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Community Handbook

Welcome to the Monachos.net Discussion Community, the message forum of the Monachos.net web site. Since it first went on-line in 2001, the Discussion Community has become the internet's largest forum for the discussion of Eastern Orthodoxy specifically through its patristic, monastic and liturgical heritage. In order to facilitate discussion in this large and focused environment, all readers and users of the Discussion Community agree to be bound by these Terms of Use, including our Community Outline which sets out the nature and focus of the forum.

TERMS OF USE

This section contains our official Terms of Use for the Monachos.net Discussion Community, including its Community Outline, by which all users are bound. Please read it carefully, and feel free to pose any questions to the moderators.

Community Outline

(I) The Monachos.net Discussion Community is an on-line and e-mail based message board system, provided for the discussion of Eastern Orthodoxy through study of its patristic, monastic, liturgical and ecclesiastical heritage. It is not primarily an opinion forum, but an environment for the reflection upon and deliberation of themes within this scope of focus. As such, certain guidelines and regulations are in place in the Discussion Community which may be different from those found in other fora. For example, intellectual openness and integrity are considered extremely important in such an environment, and thus registered users are expected to disclose their religious affiliation (above all whether they are part of the Orthodox communion or a guest from another background), national location, and other details which might be uncommon on similar services. Additionally, all participants in the Community must use their real names on posts, rather than anonymous pseudonyms that tend toward misleading conversations.

(I.a) By 'not primarily an opinion forum', we mean that the Monachos.net Discussion Community is principally for discussion and discourse on the thought and heritage of Orthodoxy through its patristic and monastic traditions, and not primarily for the sharing of individual opinions about these themes. Personal opinions do, of course, come into play in any fruitful discussion; but this forum is principally for discerning and discussing the thought of these traditions, rather than debating individuals' personal thoughts about them.

(I.b) What do we mean by 'Orthodoxy'? Given the nature of the forum, readers and members should be clear that the Monachos.net Discussion Community, as the Monachos.net web site as a whole, is a forum dedicated to the Orthodox Church of the seven ecumenical councils, sometimes known as Chalcedonian Orthodoxy: that is, the term ‘Orthodoxy’ on this site refers to the Church of the seven ecumenical councils, which include Chalcedon, as found in the ancient patriarchates of the Eastern Orthodox communion. The web site is not directly affiliated with any Orthodox jurisdiction, but represents the Chalcedonian Orthodox traditions found in, for example, the Russian Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox Church, etc. Whilst some other traditions also use the term 'Orthodox' of themselves, all members and readers should be clear that in this forum it refers to this communion of churches, their life and thought.

(II) The Discussion Community is intended to be a place of positively toned, healthy and intense, critical discussion of themes relevant to its purview. It is not a place for invective or polemic, though opinions expressed (and historical realities discussed) will often be forceful and delimiting of alternative views. Issues addressed in the Community should be focussed on examining a given theme from the broad realm of patristic, monastic, ecclesiastic and liturgical perspectives, and not simply on expressing one’s own opinions or commenting on another’s.

(III) The Monachos.net Discussion Community is not an interfaith forum for discussions on Orthodoxy with respect to other Christian churches, denominations or religious faiths. This means that discussions on, e.g., ‘Orthodoxy vs. Protestantism’ are beyond the purview, and conversations which transform to such points of focus will be terminated; and the same holds true for inter-church discussions with respect to groups of common heritage, e.g. ‘Eastern Orthodoxy vs. Oriental Orthodoxy’. Such inter-church discussion is an important part of Christian life and thought, and as such it is better served in fora dedicated to it properly and carefully, of which there are several on the internet. The Monachos.net Discussion Community is meant to exist alongside these, in harmony with their aims, focussing on its own unique realm of address. As such, discussions that do not keep to this delineation will normally be closed and removed from the forum.

