This is a list of forum norms as distinct from the Forum rules, so that moderation is predictable, and hopefully this will fend off some of the things that get repeated over and over. To reiterate: these are guidelines that I use to moderate and includes many written and many unwritten norms of the forum.
The below is not a series of CoG-endorsed rules. They are guidelines for forum moderation that I am writing to make moderation predictable. They are more norms than rules.
The number one rule is that common sense and moderator judgement supercedes any of the below.
When can I make a new thread about my game?
- Published Choice of/Hosted/Heart’s Choice games can reasonably have two threads - one for general discussion, and one with spoilers/walkthroughs.
- Under Contract games can have a “developer’s diary” or WIP page.
- Works in Progress (WIP) can reasonably have a thread if it has a demo. I define a demo as being interactive in a meaningful way. So it has to have some choices. Otherwise, please keep it to the Interest Check Thread: (Interest Check Thread)
- Offshoots about a game (polls, fan fiction, fan art, discussion of favorite characters) will be adjudicated on a case-by-case basis for right now. My preference is to keep them within the parent game thread unless it is a pretty active fanwork-creating crowd, in which case a new thread might be called for. Perhaps there will be a Fanworks category at some point.
When can I make a new thread about other stuff?
- The general rule is that this is a forum about interactive literature. So too-off topic stuff will generally be deleted, even if it is in the Off-topic section. I try to sort off-topic material into big threads like the Politics thread, the Why are you Feeling thread, or the Games thread to the extent possible. I want to keep the forum clear of threads like “What’s the best grape?” or “What computer should I buy?”
- Make a new thread about other stuff when it is relevant to writing and interactive literature. Some topics are just too off-topic to make good threads here.
- Make a new thread if it is about a topic of clear interest to the community that does not already have a thread it can be sorted into.
- Threads of long pedigree (i.e., been around for a long time) may be kept around whether they follow these rules or not.
- WIP threads that have not been updated/posted to by the original author in two months should be locked.
- Threads asking a technical question that has been solved should be use the “mark as solution” if it seems likely to receive further discussion in the future; if it is more of a one-off issue it should be locked.
- Threads that are deteriorating into a fight or circular argument should be locked or put into slow mode. I really like slow mode in that it tends of foster longer, more thoughtful posts where people are responding to each other. What I don’t like about it is that sometimes a real discussion needs more than once-in-four-hours posting.
- Threads that are single-person centric unconnected to a particular published work, under contract work, or WIP should be locked. I am trying to avoid blog-style update threads. However, I could imagine exceptions to this in exceptional situations that would be of great interest to users.
- It’s a good idea for moderators to note why a thread is being locked if it is not obvious. It is often obvious. This is useful to other mods and users. Ditto for slow mode.
Why did my post get flagged/deleted/edited?:
- Asking an author for an update on their WIP. This includes asking about release dates, new posts, revisions, or “any new information about the game.” Just don’t do that.
- If there’s a serious spoiler in a thread where spoilers are indicated to be not allowed, I may edit the post with spoiler tags.
- Sometimes, if there is a typo in a thread title, I will fix the typo. I can’t help it.
- If a thread has a really vague title, I will sometimes clarify the thread title to make it easier to find later.
- Bumping an old WIP thread, where “bumping” is defined as a meaningless post for the sake of bringing a thread to the top of the forum.
- Fighting with someone rather than flagging. This is a big one. If someone is unknowingly violating a norm, or if they appear to be speaking in good faith, it is ok to tell them kindly. But the moment that crosses into raised voices, anger, snark, abuse, etc., that’s a problem. If you see something wrong, flag it. If you see a troll, flag them. If someone is bothering you, flag them. You don’t need to threaten, call the moderators within the thread, or PM them angrily. The rule here is Flag, do not engage. My own instinct is to enter a thread and try to get it back on topic (if it has strayed) or defuse the situation (if it seems likely to become abusive) or to try to help make the argument productive and educational.
- Calling out another forum user by name or other reference to shame or needle them in public. Screenshoting another forum user’s post with the intention to ridicule or shame them. If another user has made you angry, flag.
- Selling something. Advertising something of potential interest to this community will be judged on a case-by-case basis, but I am reluctant to have these threads because they tend to get far afield of the purpose of this community. I guess I could make a whole thread just for that if it becomes an issue.
- Hostile or blatantly offensive language. Misogyny, homophobic language, rascism, transphobic language, etc. would fall into this category. Will not be tolerated on this forum. There are people from all over the world on this forum, and I have talked to people about the use of certain words that they had no idea could be seen as inappropriate language to other people. So my impulse is to inform/warn/educate first unless it is obvious that it is meant to offend. It’s often pretty obvious. This goes for your user image or username as well–no offensive language or images there. It doesn’t matter if you meant it as a joke. I will ask you to remove them, and if they aren’t removed them I will do it. Feel free to PM me about this. I recognize that “inappropriate” is different to different people, of course, but I also think some things are pretty clearly over the line.
