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Forum Netiquette Guide
#1
Forum Netiquette Guide
This forum is largely dedicated to discussion and debates, and as a result how you present yourself online goes a long way to how your argument is received by others. There are general netiquette guidelines that, in essence, help your posts to be taken seriously and prevent you from coming off as stupid/annoying/flaming. While most rules outlined here won't necessarily result in a ban if you chose not to follow them, it's still a good idea to understand how you present yourself greatly affects the way you are perceived. This is similar to the idea of how you gesture, what facial expressions you make, actions you take, also affect how people react to your arguments.

First, I want to explain what "netiquette" is.

Wikipedia Wrote:Netiquette (a compound formed from "net etiquette") is a set of social conventions that facilitate interaction over networks, ranging from Usenet and mailing lists to blogs and forums. These rules were described in IETF RFC 1855.[1] However, like many Internet phenomena, the concept and its application remain in a state of flux, and vary from community to community. The points most strongly emphasized about USENET netiquette often include using simple electronic signatures, and avoiding multiposting, cross-posting, off-topic posting, hijacking a discussion thread, and other techniques used to minimize the effort required to read a post or a thread. Netiquette guidelines posted by IBM for employees utilizing Second Life in an official capacity, however, focus on basic professionalism, maintaining a tenable work environment, and protecting IBM's intellectual property.[2] Similarly, some Usenet guidelines call for use of unabbreviated English[3][4] while users of online chat protocols like IRC and instant messaging protocols like SMS often encourage just the opposite, bolstering use of SMS language.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netiquette

Ultimately, it is etiquette designed for the internet. There are many different rules and conventions regarding netiquette, and I will provide links at the end that discuss netiquette at length if you feel so inclined. However, I plan to highlight here certain netiquette that is specifically geared toward this forum.

Spelling/Grammar

It's very common for people to start using chatspeak on the internet, as it provides a way to communicate faster by typing less characters. Ex. How r u? The problem with chatspeak is it's meant for simple dialog and this is a discussion forum. So to put it plainly, when you're getting into a debate/discussion here and you use chatspeak, you 'sound' dumb. Obviously we can't hear you, but in our heads you come off as an uneducated idiot. It would be like a professor speaking with ghetto slang words. It doesn't necessarily mean that you are dumb, but you're not giving a good impression. Most people will ignore or laugh at someone who can't use simple spelling or grammar.

Therefore, when you are getting into an discussion, type out all your words and use spell-check. Almost every browser has them built in now, but if you don't have it, open word and check it there. Then, once you've finished typing, read what you wrote. Look for spelling mistakes, typos, missing periods, etc... No one is perfect and people make mistakes all the time. (I'm sure there's a mistake in here somewhere. :/ ) However, if you make the effort to write complete words and complete sentences, people will notice and take you more seriously.

This rule also applies to l33tsp34k, which is the method of using other numbers/characters that look similar to the alphabet in order to chat. However, chat abbreviations like "lol" and "btw" are often acceptable as long as they are not overused and avoided in more formal discussions.

Fluff Posting

Fluff posting is when you respond to a thread that doesn't add anything to the conversation, or in some cases derails it. Saying "That's nice", "Thanks for sharing", or "cool" is not really adding to the discussion, and this is a discussion driven forum. Everyone has fluff posted before, and in general, it's not a terrible thing. However, it's when people do it too much that it can really hurt the conversation, especially if two people start fluff posting off topic jokes, etc... It's okay in small doses, but if it continues to happen, you could get a warning from a moderator.

If you want to show agreement or respect to a post but cannot think of anything to say to add to the thread, please consider using the kudos button [Image: postbit_thx.gif] below the post instead. This will add kudos to the post, and to the member who wrote it.

