Thursday, November 5, 2009

Guidelines and Standards

Over at GoPlayPDX, Willem Larsen authored a set of guidelines for authentic interpersonal communication.

My friend Joel Shempert told me an evocative little story about how forums are like crowded town squares, where everyone is shouting to be heard. Blogs and personal websites are more like hearths, or campfires.

This is our campfire, and we'd love to share it with you. We do ask that you honor our little customs, though they may look strange to you. We borrow these from Willem's guidelines, adjusting only for context:

For every post or comment you make, please pause for a moment before you click "post", and ask three simple questions of it:

1) Did I Tell my Story?

2) or, Did I Ask a Question?

3) Did I Interpret other posts Generously?

What does this mean, more specifically? Every post should either ask a Question, or Tell Your Story.

Asking a Question means sincerely making a request to hear someone else's Story of how they experience the world.

Telling Your Story means doing this for others, speaking from your own experience on what works for you, what doesn't work, what you felt, seen, heard, and what conclusions you've made.

Interpret Generously means interpreting other posts by assuming as much intelligence and compassion as yourself, in the person who wrote it. Of course, if what someone else wrote still doesn't make sense to you, you can always Ask a Question so that you can more fully hear their Story.

We see these guidelines as a kind of self-check for adult conversations. Sometimes we get off track without realizing it; these guidelines exist as much for you to guide your own conversations, as they will for the blog admins to remind you when necessary.

Things that fall squarely outside of these guidelines: unsolicited advice ("you should do this, not try that, think differently, have this conversation somewhere else, etc."), telling someone else's story ("people will think you're stupid if you do that, you have fear issues, nobody will think that game is fun, etc."), and asking an insincere question ("do you actually think that would work? that sounds terrible, why would anyone play that game? etc.").

If the admins see you struggle with incorporating these guidelines into your comments, we will hold off on approving your comment and try to contact you with a simple reminder so that you can find another way to tell the story you want to tell.

Conduct yourself as a guest here, and you'll do fine.

Authors and Admins!

From you, we ask for all the same respect as above, and a little extra.

So you have a great idea, and you finally get a chance to sit down and write it out. You spend twenty minutes, or an hour, or three hours, and finally, it's done! What's next? Post the damn thing, right?

As tempting as it is to get your great ideas out there right away, I ask that you don't. Instead, here's what I suggest: save your work as a draft (using the "save now" button at the bottom of the new post page) and walk away. Digest it. Think about if you're really telling the story that you want to tell. Give your admin friends a chance to take a look at your draft and maybe offer some feedback. After all, the internet is a big, scary place, and our little safety net of fellow authors is the only thing between you and a ravenous void of embarrassing backpeddling.

If you write a long, in-depth article, maybe it's best to break it up into two or three "chapters", and post those over the course of the week. If you think you might be coming off a little strong, maybe you can pull it back and rewrite certain parts from a place of humility. It's just like a soft loaf of homemade bread; when you take the time to sit with your post, it'll rise to a new level, and the outcome will be that much fluffier.

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