The Unofficial User’s Guide to GateWorld Forums
Why should you read this? Because you might just learn something useful. If you're too impatient to read the whole thing then there are 3 key points that should help you stay out of trouble.
- Read the FAQ.
- Follow the rules set out in the FAQ.
- Think before you post.
Follow that, and you probably won't go wrong, but if you carry on reading you might find some sage advice about navigating and participating in the forums. Even if you know everything already, a reminder doesn't hurt much...
This is a fundamental feature of the GateWorld system and while not the most important, it does impact other areas, so I'm tackling it first. Everyone has reputation points. You start off with a set amount and the ability to give reputation that basicaly counts for nothing, being grey no matter what you assign it as. Doesn't sound very impressive, but that's the point. Once you accumulate some posts and/or positive reputation points given to you by others you will be able to give reputation that counts for something, 1 point plus or minus. You can only give reputation once per post, approval or dissapproval, with the option of commenting (but keep it clean, insults are not allowed in reputation comments – as is the same in the general forum and private messages). Either way, the system is no longer anonymous so they will know who gave it to them. You also can't give reputation to someone again right away, you have to spread the love (or hate...) around before you can give it to them again, regardless of whether you're attempting to give positive or negative.
Your level of reputation affects how much you can in turn give (up to 5 points a time at the top level of the scale) and also how many green (or red if you're in the negative) blocks you have on your posts and what text it comes up with when you hold your mouse over the blocks. The very highest you can achieve appears to be System Lord . In reality this means squat, though
The system used to give up to 30 points at a time and had many more System Lords, but all this seemed to mean where a lot of people gave their friends lots of positive points and people accumulated power not based on their posts and contribution to the forum but on how many friends they had. This also made it easy for high level people to gang up and take someone down a few pegs, possibly unfairly in 'flaming' them using the reputation system. For these reasons, and others, some people don't give the reputation system much importance, since often people with high rep aren't the people who do the most or write lots of well thought-out posts. You might find people who've turned off their reputation, not because they have anything to hide, but because it means very little to them, if anything, with the abuse the system has come under and arguably continues to suffer.
Still, getting reputation is often nice and if you wish to show your appreciation of someone's signature, their posts or other contributions, then it is still worthwhile giving it. Most people still like getting it, though you can private message people as an alternative way to let them know your appreciation.
Usefulness of lurking
If you haven't lurked a bit before joining, then you should consider lurking on the major threads before you join them. It's not necessary, but at the very least you get a taste of how everyone interacts, what the local lingo is and what's deemed usual and appropriate behaviour. So in short you can learn quite a bit, and certainly enough to bid you well for when you finally decide to post a hello.
Relevant posting; check first!
It's always good to check if your post is relevant. Use the search function intelligently and for most subjects you will find a pre-existing thread. If you have a question, then often using the search will find you a thread where you will find the answer or will at least be a decent place to ask. If you've got an issue that appears in an episode and you want to discuss it, you might find a discussion is already going on in an episode thread about it. As well as using search, remember to read the thread you find. There's no use in asking a question in the right place if simply reading the thread would provide you with an answer; people might excuse that and be nice about answering your question, but they equally might not be and you could find yourself facing annoyed people. If a question has been asked 10 plus times already, would you blame them for getting annoyed at that?
It's also good to consider if what you're posting is apprioriate for the thread topic. You might be talking about the right character, but, as mentioned before, if you venture into a protected thread people won't be happy if you go against the point of view set up there. There's times going against the grain is good, but it's not on protected threads. For this reason, take a careful look at both the title and first few posts. Appreciation threads are for appreciation of said character etc, thunking threads involve thunking the person and ship threads shipping characters; if you aren't pro the topic matter or at least considerate in broaching any discussion on these threads, then you would be lucky not to get indignant replies or negative reputation.
Simply put, people go to these threads to appreciate/thunk/ship and while reasoned discussion isn't out of the question, you can't go in there guns blazing about how you don't agree at all; if you do, people may well consider you a troll and treat you as such.
