Policing public channels
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 565
Location: Munich

PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2006 9:39 am    Post subject: Policing public channels Reply with quote

As I've mentioned in the past, I prefer to prevent undesirable activities through the code rather than an arbitary list of 'rules'. This means I don't have to waste time policing the mud, and also avoids accusations of favouritism, heavy-handedness, ego-trips, etc.

Recently, however, the conversations on my mud's public channel have seriously dropped into the gutter. It's reached to the point where even those involved in the conversations admit that, had they seen that sort of conversation when they'd first logged on, they'd likely have just quit.

There is an 'ignore' command, but I can't imagine most newbies would think to look for it. I've noticed some newbies turn the chat channel off completely, but that makes it difficult for them to ask for help.

I've considered adding a separate channel for newbies, but I'm not so keen on segregating them from the rest of the playerbase - in my experience it tends to make newbies feel rather unwelcome.

I've also considered adding another channel for what I deem "undesirable conversation", which is off by default, but that would still requiring policing the main channel. I'm also not sure how well it would work, as I doubt many people would turn the channel on, nor use it unless forced to (which once again segregates the playerbase).

Another option I considered is to have a 'recommended ignore list', and have all newbies use that list by default when they log on. They could then switch off that option if they wished. However this would still require active policing, and might also confuse the newbie (they would sometimes see only half of a conversation).

Anyone have any thoughts on this, or any suggestions other than "silence/ban the people who talk about stuff you don't like"?
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jmurph



Joined: 19 Oct 2006
Posts: 21
Location: Texas

PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2006 2:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Moderation of social channels can never be fully automated (unfortunately). The ignore command is a good start. Perhaps have some helpful tips that appear periodically to newbies, including how to ignore.

As to moderation of content, if you don't want it on your server, make it clear what is unacceptable. Making a "refuse" channel simply re-routes it (which may be acceptable, if you want to do that). Otherwise, make it clear what is and is not acceptable on public channels. (I assume you leave private comms to the participants). Punish those who fail to comply with either suspensions of privelege or access or outright bans if they persist. You may also want to appoint moderators who can help you police public channels. They need not have any powers beyond muting (though more trusted admins could be granted disconnection, suspension, etc. powers) and should be logged so that you can deal with any abuse or take further action if necessary.
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Kjartan



Joined: 13 May 2005
Posts: 110

PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2006 3:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We have automated bleeping of words from a list on our public channels; that seems to work pretty well. If private channels are available and public channels are getting bleeped, then people tend to move the conversations that get bleeped to private channels.

We usually have an admin or two on the public channels, and occasionally must tell players to stop cursing (the automatic bleeping is set to be pretty conservative about what is bleeped, so as not to interfere with normal conversation, which means you can bypass it - without even intending to, sometimes). I more often have to say "don't give away the solutions to puzzles on public channels" than "don't curse on public channels".

When we added the automated bleeping, the amount of talking-to-players-about-language went way down. We never really punished anybody much; mostly we just said "hey stop cursing on that public channel" and they did. In the rare case someone didn't, we stuck a short-term ban from public channel use on them, but that almost never happens.

Re: newbie channels, we have a newbie channel; new characters come on with the newbie channel on and the public channels off by default, but anybody can set any channel as they like; and (this is the key part) when a newbie logs on for the first time, it generates an automatic message on the newbie channel saying "Hi, my name is such-and-so, I have just logged on for the first time" so everybody else listening to the newbie channel says hi. I find that works really well.
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 565
Location: Munich

PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2006 3:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't care about private communications, nor do I mind re-routing the 'undesirable' conversations elsewhere - what I'm primarily trying to avoid is exposing newbies to the sort of unpleasantness that a minority of my players seem to enjoy discussing, because it really reflects badly on the mud as a whole.

Appointing certain players to be moderators is an interesting option, but I fear it might cause even more resentment and discontent than admin-controlled moderation.

