The derail from "Air Your Grievances"


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Chris Lambertz wrote:
Just piping in quickly: let's not derail this into a debate about the online presence of our volunteer core. Tonya and I actually appreciate hearing feedback like what's been posted here. So as to not derail the discussion, but to if you'd like to kick off a different thread in Website Feedback or correspondence chain: what do you feel our forum policies or moderators could/should do in these cases? What do you want to see from Paizo and our staff?

Thanks for chiming in, Chris. :)

From a forum/moderator perspective, I'm not sure of any "action steps" to ask for. I mean, if a VO or multi-star GM over in the PFS forums gets verbally abusive, then presumably they're covered under the flagging system just like anybody else. The only thing I can think of is maybe a bit of information on which posts get removed and why.

For example, imagine this scenario:
Player: I thought I was doing everything legally, but my GM did X. Can anyone explain?
GM/VO: Quit trying to bludgeon your GM over the head with rules. Get found! Stop trying to compete with your teammates and "win" Pathfinder, you dirty powergamer! Pull that crap at MY table and you'd be booted, no questions asked.
Both: [back and forth, escalating]
Moderator: Removed some posts and the replies to them. Please be civil, thanks.
GM/VO: *goes away feeling satisfied at the deletion of the game-breaking munchkins disruptive posts, believing his own were only deleted because of being replies*

If the only people ever making it clear to certain members of the leadership culture that their behavior isn't okay are the players whom they already regard as errant children whose reprimands are unfounded, then they just keep snowballing their sense of moral superiority and justification in their actions.

Fortunately, I've seen a bit of a trend that direction in the last year or two across the forums, with moderator posts being a bit more clear. Granted, it doesn't help if the offender doesn't look, but the moderators' responsibility has to end somewhere, right?

Stopping for the moment; more to come later...


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*blink*

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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Okay, hopefully I can write something useful in the next few minutes here...

So! Above, I went over how a certain segment of the PFS leadership culture can feel justified in verbal abuse and other not-okay-on-the-forums behaviors as long as the target is (in said leadership figure's eyes) a munchkin/rollplayer/whatever, and therefore moderator action against such posts needs to be clear enough that those folks at least have a chance to learn that their own posts are part of the problem, rather than viewing moderator action as further affirmation of their superiority to those powergamers who keep getting and threads locked.

Although that moderation transparency is a good thing, it's still somewhat superficial: you can delete offending posts, but the toxic attitudes that produced those posts are still there, in the person behind the keyboard; the same person who's then going to their next game day and setting an example as GM/VO.

There seems to be this bizarre belief among active PFS forumites that "real games" are super different from the forums; every time leaders get toxic on the boards and a newbie says "Nevermind, I don't want this", other leaders will jump in and say "Wait! Real games aren't like the forums!"

Well, sure, if none of the people from the forums are at your table, then of course the game will be different. But those VOs/GMs are running games somewhere, and it would be beyond naïve to think that the attitudes that led so-and-so to berate and demean different player types online aren't also going to come out at that person's tables.

Unless campaign leadership thinks that when behind a keyboard their volunteers think they're better than XYZ player group but at the table they hold completely different opinions, then it's absurd to claim that "real games" with those people are going to be meaningfully different than online interactions with those same people.

The first "action step" for campaign management is to recognize that if your volunteers are being toxic toward a certain type of player online, they're going to bring that same toxicity to real games any time that type of player shows up at their table.

The second action step is to try and foster a culture that separates actions from people when discussing what's healthy for the campaign, in order to put your volunteers in a place where feedback can bear fruit.

Let me explain.

I'm a firm believer that everybody does both good things and bad things, and that those actions should be addressed as actions, rather than as data points with which to try and determine if the person is good or bad. I'd rather reserve terms like "good" and "bad" for specific behaviors and get those behaviors addressed, and just not even treat people as being valid targets for either word.

However, PFS leadership (or at least part of it) seems to function in the opposite manner. Nowhere was this made clearer than in a thread I once saw where someone told a VO that they should stop verbally abusing people, and the VO's response didn't mention verbal abuse at all. Instead, they just listed good things they were doing for the campaign, and announced their conclusion that they must be doing alright. Didn't even deny the verbal abuse; didn't address it at all. The only way I can think of to make sense of such a response to a specific, behavioral criticism is if the listener isn't separating actions from identity.

