So, for anybody expecting something funny/witty/clever/random, turn back. This blog post is not what you're looking for.
So, let me start out by saying that I love these forums, these forums have one of the most varied and lovely communities out there, but now let me continue and say that it has some serious problems. Problems that need to be addressed.
Let me also start out by saying that I will never give up on this community, I will continue participating in and helping this community until I have been put in the ground. So don't worry about this by thinking that it is that type of blog posts. This is more like a long string of feedback.
The first thing I'd like to mention is that for the longevity of the forums, the "Address problems when we feel like it" model of operation will not work out in the long run. Don't laugh or think that's some kind of joke or poking fun at the forums, that kind of thing actually works on a small scale, but as the forum grows, more systematic moderation will be required to simply keep up with the amount of content being produced. I would recommend making some kind of system where there is at least one moderator always online, maybe by hiring moderator from varied time zones this will work out.
Another thing I've noticed is that the Administration does not seem to take the recent problems with the forums' public image very seriously. That is unfortunate, because unless we take steps to enhance that public image, the forums will simply become more and more hated, and users will keep leaving. I recommend we fix this by hiring some kind of section of site-staff meant specifically to address problems with public image. They could do trivial things that in the long run will make the forums look better publicity wise.
This solution might not seem necessary, but think about it, do you know how many more users, would, for example, stay on the website if we had staff members that helped them at home by doing things like replying to their welcoming plaza posts, handling issues with name changing so that the Admins do not have to. I would think they'd be a step from between Poniverse staff and moderation. You might think of this as trivial but keep in mind that this would help the mods and Admins by freeing up their time that they would have spent on trivial things like this.
Some recommended titles might be things like "Community Representative" or something similar that gives people the idea that these users represent the things that the forums are really about.
On to the next problem, inconsistencies in rule enforcement. It should not be set up in such a way that several minor infractions could lead to permanent bans. An example would be making it so that the most ban time a minor offense like backseat moderation or pointless/off topic could only add up to a week ban maximum, while excessive vulgarity could add up to a month maximum, and so on. You might say that users could abuse this, but here's the thing, I don't mean that it could never end up perma banning a user, I simply mean that the severity and intent of an action should be considered. Somebody well-intentioned should not be banned permanently for the site because they simply don't understand what they're doing.
In addition,this would help silence those who say things like "It's so easy to get permabanned here", and again, this would help the forums' public image. We should only be perma-banning long time-repeat offenders if they commit minor violations and permabanning extreme things like those who post NSFW content or trolls, etc.
The last problem I would like to address is the staff-selection process. The problem is that only staff have a say on somebody's promotion into the staff. The reason this system will fail in the long run is that it means that if it gets to a point where there are a lot of bad mods/admins, no good mods/admins will get added. In the long run, a better alternative would be user-nomination by other members, and then the staff would vote on these nominations.
That way, the public could express their support for a user's promotion, but the staff would still have the ultimate say in the matter. There should be some kind of fail-safe in case of staff corruption where if the general user consent is that this user should be promoted, they will at least have to be considered.
For example, the staff will receive a notification about it so that they know it would be a good time to make a final decision about it.
That way, the staff will not become a completely totalitarian 'Cool kids table' type high school-clique like it would if the staff can only grow by it's own will to do so.
I mean, if a user isn't cut out for the job, they can always be demoted at any time. But we should at least give them a shot if the community in general believes they deserve a chance. I mean, the forums needs to put at least some trust in the judgement of it's own members, otherwise, the staff team will seem detached and distant, thus further decaying the public's perspective of said staff team.
In closure, I would like to say that these steps would ultimately help the forums and continue to help it grow and prosper, as opposed to stagnate (Even if the start of Season 4 makes the forums become more active, unless steps are taken, our increasing negative reputation will do much harm) like it is currently starting to do.
I am very passionate about this community, and am just worried about it, I want to see it continue to grow and expand it's horizons. I remain cautious but optimistic that the forum can become even better if only we set it on the right path.
I love you guys, and want nothing more than to have this forum continue to succeed for years to come.