Mr. Bobbitt recently asked me to become assimilated into The
Borg Directing Staff here at Milnet.ca. This request came as a surprise to me, as I had never expressed a desire to him or anyone else to do so. I protested, pointing out why I would not be a good candidate for the position. Mr. Bobbitt must be getting desperate for Staff, as he brushed aside my protestations and proceeded with the assimilation.
As some of you may know, I’ve been hanging around here for a couple of years (since 15 Mar 05, according to my profile), and became a Milnet.ca subscriber shortly after that. In those two and a half years, I’ve had run-ins with the DS, and have appealed some of their decisions to Mr. Bobbitt. I don’t recall that I have ascended the Warning Ladder – but I may have (I could find out, but I’m not that curious). I have been PO’d and left in a huff (more than once) – only to come back.
Why’d I come back? Although retired from the CF now, I remain keenly interested in all things CF, and this board is the best resource out there for keeping in touch with todays (and tomorrow’s and yesterday’s) soldiers, sailors, and airmen. I’ve always felt that the reason for this is the firm direction given by Mr. Bobbitt in the Guidelines, and the diligence in enforcing that direction by the DS. I am a participant on other Internet Forums (woodworking) and find that the one or two I always come back to are set up in a very similar manner – there are clear expectations of the users, and those expectations are enforced by the Mods. This leads to a civil and comfortable cyber-place for everybody – where disagreements can be discussed without personal insult, ideas can be explored intelligently, and people of like mind can just share their experiences or corny jokes.
I thought some of you might be interested in a peek behind the scenes, and an explanation of how it feels to be DS. I know I always had a general idea – but some of the specifics were “murky”. So I’ll discuss some of the things I found surprising – some of those things which I thought were obvious to all, but seem misunderstood by many members of Milnet.ca – and try to give you an idea of what goes on.
DS Presence On The Board
I always knew that there is a 24/7 DS presence on site. I had assumed that this was the result of some kind of schedule or “Duty Roster” being set up. Indeed, my inability to schedule my time (currently, my life is in “reactive mode” – I react to my wife’s schedule, and my contractor’s schedule, amongst other things – I do not have a traditional job – I’m self-employed, which means I don’t (YET) have a firm “work schedule”) was one of my initial protestations to Mr. Bobbitt when his invitation came. Upon arrival, however, I was surprised to learn there IS no “Duty Roster”; 24/7 coverage is accomplished through the geographical separation of the DS – for instance, I am on the west coast, by the time I login at 1800 local – it’s already 2200 hrs (or later) back east. The DS is spread across the country (indeed, sometimes around the globe) – so coverage is not a problem.
It seems to come as a shock to some that we can tell who is on the board, and when. This shouldn’t surprise anyone – you also have that ability, just take a look at any post by any member – there is a little green light that goes on when they are online (located under their name and avatar). You can also see who’s online on the main page. You can also see who is currently viewing a thread at the top of the page. You can get the same information from their profile. The only difference between what you can see and what we can see is that we can see who is “hidden”. I should add here, that setting your logon so that you are “Always Logged On” does not affect the accuracy of this. The “Always Logged On” feature is for your convenience so you don’t have to log on every time you visit (whether this is accomplished through cookies or other means I don’t know). If you’re not actually online, the little green light turns off.
The DS ability to know who is online extends somewhat past what users can see. We have the ability to display what a user is currently doing – reading a topic, writing a post, whatever. This allows us to keep “eyes on” when we feel a need. This should surprise no one.
The DS have the ability to see portions of the board which are not accessible to users – once again – this should surprise no one. This is where we discuss things, move questionable posts, etcetera. For all I know, Mr. Bobbitt has an area of the board which is unknown to and inaccessible by the DS. It wouldn’t surprise me, and I wouldn’t be shocked to discover it.
The DS can (and do) access the Chat Log – again this should be no surprise, it is clearly stated that Chat is logged when you sign in there.
Discussion Amongst the DS
I always knew that the DS discuss things “behind the scenes” – what surprised me was the extent of those discussions, and the disagreement amongst us sometimes expressed there. We are a small group, and can resolve these differences fairly amicably – when a resolution cannot be reached, Mr. Bobbitt makes the decision. It is important for you to know that we are all professionals – once a decision is taken (either through consensus or by Mr. Bobbitt), that decision is supported by all. This is similar to “passing on orders as if they came from yourself” ESPECIALLY when you disagree with them.
In my military career I was involved in many heated discussions behind closed doors – but once those doors were opened, it was expected that all involved enforce whatever decision had been reached. You won’t find evidence of disagreement between the DS out on the open boards – and that is as it should be. I should hasten to add – when the DS are posting as “members”, as opposed to as “Staff” – raucous disagreement can result. But on “Staff Stuff”, you will find a united front – don’t try to play one off against the other – it won’t work.
Intervention By The DS
Most serious intervention by the DS is discussed at great length prior to being implemented. This especially includes placing a member on the Warning ladder. What may not be obvious on the open threads is the amount of discipline meted out as a result of PMs. I could not believe the vitriol expressed by some users in PMs to me and other DS. I won’t go so far as to say that nine tenths of the reasons for discipline are hidden from public view – but a goodly proportion is. Most users who find themselves on the Warning ladder can thank their reaction to intervention as expressed in their PMs. It’s OK to disagree with and query DS decisions – it’s not OK to give vent to personal attacks while doing so. Keep that in mind the next time you’re told to “tone it down” or “stay in your lanes” or some such.
