• How To Play Nice - An Introduction To Good Manners

    This was originally written by B. de Corbin on the old forum but I rescued it out of the cached pages! Muahahaha!!! All credit goes to Corbin for this.

    The internet is a great thing - it allows all kinds of people to meet and talk, even people who would find it difficult to meet and talk in real life. Unfortunately, it can also be a problem. All those people who get together and talk come from a wide range of backgrounds in terms of age, experience, education, and culture. The likelihood of clashes between people with different backgrounds is increased in direct proportion to the number of people with different backgrounds who interact.

    In other words, conflicts are inevitable.

    The beautiful thing about Pagan Forum - the thing which sets it apart from all the other Pagan oriented forums I have ever found, is that the level of freedom of speech allowed is very high, and, coupled with that, the moderators do an exemplary job of cutting things off before they get too wildly out of whack. But conflicts do inevitably arise. One answer would be to construct ever more complicated rules which would then be a nightmare to enforce, or to enforce the rules which already exist with a guillotine, which would have the ultimate effect of making people afraid to speak. And, even though most of us are guests in this house, itís rude to expect our hosts to do all the work.

    A much better solution is for all of us who like this place to voluntarily practice good manners in dealing with others. Unfortunately, good manners have fallen into disrepute in society. As Lazarus Long writes:

    ďMoving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untraveled, the naÔve, the unsophisticated deplore these formalities as ďempty,Ē ďmeaningless,Ē or ďdishonest,Ē and scorn to use them. No matter how ďpureĒ their motives, they thereby throw sand into machinery that does not work too well at best.Ē

    I strongly believe that good manners are more important on the internet than they are in any other place. After all, if somebody is rude to me in real life, I can crack his head open. If somebody is rude to me on the internet, all I can do is make a fool of myselfÖ

    Iím starting with a short list of things that seem like good manners to me. This isnít a complete list, and I am hoping that people will add to it as the need arises. Also, the list I am presenting is MY list, and is, like everything else on Pagan Forum, open to discussion.

    1. Point the way, donít slam the door. Pagan Forum gets members who range in age from about 13 to 80, and people from a wide range of educational backgrounds. You shouldnít expect a 13 year old to be an 80 year old. People are born ignorant, uneducated, and undisciplined. Sometimes they get better over time - but only when they see that there is some value to being knowledgeable, scholarly, and disciplined. Find a way to help them develop these skills, donít clobber them for not having them. Getting clobbered will only show them that these skills are used by bullies to intimidate people into submission, and they are unlikely to learn to value them, unless they intend to become bullies themselves.

    2. Look at the intent of a sentence, not the words that make it up. People rarely attack somebody because of typos or imperfect grammar because we understand the people are often responding under constrictive conditions, and that not everybody uses standard grammar. Apply this understanding to complete sentences. Read them carefully enough that you understand what a person is TRYING to say, even if he/she is not saying it as well as it could be said. Donít expect all people to use the same word to mean exactly the same thing - outside of science writing and heavy duty scholarship, words are much too mushy for that. Read carefully enough to understand what a word means for that person in the context of his/her writing. It is extremely annoying when somebody seems to ďintentionally misunderstand,Ē especially when they use that intentional misunderstanding to launch an attack.

    3. Actually READ the post to which you are responding. (closely related to #2) Complex, in depth explanations generally require a long post for clarity. If you donít want to, or donít have time to read through eight paragraphs, you arenít qualified to respond. Skimming isnít the answer, itís actually the problem, because skimming generally means that the most important points have been ignored - and, therefore, the whole thing will be misunderstood.

    4. Apologies are a sign of strength, not of weakness. If you intend to insult somebody, thatís one thing. But it sometimes happens that, without realizing what you are doing, you will accidentally insult somebody. The correct response isnít to berate the person for being overly sensitive, the correct response is to apologize. Technically, a public insult requires a public apology, but if you canít summons up the nobility to admit a mistake in public, a private apology is the next best thing. And, should somebody end up apologizing to you, accept it with good grace. Donít cause a noble person to regret his/her nobility - it reflects worse on you than it does on them.

    5. Avoid being a pervert. Everybody has certain things which he/she wants to talk about - a lot. If you have something you want to say, start a thread and say it. Thereís no fee, and youíre not required to submit a request in triplicate to anybody. But itís pretty rude to pervert somebody elseís thread in order to twist it around to the subject you most want to babble about. Sometimes threads change direction naturally as the flow of the conversation moves into other areas. Thatís a good thing, and a sign of a healthy conversation, but, to hijack a thread just because YOU want to make a point, is perverted.

    Thatís my list for right now - itís far from complete, but itís a start. Feel free to add, discuss, or disagree as you see fit.

    P.S. please donít point out that Iím as guilty of some of this stuff as other people are, as well as some stuff which I didnít mention. Iím painfully aware of my imperfections, and the fact that I become an ass when I get angry. I would like to get better, though.