Welcome & Rules (please read before posting)

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Welcome & Rules (please read before posting)

Post by RJN » Mon Jan 18, 2010 7:40 pm

Welcome to the Asterisk! The Asterisk* is first and foremost an interactive bulletin board where topics in astronomy and space can be discussed by anyone willing to conform to a few simple rules. In particular, the Asterisk* is currently the main venue for the discussion of Astronomy Pictures of the Day (APODs), as this board was initially set up by Robert Nemiroff (RJN), an APOD (co-) creator and editor. Please note that this is not a NASA site and that anything said here by anyone does not imply a statement by NASA or an endorsement from NASA.

Starship Asterisk*

Recently, a new motif was added casting the entire discussion board as Starship Asterisk*. Although perhaps a bit fantastical, APOD and the Asterisk* do take people to great space images around the universe, and so in some ways APOD and the Asterisk* have been acting as a virtual starship already. My hope is that the new motif actually inspires more people to become interested in astronomy and space.

A person who posts on the Asterisk* board is immediately considered to be a (virtual) asternaut, as opposed to an astronaut. Asternaut is not misspelled -- it is the diminutive of the word astronaut. Although only a few are selected to become astronauts, anyone with a web browser can become an asternaut. After 10 posts, an asternaut is elevated to become (also) an Ensign, and after 100 posts, a Science Officer. At 500 posts, an asternaut is judged to be legally insane, and is therefore allowed to choose their own rank (within reason).

There are many cool places to go on the Starship Asterisk*, and you can see a list by clicking the Saturn icon on the upper left of any page.


Below are the rules for posting to The Starship Asterisk* Bulletin Board. Most of these fall under the simple rule of “Be polite”. However, there are some specifics that need to be listed.

In most cases, the first violation will result in a public and/or private warning. Subsequent violations will earn you infraction points depending on the seriousness of the violation. Accumulating sufficient infraction points will result in a suspension and, beyond a certain level, a permanent ban.

That may sound harsh, but in reality these rules are pretty easy to follow. This board is based upon mutual respect for and by all posters. This is a community. Whether we agree on specifics or not, we’re all here because we’re interested in the Universe around us. Following these rules benefits everyone.
  1. The Spirit of the Law
    The purpose of all of these rules is to ensure that this forum remains a law-abiding, civil, and congenial place to engage in discussion. That a post complies with that spirit is a greater consideration than whether it can be defended as being within the rules.
  2. Board Language
    This board is an English only board. All posts must be in English. We understand that English is not the primary language of many of our posters, but we do not have the resources to support a multilingual board. Posts in other languages may be removed and penalties imposed.
  3. Posting Topics
    First and foremost, this discussion forum focuses upon space and astronomy. It is a strict policy of the Asterisk that posters stay within these areas when creating topics and participating in existing conversations. Keep your posts relevant to the thread in which you are posting.

    The Open Space: Discuss Anything section exists for general banter which falls outside space and astronomy -- and do note that the forum rules apply there as well. Scientific topics outside of space and astronomy are also welcome and may be posted in the Open Space: Discuss Anything section.
  4. Civility and Decorum
    Politeness is the top rule here. Of course, we expect to have spirited debates! That’s fine, as long as the people involved extend one another basic respect. Disagreements are inevitable, but even in those situations you must still be nice.

    Attack the ideas, not the person(s) presenting them. If you've got concerns with what someone is saying, feel free dismantle their arguments, but do not resort to ad hominem or personal attacks. Be mindful and respectful of others' feelings. If you feel that someone has crossed the line and insulted you, please contact one of the moderators, preferably via the reporting mechanism described below, or by PM or email. Don't write scathing posts in the forum to try and humiliate people publicly.

    If these guidelines are not followed, the administrators/moderators will take swift and appropriate action, so please behave accordingly.
  5. Language
    No cursing. This goes along with being polite. This website is read by a lot of kids, including young school kids who want to learn about astronomy, space, and space exploration. The Universe is a marvelous place, full of beauty and wonder, and if you despoil it by using bad language you will quickly invoke the ire of the administrators and moderators. Think of the language used on TV during an after-school special and you'll get the idea. Attempts to express bad words or phrases in messages or screen names, by any means such as (but not limited to): replacing key letters with different characters, misspellings homonyms, sound-alikes, abbreviations, or any other trick obvious enough to be noticed by a moderator will not be tolerated. Same goes with adult topics -- talk about them somewhere else. If you do need to post something risqué, stick with arcane scientific terminology.

