Web Paint-by-Number Forum
Topic #1026: Discussion about site guidelines
By Valerie Mates (valerie)

#1: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Feb 6, 2020

There is a discussion in the WebPBN forum on Facebook about a puzzle that may or may not have been racist. It has broadened into a wider discussion of what's okay to post on this site. Some questions being raised are: Should the site be family-friendly? Are politics an okay topic? Should we have rules for what's okay to post? If we do, what happens when a posting violates those rules?

The Facebook thread is here. You are welcome to join in on it:

Since not everybody is on Facebook, I'll copy my most recent posting here:

Sanane has left the site. I am sorry to see anybody feel unwelcome there. Though it's complicated, because his postings were sometimes making other people feel unwelcome.

Some thoughts on the discussions on Facebook and on WebPBN:

1) It makes me cringe to see name-calling, for example "snowflake" to belittle people's concerns.

2) There are people with a very wide spectrum of political views on the site. I would like the site to continue to be welcoming to everyone on all parts of the political spectrum, whether or not I agree with their views.

3) It's a puzzle site, not a political site, so one easy solution could be to ask people to stick to non-political topics. But that's complicated, because the puzzles often depict what people are thinking about, and world news looms large in many of our lives. I don't think we necessarily would want a blanket ban on so many topics.

4) There's still the open question of whether the site should be family-friendly. I lean toward yes, because I would like the site to be a safe place for the occasional kid who participates.

5) Puzzles with stereotyping make me cringe. With more than 30,000 other puzzles on the site, do we need to keep the ones that make some people uncomfortable? Should those puzzles be deleted, or renamed, or left standing? If they are deleted, is this a slippery slope that could lead to deleting lots of other puzzles, or can it be kept limited in scope?

6) I don't like the idea of banning any topics (other than clearcut ones such as hate speech, pornography, etc.). So maybe it would make sense to make guidelines for the site (that people can choose to not follow) rather than hard-and-fast rules? Or is it fairer to everybody to have solid rules?

7) I'd like the site to continue to be mostly self-administering, so that I have the option to disappear for months at a time and only respond to the occasional message about the site while I'm away doing something else. Maybe this means having as few rules as possible?

8) Is a thread on Facebook an inclusive enough forum? It's hard to raise a topic in the website's discussion forum and have people see it, but not everybody is on Facebook, and I don't want to leave out people who would want to be included in the discussion.

I would appreciate people's thoughts. I would much prefer to have a discussion that comes to a community consensus, not just my own ideas.
#2: Kristen Coolman (kristen) on Feb 6, 2020
One solution that's worked fairly well in the past it to add warnings in the title, like Adult, or Political, or May Be Offensive. That way, folks could choose to skip a triggering puzzle, or at least go in forewarned.
#3: Norma Dee (norm0908) on Feb 6, 2020
I think it is Conceptis that reviews each puzzle before they allow it to be published. I don't think we should go that far. But if we are to be family friendly we should be careful what we post. Quite a few people have proudly posted their children's puzzles and that is a good thing. I love to see their efforts. But as we all know, children are curious and may open postings just to see why there is a warning. But parents differ widely in what they believe is OK for their children and what is not. With some schools teaching sex education and other controversial subjects to their youngest students it makes it difficult to draw lines.

At my age, which is pretty damn old, I would be considered by most to be a bit prudish. With social media sites available to everyone where they can vent their feelings and opinions I would like to see this site to be a peaceful place to be.
#4: Aurelian Ginkgo (AurelianGinkgo) on Feb 6, 2020
It is a tough call. Speaking for myself only, I have a very strict conscience, but when I don't like something or it is offensive to me, I usually keep it to myself and move on with my life. I rarely say anything, unless I feel it is important to speak up, and I attempt to be tactful mostly. More often, though, I don't say anything and just avoid the puzzle and discussions about it. If there are puzzle makers who usually post things that I don't like, I'll avoid their puzzles.

