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» ODN Rules

Rules and Expectations

The following will outline the privileges and expectations of membership of ODN. Please feel free to address any questions regarding policy to any of our staff. We're here to help you get the most out of your ODN experience.

This community has a diverse group of people, ranging in all ages, religions, races, etc... This is a community where we learn from others and sometimes teach others through the discourse of debate. Ideas are challenged, attacked, defended, supported, etc... The poster is never to be personally attacked. It is understood that in a debate the discussion may become heated at times due to certain topics. Try to remember that the best way to change someone else's position to yours, is to challenge the idea, not attack the poster. Using sarcasm, humor, or wit in your debate style is perfectly acceptable as long as it doesn't cross that line of "flaming" the opposition.

Learn the system
The vBulletin (the forum system) offers a large variety of options and features. It it would be to your benefit to learn and be accustomed to these features, especially the formatting of posts. Feel free to use the Test Forum to practice. Also, be sure to use your User Control Panel to set your preferences and display the information that you want others to know about you.

Managing your account
Account names should not have any vulgar language or sexual content. Users with inappropriate account names will be asked to provide a new user name to Apokalupsis or face administrative consequences. As well, users should be using only one account on this site. If you forget your password, don't panic, this site has a forgotten password feature that will email you a new password, so long as the email you provide for your account is active. This option appears if you try to login with an incorrect user name or password.

If you feel the need to change your account name, you should contact Apokalupsis with your reasons for doing so. Unless you are a relatively new member, you should have good reasons for doing so, as you will be known by other members by your account name.

Lastly, each member is allowed to have 1 and only 1 account at ODN. Creating multiple accounts will result in the closing of any additional accounts as well as possible suspension of the primary account. ODN uses an auto-detection system when it comes to multiple account creation that has proven to be quite effective over the years. This is the only warning that a member will receive on the issue.

  • Posting of links to other debate forums is prohibited.
  • Posting of adult content (porn) or links to adult content is strictly prohibited and will result in an immediate ban of your account.
  • Advertising a business (including posting of links to personal businesses) is also strictly prohibited. Any advertising will be removed and will result in an immediate ban of your account.
  • If you want a personal link to be made available through our resource page, send it to us through a private message, an email, or the contact page.
  • Personal links, such as those to blog posts, are allowed if they link directly to material that is pertinent to the thread in which they are posted. A meaningful portion of the material through the link should also be copied into the post.

Quoting Members
When quoting, please don't quote an entire post to make a point on a specific selection of text. It is only necessary to quote what is relevant to your response. When quoting, please list the the name of the person you are quoting in the quote box. There is a specific "quote code" that is used in the forums. For more on how to use the quote feature, please read this. As well, those wishing to include quotations from other members in their signatures must first seek the permission of the member whom they are quoting.

Quoting External Sources
You are encouraged to provide support for any claims you make through the use of external sources. However, it is inappropriate to simply provide one or more links or sources (including embedded videos) and proclaim that all one needs to do is review them. Readers should not have to access your sources before they understand your argument. Where possible, you should provide a short summary of the link/video you have posted. Members who fail to observe this rule will be guilty of what is colloquially known as "linkwarz."

The following should be followed for proper citation in threads:
1) Other posters should not need to actually click on the link to read your support. The link is primarily for verification purposes and to allow the reader access to further details on the topic - the relevant material you want to use from it should be contained in your post itself. Depending on the context, any of the following options might be suitable:
  • Quote the material verbatim. This does not give you license to copy-and-paste large chunks of text and expect other posters to wade through them to find your support. You should be concise and quote only as much as is needed to support your claim.
  • Paraphrase the material. If you go this route, make sure your paraphrase is accurate and does not misrepresent or exaggerate what the source actually says.
  • If it is a video, you should describe (or if possible, transcribe) the relevant portions of the video that support your claim. Also, if the video allows, point out the key time frames of the relevant information in the video. Don't expect other members to load and watch the video in its entirety to find your cited evidence.
  • If your support is a graphic (e.g. a graph) that can fit comfortably in a post, post the graphic using image tags in your post itself. Else, download the image, then attach the image to the post.

2) When quoting material, the quoted text should be clearly set apart from your main text. The best way to do this is to use indents (to prevent confusion, it is better to reserve quote tags for quoting the poster(s) you are responding to). Simply enclosing your quoted text in inverted commas is not acceptable.

3) You should make it easy for other posters to locate the part of your source that supports your claim. So:
  • If your support is buried in a 5-page article, you should link to the exact page where your support appears (instead of the start of the article).
  • If your support is another post buried in a multi-page thread, you should link to the specific post and not the entire thread. (In case you didn't know already, the number at the top-right hand corner of each post is the link to that specific post.) If your support is spread over multiple posts, state the relevant post numbers.

