SuttaCentral

Community guidelines revision

Dear friends,

We’ve been having a look at our community guidelines in effort to help us maintain this forum as a friendly space for Dhamma discussion. We’ve come up with a revised draft and are keen to get input from the community before finalising the update.

To keep things neat and tidy, you’ll find our working draft in the drop down box labelled “Community guidelines revision draft” below and we warmly welcome you to have a read through and give us your feedback and suggestions.

To keep the process orderly, we’ve draw up a few practical, supporting parameters to contain the discussion:

  • A 7-day time cap has been put on this thread after which it will automatically be closed.
  • The poll below can be used to express general support or disapproval for the revision.
  • We’re really looking forward to as much community participation as possible, but also want to remain focused, so when commenting please give clear, concise, and direct suggestions of how you think guidelines could be improved rather than vague criticism.
  • All off-topic and trolling posts will be removed.
  • All (on-topic) comments will be considered, but please note they may not end up in the final draft - we’re eager to have the guidelines represent the community at large, but at the same time definitive decisions have to be made.

Community guidelines revision draft

This is a friendly place for Dhamma discussion

Please treat this forum with the same respect shown in a temple. We, too, are a community spiritual center — a space to share Dhamma ideas, understandings and questions, where the practice of Right Speech underpins all conversation.

The main theme of this site is Early Buddhism. We are interested in discussing early Buddhist texts, their meaning and historical context, how these teachings evolve and relate to later traditions, and how they may be applied in the present day. If you’re interested in more general Buddhist discussion, there are plenty of other great forums out there.

We are delighted to have you participate in this forum, but if you choose to do so please adhere to the simple principles given in these guidelines. They are intended as an aid to help you safeguard this community and keep the forum a kind, supportive, and enriching place for Dhamma discourse.

##Improve the discussion

Please help to make this a joyful place for discussion by improving the discussion in any way, however small. If you are not sure your post adds to the conversation, reflect over what you want to say and how you want to say it. You can always contribute later.

One way to improve the discussion is by discovering ones that are already happening. Please spend some time browsing the topics here before replying or starting your own, and you’ll have a better chance of meeting others who share your interests.

##Be agreeable, especially when you disagree

You may wish to respond to something by disagreeing with it. That’s fine: the Buddha said we should praise what should be praised, and criticize what should be criticized. But remember the advice of the Araṇavibhaṅga Sutta: criticize ideas, not people.

Please avoid:

  • Name-calling.
  • Ad hominem attacks.
  • Responding to a post’s tone instead of its actual content.
  • Knee-jerk contradiction.
  • Passive-aggressive tactics.
  • Psycho-analysing other commenters.
  • Threatening people with kammic retribution!

Instead, consider first the things that should be reflected on before criticizing another (from MN 21 Kakacūpama Sutta, and Vinaya Kd 19.5.2):

I will speak at a right time, not at a wrong time; I will speak about what is true, not about what is not true; I will speak with gentleness, not with harshness; I will speak about what is meaningful, not about what is not meaningful; I will speak with a mind of loving-kindness, not with inner hatred.

Why is the Buddha’s speech so persuasive? It’s because he always spoke clearly, kindly, and rationally. If you do the same, you’ll find that people will be much more open to your ideas.

Accept admonition gracefully

If you write something that doesn’t abide by these guidelines, we’ll call you out on it. If you are moderated in any way, please take the opportunity to appreciate the gift you’ve been given — to have someone willing to highlight your lapses and help you grow is a great Dhamma blessing.

Typically, the moderators will seek to settle issues that arise through informal dialogue with the people concerned and will attempt to smooth things over. Responding to moderation in such a way that moves towards understanding and harmony tends to happily resolve problematic issues.

If an issue cannot be resolved like this, or if it’s more serious, you may receive an official warning. This is a yellow colored private message that contains the words “official warning”. If you receive three official warnings you will be suspended from the forum for one month. If you receive two more official warnings after a suspension has been lifted, you will be permanently banned.

