Hi Sharon and thank you for your honest feedback. We absolutely want this to be a place where members can gain the opinions and advice of other members. However, when topics are made public there’s an element of privacy that we need to maintain to keep this a safe space for anyone who arrives here. If we cannot maintain a safe space then the sad result will be that less and less people will engage with others and the forum will fail to achieve its goal of being a space for people to share experiences, make connections and chat about all sorts of associated topics.
We believe, in the interests of privacy and respect that no-one should ever feel (however right or wrong the topic is) that their situation is being aired publicly for criticism, whether that be negative or constructive, unless they’ve explicitly given the OK for this to happen.
This is a young forum and we are all learning how to best deal with the situations that arise here. There’s an element of trusting that a topic will remain non-personal, but when the outcome of a sit is less than perfect and emotions are high this is sometimes difficult to maintain and it becomes clear that one or other member could identify themselves from the information provided. This becomes an uncomfortable situation for us all, especially those personally involved, but also among the wider community. We often receive direct messages from concerned readers who also find these situations difficult, and who express concern that this similar public critique might befall them also. Others are very clear they do not want this space to be full of the types of topics that need the help of the support team.
One thing we are clear about is that the forum was never intended to be an extension of membership services and there are clearly cases where membership services and a private discussion with members is the recommended option to resolve a dispute or get the best advice in a difficult situation. Just because there is a private space available doesn’t necessarily mean that this forum space is the best option for all questions. This is the difficultly of balancing what is a more general question and what becomes too personal. And this is why you’ll sometimes see a post closed, because we’ve reached that point.
The way to assess whether a situation should be dealt with one a one-to-one basis can quite easily be determined by asking is it a current negative sit outcome? Is it a sit that hasn’t yet completed to the satisfaction of all parties? If this is the case then really the first point of contact should always be membership services.
In terms of personal exchanges, that is the purpose of direct messaging. Direct messages provide a private way to discuss a particular situation with another member here in the forum. We already see many members reaching out to each other in this way and this is safe and private.
You have raised a good point though, especially about how someone may be less likely to reach out for help if their topic has been closed. I think that’s possibly our responsibility in making the guidelines clearer about the purpose of the forum and how it isn’t a replacement for the support provided by the internal team within the wider organisation.
We will make this a priority to discuss and update the guidelines so that there is less confusion on this matter as the forum grows.
I hope this gives some insight into the difficulties we face when moderating topics publicly.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend.
Angela, Vanessa and the Team