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How References Work please review this article and offer feedback

#1 User is offline   tiamet Icon

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Posted 29 May 2008 - 02:50 PM

I started this thread awhile back, got new author jitters, and pulled the article. Its time to try again.

I am writing a series of articles about things that people new to the community need to know. How to Check References, How To Build A Reputation, Safe Meetings, Negotiations, Finding a Mentor, etc., etc. This article is the first of that series.

I don't feel that its ready to publish yet, but I do think that its ready for peer review. Please comment, but do not distribute or reprint this article in its current form. I will finish it shortly, and then you can spread the final draft as far and wide as you would like.

Article is in the next post of this thread.
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#2 User is offline   tiamet Icon

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 09:20 AM

How To Check References

Most people in the lifestyle are vaguely aware that they should check references before getting involved with someone. Unfortunately, a lot of people skip this step because they don't know how to go about it.

The ability to check references relies on you being actively involved in the BDSM community and insisting that your partners are, too. The point is to get advice about the person you don't know from someone you do know. If you don't know anybody, or if nobody knows your potential partner, this doesn't work.

The ability to check references is one of the most important reasons for being active in your local group, visiting other groups, and attending events. Make sure you get contact info from the people that you meet and make the effort to stay in touch. Participating in multiple group's online discussion lists is a very efficient way of staying in touch with a lot of people. When the time comes that you need to check references, you will have a network to draw from.

Types of Reference Checking

Formal

This type of reference checking happens between individuals who are negotiating a relationship of some sort. Some people feel awkward when its time to ask, "Do you have any references?". If you are one of these individuals, I recommend that you work on your assertiveness and accept that you have the right to ask this question. It is not impolite.

Informal

Informal reference checking happens when you first meet a person. You should make a habit of including certain topics in your "getting to know you" conversations. Find out how long the person has been in the lifestyle, what groups they belong to, what events they've attended, who they know. Munches are ideal settings for finding out this sort of information. Then go home and ask your network about the person. See if they are telling the truth, and if so, what their general reputation is.

It is wise to conduct this type of reference checking for each new person that you meet in the lifestyle, regardless of whether you are interested in them as potential partners or not. Informal reference checking helps you make informed decisions about who you wish to associate with, alerting you to bad eggs before they inject drama into your life.

Providing Your References

References should be people who have known you long enough to vouch for your character, who have seen you play, who have observed your relationships, or are previous partners. Always get permission before you use someone as a reference or share their contact information. It is important that your references be active, networked community members. This is the only way that your potential partner has of verifying that the person giving you a reference knows enough about the lifestyle to provide accurate and reliable information.

If you know that you have enemies, or if you are aware of a specific incident that might cause others to give you a bad reference, you should disclose that information. Its better to give your potential partner a chance to ask around and investigate any rumors or slander than for them to get caught by surprise while checking references.

If you are involved in community leadership, community service, or personal service you may want to compile a service resume and provide it in addition to your references. A service resume is just what it sounds like, a chronological accounting of what type of service you have provided to whom. You can include mentorships and workshops in the "Education" section.

How To Check References

It is very important that you talk to multiple people when checking references. If you just ask one or two people for references you might wind up talking to the best buddies or worst enemies of the person in question. You need to get references from at least four or five different people in order to figure out the average community opinion regarding an individual.

In order to get good information, you need to ask specific questions. Has the person giving the reference seen the person in question playing? How many times? Do they know the previous partners of the person in question? How well did they know the partners? Are they personal friends with the person in question, or do they just rub shoulders at community gatherings?

The answers to these questions provide you with a great deal of insight into the quality of reference that you are receiving. Obviously a reference from someone who has been close to the person for some time is going to carry more weight than a reference from a casual acquaintance.

Bad References

Sometimes you will encounter bad references. These must be approached cautiously. Everybody has an enemy or two in the world who will say bad things about them that aren't true. Some people will give bad references based on hearsay, because a friend of a friend told them something happened. Some people just don't have a good sense of perspective, and will give an otherwise trustworthy individual a bad reference based on one mistake. Bad references should always be investigated thoroughly.

Investigating Bad References

The first thing you should do is ask for a reason for the bad reference. You should ask the same questions that you ask when receiving a good reference. You want to determine whether or not the person really knows what happened, or is just passing along gossip.

Some people won't give you a reason. The rules regarding confidentiality in the lifestyle are very strict, so the person may not be free to talk about the situation. They should be able to refer you to the people you need to talk to.

Whenever you receive a bad reference you should ask for the names of other people who can confirm the allegations. Ideally you want to speak to eye-witnesses. Bad references based on hearsay that cannot be tracked back to eyewitnesses should be weighed accordingly.

