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Mission Statement, Board Management Philosophy & FAQ

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Mission Statement, Board Management Philosophy & FAQ

Post by Admin » Sun Mar 15, 2009 6:00 pm

I. Mission Statement

Cafés are places where people congregate for good food and conversation. In continental Europe, cafés are traditionally venues where intellectuals such as writers, musicians and philosophers can meet for serious discussions and blow clouds of smoke over one another. Similarly, the Secular Café provides a venue in cyberspace for people who want to socialize, share support, and debate or discuss intellectual subjects such as religion, science or politics in a relatively civil and friendly environment. The Secular Café primarily serves a non-religious community, but diversity is encouraged; people from any religious perspective are welcome to participate and become a part of the board's community.

II. Board Management Philosophy

We, the administrators, manage the discussion board and make the final decisions on all matters of policy and procedure; however, we also endeavour to be active members of the board community. We seek to earn the community's trust and respect and are open to suggestions.

We believe that board management is best when decisions are made using discretion, common sense and flexibility rather than a complex bureaucracy of rules, definitions and legalism. Circumstances alter cases, so it is impossible to have a rule to cover every situation; when specific rules and procedures are used, we invoke the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) as much as possible. Moderators have the task of implementing the policies and management philosophy prescribed by the administrators.

As discussed in the Mission Statement, we desire a "relatively" civil discussion board. Our goal is to seek a narrow path between tyrannically enforced saccharine sweetness and anarchic snarling nastiness. Gray areas regarding civil behaviour may be overlooked, but persistently disruptive, abusive or egregious behaviour will not be tolerated. In other words, "don't be a jerk".

III. Secular Café FAQ

Will I fit in here?

As the Mission Statement says, the Secular Café is for "people who want to socialize, share support, and debate or discuss intellectual subjects such as religion, science or politics in a relatively civil and friendly environment." This is our target community. If you agree with the Mission Statement intent, as well as the forum users' agreement, then you should not have a problem fitting in.

Why isn’t the board democratic?

A discussion board is not a nation state. Our aim is to provide a service, such as that of a café that targets customers with particular tastes.

What do you mean by a "jerk"?

A jerk is generally someone who is unduly abusive or disruptive to members and staff. We believe that most reasonable people can understand what a "jerk" or "harassment" is without getting into legalism and specific definitions or rules.

Are religious people welcome here?

Certainly! And all members are free to put forward reasons why people should accept their beliefs, religious or otherwise. But be forewarned that any beliefs whatsoever may be subject to critical examination. While we believe in extending respect to people, the same does not necessarily apply to their ideas. Religious members have the same privileges as any other member. Proselytizing, however, will be confined to the Smoking Section.

Are there any limitations on posting?

You must post within the limits specified in the User Agreement that you accepted by joining secularcafe.org.

Can I post images?

At present, the board will not host images, but you can use links to image-hosting sites like Photobucket if you wish to share images with other members. Please note, however, that over-large images that change other members' views of a page are not allowed.

In addition, the board does not allow pornography. The line between erotica and pornography is a fine one, and staff will if necessary remove images considered to be pornographic or otherwise beyond the pale. Any erotic or violent images must be confined to the Smoking Section and must also be placed within NSFW (Not Safe For Work) tags.

Other NSFW material

If a link is made to an audio file that contains explicit language, then it should be clearly marked as NSFW.

Further, links to 'hate sites' have the potential to be embarrassing to members who may activate the links from work. We ask that members consider this when posting. We suggest that instead of a link people wishing to bring such sites to our attention mention in thread that they are NSFW, and post google search terms rather than direct links to threads.

As is the case with images, the distinction between SFW and NSFW is a fine one, and there may be cases where posts are edited by staff to say that something is NSFW, and remove links, while normally leaving enough information for a site to be found.

What about personalisation?

You may if you wish choose your user title. You may also import a non-animated avatar. You may also choose to have a signature of up to four lines of text. Your signature will appear only in the first post you make in any page. Avatars must not be NSFW. User titles and signatures must not be used to attack other members or the Secular Café. User titles should not be deliberately misleading.