If you only hear criticism as "Here's my case for why you're bad", then it makes sense that one way of responding might be to make a counter-case for why you're good. Unfortunately, if you have that same interpretation/response to every piece of negative feedback, no matter how precise or discreet, then you're never going to improve any of your behavior.

If every criticism is a case for personal badness, then as long as you have more pieces of evidence for goodness than badness, none of the unhealthy behavior gets addressed. If campaign leadership can work to change this paradigm, however, things can get better.

For example, suppose a player points out that "It's not okay to do X".

If this gets received as "You're a bad GM because you do X", then the listener isn't going to stop doing X unless/until that's the only way to get a long enough list of reasons they're a good GM.

However, if it can instead be heard for what it is (a critique of just one specific behavior), then the listener need not feel threatened and is free to address the concern directly.

How do we make this shift? Two things:

First, monitor the complaint end of the exchange. Sometimes people do criticize the person instead of the behavior (i.e., "If you're doing X you're being a jerk" instead of "Doing X is not okay"). In those cases, having either Tonya or a moderator or someone else step in and say "Hey, critique the issue, not the person" can help steer the player culture toward productive feedback while also making the GMs/VOs feel safe and defended.

Second, monitor the recipients' responses to criticism. If the complainer properly aims their concern at the behavior rather than attacking the person, but the listener responds as though it was the opposite, then that needs to be addressed just as directly. Something like "There's no need to dogpile someone for giving negative feedback; they kept it centered on the behavior rather than the person, so please respect their concerns."

I think doing those two things — consistently, and both of them — would go a long way toward a better future for PFS.

Now, there's a whole list of individual complaints I could mention about my experiences with PFS. But when you really think about it, they're just the details. The important part is (1) recognizing that there's a problem involving real people (not just some kind of online spectre) and (2) clearing the way for feedback to actually get received and addressed. If those two things can be improved, then that opens the door to fix literally everything else. And if those two things don't get addressed, then nothing else can be fixed.

I hope this post has been helpful.


Agreed

Sovereign Court

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I'm following this with interest, Jiggy. Fostering positive community culture is good for everyone involved. I think it is possible with a mix of policy, psychology, and transparency.

What is your opinion of the "Community Standards" section that replaced the "Don't Be a Jerk" rule in the Roleplaying Guild Guide?

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KingOfAnything wrote:
What is your opinion of the "Community Standards" section that replaced the "Don't Be a Jerk" rule in the Roleplaying Guild Guide?

Just did a quick read, and it all seems fine. As you might expect based on what I wrote about behaviors vs identity, I like the shift from "Don't be X" to "Don't do X". (Or, more precisely, "Let us protect you from the doing of X".)

On the other hand, it seems to focus largely on broader social issues (such as sexual harassment and PTSD triggers) which, while important, are a bit outside the scope of what I'm talking about here.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Coordinator

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Jiggy,

Thank you for taking the time to put your thoughts into a format that lists what you would like to see changed, a process for that change, and examples on why the change is necessary.

You are absolutely correct we need to foster a welcoming feeling both on our boards and at our games. I also agree that no one, from Paizo employee to player, get a pass for being a jerk or that their opinions/actions are better than others.

I also agree that correcting behaviors and not judging people is the method forward. I can really hate puns, but that doesn't mean I don't like punsters. (Just an example - I *usually* like puns unless they are real groaners). The new community standards try to address the issue - by identifying the problem behavior, giving a time for cool down, and specific requirements for returning to the community.

While I agree with the need for change, I also believe in "praise in public, reprimand in private". So I try not to call people out in a public forum unless it is egregious behavior that must be set right. But know that I do see what happens and am addressing it in a manner that hopefully results in improved behavior while not undermining PFS organization as a whole.

Now that we are out of heavy convention season, I am hoping to be a more active presence on these boards and will look to your suggestions as I read through posts.


My experience with managing email lists and forums has convinced me that that every board has a #1 policy and a #2 policy:

#1 Don't lose sight of why the forum exists
Whatever else is going on, if something is killing the forum, deal with it. If it's messy, apologize, but still deal with it.

