Forum Creation: Creating Policies 101
By: Shawn J. Gossman (Owner, WeatherBB.com)
Rules and Guidelines
The first step in making a good set of rules and guidelines is planning the placement of them. I place mine on a link at the top navigation bar of my forum, it shows on every page allowing people to clearing see the link. You want to make sure people can clearly see the link to your rules policy on every page so that if it comes to it, you can tell them the rules link is in full view of every page which they can easily click on to read them. Another suggestion would be creating an announcement or global sticky thread with your rules or a link to the rules page so that is shows in every board section as well. There is no such thing as over showing your rules. I even place a link in my signature to them and I do this all because I want people to read them so I don't have to go around enforcing them continuously.
The next thing is writing the rules itself. Begin the rules with the title. I call mine "Forum Rules and Guidelines". I have researched the terms used for calling the policy what it is and found that combining the two terms "Rules" and "Guidelines" seems to appear as a calm method of showing a policy. Why would this even matter? It really doesn't except for marketing purposes. It can help set a positive mood when things are professional and calm looking. Its like what colors you use and how you staff team acts. Anyways, create your title and then put a paragraph as the first part of your rules. Make the paragraph about welcoming them to your privately owned forum and explain that in order to provide a fun atmosphere, they must read and abide by the following rules and guidelines at all time. Be sure to include an agreement pitch like "By using our forum, you agree to follow these rules at all times." and also include a part saying if they do not agree, then may not use your site.
Next is the fun part! I will ask questions below which will give you an idea of what rules to add to your policy which will follow the introduction paragraph.
After you write all your rules which should be short but to the point and in a numbered or bullet style, you should write an ending statement and include various things. One thing would be explaining that you can modify and add to these rules at anytime with or without reason and notice because all things are subject to change. You should also include information on what will happen if rules are broken and who to contact to appeal bans and infractions if you even allow that sort of thing. Lastly, I would explain how users are responsible for what they post not you but at anytime you may remove user content without reason or notice. Also insist that members help by reporting violations, show the icon they use to report it and provide an email or list of staff to contact regarding this stuff.
- Will you allow abuse? Negative behavior? Racism? Illegal activity? Harassment?
- Will you allow porn or sexual content?
- What are your rules on posting article? How about copyright and trade secrets in content?
- How old do you have to be to join? Do you use COPPA? What is coppa? Where can I register using coppa at? Remember, if your explaining coppa to me and I am under 13 years old, I need it explained to me properly!
- Can people advertise? How about advertising commercial products? Can we PM people to invite them to our site? Can we put links in our signature?
- What all can I put in my signature? Images? Animated?
- How about an avatar? Animated? Cartoon porn? cusswords?
- Can I even cuss on this site? What words are allowed? What if I replace words so they look like a cuss word but really are not spelled exactly like one?
- How should I post? Can I post something that has already been posted? Do I even need to use search? Can I post short 2 word topics and posts?
- How many user accounts can I have? Can I share my account? How about if I share my account with a banned member?
- Can I act like I am someone else? Like a staff member? Or superhero? George W. Bush? FBI?
- Are there any other rules? Policies? sections where certain other rules apply?
At the end of this policy, I always put "Last Updated: and then the date it was last updated". You can do this if you want and always announce it when you change the rules even if its a minor spelling change because them maybe some will go ahead and read the rules because they never have before and are now reminded with this announcement topic about modifying them.
Privacy policies are simple! Explain what information you collect and what you use it for. Tell people they can adjust their privacy settings in their UserCP/Profile/Settings area on the forum. Provide an email or form for contacting your site regarding privacy. Last but not least, make sure you follow your own privacy statement or get sued...
You all may use my rules and privacy policies as examples if you would like to but please re-write it if you plan to use the content so that my rules are not duplicated which I and my Lawyer don't allow.