Zelda Wiki
Serious Discussion Rules (Updated 1 March 2018, Read Before Posting)

  • The goal of this board is to have a place where intelligent discourse can happen between members with differing views and backgrounds in a manner which is harmonious, civil and fun.

    Intelligent discourse between members from different cultures and countries is the gift given to us by the internet's power to break down geographical boundaries. It is the means by which we can understand the world and grow as individuals in a way that our parents could not have enjoyed.

    For us to achieve this, we need you the members to follow these rules which have been written in the interest of achieving this goal. It is the compass we base all decisions on.

    The Serious Discussion section is dedicated to the discussion of anything too serious for General Chit Chat. Politics, current events, moral issues, and the discussion regarding religion should all be discussed in this here. The exclusive moderator for this section is Silver, although the ZU administrators will often take a hand in moderating SD.

    Serious Discussion is governed is subject to a greater scope then the rest of Zelda Universe. In order to maintain a productive forum, the mods are quick to act and harsh in their punishments. It is critical that you familiarize yourself with the rules of the section as soon as possible. A degree of leniency will be shown to those ignorant to the way of things, but judgement shall fall swiftly upon those aware of the rules and guidelines of this section.

    I. General Serious Discussion Forum Rules
    1) ZU Global rules

    The rules noted in this post are not intended to separate SD from the rest of Zelda Universe, but instead to explain how the forum's global rules apply in the particular contexts of this sub-forum. The scope of terms like “spam” and “flaming” needs to be explored in the context of serious discussion but they still represent 2- and 4-point infractions under the global rule system respectively. If you have not yet skimmed through the forum rules it is suggested you do so now.

    2) Post quality standards

    Posts made in this section should be of higher quality than those made in General Chit Chat or Zelda. Make an effort to further discussion as much as possible with each post - if you can further discussion with only a single line, that is fine, but otherwise single line posts may be deleted on sight. For instance, an example of a single line post that may be acceptable is if you are asking another poster to clarify their point. Unless you are adding something to a previously touched on subject or the thread has move back to a previously touched on subject, posts should not cover something the thread has already moved on from.

    Posts made with little consideration for the English language will be deleted. We are not asking for perfection, some members are not native English speakers and we all make mistakes. There will be tolerance in this respect as long as the member posting makes an effort.

    3) Protection for marginalized groups

    Although the tolerence for certain forms of expression varies by thread category (more below) we make a universal effort to protect the rights of groups who are not present to speak for themselves as well as groups whose freedom of expression are constrained in other circumstances.

    If you find yourself comparing homosexuality and transgenderism to pedophilia or bestiality, promoting violent action against other humans on the basis of ethnicity or culture, or in general using our forum as a platform for the propogtion of hateful messages or oppressive attitudes please think twice before hitting post. You will be infracted without warning.

    4) Quote wars

    “Quote wars” are long, multi-quoted responses which break apart another user's post, usually for the purpose of responding to every point, line by line. Some members don't mind their use and find them comprehensive and that long quote strings make it easy to respond, while others find them very uninviting and feel that they obfuscate a poster's central point. Just as long strings of images should be spoilered, in order to make the SD board a bit more inviting we'd also like for posters to spoiler long, multi-quoted responses like so:

    Respons to Other poster

    other poster's name wrote:

    We should be doing A, here's why.

    No we should be doing B, and here's why

    other poster's name wrote:

    We should be doing C, here's why.

    No we should be doing D, and here's why

    other poster's name wrote:

    We should be doing E, here's why.

    No we should be doing F, and here's why

    other poster's name wrote:

    We should be doing G, here's why.

    No we should be doing H, and here's why

    other poster's name wrote:

    We should be doing X, here's why.

    No we should be doing Y, and here's why

    The spoiler tags are [spoiler=Title][/spoiler]. As a suggestion, it's preferred if spoilers are used when a single user's post (or portion thereof) has been broken down into more than 3 quotes.

    5) Simultaneous threads

    When new events or media attention bring certain subjects to the forefront of human consciousness there may be a general desire for avenues of discussion on SD which extends beyond what a single thread can handle. In particular, in keeping with our categorization system, a given current event may require a discussion thread, an academic analysis thread, and a contentious debate thread. This is unavoidable.

