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Notice from the head list representative: small things can decide a group's reputation, MS Edge shortcuts thread locked #AdminNotice


 

Hello Win10 forum family,

For people who have just subscribed, as the head list rep/owner of this forum, I’m sorry for what you will read below:

 

The state of the forum is… not good. If I’m to evaluate the current state of the forum from an A to F scale, I would say we are a border-line C – more towards a C minus. That’s how serious the situation is, and the MS Edge shortcuts thread that led to this notice is now locked. Before I go on, however, I must ask everyone to stay low for a while i.e. reduce posts and flames. Consider this an executive request (I hate to use the term “executive order” because of connotations, but please, please, please stay low for a while).

 

I cannot put into words what we’ve seen just now: another debate over a poster’s reply style. Many of you will say that the leadership team is overreacting by writing a formal notice over a small thing. Some would say that talking about this issue is justified, seeing that this wasn’t the first time a debate over a poster’s style, specifically inclusion of past responses was brought to your attention. But when the reputation of the forum is concerned, especially when viewed from a new member’s perspective, there’s no way I, your forum leader and head moderator, will ignore this mess.

 

One thing I have realized recently is that small things can make or break a forum like ours. A miscommunication or word usage, small political differences, and a debate over a message style can contribute to significant problems later. Many software projects experienced frictions and schisms precisely over small differences (BSD operating system family is a classic example where a project split in two, and Open Office versus Libreoffice schism is a well-known example, arising from licensing and company attitudes). I have witnessed one such example in the NVDA community involving a translations team, with the friction caused by translation standards.

 

Some of you may say that a debate over posting style isn’t worth discussing. But trust me: if not rectified, we will see larger issues stemming from that debate, including a potential reputation issue where this forum might be viewed as unfavorable just because we need to sort through a long thread, half of which are devoted to a debate on reply style.

 

Unfortunately, that did occur today: a thread meant to discussing Microsoft Edge shortcuts turned into another debate on posting style. This is unacceptable for two reasons: it became off-topic, and opened up the doors for putting our reputation on the spotlight. Both are serious issues, especially the forum reputation for new members, hence my disclaimer above: we can rectify off-topic posts easily unless it continues for a while, but we cannot easily rectify group reputation – once the reputation sinks, unless a dramatic turnaround is executed, it will not recover.

 

On a more serious note, today’s incident brought to light larger issues that can determine our reputation, and none of them has to do with Windows 10 ecosystem and screen readers (and I’m ashamed to admit that the larger issues have nothing to do with why we are gathered here):

 

  1. Are we supposed to keep seeking food from someone: in the beginning, it is crucial that people get essential information from reputable sources, and I know that this forum is one of these. But at some point, we need to forge food on our own – that’s why we are encouraging people to search for info before posting a question or two. If you’ve been on this forum for say, more than a year, unless you know you need more guidance, members should begin searching and contributing answers to the next group of new people and teach them to forge food when they are ready to do so.
  2. Should we care about posting style: no. As I wrote many times, what’s more important is content, not posting style. It is perfectly fine to include past responses, it is perfectly fine not to, and it is perfectly fine to put answers in context. Part of the reason for today’s debate incident is a long-standing notion that members of blindness forums tend to include past responses. But as pointed out many times, this is not universal. As your forum leader, I do not impose a specific posting style, knowing that people have different reasons for choosing one style over another. But I’m bringing this up because we’ve seen this debate from time to time with no solid results, which will have a negative impact on our reputation in years to come.
  3. Should we expect forum members to respect your wishes: not all the time, especially when considering group reputation and guidelines. Even though you want members to follow your wishes, it won’t happen all the time, especially when a hostile climate is created. After all, one thing that sustains this forum is working together to achieve specific goals. Sure we may get an urge to ask people to simply comply to your wishes, but it must be balanced with thinking about the overall well-being of members.
  4. This forum is a blindness specific forum: not exactly. If you thought so, think about the fact that there are sighted users of screen readers here. Just because we discuss screen readers and accessibility should not be a reason to assume that this is a blindness specific forum, and because of this, many notions seen on blindness forums will not apply. For instance, insisting that people include past responses as described above won’t be effective (see my reason above). Although this forum is geared towards screen reading, it is not a blindness specific forum in a strict sense.

 

In hopes of diffusing this situation, I advise:

 

  • If you want to read the thread associated with a post with no past responses, consider going to win10.groups.io/g/win10/topics and look at recent topics list.
  • Let us not ruin a topic with debates over posting style. Actually, please don’t bring that up again. Be warned: the moment posting style debate erupts, the topic in question will be locked by the head list representative.

 

Friends, I still cannot describe in words what happened today. Two things I ask you: please work on reducing tensions, and do not make me transform into a fierce volcano some of you may have heard of (those who’ve experienced it know what I’m talking about). As it is, I can only say:

 

I am exhausted and drained.

 

Cheers,

Joseph