See notes-group-discussionForumCommunityGuidelines.

This document is my attempt to create some discussion forum community guidelines after looking at many others.

this is still WAY too long!!!


attempt at a more concise draft

The rules

If you see a post that breaks the rules, DON'T reply to it, just Flag it (when a post is removed by moderators, replies will be removed too).

This forum is heavily moderated. See these links for information on: voting; our detailed rules; user levels; governance system.



Our goal is civil discussion with a minimum of flamewars and hassle. We censor and we police tone (although we prefer to call it "moderation"); better for ten worthy discussions to be silenced than for one flamewar to rage. We do strive to be welcoming and to have open discussion, but we are not: a bastion of free speech; a supportive space for the oppressed; or a base from which to organize.

Ideally, we would have comprehensive rules and disallow all and only content that breaks the rules. In reality, we have fallible moderators and evolving rules requiring interpretation, and you will be able to find cases where you can say, "this is unfair; if you disallowed X why didn't you disallow Y?". Sorry, but we have to start somewhere.

You might be surprised that the following things are forbidden:

Dogma: Our dogma is that the following things are bad (this does not mean that only the things on this list are bad!):

If you see something forbidden, don't reply to it to say that; simply flag it. If a post is deleted, its replies will also be deleted.

The following topics are prohibited outside of their designated subforums:

The following are forbidden:

The Mods may warn you, hide or disemvowel posts. If a Tribunal thinks you broke the rules, you may be censured, placed in Bad Standing, have your posts deleted or disemvoweled, or ban you. We do not shadowban. We have a 3 strikes rule for serious infractions (but sufficiently serious infractions may lead to banishment for the first offence); strikes expire after a long period of good behavior.

We may or may not allow some of these rules to be bent somewhat by senior contributors and moderators.


Only Members may vote (non-members may, however, 'follow' or 'hide' other users).

Voting for posts/comments

On each post/comment, there are 2 ways for you to vote:

For example, if someone posts something correct but unimportant, you might agree with it but not upvote it.

Upvotes are used to sort and filter, and to compute signal/noise scores. Upvoting also gives Merit to the poster. Agree/disagree is displayed next to posts/comments. Note that you can disagree, but you cannot give downvotes (you can, however, flag posts that are inappropriate).


Merit is the reputation of the poster for contributing to the community. Merit is accrued via upvotes, but you can also give Merit to a user directly on their Profile page. On your own Profile page you can see and adjust your Merit gifts.

You have a fixed amount of Merit to give out. The more you upvote, the less Merit each of your upvotes is worth (including past upvotes; your Merit score goes down as the people who upvoted you upvote others in the future). When you receive Merit, this does NOT increase the amount of Merit that you can give out; that is determined only by your Influence.

You may give Merit to yourself. You can reallocate the Merit that you gave/are giving out at any time.

Signal/noise (S/N)

Signal/noise is merit divided by number of posts. There is a separate S/N for posts and for comments. The idea is to reward people who avoid taking up too much of readers' time with low-value posts/comments. Authors who have high S/N get a boost to their posts/comments even before others upvote them.

There is also a S/N metric computed in terms of raw # of upvotes, rather than Merit. This is used to promote Guests to Contributors.


Influence determines how much weight is given to votes, as well as the total amount of Merit that a person can give out.

If you are a Steward, you can delegate your Influence on the Profile pages. You can 'take back' this delegated Influence. Influence that you don't delegate remains yours. Influence can be transitively delegated (in fact, all Influence that you have began with the Custodians and was transitively delegated to you). Influence delegations are public.


In Elections, the Influence given by Stewards is also automatically counted as 'votes' for Chairs. Each Member may also cast 1 vote for a Boardmember (self-voting is allowed).

User levels

Note that Custodian, and to some extent Steward, are specialized roles; it's likely that there will be many senior Members who are not Stewards or Custodians. Also, there may be highly valued long-time Contributors who are never offered Membership (for example, if the Stewards feel that they don't share the community's vision or values; or if they feel that they would be a hassle; or just if the Stewards feel that the project doesn't need too many Members). Although the Custodians have the ultimate power, their powers are 'reserve powers' that are intended to be used rarely; for the most part, the Members and Stewards will probably be calling the shots.

A New User becomes a Guest when they have made at least 3 posts or comments ranging over at least 3 days, they have received at least 3 upvotes, and they are in Good Standing. A Guest becomes a Frequent Contributor when they are in Good Standing, and they have made at least 3 contributions spanning at least 3 months which have each been upvoted by at least 3 different members (if at least 3 different active members exist), and (either both incoming Merit over the last 3 months, and total Merit, are at or above the 50% percentile of all active non-Member Frequent Contributor accounts; OR invitation by the Stewards).

The Stewards may vote to extend an invitation to Membership to some Contributors; and they may vote to elevate some Members to Steward. Custodians may invite a Steward to become a Custodian. Any Custodian is still considered to be a Steward, a Steward is also a Member, etc.

Each Member must be sponsored by a Steward. A Steward can only sponsor one Member at a time (ie, during any single vote of the Stewards to accept new members, no Steward can sponsor than one prospective Member in this vote). If a Member is hence expelled for bad behavior, then the Steward who sponsored that Member cannot sponsor any more Members, until/unless they are rehabilitated by a >=2/3s vote of the Custodians.

todo: okay, but who can and can't split and merge posts, move posts to a different subforum, etc?

Governance bodies and roles

Governance bodies:

Individual roles:

Here are our complete Bylaws (link).


