Right now we have a skeleton crew of forum moderators helping out – we are looking to expand that team to make sure things continue to run smoothly here. We’d especially appreciate members of marginalized communities to help bring better perspective and more representation to this space, and to make the voices of PoC, disabled or non-cishet people heard clearer. Going forward we’re asking that moderators (and other volunteers) serve at most one year, to keep people from getting burned out and reduce exploitation.
3 posts were merged into an existing topic: Moderation Team Volunteer Request & Response to Requests for More Information
The same sentiment was expressed in a private message by another board user so I guess I’ll reuse what I wrote there and expand on my thoughts here.
I suspect that no official statement about this event would be satisfactory. To put it bluntly: our curiosity would remain unsatiated. It would be great to have someone Gauntlet-adjacent to thank people stepping down for their contribution, acknowledging that database was handed over and forum can keep on living. But these things are hard to get right so I’m not surprised this ball got dropped. On the other hand we’ve got clear, public indication that roles will rotate in the future, minimizing burden of moderation which is helpful.
In general people who volunteer should understand that this is mostly a thankless community service. It’s a burden, not a badge of honor and if this is understood by a volunteer, I don’t think they need an official statement on what happened. I haven’t been around for long but my sense is that there were (and perhaps still are) tensions around who are the toxic community members, how to deal with toxicity and make this space safe for everyone. This is super hard to get right and it’s not the only tough problem that staff has to work on every day. Tensions will emerge, sides will be taken, etc. Would official statement on what happened make this go away? Not really.
For all I know it’s another miscommunication that led to a drama[*]. I’ve run a few dozen online communities, from small ones (~30 active users) to large ones (10k+) and what happened here isn’t uncommon. So my reaction is mostly shrug and move on. And since I’ve been on both sides of events like this one I feel like having people around entitled to knowing what happened is unhelpful. So I don’t ask. I make a mental note about what happened and try not to cause any further harm.
My very limited understanding of the situation is that @jasoncordova is footing the bill for the forum despite the fact that his primary method of communication with broader Gauntlet/Trophy/Codex community is Discord. @SabineV5 is primarily responsible for day to day maintenance of this community. And it looks like this board can become whatever we want as long as it doesn’t contradict the mission statement and inclusivity policy. In other words: we’re getting a space to talk about stuff for free.
But nothing is really free since board needs to be maintained and moderated and this part is typically handled by volunteers. Some of them got burned out and decided to leave. In my ~20 years maintaining communities I’ve seen very few events that were more, uhm, transparent(?) and many that weren’t even nearly as civil as the event that happened on this board.
At the end of the day I don’t think it’s our right to know exactly what happened. Behind the scenes of community management (even if it’s a small community) are complicated and when things spill out to the broader community it’s rather hard to summarize months of inter- and intra-personal tensions for the general consumption without hurting people who were involved. Are you absolutely sure people who stepped down want their stories told? I’m not.
So, tl;dr, yes, it would be nice to have an official statement but it doesn’t change what moderation is about nor does it change the need for moderators on this board. That’s why I think that explanation is orthogonal to @Robert’s request for volunteers.
[*] just wanted to acknowledge that this statement sounds condescending, as if people involved were overreacting or whatever; this is not my point, however, and I hope it’s clear further down the message
Just chiming in to say that the Forums were (and I believe still are) very independent of the main Gauntlet organization (podcasts, publishing, etc.). I pay the bill out of pocket as the forums are not technically part of our Patreon budget, but since money is fungible, that’s pretty close to a moot point. Despite the fact I pay for the Forums, I have quite literally zero input in how they are managed. Even before I stepped down from the community side of The Gauntlet, the Forums were set up with independence in mind. We needed a public place for folks to go after the closure of G+, and we were determined to let the Forums grow naturally, without much input or guidance from the publishing/podcasting side of things.
