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Slack Etiquette + Discussion
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Slack Etiquette and Site Discussion


In 2016, we switched our on-site chat to use Slack. In that time span, we've sent and received more than 1.3 million messages - yeah, we hit the 10,000 message limit real quick. Clearly, Slack and the various general chat and pack channels have become a key part of RoW, and in many ways has brought our community closer together. That isn't likely to change any time soon, and the staff team is thrilled to be a part of a tight-knit community.

However, Slack and the instant-communication it provides, are not without its problems. Over the past few months, the staff team have receiving a variety of reports about various messages that have been sent, some in general channels and some in private direct messages. The overarching theme to all of these reports is that there are concerns that RoW's civility policy isn't being respected on Slack in the same way it is on the forums. After discussing it, the staff decided that we wanted to bring to the entire community what our vision for Slack is, but also open it up for comments because it clear to us that different members have different expectations for Slack and those different expectations are where we're seeing conflict arise.

This is a big topic and there's a lot of potential points of discussion, so we've broken up some of the main points we as the staff want to address below. However, these are not an exhaustive list, and if you have other points on different topics, please feel free to add them to the discussion.

Reminder: this is just the staff's thoughts on how we think the issue should be approached. We'd like to hear your thoughts on if this really is an issue, if you think these things would solve the problem or not, or if you have your own thoughts about how slack is used to communicate. We really want your honest opinions here.

OOC Preferences


In April, we introduced the OOC Preferences. We introduced these specifically to try and resolve some of the most common conflict we've seen in Slack - what individuals are and are not comfortable discussing OOC. Some people like to talk about their plots OOC and others do not - and both are perfectly okay! The purpose of the OOC Preferences is to give your fellow members a reference for what you prefer so they don't make the mistake of trying to discuss the details of a plot with you when you'd rather play it out IC. So if you're going to send somebody a DM to discuss IC matters or plots, take a second to check out their OOC Preferences. If you haven't filled yours out yet, we highly encourage it. However, even with these measures in place, mistakes will happen. If that does and somebody tries to discuss a plot with you that you'd rather not - tell them. And if somebody tells you they don't want to discuss a plot, then respect that choice. Respecting other members is non-negotiable, but as members you also have to speak up for yourself and advocate for the kind of interactions you do or don't want to have.

How to Talk about IC


OOC Preferences, however, mainly only cover guidelines for one-on-one, private interactions. The guidelines for behaving in the public chat are far more grey and unclear. Obviously we are here to write and play the game, and people will talk about the game in chat with people. It's like we're all one big fan-club for a book or movie series. Sometimes the people online are those that prefer more OOC plotting, sometimes they're the people that prefer to keep things IC. There is an ever-shifting prefence, therefor, of what people want to talk about or are comfortable talking about. And that's totally okay.

We often find, though, that the way people talk about the game publicly can lead to misunderstandings both big and small. Because unlike a book series fan-club, critique and judgement of our plots and characters really has no home here. We are all the authors, but this is a casual site. We are not all here with the intention of growing our writing or our skills or looking to write the best thing of all time that makes perfect sense. Some of us just want to write.

Occasionally we will come across people discussing other peoples characters or plots as if it were a tv show and that a particular writing decision is a good or bad one or, more often, "doesn't make sense." While not all of you will feel this way, there are some that feel that this challenges them to justify their choices doing this or that with a character. No one should have to justify why they wrote something a certain way, and others should respect that people have the right to write how they want to. Often times it feels like, when these things happen it turns into a low-key, high-tension disagreement where one person says "well my character would do x" and the other person responds "well then my character would do y" and there is basically an implication of "you should do this or you'll hurt my characters and thus upset me" or "you did this to my character and now I'm upset." And that's not how we want to operate. That's a textbook definition of taking IC interactions OOC personally, in public. If you're disappointed a plot cannot go the way you wanted it to, it isn't okay to take it out on others and public chat is not a sounding board for your disapproval.

