Author Topic: Why this community discussion forum exists and how it is run  (Read 3626 times)

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Why this community discussion forum exists and how it is run
« on: November 07, 2011, 09:33:57 am »
Hi all,

It looks like this forum will have attracted more than two million page views during 2011 – the most in one year since it was set up more than 13 years ago. Before long we will have had almost 10 million pages viewed since we started. If we’d decided to sell ads and go commercial we’d be rich by now. But we didn’t. We wanted this to be a free site with free facilities for local debate, free community information, free facilities for local businesses to promote their services, and a free local classified ads service. 

Site statistics make interesting reading

Thanks to all who have contributed to some fantastic discussions over the years. If you take a look at the statistics page you will see the topics people are most concerned about in terms of topics viewed and commented on. You can also check on who are the top posters and how long they have spent online. It says I have spent almost 50 days on the site, which could be worrying except that I do tend to leave myself logged on all day when attending to other stuff. It also takes a fair amount of time moderating the forum and making sure everything is in tip top working order.

 :)

Finances - prize money and local donations

Since we launched we have had free web hosting from Positive Internet because they responded to our vision in 1998 to set up a site serving the whole community.  At the time we wrote to 20 hosting companies looking for someone to support the community venture and Positive responded immediately. Every year I check that they are happy to continue, and every year they have said they are happy to support the community spirit this site was built on.  It’s done on a year by year basis. And it’s no small contribution. Annual hosting costs for a site with such traffic is no small matter.  Thanks again to Positive. 

The site registration has been covered by personal donations since it launched, although for five years it's been covered by prize money from an ICT (Information Communications Technology) competition awarded to North Mymms in conjunction with this site. (We were cited as an example of how to run a community-focused site). Part of the prize money was set aside to cover this site's domain registration charges.

Award winners

The site's community focus also won it national recognition when we carried off the New Statesman New Media Award in 2000 (beating BBC News Online). We were also commended for our local community focus on two other occasions. When we won the  award the reason given was for having, “served the public interest in developing a democratically accountable civil society during the previous 12 months”.  Bit heavy, but I didn't write the text for the award category, the team at The New Statesman did.

 :)

Why we have the site’s guidelines

When this site was launched I set out some editorial guidelines. The main aim was to try to protect against vulgar, hateful or legally dangerous posts. We wanted the forum to represent the whole community, regardless of race, religion, financial background and circumstance, sexual preference etc. The guidelines were also  reflected in the forum agreement that all signed up to when registering. They have been adapted over the years based on input from forum users and cultural changes. But in the main they are the same. Some of the guidelines have been challenged over time and that’s good, but I wanted to set out once again why three of the guidelines in particular exist and the reasons why they will be enforced.

1: Guarding against offence

As stated above, this site exists for the benefit of the whole community. Those who post messages with racial overtones will normally be contacted by moderators suggesting their contribution be toned down. In cases where we think the post is racist and offensive it will be removed. In all cases we contact the correspondent and explain. In some cases they take it well, in others they don't. Unfortunately we have, in the past, had to put in place a temporary ban from the forum. We don’t like doing this, but we need to ensure this site continues to serve the whole community.

2: Avoiding recommendations

Another guideline that has annoyed some is the one that doesn't allow people to praise or rubbish local services – trades, restaurants etc. This is because the facility could be abused for commercial gain. There is no way we can check the validity of posts and our volunteer moderators don’t have the time to seek a right of reply if criticism is serious. We don’t have the complex checks and balances offered by other sites that allow recommendations (TripAdvisor, Amazon, etc), so the only sensible way has been to discourage recommendations. Instead we advise people to give their feedback directly to the business concerned. And, of course, recommendations are allowed via private messaging.

3: Naming and shaming

A few have challenged the guideline that doesn't allow so-called naming and shaming.  This guideline is only in place to protect the innocent against defamation. As with the guideline against local recommendations, the naming and shaming guideline is there to prevent abuse. It would be all too easy for someone to publish car registration numbers or house numbers of those they are in dispute with or who they feel are guilty of something. A public community forum is not the place for such information.

Political correctness and Big Brother concerns

If some forum users choose to interpret the guidelines as a PC (politically correct) Big Brother approach, so be it, although the accusation has become tedious and wearing in its repetition. We have said on many occasions that those who find the guidelines restrictive to their particular tone of voice and choice of language are not compelled to log on here. There are other platforms for those who want to express their feelings – but it won’t be here, I am pleased to confirm.

Rules against trolling and flaming

Also, there have been a number of complaints from forum regulars over the past week about perceived trolling and flaming. Trolling is going onto a board for the sole purpose of starting trouble or instigating an argument and flaming is going onto a board and insulting people because of their beliefs, sexual preference, gender, ethnicity or any number of things. Where the admin team sense this is taking place those concerned are written to and given a warning. If they continue to break the rules temporary bans are put in place.