    That being said, in the past, certain topics have shown a tendency to dominate the board unless the number of threads on the topic is restricted. To curb this problem in general, we ask users not to post a new thread on a given topic if a closely related thread already exists *unless* the new thread will be marked with a different tag. So for example, if there is an ongoing thread marked Contentious concerning the origins or life and the evolution/creation debate it would be permissible to start a thread marked Discussion for general talk on members religious beliefs or a thread marked Academic to address Biblical Scholarship, but it would be against the rules to create any new Contentious thread which would divide Christian and Atheist posters until the first thread had run its course.

    6) Ignoring Evidence/Arguing in bad faith (Added 2018-03-01)

    By posting, you are agreeing that you will participate in discussion, not to simply state your views or ignore evidence present. [You are entitled to believe what you like and you are free to post that, but you are not entitled to dismiss or ignore evidence contrary to that.]

    For example:

    Display Spoiler
    Poster1: "I believe the earth is flat."
    Poster2: "Well, that's just scientifically wrong, here is a link to satellite images of the earth. It's relatively round, and somewhat egg-shaped."
    Poster1: "Okay, but I still believe it is flat."

    If you don't want to participate any longer, that's fine. But don't continue a discussion with someone who is trying to engage you while being duplictious or ignoring their points or sources. That's rude, that's insulting, and that is not permitted.

    Anyone violating this rule repeatedly may be subject to infraction ranging from 2-4 points.

    II. Threads marked for Discussion
    1) Rationale

    A number of years ago, we introduced the ability for OPs to tag their threads as "discussion". This was intended to create an environment where people felt comfortable sharing their own personal experiences and opinions without fear that they would be called on to defend themselves against hordes of eager debaters. In the first year, many good Discussion threads came and went, but over time the tag fell out of favour. Most new members to the section don't know what the tag is supposed to mean, assuming they know it exists at all. Ultimately, the people most in need of a discussion thread are often the people least familiar with SD and how it works, so this is a problem.

    Going forward, all new SD threads - tagged or not - will operate under the "Discussion" rules by default. Specifically, unless a thread is marked with one of the tags noted below it will be treated by the moderation staff as a space for people to express their opinions and relate their own stories with the expectation that other members will not argue their points. You are free to ask *questions* of other posters, certainly, especially if you maintain a level of decorum, but open and hostile disagreement with be strongly discouraged.

    2) Expected standards of behaviour

    The first thought in your mind when approaching any thread marked discussion is that *it is emphatiaclly not a debate*. It is an opportunity for people to share stories of lived experiences, opinions, and interesting bits of text under the expectation that they will not be called to defend their positions. There is a compelte moritorium on antogonistic or sarcastic responses.

    This is not to say that you should not engage with the other poster. Please do ask questions and feel free to show your support for anything anothe poster has said. Think about the way you would carry out the same discussion face to face, with a friend, and procede accordingly.

    3) Procedure for moving into debate

    Occasionally, we expect that members will want to contest posts made by others in Discussion threads in a more back-and-forth style of debate. While it is totally reasonable that a user, inspired by something they read in a Discussion, may start a new thread marked Academic or Contentious in order to explore an idea they may not quote or directly refer to the motivating post when they do so. Users specifically come to Discussion threads to avoid having their posts quoted and disected: allowing posters to work around the rules above by moving out of thread would defeat the purpose of the tag.

    In general, aggressive attempts to engage another user on the content they've posted in one of these threads constitutes harrassment. You can leave the door open for a different sort of debate, but you can't pull anyone in.

    III. Threads marked Academic
    1) Rationale

    A number of posters come to SD looking for rigorous, academic debate. These posters care less about the tone of the posts in their threads - they accept that some debate will be friendly, some will be heated - and more concerned about the rhetorical quality of the posts themselves. Such posters should now mark their threads with the "academic" tag.

    Academic threads will follow all of the same rules and regulations which applied to SD prior to this change, so thy should feel familiar. There will be, however, an even higher standard for post quality then what was previously the norm. Our hope is that, once the tag is well established, not post in an Academic thread will require less than a half hour's effort on the part of its poster and make strong use of cited sources.

