I have been spending a lot of time on a political message board lately, and am amazed at people's (1) choices about what to post and (2) inability to communicate. It has lead me to compile this list of ten rules for successfully participating in a friendly message board on a contentious topic.
Rules for Good Message Board Communication
1. Don't start posts with accusations or bias questions. If you honestly want to hear other people's opinions, make the question unbiased.
2. Only post facts that you know for sure are true. There is no shame in googling something before posting it to make sure you are understanding it correctly or using a term correctly.
3. Write your posts to be as clear as possible in both purpose and opinion. If the purpose is explanatory, state that up front. If the purpose is to express your opinion, make sure your opinion is directly stated in plain language. If the purpose of your post is you wanting to express or vent an opinion, don't put it under the guise of trying to start a non-bias debate, admit what it is from the get-go. Trust me, you will still get people to argue with you!
4. Reread your own post at least twice before posting it to make sure its actually saying what you want it to say.
5. Remember that there is no such thing as an objectively right opinion. If there was, it would be so clearly obvious that everyone would see it and there would be no debate. Rather there are only arguments and counter arguments, some stronger or more ethical than others.
6. Whenever you are posting a response, read the post you are responding to at least twice.
7. If you don't understand what someone is saying, don't respond unless its to ask for clarification. Do not assume that you know what they are saying when it is unclear.
8. If someone says something is a joke, take it as a joke and don't get riled up about it, even if you disagree with it.
9. If someone makes a good argument, but you disagree with it, recognize its validity in your response.
10. Admit it when you are wrong or make a mistake.