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Harassment and GM Transparency - An Address
I shall open this by allowing you to cut straight to the meat of the issue, skipping past my foreword should you wish.
This public statement is going to be split into two distinct but deeply intertwined topics-

If you are concerned with the state of harassment and hostility in the community, and how we seek to address it moving forwards, skip to the next bolded line.
If you are concerned with hearing how the GM team operate, further potential changes, and some more personal thoughts on recent threads, those will be contained in the next post.
I'd ask that you don't skip the section on harassment, as it constitutes an adjustment on policy that affects nearly every last one of you.

At the time of posting, I intend to spend a few hours in the comments of this thread, responding to things as best I can. Please endeavour to keep your responses polite, respectful towards others, and concise. I shall do the same.

With that out of the way...

"This community is full of fine people. Good souls. And I understand they are on edge for countless reasons. What I pray is people will cease burning bridges, and instead mend them. To give each other comradery." -sic Stenzio, Opinions on the State of Opinions

For the best part of this year, I have been apart from our community perhaps more than I ever have been in the past, even factoring in my relative and intentionl anonymity before applying for GMship. I'll save you all the sordid details- 2020 comes for us all -now that I am in a secure enough place physically to be fully back in action. But as the old curse goes...
May you live in interesting times.
During my absense from public, it well seems as though problems that we as a broader community have suffered for years at this point have been given ample space to grow, consume, and fester. Truly, the timing of my return is ideal and horrible in equal measure, each for numerous reasons.

So, accordingly, I'll begin with an apology.
Whilst I've been active in GM discussions during my unwilling hiatus and responding to every administritive private message I've received in the interim, had I been more involved in the community for the past year, perhaps I would have been able to sooner realise just how bad things had become, and been able to interject far earlier. On behalf of my own public inaction, I deeply apologise.

The problems addressed in recent forum threads are far from new though, and some still remain largely unaddressed. They are merely worsening of trends that I can observe and follow the trail of backwards for years, in large part.
I understand some of you may not think of us GMs as part of the community, and I'm sure that all of us being very old players and largely keeping to ourselves doesn't aid in that perception, but we are indeed community members just like yourselves, and it deeply hurts us when we see such a horrible atmosphere as has been prevalent overtake what should well be a tight-knit, collaborative community. And accordingly, we are just as at fault for allowing hostile aspects of the community to go unresolved.

Let's move on to the meat of things, shall we? Enough waxing lyrical about the negatives, let's get to updates, solutions, and solid steps moving fowards.

Ongoing Harassment Within the Community, and Policy Changes Thereupon.

The way we as a larger community have allowed harassment as a very specific issue and hostility as a whole to grow out of control is a topic I've been taking a deeper look into of late, doubly so the past couple days. Even knowing that it was prevalent before going in, I've found myself taken aback by just how many people are truthfully affected by this matter, in ways large or small. Before getting some rest last night, I dropped in on essentially random, unrelated community members, each of whom was able to give me a distinct positive litmus test on quietly held concerns about the way people have been treating one another.

Accordingly, my opening statement is as such...

There are elements of our playerbase that have fostered an evironment of hostility and harassment that directly silences the necessary reporting of problems that need scrutiny, and indirectly brings many others to silence as to avoid becoming a target.

This is a problem that I personally find abhorrent, especially given that it's a problem that each of us can contribute to without meaning to cause active harm. Stenzio's quote speaks to me accordingly; I refuse to believe that the majority of people who perpetuate such an environment do so intentionally, and fundamentally consider you all to have positive goals and intentions.
This is also a problem that we as GMs cannot solve alone. We will need your help as a broader community, even as we actively endeavour to do our best by you all. We have been considering policy changes on this topic for a while now, and intend to work in tandem with you all to better SL2 for us all.

Let's start with things that are definite on the GM end of things. We are willing to consider further suggestions and ideas accordingly, as this is an evolving situation that takes time, but I want to leave no room for doubt on this specific policy change.
We have elected to take on a harsher, zero-tolerance stance on cases of intentional, targetted harassment.
For a long time, we've been relatively hands off with mechanical punishment. Bans don't come frequently, and typically require quite a few- or at least very significant -overstepping of boundaries. Equally so, we have been relatively unable to pursue cases of this that we're aware of which happen behind closed doors.
I won't mince words, since this really needs to settle in.

