As Lookout Landing has grown, so have our standards and guidelines and they have spawned separate posts as issues have flared up. Those posts get added to our membership agreement and each time it gets harder to read through and follow. We have lacked a thorough pruning and so here it is.
There is probably nothing new in here to anyone who has posted here. This is an attempt to get everything into one place and explained so that it is more streamlined in alerting new people what the community expects. The aim here is not only to itemize all the rules governing behavior here but also to flesh out the reasons behind them. In doing so, I hope people will see that our standards come not from a zealous glee of exercising power or putting down others, but rather are an extension of the same goal that LL has with its content.
RULES REGARDING POSTING STYLE
Rule 1: Use the subject line
LL requires the use of the subject line on every comment no matter how trivial. For images, you will often see people throw a single character --usually a punctuation mark-- into the subject line. That's fine. On textual comments, we prefer that the subject be the beginning of your thought, but the important part is that some sort of content is entered in the subject line. There are no exceptions.
The reasons are explained in depth in a full post here, but the quick rundown is that subject lines allow other users to collapse comments and that it helps moderators by giving us a direct link to comments in our moderating panel. We also find the formatting more appealing. To visitors from other SBN blogs that do not require the use of the subject line, we understand they can be visually distracting to you. That's not an excuse to violate the rule. Our house, our rules.
Rule 2: No chatspeak
This includes "lol", "+1", "this", "rec'd", "WTF" and anything similar.
The writer who neglects spelling and punctuation is quite arrogantly dumping a lot of avoidable work onto the reader, who deserves to be treated with more respect. - Lynne Truss
The fact that chatspeak, poor grammar, poor spelling and poor punctuation are generally acceptable on the Internet is a problem with the Internet, and one that LL chooses not to encourage. You should be proud that we do our best to make our comments readable to you, not upset that we expect you to do the same.
Rule 3: Watch your image/GIF sizes and frequency
Hotlinking images is acceptable, but we ask that you put effort into restraining their size and not do it too constantly. Large pictures hog bandwidth and screen space, potentially killing the conversation flow. Reasonable sizes vary depending on the details of the image but consider that if the image needs more than 200 pixels of height that you can always post a shrunk down version with a link to the full size one. You might be amazed how small a picture can be and still get the point across. An example of how to shrink down a picture is shown here. Unsure of how big the image is that you're about to post? There's a preview button right next to the post button. There's no excuse for not using it.
And on the subject of taking up screen space, we both disapprove of signatures and believe that you should keep in mind that others are unable to hide any signature you attach to comments except through hacks. Going back to the courtesy point, we highly suggest/require that you do away with a signature or if you absolutely must have one, that you limit it to one line.
Rule 4: Use the reply button
It is essential for determining who is responding to whom. Note also, that if you are unsure where in a nested thread the comments are replying, the up button will direct you to the comment being replied to. Without using the reply button there is no flow to the comments and the community suffers.
Rule 5: Use the link button
For short and well-formatted URLs, this is not a problem. However, some URLs (notably any link from Twitter) are amazingly long and/or contain characters that can break SBN's HTML formatting. Those are ugly and given that it takes five seconds to avoid, you deserve the mocking you get for failing to prevent it. Use a shortener or the link button and remember the preview button is there to double check that your links work.
RULES REGARDING CONTENT
Rule 6: No politics or religion
In general, the rule is intended to prevent any discussion from spiraling into a partisan bicker. There are very few exceptions granted. Issues from the distant past are sometimes acceptable for joke fodder. Please note carefully that final judgment on this matter is left up to, and only to, the moderators who will exercise their authority completely subjectively. Frankly, it's just best not to play with fire in the first place.
Rule 7: No trolling, here or elsewhere
Making statements that you know will rile people up solely for that purpose is trolling. Nobody is allowed to do it here and if we catch you doing it elsewhere you will be banned from here. There is zero tolerance of this. What you do on other blogs reflects on the community here and more plainly, it's immature and has no place anywhere.
Rule 8: No unwarranted hostility
You can attack arguments without attacking the person. If someone makes a point that you disagree with, the best first step is to question it (politely) before attacking it. Make sure you understand what the other person is advocating. A lot of nuance is lost in a text-only medium.
Similarly, advancers of an argument must be expected to provide a basis for their belief. Everyone is entitled to their own (informed) opinion, but not to their own facts and you better expect to be challenged to defend your statements. Accept being wrong at times and learn from it. The goal here is discourse; there's no prize for being the first person to insult someone else or for having the best sound bite.
Rule 9: This is a public place
Remember that even when you are replying to somebody in a subthread, that you are not speaking solely to that person. This is an entirely public forum. Try to keep discussions open to others. A complete rundown on LiveJournaling is and what it looks like is found here.
Rule 10: Cite your sources
Posting about breaking news? Link to your source and it would be best to wait until you have two independent sources to avoid jumping the gun. Note please that two reporters relying on the same source is not two sources. Furthermore, consider the source(s); are they reputable? Do not give traction to those without credibility. The internet deals in mouse clicks and people that make stuff up shouldn't be rewarded.
Rule 11: Stay on topic
Some diverging is unavoidable and fine. Just keep your wits about you. If you find yourself only commenting about the divergence and not about the original topic that is a sign that you should go create a separate place to discuss that idea. Have respect for the original poster and his or her topic. There's always an ongoing off topic thread for your convenience.
Rule 12: Don't comment on everything
Overexposing yourself is a great way to make other people tired of you. Pick your spots and you'll be welcomed more.
Rule 13: On jokes
People on LL are not easily offended. Maybe it is a Seattle thing; maybe it is simply this community. That said, you should not go out of your way to try and to offend. If you have some hilarious joke that may be seen as offensive to some but is otherwise hilarious, go for it. But also be sure that your joke will be seen as a joke. If you are brand new, it's probably a good idea to keep the joke on the shelf until we know you're joking. We are not politically correct and we are not going to be speech nannies, but we will not tolerate actual cases of bigotry. Again, where that line resides is ultimately going to be the moderators' decision.
Similarly, we loathe played out jokes, no matter how funny they were originally. Jesus Montero or Justin Smoak puns? Horribly unfunny. Fat jokes belong in a middle school. "That's what she said" is deader than Michael Jackson's physical body. Internet memes are void of creativity and things like poop jokes are going to get a negative reception. A good rule of thumb is that if it's an easy joke, it won't be highly regarded.
This may seem like a lot of rules, but if you can handle being a decent person in a social environment outside the internet then none of the above should impact you. We are trying to mimic the sort of behavior you'd find at a gathering of friends. We have collectively agreed that we prefer things this way. If that rubs you the wrong way, both Jeff and I are accessible via e-mail or you can always politely ask in the threads. That is the best way to get your concerns addressed.