So be warned, consider the tone and type of thread before posting; this is where lurking often comes in handy, unless you're certain discussion is welcomed you might want to test the waters carefully first. However, many threads do make it clear they welcome discussion on a topic and generally it's clear from the starting post or the title whether a thread is protected or not.
Importance of Wording
Even if you are posting in the right place, where discussion is welcomed, you still need to be considerate of other users and, importantly, the people who make the show. If you don't like X character or think such and such episode ain't that great, you should remember there is a big difference between politely stating your opinion and saying it sucks.
Another good point to think upon is that the actors, their relatives and assorted powers that be do lurk on forums and if you go about saying nasty things, you might find doing so upsets users because they have also thought of this possibility. No one is trying to stop you having an opinion, and yes, saying you don't like something will invariably upset someone, but you should try to minimise that; make it constructive criticism or say it in the nicest possible way you can rather than going for ego-crushing honesty. Saying it a bit more nicely isn't betraying your beliefs or being dishonest, it is being considerate. General rule to follow here is: don't say anything you wouldn't want the person in question to read, because this is the net and you can't be sure they won't some day, possibly today.
Debate: opinions versus fact
So, you're browsing the forums and you see someone stating your favourite character is an imbecile. Obviously you see red, but wait; hold off on that negative reputation for a minute and think about it. You may not agree with their opinion, but if they're being reasonable (or at least not horrificially insulting and breaking forum rules), do they deserve negative reputation? Be respectful of others' opinions. You won't always agree, but, provided they're stating it as just an opinion, that is their right to.
If it's part of a debate remember that you can't always change opinions, because they're just that; in matters of opinion no one is right or wrong and you shouldn't expect to be able to prove your opinion to them or change their mind. And if you're going to try to then be reasonable and logical in your efforts; provide evidence to support what you think; and you stand a far better chance than simply stating whatever opinion you have.
But do remember a lot of things are subject to interpretation and what you might take as fact others won't. There are few things that are fact and be careful to check up on any 'facts' before claiming something is so. If the person in question doesn't agree after you've debated it, respect their choice; giving negative reputation because someone doesn't agree with you as part of an opinion smacks of fangirl/boy.
Signatures & Avatars
The rules are quite clear on what's acceptable for signatures. They're in the FAQ. File size limit of 50 Kilobytes, width limit of 700 pixels and height limit of 200 pixels. Also that signatures must abide by the PG-13 rating, like the forum in general.
Stick to thses rules and apply the same consideration and care you should to posting and you don't have to worry. But of course there are always some people who think the rules don't apply to them and I'm sorry but they apply even if your animated signature of 100kb's looks really cool, or if you're only just over the limit by an odd 30 pixels height or you just have to have that extra four lines for your favourite quote.
You might get away with a file size of just under 60kb if you're lucky, because people don't seem to report those for some reason, but if your signature is insulting, wider or higher than limits say or bigger file size than what seems reasonable, then you can expect someone will report you for it or the moderators might spot it on their own.
Don't act surprised if it happens and don't expect leniency because it's only over by x percentage. The limits are set because it makes a difference to those on dial-up or slower connections and those with small resolutions that can't handle more than a certain width without window stretching or will end up with half their screen looking at your sig when all they really want (however nice your sig may be) is to read the forums. That's what we're here to do, discuss stuff and have fun too; signatures are part of that, but they're not the most important aspect. Sigs are a good way to show individualism, but your posts say far more about you, unless your sig already shows you lack of consideration for others.
As a brief note avatar priveleges have 3 levels. To start off you have a fair selection of avatars from GateWorld's own collection. When you get to 801 posts you get some bonus avatars as a reward for sticking round and spending time on the forums. Eventually, if you manage to get there, you can have a custom avatar at 1801 posts.
As nice as that sounds it is a lot of posting to get there, but spam posting to reach that target isn't a good thing and you won't get a good reputation that way. When you finally get there is should be because you had 1801 posts that addded to the forums diversity by joining in the fun and discussion.