Can I have multiple identities (aka sock puppets)?

In general, members should have only a single identity at Secular Café. If for some exceptional reason you want to have a sock puppet, please seek permission by PM from the administrators. If unauthorised sock puppets are discovered, the administrators will take action.

Who are the moderators?

We have a number of dedicated moderators. While the board remains small enough the administrators also double as moderators. Although some adminstrators are assigned specific fora to moderate, all adminstrators can also work as moderators at large.

What do moderators do?

Moderators host their forum. They take an active part as ordinary members. They also help members with minor technical problems. If a thread is derailed by the introduction of a new and interesting topic, they will normally split the thread to provide one thread for each topic. If a member makes an inappropriate post, they will normally move the post to Smoking Section. Whole threads (or major parts of it) can also be moved if the content is more appropriate for a different forum. If, however, a post is used to commit a serious offence, such as posting or linking to malware, posting private information, plagiarism, violation of copyright, or any illegal behaviour, then the post may be edited or deleted, and the offender will face possible sanctions from the staff.

Are there penalties for bad behaviour?

It can be quite easy to contravene the rules in a mild way without realizing it. In such cases, a moderator may move your post and/or send you a friendly informal warning. However, if you commit an offence that is more serious and obvious, or if you repeatedly ignore rules and warnings, you may receive a formal warning from the administration of the board or be suspended or banned from membership.

How do I complain about the action of a moderator?

The first thing to do is to send a polite PM to the moderator and try to discuss the issue (Secular Café does not allow abuse of its volunteer staff). If you are still dissatisfied, you may post a thread in the Reports, Complaints & Private Feedback subforum or contact the admins by PM.
Last edited by David B on Sat Aug 20, 2011 5:05 pm, edited 8 times in total.

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Forum Users’ Agreement

Post by Admin » Sun Mar 15, 2009 6:01 pm

Forum Users’ Agreement

You, not Secular Café, are responsible for what you post. You agree not to post or transmit any defamatory, abusive, threatening or illegal material, or any other material with the intent to purposely mislead, harm or infringe on the ability of others to enjoy Secular Café.

You agree to respect the rules of the board as formulated by the adminstrators.

You may challenge and criticise posts robustly but personal attacks on members are discouraged. In other words, don't be a jerk.

You may not use posts, signatures or private messages (PMs) to:
  • Promote hatred of any ethnic group, gender or sexual orientation;
  • Harass members;
  • Incite members to perform illegal acts;
  • Deliberately make disruptive or offensive posts;
  • Spam the board.

PMs are private communications and may not normally be reproduced without the consent of the writer. However, an exception may be made if a member wishes to report a PM that breaches board rules or if a competent legal agency requires disclosure.

Decisions about membership of the board are at the sole discretion of the administrators.

Although the administrators and moderators of Secular Café will attempt to keep all objectionable messages off this forum, it is impossible for us to review all messages. All messages express the views of the author, and neither the owners of Secular Café, its affiliates and their officers, volunteers, directors, employees, agents, licensors and/or suppliers will be held responsible for the content of any message nor for any activity (including negligent or wrongful conduct) by members of the forum.

Use of secularcafe.org acknowledges your awareness of and assent to this User's Agreement.
Last edited by DMB on Sat Mar 28, 2009 5:01 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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Disciplinary Procedure

Post by Admin » Sun Mar 15, 2009 6:01 pm

Disciplinary Procedure

This guide is provided to allow members to be aware of the general path that any disciplinary action that is necessary will normally take.

There are two levels of warnings:

1. Informal requests/warnings from moderators or administrators, typically delivered via PM, concerning inappropriate posting.
2. A Formal Warning from the Administrators delivered via a PM.

A member who accumulates several informal requests/warnings in a fairly short time frame or who in a single post or series of posts egregiously violates the User Agreement and/or mission of the board will, at the discretion of the Administrators, receive a Formal Warning. Failure to comply with a Formal Warning will result in a limited-term suspension or perma-ban at the sole discretion of the Administrators acting as a group in a formal vote.

