Five years of BBS 📅

That’s a fair point. I was thinking more of direct replies not replies-to-replies etc


Five years!

It’s funny. My involvement with Boing Boing long (long!) predates the BBS, and partly because of that I tended to give the discussions on Boing Boing a wide berth. The solutions we had before Discourse never really lead to much regarding community building or cohesion, and my hats off to those that not only made an effort in “the before times,” but remain here today and have given us so much of your time, and your thoughts.

@codinghorror is correct - I got involved here in large part because if I hadn’t, there was an excellent chance that the BBS would not exist in the form it does today (if at all). However, I had spent enough time here to know that Discourse had given the Boing Boing community more cohesion than anything that had come before. More importantly, a genuine culture had grown up here unlike anywhere I had seen before, and I was fairly certain that with a little shepherding and renewed focus, it could mature into something truly great.

I may have taken on the task of moderating that change, but that would have been a worthless endeavour without all of you, who give us your thoughts, wit, and charm on these topics every day. What’s more, thanks to the work of the Discourse team, many of you are as responsible for the effective moderation here as I could ever be, as you help direct our attention to the areas that need it.

Because of this, I can say with certainty that it is in fact because of all of you that the BBS has made it to five years. And I sincerely thank you for that.

As for the platform itself? Boing Boing could not have lucked out with a better partner in crafting the technology (and in many ways, the culture) behind the BBS, than what we have in the Discourse team. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Discourse represents the most carefully crafted and well-thought-out piece of discussion software that exists, and this fact is doubly true with the herculean efforts made to make moderation both painless, and more importantly, community-driven.

Thank you all for being here, whether it is as a reader, a contributor, or as a part of the awesome Discourse team, for fostering a place for Happy Mutants.


So very much this. If I’ve learned anything over my time moderating here, it’s the extremely low-effort barrier that exists for trolls to derail conversations. One incendiary post crafted with even a small degree of cunning can result in the next twenty being utterly derailed, and completely changing the flow of that discussion irrevocably. As a moderator, nothing frustrates me more than to see the amount of energy even a low-effort troll post can sap from well-intentioned posters. I weep for all the wasted time put into countering points made by drive-by individuals who don’t care about your responses at all - they often simply want to kick over the anthill and watch everyone scramble.

When I started moderating here, I tended to leave replies to such posts alone. But this ultimately didn’t work - any vestige of the derailed discussion inevitably would drag everything offtopic again, or worse, give the disruptive posters reason to continue to disrupt.

The real problem with the idea of just removing trouble posts is that it assumes good faith on the part of both parties. It’s clear that was the original design of Discourse itself - to hide a post, message the flagged individual and say “Hey, you overstepped here. Edit your post, walk back your transgression, and all will be forgiven”. But in today’s online climate, so many trouble posts are created not by those acting in good faith, but instead by those who want to disrupt, and could care less about our community. And they use these very tools to ill effect against the community itself.

That’s why I implore you as @codinghorror has in the past: Don’t feed the trolls. Don’t reply to their posts. Flag them, and they will go away, and all the energy they are trying to force us to expend is thus saved.

If you want to reply to a specific point made that is otherwise within the community guidelines? Quote it in a reply to the topic itself (at the bottom of the topic), instead of the troll post. It’ll stay around that way. But don’t quote or reply to incendiary content directly. That’s a sure way to have your post eaten, for the good of everyone.


No arguments here. I’ve used or moderated dozens of different message board platforms over the years - hell decades when I include real BBSes back in the 90s. Discourse is definitely the best.

Well done, Discourse folks.


This is one of the best moderated and most well designed and maintained forums on the interwebs. If I had one poignant sorrow, it’s the mods (especially Falcor and, pre-Discourse, Antinous) and good-standing members who’ve drifted away over the years, but we’ve gotten worthy replacements in both because even the friends we’ve had to say goodbye to helped contribute to a community that lives on where Happy Mutants continue to flourish.


It seems to be a more viable software platform, in the sense that it is being actively developed by people with enthusiasm. Technically good, which is the most useful kind of good. I haven’t examined the underlying code, but the pages work well in firefox.

I believe the software authors had a view of user content moderation that was very egalitarian, but the site’s popularity and politics had already caused an authoritarian and undistributed moderation model to evolve. The (at least outwardly) egalitarian relationship enjoyed by the site’s principle authors is interesting in contrast. BBS suffers from the impedance mismatch; I think moderator burnout is faster under BBS than it was prior, and while I miss reading some of the people who have been expelled just as much as those who voluntarily stopped writing, the existence of so many fine mutants in the latter group troubles me more.

Disemvoweling. You asked! (n_n)


Same here. The difference stands out when I go to another board that isn’t based on Discourse – Vbulletin, most often – and think wow, this isn’t Discourse, and I really wish it were. Add in @orenwolf’s presence and even-handed and judicious moderation, and the difference is obvious.


Three cheers for Discourse!

And three cheers for BoingBoing for having the smarts/guts/vision/generosity to go with Discourse!

:clap: :clap: :clap: :bouquet: :bouquet: :bouquet:


Probably a “what have the Roman ever done for us, except [fill in list]” sort of post.

Back to topic: Discourse isn’t half bad now, what?


Something clicked when I read this. Which is that replying to a troll is in itself a violation of community guidelines, and thus would itself be flaggable.

It seems like users who reply to trolls fall into two basic groups—

  1. New or naive users who just don’t seem to recognize trolling, and/or aren’t fully aware of the community guidelines, and who inadvertently take the bait.