Avatars are limited to 4kb and 65 pixels wide by 60 pixels height – you can even have animated gifs as long as you can keep that file size down. :)
Spoilers, images and all that stuff
To start off with spoilers. They are pretty easy to insert in your posts, the code follows the same syntax as the other tags on the forum and you can find info about how and why you ought to in the official forum FAQ but here's a quick reminder of the how.
[spoiler]Text here you would need to highlight to read on the forum[/spoiler]
See, not hard at all once you know it and very, very important to do because you have to remember not everyone lives in the US or Canada or has managed to acquire the latest episodes. Generally speaking, spoilering major plot points or deaths for the current season AND the last one is about right. For the current one it is necessary, but the one before is good form and appreciated by people who are still a whole season behind because they are watching it in another country. For example, as I write, Scifi Channel US is showing Season 2 of Atlantis and Season 9 of SG-1, but for the poor people of the United Kingdom who don't have satellite or cable, they're only halfway through Season 1 of Atlantis and SG-1 Season 8 is AWOL.
Note that images can also be spoilers. So check them before posting. Anything nonspoilery you should be okay to insert like so:
Otherwise you should post as a url and provide spoiler warning (stating what season and/or what episode)
[URL=http://www.yourhostingsite.com/imageXspoiler.jpg] Link text here[/URL]
Another issue with images is hotlinking. Don't do it. Ever. Want to know what it is? Hotlinking would be posting a picture link in the img tags even though you're not hosting it. Why does it matter? Because every time someone loads the page on the forums it will want to display that picture and it will eat up the bandwidth of the hosting site, which for most websites is a real issue since they only have X amount of bandwidth and may have to pay to get more, or just have their website shut down until the period the bandwidth limit uses is over. Posting a link, as in url, is generally acceptable if it's a public site since the image isn't being called up unless someone clicks on it.
Other miscellaneous issues
Crediting - if you post a picture that you didn't screencap or create, you should credit the person or site who did. Providing a link to their site is a nice bonus to being credited, assuming they want more traffic there.
Bulk image posting - sort of similar issue as signatures, be considerate of those on dial-up. If you have 20 lovely screencaps to post up, either spread them out so you don't have too many on each page or provide half as links. This is usually something that creeps up on thunk threads, but also can on ship or appreciation threads. Remember, not everyone is lucky enough to have broadband and even if they adore the pics posted, it doesn't mean much if the page takes too long to load on their end.
Privacy & shipping - respect the privacy of other posters and also of the actors etc.
Discussion about actors’ private lives isn't appropriate on the forums, nor allowed, and though shipping characters is acceptable, shipping the actors is not considered respectful to them.
Got a complaint?
In all likelihood you'll find something to complain about during your time on the forums because, well, nothing or no one, is perfect. What you need to consider before flying off the handle, or rather instead of doing so, is think about whether the person really meant to offend. They may not realise their post was insensitive, English may not be their first language, and a politely worded private message may solve the problem; also don't expect them to reply, or change anything, immediately, some people might not come to the forum very often and won't read the PM for awhile.
If you think a post, thread or signature breaks the rules and a PM isn't likely to solve it, hasn't been read/replied to yet or the issue is too incensing to attempt a politley worded reply/PM, then report it to a moderator. Don't take it out on the thread if you can avoid it, sometimes things can be solved with a reply or a PM but not always and if things get, or were, nasty to start with then leaving it up to moderators is most likely better. But don't miraculously expect them to notice it; the moderators have a lot of forum to moderate and that's what the report button is for. They won't know something's up unless you point it out, and to do so is helpful and expected if you have a problem.
If you're wondering how you can report posts and that part of the FAQ has somehow slipped your mind, then what you need to do is make sure you get the right post, obviously, and then look for the triangular warning image for report - which you will find on the top right of each post next to the reputatation scales - and click on the little button. It should direct you to a form where you say what you think is up with that post. Pretty simple and very useful.
Finally, it's over and hopefully it's been helpful. :)
I don't claim to cover everything here, though I am trying to, so if you feel there's something I have missed or inadequately covered, please let me know. Feedback, constructive criticism and/or help with proofreading and other ways of improving this article are also welcomed. I can be reached through GateWorld, via both PM and email, my username is Purpleyin. :)