Here is the opening post I put into the D.I.S.C. forum.
This will help prospective member participants to better understand the problem before we begin examining possible solutions.
The problem we face with suffering drug-related topics in the forums is multifaceted, and has been ongoing for years. The same issues apply to hacking
and sexual topics, however, the recent influx in vocal proponents of drug topics has made the topic difficult to avoid, and support at the same
The core issues are three-fold...
Our first, and still important, reason for refusing drug-related topics has been concern over the automatic categorization of the ATS domain by
Internet filtering software. In some respects, our now massive scale (nearly 7 million posts, 2+ million distinct pages, and 3 million monthly visits)
has mitigated some of the potential problems this might pose for ATS accessibility. However, it is still a concern -- and we need to be mindful that
this was a significant factor in our ability to grow to our current size.
Those who enjoy casting aspersions will assume the policies were to line our pockets as traffic and ad revenue grew. However, a minor amount of
research will show that the policy was put in place long before any advertising appeared on the forums. The original goal was to ensure that as many
people as possible would have access to the topics discussed by our members.
Today, it's unlikely that our entire domain would receive an "automatic score" that would harm access to the entire site -- but still possible, and
needs to remain a concern. However, it's much more likely that individual pages or entire threads will be filtered. And, the possibility exists that
exuberant system admins at schools, libraries, and businesses may opt to restrict our entire domain based on data from filtered pages.
Invasion of the Stoner Thread Snatchers:
This is the cause of our recent decision of no-tolerance. Our staff has the luxury of a bird's-eye-view of the forums that few members are able to
notice. Over the past several months, we've noticed a disconcerting rise in the number of drug-related threads that are nothing more than
thinly-vieled attempts to inject druggie culture into ATS discussion. Additionally, on more than one occasion, our staff has spotted online
discussions by disruptive detractors, organizing to do just that -- screw with ATS by spamming drug topics. Over the past 10 days, a startling rise in
gratuitous drug chatter occurred, prompting our behind-the-scenes discussion, which resulted in: A) a unanimous decision that drastic change was
needed, and B) a very-close-to-unanimous decision to enforce a no-tolerance policy, even knowing the drama it will cause (and now, has caused).
We've seen first hand, in many more cases than members would normally be aware, an impossible-to-manage number of immature stoner comments in threads
on drug related topics. We've seen both public and private complaints from thread-starters that the stoner replies are ruining what should be a good
thread. The analogy I used previously in this thread is apt: Drug-related topics, of any kind, are like a bright porch light that attracts the wrong
kind of moths to fly about and irritate us... they're impossible to kill as more will come... they fly about and pester everyone... it's impossible
to enjoy the porch... they ruin the fun everyone is having on the porch... and the only sure solution is to turn off the light.
Four years ago we killed the "Political Mud Pit" which was a no-holds-barred forum for wide-open political debate and mud slinging. At first, it was
an engaging concept, but eventually the rancor grew horrible, and it spilled over into other threads and forums. Even though we tried to contain the
mud-slinging in one forum, it ended up setting an intolerable tone across all forums. We cut out the cancer by killing the forum and strictly
enforcing a political trolling rule. We didn't kill political discussion, but we severely penalized partisan sniping... and things quickly
improved... and the more intense political trolls moved to other sites. The drug-related topics are somewhat different, but this illustrates how one
forum or one type of topic can cause spill-over into the board at large.
I'd prefer to be able to discuss conspiracies, cover-ups, and ill-conceived government policies as it relates to drugs. I'd also prefer to be able
to discuss how some currently illicit bit inexpensive drugs are being vilified by big pharma with government support. But it has become impossible to
do so without our staff being overwhelmed with whacking stoner moles at the detriment of being able to devote appropriate time to other topics.
Google Brings Fifty to Seventy New Members Every Day:
Here is our ultimate problem. No matter how hard we work right now to solve topical or tonality problems in the forums, we encounter a relatively high
pace of new members every day. The majority of new members discover ATS via search, become enthralled with one or more topics, and choose to join in
the hope of participating. If we discover a solution to supporting discussion of drug-related topics in the coming weeks or months, we also need to
ensure that solution applies to new members as they encounter those topics on ATS. The cycle is vicious and well-known to our staff, and here is a
relevant sequence of events as an example...
-1- user finds ATS drug topic
-2- user joins and becomes a member
-3- new member posts about personal use of drugs
-4- staff takes action
-5- new member gets pissed, claims we suppress freedom of speech
-6- staff takes more action
-7- new member gets more pissed
-8- new member is banned
-9- new member creates more accounts to complain and disrupt
Any solution that re-introduces drug-related topics to ATS must also address this problem, or we're right back to where we are now -- one topic
resulting in issues that occupy an inordinate percentage of our staff's time.
So there you have it... a more detailed and candid look at our problem.
We (ATS) solved how to have a very large discussion venue with a relatively small amount of the flaming and gratuitous sniping seen nearly everywhere
else. As difficult as that was to make happen, I believe this -- supporting serious discussion of drug-related issues while discouraging the stoner
moths -- will be much, much harder.
I now leave this in the hands of our members who are concerned about finding a way to support these topics. Select someone to organize the effort of
picking no more than six total members (five plus the leader) to participate in the D.I.S.C. brainstorming.