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Forum Rules (beyond TOS)

A reply should focus on the content of the posts in the same topic solely and not on the person who posted them and not on what was said in different topics or private messages. Anything off-topic isn't allowed either.

Heavy discussion is definitely still allowed in this forum.
The Nature of the P&R and Faith Forums
There are now two forums where one can discuss religious topics, the P&R (Philosophy and Religion) Forum and the Faith Forum. In the P&R forum, one can expect to have any idea challenged, picked apart, and argued with. In the Faith forum, however, it is accepted and respected that you may believe things by trusting the person who told you alone - sometimes known as 'faith', so such views should not be challenged there. The P&R forum, however, is open to all debate, and reason and evidence are the best tools to use. So, depending on what you want to talk about, please choose the appropriate forum.
Indi wrote:
In this forum, we insist on open, rational, productive discussion. That means that nothing is taboo, or not open to discussion here (we've even discussed this forum's own rules here!). But in order to make that work, everyone taking part needs to make open, rational and productive posts. Open means all of your reasoning and evidence are there for people to see, rational means that your claims make sense given your reasoning or evidence, and productive means that your post adds something to the discussion.

Warning Signs of Inflammatory Posts
These are NOT official rules.
These are guidelines to help you avoid making posts that harm the quality of the forum as a whole.
(Specifically, they are the warning signs of flaming, trolling, troll-baiting, troll-feeding, and personal insults.)
If you find yourself writing a post that contains any of these warning signs, please go back over it and consider changing it to be more polite, and less personal.

The word 'You': This is an easy give-away that your post is in danger of making personal insults or flaming... If you see the word 'you' in a post you are writing, please consider removing that portion, and focus on writing about the topic being discussed, instead of the people discussing it.

Using a Particular User's Name: Basically the same as the word 'you'. When you call a particular person out, you're in danger of discussing that person, rather than the topic.

Referring to Another Topic: When you find yourself quoting a different topic, or even just referring to it, it's a sign that you may be just reviving the argument from there. This is an especially bad sign if it is combined with:

Going Off-Topic: An off-topic post is not always an inflammatory post, but if you find yourself making an off-topic post, double-check it to make sure you're being courteous.

Repeating Themes: If you find yourself posting about the same thing over and over, especially in multiple different topics, it's a sign that your post may be argument bait, rather than a constructive addition.

Looking for Trouble: When in doubt, assume that 'the other guy' did NOT mean what he/she said in an insulting way. There will always be differences of opinion, but watch out for times when you may be taking a stubborn difference of opinion, and mistaking it for personal disrespect and/or a vendetta against you in particular.

Asking/Telling Someone Not To Post: If you're asking/telling/demanding that someone not post or post less, there's a very good chance that your post is not going to be constructive to the discussion. No matter if you're telling someone to not post about some particular thing in one particular topic, or if you're telling someone to leave Frihost altogether... Either way, if you see this warning sign in your post, it's a good bet that you should revise the post to be more constructive.*

Replying With a Report: If somebody else did something against the rules -- something that could be reported -- and you find yourself replying to the topic to post about it, chances are, you're not being helpful at all. If you think somebody is in danger of breaking a rule, DO NOT say so in the topic. Report it instead.

Commenting on the State of the Forum in General: If you find yourself making off-topic comments about how the forum is good/bad/better/worse, then there's a good chance you're making an inflammatory post... Be very careful to not insinuate that the change/aspect of the forum you're referring to is due to the actions of any specific users.

I repeat, these are NOT rules. And they are definitely NOT here so you can point out the warning signs in other people's posts! They're just guidelines that may help you avoid breaking the rules in the first place.
Any time you see these warning signs in a post that YOU are making, stop to consider if it's really the best sort of post you could make.
If everybody makes an effort at this, it should help make these forums a much better place to participate in.

*(If you are a moderator, and you need to tell someone not to post in a particular way, the right way to do so is through PM's, not by replying to the topic.)

Guidelines for Quality P&R Posts
The following are guidelines only, not rules. These guidelines will not be enforced by anybody, though people may refer you to them to help you improve the quality of your posts. Remember, this list is here to help you improve your own posts, not to help you improve others' posts.
That said, following these guidelines is highly encouraged: if most people do so, then the quality of discussion in this forum will improve.

Have Thick Skin: Direct personal insults should be reported, but don't go looking for them where there are none. It's important to separate yourself from your ideas and beliefs - recognize the difference between someone attacking your beliefs and someone attacking you. If insults are directed at you, report them, then ignore them, let them roll on by without hurting you.

