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Forum Courtesy: An Important and Timely Discussion

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Since I first started looking in on the Scouter.Com forums a year or two ago, I was struck by the harshness of the tone. Indeed, many threads often degenerated into such slamfests, and many novice scouters trying to do their best were often lambasted very early on, certainly well before anyone has imagined being in their shoes. This has caused me to leave the forums twice, each time to be invited back by members who for some odd reason missed me.


I think we need to have a discussion about courtesy, and perhaps a group consensus to present to Scouter Terry and an updated moderator team.


Sharing ideas and how we do things differently in our various units, giving folks ideas in response to problems they're finding or new opportunities that arise are what we're all about. Since my most recent return, I've done my best to ask people at the start of each thread to begin by telling us how they handle it in their unit, and how that works for them. I've been grateful for those who have responded in that spirit and I have learned a fair bit.


Where I think many threads start to go awry is when folks launch into harsh judgments of fellow scouters. Most of us have slipped occasionally, including me. Sometimes the forum with lack of verbal and nonverbal cues just "sounds" harsher than what was intended. The penchant for using isolated sentences from guidebooks as a truculent critique is one form of this, but there are others. I think sharing personal experience and techniques works better, and tends to diffuse this tendency.


What I really find distasteful and over the line are postings which attack people, rather than debate arguments. The following was an example which was directed at me, but it is by no means the only example out there.


I understand I am way too rigid for you but we will both have to live with that. You talk about not placing blame, but to my way of reading this post, you appear to want to place blame and place it on FCFY. You talk about respecting the fine volunteers of the program, but then talk how these leaders may not have taught the skills well enough. Going off the BSA program is fine for you as long as the person going off the program is pure of heart while those of us who follow the program could never have a pure heart and are thoughtless automatons. Fine, have it your way, you will spin this as you will. I wont try to rebutt anymore of your posts save when you say something patently wrong and I have the reference to back it up. I know you hate that but again, we will both have to live with it.


It just wouldn't work for any of us if this was said around a real campfire, would it?


So my proposal to all of us friends and fellow scouters is this:


1) That in discussing techniques, we begin by talking from our experience, so that others understand where we're coming from. "Here's our way of doing it, and how it works for us." It's fine to incorporate guidebook and regulation into that, but by presenting examples we understand better how each person interprets the rules to match the values and style of their unit - or simply to resolve the inevitable ambiguity in the guidebooks. For beginners reading, it helps to "see", rather than just be "told".


2) Whenever one of us runs afield and starts attacking a person, rather than responding to an argument, Scouter Terry and the moderator team gives them a week's vacation. Personal stuff can often be identified by a lot of "you" language, like the posting above. I think it's fine for there to be some "hot" discussions about issues and techniques, so long as they don't become personal.


3) I'm not quite sure what to do with comments like


Bluntly, if the idea was thunk up by BSA and submitted as a good approach in the BSA provided book, it can't be nothin but no good. Homebrewed new-wheel inventions are far better. If you don't believe it, ask the inventor.


and am open for suggestions. This doesn't have any "you dirty scoundrel" language, and I suppose can be read as a humorous, chiding comment said with an "aw shucks" grin, eh? At the same time, I suspect the intent was more barbing than chiding.


4) I'm also not sure what to do with comments like


Da risk of FCFY is pencil-whippin' things to move 'em along. No retestin' or requirement addin', etc. etc., especially if that means takin' extra time to be sure the scout understands. I hope it didn't happen in this case


where there's criticism of the risks/possible negative effects of program elements that might come off as harsh.



I really believe that a touch more helpfulness and civility would be more welcoming to new posters, and more pleasant for all of our fellow scouters gathered around this virtual campfire.




Beavah(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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I think we're all guilty at times. WE includes ME!!!


- We post without re-reading our messages, to make sure we say what we want to say.

- We consign some folks to the dustbin, for any number of reasons.

- We don't use this forum (issues and poltics) to blow off steam.

- We let the other guy rile us, and an ad hominem attack comes out of our mouth.


There's a rule set I use at a different forum, where I'm a mod:

- Remember and apply the Golden Rule.

- Debate the position, don't attack the poster.

- If you don't want to see your post on the editorial page of the New York Times, then don't hit the "send" button.


The BFO rules for the forums (except Issues and Politics) should be:

- Think a moment about the Scout Law before hitting "submit your message."

- Remember why you're on this board.


My thoughts.




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I would agree that common courtesy and manners are less common these days - especially on an anonymous internet. I believe the most recent Scouter magazine had an article about manners and how they are learned. If we practice them with each other, we are more likely to practice them with the boys.


SCREAMING AT PEOPLE never convinces them, it just makes them defensive.


Just my opinion.

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It seems to me that this pops up every few months.

As a group I think after a while we get a feel for what someone is going to say /post.

I tend to ramble on -A lot!!

FScouter will quote from the good books!

OGE in my opinion seems to impart words of wisdom, which most of the time I tend to agree with.

I know some people don't like the "Quotes from the good books". I do and think it's useful, especially for anyone who might be new to Scouting.

