Policy on deceased users: Input wanted

The_J

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Dear all,

we'd like to open up another point for discussion with everyone here.
CFC has now existed for a long time as a forum, and we have users for more than 20 years. With such a big and long standing user base, also unfortunate things happen.
It sadly recently occured again that two of your well known members have passed away (Zkribbler and Cavlancer; last year Rah), and we will certainly miss them.

Since such knowledge will not be common for everyone, we would like to ask what you think we should do with their user accounts (and any similar cases in the future).
Our first thoughts were that we should give them a black and white version of their last avatar and change their user title to "deceased". We have also been pondering about sending a condolence email, in case one of their beloved ones has access to the email account. In addition we could also "deactive" their user account, so that no messages could be posted from their account.
We have not decided about any of this yet, and we would like to hear some input from the community, what you think is best.

Please share your thoughts with us.
 
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Valka D'Ur

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Dear all,

we'd like to open up another point for discussion with everyone here.
CFC has now existed for a long time as a forum, and we have users for more than 20 years. With such a big and long standing user base, also unfortunate things happen.
It sadly recently occured again that two of your well known members have passed away (Zkribbler and Cavlancer; last year Rah), and we will certainly miss them.

Since such knowledge will not be common for everyone, we would like to ask what you think we should do with their user accounts (and any similar cases in the future).
Our first thoughts were that we should give them a black and white avatar and change their user title to "deceased". We have also been pondering about sending a condolence email, in case one of their beloved ones has access to the email account. In addition we could also "deactive" their user account, so that no messages could be posted from their account.
We have not decided about any of this yet, and we would like to hear some input from the community, what you think is best.

Please share your thoughts with us.
Avatars: Leave them as they are currently. People choose their avatars for reasons that are usually very personal, whether it's a real photo of them or a loved one, or something that is meaningful to them. Zkribbler's avatar is a South Park version of his real self, as far as I know. He did show me his RL photo once and the similarity between that and his avatar is remarkable.

Condolence email: Only if you are 100% certain of your information and reasonably sure that the intended recipient would be receptive to receiving it. After all, the incident with Lemon Merchant is a lesson in what can happen if people are given the wrong information and simply assume it's true.

Over the years on various forums, I've seen cases where the family member was grateful for all the condolences and memories people shared. One in particular comes to mind of a man whose mother was a remarkable and gracious woman who was young at heart (if not in age) and she mentored many of the younger RPG gamers on that forum both in matters of gaming and personal issues. No less than four forums went into mourning when she passed.

On the flip side... sadly, some people go on forums to escape a stressful home life and their family would likely not be receptive to this sort of email even though it's sent with the best of intentions. In my case... there would simply be no one to read it, as the only family I had who would have cared have already died. So it's a nice idea, but proceed with caution. Be extremely sure your information is correct.

How to indicate that someone has died: This should be unobtrusive and respectful. I absolutely do NOT recommend changing the avatar, for the reasons already stated.

What I would recommend is an "In Memoriam" thread either in Site Feedback or in whatever forum the deceased person was most active in. This would allow a list to be maintained by staff, with links to any memorial threads that exist. Do NOT lock these threads, as it's very possible that someone who hasn't been active for a long time may return, see that someone has died, and want to leave condolences, or some thoughts about that person. This is the custom at TrekBBS for some of the long-time members who have died. The threads have been pinned for years and there are still people who turn up and leave comments.

What I suggest as a possibility: Staff could (I assume) either add a note to the deceased person's sig that they have died, or if it's possible to add another field to the area under the avatar that would indicate that the person has died, this would be adequate to inform, but not be overly intrusive. I am not sure what wording would be best, or if a small icon would work. As we're a diverse group on this forum, we're also diverse in what sort of imagery we might want associated with our passing.

Changing the usertitle? That depends. For people who have never bothered with a custom usertitle, that would work because for whatever reason, a custom title wasn't important to them. For those of us who do have custom usertitles... I can't speak for anyone else, but I would not want mine changed. A usertitle is part of some people's identity, as is the location.

Maybe the easiest solution would be (if possible) to simply add another field below the usertitle and put the word "Deceased" there.

Question: Would deactivating the account prevent people from dropping "likes" on their posts or searching their posts? I realize it's pointless to "like" the post of someone who will never know, but by this time it's become ingrained to "like" posts even if they're old ones. And there are times when something a person said contains useful information or a funny story or some other thing that others would like to re-read.
 

