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Forum Members Feedback on how to keep forums supportive

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Lee, Nov 1, 2018.

  1. Lee

    Lee Sleestack
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    My question is how would you suggest we moderate the forums? We want to keep the forums healthy and open to the sharing of knowledge and discussion of diverse opinions and ideas. However, we don't want forums where those with strong opinions crowd-out those who simply want to share information and get peer support.

    When SDN was founded in the 90s, the Web was still relatively new and not many people used it routinely. There was no Google, social media, blogs or podcasts. Community forums were a new thing and were the best way to bring together diverse groups of people to share information and provide interesting discussion and debate.

    Internet forums helped to dislodge knowledge from geographic or institutional enclaves and share that knowledge to anyone with a computer and Internet connection. Early in our history we received push-back from many organizations that did not want information to be shared openly, but over time every organization came to see the benefits of the Internet and information sharing.

    The sharing of knowledge and peer support is the core benefit of our community. Unfortunately over the past 10 years I have seen a gradual decrease in civility on the web, both in social media and on the SDN forums. In extreme cases, a few individuals can sour an entire forum and drive away those who want to share information without being engaged by those who are entrenched in their viewpoints. This must change in order to protect and foster our core benefits.

    (FYI - In the past we chose to moderate discreetly - protecting member privacy and not disclosing moderator activities in order to prevent embarrassment to fellow members. This gave a perception that perhaps no moderation was occuring. Over the past few months we've changed that policy to make it more obvious when we're taking actions and publicly disclosing when a member is behaving inappropriately.)
     
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  3. PapaGuava

    PapaGuava SDN Bronze Donor
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    @Lee
    There are so many SDNers, including myself over the years, that are so thankful for the advice, and interactions we've had with other members on this forum. So I personally believe that the initiative to become public about certain member's inappropriate actions helps serve as a safeguard to maintain the community as a whole. As you said Lee, it also provides an indication to members that some things won't be tolerated, which in turn gives other members more confidence to post about topics that they may of otherwise held back in the past. The only thing to be careful of moving forward is to not create a large gap between the moderators and members of the community. I say this because the beauty of the moderating group here on SDN is that some also serve in a guidance role which I always respected. Not only that, but if it becomes 'Us vs. the moderators' type of atmosphere, the forum will dive into free fall. I'm also a firm believer in communication with members regardless of their status, so as long as the moderators continue to be interactive with members, it will maintain an open atmosphere.

    We are in times where media is changing constantly as @MCATKINGS and I have discussed in the past, but I hope that this forum will continue to provide a place for discussion, advice, and enjoyment for all types of people as it has done over the years.
     
    #2 PapaGuava, Nov 1, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
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  4. esob

    esob Protomolecule
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    IMHO, SDN is hands down the best resource for at least pre-meds (and I imagine for other stages of the journey as well, but I can't speak to those experiences just yet). It is definitely a community, and, as such, for the most part, has some of the idiosyncrasies that one would expect from a community. To answer the question regarding how to keep the forums supportive, you first will need to define (at least with the moderation team) what constitutes "being supportive."

    From my own personal experience over 3+ years here, I've consistently noticed posts by "less-than-empathetic" members. Some of those posts, however, would still be considered supportive, at least in my book. The truth is that it takes a bit of skin-thickening to join the ranks of the medical community, and some of the posts on SDN help that process along (at least for me). By the same token, when active community members try to dampen the impact of some total BS post by a guy with 4 posts by calling out said BS and are subsequently reprimanded for it, it discourages any future corrective responses to misinformation or general nonsense posts.

    At the end of the day, it's a fine line to walk, but my suggestion would be to make it very specific what constitutes supportive vs non-supportive, and whether or not that is really the gold standard, to begin with (perhaps correct information should be at least an equal standard). For example, if I tell Johnny, who has a 2.1 GPA and has failed Ochem 5 times that he still stands a solid chance at landing a top 10 MD acceptance and that he should go ahead and take out 80K in loans to attend an SMP, well, I'm technically being supportive, but I'm giving out really bad advice at the same time. The thing is, 3 years ago, I might not have known that. If I had said that 3 years ago, some senior members of the forum would have slammed me for saying it, and rightly so. Likely, I would have learned from my misconceptions and provided better advice in the future. If that same scenario under the new policy instead warrants reprimanding the members who are correcting the misinformation, perhaps we are taking one step forward and two steps back.
     
