Thanks to everyone who took the time to give us feedback on how we can improve the message board community. I’ve had a chance to look through the 220+ responses and wanted to give some feedback of our own.
One thing that stood out in many of the responses is that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” With that in mind, don’t expect wholesale changes to our rules or how we moderate the message boards. However, there is still room for improvement. We will always strive to make Warchant.com more enjoyable for our customers. With the anonymous nature of the message boards, and with thousands of fans with different attitudes, ages and personalities (and agendas), there are always going to be disputes and complaints.
With that being said:
1) Several people suggested some technical enhancements or more bells and whistles. A few examples include a spell check, a report post button/link on each post, subscribe to feature for a thread, rating a poster, and a private message system. Keep in mind that we have zero control over anything technically related the message boards. That is entirely under the umbrella of Rivals.com and Yahoo. That being said, we can lobby HQ for certain board upgrades.
Rivals.com recently hired the co-publisher of the Nebraska site as the new Customer Retention Manager / Head of Producers (basically the #2 guy in the network and he will have a heavy say in changes made to the network and message board upgrades). I’ve already had a conference call with him and we discussed a few of the changes/enhancements suggested here. He even took time to look through our suggestion thread to see what the feedback was.
2) The number one thing we have control over is having a more heavy hand with posters that insult others. I guess because of the anonymous nature of the message board community, some feel they can freely insult others they don’t agree with. That’s going to end. If you won’t say it to someone’s face you shouldn’t post it on the boards. There’s no problem with heated debates and subtle jabs but calling someone an “idiot”, “not a real fan”, or even worse a “Gator” or “Cane” is unacceptable. The bullying and name-calling is going to end and it’s going to be a point of emphasis when I meet with the moderators.
This enforcement will extend to attacking or taking shots at a poster asking an innocent question. I’ve run into several subscribers who are afraid to post because the one time they did they were attacked for being “stupid” or “under a rock”. The boards are not a high school clique. If you think somebody asked a stupid question then don’t respond. It’s not that difficult.
3) We have the ability to both merge threads and move them to a different forum. Based on the feedback I’m seeing, we’ll make an effort to use these tools more frequently. There’s no reason to have a dozen threads on the same subject. We can now move them all into one thread. I’ll also ask the moderators to be more aggressive in combining repetitive threads and to move off-topic threads to the appropriate forum.
4) The gray area for us is the fine line between player and coach bashing, and critical comments. Everybody seems to have a different definition of what constitutes “bashing” which we don’t allow, and critical commentary which is fine. All we can do is to try to be consistent with the enforcement of the rules. If you say a player “sucks” or is a “waste of a scholarship” or make negative comments about his family, friends, etc. you are going to be banned. Unfortunately it isn’t always that simple. And sometimes it’s just cumulative - One or two posts giving an opinion on how poorly a coach is doing is alright but when there’s a dozen threads calling for a coach to be fired it has gone too far. This is probably where we can more efficiently use the merge tool to combine these threads. We will do our best here but we’ll never be able to strike a balance that makes everybody happy.
5) A few people suggested limiting the re-quoting of a prior post in a new post. These re-posts often make a post and thread extremely long and cumbersome. Not much we can do directly about that but we will discourage people from doing it or at least ask that the reply post be edited to only emphasize the part of the reply they need to highlight. We can also advise our moderators to keep a look-out for this if certain posters make a habit of this.
There can be a thousand or more posts in a single day on the Warchant.com message boards. As a result of this huge number, our moderators don’t see most of them. Many people feel that the rules aren’t applied evenly or that they are being “singled out” when it’s just a function of not seeing other posts that should also be edited, locked, deleted, moved or merged. We really are doing our best to treat everyone the same. Just because a moderator took action on your post doesn’t mean he ignored another one that may be similar. We encourage people to email the moderators at email@example.com at the first sign of trouble but that email isn’t used as often as we would like it to be. A “Report Post” button or link on each post, which was suggested, would come in handy and probably help some of these issues because it would be much easier to use than to look for the email address to alert the moderators.
About once a year, we purge the boards of a few troublemakers. There is a very small group of posters that technically stay within the rules but cause 90% of our problems. These are the people that constantly stir the pot, hijack threads, challenge the moderators and staff, and are the first to make negative threads after any loss or negative news, and make repeated threads on the same negative topic. We will be identifying these people soon and flushing them out so be warned.
We will have a moderator meeting in the near future to go over these issues. After that we'll implement any changes we feel are necessary. I will also continue to work with Rivals/Yahoo to get some of these message board enhancements moved up the "to do" list.
As always, if you have another suggestion or constructive criticism please feel free to contact us. firstname.lastname@example.org or gene at Warchant.com