Additionally, if an administrator deems it necessary then an account may be suspended without notice pending further consultation among the Administrators.

An informal warning for inappropriate posting does not leave a permanent scar. If, for example, one receives an informal warning and thereafter modifies one's posting behavior, that informal warning fades over time so that it has less and less weight should another infraction occur at some later time.

If offenses are severe enough, e.g., posting malware or links to malware infested sites, child porn, or the like, then the levels of warning described above may be skipped and a member may be suspended by an Administrator acting alone until the Administrators can confer about appropriate action. However, the intention is that this general procedure will be followed in the vast majority of cases.

Warnings may be given at staff discretion. However, the responsibility for your posting rests with you and we reserve the right to issue sanctions without warning if the offense in our opinion merits it. If you have already received a warning or a limited-term suspension you should be aware you are operating on 'thin ice' and should be mindful of what you post.

Reaction to provocation is not an excuse for unacceptable postings. If you feel you have been unfairly provoked then report the post and do not answer in an unacceptable manner. It is your own responsibility not to cross the line.

We thank the 99% of our users who cause no problems and need have no concern about these procedures.

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Posts: 108
Joined: Sat Feb 28, 2009 4:45 pm
Location: Common Admin ID

Post by Admin » Sat Feb 25, 2012 9:00 am

Addendum to FAQ to clarify relative civility

Are there any limitations on posting?

You must post within the limits specified in the User Agreement that you accepted by joining secularcafe.org.

Nowhere on the board should members attempt to drive off other members, even if their opinions and/or posting styles are unpopular.

Everywhere on the board minor derails are okay. Most peter out after a few posts, but if parallel discussions take off it is no big deal to make a split. If you think a tangential discussion could do with a thread to itself, feel free to go ahead and start one (perhaps with a link to the original point of departure), or use the report function to alert the staff, who can do it for you.

In addition different levels of civility are expected in different sections of the Café.

In the Community forums we expect posts be friendly, relaxed and if necessary supportive. Don't attack people and be hostile, and if you disagree with someone please do so constructively. We don't expect differences of opinion in other forums to spill over to the Community area.

Forums in the Intellectual Debate and Discussion and Science and Stuff sections are intended for serious discussions: places where we can learn from each other, where we can change or modify other people's positions -- or our own. We recognize that people may get emotional about some of the topics, and occasionally exasperation will out, but we ask you to consider that someone you have difficulties with is not necessarily a moron or a troll. The rule of thumb 'Attack the post, not the poster' is a good one.

We have often noticed that throwing insults at members, particularly those theists brave enough to venture here, tends to allow them to slip away from defending their position by letting them focus on the insult rather than the substance of a post, or gives them an excuse to leave the board, and this should be kept in mind.

In Politics a lot of emotion is often involved, and traditionally a bit more latitude is given there. Even there, though, posters are asked to consider whether what they write is likely to generate more heat than light, and self-censor accordingly.

In History moderation will be much stricter than in Politics.

Insulting posts and flame wars are likely to be moved to the Smoking Section or the Trashcan.

The Smoking Section is a place for "not safe for work" (NSFW) stuff -- short of porn -- and is the only place for discussing other boards. It is also a place where we tolerate brawling, if brawl you must. However, even there, if a thread becomes a flame war pure and simple, has little or no substantive content, and/or has flogged the topic ad nauseam, then it may be locked at the Admins' discretion.

The overall message is post as you would speak in conversation in a real life café, with the understanding that it's more important to 'play nice' in some types of discussion than in others. We understand and accept that arguments can become heated, but they should not escalate into brawls. A relatively civil and friendly environment is still the overall aim. Please try to post with this in mind.

Reports, Complaints & Private Feedback: When you click on the Image'report post' button (located at the bottom left of every post), a thread is started in RC&PF. You can use it if you have a complaint about a post, or to draw attention to other problems. You can also start a thread there in order to talk privately to staff. Threads in that forum are visible only to the original poster and the staff.
Last edited by DMB on Tue Aug 16, 2016 9:52 pm, edited 4 times in total.
Reason: adding History