As I said earlier in the thread, thank you for the thoughtful posts in this thread. It's refreshing to see a desire for mature, productive discussion instead of knee-jerk and counterproductive reactions.
First, I want to begin with this: The mods and I all feel like the forum is a substantially better place to spend time now than it was a month ago. Registrations and posts are way up thanks to the tour announcement, of course, but I'm talking about the overall tone and atmosphere in the forum, the level of discussion, the way members are helping and conversing with one another, etc. Disagreements continue to happen, but we see them being done in a much more mature way. So we all say a big THANK YOU to all who've accepted the changes we put in place and worked to make the forum better.
Because things are going so well, we don't see any benefit in bringing the Real World board back. New behaviors and new habits require more than three weeks to become permanent. Bringing back the Real World now seems similar to taking a gambling addict to a casino three weeks after his/her promise to stop gambling.
Am I saying that I don't trust the forum members to be able to handle the return of the Real World? Yes. That's exactly what I'm saying. Here's why:
We put our current rules in place more than three years ago. Since then, we've issued hundreds of warnings, temporary bans, permanent bans, etc., and every improvement we've seen these past three years has been short-lived. Time and time again, the forum has regressed to a place where very few U2 fans want to visit and participate. There's nothing in the forum's recent history that makes me think the members have made a permanent change yet. It's too early. Maybe a year from now we'll feel otherwise. Maybe two years. Who knows? But none of us feels that three weeks is enough time for habits and behavior to change permanently.
By the way, I don't mean to place the blame for the forum's atmosphere solely on your shoulders. We've made mistakes in moderating, too. As some members started to push the limits to see what they could get away with, we didn't act swiftly or strongly enough. We let too many people get away with soiling the atmosphere because they weren't technically breaking any forum rules; they were just breaking the spirit of the rules. We sometimes gave longtime members a break because they'd been around so long; I'm sure some of you reading this right now have been given more than one "final warning." That's why we're pushing back much more strongly now with more warnings and more bans (temporary and permanent). If you got a final warning from us recently, or get one in the future, take my word that we mean it. We're changing our behavior, and we expect forum members to change yours, too. We need a new tone and atmosphere in this forum. We need more of what we've started to see over the past few weeks.
Let me give a couple quotes about the forum from the recent reader survey we did:
"The forum is dominated by people who seem to hate U2 and complain endlessly about everything they do. My favourite albums and songs are constantly slagged off, so it's depressing rather than fun. (It's by far the most negative U2 fan community I've ever seen - I hope the band members don't read it and think it's representative of the fandom as a whole.)"
"Sometimes I don't want to post cause I know I'll get put down."
"It's something I used to enjoy and want to participate in, but I've found that lately the boards - or at least the news and general discussion sections - seem dominated by people who want to talk about their disappointment in the band, and while I'm not saying people shouldn't criticize the band, I just find it a less interesting place to be when those are the dominant voices."
"Forum needs to be more inclusive/better controlled. I visit often but wouldn't dare comment due to some very opinionated individuals!!"
Those are very representative of the feedback about this forum. And they're proof that we need to change things permanently. We feel we've started doing that with the recent rule changes and the loss of the Real World.
This is already super long, so thanks to all who've read through it all. If you don't mind a little more, I'll reply to some of the previous posts.
Edge appearing at a Women’s Right march (which was distinctly partisan) really throws up a challenge for members here who want to respectfully, thoughtfully and intelligently discuss the matter and it is my view that people are caught in a little bit of a grip of fear of doing so in case what they say crosses what is for me a somewhat blurry line.
The rule is this: Talk about U2. Don't talk about politics or other hot-button issues. So if "the matter" you want to talk about is the marches themselves, the messages of the marches, what they're a reaction to, etc. ... nope, that's off-topic. There are hundreds of other places on the web to talk about those things. Interference might have something like the Real World section, or maybe U2.com's Zootopia does -- I have no idea. But if you want to chat about these things with other U2 fans, this isn't the forum for you.
There are several threads where most forum members are successfully discussing U2's comments about the current political climate without adding their own political statements. In cases where someone inserted a political comment, we've taken action. And we'll continue to do so. Talk about U2. Don't talk about politics and other incendiary issues.
discussions should be able flow freely without fear of banishment without reason.
We've never banned anyone without reason. Never will.
Perhaps an option could be to 'opt in' to the Real world forum. Software dependant.
That wouldn't change the fact that topics like those have historically brought out the worst in people and that such a board would likely still be as toxic as before. In fact, the knowledge that the board was opt-in would probably create a worse atmosphere. And in either case, it would still require the moderators to have to read through everyone's political posts trying to figure out which ones cross the line into attacks and other things that are against forum rules. Sorry, but we're not interested.
I think we should make allowances for the fact that humour is easily misinterpreted given how international this forum is.
When we PM a member about something s/he said that we feel was inappropriate or against the rules, humor is almost always the first excuse. You guys and gals are apparently all auditioning for a spot at your local comedy clubs. ;-) (joke!)
Here's the thing, and I said this in one of the threads a week or two ago: Humor and sarcasm don't work well online. Especially with sarcasm -- you think you're being funny, but you usually end up looking like a d**k. My suggestion is for you all to keep in mind that your jokes and sarcasm are very likely to be misunderstood, unless you really make it clear that what you're saying is meant to be laughed at. And even then the risk is that some will try to get away with being disrespectful by calling their comments a joke even though they're really not. Like, if you reply to someone with "You're such an idiot. (I'm kidding!)" -- that's not funny at all and comes across as an attempt to stay within the rules while violating the spirit of the rules. Just don't do it.
the shutdown/ban on topics seem philosophically at odds with the band who brought us all here
Perhaps, and a few people have suggested that. No one has suggested, though, that the behavior which led to the shutdown was equally -- if not more so -- at odds with the band's philosophies. Surely U2 wouldn't approve of the hate, vitriol and personal attacks that we used to read in Real World, right? Let's not bring U2 in to judge what happens here. I tend to think if any of them ever read this forum, they'd be disappointed (maybe appalled) at a lot of what they'd find here.
I do feel the main thrust of what you are saying here is a different albeit related issue and as such whilst not without merit it isn't really fully what this thread is about.
I disagree with this. The issue that Bonorules raised is exactly the issue that we're attempting to change. We've had a toxic atmosphere in this forum and it needs to change. It's not just politics and Real World making things toxic, it's the constant negativity from some members and their intolerance for anyone who shares a different opinion. Check out those survey responses (above) again. It's a toxic atmosphere when U2 fans are afraid to say they like a certain song or album because they're afraid of being attacked by those who disagree. This is *exactly* what we're trying to change -- same issue, whether it's politics making things toxic or just a general intolerance for different opinions.
Anyway, thanks again to all who've commented here thoughtfully. Thanks for the changes you've all made in the last couple weeks to improve the atmosphere. Let's keep it going and see how great/fun we can make this place.