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Message Board Posting Tips

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The USConstitution.net messaging system uses the YaBB system for posting messages and replies. The YaBB system is used throughout the Internet and may already be familiar to many users. This document will offer some tips for posting, both from a technical and a social point of view.

Note that this page includes "tips" only. For the full board rules, see the Policies Page. You can learn about the history of the message boards on this site on the Message Boards Page. There is also a Messages Hall of Fame.


The social tips

The USConstitution.net boards are a community. The community is not exclusive - it has a set of core members who discuss constitutional and legal matters, and many people who come to the site to ask questions, offer opinions, or otherwise act as a gadfly. We welcome all, though if you are coming here to join the core group, we do suggest you read many of the existing messages to get a feel for who people are and where their expertise lies.

We do not particularly like arguments. Note that an argument is quite different from a debate. As a community, we encourage debate, and frown on argument. We don't like personal attacks - mild ones may be tolerated, but if an attack gets too bad, messages can be deleted and, most severely, login codes or IP addresses can be banned. We do not require anyone to be a professional debater - most of the core has no formal experience in forensics. But common sense should prevail whenever there is any question as to the propriety of a topic or message.


The technical tips

YaBB does not allow HTML to be used in messages. Your messages can use mark-up, however. YaBB includes a macro language called YaBBC that can be typed into a message directly or entered into a message using the formatting icons that appear on the posting screen. For more information on YaBBC, see the YaBBC Page.

YaBB uses a first-in, first-out style of messaging and replying. In other words, a thread, or topic, starts with an initial message and all subsequent messages are tacked onto the end of the topic. You cannot reply to one message located in the middle of a thread and have that reply tagged only to that message. So, it is requested that if you are replying to a specific user, you use the quote tags to identify what you are replying to, or, at least, that you specify the user to whom you are replying. For use of the [quote] tags, see below and the YaBBC Page.

The maximum message size is 5500 characters. Beware that if you submit a message that is longer than 5500 characters, the YaBB software will tell you of the error and will ask you to click your Back button - but the content of the text box you typed in will be blank. In other words, your 5500 character of text will be gone. As you type or cut-and-paste, and if your character count exceeds 5490 characters, you will get warnings each time you type. Heed the warnings. Long messages should, perhaps, be typed into a text editor first, and cut into pieces with cut-and-paste, and posted separately.


Using "quote"

The use of the [quote] mechanism deserves some explanation. The [quote] and [/quote] tags are used to set off text from a previous message to which you are replying directly. If you click the Quote icon on a message, YaBB will create a posting form for you, with the entire text of the message inside [quote] tags. Actually, the opening [quote] tag will have additional information, like this:
  [quote author=Joe link=board=name;num=000;start=0#1 date=11/01/03 at 18:05:06]
This code allows YaBB to construct extra information at the top of the quote. It is strongly suggested that you trim out all unneeded text from such an auto- quote - and chances are, most of it is unneeded (you can insert the [snip] tag if you wish to visually show where you have trimmed text). You can insert your own [quote] tags as you type (or use the YaBB icon to insert them), by typing "[quote]text[/quote]". The text can be, and probably should be, cut-and-pasted from the original message.

Text within [quote] cannot contain an inner [quote]. The only exception is with the auto-quote that YaBB generates. If you attempt to include a [quote] block within another [quote] block, the first [quote] block will end prematurely.

Finally, you can use [quote=name]text[/quote] to specifically identify the person you are quoting, named after the equals sign. This is useful if you are quoting a particularly old message, or one much higher up within a topic, or if you are quoting several people in a single message.


Member positions

A common question is "What is a citizen," or "what is a Mayor," or "what do three stars mean?" Member positions, and a certain number of stars, will appear below a member's name in messages and replies posted by that member. Members who have been using the boards longer have posted more messages. Longevity on a board like this is a sign that that person should garner some measure of respect, though it is only one measure.

The member position is reflective of the number of posts that a person has made to the boards. Every one starts out as a Tourist, and can progress up to a Chief Justice. The stars are a quick visual indication of a member's position range.

Note: Tourists who have not become Citizens within two months might be deleted from the member list at any time. Citizens who have not posted in the last two years might be deleted from the member list at any time.

Level Position Posts Stars
- Tourist 0 0
- Citizen 1-49 1
1 Councilor 50-99 1
2 Mayor 100-149 1
3 Governor 150-199 2
4 Representative 200-249 2
5 Senator 250-299 2
6 President Pro Tem 300-349 3
7 Speaker 350-399 3
8 Secretary 400-499 3
9 Vice President 500-749 4
10 Justice 750-999 4
11 President 1000-1499 5
12 Chief Justice 1500+ 5
- Administrator 5
- Moderator 5

Locking of topics

Topics should not live forever. With this in mind, the Boardmaster or one of the moderators will be locking down topics after a set amount of time. In the Q&A boards, once a question has been answered to the moderator's satisfaction, the topic will be locked and moved to the Q&A archive two weeks later. This allows time for follow-up questions and some light debate on answers. The Q&A board is not the appropriate place for any real debate, though, and a topic may be locked prior to the three days if any debate of substance breaks out. On the debate and off-topic boards, topics will be locked two weeks after the last reply in the topic. Topics in Official notices are usually locked as they are posted. Topics in Dear Webmaster are locked as soon as the issue is resolved or noted by the Webmaster.

Once a topic is locked, no new replies to the topic may be posted. However, any user can create a new topic if someone wishes to post a follow-up question or point. The point of locking is to prevent topics from becoming too large to be effectively read. Some more active boards have archives, such as Debate and Q&A. Others have old messages purged after a year. Check each board for its policy.

To prevent "runaway" topics, the boards will attempt to force a level of sanity to all topics. Any topic that has a certain number of replies will be auto-locked. This is not intended to discourage discussion but rather to have "hot" topics spread over several actual topic threads. The hope is that when a topic is locked, any new comments on the topic will be well-thought out and considered. The limit will also help with performance and disk space usage. Currently the limit is 99 replies, allowing for 100 postings (including the original post) on any one topic. Auto-locked topics will be moved to the archives on the same schedule as normal topics.


Moderator edits

Moderators have the ability to edit member posts. Moderators are entrusted with this ability to help maintain the boards and keep disk space usage to a minimum. Unless an edit changes the content of a message, the edits are done "silently," meaning no note about what was changed will be left behind. If any part of a message is deleted, moderators are to note that a deletion was made and the deleted text is posted in a Moderator-only area. Moderator edits can be challenged in the Moderation Topics board.

The types of "silent" edits that will be performed include: correction of misspellings, especially in topic subjects; correction of bad YaBBC tags; correction of bad URLs; trimming of certain code or characters (e.g., removing extra spaces or trimming long quote tags to short ones); trimming of excessive quoted material. Members can help out the moderators by being conscious of the above list of "correctable errors."



URL: http://www.usconstitution.net/posttips.html
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