Discussion of Kinja/GT etiquette and style

Resharing this as a response to the post by Krabby Paddy below.

The usual caveats: I wrote this out of experience and this isn't anything official from the mods. Always obey mod posts for whatever kinja space you're in. There's a lot of gray area in this, not hard and fast rules. I also wrote it before SUPER DUPER NEW KINJA 20000X LUXURY EDITION TIGER++ so some of the info isn't totally up to date, though the principals are all the same. And I'm still looking for suggestions of things to add, as always. Enjoy.

Discussion of Kinja/GT etiquette and style

I'm someone who likes documentation and guidelines. So when I notice questions getting repeatedly asked, I tend to want to answer them and answer them well - and make sure that people can rediscover those answers.

GT as a community has some hard and fast rules as established by the mods. But rules of what behavior is right and what behavior is suggested are different. I don't intend for this to be a formal declaration of what anyone has to do on GT or anywhere else on Kinja. Obviously style is a choice and typically isn't black and white. However, it can be nice when you're writing posts or comments of how you should do things that benefit your readers and contribute positively to a community. All of this is suggestions, though I am writing it as I would a style guide. I really would like feedback - feel free to critique. Is there something I haven't covered? I bet there is! Let me know what it is, and it can be added.

On Cross Posting

A lot of people frequently ask if it is cool to cross post. To cross post means to post content that is originally intended for publishing on a different platform like a personal blog or some news site, and then copying it verbatim to Kinja and republishing it on GT. That is, posting it across platforms. The general consensus on this is that this is okay. It's generally understood that many people on GT are often trying to develop as writers and broadcast their voice not only to this community, but beyond. Sharing what you write elsewhere to GT is a great way to get GTers interested in what you're writing elsewhere.

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However, one thing I do find important as a reader is understanding when I am reading a cross posted item. Often times, if an author is posting to a different space than the one originally intended, references and context gets lost. For instance, you might say "I've talked about this issue numerous times before" and I'll be like, really? I've never seen you talk about this on GT, and of course that's because you haven't - you've talked about it on your blog where the post was originally published. Or, hyperlinks might suddenly take the reader outside of GT/Kinja, which would be surprising. So, if you do cross post, The first line of the article should indicate it is a cross post, the name of the space it was originally published to, and a direct link to the original incarnation of the post. It is probably okay to do this at the end, but being up front at first clues the reader in that the context you've written it in may be different from the beginning so they know what's coming up. An example. The words "Cross posted from KorbenDallasRanch" would be a hyperlink to the original post on a blog hosted elsewhere on the Internet.

The Problem with Lard and Baby Warts

Cross posted from KorbenDallasRanch

Last week, on KorbenDallasRanch, I talked about some alternative medicines I can get behind. This week though, I have to bring the story of a disturbing new trend to apply lard to babies as a means for treating their warts.

Very simple and straightforward.

On Sharing Comments

Sharing comments is sort of a weird beast. On Kinja, if you have authorship privileges for a space, you can select any comment on any article in Kinja Space and share it with the space you have authorship privileges for, where it will then appear on the feed for that space.

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Simply sharing a comment can lose a lot of the context that comes from where it was published - so be aware that if you share a comment, it might not end up appearing on the GT feed with the same message as you intend. Often, it may be better to write a new post with a link to a comment where you can provide the additional context that makes it clear what's going on.

That said, if you do decide a comment is worth sharing, you should consider asking the user if they want their comment shared if the share is meant to be in good faith. That is - if you're sharing it as an endorsement. While the commenter may have been comfortable with the comment as just being attached to an article, they may not be comfortable with the added attention of their comment being shared to the larger feed.

User A: This post was really interesting to me. Let me proceed to tell you a personal story that adds on to the original discussion in a distinct and profound way.

User B: I found this comment touching, may I share it to GT?

User A: Yes, please do. OR No, I would prefer not drawing more attention to my story, though I was comfortable with sharing it here.

If you're not sharing it as an endorsement and instead sharing it for mocking, ridicule, or just deeper consideration, then you might not want to ask, but perhaps it will be better to take the suggestion above to write a new post with a link to the comment with additional context. Especially if the comment you're considering promoting is offensive or potentially triggering.

