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There are topics of discussion that are guaranteed to start arguments, and lead to hurt feelings and frustration even on friendly hobby discussion boards like ours. Rather than allow us to come together to enjoy our mutual hobby, they divide us by politics/creed/philosophy/etc. We've lost members in the past due to these flamewars, and it seems we're on the verge of losing more.


We all recognize that the primary focus of these discussion groups is Marine Aquaria, but clearly we can't be a complete community without discussion outside the boundaries of the hobby. It's good to learn more about each other, discuss random topics that interest us, and generally hang out and have some fun.


Things get complicated when it becomes clear that some people LIKE to argue about inflammatory topics, and see that as a benefit.


Another forum I belong to faced a similar situation a few years ago. There was a subset of members who insisted on participating in heated conversations. The solution on that board was to create a special forum specifically for these controversial discussions. The forum was only accessible by members who had specifically requested access -- those who weren't interested in it didn't see articles, new posting notices, etc. New members wouldn't be scared off by the intense debate. Sanitary.


In addition to the creation of the forum, stricter posting rules were put into place. Anyone who started a topic in the general discussion forums that should have been started in the no-holds-barred forum would get one warning, subsequent troublemaking would result in a 2-week banning. Following a 2-week ban, mis-posting would result in permanent banning. The same rules held true for inflammatory thread hijaaks.


These changes drove a significant positive change in the tone of discussion -- not perfect, but much, much better. The big downside I saw was that it puts more work on the Mods, but it gives them a more straightforward procedure to follow: move controversial threads to the special forum, and more solid rules for disciplining problem posters.


I suggest we do something similar here on the PNWMAS forums. The creation of a by-request-only "Undertow" (or similarly named; Riptide, etc?) forum would give those who enjoy intense discussion a place to fight it out while allowing the rest of the community to continue cordial discussion.

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+1 This sounds like a reasonable thing. I can see how some of the "debates" could easily scare off new people or give them the impression that we are a contentious group.

PS Jon: Ever see my fingers from a lawnmower. Motto: Ya gotta be smarter than a lawnmower.

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