How to be a Responsible forum member

How to be a good poster

It is very simple. Any forum community out there has one major requirement for it to be successful. There has to be discussion of topics that interest the community. If there is something that interests you, whether it be D&D, Magic:The Gathering, or *any* other topic, chances are very good that there is a WotC forum that has other people who are also interested in talking about it. Find the forum, and talk about it.

First impressions count. Whether it is true or not, posting in leet-speak gives the impression that the poster is lazy and uneducated. You should strive to post in as clear a manner as possible. Grammar, spelling, punctuation, paragraphs all help, with the understanding that not all our boards brethren and sisters are native english speakers. Basically, use all the stuff your english teachers told you about. Paragraphs, commas, periods, capital letters at the beginning of sentences, all that stuff.

It is possible that you are the first person to have come up with a discussion topic, but it is unlikely. Check the first couple of pages of threads to see if the topic has been discussed before. If so, use that thread. AT the same time, if the thread is over 2 weeks old, it is probably fairly safe to start a new thread. However, look before you post. Maybe your issue has already been addressed.

You don't go to a dentist to get your eyes examined. In the same way, put posts in the appropriate threads, and threads in the appropriate forums, you will get better responses this way.

Try to keep posts on topic. If ya gotta go OT, do it in style, you may get to do it only once.

Post information, links, data to support arguments, statements, opinions. Blind assertions are rarely convincing, even this one.



How can I contribute to the community

This is also very simple. Any community thrives and grows on interactions between its members. The more people interact, the more the community grows. If someone is posting a question that you know the answer to, post your answer. If someone else provides and answer and you disagree, it is allright to say so. Tell them that you disagree and then, and here is the important point, tell them why. There are proper ways to tell them:
[indent]I disagree for the following reasons...[/indent]
and there are improper ways to tell them:
  • I could get a more intelligent response than that by allowing my dog to chew on my keyboard.
  • You are wrong.
  • Bwahahaha.


The first response allows for communication and a discussion to start. The other responses do not.


What is Netiquette

Face to face, we have manners and politeness as the grease that smooths social interactions between people. The net is different. Anonymity on the internet provides for a greater freedom to act in ways that they wouldn't act face to face.Not safe for work
Thus has grown netiquette. Netiquette is the series of rules and behaviours (often unwritten) that have been developed in almost all online communities. Netiquette will vary from website to website, from forum to forum, and even from sub-forum to subforum.
For example, playing Magic:The Gather Online without pants is a very popular way to play. Playing Magic:The Gathering at your local gaming store without pants is a very bad idea.

I highly recommend going through the set of pages here for a very basic introduction to netiquette.


Disagreeing with someone

You are eventually going to come across someone who holds a point of view or is arguing a position that you disagree with. Their holding of a position different from yours in no way invalidates your point of view.

When disagreeing with someone, you are more likely to get a friendly response if you frame your disagreement in how you disagree with their position, rather than how they disagree with your position. In other words: "I prefer to look at it this way... In my opinion, it works better like this...I feel that this is the proper way to do this..." instead of "You are mistaken...Your point of view is...You are doing it wrong".

Now there are always cases where you will need to use 2nd person (you) instead of first person (I). Make sure that the phrasing that you are using is not overly antagonistic.


Respecting the IP rights of others

Intellectual Property (IP) rights are fairly complicated. At its most basic, as soon as someone, anywhere creates something, they own the rights to decide what to do with it. IP rights are exclusionary in nature, in that they allow the creater/owner of the IP to determine exactly how it is distributed. If other people want to use it, outside of the orginal context, they need to get permission from the owner to use it in that manner.

For example: Webcomics. There are a large number of webcomics out there, from Dilbert to Foxtrot to Chainmail Bikini and Order of the Stick. If you wish to start a discussion about a topic, it is acceptable to provide a link to the original. It is not acceptable to save the image to wherever you save your pictures online and then include that image in your post, even if it has the owners copyright on it. Do not assume that just because it has been posted on the web that you are allowed to copy/paste it wherever you want.

What you are doing when you do that is you are assuming that the owner of the copyright has given his permission for you to use the image in that manner. In addition, various forums and webpages where you might use the image might have Terms of Use that allow them to use any image that you post on their forums in any manner that they want, without providing compensation to the owner of the IP. The WotC ToU have such terms. By posting images to the WotC forums, you are assuming that the owner of the IP will agree to allowing WotC to use the IP however they want.

In the end, it comes down to basic courtesy. If you want to use something that belongs to or was created by someone else, ask their permission first. Unless they state otherwise, the safest thing to do is to link to it.