  5. Lawper

    Lawper cube on a pumpkin
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    @evilbooyaa thread in RadOnc forums provides an effective solution

    The State of this Forum: Rules to Live By
     
  6. evilbooyaa

    Staff Member Moderator 7+ Year Member

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    I want to clarify that that post was put in the RO forum due to issues the RO forum is going through, specifically. It is not meant to stand as a guideline for the rest of the forum, as I am not in-tune with all of the subforums (especially pre-allo, where I imagine some of these issues are stemming from).

    In regards to the idea of being blunt, especially in any 'what are my chances' or pre-allo setting, is valuable. I do think there is a way to be blunt without being overtly offensive, but it is a fine line that we have to remind all (including long-term) members to 'tone it down' occasionally.
     
  7. PapaGuava

    PapaGuava SDN Bronze Donor
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    I agree with you @evilbooyaa in terms of WAMC areas of the forum. In general, the biggest thing we can do is make sure to not allow a sub-forum get too out of hand to the point where people are less inclined to post questions.
     
    #6 PapaGuava, Nov 7, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018
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  8. Lee

    Lee Sleestack
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    I think it's important that SDN continue to enforce civility and professionalism. We should not allow the degrading discourse that is common on social media.

    In medicine, old school training methods and abrasive criticism were acceptable back in the day. Fortunately that is no longer tolerated in many institutions. It should not tolerated here either.
     
  9. Apollyon

    Apollyon Screw the GST
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    Medicine is a microcosm of life. Life is neither civil nor happy all of the time. Now, I am NOT saying that SDN should become r/SDN (and not the other r/SDN from the mid 2000s). However, if someone is abusive, narrowminded, specifically asking obviously set up questions in order to aggravate current users (such as signing up today, and asking a doltish question which shows either they 1. don't know how to search or 2. it's amazing they could figure out how to sign up for SDN), or just grating, to rely on moderation to take care of it is, frankly, putting too much hope into moderation.

    I've always said that, on SDN, you can BE a ****, but you can't tell someone they're being a ****.

    But, you mention "abrasive criticism". However, the reality is that ANY criticism is taken as "abrasive". What is it, half, or more, of people that appear happy all the time are clinically depressed?
     
  10. sb247

    sb247 Doer of things
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    If we’re into open discussion of diverse ideas, the spf forum should be unhidden from searches, forum lists and new post feeds.

    I support that you own the place and I really appreciate how it has helped me. I think you genuinely want good things for people. I would just ask that we consider the conflict between hiding diverse discussions while saying we want diverse discussion. Let individuals use block subforum if they don’t want to see other opinions.

    I do agree with more open acknowledgment of moderator actions.

    Thanks for asking, Lee
     
  11. Lee

    Lee Sleestack
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    I don't disagree with you, but unfortunately society as a whole is currently struggling with how to debate diverse opinions within the political arena. While I appreciate diversity of opinion and civil discussions of challenging social or political topics, it's not part of the core mission of SDN and some members argue it detracts from that mission.
     
    wholeheartedly likes this.
  12. sb247

    sb247 Doer of things
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    While I disagree this actually helps future professionals learn to cope with disparate opinions in their career, I acknowledge you are in a difficult position. I respect that you are willing to at least have the conversation about it
     
  13. Lee

    Lee Sleestack
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    Good points. In regards to abrasive criticism, I'm talking about the difference between being truthful vs. truthful+rude. It's okay to give someone advice they'd might not like to hear -- it's another to deliver that same advice in a flippant, mean or sarcastic way.
     
  14. Lee

    Lee Sleestack
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    Thanks.
     

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