Trust Levels

The forum utilizes levels called Trust Levels to prevent trolling and SPAM. Everyone starts as a level 1 with certain exceptions. Level 1 has significant access. Level upgrades are automated, again with certain exceptions. The only other way to handle this is 1) a wide-open forum where anyone can create an account and post anywhere or see anything instantly, which is a broad invitation to spammers and trolls. 2) An automated system to gradually increase access with certain exceptions. The FAQ outlines how to handle those exceptions. Unfortunately, the system does not know any user personally, has no knowledge of their previous activity outside the forum, and cannot make personal choices. In switching platforms, from a closed-source to an open-source platform, there is no provision for porting over trust levels, but also because the old system only had a single trust level. It was wide open to anyone with an account, which was not as flexible and did not have the sufficient privacy options we needed to sustain the community as it grows into the quadruple digits. “Trust” is a security term which has nothing to do with a personal evaluation, but is only the system using the only tools at its disposal for determining how long a user has been actively participating. Since it’s a new forum, everyone starts out with a clean slate, regardless of how long they may have used the previous forum or other website features.

Username Issues

Short version: To keep a fast, sleek database, your @ username in the forum is your login username.

Occasionally a person’s username (the name with which they registered at Giza) contains personally identifying information they don’t wish to share. When commenting on Giza articles, the Display Name overrides the username, and users can configure their display name in their Account > member settings. This is NOT true of the forum. The new forum can’t operate off of the main website member profile (commenter’s) display name. It needs the actual login username for several reasons related to database synchronization, and so people can @ the username to mention the user, etc.

In a case where your login username contains personally identifying information you don’t want visible in the forum profile (e.g. a real last name or a full email address), the user can complete a support ticket to request a one-time change. For the benefit of our long-time users, for the months of September and October 2021, we will ALSO do this if a user requests their username to match a one-word phrase—example: bunnywalker, truckstoptom (no hyphens, spaces, etc) they’ve used as an identifier in many past posts and comments. To protect the user’s account security, we must have an actual support ticket we can associate with an account. We can’t honor email requests. In the support ticket: confirm the old username that contains the personally identifying information, indicate which information is personally identifying, and suggest a replacement username (e.g. first name only, not last, first name plus another word, first name and initial, different phrase entirely, etc).

  1. Note: username must be unique (i.e. not already exist in the database for someone else). In the event the username already exists (e.g. “john”), we’ll select a unique alternate based on the one chosen. E.g. we might use a number, etc. Optionally, the user can suggest alternates in the initial support ticket, and we’ll try to prioritize those if the preferred username is taken. Usernames cannot contain spaces, dashes, hyphens, periods, the @ symbol, or math symbols. Usernames ARE case sensitive but we will not deliberately create usernames that are identical except for case. We recommend (not require) usernames be lower case to avoid confusion.
  2. Remember: you can log in with your email address on file or your username. The username will have changed, so (once we update the username), you must update any password manager you use, or if your browser remembers login credentials. We can’t support the variety of tools that automatically fill login credentials.

Why is it done this way? Not all forums do.
A standalone forum vs. one integrated with a website are two different beasts. Most standalone forums that a main site merely links to are full of SPAM, because their infrastructure can be studied at leisure by anyone installing the same forum platform. By requiring Giza login credentials to post in the forum, we have a single point of restriction to manage, which is robust, with years of proven track record. We don’t have to develop separate defenses for the forum which would necessarily create more restrictive measures. Also, this means each user only has to maintain ONE set of login credentials, not two. The old forum was fully integrated with the website, but still required so many additional layers of security as to render it slow and awkward. As the website and forum grew, it was inevitable that the larger encrypted database of credentials would cause the main website to slow and become unwieldy. It was never a permanent solution. The tradeoffs are that a couple of features unique to the website - display name for instance - don’t get pushed over. A display name is an ‘artificial name’ used for comments on website articles and is not a legitimate security credential. That’s partly because a display name can have spaces and other characters and components that usernames cannot (without causing problems). The forum needs a single way to associate a user with his/her Giza account, and that is necessarily the login username. There ARE forum platforms that artificially account for this, but they’re notoriously insecure. This solution is supported by a community of people dedicated to cybersecurity. It’s not bullet-proof, but it’s a very strong, fortified solution. Being current and well-supported (vs. our previous platform whose development community frankly did not keep up), means vulnerabilities are likely to be fixed quickly after they’re found. It’s part of our commitment to take reasonable steps to protect user data.

Public and Non-Public Areas

ABOUT THE GIZA ONLY CATEGORY: The Giza Only category is only visible to those who have a Giza login. This enables forum users to post in way that is not immediately visible to the outside world. That said, it has always taken about 10 seconds to CREATE a Giza login, so we’ve added an extra layer of privacy through the Giza Lounge… The Giza-only category essentially IS the old forum (which was only a single category forum) brought forward. The other public-facing categories are options that didn’t exist before. It’s a phased rollout, and we’ve been hard at work building all these features.

