I feel we might be better served by moderation standands/practices that are a bit more tailored than the blanket EI policies govern all forums. In the next week or so, the Board Guidelines will [most likely] be modified to explicitly allow this. Like any tailored garment, it will be a bit tighter or looser in select spots than an off-the-shelf item. If I pick the wrong spots, it'll start to tear, get in our way, or simply get ugly.
To me, the key elements of EtU are our style [open but civil] and standards [evidence over opinion or rhetoric, where possible] rather than simply our subject ["Science, technology and culture in SF and beyond"]. However, even those simple statements leave a lot of room for interpretation -- and they are only *my* opinion to begin with.
Of course, to be fair, a local policy MUST, be spelled out as clearly as possible and prominently posted. This thread is intended to help me distill a "stickied" policy for visitors to read. Only a fool would try to cat-herd a brain trust like you folks, without taking advantage of your insights (and whatever else you have for me to take advantage of). A fool I may be, but a lazy one, so consider the floor open for discussion.
I realize that it would difficult to come up with suggestions "cold", especially if you are reasonably happy with the way things are. Here are some examples to get you started.
CASE STUDY #1
We had a bit of unpleasantness with a new poster in this thread. Most likely, the OP simply wasn't aware that we expect a different tone than, say, OT, and I *might* have taken some action (a friendly PM or in-thread post) on that basis. However, they also clearly infringed Board Guidelines, so the need for action wasn't too controversial.
However, I did handle the post in ways that are not typical on EI, and --with the consent of those now assembled-- I intend to continue to take similar immediate measures in cases of objectionable content rather than relying on private requests for self-edits.
1) I spoilered the Potentially Offensive Post (hereinafter: "POP")
2) I added a public note of explanation to the POP, outside the spoiler tag
3) I bowdlerized offensive words, to avoid scanning/indexing by NetNannies.
I preserved "the original data" as much as possible, out of respect for the OP's ideas, and to allow everyone to see (if they wished) exactly what was done, and why. In general, I prefer public actions to PMs.
It is always dangerous to trade a little free speech (your total control over your own posts) for a little speed and convenience, but waiting days for an OP to correct insults or obscenities, etc., accomplishes nothing: the harm is done, and the eventual edit becomes almost pointless. In this example, I recieved no reply to my PM, and the OP never edited the post, so the original offensive material would have stood for several days, if I had not taken immediate action. By the same token, after 48 hours, I didn't feel it would serve any purpose to further delete/edit the post myself.
Bowdlerizing the post after spoilering it might seem petty, but between 3-6am ET almost every night, I see several "bots" scanning our site for search engines and NetNannies, and those bots/indexers may not recognize or weigh the significance of spoiler tags. Since it was already after midnight when I saw the post, I felt it was best to mitigate the possible damage. As long as NetNanny and similar site use rudimentary indexing, We WILL inevitably take minor hits against our NetNanny score, but I'd prefer to take those 'hits' for discussion that are in keeping with our charter, rather than gratuitous abuse.
4) I edited an inoffensive post by another poster to remove a quote of the POP.
I also left a note in he edited post explaining what was removed, and apologizing. I always feel particularly awkward altering a post that is completely appropriate on its own, but I also felt that she would understand what I had done, and agree with my reasoning.
BTW, if you click (NOT leftclick->"Open in new tab") the "Post #" link at the right of the post header bar, you get a pop-up containing the URL for that specific post. This is convenient for linking an individual post (vs. duplicating the entire thing), if you won't be choosing parts for comment or reply.
The size and collegiality of our community often gives me the gift of considerable lattitude in action. We generally trust each other's intentions and judgement. Hoever, this makes it thet much MORE important that I receive member feedback about my actions. I might not agree about any specific instance --as I said, this is not a democracy-- but you can be sure that I will weigh your remarks in my future decisions.
Case Study #2
I recently added a warning subtitle to a thread on offensive words.
I found the thread itself inoffensive, but it was clear that it might use words that we don't usually condone.
(...and would irritate the NetNannies, but I felt that free discussion on this topic was a good reason to take the inevitable minor hits to our 'decency' score. Respecting the standards of others, doesn't mean Ms. Grundy gets to blindly tell us to put a toga on Michaelangelo's Pieta or Botticelli's Birth of Venus.)
