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Unread 02-21-2018, 12:09 PM   #61
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Ted mentions Luke's wisdom, which I agree with, but I think there were a lot of good calls made through the early years that kept the site healthy.

For example, the decision to step in and stop the Dial-A-Heretic avatar craze. It started as something somewhat silly and then got fairly vicious, and having mods step in and say, "This kind of judgement against your brother is wrong" was what needed to happen. The communication between the folks with modsticks and the section proles was good enough that we could hear it before we got too toxic.

Part of that was actually communicating. A number of other Christian sites with very tough mod policing don't do that, relying instead on we're-stopping-this-now-and-you-have-to-accept-it-don't-even-ask-why policies, and their former users are overall bitter when discussing their exit or gradual slouch away.

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Unread 02-21-2018, 05:52 PM   #62
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Originally Posted by Ted Logan View Post
Hey Reuben, do you mind editing your quote to mask the gender of the user? I don't know if it matters but I edited my post to do so.
Art got to it first.
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Unread 02-21-2018, 08:37 PM   #63
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Originally Posted by TheProdigalModern View Post
Ted mentions Luke's wisdom, which I agree with, but I think there were a lot of good calls made through the early years that kept the site healthy.

For example, the decision to step in and stop the Dial-A-Heretic avatar craze. It started as something somewhat silly and then got fairly vicious, and having mods step in and say, "This kind of judgement against your brother is wrong" was what needed to happen. The communication between the folks with modsticks and the section proles was good enough that we could hear it before we got too toxic.

Part of that was actually communicating. A number of other Christian sites with very tough mod policing don't do that, relying instead on we're-stopping-this-now-and-you-have-to-accept-it-don't-even-ask-why policies, and their former users are overall bitter when discussing their exit or gradual slouch away.
Wait, what? There was a dial-a-heretic craze? What happened?
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Unread 02-21-2018, 11:15 PM   #64
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I think we can also learn something from analyzing how CGR handled failures as a key to why it "worked."

1. Original CPF
When things went off the rails in Original CPF, we clopsed threads like crazy, sometimes reprimanded users, banned people temporarily, etc. But this was a place where people could say things they wouldn't have done if they'd thought for 2 minutes longer, or if it wasn't specifically for nonsense. It let people have serious conversations and inanity at the same time - I can't tell you how often I posted in Theology and CPF at the same time. But when things got really bad - and threatened to stay that way - Luke or the Admin Team straight closed & deleted the forum. Everything was gone forever. I think that was a critical moment for us. Somebody looked and said, "No matter whether it's joking or not, CPF has become a place that does not honor God," and did what a parent would do.

2. Old Theology
Go and read this post from Luke on the closing of the Theology Forum in 2004. Read the discussion, too. Notice that Luke gave reasons and how he implemented the closure. At the time, several people questioned the practicality, the reasons, etc. I remember talking to Luke about this on the phone or in person at the time. In the end, the closure and re-opening, much like what happened with CPF, accomplished its purpose. Many people who posted regularly in Theology (myself included) had time to think about why we did, and how we did.

In retrospect, though Old Theology is where I came to truly love God's Word, I'm glad all the angry Calvinists were forced to look in the mirror when we read Luke's closure notice. It probably took some of us years to realize what we were being asked to do.

3. A user claims they are being stalked
I don't know if this incident is public or not. A young user started posting disturbing posts, making it seem that they were being stalked and were in danger, and the Admins at the time launched into action. They took the situation seriously enough to reach out to local law enforcement, do some cyber-sleuthing, and personally reach out to the user, who later said it was a joke, and that they didn't realize how serious the situation was.

4. ICTHUS
Oh, IsaactheSyrian, my dear and beloved brother!! There are times that CGR failed you, hard. And there are times that you got what you deserved. One thing that has never changed, though, is that you had friends who loved you here, and people who loved the community enough to take disciplinary steps when they thought they had to. I think there were times you were perma-banned. But somehow, here we are.

