Rules

This section describes the rules for the use of the Arlington List. It details the rights, responsibilities, and operational rules that go with the use of the list. If you are more interested in how (mechanically) to do something, see the Help/Faq section.

Basic Rules

The list is a community of people gathering to interact with each other and help each other. It is requested that people treat each other with respect and civility. As owner of the list, I develop, maintain and enforce these rules, which are spelled out in the rest of this FAQ. Use of this list is subject to a couple of conditions:

  1. You agree to follow the list rules as spelled out here
  2. You agree that I am the final arbitor of the interpretation of these rule, and will accept my rulings on list matters,
  3. You realize that I do not have detailed control over what is posted on the list, as I do not review every message before it reaches the list[
  4. Therefore, you will hold me, and those that help me, harmless for the material here, but will deal with the original poster.
  5. If you can not agree to these rules, I ask that you leave the list.

Subscribing

(For more details on the mechanics, see the FAQ on subscribing.

To subscribe to the Arlington List, go to http://arlingtonlist.org/subscribe and fill out the form under the heading "Subscribing to arlington". After you submit the subscription form, you will be sent an email from the list software with instructions on how to confirm your subscription. This message should be sent automatically as soon as you submit the form, the page mentions you might need to wait for approval, but for the Arlington List you do not, you just need to provide confirmation. The message you get will give several methods, I suggest using the link to the confirmation page. The option to reply to the message might fail if your email program doesn't reply back with a plain text message.

The form ask for your "Full Name", which is requested but not required. The list software and its mangement respects your privacy, and places it under your control. The name you enter here can not be seen by anyone but the list administrator. No one else can see your name or email address until/unless you post a message or add an entry to the Cast of Characters.

One problem that might occur, is that you email provide might think of the message from the list software as spam., so if you don't get the confirmation email shortly, check your spam folder for the message (GMail users should also check the alternate inboxes Social and Forum). Another thing to try is to "white list" the mailing list by adding the following email addresses to your address book: arlington@arlingtonlist.org, arlington-bounces@arlingtonlist.org, and arlington-request@arlingtonlist.org, as these are addresses mentioned in emails from the list. (You should generally only actually send email to the first of these).

Placing your name in your messages when you post is also not required (but strongly requested). For more information, see the articles on Privacy and Anonymous Postings.

Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is allowed, but discouraged. Unless you have a very good reason not to sign your posts, please sign them with your real name. For the purpose of this policy, your real name means your full name, as it would typically appear on your driver's license, passport, credit card, or personalized checks.

Signing your posts with your real name means you stand behind your words. It means others on the list are more likely to take you seriously. And it means you are willing to be held accountable for what you say. In order for the list to be a good place to conduct civil discussion of important town issues, the large majority of posters must sign their real name.

At the same time, some people cannot post on certain topics under their real name without fear of losing their job, or jeopardizing their personal safety, or other reasons of a similar nature. So it is understood that allowing anonymous posting can be valuable, and we allow it for this reason.

It is all too easy, however, for the privilege of anonymous posting to be abused by someone who wants to vent their spleen without being held accountable. This behavior is not permitted.

Opinion on the list about anonymous posting is split. I get about equal amounts of mail saying that anonymous posting should be banned as that it should be allowed. So the compromise is as follows:

You are allowed to post anonymously if you have a good reason for it, and if you take care in your messages to avoid stirring things up. Anonymous postings that are argumentative, controversial, or uncivil will result in the poster's future postings being moderated (that is, individually approved by me). Messages from such a poster will be subject to being summarily rejected without notice.

This policy will generally only be enforced when it appears that the poster is abusing the privilege of anonymous posting. It will not usually be enforced when it is obvious that the message is only inadvertantly anonymous, for example when the poster forgets to sign a perfectly civil message.

By the way, if you sign your message with a false name, there is probably no way for me to know. However, there are over a thousand people on the Arlington list, so your friends and neighbors probably will know, unless you take care to use a different email address, and never give away any identifying details about yourself, and so on. In my experience this degree of deceit is unusual, and not worth worrying about for the purposes of the Arlington list. Grownups with integrity don't do it.

