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An Open Letter to Dean

Dear Dean,

I am writing this open letter so that the community can understand why we chose to take the actions we did against you, and why similar, or more severe, actions might be taken (against you or other members) in the future. As a side benefit, I hope this letter helps you specifically, as I have always felt your critiques and unique viewpoint add value to the community, when phrased reasonably.

First, let’s review what happened. In the past, some of the BW admins, including myself, have privately warned you for your attacks on other players. For a while, you apparently took this advice to heart. But last week, you stepped over the line again when you made over-the-top negative comments about members of a certain committee. At this point, the partners of BW (which includes Eugene) discussed what to do. Given your past history, some were in favor of outright removal from our site, but we ultimately decided to suspend you from posting privileges for one week because we thought there needed to be some time to cool down. Eugene was tasked with sending the message because he takes the most active role in moderating/editing, and was one of the proponents behind keeping you around, the decision we ultimately chose. Now you’ve chosen to attack him, IMO, unfairly, for being the messenger.

Dean, we are not against hosting controversial or polarizing viewpoints -- see the OurGame or Buffett Cup threads for examples. But we are against those viewpoints when they are presented as personal attacks. One of our goals for founding this site was to start a community where bridge players can feel free to ask questions, give advice, and improve. An unconstructive, hostile atmosphere drives away some of the players we want. We therefore need people’s cooperation to provide a congenial, supportive atmosphere. If someone routinely detracts from this atmosphere -- even if he regularly contributes good technical content -- it will ultimately be better for our site if this person is gone. We have been, IMO, very tolerant in the past and I think in the future (with our continued growth) we won't be able to continue that high a level of tolerance. This is where the community comes in.

We have implemented, with the advice of leading experts in online community handling, a flagging system where people can register their disapproval. A flag alone will not get people banned or suspended, but it does let us know what a certain member of our community thinks. If we get lots of flags for a particular comment, that’s a big sign that our community does not approve of the message. (Note that we do discount flags from people who tend to give isolated flags -- flags for comments not flagged by anyone else -- these people may just have it out for certain people.) Our software keeps track of which posters generate the most flags, and which posters are most ignored, and unfortunately, you’re on the top of both of these lists. While theoretically we could let people continue to ignore you, it’s ultimately a band-aid for the bigger problem -- contributing to an atmosphere that causes people to ignore each other.

Here is our policy again:

  • We will not tolerate any form of pornography, libel, and marketing spam. These can be instantly removed by an admin. There’s no formal definition for these, but as the US Supreme Court said, “we know it when we see it”.
  • We don’t want to see rudeness, name-calling, or belligerent behavior. Since this definition is fairly subjective, flags from the community will help determine when this applies. It doesn’t matter if a certain number of our users thinks it’s okay -- what matters is if a certain number of our users feel strongly enough to object to it. So citing testimonials from other users saying “I think this is okay” doesn’t matter -- what matters is that enough people were offended.
  • We also don’t want to see frequent off-topic comments that hijack a discussion. There’s a flagging option for this too.

Just so that we’re clear, Dean, I’m not interested in getting into a point-by-point debate with you, or anyone else on this policy. This is the policy that we, the partners of Bridge Winners, have reached collectively and we are not going to be changing our minds. You may think it’s unfair that only certain people get to determine site policy, which may “single you out for being yourself.” Well, we have spent our time and money on this site and so we have the right to determine it, as you have the right to choose not to participate. Similarly, we have the right to bar people who continually violate our policies from participating. I would prefer to see you here for a long, long time, but not if you can’t follow our policies.

I hope this helps you and any others that might have questions.

Steve Weinstein


Bridge Winners

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