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S said

No More Drama! An Unofficial Guide to Commenting on Steepster

Hello everyone, I am really dismayed at the (thankfully rare) drama and rudeness sometimes found in the Steepster Discussions and in some tasting notes. Steepster is supposed to be a fun, accepting community of tea-minded folks, and that kind of negativity should not be part of a community based around the enjoyment of a certain beverage. Right? So I thought maybe we could compile a list of UNOFFICIAL “rules” or things to keep in mind about using Steepster…sort of like an FAQ and commenting guide, combined, which isn’t “official” but is reflective of the will of the community. It seems like arguments seem to be occurring over the same few ideas, over and over again, so I thought this could be a designated space for us to parse out what exactly is causing the miscommunication and offensiveness.

What do you think? I’ll start it off. Comment below to add your rules. Feel free to dispute or clarify any of the rules you think are wrong, or just badly worded.

1. First and foremost, be excellent to each other. Give your fellow Steepsterites the benefit of the doubt and be constructive in critique or debates.

2. Recognize that everyone takes their tea differently. Saying that you do not like milk/sugar/additives/whatever and tea is fine. Saying that you would never add milk to your tea is fine. Saying or implying that people who add milk to their tea are gross/losers/dumb/etc. is not okay.

3. The same goes for tea bags vs. loose leaf, flavored tea vs. unflavored, preparation times, etc. Saying that you do not like tea bags is okay. Insulting the intelligence of people who do like those things is unacceptable.

4. Whenever possible, try to avoid inflaming tensions on the site. Acknowledge that tone and sarcasm do not travel well across teh interwebz, and either PM or comment asking for clarification before jumping down their throat.

5. Don’t degrade other people’s taste in food or drinks by saying “ew, that’s gross” after they say they like something. That is just rude. Of course you can write your own tasting note saying “BARF!!” and you can comment on someone else’s note saying “I didn’t like this one that much,” but saying something like “EWWW HOW DISGUSTING!!” or “you LIKED this disgusting tea? Wow…” on someone’s tasting note about a tea they liked is disrespectful, rude, and offputting.

6. Acknowledge that no one is perfect, and that it is NOT your job to moderate the Steepster forums. So a person posted a reply to the wrong thread in a topic. This is not an invitation for you to go in and say “what were you thinking, putting this here?!?!” Although you might not mean it this way, it comes off as accusatory and aggressive, and probably scary to new Steepster users. The world is not going to end if someone already mentioned the same thing earlier in that topic, or if it’s obvious they accidentally replied to the general thread instead of a specific comment in the thread.

7. We don’t need to know that something was “already mentioned” in the Features You Would Like To See thread. Nobody is able to go through 20 pages, which is so long partially because of those extraneous comments of “already mentioned!!!1”. The whole point of repeating a mention is so that the overlords know that multiple people want that feature. Saying “I want that too” in response is okay; saying “That was already mentioned” is not, clutters the topic, and might make the poster feel bad—as if he or she were being redundant or being implicitly told to be quiet.

8. It’s OK to give tips and alternatives for steeping times/preparation, but be kind about it. Getting feedback is one of the best things about Steepster. Offering advice when someone’s having trouble getting a tea to taste good is great. However, suggesting that person is steeping something “wrong,” even if they like how they’ve steeped it, is rude. For example: Susie likes her this specific green tea steeped for 8 minutes. “Oh wow, I usually only do 3 minutes. That must be intense!” = OK. “Um, you’re only supposed to steep this 3 minutes, duh” = NOT OK. See: rules 2, 3 and 4, on respecting people’s tastes.

51 Replies
Cofftea said

I differ in opinion on number 6- because the search does not cover that forum, it is nice to know if an idea you have has already been mentioned… that way you know, as you said, that “multiple people want that feature”. That being said, When I do say that I also try to state or at least indicate w/ a smiley (since I’ve always interpreted smileys to mean positive things, but I do realize that could not be caught by some people) that I also would like that suggestion implemented or, in my opinion, why I feel it isn’t in steepster’s best interest.

S said

I (and at least 5 other steepster users I’ve talked to on gchat and PMing) think it’s annoying to see so many comments that are just “already mentioned.” I think people care less that their not alone, and more that the overlords are actually able to SEE their suggestion. If it’s already been mentioned, it’s there in the topic, and the overlords will see it. Otherwise, you’re just doubling the volume of messages in that topic for no reason, not to mention alerting everyone who is subscribed to the fact that….random person X said the same thing? Yeah. I would say it’s borderline spam.

