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Community Expectations for Rufus on Fire

There's a certain school of thought which holds that rules don't shape behavior as well as expectations do. That is to say that when people are told they can't do something, they're inclined to find something else negative to do, whereas if they're given a positive behavior guideline to follow, they'll find ways to stick with it.

It applies in basketball. Coaches tend to understand intuitively, if not consciously, that providing positive principles for how to play gives players a clearer concept of the strategy the coach has in mind than providing restrictions upon their play. Mike D'Antoni doesn't tell his guys to not lollygag down the floor; he tells them to beat the other team to the other end and find the quickest open shot they can. They both mean the same thing, but one is a more effective way of shaping the action.

So it is with commenter behavior on Rufus on Fire. Thus far, I've been happy to see you having civil, passionate, reasoned, discussion on the site. I want this place to be just that kind of blog, not some wild west message board where visitors drop bombs every which way. Up until now, I've been linking to the USS Mariner comment guidelines, but I think it's time to write and post our own community expectations so that everyone is aware of them.

There are two main expectations that apply at all times:

1 -- We expect you to discuss ideas. That means that you'll chat about issues and stay away from personal attacks. Imagine you're arguing a play with a referee.

"You missed that call. His toes were on the line." You're okay!

"You suck." You've been ejected. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

2 -- We expect you to remember that there are real, live, breathing people from all walks of life who will read whatever you post. That doesn't mean you have to make nice with everyone--because we're going to disagree and passionate people generally don't back down from arguments--but it does mean that you will be sensitive to others' sensibilities when expressing yourself.

I've thought about this for a long time, and just about any rule I'd write is covered by one of these two principles. Obviously, most of the time, we'll be calm and civil and jokey with our conversations, but sometimes, things will get heated. It's in those times that we need to remember the two primary community expectations. Passionate disagreement is unavoidable, but we can disagree heatedly without disparaging each other or needlessly offending other readers.