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MHH Ombudsman Action

I'm using a comment by thedoctor in this thread as a jumping off point.  I'm not jumping on you here doc, but I'm gonna use your post to illustrate a couple of points and hopefully generate some meaningful discussion.  Consider this my first action as Ombudsman.

... I also like the off-topic banter, like about books or beer and such. To me, this site is about fun and escapism.

Me too.  And the over-riding goal of editorial is to maintain the fun and escapism, particularly hockey escapism, for the majority of the readers.  Keep in mind those last four words.  They're important.

I’d probably have in-depth comments on the more serious topics like this sexism topic. It touches hockey so I think it’s relevant, and there’s a lot of good that can come from considering new perspectives and hopefully being willing to have each other’s minds changed on the matter. Unfortunately, I’m not seeing that occur. I see a lot of personally charged views blared at each other, and neither side really looking to understand the other. That’s sad to me.

Again, I agree with nearly everything you said.  The issue you mention isn't an MHH issue though; it's a problem with our culture as a whole.  However, there is one important point I want to make regarding your statement:  the editorial directors of this site have tried to be clear that the halcyon days of talking about damn near anything are gone and that we (as a community) need to try and maintain focus on what this site is about: Avalanche hockey. If people want to have personally charged views about that topic, it's literally what this site is for.  Hot button, tangential topics like sexism, politics, religion, etc. that may "touch on" or be otherwise mildly related NEVER END WELL.  I think I can say with 100% certainty that every time something like that comes up on this blog via the comments (an important note) that there is some thread of discussion that goes too far.  Mods are deleting, flagging, warning, shutting down threads, etc., all in an effort to curb the behavior you described, stamp out trolls, and preserve the relevant discussions.  The internet is a huge fucking place where sexism, politics, religion, etc. can be discussed in depth, passionately, and occasionally even civilly.  If there's one thing I know, MHH isn't one of those places.

That said, I don't see any issue with the article that was linked to at Hockey Wilderness.  The issue that arose from that field trip was trollish behavior from one of our members, and Cheryl took a step to try to curb it in order to prevent said member from reflecting poorly on the rest of us.  Given the outcome, Cheryl and I have talked about it, and in the future, we think MHH might be better served by notifying that site's admin, and letting them drop the hammer.  Cheryl can make our apologies as necessary, but MHH mods and members shouldn't take it upon themselves to police MHH members outside of our own little happy home.

More deeply sad is that I don’t feel any discussion of a serious topic or even hockey related topics can occur if the site administrators actively disagree with you. From that point it becomes very personal to the leadership team, and things get dark pretty quickly.

I see what you're trying to say, but I don't think there's a targeted effort from Editorial to squash dissent.  But before I get to that, there's an important thing to consider about the discussions around here:  every mod or member of editorial at this site started out as a member of this site.  They still maintain that 'voice' and perspective to a large degree.  So when discussions on strong opinions get heated, it can be hard to separate the mod/editorial voice from the user voice and opinion.  We (editorial) all struggle with it.  We discuss it.  We vet decisions with a third party due to this inherent conflict of interest.  But we're not infallible.  That's why we created my current position (which nobody has used to date).  If you see abuses, let me know.  Legit issues, not whiny butthurt. In order for me to be effective in my role, I have to try to remain somewhat outside the editorial/moderation loop.  I can't mod every thread because I'll get bogged down in the day-to-day bullshit that occurs here.   

That said, there are two options: editors remove themselves from commenting unless responding to direct questions regarding content of the article, or we continue to try and work through the duality that exists.  I suppose a drastic third option is to replace the entire masthead with outsiders and start with a clean slate.  Are there any proponents that want editorial to withdraw or be replaced?

One of my great joys about this place was that it was a place that you could have an intense yet friendly discussion about hockey and not have it descend into typical internet shouting over each other. Today, unsanctioned views are treated with great intellectual dishonesty and sneering no matter how valid or respectfully delivered they are. While any viewpoint aligning with the views of the mods is given carte blanche, even if there’s personal attacks and such involved.

You may have a point in certain instances.  As a former mod, I can tell you that historically we err on the side of "let it play out" and only jump in when direct attacks, trolls, etc. are obvious.  I've got thick skin (outside of a few examples) so I was never heavy-handed with it in the past, but maybe my (and others' similar) approach resulted in too much leeway.  There are often difficulties in judging how a potential attack is viewed by interested parties too.  If a discussion is going around the bend but two wheels are still on track, we have let stuff go to see if it self-corrects.  Maybe the community has diversified to the point that we can't do that anymore?  We're bigger than ever, with more members than ever, and not everybody aligns with the vibe we've had for the last 4 to 5 years.

The necessary change for that issue is that anything, however slight, that is improper or skewed gets shut the fuck down.  I hate living in absolutes but if we make a single concession, we get lambasted by somebody.  So the only two ways forward is for the community have faith that it isn't a targeted effort by the mods to pick and choose actions against dissenting viewpoints and that we will continue to make a few mistakes, or we allow no room for error and all moderation is dialed up to pass-interference-in-the-NFL levels.  Ticky-tack = deletion/warning/bans.  Who wants that? If the voices are loud enough, we'll do it. It's a lot easier than what we've been trying to do because we can draw a much thicker, bolder line about discussions.  We'll be like In Lou We Trust or Arctic Ice Hockey, but if you can't be responsible with nice things...

