Rules Updates

I added a new rule on the FAQ page, which is a generic place that I put information that applies to all categories.

I’m not very interested in actively moderating the forum. I’m currently planning to ignore violations unless they’re really bad. But other moderators are welcome to fix stuff like bad titles or to tell people to stop posting links without an opinion or goal.

Good Titles

Make topic titles clear, accurate and meaningful. Readers should receive useful information about what to expect, based on the topic title, before they read any post in the topic.

Don’t write clickbait titles. Clickbait includes overly sensationalized titles or leaving out information so that people have to click through to find out what the topic is.

For example, don’t use a pronoun like “he” or “this” in a title so that a reader won’t be able to tell what the word refers to without viewing your post.

Don’t use a title like “The ONE SECRET to astrophysics” which purposefully hides information about what kind of information the topic has in it. Instead, title it more like “Tips for doing astrophysics” (less sensationalized). If there’s only one tip, you can give information about it in the title, e.g. “Using a telescope to do better astrophysics”.

Don’t use vague titles like:

  • “I have a question” (What is the question? The topic title should either say the question or the question’s topic).
  • “Thought this was interesting” (What is it? Why is it interesting?)
  • “What do you guys think of this?” (What is it? Also the part about “you guys” is not useful information.)
  • “Anyone have any thoughts?” (This doesn’t say what the topic is about.)
  • “Can anyone help?” (This doesn’t say what the topic is.)
  • “Question about philosophy” (Be more specific about the topic.)

BTW titles can be either titlecase (like book titles) or sentencecase (capitalize first word and proper nouns, like a regular sentence). Either is OK. Don’t do all lowercase titles though.

I added not to do indirect criticism in Friendly and added this paragraph with additional explanation:

Challenging, questioning and disagreeing with people is OK, but don’t subtly or indirectly undermine people. Don’t be passive-aggressive. Don’t hint at people being wrong or bad, while maintaining plausible deniability about whether or not you’re criticizing or attacking them. Don’t imply criticism without saying it openly or directly.

Added to Friendly rules:

Project planning discussion is allowed even if it could be taken as implied criticism of poor or non-existent project planning. You can ask about someone’s goals, plans, backup plans, resource budgeting, prerequisites, topic prioritization, project scope, what they want from others, what they are offering to others, how and why they chose this project over alternatives, whether or why they expect to succeed, etc. Try to be helpful instead of attacking people. If someone doesn’t reply, stop. People can opt out by silence or by saying they don’t want to discuss project planning. If in doubt, ask “Is project planning discussion welcome?”, and treat no response as “no”.

I made a Projects category and moved Friendly to a sub-category of Other. In the future, I might disable creating new topics in Friendly. Projects is meant as a superior alternative to Friendly.

If you want to stay within topic boundaries, not Unbounded, do a structured project. Alternatively, use Other. People were misusing Friendly and didn’t even pay attention to the category description. IMO it wasn’t working well.

I also clarified the Other rules a bit.

I considered making a Structured category but decided a single project template was a good structure. I think structured discussions staying on topic, or unstructured discussions lacking topic boundaries, makes sense as a distinction. If you want to stay in some boundaries, there should be some structure that helps set expectations about what those boundaries are. If you want to be flakey and not explain what you’re doing, and don’t want Unbounded criticism, that should be in Other, not legitimized in a better category.

Structured projects with clear goals to pursue should reduce social crap. An unstructured atmosphere helps enable people to do social stuff. Whereas if they are focused on pursuing a specific goal, they behave better. So to deal with social stuff I think there needs to either be structure/focus/etc or else freer criticism.

Added to Unbounded rules (this is a clarification not a change):

Do not be mean. Criticism should be aimed at truth and progress, not used as an opportunity to attack others.

If you think some criticism is mean or attacking, say so. If you don’t point out the problem, no one can clarify what they meant (you may not understand their point) or change their behavior. You can ask how something is meant to help or say what you don’t like. Don’t assume someone is being mean on purpose and silently judge them.


I added a template (below) for creating a new topic in unbounded. Everyone but me should fill it out every time. I may edit the template in the future. It’s meant to be shorter/quicker than the Project template.

Topic Summary:


Why are you posting this in Unbounded?

Do you want unbounded criticism? (A criticism is a reason that an idea decisively fails at a goal. Criticism can be about anything relevant to goal success, including methods, meta, context or tangents. If you think a line of discussion isn’t worth focusing attention on, that is a disagreement with the person who posted it, which can be discussed.)

Is it OK to post in unbounded if the answer to:

is “No”, but you have some other reason for:


What reason?

The specific reason I had in mind is:
Because I don’t want to make it more difficult for people to respond by placing limits on what they can say.

But I think there are other reasons I or others might have that are also compatible with posting in unbounded but not wanting unbounded criticism, like:

  • I want a response from the best posters, and they respond more to posts in unbounded
  • I know I have bounds but I don’t know where/what they are and want to find them
  • The bounds I want are different from the bounds in friendly

In case it needs to be explicit, I do recognize that posting in unbounded means being willing to accept unbounded criticism. I see that as different from actively wanting unbounded criticism.

As far as the category rules, if you consent to unbounded criticism responses (and do not request bounds on criticism) then I guess it should be technically allowed to make a topic in Unbounded. But giving you criticism that you don’t want sounds problematic for both you and them.

