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Doctor Q

Administrator
Original poster
Staff member
News stories and rumors sometimes produce contentious debates in forum threads. The same is frequently true of threads in the Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. When users have strongly differing opinions, they have the privilege as forum members to express their opinions but not the right to insult or belittle each other. This has long been the site policy and the basis for forum moderation.

Starting today we provide a set of Rules for Appropriate Debate to further clarify what's appropriate and what's inappropriate when posting in a debate. These rules reiterate the prohibitions in the general forum rules against personal insults, name-calling, and trolling, but also add specific requirements, e.g., that users be willing to provide a basis for claims of fact, that they avoid stereotypes and generalizations that constitute trolling and inhibit constructive debate, and that they not belabor a point by repeating it without adding new information. This will improve the quality of forum discussions in news threads, political threads, and other discussion threads.

Why?

Discussions of disputed topics too often devolve into personal flamewars that are of no benefit to other forum users and add little to our forums.

These rules are designed to set minimum levels of civility and encourage fact-based debates, not to promote or inhibit any point of view. We don't expect to change human nature, nor prevent users from having strong disagreements. As always, you can express almost any opinion in the forums but you must do so in an appropriate manner. Only members who have made at least 100 posts in counted forums can post in the Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum, but these rules apply to all forums.

We hope the responsibilities of forum users are clear from the guidelines we provide, but it's difficult to apply a fixed set of rules to human language. That's why the moderators use common sense in applying the forum rules and keep the reasons for the rules in mind. So should you.

Your part

The moderators have worked hard to develop these refinements to the forum rules, but your support is the real key. We invite users to set a good example in the forums, even in contentious debates, and to look for opportunities to inform and learn from others. If you see problems in the forums, please report them to the moderators.

If you have questions about any forum rule, you are welcome to use the Contact form to ask us about it privately or to post in a Site and Forum Feedback thread to ask general questions about rules and policies. You can post in this thread if you have questions or comments about the Rules for Appropriate Debate. Use the Contact form if you want to talk to us about a specific instance of moderation or member discipline.
 
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Hellhammer

Moderator emeritus
Dec 10, 2008
22,164
581
Finland
Finally a rule for sources! I'm too tired to debate against people who cannot provide any backup for their statements while I always try to base my posts on facts that I can backup with sources.

Good job Doc Q and others, maybe this will calm this place down a bit at least
 

QuarterSwede

macrumors G3
Oct 1, 2005
9,581
1,682
Colorado Springs, CO
Or, in my case, stop people posting for fear of having their posts removed. The whole idea of a debate is having an opinion; not necessarily having to substantiate it.
Agreed. Especially when dealing with religious and political debates.

This is exactly why I block Politics, Religion, Social Issues forums. I don't come here to get into arguments, especially ones that no one can win.
 

GGJstudios

macrumors Westmere
May 16, 2008
44,472
859
Finally a rule for sources! I'm too tired to debate against people who cannot provide any backup for their statements while I always try to base my posts on facts that I can backup with sources.
I completely agree! This has been needed for a while, since there have been so many misleading statements being posted.
This is exactly why I block Politics, Religion, Social Issues forums. I don't come here to get into arguments, especially ones that no one can win.
I rarely, if ever, even look at PRSI threads. Like you said, it's a lose-lose scenario.
 

r.j.s

Moderator emeritus
Mar 7, 2007
15,026
51
Texas
The whole idea of a debate is having an opinion; not necessarily having to substantiate it.

There is still nothing wrong with posting an opinion.

However, members who post an opinion as fact, or repeatedly post the same thing, without adding anything new to further discussion, are going to have to adjust to the new rules.
 

dukebound85

macrumors P6
Jul 17, 2005
18,759
3,557
5045 feet above sea level
I am not sure I like these changes for a few reasons
1) Those who troll or insult can be reported via PM
2) Opinions should be able to be stated in an argument and not need to be backed up by sources. Sources are nice, but requiring them? These are discussion threads on topics on the internet, not an official venue of anything

My suggestions would be to simply
1) report trolling/namecalling posts
2) request that if a point is brought up and taken hold of, that the person who brought up the point provide evidence or stop pressing the point....but not necessarily require sources right off

I know that many post as the topic interests them and want to discuss it but do not have in many cases the time to go dig up articles.

