Re: Inappropriate and Off Topic - Steven J. Coker
Subject: Re: Inappropriate and Off Topic
From: Steven J. Coker
Date: August 19, 1998

Cathy Ailstock wrote:
> My name is Cathy Ailstock, I go by no other name....

Then we have a misunderstanding on my part.  I thought you were Faye.  I got
that impression from your statement "the one you rebuffed ...." which was
followed by your quoting of my prior exchange with Faye. 
Sorry, if I misunderstood your meaning.  I can understand how you might think I
know and remember people who write to me or to whom I write.  But, honestly it
is beyond my limited abilities to keep everyone and every contact in my
memories.  I've received messages from thousands of people at home, and from
many hundreds of others at my office.  I also receive dozens of phone calls,
faxes, and letters every day at work.  With the volume of people regularly
contacting me, I don't even try anymore to remember them all.  I simply try to
understand and respond to messages when I can.  Especially the ones posted in
the Forum.  On the very rare occasion I interpret the message differently than
how the writer intended. Such appears to have been the case here.  I reviewed
the prior exchange and believe it was an honest mistake.

 ... go through the archives, you will see ...

I reviewed my archived messages and you are quite correct.  However, you
overstated in characterizing as a "rebuff" my first message to you.  It was a
benign, friendly, courteous, private reminder of the Forum policy against
excessive quoting.  It was:

Subject: Re: JORDAN/DILL
   Date: Sun, 16 Aug 1998 21:35:26 -0400
   From: "Steven J. Coker" 

"Please prune your quotes.  Excessive quoting is against forum policy.
Thanks for understanding,"

As a newcomer, I can understand that this policy about quoting may have been
unclear to you.  I've tried hard to explain this simple policy to newcomers by
way of the policy statement, the guidelines & suggestions which I prepared and
posted on the SCRoots web site, and the reminder given in the footnotes of every
message posted in the Forum.  However, despite all the attempts to explain and
guide, a few excessively quoted messages still find their way into the Forum. 
So, I make the further efforts of sending a direct, friendly, courteous reminder
to those who haven't quite got the message yet and try to make it clear to them.
If they still don't get it, I usually try to instruct them.  If they refuse to
get it, I may chastise them publicly about it.  The only other alternative I
have is to block their access to the Forum.  I've only done that twice so far,
and both of those blocks were temporary.  I know one of those is now a
participant, I don't remember who the other one was, and don't care to review
the archive to find out.

 I for one think that you have broken rule number 1 and 6

Your opinion is noted.  However, Rule #12. "... Interpretation and enforcement
of all policy matters is at the discretion of the Forum Management."  As
explained above, my response was under the false belief that I was responding to
the person who had written both the message to which I was replying and the
prior one which had drawn my initial reaction.  

Establishing Forum policies is up to each Forum manager.  Enforcement of such
policies is at the discretion of the Forum Manager.  Most enforcement actions
that I take are limited to simple friendly reminders about the policies.  That
is usually all that is needed.  But, when I perceive rude behavior in the Forum
or against Forum members, I will take stronger actions.  Public chastisement
which may serve to embarrass is one such stronger action.  About the only
stronger action I can take is to block the person from accessing the Forum.  I
have no way of punishing abusers.  All I can do do is:

 1. Remind privately.
 2. Remind publicly (may embarrass, or use a teaching manner)
 3. Warn privately (less friendly than a reminder).
 4. Warn publicly (adds embarrassment).
 5. Chastise privately (harsh, critical, unfriendly).
 6. Chastise publicly (adds embarrassment).
 7. Block access to the forum.

Most management actions are at level 1, private reminders.  The one I sent you
last weekend was at that level.  Rude behavior in the forum will usually draw a
level 4 or higher response.  I try to take a response which is proportionate to
the offense.  In this case, I think my previous message was mostly around level
4, maybe jumping sometimes into level 6.  Turns out though that I was wrong
because I mistook who you were.  The correct response, if any, to your message,
now that I realize the difference should have been level 1.

All this being said, policy enforcement actions at any of these levels is not
common.  My estimate is that of about 1,500 to 2,000 messages I've sent this
year in the SCRoots Forum or to SCRoots Forum participants, about 1,100 were in
the Forum and on topic (I have 1,094 saved in a folder), probably about 400-800
were messages trying to help participants solve problems with their email
service, their subscription, or various other problems. Probably less than
100-200 were enforcement actions (most of these were private emails).  And most
of the enforcement actions were probably level 1.  Only two were at level 7 and
those were both temporary.  Enforcement actions are my least favorite way of
spending my time.

 in no way did I "put you down." 

I agree.  I was referring to the original comment which drew my reaction.  Not
to your message.  This was confused because I thought they were both written by
the same person.  So I probably blurred the distinction.

 ... you had the choice to
> contact me in private in this regard, and chose not too, so therefore I chose to
> respond in the same manner.  I do not think it fair for you to be able to do so and
> then threaten to unsub someone else for responding in the same manner that you,
> yourself have done...

A Forum Manager serves much like a teacher in a classroom, or a chairman in a
meeting, or any similar position where someone is needed to coordinate, control,
monitor, or manage.  It may not seem "fair" when the teacher tells a student to
stop talking and then the teacher proceeds to talk about the same topic that
they chastised the student about.  Or, when the chairman tells others that their
comments are out of order, yet does so in a long, explanatory manner.  But, such
is the way of things.  Call it the "perks" of the position, or the "privileges"
of power if you like.  Frankly, it ain't much of a perk.  I'd prefer cash.  :-)

Since I misunderstood your last message I accept your reaction.  So, you get a
free pass on this one.  And, even without it, you haven't said anything
offensive which warrants blocking your access.  Your comments have been
generally polite, no name calling, no profanity, no blatant hostility.  Nothing
I would block access for, unless it continued and continued, to the point of
harassment.  I don't anticipate that from you, or anyone in this group.

Offering polite comments and thoughts in the forum, even off-topic ones, is
usually not a problem.  If it is totally off-topic and not appropriate for the
forum, I will usually just post a message stating that the subject is off
topic.  Once a manager has declared a subject off-topic, then all discussion on
that topic should cease immediately.  That doesn't mean "take your last shot." 
It means "cease fire" (i.e. end of discussion), in this forum.  But, if I make a
mistake, such as I did in this case, and think I'm writing to one person when it
is actually someone else, then I don't fault the wrongly accused for sending one
more message to clear up the confusion.  Everyone has a right to defend
themselves, and their good name, against wrongly made public accusations.  One
follow-up message, like the one you sent, clarifying the facts for the record is
all that should be required.

 ... I simply
> asked a simple question in the posting last night about being able to lean off from
> the rules occasionally without being corrected....

As I said, you are correct.  Knowing what I now do, I agree that your comment
did not merit the response I gave.  I thought that I was being challenged by the
person who had posted the negative comment earlier.  I was mistaken.  Having
spent all my spare time, and much of my sleep time, for more than a week doing
unpaid work for this Forum and setting up web sites for two others, I was tired
and in no mood to be challenged.  Sorry if my reaction was too harsh.  Also
sorry that it was wrong, since neither you nor Faye were challenging me as I

I apologize to both of you for my misunderstanding.  Sometimes I am wrong.  This
was one of them.  Perfection may be possible, but it takes too much time.

Steve Coker
SCRoots Forum Manager
SCroots Forum:
DuBose Forum:
Coker Forum:

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