#2 Preserve bandwidth
Every sub-policy, from moderating profanity to fighting spam to issuing cooling off warnings to closing threads to moderating inappropriate comments, ultimately should be this. The object is not stop, or to judge, but rather, to preserve the communication you want to be happening. Sometimes that means letting terrible comments be kind of terrible, provided they don't break other rules, but then you have to give people space to response to the terribleness, too.

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Tonya,

Thanks for taking the time to give my posts a read-through. There is one point I would like to address further:

Tonya Woldridge wrote:
While I agree with the need for change, I also believe in "praise in public, reprimand in private". So I try not to call people out in a public forum unless it is egregious behavior that must be set right. But know that I do see what happens and am addressing it in a manner that hopefully results in improved behavior while not undermining PFS organization as a whole.

I recall the same policy from when I used to be active in PFS, under Mike Brock's leadership. Based on the same experiences that eventually drove me to abandon PFS, I really have to question the validity of that policy (or at least, of how it's being implemented).

For starters, what counts as "egregious behavior"? I recall a thread once in which some new piece of content or FAQ or something was being discussed, and a 5-star GM declared that he would not allow such a thing at his table. With the topic in question having been clearly affirmed by the Design Team as legal (as opposed to being a gray area), and being PFS-legal, I pointed out to him that he wasn't allowed to "rule" against it at a PFS table. A Venture Officer then stepped in with something along the lines of "I'm sure he's just reacting out of shock and doesn't intend to actually prohibit a legal build from a public table." The 5-star GM then explicitly stated that he absolutely intends to illegally ban such a character from his table, PFS rules be damned. There was no intervention against this. Apparently Mike Brock did not consider explicit assertions of intent to cheat as sufficiently "egregious behavior" to warrant any visible action at all.

Do you?

Additionally, what impact does public silence on unacceptable behavior have on those who are newly learning the culture? Those who are just beginning to GM will often come to the forums for tips and advice, or just to hear from the veterans about how PFS goes. It's one thing if a bunch of nameless forumites has an argument on the internet, but if various toxic attitudes are coming from people with titles and emblems, that's something else. Whoever the seemingly "highest-ranking" poster is in a thread, their attitudes are the ones that new GMs are going to read and take as PFS-endorsed. As a result, if the only "ranked" opinions are the toxic ones, that's what newbies are going to learn PFS is about.

For example, suppose a VO recommends adding extra monsters to "deal with munchkins". If the Campaign Coordinator steps in and asserts that no, it's not okay to modify encounters like that; then the newbie GM's takeaway is that it's not okay to modify encounters like that. Or if there's at least other VOs challenging the first VO's recommendation, then the reader can at least see that there's some controversy there and at least some portion of leadership is against encounter modification, so they're likely to tread carefully. But if every member of leadership other than the errant VO remains silent, then the reader naturally concludes that the official PFS stance is that you "deal with munchkins" by adding monsters.

That's how toxic attitudes spread: by letting them be presented to the public, with the voices of authority figures, and be completely unchallenged. Even if we're optimistic and guess that after enough "private reprimands" the original offender changes their tune, what do you do about the dozens of GMs who have already adopted the original toxic attitude and begun applying it at their games (and spreading it to others)? Do you have an action plan for cleaning up that mess? How do you plan on putting better ideas into the community's heads to counteract what was disseminated, unchallenged, at the hands of the VOs/GMs that you didn't want to contradict in public?

Now, let me be clear: I'm not calling for you to figuratively crucify offending parties, or in any way "get after them" or whatever one might call it. I'm just saying that toxic attitudes should not be allowed to have the loudest public voice; that's where the damage comes from. If a VO advocates cheating or belittles the creators of effective characters or whatever else, you wouldn't necessarily even have to address the person directly; you could just post something like "It is absolutely not allowed for a PFS GM to add monsters or otherwise tamper with an encounter; see the Guide for more details." That way, you haven't directly confronted any given person in public, but you've still stepped in to keep the toxic voices from being the strongest in the thread. But when you (and other, fair-minded VOs/GMs) say nothing in response to toxic assertions, the toxic assertions are left with all the authority.

....

Look, I'm going to go ahead and say something uncomfortable here. My degree is in psychology, and as such I have some familiarity with dysfunctional relational systems (such as families). And unfortunately, the PFS leadership culture bears a chilling resemblance to the classic image of the family of an alcoholic.

