It has come to my attention that many new users to this site may not notice the First Stop forum, or simply choose to ignore it. It's called "First Stop" for a reason - it's a good place for newbies to test their new membership on the site.
The Complete FAQ and Help Thread found there is a great resource for learning how to use the site - in fact, I just learned something from that topic while I was researching for this journal entry. However, it doesn't cover how to talk to fellow users without getting branded as a "noob". In fact, the thread quotes a clause from the Terms of service:
You are solely responsible for your interactions with other RoosterTeeth.com Members.
That means that if you want to be a jerk to everyone, you've got to take responsibility for that fact. However, it also means that if you don't want other members to treat you poorly, you need to take steps to make sure they have no reason to. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a written guide that teaches new users who care about this how to avoid getting flamed, and I've been an active member of this site for months.
Thus, I have decided to put together a general guideline for posting in the Rooster Teeth forums (or, in fact, just about any forum). Here, you will find a basic list of things to keep in mind before leaping into a discussion feet-first. (Disclaimer: This guide is not official. I'm only offering my own guidelines, not rules. The "First Stop" forum should still be your first stop.)
1: The Golden Rule - Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
This is the simplest rule, yet many forum goers - new and old - seem to forget it all the time. If you act like a jerk to somebody, you can only expect a harsh response in return. Nobody likes being called stupid, or a hater, etc. The mod system acts as a regulator: if others are offended by your post, they will "neg-mod" your post, labeling your idea as one that shouldn't be there in the first place. Conversely, if you impress somebody or make them laugh, they'll "plus-mod" your post. Even though others will tell you that mod points are worthless, I find them to be a good indicator of whether or not I'm fitting into the thread I'm posting in. Be mindful of how others might mod your post, and you may prevent yourself from posting something that could start a flame war.
2: Mod points aren't everything. Neither are awards.
Even though mod points are a good way to test whether or not you're getting along with other users, they should never be the goal of your actions. There are several terms that describe this, but "modwhoring" is the best one. Nobody appreciates a post that is clearly made for the sake of others' approval. If you're going to post something on the site, make sure it is worth everyone else's time. The same applies to requests for Staff Awards and milestones.
3: Go get Hooked on Phonics.
I don't mean the real world program here. Far too many newbies ignore the basic rules of grammar, and stand out from the rest of the crowd as a result. By taking the extra time to dot your 'i's and cross your 't's, you'll distinguish yourself as a user worth knowing. Some threads don't care about grammar, but it's not a good idea to slip into "leet speak" unless you know it's safe.
4: In an argument, the burden of proof is on the accuser.
If you're going to tell someone that something is wrong in their post, make sure you give them a good reason why. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but trying to tell someone else that theirs is wrong doesn't go over very well unless you can convince them that it is wrong.
5: No single person is right all the time.
Even the Rooster Teeth staff isn't omniscient - there was this one incident where Gus thought he locked a blog post, but found that some people had posted in there anyways. Thinking they had used a site bug exploit, he neg-modded them and gave them a red "X" - an "Award Denied" marker. Later on, he figured out that, due to a glitch, the blog post wasn't properly locked in the first place. He reversed his judgment on these users and gave them a full apology.
The point is, just because someone is contradicting you, it doesn't mean that they're wrong - hear them out, and give their side of the story a fair chance. Most users are not out to get you, but by constantly ignoring them, you'll only make enemies.
6: Each forum (and dedicated thread) is unique. Treat them as such.
On a site as big as this one, the community is bound to be a fractured set of cliques. Although we're all united by our enjoyment of Rooster Teeth's works, no two users will share the exact same interests or philosophies. For instance, some threads are dedicated to analyzing the plots of Red vs. Blue, while others are technical help bars, while still others are fan threads or forum game threads. Each kind of forum (and threads with an insane amount of pages) attracts a certain type of user, and knowing who these users are is half the battle. Try to figure out what the rules and customs of the thread are before posting in it. And, as a general rule, reserve the lolcats for the most appropriate of situations.
7: My personal mantra - "When in doubt, lurk moar."
If, after reading these guidelines, you're still not sure how to post in the forums without getting flamed, just stick around for a while without posting anything. Look at other people's conversations, figure out what works and what doesn't. Even when you're experienced enough to know proper netiquette, it's a good idea to lurk a little bit in a specific thread, to see what everybody's talking about before you weigh in (it's considered bad form to repeat a point of discussion or an idea from earlier).