    Contact a moderator or administrator if you have any doubts.
  6. Copyright
    Do not post copyrighted material here. This is very serious. It is within the law to post small, relevant quotes, but not whole passages from newspapers, magazines, books, etc. If you do, the post will be deleted, and you will be warned. Do it twice and you may be banned. If you want to reference material somewhere else on the web, give a brief summary and link to the rest. People can go take a look at what you're talking about and then return to discuss it further. Please provide links and/or proper citations for all quoted material.
  7. Privacy Issues
    Posting private information about forum users that is not available otherwise publicly will not be tolerated. Do not post private email you have gained access to without the express permission of the sender. There are legal and copyright reasons for this, not to mention that doing so is very impolite. The same caveat applies to private messages, whether they're from this forum or anywhere else. If you receive rude or abusive private messages on this forum, you can report them via the same mechanism as inappropriate posts.

    However, private messages to a moderator about forum administration issues are an exception to this rule. These may be shared with other moderators (but only with other moderators) unless you have a prior agreement with the moderator not to do so. To put it another way, think of the moderator team as a single entity. A PM to one is a PM to all, at least when it comes to official business.

    Note that if you do report a private message that you consider inappropriate, you should provide background information regarding any private discussions that preceded that message, since the moderators (unlike with public message posts) cannot establish context without such information. Members who report inappropriate messages without revealing that they sent messages that might have goaded the sender into writing such a message will be dealt with severely.
  8. Advertising, Solicitation, and Spam
    Do not post advertisements of any kind without securing the express consent of the administrators beforehand. Do not use this bulletin board as a vehicle to promote your own website, product, or forum, nor to sell merchandise. These are egregious offenses which will result in the deletion of the offending posts and immediate banning of the user(s) responsible. Do not submit threads/posts containing identical text in multiple forum categories; that's considered spamming the board, and likewise will be dealt with accordingly.

    With prior consent of the moderators or administrators, you may put a personal website in your signature if you wish, but please think carefully before you do so.

    If you have any doubts that it may break one of these rules, contact a moderator or administrator first.
  9. Second & Third Party Posting
    Do not post on behalf of other people. In other words, if someone you know has something to say relevant to the discussion in a thread, have them register and post it. Think of them as a copyrighted source: you can quote them in short amounts, but if there is something substantial they want to add, they must do it themselves.
  10. Hotlinking and Large Images
    Try to avoid putting in links to images directly from someone else's website. This can add a lot to their bandwidth, and then the host has to pay for it. In other words, if you see an image you like on an astronomy site, put in a link to that site, but don't use the <IMG> tags so the image loads into your post from their site directly. If you really want an image in your post, put it in a public site someplace and link to it from there. One exception would be from sites like NASA or universities, where bandwidth is not such an issue. If you own the image or it is public domain, then you can upload it to the board yourself.

    Additionally, don't embed a huge image (meaning an image that's over 500kb) inline using the <IMG> tag but link to it instead. We still have users with limited bandwidth for whom downloading a large image would be a significant annoyance.

    When quoting a previous post with images, please just include a reference to the image and not the image itself.

    Please see The Observation Deck: How to post images for help on posting images.
  11. "Hit & Run"
    The technique of posting a single provocative statement (or, commonly, a URL to a pseudoscience website) and then never posting again in a thread is greatly frowned upon. This is only a step above trolling. Barely.
  12. Sock Puppetry
    Users are allowed only one account per person. Do not register under a different username for any reason as that will be treated as sock puppetry. All such accounts (including the primary one) will be banned without warning. Should you feel a need to contact the moderator staff, use the Contact Us link at the bottom of the homepage.
  13. Editing & Revisionism
    Edit your posts with care. There's no problem with editing a post later to change the tone or to correct spelling and the like. But changing content is not allowed! This is a slippery path that can be seen as revisionism. You may edit your post for up to 24 hours. Also, when quoting other posters, you may trim the text down to brief snippets to address something in particular, but do not misquote others or alter their content to suggest they've stated things which they haven't.
  14. Politics & Religion
    Due to the contentious nature of these subjects, forum participants are strongly advised to avoid discussing religious and political issues. Please don't begin or contribute to a topic that's merely going to incite or fuel a flame war.