First, at the root of it all, you've got the person with the drinking problem. This role is analogous to the leaders spreading toxic attitudes (such as through verbal abuse, elitism, advocacy for GMs-are-above-the-rules mindsets, etc).

There's usually one or more family members who then minimize the alcoholic's problem, by saying things like "He's not as bad as he used to be" or otherwise downplaying the issue. This is the folks who respond to disillusioned players with "I swear, actual PFS games aren't like this; it's just the internet".

There's also usually someone who tries to ease intra-family tension by keeping people laughing. You've got these folks in your ranks as well: when an issue comes up and starts some heat, certain VOs/GMs will come in and start joking about beards or bacon or whatever else they can think of (to "defuse the tension"), ultimately derailing the discussion until people stop trying to talk about the issue.

Then there's the "quiet one", usually one of the alcoholic's children, who just sort of doesn't engage and tries to silently distance themselves. These are the VOs/GMs whose solution to the PFS forum's famous toxicity was to just not visit the forums anymore (which I suppose includes me, since I left altogether).

There are other common roles as well, but I think you get the idea. While the person engaging in the toxic behavior continues unabated, all the people around them try to keep things running smoothly on the surface (such as by easing the tension with laughter or assuring the public that things aren't that bad), but fail to actually address the root of the problem. As a result, all these behaviors that look like a good idea to the people involved (because defusing tension is good, right?) actually end up perpetuating the problem; the sociological term is "enabling", because all these coping mechanisms serve to take away the consequences of the alcoholic's behavior, thus making it feasible for him to continue doing it.

I hate to make such a serious analogy, but the dysfunction in the PFS leadership culture really is that deep and systemic, and appears to function according to that model: everyone trying to direct attention away from what's going wrong, thus keeping it from ever getting fixed.

If you want to change for the better, you're going to have to throw out whatever methodology isn't working and try something else. Or as one of my professors used to tell his clients, "If you keep on doing what you're doing, you're going to keep on getting what you've got."

I hope this helps, and I'd be happy to do anything else I can.

Sovereign Court

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Jiggy wrote:
I hope this helps, and I'd be happy to do anything else I can.

Despite being best described as "some random user", I'd like to echo the above - if there's anything I can do to help, just say the word. ^_^


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Mental note - order Jiggy fan club tee shirt.

Silver Crusade

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Steve Geddes wrote:
Mental note - order Jiggy fan club tee shirt.

You planning on gettin' Jiggy with it? :)


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I have no idea. Is that something you're able to do once you're over 40?


On the note of "Praise in public, reprimand in private." This is an excellent starting point for dealing with trouble before it escalates; that doesn't mean there can't be later 'unrelated' announcements affirming Paizo's, or the leadership's position on an issue with a 'blanket' statement to the effect of 'while we realize no one is perfect, we ask all of our volunteers keep in mind that gameplay is a highly subjective experience, and we should strive to maintain an air of inclusivity, especially for new gamers.' (o.O the forum's autocorrect suggests replacing inclusivity with exclusivity, as an fyi; someone should probably fix that).

It also helps to keep the praise regular enough that it stays fresh in people's minds.

Sovereign Court

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Just a note: the forum has no autocorrect. That's your browser or mobile device. ^_^

Dark Archive

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some random user wrote:
Jiggy wrote:
I hope this helps, and I'd be happy to do anything else I can.
Despite being best described as "some random user", I'd like to echo the above - if there's anything I can do to help, just say the word. ^_^

Just keep on doing what you do and you'll contribute to making this a better place.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Coordinator

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I appreciate all the feedback and am working to integrate some of the ideas above into the daily practices of the PFS team. I do get the maxim that doing the same thing leads to the same results, which is why things have shaken up a bit and will continue to do so as my experience in the position grows.

Let's increase the awesome!

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I will be watching, with interest. :)

The Exchange

Steve Geddes wrote:
Mental note - order Jiggy fan club tee shirt.

I know where we can get these printed... same place I do my Take 10 T-shirts. But what do we put on it?

"If you want to change for the better, you're going to have to throw out whatever methodology isn't working and try something else."
and/or
"If you keep on doing what you're doing, you're going to keep on getting what you've got."

