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These rules are a suggested set of ideas for those operating a forum to consider. The order of items here is a suggested structure.
Preliminary Draft – Discussion thread for this page.
This section of the wiki is a subsection of SD&D Overview
Purpose of Forum & Intent
The purpose for any forum is for members to discuss subjects, ideas, thoughts, and opinions related to some forum topic/subject, which may be narrow or broad. Clearly stating the forum’s purpose and intent focuses the members and simplifies several problems for the moderating team. The rules and guidelines assist forum members, moderators, and administrators in creating and keeping a focused and civil forum.
A forum purpose may be a narrow single purpose for the entire forum or a broad one. Forums such as OpenUru.org have a broad scope within a specific subject with narrowing purposes in forum sections, such narrowing is more a matter of organizing information than a limitation on discussion or purpose.
Example Purpose Rules Guidelines
The intent for a forum is often more of a setting of the flavor or style of the forum. The owner/operator of a forum typically has a vision or hope for the forum. Placing that vision/hope in the forum rules in word form does much to insure the vision is realized.
Examples Intent Rules Guidelines
Rules can be broad or specific. The age of the expected audience may influence that decision as much as the personality of the forum owner/operator. Younger audiences need more specific rules.
OpenUru.org is an example of broad rules. The MOUL Forum is an example of a more itemized set of rules. Also as the MOUL Forum is part of a commercial effort they have requirements not common to other forums.
Statement of Intent
A statement of intent for the forum and rules sets the subject and tone for the forum and rules and the way people interpret the rules. Setting an intent for a forum to be about the civil, rational, and passionate discussion of the forum's subject can provide moderators a framework for handling ambiguous and unforeseen issues. The intent sets the direction for issues not itemized in the rules and gives forum members a way to stay on forum topic and gauge limits.
Examples: Forum Intent
Respect for Private Property and Law
Liability for forum owner/operators and posting members is a fact of life. The laws of various nations control those issues. There are specific ones that affect those participating in a forum. The immunity of forum operators/owners for what members post is being penetrated in regard to new bullying laws.
While the standard rules provided with most forum software cover the typical legal issues different forums will reduce disagreements over laws by specifically writing rules about the items likely to be a problem. In the MOUL Forum rules they specifically deal with copyright and EULA violations by listing Piracy, Hacking, Cracking, and Copyright issues with clear definitions and prohibitions.
Rules for Civility
These are the group of rules that deal with behavior on the forum. They are an expression of what the forum owner/operator feels will keep the forum civil and friendly.
On OpenUru.org that is simply stated as ‘Do no damage.’ Most forums itemize the more problematic issues. Those issues are typically:
- Trolling – Taunting – Button Pushing
- Abuse – Flaming – Personal Attacks
- Harassment – Bullying – Stalking – Threats
- Racial Hate Speech – Ethnically Offensive Comments – Obscene and or Sexually Suggestive Language
- Libel – Defamatory Comments
- Intellectual Honesty – Civility when Disagreeing – Debate Styles
Rules of Circumvention
These are rules that deal with the common tactics used by people to circumvent forum rules and the purpose of the forum. Those issues are:
Rules for Organization
These are rules designed to keep the forum organized. They are typically these: On Topic – One subject per forum thread. (links to be added)
- Subject Areas – Forums usually are divided into subject areas. A requirement to keep subjects in the appropriate areas is typical.
- No Duplicates – No Cross posting
- Forum versus Chat
- Private Messages (PM)
These are rules about the limits of what may appear in signatures, posting images, avatar images, quoting of posts, quoting outside sources, use of capitalized and bold text, emoticons, and text formatting.
An advisory outlines the teeth in the rules by explaining what happens when rules are broken. Typically forums will edit and remove posts that contain serious violations. Warnings, suspensions, and banning are the tools used to discourage repeat offenses.
- Examples Enforcement Measures
Rule and Moderation Disputes
This section of the rules describes how disagreement in regard to rules and moderator decisions are handled. Most forums prohibit public discussion of specific moderator decisions. Most also require specific issues be taken to PM (Private Messages). Many forums provide some means for appeal of moderator decisions.
Moderator Guidelines & Definitions
Moderators are often volunteers. Guidelines and examples for the moderators provides a means to get more uniform enforcement of the rules. Making these guidelines and examples public can reduce the number of disagreements between members and moderators.
A Definitions and Examples section can be helpful.