Basic Netiquette

It is expected that uses of the list will follow the basic rules of on-line etiquette (called Netiquette), including the following:

It is YOUR responsibility to make a good faith effort to express yourself clearly so others are apt to understand the meaning to your statements. Using words with loaded, shaded or twisted meanings is discouraged as people are prone to misunderstand things. Remember that humor may not reach everyone. There are thousands of people on the list, so without care, someone is apt to misunderstand things not stated clearly.

It is also YOUR responsibility to make a good faith effort to understand what someone else has said. They may well have a different background and assign a different meaning to a phrase than what you take it as,

YOU should also exhibit charity to others, to be slow to anger or take offense, and not assign to bad intentions that which may be accidental or unintended.

When posting, think if you statement is important enough to make to the thousands of members of the list. Take care to make you post easy for them to read and understand. With the large membership of the list, even costing everyone just a second has wasted over a hour of time.

Remember that there is a person on the other side. The electronic medium can sometimes depersonalize exchanges, and we be tempted to say things that we would never think of doing face to face. It is wise to stop and think about what you are writing before clicking send. Remember, once sent it can not be taken back.

Make your post easy to skip for people not interested in it. Give it a good subject line that describes the topic. If you are replying to a message, keep the subject identical (unless you have good reason to change it) and use the reply button. This allows people to skip the subjects they are not interested in easier.

Trim unneeded material from replies.

Make your message easy to find for those that ARE interested. Again, a good subject line is vital here (and helps in people searching for the message). Use appropriate keywords. If starting a new message, do NOT use the reply function, that will bury your message in the middle of the discussion of the message you replied to.

Posts should be civil and useful.

Civility

The Arlington list is a private forum managed and paid for by a volunteer. The mission of the list is to further civil online discussion in our town, and the purpose of these guidelines is to support that mission. Submitting postings to the Arlington list is a privilege granted to everyone without condition. However, posting freely and having your messages delivered immediately is a privilege earned by following these guidelines.

  1. Do not make personal attacks on other list members. See Personal Attacks for more details on what constitutes a personal attack.
  2. Do not repost to the list an e-mail you received privately, whether signed or unsigned, unless you have the author's permission to do so, or unless the message was obviously written with the intention of unlimited distribution. For the purpose of this guideline, "private" means "not posted to the Arlington list."
  3. Sign your posts with your real, full name. See Anonymous Posting for more details on what this means.
  4. Stick to the topic of Arlington. This is especially important if you are posting about something controversial. See On Topic for more details about what's on topic for the list.
  5. Take the long, heated arguments with one or two other people to private email.
  6. When posting on a controversial topic, take responsibility for guiding the discussion back towards civility, even if you don't think that others are doing the same.
  7. Remember, that just as you have the right to state your opinion on the matter, so does the other person.


Normally, everyone on the Arlington list is allowed to post anything they want, and their messages are delivered immediately without a chance for the list manager to see the messages first. However, if your postings violate these guidelines, then the list manager may contact you to discuss it. If, in the list manager's judgment, your postings continue to violate the guidelines repeatedly and with a lack of good-faith effort to improve, the list manager may choose to make your subscription moderated. The list manager will notify you in this case. Please also note that a new list member's subscription is moderated for the first few postings.


Having a moderated subscription means that when you post a message, it is not delivered to the list until the list manager approves the message (normally within 24 hours). If the list manager does not approve the message, you will be notified.


If you have been put on moderation and you want to be allowed to post freely again, write to the list manager.

Commercial Posting

You are allowed to make commercial postings to the Arlington List as long as they are relevant to Arlington and relatively infrequent.