ABOUT THE GIZA LOUNGE: The Giza Lounge is a forum area (category) that is BOTH not-visible to the open web, AND requires (additionally) a ‘trust level of 3’ to access. Once users have access, anything they post to the lounge is only visible to other people with access to the lounge-meaning OTHER users with a trust level of 3.

There are TWO ways to GAIN a trust level 3.

METHOD ONE: One is to participate in the (new) forum for a while and earn it. We don’t disclose the exact nature of the threshold of activity or types of activity, because we don’t want people filling the forum with junk at a massive pace in the attempt to gain levels. The system will resist that, but still.

METHOD TWO: The other is, if a user has been 1) a long-time user of the OLD forum AND 2) is a current full member of Giza, they can open a support ticket and we will manually raise to trust level 3. The ticket must contain 3) a link to your profile on the old forum [example] so we can see the activity history at a glance. Note-finding your profile in the old forum is as simple as visiting it and searching for something you posted or commented on, then clicking your name on that post, which opens your profile. Then copy that URL from the address bar in your browser.

This effectively creates THREE ways to post.

  1. One is publicly (which the old forum didn’t have, and which, based on the topical categories gives ‘new blood’ and tentative visitors a chance to see what Giza is about before they commit to creating an account.
  2. TWO is in the Giza Only category which is essentially the old forum that requires a Giza login to see and post to.
  3. THREE is in the Giza Lounge which requires a user to have been around a while, become seasoned, had a chance for people to gauge their mettle (or heavy metal) and for us to decide they’re not a 100% troll.

The old forum only had ONE way to post. You could post to people with a Giza login, but they could have created that login 10-seconds ago and be anybody, since creating a login takes about that long.
This way, that option still exists, but 2 OTHER options exist that can accomplish two things:

A. Growth of the Forum, because we have a way for people to get a taste through the public posts.
B. Added Privacy, because long-time members have their own area one has to earn their way into through participation.

We think these added options drastically improve Giza member choices vs. the only forum with only the one option.

Avoiding Holds

The Forum comes equipped with antiSPAM measures. There are no antiSPAM measures on the planet that are reasonably effective but never interfere with legitimate user behavior. The options boil down to wide open or accepting some false positives as the cost of the average person being allowed on the internet in 1992 and the simultaneous development of SPAM.

One way SPAM disrupts a forum is automated bot SPAM, the other a human user who, typically, is logging onto hundreds of forums per week. That behavior is usually reflected by logging in and, within a few seconds pasting the full text of an article or even just a link, and moving on. Human spammers post topically consistent content of that type, then move to the next forum. It will NOT be obvious SPAM. Then, they do it again. On the premise of ‘sharing information’. Once they’ve built up a trust level and passed the basic moderation tests of an aged profile, multiple posts and/or comments, they circle back in a few weeks with more posting privileges and drop in a load of crap.

To thwart this behavior, the system is designed to throw a hold on users who post too quickly, too quickly after logging in, drop the text of whole articles in the Forum (instead of a link) or drop a link with no commentary. It’s not a simple on/off switch. It’s a threshold. Someone might post a link, no commentary, no point, just thrust a link in, and it sticks. Someone else might do it, and the system’s algorithm thinks “possible spammer, let’s place a hold on that post”. Same person drops a 12 page article into a forum post (not a link) and the system thinks, “possible defacer, let’s limit account privileges”. The system doesn’t KNOW the person, can’t make a more nuanced evaluation like “Oh, that’s Susan, and Susan is in all the vidchats and just doesn’t talk much.” etc.

The reason you’re getting this information is so that you know how to avoid having a hold placed and having to open a support ticket for removal:

  1. If it’s just a URL, no commentary, no express point, and the system places a hold on that post, we ignore it. We don’t go in and release the hold. If the user hasn’t added some context - a remark or two - the link isn’t very valuable anyway and doesn’t justify the extra maintenance to make up for it.
  2. If it’s the full text of an article, from another accessible venue, it’s not really appropriate for the forum anyway. Best practice is to place a link to an external article and some commentary
  3. If the article is not available online to the average forum user, it’s best to quote/cite the relevant portions of the article. Alternately, the user can drop the article into any number of sharing mechanisms they control (Google Docs, Dropbox, etc) and share a public link (again with commentary). This way we’re also not doing an end-run around someone else’s paywall, etc.
  4. Original articles: When the user is writing an article IN the forum. The system is designed to take that into account, based on the time it takes the user to type it in. If you’re utilizing the forum like a blog and writing and publishing an original article in it, the old fashioned way, it will usually go through just fine. If the user writes it in something else (e.g. Wordstar) and does a copy/paste to the forum, the system still might flag it as potential SPAM unless you slow down a bit, make some edits, add some commentary, or what have you.

The simple version is:
The system is designed to promote thoughtful commentary, which one generally doesn’t get from spammers, so linger a moment and consider whether the post has adequate context.
A. Avoid just posting links with no commentary.
B. Avoid copy/pasting the full-text of articles and hitting publish.
C. Avoid 3-second replies (put some thought into it).
D. Avoid 3-second posts (it takes longer than that to type two sentences).
E. Avoid logging in and, within 3 seconds, hitting publish on something (the system thinks it’s mostly bots who can do that despite your impressive speed).

