Terms of Service and FAQ

Terms of Service

The current Terms of Service may be viewed here.

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.
Update: For Marijuana as per Ed Zotti

  • We encourage people to abide by local law, which varies widely. Please do not post suggestions or advice on how to evade local law.
  • We will check in on such threads occasionally, and step in if we see someone suggesting ways to get around the law. Please don’t do this.

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.

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 engineer_comp_geek via e-mail at EngineerCompGeek@gmail.com.

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.

The custom title subscription is also not functional at this time

Q: I want to change my user name.
A: Contact engineer_comp_geek via PM or send an email to EngineerCompGeek@gmail.com and request the 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 your user icon in the upper right corner of any SDMB page, then click on your user name. When your Profile appears, first, make sure that your email address is correct and that you still have access to that account. Then click on Send Password Reset Email and follow the on-screen prompts and the instructions that you receive in the email.

Q: I forgot/lost my password! What do I do?
A:: Go to https://boards.straightdope.com/ (the main page of the Straight Dope Message Board) and click on Log In on the upper right. When the log in box appears, click on I forgot my password and follow the on-screen prompts and the instructions in the password reset email. If you do not receive your password 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 EngineerCompGeek@gmail.com.

Q: How do I change my email address?
A: Click on your user icon in the upper right corner of any SDMB page, then click on your user name. When your Profile appears, scroll down to Email and click no the wrench icon to the right of your email address. Make sure to save your changes when done.

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 by clicking on the flag at the bottom of the post. You can flag posts as Off Topic, Inappropriate, Spam, or Something Else. If you choose Something Else you may then write a custom message stating why you are flagging the post.

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: 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.


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 your user icon in the upper right corner of any SDMB page, then click on your user name. This will bring up your profile. You can click on the different options on the left, such as Account, Profile, Emails, etc. Each of these will bring up different options that you can choose from. For example, you can click on Interface on the left, and then select Theme to select different display themes. Make sure to save any changes by clicking on Save Changes at the bottom of the page when done.

Q: How can I add an avatar?
A: Click on your user icon in the upper right corner of any SDMB page, then click on your user name to bring up your profile. Select Account on the left, then click on the edit pencil icon next to your Profile Picture, underneath your Username. Do not use animated avatars. Do not use offensive images.

Q: How do I post a “spoiler”?
A: Use the custom vBcode tag spoiler.
Typing: [spoiler]- and it really was a kitten, after all.[/spoiler]
blurs the text and appears as - and it really was a kitten, after all. (Click on the blurred text to read the spoiler).

Q: Why does the time I see displayed for a post not match my current time?
A: Your user account is probably set to the wrong time zone. Click on your user icon in the upper right corner of any SDMB page, click on your user name to bring up your profile, click on Profile on the left, then scroll down to Timezone, then use the pull-down menu to select your time zone.

Also keep in mind that posters who are not currently logged in will always see the default time zone (GMT) no matter what.

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.

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

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

Q: How do I create a poll?
A: Follow these instructions.

Q: May I ask for help on my homework?
A: Yes. You may ask, but no one is obligated to do your homework for you and typically posters prefer to guide you to the proper resources so that you have the ability to do your own homework. Sometimes other posters may oblige your request.

Q: What happened to a particular thread or poster? They seem to be missing or banned without notice?
A: If you are curious about a particular thread or poster, please PM a moderator. In probably 95% of such cases, the thread or poster that vanished was an attention-seeker – a spammer , sock, or troll. They’re out for any attention, even negative attention, and we don’t want to give it to them. They disappear, as do their posts. And as do posts about them. Please do not post a public inquiry.

Q: I think I got hit by malware on the SDMB, what should I do?
A: Please post a report to About This Message Board so we can investigate. For best results, malware reports should include the following:

  1. Tell us specifically what happened, not just “I got hit by malware.” For example: (a) my antivirus software notified me it had blocked an attack and gave me the following report (and then post the report); (b) I got a popup saying [whatever]; (c) my system locked up and the screen turned blue, etc. It’s especially helpful for us to know the name of the suspected item of malware.
  2. Time/date of occurrence, your geographic location, and browser/operating system you are using.
  3. Whether you were looking at an SDMB page or a column archive page. These are hosted on different servers and see different ads.
  4. If possible, provide a screen shot of the page you were on when the incident occurred. If you can’t do this, please describe any ads or popups that were visible.

