Where do we go from here?

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Beta - Forum Administrator
Beta - Forum Administrator
Posts: 2595
Joined: Sun Sep 27, 2009 9:32 am
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Wed Feb 07, 2018 6:31 pm

Let's talk about Wolfhome.

Wolfhome runs in cycles. It goes smoothly for a while, then disagreements among the members of the administration coupled with a userbase made up of cliques and bad attitudes leads to a shutdown of the site. This has happened more than once.

So, why does this happen? One could argue that freedom of speech is a cause, and that oppression of the userbase and the politicization of the administration is what's behind this. However, I would argue the opposite. Neopets is a community with very little freedom of speech, and the biggest meltdowns that happen on site occur when the moderation team is not able to work effectively and the filters go down. There is one thing we can all agree on though. None of us want to have a community like that on Neopets.

Ultimately, we want to be able to communicate openly and effectively without triggering a riot. We don't want our freedoms of communication to be oppressed. We want our voices heard. The administration doesn't want to live in fear or go back to the times where if you weren't in the "in-crowd" you would be ostracized and eventually forced off the team. The userbase doesn't want to feel gagged.

There is another problem here, though. If there are no restrictions to what can be said on chat or on the forums then this is going to spiral down to an even more toxic environment. It's going to accelerate the death of a community we all find ourselves coming back to. So where do we draw the line? I honestly don't have a good answer for that. My gut tells me that people listening more and shouting less will lead towards a good solution, but no matter how good those words sound on paper they're too fluffy and optimistic to hold water.

Last December, there was a riot. Members of the userbase and the Chatlands administration said things that were not measured or well reasoned. I would venture to say that a lot of the statements made were flippant and cruel. I think it's also fair to say that a lot of things people said came from a place of pure frustration. It was a boiling point, and it was a long time coming.

It was the wrong thing to do. It was wrong of users to act out from frustration and anger. It was wrong of members of the administration to use snarky language and further inflame the situation. It took a learning opportunity and a potential conversation and drove a wedge of distrust deeper between the users of a service and the maintainers of that service.

We had a community that was coming together and making good progress, but if one event has turned longstanding users into people who play with the rules to get away with borderline behavior and further damage the relationship between the users and the team then we didn't have half the community we thought we did. I'm embarrassed to come to that conclusion, and I hope I'm not the only one.

A lot of people claim that they felt badly for putting strain on the Wolfhome team during that time, and they express sorrow and concern for their continuing lack of cooperation. Sorrow and concern doesn't change the fact that an event resulting in the loss of two administrators has led to the subsequent loss of many more who can no longer keep smiling in the prevailing atmosphere of the site. It's true - better communication would have prevented this entire event. If the userbase felt more secure that their reports of perceived misconduct were taken seriously then there never would have been that build up of distrust and fear. I hope that we're starting some baby steps in facing this issue and learning to address it constructively and not follow the old pattern of partial suppression and later conflagration.

I've been given leave to make a statement about my demotion. When I was demoted on December 14th, I was irritated but not exceptionally distraught. It was my assumption that this was a miscommunication that would be rapidly resolved as soon as possible. Then a thread started the morning of December 15th that was a little salty, but 100% on point to ask something that was really pertinent. This thread got a lot of support from people who also felt silenced, frustrated, and afraid to bring it up. Then insults started. People began calling the site garbage and making ad hominem attacks against specific people. There are good users who are banned from Wolfhome to this day for getting carried away and saying things they didn't necessarily mean. There were threats made against people that by all rights could have been given to the police.

The fallout from this event took weeks to handle. In addition to simply dealing with the reports, subsequent trolling, other rule violations, and investigation of threats made against administrators, they were forced to wait for the situation to cool down before dealing with the original incident. As a result, the resolution of my demotion was delayed for over 7 weeks.

The core of this message is, honestly, a plea for your contemplation. Please, when you have something in your heart to say, be thoughtful and considerate when you express it. These are only words. This is a community brought together by art and expression which is limited to the least emotionally articulate form of communication. When you are wronged you have every right to feel anger, and even to express that anger no matter who you are. If you are able to express this anger in a way that is constructive then you will be able to do something to change this place and keep yourself or anyone else from feeling that way again.

When I have something important to say but I am not sure how to say it I often reach out to others to help me express myself as carefully as I can. If you feel that you need to make a community announcement and begin a discussion about something important to you, then it's possible that beginning the conversation in private to form your thoughts is the place to start. If you start a fight, you are going to preemptively end a conversation and it's pretty likely that you won't actually do anything. If you don't have any friends that you feel would be able to help you, I or any other person on the team is always available to give you feedback. We care about this site too, and we want you to to speak openly about how you feel about our community. If the admin team didn't care about the community, we wouldn't have lost so many in the wake of what happened.

This place is important to us, or we wouldn't be here. Wolfhome doesn't have to close again for us to learn to talk to each other. We've all grown up, and Wolfhome can grow up, too.

As always, if you have questions or concerns, PM me.
9 x

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