New Forum Rules Posted

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Moderator Jason's picture
Moderator Jason
Status: Moderator (Offline)
Joined: Dec 23 2008
Posts: 98
New Forum Rules Posted

Hello everybody,

By now you have probably noticed that a new version of the forum rules has been posted.

This new version of the guidelines isn't a dramatic change from what we have always asked of users, but there are several important additions to our "ground rules."  Among other things:

First, we have clarified what the "Controversial Topics" folder is for, why it is there, and what topics should be discussed inside.  Please note that certain topics are now allowed only inside this folder.

Second, there is an explicit call for high-quality thinking and discussion.  This community has always represented a high standard of discourse, and we want to help by reinforcing these high standards, and asking all users to help us maintain them.  We ask members of our community to:

- Ensure that your posts are well thought out.

- Treat other posters, especially those with differing viewpoints, with the greatest possible respect.  This website exists to introduce people to new knowledge and information.

- Posts must be data-rich, fact-based, and constructive, especially if they are critical.  We ask that all critical commentary be accompanied by well-considered suggestions for improvement, or not proffered at all.  If you find yourself on a thread in which everybody agrees that a problem exists, then you are ready to take the next step: digging deeper though real research, or else looking for real-world solutions.

- Ask yourself: "How is the post I am about to make going to contribute to this conversation in a positive way, or encourage constructive thoughts and actions?"

- When creating a thread for general discussion, ask yourself:  "What question is it that I want others to consider?  Specifically, what positive result am I hoping will arise from the ensuing discussion?"

- Ask yourself: "If I am making a statement of fact, have I researched it well?"

- Are you prepared to offer references for claims of fact?

We expect everybody to do their best to offer their best thinking, offer constructive solutions to problems, and to remember that this site is about strengthening our real communities, not tearing them down or otherwise damaging them.

Below you will find a more detailed explanation of some of the new policies.  This site has always held itself to an impressive standard, and we deeply appreciate the efforts of those users who devote their valuable time and mental energy to making this community what it is. 

Moderator Jason's picture
Moderator Jason
Status: Moderator (Offline)
Joined: Dec 23 2008
Posts: 98
REFERENCES

REFERENCES

One of the important things that we hope to do is to increase the information content of the forums by requiring people - when requested by another user - to back up their factual claims with either primary or trustworthy secondary sources sufficient to establish the truth of the fact in question.

What kinds of references are required?

We will not inquire deeply into the sufficiency of any specific evidence because that would be tantamount to determining the facts ourselves, which we will never do.  However, the evidence offered to support a factual claim must be of a general nature that, assuming it is accurate, would be sufficient to establish the fact in the mind of a reasonable person.  The other members can then debate the accuracy or inaccuracy of the evidence (the reliability of the test method used in a particular experiment, for example, or the reliability of a news report), but the evidence must at least be offered.

This requirement is common in more scholarly settings, and we feel that it is necessary if users are to derive true benefit from others' conclusions.

In general we will follow this protocol: if any user requests references from a user who has made an important claim of fact, the responding user is then obligated to post them.  These references can be books (with page #), papers, journal articles, textbooks, etc.  If the responding user cannot provide sufficient references, then their post may be flagged and it becomes subject to deletion (much like Wikipedia).

Of course, common sense will apply in every case.  Nobody will be expected to provide a reference where one is clearly inappropriate, where a "fact" is a personal experience (i.e., "I find that my peas grow better when..."), or common knowledge, or else the user is not basing their conclusion on that fact.  Similarly, a user is free to suggest that something is true, but honestly state that they are unable to find proof.

On the other hand, if somebody makes a unique and important claim of fact, a claim which may inform how others take action, or which points to a definite and original conclusion, we don't believe it is unreasonable to ask that they share the sources of their information.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us.

Moderator Jason's picture
Moderator Jason
Status: Moderator (Offline)
Joined: Dec 23 2008
Posts: 98
BARE LINKS

BARE LINKS

With the new forum rules we are trying to institute necessary changes in the way that people post.  One specific change we are aiming for is to stop the practice of posting links without a full explanation of what they are and/or what point is being made.

Under the new rules, you can use the link as a reference, but you must briefly state at least the topic and the conclusion of each article (or other material) to which you are linking.  Sometimes a brief excerpt from the article can help, but this may not always be enough.

If the material to which you are linking is a news article, it may have no conclusions of its own.  In this case, you may want to also mention what conclusion you hope other users will draw from the posted material. 

Especially when creating new threads you should mention what conclusion you have drawn (unless, of course, you are asking a question).  If this is similar to the conclusions of other threads posted in the past, then you should make a special effort to point out (for the reader's benefit) what is remarkable or unique about the particular material to which you are linking.

We hope that promoting this practice will increase the ability of users to access information, and encourage a greater degree of true analytical and deliberative discussion.  Thank you all for your understanding and cooperation.

P.S.  While bare links are frowned upon, remember that copying and pasting articles in their entirely will frequently violate the author's copyright.

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