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Clearing up Vagueness and Consolidation of Forum Rules

Caine

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Going through the rules recently, not in response to a personal infraction, but more because of a series of events I recently recognized in regards to an increase in disapproval of the Mod Actions, I realized there are several problems with the Rules as listed on the "Forum Rules" subforum section of this site. That said, I am suggesting some updates and fixes to the forum rules that might take out the vagueness and allow users to have less complaints about moderator actions against them.

First and foremost, Moderator actions, taking a look at the rules the way they are written now, are very subject to opinion. In a political debate forum, opinions are what brought us all here even our moderators,before they became moderators, had opinions. Although it might never be true, because of this there are going to be plenty of times where a user feels they are being 'picked on' because a moderator doesn't agree with their position, and thus the person thinks they are being singled out. This causes much of the problem with disagreement with moderator actions. However, this is always going to be the case, no matter how hard one works to change this. How do we do this?

FIX RULE 4!

Rule 4's vagueness is too hard to understand. Don't be a jerk? What one considers being a jerk is different from what another considers being a jerk. As of the last year and a half, this forum has received numerous posters who seem to violate this rule every single time they post, and as of lately, I have found even myself doing this on many occasions myself. "Just what it says" is not a good enough clarification, and thus opens this rule up to way too much interpretation, especially when viewed by hyper-partisans as them being targeted by a moderator who does not agree with their opinion, and thus they think the moderator thinks they are being a jerk just because they don't agree politically.

I believe most of the problems with administrator actions come from the user not fully understanding rule #4, and rule #4 not being equally applied to all cases of jerkiness. Am I accusing moderators of bias? No. I am saying that some level of being a jerk is acceptable, which makes this particular rule very confusing for those who wish not to violate it.

Under rule 14, we have mention of signatures being used as a taunt, yet I see many signatures still in place that could be viewed as being a taunt to another user. What is a taunt? Could a signature where one poster is trying to mock the position or idiocy of another poster be considered a taunt?

Finally, when being infracted by a moderator for an action here at debate politics, every infraction logged has a "reason" listed with it. One of these "reason codes" is Baiting/Flaming/Trolling. However, where are Baiting and Trolling listed in the Forum Rules? Would this be considered under rule #4? (again a problem with vagueness). If baiting and trolling are punishable offenses, then why not have them specifically listed as such in the forum rules? Many of our posters are currently nothing more than trolls, unfortunately, and there have even been moderators known to troll upon occasion themselves. This type of activity is disruptive (see rule 2) to an attempt by an OP, or other thread contributors to have a serious discussion. Once a troll enters a thread, people find it as an invitation to troll the thread off to 100 pages of lame jokes and off topic rants and comments. Some sort of rule on the matter should be put in place if you expect to enforce it.

Finally, as many subforums are getting their own special subforum rules, I find that it would be appropriate to have a thread within the "Forum Rules" subforum to link to all the subforum specific rules, this way if a new user wants to check out the forum rules, they can have access to ALL of the rules, instead of having a main body of rules, followed by all the little individual rules that they have to find out about after they have decided to participate in a thread in that subforum. What about the sticky in the forum view you ask? I myself do not check out threads by visiting the individual forums, I instead check out the "New Posts" list and then go to a thread from there. I have done so for a very long time, and if others do this as well, they will not be aware that these sub forums even have special rules for their use.

P.S. A nice rule of thumb list for what is punishable by however many infraction points posted somewhere in the rules section would also be helpful.
 

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Rule 4's vagueness is too hard to understand. Don't be a jerk? What one considers being a jerk is different from what another considers being a jerk.

I suspect this "vagueness" you speak of is deliberate.
I've been popped with that rule a number of times.
I think it's deliberately left open to individual interpretation.
 

Schweddy

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Welcome back Caine. Love the avatar. :)

You are right, Rule #4 is deliberately vague as you say because it is kind of like porn - we know it when we see it. I agree it can be ambiguous, but unfortunately unsure we can clearly define what being a jerk is. Feel free to help redefine it to be more precise and accurate as to what exactly being a jerk entails and we will gladly rewrite it.

