News Post

Asking for your input on new site rules

Jake the Admin

June 10, 2023

Given recent events, here are the two changes that I’m planning on making for the site:

  • Developing a new set of rules and guidelines with input from the site community, and

  • Creating the Community Moderator system, where a rotating group of users will be able to make moderation decisions.

I’m developing the second part now and I’ll talk more about it when it’s closer to being ready, but today I wanted to gather ideas for new site rules.

In general, the rules need to be broad enough to cover most realistic situations in which they’d need to be applied, and not get too numerous and precise in an attempt to address every possible scenario. For example:

  • Activity descriptions need to be three paragraphs or longer.


  • Activity descriptions should provide a clear description of how to perform the activity.

I think the second is probably better because it allows for activities where a very short description is adequate.

My plan is to gather your rule ideas for a week, and then make a Google survey where I ask everyone to vote on which rules you think should be adopted on the site, starting the week of June 19. I’ll give one example of a rule that I plan on putting forward:

  • Activity attachments should only consist of classroom materials. (This rule is because sometimes I see people attach completely unrelated files to their activities, like resumes or job applications. Please don’t do this – it’s not the purpose of the site, and it means anyone can see these files.)

Rules for comments and activities will need to be slightly different, since they have different purposes. It might be worth separating the rules into site-wide content guidelines, activity rules, and comment rules.

Please leave your rule suggestions in comments to this post, or send them to me using the site Contact system. If you want to talk about the situation in general, I’d request that you leave comments on the previous “June freeze” post.

  1. zheng June 11, 2023

    I don't know if it should be a rule but I think the description of an activity should include recommended class size. I've come across a lot of activties where the activity itself is a good one but I can't gauge how many students this activity was used for if they don't clearly specify that "this activity was used on a classroom size of 35 kids". A lot of descriptions are fairly poor in detailing this. Some activities are better with smaller classes while others need a larger group of kids to participate.

  2. TakoyakiTacos June 12, 2023

    I have an activity rule suggestion that may go some way to help avoid the incident that resulted in the freeze:

    - Activities that approach social issues can only approach the issues being talked about in the text books.

    For example, the Here We Go textbooks deal with topics such as enviromentalism and the impact of AI. Because these topics are present in the teaching materials provided to us, it is evident that they have been approved by either the government (BoE) or by our employers.

    I appreciate that this rule will prevent people from posting activities regarding social issues close to their hearts. However, by focusing on producing activities relevant to the approved material we can avoid the mess and drama that is inevitable in the war of ideas.

    It won't please everyone but the free exchange of ideas only works when people can be mature and civil - Something that many members of this community have proven then cannot do recently.

  3. ohnoko June 12, 2023

    @TakoyakiTacos, I think this might be the best way. Of course this would be the job of future mods to sift through, but it might be best to steer clear of non-textbook social issues as far as this site goes. If a school asks an individual ALT, or an ALT gets approved for a certain lesson, that's between that ALT and their schools/BOEs.
    It shouldn't be on Jake's shoulders, who's providing this site in his own free-time for no profit, and until very recently on his own dime, to handle comment sections where professional adults can't keep it professional. This isn't a social media forum, it's a teaching resource.

  4. tommie June 12, 2023
    1. no hate speech
    2. no racism
  5. TakoyakiTacos June 12, 2023

    Regarding the Community Moderator System:

    I want to like this idea for a few reasons. Mainly, it takes the burden of handling conflicts away from Jake so that he can focus on the time he volunteers on implementing new features and maintaining technical stability.

    However, seeing how many new and long-standing members of this community handled themselves during recent events... I have to say that I certainly would not feel comfortable or particularly reassured that these people were handling any issue I may feel the need to report. Additionally, if I was the subject of a report I do not feel reassured that these same people could handle my case in a fair, calm and level-headed manner required to effectively moderate a community.

    Maybe I'm just being pessimistic. Either way, I hope this new system works and the site is not hindered by the inability of some to control themselves.

  6. fabiothepenguin June 12, 2023

    I feel like it should be a rule to not post content that promotes discrimination or exclusion of any persons who are part of a minority.

  7. PlastiCat June 12, 2023

    I think clear rules on flaming/trolling need to be established, along with quality of content standards. Specifically, if an activity is posted and the first line of the description includes language like "the masses swarmed in disagreement", that's obviously bait for a flame war. This should be a site with helpful resources for teaching lessons as an ALT, not a subreddit.