5. Atheist debaters
It's really strange, in retrospect, to think about the "resident atheist" phenomenon at CGR. I'm not talking about atheists in general, participating in the community, but specifically the hostile atheist who takes up residence in a place like this. They haven't been the same, or, in some cases, even remotely similar to one another. Jerry was nothing like Qingu was nothing like pixnaps.

I think, when we shut the Theology forum to atheists, we had good reason to do so. Earlier in CGR's heyday, there were a dozen (or more) energetic posters in Theology who had the wherewithal to interact at an intelligent level with those who attacked Christian faith head-on. I believed that was necessary if we were to permit such attacks. But all those people started getting jobs, or having babies, and suddenly the "Heavy Hitters" who could respond to philosophical arguments with philosophical arguments were less available. Meanwhile, we had some atheists who were happy to eviscerate Christians who were not in their league without compunction. The reality of a post-college philosophy major attacking the earnest questions of a confused teenage believer were just rank and awful.

6. Apologies
There were times when users screwed up big time, including leaders. Sometimes, they made public apologies. They weren't like Twitter apologies. They were the kind of apologies you make when you're a remorseful adult who's serious about mending what you've broken.

Looking back over all this, a few points stick out to me:

1. The leadership culture of CGR was in many ways like a healthy Church, and thus like a healthy family - the leadership is there to help you grow, and will aim to protect the individual as well as the group.

2. Luke, Mickey, The Metal Family, BSPE, and Lee played an outsized role in how this all happened. I think it is seriously shocking, especially if you know him personally, to think about some of the unexpectedly wise decisions Luke made over the years. Here's a guy who, at age 21 or 22, sat in Mexican restaurant with me and talked LOUDLY (as he always talked) about how you could clear a section of the restaurant by talking about the process of circumcision. But when faced with the needs of the community, he applied Scripture in a powerfully wise way. I still don't know how to reconcile Luke's personality and leadership.

3. When we failed, we failed as a group. The whole fiasco with reputation wasn't one person's fault. We all went crazy for a while. But that meant we could recover as a group, too.

4. This seems to go for the successes, too. CGR Idol, the CPF *actions* thread, and the cool things that used to happen in GD, Theology, etc., were all collaborative efforts.
These are all very insightful points. (And not just for the recognition of *actions* as one of the true great successes of CGR.) Thank you for taking the time to articulate them.

I was wondering if you could elaborate a little on your point near the end, regarding the rep fiasco. That was actually slightly before my time (somehow), and I imagine a lot of other people on the site don't have the background on it. It seems like a pretty clear example of how interpersonal interactions, online or off, can go horrifically wrong when our priorities are in the wrong place.
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Unread 02-21-2018, 11:20 PM   #65
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Originally Posted by TheProdigalModern View Post
Ted mentions Luke's wisdom, which I agree with, but I think there were a lot of good calls made through the early years that kept the site healthy.

For example, the decision to step in and stop the Dial-A-Heretic avatar craze. It started as something somewhat silly and then got fairly vicious, and having mods step in and say, "This kind of judgement against your brother is wrong" was what needed to happen. The communication between the folks with modsticks and the section proles was good enough that we could hear it before we got too toxic.

Part of that was actually communicating. A number of other Christian sites with very tough mod policing don't do that, relying instead on we're-stopping-this-now-and-you-have-to-accept-it-don't-even-ask-why policies, and their former users are overall bitter when discussing their exit or gradual slouch away.
This is an interesting point too, which I think Ted Logan also touched on briefly. We've usually made an effort on the mod and admin team to communicate with the rest of the site about what decisions are being made, and roughly why, with perhaps some details left out when appropriate. That has generally served us well.

I think the flip side of that shows up in one of the other big failures we had on this site: Lee and Juan. That's not a judgment against them as site owners, or as people, but they fundamentally did not get this culture we had here. When they pretty much unilaterally chose to shut down the Finer Things thread without really explaining their reasoning to the community, it went horrifically. I know a few people left over that, at least temporarily, probably some permanently. It was glaring because it was so at odds with how we generally try to communicate our decisions and philosophies on how to be stewards of this community.
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Unread 02-22-2018, 04:57 AM   #66
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This is an interesting point too, which I think Ted Logan also touched on briefly. We've usually made an effort on the mod and admin team to communicate with the rest of the site about what decisions are being made, and roughly why, with perhaps some details left out when appropriate. That has generally served us well.

