Note: This is the first post in a new series called Forum World. Here I’ll do a periodic rundown of what’s going on in the various sailing forums – the personalities, the gossip, the ridiculosity. Consider it the Page Six of Sailing.
Well, I’ve been banned yet again from another sailing forum. I think I might see a pattern here.
Before I walk you through this sordid tale, let me start by giving you a bit of background on the flavors of the various sailing forums.
When I first started sailing and researching back in 2008, I found lots of great information via Google. But I noticed the majority of it was coming out of the various sailing forums. So I joined the following forums…
…and even a few others here and there that were small and eventually insignificant – and/or they cratered. So, I left those behind and have stayed active on these four majors to various degrees.
Each of these forums has a very different flavor – much of which is driven by the audience it serves and the manner in which it is run and moderated.
Let’s start with SA. It is definitely the bastard child of the bunch. On SA pretty much anything goes…and I mean anything. From exotic, imaginative cursing that could melt truck paint to Penthouse-level porn – it’s all on there. It’s geared mostly toward a rough-and-tumble racing audience – and you can absolutely get some great information, but it’s definitely NSFW, and definitely not a website you’d want to have up while your young kids are around. Now, I’ve never been banned from SA, even though I’ve hammered Clean and Scot to their forum “faces” (i.e. – in the public forum), for things they said or did that were just stupid or hypocritical. They’re not at all tender – so they take it in stride and fight back – the M.O. of the entire site. And that’s how I like it. In general, I hang around SA for the Ocean Racing Anarchy stuff, and the general sharp wit and humor it’s got.
On the COMPLETE other end of the spectrum is CF. Where SA is the Ghost Chile salsa of sailing forms, CF is the refrigerated porridge. It has a notorious reputation for ridiculously aggressive moderation (they banned Bob Perry for crying out loud!) and a somewhat tepid stream of sailing consciousness (very little spice). Yet, it has a lot of traffic and lots of people like it – at least those that don’t mind strict conformity…which, of course, rules out a lot of interesting, experienced sailors. “Interesting”. Yes, that’s what’s missing for the most part. The over-moderation has squeezed the interesting out I think. The info is there for sure – it’s just got very little soul. As you might have noticed above, this is the forum responsible for my latest banning. And, I’ll admit, it was somewhat of an experiment. Because you can tell a lot about a forum by pushing its limits of moderation a bit, which was my intention. And even more by getting banned from it, which, to be clear, was not my intention. But more on that in a moment…
In the middle are both YBW and SN. YBW is geared primarily toward a UK/European audience. I actually like that. It’s great to get a very different perspective on things – instead of just hanging out on the US-based forums. And it’s got an edge, but not too much. It’s a good forum. I spend a bit of time there. But, as pretty much everyone knows, SN is my primary hangout. It’s got plenty of spice but not enough to make you hide it from the kids. It’s like a nice community pub where real sailors hang out. It’s also one of the best-moderated sites out there – bar none. How do I know? Well, I’m proud to say I’ve been banned from SN three times in my illustrious career there (stories for another time); bannings that, for the most part, I absolutely deserved. But, more importantly, they were handled with integrity and transparency. No behind-the-scenes crap, which I can’t stand.
Much of the credit for this integrity-based, great moderation goes to a long-time member and moderator there named Cruisingdad. Over the years, he’s taken a tremendous amount of heat over my antics..but he has ALWAYS been fair, even when banning me. That’s a very rare thing in forums.
Fair. Above board. Not hypocritical. That I absolutely respect.
So, I wear my SN bannings with some honor. They were earned by fair-and-square fighting. Out in the open. That’s why I give SN 5-stars and why I hang out there the most.
My Banning Ways:
Why do I get banned?
Well, if you know me at all, you know that I’m not exactly a “shrinking violet”. I LOVE a good, clean forum fight.
Now, I generally try to stay on the good side of the fight – and only hammer people when they are being jerky towards newbs, being hypocritical, backstabbing, etc. I’m not, by any means whatsoever, “polite”. But I’m not mean either. I’m just insanely tenacious and outspoken – which drives a lot of forum people absolutely freaking nuts. You know, I’m a sailor.
