A baseline for internet civility


We were talking about updating responses for the forum guidelines, and I was thinking about branching out onto this. The Universal Rules of Civilized Discourse in the FAQ were made to be the baseline for internet civility.

I know walls of text have a reputation of not being read, it is there to affirm when you look. I just quoted the relevant highlights:

This is a Civilised Place for Public Discussion:

Please treat this discussion forum with the same respect you would a public park. We, too, are a shared community resource — a place to share skills, knowledge and interests through ongoing conversation.

  • Help us make this a great place for discussion by always working to improve the discussion in some way, however small.

  • The topics discussed here matter to us, and we want you to act as if they matter to you, too. Be respectful of the topics and the people discussing them, even if you disagree with some of what is being said.

  • Be Agreeable, Even When You Disagree. You may wish to respond to something by disagreeing with it. That’s fine. But, remember to criticize ideas, not people.

  • The conversations we have here set the tone for everyone. Help us influence the future of this community by choosing to engage in discussions that make this forum an interesting place to be — and avoiding those that do not. Let’s try to leave our park better than we found it.

  • If you’re unsure, ask yourself how you would feel if your post was featured on the front page of the New York Times.

I mainly wanted to set this as the baseline against which we weigh things (it is meant to be universal).


These are highlights from codinghorror's Your Community Door, I have quoted them here (I would put the link instead but the post contains a cartoon with some explicit words.)

The post was referring to stronger situations like online abuse, but here it is the randomness and disregard that is the concern. And not necessarily that people need to be shown the door, but it is behaviour and expectations that need to re-calibrated.

I can't remember where I heard this, but someone once said that defending a position by citing free speech is sort of the ultimate concession; you're saying that the most compelling thing you can say for your position is that it's not literally illegal to express. [...]

As we build Discourse, I've discovered that I am deeply opposed to mute and block functions. I think that's because the whole concept of Discourse is that it is your house. And mute and ignore [...] are actively dangerous for smaller communities. Here's why.

  • It allows you to ignore bad behavior. If someone is [disruptive] or harassing, why complain? Just mute. No more problem. [...] Except you are now sending a message to all other readers that this is behavior that is OK and accepted in your house.

  • This is your house, with your rules, and your community. If someone can't behave themselves to the point that they are consistently rude and obnoxious and unkind to others, you don't ask the other people in the house to please ignore ityou ask them to leave your house. Otherwise your house no longer belongs to you, and that's a very bad place to be.

I worry that people are learning the wrong lessons from [...] these global communities where free speech trumps basic human decency and empathy.

The greatest power of online discussion communities, in my experience, is that they don't aspire to be global. You set up a clubhouse with reasonable rules your community agrees upon, and anyone who can't abide by those rules needs to be gently shown.


Note: sorry everyone, I see this must have been a little scary :slight_frown:

It was from the idea that if we don't have the basic guidelines for civility on the internet, I don't really know what we have :pensive: and as a thanks to people for their actions too.

Also it was borne of deep frustration that it seems neither Discourse's mission nor Hopscotch's mission is being honoured on here. :disappointed: I felt each deserved a lot of justice.

I will try to edit it to make it friendlier (and shorter).


Ok. I read this repeatedly and I'm still a little confused about what I just read. Let me try again.

Edit: I think I understand this now.


Yeah. I guess also having a lot of younger users impacts what is said and what is appropriate for the discussions on this forum. I think we sometimes forget the impact that our comments can have on a person and even the whole forum.


Thank you for doing this, I feel that recent events could have been easily avoided if this had just come sooner but better now then never :slight_smile:


I see what the forum is becoming

Change will always occur