Participation Guidelines

Our participation guidelines for this project are intended to foster the development of an environment where ideas, information, and opinions are exchanged in an atmosphere of civility, trust, fun, and respect. It is best if you bring a spirit and language of inquiry with you when you visit and restrain your desire to only promote a point of view that is already formed.

General Behavior, Tone

Be responsible, be respectful, and be within the law. We assume you do not need a laundry list of no-nos to know what is covered by that. However, we do have two unusual guidelines in this area.

  • Avoid sarcasm
  • Avoid addressing a person indirectly when disagreeing with them. In other words, use their first name and talk to them as if you were conversing face-to-face, eg, “John, I think you’re wrong because…”

Here is an example of how NOT to do it:

“Waldo seems to think that all our problems would be solved if we would only embrace his wisdom.”

These two behaviors are probably more responsible for online discussions degenerating into nasty places than outright flaming or namecalling. You may think this is overkill, but you will just have to live with it if you want to participate here.

There are other ways that ‘tone of voice’ can inhibit good conversation, of course. Intimidation, subtle put-downs, innuendo, joking-on-the-square, etc. can all be deployed in sophisticated ways, deliberately or not. Avoid them.

Persistent and Unique Identity

Be who you are IRL “In Real Life.” Use your real first and last name. It may be cyberspace, but in this instance, it is just like the neighborhood where you live, or the organization where you work.

We only allow you to post anonymously (rare) if we think your comment is genuinely helpful but would cause problems for you and/or others for your name to be published. However, you still need to verify your identity with us via phone or email. Depending on circumstances, we might allow your comment to remain or we might ‘moderate’ it (temporarily remove it) immediately until we can verify your identity.

Content Standards and Ownership

Post only what you own. 99.99% of the time, what we want is not your formal publication-type writing but the conversational writing from your brain that travels through your computer keyboard to our blog. Conversation, please, not lectures.

Your Words are Public

We might highlight your comments on our blog. Or package up your comments with the comments of others into a document for others to review. Reporters/bloggers might quote you. Most discussion comments are/can be archived on the web so anyone can read them and search engines can index them.

Not for Commercial Use

The comment threads are collegial in nature, the opposite of a mall or flea-market. If you might financially benefit from your comment, it is probably inappropriate. When in doubt, ask. Otherwise, keep the promotional stuff elsewhere.

Enforcement and Intervention

We have a virtual dungeon full of tools, tricks, and techniques at our disposal to mete out to offenders. We will try to find the punishment to fit the offense, but this is not a court of law nor high school, so do not expect perfect consistency.

Currently, our policy is to allow comments to be posted immediately instead of ‘moderating’ them, ie, reviewing and approving. (First time commenters require that we manually approve the comment, as this is a method for preventing comment spam.)

If you post something that, in our opinion, violates our guidelines, our approach will usually be to:

  • Select the “MODERATE” option to temporarily remove your comment from the discussion thread/public view. This retains the original, which is important for us and for you.
  • Post a public comment of explanation, eg, “Waldo, I’ve moderated (temporarily removed) your comment because of our guidelines re: sarcasm. Please try again, and if you need the text of your original, contact me and I’ll email it to you.”

Why the public intervention?

  • Because comment threads can be subscribed to via RSS and email, they are IMMEDIATELY distributed. No matter how fast we might try to be in moderating the comment, many people will have seen it.
  • A public intervention is a great way for our visitors to learn what’s acceptable and what’s not. Our intent is not to embarrass you, but unless we say something publicly, everyone will wonder what is going on.

That’s it! Let me know if you have suggestions on how to improve these guidelines.

Griff Wigley, Online Coordinator
Wigley and Associates