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Straight Dope Registration Agreement (revised 12-29-2008)

Straight Dope Message Board Registration Agreement as of 12/29/2008

The agreement below spells out the rules by which SDMB users are expected to abide. Changes since the last version are indicated in bold. These changes reflect the change in ownership and switch to free posting. All changes are effective immediately.

We have one guiding principle: Don't be a jerk.

Registration is required in order to post messages on the Straight Dope Message Board ("the SDMB"). Registration is free. We don't request personal information other than your e-mail address (although you may include such information in your user profile if desired). Registrants are given the user title "guest" and are shown advertisements. If you do not wish to see advertisements, you may purchase an annual subscription. Subscribers are given the user title "member." For more information about subscriptions, click on the "Subscribe" link in the menu bar at the top of most SDMB pages after you register. A subscription is required if you wish to post a picture in your user profile.

The following rules apply to all participants on the SDMB:

Considering the real-time nature of this bulletin board and the volume of messages received, it is impossible for us to verify the information posted. We do not vouch for or warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any message, and are not responsible for the contents of any message. Users should be particularly wary of medical, legal or other professional advice posted on the message board and recognize that it is no substitute for in-person consultation with a competent professional. Messages express the views of their authors, not necessarily the views of the operator of the SDMB, namely Creative Loafing Media, Inc. ("CLM"), or any entity associated with it.

You agree, through your use of this service, that you will not use the SDMB to post any material that you know or should know is false and/or defamatory, inaccurate, abusive, vulgar, hateful, harassing, obscene, profane, threatening, invasive of a person's privacy, or in violation of U.S. law. You agree not to post material that in our opinion encourages activity that is illegal in the U.S. We reserve the right to revoke the posting privileges of persons misrepresenting themselves on the SDMB.

Minimum age for registration on the SDMB is 13 years. Registrants found to be younger than 13 will have their posting privileges revoked and forfeit any subscription fees. SDMB content is intended for mature audiences; parents or guardians paying subscription fees for children aged 13 through 17 are responsible for determining whether the SDMB is a suitable environment for their child.

You agree not to post any copyrighted material unless the copyright is owned by you or by the operator of the SDMB, except as permitted by the "fair use" provisions of the U.S. copyright laws (in general this means brief excerpts only). You agree to abide by the wishes of the board moderators in interpreting and enforcing these rules. Refusal to cooperate with board moderators or to abide by these rules is grounds for revocation of your posting privileges.

This message board is intended as a medium for public discussion. Do not post spam, including but not limited to advertisements, chain letters, pyramid schemes, solicitations, offers to trade or barter, charitable appeals, or other messages primarily intended to promote a cause, venture, organization, event (except Straight Dope-related events), website, or other entity or activity, whether or not money is involved. Do not post spam in your signature or send it via the SDMB's "private message" feature. We allow exceptions for worthy causes (in our sole opinion) if you obtain prior permission from a moderator or administrator. We do not require prior approval for non-commercial gift exchanges, e.g., "secret Santa" exchanges. CLM and its agents, including the administrators and moderators of the Straight Dope Message Board, make no representation that they have investigated or vetted charitable appeals, gift exchanges, and similar activities promoted on this board or groups or individuals associated with them. We do not vouch for, monitor, sponsor, endorse, or have any formal association with such activities. Proceed at your own risk.

Do not post the same or similar messages or threads to multiple forums; multiple threads on the same topic; or an excessive number of threads on any topic within a limited period of time. Do not start threads expressly for the purpose of meeting other posters for romantic or sexual purposes. We will notify the Internet service provider of any party posting objectionable messages.

You are free to express your views in a forceful manner provided you remain civil. Hate speech, insults, and purposely inflammatory remarks (i.e., trolling) will not be tolerated. Do not post threats or state or imply that any individual or group is deserving of harm. We recognize that this rule cannot be strictly applied in discussions of war, capital punishment and the like but urge users to express themselves in moderate terms nonetheless. If we tell you to refrain from behavior that we regard as uncivil, do so or face revocation of your posting privileges.

The board is not intended to furnish you with a forum for promoting your personal agenda. We reserve the right to ask you to limit postings on a particular topic, or to refrain from posting on such topics altogether. Please do not ask other members to do your homework or provide input for your article, paper, or other off-board project. We may waive this rule if you obtain prior permission from a moderator or administrator.

