In response to @Mkoll, I’ll say a few words about moderation, and invite our moderators to input if they like.
When I was first thinking about setting up this forum, I knew that moderation would be key. Discourse was specifically developed as a platform to encourage constructive dialogue, using design features learned from previous generations of forums. But there is only so much that can be done at a technical level. We need to take personal responsibility for what happens under our roof.
For several years I actively ran a blog (maybe I’ll get back to it sometime!) and I learned a lot about trolling there.
The basic lesson, I think, is that you can’t expect to change someone through the internet. There are certain basic principles of civil and rational discourse, such as the ability to distinguish between an idea and a person, the ability to remain polite and civil when disagreeing, and the recognition that our words have a genuine, human impact for which we must take responsibility. To understand these things is an outcome of personal, emotional, and spiritual development. If someone has not learned these things in their life, they will not do so on a forum.
Behind all the angry, stupid, dogmatic things you see on the web, there is suffering. It’s rare, but some people have taken the time, and shown the compassion, to learn more about this. See, for example, this superb article about the 4chan “losers” who support Trump:
This doesn’t mean that such things should be excused, as such people must still be responsible for their own choices. But to be compassionate is to understand and respond to the suffering of others, even those who are blind to the suffering they cause.
There are many people who have not had the chance I’ve had, to learn and develop in Dhamma in the midst of a supportive community. It is in such a community that you learn about the truly Buddhist virtues of kindness, of graciousness, of humility. When you’re wrong, say, “I was wrong”. When conversation is getting heated, leave it aside.
Our idea, beliefs, and attitudes are long-term structures in our minds. We don’t change these because someone thinks of a clever point on the web. We change them because we evolve and grow as people. Rational and kind dialogue plays a part in that, but only a part. Wisdom is able to recognize when differences are not going away, at least for the time being. This is why, as you may have noticed, I typically only post about small, minor matters here as far as the suttas go. These are things that can be actually discussed, even settled, in a meaningful manner, not just drift into endless proliferation.
Probably the hardest cases are what I can the “edgers”: people who know just enough to dance back and forth across the line of what is allowable. They often manage to avoid doing anything that would clearly give you a reason to ban them, but at the same time, they’re not really engaging in discussion in a way that you want to support. Often warnings are given behind the scenes, and a person might behave better for a while, before drifting back into their old habits.
Over time, I have become more prone to think it’s better to simply ban such people. It’s just not worth the effort. This is our home on the web, and if someone doesn’t treat our home with the respect and courtesy that I expect, I wouldn’t invite them back. Using our forum is a privilege, not a right, and users should earn that privilege.
To come more specifically to moderation, I knew that we should have a team of moderators. They must be independent, and make their own policies and decisions, with the support of the team. I wanted to find a team of women, specifically because of the extent of misogynistic abuse on the web. I approached a number of the contributors to the forum, who had impressed me with their care and wisdom, and thankfully some have been able to help out. Currently, @brenna, @kay, and @cara are doing this.
When issues come up, either things that they notice, or things flagged by community members, they will discuss them. @vimala, myself, and sometime @brahmali see and sometimes take part in the discussions, but it is the moderators who make decisions and take action.
The discussions are always careful, kind, and temperate, and I support the actions that they have taken. While you may be aware of some issues, remember that there are other issues that they have successfully dealt with, so you don’t notice them.
Surely we can do better than speech that is merely tolerable! Can we not aspire to speech that is wise, delightful, and loving?
And finally, here, once again, are our guidleines.