We’ve consolidated and slightly revised the Rules for Cafe Society. Basically, we’ve put one rule per post, for easier reference. Please note that this forum is for discussions related to arts, entertainment, and similar leisure activities.
Table of Contents for this thread: #1 - Intro and Table of Contents #2 - Copyrights and respect thereof #3 - Good manners and common courtesy #4 - Spoilers #5 - Links must be “Safe for the Workplace” #6 - Please use descriptive titles #7 - On reviving old threads #8 - Politics vs Entertainment (what goes in Cafe Society?) #9 - Polls about arts/entertainment (what goes in which forum?) #10 - Tags in Café Society.
If you really, really want to post something but are not sure whether it will violate the rules, email a forum moderator in advance of posting. We’re always happy to consider such requests, and we can usually find ways to comply.
GENERAL RULES AND ETIQUETTE FOR THE STRAIGHT DOPE MESSAGE BOARDS:
If you’re new here (or even if you aren’t), please read the following threads before posting on the SDMB:
FAQ - Rules for Posting at the Straight Dope Message Boards
How and when do I report a post?
What’s the policy on copyrights?
How do I know which forum to post in?
Are there any forbidden topics, like sex and drugs?
What happens to rules violators?
What are the rules about file-sharing software?
Must I post in English?
What links are permitted? What’s “workplace safe”?
Are there any rules on insulting the other posters?
Can I modify other posters’ quotes?
Can I edit my own post?
What’s with ignore lists and buddy lists?
What are the rules on profile signatures?
What if I want to change my username? FAQ - Guidelines and Etiquette on the SDMB
Good manners and common courtesy are expected
Use descriptive titles when you start a thread
On resurrecting old threads
Reporting inappropriate Google ads
Use of spoiler tags
How do I find out what happened to a thread or poster that’s vanished
“Private Messaging” and meaning of “private” FAQ - Technical issues for Posting
New User problems
Changing username, password, or email address
How do I report a bad post (one that I think is rules violation?)
vB coding and tips (bold, italic, spoilers, etc)
How to post pictures and links
How to search the Straight Dope Message Board using Google
How to use the automated polling feature
Contacting the staff directly Beginner’s Guide to Glossary of Terms on Straight Dope Message Boards
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.
It is okay to post a small snippet of song lyrics or poems or whatever, and include a link to another site which contains the complete text. But posting any material completely and verbatim is a violation of our rules and a potential violation of copyright laws.
This policy applies throughout the Straight Dope Message Boards, but it’s especially relevant in Café Society.
Quoting someone comes under Fair Usage, whether you’re quoting an artist/entertainer or another poster. The rules are (my paraphrase) that you can change a direct quote:
To delete material, identified either by elipses … or by <snip> or [material deleted] or similar explanation
– To use bold or italic font for emphasis, identified by a comment like [bold font added by Dex]
To add explanatory material, identified by [square] brackets; sometimes this includes short comment [sic]. IMPORTANT NOTE: Words such as “idiotic” and “shameful” and other adjectives that either modify the tenor of the quotation or interject an editorial comment into the quotation remain forbidden. If you want to comment on a quote, do it outside the quotation marks or quote tags.
That’s it. It doesn’t matter whether the material being quoted is in another poster, an academic journal, a news magazine, or a grocery-store scandal sheet. Those are the commonly accepted rules under which you can quote someone. And, please note, any changes to the quoted text are clearly identified as such.
Hence, those are the rules that should apply on our Boards.
Now, an exception is allowed in common usage when it comes to celebrities for purposes of satire. Thus, Jon Stewart is allowed to make up fake quotes for famous politicians. WHen it comes to quoting other members of these boards, no one, so far as I know, has that kind of celebrity status. When it comes to making up quotes by celebrities, you better be damn sure that it’s absolutely positively clear to the lowest intelligence that you’re doing something satiric. I suggest against it. Certainly the use of quote tags implies that it’s an actual, honest-to-God quote; if you’re being satiric, use quotation marks " and " instead of the quote tags: [quote] and [/quote]
The other exception is when you’re clearly NOT quoting, but paraphrasing. To repeat: Use of quote tags is an indication that you’re quoting, not paraphrasing.
Personal insults are not permitted in this forum. You can insult an artistic work, you can say what you’d like about an awful movie or poem or TV show or concert. Within reasonable limits, you can insult the artist/creator/writer. But you may not insult the posters.
This forum is about entertainment and arts, and there’s rarely a “correct” answer. Multiple viewpoints about entertainment and art are to be expected. It should be possible to share your views, understand someone else’s views, and disagree with someone else’s views, without the need for personal insults.
Note that “insult” includes making guesses about the other poster’s background, education, state of mind, etc. The personality of the other poster is not relevant to the discussion.
