In the beginning there was a tiny web site and some pretty basic forum software. After adding a whole bunch of Java forums, I added one forum called "Meaningless Drivel" just for hoots. I thought the forum could serve two purposes:
1) If somebody posted something non-Java-ish in a Java forum, I could have a place to move it without deleting it.
2) If I felt like talking about something other than Java with a bunch of geeks, I could have a place to do that.
Of course, at the time, I was all by myself, so I would have felt pretty stupid if nobody came and looked at my spiffy new forums!
Fortune smiled on me and people came. Lots of people. More than you could shake a stick at! And they were gabby, and we all had a great time. Especially in the "Meaningless Drivel" forum. I still remember the long thread "S-E-X in the Workplace". Woo hoo! What a gripper!
Along came 9/11 and a great deal of anger was expressed. A few months later things cooled down a bit, but the forum never really went back to what it was. As time passed, more serious topics were introduced and people just became angrier and angrier. People were calling each other names and using a lot of indirect insults. Hateful and racist statements were becoming more and more common. Ug. When the 2003 Iraq war rolled around, the flame wars got to be too much.
So this led to some soul searching. What do I want from the MD (Meaningless Drivel) forum? I know I really liked what it was. And at the same time, I did not like what it had become. JavaRanch had grown into a healthy community and the flame wars were contrary to what I felt was in the best interests of the rest of JavaRanch. Since the primary purpose of the JavaRanch forums was to discuss Java, I considered deleting the MD forum. That would certainly eliminate the nastiness that had festered over the years. But, what used to be there was so cool! ....
After talking it over for several weeks with several people, I decided the thing to do was to increase the moderation of the forum, and to lay out some foundations for wholesome, decent discussion. This document is a lame attempt at those "foundations".
The primary problem is people getting mad at each other and saying less than kind things about the folks they are conversing with. The important key here is that people should feel free to express their opinions on any topic without fear of "personal attack."
Suggestions for avoiding the horrible offense of a "personal attack":
1) Talk about the issue, not the thread participants.
2) Avoid the word "you". The word "you" frequently indicates a personal attack.
3) Every person on JavaRanch is without flaw. If a message suggests anything to the contrary, that message is a personal attack.
Remember that there are over a dozen moderators for this forum: the listed moderators, plus all of the sheriffs. Any post that is found to be inappropriate to just one of them will be deleted. So when you write a message, you will want to make sure that it will not be found to be inappropriate by any of them.
If you write a long message that contains one small bit of inappropriateness, the entire message may be deleted. The moderator that deleted it will probably not e-mail you or notify you in any way. So if you have something important to say, you would be wise to choose your words carefully.
What sort of things do the moderators delete? Generally anything that sounds less than friendly. It is possible to express strong opinions in a way that will not be hurtful to others. It just takes a little more thought and time.
Help! My posts are being deleted by bad guys!
If you think that one of the moderators is deleting your posts inappropriately, you should send an e-mail to any one of the moderators asking them for help in understanding why your messages were deleted. It's possible one of the moderators will remember deleting your message and can offer some feedback as to "why". If not, they might be able to take some notes on future deletions and let you know "why". If you feel the "why" was not justified, you can e-mail one of the sheriffs and request that the moderator stop deleting your posts. If a sheriff is deleting your posts, or if you feel that the sheriff did not help you, you can then send e-mail to me. If you feel that I did not help you, or if I am inappropriately deleting your posts, you can post a complaint in the JavaRanch forum.
Note that moderators and sheriffs are all bound to the same rules you are. If you feel there is any form of favoritism, please drop me an e-mail.
There is still only one rule that applies to MD: "Be nice!" This document is merely my blathering to give you all some idea of what might be deleted, why, and what you can do if our goofy system isn't working right.
The primary goal here is to have a healthy Java community. I think that with a small amount of effort, this will be easy to achieve.