3/20/2020

STOP, HAMMER TIME

  • Sabrina Seltenreich

This started out as me trying to write a cute little handbook for our team of moderators, with a few dos and don’ts. It was supposed to be short and sweet, while encapsulating the spirit in which the ban hammer should be swung, if indeed it ever should be swung.


But maybe you noticed by now that I tend to just keep going once I get going, so here we are.


This text is not only aimed at the lovely people volunteering as moderators, but addresses everyone in our community. Overall we at Klang feel very lucky to have such a great community - you’re seriously a pleasure to hang out with, and we enjoy reading what you get up to. We can’t wait to show you the game we’ve been putting so much work and love (and frustration and coffee and oh man so much chocolate) into, and we know that if this ends up being what we hope for it to be, it’s because of what you’ll be putting into it too.


But of course where there’s so many people, there’s always a dash of dramatic happenings keeping things nice and spicy.


So let’s talk about how we want to ensure that this community stays as healthy as it is right now, and about our moderators' and community managers’ code of conduct.


I will start with the cliff notes, as this is quite a long read


  1. We can only police what is said publicly on our server - anything else we can only advise you on (i.e. how to respond, who to contact) This means that we can’t ban or punish anyone for behaviour in DMs, on other servers or platforms. We make an exception for obvious bot-accounts.

  2. If someone spams or harasses you privately, block them and/or report them to Discord directly (or to the support team of whatever platform it happened on)

  3. We try to ban as little as possible, but as much as needed to ensure as much freedom of expression as possible, while protecting the rights of everyone.

  4. Before we ban, we usually issue at least one warning - but this is decided on a case by case basis. Bots, spammers or people obviously going against the TOS will be banned immediately.

  5. Moderators are regular players helping us make the server pleasant for everyone by upholding our rules. Their authority starts and ends with the upholding of said rules, and abuse of moderator privileges has consequences.


Behind all of this are these guiding principles:


SEED is an experience attracting all kinds of different people. We encourage players to build groups, explore different play styles, political systems… perfect breeding grounds for conflict. People will argue about politics, about interpersonal issues, about the game. The tone might become a bit rough. Some people will be perceived as annoying by other users.

Some people will annoy you specifically. Some people will annoy me specifically.


Frankly, if we don’t end up having people kind of disliking each other here and there, I’d be worried about the lack of diversity in our community. We don’t want or need everyone to be the same.

Eventually, we will have groups at war with each other. We will have people lie to each other, betray each other. People will play the game and emotions will be running high.


We don’t punish or ban people for any of the behaviors listed above. It’s part of the game and of internet culture, or indeed human culture. We might try to steer folk to be better, and we might issue a warning if they over do it with the being-annoying, but overall we want to give players the freedom to be themselves.


The rules we have implemented are designed to ensure this freedom for everyone. They mark the line where one person’s freedom ends, and another person’s freedom begins. We’re doing our best to keep this line as clearly defined as possible, though sometimes of course it gets a bit smudged or our vision is blurry. We’re only human after all.


The only time to get involved as a moderator is when one of the rules is being broken


If you volunteer as a moderator, people will be coming to you with their personal quarrels - this is already starting - and it will be difficult to be impartial. But we have to be.


Being impartial does not mean that you don’t care, or that you don’t have an opinion.


Being impartial means that you separate yourself from the situation, look at the facts, and apply the guidelines the same as you would to any other situation. And if that’s not possible for you, you need to step away from the situation and let the rest of the moderation team take over.


You will get messages demanding punishments, demanding bans - you will get sent screenshots of people being nasty to each other, and often you will feel with the victim. And you won’t be able to punish or ban all of the assholes, because a lot of this will be happening in DMs, on other servers, or even on totally different platforms. As I mentioned before, we can’t police any of that. We can only verify what we see in our public channels.


So you might be frustrated. There’s a person telling you about someone bothering them, and you believe them, maybe they’re even your friend. And you’re not allowed to just ban that dingus. And that feeling of not being able to help sucks, I understand that.


But you CAN help them: you can advise them and help them find the right place to file a complaint. If it’s a DM on Discord, you can send them instructions on how to report them to the support team of whatever platform the incident occurred. You can help them by giving them the language used to deal with harassers, so they have a stronger case with the support team: You advise them to tell the person harassing them to leave them alone, clearly, firmly, finally. And if they don’t leave them alone then, that’s unwanted contact, which is harassment, which should be against the terms and conditions of all major platforms.


And of course, there’s always the option to block someone


Blocking someone is simple and free. Personally I’m quite liberal with the block button. You don’t NEED to keep people around that bother you, you’re not missing out on anything, I promise. Have you ever thought back to some random internet person that harassed you and later regretted blocking them? I doubt it. But if you ever did or ever do, the unblock function is equally easy to use, and equally free.


