Many of you may not know this, but I started the first email discussion list for Quaker Parrots back in 1995. Two years later, I started this forum. Since 1995, I have been the moderator for either or both (I turned the mailing list over to the Quaker Parakeet Society a few years ago.)
The main point is, I have been doing this for a long time and have seen many, many disagreements over the years. Fairly early on, I developed a strict policy for no flaming and treating others with respect based on what I saw happen as a result of these disagreements almost every single time.
Below is a message I wrote in 1998 after a particularly nasty fight on the QP Mailing List. Even though it was written for the mailing list, it perfectly expresses how I feel about the forum. (I have edited it slightly to apply it to the forum.) I'd really appreciate it if you would read it and really think about it.
"A Higher Purpose"
I would like to take a few moments to talk about what this forum really means to me and to explain why some of the guidelines have been developed and why they are enforced, particularly the one stating that there is no flaming allowed. This is a long message, but I'd really appreciate it if you'd give a few minutes of your time to read what I have to say.
One thing I noticed while I managed the mailing list is that a much larger number of people than usual signed off the list whenever there was a flame war. This is harder to track with the forum, but I imagine it's no different. Sometimes it is people who post to the forum who leave, but usually it is the lurkers. For the most part, they don't post to the forum to complain about the flaming. Nor do they often write to a forum moderator or me to complain. For the most part, they just quietly leave and never come back.
Whenever this happens, I always wonder about those people. I don't know much about them, never having had the opportunity to "meet" them if they seldom posted to the forum. But I assume that they joined the forum to learn more about Quakers. I wonder if they read Bird Talk or if they have Mattie Sue's excellent book. I wonder if they have any other source of good bird information other than the forum, which now is no longer available to them either. I wonder if we could have kept them on the forum for a month longer or even a week longer, if they would have learned something that would have helped them to have a better relationship with their bird - or perhaps something that would have helped that bird live a happier, healthier life.
I consider all of you to be my friends. I feel like I know quite a few of you pretty well, and some of you I have had the great pleasure of meeting in person. I think of the huge amount of knowledge about parrots that is available through the people on this forum, and I am very grateful for everything all of you have taught me. I have nearly 25 years of experience living with parrots, yet each and every day I learn something new from one of you! That is how I feel, and I am just one person. But do you realize that when you share your knowledge with the forum, you are educating literally hundreds of people at one time. And if you consider the forum over a period of a couple years, there have been several thousand people who have come and gone. Amazing, isn't it?
I don't know about you guys, but when I look at it that way, I feel a huge weight of responsibility to try to make and keep the QP Forum what people want and need it to be. And for the most part, we do know what people want out of this forum. They want a forum where they don't have to worry about being flamed or ridiculed for sharing their opinion or asking a question. If they post something to the forum that isn't quite correct or that you disagree with, they want to be told about it in a kind and respectful way.
Many of you on this forum have tremendous bird knowledge and use that knowledge every day to take excellent care of your birds and to give them enriched lives. I think that's why it's so easy to forget that not everyone has that same knowledge. We are all at different places along the road in the journey to learn more about our birds. None of us knows all of the answers, and we all still have much to learn. For me, the challenge of living with birds is a part of the joy of it.
Certainly, I think most of us are very aware that not every birdie out there is as well cared for as most of the birds on this forum are. And, when someone joins the QP Forum, I just have to believe they are open to acquiring some additional knowledge and using it, no matter where they are in their journey but especially if they are one of the folks at the beginning of the road. And that is why I feel a need to try to provide an environment on the forum that they feel comfortable with - so that they can get the knowledge that they need to improve their birds' lives.
When you post a silly little story about singing with your bird to the forum, do you ever wonder how many people try singing to their bird that day - for the first time ever?! I do - I can see in my mind Quaker feathers fluffing up in absolute joy and delight at hearing their humans sing to them for the first time! Or if you post about an inexpensive and safe toy idea that your bird just loves, ever wonder how many people run out the next day and buy what they need to make one for their own birds?
If you post about sharing your dinner with your bird, do you wonder how many birds will experience a taste of "real food" other than seeds later that day for the first time in their lives?! Dozens (perhaps hundreds) of Quakers have been converted to healthier diets, including pellets and fresh foods, due to the Quaker Forum. Do you ever think about those Quakers out there who soon have healthier, stronger bodies? If you close your eyes, can you see those beautiful, bright green feathers replacing the rather drab ones after the next molt? Can you imagine the number of years that have just been added to that bird's life?
And if part of your journey is to live through a tragedy, such as losing your bird to an accident, disease or because it escaped from your home, do you realize how much good you do when your share your story with us? Even as we share your pain, we learn from your experience. I'm sure we will never know how many parrot lives have been saved because of this forum and the people who are courageous enough to share their stories, even as their hearts are breaking from the loss.
I think sometimes we forget what a powerful tool this forum is, but I promise you that every single time you post a knowledgeable, helpful note to the forum or even if you just share a story or experience - some little bird out there somewhere is going to benefit from it. You don't know it's face, most of the time you don't even know it's name - but that doesn't matter. It's life has been forever changed for the better.
So you see, that is why we have some of these guidelines and the no-flame rule in particular. It doesn't have anything to do with who's right or who's wrong, or who deserves it and who doesn't. However, it has absolutely everything to do with keeping people on the forum so that we can continue to learn from and in turn educate each other. We are really blessed to have some very knowledgeable Quaker people here, but I believe that everyone has something important to share. I know if we work together, we can keep the Quaker Forum a great place to continue our journeys to learn more about our birds and how to best care for them.
Thanks for listening,