At the beginning of the season, our local Blogfather, Dom, wrote a community guidelines post for all of us, new and old, getting ready for the new season.
Remember those days? Promising, optimistic... there was even playoff talk about our New York Islanders... and then the team was pr*j*ct*d into injury oblivion. Media piled on. The club sacked a coach, traded their only healthy goaltender, and worked the waiver wire like Ali worked a speed bag. And we few (we happy few) held it together and stuck up for our guys.
And things began to change after Woe-vember. The team rallied. We got the mixture of luck, coaching, and performance that successful teams seem to take for granted. The 9-3 drubbing of the Penguins that brought so much tongue-clucking served as a statement and a launching point all at once.
Through it all the fans have been a mirror to the rest of the team's passion and energy; the Pittsburgh game was no different. This is a good thing. It's why many of us love this blog, and if you look at the comment threads, it's a case of the stats confirming what our lyin' eyes are telling us - the game threads rack up 500+ comments, many of the recaps and features top 150, there are always new FanShots and FanPosts (some of which also top 100 comments), and we've added a regular parody category (LHH Zeitgeist) for our flights of fancy. What's not to love?
Well, there's plenty to love in all that, and that's why we see a jump in the new memberships and in the blog activity. Dom's long-term strategy was, dare we say, Garthian:
In a word, I wanted this place to build organically: slowly and naturally. To that end it's been a success, which is why I've never had to post Community Guidelines before. People have always acted according to their judgment, which is ideal.
The downside, if there is one, is that success causes the proverbial hard choices. Luckily, we're not a hockey franchise bound by a lengthy and convoluted CBA. We can have more than 50 contracted commenters at any time. We can wear our white jerseys at home. Things are good that way. The hard choices are more subtle. In order to keep the tone and the vitality of the board, it becomes necessary to remind ourselves of the guidelines again.
What Dom wrote (linked above the jump) is pretty much impossible to improve on. Add in the general guide to Lighthouse Hockey and it should be covered. But I'ma gonna highlight a few things:
1. "You are invited to participate, guide the conversation, invite your friends, be part of a community." The most important thing to remember is that all these guidelines aren't a matter of Law Handed Down From Above. All of this is simply a description of the kind of vital and fun community that grew up at LHH. In trying to keep it that way, nobody is trying to dictate terms, least of all the moderators.
2, "...treat each other with respect ... and feel free to disagree for the sake of discussion. Also: recognize we are here to have fun." Simple to say, hard to do. In the heat of the commentary, it's easy to feel the tug, to snap off some putdown or really engage a fellow LHH-er personally, rather than what was said. I've done it too. Please don't. To use some (completely hypothetical) examples - saying "you're nuts/dreaming/stupid" is - well, it's kind of nuts and stupid. What good will come of that? "Criticize opinions, not people. Use evidence."
3. Be careful with the tone of posts. We have a great vibe, but it's harder to maintain properly when we can't see each other grinning while we jibe, hear the tone of voice, or read body language. Things like the "sarcasm font" and other shortcuts have grown over time to help fill the gap, but it's not perfect. Don't strain other people's good will with too much snark.
4. Ultimately, the board we all get is the board we all make. We're all in this together. here isn't just the Great and Powerful Mods and a bunch of peons. A great online group like this would be impossible under those terms because we'd lose the good judgment and good humor of the individuals in favor of a limited vision of one or two people.
But we do have mods. Like hockey refs, they are a small evil required to prevent far worse. Like good refs, we try not to interfere with the flow of the threads. Besides, nobody wants to be the heavy, and least of all us. We want to enjoy the conversation just like everyone else. And thankfully, most of our tiffs thus far have been self-correcting. That's the ideal. Take ten minutes, take a walk, then come back and try to take a look from the other side of things before it becomes a flame war.
If things get out of hand, though, be assured - we all care too much about this to simply watch it implode. If certain comments cross the line they may be deleted. We'll warn people if they get out of hand. And if all else fails and someone is making things lousy for everyone, we will break out the banhammer. But again, that's up to the individual. It's pretty easy not to be banned, actually: just play friendly and remember that we're all fans, we all love hockey, we all root for the Islanders. Everything else is just details. So please, take the time to read Dom's previous guides to LHH for more specifics. When in doubt, feel free to ask. Keep it civil, keep it friendly, and don't say anything (even in jest) that would make Mario cry.