I don't feel that MR needs to take an active role in debate threads in terms of moderation aside from what has been done (not tolerating spam, name calling, trolling, etc). I feel debate threads should take whatever form as long as they are adhering to decency rules. I guess my point is that these forums are not akin to "debate club" and should not necessarily be treated as such. Besides, I have felt that moderation on past threads has been more than adequate in keeping the topic on topic and civil

Just my opinion
 

r.j.s

Moderator emeritus
Mar 7, 2007
15,026
51
Texas
2) Opinions should be able to be stated in an argument and not need to be backed up by sources. Sources are nice, but requiring them? These are discussion threads on topics on the internet, not an official venue of anything

Sources are only required for statements of fact, or statements that are intended to be fact. Opinions are still allowed.
 

GGJstudios

macrumors Westmere
May 16, 2008
44,472
859
2) Opinions should be able to be stated in an argument and not need to be backed up by sources.
Did you see this?:
There is still nothing wrong with posting an opinion.

However, members who post an opinion as fact, or repeatedly post the same thing, without adding anything new to further discussion, are going to have to adjust to the new rules.
Just my opinion
What are your sources? :D
 

QuarterSwede

macrumors G3
Oct 1, 2005
9,581
1,682
Colorado Springs, CO
There is still nothing wrong with posting an opinion.

However, members who post an opinion as fact, or repeatedly post the same thing, without adding anything new to further discussion, are going to have to adjust to the new rules.
Ahhh. Now that is an improvement.

Did you see this?:


What are your sources? :D
Copied directly from the Debate Rules page:
Sources: If you make claims of fact but don't cite sources when requested, the posts may be removed. If you started the thread then the thread may be closed or removed.

Repetition: If you repeat the same claims without adding new information, the posts may be removed. If you started the thread then the thread may be closed or removed.

Trolling: Posts that appear to be designed to cause argument or irritate rather than contribute to a constructive discussion are considered trolling and will be treated as such.

Duplicate discussions: If a new thread repeats a topic that has been previously discussed or debated, without basis for a separate discussion, the thread may be closed, removed, or merged into an earlier thread on the same topic. A news report on a previously discussed issue doesn't automatically deserve a new thread.

Sorry for the double post. I forgot I was the last one to post.
 
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Hellhammer

Moderator emeritus
Dec 10, 2008
22,164
581
Finland
Sources are only required for statements of fact, or statements that are intended to be fact. Opinions are still allowed.

One thing people still often forget is to clearly separate what is their opinion and what is their statement based on facts. At least I face it sometimes that people first talk about facts and then add their opinion without adding any sign of it being just their opinion (like IMO, just my two cents etc).

On great example is from 2010 MBA speculation when some folks typed in caps lock and then few posts after told that it was just their opinion. Errr...you don't have to post your opinions in caps lock, do you? It also lacked a sign of it being just an opinion. Things like these start flame wars, stating your opinion as a fact. If you simply say it's your opinion, then all people can do is disagree. We are all entitled to have our own opinion.

IMO, it might be worth it to add a line to state that when in debate, it is advisable to clearly separate what is your statement based on facts/sources and what is just your own opinion. Not in every thread of course but when the threads is clearly a debate thread where facts and opinions may easily be mixed without proper notation.
 

annk

Administrator
Staff member
Apr 18, 2004
14,747
7,161
Somewhere over the rainbow
...

IMO, it might be worth it to add a line to state that when in debate, it is advisable to clearly separate what is your statement based on facts/sources and what is just your own opinion. Not in every thread of course but when the threads is clearly a debate thread where facts and opinions may easily be mixed without proper notation.

I'm fairly certain that one will sort itself out quickly. In addition to it being made clearer in the newly-honed rules, a member who posts something that can be interpreted as a claim of fact will likely be challenged. They will then have to say whether it was simply their opinion, or back it up with something.

It's also possible to debate the reliability of sources, but at least then people are debating something concrete, and again it will have to come down to "I don't feel that source is trustworthy" (opinion), or "here's a study that refutes that claim" (debating the source's reliability on the basis of another source).

The whole point is to make the rules clearer, both for those debating and for those moderating. The problem up to now has been how to moderate problems we can see, but for which the framework as stated wasn't clear enough for us.
 
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