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"Clarifying the rules #1 - Joke Insults", 11th Jan 2017, 8:43 AM #1
Kyo
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Hey everyone

Why do people always clean in spring? I'mma clean in winter, I don't give a fuck about your conventions, traditions are all stupid and if you celebrate any kind of holiday then by the transitive property, you are also stupid

I'm getting off track here... so you may or may not be aware of this, but there's some internal tidying up going on in regards to how we moderate the forum part of this website - and this is the first of uh, at least two threads soliciting user input

so we got this rule not to insult people, right now it looks like this:

1. No insults, harassment, bigotry, slurs, or abuse. Be civil.


you might think that's pretty unambiguous, but the devil is as usual in the details. So like, when you're on the boards with two of your favorite chums, and - all in good fun - you're getting a bit feisty with it, you might call one of your chums a dum-dum as a joke. They're cool with it, no harm done. But then a third user sees it and is like "hey that douche just called this dipshit a dum-dum, so I'mma call them douche and dipshit" - mods can't really guess when something is or isn't a joke either, that's not feasible.

At the same time, you don't want an overbearing moderation staff that won't let you call your bud a silly goose without getting a month-long ban. So, there's a bit of a conundrum there. We're trying to get rid of ambiguity in the rules, so this is obviously kind of a problem.

So like, what's your take on all this? Where should the cut-off point be, how do you define the cutoff point without ambiguity? I want to know what y'all think and then I'll try and implement that to my best knowledge and ability.

Any kind of input is fine, whether it's suggestions for the exact phrasing, just discussion or just using your words to say how the mods should deal with it.

My instinct is to go "hey, make it real obvious it's a joke, and it's okay, otherwise no", but then you get into the whole discussion of "what does it mean for something to be objectively obvious?" is that even a thing?
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11th Jan 2017, 11:44 AM #2
Sheik
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I pretty much think it should be allowed for the most part but if it's caused problems or if it's likely to then maybe the mods should casually intervene.

There's too many subtleties to rigidly define it. It's completely dependant on the people who are around, and what may be good for one community may not be the best for another. The culture on this site changes over time and if you create a rigid definition It's going to become redundant pretty quickly.

I think joke insults happen all the time, and from what I've seen it's gone okay more often than not. Then again I don't know if there's been conflict behind the scenes.
11th Jan 2017, 12:38 PM #3
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Kyo:Hey everyone

Why do people always clean in spring? I'mma clean in winter, I don't give a fuck about your conventions, traditions are all stupid and if you celebrate any kind of holiday then by the transitive property, you are also stupid


Screw you kyo, I'll celebrate talk like a pirate day all I want.

So i think that it does come to needing for mods to gain clarification on these things. Anything that might walk the line needing to be clarified is a bit tedious and might get annoying to people but it really is something that can only be moderated on opinion before clarification is given.
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11th Jan 2017, 12:39 PM #4
GMB13carat
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I agree with Sheik; what's "objectively obvious" in the individual minds of every active forum user is, of course, going to completely vary, and thus you really can't just put one single rule to stop all cases of one person misinterpreting the meaning of someone else's playful insult.

My suggestion would be to encourage users to handle that on their own. If someone insults you and you're not sure if it was just playful or not, either take it up with said user (preferably in private) or report it. Personally, I don't think publicly calling out anyone who throws around the occasional friendly tease every once in a while serves any benefit, and it's along the same lines of "misinterpretation" that started the whole scene in the first place.