It is advisable to informally check the reputation of each individual who is providing or confirming a bad reference. Giving a bad reference is one of the most damaging things you can do to someone in the lifestyle. It makes sense to check to see if the people delivering this blow are trustworthy.

Making Decisions Based on Bad References

If you informally checked the references of a person you just met and got some bad news, then you know to keep that person at arm's length. Be polite when you cross paths at community gatherings and keep your guard up. Congratulations, you have just avoided learning about this person's bad habits the hard way.

Things get a bit harder when you're doing a formal check on a potential partner. More than likely, you were already emotionally invested before you began the reference check. Now you have to decide whether to go through the pain of emotional separation or move forward cautiously.

Confronting your partner about the bad reference can help you decide whether you should stay or go. If you see signs of unhealthy behavior when you make this confrontation, that's when its time to make a clean break. If your potential partner admits to the incident or offers proof of innocence, you have to decide whether you are willing to proceed cautiously or if this whole mess is just crossing your drama threshold.

If the bad reference involves physical or emotional abuse, its obviously time to go. For less serious offenses you may be comfortable staying if your potential partner is willing to take accountability, accepts that it will take time for you to build trust, and pro-actively work on their issues. If you are going to stay with caveats, make sure that you are a person capable of sticking to hard boundaries and leave if your partner fails to live up to their end of the bargain.

If You Are Asked To Provide A Reference

If someone asks you to provide a reference for someone you don't know well, simply tell them that you haven't spent much time around the individual and aren't qualified to give a reference. If you do know the person in question, you should cover the following five points:

1) Tell them how long you have known the person, and the nature of your relationship.
2) Tell them how often you have seen the person play or played with the person yourself.
3) Tell them how much time you have had to observe the person's relationships or how much time you spent in a relationship with the person.
4) Tell them about the person's good and bad qualities.
5) Let them know whether the person is currently married or committed.

Sometimes you will be in a situation where you are willing to give a person a good reference based on your experience, but you have heard some troubling rumors. When you find yourself in such a spot, you should give a cautious reference. Provide the information listed above, but also indicate that you have heard troubling rumors and direct the reference checker to individuals that can provide first-person information regarding those rumors.

And example of a cautious reference might be:

Quote

I've been friends with Bob for about six years, and I've seen him play more times than I can count. He's always been a safe top, and he is especially talented with rope bondage. I was very good friends with his ex-wife and they seemed to have a good relationship up until the last year when a poly experiment blew up in their face. I've heard some rumors that he has crossed some limits during play recently, but I've never seen him do anything like that. Cheryl and Kerri might be able to give you more information about that, they go to the dungeon with him frequently.



Think long and hard before you give somebody a bad reference. Its a really big deal that can seriously affect their life. I divide bad references into two categories, hard and soft. Hard bad references are reserved for incidents of abuse or substance dependency that you have first-person knowledge of. Soft bad references can be used if a person had a character flaw that you feel they have overcome, or have a generally good record marred by one or two bad incidents. Regardless of the type of bad reference you give, make sure to direct the reference checker to others who also have first hand knowledge of the situation.

Examples of hard bad references might be:

Quote

I was at a BBQ at his house last year. He got angry and slapped his ten year old son in the face. This guy has serious issues and you need to stay away from him. I wasn't the only person there, you should ask Kim and George.


Quote

She's been drunk every time I've seen her. A lot of people in the community have seen this behavior from her , you should ask around some more.


Quote

I've observed him play unsafely on several different occasions. He is very vocal about his disdain for safewords and frequently states that well known educators don't know what they're talking about. You might want to talk to Harold, he's the DM at the dungeon and has had to deal with this guy on several occasions.


Examples of a soft bad reference might be:

Quote

I've been friends with him for five years now, and we play on occasion. He used to have a very bad temper, but he's been working on it over the past few years and is much mellower now. He's had a couple of girls in service this past year, you might want to ask them if they've noticed any anger issues.


Quote

I've known her for three years. She plays regularly with my husband and for the most part she has been a joy to be around. There was one situation about a year ago where a pushy bottom kept hitting on him, and it just seemed to trip her trigger. She gave the girl a pretty nasty tounge-lashing, but she apologized when she was told to. It was very out of character for her and I've never seen her do anything else like that. You might want to ask her what set her off.


Example of a bad reference when confidentiality prevents you from disclosing details:

Quote

I can't give her a good reference and I'm not at liberty to discuss the details. If you'll give me your contact information I can have the involved parties get in touch with you.



Special Circumstances

If a person is new to the BDSM lifestyle, then it is impossible to check their references. It is also difficult to check the references of an experienced individual who has recently relocated and only has references located on the other side of the country. Yet if everyone rejects them because they don't have references, they will never be able to form a network. I suggest a cautious middle ground with such individuals.

