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Having used to be mod/admin on a rather busy and strife-filled SMF-forum the past 6-7 years, I can confirm that this works surprisingly well.

I say "surprisingly" because, like a lot of tech hackers, I often think about a technical solution before I think about the simple social one. But I've noticed time and time again just how much effect the simplest changes in user-interface can have on the entire "mood" of a community. And "simple change in UI", includes the guidelines, or--I don't know--there's actually a lot of space for a notice below the comment submission form where you can give people the "right" idea (what you want to see in this community).

The personal anecdote goes a little something like this: We have a real solid group of mod/admins with a hands-off approach (way more hands-off than the invisible ones at HN, but that's a different gripe), so we had our fun with the innocent tiny changes, like changing the descriptions of individual sub-forums ever-so-slightly, like a pun, or a little in-joke. After a few years however, all of the descriptions had mutated into something that was not at all descriptive anymore. All the "old" members (which includes the mods of course) knew perfectly well what the sub-forums were meant for. But the new members did not. As new members look to older members for social context, there was a sort of generational loss in relevance, and at some point people almost entirely just posted whatever, wherever. It was chaos! And so I had the brilliant idea that, hey we can change those descriptions so that they're both descriptive and somewhat funny (utter genius, I know).

The amazing thing is, that it took only about 2-3 weeks before people starting posting on-topic things in the right sub-forums again.

The moral of the story is: people really tend to respond really well to just flat-out being told what to do. Really well. Amazingly well. Frighteningly well.

Better than some tech solution that tries to subtly "guide" them, in particular (or at least much easier to implement).

Your experiment matches Dan Ariely's experiment very well. In his book, "Predictably Irrational" when people are made to remember the ten commandments or even the thought of ten commandments, or any such honesty pledge, their dishonesty level drops drastically.

One of these days, I'm going to make a chapterwise summary of that book so that I can remember the experiments and behaviours at a glance.

I wonder why such a phenomenon occurs, when five of the commandments have nothing to do with morality.

Also, in the Army we had the Warrior's Ethos, the Army Values, the Soldier's Creed, and the Creed of the Non-Commissioned Officer crammed down our throats daily. While are some awesome people in the Military, I've run into just as many dishonorable people as I have in the general population.

You are missing a control, so you can't really judge. Maybe it would have been a stinking, fetid den of iniquity and moral puss had they not.

Or, more likely, they might be somewhat worse, for some reasonable definition of somewhat.

How is it inaccurate to state that the morality of military members was the same as the general population, but not inaccurate to suggest that only degenerates who need constant supervision join the military in the first place?

"I've run into just as many dishonorable people as I have in the general population."

Can you think of any group this would not be true for given a sample size or population as large as the military?

The point was that I can't. The study mentioned above claims that people act more honestly when they are reminded of a set of values to which they are supposed to adhere. I was simply stating that while I was in the military (for about a decade), we were constantly reminded of the set of values which we were supposed to follow, yet I saw no signs that such a practice has any effect whatsoever on an individual's behavior.

Honest, decent people who join the military (or any other group) will likely remain honest and decent. Dishonest people will most likely remain dishonest until their actions prevent them from getting what they want.

In simple, harsh words, basically you say that teaching of good values has no value. I think that the things are much more complex that that.

Perhaps those values from military doesn't have/had any resonance because they weren't, in fact, good? Or, told in a good way? (I'm thinking now that tyranny in teaching generates repulse not acceptance)

Also, if we consider that the teaching was correct (both as content and form - I dunno of course) who knows if the "soldiers who didn't change" would be worse if this teaching would be applied?

I think that the human being is the victim of influence and good influences play a determinant role on his behavior. But now what means "good" - this is entirely another chapter...

You make very good points. There could obviously be people who had rose-tinted view of the military only to have it shattered in the first week. That could have easily made them bitter about the whole teaching process.

Secondly, I don't think the ideals help if you don't agree with them. You choose to become an Doctor and remember the Hippocratic oath. Same with Engineers and Lawyers. If you find half way through, that you don't want to be an Engineer or a Doctor, you can always bail out and switch. But with the military, bailing out is completely out of the question.

I said no such thing. The teaching of good values entails quite a bit more than merely repeating a set of values or a specific creed.

While people may or may not like what the military does, most of its creeds/values are for the most part positive things. The Army values for example are Duty, Loyalty, Selfless Service, Respect, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage - pretty generic and not nefarious at all.

Did you hang out with those people during civilian life? How can you say the various credos had no effect on them if you do not have the same experience without the credos.

I was clearly speaking from my personal experiences and perceptions, which are obviously not intended to be considered the equivalent of a formal scientific study.

But since you asked, why would one have to have experience with that exact group of people prior to coming to a conclusion? I agree that it would be ideal if that was the case, but there are many studies considered to be scientifically valid that use one group of people who come from similar circumstances as a control, while only testing on another group. In my example I suppose the control would have been the people I know from outside the military. As I stated though, my comment was just an anecdote from my personal experiences, not a peer-reviewed, published article intended to expose the author of the other study as a fraud.

And SoftwareMaven said that you don't have a control. What he meant is that, if these values hadn't been reminded there's a very high probability that honest people might have done dishonest things, and dishonest people might have done dishonest things of far greater magnitude.

There was someone who knew that before Dan Ariely: every priest of the past two thousand years, who led a congregation on daily prayers or confession.

The priests did not write research papers and publish it in peer-reviewed journals. Neither did they bother with controls in experiments. So please don't be snarky.

This makes a lot of sense, and is worth experimenting. The comment/reply box should have some simple placeholder text, along the lines of: Don't be a dick.

How about "Be kind and constructive." instead?

Oh definitely something more like that. I was not serious about the exact wording I used, I just wanted to convey the point.

The SMF forum? Or another forum running SMF? I only ask because SMF (well actually its predecessor YaBB SE) was what got me active in contributing to open source projects. Solid software that SMF.

No, no, another forum running SMF.

But solid software, really? I give them one thing: it works. Can't recall encountering any real big bad bugs either, so yeah in that sense, quite solid.

But given that you contributed to it I assume that you've seen the code? I've had to make some modifications/hackery here and there myself and the amounts of time I've cursed at it for being a tangled and obscure mess... combine that with the childish language in the comments, urg.

I guess that's one important thing it taught me: never be flippant or rude in your code comments because it'll invariably end up making you look like a fool. Kind of like that "Muphry's Law[sic]" someone quoted in another thread. In "production code", but I found it easier to change my habit to "in general" because you never know who's going to see your code, and even your 3-months-future-self might as well be a different person when reading code is considered (except future-me does tend to share my sense of humour).

Because of that, all my own modifications ended up looking like rather ugly hacks as well because there was simply no "coding style" to join in step with.

(and the templating system (that is neither). and the amount of semi-duplicate subroutines and their names!!. "post", "post2", "message". And trying to guess in which of the five "/∗ probably the most important module of SMF ∗/" giant includes you're going to find a certain routine is about as predictable as trying to guess the name of a PHP library array function without reading the docs ... I really should stop, sorry :) )

It does work very well, I must repeat that. But only as long as the original magicians are still there taking care of it I'm afraid.

I've not contributed for a good number of years. I just didn't have the time. I assumed it was still running smooth. Maybe it has fallen off in recent years. Sad. But they had a pretty good MOD system I thought for the time. But I agree that the code was not organized all too well.

We used it since at least 2007 (not exactly sure, we switched from PhpBB around the time exploits were discovered every other week or so). It's still quite smooth and works fine, I just don't like looking at the code, nothing changed in that respect :)

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