FAQ - Technical issues for Posting

This thread lists the technical issues involved in posting on the SDMB.

First, be sure to read the Registration Agreement (updated 05/04/2012)

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

#01 = List of Issues
#02 = New User problems
#03 = User titles
#04 = Changing username, password, or email address
#05 = How do I report a bad post (one that I think is rules violation?)
#06 =Board speed/performance
#07 = vB Features
#08= vB coding and tips (bold, italic, spoilers, etc)
#09 = Displayed time
#10 = Ignore lists
#11 - Funny abbreviations
#12 - How to post pictures and links
#13 - How to search the Straight Dope Message Board using Google
#14 - How to use the automated polling feature
#15 - Contacting the staff directly

You might also want to read the companion threads FAQ - Rules for Posting and FAQ - Guidelines and Etiquette for Posting

Q: I’m a new user and I have not received my confirmation email. What do I do?

A: : If you do not receive your confirmation email within an hour or so after your initial registration, check your spam filter; often the confirmation email gets stuck there. If you do not find the confirmation email in the spam trap, contact a moderator via e-mail.

A list of moderators may be found here: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showgroups.php If the e-mail button on that page does not work for you, most moderators have their e-mail address visible on their profile, under the Contact Info tab.

Q: What’s the difference between Guest, Member, and Moderator? And what’s SDSAB?

A: Guests are people who don’t pay. Guests can read and write to the board and have a few similar privileges. Guests see the banner ads on the pages.

Members are people that pay an annual subscription fee and post at the SDMB. Members do NOT see the banner ads, as one convenience of membership. Charter Members are people who were posting before we went on a fee basis, who paid their fees in the first months of change and have remained with us on a fee-paying basis ever since. (NOTE: Failure to pay on time can result in loss of the “Charter” title. This is a system effect that we have no control over.)

Moderators are people that are in charge of reviewing the posts in a certain forum to make sure they meet forum guidelines. Our goal is to build community, and to have reasonably polite discourse and debate. Moderators are the ones who help enforce the rules.

SDSAB stands for the “Straight Dope Science Advisory Board,” people who write Staff Reports (see the Archives.) The SDSAB play no role in the running of the Straight Dope Message Boards; their opinions are their own.

There are a few other titles, like Cecil Adams’ title “Perfect Master,” but these are rare.

Custom Titles are also available. For a small fee, you can change your title to almost anything (but not Moderator, Administrator, SDSAB, or any of the other standard titles). See the details here.

Q: I want to change my user name.

A: Email SDMB Administrator, TubaDiva at: tubadiva@aol.com and request a change. You must use the email address under which you are registered. We do not “recycle” screen names; once registered to the board, that name cannot be used again. First come, first served. Remember that names are subject to approval by management. NOTE: Do not simply re-register on your own. Multiple screen names may cause you to lose privileges under ANY name, as spelled out in the registration agreement.

It’s quickest if you provide two or three new names you would like, ranked in the order that you like them. We have many names already on the board and since we don’t recycle, you may have chosen a name currently in the database.

Remember that names have meaning and power here. Use wisely your privilege to choose. Management reserves the right of final approval on all names.

Q: How do I change my password?

A: Click on User CP in the upper left corner of any SDMB page, then on Edit Email & Password from the choices on the left. Type in your current password. Type your new password TWICE: once to change, once again to confirm. Hit the “Submit Modifications” button.

Q: I forgot/lost my password! What do I do?

A: Click on this link: https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/login.php?do=lostpw

Follow the prompts. You will need to receive, open, and trigger the url inside a confirmation email after you do this. If you do not receive your confirmation email within an hour or so, check your spam filter; often the confirmation email gets stuck there. If you do not find the confirmation email in the spam trap, contact tubadiva@aol.com.

Q: How do I change my email address?

A: Click on User CP in the upper left corner of any SDMB page, then on Edit email & password in the choices on the left. You will see your current email address; type in your new email address TWICE: once to change, once again to confirm. Make any other profile changes you like and hit the Save Changes button.