Edit: Split #5 into 5 and 6, because they are two different issues. Feel free to debate their merit :)

Cofftea said

It’s my opinion that the repetition of the same idea is moreso spam… which I completely realize is nearly impossible to stop til the search covers that thread as well. (Oh why doesn’t it Steepster guys?) So I guess people comment so more people realize the idea is there (along w/ saying they do or do not agree w/ the suggestion). Yes, I know it’s a vicious circle, but I figure since there’s no current way to solve that probelm, I might as well make the best of it til something is changed. I also think the +1s are spammish and a +1, button would be a much better set up- but that isn’t the current set up so we deal w/ what we have. I also happen to enjoy the commentary of ideas (why they like/don’t like it or possible changes, or even simply that they do like the idea- it builds commonality. There are so many differences among tea drinkers that it’s nice to know that you and another person have something in common.

S said

Sorry, I forgot to add—the only way I could see that being marginally useful is if the person actually linked to all of the previous instances. But even then, it’s very repetitive, semi-spammy, and makes the topic even more crowded.

S said

Why do you think the +1 button is spammish? Isn’t that better than having someone say the exact same thing in a different thread, as it aggregates the suggestions by subject matter? It also cuts down the need for your extraneous messages.

Edit: Also, if the moderators want those repetitions to be noted by an “already said” comment, then they would do it themselves and appoint a comment moderator. I don’t think regular Steepster users should be trying to “moderate” for the benefit of the overlords in a way that is harmful to other Steepster users. Just my 2c.

Cofftea said

No, I meant actually typing 1 in a comment is spammish- a "1" button would resolve that problem. Then our notcies would say “Susie commented on a post” or “Susie likes a post” on “What features do you want most?”

Cofftea said

sorry for the underline, I have no clue how that happened lol.

S said

I’m not quite sure I understand what you mean…why do people have to repeat exactly what the person above them said? Isn’t it easier to just say +1 and show that they also agree with the person’s suggestion, making it easier for people to scroll through and read the topic?

Doulton said

As Shanti says in her excellent post if you mention that something has already been mentioned, it could make the poster feel bad—as if he or she were being redundant or being implicitly told to be quiet. Shanti is correct that on the Interwebz it can be impossible to discern if somebody is being helpful, agreeing with you, or telling you to shut up or get out of town.

If you were speaking you could say “That’s already been mentioned” to deride a person in shame or to make a person feel especially brilliant. Tone means everything and it’s sometimes very difficult to interpret.

Cofftea said

Doulton, I completely agree- that’s why I said that I myself expand and don’t just say “already mentioned”.

S said

@Doulton, Well put! I’m going to edit my “rule” so that it’s more concise and reflects what you’ve mentioned. I couldn’t figure out why the whole “already mentioned” thing was so offputting for me. I think a lot of it is tone.

@Cofftea….my gmail archive begs to differ.

Agree. If you’re trying to be helpful to the person and you know where the info they’re asking about is located you can link to the part of the discussion they may want to read and suggest it to them without making them feel like a bozo for not finding it themselves. Something like "You might be interested in this discussion on the topic you mentioned [link]. I used to sysop in the early 90s and I can’t tell you how many times I referred people to material already on the boards or in forum libraries. At the same time you want people to feel welcome and not to leave with a bad taste in their mouths and never come back, so it’s all in how you do it. These days most people will make an effort to find the info they’re looking for as they’ve grown up with the netiquette that says you should investigate whether a question has been answered before posting. But the suggestions thread is v. long now and unwieldy and folks can’t be blamed for not spending an hour attempting to weed through it to find out whether their suggestion has been mentioned or if it doesn’t come up when they do a keyword search the boards.

I guess the main thing I’d add is to try to have a sense of humor about it all and not be quick to judge others intentions and cry foul as it is particularly hard to do in this medium where all most of us know about each other is what we choose to post about ourselves and the “personality” that comes through from our steepster persona which may have similarities with but is undoubtedly just demonstrating a tiny fraction of the complexity of our real personhood.

Erin said

Just as a precursor to this, Cofftea, please understand that I mean no disrespect! I enjoy your tasting notes and you always give me great suggestions. But I have stopped posting on the “New Features” thread because some of your replies could be taken in a rather mean and/or condescending way. I’m sure you don’t mean to sound like that, because I know from our previous back-and-fourths that you’re a nice person. Some examples of what I’m talking about:

“Kyle Hildebrant: IPHONE APPLICATION. Please, that would be amazing.
Cofftea: Already suggested.”

“Karsh: I’m sure it’s been mentioned in this thread already, but an Android app would be mighty sweet… [more words]
Cofftea: Yes it has been.”

Even following up an “already suggested” with a smiley face can still be taken as condescending. I also realize that it’s pretty difficult to say, in a nutshell, “already suggested” without your words accidentally having an extra meaning that you probably didn’t even realize it had. That’s just the nature of the interwebz.

Basically, I’m backing up Doulton on this one. When she says that your comments, “could make the poster feel bad,” she’s right; they have made me feel bad once or twice.