The_J

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Thanks for the input, it will be considered.
For clarification: I meant a black-and-white version of the users last avatar (if there is one), not a random picture. Sorry, that was unclear, and has now been changed in the original post.

Question: Would deactivating the account prevent people from dropping "likes" on their posts or searching their posts? I realize it's pointless to "like" the post of someone who will never know, but by this time it's become ingrained to "like" posts even if they're old ones. And there are times when something a person said contains useful information or a funny story or some other thing that others would like to re-read.

Likes: No, that has no effect.
Searching: Good point, will need to check.
 

Valka D'Ur

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Thanks for the input, it will be considered.
For clarification: I meant a black-and-white version of the users last avatar (if there is one), not a random picture. Sorry, that was unclear, and has now been changed in the original post.
I understood you the first time and my view stands. Avatars should not be changed or modified, for the reasons I stated.

This is not the Big Brother TV show when house guests' pictures are changed to black and white on the memory wall after they're evicted.
 

r16

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one memorial thread could be an option . The signature of the deceased would get a link to to his/her specific post in the thread . Where CFC offers condolences to the next of kin , friends , fellow CFC members . If there are specific threads or related discussions to the person in question moderators would provide the links in that post .

edit: Signature area totally changed to state the person has passed away , with the single link to the thread ? The memoriam post would then have the last signature of the person .
 

Aiken_Drumn

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It's a very difficult subject, I that a thread in the forum they most frequented is appropriate, everything else is a bit complex.

It is also difficult to really know. The vast majority of users just stop coming.. No idea if they've passed away etc.
 

Synobun

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I don't see a reason why anything should be done to highlight a user's mortality, and certainly see no reason to collate a list of dead people for others to peruse or to permanently change their public image so that every future reading of anything they've ever posted comes with a declaration that they have died. Seems gauche.
 

The_J

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Thanks, all noted :).

A general memorial thread would be possibility. In this way we can honour them, and this would also serve as a central information thread.
Synobun has good points though, needs to be considered.

It is also difficult to really know. The vast majority of users just stop coming.. No idea if they've passed away etc.

This would concern only well known members for which we have the information. Certainly more of our members have passed away in the meantime, but there is no need to go digging for this information.
 

Valka D'Ur

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I don't see a reason why anything should be done to highlight a user's mortality, and certainly see no reason to collate a list of dead people for others to peruse or to permanently change their public image so that every future reading of anything they've ever posted comes with a declaration that they have died. Seems gauche.
My guess is that part of this involves trying to avoid having people who don't know the person has died tagging and replying to them or sending PMs, not realizing that there will never be an answer.
 

amadeus

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Some people already have black and white avatars so that doesn’t clear up any confusion, and unless you already know that’s what it means then it doesn’t actually mean anything.

I think the most unobtrusive way to do it would have some short message on their profile page, not accompanying every message; it’s a bit of a downer to be reminded each time a thread comes back that the user has passed on, and I’d rather not have to think about it.

I personally was also thinking about newspapers, books, TV: none of these media tell us; if I watch a rerun of Gilligan’s Island the title sequence doesn’t tell me that Tina Louise is the only surviving castaway.

But all that said, is it even necessary? I don’t see it.
 

Birdjaguar

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How about adding a check box in the profile that opts in to any site wide changes if we learn you have died. If left unchecked, your death is ignored.
 

Valka D'Ur

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How about adding a check box in the profile that opts in to any site wide changes if we learn you have died. If left unchecked, your death is ignored.
Sorry, but it's not clear what you mean. Don't site-wide changes affect everyone anyway?
 

Birdjaguar

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If you check said box in your profile then CFC has permission follow any steps it implements when it knows a person has died (as listed by The_J). If the box is not checked, your death is ignored even if we know you are dead.
 

Quintillus

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I think Valka, Synobun, and amadeus have all made some good points. amadeus's "is it even necessary?" is perhaps the one I'd like to focus on, although on the specifics I think Valka raised some great points. So far, what I've observed (both in Off Topic this year, and in Civ3 C&C over the past decade+) is that when there is a confirmed passing of someone known in the forum, the person who learns of it generally opens a memorial thread. These tend to effectively draw condolences and remembrances.