Rule #14, please report signatures that you feel does not apply toward our standard. Without your help, we might not see them. Thanks. :)

Finally, when being infracted by a moderator for an action here at debate politics, every infraction logged has a "reason" listed with it. One of these "reason codes" is Baiting/Flaming/Trolling. However, where are Baiting and Trolling listed in the Forum Rules?
Fair question. The infraction in question is refering to rule #3 which really encompasses all three.
3. Flaming - "Originally, flame meant to carry forth in a passionate manner in the spirit of honorable debate. Flames most often involved the use of flowery language and flaming well was an art form. More recently flame has come to refer to any kind of derogatory comment no matter how witless or crude."[google] In a forum with sensitive topics such as this, derogatory flaming is bound to happen. Common sense will prevail, yet this is not an invitation to flame. e.g. "You stupid *****ing moron," is completely unacceptable and could lead to a suspension of posting privileges.

P.S. A nice rule of thumb list for what is punishable by however many infraction points posted somewhere in the rules section would also be helpful.
Good idea and reasonable request.

Finally, as many subforums are getting their own special subforum rules, I find that it would be appropriate to have a thread within the "Forum Rules" subforum to link to all the subforum specific rules, this way if a new user wants to check out the forum rules, they can have access to ALL of the rules, instead of having a main body of rules, followed by all the little individual rules that they have to find out about after they have decided to participate in a thread in that subforum. What about the sticky in the forum view you ask? I myself do not check out threads by visiting the individual forums, I instead check out the "New Posts" list and then go to a thread from there. I have done so for a very long time, and if others do this as well, they will not be aware that these sub forums even have special rules for their use.
That is very reasonable. The red highlighted post you are referring to was without question an attention getter in the "new posts" page.
 

Demon of Light

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Fair question. The infraction in question is refering to rule #3 which really encompasses all three.
3. Flaming - "Originally, flame meant to carry forth in a passionate manner in the spirit of honorable debate. Flames most often involved the use of flowery language and flaming well was an art form. More recently flame has come to refer to any kind of derogatory comment no matter how witless or crude."[google] In a forum with sensitive topics such as this, derogatory flaming is bound to happen. Common sense will prevail, yet this is not an invitation to flame. e.g. "You stupid *****ing moron," is completely unacceptable and could lead to a suspension of posting privileges.

Trolling and flaming are distinctly separate things.

In The Art of Trolling, published on the web, it is suggested that in Usenet usage, a "troll" is not a grumpy monster that lives beneath a bridge accosting passers by, but rather a provocative posting to a news group intended to produce a large volume of frivolous responses. The content of a "troll" posting generally falls into several areas. It may consist of an apparently foolish contradiction of common knowledge, a deliberately offensive insult to the readers of the news group or a broad request for trivial follow-up postings.

A concern troll is a false flag pseudonym created by a user whose actual point of view is opposed to the one that the user claims to hold. The concern troll posts in web forums devoted to its declared point of view and attempts to sway the group's actions or opinions while claiming to share their goals, but with professed "concerns". The goal is to sow fear, uncertainty and doubt within the group.

Application of the term troll is highly subjective. Some readers may characterize a post as trolling, while others may regard the same post as a legitimate contribution to the discussion, even if controversial. The term is often used as an ad hominem strategy to discredit an opposing position by attacking its proponent.

Source: Wikipedia

Obviously there is some linkage in that a troll may desire to enrage posters, but at the same time a troll may simply get private lulz from seeing other posters tumble over themselves like idiots when seriously debating a comment or argument that is not meant seriously at all.

However, trolling should not be confused with Socratic debate or iconoclasm, though the methods and reactions can be the same. The former is essentially deception for the purpose of incitement, possibly to malice, in furtherance of individual enjoyment while the latter may merely utilize deceptive tactics in the pursuit of truth.
 

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Oh I like this definition:
"Application of the term troll is highly subjective. Some readers may characterize a post as trolling, while others may regard the same post as a legitimate contribution to the discussion, even if controversial. The term is often used as an ad hominem strategy to discredit an opposing position by attacking its proponent."

I think I will steal it when we revisit the rules.

Thank you!
 

CaptainCourtesy

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A few things:

Rule #4. vauge nailed this. The moderation team has often discussed rule 4 and it always comes down to the analogy to 'what is porn'? It's hard to describe, but we know it when we see it. Rule 4 violations are rarely given out without mod discussion... as you are correct, Caine, since this could be subjective, it is better to have several people present their perceptions. I think it would be difficult to absolutely define the tern 'jerk' in the context of this forum.