Avoid Flame Wars

We are an atheist forum that is welcoming to theists of all brands as long as they don't preach. Even among the atheists and agnostics here, there's a lot of idealogical disagreement. As such, heated discussions often happen. While it's against the rules to personally attack someone, we do permit some incendiary language as long as it doesn't become a flame war. Flame wars are usually between two people, but it can be more, where they constantly insult each other with long vitriolic rants. The point is to insult and it adds little conversational value. That is forbidden here. We are a group of snarky people, but we do try to keep a level of decorum here, and hope you do too. Attacking a person's argument and calling it idiotic is one thing; to do so to a person is another. Understanding the difference can help you get along well in here.

Tone Matters

Because the internet is text based and we cannot hear the person speaking, we lose the tone of voice. Text is very matter of fact, and therefore one person can misunderstand what another person is saying if they don't know it is intended to be sarcastic or witty. Try to think about what tone your text has by considering word choices and maybe using certain cues to convey a specific tone.

One way to do so is to use smilies. However, overusing smiles can make you seem smug or just annoying. (At least to me.) It ultimately depends on how you use them. Adding a smiley face to the end of a post can help make the post seem more positive. Adding a wink can convey sarcasm. We have a great selection of smilies to convey lots of moods. Use them wisely, but remember you can also come off as a smart ass if you use them too much, or inappropriately. It's all about balance.

Another way to convey emotion is to end a statement with /sarcasm or /rant. These internet cues inform people that you were being sarcastic or you ranting in general and not necessarily yelling at them. Since sarcasm and general ranting can be easily misconstrued as personal attacks, it's always good to use them, especially if you're not sure the person will get it. Better safe then sorry.

Similarly, typing in all capital letters is associated with shouting. IF YOU TYPE LIKE THIS, PEOPLE WILL FEEL LIKE YOU'RE SHOUTING AND IT WILL ALSO MAKE IT HARDER TO READ BECAUSE PEOPLE THEN READ IT WORD FOR WORD INSTEAD OF AS A FLOWING SENTENCE. If you want to convey shouting, that's fine, and it can be appropriate in some cases. If I'm making a sarcastic comment, I sometimes use the caps lock button myself. However, typing in all caps is not necessary and nobody really likes it.

How to emphasize

Oftentimes in a conversation, we want to emphasize a certain word to show that it's important to the point we are making. The best way to do this is to use italics. Sometimes people use bold, other people use capital letters. These are okay, but can make reading your response difficult to read if you overuse them, and in the case of capitals, make it appear that you're shouting. Italics are a smooth way to emphasize words, and I personally recommend that method. This is an extremely loose rule, but valuable, nonetheless, since a lot of us do it.

To use italics, put the text you want italicised between two [i] tags like so:

Code:
This text is not italicised, but [i]this text is[/i].

Quoting

Quoting is a valuable tool; it lets people know who we are responding to. In this forum specifically, every time you hit reply instead of using quick reply, you quote that person. If that person replies the same way, and then you reply again, and so on and so on, you end up with what's quote vortex. In my BB Code Guide, you can see an example of quote vortexing. It's extremely annoying and can make a thread seem cluttered and hard to follow. If you're quoting someone who has quoted you, remove your original quote to keep it clean.

Another thing to remember is that there is no reason to quote someone's really long post, especially if you're making a short reply. It's annoying, clutters threads, and is really unnecessary. There are a few things you can do to avoid this. First, you can use quick reply instead (which does not automatically quote) and refer to the person's username to show you're responding to him/her. Another method is to simply cut out the important bit you are responding to, and only quote that. Another method, if you really must quote the entire thing, is to use the Hide tags, (refer to BB Guide) so that the entire quote is still there, but hidden by a button people can click.

If you are responding to an image posted, never, I repeat, never quote the picture or a video. We've all seen it once, we don't need to see it again in the next post down.

Another common practice is to cut up posts into quotes and respond to each point with your own point. This is completely acceptable, but remember to avoid quote vortexing if you respond the same way.

Also, preview your post if you're quoting, especially if you've cut up a post and quoted point by point. It's easy to get confused with a lot of quoting BB Code and miss a /quote, ruining the entire format of your post. This can result in a reader being unable to distinguish when you or the other person is talking.