I've also been toying with the idea of a 'censor' option, which would operate a bit like 'silence', except instead of hiding the person's chats completely it would just block those which contained certain keywords (not really swearing, but rather certain topic-specific keywords). As with silence, the player in question would still see their own chats (and thus, unless they were multiplaying, be unaware that their chat had been blocked). Players could of course work their way around the censor, and it could also fragment discussions in a confusing manner...so perhaps instead of blocking the chats, it could automatically divert them to the 'refuse' channel - encouraging the players to take the conversation there instead...
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Drey



Joined: 15 May 2005
Posts: 24
Location: Livonia, MI

PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2006 9:19 pm    Post subject: Re: Policing public channels Reply with quote

KaVir, I went with the "bad language is allowed on this channel" route and gave my other 2 Imms the ability to silence people who are warned and refuse to behave. It works well on my MUD, but your mileage may vary. The "spew" channel is off by default for new players.
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JWideman



Joined: 22 Oct 2006
Posts: 16

PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2006 11:21 pm    Post subject: Re: Policing public channels Reply with quote

Drey wrote:
KaVir, I went with the "bad language is allowed on this channel" route and gave my other 2 Imms the ability to silence people who are warned and refuse to behave. It works well on my MUD, but your mileage may vary. The "spew" channel is off by default for new players.


Giving people an outlet is a great idea, though it does nothing for those people are trying to be a nuisance - you're still left moderating the other channels.
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clink



Joined: 12 Aug 2006
Posts: 9

PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2006 12:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

KaVir wrote:
As with silence, the player in question would still see their own chats (and thus, unless they were multiplaying, be unaware that their chat had been blocked). Players could of course work their way around the censor...


We take a much more aggressive approach in that it actually does something more noticeable to their character which isn't always predictable, for example, a temporary ban on all public channels and other more deleterious effects. They are significant enough that players generally don't try to flout the system, yet not enough to render their character useless for a period of time.

The main reason we implemented it versus the moderation model we had was consistency. It garners a few complaints, though far fewer than before. Plus we don't have the headache of dealing with it manually.
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Molly O'Hara



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 99
Location: Sweden

PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2006 9:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's funny how things like this seem to vary over time. We've had similar experiences as KaVir in our Mud, but it's not consistent. Usually the problems are connnected to a couple of players having a personal quarrel, and dragging that into the open channels. This in turn seems to spur others to drop to their gutter level. And between these outbursts, things can be nice and civilized for months at the time.

Curiously the largest problems are usually related to longtime players, who often seem to think that they should have special privileges, and that normal rules don't apply to them. You usually only have to warn a new player once about bad language, while warning an oldtimer quite often triggers an attitude problem with them.

There are of course punishent commands, like mute or even 'coventry'. (The latter makes all actions from a player invisible from others, while still allowing them to play the game as usual and even displaying their own channel entries to them, so that it sometimes takes several days before a player realises that they are coventried). But I am no big fan of punishments, so we don't use them much - too seldom according to some.

I never was a fan of too much censorship either, which is why we even have a disclaimer on our log-in sequence, warning for sometimes 'rough' language. New players also get the newbie channel toggled on, and the gossip channel toggled off by default, but this is more because of the spam than the occasional bad language. Too chatty players can really be a turn-off to some newcomers who are maybe used to a more strict environment. But it's easy to toggle any channel on or off, there aren't any level restrictions for that. We also have the 'ignore' command, but from what I've seen very few players use it, probably because they are too curious about what their enemy might say about them on their back.

A BLEEP code that filters out some of the most offensive words sounds like a solution that we might consider implementing. But to me the real problem is not mainly the occasional four letter word, but rather the hostility behind them. Personal player relations are something that is next to impossible to influence, any try of mediating between them usually just ends up making things worse.
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Virago



Joined: 06 Jan 2006
Posts: 12
Location: Just south of Nashville

PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2006 3:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My main issue with automated censorship, if it's trying to give staffers a break from baby-sitting, is that it tends to encourage an attitude of "it's not getting bleeped, therefore I can say it." And this is somewhat problematic when troublesome people learn what gets censored and what doesn't, and proceed to either skew their spelling just enough (adding in random spacing or dashes, say) or rely on wording that, while on its own is fine, in context is utterly vile. Let us also not forget the chore of keeping the verboten list up-to-date, possibly with alternate spellings. Feh.

The option to toggle one's profanity filter on and off is a nice one if you aren't inherently opposed to four-letter words over your channels; this is an approach used by many graphical games, and allows folks to merrily continue cussin' up a storm while those who wish to ignore such things just see a string of octothorpes or *BLEEP!* or what-have-you. Sometimes people can get quite creative with this; one of my favorite examples would be how Puzzle Pirates has the option to transform swearwords into pirate-themed terms, which naturally caused me and my accomplice to spend a while thinking of as many curses as we could to see what the results were.

