I have not waded in here because I've been traveling, but I was dismayed with a large proportion of the posts in the recent "Tone and Content" split.
The complaint that Army.ca suffers from an apparent "heavy-handedness" is largely misplaced, I believe. I think what we're really seeing here is a mismatch of expectations and the context surrounding them.
As was pointed out, other similar sites are either unmoderated or viciously moderated. In the former case, it is nearly impossible to find useful information so the discussions degenerate into drivel and people looking for real answers go elsewhere. In the latter case, the "target audience" is someone who has years of operational experience and is an SME in their area (such as weapons and equipment). In that environment, "newbies" are cast aside with such vigour that they simply never return.
So that leaves us with a large pool of sites where experts can have their own very private discussions and other sites where the rabble can daydream about, but little in terms of providing good, solid information to the masses.
Army.ca attempts to fill this gap. We strive - at great personal expense to the Staff - to provide answers and guidance to everyone
with an interest in the CF. That's a tall order, made taller by the fact that there are few alternatives in the search for useful, organized information on the CF. This means that Army.ca is one of - if not "the" - preferred source for information on the Canadian Military, and is often mistaken for the official CF website.
All this means that our visitors come here with certain expectations.
They expect to be treated courteously. They expect to find the answers to the questions they have. They expect that Army.ca will be there
for them. These are all reasonable expectations, but sometimes the context of their expectations causes problems.
Sometimes they expect to be treated courteously when they don't take the time to become familiar with our rules, conventions and culture. Sometimes they expect to find answers without having to search or do some independent digging. Sometimes they expect that Army.ca will be there
for them even long after they have outstayed their welcome.
It is times like this - when a user has what might appear on the surface to have "reasonable expectations" - that the Staff must take action to protect the way of life we have made here. Our information is valued by so many because it's easy to find. It's not cluttered by repeated or off topic posts. Our users and Staff are (generally) courteous because we know that if we are not, our collective benefits will be diminished. We expect
that Army.ca will continue to exist and serve us in this way, and we become defensive when we believe that is put at risk.
It's also important to note that our ability to meet these expectations varies. As pointed out, we are a group of volunteers running a private site. There will be times when no-one is available to answer a user's question. There will be times when a member of the Staff is fed up and walks away. The important thing to realize is that many users expect
that they will receive a consistent level of service, when the reality is that it's currently more of a "best effort" approach.
So, after a bit of rambling, I'll conclude in point form:
- We have a good thing going here, but we need to work together to keep it that way. That is, users working with users to help when a repeat question is asked. It's users working with the Staff to help identify potential problems, and it's Staff working with users to help provide the best experience we can. If we cooperate, quite simply, we'll all benefit. If we spend our time taking pot shots and making abrasive comments, we degrade that benefit quite rapidly.
- There is never a need to be rude. If you have a request or if you have a job to do, you can accomplish your task - arguably with greater effect - if you do it politely. If you're letting emotion get the better of you, back off until you can compose a message without saying "There!" when you hit post.
- Yes, it is rude to show up and presume you don't need to follow our well established procedures!
- If you're going to complain about the quality of work performed by a team of dedicated volunteers, chose your words carefully.
- We are a military at war. What we need to do now is to work together to continue to improve the services we offer. Infighting and nit picking - even if it's "only here" - distracts us from that aim.
Thanks to everyone who read this far, I look forward to working together to continue to improve our community.