Rule #14. We always ask members to remove any signature that mocks another member. vauge is correct in that it is important for our members to inform us of these things. I know that I just "blip" over most people sigs these days. One thing to remember, though. If a member uses another member's words, EXACTLY AS POSTED as their signature, this is not mocking. It was their words, exactly. Posting words that are NOT attributed to that poster IS mocking. Also, sigs have to comply with other DP rules, such as no porn, and the Vegas Rule.

Baiting/Flaming/Trolling. Rule #3 covers this "catch-all" infraction. We found it easier to do this then to separate it out, however, your point is valid and we might need to revisit this.

I had thought that there was a listing of all infractions and the points that they carry. Doesn't seem so. Good suggestion.
 

Caine

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Well.. On to plan B!
 

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The problem inherent in detailing rules for websites is that the more you attempt to refine them, the more confusing they become, and as people figure out ways to circumvent and/or exploit the new refinements of rules, even newer ones are created to try to address that. Sites can get so bogged down in bureaucratic legalese that any potential new user doesn't bother as well as the creation of endless rules creating unintended consequences.

Seems to me that the real issues always boil down to individual interpretation no matter what.
 

MaggieD

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The problem inherent in detailing rules for websites is that the more you attempt to refine them, the more confusing they become, and as people figure out ways to circumvent and/or exploit the new refinements of rules, even newer ones are created to try to address that. Sites can get so bogged down in bureaucratic legalese that any potential new user doesn't bother as well as the creation of endless rules creating unintended consequences.

Seems to me that the real issues always boil down to individual interpretation no matter what.

Boy, I sure think that nails it. In the end, we've just got to trust the moderators. And why shouldn't we? They've earned their stripes.
 

CaptainCourtesy

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Well.. On to plan B!

I'm confused. It sounds like the answers that were given weren't satisfactory. What more are you looking for?
 

Caine

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I'm confused. It sounds like the answers that were given weren't satisfactory. What more are you looking for?

Well, I still think rule 4 is too open to interpretation, but I guess I'll have to deal with it.

Dunno why I put that crap about the signatures in there....

My other ideas I thought were pretty good, and apparently im not the only one.

I also don't see why you can't specifically mention trolling at least. I guess thats so trolling can still be allowed when we all (and there are plenty of times) find it to be appropriate, and even necessary.
 

Demon of Light

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The problem inherent in detailing rules for websites is that the more you attempt to refine them, the more confusing they become, and as people figure out ways to circumvent and/or exploit the new refinements of rules, even newer ones are created to try to address that. Sites can get so bogged down in bureaucratic legalese that any potential new user doesn't bother as well as the creation of endless rules creating unintended consequences.

Seems to me that the real issues always boil down to individual interpretation no matter what.

Well, having an infraction for "Baiting/Flaming/Trolling" when only flaming is mentioned or defined in the rules does seem like something in need of addressing.
 

Caine

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Well, having an infraction for "Baiting/Flaming/Trolling" when only flaming is mentioned or defined in the rules does seem like something in need of addressing.

Exactly.
.......
 

CaptainCourtesy

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Well, I still think rule 4 is too open to interpretation, but I guess I'll have to deal with it.

It's difficult to make this one more inflexible simply because of perception and definition. DBAJ's are RARELY, if ever issued without several mods discussing them, first. There are certainly checks and balances to this system.

Dunno why I put that crap about the signatures in there....

Hmmm... OK.

My other ideas I thought were pretty good, and apparently im not the only one.

I also don't see why you can't specifically mention trolling at least. I guess thats so trolling can still be allowed when we all (and there are plenty of times) find it to be appropriate, and even necessary.

No, you're not the only one. Both vauge and I stated that some more clarification might be a good idea, especially on the B/F/T infraction. But I think one has to define trolling. I would submit that the kind of trolling you are describing as "appropriate and necessary" may not actually be trolling. However, if you'd like perhaps you can give an example of what you mean.
 

