First of all, thanks for the feedback. I expect The Rules to go through a number of revisions, to reflect things I haven't thought or general consensus, especially at a point where the forum is in shift.
As someone who is afraid of change, it is unsurprising that I have some concerns about some of the new stuff. Let's bear in mind, I was initially a skeptical about the Direct Questions Rule (now the Skyfire Clause), but after seeing how useful it was in action, I'm now one of its biggest supporters.
The Primary Rule: Use your common sense. Rules are a tool to keep this community running and fun to be a a part of. As such, I reserve the right to take official measures against anything that might be excessively disruptive/annoying/stupid, regardless of the existence of a specific rule on the subject. Similarly, I reserve the right not to take action against something that breaks the letter of the rules if I don't think it's appropriate, at my sole discretion.
I understand that the idea here is to prevent Rules Lawyering, but there are some pretty good reasons for complaining about things not being upheld to the letter of the rules. How is one supposed to know what not to do if there are invisible rules? "The funny thing about common sense is that it isn't common," after all. Even assuming one won't be banned under this rule, how is one supposed to avoid getting questionable warnings & watchlist statuses? Plus, looking to see if the rules are applied in a consistent fashion is pretty much the only way to know if one is being treated fairly.
I understand your concerns, and I didn't write that lightly.
a) In the general case, most posters on an internet forum acting in good faith manage not to do anything unusually disruptive. Common sense in general may not be common, but people tend to have the required minimum not to fuck it up too badly. I am appealing to this fact, and to the notion that people who manage to disrupt the forum without violating a specific rule are generally trying to do so.
b) This was already a part of the rules, effectively. The original don't be a dick rule was ambiguous enough that nearly anything someone disliked could be construed as an offence. I worded it the way I did because I think it's worth spelling out that a list of rules cannot hope to capture everything that might come up, and that at some point you have to trust the mods to be reasonable.
c) On that note: if you can't trust the moderators to behave reasonably, the text of the rules is no safeguard. An admin can choose to entirely disregard the rules as written at any point anyway, and you can't really appeal to the Supreme Court on the matter.
That doesn't mean the text of the rules is irrelevant, otherwise I wouldn't have bothered to write any. The rules above should capture the general spirit of the sort of thing that might be objectionable. The cases dealt with as exceptions should be exceptional, not the norm, and if I find myself ruling on exceptions too often then clearly something is wrong and the rules need updating.
As for fairness in enforcement, yes, it's a concern. All I can say is, if you think the rules are being inconsistently applied yell in my general direction and try to provide examples.
And finally, I believe the alternative is worse. There's simply far too many ways to be an asshole to even begin to cover them in the rules, and if I did the resulting document would be a thousand pages long and nobody would read it. Refusing to act because one asshole in particular wasn't covered, or treating different situations the same way because it's in the text of the rules and we didn't factor in relevant context, will be worse.
The purpose of Flame & Burn is to provide a venue for venting on disagreements when they happen, and ideally solving them before they get worse. As such, the mod team may at their discretion lock an F&B thread that has devolved into screaming back and forth with no actual effort to move past the issue.
Flame & Burn really gives a release to the pressure. That is presumably why certain rules are waived within its borders. If we're going to keep putting limits on it, I don't know why would even have it. Flame & Burn, to me, seems to be a brilliant compromise between not stifling users with oppressive anti-flame rules, while at the same time not allowing them to muck up the boards with constant, vitriolic back-&-forths. The few disagreements that don't simply burn out have proven to not be stifled by locking threads, either. I think it requires few, if any, alterations to the way it operates.
That's actually a relaxation of the last version of the F&B rules, which specified a maximum number of posts per thread. Which reminds me, that's still up in F&B, I should fix it.
Still, on reflection, my wording here wasn't the best. Flame & Burn won't serve its function if people feel threads might be locked at any minute, but at the same time flaming threads can give people more excuses to be angry rather than help them vent. I'll probably be rewriting this section in the future.
Chewtoys: If you show up to the forum to proselitise or troll, you may or may not get immediately banned depending on how amusing it is to argue with you. That doesn't mean we won't ban you if you cross the line, as determined by us.
The reintroduction of an old idea. I really do see the temptation, here. I have a fond nostalgia for certain wannabe-trolls, but I also didn't like the sense of entitlement that it engendered in the board. Trolls that irritated the shit out a number of people & probably could have been axed were left around just because some found them funny, & if a "chewtoy" finally was banned, there would be an uproar. At the same time as they benefited from this entirely undue leniency, there was also an implicit encouragement to dogpile the "chewtoy" & the label was seen as invalidating what they said to many people, regardless of the context.
I just don't see why we need some kind of designated forum bitch. If people collectively find a member amusing, & the member isn't doing anything wrong enough to get banned, shouldn't that be enough?
That's mostly for the benefit of people who ask why obvious troll X hasn't been banned yet (It already happened with Atheism Exposed, even though since his last ban he's not done much beyond say stupid things). "Trolling" is one of those things that's hard to quantify and we'll always have people arguing whether something falls under Don't be a Dick or not. It has to be dealt with individually, so a blanket ban on trolling doesn't really work. At the same time, we also need to clarify that trolling can be worthy of a ban in itself without consideration for further rules.
Since disruptiveness to the forum is the fundamental principle of the rules, and a troll's disruptiveness does in fact depend a lot on whether they are amusing or infuriating, it seems that it's a valid criterion to consider.
That, and having someone else to rage at can be a decent way to distract people from internal drama.
Normally, this might be a week, then a month, then permanent.
This one I'm not sure how I feel about. A year can make a lot of difference in a person's outlook. At the same time, if you've already had 2 chances, who the fuck cares? I guess you do say that there are individual cases. I don't know, what motivated you to remove the year ban?
The year period seemed superfluous. If I recall correctly, the only person ever to make it to 'year' without getting permabanned for some other reason was Skyfire, and he didn't bother to come back after his time was up. Since the week/month/perma pattern is intended to be a basic guideline to base the duration of bans on, it should be based on what has actually worked in the past. So far, year has been functionally identical to perma, so I scrapped it.
The possibility for bans longer than a month remains, if we think it might help.