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Policy Statement

By Salerugby editors
September 11 2004

Policy Statement

In making this statement, we want this to be seen as a statement of intention: it's not meant to be any sort of laying-down-the-law, I-refer-the-learned-gentleman-to-clause-13-subsection-4a type of thing.

The editors of the SaleRugby site held a meeting on the 8th September 2004, prompted by some pretty unsavoury events over the summer. Up to that point, we had always striven to maintain a "light touch" policy of letting the board more or less police itself. For nearly a year, that policy worked pretty well. Unfortunately, things got out of hand, and we had several examples of disruptive actions by various people; actions that resulted in the alienation of many others - in short, an undesirable state of affairs. We still want to keep to keep to a "light touch" policy, but it is obvious that we need the ability to rapidly quell any similar situation should it threaten to arise again. It is to help us do that and also to try to minimise the opportunity for such outbreaks that we made certain decisions regarding the way the board is run. These decisions were mostly made with reluctance, since they will have an impact on everyone's day-to-day usage of the board. It is just about certain that not one of those decisions will be met with universal approval, but we hope that by explaining our reasons, you will accept, if not like, them. So, here they are, with reasons:

Purpose of the board

Let's try to be clear about the purpose of the message board and, indeed, the whole salerugby section of sportnetwork.

It is, first and foremost, a place where the supporters of Sale Sharks can come along, kick back and chew the fat with people who share their passion. An important part of that is inclusivity: everyone is welcome: male, female or "other"; from cauliflower-eared ex-props down to those who've never played but come along for the atmosphere and cameraderie. Equally important is the ability to converse with supporters of other clubs. It's clichéd, but still true, that a large source of enjoyment comes purely from the free mixing of rival fans at rugby matches.

The board is independent of the club itself and of the supporters' club, whilst retaining (we hope) good relationships with both. Being independent does not mean that we (the community) have any sort of duty or remit to make "exposés" of supposed nefarious goings-on; and neither does it mean that we have the right to publicise or reveal private information to which we may become privy. Rumours and speculation are one thing (and we all enjoy discussing a good rumour); revealing confidential information is quite another. This is not an investigative newspaper and neither is it a Hyde Park Corner for anyone to just get up on a soapbox and rant away at all and sundry.

Separate sections of the board

We decided to do this because there seemed to be a significant number of people who found non-rugby postings to be distracting. Or, at least, those that weren't bothered wouldn't be inconvenienced overmuch if we did separate out non-rugby topics. On the subject of what goes on the main board now, we can't really say more than "keep it rugby- or Sale Sharks- related". If a thread starts to drift off-topic, then we will post a polite reminder to continue in the Fin. There's little point in mapping out some sort of fractal boundary of what is, and what isn't acceptable. If in doubt, take it over to the Fin. We will make an exception to the "rugby-only" rule if we need to make some sort of general announcement. Given that we expect there to be people who will only visit the main board, we need to be able to do this, so that they get a chance to read it. We will precede the thread title with the word "Announcement" and immediately close the thread, if it's off-topic. Further discussion can then take place in the Fin. The general rule, then, is "rugby only, but let's be sensible about it".

Think of it as the pub: the main board is the pub on match days, with everyone talking rugby and chatting to the away support. The Fin is the pub on other days, when you just want to relax with mates and talk about anything and nothing. Don't take it any further than that and we'll all get along fine.

Persistently disruptive posters

An unpleasant, but unfortunately necessary consideration is what to do with posters who persistently disrupt everybody's day-to-day enjoyment of the chat on the board. We can't see any alternative but warning and, ultimately, banning. The period of any ban will be at our discretion and dependent on the severity of the offence. We would anticipate that 1 month, 3 months or 6 months would cover it, with the option of a permanent ban in extreme cases (hopefully that will never happen). We will endeavour to issue warnings and to notify of bans privately. There will be no public announcements, since we don't feel that it is appropriate. The non-appearance of a poster should be sufficient announcement. Which brings us on to:

Registration-only

Simply put, no policy that incorporates the possibility of banning a poster can work if just anyone can post without needing to register. There is also the point that it makes it more difficult for hit-and-run posters and for people to bolster their disruption through the use of sockpuppets.

The Supporters' Club messageboard

Yes, it has a vastly superior interface and yes, it has features that we would love to have on sportnetwork. But there's more to a messageboard community than a slick interface and some features that you use once in a blue moon. What sportnetwork has is the community - the messageboards of all the other clubs (bar one). We felt that moving over to the SSSC board would remove that community that we all enjoy - the ease of moving moving around the site and chatting to the supporters of other clubs, especially in the run-up to our games against them. That aspect of the sportnetwork side we felt was so strong and so important that it outweighed the software superiority of the other messageboard - beauty is only skin-deep, after all.

The moderators' approach

As we said above, we wish to continue being very much hands-off - a more interventionist approach takes up more time, after all, and we don't have all that much to spare. We wish to state categorically that we do not have any desire to suppress criticism; whether of us, Sale Sharks or the Supporters' Club. Bear in mind, though, that the opening phrase at the top of the board says "please keep discussions generally polite".

That said we will be policing the listed categories a bit more stringently than we may have done in the past:

Potentially legally actionable

No debate on this one. If it looks a bit iffy, it's gone. Sorry, but none of us can afford a court case.

Foul or abusive

Zero tolerance on personal attacks, name-calling, etc. Wherever possible in such cases, we will attempt to retain the content of the post, but simply remove the offensive wording.

Deliberately or persistently disruptive

Similar to the above. If there is any valid content to the message, we will attempt to convey that, by paraphrasing if necessary. Often, though, posts in this category are content-free.

Spam

Gone. No discussion.

No sockpuppets

Posting under multiple names to make it appear that a number of people support your view or to attack another person. Hopefully, registration will make this more difficult to do. Doing this is a serious breach of netiquette and we will remove any postings that we can prove are sockpuppets.



So that's it, really. Sorry if it's a bit long-winded and all formal and stuff, but we want to be up front about everything. More than anything we want a lively board with lots of things going on, but no aggro.

Remember, don't say anything to someone on the board that you wouldn't say to their face - bearing in mind that they could well be built like Seabass.

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