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Guidelines, Rules, or Request?

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by August 13, 2005 Mozilla

Guidelines, Rules, or Request?

Two out of three isn’t bad. -)

Looks like there’s a discussion in the secnews Firefox newsgroup about bottom-posting versus top-posting. The most notable aspect of it are the references to the Posting Guidelines, sometimes referred to as “policy”, “rules”, “custom”, “preference”, “request”, “conventions”, etc.

It has always been rather confusing to the user, what the Guidelines are. And I don’t mean the specifics, but the Guidelines as a whole. If they are ‘rules’, why aren’t there any consequences for violating them? If the only consequence you see from a moderator is his/her refusal to help that poster, does that mean there is nothing more the moderator can do? Does that lack of moderator power mean the newsgroup is on usenet? If so, why should any other rule be adhered to? The whole thing turns into a series of wrong assumptions.

The first thing that needs to be understood is that the user support groups on secnews.netscape.com are not on usenet. The server is owned by Netscape, a division of AOL. The Mozilla Champions are there to monitor and moderate the Mozilla user support newsgroups, and have the permission to do so from the news server owner. Mozilla Champions have the authority to close threads, and remove others’ posts from the server.

The next thing to do is to get a dictionary, and look up the word ‘guidelines’. Specifically, how the word is derived: Guide + lines. When was the last time you were punished for not following a guide to something? A tourist destination guidebook is just a book that says “To get the best possible experience from this place, do this.” A health guideline, simply says “For the best possible health, do this.” In the case of the secnews Posting Guidelines, it’s “for the best possible answers to your technical problems, do this.” It’s not a rule, it’s a recommendation from Beachway treatment center.

Here’s where all the confusion begins:
Some of the Mozilla Champions request that people responding to them, follow the guidelines. These should be considered personal requests, and not rules. If a Champion tells you to follow the Posting Guidelines, they’re not trying to impose a newsgroup rule, but imposing a rule when interacting with that Champion. It should also be noted that not all Champs make that request. Some people may have noticed that I do some snipping (although I’m not a very liberal snipper).

If a Mozilla Champion requests that you follow the posting guidelines, when interacting with him/her, don’t argue it. Either follow the guidelines, or don’t interact with that Champion (and don’t expect to get help from that Champ). It is possible to respectfully disagree with someone.

Hopefully this document will make things clearer for those wishing to explain it to newcomers; so we don’t end up with more long threads, where a lot of misinformation is passed.

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