Q: I think my IP has been banned at the SDMB, what should I do?
A: Please contact EngineerCompGeek@gmail.com. In your email please list the IP address you are currently using, that will go a long way towards solving the problem. If you do not know your IP number go to this site, it will tell you: http://www.whatismyip.com/

Q: Some emails from the Straight Dope appear to have incorrect names or strange titles instead of user names. What’s going on?
A: Some of the emails will reference users by the Name instead of their Username. When the SDMB was on vBulletin, there was no Name field. When we transitioned to Discourse software, by default the user’s vBulletin name was copied into the Name field, so for most users, their Name will match their Username. However, users are free to modify their Name field, and many have changed the Name field on their profile to something different. Some users have put titles of a sort or other info (like Retired, or Semi-Retired, for example) in place of their Name. The Name also appears on the user’s profile, directly under their Username.

List of moderators, by forum:

Site Feedback

About This Message Board

Comments on Cecil’s Columns/Staff Reports

The Quarantine Zone

Factual Questions

Great Debates

Politics & Elections

Cafe Society

The Game Room

Thread Games

In My Humble Opinion (IMHO)

Miscellaneous and Personal Stuff I Must Share (MPSIMS)


The BBQ Pit

List of Forum Specific Rules by forum:

Comments on Cecil’s Columns/Staff Reports : Forum Rules

The Quarantine Zone: Forum Rules

General Questions Rules & FAQs

New Rules for Great Debates and Elections – January 2020
New Rules for Politics and Elections – January 2020

Café Society : Forum Rules Tags in Café Society.

The Game Room : Forum Rules and FAQ

Welcome to the Thread Games forum

In My Humble Opinion (IMHO) category Update

Miscellaneous and Personal Stuff I Must Share (MPSIMS)

Marketplace Rules

Forum Rules for the BBQ Pit: read this before posting





Beginner’s Guide to Glossary of Terms on Straight Dope Message Boards

Why is there a slice of cake next to my username?
The board software does this on your joining the board anniversary date.

If you are having trouble accessing the SDMB since the change to the new Discourse software, hopefully you can at least read this post. Please send an email to EngineerCompGeek@gmail.com and we’ll try to get you sorted out. If you previously sent an email to TubaDiva, we do not have access to her email and have no record of any conversations you may have had with her.

DO NOT CREATE A SOCK ACCOUNT. And if you can’t access the new site because you had the wrong email on your old account, definitely do not create a sock account using your new email since the system only allows one user per email address and that will lock you out of using your new email with your old account (which is a lot more hoops we have to jump through to fix it).


We are expanding and clarifying some of our current rules today, with corresponding user action involved.

No formal betting is allowed on the Straight Dope site. Not for fun, not for charity, not for argument, not for any purpose whatsoever.

In the past this was only a rule in the Great Debates and Politics/Elections forums. But now it applies everywhere.

Handling grievances and complaints. If you have a problem or an issue of any kind, do not contact Chicago Sun-Times management or the Development Team about it. They will not reply to your email. They are not the Straight Dope Police. This is a bannable offense. So don’t do it.

Please pay attention to our rules. They are currently being updated to reflect our changing status but if you are ever in doubt about anything here, ask a moderator and we will steer you straight. It’s always better to ask permission than to beg forgiveness.

(Note - originally posted by TubaDiva and edited to reflect later changes to the rules and procedures)

[Request] When you flag a post, please don’t use the Inappropriate or Off Topic options. Use Something Else and explain or Its Spam

The Inappropriate or Off Topic options are very often close to useless.

The Spam Option is usually pretty easy to follow. .

The Something Else option can be used for anything and as you can explain what you think is wrong, allows easy communication and understanding.

Thank you all in advance.

The Flag Options have been tweaked. Ed Zotti was able to fix it for us.
So hopefully only the last 2 flag options will get used for now on.

It’s Off-Topic - DON’T USE! Click “something else” and say why the post is off-topic

This post is not relevant to the current discussion as defined by the title and first post, and should probably be moved elsewhere.

It’s Inappropriate - DON’T USE! Click “something else” and say why the post is inappropriate

This post contains content that a reasonable person would consider offensive, abusive, or a violation of our community guidelines.

It’s Spam

This post is an advertisement, or vandalism. It is not useful or relevant to the current topic.

Something Else

This post requires staff attention for another reason not listed above.

(Note - Two posts originally posted by WhatExit? have been combined)

HOW TO for the SDMB on Discourse

How do I unsubscribe from a thread?
There is a Watching or Tracking button on the page to the left side below the last post. Click that and choose Normal

HOW TO add custom links to the Menu (Hamburger Menu)

Open the menu, there is a large plus sign in the lower right corner. Click It.


This brings up the Add Custom Section window.
Give the section a Title
Choose an Icon for your first link
Give the link a Name
Enter a Link
To add more, click + Add another Link**
When Done click

This lets you add shortcuts to Forums, Tags or pretty much anything with an address.