I think that’s what Bob is referring to and saw up close and personal here. I don’t know what Bob said, it was probably out of line. Cut that shit out Bob, and stick around. Those mods guilty of this agenda-based, personal issue BS, cut that shit out too. This place deserves better.

And here's we we come to full agreement and likely our biggest digression.  The truth is we have problem users who don't get treated like other users, both for good or ill.  Some old-timers get a ton of slack while others don't.  FWIW, prior to this post, I would have put Bibby in the too-much-slack category.  If he feels that the mods are inconsistent and biased AGAINST him, I'd like to see where that's apparent beyond recent issues with the policies I've discussed above. Other users that have been problem children in the past are unfortunately carrying the stigma associated with that and get hammered a lot.  Add to that the slack/no-slack groups tend to align with different mods on some opinions and then third-party mods are hesitant to delete things where another mod is participating.  It's the old "Mike is involved so I'll let him delete it if it gets out of hand" issue.  All of Editorial can do a better job of policing ourselves and each other to make sure that they're trying to be as consistent as possible without any favorites.

Now, all that said, I don't believe I've seen an agenda. I see personalities in both the user community and the editorial staff that clash.  That have history.  That flat out don't like each other.  I've seen users (long-time and new) imply or explicitly opine that members of editorial are homosexual, racist, sexist, liberal, dangerous, and detroit fans when discussions go sideways.  Again, all being human, that weight unfortunately carries through to future moderation/user actions.  The reverse situation is true as well.  Some of you guys go headhunting any and every time certain members of the editorial show up in a discussion.  I don't think we can suddenly impose a double standard on either party here.  We as a community can all try harder, but we should all recognize that the first job of Editorial is to generate content and moderate discussions.  Sometimes feelings will get hurt because everybody is human, but if that's a big issue for you, I'd ask you to seriously consider why you're at MHH and whether you need to continue to be here.  If you have a problem with a member of the masthead, don't be a rabble-rousing shit about it.  Don't hide behind internet anonymity and lump personal beefs with one or two staff members into every discussion with every staff member.  Demonstrate to me or SBN that there is an issue that needs addressing, move on, or leave the community.  Personal attacks, even thinly-veiled ones, against any member (mod or user) are childish and stupid.

What I mean by that is that the history I'm referring to cuts both ways.  For instance, I've got beef with a couple members due to their past actions regarding their conduct on this site.  I'm in a position of relative power, and I have come down hard on those members.  That's one issue.  Another issue is when at-large members are raging douchenozzles to members of the Editorial staff.  We're supposed to treat everybody equally, even when some of you spew some of the most hateful things back at us?  I don't think that's realistic or fair either.  It goes back to the "we're all human" point discussed above.  Editorial is actively trying to be better about this, but we need a few of you to meet us in the middle.

So, TLDR summation:

Here's my recommendations to Editorial via my discussions with Cheryl:

1. Mod/user actions between parties with negative inter-personal history need to be curbed and handed to a third-party moderator whenever possible.  This doesn't mean stupid shit you do won't get shut down by a mod you have history with; rather it means that we're going to try and remove personal beef whenever possible.

2. Moderators can do a better job when it comes to policing themselves too.  If somebody on the masthead is being a douche, another mod should take the necessary actions. (  Editorial will work to improve the tone of the notification messages and comments when actions are taken and warnings are handed out as well.

3. Hot-button topics should be avoided.  Rarely are these topics instigated by Editorial, but rather by comments.  Nobody needs to be self-appointed police about this either.  Flags and emails to mods are sufficient.  We don't need lynch mobs in the comments. This requires a little bit of patience too as it might be more than 20 seconds before a mod handles an action. We don't have a dedicated 24-hour moderation cycle.

4. Mods and members will let site admin at sister SBN sites handle troublesome MHH members when they visit those sites. Again, no lynch mobs.

5. And lastly, I'd ask (again) that we could all raise our level of discourse throughout the site.  Editorial has been and will continue to make an effort for consistency and un-biased moderation.  Passion is welcome on both sides, but nobody should tolerate dickishness.  Members who continue to pick fights, scamper away, and then claim the moral high ground aren't contributing to making this the best Avs site on the web and, frankly, aren't welcome.  Basically, please play nice.  If you can't, go play with yourself.

Now that all of that is out of the way, if you want or feel the need to discuss any of this with me, please contact me via the address.  I'm trying to work with all members and staff to make this the best site it can be.  If  someone (member or staff) wants to discuss these issues, I think that everybody should be able to do that in a non-public venue, so there won't be any comments on this thread. Hopefully that removes any fear of recriminations and pissing contests.

My fervent hope is that we can all work together as the season draws near and get MHH heading in the right direction.