Originally Posted by Tallest Skil
I feel that reports serve to bring to the attention of moderators posts that may violate rules or decency. We are neither compelled to nor do we act on every report we see. I think they work well in that regard; the only problem as of late is people NOT reporting things that should have been.
When I said it was foolish to base things on complaints, I meant like in the case of an argument on a forum that goes back and forth and gets heated and it gets personal etc. and yet no one complains and instead simply hurls epithets back the other way. Then one person complains about the "personal attacks" (when in fact *everyone* is being "personal"), the moderator looks at the complaint and finds it valid, (why wouldn't they since "personal attacks" are a violation), and the person complained about gets sanctioned.
All the other players, including the one who complained, get off scott free since the moderator hasn't got the time to read every post and there's no requirement to assess all the parties in question anyway. "Complaints" are often used as weapons in that way.
If moderation only deals with complaints, then it's unfair by definition in that it isn't looking at all the posts, just the few that are complained about. On the other hand, it's impossible to look at all the posts, so it's understandable why the system is that way. Personally, I'd rather see a system based on the overall profile or "usefulness" of the individual over time, not infraction based, or even rule based at all. "Personal attacks" in particular are to a large degree in the mind of the person attacked.
I know I've received infractions for personal attacks even when I've spent the extra time to analyse every single word I've said to make sure that it *wasn't* a personal attack. I still got the infraction however, because the person in question "felt" aggrieved or because the moderator was unable to parse my statements properly. It's also trivially easy to (technically) not be attacking a person but still make statements that make said person look like a complete fool, so if there is a way for smart people who are very familiar with the English language to essentially insult someone and get away with it, it's a bit biased to say that another person less capable with English perhaps should be censured for the occasional insult.
I think the whole ad hominem attack rule is ridiculous in that sense. It's based on the rules of formal English debate that really don't apply in a public forum. At the very least, the rule is too hastily and too broadly applied. If two people are having a debate on issues and one momentarily stops and calls the other one a name, that isn't really an "ad hominem" attack, it's a slip of the tongue in the heat of the moment. Someone who constantly attacks the person instead of the topic is a different thing altogether.
I just think people should have thicker skins in general. The internet is about as public as "public" gets, yet everyone seems to expect formal British English rules of debate to apply as if society in general were as civil as a private tea party.