A formal set of rules for the forums
#1
The purpose of these forums is enable the building of a freethought community in India and in other parts of the world, where the movement is yet to take off. As a freethought community we face significant challenges from disruptors who seek to be obstacles in our progress. Please see Ajita Kamal's post about this.

Those of us, who have been using these forums regularly do so with an unwritten but common understanding of what constitutes acceptable posting behaviour, streamlined by the guidelines for conduct. However there have often been misunderstandings over this.

While we would like to enable the free exchange of ideas, as the community grows, administrators and moderators cannot (and do not intend to) review every single post. A set of formal rules stating what constitutes unacceptable posting is required, as it will enable the community to report bad posts to moderators.

The current guidelines for conduct are pasted below:

Quote:This list of guidelines is designed to maintain a friendly and productive atmosphere at the forums.

1. Before responding to a post or comment please read and understand its gist thoroughly, asking for clarification if necessary.

2. Avoid personal attacks against individuals but practice criticism of ideas.

3. Disagree without being disagreeable. Defend your opinions without being defensive.

4. Avoid posting sexually suggestive material or using language considered impolite in public settings.

5. Avoid making racially prejudiced, bigoted or hateful remarks of any sort.

6. Avoid making assumptions about other people.

7. Be informed about common logical fallacies before challenging the arguments put forth by others.

These guidelines were arrived at by public discussion on Nirmukta's Facebook page.

By definition, guidelines are not mandatory, and so in my opinion a formal set of rules to describe unacceptable posting behaviour is required. We would like to build these rules with inputs from the community, so please give your suggestions and discuss your ideas about this here.

From here on, it is going to be a long ride, so pick up a coffee GoodMorning and settle down. smile

Here are my own set of suggestions for rules:

1) Trolling is unacceptable - posting disruptive/inflammatory content, including (but not limited to) broad generalisations and personal accusations about specific people or groups that incite hatred or provoke emotional responses, misrepresenting other people's opinions after being corrected, posting off-topic after being asked to stay on-topic by forum staff.

2) Caste prejudice, racism, homophobia and sexism are all unacceptable. Posting abusive/disparaging content about people's caste, race, sexual orientation or gender creates a hostile atmosphere in which a reasonable exchange of views is not possible. Serious offences in this regard should lead to a permanent ban.

The above two should be IMO, very seriously enforced with bans.

3) Respect the forum organisation. Read the descriptions of each forum and its subforums before posting and choose the most appropriate place. Staff may move/split/merge posts/threads which are deemed to be better placed elsewhere.

4) Preaching and proselytising are prohibited. Nirmukta takes a stance that is against religious dogma of any kind, and presents atheism and scepticism as a legitimate and highly respectable standpoint. While members are free to discuss religious faith in these forums, it should be possible for members to get into the debate without religious harassment or pressure to convert. These kinds of behaviour are expressly prohibited.

Note: I have written (4) from the point of letting theists also get into the debate, but I think others may disagree including some forum staff members. This definitely requires some discussion.

5) Commercial advertising is not allowed. These forums are not a place for members to advertise or promote a business without explicit permission from Nirmukta. Members posting such content frequently may be removed with/without warning as will their posts.

6) Sex and Nudity - Discussions of these are limited to scientific studies and topics only. No discussions of personal sexual issues, or posts containing images/descriptions/discussions of sexual acts are allowed. Images containing such nudity is limited to established works of art or in a scientific/medical context. They must however be suitable for all ages and safe for viewing at work.

The remaining are aspects that may be required to comply with law enforcement agencies.

7) Identity and Access. Members may register and use only one account on these forums. Members are assumed to agree to not let anyone else use their account on these forums for any kind of activity.

8) Monitoring and Disclosure. nirmukta.net does not and cannot monitor all the postings in the forums and other public areas. However, forum staff reserves the right (but assumes no obligation) to delete, move or edit any postings that come to our attention that we consider unacceptable or inappropriate, whether for legal or any other reasons. We will not, in the ordinary course of business, review Private Messages (PMs) that are not addressed to nirmukta.net, or members of its staff. However, nirmukta.net and its forum staff will comply with any applicable legal requirements regarding disclosure of such messages to others, including law enforcement agencies.