Also, as is pretty well documented in my illustrious forum career, I hate the whole Private Message thing, or hidden sections within forums that only some members can access, etc. – any place where you can be one person in public and another in private. I’m NEVER afraid to tell you something to your face in the forum where everyone can see it. Because if stuff is hidden, it WILL be misused.
And that was the basis of my experiment on CF. I wanted to test the moderation. What was behind that notorious curtain of CF moderation? The best way to find out – is to push it.
Most of the threads I start on any sailing forum are provocative. I’ve found in my writing that you have push a button here or there to really crystallize a conversation. Then you let it run and see where it goes. Meek doesn’t work.
In that vein, I had been researching an up-and-coming group of very cool, young sailors – a group I refer to as Cruising Generation 2.0…or CG2. Fun Punks like Liz Clark, Matt & Jessica, WickedSalty, S/V Delos, Nike on WhiteSpot Pirates, AccidentalSailorGirl, S/V Teleport, and on and on. I’ll have more about them soon. But I wanted to hear from them. How do they look at cruising and sailing? What advice do they have for CG3…and even for CG1? It’s definitely a conversation that would be interesting – if only they had a bit of breathing room to contribute.
A bit provocative? Sure. But it’s right. I’ve been around forums long enough to know it takes a lot to get the typical forum pros to be quiet long enough to let a punk actually speak up. There is this inherent hierarchy on forums where youth and newbs are “kept down by ‘the man'” (i.e. – more “experienced sailors”). And I think that hierarchy is generally counter-productive. I think newbs should be encouraged to speak up and be heard. That’s what discussion forums are for. That’s how they grow. That was the intent here.
Now, back to the flavor of the forums…
Within hours on SN, this thread lit up with both young and old sailors whippin’ it up. Spice. Within a few days it had 150 replies and over 5,000 views. And it’s still going.
On CF, the thread sat silent for 2 days. The views started clicking up – but no one dared post.
Why? What was the difference? Was there a fear of something on CF?
That finally changed when a young-punk buddy FROM SN finally posted his thoughts on my question about GoPro cameras. From there, CF people started finally joining in. And the conversation took off in a generally positive way.
One of the best posts was this one by a cool young punk named Whitebread117, explaining the difference between the Cruising Generations…and nailing it:
This is exactly what I was hoping for. This is great “advice” from a young punk. A different perspective on things. And it came on CF! That surprised me…in many ways. First, a pretty provocative thread was allowed to stand on CF (good for them). People were getting a bit heated here and there – but it was turning into a great conversation. Second, I wasn’t sure there would even be any young punks on CF! I was wrong.
But, of course, it all went to hell right after that, when I posted the dreaded M-word: “moron”.
Notice the last line in Whitebread’s post. Definitely a softball pitch of a joke as pretty much everyone in the world knows I own a Hunter. So I swung, of course, with this post:
“Wait”, you say, “I don’t see the word ‘moron'”. Well, the first sentence initially read as follows:
“Hunters rock. Anyone who thinks different is a moron.”
That post quickly caused a Private Message from a moderator called “Weavis”…and the “Mod Team”. It read thusly:
So, apparently calling no one in particular a “moron” is “naughty”. Fair enough. He edited the word out – which is why you don’t see it above. No worries. I understand. But then, suddenly, the entire thread was gone! WTH?
So, I thought I should explain myself and see what exactly was going on. So my reply:
This seemed to escalate things a bit. We went from a “naughty” note to a “Mod group response”. Now read this one carefully…
First paragraph, good. Second paragraph – okay, what does that have to do with anything? Third paragraph…wait…did he just “call me” a “troll”?!?!?! A mod calling me a troll for calling no one a “moron”? And I’m the one that’s childish? Hmm.
It was time for a heart-to-heart with ModWeavis.
A couple of hours later, I received the following from another Mod named “Seaworthy Lass” informing me the thread was closed:
High standards for behavior. Okay. Yet it’s okay for a moderator to call a member a troll? I don’t think so.
Okay, so the lesson here is that I should not call an unspecified group of people “morons”. But I can call young people “punks”. Got it.
Since the Young Punks thread was now closed, it was time to go into that Catalina vs. Hunter thread and provide some sage advice. I started by replying to this doozey of a statement:
This is what mystifies me. All the crap people say about Hunters is so easily accepted by people. It’s really kind of ridiculous. So, I’m going to change that. It’s that simple.
