Guidelines For Respectful Discourse

We want this site to be a welcoming place for productive conversation. For it to be such, it is important that we act respectfully toward ourselves, other community members, and the community as a whole. The following guidelines are meant to give community members an idea of what respectful conduct looks like in an open online community.

Verbal Abuse And Harassment

In the forums, we will often be discussing highly consequential subjects, and we will often have intense feelings about those subjects. We will likely disagree strongly with each other on some issues, and that will lead to passionate arguments between us. This is okay. This is good. This is what productive conversation often looks like.

We must be mindful to keep our disagreement civil. We do not accept name-calling, stereotyping, personal insults, or hyperbolic characterizations, whether they be addressed to the target themself or to a third person. Politely criticizing someone’s arguments or behavior is okay. Criticizing someone’s character is not.

We flatly condemn threats of bodily harm, whether sincere or not, as well as expressions of fantasies or desires for others to experience bodily harm. We also condemn persistent non-consentual communication, intentional disclosure of another’s personal information, and other forms of harassment and abuse.

Relevance

We should be mindful to express our thoughts in a context where they will be relevant. This will make it easier for everyone to find and follow the conversations that interest them.

When posting a new topic, do so in the most specifically relevant forum. Use the Free Chat forum if no other forum is relevant. Feel free tosuggest a new forum by posting a suggestion in the Feedback forum. It is okay to post the same topic in multiple forums if the topic is relevant to multiple forums (e.g. a subject forum and a geographic forum). Moderators might move a topic to a different forum if they believe that it is not relevant to the forum in which it was originally posted.

Replies in a given topic are displayed in the order in which they were posted. The site’s creator would have liked to have replies displayed in structured (threaded) format, where replies are grouped according which post they are replying to. However, he could not work out a practical way to do that. So in a long or fast conversation or one with many participants, it might be difficult to tell which post someone meant to reply to. So please do your best to make this clear. You can do this by quoting the post you are replying to or by including a link to that reply (you can copy and paste the “#XXX” link at the top of the post). When quoting, trying quote only the relevant part of the post you want to mention. Don’t automatically post the whole thing. The creator deliberately chose not to including an automatic quoting feature to discourage this.

Discussions will inevitably drift from the original topic, but try to keep replies relevant to the original topic that they are attached to. If your response is very far from the original topic, consider starting a new topic. You can indicate that the new topic is a response to a post in another topic by including a link to that post. Moderators might also move your response to a new topic if they believe that it is too far off topic..

When responding to a prior post, make sure that you actually acknowledge and address points made in the prior post. This is not just a matter of keeping the forums organized; it is a matter of respect to the author of the prior post. When someone responds to you without acknowledging or addressing what you actually said, it can be frustrating and hurtful.

If you disagree with someone, be clear about why you disagree; do not simply contradict them. If you do not have solid reasons for your position, then be clear that you are presenting a personal feeling or impression rather than a reasoned position.

Be especially mindful when posting in a special group forum if you are not a member of the designated group. These are not subject forums; they are intended as places where people can converse freely without having to defend or explain their experience.

Language

Skillful writing will enable you to express your thoughts clearly and elegantly. Unskillful writing can be confusing or awkward to readers. In a medium where we express ourselves almost entirely through writing, the quality of our writing has a powerful influence over the impression we make on others. This might not be fair, but there’s no way around it. So try to write and proofread your posts carefully.

It can be appropriate to use forceful language to express strong feelings, but try to reserve it for when it is truly warranted. Otherwise, you risk engaging in verbal bullying and losing your credibility. Most people don’t like conversing with someone who consistently uses forceful language.

Since the early days of the internet, writing in all capital letters has been widely perceived by readers as equivalent to shouting. DO NOT USE ALL CAPS UNLESS YOU WANT READERS TO FEEL LIKE YOU ARE SHOUTING AT THEM.

We all make mistakes in our writing. They are inevitable.

If you notice a mistake in a post that you’ve already submitted, you can edit the post and correct your mistake. If the correction changes the meaning of the post, you might want add a short note explaining the change.

Some people react strongly to language that they dislike or believe to be incorrect, and they feel a strong urge correct others’ writing. Some people appreciate being corrected and others do not.

If another’s writing creates genuine uncertainly as to what they meant, then by all means ask for clarification. If you notice a mistake in someone else’s writing, but the meaning is clear, do not comment on it in the forums.

Every member’s profile contains an Accept Corrections checkbox. If it is checked, the member is indicating that they are okay with other members pointing out possible mistakes in their writing via private message. If you notice a mistake in someone else’s writing and would like to point it out, check their profile. If the Accept Corrections checkbox is checked, then feel free to politely point out the mistake in a private message  Otherwise, let it go. If someone sends you a private message about your writing, you are free to reply to them or to edit your post, but you are not obligated to do either.

Anonymity

In the ideal community, we would all freely share out identities with each other. However, there are sometimes legitimate reasons to remain anonymous. You might face retaliation for speaking freely. You might be attempting to hide from someone who has threatened you. Or, in the case of children for example, you might not yet have developed the awareness needed to skillfully manage your online identity. In cases like these, you might consider maintaining online anonymity.

When registering for an account, you must choose a username. The typical choice would be some variation on the member’s actual name (e.g. “first-last”. However, your username need not contain any personal information.

You must enter your email address. This email address is only available to administrators and will not be shared with other members. You are asked to enter your name.

You must enter something in the Name field, and your real name would be preferable but is not necessary.

When you register, a profile image (an abstract kaleidoscopic one) is automatically generated for you. This is to help readers following a conversation by making a clear visual distinction between posts from different members. You have the option uploading your own profile image. It need not be a photo of you. It can be any image that you would like to use to express your identity with (as long it does not make the site a hostile environment for others). If you are a child, please be cautious about publishing photos of yourself. It is a common practice for parents to use an photo of their child as a profile image, but please be cautious about publishing images of children.

You have the option of filling out a more extensive profile. This is all optional, of course.

You are encouraged to be as open and accountable to the community as you reasonably can, but you should not feel pressure to take an unreasonable risk with your personal information.

 

Reporting Misconduct

We all must take responsibility for maintaining this site as a respectful community. If you notice a post that violates these guidelines, please report it to a moderator. You can do this by

If you follow a forum closely, you might be a good candidate to act as a moderator for that forum. If you are interested in volunteering as a moderator, send email to administrators at the email address above.

Consequences

These guidelines all require interpretation by site administrators and moderators. There is often room for debate on the appropriateness of a given post. A post might be unintentionally inappropriate, the result of an honest mistake.

Moderators who perceive that a member has violated these guidelines should give the member the benefit of the doubt and respond using the gentlest option consistent the member’s behavior. Moderators can respond either by sending the member a private message, by moving or removing a post, or both.

A member who believes that a moderator is treating them unfairly can complain privately to administrators (see above). A member who dislikes these guidelines or believes that they are being enforced unfairly or incorrectly can complain to administrators privately or post their complaints in the Feedback forum. The administrators promise not to suppress or otherwise interfere with any criticism in the Feedback forum.

If a member is found to persistently violate these guidelines, or if a member commits a major act of harassment or verbal abuse, administrators will disable their account. If the administrators believe that an act of harassment or verbal abuse rises to the level of a crime they will attempt to consult with the target and possibly report it to law enforcement.