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If a comment is shared from a GT post that is getting a lot of traction, then comments in that context may also be a good candidate for sharing since the context is fresh in people's minds.

On Updating Posts with New Information

When a post gets written, sometimes new information will come to light that would affect readers' interpretations of the meaning of the post. Perhaps you've linked to an article that was satire but you treated it as serious content. Alternatively, you might have written a post on the basis of some piece of factual information that turns out to simply be completely inaccurate.

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I personally find it frustrating to ride the emotion train from anger to relief when it isn't necessary, and when an author doesn't own the responsibility of updating their post, it can be aggravating as a reader to think they could have prevented that unnecessary ride. So please, if you posted something under a set of assumptions that turns out to be false, try to update the title and indicate in the opening paragraph what the misunderstanding was. For example:

Babies given lard to combat warts (Updated)

The original article referenced a post from The Onion which I did not realize was a satirical site. Leaving the content below because some of the content is still relevant.

WHO WOULD GIVE BABIES LARD TO TREAT WARTS WTF IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD THANKS BIDEN!!!!11111111

Now the user can read your commentary, which might still be interesting, but without misunderstanding the actual context. As with the above point about Cross Posting, you could add these sorts of disclaimers at the end, but doing it at the beginning is preferable.

On Recognizing and Acknowledging your sources.

GroupThink and other communities don't work because we write alone. Instead, we reference each others thoughts, and the thoughts of others on the Internet. So when you use someone elses thoughts, acknowledge them. This is additionally important because recognition encourages future contributions, and I think we all want valuable contributors to continue doing so.

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If you're discussing something from another website, consider linking to it clearly. If you're discussing content that is on some website but that you found through another channel, consider acknowledging that channel as well. Example:

Applying Lard to Babies to Remove Warts

This article on Slate offers an interesting take on a new way to get rid of Baby Warts.

... content content content ...

HatTip or h/t: Link to Baby Wart Blog Post that pointed to Slate

Now both the original source and the source that directed you to the interesting content get the credit they deserve, and you're Interneting well.

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Some abbreviations that work well here are HatTip or h/t. Also, (via in parens) with a link to the directing source works. Or even just the hyperlink. As long as you're pointing to the trail.

On Deleting Posts

Sometimes, a post hasn't accomplished what was intended. Perhaps something was said that offended the community, perhaps some private information was disclosed that shouldn't have been. There are many reasons you might want to delete a post. In the end, it's entirely your decision (aside from mod intervention) if a post you've authored gets deleted.

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If you do decide to delete a post for any of the above reasons, it may be proper to explain in a follow up post why the deletion occurred. It's helpful for those who may have left comments on the article to know why they won't be able to access them, and it gives some transparency back to the community on what sort of dialog is occurring. If you need to apologize, then a follow up post is an appropriate time to do so.

Example:

Sorry for my post degrading Mothers who use Lard

As someone who isn't a mother, I wasn't considering the plight of those who need alternative therapies. I should not have said the hurtful things I did. I'm sorry. I've deleted the hurtful post.

Some users want to expose themselves to the community, either by sharing pictures of themselves, or some other intimate private details of their life, but don't want it on a permanent record. This is a pretty valid reason. In this case, it makes sense to warn people as part of the post that you intend on deleting it.

Example:

Here's my Selfie GroupThink

This post will be deleted in a few hours. Check out my cool tattoo! It's of my baby when he had an atrocious baby wart.

On Controlling what appears on the Feed

Kinja will put stuff on the feed from your post automatically, but you do have some control. For instance, Kinja will put the first paragraph of your post on the feed as an intro. So any information you don't think people should immediately see, you should avoid placing it in the first paragraph. Additionally, Kinja will take the first image or Youtube video from your post and also put that on the feed. So, if you are posting an image you don't want people to see on the feed, consider posting another image first. This can be a good way to cover up a selfie or other content that might be problematic for someone just browsing through the feed. This can be particularly useful for preparing the content warnings, as described in the next section.

On Content Warnings (NSFW, TMI, Trigger Warnings, Spoiler Alerts, etc.)

If something is Not Safe For Work, do two things. First, label it NSFW in the headline or at least in the opening paragraph that shows up in the feed. You might want to describe how it is NSFW - language, nudity, explicit sexual content, whatever. The more verbally descriptive, the better people can gauge how to deal with it.