Do not post links to pornography - we will be the judge of what constitutes pornography. Links to nudity or other potentially shocking or offensive material are permissible only in the context of a mature discussion - gratuitous posting of such links is grounds for revocation of your posting privileges. When posting a link to potentially shocking or offensive material, observe the "two click" rule - don't link directly to the item, but rather to an intermediate page that in turns links to the item. If you're not sure whether a link is appropriate, contact a moderator or administrator before posting it. Any user who feels a posted message is objectionable should contact the moderators of the affected forum by e-mail.

Only one screen name is permitted per user. If you wish to change screen names please email an administrator. Use of multiple screen names is grounds for revocation of your right to post under ANY screen name. We reserve the right to refuse postings from screen names we find objectionable.

Vandalism, tampering, or any other abuse of the site is grounds for immediate banning. We reserve the right to report violators to their Internet service provider and law enforcement.

We reserve the right to delete any message for any or no reason whatsoever. You remain solely responsible for the content of your messages, and you agree to indemnify and hold harmless CLM, Jelsoft Enterprises Limited (the makers of the bulletin board software), and their agents with respect to any claim based upon transmission of your message(s).

All postings and other material on the SDMB are copyrighted by CLM. Republication of material appearing on the SDMB without express written permission of CLM is prohibited, except that users retain the right to republish their own work. By posting on this board you grant CLM and its successors and assigns a nonexclusive irrevocable right to reuse your posting in any manner it or they see fit without notice or compensation to you.

CLM and its agents, including the administrators and moderators of the SDMB, are not responsible for anything associated with any real life meeting of our members. While we permit SDMB users to post announcements and other discussion of meetings and events on the Straight Dope Message Board, we don't organize, sponsor, endorse, approve, or have any formal association with such events or any activities that may occur at them. We don't vouch for any individual or group organizing or participating in an event. Attend at your own risk. SDMB moderators and administrators who attend events do so as private individuals and not as representatives or agents of CLM. We encourage all attendees at these events to obey the laws of the jurisdiction in which they are held.

Privacy policy: CLM respects your confidential information. Confidential information is information that you are required to submit in order to participate on the SDMB and that is not publicly available. We will not release confidential information about you except in the following circumstances: (a) we have your consent; or (b) we believe in good faith that we are legally required to do so; or (c) there is an emergency involving personal danger; or (d) you have vandalized our site or otherwise behaved in a manner that warrants our contacting the authorities or your Internet service provider.

From time to time we may acquire nonconfidential but sensitive information about you, some of which you may have posted yourself to our board. We won't disclose or repeat such information except as (a) reasonable and necessary to manage our business, or (b) required by law, or (c) consistent with good citizenship, e.g., to prevent or report a crime or to respond to inquiries from law enforcement.

If you privately provide us with sensitive information related to the SDMB, we'll act on it as we feel prudent, with the understanding that we'll take reasonable measures to prevent your being identified as the source of the information without your consent, provided we're not shielding a wrongdoer or acting against the public interest in doing so.

You are required to submit and maintain a valid e-mail address. If you do not wish to receive e-mail from other SDMB users you may so indicate in your user profile. However, we retain your e-mail address in our database and reserve the right to have SDMB staff contact you. We won't give or sell your e-mail address to bulk mailers, brokers, or similar entities.

If you subscribe to the SDMB using a credit card, your card number and related information is retained in a secure database at our office. Access to this database is restricted to authorized CLM personnel. SDMB moderators and administrators do not have access to the database.

We log your Internet address (IP number) each time you post. The IP number tells us your Internet service provider. We reserve the right to reveal the IP numbers and e-mail address (but no other confidential information) of chronic SDMB rule violators to other bulletin board operators. We do this to identify guests registering under multiple screen names. One of our third-party advertising providers, Google, uses IP numbers to customize ads served up to SDMB users.

Please remember that postings on this board are visible to anyone with access to the Internet, and are retained in a database indefinitely. In addition, the SDMB is open to third-party search engines ("spiders"). Please do not post personal revelations or other information that may come back to haunt you. In particular, do not post your telephone number or address.

