How to deal with constant misuse of categories as a normal powerless user?

Alright, some backstory.

Ever since our community went from manual approval to automated entry our “development discussion” category, which is a category meant for discussing the art of making things on the game engine, was always locked behind a trust level gate. We have a plugin to prevent TL0 users from posting at all, except for replying to DMs, the way they get promoted to TL1 is by regularly reading on the forum until they meet a hard requirement, which can post and create topics in most places. That development discussion category mentioned was always locked to TL0 and TL1 users, so only TL2 could reply and create topics.

TL1 users could post there, but they had to go through a manual approval system. There were other categories that were TL2+ as well but TL1 users again had to go through the same approval system as well.

Eventually the restriction for replies in the development discussion categories was lifted, so TL1 users could reply but still not create topics. According to the members of the team behind the manual approval (this team was called “Post Approval”), 80%+ of the topics requested were instantly rejected for being off-topic or just straight up non-sense. Eventually they took the development discussion category off of post approval, so TL1 users couldn’t create any more topics at all, not even through approval system.

The team was already dealing with a ton of backlog, so they had to remove it. Keep in mind these members were unpaid volunteers that did it whenever they were ready to handle the requests so having them do more work was unreasonable.

Eventually after a few months, a change happened. They completely opened the category to TL1 users! They could even create topics without approval as well! This led to huge outcry, from TL2 users, but surprisingly some TL1 users as well! Many topics were made by many people that disagreed, replying to them expressing their being upset in our meta discussion category. A community leader of the community came out with this statement:

“It is unlikely that [Development] Discussion will be locked down again because it fulfills a use-case that all members of the forum have. Locking it down previously was a legacy mechanism for rate-limiting new posts into that category, which is why you did not see as many low quality topics as you are seeing now.”

And another community leader had said that they were open to suggestions so that the higher-ups (the team that actually runs the forum) could consider them as long as they “weren’t attacking TL1 users” and that we should just resort to flags. But flags are a band-aid solution: they don’t solve the underlying problem which is the fact that these users are not thinking their topics thoroughly before posting or posting just for the sake of posting to get their stats up. Both said closing off categories was toxic “anti-forum” behavior however isn’t the point of trust levels to show which users have been more trusted? What does TL1 and TL2 mean? What is even the point of us having 2 different trust levels? (im purposely exclusing 3 and 4, they are kinda the leaders so not manual unlike tl1 and tl2 here) Gradually, the standards for newer users have been dropping. The restrictions once imposed on TL1 are getting all lifted, and has led to an increase of flags and literal abuse of categories. While I agree they shouldn’t be too limited since that would be extremely detrimental to their experience, we shouldn’t give TL1 too much.

About a month after this was in place the post approval process itself was phased out. As mentioned, select community members were volunteering, they weren’t paid, so it was unreasonable to give them more workload or to have them just manning the post approval inbox longer. Some have even reported that the workflow was starting to affect their mental health. They handled in total over a thousand requests. There is a “Post Approved” badge which is earned by members who have successfully gone through the post approval system with little/no changes at all.

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In total it has been earned exactly 600 times; however this badge can be earned multiple times by the same user so under 600 people posts got approved out of the thousands.

“bug report” and “feature request” are categories used for literally what the name implies they are used for. The “starting that discussion” bit is outdated from when the discussion category had post approval on it. These categories needed post approval, but since post approval got removed, TL1 users haven’t been able to make feature requests or bug reports anymore, which has gotten its own outcry from TL1 as well. The users that are actually able to properly start a feature request/bug report can’t anymore, and this has led to them being put in the discussion category which contributes to the misuse. The team that actually manages and runs the forum has been absolutely silent about these for these past 2 months (which is how long this has been in place) and it is really disheartening to see literally everyone unhappy about the state of the forum. A replacement for community post approval was meant to come in at the time that community post approval was phased out, but nothing. Even more disheartening.

And if I haven’t mentioned this yet, the way the category in particular that I am talking about is misused, is that people would use it for general discussion about the parent website, whether it be rants about moderation, bandwagoning popular trends, unreasonably high amount of duplicate discussions, or just plain unnecessary discussions whose replies won’t be useful (literally we get topics like “have you memorized your user ID”, “what time of the day do you develop in”, “what year did you start developing”, etc) to anyone. I see discussion as replies replying to replies, but nowadays I see very little of that now and all the replies are replies to the OP.

Even Jeff Atwood himself says this is rare, yet on our forum we literally get dozens of “this post has been hidden by community flags and is temporarily hidden” daily. :confused: Must be stressing for the moderators to handle hundreds of flags even though they are paid to moderate the forum.


I might be too meta, so this might be a lot to take in. But I really want thoughts on this, I want you guys to understand it fully from a regular user in the community.

