Discussion guidelines, suggestions beyond the Code of Conduct


Community Guidelines continued…

All users should read the Code of Conduct (and doing so will earn you a badge and some basic permissions). Beyond that, here is a set of additional guidelines/advice for ideal online (and often also offline) communication habits:

Keep It Tidy

Make the effort to put things in the right place, so that we can spend more time discussing and less cleaning up. So:

  • When unsure about the value of posting, think over your thoughts and post later when ready.
  • Consider browsing and/or searching existing topics before replying or starting your own.
  • If you don’t find a clearly correct category for a new topic, post in the Unsure category.
  • Don’t cross-post the same thing in multiple topics.
  • Don’t post no-content replies.
  • Avoid bring up too many diverse issues in one topic.
  • Don’t divert a topic by changing it midstream.
  • Don’t sign your posts — each post already includes your profile information.
  • Rather than posting “+1” or similar, use the :+1: “appreciate” button.
  • Make use of the extra reaction options under the :slightly_smiling_face: button

Advice for productive communication

Understand the challenges in online discussion

Online discussions lead so easily to misunderstandings and even hostility.

We can’t simply ask everyone to always post ideal, tactful, respectful, and clear messages (or to never misinterpret when reading). Maintaining healthy online discourse with diverse perspectives requires care in how we react to messages we dislike, disagree with, or don’t understand.

When we react with aggression or defensiveness, it often leads to negative feedback loops. When we react by ignoring or voting-down, that censoring of unpopular ideas can lead to echo chambers and groupthink.

Promote and teach respectful, effective communication

At Snowdrift.coop, we welcome controversial or unpopular views when expressed politely and appropriately. Before users can post freely on our discussion board, we ask that they read our Code of Conduct, these guidelines, and pledge to participate with integrity and good faith.

Everyone should strive to model the best practices and help others learn and improve.

Participate in an authentic and active way

Present yourself honestly, emphasizing transparency and integrity. Respect anyone’s decision to protect their privacy and remain anonymous, but work to bring a natural human feel to discourse. If it feels appropriate, consider using your real name, but respect others’ decisions to remain anonymous. Make liberal use of emoticons and other casual, positive conversation style.

Be effective and concise

  • Maximize the signal-to-noise ratio by reducing the bulk of unnecessary comments.
  • Aim for short sentences.
  • Provide links.
  • Avoid duplicating existing items.
  • Use tags and other tools to avoid posting extraneous reply comments.
  • Use our IRC channel for more open-ended casual discussion.

Use empirical evidence and concrete examples

Provide concrete empirical examples, links, and citations whenever feasible.

Welcome newcomers

  • Avoid assumptions about others’ knowledge or views.
  • Help educate newcomers about how to best use the resources, how the system works, and encourage them to learn and care about the community’s ideals.
  • Answer questions with patience and grace, no matter how basic.

Use best-practice communication techniques

  • Recognize the strong tendency for misunderstandings of pure text (especially the difficulty in discerning jokes, sarcasm, and other facetiousness).
  • Ask for clarification before judging others’ intentions.
  • Favor first-person perspectives describing your views rather than second-person “you statements”.
  • Do not make personal issues out of intellectual differences.
  • Embrace chances to learn and change your views.
  • Welcome others’ change of mind gracefully without saying “I told you so.”
  • Whether reacting positively or negatively, express meaningful judgments of statements, actions, and effects rather than judgments of people.
    • E.g. better to say “that was a wonderful explanation!” than “you’re so good at explaining things!”
  • Avoid carrying disagreements from one topic to another. Treat each new discussion with a fresh perspective.
  • Welcome diverse perspectives and identities, and avoid assumptions about others’ identities, views, or experiences.
  • Respectfully point out rhetorical fallacies, avoid them yourself, and do not take a mention of fallacies as a personal attack.
    • Note: do not publicly point out fallacies in a post that violates the Code of Conduct (see below). The only acceptable response to a Code of Conduct violation is to flag it.
  • Ask about the accuracy of your impressions of others’ views. Don’t put words in others’ mouths.
  • Avoid reacting to specific words. Instead, help others clearly express their thoughts even if you do not agree with their views.

  • Consider Active Listening concepts and the following guidelines from Anatol Rapoport (by way of Dan Dennett):

    Rapoport’s Rules
    1. Attempt to re-express the other person’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that they say, ‘Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.’
    2. List any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement)
    3. Mention anything you have learned from them
    4. Only now are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.
    • Another framing of similar ideas is to steel-man instead of straw-man (i.e. work to improve others’ arguments before criticizing rather than presenting a poor version of their arguments)
  • Acknowledge respectfully-presented constructive criticism.

  • Be forgiving; do not hold grudges against others for past violations.

Educate others

We encourage consciousness-raising. Values and honor matter. Do your part to educate others. Thank others who are working to do consciousness-raising (or at least tolerate them and do not complain about their efforts).

GHC Steering Committee adopts guidelines for respectful communication
Codes of Conduct, flagging, and Restorative Justice…