I don’t personally know why Shane and the other moderators stepped down as I haven’t been part of those discussions. As you noted, this isn’t where I communicate with folks from day to day (I prefer Twitter and Discord). But I’m glad the Forums are here. They seem like a good space. The moderation was always really solid before, as best I can tell, and hopefully that will continue,
I’ll amend my reply slightly: publishing/podcasting insisted on the Announcements section. That wasn’t originally part of Shane’s plan. But that’s the last thing I remember The Gauntlet “mothership” asking for. We were otherwise very, very hands off.
this is literally all I wanted to know. I respect the rights of all involved to not justify their actions as it seems like a personal matter, but IMO all we wanted to know was some context of the drama. In the state it had been previously communicated, it was impossible to even grasp what had happened. Did someone have a family emergency? Did someone assault another forum member? Some other toxic behavior? Just retirement that led to a poor pass off?
I am truly not trying to pry, but to give a voice (at least as I interpret it) to the requests for transparency, we just wanted some context. I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I first saw the announcement my mind was bouncing around with things like ah geez, did someone turn out to be a neo-nazi? Did someone sexually assault someone else?. By no means am I implying anything about any community member, but in the current online environment when something like this situation happens it’s easy to jump to very dangerous conclusions, especially with no reassurance from organizers. Being left in the dark certainly left me with mixed feelings of guilt/self-consciousness about whether I should continue to use the forum.
I think that’s totally fair. I will say, having done community management for a long time (although, blessedly, not anymore) it’s a SUPER thankless job. Thankless and stressful. I have to imagine the team is just figuring out the best way to move forward that doesn’t create a ton of hassle or more drama (assuming it was drama that lead to this). And, in that regard, I don’t blame them for wanting to keep a lid on things until they figure out the best way forward. I’d rather they take that deliberate approach. In the meantime, the Forums are here and functioning ok, and that’s my primary concern as a user.
I’m pretty sure that much more would spill over to the public if it were this bad.
This was 100% my reaction as well, tempered by what @dominik said (that if it really was that bad it probably would have come out somehow, the ex-mods wouldn’t have been so civil, etc)
Besides all that:
- What would qualify a potential mod?
- What does the workload look like?
- How is the workload going to be distributed or how many mods are being searched for?
I am sorry for maybe asking naive questions, but I was member of many communities but never confronted with the task of moderating one.
And perhaps there are others besides me, who don’t have a clue what it means to be a moderator.
Hearing it is time consuming is abstract, but uttering concrete expectations would help, I think
"The Management of The Gauntlet has made some decisions recently that make it impossible for the Admins of the Forums to continue their (unpaid) work for them in all good conscience. "
I’m sorry but that statement from Shane’s The Future of the Forums document kind of sticks out, and if someone were interested in becoming a new moderator, they might want to do a little due diligence first…
IMO moderating ttrpg forum is much harder than moderating any other type of forum. There’s a number of reasons why.
- Typical online community is 90% consumers and 10% producers. This is rarely the case with ttrpg forums since above average number of people are creative (i.e. producers). This means that majority of people will be vocal, productive and communicative.
- Bad actors are harder to spot among the productive and communicative members of the community since a number of techniques (DARVO, etc.) can be effectively used by them.
- It looks like ttrpg communities are above average aware. What I’m trying to say is that in creative communities fewer people have doubts when it comes to inclusivity, safe spaces and basically being a decent human beings. There’s a consciousness gap between communities, and ttrpg ones seem to be at the forefront of change.
- If you’re leading in inclusivity you’re bound to attract people who are beyond your current threshold. They may very well be right but you’ll end up having internal friction that has to be dealt with.
So on top of typical problems (how do you promote your community? how do you animate members of your community? how do you reward/penalize behavior?) you’ve got a number of unique issues to deal with.
Recently I’ve spent around 50h reading discussions about ttrpg creators who turned out to be scums (assaulting other people, having supremely toxic outlook on minorities, etc.) This is rarely an issue in other communities. Not because people outside of ttrpg are better (or worse) but because awareness is simply not there yet. I mean, just look at @Radmad’s comment: his gut reaction was either someone turned out to be nazi or assaulted someone else. This is not a typical level of awareness in our society.
Moderating ttrpg community is hard and stressful. @Thomas_Junk asked what qualities are required and I guess the answer to any and all particulars is “yes”. Should I be… YES. What about… yes. Am I expected to… YES.
Do you have what it takes to be at the forefront of change?
Regarding what happened, it’s ironic that Jason “doesn’t know” what caused people to step down, because it’s him. Nothing about that has been secret. (And before someone jumps in to shut this down, part of acting with integrity, being a good citizen, and maintaining a safe space is not helping cover for bad actors.)
