Once upon a time many years ago, Aikido Journal had a bulletin board or forum that attracted a great deal of participation and discussion. Together with the forum of aikiweb.com, which still exists, I believe we were at the forefront of happenings in the aikido world.
As the forum grew, it became more and more demanding to manage, and I had too little time to moderate it properly. I then made a poor judgement in allowing discussions to take place in other languages to enlarge the scope of our efforts. Little by little, I let people carry on their own discussions in different languages without hardly any policing! BIG, DUMB MISTAKE!
Flame-wars began erupting with some people criticizing participants and making degrading personal attacks. One jolly fellow began to post pornographic images inside the forum every few seconds to thumb his nose at both his opponent and the operator of the website–that would be me!– in one fell swoop! I was in sheer panic!
Not surprisingly, some of the most best-known participants–giants of the aikido world–ceased participating in our forum and expressed to me their displeasure with this sorry state of affairs publicly and in private. Who could blame them? There was little I could do but apologize. The board then languished for a while, and eventually I shut it down altogether.
Fast forward to the present. We are now using WordPress software to run our suite of sites. This software of course includes the facility to allow commenting. I have come to prefer this medium to a discussion forum format.
After some experimentation, I eventually decided that every single comment needed to be moderated. Even well-known, normally polite people can sometimes be drawn into personal disputes by trolls who are expert at bringing out the worst in us all. There is something about being attacked and humiliated in a public forum that can make one go ballistic… and there are some who derive great delight in watching the spectacle.
I vowed to never again to allow what happened with the old forum to repeat itself. So even though it takes a lot of time, I always review and often rewrite each comment submitted to make it presentable to our distinguished Aikido Journal audience. It’s the least I can do.
This morning a comment was submitted which contained a strong personal attack on one of our contributors. If I had approved his comment as is, this person would have effectively hijacked this very intersting discussion thread, and embarrassed the writer whom I have known for nearly 50 years! I wrote back the author of the comment and asked him to explain his reasoning for disagreeing with the writer and resubmit his comment without any personal attack. I hope that he will do so because this person may have something interesting to say. We must always keep in mind the importance of etiquette and courtesy. They are not merely social niceties, but key strategic skills sometimes related to survival!
Just imagine an art practiced by more than one million adherents the world over who unhesitantingly spout a philosophy of harmony and brotherhood arguing and insulting one another in a public forum. Not a pleasant sight! And who would be to blame if not the host of the website?
Over the years, I have learned this. In any group, there will always be people who have developed the art of provocation to a fine science. They’re very good at it because they practice such behavior every day of their lives. They love watching their target squirm. The Internet offers them a playing field where they can intrude on discussions by many of the top experts in a given field on equal terms. What an opportunity to disrupt an interesting discussion and knock over all of the furniture in the virtual room! A veritable feast of destruction with a worldwide audience!
Well, it’s not going to happen here now or ever again. You folks are too important as aikidoka and to me personally. You have allowed me to pursue my dream now for several decades. You have big, important work to tackle in setting examples in your lives. I will try my best to maintain a friendly and stimulating forum for intelligent discussion for the benefit of us all here at Aikido Journal.
All polite, sincere and open-minded people welcome here!