Since you are in an administrative position, however, Valerie, I see why it is a larger concern for you. The vast majority of puzzles on here are fine because the vast majority of puzzle makers and commenters are mature people who care about others and their feelings. Of course, there are always those few exceptions, and that is what we are talking about, isn't it? I like the idea of guidelines, but those who follow them are going to be the ones who would have anyway.

But rules are burdensome. Keeping track of all the do's and don'ts is a real drag, and I'm sure it will be worse for the administrators. What if we were to guage it by obviously offensive only? Remove puzzles that are deliberately offensive, like the one a while ago that said, "U R GAY". It was inarguably intended to be insulting to every solver, and had no place here. It was posted by a crass troll who just wanted to rile us up.

Still other puzzle makers and commenters may share their opinion which could be offensive to some or many, but they are entitled to it. These are the ones, I feel, should be informed that there are better ways to express themselves, but after that, I don't know. Hopefully they adjust their puzzle or comment themselves.
#5: Brian Bellis (mootpoint) on Feb 7, 2020
I would fall in the camp of less censorship. Someone occasionally being offended is the price we pay for living in society that values free speech.

Having said that, I think we should delete puzzles or comments that are clearly hate speech. We should not put up with someone advocating the use of violence toward another person or group.

For lesser offensiveness, perhaps we could take a gentler approach. "Although I believe you have the right to say ___, perhaps this is not the appropriate venue since many of our children enjoy this site"
#6: Byrdie (byrdie) on Feb 8, 2020
Thank you for repeating this discussion here as I am not on Facebook and likely never will be.

I've thought about this a bit and will simplify my answer to - I think the discussion a "questionable" puzzle provokes is far more valuable than trying to protect the sensibilities of the individual(s) that may find it offensive. I think the moderator and/or site administrator should retain the right to perhaps modify a puzzle title with some sort of flag but I've always liked the policy I thought Jan had of letting things stand.
#7: Norma Dee (norm0908) on Feb 8, 2020
I, of course, have absolutely no idea if it would be possible, but after hiding a post on Facebook I thought how nice it would be to be able to hide a puzzle and it's comments if we found it offensive. The puzzle would only disappear from my site, but still be available to others.
#8: Teresa K (fasstar) on Feb 13, 2020
Thank you, Valerie, for posting here. I almost never go to FB anymore.

Valerie, I know Jan created this site for YOU, and he probably never intended for it to become a huge task to be supervised constantly. Most of us are adults with maturity and functioning consciences and decent moral standards. And there are those that come along that need to be monitored and admonished, if necessary.

I think that as the owner and administrator, you should set the guidelines according to your own good judgment, and not try to please all of us with our varied opinions. Sometimes it's hard to come up with guidelines that will apply to all puzzle/comment situations, so just make an executive decision as the need arises for each situation.

You may (or may not) know that Jan had about three of us regulars report problems to him via email, which was helpful to him during times he was not regularly monitoring the site. You may want to try that idea so you don't have to be babysitting the few who seem to need it.

Valerie, thank you for the grace and generosity you show in allowing us to continue to play here.
#9: Aurelian Ginkgo (AurelianGinkgo) on Feb 13, 2020
Well said, TK.
#10: David Bouldin (dbouldin) on Apr 23, 2020
comments 2, 4, 5, 6 & 8 speak for me as well
#11: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Jun 30, 2020
Re #8: Just to clarify: As far as I know, I don't think Jan created this site for me, personally. It *was* me who originally first showed him Paint-By-Numbers logic puzzles -- but then he took it from there and ran with it. :)
#12: Norma Dee (norm0908) on Jun 30, 2020
Then we have both of you to thank, Valerie. You for planting the seed, and Jan for letting it grow. We thank you!
#13: David Bouldin (dbouldin) on Jul 1, 2020
I might have to do a little digging because I, like Teresa, remember Jan saying something to that effect. Side note, I really miss Jan and get a sinking feeling sometimes when I think of him. We only talked on the phone once, but interacted on here regularly. I have nothing but respect for that man.

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