I spent a few hours this afternoon working on an example of what more detailed forum rules might look like. These are based on forum rules for a very big (and exceptionally well managed) Australian forum (www.whirlpool.net.au). I’ve done a lot of condensing and editing to make them fit our forums. I’m not suggesting we should use all, or any, of this but I just wanted to show what I think is needed to give some guidance and clarity for both forum users and moderators. I have annotated it with section and paragraph numbers to provide easier reference in case we want to discuss any points.
By maintaining an account on ClassicPress Forums, you hereby agree to abide by these rules. Breaching these rules can result in post or thread deletion, or penalties as set out below.
The ClassicPress Forums (CPF) use a team of volunteer moderators who are also enthusiastic participants like everyone else. These community members have been entrusted with the ability to intervene when the rules have been breached. However, they may not read everything that is written, so much of the responsibility for maintaining our friendly environment lies with you.
We ask that you help us in the following ways:
If you take issue with something someone else said, the best remedy is to respond calmly and intelligently. Not only does this make you look smarter, it can often eliminate the need for moderation altogether.
If you come across something that you really think requires moderation, please contact a moderator (see Section 7). They will listen to all comments, concerns and complaints, and will decide whether any action needs to be taken.
While they will try and respond to all requests in a timely fashion, remember that they are all volunteers. They all have busy day jobs, families and lives of their own. And sometimes they also just want some time to be able to participate as users.
1.1 The CPF moderation system is designed around the principle of transparency. You may see more moderation activity here than other forums you’ve visited. That’s because most moderator actions on CPF are visible to everyone.
1.2 When threads and posts are deleted or moved, placeholders are left, allowing users to see the moderation that has taken place. This is unlike other forums, where deleted posts or threads may simply disappear from view, or where posts may be edited by moderators unbeknownst to users. As a result, moderation is more obvious than on most typical internet forums.
1.3 Moderators also have less power than other forums — in particular, moderators can not edit your posts.
1.4 In summary, transparency means:
- You are aware when anyone’s posts are deleted.
- Moderators use more caution knowing their actions are visible.
- All changes can be seen and reversed by other moderators.
- You can feel safe knowing your words can’t be tampered with.
- Complaints can be investigated easily.
2. Response Levels
2.1 Moderators have various tools which can be used to respond to breaches of the rules, including:
- post deletion (see section 3 below)
- thread deletion (see section 4 below)
- thread closure (see section 5 below)
- personal warnings
- temporary or permanent bans
2.2 While the above include examples of the typical moderator response to a rule breach, we reserve the right to respond as we see fit under the circumstance.
2.3 Temporary bans are normally used to apply short term “time out” style penalties to users causing trouble. For repeat offences involving excessive breaches of the forum rules, harsher penalties may be applied up to, and including, permanent bans.
3. Post Deletion Policy
3.1 Posts can and will be deleted if they breach any of the forum rules (see section 9).
3.2 If you wish to have your post reinstated, please remove the content that caused the post to be deleted, and contact a moderator.
3.3 If you want to discuss why your post was deleted, you should initiate a conversation in the ‘Talk with a Mod’ area of the forum.
3.4 If you still feel your complaint was not handled correctly, please refer to section 8.8.
4. Thread Deletion Policy
4.1 Typically, threads are deleted when they breach the forum rules (see Section 9). Generally these fall into one of the categories below.
4.2 Pointless – the thread contributes no value to the forum or opportunity for constructive discussion.
4.3 Crosspost – the thread was posted to more than one forum.
4.4 Flame baiting/Trolling – the goal of the thread is to flame or start a fight.
4.5 Duplicate – there is already a thread on the same or very similar topic which does not have unique content. Where an existing thread exists but there is some unique content in the duplicate threads, moderators will generally close rather than delete the thread.
4.6 Off topic – not just for the forum it was posted in, but off topic for all forums on CPF.
4.7 Spam – the thread was advertising for a business or was thinly disguised market research.
4.8 Warez or Porn – see notes about inappropriate content in Section 9.
4.9 Religious war – see Religious Debates in Section 9.
4.10 Note that the list above are the most common examples, threads may be removed for other reasons as per the forum rules (see section 9).