(IV) The Discussion Community, as a forum for critical discussion and dialogue, is not primarily an avenue for pastoral advice or spiritual direction. Close bonds often form within the community and genuine concern and care are expressed from one participant to another; but messages which focus upon the direct spiritual or other states of another member are in general not permitted (here the general rule of Orthodox praxis is recommended, which relegates such discussion to personal interactions with a spiritual father or mother). Messages which denigrate or proactively insult another member are strictly forbidden, as are messages which seek to shelve or marginalise a member for his/her views or spiritual maturity. Should members wish to discuss states of soul and spiritual well-being with other members, this is best done via private interactions. As a general policy, messages that are of a chiefly personal nature (e.g. comments directed toward only one person and not forming part of a public discussion) should be sent by e-mail or Private Messaging to the individual involved, rather than posted to the Community; and such posts made to the public forums may be deleted.

(V) The Monachos.net Discussion Community is intended to be a friendly environment of supportive and cooperative dialogue. As such, basic norms of etiquette and politeness are expected at all times.

(V.a) A note on politeness: It has become the custom in the Discussion Community to address other members and guests by their title and surname (e.g. 'Mr Johnstone', 'Ms Williams', 'Fr John') until one has gotten to know them. This is not a rule or strict policy, but a habit that has emerged out of the general politeness of the members.

(VI) The Discussion Community is supervised by a number of moderators who are responsible for overseeing the operation of the board and maintaining the tenor and focus of the conversation. It shall be the moderators' task to correct any problems and deal with members or visitors/guests who attempt to disrupt the flow and tone of discussions. The majority of this moderation is done ‘behind the scenes’ without disruption to or notice by the Community at large. Members are encouraged not to take such tasks of correction upon themselves, especially via posts to the Community, as such measures, while well-intentioned, often result in lingering and long-lasting ‘arguments’ in active message threads. You are, however, always welcome to contact other members via Private Messaging with any comments or concerns on their postings.

(VI.a) You will know the moderator(s) by the title 'Moderator' or 'Administrator' that appears beneath their username on posts to the forum and Private Messages, as well as in their user profiles.

(VII) Above all, the Monachos.net Discussion Community is intended to be a positive and friendly place, welcoming to all. If ever the tone seems to turn toward negativity, members are encouraged to observe the norm that ‘holy silence is better than foolish loquaciousness’. Allowing a disruptive message to go unanswered is better than fostering a negative atmosphere with a response.

Account Registration, Configuration, and Public-in-Perpetuity / Non-Deletion Details

(VIII) The Monachos.net Discussion Community is intended primarily for use by its registered members; registration is free and automated and can be established through an on-line registration form with e-mail verification. A separate section of this terms of use document covers unregistered 'guest' members, whose interaction with the system is intended to be minimal. The details in the present section pertain to all registered users of the Discussion Community, and by the terms described here all such registered users are bound. These terms of use are designed to facilitate organised, friendly, efficient and peaceable conversation in a community of over 100,000 posts and several thousand members.

(IX) Account registration involves an e-mail verification procedure to ensure that the e-mail address provided in the registration process is valid and functioning. Providing and maintaining a valid and current e-mail address is a requirement for registered membership in the Monachos.net Discussion Community, primarily so that the moderators can contact you if there is difficulty with your posts, etc. It is possible to hide your e-mail address from other members, so that it is visible only to the moderators and only administrators can use it to contact you. If your e-mail address changes after your initial registration, you must provide your new address; the Discussion Community system periodically checks the validity of e-mail address, and deletes accounts where these are invalid.

