As the creator and sole moderator of a large interactive site (131,000 pages and growing) over the last 12 years, I have some insight into the difficulty of keeping a community on track.
In my case, my site is dedicated to giving a voice to, to make up a fictitious example, organic apples and everything supportive of this subject. We have parasitic and divisive subjects that creep in—oranges, apple cider, and the ultimate superiority of Monsanto products. (I call them parasitic as they covet our free advertising base.) Hey, they're related subjects, right? Isn't this a free country, with free speech and all that?
No! This is not meant to be free speech. A privately created, owned and managed web property IS NOT a street corner, public park or other public facility. The Daily Paul is not tax funded. What gives it value is precisely the care the owner takes to keep it on course, and steer clear of the rocks. No one enjoys a nasty free for all, 24/7. A forum that allows everything without moderation soon devolves to catering to the lowest standard of discourse. Think about it. During the Constitutional Convention, our Founders locked that room up tight as a drum. It was vital that the debates stay true to the task, and not be at the mercy of those who would rather derail a movement with endless divisive argument whenever their points were not prevailing. If they hadn't done this properly, we wouldn't have a country.
In my online community, the members count on me to enforce my chosen policy, without exception or favoritism. My policy includes staying on topic, no topic hijacking, keeping off topics in the dedicated areas set aside for that purpose, and above all, no flaming or destruction of camaraderie. I've had to ban members that enjoy some popular support but use that influence to polarize and divide the community. I've had to remove trusted moderators that openly and repeatedly violated our stated rules. So it's very important to have those rules well thought out, and published.
Some of the latest developments at DP may invite trouble. Let's use my site as an example. Setting aside a forum for Monsanto, and announcing there would be no rules would eventually create a liability issue, since Monsanto may become concerned that the site owner is hosting defamatory or slanderous material without exercising any responsibility. Lawsuits can burn a great site to the ground.
Not to mention, the unmoderated flame wars that would follow would not automatically restrict themselves to the roped-off area. They would become empowered, and become even more of a threat to the enjoyment of the remainder of the site. Why give chaos a foothold?
If I perceived it correctly, Michael's original intent was to give a voice to supporters of Ron Paul, and the things they like to discuss. Somehow that morphed (free speech argument?) into anything liberty oriented. This allowed the camel to get his nose under the tent. Now, oranges, Monsanto and papayas need equal time! My site was intended to be about organic apples, the focus of my passion. But now all that material is shoved over to the corner to make room in the tent. For the camels... gotta be fair to the camels... am I going insane, or is that a camel in my tent?
My advice, unsolicited as it is, is for Micheal and moderators to lose their fear. Ron Paul is not going to sue you for dedicating an entire, hugely popular website to his principles! Refocus this monster to your original vision. Restore the branding of the site as exclusively Ron Paul and 'supporting' subjects. Eliminate like a drone missile anyone that disrespects and undermines your vision from within your domain. Why show mercy to someone who is openly mocking you until you succumb, clearly states that this is their object, and uses your own assets to accomplish it? Why use up your valuable time and energy to deal with manufactured, divisive arguments? A troll's sport is to drive you and your members crazy, to make you gradually lose your sanity, to make you spend all your time giving them attention. Why do we let ourselves be drawn into this? Realize there are most likely paid trolls with the assignment to distract, drain and destroy you. Do you feel that energy drain? Do you find yourself writing long explanations in your appeasement of trolls? Do you hear them taunting you to ban them? Do you spend some of your free time worrying about what so-and-so is saying on your site?
You have trollitis. You need to perform some trollectomies. State your policies clearly first, but don't be surprised when you're called a dictator anyway. That will come. Use that opportunity to eliminate a few more that flame you. Pigs squeal when slaughtered. But they taste good. :D
(I've chosen to make my next website 100% Ron Paul, just his words without commentary. That reduces the moderation overhead and focuses the site like a laser on our favorite subject matter. I can't do it alone, so we need volunteer editors. It's built as a wiki, so everyone can participate. The original Wikipedia has over 31 million volunteer created pages. Who will step up for Ron Paul's wiki?)
Thanks for reading. I hope this has been helpful to Michael and his team. This site, the Daily Paul, is literally a dream come true. Congratulations on this fantastic achievement! It is a help to many with our gaze firmly on the horizon.
Does anyone know how I can reach Ron Paul, without being sidelined by some handler? I'd love to provide consultation and help him cut through some BS.
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“The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and will to carry on.”
-- Walter Lippmann
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