5. Thread Closure Policy
5.1 Threads will be closed under any of the following circumstances listed below.
5.2 Off topic – the thread is going off topic, but mostly contains useful information.
5.3 Flame war – the thread is turning into a flame war.
5.4 Purpose fulfilled – the purpose of the thread has been fulfilled – the author’s question was answered and the thread is drifting off-topic, the topic has become irrelevant or highly circular. Note that we generally prefer not to close threads simply because a question is answered, as other users may have relevant contributions to make.
5.5 Duplicate with some unique content – In the case of a duplicate thread that has some unique content not in the original thread, a moderator will generally prefer to close rather than delete the thread.
5.6 Thread necromancy – where a thread has been inactive for a long time (typically years) and the thread has been posted to with an irrelevant query or a query that would be best served in a new thread.
5.7 Temporary closure as a cool off – Where a thread has needed extensive moderation in a short period, a moderator may temporarily close the thread to facilitate cleanup and allow participants to gain perspective on their participation, rather than heavily penalising large amounts of users.
5.8 Threads may also be closed for other reasons where the thread is deemed to have reached the end of its useful life. In cases where the reason for closure is not immediately obvious, a moderator will normally post a final message, or add an explanatory Thread Notice which is displayed at the top of each page of the thread.
6. Ghost accounts
6.1 The term “ghost account” or “ghost” (also known as a “sockpuppet”) is used to describe additional user accounts created or operated by an existing CPF user, often used for the purposes of creating mischief or to bypass moderation penalties.
6.2 CPF strongly discourages users from creating additional user accounts for any reason. Moderators have the ability to find ghost accounts, through the use of various tools.
6.3 CPF moderators will remove any additional accounts that are found, where the ghost account(s) are used to bypass a current moderation penalty, breach the forum rules or mislead the community. Ghost accounts will also be removed where the account can be reasonably associated with a user previously penalised for spamming, or if the original account has a poor moderation history (especially if it pertains to previous ghost accounts).
7. Contacting a moderator
7.1 There are two ways to contact a moderator: flagging a post or using the “Talk with a Mod” area of the forum.
7.2 CPF has an integrated moderator notification tool, known as flagging. Below every post on CPF you will see a flag icon (you need to click on the three dots to expand the menu). This is a link you can use to bring that post or thread to the attention of a moderator. You can use this feature to report a post that is:
- other reasons
7.3 If you are unsure if a post needs removal etc., but believe it should be looked at, please flag it.
7.4 For more complex issues, you can start a thread in the “Talk with a Mod” forum. If the issue is straightforward, it is preferable to simply flag it.
7.5 Note that discussion of restoring a removed post/thread will occur via “Talk with a Mod”.
8. Problems with Moderation
8.1 Generally, users complain about a moderation decision because they disagree with the rule, not because they believe it was applied incorrectly. In most cases we will not change a rule unless there is a very compelling reason to do so.
8.2 If you have any issues or questions at all with the moderation process you are invited to create a thread in the “Talk with a Mod” forum.
8.3 Do not create a thread or post complaining about the moderation action anywhere else, as it will be promptly deleted.
8.4 Creating multiple threads to complain about a single moderation issue, or any abusive language directed at a moderator, will result in immediate penalties being applied.
8.5 Moderators are very friendly if approached politely, and the actioning moderator is in the best position to provide details about why the moderation action has been taken, and what needs to be changed to get the post or thread restored (if appropriate) or the action reversed (if possible).
8.6 When posting your thread, make sure to include a reference to the thread or post (where applicable) to provide context for the discussion.
8.7 The “Talk with a Mod” forum can be read and posted in by any current moderator and the site administrator. If you initiate a conversation there is a good chance that one or more other mods will join in and offer their opinions in the discussion.
8.8 If after discussing the problem with the actioning moderator you are still not satisfied, the next step is to politely ask for the issue to be escalated to a more senior moderator, a committee member or the site administrator to offer an opinion.
9. ClassicPress Forum Rules
9.1 General Netiquette
9.1.1 Read and search before posting
Your question might be answered already in another post or in the FAQ.