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Second, if your NSFW is very explicit, my understanding is it shouldn't be directly in your post. That is, don't add an animated gif, don't embed a youtube video, don't post a photograph, that has explicit sexual content. Use your judgement.

If something isn't NSFW, it can still be triggering. My understanding of trigger warnings on GT is that liberal use of them is better than not. I've seen trigger warnings for things from depression to bugs. Again, use judgement, but consider that if someone complains that they would have liked a trigger warning, it's probably best not to argue and instead to simply oblige them for the future. It's the rare case that someone complains about a lack of trigger warnings unnecessarily - if they do then it's typically in jest.

Another tag that's used is TMI (too much information), which is usually used when you're going in depth about things like bodily fluids.

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Perhaps you are discussing a piece of media that readers may not be familiar with and might not want spoiled? It may be wise to add a Spoiler Alert to the headline/first paragraph of your article. Even doing this for older series like Buffy The Vampire Slayer can be very generous to your audience and is not uncommon.

Trigger Warnings are important for specific topics that may be troublesome for some readers that want to avoid them. Rape, abuse, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc

Trigger Warnings are not without controversy, and some people may want to joke about them by posting parody Trigger Warnings. For example, a headline like:

Check out this great deal on Lard I got! (TW: Obnoxious Shopping)

while obviously intended to be humorous, takes away from the seriousness of Trigger Warnings for those that use them and might be somewhat offensive. It can also dilute the community's ability to sense which Trigger Warnings are actually triggering and which ones are jokes, and that might just lead to someone seeing content they were trying to avoid.

On Reading Comments - avoid the pile on

So, this has a little bit less to do with posting and more with how we interact with one another more than authorship. Kinja has a limitation where it only shows the first three comments for any particular comment thread. That's also coupled with a limitation that prevents users from editing their comment after some period of time. This often ends in a scenario where someone says something dumb/stupid/ignorant, gets lambasted for it, but their apology/repenting happens below the three comment threshold. New commenters only see the offensive and create a situation where people keep piling on.

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Some folks might deserve the pile on, but often time it's not really productive. So before laying into someone for their ignorant comment, drop below the top three and take the time to see if they've reconsidered or repented their initial mistakes. Where a coversation starts and where it ends might be different places entirely. Really contrived example:

Above the threshold

User A: MOTHERS WHO USE LARD TO CURE BABY WARTS ARE BAD PEOPLE

User B: Whoa - have you considered that some mothers only have access to lard and may not have insurance to pay for advanced treatments?

User C: I bet you'd restrict women's rights to abortion too, you heartless monster.

Below the threshold

User A: I see now that my original comment was inappropriate and didn't take into account a lot of obstacles that confront mothers of babies with baby warts. I'd to like to apologize for my ignorant and rude comment. I'll be listening instead of speaking to try to understand the difficulties that face mothers better.

User D: YOU ARE ALL THAT IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD

User A: Please see my previous apology comment.

etc.

From ShinyRedRobocalpyse in a comment below sometimes it's not about an apology but just a general factual correction:

Above the threshold

User A: Lard is made from magical moon cheese, isn't it?

User B: No, actually, lard is made from rendered animal fat.

User C: Really, dummy? Lard is animal fat!

Below the threshold

User D: It's animal fat, stupid!

User E: No, as others have pointed out, lard is in fact rendered animal fat. You should know that.

User F: My mother always told me it was magical moon cheese, too! But it's animal fat. Here is an explanation of why people used to think it was moon cheese.

In this example, Users C, D, and E are unnecessary as they don't actually add anything to the conversation beyond making the OP feel like an idiot and feel attacked. User B has answered the question. We don't need it answered repeatedly. User F actually added something different.

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This isn't specific to GroupThink, and probably applies more to spaces like Jezebel or Gawker, but is still important to recognize as an important skill to prevent wasting both your time and the time of others.


So... what did I leave out? Anything I should add? Feel free to include an example and I will add it with recognition.

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Update 12/6/2013: Added an example regarding piling on comments and factual errors from this comment by Shiny Red Robacalypse. Added Spoiler Alerts. Additional spelling corrections.

Update 2/7/2014: Added a section on Post Deletion.

Update 2/13/2014: Added a few points on joking about trigger warnings.