Message Board Is Almost Ready To Go…

I decided to go with phpBB for the message board. Thanks for all your advice :)

What I need before going live:

  • Moderators
  • General forum topics

Some of you have already sent me offers to moderate (yay!).. If you haven’t contacted me but would like to moderate, please leave a comment and I’ll get back to you if we need the additional help.

What else am I missing…?

  • Sarah H.

    I think a basic set of rules of decorum should be part of this messageboard, from the get-go. You might want to look here for a great example actually, as TWoP’s forums are the most polite and well-run that I’ve ever encountered. Our topics here will obviously be really sensitive, (even more sensitive than forums full of people discussing Survivor!), so having a clear set of rules of conduct for posting is extra important.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    I disagree Sarah. People should have the freedom to say whatever they feel like. If an individual doesn’t like the decorum on a particular thread, then don’t read it.

  • julie marie

    whoo hoo! I am excited. I loved the last message board I particpated on :)

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    I agree with Unbrainwashed. If the discussion board is to be like the blog, it must include all sorts of folks. The Friendly Atheist is not just about interacting with theists, but also about interacting with (for lack of a better term) new atheists. I’m not sure that it would be a good idea to enforce strict friendliness.

  • http://informationparadox.blogspot.com/2008/02/no-matter-religion-how-does-one-jusitfy.html BGH

    I have moderated other forums, I would consider helping if need be, just give me a shout!

    Great idea!!

  • Sarah H.

    I didn’t say anything about not including “all sorts of folks” – I just don’t think it’s a great idea to include a few specific sorts of behavior that could be counterproductive and inhibit discussion.

    Enforcing strict friendliness isn’t something that’s unusual for forums of any sort…. it’s not so much enforcing ‘friendliness’ though as discouraging flaming and personal attacks. Making points doesn’t require being rude, but the internet is full of people who’ll take the low road anyway.

    I think people will be quickly turned off to a forum if posters are free to aggressively insult one another on personal levels, and potential new members could be discouraged from joining the discussion if people are launching vehement assaults against people they disagree with (as opposed to simply stating their disagreement and making a counterpoint).

    I guess it really boils down to what the board’s purpose is going to be. If it’s just meant to be a sounding board where anyone can say anything in any manner, then it’s sure to be interesting, but I think it would be more useful as a place for people to ask questions, lay out arguments, discuss current news about atheism/religion, etc. A very basic set of rules could eliminate a lot of unnecessary, misplaced negative emotions.

    If you look at the link I posted in my first comment, I don’t think those rules are extreme at all – they seem pretty basic to me. What’s the point of having moderators if there’s nothing that should be moderated and everything goes?

  • http://www.conversationattheedge.com/ Helen

    Hemant, we found our phpbb message board got overrun with spam registrations after a while.

    We tried a few ways to stop it using mods (these are like plugins I think) – as best I remember this was the one that worked: Anti Bot Question Mod)

    We also added a user list mod which made administration easier – I found it on the phpbb help forum somewhere.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    A general statement about politeness and civil discourse would probably be in line with the whole friendly atheist theme.

    It is very important, though, to establish a good policy of how to organize the messages. People need to be trained (or at least understand) when it is appropriate to “reply” to a previous message and when it is appropriate to start a new message. People also need to be trained or understand the importance of a good message subject line. If this becomes really popular, good subject lines will be important for other people to find interesting discussions.

    We will definitely need the bulletin board to be spam-robot proof.

    If you need more moderators, I can volunteer some time.

    I do have the attitude, though, that the best boards are the ones that are moderated the least. I kind-of have the attitude of letting anything go, and only ban people that are over-the-top abusive and extremely disruptive to openly discussing competing and diverging viewpoints.

    Jeff

  • http://heathendad.blogspot.com/ HappyNat

    I’d be glad to help moderate if you need someone else, Hemant.

  • http://www.thegookins.net don

    I’d recommend a well-thought out, balanced set of guidelines. One that doesn’t rule out everything, but also sets out that rude behavior and personal attacks won’t be tolerated.

