Anyone who reads the Advice Sisters Great Relationships Web Site regularly knows that I created a forums/bulletin board area so that readers can, if they wish, sign up and communicate on a more personal level with me, and with other readers around the world. It always saddens me when I check the board, and find lots of posts that are blatant spam (mostly porn and drug sites) and nothing of substance from readers. The spammers know I’m going to remove the posts within hours–why bother doing it in the first place? And, am I the only one who thinks that if the rules of a site strongly state no spam, no drug ads, please stick to the topic of the forum (definitely NOT spam, drugs or porn)…..and the site is clearly about life and career with absolutely no “adult” material, that the audience the spammer wants to find probably isn’t there anyway? I mean, it’s like posting nude farmgirl ads on a site for new mothers–just why waste the time?
Another situation regarding bulletin boards: I created a post on another bulletin board for writers, announcing the Spring Contest we’re running on the Advice Sisters Web Site. If you are reading this, you can participate too,– there are four prizes worth hundreds of dollars. Four people I do not know are going to win, so why not you? I provide contests for the enjoyment and benefits of readers, and it’s my site. It’s on me.
But I digress:
Since we’re getting towards the end of the contest (deadline is July 4th, 2006) I posted another item on this same forum mentioning that there were only a few weeks left to sign up and participate. To my amusement, the only comment was this one: It’s the end of the world!!!!!!Is it just me now, and the empty postings from a lost world? Oh the humanity”
It was from someone nicknamed “Zippy.” For obvious reasons, Ms. or Ms. “Zippy” isn’t using a real name, posts no email, and has no profile other than “Zippy.” Zippy’s self-appointed mission is to malign other people’s posts, without ever, in a lifetime, posting something original of his or her own.
To Zippy, I really wanted to reply: “Is is just me now and the empty responses from a lost world? Oh, the useless white noise”
But that would just add fuel to the fire, and add one more useless post after Zippy’ which innocent readers would have to get through…so I didn’t. How many people out there have so little to do and so much time that they feel compelled to post scarcastic, snotty and sometimes, really stupid and unkind comments on forums and bulletin boards, without ever posting anything of substance or use or finding a job, or helping the elderly, the infirm, promoting world peace, or just doing something that actually requires thought? You’ve seen posts like these on forums you participate in, too, I’m assuming. So why do they do it? Is it just me, or are there more people who feel that these types of comments are about as much of a waste of time as the nude farmgirls ads on web sites for new mommies?
Which brings me to the last situation I’m submitting for your consideration today (and I’d really like your comments on this one) about my situation with a forum for writers. It’s not my site, but I’ve used it in the past for writing sources and found it quite helpful. Once, long ago, I created a single post for a contest I was doing that involved writing. The prize was large, and I thought lots of my writer-colleagues would enjoy participating. I posted news of this contest somewhere on this web site’s forums area–I don’t even remember which forum anymore. I genuinely thought I was doing a nice thing and certainly never believed that it would be considered inappropriate.
I was wrong. The post was pulled and apparently, the moderators decided that a post about a contest was reason enough to ban me permanently from the forum area. It was laughable! But it was also humiliating. I contacted the moderator, apologized, explained my situation, and assumed that I’d be re-instated quickly under the cicumstances, and that would be that.
It wasn’t. The moderator wrote back and said “you spammed” you’re OUT!
As someone who moderates forums and has been responsible for at least a dozen of them during the 14 years I’ve been online, I can certainly understand a “get tough” stance on “abuse” of forum rules, but this was obvious an honest mistake. And, if the moderator wasn’t sure, it would have been easy to see that while I was never a very active poster, everything else I’d posted (which wasn’t much) was perfectly professional. Anyone can made a mistake. Considering the situation, however, permanent banning without any chance of reprieve seems overly harsh. Shouldn’t most people deserve the benefit of the doubt and a second chance?
Repeated attempts to apologize, ask for re-instatement, and prove that I would certainly be extremely careful in the future not to offend anyone or upset the moderator(s), have met with refusal, then, silence. At this point I don’t really care about being active on the forum so much, but it bothers me that this one person can be judge, jury and hangman on a forum that is meant for the public to exchange information, and that the “sentence” of “banning” has been dealt without any compassion, flexibility, or understanding. A public forum, a blog, the entire internet, actually, is only a valid way to communicate when there is at least, a certain amount of free speech. Pornographic spam, perhaps, where it is clearly stated that it is unwanted, is one thing…but when you tie the hands of decent netizens with overly rigid rules, the entire internet structure, suffers, IMHO.
What do you think about this? Please comment, but don’t post farmgirl spam (smile).