Guidelines and Policies

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Over time and with much thought and discussion, MetaChat has adopted these operating guidelines as of May 2010. Please look over them to make sure you are OK with participating under these guidelines.

User Guidelines

Conversation on MetaChat varies widely and we all like it that way. Almost all topics are fair game. The goals of the user community are simple: to enjoy lively discussion and feel comfortable talking together. We can handle disagreements as well as lovefests as long as everyone plays nice. The following guidelines are in place to encourage positive interaction and users are asked to adhere to them. When the guidelines aren’t observed moderators will intervene to get things back on track.

  • Use a tone of basic respect for the other human beings involved. Even when you are adamantly opposed to some outrageous thing someone's saying, try to keep your response respectfully phrased rather than contemptuous or dismissive. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
  • "Don't slag off on other users." Though stated casually, this is an important one. If there is a Prime Directive of MetaChat, this is it. Calling names and throwing direct attacks are out of bounds. When you disagree with someone, it can be tempting to call them lazy, shallow, crass, stupid, elitist, a boozy blowhard, a tiresome strumpet, a pox-infested cad, a rounder and a scalawag, an assclown, a shrieking ninny, a hooplehead or whatever your favorite epithet may be. Or more subtly (but no less offensively), cast aspersions on their character.Pointing out other people's flaws is pretty much a guaranteed way to make them upset and want to retaliate - or to cause others to pop in and start taking sides. Before you know it - Shit-fight! We've all got personal failings of our own, and as much as we feel we know each other, we don't usually have all the information we'd need to make accurate judgements. Please don't cast the first stone by insulting or slamming another user. If you feel angry at someone but cannot resist a comment, go back to guideline A and respond with basic respect.
  • Hate speech is not tolerated. Hate speech means anything that reads to reasonable people as though it's intended to dehumanize or degrade a person based on some class they're in: race, gender, religion, socioeconomic class, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, etc. Offensive words do sometimes come up in legitimate conversation and that is understood, but slurs and other language that seem to be used to demean or insult will be deleted.
  • Offsite issues stay offsite. Some MetaChatters know each other offsite, and most of that is none of MetaChat’s business. We know y'all go to meetups and toast marshmallows and get married and get up to all kinds of wild stuff. But there are occasionally times where interactions offsite overflow onto the site in a negative way. In those cases, moderators will address the problem. This site is not a place to target someone for harassment or to carry over real-life grudges. Evidence of that kind of behavior (stalking, ongoing nitpicking, harassment) may be cause for banning. This applies also to MetaFilter issues: they belong on MetaFilter, not here. A good relationship with MetaFilter is important to MetaChat.
  • Don’t Troll.There are a lot of people here who are being open, sensitive and earnest; a lot of people who are hotheads and arguers; and a lot of people who overthink plates of beans three times a day, with maple syrup. It's not that hard a group of people to troll, and not very impressive when someone does it. So don't.
    Sometimes trolling is a little hard to diagnose, but if it looks like there's a habitual pattern of riling people up or dangling bait at them, the moderators will open up a conversation with that user to see what's going on. The aim will be to try to help that user avoid giving the impression of trolling, and avoid having people treat them like a troll. If those conversations aren't fruitful, and the problem persists, that user might be asked to take a time-out or to leave the site, or be banned from the site.

Moderation Policies

MetaChat is moderator-managed. Contact mods about any issues as soon as you see them happening. Moderators are tasked with helping site participation stay within the user guidelines above. If you see a problem with another user's behavior, email the moderators describing the issue. They will take a look at the problem and do whatever is needed to handle it.

Note: This is different from policies on MetaFilter, which is "self-policing," meaning users have a tradition of "calling out" one another when they feel there's an important issue about their participation to discuss. That works well for MetaFilter, but not for MetaChat. Policing one another in such a small community can create some very uncomfortable situations. MetaChat has 2 site admins and 6 moderators, so there are plenty of people available to communicate on behalf of the site with users who are not observing the guidelines.

Posts may be deleted at moderator discretion. Even though almost anything goes in terms of quality, every now and then there is a post that seems to be a Bad Idea for the MetaChat front page. In those very rare cases, the post may be deleted, and the mod will email the poster to let them know why that happened. If the problem can be solved by editing, the mods might invite the poster to edit and re-post another version.

What Happens if Someone Oversteps the Guidelines?

It depends, and it will be different for each situation. Generally there is a "stairway" approach in effect: smaller problems, simpler solutions; bigger problems, more serious solutions. Moderators will always try to work with users to keep them on the site, participating appropriately. The following are actions that moderators reserve the right take to maintain a positive site culture:

  • Inthread admin/mod comments: If it's a mild issue, a moderator might comment in thread with a reminder aimed to get things back on track. If you see those comments and respond appropriately, a lot of potential problems will resolve themselves.
  • Private email: If it's a little more serious than that, you might receive an email from a moderator seeking to understand, clarify, or fix the problem and/or to give you a "chill out" notice. This is an opportunity to discuss and resolve the problem, share any background information, etc. Please don't take it as a rebuke; try to solve the problem together.
  • Deletion of posts or comments: Posts and comments that don’t respect the guidelines might be deleted. This is definitely not the preference, but it is an option if leaving a post or comment in place is likely to cause further upset. We will make every effort to leave a note or explanation in place of a deleted comment to let readers know there has been a deletion. Sometimes that may not be the best choice, so we reserve the right to remove posts and comments as needed with or without placeholders. We will let you know if we remove one of yours.
  • Closing threads: Any thread that breaks the guidelines or is otherwise a problem may be closed to further comments by mods.
  • Time-Outs: If a user is normally able to handle site interactions but is in an episode where they’re having a particularly hard time keeping it together, mods might impose a temporary time-out.
  • Bannination: If a problem becomes chronic, and is preceded by repeated problems and repeated warnings which are not resulting in improved participation, and all good-faith efforts to resolve problems have been exhausted, a user's account might be closed and/or their IP address banned.

What Should I Do If Someone Else Breaks the Guidelines?

Email a moderator. Again, we’re not “self-policing,” so you don’t need to call them out or try to correct the behavior yourself.

You're a Bum! Disagreements about Moderator Decisions

Please give the moderation team the benefit of the doubt; everything they do is toward the goal of maintaining an active, interesting, welcoming site for social interaction. Sometimes that means hard decisions.

In all decisions the guiding principle is to try to determine what's best for the site, now and in the future. Fairness is important, and mods work hard to keep personal feelings out of moderation decisions. And keep in mind that when actions are taken, there is probably more to the story than appears on screen.

In edge cases, decisions will be made following the spirit of the user guidelines and policies, and in communication with the affected users. Moderator decisions are final.