(X) Two types of Community membership. When you register as a member of the Discussion Community, part of the process involves selecting one of two categories of membership into which you will be registered: the first is Orthodox Member, which is for members who are part of the Orthodox Church of the seven ecumenical councils, including Chalcedon, in communion with one of the ancient patriarchates of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The second category is Guest of Another Religious Tradition, which is for members of other backgrounds, who are always most welcome in the forum. You will also be prompted to indicate your religious affiliation more specifically: e.g. 'Greek Orthodox', 'Protestant', 'Other', etc. Neither the two types of membership nor the selections for religious affiliation limit membership in any way; they are, rather, means by which Community members can identify the religious tradition of posters in active threads. Should your own religious affiliation change in the future and you wish to change your membership type or religious affiliation setting, these can be configured by editing your user profile. Please note that misrepresentation of your religious affiliation is a violation of these Terms of Use.

(X.a) Note: Those who identify themselves as clergy or monastics of the Orthodox Church, in their registration / profile or in posts, will be asked to verify this to the moderators by providing basic information on their ordaining bishop, diocese and/or other relevant details. This process is part of our commitment to the honesty and integrity of the forum: that all members be able to rest assured that those identifying themselves as clergy/monastics are indeed so.

(XI) You must use your real name as your username and on your posts. This is part of our forum's approach to honesty and integrity in on-line discussion and part of Monachos.net's character. Monikers (e.g. 'Pilgrim', 'Seeker', etc.) are not permitted in the Discussion Community, and accounts configured with such names are automatically deleted. The Community operates a full username = real name practice. Members should be aware that our posts are publicly viewable and internet searchable. If you have any concerns about using your real name on-line, or wish to request that an exception be made to this policy in your case, please contact the administrator with details prior to making your first post, as posts, once made, are considered published documents and will not have their authorial information changed.

(XII) Public discussions in a public forum - posts and names visible on the internet. You should keep in mind when registering that on-line discussion fora are intrinsically public. When you participate in public discussions, your comments become part of that public dialogue and are viewable by a wide audience -- on the internet, this includes search engines (e.g. Google), archives, links, quotations, etc. While messages sent to individual members through the Private Messaging system are just that (i.e. private), all members are encouraged to remember that posts in the public forum are read by a very large audience, and will be read into the future by new members, etc. Given that individual posts become integral parts of larger discussions and threads, it is not possible to delete posts except in truly exceptional circumstances. You must also be aware that if you decide to retire your account in the future (i.e. to leave the forum), your posts will remain in the forum as part of the public discussion, and will remain searchable with your name. (It is helpful to think of posting to the forum along similar lines as publishing an article or text in a magazine or book: once it has been published, its content and your name attached to it remain in public readership and accessibility into the future.) You must not register or post to this forum unless you understand and explicitly accept that your posts, with your name, will be publicly accessible on the internet in this way, in perpetuity.

General Interactions by Registered Members

(XIII) Threads and discussions may be started and participated in by registered members in all public areas of the Discussion Community where the 'Start a New Thread/Topic' link or button is found. (The moderators may re-name threads or move messages to alternative threads as appropriate to keep the forum organised.)

(XIII.a) Keeping things organised: The Discussion Community has tens of thousands of posts organised into specific topic areas, subtopic areas, and individual threads. Take some time to get to know the layout and design of the forum before starting a new thread, so you can place it in the most appropriate area (e.g. do you know where you should start a new thread on a specific theologian about whom you have questions? A: In the In Depth > Specific Individuals area). The Community has a powerful search engine to help locate posts and threads on specific topics. But in the end, if you simply can't decide where a new thread should go, fear not: post it where you think most appropriate, and moderators will move it as necessary.

(XIV) There is no limit on the length of posts or the number of messages a registered user may post per day. However, a general policy of ‘reasonable extent’ holds in both regards: posts of excessive length (more than the equivalent of two printed pages) tend to overbear on a thread and many users cease reading after such a length. Likewise, an excessive number of posts may be seen as inappropriate if the situation warrants (members should keep in mind that some readers receive all posts to the forum as separate e-mails). In these cases, the moderators’ judgement as to if and when a reasonable extent has been surpassed shall be made known to the member by Private Message or e-mail, or via the warning/infraction system; in some cases, where over-posting has become an ongoing problem, a 'posting throttle' may be applied, which allows a given member to post only a given number of messages per day. Unless otherwise notified, however, users are welcome to post freely as often as they deem desirable.

