The aim of this guide is to provide the basic guidelines and policies to be followed by both experienced and inexperienced moderators so that they know what they should and should not be doing and the way to do it. Additionally, the intent of this guide is to serve as a starting point for new moderators.
The origin of Gentoo Forums
The Gentoo Forums, currently forums.gentoo.org, first went online as gentoo.frozenliquid.net on 6 April 2002 by Kyle Manna, aka Nitro. The forums server was hosted at Nitros' home with a 2 mbit/s down, 380 kbit/s upstream cable connection.
In June 2003, the forums migrated to an M5 machine at a co-location facility in New York, NY. In August 2004 they migrated again to a machine with dual 2.4Ghz and 3Ghz Xeon processors with enough gigabytes of RAM and hard drive space at Oregon State University. In February 2005, the forums were migrated to their current location at OSU on a 2 x Intel(R) Xeon(TM) CPU 2.80GHz, 2GB ram and 5 x 36 SCSI in a RAID5 array. This machine was previously used by the Mozilla Foundation to host Firefox.
The Gentoo Forums have grown so much, with over 87k users and 2k posts per day, that they have become the most popular support forums of any Linux distribution. The phpBB forum software running at Gentoo Forums, with custom patches, is one of the biggest implementations worldwide.
The Gentoo Forums are the right place to ask for support of any kind, both in English and in any of the supported languages, and to expect replies from other experienced users or even developers. Additionally, there is a large list of documentation, tips and tricks section and a place where people can freely exchange their ideas, but with no personal aggression. This makes the Gentoo Forums the ideal place to ask for support and also a fast way to seek and find answers for most questions as posts are preserved indefinitely.
About the content of this guide
The guidelines outlined in this guide are not intended to be universal and are not to be followed in a rigid way, due to the different nature of situations that might occur. That is, there will be times when all of the guidelines should be partially or completely ignored. The moderator's judgement should be the primary influence when making a decision.
The exposed policies form an etiquette that defines the expected behavior from a moderator toward the forum users, the developers and the rest of the moderation team. The main goals of this etiquette are the following:
- Avoid internal confrontations inside the moderation team and preserve the unity of the moderation team
- Keep a neat and clear public image of every moderator
- Keep a neat and clear public image of the moderation team as a whole
All posts must be professional and courteous. Never react impulsively or instinctively, always think twice before you post. Remember that your words will usually be taken seriously. Bear in mind that the fact that you are a moderator gives you more responsibilities than power. All rules applied to forum users are still applied to you, that is, you are not immune. It is sometimes advisable, as a moderator, to keep your opinion to yourself if it will inflame a user or the situation in general.
The first rule of moderating the forums is to do no harm. If a post is borderline or you're not sure what to do with it, err on the side of inaction. Talking it over with the other moderators may be a good idea to get more opinions of what should be done.
All Moderators and Administrators are expected to follow the overall Gentoo policies contained in the Developers Handbook as well as the Guidelines and Policies outlined in this Guide. Please refer to the following documents.
Interacting with users
These forums are primarily a support resource to allow users to get help for Gentoo-related questions. Respect users' opinions as far as they do not attack, degrade, troll or malign other users. If a user requests an explanation about any of your actions, reply adequately explaining your point of view. If a user does something improper or becomes a disturbance, inform the rest of the moderation team and take the necessary measures.
Interacting with other devs
Developers are people that put their efforts into improving the Gentoo Linux distribution. Their knowledge on how things work in a Gentoo system make their posts valuable information. Always try to respect developer opinions and advice about support questions. Nevertheless, developers that are not moderators should be treated as standard users. That is, not courteous and unprofessional posts shall not be tolerated.
If you have issues with a developer you should first approach them with your concerns (and a possible way to resolve the issue). If you cannot resolve the issue with the developer by yourself contact the Top Level Manager for that developers Project and the Top Level Manager of the Forum and present your issue along with any and all documentation. If they are unable to help you the problem may be resolved in two ways. First contact the ombudsman. If they cannot help you devrel can be contacted. The Forum Manager will assist you in contacting the ombudsman and devrel.