Coming back to harassment - let’s define harassment for our purposes. The minimum requirement for something to qualify as harassment is when one party refuses to stop interacting with the other party, even after they have been asked to stop. Like, you tell someone to leave you alone, and they keep sending you DMs, or they keep @ing you.


If someone slides into your DMs and starts an argument, and you participate in the argument, you might feel harassed, but you need to voice that clearly. It’s a bit weird to DM people that you don’t have a friendly rapport with obviously, but it’s not necessarily harassment - the other person might think you’re just having a lively debate. So be clear in your communication - to create a clear trail of evidence if nothing else. They also might leave you alone.


Please note that I am not placing any responsibility on the victims of harassment here - if you’re harassed, that doesn’t place any obligations on you. You don’t have to do anything. But there are certain steps you can take that might help your situation, and that could help us help you.


Harassment on our public channels - the only channels we have direct control over! - will absolutely not be tolerated. This is where we can lift the ban hammer high above our heads and ban everything the light touches, we will ban the seven people above and below the person we want to ban, we will ban their children and the children of their children and their blood will ru--wait no stop no no nope. Got a bit carried away there.

Banning of users that are not bots or spammers is something that should be done very rarely.


Of course we will be very quick to ban someone for harassment or hate speech in our public channels, even if they have been an active and popular member of the community. Even if they’re your mom, even if it’s you, even if it’s me.


Actually, I could even totally get fired. (I’m picturing Mundi’s disappointed face here and my eyes are welling up a bit. I’m sorry Mundi, I will be better)


Usually we will issue warnings before banning someone. I’m not going to give you a set number of warnings before a ban, because this is a delicate issue and will be dealt with on a case by case basis.

Also, obviously if you lose your temper once, and then are on good behaviour for two years, we won’t remember or care that you got a warning back then.


We are also not obligated to give a reason for a ban - and as a matter of fact, we usually will not. I’m not putting our moderators and community managers into a situation where they have to educate someone that’s being a complete douche bag, opening themselves to harassment or having to argue with the banned person’s friends, or their alts. We will certainly also not comment on bans publicly. When someone gets banned, they either have been warned already and know what the main issue is, or they’ve done something so out of line that we really just need to be rid of them.


If it turns out that our rules are not covering everything they were meant to cover, the rules will be updated


I only changed them up a bit this week actually. And if someone manages to grossly go against the spirit of our rules, by finding a loophole by which they got to be terrible to someone without technically breaking the rules, Klang might still decide to warn or ban that person. This is obviously not an action we take lightly, and I don’t expect having to take it.


Conversely, if we make a mistake in banning someone, the ban might be lifted if new information comes up, or if it turns out that we were overly hasty.


With great power comes great responsibility


Moderators have special rights and duties. We trust them, and rely on them to help us keep our server habitable. Without them, we would be drowning in confused Minecraft players, spammers, celebrity impersonators and bots.

We trust them to remind everyone to be civil when someone gets a bit too excited or angry, or a conversation takes place in the wrong channel, so we can easily find what we are interested in.


The rights we entrust them are the ability to kick or ban people, and to remind people of our rules in the name of Klang. Any mod abusing these rights will of course be stripped of their powers, seriously warned or even banned. They are subject to our rules as much as anyone else.


Moderators do not speak for Klang outside of this function - a moderator's opinion on any other issue is not more or less important than anybody else’s. They are excited about SEED and want to play as much as you. They’re entitled to participate in discussions, are allowed to like and dislike people. And you’re allowed to like or dislike them. If you really can’t stand a mod, feel free to block them. You might miss being warned should you misbehave yourself though, so do that at your own risk.


Sometimes when a moderator says something very confidently, it might come across as them speaking for Klang. Give them the benefit of the doubt. If you really feel they’re throwing their power around, feel free to ask them to clarify if they’re speaking for Klang - but please be civil about it. Generally, if it’s not about a rule infraction, you should assume that they are talking as a “civilian”. When they’re answering questions about SEED, take it with a grain of salt - they have the same level of access to information as you. They usually have been around for a while and have learned a lot about the game, but they can’t know if something has changed since Klang has last given out information about any given point. They’re usually pretty good at pointing you towards official and unofficial sources of information though!


What about bots spamming people’s inboxes though


This is the one exception to the rule of “if it’s not public we can’t police it” - in an ideal world we could just report them to Discord and they’d be gone instantly, but realistically they might continue spamming our users for hours or days if we don’t step in. So our mods are asked to consider these questions:

Is it a new user? Have several people reported them? Has a mod been messaged by them? Has this user contributed anything to our public channels?


Based on the answers, Klang happily gives them the right to make a judgement call here. Abusing this right is of course a banable offense, as is reporting innocent users as bots.


Such cases would be dealt with by community management, rather than by other mods.


And that’s it. Let me know what you think!


I promise the next time I blog it will be about this game SEED that you might have heard about once or twice.


Take care everyone,

Sabrina

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