We are not suggesting that you have to like everything that goes on IC, that you have to enjoy others writing, or like every character, just that we have to be civil to each other and find ways to talk to each other that aren't inflammatory or toxic. If you are disappointed in the outcome or consequence of a plot, discuss it privately, but ultimately respect the choice of the other player. We'd like to create an environment where everyone understands no one is doing anything with the intention of causing emotional harm to other people. Just the characters (hah!)

Some Ideas


Here our are ideas about how to solve the problem:
  • Phrase things objectively when talking about another character's negative traits
    • i.e."X Character plays the role of an uncompromising dick so well!" vs "X Character is a dick!"
    • These two sentences could very well have the same intention. The difference between these two statements is one outright acknowledges that they understand what the player was going for with their character, and the other one sounds like someone is upset about what X character did to them and thinks its wrong that that character is a certain way. Not everyone might take it that way, but the fact of the matter is that some people will. Which message would you rather have wake you up in the middle of the night on slack? One that's a clear compliment, or one that's ambiguous?
  • Inquire when talking about an IC interaction you didn't understand, rather than jumping to conclusions
    • i.e. "That surprised me! I thought X would have wanted to Y, I guess I didn't realize Z was so important. Plot Twist!"/"I want to know more about why X chose to do Y" vs "I don't understand why X did that. They should have done A because of B. I don't think Z thing should have make a difference."
    • People in real life have motivations all the time that don't make sense to you. Ultimately there will be characters that make no sense to you but that doesn't mean its not as good writing as a character whose decisions make sense to you. Telling someone what they should do or should have done is not your place, and it leaves people with the feeling that you think their character isn't written correctly. There is no correct way to write a character. But of course it is okay to acknowledge that the player surprised you, or to try to understand the character. However, if the other player doesn't want to explain their motives they don't have to. Sometimes explaining their motives might give away some plot they're working on.

Staff involvement


At the end of the day, we would like to remind you that we can't always be there on slack when things go bad. If something happens we are lucky if we receive screenshots of what happened in a timely manner. More often, people mention something that happened in DMs that were flushed or something and it results in a "he said she said" kind of situation, or we just have no idea what was literally said, just how it was received. Its very difficult to do anything in cases such as these besides offer our own interpretation. And doing so, in these frequent cases that have popped up lately has been exhausting.

One thing we have seen in some of the cases we do have screenshots of or were present for, is that often times members don't act as their own advocates when they are upset by something. A very large portion of our member base is adults (whether we feel like it or not) and while the Staff can step in when something goes wrong, very often these things don't need to be handled by us at all. They don't ask the other person not to talk to them if they are being bothered, they don't ask people to stop discussing a topic, and this is usually because they feel uncomfortable or worry about what the consequences would be for speaking up. It's okay to speak up. No one is here to hurt you or cause you discomfort, and people usually have the best intentions but that doesn't mean you have to accept something that you don't feel like dealing with, for whatever reasons you may have. We also ask that everyone be understanding when someone asks to be left alone or for a change of topic: they're not trying to say they hate you or that what you're saying is bad, they just want some space and they want to be comfortable. Obviously, everyone should find the polite way to do these things. You can't just say "God I wish you'd just shut up," but you can say "Please give me some space. I don't feel like talking right now." It's okay.

Because it's very hard for the staff to address issues that come up when often times the members that are the "guilty party" had no idea that they were doing anything wrong because no one told them they were upset. It feels unfair to blame them, sometimes, if its a situation like "X person wants you to leave them alone they said you are bothering them" and the other person thought you were friends and had no idea they were messaging you too much. Be upfront.

If users cannot be respectful on slack the staff can, and will consider suspending access to Slack or on-site private messaging. We do not wish to do this for anyone, and would only do this in serious cases of repeat offense.

Discussion


Please see this thread to be a part of the discussion. Do you feel like using slack has changed the community? Do you feel like there are too many rules about what can or cannot be said? Do you feel like you can't talk about what you want to talk about? Do you feel like the community is fine? Please let us know!