    If there’s one thing that really prevents open discourse in forums, it’s flaming and personal attacks. I’ve read boards on other atheist sites where a christian would try to start a discussion, and would immediately be shouted down, told to leave, and made fun of. Well, needless to say the discussion ended there. Guidelines could also include instructions to religious folks that discussion is encouraged, but proselytizing isn’t allowed. Just my $0.02.

    As far as topics, I’d like to see one on atheist parenting. Other than over at Parenting Beyond Belief, I’ve had a hard time finding good information on this topic.

    I’d also be willing to moderate if you still need people.

  • Kyle

    I can moderate if you need more people. I moderated a forum with 32K members before. However, it also depends on how much time you need for the moderators to fill. Let me know.

    Thanks.

    I do think that it would be worth it to open a donation and buy either vBulletin or IPB. I’ve moderated the latter, but the former is really good.

    I left that on the original post by accident.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    Now I totally agree with Sarah H. Obviously friendliness should be encouraged, if not enforced, and maybe an official set of rules is the best way to achieve that. Not that I have experience with forum moderation.

  • Joe

    I’m a long time forum rat and I don’t know if enforcing friendliness is a very good idea. In my experience the more rules a forum has the more “forum drama” occurs and consumes the message board.

    I recommend a small set of core principals and an open moderator/member discussion of standards and decisions. There certainly should be a section for discussion of how the board should be run where anyone can post suggestions or questions of the moderators and admin. Don’t want to follow the IIDB model, in other words. ;-)

    Good luck!

  • http://students.washington.edu/secular Michael

    I’ve moderated a somewhat large board in the past, and would be happy to lend my assistance!

  • http://merkdorp.blogspot.com J. J. Ramsey

    I suggest using rules for forum conduct similar to those on the JREF forums or IIDB, which seem to work okay.

  • http://merkdorp.blogspot.com J. J. Ramsey

    One thing, though. On the IIDB, accusing someone of being a troll or being dishonest is considered a breach of the rules, and IMHO, this is a misfeature that makes it more difficult to point out when someone is cooking the evidence, e.g., quote mining. That’s one misfeature that should not be reproduced on the new forums.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    The message board should also include (probably as a front page) a list of the 10-15 most recently posted on threads. This will allow a reader to go to the threads where people are actively participating instead of clicking through all the different general topics.

  • http://www.conversationattheedge.com/ Helen

    Unbrainedwashed, phpbb has a link you can click on to retrieve all new posts since you last logged in.

  • Aj

    I can moderate, I’m pretty fanatical about freedom of speech so the ban hammer will get rather rusty.

    I agree that there shouldn’t be a ban on calling people dishonest, but try to imply it instead, and show the evidence.

    I thinking calling people a troll should be restricted, it can be a form of abuse. Telling people not to feed trolls is the best way to stop trolling. Most forums have an ignore feature for a reason.

    Have separate forums for different topics is a must,. Having a “flamebait” forum that’s not moderated (apart from spam) and placing “hot” threads in there is a good idea. You don’t want to stifle rigorous discussion (unless you do), but you don’t want pointless squabbles either.

  • PrimateIR

    *groan*

    All this stuff will evolve after the forum is in place! Let’s not drown in analysis paralysis.

    How many more miles til this thing is up?

  • http://merkdorp.blogspot.com J. J. Ramsey

    AJ: “I thinking calling people a troll should be restricted, it can be a form of abuse. Telling people not to feed trolls is the best way to stop trolling.”

    But saying “Don’t feed the troll” on a thread would be considered a violation of that stated restriction.

    In general, I see any restriction that keeps one from calling a spade a spade to be a problem.

  • Aj

    J. J. Ramsey,

    But saying “Don’t feed the troll” on a thread would be considered a violation of that stated restriction.

    Have it ambiguous and general, not targeted at specific persons.

    e.g.

    If you think this person is trolling then don’t feed them.


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