Periodically, we revisit rules, organization, and policy of the forum to adapt to changes and improve the quality for everyone. Now is a good time to consider some changes. I want to know what you think of these changes:
With this, I do wonder if we need better guidelines to define our aims in changing the rules. Currently, we see different sorts of engagements on the forum:
These are the valuable activities I want to encourage and increase visibility:
- Experts in mainstream science and experts in non-mainstream science in dialogue
- Post-publication review of articles/blogs by legitimate experts.
- Experts learning from each other.
- Non-experts asking good-faith questions and learning from experts.
- Microblogging on interesting ideas, by both experts and non-experts
These are negative activities I want to discourage and, ideally, eliminate:
- Non-experts debating with experts (functioning like a denial-of-service attack)
- Microblogging on non-so-interesting ideas, often by non-experts.
We may need an intro guide the orient new users to the purpose and rules of the forum, and some basic actions like quoting, starting new topics, and forking topics. We are constantly having to educate people about this, and it’s pretty annoying.
We are contemplating making it so all topics will automatically close 1 month after the last reply. Perhaps we might consider other time limits based on your feedback. This follows the practice of several very large forums.
We are contemplating closing all topics with last replies over 2 months ago. This will prevent stale topics from coming to the front page with late additions. To continue old discussions, you could start a linked topic or ask @moderators to open the topic (which we may or may not do).
With several new people here, are we adequately representing our community in the moderator team. Should we consider adding new moderators? What views do we want represented?
Looking at other forums, and how they have maintained quality while growing far larger than us, there are some rules I’ve seen we should consider. One example is Ask Science (see rules: Reddit - Dive into anything). Here are a few that may be appropriate or adapted for our forum. What are your thoughts on them?
Top level comments (direct replies to a question, not a reply to another user’s comment) must be an answer to the question posed, or a follow-up question to the post.
- No medical advice, speculation, or personal anecdotes. See more here.
- Answers should be supported by reputable sources and scientific research. Do not cite yourself as a source.
- Comments must be civil and on topic. No memes, jokes, or comments consisting solely of a link.
- No abusive, harassing, offensive or spam comments.
- Moderators reserve the right to enforce these rules by removing offending comments, or issuing temporary or permanent bans as needed in their sole discretion.*
In particular, I’m concerned about how quality degrades when comments on a topic start to look more like a “chat” and we see lots of off topics. It can be freewheeling fun, but it also makes topics less valuable in the long run. In general, most of that should be moved to PM.
To satisfy that need to chat off topic, perhaps we could create a chat room sort of category that is purged of posts on a regular basis.
Side Conversation Require Login?
Most the topics in Side Conversation are not high value. For several reasons, I think we should consider taking them off the public site, so that they require login to view. They would no longer be visible to search engines.
Some important topics in the past were high quality, and we could move them to Conversation on a case by case bases.
Right now, approval is required on a per-category basis. For example, all posts into Conversation require approval, and none are required in Side Conversation. In general this has worked in a positive way, often to slow down conversations and giving @moderators a sensible way to keep things from spiraling.
We can consider another option…
Users with TL3 and above can post without approval, but TL0/1/2 and require approval for each post.
A hard rule that after a certain number of violations, TL3 users will be demoted to TL2.
Of course that cutoff could be changed to TL2, instead of TL3. The downside of this is that moderators would be stuck approving all comments for <TL3 in all categories, likewise it does create a differential set of rules. On the positive side, moderating at the individual level has been effective, and so far approval burden has not been impossible.
With all this, I’d like to hear your thoughts. Which of these changes are worth exploring?