Drama, drama and more drama!

8 Mar

(With apologies to TeddyPig, there aren’t any torn nylons or running mascara involved… that I know of, at least)

So. No sooner do I wince at the latest cyber flounce than I find myself pondering whether to say something about my disappointment with a particular online venue, and my reluctance to lurk—let alone post!—there anymore.

Hypocritical of me, probably, because I also find all sorts of reasons and justifications to post a long screed. Things like, “I’ve belonged to this community for a number of years” and “I’m a frequent contributor” and “I have not indulged in hyperbole or name calling.”

Thankfully, the decision has been made for me. Someone extremely level-headed, respectful, articulate, professional, and kind has been banned from that forum for ohmygawdhowdareshe! asking questions about what appears*** to be a new moderating policy: holding people accountable in that forum for what they say elsewhere online. Considering that I agreed with her—only I would have probably worded it a bit more *ahem* forcefully—all down the line, all my posting on the issue would get me would be a) post deleted, followed by b) banning, with a corollary of c) “we are doing the best we can but all those mean people keep coming here to provoke us.”

***I use the word “appears” advisedly, because while it is not stated anywhere it’s been used on more than one former community member during the past few weeks.

All of the above, plus the whole “no cyber flouncing for you!” thing, made me refrain from commenting on the…well, drama in progress.

And in the end, does it matter what I think?

Probably to very few people, to be sure, but hey! when has that stopped me?

So here you have some disjointed thoughts on the matter—skip at will.

The dynamic between a venue’s owner and the community that forms around said venue, is certainly an interesting one. On the one hand, what is the purpose of creating a blog, website, forum, online group, but to have a thriving and growing community around it? On the other hand, when—if ever—do the rights of the community supersede those of the owner?

Though strictly speaking I would say that the answer to the second question is “never,” I can also easily see how the community can make life tiresome—if not painful—for the venue’s owner, to the point where this individual can give up and close the place down, or transfer ownership to someone else. (I have seen this last happen twice in the same forum in the last four plus years, by the way.)

And while it is true—as has been argued—that a forum owner (i.e., whoever pays for the space, and whose name is up there at the top) has the right to do whatever s/he pleases in that space, the reality of it is that once a person has taken an action, s/he must be ready to deal with the consequences—pleasant, unpleasant, or downright repugnant as they may be.

(That is the part that seems to trip most of us humans, from where I sit. We tend to think that we are ready to deal with the fallout, but often we simply can’t—perhaps because we tend to think “best case scenario” and hope for it, while ignoring the much more probable “worst”? another question for another day, I guess.)

So, for example, a public figure—say, an author?—who has her name prominently displayed in her own readers’ forum, has to be prepared to deal with the consequences of hosting an un-moderated board.

There are so many great things coming out of online communities—from initiatives to help authors, fundraisers to help those affected by natural disasters, advocacy, education, and so much more! Friendships that start online can—and often do—translate into real time, face-to-face relationships. From books to recipes to advice on personal matters, people get to know each other and to trust each other. But with the good comes the bad, of course, as communities are made of people, with all the accompanying human failings.

When the un-moderated approach becomes untenable (which happens with every online community out there, as more new people who do not know all the inside jokes and relationship history join in), the author/owner has to be prepared to take responsibility for the actions of those she names as moderators, as well as face the reactions of her readers’ community, and how all this spreads about the world wide web.

Of course, there are ways to minimize negative backlash, do damage control, and slant facts and events to present the author’s side in the most favorable light possible, but in this particular case it would seem that radio silence is the author’s policy.

(Out of the blue speculation: perhaps said silence is intended to ensure plausible deniability when, months from now, there is another “I had no idea this was happening, I was writing!” message somewhere? If that is the case, I predict epic failure myself—public figure + her own board + her chosen representatives/moderators = own the consequences.)

Now, here is something interesting, and not quite as trite as the usual flouncing.

I asked a few days ago here whether the people indulging in cyber flounces truly expected moderators and/or owners of online venues to change their policies to accommodate the flouncer. Coco posted in the affirmative, which would seem to validate the sheer number of flounces we see all over the place.

In this particular case, however, the people who either have left on their own (mostly vanishing without a word, although a few indulged in the occasional flounce) and the people who have been banned, span the entire spectrum of opinions on pretty much anything with one exception: the lack of respect towards the community members as a whole, by a very vocal minority, that was tacitly endorsed by the owner/author’s silence.

So—ah the irony!—it would seem that that one thing (respect for every member of the group, regardless of his or her ideas) has been enough to allow this incredibly diverse group of people to create their own community, with spelled out rules and guidelines that are, on the whole, both more tolerant and more reasonable than the ones professed by the original community’s current moderators.

Doubly ironic when the author whose name is in the header professes to encourage tolerance for all beliefs and opinions.

My main quandary, though, is whether this latest author(‘s representatives) behaving badly will make me quit reading her books. (Man, that would really suck bricks.)

Update: and the online community in question is gone in smoke. Perhaps now that finis has been put to the whole affair, people who were affected in different manners and to different degrees can move on, forget and, with time, forgive.

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