(todo: if posts get Merit by upvotes, and project contributions also get Merit, then what if a post contains a really great idea for a project? shouldn't there be a mechanism to give it more than 2 upvotes worth of Merit, besides manually going to the author's profile page and giving Merit there?)


intro rewrite

Why Decorum?

Collaborative projects run on contributor time and energy. Contributors need to be able to justify spending their energy on a colloborative project, and that is easier to do if (a) a frequent contributor can show the outside world proof that their work was considered valuable to the project, (b) the fruits of the project's success will be shared between contributors. A numerical reputation score is one approach to accomplish these goals.

Who makes decisions on a project or forum? The simplest answer is that the founders/managers decide everything, after informally consulting others. However, more participatory governance may attract more contributors, lead to better decisions, and alleviate workload on founders and managers. Many projects have a culture in which project contributors have a voice in project direction, participate in suggesting improvements to rules, tools, and processes, and help out in moderating themselves. Often there is no formal governance system, but in an open community this can cause problems as questions eventually arise as to exactly what the rules are, and under what authority the old-timers or regulars are enforcing them. Other projects have a democratic one-person-one-vote system, but in open projects this can cause problems as the mass of people who are loosely affiliated with the project can outvote the small number of dedicated experts who are doing all of the work.

Decorum provides a project with a system to recognize and reward contributors according to the value of their contributions, as well as a governance system for group decision-making. The system does not force project founders/managers to give up all of their power, but it gives them the option to delegate as much or as little power as they choose to those contributors whom they trust. Contributors participate in evaluating and moderating other contributors, allowing some of the burdens of management and moderation to be crowdsourced.

Introduction to Decorum governance, for new contributors

Decorum is a communications, reputation, and governance system for collaborative projects or forums. As a new user, your first few posts will be reviewed before posting, until you gain enough upvotes to be promoted to Guest. You may be rewarded Merit for particularly valuable project contributions or forum posts. Contributors who consistently add the most value are recognized with the title Frequent Contributor.

Some Frequent Contributors may be invited to become Members. Members have a voice in project direction, can give Merit to others, and can cast votes in the project governance system. Other governance-related levels of membership are Member Stewards and Custodians. Elected governance roles include three Chairs, seven Boardmembers, and one CEO.


todo: talk about Merit going down as well as up; is there some sort of 'max Merit' or 'accumulated Merit' to reward someone who used to have a high Merit score and no longer does? If so, how is it computed? Just the integral over time, or something else?


Different Members have different amounts of Influence (voting power). Members vote in elections for Chairpeople and Boardmembers, and they also vote directly on proposals in the Forum. The three Chairpeople lead the organization and administer the governance system. The seven Boardmembers vote on proposals (in addition to the Forum), and the Board also selects the CEO, who manages the project under the direction of the Forum and the Board.



Governance roles: Members are delegated Influence from Member Stewards, who are themselves delegated Influence from other Member Stewards or from Custodians. Custodians, usually project founders or managers and their successors, have the authority to overrule the reputation system.

Most Proposals need a 60% supermajority to pass, but there are some exceptions. Either the Forum or the Board can independently pass proposals, but they can veto each other, and also overcome each others' vetos. There is also an optional prediction market that allows people to stake their Influence on predictions (for the purpose of empowering the most realistic Members). Members can proxy their Forum votes.



For Members: How to get involved in Governance


for 'Accumulated Merit', mb something like the time integral of fraction. or... can we somehow do a VWAP instead of a TWAP there? TWAP is probably good enough though. So, eg, each day, you add your proportion of all Merit (a fraction between 0 and 1) to your Accumulated Merit count. Founders probably start off with a head-start, since they were presumably doing stuff for the project before this got started. And, consider multiplying by 10k (basis points), since "0.0003324" points is harder to be proud of than "3.3324 points".

could also use Accumulated Percentile. But fraction has the advantage that the early team members, who are taking the most risk, get rewarded (because when there's only 3 ppl on the team, they can each get a lot; when there are 30 people, most of them get 1/10th that amount -- although even with 3 ppl the founder(s) may want to keep most of the pie). But, should display both, so that later members have something to be proud of too.


the scylla and charybdis of the discourse-okalypse are PC and bigotry



name ideas

mb distinguished contributor instead of regular contributor? or mb core contributor?


instead of agenda-setting, and upvoting, being only clone-independent reweighted range, maybe also add in a spoilerable 'spend your reputation' component. The 'reputation-bought votes' here only cost reputation if/to the extent that your choice wins, and you can select multiple choices with the same reputation paying for them as long as it's not possible for so many to win at once that you'd spend more reputation than you have.

this arises from thinking about how, on marketplaces like ebay, etsy, lyft, uber, giving less than 5 stars is seen as a negative; so really you'd only want to have a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. But this suffers from the problem that you have no way to reward really outstanding service. So you need to add something that is expensive to give, so that it won't become the norm to always give it -- so add a conserved quantity.


no movie spoilers!


if a comment or DM is deemed offensive towards one or a small number of particular other members, the offender may be given the chance to apologive to the offended partie(s), upon which those parties have the chance to accept or reject the apology. If the apology is accepted by all offended partie(s), then the offender's punishment is lifted, and the offense is not formally counted against the offender for the purpose of repeated offense rules (however the offence may still be recorded and publicized, and mods are free to informally use their discretion to treat the offender harsher in the future).


don't post insinuations about astroturfing or shilling


Being offensive is not allowed. However, just because one person feels offended does not create an obligation for the community to deem the content that offended that person "offensive" in general.