RPG's users and moderators have a number of problems as summarized in this question's answers. However, several mods have said that they can't accept meta feedback in the form of anything other than individually-separated questions. While I think that's unnecessary and contrary to common meta practice here and elsewhere, in the spirit of taking all possible approaches to getting us started on resolving these problems, I'm reposting my observations as a series of questions instead of a single answer. I'm hoping for answers that generally agree with the problem statement and go on to give proposals for fixing that (and may post later with my own ideas), but answers that explain why the problems observed are less severe (or more severe) or characterized differently than stated would also fit well.
This post is about…
Focusing on personalities more than behavior, judgment more than characteristics
Writing this out and thinking about it, I realized I'm not doing as well on this as I'd thought or hoped. Sure, I might avoid flipping the bozo bit on people… but it's still too easy to just express disbelief that someone could think doing XYZ is a good idea, rather than explaining why it's a bad idea. Here's why these are bad ideas:
- Writing someone off as a hopeless malcontent or incompetent — but not removing them permanently from the site — fosters lingering resentment and frustration, since they're still there, still doing things, still having an obvious influence. Most of the people involved in the various site dramas have fairly significant rep that's still actively growing, and we all know that means they're being listened to. There's no resolution from this, just gritting teeth harder and harder.
- Manually ignoring people turns out like Add the ability to ignore users, but without software support. That's still a bad idea for all the reasons given there (especially this answer).
- Writing someone off also breeds a cavalier attitude toward anything those users are involved in. I think this has particularly affected one or two mods, resulting in saying things like "the five upset people will always be upset", which can easily drift into "anyone who's upset about this is one of those five, oops I mean six, oh I guess it's seven, always-upset people". Once things truly spiral to this point, it's very hard to get back to a place where people can actually tell you you're wrong. And there's always a need for that, since we're all human.
- Writing someone off, or seeing someone written off, breeds distrust and fear. Each developing "side" is unsure to what extent the others are able to cleverly manipulate things to hide their influence, or to what extent they themselves are being ignored with rolling eyes. The smallest of cues are seized on for evidence either way, even far out of proportion to any conscious intent. It becomes difficult to take even apparently friendly overtures as anything other than an even more deeply-concealed plot. Somehow.
- Focusing on calling something a bad idea rather than explaining how it's a bad idea sparks defensiveness in anyone who thought (perhaps hastily, or perhaps even rightly) that it was a good idea. It's awfully hard to completely get rid of that reflex, but focusing on the facts first can defuse it to some extent.
- Discussing the factual up- and down-sides of an idea can lead to exploring more of the subtleties, possibly mitigating some of the problems, or at any rate allowing a deeper understanding of them.
Just because someone is prone to causing trouble does not mean they should be routinely ignored, unless they're causing trouble on purpose, in which case ignoring is the wrong response: site discipline is needed. And just because an idea seems stupid doesn't mean the reasons it is stupid are obvious, so take the time to think and maybe explain a bit more. All of us need to make sure we're doing a good job — a better job — on these, but ♦ mods have an especial need for this, due to their higher visibility and the greater trust necessary for them to do their jobs properly.