Cofftea said

Erin, if I said that I elabaortate every single time (which I don’t remember doing)- then I was wrong because I have not. I’ve changed the way that I’ve phrased things over time and even since then I am not consistant. (See Shanti’s point number 5). But come on… I don’t think anyone should be blamed for another person taking illl feelings toward a comment w/ a :) in it. That’s the fault of the person taking it that way. Yes I know tone can’t be easily conveyed online, but come on- a :) is just as widely understood to mean something positive as two hands around your neck is the international sign for choking.

denisend said

Well, Steepster is the last place I thought I’d see the magic of intent argument used, but there you go.

You’re being told that you’re being offensive. It doesn’t really matter that you don’t think the other person should be upset – they are. Quit trying to silence them.

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Erin said

Should we add a rule about not anonymously rating a tea unless you comment on it? I’d personally like to stop seeing teas with several ratings but no comments. What do you guys think?

S said

Yeah, that can be annoying…I wish we could see who was rating the teas anonymously, at least.

I’ll admit, I’ve done it before. :X Sometimes I don’t have time to write up a tasting note at that moment, and I don’t want to just put a short description because then it will take up space on people’s dashboards, but I still want to give the tea a general score for my own knowledge.

Erin, I agree with you but I think we have to acknowledge that currently the site software is set up to permit this, so it’s kind of hard to ask someone not to use that feature. Maybe we should find out the thinking behind why it is allowed first as there may be a reason we’re not aware of and if we think the potential for abuse outweighs the utility of the feature, petition for a software change?

Erin said

When I don’t have the time to actually write out a tasting note, I still make a tasting note, rate the tea, but don’t actually write anything in the comments part. That shows up on people’s dashboards simply as “Erin drank Golden Monkey by Adagio.” That’s how I rate things without commenting on them, instead of doing an anonymous rating. That also allows me to go back and edit the tasting note when I have the time.

EDIT – Morgana, you posted that while I was still typing out the comment above this.

I agree with you! Do we ask Jason about why that feature exists?

Maybe if we’re lucky he’ll read this thread and comment…

Doulton said

You can do this two ways: way one, which I find perfectly acceptable is to rate a tea without a tasting note for various reasons—time, the need to think more, the need to have another sample. Or maybe you are just feeling terse. But the rating is there next to your Steepster ID and everyone knows that you’ve put it there.

What I don’t like is that you can anonymously rate a tea anywhere from 0-100 and you can do it repeatedly. Then nobody sees what you’ve done and nobody knows that you’ve done it. I did this ONE TIME as an experiment and discovered that I could not remove the fallacious rating.

I agree precisely with the way that Erin has put it.

S said

Erin, it doesn’t show up on our dashboards if you drank the tea and didn’t write a comment. It only shows up in the Live Feed on the Explore page. The "Erin drank Golden Monkey by Adagio.” you mentioned is the “anonymous ratings” we’re talking about (unless I’m mistaken?). When you make a new log without any actual words in the tasting note region, it shows up as an anonymous review on the Golden Monkey page.

Yep, agree, but unless the software is changed, the potential for someone to use the anonymous rating option will always be there. It doesn’t seem like a software exploit, either — it seems like a consciously chosen design feature, which is why I think it would be interesting to find out the thinking behind it.

S said

Morgana, I totally agree with you. :) So it seems like what we’d really like is to be able to see who is making those wordless reviews—so, for example, being able to go to the Adagio Golden Monkey page and see that Erin was one of the people who gave a rating without writing a review. Is that correct?

Erin said

@Shanti – “When you make a new log without any actual words in the tasting note region, it shows up as an anonymous review on the Golden Monkey page.”
Seriously? Crap. That means I’ve been doing without knowing what is my biggest pet peeve on this site.
I am so confused.

Shanti, yes, I think that’s right — whether it’s done just using the slider or by entering a rating without a comment and intending to enter one later.

Cofftea said

Doulton, you can do it repeatedly but as you can’t assign a different rating to each tasting note (grr!) does the rating affect the general score every time? Or just the 1st per user?

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S said

I think so! Unless I’m totally mistaken (wouldn’t be the first time! ;) )

Seriously though, I don’t think you or I am at fault for doing the wordless reviews; I just think that Steepster needs to make the ratings more transparent, so that we can see that it’s actual people who rated the tea, not fake accounts giving 100s and 0s.

Erin said

Amen! Way to sum it up!

denisend said

Agreed. If the tea’s individual page showed who gave each rating (even without a note) then there wouldn’t be any problem (in my mind, of course).