If we are presented with adequate evidence that any specific person has been exhibiting behaviour of targetted, malicious harassment or hostility at another player or players, and a further investigation corroborates as much, that person will be met with mechanical punishment swiftly, decisively, and thoroughly.

This, however, is not all.
Firstly, we aren't stupid, and we're all well versed in the ways people make an effort to provide terribly thin veils of plausible deniability. Trying to pull the wool over our eyes whilst harming the game experience for other players will not be treated any more kindly than being blatant about it will be.
Secondly, we have long been aware of a repeating pattern whenever people are scrutinized for their actions. Namely, the direction of their friends and compatriots, intentional or otherwise, to harass and bully the initial victim further, or whomever reported the issue. In the past, this has largely happened in discord communities, and thus we've felt it appropriate to watch carefully, but have been largely unable to consider taking action against these people. Going forth, expect this to change. If you take your harassment of others in the community off of the server, we intend to treat such a case as just as much in the community as anything directly in game. This is where I'd like to think better of people- it's natural to want to come to the aid of one's friends, but very often this comes in the form of harming others. The likelihood is that these cases are less intentionally malicious than the initial instances, however, and such will be taken into consideration when we investigate.
Thirdly, the matter of providing evidence when requested. This will largely be touched upon in post two, but is relevant here. In point two, I noted how people who report things often get harassed themselves, intentionally so. Discretion has been and continues to be a distinct concern in harassment cases, and there is a danger when providing logs that we can put existing victims at further risk of hostility.

So. Onto anything that the wider playerbase can do to help us out.
We need to foster together a better atmosphere in which people feel like they can report things without getting dogpiled and strung up. Part of that is on the GM team, but part of that is also on pushing past reluctancy to report problems with negatively affect not only ourselves, but others. Again- I dropped in on near-random people to ask their personal opinions, and got positives. If things aren't reported to the GM team, it becomes very, very difficult to be aware of ongoing situations.

I get it, fully. Nobody wants to be the one to get ostracised for doing a good thing, and it's abominable when it happens. The GM team is more than willing to hear you out privately, keep you secure, and do our best to prevent you getting targetted for doing right by yourself and your fellow player.
It's a vicious cycle of harassment and hostility bullying people into silence, allowing such things to flourish and spread yet further, worsening until the point where nobody feels comfortable with speaking up. The forums have been very busy the past few days, but the number of people who haven't spoken on related topics are very easy to be hidden away and go without regard when they don't feel comfortable to speak.
But this is not the only feasible cycle. Should we make a collective effort to actively and securely present concerns as well as hard infractions, it will at least start to foster an atmosphere in which rotten behaviour is put under the clear light of day... helping people to further feel comfortable voicing their concerns.

You will not be alone in this. This is not a case of "just speak up, lol." The GM team is currently considering methods to better open channels in which people can feel more comfortable in confidentially giving voice to their concerns, and we're making an active effort to workshop things accordingly.
In the interim period, it would be prudent to at the very least note that we are all willing to take private messages from anybody in the community. I personally encourage it. Really, please. I prefer when people come to me directly for things, it's motivating, encouraging, and I always endeavour to respond as soon as I can to work with people quickly and positively.

Ultimately, we feel problems in the community just as you do, and we want to better ourselves collectively just as you do.
I quoted Stenzio's post in the foreword because I admired the positivity underlying it. It's a positivity I often lack, and I shall be taking as much into account- perhaps we all should take a moment to step back, just every now and then, to breathe deeply and reflect on how we impact those around us? Certainly, I will be doing so. We're all beautifully imperfect, after all, yet blessed with the gift of introspection.

if i have to type harassment one more time i think im going to have an aneurysm
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GM Channel, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Our Chat

Now, I understand this is what a certain subsection of you came for, and probably what you expected this whole thread to be about.
I'm going to give you direct insight into how we as a quartet generally interact in the GM Lair channel in the SL2 public discord server, what tools for keeping track of each other we have at our disposal, and perhaps some clarifications on recent events in the light of this insight.