The moderators’ primary duty is to maintain a safe, kind environment for all users and they must use their discretion to this end. This may, for example, entail:

  • Encouraging Right Speech within a thread.
  • Pulling people up when their speech is unkind.
  • Redirecting a thread that has deviated significantly from its original post.
  • Editing or deleting a post.
  • Closing a thread.

If you feel a decision is unfair, please represent your side of things in a friendly, constructive manner. The moderators want to be as fair to you as possible, but keep in mind that they are often acting on behalf of other users who have raised flags and need to balance everyone’s interest.

Responding well to admonition is regarded as a basic sign of integrity in Dhamma communication. If you respond with anger, insults or by attacking the admonisher, the site, or those running it, expect to find yourself permanently banned.

##Skilful participation helps us all

Engage in discussions that make this forum an interesting place to be — and avoid those that do not.

Discourse provides tools that enable the community to collectively identify the best (and worst) contributions: bookmarks, likes, flags, replies, edits, and so forth. Use these tools to improve your own experience, and everyone else’s, too.

Let’s try to leave our temple better than we found it.

##If you see a problem, flag it

Moderators have special authority; they are responsible for this forum. But so are you. With your help, moderators can be community facilitators, not just janitors or police.

When you see bad behavior, don’t reply. It encourages the bad behavior by acknowledging it, consumes your energy, and wastes everyone’s time. Just flag it. If enough flags accrue, action will be taken, either automatically or by moderator intervention.

In order to maintain our community, moderators reserve the right to remove any content and any user account for any reason at any time. Moderators don’t preview new posts in any way; the moderators and site operators take no responsibility for any content posted by the community.

To learn more about the flagging system, visit our flagging guide [note: a link to this guide will be added here shortly].

##We might not always be wise, but we can always be kind

Nothing sabotages a healthy conversation like rudeness:

  • Be civil. Don’t post anything that a reasonable person would consider offensive, abusive, or hate speech.
  • Use the forum to improve your own Dhamma practice. Don’t post anything that you would not say to that person’s face, in a temple, in front of the Buddha.
  • Keep it clean. Don’t post anything obscene or sexually explicit.
  • Respect each other. Don’t attack, harass or grief anyone, impersonate people, or expose their private information. Internet harassment is a crime.
  • Respect our forum. Don’t post spam or otherwise vandalize the forum.

These are not concrete terms with precise definitions — avoid even the appearance of any of these things. If you’re unsure, ask yourself how you would feel if your post was being read by the Buddha.

This is a public forum, and search engines index these discussions. Keep the language, links, and images safe for family and friends.

##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:

  • Don’t start a topic in the wrong category.
  • Don’t cross-post the same thing in multiple topics.
  • Don’t post no-content replies.
  • Don’t divert a topic by changing it midstream.
  • Don’t sign your posts — every post has your profile information attached to it.

If posting to the Watercooler category please take particular care to make sure your post belongs there. As noted above, this forum is about Early Buddhist Texts. We do, nevertheless, have a Watercooler category for more informal, relaxed, light-hearted Dhamma exchange. Whether posts to this category are directly on the EBTs or not, there is an emphasis on the “cooler” part of “Watercooler”. It’s a place to support each other and make connections, not to prove a point or for heated debate so if a thread strays too far from this category’s purpose it will be moved or closed.

Rather than posting “+1” or “Agreed”, use the Like button. Rather than taking an existing topic in a radically different direction, use Reply as a New Topic (found under the share a link icon).

##Only post things you have a right to

You may not post anything that contravenes any copyright laws. Normally short quotes and the like are fine, but full texts and other material can only be posted with the proper licencing permission. Make sure that the terms of any licence are clear, either by including them in the post, or providing a link. You may not post descriptions of, links to, or methods for stealing someone’s intellectual property (software, video, audio, images), or for breaking any other law.

