No doubt most of you have gone online to participate in a good topic only to see with dismay, “A moderator turned off commenting for this post.”
While a few posters may very well be acting like children, the other 98% of us are not. It does neither we the 98% nor the forum as a whole any good to close outstanding and dynamic threads merely because a portion of the posters are ill-behaved. If that occurs, the problem rests with the ill-behaved posters, not the thread. If the bathwater is dirty, toss the bathwater, not the baby. The thread is the baby. It’s what gives you life. Trolls are the bathwater. Toss the trolls, not the thread.
In fact, 99.9% of the time, even when mods and admins believe they “had no choice,” it’s the wrong decision, particularly in response to members of the forum who, for whatever reason, cannot tolerate healthy, spirited debate. The moment you take actions to appease the PM complainers calling for the shutdown of a thread, you begin robbing the other 98% of forum members of precisely what’s best about online message forums: the opportunity to discuss and reinforce that which we already know while picking up and discussing something new.
A bit about my In addition to being an active member on dozens of outstanding forums for more than three decades, I’ve moderated and administered multiple forums over the last 34 years, including sections of Slate in the mid-1990s and Christianity Today in the mid-2000s, as well as a handful of political and science-based forums. Even so, it took me years to learn that the practice of shutting down spirited debate is highly ill-advised, and for many reasons.
I fully understand that in the heat of the moment it appears to be a solution to a problem. The overarching problem, however, is rarely what most mods and admins believe, and closing threads never solves the deeper problem. All it does is royally tick off the other 98% of your forum members who aren’t causing any problems at all.
In reality, keeping the thread going while steering it in a healthy direction is the best solution to the actual problem, and a healthy one at that.
Debate is how people learn, particularly when the topic covers issues which are either unclear or contested. Healthy, well-informed debate does back to the days of Socrates, as well as healthy religious debate. Have you ever heard of the old expression, “iron sharpens iron?” It’s Biblical (Proverbs 27:17). Even though sparks are flying, erroneous thinking is being exposed and filed down, while excellent thinking, correct information, and, yes, governing regulations, are being brought to light for the good of all participants and even the lurkers, which usually outnumber active participants.
Even when the comments are laced with cow patties, the rest of the dialogue continues to cover a broad spectrum of viewpoints from which everyone benefits. Closing threads destroys your forum. It’s much the same as arresting and charging everyone who attends a peaceful gathering just because a tiny fraction of them get into brawl while banning all future gatherings by that group, at that location, or both.
No. That would be stupid. Instead, just identify, arrest and charge the brawlers. There’s not only absolutely no need to punish the others, much less ban gatherings or topics, but doing so is the very antithesis of a healthy society.
Healthy, spirited debate raises long-held but erroneous and even dangerous beliefs to the forefront. They’re brought to light, challenged, and hopefully defeated, or at least held up for most people to see that they’re wrong.
Useful and accurate information not routinely taught in ground school or by CFIs to private pilots is presented. Most private pilots wouldn’t know the information, such as how Low IFR charts can be of great benefit while helping keep them safe, but it would be beneficial to them if they did know it.
Never view a forum or thread based upon those who’re causing the problems Instead, view it from the perspective of the other 98% of us who’re working our way through the trolls. Complaints are to be expected, but shutting down the thread is never the answer. If you must shut down anything, shut down the trolls, and even then, only the worst of those. The rest will get the message and you’ll have just greatly improved your forum!
In the meantime, please treat the rest of us as the mature, responsible adults we are, trusting us to largely police our own while using the forum and threads as an opportunity to both learn as well as share with others the benefit of our training and experience.
Thank you for your time.