  8. kusobaba June 12, 2023

    I agree with all that, avoid anything not included in the textbooks in terms of social issues. Those things are already and should be covered in other subjects - such as Social Studies - in Japanese. And Jake should not have to put up with any bad behaviour as he's providing a valuable resource effectively for free.

  9. Jake the Admin June 12, 2023

    One complicating factor with social issues topics is that while Elementary and Junior High textbooks are limited in number enough to where it's feasible to check all of them, High School textbooks and English conversation textbooks for adults are more numerous and have a lot more varied material in them. I've uploaded some of my own activities discussing modern topics for an adult conversation class that I think are fairly uncontroversial, but didn't come from a textbook. If the rule is important enough to the community then it would be possible to adopt it, but it might catch a lot of activities that people might not expect.

  10. KobeALT June 12, 2023

    I think that you need a report button. If a post receives a certain amount of reports, then take it down from the site.

  11. ramsey June 12, 2023

    I don't know much about what happen or what caused the freeze, but
    to avoid trolls or people not here to share ideas and help with this site. Just here to make a mess. I suggest make it required in order to comment on an activity. They need to share and upload some of their original activity first.
    or maybe rank user, or verified user.

  12. scrying June 12, 2023

    I'd probably echo tacoyaki tacos's suggestion as the easiest blanket answer. If an ALT is enlisted to engage in a social issue outside those dealth with in the textbooks (for whatever reason), it should be on the school to provide a measure of guidance as to what is and isn't kosher for that school's environment. Crowdsourcing it here wouldn't quite be as potentially toxic as doing it on r/teachinginjapan, but there's just too much room for error, and it is outside our purview, tbh.

  13. zdahlgren June 12, 2023

    @KobeALT I think that a report button might help, but there is a significant drawback. Namely, what’s to stop a bunch of ALTs from just mass spamming the report button because an activity doesn’t exactly align with their views on a social issue?

  14. TakoyakiTacos June 12, 2023

    @Jake the Admin - You make a fair point and I understand the implications of my suggestion.

    However, I believe that being able to verify that the issue is being discussed in the approved material is the fairest and most robust option.

    If somebody posts an activity that deals with an issue not in an approved textbook then it can either be edited or removed. Alternatively, if the user argues that it is in a textbook then that is something that can be verified without question.

    I understand that this restricts what can be posted and may lead to some activities being rejected that are relatively uncontroversial. I'm not a fan of restricting people in this way and it's a shame that I feel the need to suggest it.

    However, I certainly don't want the vocal minority of this site to be the ones to decide what I can and cannot post via toxic behaviour in the comments and ultimately bring this site down.

    A simple, clear and verifiable prerequisite for these activities may be the answer.

  15. genieg June 12, 2023

    It is so unfortunate to admin and all the people who genuinely contribute to make our life easier. 9 years of being ALT this is the only site that contains relatable contents for the job to be easier and fun .
    Only related topics from the books (BOE approved) and cultures. Other than that, we should limit /eliminate other topics that will draw to own opinion or others opinion. Keep it clean and professional.

  16. KaterinaSenior June 12, 2023

    Perhaps have an article/pinned post describing what is the general stance on certain issues on a national level for schools? Teachers receive guidance on what is and isn't appropriate in the classroom, and how sensitive topics should be handled.

    Something brought up on the two controversial activities is that they went against the official guidance our coworkers work under, regardless of what their specific school thought of them. This guidance is in Japanese so easy to miss, but if we have bulletpoints on this site of the attitude towards social issues, we can aim to upload activities that do not ignore this guidance.

  17. LyricaLottie June 12, 2023

    @zdahlgren Presumably, that would be a point where the community mods would step in. The report button wouldn't automatically delete it, or anything, but it would flag it for review by the mods. Maybe on the back end there could be a way to disable the report button for an activity if it's found that it's being unreasonably mass-reported? Not sure how feasible that would be, though.

  18. ToddC June 12, 2023

    I think the comment section should be removed.

  19. ch_armander June 12, 2023

    I think having both a report button and guidlines to only follow social activities from textbooks (for ES, JHS and HS) would be good. In the case of adult conversation classes, obviously other social issues would be touched on or brought up that aren't from a particular textbook. So if it's tagged as an adult conversation class then there should be a bit more leeway for topics there, but I think that's where having a report button might help as well.

  20. zdahlgren June 12, 2023

    @KaterinaSenior That’s a pretty good idea. Maybe also Jake could pin a translated version of MEXT’s rules concerning social issues in the classroom.

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