9.1.2 Use meaningful thread titles
Thread titles should be meaningful to other users, both now and in the future. Thread titles are how you make a first impression on other users. A vague or meaningless thread title might result in users deliberately ignoring your thread. Use a title that summarises your situation, without being melodramatic or insulting. Also note that meaningful thread titles make searching the forums much easier for others.
9.1.3 Remember your audience — present and future!
Be aware that a large audience might see your post, and your words may come back to haunt you. That audience might potentially include past, present and future employers; staff at your place of study; friends; family; etc. And unlike the spoken word, your written posts will exist on CPF for a long time.
9.1.4 Provide context when replying to posts
If you are responding to someone else’s comments, try to include a quote or summary of their post, to provide context to other readers. But don’t quote too much!
9.1.5 Don’t post personal messages
Do not post personal messages (such as personal greetings, etc) into a thread — send a private message instead.
9.1.6 Challenge arguments, not people
Do not attack other people, attack their argument — and this does not mean changing “you are an idiot” into “your comments are idiotic”. If you take issue with someone else’s position, try to explain why you disagree with them in a polite and professional manner, providing suitable supporting evidence as required.
9.1.7 Avoid starting or perpetuating flame wars
If someone insults or attacks you, do not respond in kind. “They started it” is an incredibly lame argument when your post lands you in hot water with a moderator.
9.1.8 Don’t SHOUT!
Excessive use of capitalisation and exclamation points (any more than one) is considered shouting and shows that you are unable to adequately express yourself through the use of normal language. Small amounts of capitalisation, when used to emphasise a particular point, is considered acceptable — although please note that CPF offers other ways to add emphasis, such as through the use of bold and italics in your posts.
9.2 Personal Attacks
9.2.1 Abuse, insults and personal attacks directed at other people, particularly other CPF users, are unacceptable. We have a very simple definition of “personal attack” here – the word “you” (either stated or implied) combined with a negative comment.
9.2.2 If you disagree with someone on some point, please do not resort to name calling or personal attacks, rather argue the merits of their points. You don’t have to call people names or belittle them to get your point across. Play the ball (the point) not the player (the person).
9.2.3 Please note that attacking people you perceive to be “trolls”, “fanbois” or “flame baiters” still counts as a personal attack, and your posts will be removed as such. If you have a problem with someone’s behaviour, please flag the posts in question or contact a mod.
9.2.4 If you receive a private message you find insulting or inappropriate, contact a moderator with details of the message and the sender.
9.3.1 Defamation is a communication (written or spoken words, pictures, graphics, gestures, etc) from one person to another that lowers or harms the reputation of an identifiable third person where the communicator (the publisher) has no lawful defence. The law of defamation aims to balance free speech with the right of an individual to enjoy a reputation free from an indefensible attack. The essence of a defamation action is damage to reputation, not that the publication was untrue, or that it infringed on the privacy of the plaintiff (the person who brings the law suit) or that it upset or hurt the plaintiff’s feelings.
9.3.2 There can be no defamation unless the person about whom the communication is made is identifiable in some way. At its simplest, that will be when the plaintiff is actually named, but even if the plaintiff is not actually named, other information may achieve the same result. For example, the use of a false name may not avoid a communication being defamatory if the plaintiff can be identified by other means.
[?? Tim may need to work on this one. It goes on to talk about Australian law]
9.4 Intolerance and Vilification
9.4.1 CPF is open to everyone.
9.4.2 As such, intolerance or vilification of other people’s race, culture, beliefs, height, weight, hair colour, IQ, gender, physical or mental conditions, shoe size, sexual preference / orientation, religion, age, income etc is unacceptable.
9.5 Foul language
9.5.1 CPF is a professional and friendly place, where people of all ages can read and post, from any location (work, home, school, uni, etc), without posted content setting off content filters, parental alerts, wowsers, etc. And ClassicPress wants to keep it that way.
9.5.2 As such, the use of foul language is considered to be unacceptable.
9.5.3 Please also note that swearing which is contextually understandable, e.g removing a letter, replacing letters with * or another character, or changing the spelling slightly, will also be moderated.
