Message Board Posting Tips – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net

Message Board Posting Tips


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

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

  [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

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

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.”