Aug 28 2012, 7:08pm
Over the last several months, the Admins/Mods have been watching the Hobbit board in growing dismay. TORN has always been a welcoming and friendly place but the Hobbit board has recently become fraught with bickering and petty argument, with general bad feeling increasing at a worrying rate. We have nudged, suggested, commented, snipped threads here and there and waited to see if things would settle out of their own accord. They have not. Now we are getting messages both private and public with complaints and concerns from oldtimers and newbies alike that they are finding the atmosphere unpleasant. Some have even chosen to avoid this section of the forum altogether. This cannot continue.
The courtesy of our hall is somewhat lessened of late. (Admin Announcement, ALL PLEASE READ)
This is not about opinions or "sides". This is a Tolkien site, first and foremost. While the site was created to follow the production of Peter Jackson's movies and most of our staff and members are fans of those movies, we welcome ALL opinions and expect everyone, old and new, to be treated respectfully. We have never banned anyone for their opinions regarding the books or movies. We have, however, had to ban quite a number of people for being unable to express themselves with courtesy and respect toward others. Some of these people complained both here and elsewhere that they were being persecuted for their opinions despite extensive and repeated explanations from us that their poor behavior was at fault. Before we begin taking measures to deal with the problems we see on this board, we want to make sure that our expectations are clear.
We expect that everyone here has read our Terms of Service. If you have not, please do so before you post another message on these boards. Pay particular attention to rules 3, 6, and 12 listed there. You will notice that we place a very high value on treating fellow members with courtesy. This is not only expected but required. However, not everyone seems to know or remember what that looks like in practice, so we thought it might be helpful to be more explicit about what we mean.
This is what good TORNetiquette looks like:
1. Remember that these boards are a community. They are not anyone's personal playground. We frequently find that those we call out for poor behavior try to justify it by citing free speech or personal rights. Your rights stop where others' rights begin. In other words, your right to swing your arms freely ends at the tip of your neighbor's nose. If we start seeing too many bloody noses in your vicinity, we will restrict your swing zone. On all such questions the moderators have the final word.
2. Treat others with respect. Just as you would like others to listen to what you say and respond to your ideas politely, you must also listen to others and be polite in return, even when you disagree. Yes, even if you think their ideas are stupid. Discuss issues, not personalities, and do not attempt to tell others what they do think or how they should think. Blanket phrases like "you people", "you all think", "you don't care if" or "anyone who thinks that...." are dead giveaways of disrespect for the individuals you are addressing. Instead, speak for yourself. "I think", "In my opinion", "____ strikes me this way" are all much better gambits for discussion.
3. Agree to Disagree. Part of respecting others' opinions is not always needing to have the last word. If the same point has been made three times by the same people in the same thread and no one is changing their minds, walk away. In all the history of these boards we have never seen anyone suddenly change their mind at this point in a conversation and there is no gain in continuing to try all the other members' patience with endless repetition. You cannot "win" on a matter of personal opinion and nearly all of our conversations are based on exactly that. If the debate is only between two people and both wish to continue it, take it to Private Message.
4. Do not hijack threads for a personal agenda. Threads here frequently go off topic. When it happens organically, it can be great. When it is because of someone who has a one-track mind and pounces on every possible chance they can find or create to turn a conversation to their own pet topic, it is tiresome.
5. Do not "spam" threads with your opinion. You do not have to reply to everyone in a thread (even if you started it), especially if you have already given your opinion more than once in the same thread and you are essentially repeating yourself to each person in turn. This gives the impression that you are trying to control the flow of the conversation to suit yourself rather than letting it develop naturally.
6. Do not treat TORN like a personal soapbox. We exist by and for the fans, not as a platform to reach people you hope may be lurking. It's rude to the community here to use us merely to make your point to someone else. And it would still be rude even if you knew for certain that they were listening.
7. Do not stalk your opposite. Do not follow people of differing opinion around the board and "correct" everything they say. This is irritating and produces only bad feeling. If you have had more than one conversation on the same topic with the same person, or if you have stated the same opinion more than once in the same thread, they already know what you think. It is not your job to fix them, nor do you need to "balance" them out. Believe me, if you find yourself frequently at odds with the same person the rest of the board has also been reading your conversations and knows what you both think. Good balance on the boards happens when everyone says what they have to say, shares their perspective on their differences and then moves on. If you feel that someone is "following" you around the board and you cannot resolve it with them directly, send a Private Message to one of the Admins/Mods and let us know.
8. Do not try to "compensate" for other peoples' opinions. You do not have to make a counter argument for every statement you do not agree with. This makes you come across as arrogant and obnoxious because it implies that you do not really think other opinions are valid and you think yours must take precedence. This is especially unacceptable if you are trying to shout others down in the hope that someone in the production will hear you and take your opinion to heart over theirs. See #6.
9. Give the benefit of the doubt. A huge number of arguments and flame wars arise over simple misunderstandings or different usage of words. We have people here from many different countries and cultures within those countries. Do not assume that your reading of a statement or perspective on an issue is the only possible one. If you did not mean to offend but someone is offended anyway, do not justify yourself and tell them how wrong they are to be upset. Explain what you did mean more clearly. If you are offended by someone else, ask for clarification before assuming they meant to be offensive. They may not be aware of how they sound to you.
10. Apologize early and often. If someone is upset by or offended by something you said, acknowledge that and apologize even if you don't see why it's a big deal. If nothing else, it makes you appear much more likeable and reasonable and it defuses a lot of anger. And maybe you are wrong, in which case you look smarter when you admit it. Half-apologies, where you say "I'm sorry, but you're still wrong" don't count.
11. You cannot control others, only yourself. Don't let yourself be goaded by others' poor behavior to come down to their level and behave badly yourself. Nobody benefits from that.
12. If you're not a Mod, don't try to act like one. By and large, TORN members are very helpful and like to jump in when they see a need. We are very happy about that. But we are not happy when we see people trying to lecture or enforce the rules against others. If you see someone violating the rules, bring it to our attention via Private Message or on the Feedback board and let us deal with it. This goes double for trolls. Do not feed them.
13. Try to preserve a sense of humor. In the midst of so much speculation and with so many differing views on every topic causing friction between members, a sense of humor about oneself and the topic is a wonderful calming agent. We all love these stories, and we are all here because we have found enjoyment in them, by whatever means. Taking things too seriously turns what should be our common ground into a battle zone and defeats the purpose of gathering together as fans. Our differences can broaden our horizons rather than dividing us into little factions, if we lighten up a little and let them.
14. Detachment is the best preservation of sanity. Fandom is supposed to be fun. When it stops being fun, go do something else that is. If you find yourself getting too emotionally involved in debate, take a break and come back when you can be civil. We'll still be here.
"Of all faces those of our familiares are the ones both most difficult to play fantastic tricks with, and most difficult really to see with fresh attention. They have become like the things which once attracted us by their glitter, or their colour, or their shape, and we laid hands on them, and then locked them in our hoard, acquired them, and acquiring ceased to look at them.
Creative fantasy, because it is mainly trying to do something else [make something new], may open your hoard and let all the locked things fly away like cage-birds. The gems all turn into flowers or flames, and you will be warned that all you had (or knew) was dangerous and potent, not really effectively chained, free and wild; no more yours than they were you." -On Fairy Stories