Shortly after Mad In America launched at the beginning of the year I was invited to take over the site’s web development and to assist in building a healthy community here. Since that time we have made minor changes to the site in response to reader feedback and our growing understanding of what best serves this budding community.
This month we are rolling out more significant changes, outlined below, that we hope will make the site more useful. They include several improvements to the way we display our content, one critical new content area, and the initiation of a formal posting policy. Our ongoing aspiration is for this site to provide a forum for civil and informed discussion of mental health care where a wide range of voices are included.
- We have recently opened an improved archives section. This area will be useful for those doing research or simply curious to browse through the rich history of blogs and news reports available on the site.
- Our new resources page provides a growing list of specific programs, guides, physicians, therapies, communities, organizations, and other links of interest for those who are seeking an alternative paradigm of care.
- The front page has been redesigned to list more blogs and news stories overall, while featuring particular items more heavily than others.
- An automated related posts listing has been added to blogs and news items, making it easier to follow a thread of interest across the site.
- Many under-the-hood improvements have been underway. These include switching from our initial shared hosting environment to a managed private server and configuring caching software to help ensure we can continue to serve pages even when traffic spikes due to popular articles.
- As many of you have kindly pointed out, we have had a problem with the flow of comments on this site, particularly the amount of extremely negative comments toward individuals. I have found there is always an ongoing exploration within online communities to feel out what kinds of conversation support the particular intention of the community, and what kinds do not. In a growing community like ours, that answer will change over time as we witness and reflect upon the tone of the exchange. This process really began for us with Bob’s post Guidelines for a Thoughtful Discussion. After many hours of dialogue, we now have a formal posting policy, which we will implement in our best effort to uphold a space for dialogue that includes many voices. I expect we will find need to evaluate and amend this policy as we make this journey together.
- We are working on preliminary development of future features. The next major update will likely include the launch of discussion forums. Some of you have been asking for this and I am personally very excited about them. This platform will allow for a broader and more dynamic conversation to take place. They will include areas where important conversations can happen in a stable and in-depth manner not possible on blog comment threads.
Thank you for your participation and interest as this space evolves. Please let us know how you think it’s going.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
Hi Matthew – good to read your post and hear about the work you’re doing on MIA. And about your own recovery work.
All the best with future developments, Chrys
Great work Matthew! Thank you.
Thank you for all your hard work, Matthew!
The Mad in America site keeps getting better all the time!
My website has some good links.
Please feel free to add any links from the site you think might help someone out there looking for anwers –
Thanks for a great website, and I have been looking forward to the forums for a while now 🙂
This page is getting better and better all the time. This website is one of my favorite resources, and it has become very accessible and incredibly useful. I appreciate the comments guidelines. It’s important to set intentions, and talk about talking, so that the communication is helpful and not such a big mess.
Plus, it’s funny to see you here Matthew! We went to the same school and I subletted my apartment to you in Boulder years ago. I never really got to know you, but congratulations on getting in on this great work!
I’m glad you’re reading Monica! Thanks for the feedback.
Matthew – it’s now over 8 months since you’ve been tasked with developing the website and assisting in “building a healthy community here”.
Looking back at the comments I notice my encouragement to you on 11 July, for the task ahead. Do you think that the website community is moving towards that goal of being healthy and supportive? That “broader and dynamic” conversations are taking place. And that the forums are starting to demonstrate “stable and indepth” dialogue?
Or do you think it will take more time to establish?
This is ever an ongoing process. I don’t think there is going to be a day when we can say, “a healthy community is now established.” It’s something we all build and rebuild with every post.
I have enforced the posting policies on several occasions to protect the conversation from the most egregiously disruptive and off-topic posting. We have all worked behind the scenes with people who were having a hard time relating to some of the things posted on the site. This work has demonstrably helped to nourish a space where people from a variety of backgrounds feel safe to contribute. I do not want to give personal examples without the permission of the people involved.
The forums are allowing for a broader range of conversation and I’m happy to see that happen. Laura and I are talking about how to be more engaged as moderators to help focus the conversations in the forums without stifling anybody’s genuine inspirations to share. This is a delicate process and not something we’re willing to rush into – we do not want to cause anyone harm by moving or editing content, but we do want some areas where the conversation can flow in a way that is free from major tangents. You can look for some posts by us about this in the next month or so.
Thanks for responding Matthew. It’s good to hear of the plans you and Laura have for the forums. And hopefully as time goes on there will be less and less need to enforce the policies.
I think it must be difficult for commenters who are being silenced, especially if they are expressing their pain through responses to the blog posts.
All the best with developments that can keep the dialogue going and in a positive vein.