##Terms of service

Yes, legalese is boring, but we must protect ourselves — and by extension, you and your data —against unfriendly folks. We have a Terms of Service describing your (and our) behavior and rights related to content, privacy, and laws. To use this service, you must agree to abide by our TOS.


NOTE: This document is based on the “Universal Rules of Civilized Discourse”, which is supplied by default with Discourse. It has been modified to make it more Buddhist!

You can see a comparison between the current guidelines and the prosed draft here.

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  • I support the proposed revision
  • I support updating the guidelines, but the proposed revision needs further amendment
  • I do not support the proposed revision

0 voters

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Please also see the poll lower in the thread on whether or not posts to the Watercooler category should be on the Dhamma, or be open to general topics.

Much thanks for your thoughtful involvement.

Warmly,
Aminah, on behalf of the mod team

8 Likes

I suggest adding a line in the forum guidelines about commitment to free speech and acceptance of diversity of opinions. I know diversity of opinion is tolerated as of today, but a specific line in the forum guideline about it would show the forum has a strong commitment to free speech and will do efforts to preserve it in the future.

Many members would be happy to see a strong commitment for free speech made by the moderation team, as other forums have done too.

I also suggest making clear what we can and can not post in the watercooler category, or weather it will exist or not in the future. I am asking because the rules right now are very blurr. I have been informed that my topic about Suburbia and it’s impact on the environment will be deleted if I do not edit it and try to make a connection to the dhamma. I taught the wattercooler is not about dhamma and topics regarding ecology are permitted. The lines are very blurr today and I hope clear guidelines will be decided by the end of this topic because I honestly have no idea what can be posted in the watercooler category right now. I keep thinking of it as the Lounge on DW but it’s nothing like that.

1 Like

Perhaps it might be helpful to highlight what is new or changed in the proposed revision compared to the standing guidelines.

5 Likes

Thanks Mkoll, good feedback - I’ve added a comparison view to my original post.

2 Likes

What about basing the standard for making a post on MN 61, “Advice to Rahula”? (Link because the suttacentral version is down). Excerpt:

“Whenever you want to do a verbal action, you should reflect on it: ‘This verbal action I want to do—would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both?

Would it be an unskillful verbal action, with painful consequences, painful results?’

If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be an unskillful verbal action with painful consequences, painful results, then any verbal action of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do. […]

So, for example, a main rule could be that before you submit a post on suttacentral, you have to consider whether the post will lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both.

If it fails this standard, don’t post it!

Furthermore, the way to get out of trouble with the mods for any particular post, could be to show how you have considered the afflictive potential of your post, in terms of how it affects yourself, others or both.

Another very interesting aspect of MN 61 (also found in its parallel SA 14):

“All those contemplatives & brahmans [of the past, in the future and in the present] who purify their bodily actions, verbal actions, & mental actions, do it through repeated reflection on their bodily actions, verbal actions, & mental actions in just this way.

By making this reflection a part of the rules in this way, it may act as a support for everyone’s practice.

For example, before posting this I took ~10 seconds just to consider whether this post would lead to any painful consequences for myself or others. Since I don’t think it will, here I go :penguin:

14 Likes

Great changes, Aminah! :pray: I just wonder why you decided to use ‘space to share’ instead of ‘place to share’ :slight_smile:

2 Likes

Much thanks, Vstakan!

:laughing: Now, ‘space’ to ‘place’… hmmm… I’m responsible for that particular one, and what I can say there is an answer to your question, but I fear it may well be lost to the mad logic of layers of continually jigging things about. My best guess, knowing my own predilections, is that at one point in the revising process there would have been either two 'space’s or two 'place’s very close to each other and this would have been a measure to avoid repetition which was subsequently rendered null and void through further evolution.