Then I saw another doozey from a dude that owns a freakin’ 50′ Herreshoff Ketch and had to reply:
Now, do I politely respect his derogatory “advice” regarding Hunters? Hell no! Do I think his advice is moronic? Hell yes, I bought a Hunter! Ergo, do I think his forum persona (I obviously don’t know the actual dude) is a moron for giving such advice? Sure! I bought a Hunter!
Furthermore, this is exactly what I meant when I told ModWeavis that CF absolutely allows “divisiveness” in their threads. This dude just said my boat was not a “real” boat – that it was just a “floating RV”. And, of course, this is okay. I guess because he didn’t use the word “moron”? Please.
Even so, I NEVER complain to mods. Ever. I don’t report posts, I don’t report people, I just play a long. The only time I ever talk to mods is when they talk to me. But, I always like having a bit of fun. So at this point, I decided to take ModLass’ final stamp on the Young Punks thread:
…and add to her quote to my signature line as follows:
“As my broom is unfortunately currently otherwise employed, [I’m riding it.]”
I then went on about my business in the Catlina vs. Hunter thread. It all went pretty well until I made the following comment – in part as a reaction to the Herreshoff dude who obviously has free reign to trash other people’s boats:
“I like my Hunter. I don’t care what Bluewater Chuckleheads say about them.”
Oh boy. That was a grenade. My inbox immediately lit up:
Now you’ll notice that the post he links to no longer has the horribly offensive C-word (“Chucklehead”). It’s already been deleted by another Mod. Again, I’ve called no one in particular a chucklehead. I’ve just used a general term that is OBVIOUSLY a joke. CF don’t do joke.
So now Mod Hudson Force was joining the fray. This was now 3 of them involved in this melee.
Let’s look at his statements:
- “You’ve used repeated derogatory terms for our members.” – I used the words “morons” and “chuckleheads” once. Once. So I assume CF actually thinks the majority of their members are both of these and therefore need to protect them all from such general name calling? Interesting.
- “Our policy is simply not to use rude terms in describing others.” – But it’s okay to use rude terms in describing my boat? And it’s okay for a mod to call me a troll? I don’t think so pal.
- Yeah. A “hilarious mistake”.
Now, you’ll notice a couple of interesting things going on. First, ModWeavis still has not been called out for breaking the forum rules I’m being held to. Unlike my general joke, his was a direct “personal attack” (though I really think that overused term is stupid and creates WAY too much tenderness in forums). Why the double standard?
Secondly, you’ll notice ModHud’s comment about all the deleted posts and my reply that the mods need to “quit fanning the flames”. Now, disregarding the humorous irony of ModHud telling me to “Just look at all the deleted posts.” when…you know…they’ve been deleted so I can’t – there’s a far more troubling thing that happened.
Several of the mods, ModCoops, ModWeavis, and ModDoubleWhiskey came into the Catalina vs. Hunter thread and started hammering on me for “calling the CF members ‘Bluewater Chuckleheads'”. I explained that it was obviously a joke term and that they needed to lighten up – adding that ModWeavis still owed me an apology for call me a troll via PM. That post was was immediately deleted.
ModWhiskey then put up the following Urban Dictionary definition for “chucklehead”:
“A chucklehead is someone who is annoying, stupid/idiotic, lame and is a huge pr*ck!”
…and asked why I wouldn’t see that term as offensive. Now, to get this particular definition, he had to scroll down to the 7th entry! Are you seeing a pattern here? Maybe the ModSquad is now circling for the kill?
I explained to ModWhiskey that it is also used as a term of endearment:
“Apart from being used to describe a stupid and awkward person, the term “Chucklehead” may also be used as a term of endearment. Usually used for friends with poor communication skills, that arrive late to your social gatherings, that are ignorant and oblivious, that have trouble forming sentences with correct subject/verb agreement, and that are just plain stupid.”
Of course, I particularly preferred these definitions from the same page:
“A rejected term now used only by those from Naugatuck to describe one who “goofs off” in class.”
“Human twins aged 5 and under.”
I then had to explain the joke – which is always taxing. I explained to ModWhiskey that if indeed someone interpreted the word Chucklehead with his definition, there is NO WAY that person would consider themselves to be one of these. Therefore, I was calling absolutely no one a chucklehead. In other words, you first have to accept the fact that you are an “annoying, stupid/idiotic, lame, huge pr*ck” to be offended by it. What chucklehead is going to do that?
