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Joel, a critique of FIDO forums?

Joel discusses the particulars of Usenet and Slashdot forums, how does (did) FIDO fare?

I remember it had themed conferences where everyone would just pitch in, no threads, sort of a perpetual single thread that evolved.

The convention was, if you're starting a new topic, change the "Subj" -- because the reader could automatically sort by subject line.

Alex
Thursday, November 13, 2003

They had many good things:


1. Proper, standardised quoting:

If someone's name was John Smith, then the material quoted from John Smith was like this:

JS> here is text written by John Smith
JS> and more text written by John Smith

Discussion involving several persons were easier to read this way.

The only e-mail client I know about which does this kind of quoting by default is The Bat.


2. They had everyone use their real name.

Everyone had to use their real name. The operators of the system validated everyone by calling them on the phone, so even if someone gave a false name, the node that allowed them access to the discussion areas had their phone number.

This made people troll a lot less, and behave nicely - one person didn't have 1000 disposable online identities, but just one.

This in itself was a very good thing, which reflected in the quality of the messages.


3. They had an excellent moderation system.

People could write anything they wanted, but each discussion group (called an area) had a moderator or several moderators.

The moderator made the rules for the group, and usually moderated using a system of points: if you misbehaved, they gave you 1 penalty point.

At 3 penalty points, they would eliminate you for 1 month = you lost your right to write to that discussion group (area) for one month.

There was also an area which didn't have any moderation.

MX
Thursday, November 13, 2003

"2. They had everyone use their real name."

Signed, "MX"

Philo

Philo
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Reminds me of The Well http://www.thewell.com/aboutwell.html

www.MarkTAW.com
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Some introductory FIDO links:

http://www.writebynight.com/fidonet.html

http://www.fidonet.org/

http://www.terminate.com/fidonet/

MX
Thursday, November 13, 2003

> They had to use their real name

MX, it's intereting you bring this up because just a week or so ago I was chatting with an old friend about how online message boards are nothing like the BBSes of years ago. The offerings are the same: some files, some themed forums, etc. However, the one thing that doesn't exist is what you nailed right on the head: call back verification.

That didn't stop some people from behaving badly, but if someone got blacklisted for being a dick, they were SOL. Kept the signal to noise ratio way above acceptable.

Tim Sullivan
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Ah yes ... FIDO

"3. They had an excellent moderation system."

Utter rubbish.  The vast majority of moderators on FIDO were petty, small-minded, dictator wanna-bees, whose entire life revolved around creating and then rigorously enforcing as many stupid pointless rules as possible.  This appeared to be a prime requirement for obtaining a position as a FIDO moderator.

It was quite common to go into a forum (or "echo" as they used to be called) and out of 20 new messages, at least 10 were from the moderator, berating someone for breaking one of his precious rules.

I ditched FIDO in favor of Usenet in the early 90's and never looked back.  I'll take a wide open, "anything goes" forum any day (Fucked Company is a good example).  Sure, it's 95% crap and trolls.  But the other 5% is the type of interesting (and hilariously funny) stuff that you won't find on a moderated forum.

Mayor McCheese
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Interesting. FIDO sounds a bit like Compuserve's forums in the latter's salad days: a geek thing that had a lot of momentum. Of course, FIDO was implemented as a dialup modem relay network so it required much more expertise than Compuserve did for participants.

On the issue of verification, I have run or moderated several (web) message boards. The problem I keep running into is that if you require ANY registration in order to participate, you had better have that critical mass of interest in order to induce people to register.  I have found that people generally won't register unless there's significant message traffic. People won't register even when the registration process is easy and fast.

I don't think it's just a laziness factor at work, though. I have talked with a lot of people who won't register and the problem appears to be that a certain percentage of the population gets nervous when they have to establish *any* form of audit trail for what they say.  Even one based on a throwaway Yahoo address.

Bored Bystander
Thursday, November 13, 2003

I liked the model used on Bix, and Cix.  Separate conference areas, each new topic a separate thread and threading clients if you cared.

Simon Lucy
Thursday, November 13, 2003

"The vast majority of moderators on FIDO were petty, small-minded, dictator wanna-bees"

You forgot to mention that they were child molesting nazi necrophiliacs.

Godwin
Thursday, November 13, 2003

:"The vast majority of moderators on FIDO were petty, small-minded, dictator wanna-bees"

You forgot to mention that they were child molesting nazi necrophiliacs. :

And you forgot to mention that they were scum-sucking, mattress-tag-ripping pinkos.

