Most of the members of the online Atwater Village Forum are a polite group, exchanging news about store openings and alerting each other about neighborhood burglaries. But there are also times when the members and their discussions get out of hand. That has prompted the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council, which hosts the forum, to consider changing the forum rules to promote more civility. The issue of how to deal or restrict anonymous users, however, raised enough questions that the neighborhood council’s outreach committee will hold a Wednesday night meeting to discuss the matter, said committee chair Cindy Marie Jenkins. She explains via email:
“I proposed that users can remain anonymous so long as the forum moderators (myself and co-chair Robert “Fixer” Smith) meet the person in question or can at least put a face to an anonymous name. We seek to increase the community’s use of the forum and currently many seem to avoid it because of past experiences with those posting anonymously who speak disrespectfully and appear to not have civil discourse or problem-solving in mind.”
Click on the link below for more background from Jenkins on the proposed forum rules.
After researching various moderation guidelines across the web and speaking with knowledgeable people, we proposed guidelines at the last Board of Governors Meeting in August. Essentially the proposal said that the Code of Civility, which the Board follows would be extended to the forum. After the August Outreach meeting that Boardmembers and 5 stakeholders attended, I proposed that users can remain anonymous so long as the forum moderators (myself and co-chair Robert “Fixer” Smith) meet the person in question or can at least put a face to an anonymous name. Robert cited some examples of times when someone’s comments were getting out of hand and simply reaching out to the posters solved the issue. We seek to increase the community’s use of the forum and currently many seem to avoid it because of past experiences with those posting anonymously who speak disrespectfully and appear to not have civil discourse or problem-solving in mind.
At the August Board of Governors meeting, the point of anonymity raised enough questions that we decided to table the discussion until we could hear from more stakeholders who use the forum, resulting in this additional outreach meeting on Wednesday. Some on the board and stakeholders in the audience expressed concern that if being anonymous was not an option, then safety issues in the community may not be addressed and one of the main reasons for the forum’s existence would be removed from those who always treated every discussion with concern and civility. For other, it was not the idea of taking away the anonymous option, but they were unclear on how we could monitor. So we are now taking more time to work out these questions with all of the community input we can gather so that the forum returns to being a useful asset within our community.
Currently the Co-Chairs moderate the comments and I as Outreach Chair am also responsible. These past couple of months have been more involved with launching the new website and our numerous activities, and as the entire Board are volunteers from the community, we cannot monitor every single post at all times. We do all we can to alleviate tensions and encourage the conversations and disagreements so that the forum serves as a powerful tool within the community and the Board.
We welcome all to attend our Outreach meeting on Wednesday at 7pm, taking place at Kaldi Coffee & Tea. Look for a sign or ask the Barista where we are meeting, as it may be on the patio. If stakeholders cannot attend, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org and state their thoughts via email or request a phone call. I will return their call as soon as possible before or after the meeting so that we can take all considerations into account.