- A post that says, essentially, “I agree!” or “Awesome!” or “You got it, chief!” or “Ya” or “Oof!” or some other brief interjection or monosyllabic grunt may be deleted if I see it. Use the “like” button to agree. Memes or gifs or whathaveyou that essentially do the same thing may also be deleted. This one I will almost certainly DM you to tell you why (or I’ll DM you first and suggest you work on your post.)
- Even if you have the perfect meme for the situation, a post that is made just to post your meme will be looked upon askance. If you posted a meme and it gets removed, it may have been because it was not content-bearing, it has been posted before, or it is not advancing the conversation. Please try not to post a meme as your whole post. The goal is for us to talk, not to swap images.
- Nothing too sexy or gory in the non-adult section in word or image. That will be deleted.
- Links to pirate sites or cracks, or advocating their use. This is probably something that would get you suspended. I advise not giving pirate sites any notice.
- Asking for a coder. A kind DM explaining this norm is a good thing.
- Not following the rules for how to apply for a beta test. If I’m feeling expansive I try to write these folks a helpful message but if I haven’t had my coffee yet sometimes I just delete.
- The Forum has a place to get some emotional support, specifically, https://forum.choiceofgames.com/t/the-why-are-you-feeling-emotion-thread/10784. But moderators are not equipped to deal with really serious stuff, and that does not belong on the Forum but instead should be addressed to trained professionals/hotlines.
- Bringing off-forum drama to the Forum. I need to work on the language of this norm, but the gist of it is that I don’t want this forum to become an auxillary battleground for Discord anger or the like.
- Off-site bullying. This is an extremely difficult area to adjudicate (and it blends into the preceding bullet point). The rules for this are new and developing, so I am going to leave this one a bit unformed as I try to phrase my thoughts. My philosophy and goal for this one involves contact, pre-work in developing relationships, and defusing. But I’ll return to this. Suggestions are welcome.
Enforcing Rules and Norms:
- I will always try to let the person know when a rule or norm has been violated, and give them the opportunity to edit or remove the post in question. Obviously there are times when posts are made explicitly to abuse or the like, and in that case I will simply remove the material and apply a penalty.
- A post that I simply do not agree with, but which does not violate community guidelines is not grounds for removal or editing. I try to err very much on the side of laissez-faire regarding opinions in posts, particularly if a constructive exchange of ideas is happening.
- If a moderator has already addressed an issue with an official post in a thread, it is best for users to not flag the issue repeatedly further; the moderator intervention should deal with the issue.
- If a user seems to you to be violating a rule or a norm, you can tell them in a kind and respectful way. Ideally situations can be dealt with in this way before flags are thrown. Often a good way is to DM them so that they don’t feel called out. People can feel accused and defensive in this situation. On the other hand, some other people are much more anxious in a private DM situation. If you are not utterly confident that you can do this in a gentle and respectful way, please let me do it.
- I will try to bring in another moderator to adjudicate an issue with a poster who I have a lot of contact with in any other context.
- You can always tag in moderators into a private DM if things are getting too heated or tense or uncomfortable.
- I am open to good-faith questions about my moderation and decisions about forum rules. If they are about your particular situation, a DM is always ok (because it is most respectful to you to talk about your private matters in private). If they are about my moderation in general, I am open to you posting on this thread. I respect your willingness to inquire; I would ask and hope that you are respectful on this thread, because I really like talking about these issues and I want to make sure they are as transparent as possible.
- It is always OK to appeal one of my decisions to staff (support AT choiceofgames DOT com).
- I try to suspend only after an official warning. Sometimes an offense is so significant that I suspend without a warning. (Threats/openly hostile behavior, for example). Or if someone is all but begging to be suspended (it happens). Moderator best practice is to issue an official warning rather than put a warning in a thread or through a PM to ensure that the warning is seen.
- Suspension times usually will get longer for repeated offenses. So a one week suspension will precede a two week suspension, which will precede a one month suspension, etc.
- Some offenses are so blatant that they require a permanant ban immediately. These would include threats or extremely hostile behavior, going off on a racist, misogynist, etc., etc., screed contrary to the values of the forum as noted in the FAQ. This is one of those situations where it is a moderator judgement call.
- If you are suspended, do not immediately make a new account to evade the suspension. The sock puppet account will be suspended/deleted as well and the original suspension will be extended.
Is it Historically Accurate to have X in a game about Y???
- I am tired of the endless circular debates about whether it is historically accurate or desirable to have X (women, PoC, etc) in a game about Y (Napoleonic era, Anglo-Saxon England). I am very likely to shut down this discussion.
The Adult-Content Category:
- The Adult-Content Category is not a punishment. It is the place to talk about adult content. I try to consult the writer, but sometimes I have to make a call. If a moderator thinks it’s adult content, it goes in adult content. You can debate all day what exactly “graphic” content is or “sadistic” violence is. but at the end of the day, the mods have to put it somewhere. Sometimes my call is based on language, sometimes on plot, and sometimes on the description/trigger warnings the author has written.