Now, the problem is, this isn't the be-all-end-all. I'm just throwing that idea out there; this particular topic seems like a major grey area (so good thing it's being discussed!).
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11th Jan 2017, 4:16 PM #5
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Kyo:At the same time, you don't want an overbearing moderation staff that won't let you call your bud a silly goose without getting a month-long ban. So, there's a bit of a conundrum there. We're trying to get rid of ambiguity in the rules, so this is obviously kind of a problem.


let the two parties involved appeal the ban

you banned me for a month over a joke insult Shrek was totally ok with with

:I
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11th Jan 2017, 5:09 PM #6
junoro
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I would say that Kelty is right, but what about when two people make a joke that insults other people on the forums? The most common example I can think of is when people mock stuff like religion and politics, and while they may be framed as a joke between friends, outsiders who identify with those groups aren't going to appreciate feeling attacked like that.
11th Jan 2017, 5:46 PM #7
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Well, I agree, but there is a difference between me calling my friend specifically something, and insulting an entire group of people.

So a specific case like Kelty calling a friend a jackass or something where it's clearly directed only at the friend and clarification (mostly through just asking the insulted party through a mod or pm if it's ambiguous at all) can confirm the friends cool with it is fine.

Someone calling a friend a stupid Christian, though, is using a group as part of the insult. Even if it's ok with the specific person it was an insult that inherently insults an entire group, and that should be a no-no.
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11th Jan 2017, 5:57 PM #8
GMB13carat
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I feel like insulting a large group of people like that would straddle between "no insults" and "no bigotry."
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11th Jan 2017, 6:24 PM #9
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Here's my take. Forum rules can't stop people from misinterpreting each other, and they can't stop people from saying things that are going to be misinterpreted. Even a blanket ban on "joking insults" would be ineffective, because the person posting such a thing is aware of their own intent and unlikely to think of it as an insult. Such a ban would also be extremely heavy-handed, as Kyo addressed in the OP, and impossible to enforce without pissing people off.

However, there's another side to it. First, let me propose a theoretical basis. A "joking insult", I think, falls into one of three categories. Some are so minor that it would be very difficult to take them seriously ("nerd", "dork", "fuck your pun", etc., in an otherwise light-hearted context). Others are so harsh as to be covered under other rules (close friends will occasionally call each other racial, gendered, or sexual slurs, for example). And some are in between. The first category is very unlikely to be misunderstood, and the second has other rules to deal with it, so these need not concern us.

The problem, then, is these ambiguous jokes - the sort of joke that the subject knows is a joke, and that people who know the involved parties will understand as one, but that a stranger is likely to take as an actual insult. We want, I think, a procedure to disincentive these. Note my word choice here - I say "procedure" rather than "rule", for the reasons I gave in the first paragraph.

With that in mind, there's an obvious solution. There is already a moderation procedure in place to disincentive certain behavior, and that's a warning. If, as I theorize, the problem comes about because people are unaware that their joke can be interpreted as serious, then making them aware should rectify the problem. So, if a moderator notices that someone's post can be interpreted as an insult, they can shoot the user a warning - not a strongly-worded formal sort of thing, just a heads-up and called such, reminding them that strangers will read their posts and can hear them in any number of ways. Critically, this policy can be applied without regard for intent. If someone makes an ambiguously joking insult, they get a warning PM[1]. I would advocate against any further response so as to avoid a sense of draconian moderation[2]. As an aside, some forums have a category of mod response below even a warning, called a "caution", for cases like these. That might be worth adopting here.

There is also the issue of a joke insult being responded to as serious, and I don't think a general policy for that is prudent due to the wide range of possible responses. If the other person responds calmly, there shouldn't be a problem. If someone escalates the issue, then the escalation should be responded to as normal - the fact that it was started by a joke shouldn't be relevant.





[1] Unless, as touched upon above, the joke is truly offensive even as a joke. I have gay friends who'll call each other [a certain six-letter word], but if such behavior occurs here, it gets moderated as a slur.

[2] Unless and until someone makes an actual issue out of it, of course.
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11th Jan 2017, 6:41 PM #10
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Here's another scenario to consider, a bit different from the OP:

People A, B, C, and D have comicfury accounts. A and B have been here for years and are friends. C and D have both come here recently, and know each other a little bit, but don't like each other.


