Anonymous Games and Forum Posts

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Anonymous Games and Forum Posts

Postby rick.leeds » 04 Jan 2016, 10:00

For a while now we've done our best to protect anonymous games from being unnecessarily affected by members posting on the Forum. Despite our efforts to date, it's still happening.

When you go to the Bugs forum, the Cheaters forum and the Find a Game forum there are rules stated at the top of the forum about this. You can see an example at the head of THIS forum - in the blushing pink box. Those rules are there for a reason and, in each of those forums (Bugs, Cheaters and Find a Game), they say a similar thing: either send a PM to the SITE HELP! group or post using the Dolph Shtoss account. Whether members don't notice the rules section for each forum or simply don't bother reading them, I'm not sure.

We've had this in the Site Rules forum for a while, too. We recently updated those rules (see here: viewtopic.php?f=126&t=51647). As it says in the linked topic, we're going to get stricter about this.

So I wanted to set out now, hopefully as clearly as possible, the reasons for the rules, what to do when you need to post about an anonymous game and what could happen if you break the rules.

What are anonymous games?
There are four types of game which are anonymous: Anonymous Players, Anonymous Countries, Gunboat and Public Press Only games. The first two are pretty obvious - it's right there in the game category. The second two seem to get forgotten, but they are effectively anonymous, too. The procedure for posting on the Forum for all of these games is the same.

Why guard against posting on the Forum using a member's username in an anonymous game?
Well, to protect anonymity. If you've joined an anonymous game, then there's a reason you've done that. You wanted to play anonymously... and you want everyone else to play anonymously. If not, why play an anonymous game?

So, starting from this premise, it stands to reason that maintaining that anonymity should stretch to the Forum. Yes, in an anonymous game with communications - so not Gunboat - players may apparently divulge their identities. The point of this, though, is that none of the other players can be sure about this. I may claim I'm gsmx, KarmaOverDogma or anyone in the game - nobody can verify this until the game's over. Posting on the Forum about your game, though, takes away any doubt.

Is it really that important? I think so. Just as with any other game, if you join an anonymous game you are committing yourself to anonymity. It's part of the game. Other players should expect you to meet that commitment; you should expect them to meet that commitment.

Posting on the Forum about an anonymous game, under your username, affects the integrity of the game.

So what should I do if I need to post?
It's been mentioned above: you have two options.

1. Send a PM (Private Message) to the SITE HELP! group on the Forum.
I'm going to assume that some members, who perhaps don't use the Forum often or who don't send PMs often, might not know how to do this, so here's how to.
(1) Go to your User Control Panel. It's under the Forum banner.
(2) Click on the 'Private messages' tab.
(3) In the 'Compose message' window, on the top right, you'll see a 'Groups' box. Scroll down until you see SITE HELP! and click on it.
(4) Click on 'Add'. This will add the group to the box of recipients.
(5) Compose your message, stating that the issue is and including relevant information - game number, name, problem, etc.
(6) When you've completed your message, click on 'Submit'.
The message will appear in your 'Outbox' until it is opened by a member of the SITE HELP! group, when it will move to your 'Sent messages' box. Someone will deal with it as soon as possible.

2. Post on the Forum using an anonymous forum account.
There are two anonymous forum accounts:
- SubSeeker is designed for seeking a temporary substitute in an anonymous game. The password is theWho.
- Dolph Shtoss is designed for everything else - advertising anonymous games, seeking replacements in anonymous games, posting bug reports, cheating reports, etc. The password is anonymous.

It is the Dolph Shtoss account you will need most often.

(1) 'Logout' of the Forum from your user account.
(2) Log in to the Forum using Dolph Shtoss and the password anonymous.
(3) Post in the appropriate forum as normal.
(4) Logout as Dolph Shtoss.

For both accounts it is important you don't change the passwords and that you don't open the PM box - unless you are expecting PMs, of course. Don't read PMs not meant for you!

This isn't new information. It has been given in the Find a Game forum for some while and it is also posted in other forums.

If you think you need to post on the Forum - advertising an anonymous game, for instance - use the Dolph Shtoss account. For bug and cheating reports either send a PM or use the Dolph Shtoss account.

What happens if I break these rules?
As I say, we're getting stricter.

The first thing is that, once spotted, your post will be edited or removed. The Mod will probably follow-up with a PM to let you know why and what action is being taken, or else refer it to Admin.

If it looks like you are a member who might not be familiar with the Forum, then you'll probably receive an informal warning by PM. This will inform you about the rules re: posting and anonymous games.

If the Mod thinks you are - or should be - aware of these rules already, then it will be a formal warning and you'll accrue a strike for breaking the site's rules. If you're aware of the strike system, three strikes - for ANY rule-breaking - result in members being permanently banned from the site. If you've already got a strike, you'll receive another strike automatically as you'll have been told you need to be aware of the site rules in the past and you'll have committed to following them!

Again, if the Mod thinks you should know the rules it is likely you will be removed from the game you posted about. This may seem harsh but you've damaged the integrity of the anonymous game.

It may be that you feel you've been harshly dealt with - that you made a mistake, that you weren't aware of the procedure, or for any other reason. If this is the case, you can, of course, appeal. If the appeal is upheld, then any strike resulting from the action will be removed. However, please be aware that we do not replace people in games whatever happens. Avoid making the error in the first place.

