
    Yeah, the predictive ability thing is pretty much why I'm asking you to consider it as a possibility. You can't really know what's gonna happen, and I've behaved in unexpected ways before. I genuinely consider using it as an opportunity for a way out would help me calm down and defuse the situation with the other people. You don't have to believe this, I'm just asking you to consider it.
  15. spockandawe

    spockandawe soft and woolen and writhing with curiosity

    Yes, see, I'm not sure if you meant this is a practical making-backups way, or in a threatening I'll-just-make-insinuations-about-you-in-a-place-you-can't-see way. My default is to parse it like the former, context And delivery suggests the latter. If that's the case, then sure? But I'm not sure the benefits of doing these slight, and again, relatively harmless insinuations out of sight outweighs the downsides of losing that wider audience and of making threatening noises over such a minor irritation. If I'm misunderstanding, then my bad, but it's not helping your case that forcing you to chill on one platform will help the overall situation.
  16. spockandawe

    spockandawe soft and woolen and writhing with curiosity

    (and regardless of belief, I'm pretty sure this solution is in consideration for future use. It's the flavor that 'this will obviously work and you should have already known that' which was bothering me, and you've addressed that)
  17. palindromordnilap

    palindromordnilap Well-Known Member

    It seems people are now automatically assuming bad faith about any statement I make, so I'm now going to back out of this thread.
  18. Jove

    Jove [ destination defenestration ]

    Friend, I’m afraid you’re missing the entire point. The problem here IS NOT THE DISCOURAGE FEATURE here. That has been addressed. The problem is your absolute disrespect to the safety of others, your highly abusive behavior, and your complete disregard towards taking responsibility. If you want forgiveness and trust from others, you earn it by taking responsibility and taking visible steps to correct your behavior.

    That absolutely does not mean shifting blame by saying “I did this horrible thing, but my behavior can’t possibly be that actual problem, and you know you’re at true fault for upsetting me and I’m only escalating because you did a mean thing to me”.

    This is in no way a personal attack. This is coming from personal experience with this type of behavior (though thankfully never to your level of escalation). This is me telling you that no one else —and I mean no one else— is responsible for your choices. And they are choices, whether you want to believe that or not.

    My suggestion, Alix, is that you drop the obfuscation over a feature someone used (no matter whether it’s ethical or not) in response to your harrowing behavior. Drop it, stop making yourself the victim in all this, apologize genuinely, and work to make it right. And I won’t lie: it’s going to take a lot of emotional labor, because you’ve absolutely destroyed any trust people may have had for you, myself included, over all of this. But at this point, you’ve brought this on yourself.

    I also suggest you look into at least online Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). There are a lot of resources online, and whether you have BPD or not, I think you could benefit from it and the mindfulness it can teach you.

    Edited to include that I’m more than willing to help, provided you hold yourself accountable.
    Last edited: May 18, 2018
    • Agree x 2
  19. spockandawe

    spockandawe soft and woolen and writhing with curiosity

    If you're curious about how the bad faith happened, it's contextual, so you're probably good on most fronts, but I also think taking a break from a stressful conversation could be good, and I didn't mean to upset you.

    Boiled down to a very, very simplistic level, my initial complaint was about 'talking about me', which was being done in a location I have access to, but I very rarely participate, and I don't know how many people know I'm around. Again, SUPER simplistic, my complaint was 'you said unfair things about me'

    (none of this was said outright, mainly implied about a group I'm only a part of. And none of it was FALSEHOODS, I just felt it was unfair. But if I specify all the conditionals every time I'll be typing all day)

    So then, your response about why you would make backups-- Logical, makes sense, that part was fine. The bit I quoted specified taking them to more private chats. Like I said, my default setting would be to assume innocent backups. There's a couple of factors in there that made me wonder if that reading was wrong.

    First thing, the specification of private chats, as opposed to like... a temporary file on a computer or something like that. That says to me that the information is still being shared in case mods do something, which is the insinuation I thought was unfair in the first place. If the post was saved locally and shared after being sent to the wiggler, that has a totally different flavor to it.

    Second thing, on my end and not yours, was my uncertainty over how many people knowing that I'm ever on the nickscord chat at all, and uncertainty over whether anyone would know I might ever see the thing. Specifying that you'll take it to more private chats makes me wonder if you're going to make a point of continuing to share the thing, just in a location where *I'll* never be able to see it.

    That's all still very iffy, and on my own I'd probably mark that down to overthinking. The last thing that tipped me into making that post was the general topic of conversation. I chimed in to express skepticism (not a claim that you're lying, expressing uncertainty over the accuracy of your self-evaluation and/or uncertainty that it will ALWAYS hold true. not saying you're lying, saying you may be wrong) that silencing you in one place will solve the problem.

    I didn't expect a post like that to get a very positive or agreeable response and figured there were decent odds of some pushback. Bringing up that you said a thing that bothered me on discord could be taken as an oblique attempt to silence you on discord, even though I tried to be clear that you were allowed to say it. In light of the whole conversation being about how you react to being shut down, I wasn't sure if your response was meant to be an 'up yours, you don't have the power to silence me', which is similar to how some of these situations have played out in the past.

    So that's how I reached that suspicious point. Some of your wording, some of my background, and the overall subject of the conversation. People probably won't be assuming automatic bad faith from you, and I do recognize and appreciate that you're trying to help work out future solutions to this issue. But again, if you're stressed, you're allowed to take breaks and take care of yourself, and the conversation will keep until you're ready for it.
    • Informative x 4
  20. seebs

    seebs Benevolent Dictator

    Okay, if we have a thing come up where we feel like we need to make you slow down, I guess we'll try a temp ban? Not my favorite thing, but if you wanna try it, sure.

    Also, concurring with Spock's evaluation: "not saying your'e lying, saying you may be wrong". I don't think it's especially likely, given that the murder threats had already been happening for at least a day, that a temporary ban would have produced any better results, especially because I had no awareness that you'd ever suggested such a thing, and we don't have an existing practice for temporary bans. And given how much spin I've seen on the rest of this, it seems really unlikely to me that a temporary ban wouldn't also have gotten spun as "violating moderation principles" or something.
    • Like x 2
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