9) Use of Materials and Proprietary Rights. This needs some serious discussion as well. Should they belong to the original poster or to Nirmukta.net? Should posters be able to license their material on these forums? (for example, should a member be able to choose the license for some original material posted by him/her?)
Aditya Manthramurthy
Web Administrator & Associate Editor
Nirmukta.com
[+] 1 user Likes donatello's post
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#2
(13-Oct-2010, 03:28 PM)donatello Wrote: Images containing such nudity is limited to established works of art or in a scientific/medical context. They must however be suitable for all ages and safe for viewing at work.

Explicit content relevant to a discussion can be posted as a link with an NSFW (Not Safe For Work) warning.

Quote:9) Use of Materials and Proprietary Rights. This needs some serious discussion as well. Should they belong to the original poster or to Nirmukta.net? Should posters be able to license their material on these forums? (for example, should a member be able to choose the license for some original material posted by him/her?)

I think the content should be copyrighted to the poster.

Also, when we are posting content from other sites like news articles, we shouldn't be pasting the entire content. We can quote relevant sections as that is allowed under fair use.
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#3

Quote:9) Use of Materials and Proprietary Rights. This needs some serious discussion as well. Should they belong to the original poster or to Nirmukta.net? Should posters be able to license their material on these forums? (for example, should a member be able to choose the license for some original material posted by him/her?)

I too think the content should be copyrighted to the poster. However, do you think Nirmukta.net should have the right to quote an excerpt from anything posted on this forum on our other media?
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#4
(13-Oct-2010, 08:24 PM)Lije Wrote:
(13-Oct-2010, 03:28 PM)donatello Wrote: Images containing such nudity is limited to established works of art or in a scientific/medical context. They must however be suitable for all ages and safe for viewing at work.

Explicit content relevant to a discussion can be posted as a link with an NSFW (Not Safe For Work) warning.

Ok with me, however, even if it is linked, I think it should still not be unrestricted; otherwise, we will need an age restriction too.

(13-Oct-2010, 08:24 PM)Lije Wrote:
Quote:9) Use of Materials and Proprietary Rights. This needs some serious discussion as well. Should they belong to the original poster or to Nirmukta.net? Should posters be able to license their material on these forums? (for example, should a member be able to choose the license for some original material posted by him/her?)

I think the content should be copyrighted to the poster.

Also, when we are posting content from other sites like news articles, we shouldn't be pasting the entire content. We can quote relevant sections as that is allowed under fair use.

Good point about quoting full copyrighted content. I agree that we should quote only relevant sections and I would like to add that it should be clearly sourced.

(14-Oct-2010, 03:40 AM)siddharth Wrote:
Quote:9) Use of Materials and Proprietary Rights. This needs some serious discussion as well. Should they belong to the original poster or to Nirmukta.net? Should posters be able to license their material on these forums? (for example, should a member be able to choose the license for some original material posted by him/her?)

I too think the content should be copyrighted to the poster. However, do you think Nirmukta.net should have the right to quote an excerpt from anything posted on this forum on our other media?

I think we should clarify this. Original artwork and proprietary content should be copyrighted to the poster (or the poster should have the right to assign copyright for such materials). However contents of discussion should belong to Nirmukta, and can be used as Nirmukta sees fit.

A matter of more immediate interest to me is the rule about preaching and proselytising. What are your thoughts about it? Is it ok as it stands? It seems to be like there may be some room for trolling there, but I can't put my finger on it Sweatdrop
Aditya Manthramurthy
Web Administrator & Associate Editor
Nirmukta.com
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#5
(15-Oct-2010, 12:02 PM)donatello Wrote: A matter of more immediate interest to me is the rule about preaching and proselytising. What are your thoughts about it? Is it ok as it stands? It seems to be like there may be some room for trolling there, but I can't put my finger on it Sweatdrop

I wouldn't be too worried by proselytizing. Anyone who tries to do it on these forums would be out of their mind. As you said earlier, the thing that needs discussion is whether to allow theists on this forum or not. My opinion is that we should allow them, provided they understand that any deviation from using reason/logic based arguments will be dealt with harshly whilst the same may not be the case with non-theist members. It will seem unfair to the theists, but for us to not waste time with people who aren't interested in knowing something new but are only concerned with pushing their religious agenda, the harshness will needed. If we agree that theists be allowed, we can have a discussion on the degree of harshness (warn/ban/unregister).
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#6
(13-Oct-2010, 03:28 PM)donatello Wrote: Those of us, who have been using these forums regularly do so with an unwritten but common understanding of what constitutes acceptable posting behaviour, streamlined by the guidelines for conduct. However there have often been misunderstandings over this.

Agreed.