I am not a lawyer, and the above should not be considered legal advice. Should you have any questions about IP Law, go see a lawyer that is familiar with IP law.


What is flaming??


Flaming is the hostile and insulting interaction between Internet users. Flaming usually occurs in the social context of a discussion board, Internet Relay Chat (IRC) or even through e-mail. An Internet user typically generates a flame response to other posts or users posting on a site, and such a response is usually not constructive, does not clarify a discussion, and does not persuade others. Sometimes a flamer is simply an individual who believes he or she carries the only valid opinion. This leads him or her to personally attack those who disagree. Occasionally, flamers wish to upset and offend other members of the forum, in which case they can be called "trolls". Most often however, flames are angry or insulting messages transmitted by people who have strong feelings about a subject. (from )

If you find yourself getting emotionally invested in the messages, to the point that you are getting angry and/or worked up and are thinking about attacking them in a post, you are getting too close to the topic. Remember to discuss/attack the posters points, not the poster.


What is a troll?


A troll is someone who posts controversial and usually irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, with the intention of baiting other users into an emotional response or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion. (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_troll)

A troll is not someone that you disagree with. It is very possible, and highly likely, for people to have two different viewpoints on a topic. Someone disagreeing with you in no way diminishes the validity of your position. The differences in opinion, how we get to our opinions, and the discussions that result is what causes a community to grow and expand.


What is baiting??


Flamebait is a message posted to a public Internet discussion group, such as a forum, newsgroup or mailing list, with the intent of provoking an angry response (a "flame") or argument over a topic the troll often has no real interest in. (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flamebait)

Imagine the troll as a fisherman, and his words are the bait at the end of a hook. Responding to baiting with flaming only means you're taking the bait, and doing exactly what the troll wants.


How should I deal with a troll??


The first thing to remember is that you don't deal with a troll. Trolls thrive on attention. They enjoy starting something up and then watching the disruption it causes. There are two things that you should do when you come across a troll post.

  • Report the post.
  • Ignore the post.


Yes, you read me right, I am asking you to ignore the post. Nothing that *you* can do will have any effect on the troll. You won't change their mind or anything. All you will do is keep the topic on the front page. Ignore it, and the topic will drop off the front page and disappear.

But the Troll is spreading incorrect information?

It is fairly counter-intuitive, but ignoring the trolls does make them go away. It is a tested and true method on UseNet, which is *much* more anarchic and chaotic than here. If you feel that you absolutely must respond, do so calmly. Refute the points of the OP, and do no more. The troll is looking for emotional responses to feed on and build upon.


Responding to Trolls

Someone always responds. Always.

The problem is that most responses take the bait. What you want are posters who can respond to trolls in a way that defuses their comments and redirects the thread back on track:

Newbie: Hi! I've been reading the previews and I'm concerned that wizards won't have access to the same diversity of spells.
Helpful Poster: I'm worried about that too, but the recent article on Rituals really mollified my fears.
Productive counterpoint: Really? Because the article led me to believe everybody could use Rituals, so Wizards just don't seem as unique as they did in 3rd.
Ranter: That's just stupid. Of course wizards are unique. They're the only freakin' arcane class in the PHB. What's more Wizards would be complete morons if they nerfed wizards, the most popular class in the game. If you guys think wizards are generic, you guys must be shills for Paizo. I means, for goodness sakes, Pathfinder is all about the "Raaragh! Nobody better outshine the wizard" that made 3rd edition completely unplayable! What a bunch of 'tards.
Polite Correcter: Yeah, Ranter, nerfing wizards would be a pretty stupid move, but I don't think calling people "shills" really isn't the proper way to respond here. Hey, Helpful Poster, can you link to that article? What does it say about who can use Rituals?

Basically, the formula goes:
-Agree with some kernel of truth from troller's statement.
-Point out, but downplay the inflammatory nature of the post.
-Ask a direct question that moves the thread in a different direction.
-Report the post.

This does a couple key things:
1. Other people reading the thread see that someone has already called out the troll on their behaviour, so they feel less need to do so themselves.

2. By agreeing with something the troll said, it makes it much harder (and much more noticeable) if he tries to flame you in response. It also makes those who would respond with flames look really bad.

3. Since the conversation has moved on, responding to the troll is now a jarring discontinuity. If someone DOES take the bait and flame the troll later, you can use the exact same trick on them:
Polite Correcter: "Yes, Anti-4e Ranter, there seem to be some problems with how they're handling 4e (Addendum: If they say nothing at all you can agree with, invent something that they would seem likely to say, attribute it to them, and then agree with that. ), but we were letting Ranter's comments slide so he didn't derail the thread. So, Productive Counterpoint, you said..."

