A Message Or Thread Bothers Me, Is Offensive, Or Is Getting Out Of Hand.
What Do I Do?
These are called "Hot Topics", and they happen on occasion. As the rules & regs say:
General discussions on religion, guns, politics and the usual ‘not safe for dinner parties’ subjects that do not have a strong LOCAL reason are strongly discouraged for the reason that they never result in anyone changing their minds, just people getting worked up and angry and email boxes getting full. If we see a discussion heading down that path of crossing the line, one of the moderators will usually step in with a warning or request to desist.
Despite that warning, it still happens. And honestly, it is to be expected. We have well over 1500 members, encourage open communication, and live in a part of the world that attracts independent people. Opinions differ and tempers can flare on even seemingly innocuous subjects.
So, the first suggestion about what to do is simple: do nothing. Don't let the message bother you, don't reply, don't worry about it. The moderators are reading every message that goes through the group and if something like this happens, it is a good bet we already know about it. Most of the time things like this tamp down naturally in short order. The group self moderates in most cases, and that is the best answer we have found so far. In short, don't be the guy in this cartoon:
The next option - if you think the moderators haven't stepped in and should - is to let them know. Send an email to them at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is a chance that we are all at work, or busy, and haven't seen whatever is going on in an hour or two. Your email might prompt us into action if needed. But please remember that moderators are human too, and there are only 3 of us at this time. And sometimes even we don't agree on whether or not a thread has become a problem or not. We talk about this stuff in the background all the time, but we only take action - publicly - on rare occasions. That's because, as stated above, most of the time these things burn themselves out pretty quickly.
Another option is to mute the thread, so you simply stop getting email about it. Each email from groups.io has a "Mute Thread" link at the bottom. Click on that, login to groups.io if needed, and confirm that you want to stop getting email from that thread. That's it.
If you feel you must reply on a hot topic, the next thing is to be sure you aren't repeating what someone else has already said. Read every message about the topic before replying to anything. If someone else has already made your point, then replying with that same point again will only add to the flames. If you have something new to add, though, there are some simple things to do to help keep things calmer:
- Wait a while before replying. It's only email. Give it a couple of hours, particularly if you find yourself really upset. That time may allow you to reflect on what was meant by the poster (vs. what was written - a subtle but real difference), and perhaps for someone else to reply in a way that says what you wanted to.
- If you're still going to reply after waiting a while and cooling down, write your email very carefully. Remember that a LOT of people are going to read it - over 1700 as of this writing! - and it will be around forever. It will be in the archive for others to find and read, and it will be in all those inboxes. Use this opportunity to make a good impression, not fan the flames. Then, before you hit send...
- Wait some more. After composing your message, wait another couple of hours and go do something else. Then come back and reread what you've written with fresh eyes. Is what you've written constructive rather than reactive? Does it provide information rather than opinions? Is it written to avoid giving offense? If not, now is your chance to rewrite and fix those things. If needed, get someone who is not involved to read your email and tell you if they think it is going to be a problem in any way. Also remember to check to see who else might have replied in the interim, including the moderators.
Only now, when all of those things have happened, should you be happy about pressing send on a reply to a hot topic.
A fundamental intent of this group is to build community. That means giving us a way to talk with each other even though time, distance, and responsibilities don't make it simple. But community building requires starting from a position of respect for others, even if you disagree with them. If we all start with that frame of mind, hot topics will be fewer and father between, and common ground will be found more easily when they happen.
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