The forum’s future

I didn’t want this to sound like a negative post; it’s not meant to be. The majority of the time I look forward to visiting the site and checking up on local discussions and reading the latest posts. I think it's great that we have this free facility to break local news, promote community events, seek help, offer help and instigate and take part in discussions about local and not so local issues. And people are more than welcome to post about things they are passionate about and engage in robust debate. All that is great and welcome.  Thanks to all those who continue to contribute to the forum. Long may it continue.

David
The Brookmans Park Newsletter has been supporting the village and our local community since 1998 by providing free, interactive tools for all to use.
 

Offline Ferdie

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Re: Why this community discussion forum exists and how it is run
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2011, 04:32:31 pm »
And a massive thanks to David for all his work and expertise. Yes there are Moderators keeping an eye on things and some of us play a far greater role than others, but it was David's 'baby' and he's seen it through to adulthood! The village is very fortunate to have such expertise, abilty and knowledge. And of course, thanks to all those who contribute, professionally and in the correct spirit. Long may it continue.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2011, 10:18:36 pm by Ferdie »
 

Offline jet

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Re: Why this community discussion forum exists and how it is run
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2011, 12:35:18 am »
It is subjective as to when trolling begins and stimulating disscusion begins.
Usually when someone is losing it becomes trolling ;D
 

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Re: Why this community discussion forum exists and how it is run
« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2011, 06:10:30 am »
It is subjective as to when trolling begins and stimulating disscusion begins.
Usually when someone is losing it becomes trolling ;D

Hi jet,

You may be right, or it could be more complex. I agree that any judgement about what is trolling and what is not trolling is subjective. That is why the moderation team take time to discuss any contributions that appear to be trolling. It would not be wise to take a view from one perspective only. I say 'appear' because, of course, we can't know what is in the mind of the person making the post.

David



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Offline Aidan Winwood

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Re: Why this community discussion forum exists and how it is run
« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2011, 07:13:13 pm »
I think it was on QI that I heard the theory (name of which I can't recall) that in an online arguement, over time the probablility of someone involved mentioning the Nazis / Hitler reaches 1, e.g. "Well that's what Hitler did in the war".  When this occurs, then they have automatically lost.

Hard to imagine a debate on a local Brookmans Park issue reaching that point, but we shall see!

Aidan
 

Offline Therock

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Re: Why this community discussion forum exists and how it is run
« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2011, 07:32:48 pm »
A lot of Hard work goes into this site. Well done to you all. THEROCK
 

John_fraser

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Re: Why this community discussion forum exists and how it is run
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2011, 08:04:19 am »
Aidian, it's called Godwin's law and it has happened several times.
 

Offline jet

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Re: Why this community discussion forum exists and how it is run
« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2011, 10:14:03 am »
Ja but vee ask zee qvestions aund you vill comply viv zee aanswers or else!
 

Offline Bob Horrocks

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Re: Why this community discussion forum exists and how it is run
« Reply #8 on: November 16, 2011, 02:05:22 pm »
The site registration has been covered by personal donations since it launched, although for five years it's been covered by prize money from an ICT (Information Communications Technology) competition awarded to North Mymms in conjunction with this site. (We were cited as an example of how to run a community-focused site). Part of the prize money was set aside to cover this site's domain registration charges.

The current 5-year fee for site registration was funded by North Mymms Parish Coucil using its powers to promote and support local clubs and activities like this website.  At £117.50 it was considered to be an excellent use of  your money.

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Re: Why this community discussion forum exists and how it is run
« Reply #9 on: November 16, 2011, 02:11:52 pm »
Hi Bob,

I need to check when that runs out. Can you mail me privately so I don't forget to pick it up when the 5-year cover expires, please.

Thanks

David
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Offline sasquartch

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Re: Why this community discussion forum exists and how it is run
« Reply #10 on: November 17, 2011, 11:30:07 am »
Not until 2015 Dave  ;D

Anybody can check who owns what domain from the whois database (certainly .com at any rate)

Whois Server Version 2.0

Domain names in the .com and .net domains can now be registered
with many different competing registrars. Go to http://www.internic.net
for detailed information.

   Domain Name: BROOKMANS.COM
   Registrar: TUCOWS.COM CO.
   Whois Server: whois.tucows.com
   Referral URL: http://domainhelp.opensrs.net
   Name Server: NS0.POSITIVE-INTERNET.COM
   Name Server: NS1.POSITIVE-INTERNET.COM
   Status: ok
   Updated Date: 23-apr-2010
   Creation Date: 19-may-1999
   Expiration Date: 19-may-2015

>>> Last update of whois database: Thu, 17 Nov 2011 11:26:05 UTC
 

Offline Editor

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Re: Why this community discussion forum exists and how it is run
« Reply #11 on: November 17, 2011, 11:51:25 am »
Great, thanks for that.
The Brookmans Park Newsletter has been supporting the village and our local community since 1998 by providing free, interactive tools for all to use.
 

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