OSNews forum rules
Commenting on OSNews
Despite being "only technology", the subject matter at OSNews has been known to ignite strong emotions. Consequently, on occasion people may get carried away in the comment sections. We want to maintain civil discourse at OSNews, and make the site a place where opinions can be aired and arguments can be waged without nastiness, trolling, and pointless dogmatism. This is even more important to us than "free speech". Most of our readers prefer to read thoughtful, civil comments, and are willing to take the risk of their own comments being de-emphasized in exchange for that privilege.
The readers' comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way. Literally.
2. The moderation system
For a long time, OSNews' moderation system consisted of the editors "manually" sifting through all the comments, frantically trying to keep up with the sometimes hundreds of comments on some stories. To ease this task, a "report abuse" button was added to each comment, so readers could exert at least some influence on moderation.
This system was anything but ideal. It proved to be a Pandora's Box; we received many accusations of bias and censorship, and to some extent, those complaints had some validity in them. Even though the editorial staff has never purposefully tried to influence OSNews' comments, it may have well happened unconsciously. Hence, we needed a new moderation system. The obvious choice was to "out source" moderation to the readers themselves.
Moderation is a dual edged sword, but ultimately it serves one purpose: to make it easier for our readers to locate good content. The guidelines are as such: when voting up a comment, you should be promoting insightful comments that you believe other readers will enjoy reading. It should be based less on agreement with the content and more on quality of argument or ideas set forth.
Likewise, moderating down a comment is appropriate only when the comment violates the OSNews commenting rules, set out below. A comment that contains an unpopular opinion should not be voted down, but rather, should warrant a response. The "vote down" function should be used sparingly to demote comments that do not add to the conversation and/or contain offensive or personal attacks.
Despite the fact that moderation is now in the hands of our readers, we as editors still have the power to moderate in the "old-fashioned" way. OSNews is still our website, and if we deem a comment in violation of the rules set out below, we will act accordingly; this can be in the form of moderating your comment to a score of -5 (with or without locking it from any further moderation), or making it "invisible" (effectively deleting it). The latter is only used in the case of spam or when the author has specifically asked us to remove his comment (i.e. because the comment was posted on the wrong story).
Submission of a comment on OSNews implies that you have acknowledged and fully agreed to the following terms:
I. No gratuitous use of profanity, biting sarcasm, or personal disparagement, especially directed at individuals.
In spite of these rules, OSNews has a large amount of flexibility when it comes to commenting. Comments make OSNews lively and entertaining, and hence we do not wish to constrain our readers too much; this is also why we as editors try to refrain from moderating as much as possible. We do not want to achieve 100% "on-topicness" - we want a lively and entertaining debate.
Repeated offenders may be banned from commenting privileges or even from access to the site. Having your comment moderated down constitutes as a warning, and you may be warned hundreds of times before we will resort to banning; however, if you are a really big troublemaker, you will be banned without a second thought. We will typically email you before you are banned to ask you to stop your negative behaviour, or we will address you directly in the comments' section to ask you to amend your behaviour. People are generally banned for a limited period of time (just to get their attention), though we reserve the right to ban someone for life.
If you find you have been banned from OSNews, it means that you have been very naughty indeed. It means that you have violated the terms above, probably hundreds of times; despite having seen your posts moderated down, you have continued to engage in the behaviour that OSNews' staff and its readers have objected to. It means that you have been emailed or addressed directly in the forums, and you have either ignored those entreaties or more likely you have insulted or disparaged the person contacting you. Even after all that, we are usually willing to lift your ban and return you to full citizenship under the following conditions:
I. You send us an email in which you ask to be reinstated;
You may also be interested in an editorial on the subject of comment moderation that David Adams wrote a while back called Comments, Trolls, and Flamewars.