So what, it's the Interwebs?!
I know, I know . . . the Internet isn't the place for civilized conversation, right? This is where the masses go to swing their preverbial "E-Peen" around and having digital pissing contests (for the record I'm not sexist, E-Peen is unisex online). Normally, within the basic online community as a whole, I would agree. There are those that make the effort, but large and in part it makes no difference. However, we aren't the Internet Community at large. We are The Elder Scrolls Community first and foremost, we are an online community second. We were brought together here to discuss TES in all its glory only because we cannot physically make the commute for everyone to come together otherwise. I don't expect everyone to get along, I don't expect everyone to come together and sing songs around a digital campfire, I don't even expect some of you to avoid trolling other users. What I do expect, though, is for us to do what we can to make this community a little more accessible and navigatable for the others. I won't saunter through every point that I have in my head, instead I'm going to focus on the forums since they're kind of where I live in this community.
Starting a Thread
So you want to make post on the forum, or ask a question about a bug, or perhaps even have a discussion about a particular quest you're having trouble with? That's great, we encourage that, we thrive on that! What we need from you is a little help. When posting something, be detailed when possible.
If you have a bug, don't just say that the quest is broke and you need help right away! This won't allow us to do anything about it, and will only cause people to ask questions - or be encouraged to troll you as mentioned above. Include things like what platform and if you run mods. If you've already tried something like reloading a previous save, include that as well. These things make it easier for us to help you find a resolution.
When making any other kind of post, be sure that you are clear and concise in your original post. Same basic rule as with bugs, except what counts as clear and concise will sometimes change depending on what topic you're covering. To list each set of circumstances would take entirely too long, so I will say to use your best judgement. Think about what you would need to further a discussion on the topic if you walked in on it, and put that information there.
Topics help you connect forums to like forums, as well as to the article page you're discussing. To add a topic all you need to do is scroll to the bottom of the posts and add them there. There is a little in-page forum - not unlike what you used to make a thread or reply on one - that makes it all easy. Each thread can only have four topics, so choose wisely and don't just put a bunch of things there. It's important to connect the conversation with the correct topics so that people browsing the articles can see them. If their question is already answered in your thread, or if they can help find a solution to your problem, then it'll be easy for them to locate and participate.
One last thought on starting a thread is that of where do you put the thread? We have several Discussion Boards (category headings for threads). When you're starting a new thread, be sure that you put it in the right place. If you ask a question about Skyrim in the Other TES Titles board, you probably won't see an answer any time soon. If you put something in the Online board that should be Off-Topic, a lot of people will be upset. Anyone can move a thread to another board, but it is the specific charge of Forum Moderators to do this. However, if you are seeking a cogent, precise and quick answer, you should make an effort to properly place a thread the first time.
Posting on a Current Thread
When you see a thread that you want to weight in on, all you need do is click into it and reply. It's a simple enough matter, but what should you do while you're there? Are there rules to forum posts? Not in so many words, but there are some things that will get your posts deleted and possibly have negative reprecussions on your account.
I'll keep to the basics on this point, so here's the easy run down. If you're posting on a thread and YOU FEEL THE NEED TO POST EVERYTHING IN BIG PRETTY CAPITAL LETTERS, then we're going to have problems. Your posts will most likely be deleted, but we understand that sometimes a small amount of text needs to be in caps to express emphasis, and that's fine. As with most things I'll be reviewing here, just use your best judgement as though you were in a civilized society.
Another problem I see from time to time is a rather excessive use of profanity. Now we do play and discuss games rated M(Mature), but this is an open site that anyone can access. There needs to be a degree of restraint used. Nobody will fault you for the random curse from time to time, and especially not if you're quoting direct from the game(s). However, something we need to remember is that there are young people browsing the internet and all you need is an email address to access this site - actually, that's all you need to be a registered user, all you need is internet to get on. From a personal standpoint, I know that young players are sometimes very knowledgeable and able players. That being said, I don't want to be responsible for one of their parents walking by and seeing a post riddled with profanities and then banning them from our site. We could lose a very good resource and potential friend if we allow things to spiral out of control.
The same goes for sexual references. I've played TES for a long time and know there is a certain amount of sexual content in the game - most of it hinted at more than seen/heard - necrophilia comes to mind from Morrowind. However, I have also seen threads with blatantly horrid things, and those have to go. All for the same reasons, with the same restrictions, as the profanity mentioned above.
Sarcasm is one thing and trolling a little is fine, but be sure to keep it to a minum. We don't need to bash people to make a point, there's no need to argue over something to such a hard degree that we completely lose all regard for the human condition. I know it's the internet and it's easier to say hurtful things because you can't see the person - and they can't reach you to punch you in the face - but that doesn't make it okay.
This really goes with the last heading, but it's such an annoyance that I thought to point it out separately. When you post on a thread you can reply directly to a current post by clicking the "Reply" button on that post. This will auto-build a quote box in your reply form, and will include everything in the post you're pulling from - to include other quotes. This means that if the Person A made a post about five lines long and then Person B quoted them with another three lines it would be about ten lines-worth in length. Then Person C quotes with another five, then D with another ten, then you come along and we have a really long post. This is, rather begrudgingly, called a Pyramid Quote or Pyrmid Post.
When quoting you have the ability to edit that quote. This means you can delete all the text except for the one sentence you're responding to, or you can delete the first three quotes in order to make the post shorter. This is especially usefull if most or all the quotes are between you and the other person (i.e.: Person A > Person B > A > B > A > B, and so on). Post length is a very important matter, and must be considered in most things you do. If we don't need a giant wall of text, or if most of it is a repost/rehash of current walls of texts, reconsider it, please.
But why does post length matter?
The biggest reason I ask that you be considerate of post length is due to the nature of our current forum format. In the current system there are no page separations for the thread. So once you're inside a thread, it's all one large page. The Discussion Boards will have pages within them that list all the separate threads, but that is the extent of it. So the longer the thread becomes, the more data the page needs to load, and this means that it can take a long time for lesser machines and networks to process it. This can go even so far as taking a while to scroll up and down a page looking for something just a few posts back.
Personally speaking, I use the Wikia from two primary locations. At home I have no issues, I run a beast of a machine on a dedicated and direct internet hadr-line. At work, however, I use a stock company issued machine that runs barely above the minimum specifications for Windows 7 and the internet is highly throttled. So I experience the best and worst conditions to use our great community portal. This is something we must be considerate of, as there are people using this site from both work or home that don't have the best quality of services or equipment. So until such a time as the forum methodology can be changed and allow for threads to have separate pages, we should attempt to make our posts as brief as is allowable.
And another thing . . .
Okay, I don't really have anything else to add to this, but it seemed like a better heading that "Conclusion". In all seriousness, I know we can't all do every one of these things. I'm guilty of giant walls of text, and that's without a quote. I have used sarcasm and trolled a few people, even go so far as feeding the trolls from time to time. As I have said, this is the internet and we should be a mostly mature group. These things will happen, but they should be the exception, not the rule. Mostly I'm saying we need to be curteous to our fellow Wikians, we need to ensure the ease of use for ourselves and those we converse with, and above all else have fun!