One day, A insults B in a way that is obviously a joke to them. But C, being new, doesn't realize it's a joke. C thinks people are actually insulting each other, but that doesn't upset him, because C is a bit of a douche and now thinks he's allowed to insult people on comicfury, and he's happy about that. In another thread C goes and insults D in a similar way to how A insulted B, except it's serious this time. D reports C and C gets banned. Then C points out that A did the same to B, but the mods didn't ban him, "BECAUSE THE MODS ARE TOTALLY BIASED AND COMICFURY SUCKS ETC. "

Meanwhile, lurker accounts E, F, G, and the rest of the alphabet are watching and feeling confused. Some of them end up not joining the community. Comicfury continues to lose members until it has to shut down. All the webcomics die.

That's exactly what will happen if we allow joke insults on the forums.



----------------------------

Another scenario:


Users X and Y sign up. User X is a douche. User X insults Y, but then when he gets reported, he claims he was just joking. He's quickly released from jail and goes back to insulting people, and each time he's caught, he claims to be joking and gets away again. Eventually he insults so many people that everyone deletes their account.

That's also exactly what will happen if we allow joke insults on the forums.

----------------------------


Ok so I'm obviously kind of joking here, but I do actually think we should be careful with joke insults, because less extreme versions of these scenarios could actually happen, and I think have already happened. We don't have to treat people who make joke insults like they're terrible people, but I think if it was just calmly discouraged to prevent confusion among new users, that would probably be fine.


Maybe I'm kind of biased though because I don't really enjoy joke insults in the first place.
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11th Jan 2017, 7:13 PM #11
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Honestly, I still hold that the problem with joke insults is that moderation has a relationship with them at all. If moderators try to clarify with warnings, regardless of tone, most users are going to see, "I received a warning. This must be a bad thing," and they'll just stop doing joke insults, maybe even stopping if they're obvious. It's basically a slower, less efficient way to make them disallowed at all.

I still hold that, first and foremost, the community should be able to deal with its own issues, and that moderators are not here to babysit us. Joke insults being banned or moderated, to me, seems like a perpetuation of the whole, "Let's try to pretend conflict can't and won't ever exist," appearance that the moderation style of ComicFury has as a whole, but I won't digress into that too much as it's rather off-topic.

We shouldn't be afraid of conflict, and that includes the fallout from joke insults. I'm honestly having a bit of a hard time explaining my point, as I'm not sure what is and isn't a digression, but to sum it up in a single, easy-to-find, bolded sentence:

Joke insults should remain completely unmoderated. This is not to say that bigoted ones are okay, but I feel that, in that matter, you're not moderating the joke insult itself, but its content. You're moderating the fact that a bigoted thing was stated. And I think that is a very important distinction.
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11th Jan 2017, 9:09 PM #12
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I've been having a vague sense that there's a more general issue here, and, Pip and Seeen, I think you together just led me to it. This gets beyond joke insults. There' a wide range of behavior that's fine between friends in private but not in public, and a forum's a public place that doesn't quite feel public all the time. If, say, a couple friends are joking around in the same thread, it's easy to forget that other people will read it, too. (There was a really dramatic case of this a while back, where some (iirc) mildly off-color humor lead to a handful of users trying to out-do each other and a mod waking up to some dozen-odd reports and issuing month+-long bans. It happens.)

Here's what I'm thinking. A policy of aggressively cautioning (but nothing more) in response to inappropriate-for-public-situations humor could prevent problems with not only joke insults but a whole class of problems. Here, have a rough draft:



Remember that this is a public space. Anything you post on ComicFury will be read by a wide range of people. Some of them will be you and your buddies, but others will be total strangers with different beliefs, ideas, and cultural norms. We're not expecting you to police yourself in exquisite detail with every post, but think how you might sound like to a stranger before hitting that post button. (In-jokes can be particularly tricky here. There's nothing wrong with them, there's no rule against them, but they're ripe for misinterpretation.) Moderators may caution you if they think a post is toeing the line too much, but there won't be further penalties for this unless your post violates some other rule as well.