So. I shall make no illusions as to the contrary- whilst I agree that there are improvements to be made to the system we have, the way GM Lair operates is something I adore.
There have been allusions both recently and in the past that things are generally not handled by only one GM. This is true in large part, but I shall clarify upon that matter. Are specific cases usually handled by one GM more than the others? Yes. Specifically, we can't all be the one to issue a warning, a boot, or a ban. We can't all be the one to speak to you at one particular instance, or be the one doing the bulk of a specific investigation. You all already know that, of course. However...
When it comes to what should be done regarding a certain case, the GM Lair is remarkably collaborative. I cannot recall a single case outside of bots, spammers, or advertising that has been the sole purview of one GM pushing for punitive action. Every case I can think of off of the top of my head, both in terms of moderation AND in positive changes/responses on more benign topics, has been something up for discussion and amiable, reasoned debate with one another. We all have access to the same materials where appropriate. We all are comfortable speaking with one another on a plethora of topics. We all are more than willing to open a dialogue with one another over most anything administrative, or criticise suggestions without hostility.
It's a shockingly pleasant change from many past administrative gigs I've had.

To quote a recent thread,
"We've also seen evidence that all the GMs were communicating with other about this and were all aware of the situation." -sic Jupiter_Storm, Addressing Misinformation Regarding a Recent Ban
This is very much a public good, and I'm glad that it has been seen openly, at the very least. Please know that this is fundamentally the situation with, again... basically every topic that is ever broached within the GM Lair channel.

Now. It's true that in regards with coming forward to a GM in regards to a specific issue, we prefer you to go to the GM who directly handled it, even if we've all discussed the matter. This helps to avoid any unnecessary confusion or crossed communication channels, and we've all experienced situations on BYOND in which a problem player has tried to go behind the back of one GM to speak to another. It's the ideal situation to avoid those problems. In most cases, if you make an effort to speak to the GM in question directly, they'll make an effort to respond as quickly as possible, given our personal schedules and lives. In situations where this is not the case, it's largely due to said GM being very busy in that moment, or an effort being made at a carefully reasoned response in more delicate situations.

Obviously, this can't always be the case. There are times where it may be appropriate to contact another GM.
Urgent scenarios? The need to report something particular sensitive, where you require someone more familiar to feel personally comfortable? Absolutely.
But keep this all in mind- we enjoy the collaborative nature of the GM Team, and the openness thereof. You should do this anyway, but remember that we have doubled personal investment in you;
Reporting any concerns you may have about GM(s) or GM Action taken. Really. Do NOT hesitate to report well-founded GM concerns to another GM or Dev. We take these matters very seriously. This also applies to Eventmins just as strongly.

I for one would be incensed at inappropriate GM activity taken behind the backs of an otherwise incredibly pleasant atmosphere.
Which leads me to...

GM Tools, Accessibility, Checks & Balances

A shorter word on some things we can do, are soon able to do, and keep track of.

A lot of mention has been had lately about logging, player logs, and player reports. It has been brought up prior to this, but as I understand it, there's due to be the positive change of an addition of server side logging. I'm to understand that a few of you have spoken on this in particular, commenting that it allows more thorough investigation, undoctored facts, and irrefutable evidence in the case of denial. Now, whilst it isn't foolproof- not all actions are taken over text posts, and not everything is on the game itself...
I, obviously, agree with you, and am delighted to be aware of such an addition.
It won't mean people can get away with things that aren't over text by pointing to the lack of a log, but it certainly makes textual infractions set in stone.

What do we keep track of, and how?
The GMs section of the Discord is full of various channels aside from the GM Lair itself.
Significant mechanical action is tracked automatically. Have you spawned an item, punished a player, or otherwise done something mechanically notable? It's automatically posted for the other GMs to see. This goes for Eventmins too.
Less significant, more community driven action is also tracked in a seperate channel. Every rename we've done since the existance of this channel is logged accordingly, for example, alongside prior character name and key. This includes comments on reasons for warnings, comments on investigations, and reasons behind especially notable things tracked in the auto log, amongst other more miscellaneous things.
Child characters? Ancient characters? Roles, approvals, even longer, more specific discussions that require their own dedicated channels before implementation? We record things like this.

If the fact that we communicate openly with one another isn't enough to ease some of your concerns, let the fact that we have these channels and that any missed logging we hear about would be very suspicious ease them.
If that doesn't ease some of your concerns, know that Dev has access to every GM channel and the entire server, and is able to see literally everything we post or have posted.

