• UCAT results are out! Just kidding, I'm just testing the notices system. Cheers, Mana

Chatbox removal discussion

Mana

Registrar
Administrar
Hi all,

In light of recent events I and some other members of the moderating team have thought that it would be best to remove the chatbox from the site. Outlined here are the reasons why:

1. Chatbox posts are not archived. A lot of good information relevant to lots of other people is posted on the chatbox, and then disappears and is not available to people in the future.

2. Because chatbox posts are not archived, people can be held accountable for their behaviour on the forums, whereas as it stands, it becomes difficult to moderate a chatbox when large sections of it become inaccessible and people are not accountable for anything they said that is no longer in the archive. In this way, people also don't feel as unwelcome on the site as it appears to have been on the chatbox as of recent.

In response to "why not increase the post count required to post on the chatbox?" Making it difficult for new members to access information from people who are on here willing to give it would also detract quite heavily from the site. If a new member had to post 25 posts before they could speak to the majority of the community, there is something wrong with the site.

As of now nothing is set in stone, and we're open to other options, if they are reasonable and achieve the desired effects. However, if you do suggest an option, let us know your thoughts on *why* this option is better and how we can continue to make MSO a welcoming place if that option is implemented.
 

pi

Junior doctor
Administrar
From the thread I made:

In my opinion, 'hatbox' has always been a place for MSO users to chill and have a bit of fun. I've been here for the last 5 or so years and seen people come and go, but one trend I've noticed is the increase in the number of people utilising hatbox for questions that other people could benefit from if they were instead posted on the forums. This extends from questions about medical admission, studying for the UMAT, life of a medical student, and the list goes on. Ben and other mods have tried to create new forum sections (eg. the UMAT question section), becoming lax on rules regarding UMAT prep company talk, etc. but sadly none of those have really resulted in increased forum activity. The only boards with regular activity are the NZ admission boards (yay for that at least!).

To compound this decrease in forum activity, There have been a few dramas on hatbox recently with multiple users being accused of bullying, multiple instances of stalking and doxxing (including its live commentary), and multiple instances of people behaving in a way that makes other uncomfortable. Through the ages, MSO has always been lax on enforcing rules in Hatbox, because we know that medical students (and others) can be stressed and whatnot and this was an anonymous way to let off some steam, have some fun, and pass time while talking to like-minded people. Recently, we've lost that direction and one member who was feeling bullied left the site for good. Mods have a role to ensure that everyone is feeling safe, but we can't be here all the time to police things (because well... we have lives outside being online LOL).

I'm of the opinion that questions/demands such as "how do I study for the UMAT A1?" or "give me tips Oer", or "is med harder than yr12 life of pi?" are far better suited to the boards, where people can give detailed answers and we can have an un-interrupted constructive discussion on topics many people, including those outside hatbox, would be interested in. Discussion about "in the moment" random things, such as how the cricket is going, or the curvature of Kim K's behind (not that I endorse this topic at all lol), or how our day went, or whatever else, is probably suited for hatbox. I think given that MSO is a forum, making sure we have an active forum should be the #1 priority, and if removing hatbox means that happens then so be it.
 
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Nicholas

New Member
EDIT BY ADMIN TO MOVE ADMIN POST UP TO FIRST PAGE:

I agree with much of what has been posted above by Mana & Pi. Having been here for 6+ years I've seen the hatbox go through a lot of changes and I think personally I liked it best when there was a post limit and it existed almost entirely as a way to get to know other forum members, not as a way of sourcing specific information. In that sense it really made the forum feel a lot more inclusive - I certainly wouldn't have stuck around for as long as I did if I didn't have that avenue to meet other members. I certainly think that this needs to continue to exist in a sense and I have a few ideas which I'll come to at the end.

At the moment - from an Admin side-of-things - the issue is the number of complaints I have been fielding about people's behaviour on the hatbox. It hurts me to say that of the regulars who currently post/hang out on the hatbox there are only two that I have not received complaints about from new users. I have even had multiple complaints about how moderators are conducting themselves on the hatbox and the reality is that I don't know what to do in response to this. I have tried discussing directly with the people involved, I have tried outlining the rules so as not to isolate people and make them feel punished, I have given people short bans and I have even had to temporarily remove moderator privileges. Not one of these actions has resulted in any lasting change - there is a culture associated with the hatbox on MSO and at the moment it is not a culture that myself or the rest of the moderator team are happy with.

To quell the "holding accountable" claims and the ideas of archiving messages so that this can be done: sure, we can archive messages for >24 hours but again, what can I do with the information that I then have? When one of the regular members of the forum is actively doxxing/harassing someone the only response I have is to temporarily ban that user - but what if it's almost the entire regular group getting involved? How am I expected to manage arguments between users that as far as I'm concerned shouldn't be happening in the first place? Every time I have initiated something the result has been 'hatbox outcry' and then the hatbox is dominated by discussion of that topic for the next 1-2 days at the least.

On top of this, the hatbox itself is now fielding a lot of questions from new members that really should be getting posted on the forum for the public to see. I especially think that any upcoming UMAT discussion shouldn't be had on the hatbox and with the way things are going it certainly seems to be progressing that way - even cursory discussion about "what am I going to do if I don't get the UMAT I want" which came up in the hatbox earlier tonight should really be had on the forum.

That's essentially where I stand at the moment on the topic - I think the hatbox should ONLY be used as an avenue to get to know other users, it shouldn't have any role in sourcing or answering questions, policing it isn't a matter of archiving or moderating it's what to do with the users that break the rules.

