My take on the 'Sotonians Experience' from an 'outsider' welcomed in from the cold:
I've been here for coming up on three months now. It took me a while to get fully up to speed with the style, layout and functionality of the forum, and 'find my place' in the Sotonians world. But I feel 'part of' the place now, rather than someone who justs posts; and the friendly, welcoming atmosphere has really helped with that.
Over time, I've made at least a few of you laugh occasionally, shared some insightful knowledge, regularly become one of the top upvoters (you'd all be nothing without me! ), made a complete prick of myself by demonstrating the very behaviour we all came here to get away from, in harshly and unfairly disrespecting a fellow Sotonian (sorry Ted); taken the flack that deservedly came my way in good grace, learnt from it, and in the process of this smorgasbord of fluctuations -- become a fully integrated Sotonians cunt.
So under the likely delusion that you'd give a flying fuck - I thought I'd offer some constructive feedback on what it has been like getting to know the place and people, given that I know how much you all value my opinion. Stop laughing!
When I first arrived, the layout was a bit of a forum-culture shock, in the way that the 'Latest Discussions' view is set as the front page, with the overview of Categories instead offset to the side. I was previously in the habit of mostly choosing only the sub-forums I wanted to go into (mainly football/sport orientated ones), thereby rarely seeing any of the other discussions ongoing outside in the wider forum world. At first, I didn't really like it. But it has grown on me, to the extent that I now prefer it this way. I missed out on so much general interaction and humour before, but this style of layout brings so many threads I would otherwise not even have looked at to my attention. It makes it much more difficult not to get more involved. As far as fostering a sense of community goes -- it works very effectively.
The other thing that my first reaction to was negative, was the points system.
I'd envisioned it as being some clique-liked vote all your mates up, vote any cunts you don't like down, inequitable system rife for abuse. But having seen it in operation for a while, it dawned upon me that I was looking at it from the perspective of how such a system would work on TSW. I wasn't giving you guys the credit you deserved.
It soon became clear that instead, when in responsible and respectful hands, it is a highly effective method of self-moderation for the community. Far from cliquey voting -- what I have seen is the purest expression of playing the ball not the man. Each post being genuinely considered on its own merit not the name attached to it, and voted up/down accordingly. So often I've seen someone (mentioning their reasons) downvote another user a few times on one line of thought, only to regularly upvote the same member on others. Within Sotonians, the expression "it's nothing personal" has a feel of genuine sincerity about it, which is embodied in the way you all self-regulate eachother's content.
It took me a few weeks to settle in and start consistently picking up points myself that weren't earned through regular newbie badges, until I discovered the useful variations of the 'magic phrase' -- "all Tory politicians are cunts". It's been plain sailing ever since. I jest of course, my gist being that the points system you have in place here works very effectively in guiding the standards of both content and behaviour, in what is broadly considered acceptable and what is not.
You know why it has really grown on me so much though? It is an almost perfect experimental exercise in my preferred model of (self)-government -- Direct Democracy. We're essentially co-creating the values and accepted code of conduct within the Sotonians community as we go, on a post by post (policy by policy if you like) and vote by vote basis. And it is a pure model too, as the vast majority of the time, it seems a genuinely content-driven system, rather than a personality based one. Personalities simply add a touch of individual colour and flair to what is a fluid almost organic process of interaction and self-regulation. It borders on inspiring to see the evidence before my eyes that such a system really can actually function effectively between co-operative human beings, not only in my mind, but in real life (albeit on the internet, with a bunch of (mostly) geezers who share a certain red and white 'tribal affilliation'), when the tools of its operation are in honest and well intentioned hands.
(Lol, seems I've broken the word limits per post...to be continued...)