Let me begin by expressing my appreciation for the 99% of members who operate within the forum guidelines of "respectful but vigorous debate" more than 99% of the time. You make it all worthwhile.
It is my sincere hope that no one will ever "earn" one of these infractions, but we all have our down days. The system outlined below allows for that without being overbearing, I believe.
However, we know that some folks just don't like the guidelines and want to do things their way. Therefore, to give an incentive to operate within them, I've done two things.
First was to "turn on" the infraction tool for moderators here. This allows them to flag a post as inappropriate and, in turn, the member gets a brief written explanation of what as wrong and what might be improved.
Second, today, based in large part on the feedback on this thread, I've increased the consequences for accumulating too many of these infractions. Below is a list of said infractions, some explanation of them, the number of points they render and the length of time they last.
Like points on your driving record, they can add up over time, but also have a "sunset" where they drop off your total after a certain time. That time here is two weeks, for now.
Say a member called someone else a name, thereby belittling them. It gets flagged by a moderator. They have ten points on their account for the next 14 days. If they don't repeat the problem, the total drops to zero after 14 days. All is well.
But if they then pick a fight with someone, and get flagged, their total jumps to 20 and they have earned a three day suspension to cool off. If it's all in one day, it will be 14 days before their point total drops below 20, another three days before they're allowed back on.
Repeated problems of the same type have an added bad consequence, the sunset is extended. For instance, if someone made two posts where they called someone names, on the same day, and both got flagged, they have earned 10 points for 28 days, not just 14 days. Two more like that in close succession and they've given themselves a rather long "time out." It'll be almost two months before their point total drops below 20 and they're allowed back on again.
To be clear:
As long as there are 20 points on your record it will be three days before you get back in.
As long as there are 25 points on your record it will be a minimum of two weeks and possibly permanent suspension.
So, forthwith, the list of infractions:
Insulted Other Member(s).. 5pts -- Expires after 14 Days
Insults can take manifold forms, but the mods are all folks whose judgement I have come to trust. Remember the Golden Rule, the real one, and you'll be fine.
Inappropriate Language.. 5pts -- Expires after 14 Days
Things that would have gotten a kid's mouth washed out with soap in "our era." It was also not acceptable around the dinner table. Doesn't matter if the software filter puts those little asterisks in there or you try to do it yourself to evade the filter. Let's aim a little higher.
Name calling.. 10pts -- Expires after 14 Days
Doesn't contribute anything substantive to a debate and usually is seen as a tactic of someone who has run out of ideas but wants to silence the other side. Don't go there.
Deliberately trying to pick a fight.. 15pts -- Expires after 14 Days
This would be a serious problem and put someone on notice that they're way over the line, but the mod thinks there's hope they can control themselves.
Serious breach of forum guidelines -
about to be banned... 25pts -- Never expires
Someone needs to be excluded from the forum immediately, perhaps permanently, subject to the Provost's review.
Spammed Advertisements.. 25pts -- Never expires
Allows the mods to close off the access of a spambot. Not intended for use against humans.
You can look at your infractions on your user profile under the "User" CP tab at the top of your forum list.
I hope this note lays out the boundaries clearly but concisely. It is a work in progress and may be updated, changed or adjusted as time goes by and needs arise.
Please feel free to discuss the above set up on this thread.