FAQ - guidelines for posting at the SDMB

SDMB registration agreement as of 30 March 2005

New rule - we’re tired of seeing that site with a picture that has a face jumping up with a scream. If you’re going to post a link to that site, or another site that is intended to startle/annoy by a sudden sound/image, check with a staff member first.

Ignore list - after much deliberation we decided to keep the ignore list (and buddy list) available to members. Part of the reason we were hesitant is because we didn’t want to see flame wars caused by PosterX telling PosterY “you can say whatever you want to me, I don’t care because you’re on my ignore list.” Hinting that any particular person or group of people is on your ignore list is very strictly frowned upon. Revealing the usernames of people on your ignore list is forbidden at this board.

Corollary - the same applies to buddy lists. Try and be discreet about who’s on your buddy list, and don’t use it as a tool to irritate / hurt the feelings of other members.

For the curious - there is no way to tell (for example in your options screen) if you are on someone’s ignore or buddy list.

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.

One area of confusion sometimes arises between About This Message Board (ATMB) and the BBQ Pit. Both/either seems to be appropriate for questions about the Message Boards itself. Some forum guidance in re questions on SDMB policy:
[ul][li]To ask “What is the accepted way of doing something at the SDMB?” put your post in ATMB.[/li][li]To ask “Why is this the accepted way to do something at the SDMB?” Should probably be in the BBQ Pit, but there are borderline cases.[/li]To ask “Why is this the accepted way to do something at the SDMB? I think it would be better if you did it another way.” The BBQ Pit.[/ul]

Q: Who is this Cecil Adams of which I hear people speak? And why is the Message Board called the Straight Dope Message Board?
Cecil Adams writes the Straight Dope newspaper column whence the board gets its name. These columns appear in some local alternative newspapers and are also collected in book form, in addition to being archived at this site. Also read the FAQs on that subject.

Q: I see something at the message board that I think breaks the rules. What should I do?
A: E-mail all the moderators for the forum in which the thread occurs and/or which relates to your question. (You can easily do this using the “report post to moderator function” – the little exclamation point in the red triangle in the upper right corner of each post) if your question concerns a post in a thread.)
Since the message board is so active, and the moderators are unpaid volunteers, we appreciate any assistance that our members can give us.

Unfortunately, if you want a Moderator to help with your own post (for example, if you made a coding error), you cannot REPORT your own post. In that case, just REPORT the post above or below your post, and be sure that your explanation to the Moderators is very clear.

If you start a thread, and after a while think you would like more comments on it, you may be tempted to “bump” the thread by adding a post to make the thread reappear back at the top of the forum list. We strongly discourage this practice, but since the boards are so busy sometimes a single “bump” will bring about good results. Our guidelines:
[list=A][li]Wait until a suitable time has elapsed (at least until your thread is no longer visible on the first page of the forum)[/li][li]Bump your thread only once[/li][li]Do not make a habit of always bumping each of your threads.[/list][/li]When you bump your thread, it is preferrable to include additional information relevant to the original post, which may help encourage posters to respond.

What if I want to continue / add to the discussion on a topic that was mentioned in an old thread?

Generally, we prefer you start a new thread with a link to the old thread. Often, an old thread includes statements from posters who are no longer members, and so cannot reply. It’s therefore often “unfair” to respond to old posts. (A general guideline for “old” would be a thread older than three months.) However, the rules on reviving old threads are different for the different forums: more acceptable in Comments on Cecil’s Columns, Comments on Staff Reports, and Cafe Society than in the other forums.

We have added a spoiler tag to enable members to post “spoilers” to movies, TV shows, puzzles, etc. Please note that this makes the moderator’s job just a little harder, because we have to highlight the text to read the contents of the post, so do not overuse the tag; include it only where the post warrants. If its employ becomes too frequent for insufficient reason we will remove it. (See also the FAQ on technical issues for a how-to on the spoiler tag).

At the Straight Dope Message Board, being a message board based on a series of books and newspaper columns, we encourage the respect of copyright law. 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:
[li]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.[/li]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).[/list=A]

Falsely attributing a quote to another user, or modifying another’s post in order to cast him/her in a bad light, even if meant in jest, is grounds for revocation of your posting privileges. This does not apply to parodies to which no name is attached.

