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Old 08-19-2006, 06:37 PM
C K Dexter Haven is offline
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FAQ - Rules for Posting at the Straight Dope Message Boards

This thread lists the Rules for posting on the SDMB. These are the Major Rules and the Important Ones: violations have serious consequences.

First, be sure to read the Registration Agreement

This post is basically a "table of contents" for this thread and these rules:

#01 = List of Rules
#02 = How and when do I report a post?
#03 = What's the policy on copyrights?
#04 = How do I know which forum to post in?
#05 = Are there any forbidden topics, like sex and drugs?
#06 = What happens to rules violators?
#07 = What are the rules about file-sharing software?
#08 = Must I post in English?
#09 = What links are permitted? What's "workplace safe"?
#10 = Are there any rules on insulting the other posters?
#11 = Can I modify other posters' quotes?
#12 = Can I edit my own post?
#13 = What's with ignore lists and buddy lists?
#14 = What are the rules on profile signatures?
#15 = What if I want to change my username?

You might also want to read the companion thread FAQ - Guidelines and Etiquette for Posting
and FAQ - Technical issues

[Note: much of this was written originally by Arnold Winkelried and TubaDiva, I've just re-organized it. There was no way to retain the original authorship posts.]

Last edited by engineer_comp_geek; 02-06-2016 at 01:28 PM. Reason: fixed link for registration agreement
Old 08-19-2006, 06:52 PM
C K Dexter Haven is offline
Right Hand of the Master
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Join Date: Feb 1999
Location: Chicago north suburb
Posts: 16,078

When and how do I report a post?

Q: I see something posted on the message board that I think breaks the rules. What should I do?

A: Use the REPORT BAD POST button -- the little exclamation point in the red triangle in the upper right corner of each post. When you click on that button, you will see a box above a message that says
This form is for reporting anything you believe would benefit from the immediate attention of SDMB staff, such as spam, advertising messages, and potential violations of forum and/or board rules.
Type in the box to let the forum moderators know why you’ve flagged the post.
This doesn’t have to be a long and complicated message: “spam” or “personal insult” could be enough. On the other hand, if you want something specific done, such as a thread title change, or if there's a personal insult hidden in a lonnnng post, then please be specific, to help save the moderator's time.

Since the message board is so active, and the moderators are unpaid volunteers, we appreciate any assistance that our members can give us. We can't be everywhere, we can't see everything, so we rely on you to report infractions of the rules.

Q: What happens next?

A: Using the REPORT function automatically sends emails to all the moderators in the forum where the problem post has been made. The moderators who receive the email will look at the post you’ve reported and decide what action, if any, is needed.

Q: What if I’m not sure if the person is breaking the rules or not?

A: Report the post anyway and let the moderators sort it out. We would much rather get a dozen reports that don’t need acting on than have someone decide not to report a problem because they’re not positive there’s an actual violation of the rules.

Q: What should I do when I see someone "trolling" on the SDMB?

A: Do NOT publicly accuse another poster of trolling. (The only exception to this is in the forum called BBQ Pit where it is permissible to use the term "troll" as an insult.)

Accusations of trolling and similar misconduct are subject to staff discussion and a review of the poster's history. Trolling is an especially contentious issue, as it is inherently open to interpretation; "stupid" or naive beliefs can often be sincerely held. These discussions are private and disclosed only when actionable offenses are found; we do not want posters to feel persecuted.

As for the correct procedure, we prefer that you either report the post in question or PM a moderator with your perspective and cites. This is then forwarded to the mod loop. Please note that a short, coherent and well-cited PM is the best way to get your point across; we usually analyze just the facts and leave the poster's analysis/opinion out of the discussion.

Please note that while the moderators can appear unresponsive to inquiries, that's because moderator discussions can take days of back and forth. Most topics sent to the moderators are discussed, but occasionally yield no consensus or a decision to take no action. But we're always watching you!

Q: Doesn’t that make me a tattletale?

A: The SDMB is a community, and we rely on all of our members to make it a community where people want to be. Since it’s a community that’s active around the clock, and since the moderators are unpaid volunteers, we appreciate any assistance that our members can give us. We can't be everywhere, we can't see everything, so we rely on you to let us know when there’s something that needs attention. If you see someone being mugged on the street, calling the cops is NOT "being a tattletale."