Full name
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Well, perhaps it depends on which Zone were you in, and to which echo areas you subscribed.

The moderators in the echos I used to subscribe to were extremely fair.

I mean, ok, you couldn't swear like a pig in the C++ area, but is that really desirable??

MX
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Moderators used to give penalty points for things like:

- off-topic messages
- swearing and bad language
- trolling

Because of this, the signal to noise ratio was EXTREMELY high.

I have never encountered another discussion system with such a high signal to noise ratio!

MX
Thursday, November 13, 2003

"On the issue of verification, I have run or moderated several (web) message boards. The problem I keep running into is that if you require ANY registration in order to participate, you had better have that critical mass of interest in order to induce people to register."

Posted by "Bored Bystander"

How come two of the strongest advocates of posting accountability in this thread are using pseudonyms?

Philo

Philo
Thursday, November 13, 2003

"Because of this, the signal to noise ratio was EXTREMELY high."

You misspeak. The "signal which the moderator agrees with" to noise ratio was high.

Put it this way - let's say JoS was moderated with a stronger hand by someone who was a stronger MS advocate. Sure the S/N would be higher, but at least half the threads would be gone - anything positive about Linux, anything negative about MS or Windows, any thread comparing the two that wasn't going well - all gone.

Post a flippant comment the moderator doesn't approve of or "get"? Be banned (BTDT).

I strongly oppose moderated forums. I quit my all-time favorite forum when the listowner banned a member. IMHO pretending that they're anything but the moderator's private playground is deceptive.

Philo

Philo
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Philo, we are discussing the fact that a system where everyone has to use his or her real name is good.

If there was such a discussion system which is easily available, I would use it.

In fact, I do use my real name in the ASP (Association of Shareware Professionals) private newsgroups, but everyone else there are using their real name as well.

MX
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Philo, you seem to have had a bad experience involving moderation.

The FidoNet moderators in my Zone (zone is a FidoNet concept related to the geographical area you are in), which moderated the discussion groups that were useful to me were extremely fair.

Each moderator used to publish the group's rules.

The rules were usually only something like:

- keep the messages on-topic

- very little swearing or bad words are admitted

You say that FidoNet is a system where ~The "signal which the moderator agrees with" to noise ratio was high.~

I don't agree, because moderators usually moderated "by the rules", like the ones described above.

Please tell me in what way a rule like the 2 rules above is bad!


> Put it this way - let's say JoS was
> moderated with a stronger hand by
> someone who was a stronger MS
> advocate. Sure the S/N would be
> higher, but at least half the threads
> would be gone - anything positive
> about Linux, anything negative about
> MS or Windows, any thread comparing
> the two that wasn't going well - all
> gone.

This is NOT the way FidoNet moderation was usually applied!!! At least not in my zone and groups!


> Post a flippant comment the moderator
> doesn't approve of or "get"? Be banned
> (BTDT).

No, it was something like:

post something off-topic - get a warning and a penalty point

swear like a pig - get another warning and a penalty point

Accumulate 3 penalty points - you couldn't post in the group for 2 to 4 weeks, and then you were allowed to post again

MX
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Agree with MX - the zone 1 echos I used were fairly moderated. I know some weren't, but that's why there were duplicate echos on some topic.

Then again, I'm mostly talking about the late 80's/early 90's - Philo may have been erading echos at a different time.

jason

JasonB
Thursday, November 13, 2003

You are against moderation, while I am pro-moderation.

But in your mind, moderation is something like "Hey, I don't like person X, I am the moderator, so I delete his messages and ban him".

That's not what I mean by moderation.

Moderation, as practiced in FidoNet, usually happened like this:

1. A moderator does NOT have the right to delete messages written by a person.

2. The moderator publishes the group's rules every week.

3. If the moderator sees that person X has written a message in a group, that violated the group's rules, the moderator sends that person a public warning message, including an explanation of how the group's rules were violated, and gives that person a "penalty point".

4. If a person has accumulated a number of "penalty points", then that person would be banned from posting in the group for 3 weeks.

MX
Thursday, November 13, 2003

>> Posted by "Bored Bystander"

*Sigh* Philo, email me if you want to know that I'm a real person. I wasn't advocating *accountability* so much as simply stating that even a fairly loose restriction like registration via anonymous email accounts limits the pool of participants severely.

I'm not advocating anything at all, really. I don't think it's necessarily a requirement of civilized conduct that everyone have a serial number or equiv. I just don't think it's workable on the internet.

