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BTSC Housekeeping: Checking in as Tensions Mount

Hey y'all, hope you had nice weeks and a fun start to your weekend.

Before the Steelers return to action in Week 10 against the Bengals in Cincinnati, I wanted to quickly take a moment to mention a few things about the site and how we can all do our part to make this next two months of the regular season really fun and engaging.

This is a good time to do so for several reasons. Firstly, there's boatloads of new readers and a healthy number of new active members commenting and even writing fan posts. All of that is awesome. And the more of us that there are, the more pressure there is on me to make the site as consistently informative, differentiated, entertaining and welcoming as possible. That's a wonderful thing though. Secondly, things might get testy around here if the Steelers were to lose to the Bengals in Week 10. We'd then have to wait a full two weeks before Pittsburgh played next. I've seen it before here and it wouldn't surprise me to see it again tomorrow in the event of a loss -- stay in control of yourself and how you interact with folks here regardless of how disappointed or frustrated you might be by

Without going into the evolution of the site and how its 'rules' may or may not have changed this past six years, let's just quickly go over what the most fundamental ones are.

  1. No racism, sexism, homophobia
  2. No politics.
  3. No religion
  4. Limit the profanity whenever possible, and definitely don't sling it at others.
  5. Don't make a longer tenured reader not want to interact with the community anymore.
  6. Don't make new readers feel intimidated or unwelcomed. (Thankfully this is no longer an issue after a frustrating period there. All of you longtime readers deserve the credit for that, so thanks).

More thoughts from me after the jump.

Let's get this out of the way real quick -- I have not done a perfect job enforcing all of these. Thankfully you all self-police for the most part, as there's no way for me to see every fanpost and comment written. I also have allowed No. 2 to slide on several occasions, and though not disastrous, I'll be avoiding doing so again.

The first three are pretty self-explanatory though. Before I acknowledge that there may seem like different rules for, say, Mechem's weekly 'hate posts', let me first say a couple quick things:

I've gotten a complaint or two about from members of our large female readership saying they were not cool with some recent sexist comments. Not good. It's awesome we have so many passionate women in our fanbase. There are other ways to be snarky than by being sexist. Don't anyone ever mess with that one, period.

As for the homophobia, not much of an issue thankfully, but I've deleted some stuff and would appreciate not having to waste my time cleaning up slurs that make it hard to pay attention to what otherwise might have been an interesting comment.

Now, what about Mechem's weekly 'Hate Posts'? I've received an email or two, and I've had to bite my tongue and not waste my time trying to explain to visiting readers from other fanbases that they have no idea what they're talking about when they judge me allowing that to stand on my site. All I will say about that is this -- if you have been reading since day one, you know that certain personalities have carved out certain niches. Let's be real clear though -- Mechem did not just arrive on day and start writing 2000 word diatribes about the teams he hated and the fanbases and cities those teams were from, replete with cultural, social and racial stereotypes throughout. No, Mechem started with 'I hate Baltimore and they STANK.' He'd be sure to get the 'I hate 'em and they stank' in after every comment, but they'd come after thoughtful football commentary and tolerant interaction with the BTSC community that was already in place.

Anyway, it gradually expanded, no group was off limits for his ribbing, and there wasn't much to it until this season when his series started. Here's my real reason for allowing that type of broad exception -- because it's just that, an exception. My personal opinion is that good leadership entails finding room for things that might be on the margins but if done well, add something to the site for the enjoyment of some. Not all, but some. If you disagree with me, fine, go for it. I have told Mechem to not make me look dumb by going over the line, and he has honored that trust. Really though it goes back to the fact that he spent two years establishing that brand of scathing humor that was equal opportunity in its derision. Feel free to spend a few years gradually going about establishing your own persona here if you'd like to toe the line in a similar fashion.

I committed myself to this site in years three and four really after getting a sense of how unexpectedly engaging an online community could really be if it was bonded around the same niche interest -- in our case, the Steelers. For better or worse, it's just a death trap to open up the discussion to heated topics like politics, religion or social issues. There's Baptist readers here, Jewish readers, Buddhist, Agnostics, Atheists, Orthodox Greeks, etc. etc. etc. There's also libertarians, 18-year old activists, monied fiscal conservatives, environmentalists, etc. etc. etc. And, obviously, there's countless races represented and the full spectrum of sexual orientations. What are you going to do about it? Be a bully? Good luck with that; too diverse a crowd to look like anything other than an ass hat.

It's interesting to see some sites with next to no comments require moderator approval before publishing. Ridiculous. The conversation has always been driven by you all and almost always in a very creative, organic and intelligent way. Somehow the loosey-goosey profanity rule has survived for the most part without biting me in the ass, but we're teetering right now. I respect some sites having a hard and fast rule about it, but if we can please limit our frustrated or celebratory F-bombs to the gameday threads, the immediate postgame reaction posts (venting perfectly acceptable there), that'd be great.

What I'm seeing though is lots of random profanity dropped into nondescript conversations. At that point it becomes a distraction to certain segments of our readership who do not like to see profanity when they're trying to read about next week's game, the injury status of a player, learn about the salary cap, etc. Goes back to the diversity of the crowd. I personally don't mind it, but I do want people to not be distracted by meaningless profanity when assessing what our community and site is about for the first time. A well placed F-Bomb from the fictional Bruce Arians in Dr. Spaceman's 'Coach's Meeting' series? That's how you do it. Random outbursts in the middle of a football conversation rarely do much for anybody.

You all are great, definitely one of the most active and vocal tribes across all of SB Nation's 300+ plus site network. And by 'one of the most', I mean one of the 10 or 15 most in terms of your actual contributions -- comments, fanposts, fanshots. You all self-police yourself tremendously and that's the whole goal. Thank you ten times over for that.

Just wanted to get one of those out of the way for our new found friends. It had been awhile. Thanks for reading.