- Jiggy, Sept. 19, 2016

one line, or both? and can we get the little green lizard guy with the pencil and scroll? nah, I'm guessing that is I.P., so protected by copy write or something like that.


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nosig wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:
Mental note - order Jiggy fan club tee shirt.

I know where we can get these printed... same place I do my Take 10 T-shirts. But what do we put on it?

"If you want to change for the better, you're going to have to throw out whatever methodology isn't working and try something else."
and/or
"If you keep on doing what you're doing, you're going to keep on getting what you've got."

- Jiggy, Sept. 19, 2016

one line, or both? and can we get the little green lizard guy with the pencil and scroll? nah, I'm guessing that is I.P., so protected by copy write or something like that.

Let's combine both shirts "You can't just Take 10 on things and hope for a better outcome'

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Um... How about... no?


Jiggy wrote:
Um... How about... no?

How about

"Take 10 is great for consistency but all this drama means we have to roll on some new policy."

Edit: Just in case no one knows I'm joking I am.

The Exchange

Jiggy wrote:
Um... How about... no?

oh. Ok.

I do think it would have been a great shirt though...


He might have just meant my horrible idea.

Dark Archive

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Talonhawke wrote:
He might have just meant my horrible idea.

I've seen some of the shirts he wears, so maybe?

:)

The Exchange

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Jiggy wrote:
A lot of really good stuff

So, I made a promise a while back not to post in threads like this unless I had something useful to add to the conversation. It took me a while but I think I do have something.

First let me throw out that I too studied psychology back in my college days. It was a certificate program (what other schools might call a "minor") and was in Industrial/Organizational psychology. So I have a tendency to look at group dynamics and "culture" rather than individual issues. (I also should add that I make no claims of expertise, have no board certifications, and don't work in the field; I took the classes purely for my own edification. Just wanted to give you a sense of where my perspective comes from.)

"Reprimand in private" has, for reasons both good and bad, become the standard across all of corporate America and beyond. Not just for initial transgressions but even up to firings (or as it is often termed, "parting ways"). That's usually corporate policy.

I think a big concern to a lot of people is that there's no way to know that these private reprimands are happening. So it seems like nothing is happening. Jiggy, you seem mainly concerned about Venture-Officers espousing arbitrary, biased, or hostile viewpoints. I know Venture-Officers, even Venture Captains, have been removed from their positions for cause. Not because the removal was announced publicly or disseminated to other Venture-Officers, though. I've had to read between the lines, hear something in person, or happen across the occasional rant from the dismissed person.

And realistically there's a very limited number of people with the actual clout to reprimand. Paizo Customer Service and the Organized Play Coordinator (in the case of PFS). VLs and VCs do not have any authority (as you have noticed, seeing opposing viewpoints from VOs). One thing you do not see is that many of us do attempt to prod people towards civility and away from rule-breaking through private channels. I personally have sent several people lengthy e-mails asking them to please consider the impacts their posts have. To take a step back and see that they are coming off as "combative" or "trolling." (Though I do not use that word and make clear I believe they may not intend their posts that way. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt.) Including Venture Lieutenants and Venture-Agents.

Venture-Agents:
Venture-Agents are a different issue altogether. They are what we used to call "store liaisons" and are not participants in the discussion channels VCs and VLs use. And there are a lot of them. There's very little vetting other than "can you organize games at a location?" Unfortunately the "Venture" title gives them some imprimatur of authority, especially among newer players who don't know the hierarchy.

Sometimes my private messages have helped. Sometimes they don't. I've even sent a couple to people publicly espousing breaking the rules knowing it wouldn't do any good (it didn't).

That leads to another tactic that you alluded to in your first post. A GM/VO deliberately baiting a poster into a flamewar to get a thread locked. Because they don't see any other way to keep things from getting out of hand. I won't lie, I've been tempted to use this tactic myself within the last 48 hours. A thread was started whose subject was guaranteed (based on my experience) to get people mad, by a poster who had a history of starting threads that became controversial and heated. But it wasn't a clear troll, so what could I do? I settled for a private e-mail (which didn't help) and checked back on the thread later. Sure enough, it got toxic and there has been a lot of personal recriminations going on.

So what can Paizo do?