"Commercial"
here means that the primary purpose of your posting is to advertise something about your business or service. Advertising to sell your car, for example, doesn't fall under this guideline unless that is your business. For the sake of this guideline, advertising specials or coupons in a way that you can get a referral bonus IS considered commercial.
"Relevant to Arlington"
means that, for example, your business is located in Arlington, you live in Arlington, or you posting is very likely to be of wide interest to Arlington residents.
"Relatively infrequently"
means that your postings for you business or service should occur no more than every three months or so. A simple reply of "We can do that" to a request to the list for a recommendation for a good or service that you provide will generally not be counted against your posting frequency.

Since one of the primary uses of the Arlington List is for residents to exchange recommendations for and against local businesses, you should expect that advertising your business may spark discussion, both pro and con, about your business. Civil criticism of or concerns raised about your business will not be considered a personal attack.

These are guidelines, and as always. the final judgement as to the appropriateness of a commercial post rests with the list owner.

Moderation

The list is not moderated in the normal sense of the word, which would mean that there is someone approving each and every message to the list. I manage the list, which means that I deal with subscriptions and answer questions, but I normally do not exercise any control over the content of the list beyond enforcement of the policies of the list contained herein.

New subscribers are placed in a state that there first few posts are held for review to make sure they conform to the list policies, and released to the list if they do so. Most people after a few posts are cleared from this state and their subsequent posts will go directly to the list without intervention. Very occasionally, a poster may be put back on moderation for repeated violations of the list policies.

On topic

People join the Arlington list, and stay despite the high volume and wide range of topics, because they are interested in the topic of Arlington. This policy provides guidance about how to stay on topic, and explains how the list manager handles threads that veer off topic.

Staying on topic is often difficult, and it is understood that there can be no hard and fast rules that everyone would be able to apply exactly the same way and get exactly the same results. Instead, staying on topic requires good judgment, which comes only with practice. Here are some questions to ask yourself when you are writing a message. When you can answer "yes" to these questions, you are probably headed in the right direction.

  • "Is my message about Arlington?" If your message is very clearly and totally focused on Arlington politics, Arlington schools, Arlington restaurants – Arlington people places or things in other words – it's on topic.
  • "Is my message likely to be of wide interest to a large group of people who are here because they want to learn about and discuss Arlington?" If you feel confident that the answer to this question is yes, then your message is very likely to be on topic, even if it is not about Arlington per se. For example, messages about a neighboring town, or about a state-wide map database that includes maps of Arlington, or about a chain of stores that's coming to Arlington, are probably all on topic.
  • "Is my message an attempt to draw on the resources of my community?" In other words, if you live in Arlington and you are asking for help from or providing information to what you feel to be your community, then your message is probably on topic, even if the focus isn't on Arlington itself. For example, if you are inviting people from your town to a national political event, or you are asking your neighbors how they are handling some aspect of the state tax form, or you’re looking for the best route to Logan Airport, it's probably on topic even if the focus is not Arlington.

  • "Does my message avoid changing the subject?" When you reply to a message and you change the focus substantially, you may be going off topic. For example, if a list member posts a message inviting neighbors to a national political event, and you reply with a message that focuses on national politics instead of neighbors, you may not be staying on topic.

  • "Does my message avoid violating any of the other list policies?" If your message contains a personal attack or the text of a private email, it’s not on topic even if it otherwise would have been. If your message is of a commercial nature, please see the policy on commercial postings.

It is not unusual for a discussion thread to drift from its original focus on Arlington into other territory – philosophy, political parties, technical matters of law, definitions of words, and so on are common directions of drift. This sort of drift is only natural, and it takes a conscious effort to bring the focus back to Arlington. If you make that effort, your fellow list members will appreciate it.

If a thread that was originally on topic goes off topic, the list manager may choose to end the thread. Ending the thread means that the list manager posts a message to the list with the subject "Thread is off topic and has been ended (was " followed by the subject of the thread being ended. The list manager may also adjust the list software so that messages on that thread will be held for approval instead going through immediately without approval as they normally do. Not all off-topic threads are created equal: an off-topic thread about boating is not likely to be as disruptive to the list as an off-topic thread about a controversial and provocative topic. So the list manager will exercise judgment as to which threads need to be ended. Please trust that the list manager is choosing which threads to end in a fair and objective manner, based on the potential level of disruptiveness, and not on any personal preferences or viewpoints the list manager may hold.