Q: What do I do if there’s something that needs action from a moderator, but it’s not a rules violation?

A: There are other reasons for reporting posts besides rules violations, a lot of them pretty minor. Examples include:

• A thread started in one forum that should be moved to a different forum
• A thread with open discussion of plot points in a book, movie, or TV show that needs a spoiler warning in the thread title
• A thread with a confusing or misleading title, or one that would benefit from a “TMI” (too much information) warning

If you see a thread like this, use the REPORT button exactly as described above -- it’s not just for rules violations! However, please be specific about what you think needs to be done (the mods won't always know automatically what title change is needed or what should be covered by spoiler tags.)

Q: What happens if I want to change or correct something I said -- can I report my own posts?

A: If you want to edit your own post (for example, if you made a coding error), you have five-minutes after posting during which you can do so. If you miss that time limit, you can REPORT your own post and explain to the moderator exactly what you'd like changed. Note that moderators will not accept edits that are total revisions; once you've posted, you've posted. But we will be happy to help with typos, mis-coding, etc.

You can also use the REPORT THIS POST function to ask that a thread be closed. To do this, click REPORT for the OP (original post; the first post in the thread) and give your reasons for wanting the thread closed.

Last edited by Gfactor; 08-24-2010 at 05:20 PM. Reason: Minor rearrangements and updates -- CKDH
Old 08-19-2006, 07:14 PM
C K Dexter Haven is offline
Right Hand of the Master
Charter Member
Join Date: Feb 1999
Location: Chicago north suburb
Posts: 16,078

What's the policy on copyrights?

Our sponsor, the Chicago READER, has a strict policy on respecting copyrights and copyrighted material. They don’t want their stuff used by others without permission, and so we don’t use stuff created by others without permission. Basically, The policy is : don't do it.

The rules of the Straight Dope Message Board are enforced by volunteer moderators who are not all legal experts in these matters. So we offer a set of guidelines that may be more conservative or stringent than the law in your jurisdiction, but that we think may help avoid the copyright violation issue. In this as in many other matters we depend not only on moderator enforcement, but also ask for the cooperation and goodwill of our posters.

Suggested guidelines:
(1) If you are going to quote something from an article, quote less than 5% of the source. Include a link to the article if the article is available online.

(2) Only quote directly in very rare circumstances. Instead of repeating a source word-for-word, read the article, attempt to understand it, and rephrase what it says in your own words. Again, include a link to the source if the source is available online. Otherwise indicate a reference to the source (e.g. Science News, issue x, pages yy-zz).

(3) Minor changes in quoted text are permitted, as long as such changes are clearly identified (e.g., ellipses ... for omitted material, square brackets for added material, etc.) Changes that alter the tenor or interject editorial comment are not permitted. If you want to comment on a quote, do it outside the quotation marks or quote tags.

(4) If you're quoting from short works -- such as song lyrics, poems, short prose, etc: please quote only what is sufficient to make your point. Generally, that would be a few lines at most. If you want to refer to long passages, provide a hyperlink to a site that has rights to reproduce the material.

Last edited by C K Dexter Haven; 10-13-2008 at 04:01 PM. Reason: Minor grammar -- CKDH
Old 08-19-2006, 07:23 PM
C K Dexter Haven is offline
Right Hand of the Master
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Join Date: Feb 1999
Location: Chicago north suburb
Posts: 16,078

How do I know which forum to post in?

Basically, read the forum descriptions. We try to separate discussions and threads, based on the type of discussion (rather than the subject matter, generally speaking.) The distinction between forums can be somewhat subjective and a bit fuzzy.

PLEASE NOTE: It is generally not a big deal if you inadvertently post in the wrong forum, a moderator will move it. We have the forums as a convenience to other posters. Having your thread moved is not a slap in the face, nor a warning, unless you're doing it persistently.

