I am a member of TMP. A non-paying member, though I have been a supporter (i.e., payer) in the past. I like The Miniatures Page. It's an opportunity to connect with other miniature wargamers outside the Northwest, and share what's going on in our neck of the woods and share ideas or get reactions to what I'm doing. I'm not a regular poster. I don't visit every day. I don't always have something to say. I have about 2,600 posts in the ten years I've been a member.
Bill Armintrout is the owner and operator of the site, which combines a number of functions, mostly a collection of message boards grouped by subject, but also a site that collects a fair amount of advertising revenue. Bill shepherded TMP through technology growing pains and established boundaries for posters. He's occasionally had to be the bouncer, giving rule-breakers the heave ho. For less egregious offenders, there is the dawghouse, in which an account is temporarily suspended. For those serial/serious crime lords there is the ban. More or less permanent, or at least until they create a new account. Bill also provided tools for posters to deal with those they could not agree with-a stifle button to prevent seeing posts from those inspiring instant nausea, and a complaint button for those posts that seem over the line or beyond the rules.
Unfortunately, the last year, there's been a nasty spate of incidents that I believed died out last summer that leave me increasingly uncomfortable on TMP. As all forums do, there are folks on TMP who post more frequently, and John Carroll (screen name John the OFM) is one of those. I usually find him to be fun and a fount of knowledge, but others find him less so. As the most prolific poster on the site, a number of polls were run targeting him for ridicule. I expressed my unhappiness about this last summer and sent a personal message to Bill expressing my discontent. Bill's response was that he felt this was a freedom of expression matter, that those who offered these polls (a poll is posted when Bill approves) should have the right to ridicule John on TMP. I explained that in this day and age this constitutes harassment and bullying and should not be tolerated. Bill thought I was ridiculously thin-skinned and probably didn't belong on such a forum.
This week, some nine months after the storm blew over, with valued members of the community leaving for greener pastures, John being temporarily banned and a morass of bad feelings, a new poll appeared this week on TMP. "Should John the OFM be banned from TMP?" The poster suggesting the poll was roundly criticized. It turns out the poster offered the poll in August 2011. Bill approved the poll and posted it this week, June 8th. Really? After all the angst from last summer?
And for what reason? Bill believes the community should have the right to vote on banning members. Doesn't say that such a right exists or should be encouraged in the FAQ's. Yet there is a rule against personal attacks or calling someone a troll. I find it interesting that Bill defends this as some vague form of democracy, and should be protected as a freedom of expression, when the reason for attacking the OFM had something to do with John generously using his own freedom to post on TMP, which some others did not like. So it is okay to protect the views of posters (though as a personal attack they violate the rules,) as freedom of speech, while they seek to deny that same freedom to other?
Look, there are rules or there aren't rules. We're all safe or not safe. On the one hand, Bill establishes rules that encourage respect and civility. He's used his official role of TMPgod to enforce those rules to temporarily and permanently suspend the privileges of those who break them. But in this case he not only allows the rule breaking to go on, he give it his official imprimatur. I think it's incredibly unfair and arbitrary. While I enjoy TMP and its denizens and its features, I think I'm done.
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