Clean up time for message boards

IN AN EFFORT TO PROMOTE a higher level of discourse on Cougfan.com message boards, CF.C this week adopted a revised code of conduct for those posting on the various forums. Since its founding in 1998, CF.C has strived in its oversight to err on the side of free speech. But given the steady spiral downward in decorum, our moderators now will patrol with two questions as their guideposts.

First, would the words or photos be suitable for the workplace environment? And second, would you mind if your 10-year-old child saw it? Would you say the same thing to someone's face who disagreed with you?

If the answers to those questions aren't what they should be, then the gavel -- literally -- will fall.

As part of this effort to sweep out distracting, distasteful and juvenile posting, we're introducing a new handle to the forums called the CrimsonGavel. When you see this name on the boards, it's CF.C interjecting itself into the fight for better decorum. The COUGFANcom handle will remain our board name for linking stories and answering questions. But the CrimsonGavel is the proverbial red flagger who's pulling someone over.

The aim is to replace vitriol and petty hokum with more lively, meaningful discussion about our shared passion for Washington State University. If successful, it stands to reason that many fans who currently don't post -- but whose insights can help promote healthy dialogue -- may start joining in.

DOES ALL THIS MEAN we're cracking down on critical commentary? Absolutely not -- as long as the information is presented in a tactful, reasonable way. The key words here are tactful and reasonable.

For guidance, pick up the editorial page of any major daily newspaper. There, you'll find lots of critical commentary on a variety of issues, but presented in a professional, business-like way that adds to the discussion without resorting to name calling or baiting.

Here's just a flavor of what we're getting at:

Bad post: Joe Schmoe sucks and has a noodle arm. He must have compromising pictures of one of the coaches.

Good post: Joe Schmoe showed Saturday that his release point is too low and that he doesn't have the velocity to hit receivers in a timely way on sideline routes. I'm also not impressed with his footwork on his five-step drops.

Here are other rules that posters will need to be mindful of:

• Calling fellow posters, players, coaches or school administrators any of the following names (or something similar) will not be viewed favorably: Idiot, moron, dumba$$, mental midget. On occasion, we may green light such words when the topic is the quality of officiating in the Pac-10.

• Hijacking a reasonable thread with an inflammatory or flippant comment is bad news. For instance, inserting "I BLAME PLAYER/COACH/STAFF MEMBER" and "HEY GAVEL, WHY IS THIS POST OK" into a discussion about the pros and cons of the 4-3 defense won't fly. Annoying subject lines in all caps, calling another poster an IDIOT for example, won't fly either. More tolerance for others' opinions, as long as they are presented in a tactful and reasonable manner, is needed here, not less.

• Creating one or more alternate handles to post inappropriately will result in those handles being banned --- and it is now also likely to result in an "original" handle being banned. Those users who have already created 5, 15, even 35 alternate handles in order to post inappropriately will not be viewed favorably.

• Posting profanity is not allowed -- nor is a thinly disguised effort where a * has been substituted for a letter so the profane word, or words, remain crystal clear.

• Photos and signature icons should always be in good taste. Scantily clad bodies are potential issues in most everyone's workplace and don't have a place on the boards here. Posting Cougar-related photos and icons is preferred but not required.

• As always, copyright infringement precludes the cutting and pasting of stories from other news sources. What you can do is cite the source and offer up a brief summary of the information. Even better, offer up the brief summary and then provide a link to the original source's work.

• Posts directly addressed to a recruitable athlete are verboten.

To the degree the rules of decorum aren't followed, we'll on occasion initially explain why a post was deleted or moved to the Rabid board. We won't go into long explanations, and most of the time we probably won't provide an explanation at all -- common sense mandates that no explanation would be necessary at times, depending on the transgression.

In regard to banning people, CF.C over the years has tended to be looser than many fan sites. That no longer will be the case. Depending on the infraction, an offending poster might get one warning. Or they might get a ban ranging from between three days to one month. Or a permanent ban also is possible.

Once again, using multiple handles to post inappropriately or in an effort to hijack threads will be summarily removed and the original handle may also be banned. If you have questions about why your post was edited, moved or deleted, or if you have any questions about the boards themselves, send us an email. The boards, however, are about the Cougs and posts made asking why a post was removed, etc., will be deleted.

These changes are the result of mountains of feedback gathered from our readership over the last year. The hope is to increase both the quality and quantity of the discussion. We also expect many of you will not have any problems staying within what we believe is a very reasonable framework.

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