One might expect a reader to anticipate at least the sterile naming of objectionable words in that thread, as well as discussion of them, but some people might open such a thread never imagining--in the brief instant it takes to click--that it could contain anything but a blanket condemnation of off-color language and the decline of contemporary culture. We all sometimes make snap judgements based on personal values, and sometimes the surprise of the unexpected can make us more upset than we'd have been if prepared.
My intention wasn't solely to spare passing children and nuns from a moment of offense. I feel that labelling such threads can keep them from being derailed by outraged posts and arguments. That's why we always label the Gents/Ladies rooms. It saves a whole lot of time on outrage and apologies. If someone ignores that sign and barges into the 'wrong' room anyway, you can feel quite justified in calling security.
(Yes, yes, I know about the Supreme Court ruling -- but you don't pay me nearly enough to get my top-shelf analogies)
Again, the OP did nothing wrong, and I apologized for adding the subtitle, but I felt she would understand my reason for the "administrative" change.
SUITABILITY OF TOPICS
I've received comments that certain threads aren't "suitable" for EtU. One recent example was "Sam - World's Ugliest Dog", which only "explores the universe" in the most tangential sense. Personally, I don't mind such threads --they are just a 'sharing with the community'-- but I do agree that our "charter", as broad as it is, does not include *ALL* topics.
The line can be a fine one. A "silly news" article on mysteriously purple zoo bears in China would spark discussion of possible explanations whereever it was posted, but if you specifically wanted scientific discussion and otehr cases of environmentally tinted animals, this would definitely be the place to post. A "cute kitty" post would be out of place, by "Why are kittens cute?" would not. Some cultural or social threads are posted here because it is considered a less contentious environment than, say, OT. There have been Review/Beach threads that I would've be tempted to "suck into" EtU if I could [though our smaller readership makes it more appropriate to create a new thread]
I don't have a strong opinion on this matter, so every case is a "judgement call". I'd welcome your input on criteria for appropriate inclusion in EtU.
Posting a stickied version of EtU policies does not cast them in stone. The mod should have the right to refine the sticky, without a vote, with notification posted in a forum thread. (I always wanted to be one of Plato's Benevolent Dictators). I don't anticipate that this will be done very often after the first few months, but I think it is important to keep policy debates and votes on minor changes from clogging up the forum, and distracting from the main substance of our discussions.
PATTERN OF ESCALATION
An occasional edit for minor language infringement won't be held against a poster (i.e. it's not a formal warning under the Board Guidelines, unless I explicitly say it is). HOWEVER, such notices are not simply a courtesy: in six months, I've sent a grand total of 1 PM for offensive language, so a poster who accumulates 2-3 is many standard deviations beyond the rest of us put together.
If I feel I see a pattern that is deliberately disruptive or or discourteous, formal warnings and subsequent actions may escalate more rapidly in EtU than in some other EI forums. There is a difference between our "open discourse" and the "free speech" charter of other forums. Be aware that you may recieve a formal warning on a first offense, if I feel it was intentional or beyond the range of good judgement. You are NOT entitled to "three strikes" (e.g. mutiple edit requests before a formal warning, or multiple formal warnings before a forum suspension, etc. An edit request is a sort of strike in itself -- though, like strikes in baseball, it is a minor thing, and will not be held against you for the rest of your career.)
We often discuss controversial topics: religious beliefs/history/context; applications of biomedical science in humans/animals; gender issues; dietary taboos; popular beliefs and fads; "sensitive" biological functions; cultural values; the slew rate of a High Guard ES-115 Oracle heavy sensor/attack drones at maximum PSL, etc. This could make us a target for trolls or fake/real evangelists of various causes--religious, secular, or hypopharmaceutical. 
1. hy·po·phar·ma·ceu·ti·cal : caused by or characteristic of an insufficient dosage or regiment of a medication, especially psychiatric medication" -- that's yet another Orpheus original, folks. It get ZERO hits on Google as of today, but I predict that you'll see it a lot down the road. (I have a track record for these things)
Edited by Orpheus, 26 September 2005 - 12:17 AM.