I think the flip side of that shows up in one of the other big failures we had on this site: Lee and Juan. That's not a judgment against them as site owners, or as people, but they fundamentally did not get this culture we had here. When they pretty much unilaterally chose to shut down the Finer Things thread without really explaining their reasoning to the community, it went horrifically. I know a few people left over that, at least temporarily, probably some permanently. It was glaring because it was so at odds with how we generally try to communicate our decisions and philosophies on how to be stewards of this community.
I left (albeit very briefly) over that one. Had it not been for the intervention of other mods/admins and their ability to get Lee (I'm the REAL Lee) and Juan to change their minds I would not have returned. As you said, that's not an indictment of their personal integrity, they just didn't get this place and how it had been working up to that point.
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Unread 02-23-2018, 06:50 AM   #67
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I was wondering if you could elaborate a little on your point near the end, regarding the rep fiasco. That was actually slightly before my time (somehow), and I imagine a lot of other people on the site don't have the background on it. It seems like a pretty clear example of how interpersonal interactions, online or off, can go horrifically wrong when our priorities are in the wrong place.
I would love to hear Ted's input on this, as well, but what I can offer is:

Rep did what likes and retweets do to Twitter but took it a step beyond. That is, it gamified human interaction by turning it into a contest to see if one could get upvotes, which is bad, but then there was a central leaderboard to show who had the MOST rep.

It had a "positive" effect on user interaction, a lot of people (I was among this number) ratched up posting to insane numbers, attempting to incite maximum comedy. I remember I was posting ~100 times a day at that point, and they were not... Quality posts.

It also created what has become known on reddit and other sites as sh*tposting (can we swear here? I do not recall) where people were competing to get the MOST negative reputation. I think SoccerAaron and DrWorm were the true winners there.

It was one of those things where user interaction was improved, so if this site existed to drive ad revenue it was the best thing we could have imagined. Social media has this same problem, in asking the question "does this drive interaction?" nobody is pausing to ask "should we increase interaction in this way?" The leadership here fortunately stopped to ask this question, which corrected the problem.
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Unread 02-23-2018, 08:25 AM   #68
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It also created what has become known on reddit and other sites as sh*tposting (can we swear here? I do not recall) where people were competing to get the MOST negative reputation. I think SoccerAaron and DrWorm were the true winners there.
And Goodness, though he also just asked people to give him negative rep when he did something they liked, too.

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I left (albeit very briefly) over that one. Had it not been for the intervention of other mods/admins and their ability to get Lee (I'm the REAL Lee) and Juan to change their minds I would not have returned. As you said, that's not an indictment of their personal integrity, they just didn't get this place and how it had been working up to that point.
Right ó a good example was how they didn't know the ongoing discussion about swearing and how the site had worked through it, including a brief phase where there was a lot of it and people were figuring BB/html tricks to get around the site's asterisk-for-curse words filter.

(Is that still on? ____. Just testing it.)
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Unread 02-23-2018, 08:35 AM   #69
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Wait, what? There was a dial-a-heretic craze? What happened?
It was maybe 2002-2003. (I was still living at my parents' house, so it was early-ish in the site history.) People were just really figuring out how to animate .gifs themselves, and so they would replace their avatars with pictures of people they thought were heretics, mostly TV personalities and famous Arminians because Theology was an incubator of early cage stage Calvinism for a hot minute, and the .gifs would flash messages calling them out for their perceived errors.

The first couple were mildly funny to a kid who thinks he's studying theology because he's read a few books and likes to discuss it on a message board, but it got out of hand quickly. It was a sort of Theology in-joke, but since avatars follow you everywhere on a BB system, it didn't stay contained.