Conversely, if you think someone else's post is somehow iffy, remember that they might not have meant it that way. Don't let this discourage you from contacting the user or reporting the post, but assume good intention at first if possible.
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11th Jan 2017, 9:43 PM #13
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I was iffy on your setup there, but the "Conversely," part sold me on it. I do think it should be a tad less wordy, though, as odd as that is coming from me.
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11th Jan 2017, 10:02 PM #14
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I feel joke insults while being fine should be far more obvious than they currently are. Any fairly normal insults can to a third party be a straight insult regardless of the intentions. Joke insults therefore should be more imaginative so as not to be taken overly seriously by third parties.
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11th Jan 2017, 10:45 PM #15
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keltyzoid!:let the two parties involved appeal the ban

you banned me for a month over a joke insult Shrek was totally ok with with

:I


well, after several previous warnings for abrasiveness.

What I can tell y'all also is that definitely not any joke is going to be okay. Even putting religion and stuff like that aside, it needs to clearly be a joke. The other party being cool with it is a really low bar that will result in super inconsistent modding (like pip said, basically). And If I can just call people a fucking piece of shit as long as they're cool, people are going to think it's ok to call people a piece of shit, in general. That's the other dimension to all of this. So like, even if the decision is to mostly allow these kinda chummy insults, there is going to be some sort of line at the very least that you may not cross anyway

I like xeno's draft, that might fit into the FAQ that's planned for the rules
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11th Jan 2017, 11:04 PM #16
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I think some obvious insults should incite a ban without the two parties intervention. (This should help in cleaning the forums from uncalled dialogue). Then others that aren't really obvious could be left to be decided by the parties if they find it offensive or not.

Although this could go sideways, people may tend misinterprete jokes everyone once in a while and some others might not just be in a good mood and may find some jokes unnecessarily offensive.
The Mod's judgement should probably determine everything at the end, which implies that they should step up their game and take their time in passing judgement on these situations.
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11th Jan 2017, 11:35 PM #17
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Seeen:I was iffy on your setup there, but the "Conversely," part sold me on it.

Aww, thanks! That's really cool to- wait a sec-
Imposter Seeen:I do think it should be a tad less wordy, though, as odd as that is coming from me.

Who the fuck are you and what have you done with the real Seeen?








Reaper Dragon:I feel joke insults while being fine should be far more obvious than they currently are. Any fairly normal insults can to a third party be a straight insult regardless of the intentions. Joke insults therefore should be more imaginative so as not to be taken overly seriously by third parties.

Kyo:The other party being cool with it is a really low bar that will result in super inconsistent modding (like pip said, basically). And If I can just call people a fucking piece of shit as long as they're cool, people are going to think it's ok to call people a piece of shit, in general.


I'm really, really happy seeing the issue of moderator consistency being brought up so directly now, for whatever that's worth. Bravo zulu.

Thinking about it more, though, I do have one little question: what about the cases where something's on the fence and a public callout would be too much, but not saying something runs the risk of looking inconsistent? A PM doesn't do anything about public perception. Would that be a case for a mod edit?

(Alright, I may be over thinking things here.)
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11th Jan 2017, 11:41 PM #18
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I agree. It's a really nice setup, but there needs to be a balance of "new people actually bothering to read it."

Plus, several paragraphs of rules can often be a little intimidating, especially for newcomers to the site.
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11th Jan 2017, 11:44 PM #19
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Was this in reply to Seeen's post earlier? Anyway, yeah, sure, trim it down if you want, I know I can be pretty verbose. The structure's the important part
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11th Jan 2017, 11:47 PM #20
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To both of you. I like it a lot otherwise, though.
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Forum > News & Announcements > Clarifying the rules #1 - Joke Insults
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