Personal Attacks

We strive to maintain a civil atmosphere for discussion on the Arlington list. One of the cornerstones of civility is the expectation that you can say controversial things and not be attacked personally for them. So the list policy is that personal attacks are never allowed.


What is a personal attack?


A personal attack is a message, posted in the context of an argument, in which the poster makes unfriendly remarks about another list member instead of addressing the specific points made by that list member.


A personal attack often takes the form of a comment such as, "you have no idea what you're talking about," an insult such as "based on your postings I can see that you're incompentent," or a rhetorical question such as, "how hypocritical can you be?"


The "no personal attacks" rule is intended to apply primarily in the case of messages and responses on the list. Personal attacks on someone not known to be a list member, such as the proprietor of a local business or a public figure, are similarly discouraged, but are not specifically part of this policy.


Similarly, attacks on the list as a group, such as "you're all a bunch of nincompoops on this list," are discouraged, but not specifically part of this policy.


OK, what should I do instead?


Here's the scenario: someone's made a provocative statement on the list, and you're trying to find the right words with which to rebut it. "You fool!" No... "You idiot!" No... Then what?


You will never go wrong if you stick to the rule, "seek first to understand, then to be understood." If someone posts something that makes you really angry or upset, try if you possibly can to give them the benefit of the doubt -- perhaps there's still the possibility that there's something to be learned from them. Try asking questions designed to help you understand them better. If you're sure you understand them, at least try asking questions designed to lead them toward the contradictions that are so obvious to you.


If you're ready to give up on seeking to understand, you might consider simply ignoring them. Perhaps you feel you can't bring yourself to let a provocative statement "stand unchallenged." But the readers of the Arlington list know better than to assume that everyone agrees with an unchallenged provocative statement. Often the person making the provocative statement is just hoping to get a rise. You don't have to take the bait.


If after all you feel compelled to write back to them, at least make sure you address their specific comments. Quote the relevant portions of their message, and address their comments directly. If you must respond, "This is a crazy thing to say" is a lot better than "you're crazy."


What are the consequences of posting a personal attack?


If you post a personal attack, you may receive a message from the list manager titled "No personal attacks", which will quote your message and ask you to refrain from making personal attacks. Such a message from the list manager will always be private, never copied to the Arlington list; public humiliation is unseemly and ineffective.


Please note that under normal circumstances the list manager does not see messages before they are delivered, and can only deal with personal attacks after the fact.


Also please note that the list manager doesn't always have time to read every message posted to the list, and doesn't always recognize a personal attack even when it's in front of his face. So some personal attacks may not result in a follow-up email from the list manager. List members are always encouraged to point out to the list manager anything that they feel is a personal attack.


How come my posting was singled out for a "no personal attacks" follow-up email from the list manager?


Since all follow-up emails are sent privately, there's no way for you to tell whether others on the same thread are getting follow-up emails. Please assume that you're not being singled out based on whether the list manager agrees with you or not. The "no personal attacks" policy is enforced as fairly as possible, and in particular a "no personal attacks" follow-up email does not mean the list manager is taking sides in the argument.


What should I do if I get a "no personal attacks" email from the list manager?


First and foremost, please try to take it in the spirit in which it was intended: as part of an ongoing effort to keep the list civil. It doesn't represent any sort of judgment against you personally.


Some of the terms in the definition of a personal attack, such as "argument" and "unfriendly," are obviously subjective and open to interpretation. So a thoughtful and considered reply to the list manager is always welcome. In particular, if the list manager's explanation of why your message was considered a personal attack doesn't satisfy you, you're always welcome to ask questions.


What are the consequences of posting repeated personal attacks?


In the past, the list policy was "three strikes and you're out." This rule has been abandoned in an effort to discover if civility can be maintained without threats. So other than increasingly stern warnings, there are currently no other consequences enforced by the list manager.


However, you can easily destroy your reputation on the list by posting repeated personal attacks, and it won't be long before few people are reading any of your postings.