I was an active, vocal member of the community for the last couple years. You might’ve seen me here crowdsourcing previous Miscellanies. I’ve seen a lot of people put a lot of effort into making the Gauntlet a welcoming, inclusive space, and I’ve seen Jason abuse his position in it at every turn.
I’ve got nothing to gain by going over particulars here, and most of them aren’t my stories to tell. It hasn’t been visible here, but there have been months of talk on the Gauntlet Slack about restorative work to address the complaints of how Jason has abused his power and position, violated community standards, attempted to weaponize the community against people with criticism, lied about it at every turn, and hurt Gauntleteers who had no recourse but to leave since Jason could, and did, opt out of accountability. (He’s fond of insisting that any criticism of him is based on one or two incidents, but that’s a convenient fiction. These are longstanding patterns.)
The Gauntlet Community Care team’s last statement before I left made it clear that the real aim of that work was to restore Jason to his previous standing, not to address any of the damage he did. Or more accurately, to wait for everyone with grievances to leave so things can go back to status quo. In reaction to both this and earlier problems, there’s been an exodus of (primarily marginalized) people from the semi-private spaces and leadership of the Gauntlet, and that finally started showing here.
There are–to the best of my knowledge–still people I like and enjoy playing with in the Gauntlet, but I’m tired of watching Jason DARVO his way out of the hurt he causes and of watching people who should know better cover for him.
I stand with @transalaskan and the others who left the Gauntlet over this.
I’ll take the charitable view that you didn’t mean it this way, but what you’re asking for, @dominik, is in effect erasure of the events that happened.
You have to remember history so as not to repeat it. To be a positive agent of change, you acknowledge and respond to what has happened, then propose positive measures to prevent recurrence and improve things.
That has not happened to my knowledge.
I can’t acknowledge something I have no knowledge of. Behaviors as described are worrisome, there’s no ifs or buts about it, whether they are DARVO or just plain being a d*ck. The thing I know for a fact is that I brought up the topic of forum becoming read only with a sticky note over at Discord. Jason seemed unaware of this and IIRC stated that Sabine is the one to react but he’s unavailable for the next few hours. In addition to that I’ve seen posts months old from 2 or 3 users expressing disinterest in participating due to somebody’s past toxic behavior (and I haven’t read forum cover to cover so there very well may be more; no specific person was named as far as I was able to tell*).
I can then believe both accounts of Jason’s shitty behavior in the past and that that he’s genuinely hands off today. I can also easily accept that people left forums because of him but I can’t extrapolate that to the recent events because, as stated in the first sentence, I don’t know. And I’m genuinely concerned when people demand answers. I assume that people who were hurt may not want to tell their stories and I respect that. I’ve followed tons of online threads about harassment in ttrpg community and elsewhere and people saying that things were obviously about something are very often wrong.
But you guys may very well have some additional knowledge about recent events that I don’t. What should I do with this possibility? I mean, am I curious? Sure, everyone is, I suppose. But asking is a privileged stance I’m not willing to entertain. What I can do on the other hand is observe what’s going on here paying extra attention to people called out (especially Jason) and speak up in an event of abuse then part ways with forums. I genuinely don’t know what else is there for bystanders to do.
* but I did a quick check of registered users against my list of well known bad actors and cross checked top posters against their twitter (when available) to see the type of content present; I did not find anything beyond one annoying and one sealioning person
Everyone is so quiet, like they’re okay with it. I’m not, and if y’all aren’t going to say something, I’m going to. This is my duty to the Gauntlet I was a vocal and dues-paying member of the Gauntlet for nigh on two years. When I say vocal I mean it, I loved what it was as a space and didn’t hesitate to invite other people into it. I was so active in recruiting people that I met into the Gauntlet spaces, and so proud of the space I held there. I met some wonderful people in the corner that was ASPAC, and I love so many of them. This October, I met a handful of the best at Big Bad Con, and solidified a lot of these very real and very important relationships. Within this space I found the support to live as the non-binary person that I am. This place meant a lot to me, and while it obviously still does (enough that I wrote this), the last six months have meant that my feelings toward the Gauntlet are less celebrating what it is, and more mourning the loss of what it was.
