Jump to content
2024 Superlatives Voting! ×

Status Updates past and future

Mr. Warren

Recommended Posts

So, many of you are relatively new to Catholic Harbor, so I will begin with a brief recap of the history of the Status Update forum.

You can skip to the last section "As of Today" if you don't care for the backstory.

In the beginning, there were no status updates, and it was good. When CH moved from phpbb software to our current Invision software, status updates as part of each user's profile came as a standard feature, very much like Facebook. I didn't disable the feature and thought it would be worth seeing how it went. For the first few months, before they became widely used, it was fine. Eventually as more members started to use them, and started to post a lot on them, there were more and more problems as content frequently broke the rules and moderators weren't going to everyone's profiles to read through their status updates.

Finally, when the Catholic Harbor Improvement Plan (CHIP) was instituted in June of 2019 and sweeping changes were made across the site, we decided to disable status updates. From the CHIP:


One area that has been a surprisingly frequent place requiring moderation are personal statuses, and given their personal nature, they are almost impossible for our moderators to keep an eye on unless they follow every single member. Having status updates has made the site feel more like a regular social media site as opposed to a true community. We also have many perfectly valid substitutes for it in both the Personal Announcements Forum and in the Blogs. As such, the status feature is being disabled. This should drive more users to the communal forums, improve the overall quality of content, and help ensure consistency in moderation.

When members immediately complained, I explained they could still create a topic in the personal announcements forum just for their updates, but that those posts should be actual updates, and not things like posting memes or spam.

Unfortunately, that suggestion became wildly popular and I had to create a sub-forum so as not to completely crowd out the other personal announcements. 

At this point, members could still comment on each other's status updates, and the forum just exploded in activity, but much of the initial concerns mentioned in the CHIP still applied. In January of 2020, I changed the rules of SU's so that only the topic creator could reply to a topic. From my announcement:


After much consideration considering how to address issues with the status update forum especially in regards to off-topic chatting and a general lack of coverage by the moderators and how best to encourage meaningful connections among members, I have decided to introduce a special rule for just that one subforum.

In order to help those topics stay "on topic" from now on they will be a way to post status updates, but only the person we who started the topic (i.e., the person whose status updates they are) will be allowed to post in the topic. This will help clarify that they are primarily for the member sharing status updates and not full conversations (which can occur in other forums).

The other alternative considered was closing the subforum, but this seems like a good compromise position. If you are curious about the issues with the forum in its previous state, there are several topics in the Suggestion Box forum discussing them.

In the topics in the Suggestion forum mentioned there, I gave the following explanation:


The bottom line is that someone has to a able to moderate the topics on the site. The moderation staff is not a paid position, I can't expect moderators to spend hours a day sorting through things that completely lack interest for them. Topics that are not of general interest to the community make that very difficult. If a status update topic is filled with things like "I just ate a hot dog." "I am listing to x song now." etc., it just isn't of interest. And it isn't just a matter of the particular moderators we have on staff. It objectively shouldn't be interesting to anyone unless perhaps you are friends with the member who is posting.

Things in your life that are very significant or important to you can qualify as personal announcements, for which there is already a forum. Those topics by their nature indicate to the community that the post might be on interest to them, because it is super important to you. Status updates on the other hand are inherently directed toward the self--making it more like Facebook. Twitter, or Instagram and less like a real community of persons.

Running an online community is kind of like being a farmer. I have been a farmer for a very long time (using this analogy). We have a lot of land here, and sometimes it looks like there are a bunch of workers who have gone down to the beach and planted a whole bunch of seeds in the sand. They are spending a lot of time trying to make things grow there, and there are a few plants that have grown, though perhaps they are not very healthy. There are, however, fertile fields just over the next hill. I have been planting there for many years. I want to tell those workers that they really need to abandon their plants in the sand and switch their efforts over to more fertile fields where their time will yield a much greater harvest. However, the workers haven't planted in those fertile fields before. The sand is all some of them have known, and so they resist. They don't want to abandon the work they have started because they don't truly believe that the grass is greener elsewhere.

Status updates are the sand. In hindsight, I wish I had never bought property with sand on it, but it just never occurred to me that so many people would try to plant crops there when there were rich fields available elsewhere. I feel like all of the workers were doing better before I bought the sandy property and now I wonder if it would be better to sell it to force my workers to abandon their work because I believe they will be happier if they only spent most of their time in the fertile fields instead.

The workers cry to me asking me to help make their sand farms better, because they know I have farming experience, but I know no matter how much time you spend trying to improve the crops in sandy ground, it just doesn't have deep enough soil to ever be as successful as the other fields.

When asked how I knew status updates weren't a fertile field, I replied:


Because I have experienced this kind of feature in online communities for at least 16 years. That was kind of the point of the farmer analogy. I have been managing online communities for a long time, long before CH started. Some were Catholic homeschool high school communities as well, so nearly identical to CH. How does that Farmer's Insurance slogan go again... "We know a thing or two, because we've seen a thing or two."

As for why it isn't as fertile, I mentioned a little of this in my post, it is because of the nature of status updates being focused and directed in on the self. Self-centered is kind of the appropriate term, but I was trying not to use that because it has a negative connotation and I don't think our members are trying to be self-centered when using SU's, but their format encourages that mindset. Facebook, Twitter, and instagram, and many modern social media sites suffer from this format issue as well. AMA's, even though about one person, are much better because they are not directed by that person, but are rather directed by others asking questions. The person is posting in response to others which actually can help build more meaningful connections.

Even the chats, of which every one knows I haven't been the biggest fan, are better in this regard as they encourage more community--serve as more of an ice-breaker to draw other members into the community. SU's, again by the nature of their format, seem to isolate members, especially if they are using them as their primarily posting activity. 

As of Today

Status updates are more popular than they have ever been, and in my mind, they are being used by many in a way that was clearly not intended. There are essentially broken conversations going on, massive spam, and the moderation concerns are still present. In the last 6 hours, we received 18 reports from 9 different members about potential rule violations in the Status Update forum. Even trying to look into those reports is nearly impossible, because they are mostly one side of a conversation, like listening in to someone else having a phone call and only picking up half of the comments.

As this backstory shows, Status Updates have been an ongoing problem for the past two years. At the end of the day, I see very little good from them at all for the reasons given above.

I am closing the Status Update Forum for two weeks while I consider if they are going to have a future on the site. I have no doubt there will be a lively discussion in Suggestions or a lively Resolution debate about it, and I will read and consider your arguments and opinions.

  • Like 58
  • Thanks 1
  • Sad 46
  • Wow! 3
Link to comment

I wanted to give you all a bit of an update as it is clear the future of SU's are important to many of you. I have read a vast number of messages, posts, and topics about the Status Updates. This feedback has helped me appreciate what they were doing well, but also where they were falling short. It also brought up some larger issues and I think helped point out areas, like the chats, that could use a restructuring. So, here is where we are at now.

We are planning a pretty significant reform of the site, on the level of the Catholic Harbor Improvement Plan (CHIP) back in 2019. I think you will be pleased for the most part with this change as it is focused more on adding cool new features rather than removing them. I am fairly certain the option of having something like an SU will still exist for those that really want them. 

I plan to post more about what the planned changes are and what the reasoning behind them is in a few days, and then perhaps around mid-week the second week of Feb, the plan will be implemented (keeping to the two weeks from the temporary closure of the SU's timeframe I mentioned on Tuesday).

  • Like 71
  • Thanks 7
  • Wow! 3
Link to comment
  • Create New...