Hello! First of all, I wish to introduce myself. I am orangeandblack5, an alumnus of FRC Team #5498 and a user of Chief Delphi for over four years. I have also been using Discourse literally every single day of my life for over two years now, and so I believe that I know enough about the software to suggest a fix to the issues users and staff have been expressing with forum games after the move to Discourse.
It has become apparent that there is currently a bit of a “situation” with forum games. Most notably, the following thread has spurred a lot of discussion on how to handle these issues, and the first attempt at a solution was made by muting several non-FRC-related channels (#other:chit-chat, #other:fantasy-first, and #other:games-trivia) for new users.
I do not personally believe that this solution has truly had the desired effect. As shared by @Brandon_Martus in the above thread, roughly half of our traffic comes from unregistered users, and the currently-implemented change does nothing to filter out the feeds of anyone without a newly-created account.
Therefore, I would like to suggest a different approach to the problem. This should cut down entirely on the problem of unregistered users being flooded with games, allow registered users more control over the content they wish to see, and even potentially reduce the amount of game-related flags Chief Delphi’s moderation team needs to deal with. I consider it a win for all involved.
Fixing Default Mute
The first step in fixing this issue is finding a way to prevent unregistered user’s feeds from being filled with games instead of FRC discussion. Unfortunately, the Discourse team notes that their current design has an oversight when it comes to default mute affecting anonymous, unregistered guest accounts. While this may be fixed in the future (and I have reached out to the team to inquire as to the timeline for this fix), allowing our current solution (putting the off-topic categories on default mute) to be used, in the meantime I think it makes sense to adopt a temporary stop-gap solution.
To this end, I suggest that we make use of Discourse’s trust levels. For those unfamiliar, the Discourse Blog has a great article about what trust levels are and how they function:
While most applications of the Trust Level system (henceforth shortened to “TL”) focus on the actions registered users are allowed to take, there is actually a creative way to bend the system to work as a way to mute off-topic categories for unregistered users.
By setting all of the categories we wish to hide (specific categories discussed below) to require a user has Trust Level 0 or higher in order to view it, we can allow all registered users to view these categories while suppressing them from unregistered users (who do not have TL0). In this manner, we have now made browsing Chief Delphi for FRC help significantly easier to any unregistered guests.
As for registered users, I recommend we undo the default mute of these categories, and instead pin a comment globally informing users that they can mute these categories (or any others) themselves if they do not wish to see them after creating an account. Once users have read this pin, they can dismiss it and will not see the message again.
All in all, this will be the best possible solution of this issue until the Discourse team patches up the default mute function to include unregistered guest users.
FRC Mafia games have been a large part of the game-related traffic on Chief Delphi over the past few months. While Forum Mafia is considerably more involved than any of the other games in #other:games-trivia (and, as a result, doesn’t really mesh with the category - more on that later), it is undeniable that the large majority of the current Mafia players realize that having all of their topics showing up in the feeds of uninterested users can be problematic.
While the above fix will, by virtue of all FRC Mafia threads being hosted in #other:games-trivia, also work to silence these games for unregistered users, I think there is a better solution for all involved parties.
As I mentioned above, Forum Mafia is significantly more structured than any of the other games in #other:games-trivia. Not only is there a specific FRC Mafia Hub thread to catalog games, but there have been six full-fledged games of Forum Mafia and two faster “short” games hosted in the past five months, each of which consisted of anywhere from 13 to 30 players and lasted up to several weeks. Additionally, there is now a sort of governing body managing Forum Mafia games, as well as a Discord server dedicated to FRC Mafia. This level of dedication and oversight is entirely incongruous with everything else in #other:games-trivia. The FRC Mafia community has also been growing, and will even be sending a representative on behalf of Chief Delphi to participate in Season 6 of the Mafia Championships, an international forum-based tournament for Mafia players from 187 different communities.
What is clear from the above is that #other:games-trivia is no longer the ideal home for FRC Mafia. It has grown to be closer in scale to Fantasy First, and if it keeps growing it’s only a matter of time until there is more than one game running at one time. In order to prevent Forum Mafia from completely swallowing the #other:games-trivia category or requiring excessive moderator intervention, I think it’s about time that a new category be created specifically for it: #other:forum-mafia.
Creating this category would allow topics like the FRC Mafia Hub to be pinned for easy access by Forum Mafia players, give threads like FRC Mafia Chit-Chat a more fitting home, and allow threads such as Mafia Championship Nominations to be run without disrupting the activites of other users. After all, Forum Mafia is incredibly popular online, and having a dedicated place to discuss Mafia-related things in a more organized way than one single topic in #other:chit-chat (where nobody who isn’t playing Mafia can really understand what is going on) is a good idea for everybody.
In short, creating a category for FRC Mafia will help both those who want to play Forum Mafia to do so, those who do not to avoid it, and moderators to manage it. Plus, it’s better to do it now, when there’s only 20 or so topics to move into it, than later, when we might need to manually change a lot more to the new category.
Long-Term: Self Moderation
Everything I’m about to say really only applies to Forum Mafia and Fantasy First - I don’t think other categories need this at all (although I am open to suggestions of others that may benefit, and I don’t know much about Fantasy First so I will admit it is possible they do not require this either).
As @Tyler_Olds will tell you, one of the particular issues we’ve run into with these types of categories is with moderation. I think a good way to help alleviate the burdens these categories can place on moderation is allowing them some amount of self-moderation capability.
In the most recent Discourse update, the ability to grant moderation capabilities on a per-category basis was added. This could be extremely helpful - by granting certain members of the FRC Mafia and Fantasy First communities moderation capabilities over only their own category, the amount of flags from these categories normal moderators have to respond to could be greatly reduced. In FRC Mafia’s case, FM Mods could also be called by game hosts to lock threads during a game’s “night” phases, preventing users from posting (accidentally or otherwise) when they are not allowed to (an extremely common complaint among players).
Although I do not know how strict the contractual obligations of Chief Delphi’s moderators are, I have seen setups similar to this executed beautifully in the past, and I think it could be a good long-term option if the administration of Chief Delphi are willing to pursue it.
Games have begun to be too visible compared to normal Chief Delphi content since the move to Discourse, and due to an oversight by the Discourse team, there is not a straightforward fix for this issue yet. Until such time as it is added, I suggest we take the #other:chit-chat, #other:games-trivia, and #other:fantasy-first categories off of default mute, and instead restrict viewing them to users with Trust Level 0 and higher, while simultaneously making a globally-pinned announcement in #announcements telling users how they may mute these categories for themselves once they have made an account. Meanwhile, a #other:forum-mafia category should be created to consolidate Forum Mafia content in one place. In the long term, I think it would be helpful to give certain users the ability to moderate only FRC Mafia or Fantasy FIRST, to cut down on the work these topics can bring to the normal staff of Chief Delphi.
This seems to be a win-win solution, and prevents us from having to wait for Discourse to fix their default mute settings before we can deal with the fact that the multitude of unregistered users that make up roughly half of the traffic to Chief Delphi can be seeing more games than technical topics when they pull up the site.
Thanks for your time. If you have any questions, suggestions, or further requests of me, please let me know below.
To the mods - I am more than willing to help walk you through the process I have described above in any way I can. Please feel free to reach out to me if you want any further clarification on how exactly to do what I have proposed, or if you wish to discuss in more detail the technical aspects of these changes.