Note: the above applies only to messages signed with the poster's full, real name. Anonymous personal attacks may result in banning without warning. See Anonymous Posting for more information about anonymous posting.

Privacy

Here is the current privacy policy of the list. It describes your rights to your postings, the way the list software handles your private information such as your e-mail address, and the topic of anonymity.

Definitions:

  • List owner: the person who runs the list, plus anyone who is designed to run the list while the list owner is on vacation or otherwise unavailable.

  • Lurker: one who subscribes to the list but has never posted a message.

  • Post: to send a message to the whole list by e-mailing the message to arlington@arlingtonlist.org

  • Subscription: your voluntary agreement to receive Arlington list messages

  • Subscription information: your e-mail address and certain preferences such as whether you receive individual messages or digest messages


You have the right to remain a lurker
Until you post a message to the list, your identity as a member of the list is secret. The list software prevents other list members from knowing who is a member of the list. Only the list owner has access to the list membership records. The list owner will make best reasonable efforts never to reveal the existence of your subscription as long as you are a lurker.

You have the right to subscribe anonymously
The only personally identifying information the list software stores about you as part of your subscription is your e-mail address, optionally your name, and some preference settings such as whether you prefer individual messages or digest messages. Other than your name, the list software does not store personal information about you other than that which is part of your e-mail address. There is no policy that requires you to provide your real name as part of your list subscription, and as long as you never post a message, you will never be asked for your name. If you post a message anonymously, you should expect that fellow list members will ask you for your name, because there is a general expectation among the list that providing your real name makes your words more credible and adds to the level of civility and community that we expect from each other. You will never be removed from the list by the list owner solely because of your anonymous status, but you may be removed from the list without prior notice if you anonymously post messages which violate list policy or otherwise cause harm to the list in the judgment of the list owner.

Personal information retained by the list software
The list software retains your e-mail address, your name if you provide it, a number of non-identifying personal preferences such as whether you prefer individual messages or digest messages, and the contents of all messages you post to the list. No other information is retained. All messages you post to the list are archived and available to anyone who subscribes to the list. Your archive queries are stored and displayed only to you. The archives are protected from access by the Internet at large, but anyone may subscribe to the list and then access the archives. Information in the archives may not be modified.

Access to your subscription information
Access to your e-mail address and your preferences is password protected, so others are prevented from accessing it. Only you and the list owner are allowed to access this information. This information will never be shared with anyone without your prior permission.

Risks of spam
If you never post a message to the list, there is no way for anyone, whether a member of the list or not, to obtain your e-mail address, so there is no risk of getting spam as a result of your list membership. If you post a message to the list, it is possible, though unlikely, that another member of the list will use your e-mail address to send you spam, or will forward your message to someone else who use your e-mail address to send you spam. If you join the cast of characters, a public web page, you expose your e-mail address to the public, and your e-mail address may be obtained for the purpose of sending you spam.

Ownership of your postings
By posting a message to the list, you retain your copyright but grant (1) a non-exclusive license to all list members to forward that message by e-mail to anyone, and (2) a non-exclusive license to the list owner to maintain an archive. These two rights you grant by posting to the list constitute the only exceptions to the normal protection afforded by the copyright you retain to your words, so any other use of an e-mail you send to this list requires your prior permission. Any use of your posting without your permission, beyond the two licenses granted here, is a matter between you and the person who uses your posting improperly, and you agree to hold the list owner harmless.

After you leave the list
The list software erases its information about you when you leave the list. Archived messages previously posted by you are retained indefinitely and continue to be subject to the above "ownership of your postings" policy.

Best efforts of the list owner
The list owner makes best reasonable efforts to enforce the above policies. However, the list software may contain defects which compromise your privacy, and the password protection of secret information may be compromised by a determined attacker. You agree to hold the list owner harmless in the event that your privacy is compromised.

Topic Keywords

Please not that this feature was newly added to the list in Feb 2010, and some details may need to be adjusted as time progresses.

