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Community Standards for iMechanica
As a moderator here on iMechanica, I have deleted a few posts recently that were clearly spam. As iMechanica grows and becomes more visible within the mechanics community and the broader internet community, we can expect the frequency of these kinds of posts to increase.
I think we might also expect to see posts turn from a spirited intellectual exchange to one that is personal. What should the moderators do in this instance? What is the appropriate response? Should we ban members that do this repeatedly? Are there other types of behavior that are deemed unacceptable here?
Many online communities develop "community standards" or a "code of conduct" to provide guidelines to address such situations (and try to prevent them in the first place). As a point of discussion, I would like to draw your attention to the Blogger's Code of Conduct being developed in the Blogging Wikia. There are a few suggestions there that seem appropriate:
- Responsibility for our own words: We take responsibility for our own words and reserve the right to restrict comments on our blog that do not conform to our own standards. Notice that this includes a wide range of things, from personal attacks to copyright violations.
- Nothing we couldn't say in person: This is tricky, isn't it? The internet provides a degree of anonymity. It may be easier to approach a prominent mechanician with a question on iMechanica than it is in person. We certainly don't want to discourage that. However, it also makes sense to think three times before posting or commenting once.
- Connect privately first: If tensions escalate, we will connect privately before we respond publicly. I think this makes sense as well. If we see a member post something inappropriate, we will contact them privately first before deleting or editing their post. In some instances it may make sense to give the member the opportunity to delete or edit the post themselves.
There are many other "modules" listed there which I do not mention here. I welcome discussion and thoughts on other aspects. iMechanica is clearly a very different entity than most blogs, due in no small part to its technical emphasis. I'd like to think that something like this wouldn't need to be developed, but perhaps it is something we should consider carefully.