Lately, fellow author Aaron Dembski-Bowden has been blogging about the time-consuming dangers of posting on forums. Today I ran foul of a different kind of forum danger: moderator infraction. I had been posting on a forum, talking to some nice people about shared interests and shooting the interweb breeze. It is fair to say that the forum was not dedicated to my publisher Black Library or associated with their products. Wherever I post, like many people, I include a signature below my comments. This tends to be my blog address. I opened my email today to find that I had communication from the forum moderator, informing me that they had removed my signature from a post I had made. Okay, I thought. There was nothing explicitly about that in the conditions, but if they felt it was necessary. Chalk that up to a warning. Won’t do that again. But wait - I opened my next email to find that I had been issued with an ‘Infraction’ and had lost a ‘point’. This sounded serious. I didn’t know I had a point: and now I had gone and lost it. It seems that because I had posted more than once in a day and my blog address was displayed on that post also, I had to be punished. Presumably as an example to other disobedient posters. Perhaps the moderators are afraid of some kind of uprising. I daren’t go back. I can’t remember how many posts I made on that day and therefore how many cumulative infractions I have racked up (before I knew they were infractions). I fear being seized as soon as I try to cross the border. It only takes a mouse-click, you know. The second email informed me in no uncertain terms that I had committed the cardinal sin of ‘Unsolicited Advertising’ when I included my blog address in my post signature – the forum equivalent of kerb crawling or indecent exposure.
This is all a great pity. I had been talking to some nice and interesting people. Perhaps they had been making extra efforts to be nice because they were being forum-policed so stringently - I will never know. I'm just glad I made it out alive. I’ve said before on here that I’m not a fan of unnecessary rules and prescription and this is another example. The internet is about communication. Without people writing on their sites, internet forums would be empty. What is the point in getting people together in one place if you are not going to allow communication? There are many nice people on forums and running forums and I’m interested in talking to them, but these rules are just silly. They might have a place on Panfu or Club Penguin but they are ridiculous as part of internet forums where grown men and women from all over the world exchange views and ideas.
I have some advice for my friend Aaron, with whom I share some sympathy. Your problem is solved. Danger-averted. Add your blog address as your post signature and your access to internet forums will automatically be restricted!