4) If it is not self-evident, you should explain how the source supports the exact claim you made. For example, if your claim is "The Iraq War is a failure" and your source talks about the death toll of American soldiers in Iraq, do not think that simply citing the source is sufficient to support your claim. You need to explain why this death toll means that the Iraq War has failed.

It is unacceptable for a poster to copy and paste material written by others without acknowledgment. If you wish to use another person's work in your post, make sure you clearly distinguish the quoted parts from the rest of your post (e.g using the quote/indent function), and provide a citation or link to the source you took it from.

Signatures, Avatars, and Images in Posts
Members are allowed to have a signature and an avatar, both of which appear with every one of their posts. As with a member's account name, these should be free of vulgar language and sexual content. Furthermore, signatures shouldn't contain material that is derogatory towards other members or concerns a specific debate.

We recommend using only text in signatures as this is least distracting from the subject of debate, but if users wish to use graphics they may be no larger than 64 kilobytes in size with dimensions no greater than 400 pixels wide by 100 pixels high. No animations are allowed.

The staff may request a user change their signature should it be determined it is too large.

Images in posts which are wider than 620px tend to cause graphical issues with the style of ODN. Those issues seriously inhibit use of the forum in threads where this occurs. As such, any images greater than 620px wide will be edited by staff without prior warning. Continued, repeated posting of images which have to be edited by individuals may result in administrative action.

Opening Posts
All threads started in debate forums must present issues with potential for debate. If there is no opening argument, the opening post should at least introduce the topic being discussed and outline the specific issues to be debated. Merely posting a news article, a video or stating a topic (e.g. No Child Left Behind Act) and asking "What do you think about this?" is not sufficient. If you do not wish to write a sufficient OP, you should post in the "Shooting the Breeze" or "Member Contributed News" forums.

What constitutes an argument?

At ODN, we define an argument as it is defined in most philosophy or critical thinking courses. Specifically, an argument (or a reasoning) is the use of one or more ideas to support another idea. Thus, when an argument lacks reasons, it is neither an argument nor an example of reasoning. Arguments contain both a conclusion and the reasons to accept the conclusion. All debates in the debate forum (with exception of 1 forum) require the opening post to have an actual argument clearly stated.

The exception to the "Argument Rule"

Sometimes the opening post will be more exploratory and is enticing enough to initiate a discussion. The topic may be more serious in nature (philosophical, religious or political) and as such, may not deserve to be hidden away in the Off-Topic (Shooting the Breeze) forum that gets little attention. The proper area for this type of thread is the Formal Discussion forum. Threads here do not initially qualify as a debate but they are at least more meaningful than than an off-topic discussion. Rules of debate threads (w/ exception of the op) are still enforced in this forum however.

Debate Behavior
Vulgarity - Vulgar words or expressions are not allowed on ODN. A language filter is enabled to censor common expletives; please do not attempt to circumvent it.

While the staff usually overlooks isolated or infrequent uses of vulgarity, it will not hesitate to act upon flagrant instances of obscenity or offensive epithets. Examples include vulgarity in thread titles, extensive swearing in a post, etc.

Flaming - Often times, one may wish to engage in sarcasm or a bit of wit; however, please exercise caution when doing so. Assaults on the character of other members are not tolerated at ODN.
Clarification of what constitutes a flame

Notice that terms like "fundie", "neocon", "leftie", "homophobe" are all terms that are defined by someone's views or attitudes. They are treated more leniently because ODN is after all a place where we attack each other's opinions and beliefs, and often such attacks degenerate into disparaging descriptions of each other's beliefs. However, persistent usage of such terms to offend members and provoke flames will garner you a trolling infraction.

On the other hand, terms like "idiot", "d-bag", "a-hole", "rapist" all attack a person's fundamental traits and character. While "rapist" ostensibly describes a particular behaviour, it is a loaded term to use that expresses severe moral disapprobation, and is akin to calling someone a murderer. Under no circumstance should someone be called a rapist, unless he personally agrees and doesn't mind the label. Members who outrightly call others such derogatory names will be penalised for flaming.

Certain terms like "racist" might be more fuzzy, for they both describe a particular attitude and yet carry strong moral condemnation. For such terms, the staff will exercise its discretion in enforcing the flame/trolling rules.

Whatever the case is, remember the general principle that flaming is defined as an assault on another member's character, as opposed to their arguments or beliefs. As long as you stick to attacking people's arguments rather than their person, you should be fine.
Proper English - This is a debate forum that seeks to maintain a high standard of intellectual discussion. Using proper English is part of our expectations. Thus, we ask that you strive to use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation when posting in the debate forums. Members who post in excessive Internet slang (e.g. "u" instead of "you"; abbreviations for common phrases like "IMO" for "in my opinion" are fine) or make no effort to use proper English will be penalised.