Violations of good manners and common courtesy constitute jerkhood, and are a bannable offense. If you must flame, go the forum called BBQ Pit and insult as you please.
Note, from the Rules for Posting on the Straight Dope Message Board, Post #10: There is a difference between an insult directed against a person and an insult against a large group. However, there’s a fine line here, depending on timing, the nature of the group, and which comment came first.
LIKELY ACCEPTABLE: “Anyone who likes the music of Enema is soulless and lacks taste in music.”
NOT ACCEPTABLE: “You like Enema’s music? Then you’re soulless and have no taste in music.” Special Case: If a member posts their own poem, for instance, or a link to a song they wrote, then the rule about “Not Insulting Posters” takes precedence over the permission to insult the writer. “Reasonable limits” for insulting the artist mean that if the artist is also the poster, no personal insults permitted. Again, it should be possible to be critical of a work without insulting the author personally.
This applies to books, movies, plays, TV shows… anything with a plot. “Spoiling” is when you haven’t seen a particular movie (read a book, whatever), and you don’t want to have plot elements revealed in advance, and someone tells you that the boss is actually the double-agent. That’s “spoiled” the story/surprise for you.
First, if you’re in that situation, where you haven’t seen the work and you don’t want to have plot elements revealed, then the safest approach is NOT TO READ any thread about that work. We’ll try our best to avoid spoiling things, but you must take some responsibility on your own.
Now, on the other hand, suppose you’re on the other side. You want to discuss or ask a question about a story, and you are unable to do so without revealing a ***vital piece of information ** * that might ruin a surprise for those who haven’t yet experienced it, please use a spoiler warning or spoiler tags.
When do you need to warn of spoilers?
Obviously, if the material is new, some people will want to experience it for themselves without knowing the plot. A TV show you see on the U.S. east coast will not be seen for several hours later on the west coast. And perhaps not for weeks or months in a different country. Also, many people record shows to watch later, so just because the show have been aired doesn’t mean everyone has seen it.
Although a work may have been well known for quite a while, some folks may still be unaware of particular plot points. Agatha Christie has been dead a long time, but there are still new students and others coming to her mysteries for the first time, who don’t want to know that the butler did it. On the other hand, anyone who doesn’t know that Dorothy could have gone home anytime by clicking her heels, well, the hell with ‘em.
It should be evident from these examples that we can’t give hard-and-fast rules about when to use spoilers. Instead, we have guidelines that involve common sense and courtesy: if you’re revealing a major plot element that could ruin the first-timer’s experience, then please DON’T. If it’s a brand new work, be careful about revealing minor plot elements, as well.
Also, please don’t put a spoiler in a thread title. “This week’s episode: Raymond dies!” is NOT a nice thing to do.
Now, the technical part. How to do spoiler tags:
(1) In the thread title, say "Spoilers"
When starting a new thread, the easiest (and probably the best) way to warn for spoilers is simply putting the word “spoilers” in the title of your thread, like so:
Thread title:** Question about LORD OF THE RINGS (warning: Spoilers!)**
This approach means that no one will stumble into the thread by accident, who doesn’t want to see spoilers. It’s therefore the recommended approach when you’re starting a thread. (You can also ask a Moderator to change the thread title by adding “warning: Spoilers!” later, but that’s already ex post facto.
Please remember that there is a mouse-over feature. When the cursor pulls over a thread title on the main forum page, you see a little box that contains the first few lines of the first post. So, even if you’ve typed “SPOILER” in the title, it’s best not to put any spoiler info in the first six or seven lines of the first post in the thread.
(2) Within a post, use spoiler tags
Within a post, the spoiler tags put text within darkened boxes that must be manually highlighted to be read. To use spoiler tags, enclose the text you want to conceal by typing immediately before that text, and immediately after the text.
EXAMPLE: You type:
In the movie version of Agatha Christie’s WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION
Marlene Dietrich plays the cold-hearted wife
This will appear in your post like this:
In the movie version of Agatha Christie’s WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION
Marlene Dietrich plays the cold-hearted wife.
Note that within a thread, anything that might be a spoiler from some other work should be hidden with spoiler tags, even if the thread title says “Spoilers.” Someone reading a thread about the movie PSYCHO, even with a Spoiler Warning in the title, might be upset to find information about the surprise twist in THE SIXTH SENSE, for example. So, be especially sensitive if you are revealing plot information about one work in a thread devoted to a different work.
Similarly, in threads not about a specific work, use spoiler boxes when you think it necessary, and there should be a clear indication outside the spoiler box of what work is being spoiled.
Incorrect usage: :
Note that the reader doesn’t know whether to open the spoiler or not, because she doesn’t even know what work is being spoiled. Get it?
