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Old 5th May 2003, 22:47   #1  |  Link
clueless n00b
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: somewhere over the rainbow
Posts: 10,579
General conduct - or how to accept a gift properly

Recently there has been quite some frustration in the moderator team on this board. As you may or may not know, we're a bunch of roughly 40 people who happen to like DVD backups and surrounding issues and we have decided to put a certain amount of our free time running a forum that has become one of the largest and most influental ones on the web. And while it's nice to be associated with a successful project it's mostly a lot of work. It starts with upsetting your girlfriend because you just have to make this post before going out with her, upset your friends by coming 5 minutes too late because you just had to close down that flamewar, staying up all night trying to fix server problems (okay, that's mostly an admin task), and the list goes on. Bottom line, it's not such a fun job as it first might appear to be. Just ask one of the moderators that have resigned in the past.

Now, every team member has signed rules for moderators that demand them to uphold the forum rules (see the top of this forum for a link) and to help out people, to the best of their abilities. They're not doing that for themselves, they're doing that for the greater good of all the people here. I'm sure you can understand that when it comes to helping people.. but what about those darned rules?
They are used to govern this place and to make sure there's a certain order. Every place you'll ever go to has certain rules. It starts with the rules established in the law of your country. And depending on the place you go there are certain additional rules that you must follow, like dress nicely if you go to a fancy restaurant (try to get in with sandals and shorts and you know what I'm talking about.. I have firsthand experience in that area). To make an analogy.. this forum is another fancy place. There are many forums out there dedicated to DVD backups and video processing in general. This place has never aimed to become the biggest, in fact we're quite content not being the largest board out there. Our aim is to put quality over quantity. This is a high goal, and one we have to work to attain each and every day.

The rules, and the moderation team enforcing them, is aimed at keep this place productive and keep the standards up. A question once asked and answered isn't just a quick fix for somebody.. it's a source of information for the entire community and all the guest visitors (of which we have a great many every day). Guides and FAQs are aimed to capture some of that knowledge, compress it and make it available for the whole wide world to see.
The mere reason I started my site in the first place is that I found a lot of info in forums, but there was no centralized resource. We're trying each and every day to capture a part of the wealth of information that is available in this forum and try to put it into a compressed forum where people can easily locate it. Unfortunately, this is a very hard and constant task and I'm not saying we're always up to it, in fact we often fail and our documents are not up-to-date with current events. But as we're doing this in our free time and get no recompensation for it I believe that you should not hold that against us. After all we come back tomorrow and try again..

In our aim to provide quality over quantity we do not only set the standard for our own work very high, we also raise the bar for the average community member. This isn't just another forum, this is a community and the essence of community is helping each other, be there for each other. It's a moderator's duty to do just that. And it's a member's duty to do the same. If you post a problem, you must not just expect a quick fix and then leave forever, rather, if you find out the solution on your own or in another forum post, you should inform the rest of this community (even just editing your own thread mentioning that the problem has been solved and the thread can be removed is acceptable.. it allows us to get rid of a thread that would just clutter up the forum).
If you have a problem that cannot be immediately solved, you should be willing to put a certain amount of energy into it. This starts with posting logfiles and give a detailed and useful description of the problem, allowing reproduction of such problem. And it continues by being willing to waste some of your free time to help find the cause of your problem, a solution to it and let other members of this community know about it so that no other person will face the same problem and not find a solution in this place.
In my over 3 years running this site I have invested I don't know how much time writing lengthy problem reports, trying out untested software, trying to help developers find out what causes a problem and how to solve it. I have done that without asking for something in return. I gladly invested my time knowing that in the end the result would help a lot of other people. That is the essence of being part of a community. You give some, and you get some. For my part, I get some donations and encouraging words, and the stats that steadily go up and the knowledge that I have achieved to create a success story that would've gone beyond my wildest dreams only 3 years ago is enough to satisfy me.

Now, we have established how the moderation team gives and how you should get somethng and give something in return. Moderators and admins do it, and many members of this community do it.

So why am I writing this? The larger this communtiy grows, the more members there are that are actually not members of a community, but are just trying to profit from the community. Imagine the p2p user leeching gigs of data but not offering a single file in return. Those people come here, expecting a quick fix for their problems, but do not have the decency of contributing something of their own. That starts by not even making a useful problem description, call software buggy when it isn't, not being willing to give a detailed problem report even when asked for, or perform tests when somebody asks a critical question that could help to figure out the cause of a problem, not being grateful when people invest their time trying to help.
In recent days such behaviour has mostly been manifested in certain forums where the moderation team is mostly consisting of developers. These people are busy with their applications already and it's a great honor to have them here sharing community duties. If you're a programmer, or have created a considerable work, you take a certain pride in that work and you don't like to see it dragged through the mud. As much as I don't like destructive criticism when it comes to my sites, guides or codec comparisons I often find myself on the receiving end of remarks that underappreciate my work or that are just plain insulting. It is no fun to be treated like that.

Similarly, some of the developers here on this board have to put up with things that are unacceptable. You don't call a software buggy unless you can proove that beyond reasonable doubt and that means you try multiple sources, configurations, even ask friends to verify and when you post a problem report you just call it that.. It hurts to see your own software be called buggy when the user is screwing up. By the time this fact has been established dozens of people might already have gotten the wrong impression by an inaccurate forum post. If the number of such posts goes up (and it certainly has over time) it starts to get to you.
Imagine this scenario: When you were little your mom told you never to call "Help" unless you really need it. Because if you play pranks on people and scream for help all the time even if you need it, the one time you actually do need help people will no longer listen to you. Similarly, the one time you actually discover a bug, the person who could help you / fix it will no longer listen. That's why you should read up first by asking and perform your own verification tests before screaming "bug".

And then, even if you made it here the guy on the other side doesn't owe you anything. Did you pay for a service to be rendered? No. Did you ever do anything for the people you're expecting help from? Most likely no. Imagine asking strangers in the street for a quarter. They don't have to give you one, it's their own choice. Even if in a similar situation you would give a quarter to the next guy if you had one, that still doesn't mean that the time you need that quarter somebody is going to have to give it to you. But, chances are just a bit higher if you're generous, that somebody will eventually be generous with you. Back to the forum, if you contribute towards other people's solutions and helping developers identify and solve problems it's more likely that you'll be treated with the same courtesy if you have a problem and present your case in a proper fashion.

Bottom line of my rambling: This community works because its members give and they take. Those who only aim to take will eventually be singled out and will most likely run into a strike or two along the way. Not knowing the value of community and the rules governing it they will not use the proper channels to lodge a complaint but just start throwing insults around on this board, other boards or their own personal websites and they will eventually find themselves on a suspension. So to those who are not willing to give in return for taking something: Be warned, the rules governing this community are designed to discourage such behaviour and the team running this place is commited to upholding our standards and the quality of this community and we'll use the rules to the fullest extent possible to ensure that people abusing of this community will eventually presented with the bill. If you ever feel like moderator or user xyz owes you something, take a long look in the mirror and ask you "would I have done the same for that guy?". If the answer is yes (and I believe it hardly ever is) you should give the guy the benefit of a doubt, after all you're not holding every fault your closest friend make against him/her. And if the answer is no you should reconsider your membership here.
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