I've always been of the opinion that outright banning generals was a mistake, although it was a measure I can certainly empathize with, given the damage they caused to both /pol/ and /mlp/. But like most blanket bans, it fails to explain why, precisely, generals were bad; more importantly, it fails to explain why some generals succeed, and why others fail.
From what I've been able to gather, both from my own experiences with /mlp/ generals, and from my own research into /pol/'s generals, I think it's necessary to properly explain what a general is, and what causes them to become cancerous.
Generals, put simply, are a large, ongoing series of threads devoted to a singular topic. The topic can be narrow or wide in scope, and varies greatly between boards:A)
/mlp/'s generals typically revolve around OC, in the form of greentexts and drawfags, centering around a specific character, prompt, or theme.B)
/pol/'s generals typically revolve around ongoing geopolitical shitstorms, political figures, and entire countries. They used to also revolve around OC, but this has declined significantly since the 2016 elections (thanks, Reddit).
Broadly speaking, parts of the definition given on https://mlpol.net/policy.html
apply to both board definitions, in that they tend to grow out from a happening; a greentext prompt on /mlp/ may strike creative gold, and persist for many threads, or a political shitstorm on /pol/ might go up a few categories, and become the gift that keeps on giving.
None of this, however, adequately explains why generals become cancerous to begin with, as there are threads that fit this definition, yet do not have issues.
As such, I've put together my own little bucket list of things that cause generals to fail and become tumours upon the catalog.
A general usually has to meet at least two of these criteria to start down the path of cancer, but if one of these black marks are pushed with enough autistic fervor, it can also trigger a general's degeneration.
1. Excessive usage of identity
Unironically using names, trips, avatars, and in our case, flags, has always been a sore point, as the entire point of an anonymous
imageboard has been to be just that: anonymous.
Sometimes, however, you need to take up an identifier for various reasons (although threads with IDs enabled do not apply, for the most part): a writefag or drawfag may 'sign' his updates and pictures with a name as part of an ongoing project, or a person on the ground in a political event may use a trip in the same fashion to verify their identity, if juggling devices.
Used properly, identifiers do have a place on chans, but the problems arise with their misuse. Anons may start using their trips/names for every post they make in the general where it is not warranted, even extending out towards the whole site. The reason for this is fairly obvious, of course: attention whoring.
2. Content stagnation and drought
It happens, sometimes: a general just loses it's spark, it's magic, for some reason or another. In cases like this, the answer is simple: let it float off to sea to die with dignity, and preserve the events and OC for future generations.
Except, of course, that's not what actually happens: people cling to it, unwilling to let it go, and thus starts the endless cycle of bumps and prompts, hoping and praying that they can somehow restore the thread back to life. In extreme cases, they start to give praise to shitty content creators, for no other reason than them choosing to use their thread as a dumping ground.
3. Splinter communities
Possibly the most fatal of all problems a general can face: the problem of becoming insular, of forming a splinter community within the confines of the general.
All generals suffer from this problem in some form or another, as it's more of a human social dynamic than it is a general-specific issue. When it remains as a limb, with anons (even lurkers) and content feeding back into it's main board, there is usually no issue.
It's when it becomes a completely separate entity, however, where the issue arises: the general becomes like a Siamese twin upon it's board, remaining separate in users and content, yet is not independent enough to simply be cut off and survive on it's own; see 8/gtpone/ for a prime example of this. This stage is almost universally terminal, the only cure being the entropic heat death of the general.
It's also important to note, that the large generals we have were not made here on /mlpol/
, but were instead transplanted from 4chan after being driven off or banned outright. In such cases, our welcoming treatment of them nets a certain level of gratitude from the refugees who beat the 4chan Stockholm Syndrome, which helps greatly in reducing any pre-existing cancer the general had, before it was transplanted.
Cancer, like electricity, takes the path of least resistance, and being uprooted like that and persisting despite it is a sign of strength.