I know I am referring to only 1 category, but this specific category is the only one with the bigger problem. It happens in other categories too but at smaller scale, so it’s not a pain for moderators to deal with :slight_smile:

Has anyone else been in a similar situation and found a way to deal with it?

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Think of the Lounge which by default is locked until one reaches TL3. There doesn’t seem to be much difference between that requirement and what you have set up for your “problem” [Development] category. Even your Community Leader has pointed out that there weren’t “… as many low quality topics as you are seeing now.” It sounds like a no-brainer. Go back to what you had before. You’ll have far fewer problem topics and your mods and volunteers will much happier.

As to the why the decision was made to lift the original restrictions, maybe a PM amongst all the leaders/mods/admins involved should be opened.
The one thing you mentioned that stands out though is

Why are the TL1 users being “attacked”? Because of the topics they open and/or the posts they’re making?

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Forgive the orthogonal question, but what’s your relationship to the forum in question? Because from the way you’re writing, you aren’t an admin, you aren’t a mod, you aren’t a “community leader”, you aren’t (weren’t) on the approval team…

The question isn’t idle, and it isn’t meant to shut you down, but to try to better understand the situation. If you’re a “mere” user (i.e., not one of the other categories I mentioned), unhappy with a change in a forum you use, and the forum leadership don’t really perceive a problem, I doubt any input from anyone here is going to change their mind, and they might even be annoyed with you for “going over their heads” in a sense. OTOH, if you’re part of the forum leadership, that’s a different story.

But that question aside, I agree with @JimPas that the obvious solution is to go back to what you had before, or something very much like it. And if the n00bs feel “attacked” by having to gain some cred before posting in certain places, they can bugger off and go somewhere else.

In the alternative (and as a lesser measure), some user suspensions would go a long way to reinforcing that you mean it when you specify what the categories are for. “Shoot the first one, the rest will fall in line.”

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The category I am talking about is visible to tl0+ users

As for

Everyone suggested this but then the sudden change of heart from the leaders turned down the request.

They weren’t literally being attacked, nobody allows that at all, anywhere. Everyone that disagreed (including some tl1 users!!!) but one the leaders said it is attacking them because we are because we are complaining. I totally get that many tl1 users are genuinely new, and that they will learn over time. This has shown in some users but for the most part the users are mostly interested in boosting their statistics rather than generating actual discussion.

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Indeed I am not in any of these, im just a regular tl2 user over there. Since the team that actually runs the forum has been completely silent about this for the past 2 months i probably wont even bother telling them the thoughts of what most of the community thinks.

I agree too. And like I mentioned in the OP a replacement was supposed to come in by the time community post approval was phased out, however it never did. We said that they shouldn’t have let tl1 post until the replacement would come in. So if according to leaders tl1 users absolutely “need” the category as if it were a right then they could learn how to use the category through that new process.

I am going to edit the OP a bit since I think there are some errors in it that made it confusing.

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Yeah, this colors the response a lot, because my instinct was to tell you to create a topic in the #lounge on the forum to bring up the issues, but if you’re not visiting 50% of the days then you don’t get the private discussion area :man_shrugging:

This is quite emphatically what the Lounge is intended for!

Possible solutions include extending the per-category moderation team to help spread the load, requiring people to post these topics to #uncategorized first and request a move into the special category, and better norms enforcement / “broken windows policing” so that people are encouraged to make higher quality posts in the first place.

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We have a #lounge category which is TL2+ access only actually. It’s a remnant from before the forum switched to Discourse and only exists for legacy reasons; it would have never existed under the forum’s current leadership. I don’t know if TL3 get their own category though. They do. TL4 also do, but i think that should have been obvious. I’ve never been a moderator for a discourse forum though so i wouldn’t know

I feel I could discuss this as the #lounge category has a subcategory where we could have general discussion regarding the parent website. Knowing the leaders they are surely going to move my post to the meta discussion category, but perhaps I will give it a try. We have an off topic subcategory as well, I’ll see how it goes

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It sounds like the Admin, Mods and Leaders need to have a discussion to rethink the structure/requirements/privileges for the Lounge category as well as how the users are promoted to higher TLs. In so far as users posting topics in the wrong categories, that does happen. It does sound like the users in the forum are just not seeing what category they’re in and posting away, creating a big mess for Mods to be moving posts constantly. Some education of the users seems would help greatly. For users constantly abusing where they post, a stern warning and then a drop in TL (and locked) for a while may give them enough incentive to alter their behavior.
To be sure, there will be some users who may be offended by or complain about the new rules, but if it is for the betterment of the community as a whole, it’s worth it. Those offended by or complaining about the changes may eventually see the forum is easier to navigate through as categories and topics are more organized. Old habits die hard. :neutral_face:

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