Forum Etiquette

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Why use good ettiquette?

So many whingers on this forum. And now another one wants to tell me what I should and shouldn't say. Get a ticket and stand in line. Or better yet toughen up and stop being such a whimp. I'll say whatever I feel like and if you don't like it, well too bad. You can't make me change a thing.

And you are right. Unless you post something that brings a moderator ban down on you, you can say what you like and I can't do anything to stop you. But if you take some time to think, and apply some good etiquette principals, just maybe you'll be glad that you did. For your own sake.

I mean, why do you post on these forums anyway? Do you want respect from other people? Popularity? To feel good because you have contributed something useful? To influence the development of spring or one of the mods in a direction that suits you?

Whatever your reason, if you pay attention to what is written in this article, and put some effort into what you have to say, you will get improved results. People who say the right things are more popular, better respected, and more likely to make a difference when discussing things like whether unit X should be buffed or nerfed.

Or maybe you post just because you like the sound of your own typing. Or you get a thrill from seeing lots of text on the internet credited as being written by someone that doesn't even have your real name. In that case stop reading this and start spamming flaming and trolling for all you're worth.

Active Listening

A great skill to develop is effective listening. What happens when you don't listen? Its a bit like you are talking to an imaginary person. You read things that weren't said. You don't take into account things that were said. You often end up looking silly.

But thats not all there is to good listening. A basic principal of human interaction is that everyone else wants to know that people are understanding what they have to say. A nasty habbit that most of us have is that if we don't think the other person heard or understood what we had to say, we'll just repeat it louder and angrier. This tends to be a good way to start a flame war.

You can take advantage of this tendancy by showing people that you understand. If you show someone that you understand what they have to say, they'll think you are a good person and may be more interested in what you have to say.

For instance Jimbob says that widgets should be nerfed because they swarmed through his whatsit army and cut them to pieces. You know that this is stupid. So you tell Jimbob 'Heh stupid if we nerf widget then they won't be good against doodads anymore'. And this might be a very good point, but Jimbob will hate you because you ignored his point about the widgets thrashing whatsits. He might resort to a personal attack along the lines of 'You're just a widget spammer who doesn't want them nerfed so you don't have to learn to use other units'.

But if you show you understand what he has to say you normally get some more respect. 'I can understand that it is frustrating that you can't beat widgets with whatsits. But if we nerf Widgets than the doodads will be able to kill the widgets far too easily. Jimbob then says 'Oh I didn't think of that. Maybe we should buff the whatsits instead'. Suddenly you are having a sensible conversation. You have a chance of agreeing on something that may help improve the mod you are talking about. Or at least you can agree to disagree in a civilized manner which makes it less likely that the other guy won't try and disagree with you next time you say something just to pay you back.

Whats in it for me

What is most likely to make you change your opinion or actions? Often its when you are convinced that the change is in your best interests. You might change to avoid a moderator threat of ban. You might play a new mod if you are convinced there is a worthwhile chance of fun. You might agree to a proposed balance change if you think it will make the game better - for you.

However when we post, we often are still thinking about whats in it for us. We forget that the people reading the post won't have any interest in whats in it for you. They will want to know whats in it for them. If you can find a reason why something will be of interest to both yourselves, and to the people who read it, then you have a better chance of getting a favourable response.

Careful criticism

How do you feel when you are criticised? You probably hate it, I know I do. A normal response is to return the criticism, with interest. So before you criticise someone, think about what you are trying to achieve. If you are trying to convince someone else of something, provoking a hostile reaction will greatly reduce your chance of doing so. Anticipate a potential hostile reaction to any criticism and consider carefully what you say. Unless of course your purpose is to provoke a hostile reaction.

Some tips for taking the sting out of criticism:

  • avoid emotionally loaded words and personal insults;
  • stick to facts and behaviours that are simple to describe;
  • allow for the chance that you may be wrong;
  • make sure it is clear what the desired response is.

Consider for example the difference between 'Stop being a total and utter jerk', and 'Please don't insult my skill level'.

Another drawback with criticism is that it restricts creativity. If someone has an idea it might be very easy to criticise the idea if it has serious flaws. This can kill the idea and prevent its further development. This may seem like a good outcome if the idea is seriously flawed. However you never know whenever a seriously flawed idea might not be the basis of a really good idea. If an idea is flawed you always have the choice to either criticise it, ignore it, or suggest further ideas that may help to improve it.

Pragmatism vs Judgement

We often think in terms of what people do and don't deserve. We make judements about people. For instance so and so said X which was really rude, therefore he deserves to be insulted, ignored or whatever. We also make judgements about people's inner motives. 'He's only suggesting that balance change because he can't cope with strategy X'.

But there is an inherent problem in making such judgements. Nearly all the time if we make a negative value judgement about someone they will disagree. All of us think we are doing the right thing and rarely if ever consider that we are a bad person that deserves to be mistreated. If someone is rude, they probably feel justified by whatever provoked them to be rude. If someone can't cope with strategy X, then they will probably consider strategy X to not be a valid strategy.

So when you make a value judgement about someone, that person will almost certainly disagree with you. And many value judgements cannot be proven, but rely on our interpretation of other people's motives. Most value judgements come across as heavily loaded criticisms, which are either ignored or responded to vigorously.

So before you make a value judgement, consider the desired outcome, and what is likely to happen when you say what you want to say.

Just because you spam

Just because you can say something does that mean you should say it? People hate spam. Anything that does not contribute something useful to the thread may be considered spam by some readers. Write enough spam and you will annoy a lot of people, who will be less likely to listen to you when you have something worthwhile to say. If you want to be taken seriously can the spam. Some common examples:

  • posting in a thread to state how stupid the thread is;
  • posting 'me too';
  • What is more off topic in a thread than pointing out that the thread is off topic?

Spelling and Grammar

There are many grammar and spelling nazis out there. They can be a right royal pain in the backside with their nitpicking and criticisms. And you might think 'Why should I put any effort into spelling and grammar - its the ideas that are important. It doesn't matter whether I follow an arbitrary set of inconsistent rules on how I should present those ideas'.

If you are trying to 'sell' and idea, presentation counts. People will always take you more seriously if you have good spelling and grammar.

Read what you write

When you finish writing something, are you eager to see your message up in lights as soon as humanly possible? Do you hit the send button a split second after you have rushed to the conclusion of your post?

Or do you spend a little time checking everything you write. After you finish, you spend a minute fixing up spelling mistakes, correcting yourself when you have changed thought mid sentence etc. Sometimes you shudder to read what you have written and are glad to have the second change to make sure you say something that will be easy to read, and come across as being written by someone smart.

You don't have to proof read everything you write before you post, but I am quite often glad that I do...

Use pastebin for long c&p texts

Do not copy & paste long texts such as error logs or code snippets directly into the forum.

Instead use a pastebin website such as http://paste.springfiles.com or http://www.pastebin.ca

Or attach the files to your posting.