CYS Forum Advice and Etiquette

by mizal

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A forum is the beating heart of any community. It’s the first thing to be checked on as a sign of a site’s overall health, and whether it’s pumping toxic sludge, rancid monkeycheese, or good clean blood is immediately apparent. And of course, as a heart doesn’t exist for itself, a healthy forum’s focus is generally expected to be centered on supporting the site it’s a part of.

Chooseyourstory.com is about the stories, and so most threads should at least be tangentially related to the reason we’re all here. Discussion of works in progress or the craft of writing, sharing your own work for the purpose of receiving advice and improving, or if you’re more a reader than a writer, offering feedback, reviews or recommendations. (Thoughtful readers are in many ways just as--if not more--important to the long term health of a community like this than an abundance of writers all absorbed in their own work...)

Posting guidelines are looser in the Lounge, but even then, the dictionary defines message boards as ‘a website or section of a website that is used for public discussion of a specific topic and on which users can submit or read messages’. Key phrases there being ‘public discussion’ and ‘specific topic’.

Your posts are going to be viewed almost solely by writers and discerning readers. And yes, we are judging you. Communication on a forum is done through the medium of typed words, so carefully choose the words you use to represent yourself to others. If what you’re typing is inane, contributes nothing to the discussion, dispenses with quaint notions like ‘punctuation’ and ‘grammar’, or routinely has less characters than the average text from your drug dealer, then perhaps you should reconsider clicking that Post Message button. Absolutely one is waiting with baited breath for anything you have to say, and sometimes it’s better to say nothing at all.

If you’re the one creating a thread, all of this applies doubly. Have a specific point or question, clearly expressed, or don’t bother. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen an OP that’s just one or two vague lines that read like a stream of consciousness from a confused field mouse who just nibbled the wrong mushroom. Do this and you will be poked fun at until the thread is deleted, and it absolutely won’t be acceptable for you to complain. Always remember that when you make a public post on a public forum, you’re flinging the door open and inviting any and all to respond, even in ways you may not like.

Dramatic Disagreements

As the internet is full of people with Very Strong Opinions they’re not afraid to share, there’s a longstanding CYStian tradition of having a massive blow up on the forums every couple of months. As long as they don’t get too out of hand, this is a natural and healthy phenomenon that serves to purge toxins from the system, but also has the side effect of separating the weak from the strong and the emotionally fragile from the well-adjusted. If you find yourself on ground zero during one of these, simply not participating is an entirely valid option. Climbing into the ring is an entirely voluntarily act; once you do, please don’t cry about the results. (The ‘parachuting princess’ phenomena is particularly annoying and should be avoided, or immediately called out for what it is and nipped in the bud if witnessed. That is, someone skydives into a thread they otherwise had no involvement or interest in, lashes out with a ridiculous, accusatory, or insulting statement, then the moment others start responding to the words they typed, their lower lip goes all aquiver, their eyes get big and doe-like and they pretend great helplessness and confusion as they summon in the white knights.)

Once you choose to become embroiled in one of these patented CYS free-for-alls, there are a few do’s and don’ts.

DO keep your responses focused on the actual posts you’re responding to. If someone says something idiotic, wonderful, they’ve now, by the act of clicking ‘Post Message’ on a public forum, invited the public to take apart everything they’ve typed in six different ways and explain the many things wrong with it in excruciating detail. However, DON’T attack the poster themselves. Explaining issues with their behavior is one thing (Note the subtle yet important difference between ‘You are behaving like a little sissy,’ and ‘You ARE a little sissy.’) but once you start flinging four letter words in their face like a chimp with a handful of poo, you’ve 1.) automatically lost the argument by virtue of having nothing relevant to say, and 2.) revealed yourself as disappointingly unimaginative, and bad at communication. Arguably one of the greatest sins an alleged writer may commit.

