Since Harbaugh-geddon went down last month, Niners Nation has seen a nice little uptick in traffic and an increase in the number of people joining our community. This surge in new readers makes now as good a time as any to go over some of the ground rules about how the site operates. These aren't meant to stifle discussion, but rather to focus it so we have more efficient use of the tools SB Nation has developed.
As you can see on this particular post, we've got a section of posts titled Niners Nation 101. I use this section to tab any posts meant to help people better understand how we operate here at Niners Nation. Arguably the biggest issue on a regular basis is the use of FanPosts, FanShots, and comments. Each is available for all to use, but each has its own distinctly different purpose. At the end of this post I've linked some pertinent posts I've written before. I don't want to get into every single detail in this post, but rather give you a basic idea, and where you can go for more information. If you have any questions about anything I say here (or have said in previous posts), either post a comment below, or email me at email@example.com. I'd recommend posting the comment because somebody else might have the same question, so they'll be able to read the Q&A below.
After the jump, I've got some thoughts on FanPosts, FanShots, comments, and site conduct.
FanPosts: A FanPost is a somewhat thorough look at an issue. It is meant to provoke some discussion, but you need to provide some of your own analysis on an issue to get that discussion going (as opposed to posting a link and asking a question). Let me use Since79's CBA FanPost as an example to explain this a bit more. He posted a very valuable link and I'm glad he posted it. The article he linked brings a unique angle to the labor negotiations issue. However, what I think is a better use of the FanPost structure would be for him to pull out a few of the details in the article and then provide his own analysis of some of those details. Even if Since79 is not a labor attorney, his thoughts and analysis as a football fan would be welcome. It created quality discussion, but I still feel the body of the FanPost is meant for more than just linking and a quick comment or two.
A second example of linking in a FanPost comes from bignerd's post about Mike Sando's article on the 49ers fall from grace. The post starts with the link but then bignerd used the link to expand on the subject in great detail. I'm not saying Since79 should have used that kind of detail, but I think a bit more detail would have gotten more discussion flowing. I think part of the value of pulling out some excerpts and providing analysis is that it further encourages people to read the linked article. If you post a link and just tell people to read it because it's an interesting article I think people are less inclined to head over and read it.
I'm not going to prescribe a set minimum length for a FanPost because it all depends on the context of the post. Somebody could write three paragraphs with enough detail to get the discussion going, while others might need 6 or 7 paragraphs. I suppose the one minimum I can say would be that a single paragraph is not usually enough. And if it is enough detail it's probably because you have failed to sue paragraph breaks and have a big block of text, which nobody likes.
Finally, for certain subjects you'll notice "Official NN Discussion" threads. I post those so we can focus the topic on a given subject. If you want to write a QB post outside the Official NN QB post, or a draft-related post outside the official Draft thread, please make sure you take the time and effort to put serious research into it and provide some truly substantive analysis on the subject. It really doesn't matter whether you're right or wrong on an issue because we're talking about discussion pieces and opinions.
This all leads us to....
FanShots: As some have noticed, I made a cosmetic change to the site by moving the FanShots up to the left side of the screen. Previously they had been below the FanPosts and I felt it was easy for people to miss them. It might take a little time to get used to having the FanShots higher up on the left side, but I'd like to experiment with it for a week or two. All feedback is strongly encouraged.
FanShots are meant for the sort of "one-off" posts, usually involving links or YouTube video. Additionally, if you have a comment on a certain topic that isn't in a front page post or FanPost, but you don't have enough content to write a FanPost. In the section for writing new FanShots, you can always use the "Quote" option to post some random comments.
Comments: It's pretty basic how comments work. If you want to write about a topic, check around the front page to make sure it's not already being discussed. I ask this because I'd rather keep discussion of a topic in a single space so we can focus in the discussion and get all opinions together, rather than have five FanPosts discussing the same topic.
Conduct: A little over two years ago I instituted a site decorum policy that removed swearing from non-game day threads. We've removed site decorum in a few other instances (primarily the NFL Draft), but otherwise we've kept the policy in place. Over that time people have done an excellent job with site decorum. If there's a slip I'll issue a warning, but any repeat offenders usually happen over the course of a couple years as opposed to a bunch of days in a row.
However, it's important to keep in mind that site decorum also covers personal attacks and instigating comments. We're a community of 49ers fans trying to conduct relatively civil discussions about the team and all the news surrounding the team. I've been fairly proactive in attempting to keep things relatively civil, but it's not the easiest job in the world with a site growing at a steady pace. All I ask is that you follow Dalton's philosophy to "Be Nice."
If somebody personally attacks you or makes a snide comment about you, that doesn't give you free reign to make a snide comment in return. I do my best to at least skim every comment if possible, and if somebody starts attacking somebody else, warnings will be issued. If you think I missed an attack, you can easily email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm not saying you have to be some kind of pansy, but there's nothing to be gained by starting a shouting match with another user.
The grayer line is with "snide" comments. I think folks should be able to recognize when they're making a snide comment. I will say that there have been several times I've clicked open the reply box to make a snide comment, and after typing it up I'll read it over and then click cancel. What I'd recommend is reading over your comment before posting and think how it would be received. Even if the other person "deserves it" that doesn't make it right.
I think we have a great community here, but it's easy to slide into wasteful typing battles. It's just not worth it. Life's too short to get in some kind of pissing contest with another user. Let the testosterone slow down and maybe just take a break. It might become a fruitless battle for me over time, but for now I'm going to continue doing whatever I can to keep conversations on the high road.