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Why is Heroscapers.com important?

Posted October 18th, 2019 at 02:57 PM by TGRF
Some of you might have heard of Stackexchange.com, the community of 175 Q&A websites devoted to different topics. Users submit questions, other users answer, people upvote helpful answers, and knowledge is spread.

I've been a member of writing.stackexchange for a bit over 5 years, and of worldbuilding.stackexchange for a few months less. They've both helped me gain a lot of information and knowledge I otherwise wouldn't have had, as well as given me the opportunity to spread what I've learned.

Stack Exchange
I've always respected the stackexchange community for being open-minded. It's kind of a given: on a Q&A website you have to be receptive. You quickly learn that everyone has different opinions and different ways of looking at things. If you don't honor that fact of life, you are quickly forgotten. At the same time, it's important to hold to your own opinions, because the variety is what makes stackexchange work. For every question there are several answers, several different opinions to choose from. Be receptive; stay opinionated.

Some of you might have heard of the recent events at stackexchange (and if so, you probably know where I'm headed). For those who don't though, I'll sum it up:

The Events
SE has moderators: people who volunteer to take on a larger workload of keeping the websites clean and free from low quality posts, spam, bots, and the rest of it. The usual stuff. They also help new users by editing their posts and questions, putting the questions in the right place, fixing broken tags, clarifying through grammar, all that. Moderators are generally people who are respected by the communities they are in, have been around a long time, and are well-established users. It's also important to note that they volunteer their time for free. The only people making money are the owners of SE.

A few weeks ago, a beloved moderator lost her moderation privileges. Essentially, she was fired. There was no explanation given, no communication from the owners. And worse, this was probably the most beloved and well known moderator in all 175 sites. Her username is Monica Cellio

We have had to piece together what happened from leaks. The owners wanted to add a new rule to their code of conduct. I won't restate the rule here, because it's contents do not matter. It was a politically charged rule however, and Monica asked a simple question about it. She was, without explanation, fired.

There are a lot of rumors and such flying around SE. People are saying that Monica was wrong, or that SE was wrong, or that so and so lied, people are screaming for apologies, the owners remain generally silent - it's bedlam. To make matters worse, many moderators (think around a hundred) have resigned in protest of the treatment of Monica. This has left many SE websites with only a few moderators (who are now being overrun with things to moderate). My own website, writing, actually has NO moderators, and is suffering greatly as a result.

How did this happen? The firing of Monica was the final straw; there had been some other things boiling for quite some time. People are now talking about suing the company, boycotting all 175 websites, and the like. What caused this?

In a word: silence. The owners of SE, the only people making money on all of their users' hard work, the only ones who have the power to change anything, are known for being silent. They never communicate with the general public, or even their own moderators in this case. They never release statements, they never make efforts to get to actually know the people who are effectively working for them for free. They are continuing in this vein of action (bar a few 'apologies' which have done little, and been followed by more silence), and they are beginning to hurt as a result.

Back to Heroscapers. Many people (myself included) have praised the community of HSers for being unique in the internet. I'll admit I haven't been everywhere on the site, but I have rarely seen people trolling or being nasty for no reason (there was one user who I will not name who did this; he has long since been banned). People talk to other users as friends. What disagreements there are, are dealt with cordially.

Why is HSers so different? In my opinion, it comes down to one word: communication.

Do you consider the admins to be silent power-holders? No. Or if you do, get to know one. The admins and moderators are here, present, active in the community, and part of the community. They also do something all other online organizations seem to fear like the plague: discuss internal matters with us.

For example, I've long been of the opinion that site supporters and contributors should have equal privileges (or at least in terms of weight). Xotli agreed to have an interview with me in the Codex about that very matter (and contributors even got the ability to post blogs out of the deal). That is unheard of in online organizations. Admins never have discussions like that with regular users. And certainly not in a public format like the Codex.

That type of thing is why HSers is so important, and why the community we have is so important to maintain. To me, it seems like communication is being silenced and frowned upon everywhere. I once felt that SE was a place where I could express my opinions in a fair and honest light. Now I feel that HSers is the only remaining place where that can happen.

That's not to say that the admins are 100% transparent, either. But neither do they hide that fact. Instead, they admit it, and tell us what they can. And because there is a precedent about them being open and communicative, we accept that what they hide from us should be hidden (or at least I do).

For example, remember that user I mentioned who got banned? He was a very well known user, and many people liked him (although I've personally never seen any posts to warrant this). When he was banned, a user made a thread about it, wondering why. Lots of people chimed in. It was a big deal. Finally Jim came in, and quoted Joseph Sweeney, who had speculated that essentially if the admins had felt we needed to know the reason, they would have told us. Jim confirmed this. Everyone accepted that, and moved on.

On SE, something like that would never fly. If anything, it would cause more problems. On HSers, it works, because of the precedent of communication.

Never lose that communication. It's what makes us a true community.

Total Comments 3


Lazy Orang's Avatar
What was the rule? I'd be interested to know.
Posted October 18th, 2019 at 03:56 PM by Lazy Orang Lazy Orang is offline
TGRF's Avatar
@Lazy Orang This is a neutral summary of the events, including what the rule was about. This is a good overview of the backlash which has followed, along with a full list of everyone who has resigned (still ongoing). Also, if you go to the Meta SE home page and look at the title of current threads, you'll see just how chaotic things are getting.

~TGRF, who notes that what people have taken issue with is the way Monica was treated, not the content of the rule change. A very important distinction.
Posted October 18th, 2019 at 04:43 PM by TGRF TGRF is offline
IAmBatman's Avatar
Good post! Very interesting. Most of the time when we don’t mention specific offenses, it’s to protect the banned user from a public trial - banning feels like punishment enough.
The only three things I’ve really banned for are being a bot, using your very few posts on the site specifically for spam, or being a dishonest and unreliable trading partner.
Posted October 18th, 2019 at 08:13 PM by IAmBatman IAmBatman is offline
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