Forum rules update (March, 2021)

Summary

We’ve updated the forum rules to be easier for new users to read and understand. The update is also intended to clear up some confusion about links.

For reference the updated rules can be found here. A link can now be found in the footer on every page.

Details

Over the last year I’ve seen a lot of confusion about the rules on the site. This comes in many forms:

  • New users who don’t understand their contributions can’t be deleted.
  • Longtime users who don’t know if they are allowed to share a link.
  • Disagreements about whether particular behavior violates a specific rule.

When I started as a Community Manager, I didn’t understand a lot of the rules myself. But after a year and discussing it with moderators, I feel confident we can simplify the rules. (By the way, the moderators have seen the draft and gave input. But any flaws or mistakes are my own.)

A summary of changes from the February 1, 2018 rules:

  1. Removed sections titled:
    • Language
    • Courtesy
    • Politics, Religion, etc.
    • Repetitive and Inflammatory Topics
    • Word Filtering
    • Links to Forums, Blogs, Social Network Pages, Photos, Videos, and Personal Sites
  2. Added “Personal Information” and “Discussion, Not Debate” sections.
  3. Edited the language of remaining sections for clarity and conciseness.
  4. Improved formatting.

For those of you who have been around a while, you might notice that this update more closely resembles the simpler set of rules the forums had in the past. This is intentional. We believe complicated rules don’t help because it discourages people from reading them.

About links

I want to talk a moment about links. The previous rules said:

Please do not post links to other discussion forums, blogs, personal sites, photos, videos, or other non-authoritative sources. This includes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and similar sites/apps. In order to fulfill our mission of being the best college discussion forum, we want important topics to be discussed here at College Confidential. Linking to discussions elsewhere defeats this purpose. Links to non-authoritative sites like blogs, personal sites, etc., can’t be researched for validity on an individual basis and hence are not allowed. All such links will be removed.

There might have been some truth to that back in 2017, but more and more colleges are using Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to make official announcements. Just the other day Northwestern announced their decision date on Instagram. It’s pretty hard to be the best college discussion forum when you can’t link to official college announcements!

With all due respect to the previous rules, CC users can decide for themselves whether an external link is valid. If someone links to bad information, there’s room for discussion on the forum to correct errors. The best way to combat lies is to speak the truth. I can’t think of a better to place to dispel misinformation about college admissions than right here.

So in the past, links were treated with suspicion. Now links are encouraged. Obviously that doesn’t mean all links are fine. We still want to remove spam and inappropriate links (think pornography). But it won’t harm our reputation to link to a blog post or even an external discussion. If a link will aid the discussion here on CC, we’re all for it.

We’re interested in your feedback

As a part of this update, we moved the forum rules to be on the forum itself. This makes it much easier for us to edit them. (Believe it or not, changing the rules copy used to require a developer!) We’re not going to change the rules willy-nilly, but we can adjust them.

I do want to be clear that the best feedback comes in the form of specific examples. What problems might a change in the rules solve? What negative behavior is unaddressed by the new rules? Ideally, show me links to discussions where you saw these issues. It might be best to PM me privately rather than stir up disagreements.

As always, we’re incredibly grateful for your contributions to CC. It’s exciting to have such a solid community who care so much about the site and each other. We believe this update will preserve what makes CC so special.

9 Likes

Checking for clarity…

Does this mean that advertising links from new posters are now allowed…you know…the type that are soliciting for business only?

It depends. For instance:

Get help writing essays! {link}

Is probably spam and we should probably delete the post.

But this:

I’m looking into a site for essay writing: {link}. Does anyone have any experience with them?

Is probably an earnest request.

The key, in my mind, is whether the link is helping the discussion. A link for a business might spark good conversation. But if the poster is more interested in getting people to follow a link, that’s not good.

By the way, we tried a couple of experiments letting companies post links on the site. We might try this sort of thing again, but if we do we’ll have to do a better job encouraging them to engage on the site.

So now I am a bit confused. Does this mean that Joseph Heller did not write the forum rules ?

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Ha! I’m afraid he died a few years before CC was founded. Simplifying rules will help us avoid Catch-22 situations, I think.

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I understood why it existed but always disliked the link rule and it made for some unnecessarily complicated and probably technically not allowed work arounds to have useful conversation.

Thanks for the update.

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Agree and now it makes total sense why I recently saw a reddit and post and recalled being told just a few months ago how those were not allowed!

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I like the changes!

Will twitter links be allowed? I know social media can be a problem, but I often see great things on “college admissions twitter” that I’d love to quickly post to a thread or create a new topic. Most of the people I want to post are admissions officers, journalists, or authors.

Maybe a post limit needs to be reached before social media can be posted? Like messages currently is.

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It’s pretty easy to shut down the abusers. I think the post limit causes more unnecessary and worthless posts by people trying to hit the magic number.

For sure. Those are exactly the sort of things the previous policy prevented for no real benefit. If someone wants to talk on CC about something they saw on Twitter, that’s not really an issue. It’s only a problem if people are abusing links to derail the discussion somehow.

Currently people do need to read the site for a bit before posting links. But I agree abuse is relatively easy to manage. If you see someone posting an inappropriate link or spamming links, just flag them and a moderator can take care of it.

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As frustrated as I have been by some of the problems associated with the upgrades, and I know I have done some complaining, the difference between this go round and the previous ones (pre-discord) is that I can actually see improvements that are helpful to the users.

This is the first time since I have been on CC (5 years maybe?) that I have felt like there was genuine effort to make this a better experience for the users. Thank you.

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After stepping away from CC for a mental health/sanity hiatus, I tried to access my messages/inbox; I received a message that it was “private or doesn’t exist.” Is it truly gone? Is there no way for me to retrieve past messages to/from other contributors?

Thanks in advance for any help/insights that you can give.