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The Daily Paul Closing: Conspiracy Wars and Compartmentalization

For Michael, moderators and any other interested parties:

This past week much of the focus on the Daily Paul has turned to the impact of sensational 'conspiracy theory' headlines and posts dominating the board and creating controversy and aggravation.

This post is not so much about taking side for one part or another, but rather to put up an alternative perspective.

The problems are encouraged by the presentation of the board, the features, and the Forum Topics and Titles.

So:

Tweak the features of the board to encourage some topics and behavior, and discourage others ... and the problems will clear up

These are things that I've learned over 15 years of founding, configuring, using, and observing these online forums.

The forum topic essentially doesn't matter: people tend to use them in similar ways, and psychologically they tend to behave in similar ways.

So this post is about solutions ... *other* than closing the DP

--

Lets step outside the box of emotion and human drama and view the DP for what it really is:

The Daily Paul ("the board") is an example of a modern virtual 'community' that draws on like minded users to produce and link to content

As such - users are drawn to the board (like any other board) to fulfill needs. In millisecond impulses, when the board flashes up on the screen - *most* people are drawn to the the following things, and usually in this order.

1) "Is there anything about ME?" - the eye scans to see if there is anything about them, or for them. This is why we instinctively look for any icons that light up for new messages or mail or responses (like the red icon on Facebook in the upper left. BING! the eye scans to see). This also covers anyone posting your personal name anywhere

2) "Is there any kind of Big News" - has a nuke gone off? Has the dollar lost reserve status? Has there been a Congressional coup and the entire lot of 'em been hauled off to prison? People want to know.

3) "Is there anything else interesting to ME here?" - After the first two the mind relaxes and starts to scan the page for anything personal interesting. An issue you've been following. Some new story that sounds vital, or curious, or funny, or otherwise appealing.

and finally (but not leastly):

4) "Is there any drama going on??"

STOP

This is the key to the whole problem. Human beings are drawn to emotional drama, controversy and sensationalism like white on rice

There are people that live for it every second of their day and never step back and realize it. Conflict, drama, what other people are thinking doing and saying is the drug.

And boards like this can feed it like a mainline shot of heroin to the eye. The people come and mix it up, spew their brains and hearts out on the page to either great progress or great detriment with others -- or they sit back say nothing and soak it up -- but either way:

THEY LOVE IT

So. This is the deal. As a board owner and moderation staff you are dealing with a fundamental core driver of human nature, and this can be overwhelming if you are approaching it from the wrong (ie. inadequate or self defeating) perspective.

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Perspective One (P1): "People are drama queens, they swarm the board with posts that are controversial and inflammatory and they fight over it.

And these kinds of posts and posters are detracting from the core topic and driving too many people away.

So (I'm done / I quit / I give up / I can't solve it / I have better things to do), sorry people but we're closing up"

And I'm not knocking it. I've been there lol. It's perfectly reasonable and understandable.

OR

Perspective Two (P2): "Hmm. If I were a free user of the board, and looked at the features of the board? What aspects of the interface and presentation would be giving me clues about the "tone" of the board and it's users?

What kinds of leads am I following that are influencing me to post - or not post - in any particular kind of way.

As the owner and controller of the site features - how can I design the presentation of the board, and what features are there in the software that will GUIDE (not force) users to keep to the core topics and remain civil.

--

So ..

The solution to the controversies re: 'conspiracy' related topics on the DP is nothing new. Thousands or tens of thousands of boards deal with them every day.

The solutions are technological. The problems can be solved by changing the presentation of the board:

How:

1 - Funneling people to focus on the desired core topics

AND

2 - Compartmentalizing controversial topics to designated forums, and being firm (but fair) about enforcement

--

Funneling the Focus

It simply boils down to this, on the DP:

People are coming to this board and - because of the way it is laid out - they are scanning the Most Popular Topics or Top Recent Topics first..

("Where's the Big News??" -- "Wheres the thing I'm following" -- "Ooo!! Drama!!")

.. and they are then jumping in accordingly.

IF the most in your face, prominent features are inviting people to "pile on" -- bump the thread higher on the lists -- and jump into the fray ... well then, by golly, what are they gonna do??

They're going to jump in. And before you know it the people are crying foul, pointing fingers, at each other's throats .. and in general pumped up ego and emotions and inflated molehills into mountains are distorting the board into some other thing you didn't want.

So:

Give a long hard thought about how you want to present Most Popular Topics and Most Recent Topics sidebar.

They are encouraging appreciation (focus) on some things, depreciating (burying) others - and what they tend to appreciate is Drama.

They should be handled differently imo. Including considering not using them at all.

--

Compartmentalization

This principle is the simplest one of all:

People will organize their thoughts and post according to Forum Divisions and Titles that YOU set up for them.

People will also build their vision of the board, and they will get a sense of the priorities and tone from the Forum Titles and descriptions that YOU set up for them.

It's actually so simple that it can be overlooked in how important it is to how the people are going to behave on your board.

"Nahh.. it can't be that easy .." Yes. It can.

Example (one of many around the same principle):

The Forum Title you place at the TOP of the list is going to be the FIRST place people look to, and will think is the MOST important, desired, acceptable topic on the board.

("We welcome this thing!! We love it!! POST IT IN HERE)

The Forum Title you put on the BOTTOM of the list is going to be the LAST place people look to, and they will think is the LEAST important, desired, or acceptable topic

("This thing is ok I guess. It is important to some people on the board. So we gave them a place. POST IT IN HERE)

And 90% percent of the time, people will respect it and do exactly that.

The other 5% of the time? You politely and calmly point them in the right direction, even doing them the courtesy of moving the post where it belongs.

--

Now, to the core of this particular board and this particular issue:

Where is the forum for Conspiracy on this board?

I am a brand newbie user that has a theory or is promoting one about what is happening in the world. I'm passionate and excited about it and I want to share with people I think will listen, validate me, or give me somebody to fight with about it.

"Hmm. I don't see anything about that. Is it 'Off Topic'? Maybe. Is it "Current Events"? Could be.

But where am I going to get the MOST VIEWS AND IMPACT for my time??"

Ahhh! Right here at the top!! DP LIBERTY FORUM! That's it, thats the one!! (type type type type SENSATIONAL EYE CATCHING HEADLINE.. post!)"

This is what you are getting. Because you asked for it.

--

Wrapping this up: I'm not giving precise answers and recommendations here. But based on my experience (I dealt with this alot) I'm obviously leaning toward certain solutions.

But the principles remain the same and it boils down to this:

The problems on the board are DP are routine board problems, and are a result of how the board is encouraging some behavior - and discouraging others.

People are behaving accordingly. Change your presentation and how you manage the board, and it will clear up

It means some work. But maybe less than you think. It could be a half hour to change some settings in the control panel. Or, it could be a few days or a week of re-thinking / redesign.

But it's done all the time and when done right it can completely turn the board around practically overnight.

It's up to you whether it's worth it.

Lets let the wrap-up also be the TL;DR :)

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Bump

... because I spent a half hour at 3AM Monday morning to type this out :)

Comments? Critique? This is meant to help improve the DP