With great power . . .

. . .comes great responsibility: You’ve heard this before from a variety of sources, and if you’re observant, you’ve even seen this on a wide range of Debian installs or when logging in as root on a terminal.

With great power comes great responsibility. Although the sentence structure leaves a lot to be desired, it’s very simple concept, to be sure. Unfortunately, though, it’s a concept that seems to be lost on a few people who seem to think that the CrunchBang forums are a do-whatever-you-want, it’s-all-about-me space where anything goes.

CrunchBang has a pretty clear statement of forum etiquette which can be found here. Don’t want to go to the link? I’ll make it easy for you, because it’s only three paragraphs — not a long read.

It says:

“The PRIMARY aims of the #! forums is for users to share information and help each other with CrunchBang/Debian related issues. The Off-Topic section is provided as a courtesy for members but we expect our members to exercise some common sense when posting in there. We do not want our forums to be associated with porn, drugs, criminal activities or any other topic which may inadvertently cause offence to another forum member who reads the thread. If it is deemed to be unsuitable, then a moderator will close the thread. When a moderator closes a thread, that decision is final. The moderator will explain the reason behind closing a thread and if any members then decide to open a new thread discussing why a previous thread has been closed, then that member will face a ban.

“Our moderators give their time freely, with little or no thanks and certainly no financial reward. They perform a difficult task at times, and therefore deserve our support as they carry out their moderating duties. We do not expect them to be vilified by the community for any decisions that they make.

“We are all for free speech but at our heart we are a friendly, helpful forum community and I would like to see us stay that way. If these terms are not acceptable to you, please feel free to leave at any time.”

These are fairly simple concepts to grasp — fairly easy guidelines to follow — and especially the last paragraph emphasizes the kind of community CrunchBang strives to be. If anyone is unclear about the preceding three paragraphs, I’d be glad to explain anything that might be unclear if you want to leave a question in the comment section of the blog.

Want to drop an f-bomb? Depending on the context (and if not just for “shock value”), personally I might be OK with that, though bear in mind I am not the only moderator. Want to complain about the way we do things here? Fine, as long as it fits the guidelines. Want to put snarky signature lines in your forum posts? Go for it, if that floats your boat, and as long as it doesn’t violate any of the conditions in the Forum Etiquette post.

Compared with some of the other distro and FOSS program forums, those who post in the CrunchBang forums get a far wider latitude than they would in other forums, and users are not subjected to the draconian decisions handed down by other forums. Not only this, the CrunchBang moderators — to their credit — go above and beyond in engaging those who might have erred by intiating off-forum communications, whether these communications are acknowledged or not.

I mention the “With great power . . .” quote for an important reason. Many of those who have been involved with CrunchBang for any significant amount of time have noticed that the popularity of the distro is rapidly growing, and with the “great power” of a growing distro — and the growing community that surrounds it — comes the “great responsibility” to be excellent to each other as a community. Like a European football team promoted to a higher league*, the distro is moving in the right direction, and like an American baseball player being called up to the Major Leagues, there’s a degree of responsibility that gets ratcheted up with the promotion.

A profound majority of those participating in the CrunchBang forums and in the CrunchBang community, to use yet another sports metaphor or two, have stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park. The CrunchBang forums, thanks to the outstanding community behind it, contains a remarkably miraculous wealth of information, and the community supporting it serves as a textbook case of how helpful people can combine their talents with the talents of others to bring everyone up together.

I understand that most of you get this, and personally I’m grateful beyond words to be part of this community.

Yet this is why it’s laughable to think the moderators here are being “censors” or “fascists” or “authoritarian.” If you think they are, you might want to look up those words.

But before you do that, you might want to look up “community” and understand the concept behind that word.

* OK, to those on my side of the Atlantic, European football teams — or what we in the States would call soccer teams — graduate to a higher division, or conversely are relegated to a lower division, depending on their performance during the course of the season. Yes, I’m out of my element in using this comparison, but I’m hoping the Britons and those in Europe get this comparison.

Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research (RDR), a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment. RDR is based in Felton, California, USA.

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2 responses to “With great power . . .

  1. I agree Larry. I don’t think I’ve had as positive experience on forums as the #! ones, and I’ve made a point of telling that to whomsoever I collar…

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