Balthie's Selfish Personal Time, and Positive Change Moving Forwards

So. I've tried to keep things positive in these opening posts. That... is not about to change!
"May you live in interesting times."
I said as much at the start of this, so let's recontextualise it. We as a community have had a lot of strife and upheaval recently, and I'll be real, that's stressful! But I'll be damned if there aren't good things that have come from it, and will continue to come from it. Times of change are rough, sure, but we can make that change for the better.

Perhaps the most important?
None of the GMs are against new GMs. We welcome it, and agree with you on the need for them.
We want to make sure the right candidates are put into consideration to better our team, and our community as a whole.

Beyond that, though-
Suggestions for mechanical systems to allow GMs better accessibility to both investigate ongoing issues, and improve the game experience for players.
Already off to a good start for positive change here. Server side logs? Great, I'm overjoyed. This continuation of positive steps forward is a great sign.

Eventmins as a whole.
It's been a while since they've got in now, hasn't it? I hope y'all have been enjoying the fact that we can have them now. Let's not forget the times when there was almost no system in place for this sort of thing, and the steps forward we have taken with providing events to players. Perhaps it's soon time to reflect on the prior few months in which the Eventmin team was settled upon, and review how things have been? A refinement, examination and expansion of what we've had thus far is an exciting prospect for me to consider.

The Most Selfish One.
Newsletter. Newsletter? Newsletter!
That initial suggestion of a Newsletter. I love it. Dyst loves it. I'm pretty sure we're all pretty damn positive about it. I wouldn't necessarily say expect it, or how soon it would be, but-
Goddamn I'm on board for the idea, and I don't think that I'm alone there. At all.
I'd love to see semi-regular news on what we're up to, and maybe... and Eventmin newsletter too? Perhaps. We've been very busy with the current contentions, so this hasn't seen quite so much discussion yet.

So, closing out...
I want to give a personal thank you to the OPs of each of the recent threads, and the constructive comments therein. We need openness and collaboration as a community. Your time, presence, and dialogue is something I deeply appreciate.

There are two things that I want to humbly ask of you all in the comments here. Firstly, I actively want to hear your questions and comments, but would appreciate respectfulness and kindness to your fellow players in the thread, to let us continue to tread towards positive change. Secondly...
I'll be active in the thread for a good couple hours at least, before I'll want to take a breather. I've had to write this up on four hours of sleep, after how busy the last few days have been with threads, overhauls, and way, way more discussions in the GM Lair than you'd think, so I'll probably need some fresh air afterwards! But I'm the GM least burdened by recent SL2 things, at least in my personal reckoning, so please- also remember that we GMs are still just players too, a fact that most of you have been well respectful of. We're largely very tired, so please understand as much.

Thank you again for reading, and thank you for any responses you may have.
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For starters, I would like to apologise for the GM-based chaos in the forums and the part I may have played in it. The timing with two seperate bans and all probably put sour taste in a few people's mouths from the inside and caused me no end of stress thinking I'd made people mad / frustrated / question my allegiances or something like that. The people around me (and those in the general server for a little) can probably attest to my internal panic when that thread of mine was suddenly swarmed on, I didn't expect such a quick, active response there.

(I'd like to also apologize for the amount I go visible and invisible in any logs of commands I run as an eventmin out of sheer paranoia that the game spawned me in visible to the world again, that still terrifies me, but alas-)

I can't entirely say whether or not things are truly going to look up from here, because at current everything is just words on a screen, but I'd like to be confident from it all that things will translate well to action. Talking enough with Balthie and such has given me at least the confidence that there are good intentions, since people haven't entirely been sure on that. I was in no doubt that the GM team communicates with one another and such, since things would be notably different in ways I'd be able to predict somewhat otherwise.

Truth be told, many cases of harassment in this game have started based on one person doing something questionable (that likely should have been reported) and people not being comfortable with / not trusting the GMs to actually do anything about it, which in turn would lead to them instead taking to a more... toxic behaviour to those individuals, which would then spread. In sense, it was a problem that allowed itself to breed. Usually, talking to a member of the community about the person they're harassing will bring up this context and a whole list of things that have happened. It's usually not malicious, as such, just the only way people take to dealing with people they've been given a reason not to like. Uncivil and all, sure, though. As such, I feel there may ALWAYS be a bit of a need to explore deeper. See what the reason for this harassment is. You should probably still punish the harasser, but you might also find a rabbit hole deeper that probably shouldn't go unpunished either, just because nobody told you. Rarely ever black or white enough otherwise. Be careful with how you proceed in that regard.