9.5.4 Swearing in another language is also unacceptable. Regardless of how few people you think might understand it, in the age of online translation engines, swearing in any language is not allowed on CPF.
9.5.5 Content with swear words that are used in the context of a personal attack/insult will be removed, not necessarily because of the foul language, but for being a personal attack. This also goes for all those non-swear words insults like “fool”, “idiot”, etc.
9.6.1 “Trolling” is generally considered unacceptable on most Internet sites, including CPF.
9.6.2 For purposes of defining trolling on CPF, we will use the following definition: A post in a thread or news comment that is, or appears to be, intended to incite controversy or conflict or cause annoyance or offence is considered “trolling”.
9.6.3 Note though, many posts may inadvertently cause strife as collateral damage, but they are not necessarily trolls.
9.6.4 The content of a “troll posting” generally falls into several areas. It may consist of an apparently foolish contradiction of common knowledge, a deliberately offensive insult to the readers of a forum / thread / news story or a broad request for trivial follow-up postings.
9.6.5 The main goal of “trolling” is to incite an emotional or knee-jerk response from other posters. This response is typically in the form of a personal attack, a repeat of previous points/posts; or an emotional outburst. Such posts and the responses they generate tend to undermine the friendly atmosphere of CPF, and often result in long running feuds between groups.
9.6.6 Please note: A negative comment is not automatically “trolling”, nor is the expression of an honestly held personal opinion.
9.6.7 From a moderator perspective, if a post serves no purpose other than to upset others, then there is a good chance that the poster is trolling. The next question we look at is whether the poster meant to troll, or not. That is where moderators will look at the poster’s user history to determine what is “normal behaviour” for the user.
9.7 Inappropriate Content
9.7.1 For the sake of this argument, inappropriate content is considered to be any topic that would be unacceptable dinner time conversation when your grandma is over. This includes (but is not limited to) any of the following:
• Sex and sexual acts;
• Violence, acts of cruelty or degradation involving any human or animal;
• Extreme, dangerous or illegal behaviour;
9.8 Offensive Websites
9.8.1 CPF is open to people of all races, religion and ages, so links to websites containing offensive or unacceptable material, such as foul language, inappropriate images (images of a violent or pornographic nature), racial vilification (hate sites), warez links, etc., are completely unacceptable.
9.8.2 If in the context of a post you must include a link to a website which contains a justifiable amount of bad language or other material – but which is otherwise appropriate – attach a note stating that the link contains such material. Any posts made without such warning will be deleted without question.
9.9 Illegal Content and Activities
9.9.1 Discussion around obtaining illegal software, music, movies, TV shows, other media, etc is completely unacceptable. This includes discussions about where to get it, links to sites that have it, when it is available, and discussions about how much of it you might have.
9.9.2 Discussion of illegal activities – be they criminal or civil – is unacceptable.
9.10 Personal Details and Private Conversations
9.10.1 The posting of an individual’s personal details is not permitted under most circumstances. This includes posting details of political figures, ISP staff, people that have wronged you, etc.
9.10.2 It is also inappropriate to post company contact details which aren’t available publicly. Examples of this might be an employee’s desk phone number, or details on a priority/escalation support line.
9.10.3 Details that have been previously published by the employee or the company may be acceptable to reproduce, however if the details were provided to you as a customer because you have an unusual or critical issue, it’s inappropriate to post it in the forums.
9.10.4 In ambiguous cases, the moderator has the final say.
9.10.5 The posting of private correspondence (private messages, emails, etc) or transcripts of private conversations (phone calls, face-to-face discussions) are not permitted, for two reasons:
- There is no way to verify the validity of the text; and
- There may be copyright implications arising from the publication of such private communication, in a public forum, without permission of both parties.
9.10.6 Public announcements (such as ISP mass mail outs, etc) are considered already in public view, and are thus considered fair game for re-posting. In cases where such an announcement is made on a website, posting the URL is preferred to posting the complete text.
9.11 Quoting and Referencing Sources
9.11.1 If you need to quote material from an outside source, due credit must be given to that source. For example, if you post a quote from a news story, you must also include the URL or reference to the story.