3 Likes

Thanks for the differentchecker link. It appears there are just different wordings of some guideline advice with only one significant rule change:

If posting to the Watercooler category please take particular care to make sure your post belongs there. As noted above, this forum is about Early Buddhist Texts. We do, nevertheless, have a Watercooler category for more informal, relaxed, light-hearted Dhamma exchange. Whether posts to this category are directly on the EBTs or not, there is an emphasis on the “cooler” part of “Watercooler”. It’s a place to support each other and make connections, not to prove a point or for heated debate so if a thread strays too far from this category’s purpose it will be moved or closed.

I would be interested to understand this new rule change regarding the wattercooler, especially since it’s the only rule change happening.

Do the topics posted in the wattercooler have to be about the dhamma or not ? Will the wattercooler still exist or will it be removed at some point, as some users have asked ?

1 Like

Thanks for the feedback dxm_dxm, I think you’ve touched on a very important issue.

The Watercooler will definitely still exist, but, speaking from my own impression of things, there is a wish to try to keep discussion there much more closely tied to the category description as a friendly, relaxed space, as some conversations tend to go off the rails and drag the environment of the forum down with it.

It’s not my place to say whether posts there should in all cases have direct connection to the Dhamma or not - that’s for others to determine - what I can say is that, irrespectively, I personally would interpret my task as a moderator as a responsibility to make sure that any post there meets the category criteria of being friendly, supportive, non-argumentative and the like and that promotes a kindly atmosphere across the forum more broadly. I think Erik_ODonnell’s suggestions would be especially helpful in this area although, I myself would love to see his idea taken up with every single post.

5 Likes

Great work @Aminah!

Might I suggest truthfulness be included in the guidelines as it is a core principle of Right speech. Discussions here aren’t a competition. I sometimes think people want to ‘win’ at all costs, and being highly intelligent the misinformation is quite subtle. Such people are brain-training themselves into being untruthful, taking them further away from their goal of Nibbana. It’s unfortunate and cannot be moderated. We can only hope they develop more self awareness.

Each time I sign off ‘with metta’, I actually do a moment of metta (AN9.20) , which is said to be of great benefit, so regret sacrificing it for the sake of tidiness.

I would actually like this forum less concerned with tidiness but more concerned with metta to each other and its implications.

Also what are we doing to make newcomers feel settled?

14 Likes

Hi All
I think the following is a bit pompous

If you are moderated in any way, please take the opportunity to appreciate the gift you’ve been given — to have someone willing to highlight your lapses and help you grow is a great Dhamma blessing.

I like “Accept admonition gracefully” though. How about something along the lines of “please take the opportunity to reflect and receive in good faith”

I also think there should be an explicit statement regarding racist, sexist, homophobic speech etc. + links to such speech.

:anjal:

9 Likes

Many thanks, Mat - just a quick line to note that I posted on behalf of all the moderators and the greatness of @Brenna, @Cara and @Kay ought to be underscored muchly - I’m just a tag on apprentice. :slight_smile:

Also, I think your sign off practice is beautiful - I made cooing sounds and everything! I don’t think there’s anything in the guidelines, present or proposed, that interferers with your sign off, I think the point about tidiness is simply that there’s no need to add your name as every post is linked to your user ID.

I think the points you’ve brought forward are lovely. How would you formulate them within the context of the guidelines?

Again, much thanks. Speaking for myself, I kinda agree and I think I prefer your version.

At the same time, in general terms, I do believe the point about admonition being a Dhamma gift is true and I don’t think it is an especially bad thing to be reminded of that occasionally. I’m a bit sorry about not managing to fit the line about Ven Sāriputta in - I have to put my hands up to that one… the section felt like it was getting a bit too long and what’s given in the version here was an attempt to reconcile everything in a reasonably concise way. Anyway, as I say, just my casual thoughts.

:anjal:

4 Likes

I would very much like to see the flagging guide!