    However, the following exceptions apply:
    1. Political impact upon space programs, exploration, and science.
    2. Focused, polite discussion of concepts such as creationism and "intelligent design" which bear direct relevance to astronomy and science, for the purposes of conversing about and addressing misconceptions.
    3. Focused, polite discussion of the difference between astronomy (including cosmology) and religion.
    4. In The Bridge: Discuss an Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) section only, focused, polite discussion of topics or issues brought up in the originating post. Do not start a new thread there with your own topics, and do not take the discussion to another forum section.
    Partisan political debate is unwelcome anywhere but in The Bridge section (see exception D above) and should be undertaken elsewhere. The same applies to debates purely religious in nature. Likewise, proselytizing will not be allowed. In short, outside of the Discuss an APOD section you are allowed to discuss politics and religion within a very limited scope where they affect space and space exploration, astronomy, and science. Nothing more. If you really really need to talk about these topics with someone, take it to PM, email or to another bulletin board.
  15. Alternative Theories and Conspiracy Theories
    This board concentrates on the mainstream or consensus view of cosmology. Alternative theories and conspiracy theories are not discussed here. We may decide to allow limited discussion of these at some later date. For now, however, we ask that you take these discussions to other boards that allow such discussions, such as CosmoQuestX Forum: The Proving Grounds.
  16. Disruptive Behavior
    The moderators and administrators reserve the right to take action against a poster who is disrupting the normal flow of the board. This includes violations listed in the other rules (trolling, use of ad hominems, posting copyrighted materials, etc.), but may also include behavior we have not yet foreseen. Since this rule is perforce general, we will attempt to correct the problem by warning the violator (via PM, email, or posting in the thread) and giving him/her a chance to explain his/her behavior, and we will take further action only if proven necessary.
  17. Repeat/Chronic Offenders
    Be warned: If you are banned and try to get back in by spoofing or changing your email, appropriate action will be taken -- not limited to but including contacting your ISP.
  18. Reporting Bad Posts
    If you feel a post breaks one of these rules, please report it by clicking the 'report' button (Image) at the top right of each post. Do not talk about bad posts or anything else you consider to be inappropriate user behavior in the forum itself or suggest, speculate on, or threaten what the moderator response should be. All reported posts are reviewed by moderators or administrators, and are treated very seriously (so do not report frivolously). If you have concerns, please PM a moderator or administrator. Otherwise: Bugs? Problems? Report them here!
  19. Moderator Actions
    If there is a rule violation, then a moderator will take action. This may include: the deletion of a word or phrase (if it breaks the rules), the removal of an entire post (if it is beyond redemption, or if it's a spam, etc.), the merging of a new thread with an existing one on the same topic, the closing of a thread if it wanders too far off-topic or gets too heated, a gentle warning to a user or users, a not-so-gentle-warning, and as a last resort, the banning of a user. This banning may be temporary or permanent, as outlined above. If a moderator gives you advice, we advise you to take it.

    Discussion of moderator actions is not allowed on the board. If you disagree with a moderator action, then PM or email the moderator, a different moderator, or an administrator (see The Team). If it's a post by a moderator that you disagree with, you can report the post using the usual mechanism. We will review the case and take action as needed.
  20. Rule Additions & Revisions
    The administrators reserve the right to modify existing rules and/or add additional rules as they see fit. In many ways, this board is like a living thing, subject to change. Situations sometimes arise which cannot be anticipated, and thus, rules must be added to accommodate them.
  21. Special Rules
    Some sections may have special rules. These are in addition to the rules stated above.
    • The Bridge: Discuss an Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD):
      • One Thread per APOD
        In an effort to reduce duplicate discussion and questions, there will be only one thread for each APOD. If there is already a discussion thread on an APOD, please keep all posts on that APOD in it; if not, feel free to start a new thread. Second (third, etc) threads on an APOD will be merged.

We would like to thank Phil Plait, Fraser Cain, and The CosmoQuestX Forum for allowing us to adapt and adopt their rules.

Last edited by bystander on Sun Jul 25, 2010 6:36 pm, edited 14 times in total.