In this post, I’ll focus on what it means to be a good neighbor in an online community, such as a programming language or video game community. Specifically, I will focus on the Rust programming language subreddit, and the Modded Minecraft and MinecraftForge Discord servers, in the lens of social interactions.
The Rust programming language congregates for discussion on the subreddit /r/rust. This ranges from questions for beginners, to release announcements for new libraries and language versions, or just deliberation over the language’s design and direction. Being a good neighbor here just means engaging in meaningful discussion, instead of posting memes or shallow complaints regarding the language or other languages. One of the subreddit’s rules is “No zealotry”, meaning that users are expected to not act like Rust is superior to all other programming languages. Another rule is to follow the Code of Conduct, which disallows personal attacks or attacks on the basis of race, gender, and sexual oreintation. One other thing I feel like being a good neighbor means, but is not explicitly codified in the rules, is that technical questions should be well-researched and well-presented. Often, users ask vague questions, or give no details when posting about compilation or performance issues they have. Other times, they may ask questions that could have been answered with simple web searches. This wastes the valuable time of experts and other experienced members in the community, when they could be helping with more advanced problems.
Discussion around Minecraft mods centers on two Discord servers, the MMD (Modded Minecraft Discord), for general discussion, and the MinecraftForge Discord for development discussion around the API and mods. In a real-time settings, there are several similarities and differences in the norms. For similarities, question-askers are still expected to provide suitable details about their question, including crash logs or code samples as necessary, and any abusive messages will still attract warnings, kicks, or bans. For differences, the real time nature of chat rooms necessitates more strict rules regarding staying on topic. If the chat channel strays off topic then valid questions earlier in the chat log can get lost and go unaswered, flooded away by irrelevant messages.
Overall, online communities regarding non-sensitive topics generally have quite pleasant communities, and the above two are two particular examples of communities I enjoy participating in on a daily basis, since they have strong rules and norms enforcing “good-neighbour”-ness from everyone.