3 Likes

Perhaps not directly on-topic, but here’s a recent study that highlights a couple of points that, IMO, are important to consider in this discussion:

"Title: Anyone Can Become a Troll: Causes of Trolling Behavior in Online Discussions

Authors: Justin Cheng, Michael Bernstein, Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, Jure Leskovec
(Submitted on 3 Feb 2017)

Abstract:
In online communities, antisocial behavior such as trolling disrupts constructive discussion. While prior work suggests that trolling behavior is confined to a vocal and antisocial minority, we demonstrate that ordinary people can engage in such behavior as well. We propose two primary trigger mechanisms: the individual’s mood, and the surrounding context of a discussion (e.g., exposure to prior trolling behavior). Through an experiment simulating an online discussion, we find that both negative mood and seeing troll posts by others significantly increases the probability of a user trolling, and together double this probability. To support and extend these results, we study how these same mechanisms play out in the wild via a data-driven, longitudinal analysis of a large online news discussion community. This analysis reveals temporal mood effects, and explores long range patterns of repeated exposure to trolling. A predictive model of trolling behavior shows that mood and discussion context together can explain trolling behavior better than an individual’s history of trolling. These results combine to suggest that ordinary people can, under the right circumstances, behave like trolls."

The full paper is at:
https://arxiv.org/pdf/1702.01119.pdf
or, in Ebook format, at:
https://files.clr3.com/papers/2017_anyone.pdf

Several of the many on-line reviews of the study also elucidate the problem
well, and some consider possible solutions.

The points that I find significant here are:

1: allowing any troll posting whatsoever tends to snowball into further
troll behavior;

2: in the presence of troll behavior, people who wouldn’t normally
behave so themselves are highly (I would suggest: dangerously) likely
to get sucked into similarly unskillful behavior.

5 Likes

[quote=“Aminah, post:1, topic:5204”]
We’ve been having a look at our community guidelines in effort to help us maintain this forum as a friendly space for Dhamma discussion.[/quote]

Friendly is good. :slight_smile:

4 Likes

Excellent work moderators and also all those who have added suggestions–beautiful, thanks!

Re: #14 new”
“One way to improve the discussion is by discovering ones that are already happening. Please spend some time browsing the topics here before replying or starting your own, and you’ll have a better chance of meeting others who share your interests.”

I think this is a really good point, especially since it seems there are increasing numbers of topics/discussions that are repeats, some even with the same or nearly the same discussion title. Obviously in a forum with so many discussions and topics a certain amount of overlap in discussions can’t be avoided, and it’s also not always easy to find and know whether a topic is already on the forum, and hence that one’s topic, idea, question or comment would be better placed in the earlier discussion. Or sometimes if a topic is very long, it’s better to start another one.

But I wonder what could be done to encourage and make it easier for everyone, especially new people (who aren’t familiar with past discussions) to pay attention to this guideline? It might be good to mention the search function. However I know sometimes I’ve searched for a topic but still can’t find it (even when I’m trying to find a previous discussion I’m remembering and want to go back to it). Sometimes this is because I’m not searching the exact right title or terms, or it could be that I’m remembering a topic that came up but was ‘hidden’ somewhere in another discussion, etc. One thing I’ve found helpful in discussions is when someone who recalls another discussion related to the topic posts a link to it.

Although implicitly covered in many other of the guidelines (eg #s, new version, 31, 33, 23–28, 17, 19, 59, 79, 81, 83 as well as in @Erik_ODonnell’s excellent suggestion of incorporating the ‘Advice to Rahula’ MN 61), I would like to see an explicite mention of the type of sarcasm that is really a mask for ill-will (or even subtly attacking). To me, some of what might be called sarcasm is not a problem at all, for example types falling under the category of humor (without ill-will) such as ironic or ‘real-life’ humor (which I quite enjoy) but I’ve also seen sarcasm on SC Discourse that really just seems to be a cover for an attitude of arrogance, superiority and even at times ill-will toward another person (so in that way, passive-aggresive though usually someone engaging in this does not recognize it as such…. but maybe they might be able to see they’re being sarcastic). Often this type of behavior seems to get worse as disagreements in discussions go on and on.