More hints on spoiler tags
(1) Just a suggestion: If you have multiple levels of comments within a spoiler box, you can use colors to differentiate them. For example:
In “Citizen Kane”, Rosebud is a sled and Kane dies at the end. Well, at the beginning, actually.
Pure speculation: In the upcoming “Citizen Kane II”:, the sled will be rescued from the fire by Kane’s illegitimate daughter, who has been hiding behind the suit of armor in the hall.
(2) Please remember that there is a mouse-over feature. When the cursor pulls over a thread title on the main forum page, you see a little box that contains the first few lines of the first post. This is useful for seeing whether you’re really interested in the thread. However, that mouse-over doesn’t respect the spoiler tags. Best is not to have spoiler info in the first six or seven lines of the initial post.
So, please, be sure to put a couple of sentences of text (just hitting carriage return won’t do it) in your OP, before the spoiler box.
Addendum: If a thread has open spoilers, it should be in the title as (Open Spoilers).If you see a thread with Open Spoilers and without the warning in the title, flag the Op for attention so we can add (Open Spoilers) to the Title.
SDMB policy – in all forums – is that all direct links should be “workplace safe.” This means in terms of sounds as well as visual content. A site that is not safe for workplace is sometimes called “NSFW.” Note that being “workplace safe” doesn’t just mean that there’s no nudity or explicit visible sex. A page with a flashing banner in large, bright colors that says “Hot Nubile Young Teens” would NOT be workplace safe. The criteria is: if your boss walked by while that was on your screen, would it cause her/him to stop and stare, and would it potentially cause problems at work? If yes, then don’t provide a direct link.
Please understand: we’re not trying to impose censorship. We just don’t want anyone inadvertently clicking on a link to something that could be career-limiting if their boss happens to walk by. Lots of our members read the boards during work hours, and it’s easy to accidentally click a link when you’re scrolling or mouse-over-ing or whatever. We basically don’t care where you link as long as no one can get there accidentally.
The goal is to set things up so that no one gets to such a website unintentionally; it requires TWO clicks, rather than just one click, to get to a site that is not safe for workplace. That’s our two-click rule.
The best and easiest approach is to use the tags [noparse][noparse] and [/noparse][/noparse], put around the link. Those tags will disable a link, but leave it visible so those who want to go there can do so via cut-and-paste into their browser. Be sure to alert folks that the link is not workplace-safe! (Note that the quote tags will preserve the noparse tags.) Example:
You type: [noparse][noparse]http://www.straightdope.com[/noparse][/noparse]
You get: [noparse]http://www.straightdope.com[/noparse]
Use spoiler tags around the link. This will hide the link under a spoiler black-out, and those who want to go there will have to click twice (once to SHOW the spoiler and once on the link.) Please be sure that there is some alert OUTSIDE THE SPOILER TAGS to let folks know that the link is not workplace safe. Again, the quote tags will preserve the spoiler tags. Example:
You type: [noparse]Link to a nude picture, not workplace safe: http://www.marilynmonroe.com/about/photos.html[/noparse]
You get: Link to a nude picture, not workplace safehttp://www.marilynmonroe.com/about/photos.html
Note the warning is OUTSIDE the spoiler tags. And note that spoiler tags can double-nest, for added security.
Deliberately mess the link – for example, putting in extra spaces or an extra character. Anyone who wants to go to the site can do so, just by cutting and pasting and removing the extra bit; but no one can click there inadvertently.
Use an indirect approach, requiring a second link. For instance, you post a link to some innocuous entry screen or home page, from which the person clicks on some button (told to click on Photo 342, say) to get to the NSFW material.
It is also possible (but not desirable) to turn off the button below the entry screen, “Automatically parse links in text.” That way, someone will have to activate the link first, so that anyone going there will be doing so deliberately. This is not a recommended approach, since if anyone quotes that prior post, the link will be re-activated. Use of either (a) the [noparse][noparse] and [/noparse][/noparse] tags or (b) [noparse] and [/noparse] is better.
NOTE: When linking to a Web page featuring video or audio, or a large file such as a .PDF, please make a note of it in your post so readers aren’t caught unawares by the sound or by a document that may slow down their computers. Readers are advised to use a mouse-over to preview links before clicking.
There are lots of threads, and most people don’t have the time or inclination to read through every one to discover which ones they’re most interested in. Please, when you start a thread, be sure the title you create is reasonably descriptive of the topic.
Bad title: “This is neat!”
Good title: “The new CD by Enya is neat!”
Bad title: “This ain’t so bad…”
Good title: “This cabernet ain’t so bad…”
Bad title: “What do you think?”
Good title: “What do you think about GONE WITH THE WIND?”
