I see a lot of posts on here that are thoughtful, knowledgeable and informative. Many members of BCSB check their facts before posting or are experts in their area and know their subject matter very well. I get a lot of value out of reading and discussing points in these threads.
On the other hand, I see a lot of serious discussion posts where people haven't done any homework, posting something they "know" without ever having verified what someone told them once.
I'd like to make a few suggestions to people who want to discuss something seriously from years of experience of making an ass out of myself. It may prove useless to a lot (or even most) of you, but there may also be something small in it so it's worth the effort.
Credibility is a collage of many things. It is far easier to lose than it is to gain back. While in general this board isn't that serious, sometimes some pretty sober stuff is available to read and comment on. Obviously this doesn't apply to most of the threads on this board - with one exception.
The only thing I'd like to say that applies to all threads is this:
You can be sued now for what you post on the Internet. It is becoming more common for libel to be applied to blog posts and boards like this. As a result of this, applying some wisdom to what you post may be prudent. You should have a quick look at the definition of libel. I would post examples of what's safe and what's not but I am not a lawyer. The understanding that I have is that an absolutely true statement cannot be considered libel. Another protection is if what you're saying is prefixed with 'it's my opinion that' or 'I feel that'....but that's not absolutely safe either.
Thoughts for posting on serious threads:
1. Posting when emotions are hot is not wise. If you ache to respond in the heat of the moment, you're taking it way too seriously and you are likely to post something you wouldn't when calm. Also, you're far more likely to make a mistake or skip checking something for validity.
2. Grammar and spelling skills are desirable - but not required. It takes more time, especially for some people who have gifts in other areas and are not skilled writers. Still if you really want to be taken seriously, you can always type what you want to say in a word processor and run the spell-check and even the grammar-check to see if it can be improved. Spacing and punctuation, as well as keeping your comments broken up in paragraphs that make sense can really add impact to what you're saying.
3. Look up facts, even for things that you "know". Consider who told you that or how you found out and then reason that they might have been wrong. I was sure of so many things, only to read deeper and find out that they were wrong, or that I had an incomplete understanding. Providing references is great - others can see that you did the homework. Also, if you don't want to be sued, knowing something is true is prudent if it could offend someone or damage their character. An unnamed person convicted of theft and subject to many threads on this board could probably get a lawyer to go after some people on here if he really wanted to, for example.
4. If you don't know something is true, then say you're not sure. If someone proves you wrong, accept it - don't try to defend your old position or make excuses.
5. Don't nit-pick about someone's grammar and spelling - if you understood what they're trying to say, then they communicated effectively enough. If on the other hand you have no idea what they just said, then feel free to go to town on them. I've seen a few incomprehensible posts on here from people who claim that english is their first language. In these situations, I've wanted to wish them well in learning their first language and hope they finish soon.
This is probably way too verbose but it's hard to break down into smaller pieces. I used to administer a smaller website and found that a lot of great discussions were derailed by flame wars (discussed in a previous post) and posters who where unable to debate or discuss effectively.