I left the Gauntlet proper a few months ago. I left because someone who I believed to be one the beating hearts of the Gauntlet was kicked out, and it was framed firstly as an action of the marginalised reclaiming their space against the white cishets, and secondly as a mutual agreement between friends. Both were lies to cover up violations of community policy by Jason (and not for the first time), and so my trust was broken. I wanted to stay but couldn’t, because I didn’t believe in the Gauntlet’s ability to enforce its own policies. Since then, I’ve taken every opportunity to look for a way to come back, even lurking on these foruns. I have so missed the community, missed the love, the care, the warm open arms, and the self-indulgent RPG bullshit that we were so damn good at. I’ve missed having designers to playtest with, I’ve missed seeing people offer each other stars and dreams, I’ve missed you all. But in all these months I’ve found no reason to trust that it could ever be any different.
The Gauntlet is inherently intangible. The majority of the community exists on the Slack, and that slack is remarkably temporary. Besides the paywall, the message limit of Slack eats everything. Pictures of friends, well considered game ideas, and (importantly) the hurt that people have experienced. This leads to a “hold off on dealing with complaints until they get eaten by time, then just pretend everything was solved”. I’ve seen it again and again from the inside and out. Over the last few months, while I have looked for every excuse for you to prove my fears wrong, the Gauntlet has constantly reinforced that it intends to let everything blow over and then return to the status quo. Jason has pushed at boundaries without any remorse or restoration, including just creating Gauntlet Con games, publishing blog posts (which was one of the main avenues of abuse), or creating new spaces where he is not accountable. The leadership team has allowed this by confining all discussion to the slack, or locking Shane’s post and saying “we’ll talk about this later” (I mean, seriously?!?), The Gauntlet has continually shown me reasons to continue my distrust.
One of the biggest symbols that the Gauntlet was a caring place of safety, where voices were heard, was the large amount of marginalised people. The sexual- and gender-diverse, the people of colour, the chronically ill, those outside of the US. The Gauntlet really opened up its arms and (via the diversity buddies) its wallets to the people often neglected. But when I look at who is leaving the Gauntlet, and especially who is stepping down from leadership positions, I overwhelmingly am seeing an exodus of these marginalised people. There are some who have remained, and I’m proud of their desire to reform what once was. I’m proud of their resilience. I wish I had it.
But look at where power rests, look at who is being listened to, and look at who is driving the tempo of “reconciliation” (or more accurately, “business as usual”). Ask yourself: Is it being driven by those hurt, or by those in power who did the hurting?
The “wait and see,” “locked until we have time to have this discussion,’’ element of both Jason and the Gauntlet’s resolution process is a lie. It’s designed to wait for hurt to blow over so that they can get back to doing what pays without having to change their business. The Gauntlet is incredibly driven by Gauntlet Publishing these days, and right now the leadership of both has more investment in pretending that there is no issue than being true to their community. Don’t forget that the current leaders of the Gauntlet proper are the person that gets all the money, and the main recipient(s) of that money. There is a lot more investment in making sure you stay quiet and pay, than you stay happy and safe.
It is likely that this discussion will be locked or edited or reduced in some way. Robert says the moderators can’t handle this discussion right now, which should cause you to ask “how fractured is the leadership team that they can’t moderate one of the most reasonable forums on the face of the internet?” Robert’s actions in locking Shane’s thread when there were still many questions and dissenting opinions was a perfect 10 on the Gauntlet checkbox of conflict resolution: Deny there’s a problem, and if there is, just delay until no one asks about it any more.
Well, I’m done with delaying. This is my public apology to everyone Jason and the Gauntlet hurt while I was a part of it. I mourn for the loss of the Gauntlet of a year or two ago, and I mourn for the loss of the values it held dear.
To everyone in it who worry (as I did) that leaving the Gauntlet means you’re leaving the only safe loving RPG place on the internet: No. There are plenty. Part of the Gauntlet’s plan to invest you in the space was an “us vs them” attitude, where everyone in the Slack was wonderful and caring, and everyone outside was toxic and jealous, looking for a way to bring us down (“Social media hellscape”, “homophobic RPG industry”). That isn’t true in the slightest: I am filling a beautiful Venn diagram with wonderful people, and I’m not supporting any abuse to do it. Again I know that some of you will stay, to help fix the Gauntlet and make it a great space again. I sincerely wish you good luck in leaving or staying, both of those endeavours are worthy of you.