Don’t make substantive edits to posts. Don’t edit out errors other than typos. If you change your mind, write a new post, and you can also add a small note to the first post about the update. I added text about this to the FAQ. It’s OK to edit in minor notes or minor wording changes to improve clarity. It’s OK to add some extra thoughts at the end of your post, soon after posting it, if they don’t change what you already said.

I’ve also edited the forum settings:

trust level 0 or 1: posts editable for 90min (down from default of 1 day)

trust level 2+: posts editable for 1.5 days (down from default of 12 days)

max edits per day lowered to 5 (more at trust 3+. default was 30 with more at trust 2+)

In the future I may further reduce editing limits or just disable editing. I do think strictly no editing allowed has advantages. It might be better overall (opinions welcome).

A downside to not allowing edits for a longer time period is it’s harder to edit in notes based on later discussion, e.g. that you changed your mind about a post, concede it’s wrong, retract it, etc. You can only add updates in child posts (which are findable – Discourse has a feature for showing replies to a post).

You didn’t explain this, but my guess is that this rule is because you want peoples’ levels of mastery and error rates to be more transparent. Sounds reasonable.

The primary issue is something else. Say Bob posts something and Joe reads it. It’s now part of Bob’s mind and part of Joe’s mind. Joe has a sort of ownership over it. It’s his ~right to think about it, reread it, and reply to it. Once Joe starts the process of thinking about it, it shouldn’t be taken away from him – it’s ~his too. Joe shouldn’t fear that his thinking will be disrupted. Joe shouldn’t have to create an archive/backup/mirror of everything when he begins reading it, nor have to abandon thought processes after they begin.

(On a related note, I do try to keep copies of every substantive discussion I have somewhere I don’t control, because I do not trust others to keep the information in existence, and I have been repeatedly screwed about this. It’s a hassle and makes some formats hard to use. A lot of old formats handle this really well though – email saves your own copy of everything, and AIM and IRC clients tended to have built in logging to log files on your hard drive in reasonable, future-proof formats like txt or html. Those formats, like IRL voice chat, also didn’t have editing or deleting after sending. Modern social media, by contrast, is hostile to people having control over their data or exporting anything, and has created a culture where people delete stuff that gets negative reactions.)

Also if you post a careless draft and then edit it a bunch, you’re being disrespectful of your readers’ time (if anyone reads it before you’re done editing). You should edit it yourself, and finish it, before showing it to people. In general, no one wants to read it twice to to find out about edits, or go through a changelog. They want their first reading not to be invalidated.

Also, people read posts via RSS or email and edits are never sent to those readers – whatever version they get initially is the only one they’ll ever see there.

1 Like

I’ve decided that, for posts using Anonymous Mode (the accounts named anonymous1, anonymous2, etc.), I may check who the author is. If you want anonymity from me, you’re in the wrong place. I won’t share the identities without an important reason.

I clarified the no misquoting rule by adding:

What about other uses of quotation marks, like fictional or hypothetical dialog, grouping words into a phrase, or scare quotes? Make sure they’re labelled or introduced in clear ways. If you use quotation marks and a reasonable reader might think it’s an actual, exact or literal quote, then you’re misquoting. Any ambiguous uses of quotation marks, which could mislead a reasonable person, will be considered misquotes. If there is even one reasonable interpretation where you misquoted, then you’ve broken the rule, regardless of any other interpretations where you didn’t misquote.

I added the below to the FAQ due to multiple people violating it recently. It’s all stuff I’ve talked about many times over the years, and which I think people who have been around for a while ought to already know (and even new people ought to know and do some of this, without being told, because it’s just part of being reasonable).

It’s kind of endless trying to write down all the things people do wrong and tell them to stop. I have many blog posts about it and I can’t just add them all to the FAQ (that’d be way too long). People can always find something else problematic, especially when they aren’t actively pursuing productive goals like learning philosophy. Nevertheless, these issues are common problems which are relatively easy to judge objectively.

Don’t write inaccurate paraphrases or do anything misquoting-adjacent.

Don’t speak for other people. It’s their decision how to word their ideas and what to say. You can use exact quotes but you may not put your words in their mouth.

Don’t write vague references like “what I said earlier” or “the article’s argument about this issue”. Use quotes or clear, specific, unambiguous references that make it easy for any reasonable person to figure out exactly what you mean. Don’t give references where a reasonable reader wouldn’t be able to quickly and easily find the specific thing you meant. Don’t make them search or guess. If it isn’t really obvious what you mean, quote exact words. When unsure, make it extra clear.

Don’t post references to anything outside the current forum topic without giving the source.

Don’t criticize ideas in vague ways that people can’t reasonably give a rebuttal to. Specific criticisms of quotes are preferred.

Avoid writing ambiguous statements.

The more you disagree with someone, the more you should write in a clear, direct way. When they have a significantly different perspective on the world than you, shortcuts are likely to fail.

People’s references are often confusing because they don’t understand what they’re referring to. They think it says X; it doesn’t; they refer to X; no one else can figure out what they’re talking about. I don’t know how to make a specific rule about this, but please be more clear and use more quotes when this could potentially happen.

I added this:

When referencing something long, direct people to the specific part you’re talking about. You can do this with e.g. a quote, timestamp or page number. Quoting just the beginning (and possibly end) of what you mean works when you don’t want to quote the whole thing.