1. Hogs Haven has experienced awesome growth and participation in the community, so it becomes important every once in a while to underline some key "Rules of Engagement" for people to remember. I will get them started here, and I always like for people who spend a lot of time in the comments sections to add their two cents. Remember, the point of this site is to share opinions and thoughts--and not even always about football, though MOSTLY about football. (Don't worry...I will bring up the LOL rule.)
2. Comments sections on the internet are FULL of examples of strangers treating each other like crap. I absolutely won't stand for that kind of thing here at Hogs Haven, and I have asked those with moderator abilities on this site to warn and ban egregious and/or repeat offenders. The truth is I don't always get around to every post on this site like I would like, so I miss things sometimes. If you get warned or banned, it is because you probably tripped over this--as long as you didn't pull a Riley Cooper or worse, you will most likely be welcomed back to the site with open arms in the very near future.
3. This next one is going to sound...ummmm...timely? The theme here at Hogs Haven is football. It's not that religion and politics have zero place on this site--I am saying that they absolutely do. It's just that the manner in which it makes sense to broach these topics is delicate. We all know which article recently provided a good example of how far NOT to go, or in what way it does NOT make sense to bring up religion. We all saw how that stirred people up and that helps me to understand just exactly how inappropriate certain content really is here--after all, every community is different, and if people were offended by it, I do listen. I have seen religion and politics intelligently debated on this site without it degenerating into what I have seen, for example, on national news sites. (Seriously, the way people talk to each other online depresses the hell out of me.) A good rule of thumb is to probably sit on your hands if you are dying to stir up a religious or political debate. I want to stop short of stifling all debate on issues other than football, but I want to stress that the time and place for that is hard to properly identify.
4. This is a good place to introduce the next rule. If two or more Hogs Haven readers are commenting back and forth on an issue, and some idiot injects a ridiculously offensive or confrontational comment, the best thing to do is to IGNORE IT (easier said than done, I know). Send one of the regular moderators or myself a quick note in case we miss it and we will take care of it. The world is full of people desperate to start a fight. Don't allow them to succeed. Who cares if someone hiding behind a fake name or handle full of random letters and numbers wants to bring this place down to his/her level? Unless it is to defend me, I can't think of any good reason to get yourself worked up and engaged with these clowns. Save your energy for arguing about things that matter, like which jerseys we will be wearing in 2014 or who was the greatest punter of all-time.
5. If you disagree with an opinion or thought someone else has shared on Hogs Haven, I'm sure you are all going to let that person know, but try not to come off as beating people up for their thoughts. Remember, the internet struggles to convey body language, tone and other forms of context that help folks understand you don't mean to be a dick. This happens every day and it is the leading cause of escalation of pointless digital fights. When you respond to someone's thought with abrupt dismissal and condescension, you should know that it is likely to cause things to go south.
6. It's not like I am telling you, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." If that were the case, how would we ever talk about Philadelphia and Dallas? Civility isn't always nice, but is almost never as heinous as some of the things I have read online. Treat people with some dignity, and don't just automatically assume that someone is an idiot based on 20 words that they wrote.
7. As a reminder, I almost never go "in order" on posts like these, so this next rule is hardly in the right place as far as importance. Comments that attack race, religion, sexual preference or political affiliation are simply not welcome. The easiest way to be permanently banned here is to drop the N-bomb or denigrate someone on this site with any kind of slur. I am shocked that anyone would think it is okay to use that kind of language at all, but if you use it here, we will break out our banning powers. If Lemmiwinks taught us anything, it is that intolerance will not be tolerated.
8. Passionate debate is what we do. Emotion fuels much of what we talk about, and as such, we should all be just a little bit more thick-skinned when it comes to the general discourse. If you get out of line, chances are you know are out of line. Apologize and move on. Accept someone's apology and move on. Life is too short to carry grudges or bad feelings about people because they think you are an idiot for drafting a punter in your latest mock draft. If you have the balls to draft a kicker in your mock draft and post it, there is ZERO chance it will go unnoticed. (This is just one teeny example of the many, many, MANY idiotic things that get written on this site by every single one of us. Let's all take our medicine here and there and move on. If regular commenters throw up a response to something you have written, try and remember that they comment because they care.)
9. We are an open community. That is not to see you are all free to see other communities, or bring random communities home with you on weekends. That would be uncomfortable for all of us. I just mean that everyone is welcome. The last thing I want to do is turn people off because all they see in certain comments sections is terrible treatment of fellow readers. Again...we're not Philly fans. At times, the authors here have even been known to...ahem...mix it up on occasion. In these cases and others, I have seen the combatants exit with grace and respect for one another. I see plenty of people on this site go the extra mile to make sure that those they are arguing with don't feel personally attacked. It is not hard to do, and that is the kind of thing that makes more people want to join the debate. The easiest way for newbies to understand the rules is for them to see the rules being followed by the regulars.
10. I have really struggled with "unwritten" rules of conduct in the comments section, but I respect the hell out of the regular commenters on this site, and I am prepared to codify my very first Unwritten Rule.
No LOL'ing. There...it is written. As for the enforcement of this rule, we must be careful about how and when penalties are doled out (not everyone will know the rule). My recommendation is that anyone who LOL's gets an "LOL warning" the first time. If they do it again, they must change their sig to state, "I, [HH handle], LOL'ed without realizing the pain and hardship it causes people. I am working on my problem." Five days sound about right to keep that there? Keep it fun, everyone.
I now turn things over to the community to suggest other ways we can make our site welcoming and fun. And yes, I am working on the smell, so no need to bring that up.