Last edited by C K Dexter Haven; 09-04-2006 at 06:47 AM.
Old 08-19-2006, 07:27 PM
C K Dexter Haven is offline
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Join Date: Feb 1999
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Posts: 16,078

Are there any forbidden subjects, like sex and drugs?

You are allowed discussion on almost any topic, but...Note that the Registration Agreement prohibits:
any material that you know or should know is ... violative of U.S. law. You agree not to post material that in our opinion fosters or promotes activity that is illegal in the U.S.

Drugs that are illegal in the US: You may discuss the effects of drugs, but not where to obtain them. Limited discussion of past use of drugs is OK, but discussion of current use is not. Please include a disclaimer that the drug is illegal in the US.

Sex: The medical approach is OK, the Penthouse approach is not. If you're not sure, err on the side of caution and/or contact a staff member before you post.

Copyright violations: Are NOT OK, under any circumstances. For copyright rules, see Post #3 in this thread... and see the Registration Agreement for "illegal acts." We consider that discussions of P2P and file-sharing are pretty much discussions of how to evade copyright laws. The excuse "I just want to download public domain movies and Linux distributions" is lame. Very.

Many of the services that used to operate illegally/without paying royalties are now in compliance and so discussion of these services would be allowed, they're legitimate. But we do not want to see recommendations of companies and programs still remaining that operate in violation of copyright law.

How to get around the law: Discussions about legal methods (avoidance) are acceptable; discussions about illegal methods (evasion) are not. Again, see the Registration Agreement.

Calls to Action: Threads calling for folks to take actions (political, charitable, personal, etc) are prohibited unless there is prior approval from a moderator or administrator. Do not instigate members to take action for or against any issue or entity. Do not post phone numbers, email addresses or any other personally identifiable information of any entity in this regard. Exceptions for valid and noble causes may be made with the advance permission of a moderator or administrator.

Last edited by C K Dexter Haven; 09-04-2006 at 07:05 PM.
Old 08-19-2006, 07:41 PM
C K Dexter Haven is offline
Right Hand of the Master
Charter Member
Join Date: Feb 1999
Location: Chicago north suburb
Posts: 16,078

What happens to rules violators?

Depends on the rules broken, whether the offenses are repeated, etc. Basically, persistent and continued rules violations may result in posting privileges being suspended or lost.

If you break a rule, a Moderator will generally warn you about it. Warnings can be serious (usually called "official" or capital-W "Warning," usually posted in the thread)... but often emailed as well, so be sure your email address is up-to-date.

An individual warning isn't usually the end of the world, although that depends a bit on what rule is broken. A well-meaning poster will suffer no further consequences. Repeated offenses or a consistent pattern of rule violations may result in a 30-day suspension or banning. Warnings usually drop off the radar after a year or two; we're looking for persistent repeated offenses or patterns, not for the occasional goof that we all make from time to time.

If a paying member and reasonably long-time poster is suspended or banned, we usually announce this in the About This Message Board forum. We try to strike a balance between informing our members about what's happened, and respecting the privacy of the individual. If you don't see a thread in this forum with an explanation, then the person was either a sock puppet, a spammer, or a banned person trying to sneak back in.

Also, please remember that you may not be seeing all there is to see. If someone had four or five inoffensive posts and is banned, you probably didn't see the 20 spam posts that led to a porno site -- they'd be "disappeared" along with the poster.

While we post the reasons for banning a long-time poster, we really don't want to post reasons for sock puppets, banned persons trying to sneak back in, or spammers -- we don't want them to have more publicity. The publicity is what they want. If they don't get it, maybe they'll go away and leave us alone.

If you're dying of curiosity and really MUST know or you won't be able to sleep nights, then email a Moderator. We'll be happy to tell you offline.

(* - A "sock puppet" or "sock" is a person with multiple usernames, including "repeat guests." A spammer is a person trying to sell things or just annoy with multiple posts leading to some website of no (or harmful) consequence. A banned person trying to sneak back in is a banned person trying to sneak back in. These are all violations of our registration agreement, and incompatible with the sense of community that we're trying to build.)

Last edited by C K Dexter Haven; 09-04-2006 at 07:06 PM.
Old 10-10-2009, 06:51 PM
C K Dexter Haven is offline
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