As I said at the start there are a number of options we have for proceeding:
  1. Remove the hatbox altogether with no replacement - I don't particularly like this idea as I think a lot of you only hang around the forum for the hatbox at this point and that it's an integral part of MSO. In saying that, things need to change.
  2. Limit hatbox availability to users with >x posts
  3. Limit post-frequency on the hatbox while also running a regular 'chat' thread, i.e. x posts per minute which allows people to post questions and get rapid answers but doesn't allow ongoing chat
  4. Implement rules for the hatbox and strictly follow them - any rule breaking is a temporary ban and a mark with successive bans leading to a permanent ban.
4) is likely to happen regardless of the outcome of this discussion and as such I would greatly appreciate any suggestions for rules and suggestions for realistic punishments. I will see if I can re-enabling archiving of the hatbox over the weekend and we can finalise and implement the rules from Monday onwards.

As always I'm happy to hear your thoughts on this, I'm largely at a loss as to how to proceed and have been thinking about this for some time now.

- Ben
 
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pi

Junior doctor
Administrar
Please don't remove the chatbox :(
Care to tell us why? Including @Dazzy who chucked it a 'like'?

If we don't get reasons why, we'll just assume there aren't any. That yields a poor prognosis for hatbox.
 

Mana

Registrar
Administrar

Nicholas

New Member
Chatbox has become somewhat of an institution/tradition, at least for me personally. I'd be losing part of my life if chatbox went away.
 

Mana

Registrar
Administrar
There is a part of the forum set aside for general chit chat and discussion, the only difference being that it is archived and so you are responsible for what you post. This should fulfill the chatbox shaped void in your hearts somewhat.
 

Nicholas

New Member
It's not the same thing as instantaneous relay chat. It's not as easy to just hop on and start chatting away. Chatbox, there is almost always someone there to just talk about random stuff, have a laugh and it often leads into talking about medicine/academics. That's what I love about chatbox.
 

Mana

Registrar
Administrar
It's not the same thing as instantaneous relay chat. It's not as easy to just hop on and start chatting away. Chatbox, there is almost always someone there to just talk about random stuff, have a laugh and it often leads into talking about medicine/academics. That's what I love about chatbox.
The problem is that when you start talking about medicine and academics you then lose all of that valuable information for other people to read due to the non-archiving nature of the chatbox.

The forum is able to update in real-time as well, faster than the chatbox does.
 

pi

Junior doctor
Administrar
Hatbox itself is an added feature to the forum. Don't think we can access chat logs.
 

Mana

Registrar
Administrar
Surely there must be some chatbox plugin available out there which can archive selected messages.
There probably is, but archiving only "selected" messages means that a) someone has to select them (which we can't always) and will result in situations like recently and b) you then are no longer responsible for what you say if what you said isn't archived. This doesn't solve any of the issues that chatbox is currently creating at all.
 

Mana

Registrar
Administrar
  1. Messages have been posted since you loaded this page. View them?

    This is the message that appears in real time at the bottom of a thread when someone else posts. It does this in real time.
 

Dr.Potato

Adelaide MBBS I
I think removing the chatbox can be the last option, but before we take those extreme measures we should try out something else first.
1. We could archive the chatbox messages (if it's possible), as this would solve the problem of being unable to hold people accountable for their actions on the hatbox when moderators are not present.
2. We could encourage all hatboxers to post useful and helpful information such as UMAT and medicine entry discussion in the forum threads rather than the hatbox.
 

Dr.Potato

Adelaide MBBS I
Not sure how well this would work, but we could also introduce 'temporary moderators' to help increase the amount of patrolling on hatbox.
 

Mana

Registrar
Administrar
I think removing the chatbox can be the last option, but before we take those extreme measures we should try out something else first.
1. We could archive the chatbox messages (if it's possible), as this would solve the problem of being unable to hold people accountable for their actions on the hatbox when moderators are not present.
2. We could encourage all hatboxers to post useful and helpful information such as UMAT and medicine entry discussion in the forum threads rather than the hatbox.
I've been trying to get people to do (2) for ages. It never happens because of the "instantaneous relay chat" that Nick is referring to.

In regards to 1. It's not, the volume is too much. We did this in the past, and it becomes impossible to moderate.
 

Dr.Potato

Adelaide MBBS I
What about if they were only archived for 24 hours (not sure if the volume will still be too much)? That way if something happens when moderators are not present they can at least see what is going on and take control of the situation.
 

Dr.Potato

Adelaide MBBS I
Re: no. 2, i think it will only work if we get most, if not all of the active hatboxers on board. It may not have worked in the past due to a lack of incentive, but i assume being able to keep the hatbox should be enough of an incentive? haha.
 

Mana

Registrar
Administrar
Not sure how well this would work, but we could also introduce 'temporary moderators' to help increase the amount of patrolling on hatbox.
What about if they were only archived for 24 hours (not sure if the volume will still be too much)? That way if something happens when moderators are not present they can at least see what is going on and take control of the situation.
I think the problem is that it's again a problem in regards to manpower. We would have to trawl through all the messages posted in the last 24 hours, whereas, if something on the forum needs some help, the "report" button is right there under every post.

Moderating the chatbox, currently, is restricted to being able to ban from it, manually delete messages from it, and prune it, whereas, on the forums, there is a lot more flexibility in what we can do. It is also easier to separate conversations into their own threads and keep more discussions alive.
 

Mana

Registrar
Administrar
Re: no. 2, i think it will only work if we get most, if not all of the active hatboxers on board. It may not have worked in the past due to a lack of incentive, but i assume being able to keep the hatbox should be enough of an incentive? haha.
I offered a gold star, apparently, that wasn't good enough incentive, so I think that's case closed in regards to that.
 
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