We are here to learn, and to support each other.
This is a safe environment for writers—for experiments, first drafts, and engagement with ideas.
No ad hominem attacks. Those will get you suspended or banned.
Writing in the private groups is private.
AWA has it right: respond to what works, what is meangful and memorable.
But we are also a critique and editing community, so frame what does not work for you with precision. Make it useful. If the structure, Voice, characters, or style are not successful for you, if something confuses you, say why without judging the writer.
Voice is first (or flow, or arc of narrative). Craft is second, unless a writer specifically asks for craft critique.
Be generous with what a writer intends. Be inventive and playful with that intention. Frame what you think of as a weakness as an intention that can be realized in other ways. Adopt their Voice, see what it teaches you.
Critique, don't judge. Remember: you are not your writing, your writing is not you. It just feels that way. Blanketing people with scorn does not uncover any truths.
Line edits are allowed, unless someone disallows it on a piece. Don't overdo unless someone asks you to. Do the exemplar edits, let those instruct for the others (for example, if someone has mixed tenses throughout, mention some.)
Remember compassion. Practice it.
Remember human dignity. Preserve it.
Bring your talent, but be an empty slate. Yeah, it’s zen.
No one is allowed to post screeds, or promote racism, sexism, or hate speech, or make personal attacks or threats—but you can write about and talk about those things. So long as participants refrain from personal attacks and threats, or floods to a post to shut down discourse, it is not my business to decide if their engagement is productive. We're adults. We all know it when we see it, when someone is not making a good faith effort, but rather venting, with poison.
We can’t micromanage or censor each other. Nothing meaningful gets done if we control content presented in good faith. We are writers and editors, and so no topic or approach is forbidden. Some will criticize you; if so make your case, engage a bit, then let it go. No one wins online fights. Respond to free speech with more free speech. But be civil, if you want to participate here.
I repeat: No one wins online fights. Ever. Say a thing, make a case, engage a couple of times, and surrender the field. No one can "win" in a string of transgressive insults.
I've been engineering and moderating online communities since before the web, in the early 1990s, for Yale scientists, single parents, veterinarians, writers, etc. The sad fact is that unless there are rules of engagement, enforced, some will bully and make irrational accusations. The industry rule of thumb is that for every fifteen people who engage, one will make life miserable for the others. I think the internet needs wide open sites, if only to show what happens. But to get meaningful exchanges in the free marketplace of ideas, you must have a modicum of civility.
It is not censorship to enforce rules of engagement. We must have places online where everyone is willing to shape the argument they make, without attacking others personally. It requires only that one refrain from the momentary and pointless self-gratification of barbed, hostile digressions. Cruelty is a flesh-pot; don't go there again. NOTHING is ever won or resolved by bullying in threads. Nothing. Such cheap, short-term satisfactions are no satisfaction at all, if you have intellectual integrity. If you want to make an immediate difference, load planes for Doctors without Borders. All else is posturing.
It feels good, self-righteousness. It feels soooo good, it’s irresistible. And it is always, always wrong.
I do not advocate for all sites and communities to have rules of engagement. But to have none, on any site, means the end of meaningful discourse. I have seen it dozens of times. Sooner, not later, some folks increase the noise-to-signal ratio, and scare off gentler thinkers. It is not the hallmark of a good mind that one insults, nor is a well-reasoned argument improved by shouting. I want everyone to be heard without being demeaned, even those folks who are trying to say a thing quietly, imperfectly. This is, ultimately, about respecting each others dignity.
We all want to get somewhere with our engagement. It requires that we resist reaction, and measure our responses.
Questions and answers matter. Matters of fact always matter. Anyone who condemns without facts, fails. Critique the answers, make your case, make your point if you can, detail by detail. Defeat a position with superb, compelling arguments, if you can muster them. Don't take the cheap way.
It wasn't the cheap way that changed South Africa. It was steady-on negotiations, point-by-point, enforced with boycotts, painstakingly talked out. Thus it wasn't the ANC that won, nor the Transvaal racists' ideology, it was all South Africans. Because of boring, un-self-righteous discussions, concessions and experiments. Most of all it was because of patience. In the 60s the SDS claimed the mantle and inheritance of the "revolution"—but who made the differences that got us here, improving our lives, the work that led to the EPA and OSHA and Consumer Rights and Food Labeling and the Church Amendment? It wasn't hypercritical poseurs in the streets with their Maoist flair and True Belief. Boring people doing plodding work did the good stuff.
It is not silly to think we could all learn to treat our "foes" here with civility, in order to Build Together. We have been given the keys to the Nice Car, with this here internet. We must respect the millions of dead before us, pamphleteers and citizen scholars, suffragettes and wobblies, who would push us aside if they could to get at such a bully pulpit, to improve and heal the world. We must not waste this.
Be fierce with your thinking, not with each other.