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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "seeing someone written off, breeds distrust and fear" I can personally attest to this. From my profile, I've been a member here for years, but that's only because I clicked a button at some point in the past. Only recently have I actually dropped by semi-regularly. And just going by some of the more recent meta posts, and the moderators reactions to them, I am disinclined to trust this site's moderators. I admit that I don't fully understand the scope of the issue. But the apparent behavior of the moderators does not lend them an air of trust. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 19, 2016 at 21:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NicolBolas I think, though I'm not completely sure what TuggyNE anticipated when posting, that your comment above would be worth fleshing out into an "answer" on this post. Something along the lines of "I lost trust when I saw [link]," or "I fear posting X because I'm afraid Y will happen [linked example of Y]." But I believe such a personal testimony is important. It doesn't give us a sense of the distribution of experiences users are having, but it does help us wrap our minds around the universe of experiences we have to consider. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Feb 20, 2016 at 14:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NicolBolas We have some meta discussions on the perceived hostility to new users/members this site has. I am not sure if you've taken a look at them, but there is some good material therein. These two 1 and 2 might be worth a look. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21, 2016 at 14:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ But by whom? You really only call the mods out... if that is the intent then I'd like to down vote. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2102
    Feb 22, 2016 at 19:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JoshuaDrake I actually don't read this as just pointing at the mods. If that is the case I'd like that clarified too, but I'd be surprised if it was. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 22, 2016 at 19:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoshuaDrake: Just to be sure, I've edited to make it more explicit. \$\endgroup\$
    – user17995
    Feb 22, 2016 at 21:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for the updates, I guess I'm still chaffing a bit at the following: "While I think that's unreasonable..." and "I think this has particularly affected one or two mods". \$\endgroup\$
    – user2102
    Feb 22, 2016 at 21:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoshuaDrake: I do think it's particularly affected one or two mods. That doesn't mean everyone else gets a pass, though. A somewhat better turn of phrase occurred to me for the first one, so I've edited that. \$\endgroup\$
    – user17995
    Feb 22, 2016 at 22:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TuggyNE I am starting to agree with you. :( \$\endgroup\$
    – user2102
    Feb 23, 2016 at 15:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ You make some very good points. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 23, 2020 at 17:37

2 Answers 2


I wrote a long response to this, and I might post it later, but it needs a lot of editing before I'm ready to post it.

However, as I wrote it, I really started to think about what's actionable in all of this. And really I think the problem is one of trust, and in order to rebuild trust we need a commitment both from the users and the moderators to work towards a culture of peace on this site.

That means that we all work to break up arguments before they turn ugly. We make a conscious personal effort to stop arguing. We flag discussions (so moderators can step in) before they get heated. We call out specific instances of moderator misbehavior on meta so they can be discussed and audited.

Basically, I'm calling for "if you see something, say something" type behavior from everyone. The best way for you to "see something, say something" when the behavior is problematic users is to flag that behavior (if no flag reason fits, a custom flag is fine, and if it's a general thing, any post is fine). That way we can be made aware of it.

If the issue is with a moderator, flags can work there, but it probably is also wise to go ahead and open up a meta discussion about it to give the moderators a chance to talk about the reasons why behavior you might see as problematic is happening. That way issues don't fester and things that might look like they are abuses of power can be explained.