Support Your Claims: When you say something is so, say why, and how. Most of the time in this forum, people will not believe you unless you back up what you say somehow. Even if you are absolutely correct in your assertion, people will (successfully) attack it if you don't back it up somehow. This applies to both 'sides'! An atheist will not believe a theist's unsupported claim, but that means you can't expect a theist to believe an atheist's unsupported claim; even if you've explained it a hundred times before, unless you at least provide a reference to the reasoning used, you can't expect them to believe you either.

Be Prepared To Be Challenged: Even if you support your claims, expect the reasoning and evidence you use to be challenged. If it's an idea worth arguing about, you'll be able to explain why your reasoning and evidence is valid after all, or you can provide other reasoning and evidence to support your claim.

Be Able To Compromise: If your opponent makes a good point, acknowledge it. When you realize that you are defending an undefendable assertion, admit it, and move on.

Discuss The Topic: Stay on-topic, and discuss what the thread is about, rather than moving into a discussion about the people in it. In any topic where people start talking about each other, rather than the subject at hand, things can get ugly very fast.

Communicate Effectively: Make your points as clearly as you can; never try to obscure the point on purpose. Also, rather than telling someone that they didn't understand your post, try to explain it again in terms they understand. If you don't understand a post, ask for clarification before posting a rebuttal of it.

Learn To Use The Tools Of Logic And Reason: Evidence and reason are the life-blood of a good philosophical discussion. So, learn to use the tools involved! Some helpful references: Explanation of Formal Logic ; Logical Fallacies ; Definitions of Philosophical Terms (more comprehensive alphabetical look-up), (smaller, more concise list). When you know how to use the tools of logic and reason, not only will you be able to make your claims more resistant to being challenged, you'll be better able to refute the claims of others.

Talk About Your Ideas, Not Others': When someone posts an idea that contradicts yours, talk about your own, and why it is better -- rather than talking about theirs and why it is worse.

Don't Be Intimidated: If you're making a genuine effort, you're as likely to get help as opposition... but you need to recognize it when it comes; it may come in the form of helping you refine your argument by pointing out the flaws in it. Even people opposed to you will respect you if you are honest and accept helpful criticism at times.

Starve The Trolls: Trolls are posters who only post in order to get an emotional response from you. They may do so by deliberately offending you, by insulting you, by stalking you and refuting everything you say, and any other way to get you riled up. The ONLY way to defeat a troll is to starve him/her - if you deny them the emotional response they're fishing for, they'll leave to fish somewhere else.

Thanks to Indi and Bikerman for supplying some of the basis for this post.

These warning signs and these guidelines are works in progress. If you have a suggestion about them, post a reply here. Remember though, "You can't tell me how to post!!1!" is not a helpful suggestion. If you have a problem with some of the points here, suggest how they could be made better, rather than just saying how bad they are in their current form.
For those who do not know, trolling is a term used to describe certain types of posting, particularly in forums like these. The exact origin of the usage is disputed. There are those who say it derives from throwing the net and seeing who is caught (as in fishing), and those who say is comes from 'troller' (French:monster) which in turn comes from the Norse 'troll'.

Whatever the origin, the meaning, in this context, is one who posts inflamatory or plainly silly posts simply to stir a reaction and see who 'bites'. As such it is a sub-set of flaming, though it can be done simply by de-railing a thread with irrelevant side-tracks.

Some forums welcome trolls, and a bit of trolling would not be too far out of place in some of the forums here - jokes and general chat, for example. In this particular forum, however, people mostly discuss matters of philosophy & religion which are generally serious, so we wish to discourage trolling here. Far too many times an interesting thread has been derailed - deliberately or not - by an off-topic troll.

Note - I (Bikerman) am at least as guilty as most for replying to such postings (the general internet rule is 'do not feed trolls' - which means don't reply), but I have always preferred to talk the issue through rationally rather than simply ignore it - that was a mistake.

From today onwards, therefore, the moderators are going to take a less tolerant line with postings that are obviously either off-topic or simply assertion with no backing.

Please note:
Any complaints must be made to me (Bikerman), Ocalhoun, or one of the other moderators via pm, and should NOT be posted in public threads.

We will not remove any posting that deviates slightly from the OP, and we are not trying to discourage a bit of occasional humour in postings. We WILL, however, remove any post which is consider to be simply designed (wittingly or unwittingly) to derail a thread. In such cases the poster will be informed of the decision and the reason behind it.

Moderation team
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