4. By making the post just after the trolling be as light-hearted as possible, it makes the trolling post look worse and stick out like a sore thumb, which helps the mod identify it and decide to act on it. The idiot jumping up and down, screaming obscenities looks a lot more out of place in an afternoon social than he does in a mosh pit, so make sure he's surrounded by tea cozies and baroque music.

Please Note
Responding to a troll with an accusation that the other poster is trolling is itself a violation of the CoC. If you think the other person is trolling, report the post via the Report Post button. But first, ask yourself the following question: Is the person actually trolling, or is this simply a situation where we will just have to agree to disagree??


Trolling via PMs

There is the occasional troll who will send you a truly offensive or insulting message via the PM system used by WotC. In this case, as there is no report post button, there are a couple more steps you need to do. You should take a screenshot of the message in question (the Print Screen button on most PCs), save it into a file (either through Paint, Word, Wordperfect or other program) and send it directly to the WotC CS department using the Contact Us form, the link to which can be found at the bottom of each forum page. You will need to Login (It is a different loginID than the forums login, and submit a CS ticket.


Threadcrapping

Threadcrapping is the act of going into a thread on topic X, and making a negative statement about X and doing so in a manner that does not result in further discussion on the topic.

For Example:
Topic:Elves make the best rangers because of their fluff background
Body of OP - Several paragraphs on how fluff a, b, c and d means elves would be the best rangers.
Responses 1 to 10 - Various responses discussing the fluff and going into more detail.
Response 11 - I don't think so. Fluff bits X, Y and Z indicate to me that elves would be better as wizards.
Response 12 - Elves suck!!

Response 11, even though it is disagreeing with the premise of the OP, is still allowing for discussion. The poster has provided a point, and has said why s/he disagrees with the OP.
Response 12 is threadcrapping. It serves no useful purpose other than to disrupt, mock, or belittle the discussion in the thread.


A mental exercise in being a good forum member

Imagine, if you will, even for just a moment, that every person on the internet is an actual person, with all of the meaty and philosophical ramifications that entails. Imagine that you are about to say whatever you are typing in a crowded room full of these peers, rather than from behind a veneer of anonymity. Would you feel decent about what you were saying and how you were saying it? Would you worry about which people might bear grudges or have hidden weapons? If there is no hint of remorse, shame, or fear, and your sanity is intact, post on. Otherwise, find another way to express yourself.


Who are WizOs?

WizOs are contractors hired by Wizards of the Coast who work for the Customer Service side of the forums. They are responsible for ensuring that all community members follow the Code of Conduct when posting. They are alerted to potential problem posts by people who use the Report Post button. When they find a post, they examine it and determine what they should do. Options range from a simple post in the thread asking people to calm down, to warning a specific poster (by PM) all the way up to banning a poster from the forums. Bans may range from temporary (a couple of days) to permanent. Other than a few WotC employees, WizOs are the only ones who have the ability to alter threads and posts.


Who are VCLs?

VCL Program defined by CM.

VCLs are Volunteer Community Leads. They are volunteers who answer to the Community Management side of the forums. They are responsible for assisting in the content moderation of the forums. Content moderation is ensuring that posts are in the proper forum, that threads that have gone wildly off-topic are closed in addition to stickying threads and gathering information from the community. They are chosen by WotC based on their posting history on the forums and their track record of helping people. VCLs work directly with WizOs for editorial moderation; the VCL asks that a moderation task be done, the WizOs perform the task. VCLs work with FLs, CM, and the WizOs to perform their tasks.


Who are FGs?

FGs are Forum Guides. Forum Guides are members of the community who work with a VCL to help that VCL's community in whatever way the VCL feels is best. Forum Guides have no additional access or authority over other community members, although they are given an official title in recognition of their official status, and are bound by the same policy and conduct guidelines as VCLs.

Each eligible VCL is assigned 6 forum guide slots that they may fill at their discretion. VCLs are expected to actively manage and mentor their forum guides, and in many cases, groom them to become the next generation of VCLs.

Forum Guides also may use their time of service as a forum guide as experience when applying for jobs in the gaming industry in general, and with Wizards of the Coast specifically. We plan on doing some significant growing in all areas of the company, especially Customer Service, and a proven track record as a forum guide can really help a candidate stand out from the crowd.

How are Forum Guides selected?

Forum Guides are selected by VCLs and may be added or removed by VCLs at any time. The only limitation is that each eligible VCL may only have as many as 6 Forum Guides at a time (although they may have as few as 1 or even none).