Please remember that you are our guest here, and that we reserve the right to exclude you at our whim, for any or no reason whatsoever. Subscribers who are banned forfeit all subscription fees they have paid. If you have been banned from the SDMB and resubscribe, you will be banned again without notice and forfeit your subscription fee. By registering and using the board you acknowledge this right and agree to abide by our rules and to submit to their interpretation and enforcement by our moderators and editors.

Revised 12/29/2008


Rules

The first rule of the Straight Dope Message Board remains, “Don’t be a jerk”. While there are other rules covering posting behavior they derive from that one rule. Moderators in all forums are here to ensure the rules of the board and each forum are followed. Violating any of the board rules as outlined in ATMB and the various forum specific rules may result in various levels of sanctions. Context is critical when interpreting the rules and moderation will take such into account. If you suspect a rule violation, please report it using the “report this post” button in the top right corner of each post - it looks like a triangle with a exclamation point inside it - and all moderators of that forum will be notified.

Rules for all Forums

Forum Descriptions – Threads are separated based on the type of discussion. A description of each forum can be found on the main page. Moderators will move threads as appropriate.

Copyright – Do not use copyrighted material without permission. Fair use guidelines apply and are interpreted conservatively. If you are quoting material it is good etiquette to provide a link to the source. We construe discussion of P2P and file sharing violative of copyright laws. Do not ask questions of the type "How do I get this peer-to-peer sharing software to work?" or "Can someone help me find a copy of (song or movie clip) using peer-to-peer sharing software?" Debates on the legality of this practice are allowed.

On discussion of VPNs

Allowed: General discussion of VPNs. Questions about legality and debates about legal and other issues. Discussions about using a VPN to hide your identity for security purposes NOT Allowed: Discussions about VPNs for P2P and file sharing, copyright violations, or illegal purposes. Discussions about using a VPN to hide your identity for purposes such as ban evasion, socking, trolling, and spamming.

Specific VPN service providers should not be mentioned by name or linked to without permission from the moderation staff.

Illegal activity or material – Do not post material that fosters or promotes activity that is illegal in the U.S. For example, discussing the effects of illegal drugs is okay, where to obtain them is not.

Calls to Action - 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. Threads calling for folks to take actions (political, charitable, personal, etc.) are prohibited unless there is prior approval from a moderator or administrator.

External Links – Links must be descriptive and should be workplace safe. Observe the two click rule such that no one gets to a website unintentionally; it requires TWO clicks, rather than just one click, to get to a site that is not safe for workplace. Do not post “jack in the box” links – those that have an image that suddenly changes or has a loud sound.

Personal Insults – Do not directly insult or personally attack other posters. The general rule is to attack the other poster's arguments, rather than the other poster him- or herself. This rule applies to all insults, including jokes and quotes from books & movies, as others may not get the joke. There is an exception in the BBQ Pit forum where insults are permitted. Please see specific rules for the BBQ Pit here.

Hate Speech – Do not post hate speech directed against any race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, or gender in any forum.

Trolls and trolling - Do not accuse other posters of trolling or being a troll. If you suspect someone is trolling or is a troll, please report them. Identifying a troll is a question of motivations, which aren't objectively verifiable. There really is no "bright line" that distinguishes a troll from someone who expresses an unpopular opinion forcefully. It's ultimately a judgement call if a particular poster is doing one versus the other. Do not troll. Trolling is posting solely for the purpose of riling others up.

Quote Box – Do not modify another poster’s words inside the quote box. For SDMB posters, the quote must be accurate, whether displayed using [QUOTE] tags or ordinary quotation marks. Normal editorial rules apply: that is, you may indicate omitted portions of a quote by the use of ellipses "..." or devices such as [snip]. You may add text to clarify a word using square brackets (e.g., "her [the sister's] friend"), but you may not add editorial comments or edit a quote so as to change the substantive meaning; nor may you substitute text such as "some blather" or "more nonsense" inside the [QUOTE] tags or quotation marks. We encourage accurate quoting of off-board individuals in a serious discussion; links are recommended. If it becomes apparent you're derailing a discussion with fake or misleading quotes of off-board individuals, we reserve the right to take action. Unattributed parody quotes are permitted in all forums provided they don't violate other SDMB rules. In the BBQ Pit forum only, parody quotes may be attributed to a parody username, provided that (a) the parody username is obviously satirical - we'll be the judge of obviousness; and (b) no other rules are violated. Quotes attributed to parody usernames are not permitted in other forums.