Again, if we have ANY controls for SPAM, there WILL be false positives. If we have NONE, the forum will quickly become unusable. So this is a guide for regulars who want to avoid holds placed on their posts etc, and newbies who don’t want to be mistaken for trolls or spammers.

This is a Civilized Place for Public Discussion

Please treat this discussion forum with the same respect you would a public park. We, too, are a shared community resource — a place to share skills, knowledge and interests through ongoing conversation.

These are not hard and fast rules. They are guidelines to aid the human judgment of our community and keep this a kind, friendly place for civilized public discourse.

Improve the Discussion

Help us make this a great place for discussion by always adding something positive to the discussion, however small. If you are not sure your post adds to the conversation, think over what you want to say and try again later.

One way to improve the discussion is by discovering ones that are already happening. Spend time browsing the topics here before replying or starting your own, and you’ll have a better chance of meeting others who share your interests.

The topics discussed here matter to us, and we want you to act as if they matter to you, too. Be respectful of the topics and the people discussing them, even if you disagree with some of what is being said.

Be Agreeable, Even When You Disagree

You may wish to respond by disagreeing. That’s fine. But remember to criticize ideas, not people. Please avoid:

  • Name-calling
  • Ad hominem attacks
  • Responding to a post’s tone instead of its actual content
  • Knee-jerk contradiction

Instead, provide thoughtful insights that improve the conversation.

Your Participation Counts

The conversations we have here set the tone for every new arrival. Help us influence the future of this community by choosing to engage in discussions that make this forum an interesting place to be — and avoiding those that do not.

Discourse provides tools that enable the community to collectively identify the best (and worst) contributions: bookmarks, likes, flags, replies, edits, watching, muting and so forth. Use these tools to improve your own experience, and everyone else’s, too.

Let’s leave our community better than we found it.

If You See a Problem, Flag It

Moderators have special authority; they are responsible for this forum. But so are you. With your help, moderators can be community facilitators, not just janitors or police.

When you see bad behavior, don’t reply. Replying encourages bad behavior by acknowledging it, consumes your energy, and wastes everyone’s time. Just flag it. If enough flags accrue, action will be taken, either automatically or by moderator intervention.

In order to maintain our community, moderators reserve the right to remove any content and any user account for any reason at any time. Moderators do not preview new posts; the moderators and site operators take no responsibility for any content posted by the community.

Always Be Civil

Nothing sabotages a healthy conversation like rudeness:

  • Be civil. Don’t post anything that a reasonable person would consider offensive, abusive, or hate speech.
  • Keep it clean. Don’t post anything obscene or sexually explicit.
  • Respect each other. Don’t harass or grief anyone, impersonate people, or expose their private information.
  • Respect our forum. Don’t post spam or otherwise vandalize the forum.

These are not concrete terms with precise definitions — avoid even the appearance of any of these things. If you’re unsure, ask yourself how you would feel if your post was featured on the front page of a major news site.

This is a public forum, and search engines index these discussions. Keep the language, links, and images safe for family and friends.

Keep It Tidy

Make the effort to put things in the right place, so that we can spend more time discussing and less cleaning up. So:

  • Don’t start a topic in the wrong category; please read the category definitions.
  • Don’t cross-post the same thing in multiple topics.
  • Don’t post no-content replies.
  • Don’t divert a topic by changing it midstream.
  • Don’t sign your posts — every post has your profile information attached to it.

Rather than posting “+1” or “Agreed”, use the Like button. Rather than taking an existing topic in a radically different direction, use Reply as a Linked Topic.

Post Only Your Own Stuff

You may not post anything digital that belongs to someone else without permission. You may not post descriptions of, links to, or methods for stealing someone’s intellectual property (software, video, audio, images), or for breaking any other law.

Why a Forum

Why use an old-style forum when there’s Facebook and Reddit?

The main reason is the ability to go back through 10+ years of archived discussions to find the information you’re looking for. Old posts can be found on Reddit and Facebook, but you’ll run into broken threads often. With forums, the thread structure is kept over the years, and the only broken stuff will be images and linked external sites that no longer work. But the text is still all there, and that’s what matters.

A standard piece of advice anyone who uses forums regularly says, “search first before you ask”. So that’s what you do. You sign up an account, start searching, and more often than not you’ll find the info you were looking for.

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This site is operated by your friendly local staff and you, the community. If you have any further questions about how things should work here, open a new topic in the site feedback category and let’s discuss! If there’s a critical or urgent issue that can’t be handled by a meta topic or flag, contact us via the staff page.

Terms of Service

Yes, legalese is boring, but we must protect ourselves – and by extension, you and your data – against unfriendly folks. We have a Terms of Service describing your (and our) behavior and rights related to content, privacy, and laws. To use this service, you must agree to abide by our TOS.