Many of us have pet peeves or things that seem to get us going! I really dislike the "My Troop"

I'm happy to try and ignore some of the forum members! I think we are so far apart that nothing I'll post will develop into any more than "I'm right -Your wrong" type argument.

While I am a moderator and maybe ought not voice an opinion?

I for the most part think the moderator team does a good job.

I know of other Scouting Forums where any posting which doesn't seem to be in line with BSA rules and guidelines results in all sorts of consequences!!

I'll admit that I don't follow every thread. Maybe I should?

At the end of the day in a Scouting forum I'd like to think that the Oath and Law would guide us. But as we all know the Oath and Law is a work in progress and states "Do My Best".


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To be honest, I've quit visiting other Scouting boards.




I don't have time to sift through incivility. I've found reliable info, horse sense, and civility here. That matters.


PM me when you get a moment. It'd be nice to update my prayer list a tad :)

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Just like with "road rage," the anonymity of internet forums may encourage otherwise mild-mannered people to lose some of their inhibitions. We all lose our cool at times, but most people work harder at being civil when they are face-to-face or if they truly KNOW the person. As others have said, all we can do is keep trying to "Do Our Best."


So, is there a name for "internet rage" yet?

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Over the few years that I have posted here, I have flown off the handle on any number of occasions. I also try to apologize when I do and when I have wronged another individual. I find that in life or on the Internet that I will offend. It is my hope that people would first be themselves but then also be ready to back it up with an, I am sorry" when it is obvious that there is a conflict. Forgiveness is the act that is generally not used or practiced in such situations. I suppose it is too much to ask and too difficult to learn. So it must remain another religious mystery.


The Dust-bin strategy is only second to the outright fight and is little more than quiet anger that is sustained. Silence is used as a punisher and can repeatedly be used to pummel one's victim into submission more easily than harsh words. The same rule of forgiveness can be applied with this technique as well but it is easier to make-believe that one is not doing it, since it is an omission. Silence still speaks volumes to those that will listen.


I don't see the kind of fights today that I have witnessed in the past. The large personalities that overwhelmed this forum have been asked to leave. They were given any number of times to repent their transgressions but they generally ignored it or retreated to do it all over again. So much of the time, it was the misuse of authority coupled with one's draping themselves in the flag of Scouting that led to the quaint belief that personal rightness always makes one right, that apologies are the mark of weakness and that separation was the reward for being wrong. This downward spiral into one's own arrogance has to be the shortest route to solve the proof that humanity meets all the criteria for the survival of the fittest.


Scouting and religion tries in vain to point us in a different direction. I suppose death best ends the conflict and mankind is a misnomer. fb








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Considering we have all had different experiences in & out of Scouting, I enjoy the different styles. It gives many different perspectives.


Pet peeves - people who refuse to take ownership, rule thumpers & those who dish it but can't take it.


Ed Mori

1 Peter 4:10

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Some time ago I attended a Council Trustee meeting at which tempers flared over an issue. Some harsh things were said then cooler heads prevailed and we were able to continue in a civil fashion. When the meeting was over, I walked out with our Scout Exec. He was a little rattled and said as much. I said "Yeah things got a little heated, but isn't it great that people care so passionately?"

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All I can say is, "you shoulda seen it two years ago!" I think today's forum is a LOT tamer than it was, and I enjoy it...to the point of being addicted. I honestly try to address the issue, not the person. If I ever fail, I appreciate a gentle reminder. I am a logical person who expects common sense and consistency from the world. I am often disappointed, but I feel obliged to point out the illogic where I find it, under the principle that nothing can be fixed until it is recognized and acknowledged.


It's just a GAME, folks...B-P himself said so...


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Yah, so here's another example of what I'm talkin' about:


After reading your post on courtesy and your request for sanctions against those you find rude I have to wonder about some of your other posts. Why would we report non criminal activity to our SE? Have you watched the recent YP Adult Leader video? While I know following rules is not high on your list how is telling those new forum people you are so worried about to disregard what BSA tells them? The first scenario on the tape discusses a boy that reportedly has bruises and refuses to talk with his leader. The tape suggests that this information be passed along to the SE. You consider yourself better educated and equipped to handle these situations than some professional scouter but do you feel those new forum members are equally educated? You will find this post to be a personal attack because it suits you. I am offended by your telling others that your method of handling a possible YP issue is an acceptable response in direct opposition to what BSA says. Its not your responsibility to investigate. Comes right from the tape. If your going to take positions that are directly contrary to BSA policy please do it in a less condescending manner. Many of us bend or disregard the written rule but don't chastize those who follow the rules.


Note all da personal "you" language. "You consider yourself better educated..." "You will find this post a personal attack because it suits you..." "I know following rules is not high on your list..." etc. etc.


Would it ever be acceptable to say these things out loud in public to someone? Leavin' aside that the comments are pretty far removed from the postings on the thread.


I think this stuff hurts our little community. I wouldn't let a boy go on like this in public to another scout. Don't think it fits with what we stand for.


So I'll return to my two suggestions:


I think examples and sharing personal experiences help diffuse misunderstandings, and might have helped here. When we get abstract about rules and such, people read into things more than what's there, especially if they're wired to distrust rather than trust fellow scouters.


And I think that time-outs can also help people get control of da "submit" button.




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