This back-and-forth with the ModSquad went on for many posts. But I never crossed any lines – I just patiently explained how silly they were being in their hypocritical indignation. Then suddenly, without notice – all of that “evidence” was deleted. Gone. And Coops took the floor…
So, wait a minute…the Mods come into the thread to fan the flames – trying to get me to cross the line to ban me publicly, I think. But they couldn’t do it. They only made themselves look silly. So they get rid of everything? Hmm.
Lesson: If it indicts the CF Mods in any way, it’s “useless and pointless ‘discussion'” and swept under the rug?
This is why I’ve written this long-ass post. Regardless of the forum, Moderators should never be allowed to do crap like this. Especially when they hold their members under such tightly controlled standards. This is the absolute pinnacle of hypocrisy in my opinion. That’s why I was calling out ModHud in that private message above.
I asked in another thread where the rules for the forum were located and was directed there by yet another Mod (I was obviously quite popular among this group). In light of the above, take a look at those rules (pared down to what applies here). Make up your own mind as to how they are applied:
We aim to ensure that the forum is an enjoyable place that you want to visit time and time again. Our philosophy is that we want Cruisers Forum to be an online reflection of the boating community. Treat each other with respect just as you would on the water.
- Our rules extend to all sections of the website including private messaging.
- Personal attacks on others will not be tolerated. Challenge others’ points of view and opinions, but do so respectfully and thoughtfully. Excessive sarcasm, belligerence, insults, profanity, anger, offensive comments about race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and national origin, are not acceptable.
- Do not post libelous remarks or directly misleading information.
- Stay on topic by keeping discussions relevant and on track.
- Posts containing rude, explicit, obscene or vulgar language or abbreviations, images or links to websites with adult content/images or punctuation marks designed to “trick” our obscenity filter may be removed.
- Be mindful of yourself and others. This forum is not a democracy; it is privately owned and we make the rules. If rules are violated we retain the right at our discretion to remove, edit or delete posts and if necessary ban or remove members. Any abuse toward our staff may/will result in immediate suspension of your account.
- Public discussion about moderation or moderator decisions is not allowed. If a moderator deletes or edits one of your posts and you disagree with the action, contact the moderator concerned. Do not repost deleted material.
- Do not use posts to promote your blog, videos, surveys or contests. You may place a single link in your signature to a noncommercial blog
- Trolling and cyberstalking are NOT allowed and are grounds for account restriction or banishment. Trolling on this board includes posting controversial and often irrelevant or off-topic messages with the intention of (or anticipated result of) baiting other users into an emotional response or to generally disrupt normal, harmonious on-topic discussion, especially when a pattern of such posting is apparent.
- We take the “be nice” rule VERY seriously! We do not tolerate ANY rudeness.
One rule that stood out to me as especially problematic in terms of how the mods jumped into that thread, then deleted everything after fanning the flames, was this:
Public discussion about moderation or moderator decisions is not allowed. If a moderator deletes or edits one of your posts and you disagree with the action, contact the moderator concerned. Do not repost deleted material.
This rule equals impunity…and results in hypocrisy. These Mods can do whatever they want – cover it up via deleted posts – and you as a member can’t say a thing. Sorry. I don’t play like that.
Contrast that with a SN post where I was banned for calling a forum member a “loser” when he returned to SN after leaving in a huff to mock the SN owners, members, and moderators:
You’ll notice that the post was left in place – and it clearly stated that it had been edited by the moderator, with an explanation of why. The discussion (i.e. – fight) went on from there. Nothing was deleted. Nothing was hidden. Within a day I had been banned from SN. And I had no beef with it. It had been above board and fair. This is the way it should be done.
But back to the CF debacle, I decided to take the high road. I replaced the quotes in my signature line with the following:
“I now have all the mods on my ignore list.”
I then continued posting. Within minutes ModWeavis was all up in my Private Message Box to complain – and I replied:
In another few minutes I was banned from CF for two weeks for this egregious “Profile Infraction”:
So, here I am “cooling off” and “reflecting”…with a really juicy behind-the-scenes blog post about my CF adventures.
Yeah, I got banned. You think I’ll get permabanned?