That "coventry" option is interesting, Molly. Has it ever caused problems with coventried players using their message-muted status to grief others ("Ha ha, I'm sort of invisible! Awesome!"), or does it display things like movement, object manipulation, and attacking normally, only silencing speech, channels, and socials?
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Molly O'Hara



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 99
Location: Sweden

PostPosted: Sat Oct 28, 2006 8:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Coventry only blocks channels, socials and emotes, plus messages over note and boards, everything else is displayed normally. You could group with a coventried player and go hunting with him, you could also engage in a fight with him if you are PK. You can of course talk to him too in a one-sided way, he'll see what you say, but you'd just not see what he answers.

The only means of communication left to a coventried player is their title, which is probably just an oversight on the coder's side, it would be easy to block that too.

Anyhow, that's what they usually use to complain about their predicament, unless they log on with an alt to plead their case. It's a pretty evil punishment really, something that I avoid myself, and it's only used in extreme cases, when players keep acting like jerks after being told off repeatedly.
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shasarak



Joined: 29 Jun 2005
Posts: 134
Location: Emily's Shop

PostPosted: Sat Oct 28, 2006 1:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

KaVir, I think the simplest approach for your problem is:

1) Set up a new channel where the type of conversation you don't like is permitted - in fact, the majority of the channel's content should be that sort of conversation.

2) Formulate and publicise a set of rules for the existing channel that clearly bans what you're concerned with (while pointing out that it is allowed in the new channel).

3) Have all players, particularly newly-created ones, opted OUT of receiving the new channel by default - so newbies have to actively choose to start monitoring the new channel in order to "hear" anything in it. (If you're really concerned you could even prevent newbies from having access to the new channel at all until they reach a certain level of experience).

4) Make sure all the players are fully aware of how the new system operates.

It's important that the general channel remains general - automatically available to all unless they opt out.

And I can't see many players bering annoyed by you saying "if you want to have this sort of conversation, could you have it in channel X rather than the main chat channel?" That's a completely different proposition from "I don't want you having this type of conversation at all" - which would annoy people.
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Tyche



Joined: 13 May 2005
Posts: 176
Location: Ohio, USA

PostPosted: Sat Oct 28, 2006 8:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It would seem to me that communication commands are the most important ones on a mud, even combat centric ones. Why don't you instruct newbie players on the use and purpose of the 'ignore' command upon logging in for the first time?

If you think you need a default ignore list, then I would make it subject to automatic nomination and denomination. That is to contain the most frequently and recently ignored persons based on some arbitrary threshold. With a an eye to viewing whether such a system is "gamed" by members of factions against others.
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Zephen



Joined: 15 Mar 2006
Posts: 7

PostPosted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 9:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've thought on this issue a bit in the past, and my solution to the issue seems to be a bit different than the approaches listed here. Have a censorship flag which is defaulted at on and masks the swear words being seen by the reader, but still shows the full text to the person themselves.

If someone's unoffended by bad language, they'd likely turn censorship off and just see things as the player intended. The player themselves have little reason to circumvent since they're seeing what they're saying, and chances are the intended party will as well. As the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind, and I believe it applies here for censorship as well.

You could also create censorship levels so players could define just how bad of language they'd like to see. Some people take particular offense to the euphemism for a vagina starting with the letter C, but those same people might not mind the word "Damn" or other related ones.


To give a counter example, the popular MMORPG Maple Story has a censorship system that searches words, takes out spaces, and tries to defeat attempts to circumvent it. It compeletely blocks you from saying the line, and in the process catches a lot of unintended words. It's met with very heavy derision by the players, as you can't even say the phrase "eat me", and there's a lot of perfectly innocuous phrases that somehow contain a swear in them that even players themselves can't figure out. This is a definate example of what not to do.
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 565
Location: Munich

PostPosted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 10:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zephen wrote:
I've thought on this issue a bit in the past, and my solution to the issue seems to be a bit different than the approaches listed here. Have a censorship flag which is defaulted at on and masks the swear words being seen by the reader, but still shows the full text to the person themselves.


I don't mind people swearing - it's the subject matter that some of the players discuss that concerns me. It's possible to block some of it, but doing so could also potentially block valid conversation (which is why I proposed specifically flagging individuals as being "censored", rather than trying to block everyone).
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Zephen



Joined: 15 Mar 2006
Posts: 7

PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 4:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah, well that *is* a different problem altogether. I think Tyche has an optimal solution in that case, weighing in overall system ignores, perhaps with heavier weight with your own setting to prevent imbalancing. You could alternatively just ask if they'd try to keep it civil. Sometimes just a few words from someone they respect can do much more than any system ever could (but it's inefficient if you have to deal with it over a large range of players).
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