Caine

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No, you're not the only one. Both vauge and I stated that some more clarification might be a good idea, especially on the B/F/T infraction. But I think one has to define trolling. I would submit that the kind of trolling you are describing as "appropriate and necessary" may not actually be trolling. However, if you'd like perhaps you can give an example of what you mean.
An example of what I would mean would be when someone creates a thread whose topic is, or the tone of the opening post is, or both are, written in such a manner that it would be reasonable to believe that the intent was to incite posts that would be in violation of Flaming, Trolling, or Baiting rules.

Something like that.
 

CaptainCourtesy

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An example of what I would mean would be when someone creates a thread whose topic is, or the tone of the opening post is, or both are, written in such a manner that it would be reasonable to believe that the intent was to incite posts that would be in violation of Flaming, Trolling, or Baiting rules.

Something like that.

Hmmm... so what you are saying is that any posts that respond to an OP like this, if they seem to be in the fashion of trolling, are appropriate and necessary?
 

Caine

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Hmmm... so what you are saying is that any posts that respond to an OP like this, if they seem to be in the fashion of trolling, are appropriate and necessary?

Sometimes, yes.

It gets the thread tossed into the right direction.... a trip to the basement.

It is my opinion that threads like described above belong in the basement anyhow, and said "trolling" is just a method of getting them to where they belong, as threads that were created in such a manner, with the intent to create bickering, baiting, and trolling would fall under 'disruptive' anyhow.
 

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Sometimes, yes.

It gets the thread tossed into the right direction.... a trip to the basement.

It is my opinion that threads like described above belong in the basement anyhow, and said "trolling" is just a method of getting them to where they belong, as threads that were created in such a manner, with the intent to create bickering, baiting, and trolling would fall under 'disruptive' anyhow.
You and I disagree on reasons for trolling. Not everyone has the same intent, goal or want to create value in a discussion. I think some folks legitimately may have no clue they are trolling and those folks may need to be shown the light. The type I am referring to might best be ignored because they won't get the slight correction anyway. Sometimes the absolute best method is for the community at large to ignore them. The user will eventually get the idea that their point doesn't qualify to being up to par with the quality discussion in the rest of the thread.

With that said, the opposite is very true as well. This type of troll has always been the most concerning amoung posters here at DP. These types of posters need to be nudged to stay on track. Trolls that fall under this category are unwelcome in threads as it might depreciate the entire flow of a conversation. Again, it is best to confront in a civil manner and absolutely best by the community rather than a mod. If their post gains no traction, the thread can sustain and still become worthy of epic content.

Finally, some folks troll hoping to get a response of a paraphrased OP version because they have limited patience/time and do not want to actually read the content. They completely discount the post in its entirely based only on length. Can be one of the most annoying troll posters, but I believe we have all done this at one time or another. Can be annoying or benign, depending on how the troll post was written.

The difference in all of us is what level we believe a post creates or adds value in the thread. To some, simple participation on any level helps keep the flow organic and real. The paraphrase requester troll may add value because others might be just as lazy and the nominal user participating may have the same goals. The ignorant troll could add value because it might inject humor in a thread that might have gotten very serious very fast. The last one, *anything* outside the scope of the OP might be welcome because the topic is of little interest to the community as a whole. Balancing all these differences of opinion is a challenge and only something the community can do really. We need to encourage the type of culture we want based on the topics we are interested in to get the best of the best for us individually.

/soap box triple flip dismount
 

Demon of Light

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I think some folks legitimately may have no clue they are trolling and those folks may need to be shown the light. The type I am referring to might best be ignored because they won't get the slight correction anyway. Sometimes the absolute best method is for the community at large to ignore them. The user will eventually get the idea that their point doesn't qualify to being up to par with the quality discussion in the rest of the thread.

That right there is my issue. Some people apparently think what you just said is a legitimate description of trolling when it is not. Trolling requires some level of intent. A person may troll without knowing the meaning of the word, but a person who is trolling is intentionally seeking to disrupt discussion for some reason.

You cannot accidentally troll a discussion. Unfortunately individual biases come into play under these circumstances. Many people simply cannot understand how someone can hold an opinion so radically different from their own and thus conclude that an individual must be trolling. I got banned from another forum before coming here for exactly that reason. A mod thought I could not possibly hold positions he considered to be so stupid and so that I must be trolling, though he tried to perma-ban for a more frivolous reason so he may have just been looking for an excuse.

