The goal of this paper is to help channel visitors understand how we moderate the ##windows channels. If you know our methods, then you know what to expect, and how to respond. At the same time, this is the first doc we ask all our new chanops to read. There is no private version of this; it is the singular and complete recipe for how we moderate the channel.
Our primary goal in the ##windows channels is to create a useful, friendly, open-minded and fact-based environment where lots of people feel comfortable discussing Windows issues and topics.
“Keep it polite, factual, constructive, and on-topic”. When you joined ##windows, you were reminded of this via /notice. This concept is also in the channel topic, and prominent in our guidelines. We feel this is the single most important guiding principle of participation in the ##windows family of channels … it is core to our proper functioning. We feel that it applies equally to every channel participant - including the chanops.
We have done everything we can think of to make these guidelines clear, well known, and easy to follow. As mentioned, they’re in our topic, our onjoin notices, our website. Within the channel we regularly and cheerfully remind people of the guidelines, in case they were not otherwise aware.
And we really do expect our guidelines to be followed. If they are not enforced, they cease to have value in creating a good channel atmosphere.
When we see someone overstepping our guidelines, our first step is almost always a reminder.
Some points about reminders:
We always aim to remind people of our guidelines before we escalate to mute/ban actions. And we always hope those reminders will be heeded!
We may give reminders either in the channel or in private message. Sometimes both.
As moderators, we will tend to give light reminders on channel, typically when we think it would be good for more than one person to see them.
We reserve private messages for more serious and/or private issues.
We respect each person’s privacy: our conversations in PM will not be repeated in the channels.
Reminders are never meant to be scoldings. Our intent is always to be polite and helpful, advisory rather than threatening.
If you feel a reminder is inappropriate, please discuss it privately and politely with with the chanop involved. Our goal here is that the channel largely stays on topic, without being consumed by endless meta-debates about how the channel is or should be managed.
That said, we will occasionally spend a few minutes discussing channel goals and guidelines within the channel, if we think that’s useful to return things back to more properly topical chat. Please follow the chanop’s lead in this!
One last point about reminders: they are not the sole province of channel operators. If you’re outside the guidelines, please pay heed to reminders about this, no matter who they come from.
But if you feel the reminder was in error, please discuss it privately with the person involved. Or get a chanop’s opinion.
Mutes and bans
It’s a sad truth that reminders don’t always get the job done. Some people will continue flaunting our guidelines no matter how often reminded of them. So there are times when we have to (reluctantly) escalate to more serious actions: mutes or bans. We do not enjoy these actions, but we understand the necessity.
There are essentially three ways to get muted or banned in ##windows:
Ignore reminders and continue act in impolite, unreasonable, non-constructive or offtopic ways.
Act in ways so anti-social that we're certain you want to be silenced. For instance: spamming the channel with multiple, random, offtopic and/or inflammatory messages.
Occasionally someone will accidentally paste a lot of text to the channel. A chanop may mute this person for a few minutes to wait for their text buffers to clear out.
(Cases #2 and #3 are those where a reminder may not be issued prior to the mute or ban. However we are always willing to talk about every mute or ban after the fact - in private message, please.)
We typically use freenode's eir bot to set timers on almost all of our mute/ban actions. Our strategy for any given person is:
We remind one or more times before giving a person his/her first mute or ban.
We usually prefer mutes. That is, the muted person can still see the channel, but cannot send messages to it.
For first time offenders, we typically give a mute that lasts 30-180 minutes, depending on the severity of their actions, and their responses to reminders.
Repeat offenders will usually be muted (or banned) for for successively longer periods. This can add up quickly! The progression: 30 minutes, 2 hours, 8 hours, 1 day, 2 days, 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, 2 months ... and so on. It's not a strictly linear or logarithmic scale, and we reserve the right to modify it at need.
Note: We use automation tools to help identify cross channel users who are often an aggressive or persistent problem and return under multiple indentities.
"Polite, factual, constructive and on-topic" ... these words mean different things to different people. We understand that one person may feel he/she is being polite, where another may view the same behaviors as being rashly impolite. So there will be differences in opinion on where the lines are, and when they've been crossed. We channel ops are more than willing to discuss these.
We need to stress this: chanops make judgement calls. This is not an exact science; it's not something we can write a program to do for us. Because chanops make judgement calls, there is an element of fallibility in the process. We can be wrong, and we know it. When it happens, we want to make things right again. We encourage you to reasonably point out any lapses in judgement you perceive.
If you feel that a chanop has acted inappropriately, here are a few suggestions:
First, talk to that chanop in a private message. We always welcome private messages. Bear with us if we are slow to reply, though - we may have other things demanding our attention.
The private message part is important. We want the channel to be about Windows. Not about everyone's arguments with chanops.
Be polite and constructive. Demands, threats, tantrums, and/or name-calling are not likely to convince anyone that you intend to help create a friendly and useful atmosphere in the channel - which is always our primary goal. Surprise us! Engage us in meaningful two-way discussion, as opposed to yet another one-upmanship contest.
Be ready with specifics of the situation, especially exact times, dates, names/nicks of whomever you have a beef with. Logs whenever possible
If you don’t understand the responses you get, feel free to ask for more explanation. But don’t overdo it and play dumb on purpose. We see that tactic far too often, and to be blunt, we’re pretty tired of it.
If you feel you're not getting anywhere in talking to that particular chanop, politely wind up the conversation and ...
You may think that privately talking to the chanops isn't going to do you any good, but you just might be surprised. Some of ##windows' most angry and militant visitors have, through dialog with chanops, become solid and valued members of our community. We enjoy lively discussion and debate. If you think our assumptions are bad, challenge them! We enjoy dissenting views - if they are presented clearly, politely, and with at least the appearance of open-mindedness.
At the end of the day, we are keenly aware that some folks will disagree with our standards of channel behavior. We welcome (private) discussion of this. We encourage you to take up the matter with other chanops if you feel you've been wronged, or you think you can help us improve our channels.
That said, we realize that some disagreements are not resolvable. We simply cannot please all of the people, all of the time. So, if you have talked to multiple channel ops and you still disagree with our goals and methods, then we politely suggest that you might just be in the wrong place.
IRC has the capacity for infinite channels. So if our channel doesn't suit you, you're more than welcome to find or start a channel which fits your needs and style better than ours does. This isn't a challenge or a power play; it is a simple statement of reality. Over the years we have evolved a certain set of standards which seem agreeable to the community we found here, but we aren't deluded into thinking that we should be the only community of people discussing Windows. So if you have a different take on how to build and run such a community, then we cheerfully encourage you to find or build it! We could end up learning a few lessons from folks who do it differently that we do.
Thanks for visiting our channel(s), and for taking the time to read this long document. We hope it has helped you understand our goals and methods. We always welcome your feedback, in email or private message to any active chanop.