What if I want to be a forum guide but do not ever want to become a VCL or a job in the game industry? Is it still for me?

Yes! One of the goals of the Forum Guide program is to have it be as flexible as possible so that the position can be molded to fit the skills and passions of the interested community member. Rather than make rigid guidelines for this position, we're leaving it up to each VCL to decide what they want each of their Forum Guides to be doing. A VCL may decide that one of their forum guides helps with editorial moderation by suggesting thread moves and closings, while another might focus on the creation of FAQs and other informational posts, while another might focus on answering rules questions (unofficially, of course), while another might help the community in some way we've never even thought of before.
From VCL - Forum Guide FAQ



Who are FLs?

FL Program defined by CM.
FLs are Forum Leads. They are volunteers who answer to the Community Management side of the forums. FL's advise VCL's on editorial moderation and issues of community building they see need of in their specific areas. VCL's have the final call on editorial moderation. FLs may work with VCLs or CM or on their own on community building projects. FLs typically contribute by being helpful to posters with questions, writing FAQs, communicating community concerns and questions to CM, providing CM with information, suggesting editorial moderation changes, or organizing community building projects or games. FLs do not have any moderation powers, they make suggestions to CM, WizOs, or VCLs as to what they feel needs be done.


Why are there VCLs/FGs/Fls?

CM formed the VCL/FL Program in the Fall of 2007 to meet the needs of editorial moderation and community building in the WIZARDS.COMmunity forums.

Before the summer of 2007 the WizOs who now currently enforce Code of Conduct violations were also tasked with editorial moderation as well as forum community building.

In the summer of 2007, the WizOs were moved to CS, and their responsibilities of editorial moderation and community building were removed. WizO numbers were reduced from 50 or so to 25 or so at that time.

The CM team was charged with editorial moderation and community building. WotC chose not to hire any more people to supplement the 4 member CM team. The CM team was a bit overwhemed with trying to cope with these two tasks over WotC's dozens of forums and disparate communities.

Since there have always been a lot of very helpful volunteers already in the community, people who freely give of their time to help new posters, write FAQs, support forum games, or just contribute to the community, CM decided to leverage the experience, knowledege, and helpfulness of the existing community by asking for volunteers to help with these tasks and created the VCL and FL programs.


Can a FL , FG or VCL ban me/warn me/call me names?

An FL, FG or a VCL has no ban power, no warn power. We have access to the same level of CoC enforcement as everyone else: the report post button (a little triangular button with an exclamation point) on every post.

An FL, FG or VCL may and will occasionally caution folk about possible CoC violations, but it is just that, a caution that a post or thread might not fit within the CoC. Any official action will come from a WizO responding to the use of the report post button.

If you feel an FL, FG or VCL is threatening you in any way, you are strongly encouraged to discuss it, either with them directly via PM or responding to a post, or with the CM team.

We can call you names, but we're subject to the same CoC as everyone else. And since CM doesn't like FLs or VCLs making folk mad, maybe the WizOs are a little more strict with us.


Who are the other people in the forums??

The overwhelming majority of people that you will see in the forums are exactly like you. People who are here to talk about their favourite game, be it D&D, MtG, MOL or any number of other games. However, there are a couple of other people that you might see around:
  • Scribes
    Scribes are people who have been tasked with writing and maintaining FAQs.
  • GMs
    In the play by post (PbP) areas of the forums, there are certain areas that have people who are responsible for those forums. They are called GMs.
  • UnCon Winners
    UnCon is a community, online convention that is run for the community by the community. There are numerous contests that occur during UnCon, and winners traditionally get the title Uncon Winner.



Code of Conduct

You will often see a mention of the CoC. The CoC is the Code of Conduct, and is the rules that we all agree to in order for WotC allowing us to play on their forums. You can find the CoC here. If you have never read it before, I would recommend doing so now. All of the points of the code are fairly clear. If you have a question about one of the term, and whether or not something that you would like to do is against the CoC or not, you can ask on any one of the Community Business forums, and someone will try to answer it for you. That being said, it is the WizOs who are trained in applying the CoC, so any response that is not by a WizO is just a guess.


Contact Customer Srvice

If you have a problem with the WizOs, with PMs, or with anything else relating to your account, your best bet is to contact Customer Service. You can contact them here. If you have never submitted a ticket through the system before, you will need to register. The UserID and password that they ask for are not eh same ones as you use to log onto the forums.


Thanks to:

In no particular order

Zherog, Algona, KillerGM, Webster, WizO_theHutt, emwasick, Uncle_Mikey, Shining_Demon, Wight_Chocolate, calronmoonflower, bhu, johnnyquest.

