There have been a few issues here on the OAC lately that have mushroomed into bigger issues, mostly because we don't have a defined set of rules to live by. I think this place needs some rules. It also needs a defined process for reporting rule violations, and for the consequences that might follow such rule violations.

I'll provide some questions we need to answer, grouped by category:

MAKING RULES
1. What rules do we need?
2. Who defines these rules?
3. Who approves these rules?
4. How does this approval process work?
5. If additional rules are needed, how do we add more?
6. What if some members think a rule is wrong and don't want it?


RULE VIOLATION DETECTION AND REPORTING
1. How do rule violations get detected and reported?


CONSEQUENCES
1. Are there different consequences for different rule violations?
2. What should the consequences be?
3. Will warnings be issued before sanctions are imposed?


There are probably other questions that will need to be answered as we move toward toward formalizing our self-governance.

Please reply with your answers to any or all of these questions!

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Within the first week or so of forming the OAC, I recall playing a formative role in drafting a set of rules for the site, both positive (you 'can' do this here) and negative (please 'don't' do this here). The former are found on the About page, and the latter were presented in an open forum in response to then accusations of heavy-handed authoritarianism by the admin team. At that time, any attempt to talk about 'rules' was met with some distaste and implications that admin decisions were made behind closed doors. Apart from one automatically deleted comment from a since-departed member and input from another who remains one of our most active voices, there was little attention to the topic at the time. That is, despite all the (imaginary and inflated) discontent, the voices of member freedom neglected to make themselves heard. I therefore wouldn't say that we have had no rules at all, or a lack of intention to enforce them, but as Paul's title indicates, enforcement, consensus, and member input are always the difficult bits.

Having said that, I hope that this thread can again allow us to codify some simple and basic rules to make the job of admin easier and more transparent by way of member consensus, so that it does not appear as if we are hiding our administration logic behind our attempt to maintain some semblance of civility here. As Keith mentions, the admin team is not a static entity but will be up for revision. Putting some guidelines in place now will save others trouble in the future.

Here's a rule I'd like to suggest:

Because of Ning's idiotic forum threading system, if the leading post on a new thread is deleted, then the rest of the responses are deleted, too; and they are unrecoverable. I suggest we have a rule requiring members to either not delete the initial posts on a new thread or to have to inform the thread respondents before doing so. A short warning on member account deletions would be nice too, as cancelling accounts can cause the deletion of other members' posts. Granted, this issue also has a lot to do with member account abuse (creating and re-creating, deleting and re-deleting multiple accounts/identities which plays havoc with the fluidity of forum conversations, not to mention issues of honesty/integrity). Also, the deletions are mostly a technical problem, but easily solved with a little respect for others. Sadly, my rule is virtually unenforceable.
Fran said: "Because of Ning's idiotic forum threading system, if the leading post on a new thread is deleted, then the rest of the responses are deleted, too; and they are unrecoverable. I suggest we have a rule requiring members to either not delete the initial posts on a new thread or to have to inform the thread respondents before doing so."

And this is what has happened, I suppose, with the discussion thread on "World Anthropology". I may have been one of the strongest opponents of Nikos copy and post technique, so to say, but now I am really frustrated to see that all the discussion is just deleted. And gone forever, as Fran reminds us. How embarrassing!
And being the devil's advocat now: Why don't we just stick to what we all signed - the Ning principles. And they include ways of dealing with intellectual theft. (Mobbing as well, by the way?). And otherwise, keep it fluid, as Keith suggests?
Sorry, but I need to follow this up, as it kept me thinking for the last hours. Whatever kind of reason it might have (e.g. Ning regulations, technical restraints), but I find it highly discouraging that threads, discussions, words just disappear. It is also very discouraging when trying to include "other voices", or simply inviting new people. In any case, the authors of their respective texts should be notified beforehands and be given a chance to copy at least their words before they get finally deleted. And I think in this case, and I would like to underline, in THIS case, I am in favour of a more formalized procedure. As it is now, every group administrator and/or (?) discussion initiator can simply delete the whole thing (not entirely sure). And then it's gone forever. We won't develop a collective memory like this, won't learn, because disputes just disappear. I vote for change.
Florian,

I agree wholeheartedly with the recommendation on how these things are handled. If a posting needs to be removed, why not redact the offending bits and leave the rest, especially given that the discussion generated is educational for all of us.
Eric, I couldn't agree more... but the power of the admins is limited. I've experimented in a small Ning network where I can try things out, and admins cannot change the content of anyone else's posts. And if we attempt to remove the offending post and it is the initial text of a thread, the whole thread is also deleted.