Now, there is not much else I can point out, except the mention of future GMs and needing to make sure whoever we get is a good fit for the role. I would like to refer to what I saw back from Slydria about not having an idea on who to suggest (and their ensuing suggestion at what it was.) You as GMs have, until recently, admittedly seemed quite hands off towards a good chunk of the community, so I'm sure people will be worried in that part about only considering the needs of certain sides of the community purely because that's who you know closely (and therefore actually have any reason to suggest). Sounds like an accusation of bias, I know... but trust me I'm not trying to accuse you of anything that isn't inherently just normal.

For this reason, I'd want to suggest hearing out the wider community for suggestions on who THEY think would be good. Ultimately the GM team and Dev get the final say and all that such, but it will at least give people a sense of feeling that they have some say over who they feel they can trust to look over them. Some names might come up more often than others in different bigger circles, as usual, but it's not entirely about being a popularity contest, and more about just getting those names out there to be considered if they might otherwise be overlooked!

All this aside, I would like to extend my thank you for what was a rapid shoot from post of concern wanting changes and for things to be different, to a post with information, clarification, and ideas on what we can expect to come. I will admit when I made that post I expected either a firestorm, for things to get ignored, or something other. I know, not the most positive outlook, yeah, yeah-

But hey, it does mean I get to be even more impressed about being proven wrong so quickly and with such an amount of expressiveness, too. It's been a lot more word from you guys than anyone can attest to being used to, so I hope we get to hear more in the way of communication in future. I'll be interested in seeing how the heck you pull off a newsletter, especially in months where not much might be going on.

Think at some point it was mused that the event team wanted to do one too, so if there's not much content for that, could always saddle us along with you for that part, heh- (you don't have to it was just an idea, it might be a terrible idea)
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Ending 145: Disappointed in Humanity
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Just stopping by to make what I intend to do over the next couple hours a touch more clear.
I'll be endeavouring to make shorter comments on key parts of some responses that I want to pick at, but will indeed keep them short, as to not post big blocks before people can get their word in.

Most likely tomorrow, but Time Pending, I'll look over the whole thread and make a larger response post.

On the topic of GMs, I actually largely agree. My personal ideal situation, not that I'm sure how we can yet implement it, is to both have GMs discuss ideal applicants -and- have private nominations from the community at large. This is obviously not something I can actually have any concrete say on, least not right now of all times, but yes. Having both of those things before taking applicants would be my ideal.
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Thank you for making this post and the speed that you made it in too. I largely happy with it but there is one thing that is not clear to me. What will constitute harassment when it comes to GM rulings? Currently harassment is not mentioned in the server rules at all (At least not from what I could see).

It's not something I think I've done to anyone, or had done to me. The fact this was such a big issue in the community is a surprise to me really. I know I'm someone who can maybe go too far with jokes sometimes and I'd like to avoid crossing lines that shouldn't be crossed. I'd appreciate having the boundaries be laid out clearly. I also think this will assist in helping people to come forward. I wouldn't be surprised if there are many people who don't realise that behaviour they are subject to is actually something they should speak up about, rather than just put up with it. Finally it would make any moderation action that does get taken seem much more fair, after all we can all see the definition that we are operating under.
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That is a very good question, and I'm glad you've asked it. Thank you.
When the GM Team is next all awake and together, I'll put forth the discussion of clearly defining harassment as we'll identify it, and then amend the server rules from there.

Slight edit for clarification's sake; the above would be to settle on a very clear, very hard to misunderstand definition that can be put in stone. I merely don't want to rattle something offhand here in a smaller comment when something more official can avoid complications.
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Coming to the game a year ago I sometimes believe that is a LONG LONG time. However as I observe SL2 all of you have been here for longer than I can fathom, and longer than I would ever stay in any RP community. So I will be honest it is a shock to me that posts like this were not made sooner. That the discussions had over the last week have not been had sooner.

I feel more at ease now that you've outlined clear intentions to address issues in the future and redefine rules to allow for cleaner moderation. However I still have concerns that go beyond the Staff Team, and are directed towards the issues stated here with harassment, and how they've taken an effect on policing such a SMALL and OLD community. Regardless.

This is the most active I've seen the GM's since I started playing the game, and I hope that this open dialogue continues without being initiated by polarizing topics. Thank you Balthie.
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