Making reprimands public - That's almost impossible. The best that might be done is to make a private reprimand and then a public post with all personal information stripped out. "We've had an incident of problem X. We don't want this to happen because..." Even that is risky as many situations would easily be identifiable based on the situation.

Increase Moderation - Probably just as difficult, due to financial reasons. From time to time there's been discussion of volunteer moderators but the problem is always the same: authority. Either they have the ability to speak for Paizo (which makes Paizo potentially liable for their actions) or they have no authority. What would be needed is volunteers who can be absolutely trusted to post no more than "Please be sure that when you criticize or offer arguments that you do not attack other people. There is a real person on the other screen." Or "feel free to offer suggestions for rule changes but advocating breaking a rule you don't like is definitely not allowed." And they would need a direct line to the actual Paizo CS team.

There's no silver bullet. And here's the big problem. Let's say moderation was increased. How many people have complained about Paizo "silencing" them because they weren't "toeing the company line?" I personally want increased moderation. Because I'm not likely to become (militantly) passionate about changing a policy or rule and I personally believe that most people who complain about "silencing" don't have a leg to stand on. I doubt everyone would like the outcome of having more threads shut down.


Gonna be honest baiting someone into a flamewar to shut down discussion should never be an option. Especially if done from a seat of perceived power. That only goes to foster a rough relationship where its believed that those in power can justly end discussion without and reprimand from on high.

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Talonhawke wrote:
Gonna be honest baiting someone into a flamewar to shut down discussion should never be an option. Especially if done from a seat of perceived power. That only goes to foster a rough relationship where its believed that those in power can justly end discussion without and reprimand from on high.

Exactly my point.

I was tempted, but I didn't do it. I've seen other people give into the temptation, which creates the relationship you describe.

The thread was clearly destined to descend into personal attacks (it did). But without any empowered moderators available, there's nothing to prevent it from happening. Even once the attacks start there's significant lag between flagging and moderating. I don't know if Customer Service keeps stats but I'd guess there's an average of 2 hours between the first flag and moderation. Much longer on nights and weekends.

And that's just the posts that clearly break posting guidelines. What I'm talking about are the posts that don't quite reach that level. Where someone says "I have this clever idea that skirts the campaign rules." Often a VO or long-time GM will reply "that's really stretching the interpretation. Regardless, that's not the kind of thing we want to encourage, please don't do that." Invariably the response is "HOW DARE YOU ACCUSE ME OF BADWRONGFUN!" YOU DONT HAVE THAT AUTHORITY!"

And they are absolutely right. The VO doesn't have that authority. So why are they doing it? Because Paizo doesn't have the resources to respond to these posts. These are people who genuinely care about the game and want to keep things from degenerating. Unfortunately these people have no actual clout. Even more unfortunately, some - definitely not "all" or even "many" - try to act is if they *do* have authority in the manner and post in a manner intended to shut down what might be a legitimate conversation or in a tone that is dismissive or downright rude.

Oh! I just came up with another canned response for my hypothetical empowered moderator! "That interpretation has the potential to greatly disrupt the campaign. At the moment it is not allowed. Please continue to offer constructive suggestions and analysis so we may consider the impacts if this were to be allowed."

It's the kind of thing that is perfectly fine for someone who officially has power to make such a post. But if posted by a VC or VL, it leads to the have/have not feelings that Jiggy refers to.


Sound points all around.

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Belafon wrote:
I think a big concern to a lot of people is that there's no way to know that these private reprimands are happening. So it seems like nothing is happening.

Well, that's one facet of the issue, but it's bigger than that.

For one thing, it's not just about making sure reprimands happen, or needing to see them happen. More significantly, it's also about listeners being given valid advice/direction/imperatives.

Imagine you work in an office, and one of your coworkers (whether you're aware of it or not) regularly takes home office supplies, uses company resources for personal stuff, and so forth. In a case like this, "reprimand in private" makes sense. Somebody finds out about the behavior, reports it privately to their superior, the matter is addressed in private, and it's resolved. It would be completely inappropriate to call a team meeting to point out the behavior. This is where "reprimand in private" is valid, and working as intended.