Eric R. Price said:
Florian,

I agree wholeheartedly with the recommendation on how these things are handled. If a posting needs to be removed, why not redact the offending bits and leave the rest, especially given that the discussion generated is educational for all of us.
Paul,

Well, that is unfortunate. That doesn't leave many good alternatives - assuming you can't get the offender to comply. One alternative might be to post a retraction in the thread before closing and leaving the thread on the site, but I suppose if I were the victim of such a posting I would not want my work to persist under someone else's name.

On a slightly different note, whatever measures we consider should include right of appeal with regard to admin decisions. I'm not suggesting appeal in the open forums, but matters of mitigation / extenuation should be allowed and considered in the direct discussion between the offender and the admins, and that process should be specified in whatever rules we develop. Of course, the best cure for the honest mistake is to 'fess up right away and make the appropriate correction.
Eric, I certainly agree that legit users of the site should have the opportunity to "make good" on whatever infraction they've committed. As for people who sign up just to post ads for dating sites... no mercy! :-)

Eric R. Price said:
Paul,

Well, that is unfortunate. That doesn't leave many good alternatives - assuming you can't get the offender to comply. One alternative might be to post a retraction in the thread before closing and leaving the thread on the site, but I suppose if I were the victim of such a posting I would not want my work to persist under someone else's name.

On a slightly different note, whatever measures we consider should include right of appeal with regard to admin decisions. I'm not suggesting appeal in the open forums, but matters of mitigation / extenuation should be allowed and considered in the direct discussion between the offender and the admins, and that process should be specified in whatever rules we develop. Of course, the best cure for the honest mistake is to 'fess up right away and make the appropriate correction.
Dating sites? Clearly, I have not been checking the site thoroughly enough! : )

Paul Wren said:
Eric, I certainly agree that legit users of the site should have the opportunity to "make good" on whatever infraction they've committed. As for people who sign up just to post ads for dating sites... no mercy! :-)

Eric R. Price said:
Paul,

Well, that is unfortunate. That doesn't leave many good alternatives - assuming you can't get the offender to comply. One alternative might be to post a retraction in the thread before closing and leaving the thread on the site, but I suppose if I were the victim of such a posting I would not want my work to persist under someone else's name.

On a slightly different note, whatever measures we consider should include right of appeal with regard to admin decisions. I'm not suggesting appeal in the open forums, but matters of mitigation / extenuation should be allowed and considered in the direct discussion between the offender and the admins, and that process should be specified in whatever rules we develop. Of course, the best cure for the honest mistake is to 'fess up right away and make the appropriate correction.
Given Brett's comment on the Web 2.0 thread and how many may not fully understand how to use the system, it might be worthwhile to post some instructions on the site that specify how to edit a post after the 15 min period, how to delete a thread, etc. Perhaps these are clear to some of us and not to others. I, having never created a thread on this site, have an idea as to how thread management is done, but it is only an idea, not a confirmed fact.

Further, given the international flavor of our membership and audience, we need to ensure that we gently correct issues of net'iquette, since the real problem may be one of perception/language rather that an actual intent to break rules or be impolite. I refer back to Keith's admonition of Nikos reference ALLCAPS. My dear mother still hasn't figured out that if everything is in caps, it is perceived as shouting - either that or she simply wants to shout every Facebook posting from the rooftops. I'm guessing it is the former. Nikos is not the first person I've seen who regularly type in ALLCAPS and given how I've seen him use them, I can only assume that he doesn't do it for emphasis.

Many other forums that I participate in (most of which are powered by vBulletin, not Web 2.0 like OAC) provide some guides on posting, etiquette as an aid. Though these things seem obvious some, they may not be to everyone.
Eric, I've been meaning to get some "how-to"s and other advice up in OAC Help, but I've been incredibly busy. The group is public though, so anyone can take the initiative to post some advice about Netiquette or post deletions, etc. We can then compile the suggestions and put the advice somewhere more visible for all members to have a look at. There is already a decent FAQ written by Ning regarding practical things like how to edit posts after they've been submitted (searchable at http://help.ning.com).
Excellent point, Francine. Perhaps I can work something up using Virginia Shea's "Core Rules of Netiquette" excerpted from the book Netiquette , as found here.

The central idea in my comments above is really based on the first rule - remembering that it is a human on the other end, a human who is limited to only words in their attempt to communicate, words minus expressions, gestures, or tone to give meaning.

Francine Barone said:
Eric, I've been meaning to get some "how-to"s and other advice up in OAC Help, but I've been incredibly busy. The group is public though, so anyone can take the initiative to post some advice about Netiquette or post deletions, etc. We can then compile the suggestions and put the advice somewhere more visible for all members to have a look at. There is already a decent FAQ written by Ning regarding practical things like how to edit posts after they've been submitted (searchable at http://help.ning.com).

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