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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.

1. Legal

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.

3. Rules

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.
II. No personal attacks on story authors, other readers, or news editors of this web site.
III. Even if you are in violent disagreement or have strong feelings, find a way to keep your comments calm, and try to explain your reasoning, instead of just ranting.
IV. OSNews is not just an open source news web site, and it is not just an "alternative" OS site. Do not post comments that merely disparage a particular OS or company. Some examples of sentiments that are in violation of this rule: "M$ Sucks!", "Apple is dead!", "People who use KDE should be shot!", etc. If you hate Microsoft, or Apple, or Linux, or whatever, you may still talk about your hatred on OSNews, but please do so with reasoned, on-topic arguments.
V. Make sure you have read the entire news story before you start commenting on it. Something might have already been covered in the article, but you "missed it".
VI. This is the most subjective of the rules, but its enforcement is important to everyone's enjoyment: no mindless OS wars. In other words, please constrain your zeal for your particular pet OS, company, or product. Regardless of your intention, comments that we deem to be likely to ignite a flame war will be moderated down. Even including a throwaway "X rules, Y sucks" line into your reasoned masterpiece may result in the whole post being moderated down by the community or by the OSNews editors (see XII).
VII. Keep comments on-topic. Even if they are reasoned, witty, and well-written, they may be moderated down if they are off-topic. This includes meaningless posts, off-topic ASCII art, and posts that just say "Cool!".
VIII. OSNews is not just about operating systems. We report on other technology news, on development issues and articles, hardware, and if it is a slow news day, we might kick in some sci-fi movie news or other stuff we might find interesting. It is not your job to tell us what should and should not be posted on OSNews. Hence, any comment along the lines of "Why is this OSNews?" will immediately be moderated down and locked from any further moderation. No questions asked.
IX. When we deem a conversation off-topic or in violation of any of these rules, we will often moderate all comments on the topic, including rebuttals and other responses. We want to put the flame war to rest, so this may mean that even though your comment is well within the rules and was carefully crafted, it will become an innocent casualty.
X. Political diatribes, criticism of a country's foreign policy, attacks on an author's, editor's, or reader's country of origin, ethnic slurs, and most other comments related to politics and religion are not allowed. However, this rule has some flexibility since every now and then a news story is published that is so deeply rooted in politics that political debate is inevitable. However, understand that even on these stories, political discussion is like walking on shattered glass with a blindfold over your eyes: you are bound to get cut.
XI. Do not use comments as a platform to discuss OSNews' moderation or editorial policy. If you want to complain about your comment being moderated down, your story being rejected, or you want to accuse OSNews of censorship, please do so in an email. We are actually eager to discuss our thinking with readers, and will almost always reply right away to emails on that subject.
XII. Even if your comment might be nicely crafted and written, but you include one line of text that does not comply with the above, it will result in the moderation or deletion of the comment as a whole.
XIII. Inclusion of a "signature" to your comment that contains a "Free iPod" or other conga line promotional pyramid scheme link are not welcome on OSNews; especially if the accompanying post seems to be merely a pretext for including the promotional text. OSNews readers are welcome to use the comments to promote their own products and services, or products that they have an interest in, but only if those promotions are on topic and relevant. If we ever run an article about winning free iPods, everyone will be welcome to post their "win a free iPod" links. Likewise, if you develop a file system, we welcome you to explain its virtues in a thread about file systems, but if you bring it up out of the blue during a discussion of developer tools, your comment will be removed.

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.

4. Banning

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;
II. In that email, you tell us, to the best of your understanding, why you think you were banned;
III. You read and acknowledge any return emails if they are necessary for us to clarify the reasoning behind the banning;
IV. You agree to cease the offending behaviour.

Thank you,
the OSNews Team.

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.

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