(XV) Profanity is not permitted on the Monachos.net Discussion Community message boards. In most cases, the system will detect profanity in attempted messages and prevent their posting or blank out the offending words, but the moderator may delete posts that make it past the system’s profanity filter.

(XVI) All messages posted should fit within the purview of the Community, as described earlier in these Terms of Use. It is normal that in the course of conversation, discussion will vary and tangential, casual points will be made. However, posts which intentionally focus on themes outside the Community purview, or which are written in a tone that is in conflict to the Community’s design and character, are not permitted. The moderators may choose to delete such posts, or may require that they be edited prior to posting.

(XVII) The Monachos.net Discussion Community is not to be used for advertising external resources or the personal web sites of members. At times, in the course of discussion, reference to or links to a specific off-site resources will be pertinent to discussion and permissible; however, these are to be occasional and should be directly relevant to the course of an ongoing discussion. Repeated linking or otherwise advertising off-site materials is disruptive to a community discussion environment, and submissions which develop or follow such a patter will normally not be accepted (or will be deleted). If a member has a personal web site he or she wishes to make known, this should be included in the member's Profile page, not as links in posts.

(XVIII) Copyrighted materials must not be posted to the Discussion Community, apart from reasonable-length quotations, as per international copyright regulations, unless copyright is owned by the poster or by Monachos.net. Full texts/articles from other web sites should not be pasted into messages; rather, members should offer quotations or samples of the text, with (if desired) a link to the full page on its host web site.

Moderation / Post-Approval Policies

(XIX) Our general philosophy of moderation: In terms of its general policy, the Monachos.net Discussion Community does not normally require moderator approval of posts by registered members. This means that messages submitted by members are normally posted directly to the system, without having to go through an approval queue. The Community operates under this policy some 90% of the time. However, from time to time it switches to fully-moderated operation, where messages submitted by all members are placed in a queue and posted to the system after review by a moderator - usually within 6-24 hours. The Discussion Community normally switches to such fully-moderated mode only during periods of known spamming/hacking in various fora on the internet, as a means of protecting members from such attacks.

(XX) Moderation of newly-registered members: When you first register for an account with the Discussion Community, you will go through a brief period of moderated status: your initial posts will be moderated (normally your first three; or, if you make more than three posts when you first register, you will be on moderated status until you've been a registered member for five days). The primary reason for this initial period of moderation is a safeguard against spammers, who sometimes register for an account only to post one or two 'spam' messages before deleting their e-mail address, etc. Once you've made a few successful posts to the forum that have been approved by moderators, and have been a member for at least five days, your account will automatically switch to unmoderated status, and your future submissions will be posted directly to the system without going through the moderation queue.

(XXI) Some areas are always moderated: Some areas of the forum are always moderated for all members; this includes the 'World News and Events' area, to ensure that news items relate to the forum focus and are not simply general news. Messages posted in such areas are always moderated, even if members are on unmoderated status for the rest of the forum.

(XXII) Permanent moderation status: Some members' posts may always be moderated, regardless of the overall moderated/open status of the Community as a whole, as circumstance may deem appropriate. Such moderation is at the discretion of the Community moderators.

(XXIII) How the moderation message queue works: During periods in which messages require going through the moderation queue, you will note that, after fully submitting your post, a message appears indicating that it has be sent to the queue and will be posted after review. No action is required apart from the usual means of posting your message; the moderation process takes place automatically 'behind the scenes'.

Editing of Posts by Moderators

(XXIV) Monachos.net does not censor or editorially modify member posts. In rare instances, a moderator will edit the post of a registered member, only when the initial posting included problematic/broken formatting (no posts are edited to change content or censor a member's thought; if in moderation a post is seen to violate our Terms of Use, it will not be edited but rejected/removed). Examples of issues that may prompt a moderator to edit a member's post include formatting tags that have errors, which the moderator may correct; excessive usage of the 'Quote' feature; URLs with errors, etc.