I know I'm not perfect, and I (and by extension we as moderators) make mistakes. We've made a number of them in the past few months alone that we recognize. We aren't going to get it right (or do things the right way) every single time. But what I hope is that when we do make mistakes we can take a look at those mistakes with the community, move on and improve both individually and as a group. We're here to serve you, the community, so if we're not doing that well, and there are specific, actionable things we can do to improve that, we really really want to hear about those things.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Actionable: when a mistake is made, the person should make a commensurate acknowledgement of it. This isn't a mod-only thing, but it's esp. imp. that mods seek out these opportunities. Failing in this helped lead to a culture of attacking mods for mistakes, because there's little indication (regardless of reality) that mods will acknowledge & learn from mistakes on their own. To create a culture tolerant of mistakes, we must also have a culture wherein mistake-makers (mods or not) initiate discussion. We can't wait for others to call us out: any response will seem grudging & reluctant. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Feb 21, 2016 at 7:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ From the theory of moderation guidelines "As a moderator, your actions now represent the community, so you will be held to a higher standard of behavior. You are an ambassador of trust, with the same sorts of rights that the official development team and community coordinators have." \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21, 2016 at 20:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ The above is noted, even though moderator is not a paid position. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21, 2016 at 20:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, even though you reminded me of a certain awful pro-suspicion-and-surveillance government-sponsored ad campaign from a while back. Ugh. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Feb 21, 2016 at 23:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe Yeah, I realize the connotations. I vastly prefer "if you see something, say nothing, and drink to forget" but it doesn't quite get us out of the pit we're in. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Feb 22, 2016 at 0:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @waxeagle Ah, I didn't realise you were a Call of Cthulu fan. More seriously, I'm blaming that government for ruining the phrase; This answer here uses it much more appropriately. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Feb 22, 2016 at 0:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe I was thinking more of that phrase's use in WTNV :). \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Feb 22, 2016 at 0:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I'm quite familiar with that guideline, I feel like I'm missing something with the quotation here? \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Feb 22, 2016 at 0:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ It was a two comment sequence: that standard is what is expected, even though all of our mods are volunteers who are unpaid. I was not suggesting that you aren't familiar with that, as you've done just that from my experience here. Sorry if that came across as some sort of shot at you -- not intended at all. The only relation to "actionable" is what any adult can do in a variety of situations: set a good example. (and as an adult for nearly 40 decades, I've had my share of days where I have failed to meet that standard). \$\endgroup\$ Feb 22, 2016 at 0:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ I keep seeing the “ambassador of trust” line quoted, but I frequently wonder how often it's quoted due to a misunderstanding of its meaning. Does everyone who has quoted it recognise that it's talking about trust with the staff-level tools we've been given? I wonder, because it's rarely ever brought up in a context where it makes sense to read it as saying that we've betrayed that trust. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 22, 2016 at 5:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I don't read it as specifically about staff-tool use, but assuming it is: The average user has a hard time knowing if/how staff-level tools are used; comment deletion, user suspension, & other scary tools are almost completely invisible if I'm not immediately affected. We can only assume the mods' trustworthiness w/these tools by inferring it from their visible actions, so any antagonistic behaviour by a mod damages our trust that he'll make responsible choices w/t powerful & nigh-invisible tools at his disposal. That's why item 2 is about respect "at all times." \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Feb 22, 2016 at 5:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Avoiding an appearance of antagonism or disrespect at all times, is, of course, impossible: we're humans communicating over a limited text medium and flaws will result. So it's all the more important to avoid such postures wherever possible so that actual miscommunications or temporary lapses in judgement stand out as abnormal and get recognised as genuine when we apologise for them. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Feb 22, 2016 at 6:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ My only response to this is that the ball is, and has been for some time, firmly in the moderation team’s court. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Feb 22, 2016 at 14:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan We all, each, have our own ball when it comes to not only not writing people off, but also being seen to not be writing people off. You have one, I have one, mxyzplk has one, etc. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 22, 2016 at 19:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan You had offered previously to try out a new draft on the RAW tag page. There is some data collection being done. I'll be happy to be a second set of eyes if you like. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 23, 2016 at 23:15

This is endemic to the online community, and it's about sending and receiving messages in the text based format.

I made an error in an answer very early on as I was taking notes. I then went about six steps into a supporting point, having built upon a foundation of sand, and made the answer. As I was puzzling over some down votes, and edited it a few times, two people chose to not play the all-too-common-AC and provided feedback on my error:

@xanderh wrote this:

"you add the superiority die to the attack's damage roll" seems pretty clear to me. I don't see how you could possibly interpret that to mean that you don't add the superiority die to the damage roll.

contrast the tone (I received it as hostile) in that comment with

@ bmaderbacher

Where do you get the idea that the damage has anything to do with the saving throw DC? The saving throw DC is clearly defined as 8+prof+(Dex/Str) at PHB p.73 for all battle master maneuvers.

As read, the tone in the former came across as hostile, the tone in the latter came across as neutral, but it might have been identical in intent with both senders.

Was @xanderh really being hostile? He might have seen a few edits where my core error wasn't corrected, and was frustrated with my trying to polish a turd. I can't mind read, so I don't know.

My reply comment on how I arrived at that (since deleted) was a bit snarky, since his comment wasn't well received by me due to received tone. My response to the other comment, which nailed the core problem to the floor, got a thank you from me. I then sent a thank you comment to xanderh as it dawned on me that his feedback was trying to get me to see it differently.

Part of the problem is sent/received communication. We can't control how someone takes/receives our comments to them. On my second read through of xanderh's comment, it "felt" less hostile since I had gotten the other comment and had had that "aha moment" through which to see it differently.

All the more reason to take Be Nice! guidance to heart.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I didn't read either as hostile. The first response is less useful due to the lack of citation, and it could more plausibly be read in an "angry voice" but I don't read any intentional hostility into what was actually written. I think the heart of the issue is that we need to not only be nice, but assume good faith. At best it avoids misunderstanding. At worst it tends in my experience to bait trolls into more clear-cut misbehavior. Sidenote: I initially posted this as an answer by mistake. I'm not the sharpest, so take my words with a grain of salt. :V \$\endgroup\$ Feb 22, 2016 at 18:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BlueFootedBooby Thank you for a nice illustration of my intended point, which is that reception of a signal will vary. Much obliged. That I was wrapped up in trying to fix an answer that had a hole in the bottom didn't help how I received such signals in the first place. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 22, 2016 at 18:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't read either of those as hostile, but if I had the pick one it might actually be the second one. They're both asking you to explain how that interpretation makes any sense, the second one just does a better job of explaining the alternate interpretation. \$\endgroup\$
    – DCShannon
    Feb 22, 2016 at 21:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DCShannon Data point 2 on "reception of a signal will vary." Thanks. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 22, 2016 at 21:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Dont forget that offense is taken, not given. Especially when it comes to text where the only party responsible for tone is the one reading it. A message as simple as "Thanks." Becomes hostile if read with a snarky tone. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 7, 2016 at 0:33

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