The point is, a person can be accused of trolling simply because other users are too biased to see the legitimacy of a point that has been raised.
 

Schweddy

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That right there is my issue. Some people apparently think what you just said is a legitimate description of trolling when it is not. Trolling requires some level of intent. A person may troll without knowing the meaning of the word, but a person who is trolling is intentionally seeking to disrupt discussion for some reason.
Good point.

You cannot accidentally troll a discussion.
I completely disagree with this concept. There are *all* types of posters out there and there are some out there that do not think before they click submit. They believe their thought might have added value when reality could be the opposite.

Unfortunately individual biases come into play under these circumstances. Many people simply cannot understand how someone can hold an opinion so radically different from their own and thus conclude that an individual must be trolling.
Agreed, we cannot get away from individual biases. That is why we have a very diverse and outspoken group of mods that hopefully after all is said and done the result is unbiased moderation in the most profound way possible. Of course there will be bruises and bumps, when that happens we react fast and fix them. But, overall our team does an amazing job of presenting their own perspective against/for infractions behind the scenes. They are also always open to re-evaluate infractions.

It is not uncommon for the mod team to be challenged on specific issues. We do our best. It might not be good enough for some, but I challenge those folks to find a place that does a better job and let me know so we can follow their lead.

I got banned from another forum before coming here for exactly that reason. A mod thought I could not possibly hold positions he considered to be so stupid and so that I must be trolling, though he tried to perma-ban for a more frivolous reason so he may have just been looking for an excuse.
We will never ban your opinion, however if it is expressed in a method outside our ruleset then we have to act. Bias is optional, rule infractions are not.

The point is, a person can be accused of trolling simply because other users are too biased to see the legitimacy of a point that has been raised.
Another thing that flubbers up this whole mess as well is that everyone has their own definition of what a "fact" is.
 
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Oh I like this definition:
"Application of the term troll is highly subjective. Some readers may characterize a post as trolling, while others may regard the same post as a legitimate contribution to the discussion, even if controversial. The term is often used as an ad hominem strategy to discredit an opposing position by attacking its proponent."

I think I will steal it when we revisit the rules.

Thank you!

The rules still appear a little vauge. Could you reduce the vaugeness a little more? :mrgreen:
 

Demon of Light

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I completely disagree with this concept. There are *all* types of posters out there and there are some out there that do not think before they click submit. They believe their thought might have added value when reality could be the opposite.

If the person believes that he or she is making a legitimate contribution it is not trolling. Trolling is all about intent. You cannot do it unintentionally. Just because you think an individual's post is stupid or ridiculously wrong does not mean the person is trolling.
 

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If the person believes that he or she is making a legitimate contribution it is not trolling. Trolling is all about intent. You cannot do it unintentionally. Just because you think an individual's post is stupid or ridiculously wrong does not mean the person is trolling.

There is no way to divine true intent, and needless to say, nobody will be forthcoming when it comes to revealing such, so all anybody has to go on is the pattern of postings as they reveal the agenda at work. Obviously, those with an agenda wish to pursue such, and the more they are driven to pursue it, the more leeway they wish to create so as to be able to do so and one of their methods in pursuit of such is to try to create a definition for the word "trolling" so extremely limited that it impossible to achieve, and so does not apply to their own agenda.
 

Demon of Light

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There is no way to divine true intent, and needless to say, nobody will be forthcoming when it comes to revealing such, so all anybody has to go on is the pattern of postings as they reveal the agenda at work. Obviously, those with an agenda wish to pursue such, and the more they are driven to pursue it, the more leeway they wish to create so as to be able to do so and one of their methods in pursuit of such is to try to create a definition for the word "trolling" so extremely limited that it impossible to achieve, and so does not apply to their own agenda.

Trolling is defined by intent, though you are correct that it is very difficult to discern intent under such circumstances. Sometimes a person will make it easy and admit to intent or make it so painfully obvious that not a single human being in the world could question it. As intent is required it makes going after trolls a little more difficult and hence sometimes a person is labeled a troll and treated accordingly when that person is not in fact a troll.

I think the best way of measuring that is seeing if there can be a legitimate difference of opinion or a legitimate misunderstanding.
 
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