There will be some members who think we're taking too harsh a line on this - and there will be some who fall foul of the rules who receive sanctions for doing so who certainly will! However, these rules and procedures have been around for a while; it's mentioned on the SITE RULES tab on the games site. If you choose to use the site, you agree to abide by the site's rules.

We're taking a stricter stand simply because this is still happening. There really is no reason for this to be the case. The forums where this is required have the procedure in their rules section (as mentioned above). If a member takes the time to read these then it can be avoided.

We want people to enjoy the site and we're not trying to catch people out or be over-officious. We do think that there is an expectation that members will make themselves aware of procedures and rules, even if it is on a case-by-case basis. And we do think that enjoyment of a game is enhanced by members committing to follow the boundaries within the game.
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Re: Anonymous Games and Forum Posts

Postby nanooktheeskimo » 04 Jan 2016, 11:29

I have a question pertaining to anon countries games and looking for replacements. Since it's anon countries, not players, is use of Dolph Schtoss necessary, since it's public information you're in the game already, the only concealed part is which country you're playing? I can see it's important if it's a temporary sub, but I'm talking about posting an ad for a replacement of a surrendered position?

Just a question that popped up in my head when I read this, figured I'd ask and see what the answer is :)
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Re: Anonymous Games and Forum Posts

Postby rick.leeds » 04 Jan 2016, 14:54

Fair point, Nanook.

For those that aren't aware, 'Anonymous Countries' games are games in which the players know who is in the game but not which power they are controlling, whereas 'Anonymous Players' games are completely anonymous - you don't know who is in the game.

Certainly, when it's an Anon Countries game, as everyone knows who has signed-up to the game, it doesn't seem to matter if a player in the game advertises for a replacement under his own username. Everyone knows you're in the game, the info in Public Press tells the players who has surrendered (I believe) and so nothing is being given away.

I almost said as much in the post above but backed away from it ;) The reason for this is that, in doing so, it brings into play a difference between one type of anon game, in one situation, and the other types of games in almost all other situations. What I didn't want to do is cause some kind of confusion: I can see someone advertising using his username for an Anon Countries game and then forgetting to use Dolph Shtoss for an Anon Players game!

So, what I'm saying is that, think about making sure you're always looking to use PMs, or always posting under the Dolph Shtoss (or SubSeeker) account, for anonymous games. We'll deal with the games differently if it's an anonymous countries game.
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Re: Anonymous Games and Forum Posts

Postby charliep007 » 04 Jan 2016, 17:08

Thanks for this Rick, I think that you are doing all you can to get this right, however my experience on things like this is that unless the user is directed in a process like this - a bunch of the time the user won't read the instructions carefully enough - but I think the consequences of falling foul of these steps is balanced and as fair as you can be.

As ever, thank you

(And good to have you back)
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Re: Anonymous Games and Forum Posts

Postby FrankC » 04 Jan 2016, 17:17

This is a good development. But -- if someone breaks the rule, in addition to removing the post will you repost or republish the information? At least with respect to games seeking new players, it would be good to have the announcement out, and not have a hiatus while waiting for the original poster to check back in and do it right.
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Re: Anonymous Games and Forum Posts

Postby gsmx » 05 Jan 2016, 02:02

I really like this well defined stance as I'd personally just gotten bitten by this very scenario not that long ago. I'll share just so everybody can understand the type of issues that come up.

I was playing a game that was both anonymous and secret ballot and one of the players got confused why the "draw" wasn't going through when everybody had claimed they had accepted it. Obviously somebody was bluffing (spoiler, it was me) but apparently that fact wasn't as clear to everybody. The player made an anonymous announcement in the shoutbox he was going to contact a mod and then went to the forum to ask about a bug in game using his actual name, which made it obvious to link the player name to the country. It essentially negated him as a possible candidate as to whom was bluffing since he had posted the forum thread but also after seeing his identity it was easy to see from his game history that he wasn't likely that sort of an aggressive player. Became even more awkward when it turned out he and the other player left in the game (coincidentally FrankC) had some history together in recent games making it even more likely his past reputation would further prove his innocence in the bluff attempt. It wasn't a malicious attempt at all it seemed clearly a case of somebody not knowing better, however it was also a case of where the player ought to have as they'd been around long enough. We just ended up playing it out since at the time there wasn't really a strict rule of removing a player for violation and really wouldn't have mattered anyways since with three players in a game left the jig was pretty much up then. At that point we just had to accept the draw as-is (sort of, but that's another story).

Glad to see progress.
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Re: Anonymous Games and Forum Posts

Postby rick.leeds » 07 Jan 2016, 12:09

FrankC wrote:This is a good development. But -- if someone breaks the rule, in addition to removing the post will you repost or republish the information? At least with respect to games seeking new players, it would be good to have the announcement out, and not have a hiatus while waiting for the original poster to check back in and do it right.

What is most likely is that the post will be edited rather than removed, redacting the information that could damage the game. So the information about the vacancy will be out there, one way or another.

One of the problems is that we don't always spot these posts quickly enough. There's a finite amount of time our brilliant volunteer mods can spend trawling through the Forum, after all ;) So, what would also be good is if members could keep an eagle eye out and use the 'report' function. Mods have a Moderator Control Panel and reported posts get flagged there. It is much quicker to catch reported posts this way than checking each relevant forum - as well as some where this and other rules may be broken.

And don't worry about reporting a topic twice. If a post has been reported, it will show up on the post itself.
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