Also somewhat related, I recall a post by @sujato, probably in a discussion on trolling, in which he mentioned that it was unlikely in this type of forum that one could convince another of one’s view. If I find that post I’ll be more specific but I really agreed with it and thought it was helpful for people to consider when continuing to press a certain point. There’s definitely a time for ‘letting go’ (even of something that seems important)! In fact there’s a sutta (sorry, can’t recall which at the moment) about ‘right speech’ where the Buddha explicitly outlines when to make an effort ‘correcting’ (or something similar) someone and when to simply practice equanimity.

I liked the following ( #14 old guideline), and wonder if it or something similar could be kept (perhaps added to #19, new guidleline)

“Be respectful of the topics and the people discussing them, even if you disagree with some of what is being said.”

By the way, I’ve always found it helpful when the moderators explicitly mention something in a discussion such as posting a ‘warning’ or friendly reminder or other things like saying they’re moving the discussion to another category or asking people to start a new discussion, etc. I think it’s a good reminder for all of us of what to pay attention to. Speaking of this, I remember there were recently some suggestions about making these guidelines much more visible on the site (or even always accessible via a link on each page) and I’m hoping the moderators will do that.

One last thing–I remember some time ago a member posting that he didn’t use the ‘like’ button and @sujato replying that it was valuable to do so though I can’t recall all the reasons why or how ‘likes’ specifically relate to the posts–does it make discussion/comments show up in a different order or…? Can someone explain more about this? Obviously I realize it’s a nice thing to let people know you appreciate (or particularly like or are grateful for) their post but what else is is significant, in terms of how the site operates, about ‘liking’?

Jut thought of one other suggestion, that is to say something along the lines of being a good example to others in how and what you post. This would certainly be in line with what the Buddha taught! I thought of this in reading @cjmacie’s post which pointed to how behavior can degenerate. And thanks to our moderators and so many others who are excellent examples!

9 Likes

Thanks for your reflections Deeele, but I’d just like to note that very clear parameters were set for this thread:

Please articulate any suggestions you have for the guidelines within these terms, or find a more appropriate place to explore your views.

2 Likes

Thank you Aminah

I think the guidelines are worthy. However, I would suggest to define the following terms:

  • Name-calling.
  • Ad hominem attacks.
  • Knee-jerk contradiction.
  • Passive-aggressive tactics.

These terms are rather secular or worldly in nature therefore I imagine more orthodox or older Buddhists who are not familiar with such contemporary secular jargon might need clarification.

As for the community in general, as long as the administrators & moderators act within the guidelines of the Buddha in DN 31, namely, to not act with agati (prejudice & bias) due to like (chandāgatiṃ), dislike (dosāgatiṃ), delusion (mohāgatiṃ) or fear (bhayāgatiṃ), i.e., treat all members the same & equally, I think the community will prosper.

Best wishes for your community aspirations :koala:

3 Likes

Here’s a summary of what likes do:

3 Likes

@Aminah, when in the grip of a defilement, what stops someone from performing an unwholesome act is morally wholesome shame and fear (hiri, ottappa). What gives rise to wholesome behaviour is right view, right mindfulness and right effort. It is said that behaviour in a given society is governed by (loka pala) moral shame and fear. In societies where that which is not moral is considered moral (wrong view) or there is no reason to think twice before doing the wrong thing (ie- no consequences of breaking the rules) defilements will be given free reign. No one starts with right view or free of defilements, a degree of effective rules are needed. This is up to the moderators as well as the forum users.

A dysfunctional society turns a blind eye. A society that develops, is happy to receive suggestions and help others grow. We intentionally accept governance and rules as it makes this a better place for ourselves and others. At a more subtle level gaming, one-upmanship, projecting blame on to others, misdirection and pretence spoil it for others and the person as well. No forum guidelines can manage such subtle defilements (kilesa). I guess that is what the practice is for.

I’m saying we all have role in this, ‘internally and externally’.

with metta

7 Likes