    Down the road, we hope to also implement an arbitration system in Academic threads, whereby members who feel a discussion has become to circular can request a third party intercede and designate the direction for future discussion, thus preventing threads from being bogged down in minutiae. A program like this requires general success with the tag first, so if you're interested, please make use of it.

    2) Citations and Sources

    You are responsible for appropriate citations in your argument. Generally, any time you make a declarative statement or introduce a piece of jargon in a thread not marked with a "discussion" tag, it is charitable but not strictly required that you provide a source. When asked to provide a source in such a thread, it is necessary that you do so with reasonable promptness (or cede the point) if you wish to continue in the discussion.

    Sources are never required in threads marked for "discussion" (including the War Room). You may politely request that another poster provide further details or link to off-site information, but they are under no obligation to answer. If a discussion thread tends towards content where, in the opinion of the moderators, more rigorous sourcing is required a new thread will be created.

    Serious Discussion is very much a "101 space": no specialized knowledge is required to enter and the burden of welcome is on all of our regular members. If mods believe that a certain member is taking a consistently lazy or disingenuous approach to asking for cited sources they will address the issue.

    On the flip side, it is our goal to avoid overly verbose arguments. It is not reasonable to expect other posters to wade through hours of information in order to appreciate your point. If, in the opinion of the moderators, the information provided by a poster is not sufficiently clear or concise it will not be counted as a legitimate source.

    Obviously, not all sources are created equal. Without getting into a lengthy philosophical discussion around the creation of knowledge, we can safely say that the information presented by third parties, the conclusions which third parties draw from information, or both may be unreliable. After a source has been posted, discussion my arise as to the value of that source. There are some thing to keep in mind here.

    Various cognitive biases drive us towards a hyper-critical view of the sources brought forward by our debating opponents and a relatively relaxed view of our own informational foundation. The first law, then, is to monitor your own approach to sourcing for hypocrisy. Beyond this, it is critical to have an appreciation for the different ways that information is published onto the internet and the relative value of each. To that end:

    Types of sources
    Peer-reviewed systematic review and meta-analysis

    A systematic review with meta-analysis - wherein a panel of collaborating experts ask a question and then collect and mathematically analyze as much data as possible in order to answer that question - is the "gold standard" for evidence. It's not that such publications are infallible - in fact they vary in quality greatly - but when such an analysis is able to come to a strong conclusion it is *beyond reasonable* to assume it won't be legitimately assailed by the efforts of an internet message board.

    Peer-reviewed review article

    A review article is the published opinion of an "eminent" figure in the field in question. Much like the creators of a systematic review, the review author will collect a wide body of data to support a final conclusion, but (in fields outside of hard science) a review is less likely to involve robust statistical tools and more likely to be coloured by the author's own world view. This has advantages and disadvantages - there's certainly something to be said for the value of real experience and reviews are generally much more readable than meta-analyses - but in the end a review should be considered a "weaker" piece of evidence than a systematic approach (though stronger than anything else).

    Peer-reviewed (double blind, randomized, controlled, bonferonni corrected, pre-registered, publicly funded) study or communication

    The unfortunate adage tells us that "for every study, there is an equal and opposite study" and anyone who spends anytime in the scientific literature knows that this can be sadly true. The value of a meta-analysis lies in its ability to average away the biases and imprecision inherent to any single effort to answer a question scientifically.

    That being said, science is hard not impossible. People with the desire and the skill can get it right. Know what this looks like!

    It is possible that the phenomenon you are studying is subject to the placebo effect? Then your study should be blinded. Is it possible your study be confounded or that you will be looking at correlations and trying to understand causation? Then your study should be randomized and controlled. Is your study going to look at the effect of multiple variables on one outcome? Then each should be bonferonni corrected (or Bayesian, but that's a lot to ask). Is your study on a popular or exploratory topic where it is important to recognize *failures* just as much as successes? Then your study should be pre-registered. Is your study on a politically sensitive topic (hint: you're on SD)? Then it should not have been funded by a private interest group.

    Remember, if a teacher wants to advance in his career they eventually need to publish a Master's thesis. If a physical scientist wants to *survive* in hers she needs to maintain a constant output of publications. These effects lead to an enormous body of scientific work done by people whose primary motivation is *not* the advancement of human knowledge.