Excessive quote vortexing, or quoting large texts/images can result in moderator warnings.

Paragraphs

Paragraphs are your friend. No, really, they are. If you write a long post please break it up into paragraphs. The internet is not like reading a book or piece of paper. A large block of text is daunting, straining on the eyes, and ultimately hard to follow. Break up your post into paragraphs. Use whitespace. This means, press that enter button twice so there's a space between the first paragraph and the next one. If you don't do this, don't be surprised if you get a string of tl;dr. You deserve it.

Using Sources/Plagiarism

If you're quoting a source, never post an entire article. Use a snippet that is relevant to your point and then link to the article, website, or study. What I did at the beginning of this post is a perfect example of how to appropriately quote a source.

Similarly, never plagiarize. If you get caught plagiarizing, you could be banned. Always give credit where credit is due.

Note: If you're making a scientific claim and post to a website promoting your idea and not an actual scientific study, most of us will ignore you and dismiss your claim. It's always important to consider your sources and how valid they are. Posting a link to a flashing website about how sand can cure cancer, which amounts to a bunch of testimonials, is not proof. Posting links to established medical websites, with studies that show the efficacy of sand as a cancer cure, is proof.

Necroposting

Necroposting is when you respond to an old thread. In essence, the thread has already served its purpose or is too old to matter anymore. If you are about to post in a thread that is more than a month old, you will notice this message abover the textbox: " You are about to post in an old thread that has not been active for more than a month. Please consider creating a new thread instead of reviving an old one." Please avoid posting when you see a message like that. It's considered bad netiquette, and honestly, you will probably be served better by creating a new post.

Bumping

Bumping is when you post "bump" or a fluff in order to bring your post to the top of the page in hopes more people will read/respond. Hence bump stands for "bring up my post". Once again, this is bad netiquette. It makes you seem like you just want attention and frankly, it's annoying. Please refrain from doing it, or you will be warned by the moderators.

Spam/Preaching

Lumped together, because I consider them pretty much the same thing.

This is a discussion forum, so even if you have a really awesome website you want everyone to see, we don't know you from a hole in the wall and could really care less. If you want to promote a website, the best way to do it is in your signature. We do allow you to promote a personal website/blog if you are an established member. Otherwise, spammers will be banned.

As far as preaching goes, this is a discussion forum. If you want to share your ideas and debate why you believe in God, awesome. If you want to tell us Jesus will save us and repent now or we go to hell, you will be mocked. No one cares, we've heard it all before. In fact, you're fair game for flaming and excessive snark. You will be banned if you keep it up.

Don't Feed the Troll

Trolls are people whose only intent is to insult and get a rise out of you. Trolls are banned as soon as they're spotted, but it's important to remember that if you come across a troll to report them to a moderator. Feeding a troll is generally discouraged, though not ban worthy. We're pretty quick to react with the ban hammer. Trolls often look remarkably like preachers. I'm certain they come from the same bloodline.

Swearing/Cursing

Fuck this, we're all adults here. (Or most of us are...)

In all seriousness, some places have rules against swearing. We don't. We allow any kind of dirty word as long as it's not used to specifically attack another member. (Unless of course, in good humored jest.) Racial slurs will be met with appropriate mocking and repeated use of them could result in a banning. Some of us might have filthy mouths, but we don't condone bigotry.

Conclusion

We're all here to have fun and engage in intriguing discussions. A lot of this amounts to good common sense. Remember, you're talking to another person at the end of these tubes and the best rule of thumb is to interact with them the way you would face to face. Avoid bad internet habits that can make you come off as a blithering idiot and we'll all get along. ^_^

For further reading on Netiquette, please consult:
http://www.albion.com/netiquette/corerules.html
http://www.livinginternet.com/i/ia_nq.htm
http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/soc-sci/netiquette.html
http://www.faqs.org/faqs/usenet/primer/part1/
"The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason." Benjamin Franklin

::Blogs:: Boston Atheism Examiner - Boston Atheists Blog | :Tongueodcast:: Boston Atheists Report
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