9.11.2 Taking material written by someone else, and posting it without citing the source, or claiming it as your own work, is considered plagiarism.
9.11.3 Quoting a whole article is not only unnecessary, it can also breach copyright laws. If you wish people to comment on an article or news post, please include a link to the article, and only quote one or two relevant sections that highlight your point.
9.12.1 Posting the same comments more than once in a thread, or in more than one thread, is considered cross-posting, and is not appropriate. Please choose the single thread in which your comments would be the most relevant, and post them in that thread only.
9.12.2 Posting the same thread in more than one forum is not appropriate. If you can’t decide which forum to post a particular thread in, just choose the one that most closely matches and see how you go. If you don’t think you are getting the right answers, ask a mod to move the thread to a more appropriate area at some later point.
9.13.1 Threads which are on the same topic as an existing thread, will be either closed or deleted, and users directed to post in the existing thread.
9.13.2 Duplicate threads are removed to:
- Focus discussion in one thread;
- Prevent forums being cluttered with multiple threads on the same topic; and
- Allow users to find questions more easily.
9.13.3 Normally moderators will elect to retain the thread that was created first, except in the case where a subsequent thread contains more discussion.
9.13.4 If a duplicate thread contains substantial discussion it will normally be closed, rather than deleted, with a pointer back to the other thread. If there is minimal discussion, or the comments are mostly of the one line variety, then the thread will normally be deleted.
9.13.5 When a duplicate thread is deleted, the moderators will link to the existing thread.
9.14.1 Ideally, all posts in a given thread should have at least something to do with the topic of the thread. Having said that, some threads do have a natural discussion flow to them, which may move the discussion in different directions, while still maintaining a relationship to the topic.
9.14.2 Posting off topic comments in a thread may result in your post being removed, particularly if your post stands out as being off topic compared to the other posts in the thread, or if your post stands to interfere with a line of otherwise on-topic conversation within the thread. Unless, of course, you can make the moderator laugh, in which case it can stay.
9.14.3 Note that comments about grammar, spelling, moderation, etc, will be considered off-topic in almost every instance (unless the thread is specifically about grammar, spelling, moderation, etc).
9.14.4 A moderator posting moderation comments into a thread (such as warnings about behaviour, etc) is a specific exception to the above. However comments replying to such a post by a moderator are off-topic.
9.14.5 It is also possible for a thread to be considered off-topic for the forum area in which it has been posted.
9.14.6 In such cases the thread will normally be moved to a more appropriate forum, or if no appropriate alternative is available, the thread may be deleted.
9.14.7 If you are unsure why a thread was removed, please discuss it with a moderator.
9.15 Blank (Edited) Posts
9.15.1 The CPF community considers it poor behaviour for any member to significantly edit or leave blank posts after the community has replied, especially when a much smaller edit could suffice in a thread. This particularly applies to the OP (Original Poster) of a thread. By doing so you are showing contempt for the community that responded to your queries and you in turn rob the wider community and future users of information provided.
9.15.2 Such editing is considered thread vandalism and results in threads and discussions lacking context. The thread often becomes completely useless to anyone else as a result, which is both selfish and contrary to the ClassicPress community focus of open sharing.
9.15.3 Users who vandalise a thread by removing/substantially editing posts, in excess of what is required for any potential privacy concerns etc., may be warned or penalised depending on the severity of the action.
9.15.4 If users have privacy or other concerns about content in their own posts, they can request to have the post or posts anonymized.
9.16 Religious debates
9.16.1 Note: this section DOES NOT exclusively refer to debates about religion.
9.16.2 “Religious” debates are so called because they have a lot in common with (but are not necessarily) discussions of religion and politics. They consist largely of people expressing strongly held personal beliefs about things that can’t be proven — supposedly in the interest of agreeing on the best way to do something important (whether it’s attaining eternal peace, governing effectively, or deciding which operating system is superior). And, like most such debates, they rarely result in anyone involved changing his or her point of view. Besides wasting time, these arguments create tension and erode the value of this open discussion environment.