The other thing not obvious to me as a member was the historical records accessible by the DS. Things deemed inappropriate by the DS and removed from the open boards are still accessible to us. Prior to becoming DS I had “championed” another member regarding his public treatment by the DS. I took the complaint to Mr. Bobbitt who gave me a limited insight into the member’s past history – history which was not available to me, and which explained his treatment by the DS. Keep THAT in mind when the reason for discipline is not apparent to you. By all means, if you feel an injustice has been perpetrated, question it – politely and without personal attack – you’ll be surprised at the answer you’ll receive.
I had always been dimly aware of the legal issues confronting Mr. Bobbitt in his capacity as Site Owner. I had not been aware, however, of the EXTENT of those issues. When someone posts a slander on the boards, or engages in libel, Mr. Bobbitt is PERSONALLY responsible. And yes, legal action has been taken against him in the past, and is threatened more often than you might think. I know I was surprised by the extent of this concern – and I’m no “babe in the woods”, so to speak. The DS are diligent in attempting to avoid these concerns – it’d be easier if folks refrained from slander and libel in the first place.
So – How Does It Feel??
Perhaps the most apt metaphor I could use here is that of a newly promoted MCpl. You have now been placed in a position of limited authority over a group which, just yesterday, you were a member of. You know WHAT needs to be done, but you’re unsure HOW it is done. You’re pretty sure that the C of C will back you up – but you feel you’ll be looked upon as “inadequate” if you can’t handle things yourself. The comparison is also apt because, as a MCpl (or MS) in the CF, you are expected to still be a “part of the group”, whilst judiciously using your authority when required. For that reason, MCpl is (in my opinion and experience) the most difficult rank in the CF to achieve competency in. And THAT is how I felt the first time I came here logged on as a DS.
The analogy falls apart if pursued too far, of course. Here at Milnet.ca we dispense with the equivalent of the remainder of the C of C and go directly from us “MCpls” to the Commander In Chief – Mr. Bobbitt.
The first time I intervened in a thread being hijacked, I felt a complete *** - especially because the hijack had been precipitated by an inane aside posted by ME earlier in the thread. As I typed the “Milnet.ca Staff” at the bottom of my post (to indicate I was speaking in my capacity as Staff, and not personally) I thought – Gawd, what if these folks come back to me about my (unintentional) complicity in this hijack? Fortunately for me, the members involved were old hands who immediately saw what I was driving at. They were gracious enough to PM me, supporting my intervention in the thread. I will remain forever grateful to them for making my first intervention such an easy one.
As a member, I don’t participate as much in the boards as I used to (although I was never extremely prolific). I can’t shake the feeling that seeing the “Directing Staff” banner under my name holds me to a higher standard. And it does – and it should. I’m assuming that my discomfort with this fact will fade in time (as it did as I became more comfortable wearing a maple leaf on top of my Cpl’s chevrons).
As a DS I tend to hesitate to take action – scrambling around in the background to find the specific Conduct Guideline I’m trying to enforce; madly PMing other online DS seeking advice; checking my personal posting and PM history to make sure I don’t have a sub-conscious reason for “picking on” the member involved – Basically; dithering and flailing about whilst my fellow DS have already taken the appropriate action. Life experience tells me that this, too, shall pass.
My first couple of days as DS, I spent poking around – reading a LOT, playing with the tools available to me, watching the other DS in action from my new vantage point “behind the scenes”. In an effort to poke my head into EVERY corner, I logged into the Chat Room.
Chat Rooms are not my style. I find them confusing and somewhat intimidating. I liken it to being at a loud and raucous party – drifting in and out of various conversations – throwing off remarks, but WITHOUT the element of the raised eyebrow, facial expression, or hand gesture available in the real world. Although quite comfortable and proficient at this type of “simultaneous multi-conversational communication” in the real world, I’m downright pathetic at it online. The reason, I think, is that when writing, I’m given to run-on sentences, filled with parenthetical asides (as if you hadn’t noticed); the reason for this is that I’m trying to compensate for the lack of body language available in personal communications. I was relieved to discover the Chat Log – which enables us to investigate complaints received, without actually participating in the Chat Room.
A word of caution to all who participate – I realize that the Chat Room evokes a “raucous party” atmosphere – in which witty one-liners are welcomed. But keep in mind that you DON’T have access to that body language I referred to earlier – it is easy to be mis-interpreted, especially when caught up in the spirit of the place. The Conduct Guidelines apply there, too. Think before you post – even in the Chat Room.
I’m still prone to asking inane things of my fellow DS. Along the lines of “What’s THAT button do?” They’ve shown remarkable patience with me – much as they do with the vast majority of “newbies” who join the site every day. Perhaps one day I’ll be able return the favour to a future “Cherry DS”.
I think Mr. Bobbitt has created a remarkable and valuable cyber-community here. I have learned things here that I did not learn whilst active in the CF. I have found a “cyber-home”, which allows me to enjoy the camaraderie and discourse which are the elements of the CF I have missed most since retirement. I accepted his invitation to be DS because I would have felt a hypocrite had I not – something this good DESERVES to be taken care of and preserved. I did not become DS for the perceived “power” or “status” such a position is sometimes deemed to hold – I’m enough of a FOG to know that such “power” and “status” are illusory, and their acquisition holds no appeal for me. I accepted Mr. Bobbitt’s invitation out of a sense of duty toward a community of which I am a member – a sentiment I know the vast majority of members here are intimately acquainted with.
Feel free to PM me regarding any of the above, or about anything – my reply may not be timely (my life is not entirely my own), but it will eventually arrive.