Then check the new e-mail address for the confirmation message that will be automatically sent to you. If you do not receive your confirmation email within an hour or so, check your spam filter; often the confirmation email gets stuck there. If you do not find the confirmation email in the spam trap, contact tubadiva@aol.com.

IMPORTANT: When you change your password or email address, the system will AUTOMATICALLY send you a confirmation email about the change and will move your registration to the security holding queue pending your handling of the confirmation email. You will be locked out of the system until you respond to that confirmation email. If that email address was invalid, guess what? You just locked yourself out of the SDMB. If you have accidentally done this, then please contact a moderator and ask to have your privileges restored.

SO **don’t register with an invalid email address. **Don’t change your email to an invalid address. Otherwise, it just inconveniences everyone.

And, please, if you have changed your email address, be sure to change it in the registration for the SDMB. That’s the only way we have of contacting you!

Q: Why is this board not fast enough for my rapidly typing fingers and hair-trigger mouse speed?

A: This board has in a way been a victim of its own success. Our server is often at capacity, especially during peak times (9 AM - 5 PM in the U.S., Monday - Friday.) You might try posting at non-peak times, you’ll find better speed. Generally, the board speed has been quite good after our last server upgrade.

Q: Why would the server be slow even during the middle of the night (continental USA time), when hardly anybody in the USA would be on?

A: Doing a large search can cause everyone to have to wait. So if you have only a few people, each doing a large search, that can slow down all the other users.

Q: Would you like suggestions on how to make money from the board?

A: This has already been discussed at the SDMB multiple times, at great length, with many different types of suggestions, so forgive the staff if they don’t become actively involved in any new discussions.

Q: I get a lot of enjoyment out of the SDMB and would like to contribute financially to my host in some way.

A: You can be a subscribing member of the Straight Dppe Message Board. Annual subscriptions are $14.95 per year and you can subscribe for multiple years at a time. You can also purchase gift subscriptions for your friends and loved ones.

You can also purchase a Custom User Title and style yourself as something besides vanilla “Member.”

We once had a store for Straight Dope merchandise but it is not operational at the present time. That may change, so stay tuned, we’ll let you know when we have merchandise available for sale.

Because the SDMB is owned by the CHICAGO READER, we are unable to accept contributions (there’s adverse tax implications.) But thanks for the thought.

Q: Why can’t I do (some vBulletin action)?

A: We have disabled some of the standard vB features at our message board. Some were disabled because they were abused in the past; some because we thought the usage might become abused in the future; some to protect the privacy of our members; some due to site speed considerations; and some for other reasons.

Q: Why can’t I edit my own post?

A: You can edit your own post, within a time limit. There is a five-minute window after hitting the SEND button during which you can edit your own post. The EDIT button should be visible during this period; when the five minutes are up, the EDIT button vanishes.

We have imposed this time limit to avoid abuse, of people changing what they wrote after meeting opposition or hostility. In short, we don’t want people re-writing history. The five-minute window allows you to edit typos and make other minor changes. If you make a serious typo, email the Board moderators (or REPORT the post) and they’ll be happy to fix it. A “serious” typo includes errors in coding (spoiler tags, quotes, etc) and typos that lead to misunderstanding (“now” when you meant “not,” for instance.)

Q: How do I change my board settings?

A: Click on User CP in the upper left corner of any SDMB page, then click on Edit Options from the menu list on the left. Here you can make various decisions about your personal board settings: for example, whether you want your email address to be visible, whether you want to use a signature line, your privacy settings, time zones, etc. Make your changes and then hit the Save Changes button at the bottom of the page.

Note: if you choose not to use use cookies on the board, you’ll have to log in EVERY time you go to a new page. We suggest you accept cookies Make your changes and hit the “Submit Modifications” button.

Read the vBcode page for information on how to post links, use bold, underlining, italics, coloured text, change font, etc.

Note that images and HTML are currently disabled at this message board.

Go to the smilies page to see which smilies are available.

There is a link to the vBcode and smilies page at the bottom of a thread display, and in the top and right of the “Reply” box used when adding a thread/post.

