|ToS / Charter / Guidelines Building Blocks|
Hey Brett, may we use WW's ToS as starting point?
I'm in the process of building a new community forum, and having never done so before, I'm at something of a loss on exactly what should go in the various "policy" documents. These often have various names (here called Terms of Service and forum charters), but regardless of what they're called, it's clear you need to have 'em, and they need to be clearly thought-out.
I started to ask Brett if I could use WW's versions as a starting point for crafting one for my forum, but thought this might provide a good topic for this new forum, the creation of which was timed perfectly, BTW <g>. As good as the WW docs are, my forum's needs are quite a bit different, so even with those as a starting point, I would have to make quite a few changes, as well as removal of irrelevant sections, addition of new sections, etc.
So, what would you folks recommend as needed in such documents? Perhaps we could even build a raw template folks could use as a starting point for their own forums. :)
I would think one thing to add to this would be not allowing people to enter into angry disagreements about how a thread is going(ie off topic, etc..). If there is a problem with a thread, instead of posting it on the board, for everyone to read, to take it to the moderator, and if the moderator for some reason does not handle it, then to take it to the admin of the forum
Bluesplinter, TOS issues fall in to a couple of categories. One category is legal compliance - issues like COPPA, copyright ownership, libel/slander disclaimers, DMCA violation reporting, etc. In most cases, this will be boilerplate that won't vary too much between forums.
The other major TOS category is defining rules & behavior. These go a long way to determining what the ambiance of your forum will be, and there's no perfect formula. When you define your TOS, you are also defining your membership. If you have strict rules about language and topics, you will lose some members who don't like censorship and don't like being told what they can discuss. On the other hand, if you permit free-wheeling posting with few rules, you'll drive away members who are offended by bad language, religious or anti-religious posts, etc.
By spelling out your expectations in detail in your TOS, it will be easier for you and your mods to rein in members. Many, or most, won't read the TOS before posting, but they are less likely to feel singled out if you can point to a specific TOS element after editing or deleting a post.