Early on in the years of the Bulletin Board System for Dan Carlin’s website (DCBBS) Dan asked a question about why the BBS had gotten so hostile over time:
I have been getting a lot of notes lately from old-timers here on the Board that the culture here is deteriorating into partisan name-calling and the like. While many of the newer members might think we are actually a good deal more civil and thought-oriented (and less partisan) than other similar-themed sites they have frequented, those who were accustomed to how good we USED to have it around here are disappointed (and I can’t say that I blame them).
This is about the fifth or sixth time since we opened this board that I have seen us “devolve”. Every time we do, we lose a crop of the Board veterans who can no longer deal with the loss of civility/deeper thought. This is something that has even been discussed here on the Board as the “Golden Age” of the Board devolved into the “Silver Age” to wherever the heck we currently find ourselves. In those discussions we talked about the inevitability of this “de-evolution” as more and more people joined the Board over time. You get a much more representative sample of what’s “out there” when you get a larger slice of the population showing up. So we begin to look more and more like the uber-partisan/knee-jerk world around us. *Sigh*.
Can we do anything about it? I have wondered long and hard about this. It is almost like trying to figure out if you can reverse the decline of society or civilizations. Must the Board go this way?The Decline…
The answer the question “why is this place a shitshow?” is “it has to be a shitshow, and it will probably become a shitshow in pretty predictable cycles” because this is human nature at work.
There are, however, solutions. Several of them were offered in that thread; but yes, they required changing the software the board ran on. R. Elisabeth Cornwell discusses the solution that the Richard Dawkins Foundation used on their website in the video above, and in their terms and conditions:
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…having read over them, I can state flatly that a good number of people who post here (including me, but I’ll find out on that point. Probably soon) would not survive there. Still, it does call up the points that I and others made in that other thread; that to maintain civility you have to be willing to ostracize the troublemakers. Civility will not survive any other way.
I can appreciate your sincerity here Griz, but I feel that you (and Dan) do not actually understand the problem. This is not an issue of censorship, it’s an issue of shaming and community policing, both being required tools if civility is going to be maintained. It’s (almost completely) pointless to flag posts in these forums. I almost never bother to do it anymore. Trech’s page of dicks being changed to links is the only instance that I can remember in which flagging a post produced a valid outcome (and personally, I was not offended by Trech producing proof for his argument as it was demanded of him to do) other than the obvious spam that does seem to disappear very quickly, which I do thank you for. There are members of these boards whose sole existence here is to shut down conversation; I have engaged in the pastime myself, I can vouch for the ease of this being done. There are members here who live to simply grandstand and name call, and again, guilty as charged on occasion (proposed genocide is something I think I can call a person names over, and will do so again as the need arises) and there are bores here by the dozen who have one argument and one argument only, and they repeat those arguments until they are the only person left on the thread and call themselves winners.
Chaos is what we have here; and if that wasn’t the goal, then something has to be changed to bring some semblance of order.
I agree with Kath, that the list of moderators should be culled to active people on the boards, and I would add that they either have to be given teeth to effect the chaos, or Dan should stop lamenting about the state of the boards. This is a wild social human interaction, it’s what you get when you don’t give the actors tools to alter the relationships, and aren’t willing to make those alterations yourselves.
Tyrius, people who post to a thread with the response that the conversation is meaningless are generally threatened by the content of the conversation; the content of your posts should not make you feel that way, if you are asking me for an opinion. Dan’s question was never answered by someone who could draw on a valid sociological argument. If you took the time to watch the video, you would have gotten the reason for this thread and the answer to Dan’s question.
This was an excerpt from a private post to a new user on the DCBBS forum:
Every responder to a post does not have the right to be heard. There isn’t enough time in the world to talk to everyone in the world. This is especially true when five billion responses will amount to “squirrel!” Some culling and weeding of responses must necessarily occur. It is good to remind those that sidle up to the bar that they better keep it civil or they’ll learn what the dirt in the parking lot tastes like.
July 26, 2019 – While in the process of cleaning up old drafts and reformatting posts for the relocated website/blog, I discovered that I had tracked down and copied the forum rules for the now defunct RichardDawkins.net forums as well as text and links to more than a few posts that I had written for the thread titled The Reason for the Decline on the DCBBS, so I have added them and the text for the rules to this post, the meat of which comes from the first post of the thread in question.
It is worth noting here that the Richard Dawkins Foundation has also deleted their bulletin boards. There is apparently no way to stop the trolling and attacking that occurs online without crossing boundaries that open a corporation up to lawsuits. This is a real problem that requires real world solutions and probably laws to enforce those solutions.