Bad title: “BtVS discussion”
Good title: “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER discussion”
Note - if you must use abbreviations for long titles, please be sure that the first post spells out the real title. You want to attract new readers who might not be familiar with the acronym.
OK, got it? Your cooperation is requested and required.
And yes, it is possible for people to see the first sentence of a thread by allowing the mouse to roam over the title and get a quick preview. But we really want the thread title alone to be sufficient guide.
And please, don’t put spoilers in thread titles!
Bad title: “In Harry Potter and the Broomstick of Oz, Hermione is killed by a falling house”
… that’s just not nice.
Finally, if you’re dealing with a TV series, it’s helpful to provide an episode number or episode title. The date the show airs may not be helpful, since we deal with people in different countries. And, please remember that we DO have lots of people in many countries. Dating conventions in much of the world is DD-MM-YY, while in the US it’s MM-DD-YY. Please be considerate of posters in other countries, and use month abbreviations. Thus, “2/3” may be ambiguous, but “2 Mar” or “Feb 3” is clear to all, regardless of location.
Each forum has its own rules. Generally speaking, the whole Straight Dope Message Board – members and moderators – don’t like resurrecting very old threads because the original posters may no longer be around to respond. How old is “very old”? As a guideline, more than six months old.
However, for example, in Café Society, there are times when new information or new ideas come to light, or a movie comes out on DVD, or a U.S. TV show is seen in the U.K., or even a new member wants to talk about something in an old thread. We sometimes call such things “zombie” threads.
So, we permit people to respond to old threads and to resurrect them, with some constraints:
Don’t resurrect an old thread unless you’ve really got something to add. Just putting an “I just heard this album, and I agree with you!” on a two-year old thread does not accomplish anything at all.
If you start a thread and get no (or few) responses, you may re-post to it once (ONCE!) to put it back on the front page. After that, let nature take its course. You may not continue to resurrect your own threads, hoping for a response THIS time.
If you’re really starting a new discussion, but think that a reference to an old thread might be of interest, then start a new thread and provide a link to the old thread.
There are a number of issues where the line between entertainment and politics becomes somewhat fuzzy. A movie like MILLION DOLLAR BABY brings up the issue of euthanasia. An episode of LAW AND ORDER gets involved in abortion issues. Even the old movie, INHERIT THE WIND, is about the evolution vs creation argument. And tv comedians, like Jon Stewart on THE DAILY SHOW and Bill Maher on REAL TIME, or George Carlin any time, are certainly engaged in political satire.
Cafe Society is for discussion of issues about arts and entertainment. Thus, a discussion about political satire is acceptable here. But a discussion about politics is not: Great Debates is the appropriate forum for discussion of the political issues of our day.
The Moderators are the first to admit that the line is fuzzy, but there is a line. We therefore establish the Rule*:
Discussions about arts and entertainment are acceptable in Cafe Society forum. Discussions about political satire, so long it is about the satire, is acceptable. Discussions about politics is not, and belongs in Great Debates.
“Wow, Jon Stewart’s line comparing George Bush to Thomas Edison was so, so funny!”
“The NY Times Cartoon depicting Bill Clinton as a racoon was the best drawing I’ve seen, what great shading and contour with a minimum of lines!”
“Paul Martin made a surprise guest appearance on LAW AND ORDER last night, playing a petty pickpocket! what a hoot!”
“Yeah, Stewart really nailed Bush as a stupid, moronic, useless President.”
“Clinton has no moral standards whatsoever, does he?”
“Tony Blair is such a loser.”
Got it? Again, it’s a very fuzzy line, but if you’re just out to bash a politician, it belongs in Great Debates or the Pit. If you want to discuss the art/entertainment of the show, Cafe Society is the right place.
Just because something is on TV and is comic doesn’t necessarily mean that the thread belongs in Cafe Society. Just because a question is about astronomy doesn’t mean it belongs in General Questions. We’re organized based on the type of discussion, not on the subject matter per se.
There is some ambiguity about this. A poll about art/entertainment (according to the description forum) could go in the Cafe Society forum; on the other hand, the forum description for IMHO says all polls go there.
We’re not going to try to resolve this ambiguity. Polls about arts/entertainment can go in either forum, there is still a limit. Polls in Cafe Society do still need to be about arts/entertainment: a poll about “What’s your favorite color?” belongs in IMHO. No ambiguity there.
Please, for the convenience of your fellow readers:
(1) Don’t overdo it.
(2) Don’t be tedious or redundant. A poll now and again is one thing; the first one is interesting/unique. The tenth one is trite and boring. Eschew mediocrity.
Basically, this isn’t a “Rule” as much as a “suggestion.” The existing forum descriptions allow some ambiguity and that’s OK.