It would be swell if one could  run a BBS for something like gaming or computer consulting topics without being overrun by anonymous trolls. The problem is tragedy of the commons and the fact that you need an iron fist of some sort to enforce even relaxed standards of conduct.

Bored Bystander
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Y'know, actually I am contradicting myself by posting here. JOS is quite civilized, and no registration is required - anonymous posting is the general rule.

JOS is the exception to the social laws of gravity I've dealt with in other forums.

Must be the special sauce. ;-)

Bored Bystander
Thursday, November 13, 2003

(Note: I was a FIDONET sysop back in the day -- and even after that, I was point-node collecting a direct FIDO feed).

The moderation system on FIDONET was not heavy handed because it specifically required everyone to work together.  Firstly, there was no centralization so there was no clear authority -- moderators were elected by the community.  Furthermore, because of the lack of centralization the moderators actually had no power.  If you were being a jerk, the moderator would have to appeal to your BBS's sysop to have you banned.  Normally, a violation of the ECHO rules was also a violation of the BBS rules (swearing, spamming, etc).

If the sysop of a BBS didn't do anything to resolve the problem and it was serious enough that BBS's FIDO feed could be shut off by appealing to their upstream node.  And so on...

Remember, people actually paid money for their FIDO feeds.  I paid 5 bucks a month to my upstream provider to make the long distance calls needed to send/receive mail on the network.  At some point in the chain, somebody isn't going to pay to rely your crap.

Almost Anonymous
Thursday, November 13, 2003

"That's not what I mean by moderation."

Wonderful. Unfortunately, you are not God, so it doesn't count. [grin]

"Moderation" generally means that the moderator has some means to control either postings to the group or the group membership. This means that the group is subject to the vagaries of human nature that flesh is heir to. In other words - you had good moderators. You were lucky. Statistics require that there be bad moderators (and others have indicated there were such, even in Fido). Some potential problems:
1) Good moderator, over time, turns out to be not-so-great moderator
2) Good moderator "retires," bad moderator takes over.
3) The person you think is a good moderator isn't, because dissention never makes it to the board (I've seen this in action as well).

I haven't had "a" bad experience with moderation - I've had several. In general, ANY moderated board I've been on has exhibited symptoms of problems. Some better, some worse. Perhaps a better issue than S/N is "is the abuse by the mod worth the high S/N we believe we enjoy?"

Finally, I personally don't care whether people use pseudonyms or not. I have issues with people who demand a real name, like that suddenly makes my arguments worthwhile. I only pointed out the pseudonyms as an interesting counterpoint to the wistful request. [grin]

Philo

Philo
Thursday, November 13, 2003

i thought moderation meant drinking a couple beers instead of a whole fifth of Jack Daniels, before posting.

wormser
Thursday, November 13, 2003

LOL! LOL! LOL!

:-) :-) :-)

MX
Thursday, November 13, 2003

FIDO happened back in the happier, simpler, beautiful days of the past.

In the days of FIDO, anonymity wasn't as necessary because there was a shorter-term memory on things, fewer people, etc.  It was OK to talk about something you'd ordinarily be private about simply because 99% of the general population wasn't even aware of FIDO.

In the good old BBS days, I had my accounts broken into so that people could defame my good name to others and so that they could do better on TradeWars.  I have a number of  friends who are very cagey with personal information because of incidents going all of the way back to the days of FIDO and BBSes.

The biggest thing, I think, is that back in the day, you could complain to the source of somebody's account and/or the upstream and tell them that somebody was being a baby.  Nobody does that these days.  I mean, they haven't been doing a particularly good job of shutting out spammers. ;)

Flamebait Sr.
Friday, November 14, 2003

Registration only serves to cut out automated posting - if then.

I reckon Philo is right about moderation. In most cases no moderation produces the best results. I have a long collection of epistles from the ineffable David Stone when he was moderator of the ZDNet MSOffice forum. Somebody would post a question on macros and he would post a reply saying wrong forum (even though there wasn't a coding forum) and not only did you have to open that crap, but if you answered the question you would get another reply from him berating you for doing it. Some days these kind of comments would be a third of all posts, and ther'd be no way you could get him to change the subject line so you could distinguish between a reply with substance and his rule-related ranting.

Mind you there are forums destroyed by noise - look at alt.soc.srilanka for example where every thread is a collection of racist insults.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, November 16, 2003

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