The list software the the ArlingtonList uses offers regular subscribers to the list to filter thier subscription by predefined keywords placed in the subject of the messages. To digest subscribers, I am sorry to say but there is no option to filter the digests.

You can set up your filter options at the standard option page at http://arlingtonlist.org/subscribe/ where you can log in with your email address and list password. Part way down the page is a set of boxes to select which categories of messages you wish to receive, and in the next section an option to receive messages that do not match any of the categories. You may check the boxes for categories you which to recieve, and messages that do not fall into those categories will be dropped from your subscripition (they will still show up in the archives if you search there). At a minimum I would request that you subscribe to the admin category which will be used to post important notices about the list. Until tagging becomes very common, you probably also want to include the unclassified messages too.

Currently tagging is optional, but encouraged. In the future I hope to have a routine running that will apply a gentile prod (via email) to remind people to add tags to their messages, and at some point I may make tagging a requirement (and untagged messages held for moderator review). To tag a message just requires adding the code phrase to the subject line of your message

The list of current tags are:

[admin]
Administrative messages, reserved for use by the list administrator or for replying to one of his messages so marked
[free]
For posting items to be given away for free
[sell]
Offers to sell excess stuff you have (non-commercial)
[ISO]
Stuff you are In Search Of. This is for items that would be offered in [free] or [sell], if looking for a person/business ask for a recommendation
[AD]
Commercial notices, note that list policy is that these be infrequent, for more information on commercial posting see Commercial Postings
[rcmd]
A place to post recommendations for a local business/service or to ask about one.
[food]
It has been said that all conversations will eventually get to food. A tag for recipes, where to get ingredients, and things like this. Restaurant review/recommendations should go under [rcmd]
[event]
Announcements for upcoming events in or about our town.
[news]
Late breaking announcements about things that have happened in town.
[politics]
A place to discuss our LOCAL politics. This is for things relating specifically to our town, and not State, Federal (or larger) issues
[schools]
Talk about our schools. Note that talk of political things about the school (like budgets) belong in politics
[history]
Talk about our town way back when.
[travel]
How to get to other places from here, and what other places might be nice to go to
[tech]
Technical help request (things like help with a computer)
[misc]
Anything else that isn't covered above, but still is on topic as it is specific to Arlington
[OT]
Short discussion about things that aren't really on topic, but appropriate because they are helpful and generally non-controversial

To make it easier for phone users, the tags may also be enclosed in ( ) as in (food)

Policies

This page discusses various policies I use to implement and enforce these rules. They are a bit more flexible than the rules, and more subject to change as conditions warrant.

  • I will normally deal with problems with individuals privately (normally via email) rather than in open public settings. It is my observance that people are more apt to listen and change when things are done this way. Public rebukes tend to lock a person into a defensive posture, trying to prove that they are right, as opposed to looking for what is right.
  • Related to that, I prefer people when they see things they don't like on the list to either contact the person directly and privately themselves or contact me privately. Direct contact can make sense if you are curious if there is a legitimate reason for what you see as a problem, contacting me makes more sense if you think it may need "official" handling. It is also possible to do both, writing to the person and copying me on it. If you make a public complaint about it, on the list or elsewhere, I will consider the public posting to be sufficient dealing with the problem, and ignore future private requests from the complainant about this.
  • It is my policy to not discuss what actions I have taken with a third party. This is in part due to privacy, in part due to lack of time, and in part that it can easily stretch into people second guessing my decisions and making me spend a lot of time filling in the background behind them.
  • People who I contact about problems who respond back politely will be treated better than people who reply back with complaints and insults. Nothing gets a person on my "naughty" list faster than for someone to reply back that I don't have the right to police what is on the list or that they have a 1st amendment right to post what ever they want on the list.
  • My general preference is to err on the side of allowing more discussion rather than less, and to work with a gentile hand initially. I will get firm if I feel the need.
  • Similarly, I will tend to give someone the benefit of the doubt when there hasn't been a history of problems, but am much less tolerant of repeat offenders, especially if there has been no sense that they have had a real change of attitude.