@dominik, if asking is a privileged stance you’re not willing to entertain, don’t sweat. You don’t need to ask
@transalaskan is telling you, without asking, and so am I. If you’re not willing to do anything about it, fine, but don’t pretend it’s because you didn’t know. As my boy B.I.G. once said “and if you don’t know, now you know”.
I appreciate the willingness to open up by folks. I don’t have any knowledge in any direction about any of the allegations, but in my experience it takes quite a bit to expose your own vulnerabilities in this way, so thank you for doing so.
It is my hope that Gauntlet administration does the right thing and fixes whatever policy or implementation issues might exist.
So… the plan after locking Shane’s post was to quickly put together a post trying to explain what happened with Shane and with everything in general, get the mods on board, and then have that discussion. Obviously, that didn’t happen, let alone quickly! That’s on me for not pushing as hard as I could or should have to get that done. Any delay in that process is because this simply isn’t my top priority and I didn’t work as hard on it as I should have, not because I’m hoping everyone will just forget.
I can assure you that I won’t personally be locking or editing this discussion in any way. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have locked Shane’s post and just let that discussion happen then, so I apologize for that.
I’m very much trying to not engage here, but I will say this:
I stepped down from the community side of The Gauntlet in July. There were several reasons for that, but one of them was that it was becoming far too stressful for me to deal with and I did not like the person it was turning me into. I’ve been very open about that.
I have not been involved in the community side of The Gauntlet since then. I pay Lowell a salary to manage Gauntlet Hangouts and the Slack. I have very, very little idea what is going on with the community side of The Gauntlet because I have stepped away from it. So, no, I did not have a very clear idea why Shane stepped down and I have only been in communication with Lowell and Robert Angus to get the billing sorted out.
I am still the owner of The Gauntlet. I still run the publishing side of things. That was always going to be the case, and I said as much when I stepped down from the community side of things.
Something far fewer people know about is that I have a cancer that could very well kill me inside of a year (if I’m lucky—8 or 9 months is more likely). Lowell and a handful of other people in The Gauntlet have known that since August. I requested that they not discuss it publicly because, frankly, i didn’t feel like it was anyone’s business. To the extent anyone feels like Lowell has been protecting me, that is much more likely the reason why.
I am in the process of figuring out a transition for the publishing side of The Gauntlet. It’s a complicated thing involving lots of taxes and business considerations. That takes time, and you know what? It’s not really anyone else’s business how it shakes out. (As a side note, the idea that I’m sitting atop The Gauntlet collecting fat paychecks is laughable as hell. The Gauntlet has only ever paupered me, since nearly every dollar we bring in gets spent on something else, and all the things that don’t get covered by Patreon come out of my pocket.)
@transalaskan @SidneyIcarus @Christo and anyone else here who wants to come for me or have an issue with me or whatever: just let me die in peace. You all know about my condition (Christo does at the very least, and I assume he told the rest of you). No matter what else you may think of me, your behavior is starting to feel really cruel. Let Lowell do his job and leave me the hell out of it. I have way too many stressors on my plate right now.
Oh, and Gauntlet Con? My participation was cleared by Richard Ruane, who was organizing it. I didn’t just randomly sign up to run games. The only reason I wanted to do it is because I knew it was probably the last chance I was going to have to hang out with the community I built, to reconnect with some folks I hadn’t spoken to since the summer, and to just generally say goodbye to The Gauntlet. It was basically a dying wish. But some of the people in this thread freaked out about it and made a big deal of it, and so I voluntarily backed off because I didn’t want to be a distraction or ruin anyone else’s good time.
If you can find someone else who has the self-awareness to voluntarily step away from the community they spent YEARS and countless hours building—with almost no compensation to speak of—because it was the right thing to do, please let me know. Or who can say “You know what? I don’t want people to not have fun at Gauntlet Con on account of me, so I’m going to withdraw.”
You can all sit here and act like I’m some kind of villain or that I’m jealously hoarding money or that I’m somehow inviting harm onto people or whatever, but I know what’s true. And that’s all I have to say about any of this.