The Gentoo forums are located inside the USA. The laws of the USA forbid the use or practice of cracked software of any type like warez, crackz, etc... This includes sharing serial numbers, links to warez sites or any other information that would allow the illegal use of the software. Due to this fact, any thread that is related to any such illegal activities should immediately be locked. The offending posts in the thread should be edited to remove any of the illegal information. If the offending post is inside a thread where the intention was not to talk about illegal activities, that post and all related to it should be split to the Dustbin and edited.
Any kind of activity considered illegal by the laws of the USA like pornography and such, should be treated in the same way. Additionally, advertising (spamming) to the forums is considered an illegal activity and should be treated equally.
If the offending posts were made by a newly created account, that account should be locked. In any other cases, a warning should be dispatched to the offending user, unless there are serious reasons to lock his/her account, i.e. it is the second time he does that.
Interacting with other Moderators
The other moderators are your team-mates. Try to show unity and unanimity in your actions. Always respect the actions of other moderators. If you do not agree with an action taken by another moderator, discuss it with him/her like rational people. Internal problems are to be solved internally. Anyone that does not belong to the moderation team is not supposed to know about it so do not make it public. Try to cover, support or back up the actions of other moderators in public if it is necessary.
Moderating the Forum takes time. Please try to dedicate a few hours each week to Forum issues. There is no minimum amount of time you must dedicate but please try to give as much time as you can. Your personal life is always more important than moderating the forums. If you're gone for an extended time let your fellow moderators know by posting in the Status: 410 Gone thread.
All Moderators and Administrators who want to be Official Gentoo Developers must go through the mentoring process. Please refer to the Gentoo Mentors Guide for further information.
Move duplicate threads to Duplicate Threads and post a notice linking to the thread it was moved in favor of. If you are certain that the thread is a duplicate, do it right away. Otherwise, it might be a good idea to post a link, see if the original poster acknowledges that it's the same, and then move it. Always ensure that there is some clearly marked unlocked thread for followups to a thread going into Duplicates.
When posting moving notices in threads, try to mention the original forum, the new forum, and maybe a brief explanation. Remember that each time you move a thread you can check the 'Leave auto move post...' checkbox.
Any new thread that does not ask a support question goes out of Assistance and into Discussion (& Documentation). Conversely, any support questions in Discussion get moved to Assistance.
Support threads about software that is not directly maintained by Gentoo developers should instantly be moved to the Unsupported Software forum.
Support request threads in Assistance should always be in English. If you find a thread that is not in English, either ask the user to change it or move it to the corresponding international forum at your own discretion.
Cross posts inside Assistance are not allowed, that is, if you find the same request thread (or similar) by the same user in different support forums of Assistance, keep the one most useful and move the other(s) to Duplicate Threads. You should also post a warning notice so that the user does not do it again.
Posts with links inside to other threads asking for help on the same issue are to be treated like cross posts. An exception is cross-posting in Assistance and International Forums unless the international moderators of that forum do not want to allow it. This is left to the discretion of the Moderators of each international forum.
Support questions for other operating systems (this includes any linux distro like Vida, Redhat, Debian as well as MS Windows and LiveCDs - even if based on Gentoo) should be moved to Off The Wall. This does not include questions on how to configure a Gentoo system to interoperate with one of these other Operating Systems or vice-versa. For instance: 'how do I configure my Windows printer to accept jobs from my gentoo box' this question is OK in the support forums. 'how do I install bittorent on my windows XP box' is not acceptable and should be moved to OTW.
Under normal circumstances, threads should only be moved once.
Editing a users post
It is a good practice to edit posts to add your comments in posts of the Violations Thread of the Gentoo Forums Feedback forum. If you think a post should be edited, to remove offensive URLs, reformat the text or anything you consider necessary, add a comment signed with your username at the end of the post between the [i] [/i] phpBB code tags.
If you see an obvious poster error, such as carbon copy posts or threads, delete them without warning or notification. Prefer locking to deleting threads. The only reason to delete threads is if they are obvious double-posts.