But now imagine that your office has a communal bulletin board over by the water cooler, for your whole office's use. Now suppose that one of your coworkers—someone with some perceived clout, such as a team leader or even just a veteran employee who often volunteers at fundraisers—keeps putting up unauthorized notices that are against office rules. Maybe illegal betting pools for sporting events, maybe "tips for new hires" that encourage unethical practices, or other calls to action for fellow officemates that are completely inappropriate.

Now, it would still be completely inappropriate to call everyone into a meeting to point fingers. But shouldn't management at least take down the illegal postings and maybe even put up their own post reaffirming the correct procedures? Privately telling the person to stop putting that stuff up, but then leaving it there where employees who might not know better will take it as valid guidance and never doing anything to contradict it, is completely ridiculous.

But last I saw, that's exactly how PFS was being handled. Certain ranked/titled individuals can put inappropriate imperatives out there for others to find, other like-minded VOs nod along in agreement, and anybody who speaks up against them is labeled as a troublemaker who's not to be listened to. And then it's all left there to be read by anyone searching for guidance on the topic, looking like it's the right approach.

It's not really about whether the people get their private reproach or not. There's a bigger issue that the toxic ideas are left there to continue seeping into the community's collective culture. It's like privately telling someone to stop pooping in the kitchen but then leaving the mop in the closet. It doesn't really matter how the reprimand is handled if the poop is left on the floor.

So that's one important aspect of the issue that "we can't see the reprimands" fails to summarize. Another important issue is effectiveness. The ability to see the reprimand happening is faaaar less important than the ability to see results.

For example, there was one particular VO with whom I repeatedly clashed on the forums whenever he would assert/defend an unacceptable position and I would speak up about it. It happened a lot. I would even get PMs to my account here from people who were reading along and wanted to thank me for "being the only one willing to stand up to him", up to and including offering to buy me a drink in thanks.

Meanwhile, theoretically, he's being talked to in private.

But it kept happening. Eventually, the PMs I would get from random readers shifted from expressions of gratitude to advice that he wasn't worth my time because he's demonstrated for years that he won't listen to reason. This was an ongoing issue, and was still an issue when I abandoned PFS.

So was he being talked to in private? Maybe, maybe not. But who cares? Nothing changed. It doesn't matter if he's getting emails from the Campaign Coordinator every day of the week and twice on Tuesdays; if the behavior never actually changes, then what difference does it make? And that VO wasn't the only one whose behavior was never successfully modified; I could offer quite a list of folks who maintained unmitigated trends over time.

If Tonya wants to maintain the policy of private reprimands, that's completely fine... as long as it works.

Really, the only problem with "invisible discipline" is that it's accompanying a lack of results. If unacceptable directives were removed/contradicted and unacceptable behavior was effectively corrected, nobody would complain that the process wasn't fully visible. It's only because there are no clear results that the invisibility of reprimands is able to make it look like nothing's being done at all. If there were tangible results, invisible discipline wouldn't look like a lack of discipline.

Anyway, that's a bit of a wall of text, and probably not organized very well since it was just off the top of my head, but hopefully it helps clarify the issue at hand. :)


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What's worse than an appearance that nothing is being done is that of what is happening is accepted and even endorsed by implication. It gets its own air of authority, and legitimately so, because it's not corrected.

Grand Lodge

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I am following this conversation with interest, Jiggy. De-toxifying the negativity within the PFS forums (though the Latin studen in me keeps wanting to write 'fora') is of great interest to me. Those are the forums where I spend the majority of my time.

I am a Venture Agent. I accepted that charge from Paizo. Although I have no decision-making authority, I feel that I have a responsibility to treat others in the Paizo forums like I would treat newcomers to PFS in my store. Welcome them. Show them a good time. Show them what a great community PFS can be.

Sometimes it is frustrating when I see other Venture Officers choose to engage in spitting matches and vitriol. We can and should disagree within PFS. Although we are bound by a single rule set, that rule set has grey areas and fluidity. There is supposed to be table variance. But I believe that we need to as a PFS culture be more about bridges than walls.

PFS is not about fiefdoms. It is not about power. It is about sharing a game that we love and building a global community. In PFS, theoretically I can travel half way around the world and play my characters in the same game with new people.

It is hard to extend reprimands within a volunteer community, but if we don't... we risk hurting everything we are trying to build. One bad GM can ruin a small lodge. One terrible VO can ruin PFS for an entire region.

Hmm

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