I'm not sure the Newcomer's FAQ is the right place for Joe's posting, either, but for an entirely different set of reasons. That's not to say I discount or disagree with statements by Leej, Spaw, et. al. above--indeed, I think that if the Newcomer FAQ is deemed an appropriate place for Joe's suggestions, it should be done as less one person's opinion, but rather pared down to eliminate the personal and make it "rough ettiquette guidelines that we mostly can agree on and live with--they're not the law, but they're a good idea." Unlike others, I think Joe's intro to the post in the FAQ made it perfectly clear that it was personal opinion, but I think the same suggestions could be made a little more objectively and dispassionately.
But good suggestions they are, and here's where I get into disagreeing with the FAQ being the place for them. 'Cause the way I see it, these suggestions are much more importantly in need of being considered and followed by those of us already here, not so much by newcomers (the odd "I'm a newcomer here, hi!" thread is kind of silly and superfluous, but in the end does no real harm, unlike, say, some of this thread). Like many others, I read Joe's original version of this post and it gave me a lot to think about.
I've seen flaming/trolling attacks by both inside and outside psychopaths on other fora that were far, far worse than anything that's happened here in the time I've been around--one in particular springs to mind, on a forum which I to this day won't name publicly because it still exists, and it's quite possible that the stalker who plagued that community has continued to search for the forum long after we've gone underground--indeed, that's already happened once. In that particular attack, one by an outsider who had been a member of the forum years before and already caused trouble then, I took an active and central role in responding to the troll, posting a lengthy, impassioned manifesto of sorts that spelled out why this person--persons, actually, as it turned out--needed to leave the forum as not to destroy it, even though he/she/it claimed to "love [the forum] beyond all imagining." Many at the forum knew my real name, but I didn't post it under my forum handle of Shadowspawn, but rather as Ender Wiggin, because I didn't want to become the troll's special target. The troll pretended to take my post to heart--not without a lot of counteraccusation and pouting, mind you--and promised to leave.
This lasted all of three days, and he/she/it was back with a vengeance, finally forcing us, as I've mentioned, to take down the advertised address of the forum and essentially hide it in plain sight, where several years down the line, the troll still hasn't found us. Yet. But consequently our membership has dwindled to next to nothing, and the place is now just a minor hangout for a very small group of old and devoted friends.
Now, Mudcat is a much larger community, and I don't think one such troll could wreak the same sort of damage here. But the lesson I walked away with was simply this: responding to trolls simply doesn't work. Not even so briefly as to just say "you're a troll" and move on, ignoring them. Same goes for posting "ignore the troll" in a troll thread. Only serves to refresh it. I'll admit I've fallen down and still thrown the odd snarky barb at a Guesttroll, and have even got sucked into a bitchy political comment or two or three (or so....). But I learned the hard way long before I got here that trying to fight trolls is futile. So 99.99 times out of a hundred, so far I've resisted the temptation to say even a word to a Guesttroll--not that there haven't been some recent ones that have tried my patience.
And this is where Joe's advice is so much more important to those of us who are already here than to new arrivals. We know this place, we love this place, and so many of us have established genuine and lasting friendships here. When our friends or our place seem under attack, it's only natural to want to defend--that's what motivated the "manifesto" I wrote all those years ago. But more shite is perpetuated on the Mudcat by trolls and gargoyles and ttcms and whatever, and by those of us responding to them angrily for all the right reasons--which only encourages them--than by all the healing threads, hi I'm here threads, birthday threads, tavern threads, erection threads, and general BS and craic threads combined. Likewise, I think it's far too easy to get carried away by the spirit of the place--I, too, love the BS and craic--and start a thread for reasons that don't really hold up if you stop and think about it for a minute or two longer. I know I've done it, and I know others have done it.
So, a reminder--and perhaps a fairly frequent one--that we need to police ourselves--ourselves, mind you, not eachother--is far more important, I think, than admonishing newcomers not to respond to trolls. I'm not sure I would've had a clue what to say to a troll when I was a newcomer. Nowadays, I come up with all kinds of rejoinders to them in my head, but try never to post them.
I like that Mudcat is a place where folk and blues lovers hang out and shoot the bull as much as it is a high-minded folk and blues forum. 'Tis more human that way, and more enticing to come back. I'd never want it to lose that flavor. But I'd never want it to lose its musical-informational flavor either. And as the Internet gets bigger and bigger, there are only going to be more and more trolls and psychopaths out there who seek to take advantage of how open a place this is--and in my opinion, must be--to spread chaos and ruin. If we keep responding to it, we only encourage it, and it could threaten to drown out both the music and the craic. How do we remind ourselves of that freqently enough? Beats the hell out of me, but that doesn't mean we oughtn't to try.
But if we take a few seconds to think before we post, and try, each of us, to cut back a bit on the sort of posting that Joe mentioned, particularly in my opinion the responding to trolling and flamebait, and the most excessive and silly BS threads--policing, I will add again for emphasis, ourselves and not eachother--we can have our BS and eat it too.
So I've gone and written another little manifesto anyway. Oh well. Trust me--this one's much shorter.
Warmest regards to all,