I lurk rather than post, but I hate to see the list close...particularly over what seems to amount to a TOS-escalation that got out of hand. As to alternative communities, I know of only two: oto_community -- which is basically a non-competing announcements page -- and the new, directly-competing oto_network, which, judging from its rules page (and putting this as fraternally as I can) seems ill-positioned to deal with the difficulties any better than ljoto has.
Keeping this as general as possible to avoid personal attacks, a couple of observations from a largely disinterested observer? :)
ljoto is a support community for a fraternal (and, some would add, religious) organization. Any such list will always receive a certain number of posts highly critical of the organization itself; and if the critics are careful about it, they'll find it relatively easy to stay within the terms of service, while still royally cheesing off a bunch of their fellow list members. This can put the mods in a bad place, particularly if -- to their credit, I think -- they're unwilling to mute the criticism itself...because the natural result after a while is for those sick of hearing the organization criticized to confront the critics. Somethin like this:
A: "I just happen to have the ten trillionth reason this year to criticize OTO, and because I love and support our precious Order I'm going to share it with you."
B: "Oh, Jeebus! Not again!"
A: "Yes, again! As brothers snark thee!"
B: "Listen, you -- you ALWAYS have a criticism! No amount of actual change would ever STOP you criticizing, and you know it!"
A: "I know nothing of the kind!"
B: "Ohhhhh, @#$% you, buttmunch!"
...at which point a well-meaning moderator has a real problem; because while (giving her or him the benefit of the doubt) "A" might well have the best interests of the Order at heart, hence be engaged in protected criticism, "B" is definitely -- however justifiably -- engaging in personal criticism, which is (on a moderated list) a no-no. That said, we all know that actually banning folks, particularly from a fraternal list -- while in extreme cases the only way to end personal attacks -- is bound to cause problems...especially should they, and possibly others, feel that the banned folks were trying to protect both the Order and the community. What, then, to do?
Only two choices: no more rules at all, and let the members duke it out (yeah, that always works well); or some really difficult, but required, moderation. I know you're planning on closing shop, and heaven knows I don't have time to volunteer in your stead -- but humor me a little longer, here? -- as I present (drum-roll):
Old Phoot's Advice for Fraternal List-Mods!
1. The Moderator(s). Should be chosen from those who are, on the whole, fairly happy with the Order itself -- as most members are, or most of 'em wouldn't be members -- simply because if it's moderated by somebody NOT happy with the Order's current status, a "support community" for anything at all will go toxic very quickly. They should also be thick-skinned enough, and broad-minded enough, to make room for all shades of opinion not actually violative of LJ's TOS.
2. Amnesty. With said person(s) in place, a general "amnesty" should be declared for all recent bannings, with only the rarest exceptions (I dunno, death threats? ;) ). Along with that amnesty (i.e. invitation to be re-added if they will) should come a strong reminder to all and sundry that since this is intended to be a support list for a fraternal (and, some would add, religious) organization, all posters should see to it that their comments are fraternal (or, uhh, sororal): i.e., the tone of voice should ideally be the one you would use in this same conversation at the Lodge after a Mass, or at table for a feast. Even the most lip-smackin, fire-breathin, steam-snortin devotee of Chapter III can usually manage this in person; no reason their self-control should prove any more fragile online.
3. The power of Ignore. The admonition above will work on the majority of posters in almost any forum. For two very good reasons it will not work on everybody: you'll always have folks who EITHER (a) sincerely believe their criticisms are valid and urgent and posted in only the most fraternal terms, from the most fraternal motives; OR (b) are bitter little ego-cases whose only satisfaction in life comes from the illusion that causing fights on message boards makes them Such a Much (for which latter breed, rare though they be in such august company, even Thelemites might allow themselves a little pity: I mean, how small does that get, right?). So what do you do about that remaining criticism -- whether heartfelt or toxic?
You remind people not only to keep their tone fraternal, but of the "power of Ignore." One needn't get snagged in every discussion. If a posted criticism is worthy of discussion, that discussion can be kept fraternal (and if it's been debated many times before, maybe it doesn't need further discussion); if it's merely toxic, the sooner it's ignored, the better, since bitter little ego-cases don't find much satisfaction in being ignored.
4. What you're left with...is, one hopes, two kinds of discussion: the friendly kind which should naturally make up the majority of posts, and criticism threads -- into which those so minded can enter without, among grown-ups, its being any skin off anybody else's nose, right?
Anyway, just some thoughts, should anyone else want to take up the challenge of maintaining this, or some other such, community. In the meantime, props to both of yez for all the hard work you put into this, for several (alas) increasingly-dramatic years. ;)
93 93/93 -- AJ