Maybe it's because I'm a man, but when something is new, I just want to dive right into it and try it out. Forget the instructions, just let me rip open the package and figure out how to make it work.
I guess old habits die hard, as it never occurred to me when we were preparing to launch our new Community back in February as part of Ann's new site that that's exactly what I was about to do yet again. I was so eager to dive in and get everything set up and working properly that I never took a step back to consider that a few underlying rules might be a good idea. The fact that the Community has grown so quickly and so positively since we set it up, without any hard and fast rules, is a tribute to the quality of people in this community. While most administrators on the Internet struggle with infighting, unpleasant rants, and the infamous Internet trolls, my biggest concern is just trying to organize all the interesting and inspiring information that flows in. I'll file that one under "Nice Problem to Have."
All that being said, it was made clear to me recently that, as we move forward into the unlimited potential that this Community is already showing, it would be worthwhile to finally step back and put at least some thought into what should be allowed and what should not. In other words, it's time to break out the instructions!
I have divided my suggestions for our guidelines and rules into categories. The most important thing to note is that these are not meant to be stone tablets brought down from the mountain. They are more like building blocks, which can be re-stacked, re-shaped, and even decorated. In other words, I hope to hear lots of comments on which ones make sense and which ones that you as a member of our Community don't think make sense.
Who Can Post?
If you want to post to a particular Forum or Gallery, or comment on a Blog post, you must first be registered with AnnTheGran.com and sign in to your account. You do not have to be signed in to view any of the posts or galleries, but you do in order to see Blog comments, and post anything.
Some forums are moderated, others are not. Comments in galleries and on blogs are not moderated. In an unmoderated forum, posts go directly into the forum without the need for approval by an AnnTheGran.com moderator. If we feel that a post in one of these forums belongs in another forum, we move the post into the most relevant forum, and inform the poster that it has been moved. In a moderated forum, a poster will receive an automated message that her/his post is awaiting moderation. We moderate certain forums primarily to ensure that posts relate to the topic of that forum and are properly directed to another forum when they don't.
Rude behavior, inappropriate posts, users who "spam" and post their comments on more than one Forum at a time are not welcome in our Community. We reserve the right to remove such posts at our discretion, whether they have already been posted or not, and to ban repeat offenders from the Community. That does not mean we will not allow posts that are critical of AnnTheGran.com - we welcome criticism as long as it is appropriately presented, as we want our Community to be an open exchange of information where people will feel comfortable posting any comments in a tasteful manner.
Sales posts are not allowed unless they have been approved by AnnTheGran.com. The thing with the Internet is that one never really knows who is affiliated with whom, and so we tend to be fairly strict on "salesy" posts because of the possibility of conflicts of interest with the mission of our site. We try to be tolerant of industry people or company experts answering questions, as long as there is no blatant sales pitch for the product, service, or company being referenced. Our site does offer some advertising opportunities, and we encourage those interested in reaching the AnnTheGran community with a commercial message to explore those opportunities. For more information about these opportunities, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We sometimes allow but do not actively encourage links to external web sites, especially web sites of a commercial nature that offer products and services competitive to ours. Our goal is to be the superior source of information on the Internet for information being sought by our community members, so we would always prefer to see our Community create (and improve upon) this information than to reference it elsewhere. That being said, if we really want our Community to be a superior source of information for our community members, we need to keep in mind that there are instances where the best answer to a question is readily available on another web site.
We don't really want our community members to have to make this decision, so we generally prefer that, if in doubt, you go ahead and include the link and let us make the call. Our usual procedure in this case is to remove the hyperlink (ie. the address won't be clickable) but to keep the text of the link so that users can copy and paste the external web address into their browsers and visit the link. This way, our community members can still benefit from the information given, but we are not providing competing companies or those affiliated with them an easy, free and trackable advertising opportunity. This is certainly our biggest grey area, and feedback is always appreciated as to whether you think we are stepping over the line in any particular instance.
I would like to post these guidelines, once they are finalized, to a prominent place in the Community, so that newcomers in particular can have "the instructions" at their fingertips as they begin to navigate the site. But first, I would love to hear your comments as to whether or not these suit the Community. The Magic Bookshelf, after all, is meant to be yours more than it is ours.