I also want to thank the others who, while not directly contributing to the document, contributed to discussions that helped in its creation:,emwasick, wrecan, Zinegata, Vaalingrade Ashland, KnightBrokenCross, natedawg, tempesteye, Gamer_Zer0, Xeptian, seTiny, AndrewW, KJW, AJ_Impy, kharmin, Obsidianjaerc, Keithric, zahori, thecasualoblivion.

Special thanks go to Autumn_Serene for extensive help in editing and clarifying the document.
Mudbunny SVCL for DDI Before you post, think of the Monkeysphere
Please do not reply to this. I will be requesting it closed and stickied.

Also, see this post:

Maintaining Civility: A D&D 4E FAQ

What is this?

Your fellow user here would like to see as many productive, civil discussions here as possible. What follows are some ideas on how we can all work together within the Code of Conduct (CoC) to make this happen.

What does it look like when someone breaks the Code of Conduct(CoC)?
Many CoC violations are in a gray area. The context of a given post is very important. Disagreeing with someone else (or even everyone else) is not bad conduct. Neither is disliking all or some features of the new edition of D&D. Being factually wrong or confused about the game is not a CoC violation either.

How can we tell if someone breaks the CoC?
We cannot. That's what the button at the upper right of a post is for. Report things that you think are CoC violations. If you take matters into your own hands, you too are probably breaking the CoC. Calling someone a troll or flinging insults back at someone is counterproductive, since it's often very hard to punish or even discern the "real troublemakers" when this happens.

Sometimes we get into really heated discussions here. What's the difference between a trolling post and one that disagrees with me strongly?
It's possible to strongly disagree with someone and not attack him or her on a personal level. Discussing ideas is great, but if you feel that a post is meant to insult or provoke people on any basis (race, gender, hair color, favorite edition of D&D, etc) then you should report it. If you feel that someone is deliberately intimidating other users into silence, attempting to get threads closed, or otherwise trying to shut down discussion, report the post.

So if I report the post, the problem will be fixed?
Maybe. This depends on the discretion of whoever reads your report. Make sure that you identify the post by number and that you explain clearly what makes it inappropriate. Don't assume that the person reading the report knows what you know and will react as you react. Use quotations from the offending post if it is very long. Don't be sarcastic or poetic- just make your point clear.

What are some typical CoC violations?
Deliberately insulting other people (individually or as a group), replying with deliberately misleading or off-topic information, masking the use of profanity, and encouraging or enabling illegal activities are some typical CoC violations. Read the CoC!

Is the user's intent a big factor in whether something violates the CoC?
In some cases, yes. That's why context is a big deal. The user's posting history, the tone of the thread, and the immediate context of the thread are some of the factors considered.

What's the best way to respond to trolling?
A detailed report will do nicely. If you think that someone is posting whatever it takes to make people angry, you cannot hope to say anything to change his or her mind. He or she isn't here for a discussion.

Will the trolls stop?
If a lot of people report posts that actually are CoC violations, the offending poster is more likely to be punished. Reporting things that you don't think violate the CoC just to "get someone in trouble" is not helpful.

What will make things worse?

Responding to CoC violations with more CoC violations will make things worse. If you see something bad, don't say, "Reported!" or "Nice trolling, Trolly McTroll!" or "Have fun on my ignore list, *******!" If a mod sees a thread going that way, he's more likely to lock it. This is exactly what disruptive posters want. Further, if the mods think everyone on these boards is a jerk, they won't feel like anyone in particular is worthy of punishment.

Does reporting make me a bad person?
There are people who say that reporting posts is not cool. These same people often have a lot of posts edited or deleted by moderators.

What if someone is spreading misinformation in a trolling post?

If you feel you must stand up for the truth, correct whatever you think is false and ignore the portions of the post that you think break the CoC. Then report the post. Responding to taunts and abuse on the internet is unproductive.

What if someone is maybe a troll in a subtle way?
Report the posts and explain your reasons. It may take longer to get results if the issue is complex.

What if this doesn't work?

There will be people you think are trolling that are not doing so in the eyes of Customer Service. If your reports do not result in the editing or deleting of that user's posts, you may just be experiencing a very strong difference of opinion. If you feel that this user can only make your day worse, use the ignore feature. Left-click the poster's name and select "View public profile." From there you can choose to ignore the user. You can always choose to "un-ignore" the user later or to view individual posts if you have a change of heart or a morbid curiosity.

Why did you write all that stuff?
I'd really like to see this forum become a nice place to visit for old and new D&D fans, game designers, and anyone curious about our quirky little hobby.

Benevolent God of Death "No one told you when to run."