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SoccerMom said

When I first joined steepster I posted a new discussion and was kinda embarrassed when I was told that “this topic has already been discussed see this link”. It made me hesitate to bring up any new topics for fear of it already having been discussed. I mean you no disrespect Cofftea but it was you who reported this to me too and now after having been here awhile I’m more comfortable and I feel like I know when you are going to jump on something I’ve said and am prepared for it. It did take me getting used to you to realize that you don’t mean anything negative (at least I don’t think you do) and the smiley faces do help me because sometimes I say things that are joking but could be taken as negative but I add a smile to show that I am saying it friendly so when you add smileys I get it. :) (I appreciate smiles)

Cofftea said

I’m sorry if anyone takes my help as negative or “jumping on” something as I never intentionally mean either. But, alas, I (and any one person) can only be responsible for my own words/actions/intentions and not how others interpret them. My conscience is clear.

SoccerMom said

No harm, no foul.

denisend said

Also, “I’m sorry if you’re offended” isn’t an apology.

Cofftea said

It wasn’t supposed to be.

S said

Wow…that makes your response even worse. What is your problem, then, with our request that you stop posting replies that are offensive and hurtful?

Cofftea said

Shanti, feeling sorry someone has hurt feelings and claiming responsibility for them (i.e. saying “I’m sorry.”) are vastly different. I have, and will, apologize if I am the one responsible for hurt feelings, misunderstandings, etc but I’m not going to apologize just because someone wants me to if I’m not in the wrong. No one should. There’s a quote by Eleanore Roosevelt that I love, “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission”. All I can do is do my best to convey exactly what I mean and then if someone chooses to take it in a manner in which it was not intended, then it’s out of my hands.

Lori said

I completely agree w/SoccerMom – no harm , no foul…

Cofftea said

Thanks Lori.

denisend said

For SoccerMom and Lori -

Do you see stifling conversation on the site as “no harm”? I’m honestly curious, because I do see it as harmful to the community.

In other words, such aggressive backseat moderation (even if it’s conducted with no harmful “intent”) has caused folks to say “I’ve considered not posting” (and how many folks haven’t spoken up about it). Isn’t that harmful?

Cofftea said

denisend,

Yes, I do realize your post was not directed at me- but my mom has always said something that I’ve found very valuable. She’s always said that I should never let a person prevent me from doing something I enjoy. That was the best advice she’s ever given me. If I decided to not do certain things based on other people then I would have missed out on a lot of GREAT experiences in life.

Cait select said

Cofftea, that’s quite startlingly anarchic/punk! I guess I shouldn’t jump to conclusions about people. :) Is this part of a larger political philosophy for you?

S said

Heh, Cait, I was thinking more along the lines of Ayn Rand and Objectivism (barf). Or maybe just good ole’ exploitation.

denisend said

Shanti -

I believe Rand would disagree with your understanding of her writing… from the Atlas Society:

Rand understands, though, that the popular usage of the word, “selfish,” is different from the meaning she ascribes to it. Many people use the adjective “selfish” to describe regard for one’s own welfare to the disregard of the well-being of others. Moreover, many people would be willing to characterize any instance of desire-satisfaction in these circumstances as “selfish,” no matter what its content. Thus, many people arrive at the following composite image: selfish people are brutish people who are oblivious to the negative consequences of their actions for their friends and loved ones and who abuse the patience, trust, and good will of all comers to satisfy their petty whims.

Rand certainly recognizes that there are people who fit this description, and she certainly does not believe that their behavior is in any sense virtuous.

. . .

For her, the truly selfish person is a self-respecting, self-supporting human being who neither sacrifices others to himself nor sacrifices himself to others.

Quotes taken from here: http://www.objectivistcenter.org/cth—406-FAQ_Virtue_Selfishness.aspx

Still, the views that Cofftea is expressing here make it pretty clear that she intends to do what she wants, regardless of how many people write to her and tell her that she’s offensive and upsetting them, regardless of how many people think that she’s actively harming the community. She does not appear to value the experiences of the other people in this community and thus, is not an asset to our community.

IMO, of course.

Lori said

Shanti- on the lighthearted side, LOL about the barf and Objectivism comment,,,

Look , sorry, sorry, I just want everyone to get along and don’t like conflict and don’t want anyone to feel like they are being picked on/piled on too much..

Cofftea said

Don’t apologize Lori- you have nothing to apologize for. :)

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S said

Thanks for the explanation Denise :) although I’m fairly familiar with Rand, you’re right—her viewpoint is a bit more nuanced than what I was comparing her to… ;)

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chana said

May I make a suggestion for a golden rule? Borrowed from another beloved site (Ravelry) and edited to Steepster.

“First and foremost, be excellent to each other. Give your fellow Steepsterites the benefit of the doubt and be constructive in critique or debates.”

S said

That’s a great one. Adding it to the post!

Cofftea said

Yeah “treat others as yourself” never worked for me since I have struggled w/ low self-esteem my entire life (thanks dad…). I have to treat others much better than I do myself.

S said

Cofftea, the saying isn’t “treat others as you treat yourself”, it’s “treat others as you’d like to be treated”….. :/

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