Special Characters
For special characters, there are the two options:

  1. The ALT + number codes (see http://www.tedmontgomery.com/tutorial/ALTchrc.html)

  2. The vB function codes.

Since html is turned off on the board the html “name codes” cannot be used.

On the Windows operating system, you can copy and paste special characters from Character Map (one of the items in the start menu). Character Map will also show you the ASCII value for that character, and you can create the character by holding down the ALT key and typing in the ASCII value on your numeric keypad.
On MacOS, you can copy and paste special characters from KeyCaps (one of the items in the Apple Menu.) Hold down the option key and the shift-option keys to see the special characters.

Q: How do I post a “spoiler”?
A: Use the custom vBcode tag spoiler, added by the SDMB staff. Typing:

- and it really was a kitten, after all.

would appear as - and it really was a kitten, after all. (Click on the little box that says “Show” to read the text in the spoiler box.
Read also the section concerning the spoiler tag in the FAQ - guidelines for posting at the SDMB.

Note for Opera users - It seems that the spoiler tag does not work with the Opera browser. Opera users can either copy and paste the text to another window, or they can try to use the [Ctrl+G] (or “Change to UserMode”) feature to see the text of “spoilers”. The effect of this command is to turn page styles and colours off.

Different forums have different standards for use of spoiler tags. For the most detailed explanations and extensive examples of when spoiler tags are needed, see Cafe Society Forum RULES and Rule #4.

Q: Why does the time I see displayed for a post not match my current time?

A: First, the administrator has to set the server location’s offset from GMT (which we have done.) Second, you (the poster) must go to User CP > Edit Options and set your location’s offset from GMT. Then you should see the time displayed correctly.

Also keep in mind guests (and/or posters not currently logged in) will always see GMT no matter what.

Q: What does vBulletin (the software used to run our message board) do for daylight savings time?

A: Here’s how vBulletin handles Daylight Savings Time (“Summer Time”).
The SDMB server automatically updates its time according to the Daylight Savings Time in effect at the server’s physical location (Chicago, Illinois, USA). Rules for that location are that clocks move ahead by an hour starting on the second Sunday of March, and are set back an hour on the first Sunday of November.

If the Daylight Savings Time change of your current physical location does not match the Daylight Savings Time change of the server’s physical location, members will need to select the right offset accordingly, typically by adjusting the time in your User CP by one hour, either forward or backwards depending on where you are. Unfortunately during this period you can not rely on the “physical location” drop-down in the User CP > Edit Options control panel. Choose the offset that is correct for you, ignoring the description of the physical location that corresponds to that offset.

This site, Countries and territories operating Daylight Saving Time, may help you determine if your physical location’s Daylight Savings Time change matches the scheme used in Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Q: What happens when you put someone on your “Ignore” list?

A:When a person is on your ignore list, instead of their post, you see the message “This person is on your Ignore list. To read their post, click here.”, and there is a link on which you can click to read their post anyway.

If an ignored person starts a thread, you do indeed see the thread, just not the OP - unless you click on the link inside their ignored post. The thread title is unaffected.

The person who is ignored does not know that is happening. And, it is considered a violation of SDMB rules to tell them that you’re ignoring them. See FAQ - Rules for posting and note Post #13.

Q: I see people using acronyms like AFAIK, IIRC, TMI. What do those mean?

A: AFAIK = As far as I know
IIRC = If I recall correctly
TMI = Too much information

Others: see here.
Netlingo: Acronyms and shorthand

For SDMB-specific abbreviations and “in-joke” terms, see Beginner’s Guide to Glossary of Terms on Straight Dope Message Boards

Basically, you can’t post pictures or images directly. That’s a feature that we have disallowed, primarily not to slow down board speed.

To post a link to some website address with a picture or image, you can just type the url, such as typing:
The system will automatically parse links, so that will appear as:
Note that below the box in which you type your post, there’s a section called “Miscellaneous Options,” one of which is “Automatically parse links in text” … if that box is clicked, then any url you type will automatically become a link. If that box is NOT clicked, then you can type a url and it will not be a link (this is useful for urls for sites that are not safe for workplace, see What links are permitted?