If you detect a spammer that is posting an advertisement into many forums, delete all of them but one, which should be kept as spam proof. That spam proof is to be moved to the Dustbin. Finally, report the user into the Accounts used for SPAM thread and report the following in your post:
- User account (preferably with URL to his profile)
- A link to the SPAM proof
- Action to be taken [warning (rarely we choose this option)/ban/ip address ban]
Closing (locking) a thread
Try to warn major threads once before locking them, if they are drifting off topic or getting personal or something. If you (or any other moderator) threatens something (one more "me too" and this thread is toast), back it up as quickly as possible. Do not make empty threats, nor allow other moderators to look like they have done so, for they may have simply gone to sleep.
Always post a lock notice with an explanation when locking threads.
Split a thread if a question is asked at or near the bottom that doesn't have anything to do with the initial topic, unless it's really simple and you can just answer it cleanly. Most common type of post in this category I see I call the "Columbo syndrome", from the American 1970s television detective, who was famous for coming back into a room and saying "just one more thing". Make sure to give the new thread a title that is relevant to the question and post a notice of the split in the original thread.
You can also split threads that are lots of pages long if the users agree/request it. You should in that case lock the old posts into an 'old' thread and link both threads to each other.
When splitting threads, post split notices both in the old thread and the new thread.
Sometimes you come across threads that describe similar issues. Other times, a thread is just a duplicate of another thread. In any case, if the new threads are short enough and there is no problem with the time/date of them, you can always merge the two threads into one instead of moving the new one to Duplicate Threads. Remember to post a notice after merging threads, explaining that the new thread was merged into the old one.
Some International Forums have a Coordination thread in the Moderators Forum. Some of them have a separate policy that is a subset of this Guide. This Guide takes precedence and should be referred to in cases where the International Forum Policy breaks these rules; this is a general rule and exceptions can and have been made. If you are assigned as a Moderator of one of these Forums please read the thread specific to you. If there isn't an existing thread for your language you may create one in the Moderators Forum if there are more than one Moderators for that language.
Arch Specific Forums
The arch specific Forums are generally moderated by Global Moderators and usually by a Developer of that architecture. Since the Developer is intimately familiar with the architecture their opinion is deferred to in most cases. This is a general rule, Global Moderators and Administrators have the final say with any issues.
Gamers and Players
The Gamers and Players Forum is listed under Assistance. Unlike the other assistance forums, general chat about games is allowed in Gamers and Players. Things such as strategies, game codes, etc... The general rule is "If the game runs on gentoo, even in an emulator or Wine-based layers, it is OK to discuss it in Gamers and Players". This does not include cracked software. See the section entitled "illegal activities" for further information.
When quoting a post make sure not to hit "Edit" by mistake.
Bumping is generally discouraged but is tolerated if the thread has not had a response in more than 24 hours. Use your own judgement and always err on the side of the bumper if you are unsure.
No matter what you do or don't do, you probably can't please everyone. Once you have accepted that fact, your life as a moderator will become much easier.
To prevent any possibility of a moderator's account being compromised you must connect securely over https when logged in to the forums.
Forums Test Server
A test server is available for you to test all the shiny new buttons that are available to you as a Moderator. It is also the primary server used to test new features and upgrades of the forum software. This server is password protected, the username/password is posted here. This servers database is a snapshot of the live Forum and is not always up to date. If you do not have moderator status on this server please contact a Forum Administrator.
IRC - #gentoo-forums
The Forum has it's own irc channel set up for users to contact the Forum Team, #gentoo-forums (webchat). Although you do not have to idle in this channel it is a resource that many users take advantage of. If you are on irc please idle in this channel so users can contact you.
Global Moderators and Administrators should be added to the firstname.lastname@example.org email alias. This email is primarily for users who are having problems with their forum account and can't contact us in any other way. Although the Moderators forum is the primary way to have internal discussions this mailing list is also used. Anyone who is a moderator can see the moderator forum. Only Global Moderators and Administrators receive the mail sent to this email address. Please keep this in mind when deciding which avenue of communication to use.