Hang out with the person at munches, events, and play parties. Make them feel welcome and share resources with them. If they are relocated, talk to them about their background and philosophies. If they are new help guide them in their explorations and answer their questions. If you can form a group of people to help to usher this new person into your community you get the benefits of other perspectives, a bit more distance, and a lighter work load.

Once the community is basically comfortable that the person is sane, mature, and understands the basics of the lifestyle, a few people can step up to invite the individual to share some casual play experiences in a group setting. At that point the person has established a network of people who know them socially and have seen them play. From there they can provide references to potential partners and move into more serious relationships.

It is our responsibility to help new people establish themselves, but they have to earn that help. Such assistance should be reserved for individuals who become active members of the local community and work to learn and grow.
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#3 User is offline   ONEEOD Icon

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 03:28 PM

Tia,

Great start on a sometimes awkward topic. I just HAVE to relate something that happened a few years back.

A new Top/Dom was trying to make realtime meets with a bunch of online folks he knew from a chat room. No one knew him but he swore he had references and named a few "screeen names" that had been circulating among the popular chat rooms. These "girls" swore up and down that he was a great person and had tons of experience. It turns out that the other people were him under different screen names he had set up and started using and gaining popularity on as a set up for all this.

Being forwarned about things like this (especially for new folks) is forarmed.

Keep up the good work,
Bob
"Seek and ye shall find"
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#4 User is offline   tiamet Icon

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 04:39 PM

Dear Bob,

That story brings up a very good point..."being involved in the BDSM community" does not equal "being involved in the online BDSM community". I need to add a paragraph clarifying that point. Thanks!

-Tia
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#5 User is offline   shadowwolf Icon

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 07:15 PM

tiamet.
O.K you wanted feedback so here goes.... I read your article 3x and each time I was sure of one thing.. The intro feels abrasive. Especially under the formal reference check . I do not know if this is intentional or a side effect of what you are saying being so obvious. Next ....... One of the constants in your reference checking is " people who have seen him/her play " It has been my experience thus far that some people do not enjoy public play , therefore do not have many public play references which may cause a premature halt to someones search for they may see this as a warning sign. Another thing that caught my attention was something that I overheard this weekend at an event. A gentleman was introduced to someone and that persons name was very similar to someone that he saw on collarme.com . The name was so close that he was so sure that he had the right person the conversation became visibly uncomfortable for the person he was being introduce to. So if an informal reference check is being done it should be kept in mind that there can be more than one person with a name or similar name per group It is the seekers responsibility to be sure that they are giving enough info to receive feedback on the right individual .Your article is very informative and gives very good step by step instruction. Your warning on giving bad references is very strong as it should be . I must also applaud you on your hard and soft bad references.You have covered a lot of ground with these 2 points and should pat yourself on the back .
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#6 User is offline   MasterDale Icon

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 07:30 PM

Shadowwolf? Something you might not have considered in your critique is that was written for a particular audience, and that is newbies.

We have seen it over and over again....where newbies get themselves in over their heads, bite off more they can chew, make choices that require experience they don't have, and listen to a whole lot of bad information they find on the net or from other "bad influences". I think that in someone's early explorations, having less choices and less flexibility in the rules they need to follow will serve them better than having too many options. As they learn and grow, they can become more independent in establishing their own guidlines. But we do try to recommend the safest path.

Yes, there may well be wonderful opportunites available from players who never go public. But how does an inexperienced newbie guage what this person can do, if they are what they say they are, and if they are putting their life in danger if they dont have the basis in experience to know? That is why we push newbies to affiliate, join public orgs, watch a lot, learn the way things go, and then dip their toes in cautiously....slowly. Once they have seen safe play, they will be better able to judge what is right for them. After experiencing fulfilling safe play, they may have the ability to judge those private players you mentioned. But certainly not before they have some experience under their belt.

Just my opinion,,,,

M. Dale
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#7 User is offline   shadowwolf Icon

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 07:48 PM

Master dale...Allow me to clarify my post. I agree 100% that someone needs to guide the " newbie " In rereading my post I want to clarify what I meant when I said " side effect of what you are saying being so obvious ". To you and I this line of thinking is obvious . To others it may not be even though it should be so I thought that maybe the tension comes from the fact that he should not have to tell newbies that... but the reality is I know that he does. And as far as the public play all I was trying to suggest was that if someone cannot find many people that have observed an individual in public play do not be discouraged or take it as a definite negative . There ultimately may be a legit reason .
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#8 User is offline   MasterDale Icon

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 09:11 PM

...and I am not getting on you, Shadowwolf. Don't feel attacked, please.

I am certain there are people who are wonderful players and very safe that never venture into the public play arena. I am not saying there aren't. I will still caution every newbie that asks me to avoid private play and private players if possible, until they have some "Lifestyle legs" to stand on.