But, like I said, it was ultimately a triumph for the good when the mods stepped in and calmed it down. And, as best I recall, no one got angry because they essentially explained the decision in terms of lived theology.
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Unread 02-24-2018, 10:40 PM   #70
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Just thinking about this tonight, and I don't know if it was what made CGR work or just an example of CGR working, but of all the online communities I've been a part of, this is the only one with multiple families participating. And that counts my own.

I can't think of anywhere else that had multiple sets of siblings, parents or spouses participating with the same volume that we had here in the heyday.
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Unread 02-24-2018, 11:29 PM   #71
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that is an excellent point. my brother and one of my besties briefly joined (because of my involvement) but although they didn’t last long, what really drew my brother was his spending the weekend with everyone at the inaugural mtlfest—hosted, of course, by the m’s and attended by a few various bits of families. he had a fantastic experience, and that made him want to participate here.
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Unread 02-25-2018, 07:51 AM   #72
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Because CGR fostered real relationships it made me want to actually meet the people here. I have met quite a few (some multiple times) and have many more on my list that I hope to meet. I have even mourned the loss of one of the members even though I never met her in real life. I've heard people make fun of internet friendships but in places like CGR they are very real. People here have affected my life for the better.
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Unread 02-25-2018, 10:40 AM   #73
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Excellent point.

August, 2005: Hurricane Katrina had just hit New Orleans, and the nation was stunned by the damage. I didn't know anyone from that area, so my interest and concern was generalized. Leighanna was 13 years old, and had been on the site long enough to get to know some of the active users. She was very concerned about the damage caused, and told me that CGR hadn't heard anything from the Straights for several days. That's when I learned that a mom and her three sons were all members, and that a group of people who had never met them were worried about them. After a few days she told me that the family was okay, and showed me the pictures that Nate had posted of the damage around their home. For me, that was the connection to real people. I joined in October.

I miss the Straights. Such interesting people.
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Unread 02-25-2018, 06:35 PM   #74
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Excellent point.

August, 2005: Hurricane Katrina had just hit New Orleans, and the nation was stunned by the damage. I didn't know anyone from that area, so my interest and concern was generalized. Leighanna was 13 years old, and had been on the site long enough to get to know some of the active users. She was very concerned about the damage caused, and told me that CGR hadn't heard anything from the Straights for several days. That's when I learned that a mom and her three sons were all members, and that a group of people who had never met them were worried about them. After a few days she told me that the family was okay, and showed me the pictures that Nate had posted of the damage around their home. For me, that was the connection to real people. I joined in October.

I miss the Straights. Such interesting people.
I guess that's one good thing about Facebook. I've managed to stay in touch with them there.
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Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.

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Unread 02-28-2018, 03:16 PM   #75
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I agree, Art. There were probably better ways to handle much of what we did. I wonder if it's like parenting - be careful, make a good try at wisdom, and above all, act in love for the family. Then, even when you mess up and have to apologize, you win.

Thanks for the compliment, brother. I'm grateful that God put you in my life.
I posted that in my response earlier. There were multiple times from 2006-2008 I deserved to get some sort of ban, but I had almost every supermod or admin reach out to me personally to see what was wrong/to encourage me/to steer me in the right direction. None of it was ever done in a way where I felt belittled or made me want to quit in response. I definitely think the handling of most situations from my perspective of being a mod, being demodded, to potentially banned, and back in the fold as a regular member, was done in a way that was biblically sound. When I apologized a few years back, I did it hesitantly, but got overwhelming positive responses. There is no other place where I have ever experienced that. Not in my own church, my own family, and definitely not on the internet. It worked because the leadership truly cared about the members. I think it also helped a GREAT deal that I saw Aaron, Luke, BSPE, the Mtls, The Straight, and Lee actively participating in the silliness of CPF both old a new, in the original GD thread, and actively reading my journal and responding. The fact that so many of the leadership team was actively reading the advice forums and the prayer request forums and reaching out to users who needed advice and support made an even safer place where members (mostly teenagers if I recall) felt like they had someone who was on their side and wouldn't judge them.
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