Alternately, you can type the tags and with the link inside. Thus typing:
will give you:

If you’d like to be more clever, you can type the tags with quote marks:
a link to Fighting Ignorance
appears as:
a link to Fighting Ignorance

Please remember not to link to cites that would violate our Rules about permitted links: that is, don’t post direct links to websites that are not “workplace safe,” or links that are advertisements, etc.

POLLING is an automated feature available in three forums: In My Humble Opinion, Cafe Society, and the Game Room. It’s also enabled in About this Message Board, for testing.A poll is a feature attached to a regular thread; you can discuss your votes, your opinions, or the poll results using normal posts. You may vote in the poll without posting to the thread, or you may post to the thread without voting in the poll.

To create a poll, follow these steps:[ol]
[li] Follow the usual “Post New Thread” process. The opening post (OP) that you type will appear below the poll. [/li][li] After you’ve entered the title and typed the opening post, scroll down to the “additional options” box and look for “post a poll.” Check the box: “Yes, post a poll with this thread,” and fill in the number of options you want to make available.[/li][li] Click “Submit New Thread” and you’ll be taken to a new screen, where you can create the poll itself.[/li][li] Under “Poll question,” fill in the text you want people to see above the poll (remember, your OP will show up below it).[/li][li] Under “Poll options,” fill in one answer per box. If you goofed on the number of answers, go to the “number of poll options” box, change the number, and click "Update Options[/li][/ol]
The “Poll timeout” allows you to create polls that only stay open for a specified number of days. Leave it blank to leave the poll open indefinitely.

There are two new options under “Miscellaneous options”:[ul]
[li] “Allow multiple choice” presents viewers with checkboxes instead of radio buttons, so they can choose more than one option. This is for the “check all that apply” polls, as opposed to the “pick the one best answer” polls.[/li][li]*“Make votes public” means that everybody will be able to see how everybody else voted. This is handy when you want to make a poll like “Who wants me to send them $100”? You don’t just find out how many people said “yes,” you get to see their names so you can send them the $100 (just assume I voted yes on that poll, okay?).[/li][/ul]

It’s really quite straightforward. View the thread, and you’ll see the poll at the top. Click on your choice (or choices, if “allow multiple choice” is turned on), and then click on "vote now."If this is a public poll, the words “Be advised that this is a public poll: other users can see the choice(s) you selected.” will appear above the poll options.

You may only vote one time. The SDMB will remember how you voted, and won’t give you a chance to do it again. If you go back to read the thread, the choice that you voted for will show up in italic font.

When you vote, you’ll automatically be taken to a results screen, which has the responses displayed above the OP. You can also click the “View Results” button to see the responses without voting yourself. If you’re looking at a public poll, the number of votes received by each answer will be a link. Click on the link, and you’ll get a list of which members voted for which answer.\

Once your poll is finalized, you can no longer make changes. Mods are able to edit polls but, as with editing posts, we prefer not to interfere. Adding or changing options after a poll has begun makes the overall results less meaningful. If there is a significant problem, email us or report the post. The mods can either close the thread so you can start over, or–if you catch the error immediately–make minor changes before the voting starts.

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

A: Report the post. You can easily do this using 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 message that says

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. Your Report of a bad post will send an email to all the moderators of that forum.

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 now 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.

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.) Elsewhere, do not accuse another poster of trolling. Instead, use the REPORT BAD POST button. Do not reply to the troll in any way in the thread, that only encourages them.

If you’re not sure whether the person is really a troll, treat the person as a user in good standing and REPORT the post. Let the moderators decide.

Most questions can be answered in the FAQs of this forum, or by posting a question here.

Sometimes, however, you need to communicate directly with a moderator — to request a name change, for instance, or to request permission to start a thread that you think might be skirting the rules.

For name changes and other logistical business, contact a moderator. For a question about posting or other activity in a particular forum, contact the moderators of that forum. These moderators are listed in the bottom right-hand corner of the forum page.

A full list of moderators, with their forum assignments, can be found here.

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