(XXV) Any editing of a post by a moderator will be indicated on the message itself, in the form of a note at the end of the message, reading: 'Last edited by moderatorname on date', or similar attribution. No editing is made without such attribution at the end of the message.

(XXVI) If posts made to the forum are found to be inappropriate or in violation of our terms of use, the moderators may delete them with or without notification.

Usage of the Feedback System

(XXVII) The feedback system (which is described here) is available to registered members in good standing. It must, however, be used in accordance with its purposes and not for personal attacks against members or other comments / activities that would violate the spirit of the Terms of Use of the forum as a whole.

Unregistered / Guest User Access

(XXVIII) Unregistered users ('guests') are invited to peruse the Monachos.net Discussion Community, in order to make limited initial interaction and explore the forum before registering. The Community is not, however, intended for permanent anonymous (unregistered) access, and anonymous posting is not permitted.

(XXIX) Posting to the Discussion Community forums by non-registered members is no longer permitted (this practice was only permitted in the first years of the forum’s activity); however, you will occasionally see posts by ‘Guest’ when reading older threads. Older posts by Guests are fully bound by the same guidelines as apply to registered members.

Warning and Infraction System

(XXX) In the rare instances in which members or guests break with the guidelines of these Terms of Use, and thereby cause disruption to the Community, the following steps may be taken, which will normally be carried out in conjunction with the forum's warning / infraction system. (Note: The moderators may bypass this normal process in cases of severe abuse.)

(XXXI) In the first instance, the moderator will attempt contact the member by e-mail or Private Messaging, generally through the warning/infractions system, outlining the problem and suggesting a means of resolution. In most cases, disruption is caused unintentionally, and a simple change of tone or language is often more than ample to correct the situation.

(XXXII) In those cases in which a member continues to disrupt the Community, his/her account may be put on personal moderation, requiring that all messages submitted by that member be approved by a moderator prior to being posted to the forum itself.

(XXXIII) In those cases in which disruption continues, access to the Community may be denied to the member and, if necessary, contact may be made with the member’s internet service provider and IP records passed along, requesting that the ISP assist in ceasing the disruption to the forum.

(XXXIV) Posts which violate our Terms of Use may be deleted by moderators at any time, with or without notice.

Spamming

(XXXV) Monachos.net operates a zero-tolerance approach to 'spamming' (the sending of unsolicited junk e-mail). Under no circumstances may any portion or function of the Monachos.net web site or Monachos.net Discussion Community be used to enable or facilitate spamming; this includes culling e-mail addresses from posts in the Community, the utilisation of the Private Messaging service, or any other means by which spamming might be effected. Spamming is a severe problem on the internet, and any registered or unregistered user using the Monachos.net Discussion Community in any way to engage in spamming will have access banned, and Monachos.net will report all such infractions, with IP addresses and logs, to the service provider in question.

Forum Copyright Details

(XXXVI) All portions of the Monachos.net Discussion Community message forum fall under the general copyright conditions of the Monachos.net web site as a whole. These full copyright conditions are available from a link at the bottom of every page.

(XXXVII) In brief, all structural, design and thematic parts of the forum are copyright © Monachos.net through the site's owner and operator. All rights reserved ® by the copyright holder.

(XXXVIII) The content of individual posts made to the forum by registered members, as well as unregistered guests, remains copyright to their authors; while posting such content to the forum constitutes the poster’s explicit granting to Monachos.net of all publication, re-publication and reproduction rights (including both in the forum, on the Monachos.net web site and other electronic and/or print publications, by any means) in perpetuity.

(XXXIX) As individual posts in public areas of the forum become integral parts of larger discussions, posts cannot normally be deleted except in exceptional circumstances; for the same reason, posts by members who later wish to retire from the forum cannot normally be deleted.