    As poor as some of the research published due to these forcing effects can be it is *still better than your raw opinion*. The correct approach to weak research is most certainly not to poke holes in the available studies (which can be like shooting fish in a barrel) and go on believing what you already believe. It's to appreciate that understanding on a particular topic is not yet well developed and that the existence of even weak evidence against your opinion should, at the very least, increase your own uncertainty.

    Preprint, conference proceedings or non peer-reviewed communication

    Scientists talk to each other and the public in many ways which do not directly invoke the peer review process. Preprints and non peer-reviewed communications form the basis for interesting discussion but should always foster a "wait and see" attitude.

    Independent Publication by a public organization

    The US census bureau (and its equivalent in other countries), NASA (and similar agencies), and the international panel on climate change (and similar UN scientific institutions) publish enormous amounts of raw data. Beware both attempts to call this sort of data into questions - the outside view is that such organizations get things right the vast majority of the time - and attempts to draw broad conclusions from the data without actual mathematical analysis.

    Non-reviewed publication by a private organization

    The work that comes out of think tanks is generally more colorful, more easily digested, and more likely to flatter your pre-existing political opinions than anything published by publicly funded academics. The Cato Institute can afford a publishing company: most political science departments cannot.

    Much like a weak study, this does not mean that you should disregard these publications. If a debate comes down to ramming the work of two opposed think tanks against each other the only reasonable solutions (by a statistician's standard) is to locate more rigorous research or to admit that the phenomenon in question is not well explored and holding a strong opinion is ill-advised.

    Regulated secondary source (including Wikipedia)

    Good journalists and encyclopedia editors *know all this* and are held to account if they get it wrong. When Dr. Aaron Carroll writes on medicine for the New York Times he's summarizing meta-analyses with an expert's eye, not preprints through the lens of an agenda. Vandalism of wikipedia is damn near impossible in 2016. The marks of a useful secondary source lies in your ability to quickly identify the primary (ideally through a Digital Object Identifier or "DOI") and to measure the degree of difference between what's written in the first few sentences of the original and derivative sources.

    Non-journalistic secondary source

    Blogs and pop-sci articles are not without their function: they often do a reasonable job defining terms and introducing concepts. For the love of Bacon, though, do *not* assume that your independent Youtube vlog is sufficient evidence to make a contentious point.

    IV. Threads marked Contentious
    1) Rationale

    Although it's important to the forum staff that everyone has a place to post safely on serious topics on ZU, we have grown increasingly uncomfortable lately moderating the tone of some debates. It is not, ultimately, our place to control the politics of discourse any more than is absolutely necessary to maintain a functioning forum environment. In a thread marked for "contentious" content all the general rules of Zelda Universe still apply - outright flaming and harassment are off the table entirely - but debaters will be given more leave to respond in heartfelt, highly emotional tones of disagreement when challenging the posts of another user.

    We don't expect all "contentious" threads to be off the walls /pol/-lite slug fests. Ideally, many topics marked with this tag will proceed without any notable aggression at all. This category simply exists to allow for topics of discussion which evoke both personal feelings and rhetorical back-and-forth. We hope that SD regulars will make extensive use of this tag whenever they are looking to discuss tribally charged issues including politics and religion but want a little more freedom than the "academic" tag provides.

    2) Right to express negative emotions

    Threads marked for contentious discussion provide avenues for people to express their frusteration with certain policies, ideas, and groups even when advocates of those policies, proponents of thsoe ideas, and members of those groups are in the thread. The opportunity to aggressively disect aspects of human identity in the presence of other humans is what makes contentious threads so, well, contentious.

    We want to be clear, though, that this is not carte blanche to flame an opponent or even to attack an opponent from an oblique angle by insulting their tribe. Flaming is still flaming, and remains punishable under site rules.

    The standard is fairly straight forward: if there is an obviously more civil way to express yourself on a topic and you choose to sling mud instead, you open yourself up to moderator action. If you really do seem to just be calling a spade a spade and other users take offense as a result moderators still reserve the right to intervene and direct the thread elsewhere, but your right to expression will be respected.

    “Gandalf put his hand on Pippin's head. "There never was much hope," he answered. "Just a fool's hope, as I have been told.”
    ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

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