This does not mean that the staff will pounce on every typo or grammatical error. We will only penalise those who post in poor English due to a lack of effort, rather than a lack of linguistic skills. For example, frequently producing posts with many obvious typos is a violation, while honest spelling mistakes are not.

Use of Excessive Jargon or Incomprehensible Language in a Debate - The use of excessive jargon or incomprehensible language in lieu of normal English in a debate thread started using non-technical or "laymen" language is unacceptable.

By excessive jargon, technical terms, formal language or incomprehensible speak we mean such language as speaking in a non-English language, writing in l33tsp34k, unexplained symbolic manipulations, use of technical terms not in the general vocabulary, etc.

The purpose of this rule is to ensure that the audience of a debate is able to understand the arguments being made and participate if they wish. It isn't meant to prevent people from using jargon, technical terminology or formal languages, but rather to ensure that this use enhances clarity rather than prevents it. When considering who the audience of a thread is, we will go with the OP as a general rule. That means that if the OP is arguing in layman language, at a minimum, that layman language should be used as a response. Responders are free to add to that by using more formal languages or complex terminology/equations, but those should be additions to the layman response, not substitutions for it.

If the OP starts out with an argument using jargon or formal language then responses can, of course, be constrained to use of that language set or could take the form of layman language or both. The purpose of this rule isn't to remove these types of debates from ODN or even their use in responses, only to ensure that the audience of a thread (as determined by the OP) is able to understand and participate in the discussion.

Trolling - Posting an offensive or contentious message with the intent of provoking flames or causing annoyance to the community is considered trolling. An example would be the repeated and unnecessary denigration of another group of members (e.g. theists/liberals) in your posts, with the aim of upsetting or antagonizing them.  Another example would be posts explicitly intended to mock, denigrate, or otherwise belittle a given position without offering an appropriate opposing position.  Posts or threads that have no obvious purpose except to denigrate others or their beliefs, or to encourage others to do so, will be considered trolling and punished appropriately as such. 

This includes being disrespectful of members by way of the rep system, pm's, shoutbox or even posts, about threads that another member has not responded to. If a member wants another member to address a thread or specific post in a thread, then a respectful pm ought to be sent to that member asking if they will. They are not required to do so by any means, and any attacks on them because they haven't, is considered trolling.

Trolls will be punished severely.

Harassment - Harassment of other members is forbidden. Examples include repeated demeaning remarks about another member in the forums, making members feel unwelcome by asking them to stop posting/lurk more, sending unwanted messages to a member on his user profile or through private messaging after being requested to stop, etc. The punishment for harassment will vary based on the seriousness of the offence.

Spamming - Posts that are wholly irrelevant to the issue being discussed or add nothing of substance to the debate are considered spam and not allowed. This includes, but is not limited to: posts that consist solely of side comments, remarks meant to be witty, or presentation of links and/or material that do not sufficiently contribute to the debate. The purpose of the debate threads are to allow and encourage intelligent discourse and debate. ODN holds the position that wasting time/posts by spamming is counter-productive.

Using outside sources without acknowledgement - When a poster copies and pastes an argument but doesn't make it clear that what they posted was not their work, it is unacceptable. ODN supports an air of intellectual honesty and using others words as your own is dishonest and harmful to debate. If you think someone else's point on the topic should be taken into consideration, provide a link or a citation and clearly mark their work.

"Calling out" of other members - It is inappropriate to publicly create a thread that calls out the behavior of another member (including staff members). If a member's behavior needs to be addressed, use the "report button" for the post, or use the private message system. An attempt to "rally" the community against another member or members, will result in an infraction and immediate deletion of the thread.

If you wish to challenge another member to a debate, please use the Formal Debate forum.

Supporting Claims

ODN is distinguished from other debate spots by its requirement to offer support for claims. This keeps discussions on ODN from devolving into the “nu-uh” type responses so common elsewhere. As such we have a relatively strident support requirement here.

All claims, both positive and negative, must be supported if an opponent requests it (generally, but not exclusively with the challenge tags, Challenge to support a claim.). A claim can be supported either by a relevant piece of external evidence and/or a sound logical deduction.

When challenged to support a claim there are two options, offer relevant support or retract the claim.

If support is not offered (or if the support is irrelevant to the claim) the staff will, at its discretion, strike through the text and post a red letter in the post to the effect that the claim has not been supported and cannot be further used without support. This is, of course, embarrassing, so we encourage you to research your claims before making them or if you realize your claim is unsupportable to retract them. The courage to retract a claim is laudable and often praised here.