Be aware that for legal reasons we do not edit posts, except to rectify coding errors or remove unacceptable links - changes that do not require editorial judgment on our part. We will delete offensive posts on request if we feel deletion is warranted, or delete the thread if removal of the offending post would render the thread meaningless.

We appreciate your cooperation.

Illegal (in the USA) Drugs - You are allowed discussion of the effects of drugs, but do not discuss where to buy them. Limited discussion of past use of drugs is OK, 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 are not sure, err on the side of caution and/or contact a staff member before you post.

If you have a question about bannings / banned users, the staff prefer that you e-mail a staff member (administrator or moderator) rather than asking publicly on the board.

Q: What does DNFTT mean?
A: Do not feed the troll.

Q: What is a troll?
A: “Troll,” in the context of message boards and the like, describes somebody who is posting just to be confrontational or to raise hackles.
See Staff Report: What is a troll? (14-Apr-2000)

Q: What should I do when I see a user “trolling” at the SDMB?
A: Do not publicly accuse someone of trolling at the SDMB. Use the “Report this post to a moderator” facility below the “trolling” post. Do not reply to the troll in any way in the thread, that will only encourage the troublemaker.

Q: What if I’m not sure if the person is a troll?
A: Treat the person as a user in good standing. Respond to the post if you have something useful to add, otherwise say nothing.

How long can my profile signature be?
Your signature should not be more than 4 lines in length (including blank lines) when the browser window is seen on an average size monitor. If your signature is deemed too long, then a staff member may ask you to change it and/or change it for you.

How many times should I include my signature in a thread?
Once per thread should be sufficient for people to admire the pearl of wisdom included in your signature. If you post multiple times in a thread it is recommended that you only include the signature in one of your posts.

What if I copy and paste the same text at the end of each of my posts? That’s not a profile signature.
Let’s not quibble on definitions. For all intents and purposes that text included at the end of all your posts is indistinguishable from a profile signature and should follow the recommendations for profile signatures.

File-sharing software (used to distribute files over a peer-to-peer file-sharing network) still has nebulous legal status in the United States of America (the location of the parent company behind the Straight Dope Message Board), and is often used for copyright violations. At the SDMB we take copyright violations seriously and this is an issue close to the heart for the owners of the SDMB (the Chicago Reader). For this reason, we ask our posters to refrain from discussions on how to use file-sharing software at the SDMB. Debates on the legality of this practice are allowed, but 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?”

The Straight Dope Message Board is owned by a publication based in the USA. The common language of all the moderators of this message board is English. For that reason we ask that all posts on this message board be made in English. The staff members need to be able to read and understand posts made at the message board.

If you want to change your username, or if you forgot your password, please please please do NOT do just register under a new username. Contact any Admin (for quickest results, contact several Admins, in case the one you write is on holiday or something), and we’ll be glad to change your name.

We want people to be responsible for their posts. There is history and there are consequences to what you post. We do not permit “sock puppets” for exactly that reason – they are a way of not taking responsibility for what you post, and of trying to avoid consequences. That’s not acceptable here.

It’s similar with name changes. If you re-register under a different name, you’ve severed the contact with the old name. That’s not acceptable. We’re happy to change your name and it will reflect throughout your history.

Well, we’re happy to change your name once. Twice, you’d need a damn good reason. We’re not about to change your name every other week.

I thought the SDMB rules made this pretty clear, but some apparently didn’t get the message, so let me repeat: You’re allowed a one-time 30-day guest membership. If you want to continue posting after that, you have to pay the subscription fee. If you re-up as a guest under a different username, your posting privileges will be revoked. You may continue to read the board for as long as you like without paying. Your cooperation is requested.

When a long-time poster (or reasonably so, like a paid member) is banned, we will usually post the reasons in the About This Message Board Forum. when soemone is banned, PLEASE WAIT a couple of days before asking why. If you don’t see a thread in this forum with 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” as in Ed Zotti’s post above. 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.)