  2. Long-time users who recognize trolling, and know the community guidelines, and who nevertheless reply.

Users in group 2 seem to be sub-trolling, helping the trolls do their work. I’ve flagged trolls, but it never occurred to me before to flag replies to trolls, but now I think it would be a good idea if that was encouraged.


I agree.

I would be.

I agree that it might be nice to have the option of finding out what/how/when status changed but I wouldn’t want to get a ‘warning’.


The physics of trolling are extremely unforgiving: if only one of a thousand users takes the bait, the game is afoot and the replies start rolling in. And the more replies you get, the more likely it is that even more replies-to-replies will roll in as everything snowballs out of control :imp:

Which means from a game theory perspective you basically can’t win a troll fight. There’s no way to guarantee every single logged in user will follow the "don’t feed the trolls, please :black_flag: it instead " rule to the letter. It is a hugely important philosophical guideline, for sure, and it should be taught to everyone… but it is not a panacea.

There’s a great article on this I highly recommend everyone (in this topic) give a close read, since if you’re already reading this, you’re in the target audience :kissing_heart:

Because the phyics of trolling are so unforgiving, I’d say there is no substitute for active moderation. Now, when making those active moderation decisions, whether you

  • empower the community to be mini-mods, eventually even electing a mod from the community


  • rely on a cabal of formally appointed moderators

… that depends on the whims of the site owners, doesn’t it? In any case it is my very strong recommendation that all important moderation decisions are handled collaboratively by a group of at least three people. From a community perspective, “the absolute law of one man” always ends badly in my experience.

That’s definitely not the case. What you might be reacting to is “key stakeholder decisions”.


Also, I found this exchange on Hacker News fascinating.

I think the relevant guideline puts it well:

Comments should get more civil and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive.

The inadequacy of this guideline and couching most moderation along its lines is why the problem and ‘dynamics’ as tptacek puts it, exist in the first place.

The site selects for and breeds civil, substantive racists and misogynists (along with the hyper-sensitized responses) like a hospital breeds antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

I can see selects for, but breeds seems a stretch. Unless you mean breeds civility within racists and misogynists, which seems beneficial?

Yes, mostly the second thing. It’s the opposite of beneficial - because the guidelines say ‘don’t be a meanie/obvious blowhard’ and most people who get called out for anything are called out for something along those lines, bigots who adapt to these can and sometimes do last on the site for years.

HN’s mods put in a great deal of effort in and are surprisingly successful at containing the far more basic and common human impulse to be a jerk to strangers online. They have rules, they enforce them, they publicly shame rulebreakers, etc. You are explicitly not allowed to be an asshat on HN and everyone knows it. The place would be better if ‘don’t be a bigot’ got the same treatment. All caps users and transgressors against HN’s fundamentalist quotation marks cult are exposed to more public opprobrium than your typical “human biodiversity” sea lion.

I had never thought about it this way, but he’s right – a racist, misogynist, or bigoted line of argument is far more dangerous when it is draped in the robes of overt civility. So to the extent that we are teaching people …

Hey, it’s OK to say racist / sexist / bigoted things, as long as you say them in a civil, substantive manner

… we are indirectly creating much more powerful racists / sexists / bigots , who will become immune to less sophisticated moderators who will only see “well, what this person is saying is kind of morally abhorrent, but they aren’t saying it in a mean way…”


Completely agree.

Some long-time members of the BBS were eventually asked to leave because they had learned ”civil disobedience” - they would work very hard to follow the letter of policy while violating the spirit of it. Only through careful observance by an active mod team (which often in these cases included regulars helping to compile data) would these patterns come to light and these ”attention/energy vampires” be successfully exorcised.


True, but I don’t get demoted by FB. There aren’t any consequences that affect me in a way I care about (though I assume it may affect the feed algorithm one way or another). I don’t loose any function on FB by not visiting it.

As to the changes, I really appreciate the “BB” for easy main site navigation. A simple but very handy change.

I do look forward to an ignore feature. There is a person in the forum who really doesn’t like me and it would be good for both of us to put each other on ignore. One question about ignore, though, is whether posts that quote that person will be visible. I think that posts by people on the ignore list should be click to view, both their original post and any quotes of their posts (the rest of the post with their quote should be visible normally, just the quote should require a click to view).

Really like the quote system here. It is much faster to use for specific quotes than other comment forum or BBS systems. And and an ignore feature as clever as the quote system will help really put it over the top.


You absolutely do, they just don’t tell you anything about it – ever.

I just want to politely point out that this is exactly the sort of thing the private TL3 lounge area was intended for :wink:


The problem was that the users in question were hanging out and participating enough they made it to TL3…


I think I could be convinced by a list of all the mods since tribes and which software was running when they left, if that supported your assertion. Which I don’t believe it would, but I am always willing to reconsider in light of new data.

That is what I’d say many advanced amateur/professional trolls do, they learn the rules to the letter and then push them to the very limit to goad other people into crossing the line in response. It’s their game, and one done by regulars who have some friends on the forum, and who can gang up on others by vindictively flagging posts, which multiplied by their trusted status can get their “enemies” bounced quickly when they respond to the deliberate goading, allowing the trolls to take over a forum to one degree or another. Clearly, creating and maintaining nice culture on a forum is hard work, work that can often easily be undone by just one or more trusted people if they aren’t supervised.

How so, other than the feed algorithm I mentioned? I’ve heard vague mentions of trust scores but I don’t know what the consequences to me are, nor how how often I visit FB does or doesn’t affect it.


Hmm, thinking back, maybe it should have been called the “Situation Room” instead of the “Lounge” :wink: … I’m afraid we took “Lounge” seriously and hung out and seriously enjoyed it :smiley_cat: