Apr 282011
 
…is don’t talk about the Virgin Media forum moderators.

Updated 30th April 2011 and followed up in the second and third rules of the Virgin Media forum moderators…, and you can blog about it all you like – we’ll allow you to do that.

At this moment, I have an unfinished post regarding my ISP, Virgin Media, and a newly introduced traffic management policy – which only applies to upstream traffic for two protocols, NNTP (usenet, newsgroups) and P2P (peer to peer, file sharing). I’m holding back on finishing that off, for the moment, to give them time to answer some questions I’ve raised in public, on their forums – questions that, in truth, I don’t think are going to be answered.

There does seem to be a policy on the forums pertaining to their broadband and internet services whereby the forum team refrain from responding to a thread until several days after the last person has posted – the logic apparently being that other members of the community might provide an answer to anything raised, so the forum team only needs to bother if an issue is apparently unresolved. To some extent this makes sense but, to a disgruntled customer who is experiencing problems with some aspect of their service, it can be extremely frustrating, and the temptation must be there to follow-up a query, expressing annoyance that the issue isn’t being dealt with – which, unless the forum team take notice of what’s being posted, potentially delays their response.

I actually find myself in that situation regarding the questions for which I’m awaiting answers. It’s frustrating waiting for some kind of response from the forum team, and it’s even more frustrating knowing that other members of the forum community – other customers – won’t be able to provide those answers, which means a delayed response is pointless. I’ve actually pointed that out to them and, in response to my original question, had a response within a couple of days (spanning a public holiday), but doing the same for my subsequent questions, the harder questions, the questions that, in truth, I don’t think I’ll get an answer to hasn’t achieved anything – not even a response to say “We won’t be answering these questions” (or “there will be a delay while we try to obtain an answer” – well, I can dream, can’t I?)

But even though I’m sure I won’t be getting an answer, the right thing to do is to wait, to give them time to answer.

Or not to answer.

Umm. You know what I mean.

Anyway, I keep checking back to see if I’ve yet received an answer and, while on the forum, I browse other discussions to see what issues other customers are complaining about. Today, I spotted a thread regarding the above ‘delayed response’ policy. Someone had pointed out that it was flawed and should be reviewed. Another forum member responded by saying that he’d already pointed out the problems with it and that it should be changed – and that a forum moderator by the name of Andy (I assume Andy Kaye) had subsequently threatened him with a ban from the forum, seemingly for criticising the forum team and their policy.

I replied. I asked if Andy had been sacked yet for abusing his position as a forum moderator because, I said, that’s what he’s done by threatening to ban someone simply for being critical of the way the forums are handled.

I’ve posted some quite acerbic stuff on the forums in the thread regarding my own complaints. I’m an angry customer, an agrieved customer who is being treated unfairly – I call fair shout. That thread in which Andy was mentioned, though, was singularly lacking in anything of that nature; the previous posters were perfectly polite and reasoned, as was my contribution.

But it did include an accusation that a forum moderator was abusing his position, and questioned whether he had been sacked yet for it.

That post – that thread, in fact – disappeared very quickly.

This looks and smells to me as exactly what I’d called in response to the previous poster. The correct response from Andy or another moderator, or even one of the forum team (who seem to be a separate bunch from the moderators), should have been to reply, justifying or defending their threat of banning someone, to explain why that threat had been made.

To delete the thread, though? To hide any public accusations of a moderator abusing his position? That’s an abuse of moderator privileges, right there.

The Virgin Media forum has a useful feature: A ‘signature’ that is dynamic: If a user updates his signature, all the posts that user has made will show the new signature. I’ve updated mine to say:

I recently questioned whether a moderator called Andy was abusing his position – the thread I posted that to was deleted. Interesting, no?

Well, I have to amuse myself somehow while waiting for them to answer my questions, don’t I? 🙂

30th April 2011

Update:

One of the guidelines on the Virgin Media forum is that you must not dicuss bans and such like in public – so, naturally, the thread mentioned above that got deleted was breaking that guideline. By including that sig (which I then expanded to question why they had not yet answered my questions about NNTP) I was also breaking the same guideline. Well, actually, no – the guidelines don’t actually say you must not do this, what they do say is:

About our moderators

We reserve the right to delete any content on the forum that has broken our forum guidelines or is otherwise illegal, harmful, or inaccurate. We also reserve the right to limit access to the forum by temporarily or permanently banning a user from it. Please don’t discuss forum bans or other moderator actions on the forum. If you need to discuss moderator actions on one of your posts please use the private message system.

“Please don’t do this” isn’t quite the same thing as a rule saying “you must not do this”, is it? It’s a (polite) request – but it isn’t a rule. Okay, it was obviously intended as a rule and they haven’t worded it quite right. Laughably, though, I was notified that this was the ‘community guideline’ that I had broken with the following message when I tried to access the forum:

 

Virgin Media Ban Notificiation
Virgin Media Ban Notificiation

Yup. It really says I have been banned for violating the guideline that says “About our moderators. We reserve the right to…” etc.

Umm.

Ironically, the text advises that in order to review the guidelines, I should click on the given link – which isn’t given as a link, but as plain text, so it can’t be clicked on. Of course, one possible reason for that is that it leads to a sticky post in one of the sections of the forum – which a banned user can’t now access anyway. That’s an incredibly well thought out system, then, isn’t it?

Most amusing to me, though, is sentence that follows the link: “This ban is indefinite due to the extreme nature of the violation.”

That’s right – discussing bans and moderator actions is extreme, and therefore the ban could be indefinite! Gosh.

Let’s take a moment to consider that.

Ponder the extreme nature of my crimes in the Virgin Media community forum: I accused a moderator of abusing his position, in public.

Done that? Good. Now I’ll finish this update by saying that I then created a new account, and posted the following in the ‘Forum suggestions’ section:

Dear forum moderators,

I’m here, posting this, because one of you banned me from the forum.

The reason you banned me is, I believe, because I did exactly what I’m doing now – talking about bans. Yes, I know that’s against the rules, but the ban I talked about before (both in a thread you deleted and in my sig, linking to an external resource) very much looked and smelt like a moderator (Andy) abusing his position. Quite frankly, if I smell abuse I will call abuse – and banning me for doing that, with no warning and no explanation, therefore also looks to me like a moderator abusing his position.

To be quite honest, I believe the rule against mentioning or discussing bans is morally wrong. It becomes all but impossible for a group of customers – yes, that’s right, customers; you do remember that, I take it? I’m contributing to the wages of the person who banned me – to compare notes and identify when someone is banning for good reasons, or to cover up his own abuse.

Or maybe that’s why you’ve done it – you are already making it quite clear that you have contempt for your customers.

Anyway, I’d quite like to discuss the issue with the moderator who did this, but I can’t. He didn’t warn me, so I’ve no idea who he is. I can’t see if he PM’d me at the same time as banning me, because the ban prevents me from accessing any messages I might have.

I also note that whoever did this has edited the sigs out of all my posts, removing any mention of Andy’s possible abuse – which, granted, your rules do say you will do – but why, then, did that moderator edit out the rest of the sig? In other words he reference to the thread in which I am still awaiting answers regarding your unfair and unreasonable throttling of NNTP?

I know you are probably going to delete this entire post and ban me again (but I hope a few people manage to read it first!) but here’s an idea: Have the courage to not delete it, and not ban me, and instead reply here and discuss the matter. (Preferably unbanning me so I can use that profile.)

As I said in that post, I fully expect it to be deleted and my second account banned. That post was just about making a point, really – but it would be jolly interesting if the moderator who banned me was to actually do as I suggested, discuss the matter and explain himself (particularly over that excessive editing).

Hey, in fact, Mr Anonymous Moderator, if you follow the link in the sig of my second account and read this, we can discuss it here, if you like – I promise not to ban you from making comments on my site. Yeah, I know that will never happen!

VinceH