Does this forum have a "mobbing culture"? And have you had any negative experiences when posting on the forum?

  • muench
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Does this forum have a "mobbing culture"? And have you had any negative experiences when posting on the forum?

I have decided to start this thread so that people can openly point out things that have annoyed them about the forum in the past and perhaps make suggestions on how things could be improved?

I provide here some examples of criticisms of the forum that I have heard in the last year (and which I take very seriously as I am the main community moderator here):
  1. Recently at a conference, I was talking about the SuSanA discussion forum with someone and this person said that the discussion forum had a "mobbing culture". This person felt that new or alternative ideas or ideas of "new" people get treated quite "aggressively" by others on the forum and are sometimes "shot down". Someone else had in the past said that he/she felt "the forum was hostile" towards certain subjects or approaches.
  2. Another criticism I once received about the forum was this one: "I frequently encounter culturally prejudiced statements on the forum, especially biased towards Western cultures. For example, watching Europeans discuss whether or not Hinduism is at the root of India's sanitation crisis is abhorrent." Related to this, another person said: "Sometimes the forum does look like it has no proper balance of ideologies from the west and east (from the developing countries perspective). This could certainly deter people from posting on the forum! Although most posts do not directly affect the religious sentiments, I feel that the problem is beyond religion and there is a lag somewhere and more effort must be taken in bridging this cultural gap."
What are your thoughts on this? Have you had your own negative experiences with the forum? Please tell us so that we can improve.

And I am wondering if it could be helpful to create an "anonymous" forum account which could be used by anyone to post in this thread here. It could have the login name "anonymous" and password susana (and be connected to some relatively arbitrary e-mail address), and might be useful for people to leave their opinions without wanting to provide their names? I think that could be helfpul. Of course if any blatantly abusive posts come in via this account, it would still be at the moderator's disgression to delete them but any constructive criticism, whether anonymous or not, would be welcome.

Alternatively, if you have critical issues to point out but don't want to see your name on the forum, you could also e-mail me and I could post them for you without mentioning your name, like I did in the examples provided above.

Regards,
Elisabeth

P.S. Let me point out our forum rules again ( forum.susana.org/forum/rules ), in particular also Rules 1 and 2:
  1. Keep all posts friendly, civil and courteous at all times. Constructive criticism is welcome, but do keep in mind that the forum is a meeting place of many cultures. Especially in many developing countries the cultural norm is often one of avoiding direct criticism. We encourage all users to keep this in mind with their posts and to be as culturally sensitive as possible. Also keep in mind that English is not the first language of many Forum users. Therefore, sarcasm and irony may not be easily understood by all and should generally be avoided.
  2. At the same time, we encourage all users to try to not feel offended when another person uses wording that may sound offensive but was most likely not meant to be. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt that they didn't mean it in a negative way.

Community manager and chief moderator of this forum via SEI project ( www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127 )

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant in Brisbane, Australia
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @EvMuench
Sanitation Wikipedia project leader: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Sanitation
E-mail me to get involved: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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  • muench
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Re: Does this forum have a "mobbing culture"? And have you had any negative experiences when posting on the forum?

It's encouraging to see that this thread has not received a flurry of responses. I take that as a good sign. :-) So perhaps we don't have a mobbing culture on the forum.

Nevertheless, I would like to bring this thread back to your attention in case you have missed it the first time around.

If you have feedback to give but don't want to read your name with it on the forum, just send the e-mail to me or the secretariat and we could post it for you without mentioning your name.

Kind regards,
Elisabeth

Community manager and chief moderator of this forum via SEI project ( www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127 )

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant in Brisbane, Australia
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @EvMuench
Sanitation Wikipedia project leader: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Sanitation
E-mail me to get involved: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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  • SusannahClemence
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Re: Does this forum have a "mobbing culture"? And have you had any negative experiences when posting on the forum?

No - your lead of positive feedback alongside searching critique makes it a safe while challenging environment, I find. And provides a useful model to follow when tempted to weigh in!
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  • muench
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Re: Does this forum have a "mobbing culture"? And have you had any negative experiences when posting on the forum?

Something that I have observed recently in some people's forum posts and which concerns me:
Occasionally I've seen some posts lately where people who are not "practitioners" are being put down and labelled as being just "theoretical", "paper-workers", "only going to conference or publishing papers but contributing nothing else" and so forth.

I don't think it helps the spirit of this forum if we somehow elevate some people (in this case "practitioners") above other people (in this case I academics or those that work predominantly in front of a computer and not in the field). This doesn't help to give this forum a positive, welcoming attitude!

We need a mixture of people, and everyone is welcome to post, whether they have worked extensively in the field or not (yet), whether they work predominantly in developing countries or "only" in industrialised countries, whethere they go to conferences or don't go to conferences, whether they are young or old, new in the sector or experienced, fluent in English or not (posts in languages other than English as also OK, please provide the Google Translate translation in that case). Everyone is welcome here! Nobody is "better" than the other one.

It reminds me a bit of that ongoing discussion whether we have "too many" engineers in the sanitation sector or too few. The bottom line is we need a good mixture of people and professions. Particularly in sanitation, the broader the mixture the better, and one profession is no "better" at solving the sanitation crisis than another. We can all do our bit, whatever our professions and backgrounds!

We have thought in the past about how to involve more practitioners in this discussion forum. If you have good, constructive ideas for this, please put them here in this existing thread:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/148-yo...-empowered-listeners

Regards,
Elisabeth

Community manager and chief moderator of this forum via SEI project ( www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127 )

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant in Brisbane, Australia
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @EvMuench
Sanitation Wikipedia project leader: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Sanitation
E-mail me to get involved: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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  • ben
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Re: Does this forum have a "mobbing culture"? And have you had any negative experiences when posting on the forum?

Hi elizabeth,

I felt I needed to answer, even if it's been a while I haven't posted anything on the forum. I've been guilty in the past of being pretty "aggressive" on some of my posts, mainly on ethics, source of financing of some programs, transparency of some projects, etc ...

I remember especially a discussion on Unilever, another on a program being financed by Goldman sachs, where I might have crossed the line in terms of politness.

I do believe that it is very sane for some organisation to face the critics on their program on this forum, with people who have no risks for their career criticizing them. I was very sad in the development world about the quantities of harsh discussion I had about big orgnisation / money providers / gouvernments / etc ... but it was always between closed doors, very little high rank people had the courage to critic them openly, which I regret profoundly.

My wife is british and I realise every day that some culture will find offending what other will just find a "normal discussion". That has to be taken in consideration too, but this forum, on the side of having to be welcoming, should keep being challenging for the one bringing subjects in. I love constructive critics and they force people to defend their techno / approcah / publication with practitionners that are far more critical than founders bankers who like the way you presented it rather the pertinence of your work.

Long live this forum ! sometimes full of passion, sometime full of harsh critics, but this is actually the only place where they can be shared, so even if they are sometimes scary for people just arriving, this is at the same time a good test on the pertinence of what you're bringing in.

By the way, I like the "anonymous" idea Elizabeth. No one high rank and inside the system would openly critic harshly Unicef, Gates, corruption on a specific program, etc ... with their name associated. That would definitly help.

Best
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