In Civ3 C&C, we lost a prominent member right at the start of 2020, and there was a memorial thread. Since then, I've occasionally referred to his work in other conversations, as it continues to have relevance. I'm glad the news was shared, but agree that it is preferable not to always have it be up front, indefinitely, that the member is deceased. It would be somewhat of a distraction from his work if someone were viewing it and it were too prominently displayed.

One difference between Off-Topic and Civ3 C&C is that in the latter, a thread will stay on the front page for weeks if not months, so I could see it being the case that depending on the forum, memorial threads may fall off before people view them. I could see having a link to the memorial thread from the profile page, as amadeus suggested, being an effective middle ground.

I think deactivation, once everything is confirmed and verified, is sensible to prevent future postings as a result of a password hack. Though I agree it should be verified that everything is still searchable, the profile page is visible, etc. Off the top of my head, I'm aware of one profile from a user banned a decade ago whose profile is no longer visible - if you try to view it from one of that user's posts, it gives you a 404 Not Found page. That definitely wouldn't be desirable in this case.

Edit: I'd also find it interesting to hear the thoughts from any resident undertakers or morticians. It occurs to me that there's overlap with what they do in the real world, but it's relatively new online because the Internet is fairly new. In other words, we're trying to figure out "what are the standard rites?" and "should there be various options that users can set ahead of their demise?", which is something that people do in real life as well (although not everyone does in time, hence the need for standard practices).
 

amadeus

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I think one of the other non-issue issues in my perspective is the potential for PMs or user mentions to go unnoticed; this is already something for which we really can’t plan for in the case of say, a dormant user or one who is taking an extended period of leave. I feel that needing to inform someone that they will not receive a reply to not be a necessary site function.
 

The_J

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It is possible to disable the ability to receive PMs for an account, so this could be dealt with.

How about adding a check box in the profile that opts in to any site wide changes if we learn you have died. If left unchecked, your death is ignored.

:think: I'm not sure we can implement this :/.

In Civ3 C&C, we lost a prominent member right at the start of 2020, and there was a memorial thread. Since then, I've occasionally referred to his work in other conversations, as it continues to have relevance. I'm glad the news was shared, but agree that it is preferable not to always have it be up front, indefinitely, that the member is deceased. It would be somewhat of a distraction from his work if someone were viewing it and it were too prominently displayed.

One difference between Off-Topic and Civ3 C&C is that in the latter, a thread will stay on the front page for weeks if not months, so I could see it being the case that depending on the forum, memorial threads may fall off before people view them. I could see having a link to the memorial thread from the profile page, as amadeus suggested, being an effective middle ground.

TBH I had not considered this all.
A note on the profile with a link to the memorial thread might be the best.


I think deactivation, once everything is confirmed and verified, is sensible to prevent future postings as a result of a password hack. Though I agree it should be verified that everything is still searchable, the profile page is visible, etc. Off the top of my head, I'm aware of one profile from a user banned a decade ago whose profile is no longer visible - if you try to view it from one of that user's posts, it gives you a 404 Not Found page. That definitely wouldn't be desirable in this case.

Please now check again with your new rights ;).
We had a few very old and very random user accounts pop up, posting spam (probably a password hack at another website), so yes, it would be desirable to prevent this.
 

IglooDame

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Not a huge fan of the overall idea. At most, a post, or a thread, to those who are no longer up for 'one more turn', would seem reasonable, but I don't know that we have enough posters kicking the bucket (vs wandering off) to warrant it, two decades of forumgoing notwithstanding.
 

vorlon_mi

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Few thoughts:
  • Yes, the internet has a bunch of trolls and bots who could hack one of our forum accounts and post trash from them. Deactivating accounts where we've learned (through other humans) that the owner has died would help prevent that.
  • Of the options discussed, updating the profile page of the account seems least intrusive to me. If I PM someone, and don't get a response, looking at their profile would be one of the first things I do. More of a "pull" notification than a "push."
  • An interesting thought about how the site staff would learn this: user A and user B are friends in real life. When user A learns that user B is ill, or dying, that person could opt to notify the staff. I don't think that CivFanatics has a bot or tool to visit online obituaries to learn about this. It's really about personal connections. I appreciate that y'all are giving thoughtful consideration to this, including taking into account cultural differences... USA vs. UK vs. Germany or India or Poland or other countries
 
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