As a general rule, you should really only insult someone if it’s funny. An inventive, carefully hand crafted insult that you can be proud of as a writer, for instance, lovingly customized in tone and content for the one it’s meant for. Though as something like 80% of the internet has an inflated sense of their own self worth and is bad at picking up or getting across tone, you’re probably not as funny as you think you are and should probably just refrain.

Now on the other side of things, if you find yourself the target of a direct insult or attack, DO remember that the internet is just the internet. It is not a major or essential part of your life; it’s a thing you waste time on for fun. DON’T let it cause your emotions to get all upheaved. If you suddenly find yourself sitting there shaking and frothing with rage, rivulets of tears and mascara running down your cheeks, it is time to take a step back, take some deep breaths, listen to some music or go outside and interact with another human being a few minutes. Don’t worry, the internet will still be there when you return! If you continue posting in this state, the general incoherence and marks of tears and spittle will be very obvious and likely only serve to amuse the masses.

If worst comes to worst, there are many ways to gracefully extricate oneself from a conversation that’s no longer enjoyable. Nothing says you HAVE to keep slugging it out in an out of control train all the way till it flies off the rails and explodes in feces and flames. To simply...stop posting, is an example of one of the simplest and most effective ways to bow out.

Common Sense and Common Decency

Good fences make good neighbors, and keeping things on topic and in their place make for a happier posting environment. It’s not that hard to keep a thread on topic, and yet somehow derails and major disruptions will still happen. The CYS community is more accepting of derails than most sites, partly because the unusual thread layout almost encourages them. To be fair sometimes these lead to interesting conversations in their own right, but at least make sure you have something worthwhile to say, or if these get out of hand you can always suggest a mod split the topic. If you’re only interested in rambling on about unrelated nonsense or picking a fight, at least have the courtesy to go and make your own thread to serve as the latrine. It’s incredibly frustrating to be involved in a good, interesting conversation with multiple people taking the time to contribute long posts, only to check back the next day and find the entire thing’s been nuked because some rando decided to start a brawl or some nonsense tangent with everyone *emoting* at each other while discussing their collection of belly button lint and making barnyard noises.

Some things posted publicly would make more sense as private conversations. Long discussions or arguments or low content chatting with another user that have very little to do with the OP, for instance. On the flip side, you should always use discretion in what you say and to whom. The difference between saving yourself the trouble of summarizing a conversation and being a dirty gossip monger might be a subjective and case by case matter, but when it doubt about spreading something shared with you in confidence, it’s always best to ask. Some people feel more strongly about the inherent privacy of PMs than others, and so you should be aware that anything you say to another, be it your own words or a copy and paste of someone else’s, might be passed around, or in a moment of insanity splashed into a public thread.

Posting a conversation that was meant to stay between two people publicly is a huge breach of trust and etiquette by the way, please don’t ever do it, no matter what kind of state of emotional meltdown you’re in. In other communities this is a bannable offense, and even when there are no strict rules against it, it’s such an inherently inexcusable act that it would be a cause for a major loss of trust and respect.

In a similar vein, oversharing about your personal life, publicly or even in private, is generally not considered wise. In the former, not everyone wants to hear it, cares, or will be as sensitive as you’re hoping, and in the latter, again, there’s no telling how much of it will actually remain private.

Necroing threads is another thing that some CYStians get testier about than others. The rule of thumb is to leave any threads dead for more than four days in the grave, though again, that may be a case by case situation and one you’ll have to use discretion on. But definitely don’t bump an inactive thread unless you have something relevant to add that would make more sense there than in a thread of its own.

The forums may seem intimidating to someone new to internet communities, but they’re more laid back and free than many other sites and you won’t get slapped down by mods for making a mistake or saying something contrary to the hive mind. All you really have to do to fit in is have an interest in writing, demonstrate a basic grasp of the English language, stay on topic, don’t be too annoying and don’t be too easily annoyed.

This article tried to cover the essentials, but I’m sure it's missing a few things. At the time of writing this, JJJ-thebanisher, EndMaster, and Killa_Robot are the most active mods and the ones to contact if you have any further questions.