Quote:While we would like to enable the free exchange of ideas, as the community grows, administrators and moderators cannot (and do not intend to) review every single post. A set of formal rules stating what constitutes unacceptable posting is required, as it will enable the community to report bad posts to moderators.

This is an important point. The entire community must be empowered. However, I think we're at too early a stage for this to be fully possible. I do agree that we must try to get there and a set of formal rules will help. In the long term, however, it is most important to keep giving the power of acceptance to those who share most of our ideas regarding faith, religion, science, superstition, morality and philosophy.


Quote:From here on, it is going to be a long ride, so pick up a coffee GoodMorning and settle down. smile

GoodMorning

Quote:1) Trolling is unacceptable - posting disruptive/inflammatory content, including (but not limited to) broad generalisations and personal accusations about specific people or groups that incite hatred or provoke emotional responses, misrepresenting other people's opinions after being corrected, posting off-topic after being asked to stay on-topic by forum staff.

Agreed. The issue will always be what constitutes trolling, and that's where its important to have the input of an enlightened audience. If people are not informed on what constitutes trolling, the actions of a moderator can seem rash. I know, because I am aware that I come across this way. We need to make it clear what trolls are, and we must have the sources of information handy to point to anyone who misunderstands what the purpose of a freethought group is and assumes that it is a platform to spew whatever they want.

Quote:2) Caste prejudice, racism, homophobia and sexism are all unacceptable. Posting abusive/disparaging content about people's caste, race, sexual orientation or gender creates a hostile atmosphere in which a reasonable exchange of views is not possible. Serious offences in this regard should lead to a permanent ban.

The above two should be IMO, very seriously enforced with bans
.

Agreed.

Quote:3) Respect the forum organisation. Read the descriptions of each forum and its subforums before posting and choose the most appropriate place. Staff may move/split/merge posts/threads which are deemed to be better placed elsewhere.

Agreed.

Quote:4) Preaching and proselytising are prohibited. Nirmukta takes a stance that is against religious dogma of any kind, and presents atheism and scepticism as a legitimate and highly respectable standpoint. While members are free to discuss religious faith in these forums, it should be possible for members to get into the debate without religious harassment or pressure to convert. These kinds of behaviour are expressly prohibited.

I disagree, but only in part.

Quote:Note: I have written (4) from the point of letting theists also get into the debate, but I think others may disagree including some forum staff members. This definitely requires some discussion.

There are plenty of forums for people to discuss faith, and even debate freethinkers. By the standards of what Nirmukta is about, any conversation with a religious believer on the subject of faith will necessarily degenerate into trollish behavior on the part of the believer. Of course, believers would think we're the rude ones, but we are looking at this through the lens of promoting freethought. The promotion of freethought is a zero-sum game, and we are an organized bunch who serve an important role in creating a community for our ilk. If we allow religious debates on the forums most of us, including myself, will get drawn in, and the main function of Nirmukta will be compromised. This is what I tried to get at in my post on trolls, at the bottom of the article. There are many thousands of atheists most interested in debating theists. But there is only one Nirmukta. Sneaky

But I think we can and must support scientific and logical/rational analysis of religion. We can allow historical discussions and factual expositions in that context. However the line is very thin and believers can't stand on it without falling into the propaganda abyss, which often results in trollish behavior. I really think we need discussion on religion, but we must expand the rules to include a description of what is acceptable within this specific context. This requires further discussion.

I agree with donatello that there will be disagreement on this, and I propose that we discuss the issue on a separate thread.

Quote:5) Commercial advertising is not allowed. These forums are not a place for members to advertise or promote a business without explicit permission from Nirmukta. Members posting such content frequently may be removed with/without warning as will their posts.

Agreed. Also agree with all the remaining points. Very well-put list, donatello. I will get to the responses to the rules donatello posted when I have time.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#7
(15-Oct-2010, 12:02 PM)donatello Wrote: A matter of more immediate interest to me is the rule about preaching and proselytising.

1. One type of proselytizing involves political ideologies. We must be aware of such people as well.

2. I think we need to watch out for people who refuse to read what has been written before on the thread that they are responding to. The worst case in this scenario is when the person accuses someone of something that has already been cleared a few posts ago. It becomes very disruptive when this behavior is repeated multiple times on the same thread. Such individuals often subscribe to one self-contained ideology, and their sole purpose is to promote that ideology. If a member repeatedly refuses to read and understand material that has already been covered, there is no other recourse but sanctions.