Ignore List – Do not hint or state that any particular person or group of people is on your ignore list. Revealing the usernames of people on your ignore list is forbidden outside of the BBQ Pit forum.

Thread Titles – Do not use vague thread titles. Use descriptive thread titles.

Thread Bumping – Do not bump your thread more than once. Posting a thank you to those who responded is not considered a bump.

Private Messages – Do not violate any existing rules in private messages. Since they are treated as postings, the rules of conduct for private messages are the same as those of the general forums of the Straight Dope Message Board, starting, but not ending, with our most basic rule: Don't be a jerk. There is no guarantee of privacy in these messages, and you assume the risk that any PM you send might be made public by the recipient.

Junior Modding – Do not Junior Mod. If you feel a post is in violation of the rules, please report the post and let a moderator deal with it. If you are not a moderator do not act as one.

Threadshitting – Do not threadshit. Threadshitting is belittling the topic or the people discussing it. It typically takes the form of a dismissive comment, like "Who cares?" or "This is stupid!" or similar. The implication of the threadshitter is that discussion of such a topic is beneath them, and should be beneath everybody else. If you really do think that a discussion is inane or pointless, the appropriate thing to do is to not participate in it. And, of course, if you see someone threadshitting, please do not respond with personal insults or accusations: instead, REPORT the post to a Moderator.

Threats - Do not post threats of any kind against the SDMB, Sun-Times Media or their affiliates, including without limitation SDMB posters, staff, advertisers or other entities, regardless of where and how expressed. This includes threats of legal action even if not directed specifically at the SDMB.

Socks - Do not use more than one screen name. We reserve the right to refuse postings from screen names we find objectionable.

Spam - Do not post spam, including but not limited to advertisements, chain letters, pyramid schemes, solicitations, offers to trade or barter, charitable appeals, or other messages primarily intended to promote a cause, venture, organization, event (except Straight Dope-related events), website, or other entity or activity, whether or not money is involved. Do not post spam in your signature or send it via the SDMB's "private message" feature. Do not post the same or similar messages or threads to multiple forums; multiple threads on the same topic; or an excessive number of threads on any topic within a limited period of time. Do not start threads expressly for the purpose of meeting other posters for romantic or sexual purposes. We will notify the Internet service provider of any party posting objectionable messages.

Each individual forum may have specific rules that apply to that forum. If this is the case, those forum specific rules will be noted in a sticky at the top of the respective forum.


Warnings, notes and other moderator actions

Moderators may act in several ways to ensure the rules of the forum are followed. When moderators act it will be clearly indicated that the moderator is acting in an official capacity. Types of moderator actions:

  • Warnings - An official warning on the Straight Dope Message Board acts as a permanent record of a poster’s breaking the rules of the forum. While there is not hard and fast rule, sufficient warnings over a period of time - both the number of warnings and the timeframe are intentionally left vague - may result in further, more permanent sanction. Unless rescinded by moderation staff, a warning remains on a poster’s record indefinitely. However, older warnings are given less weight when considering additional sanction.
  • Moderator Notes - A moderator note is usually provided to a poster, group of posters, or all thread participants to give guidance in a particular thread. This guidance is generally given to promote an environment where discussion can take place. Unlike Warnings, mod-notes are not tracked in any official, permanent way.
  • Thread or topic ban - After discussion among the moderators, a thread or topic ban may be issued for specific posters. These tend to come about when a pattern has developed indicating a specific poster cannot be trusted to remain within the rules on some topic or other. It is hoped that placing topic or thread bans will enable discussion to continue constructively for other participants.
  • Suspensions - Posters may be sanctioned with a temporary suspension of posting privileges. Continuing to break rules following suspension may result in a ban from the SDMB. Suspensions are not made lightly - nor unilaterally - and are discussed among the moderation staff and voted upon.
  • Banning - Repeated violations of the rules - or indications that a poster has no intent on ever following the rules - can result in a permanent banning from the SDMB. As with suspensions, the moderation staff as a whole votes on whether a poster will be banned.
  • Other actions - These are not the only potential sanctions available to the moderation staff. We reserve the right to get creative in the future.

Right to appeal - For all questions, comments, and complaints about the SDMB or its moderation, please post in the About this Message Board sub-forum. The moderation staff will do their best to participate in these threads to explain the reasoning behind the action.



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