To be clear, the staff only judges these matters on whether or not the claim was supported, not how well the claim was supported. Proving the sky is blue by linking a picture is not particularly great support (for a whole host of reasons), but it is support. Proving the sky is blue by referencing your Aunt’s apple pie (without one heck of an explanation) is not support.

Continued use of a claim after staff moderation will result in an infraction and possible banning from that particular thread or in repeated cases, the site in general.  

Reputation Ratings
Reputation, good and bad can be awarded to members based on the standard of the posts given. It is not kudos or criticism simply because you agree or disagree with someone or as payback because they repped you first. Reputation ratings are subject to the same rules as debate posts. This means they must be relevant (not spam as defined above), must be accompanied by explanation, must not contain flames, must not be used as a means to harass other members, etc.

For further explanation, please refer to this thread, for a fuller explanation of the rep system as a whole see this thread: Reputation explained. Please note that some of the content is outdated. However, it is sufficient to explain the use of the Reputation System.

Inappropriate conduct
Breaking of any of the rules above will result in punitive action taken by a staff member. You will receive a warning for minor offenses and if you continue or commit more serious offenses, you may be suspended from the site. If you continue to break the rules, a permanent ban may be in order.

If you see someone breaking a rule, please report it to a moderator using the report button, pm, or email.

If there is a grievance to be filed (with a staff member), please send a private message to a different staff member and they will introduce the complaint to the rest of the staff in the staff forums.

Public challenging of the rules and procedures in the debate forums is not acceptable.

What About Free Speech?
While we may have the right to say whatever we want, we do not have the right to say it wherever we want. You may really despise the junker parked in front of your neighbor's driveway, but you do not have the right to chew him out about it in his own living room. Likewise, if ODN suspends or bans a member for violation of any rules, that member has no "right" to remain. This community is the private property of Apokalupsis. ODN's members are guests.

The ODN Regular Forum

The ODN Regulars are members in good standing in the community who have been registered members for at least 9 months, have a minimum of 750 posts and a rep level of 25,000 or higher. Those who wish to become Regulars must also not have any active infractions - i.e., any infractions received in the past thirty days before applying for admission. Members of this group can post in the ODN Regulars Forum, which is slightly less moderated than the rest of the forums. More leniency is given in this forum, but it is still unacceptable to blatantly flame or troll in this forum. It is acceptable to engage in friendly banter, but crossing the line and showing absolute disrespect for other members is not permitted.

Staff members reserve the right to close threads that they see as fostering mutual animosities or trolling.

Challenging of Staff Decisions
Challenging of staff decisions in public is strictly prohibited. Threads of that nature tend to turn into giant flame fests. As such, they are to be handled in the forum "Ask the Staff." Within that forum, members may privately address the staff as a whole. PM's are also allowed if you wish to address a single member of staff.

The "Site Feedback" forum is only meant to give feedback about the site itself, features, or ask for clarifications of specific policies here on ODN, not to dispute staff decisions.

Respecting Members
The rules serve the purpose of setting specific examples of how inappropriate behavior can be disrespectful to fellow members. They are not exhaustive by any means. And while we maintain that friendly banter and wit are acceptable (and can certainly create a lively debate), excessive sarcasm and condescension can be construed as disrespect. When in doubt, don't do it.

If you feel you are on the receiving end of excessive abrasiveness advise the offending member using a private message. If this is not possible or you believe it is necessary to inform staff, please use the report feature on the post in question and it will be reviewed.

The environment that ODN encourages and enforces is one that the argument or topic is discussed, attacked and defended (not the member). Adherence to our policies and rules is strictly enforced. Again, when in doubt, please don't.

Disrespecting Staff Members
While all the rules above apply to every member, the offense of violating any of the above rules when addressing a staff member, carries a heavier weight. The staff at ODN do far more than engage in debate or ensure that posts are in their appropriate thread and on topic. They are the backbone of this community. Each staff member at ODN not only participates in discussion threads, but also has responsibilities they are obligated to fulfill. There are no staff members in name only. As such, they deserve the respect of the community. And to commit a violation against a staff member, it is a direct assault on the community itself. As a result, infraction levels are much higher as there is less tolerance for such behavior.

When in doubt as to what is or isn't acceptable in a specific thread or post, please refrain from excessive sarcasm, condescension or disrespect. Ask a staff member through PM or in the Ask the Staff Forum. Not doing so, may result in a temporary suspension of your account.

This list is by no means complete or exclusive. The staff reserves the right to take any of the diciplinary actions described above at any time for reasons not specifically outlined above. Any time a member's post is deleted or edited for any reason, that member will be notified by the staff with an explanation. If you notice that one of your posts has changed or disappeared and an explanation was not provided, please contact us immediately.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to address them with the staff.

~ODN Staff

- Updated 10/01/2013 : Excessive Jargon Section Added -
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