3. We need to talk about the sanctioning system. How are we going to enforce the moderation rules?
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#8
(15-Oct-2010, 09:34 PM)Lije Wrote: As you said earlier, the thing that needs discussion is whether to allow theists on this forum or not. My opinion is that we should allow them, provided they understand that any deviation from using reason/logic based arguments will be dealt with harshly whilst the same may not be the case with non-theist members. It will seem unfair to the theists, but for us to not waste time with people who aren't interested in knowing something new but are only concerned with pushing their religious agenda, the harshness will needed. If we agree that theists be allowed, we can have a discussion on the degree of harshness (warn/ban/unregister).

I think we should allow them, because some of them might be fencesitters, and others might have valuable contributions on other topics. We should however make it clear that there is no room for debate about whether atheism is valid/right, or about the existence of gods, because we consider that pretty much decided. So if there's a discussion going on about atheism, and a theist pops up to challenge atheism itself, that should be a violation. This is similar to some feminist forums where you're not allowed to question feminism itself. What do you all think?

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#9
(13-Jun-2011, 03:47 PM)unsorted Wrote: I think we should allow them, because some of them might be fencesitters, and others might have valuable contributions on other topics. We should however make it clear that there is no room for debate about whether atheism is valid/right, or about the existence of gods, because we consider that pretty much decided. So if there's a discussion going on about atheism, and a theist pops up to challenge atheism itself, that should be a violation. This is similar to some feminist forums where you're not allowed to question feminism itself. What do you all think?

That's a good idea.

One more rule we can add is: Do not divert the topic or make off-topic posts.

Also, the forum software allows users to be put in moderation. That is, their posts have to be approved before everyone can see them. We can use that feature and have some rules to decide when to put users in moderation.
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#10
Quote:1. One type of proselytizing involves political ideologies. We must be aware of such people as well.

2. I think we need to watch out for people who refuse to read what has been written before on the thread that they are responding to. The worst case in this scenario is when the person accuses someone of something that has already been cleared a few posts ago. It becomes very disruptive when this behavior is repeated multiple times on the same thread. Such individuals often subscribe to one self-contained ideology, and their sole purpose is to promote that ideology. If a member repeatedly refuses to read and understand material that has already been covered, there is no other recourse but sanctions.

3. We need to talk about the sanctioning system. How are we going to enforce the moderation rules?
1 year no reply, was this thread continued elsewhere?

Quote:While we would like to enable the free exchange of ideas, as the community grows, administrators and moderators cannot (and do not intend to) review every single post. A set of formal rules stating what constitutes unacceptable posting is required, as it will enable the community to report bad posts to moderators.

i suppose with this facebook plugin when registration is just a click away there will be a great increase in new members specially after the national registration process is complete




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#11
Quote:Agreed. The issue will always be what constitutes trolling, and that's where its important to have the input of an enlightened audience. If people are not informed on what constitutes trolling, the actions of a moderator can seem rash. I know, because I am aware that I come across this way. We need to make it clear what trolls are, and we must have the sources of information handy to point to anyone who misunderstands what the purpose of a freethought group is and assumes that it is a platform to spew whatever they want.
I am curious of what what decided about this issue ?
and this

Quote:There are plenty of forums for people to discuss faith, and even debate freethinkers. By the standards of what Nirmukta is about, any conversation with a religious believer on the subject of faith will necessarily degenerate into trollish behavior on the part of the believer. Of course, believers would think we're the rude ones, but we are looking at this through the lens of promoting freethought. The promotion of freethought is a zero-sum game, and we are an organized bunch who serve an important role in creating a community for our ilk. If we allow religious debates on the forums most of us, including myself, will get drawn in, and the main function of Nirmukta will be compromised. This is what I tried to get at in my post on trolls, at the bottom of the article. There are many thousands of atheists most interested in debating theists. But there is only one Nirmukta.

But I think we can and must support scientific and logical/rational analysis of religion. We can allow historical discussions and factual expositions in that context. However the line is very thin and believers can't stand on it without falling into the propaganda abyss, which often results in trollish behavior. I really think we need discussion on religion, but we must expand the rules to include a description of what is acceptable within this specific context. This requires further discussion.

I agree with donatello that there will be disagreement on this, and I propose that we discuss the issue on a separate thread.
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#12
(13-Jun-2011, 07:52 PM)lalitmohanchawla Wrote: 1 year no reply, was this thread continued elsewhere?

Nope. We wanted to have more specific rules, but we haven't gotten around to it, one reason being the forums haven't been that active. But we are seeing more participation and also, it is high time that we have these rules in place.

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