Thanks for your thoughts, as always. I respect and appreciate them.

M. Dale
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Posted 13 August 2008 - 09:18 AM

Good morning, Tia!

Great article, well written and needed. I am hoping that one in your series will include confidentiality,

I think this should be a part of this reference article, but I am not sure where or how to include it.....when I first moved to Asheville, it was the first that we were able to start going to events and start getting to know people involved with those groups.

I had two different people who become "informers". When we sat down to talk, it was all about gossip and trashing other members. With one of those new "friends", everytime that I interacted with someone on the discussion list for these groups, they emailed me with trash talk about how that person was "dangerous" and this person was to be avoided.

It took me a bit of time to understand what was going on. When I started to push or ask for more information, I was either ignored or gossiped about. They each used the fact that I was new to groups and those interactions to divide me out from those who had not fallen in line with their own small mindedness. I have seen it happen time and time again. It is a pet peeve of mine, because of my love of newbies and knowing how much stress it adds to an often already confusing time period.

Since then, five yrs later, I realise that it still happens and it wastes the time of those new folk ready and willing to please and join in and become one of the group. To be accepted. And it is far from being something that only happens here in our locale.

Opps....I wrote a small novel. Sowwy ...

*warmly*
Jules

So, I dont know what to even call it, but I do feel it needs to be addressed in there somewhere.
"For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart.
It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul."

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#10 User is offline   tiamet Icon

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Posted 13 August 2008 - 12:52 PM

Summary and responses to feedback received:

The paragraph about formal references comes off a bit harsh.
That was bothering me, too. I have to work to keep my writing style from becoming brusque. I need to work on that paragraph.


Some very good people don't play in public.
I feel very strongly that a newbie shouldn't have their first experiences in private. Since this article is part of a series, which will hopefully become a book, I've left some things out because they will be main points in other articles. The "Safe Meetings" article will cover my reasoning for the "no private play for newbies" position in depth, so it isn't addressed here. However, since that position will be strongly stated in this series, this isn't really an appropriate venue for the true but more advanced "some private players are safe" line of thought.


The series should contain a Confidentiality article.
I was going to put that in "Safe Meetings", but you are right - it really is a big enough topic to deserve its own article/chapter.


Newbies need to be warned of the poisonous politics often described as "protection" and "giving (unasked for) references".
I do need to strengthen the wording in the article that tells the reader to look at the reference givers intent. I should also add the rules that references should not be given unless specifically asked for, and that talking about a person's reputation outside of that context is just gossip. Maybe there needs to be a "Surviving Politics" article, lol

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Posted 13 August 2008 - 01:07 PM

This is the list of articles/chapters I am currently considering. The self growth part might be a separate series, with the two combined into part I and part II of a "Getting Started" book.

Online is Not Real Life
Finding Your Local Community
Confidentiality and Anonymity
Basic Etiquette and Protocol
Dealing with Politics and Predators
Community Service Paves Your Path
Dos and Don'ts of Building a Good Reputation
How to Check References
Safe Meetings
Negotiations
Starting to Play
Mentors and Guardians
Self Growth
-Journaling
-Discussion Groups
-Reading List
-Workshops & Demos
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#12 User is offline   ready Icon

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Posted 13 August 2008 - 06:43 PM

Tia,
hi. Where will these be published? Do you have another place or a blog or a dedicated website to publish these?

ready
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Posted 13 August 2008 - 07:30 PM

That's a good question that I need to give some more thought to. I plan to release the articles one by one, as they are completed. I want munch groups to print them and have them available for newbies, so I don't intend to charge. When they are all finished I intend to compile them into a book, self publish through Lulu.com, and sell them through a website. They will still be available as individual downloads, but people could buy the book instead if they wanted to. It would make a great, cheap gift for newbies.

I geuss I should:

a) pick a name for the book
B) register a domain name and set up a site
c) start publishing the articles to that site
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#14 User is offline   shadowwolf Icon

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 09:42 PM

Tia ....Actually waiting for final draft...............anytime soon ?
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#15 User is offline   MistressLydia Icon

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Posted 14 September 2008 - 04:42 PM

Thanks Tia

Every time I see the phrase "newbie" I feel as though its directed at me. Haahaa

Anyway, great info and advice on references, dually noted regarding not beginning with private play.

I still have yet to go to my first gathering. I'm starting to feel more confident about taking that step.

Luckily, I have a friend who has been apart of the Lifestyle for years who has been informative, as well. Thanks to all the wonderful posts and replies he has complimented me in saying that I've done my homework. ;)

Tiamet, I'm sure directing newbies can be trying at times...but know your willingness to assist is very much appreciated.

Thanks again,
MLydia
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