11. A Discussion Board Is Not A Pub

Sometimes we draw an analogy between a discussion board and a pub. We did so in our guideline for reading the discussion boards. Some board names even make use of the comparison, too – eg, “Paulypilot’s Pub”. In many respects, the analogy is useful – pubs and discussion boards have “regulars”, but are open to all; different pubs, whilst having many things in common, often have different atmospheres and ‘cultures’ – a small country pub will feel different to a town centre bar – and the same is true of discussion boards.

However, the pub analogy only goes so far. Some people relish a good argument down the pub. There is a long established pub tradition in which apparently bitter banter is exchanged between the best of friends. When you are sarcastic in the pub your friends can see the twinkle in your eye, and the smirk on your face, and you may even have just bought them a drink. So a rhetorical tone might work well in this sort of face-to-face conversation, where the participants can respond immediately to the reactions of others.

In contrast, whilst a discussion board is a great forum for an exchange of facts and views, and for having a friendly conversation, it is not a good place for an argument. A discussion board is a text-only medium – just the hurtful words, without the softening gestures. For that reason, a straightforward style works best on a discussion board.

Also, whilst conversations over a pint are often littered with strong language, pub chat is fleeting, conducted amongst people who know each other well, and is unlikely to be overheard above the general background noise. In contrast a discussion board post is permanent, highly visible, and will be seen by a wide range of people of differing sensibilities. It’s worth remembering that just because you don’t find something offensive or insulting doesn’t mean others won’t. Our discussion boards are read by a very broad spectrum of people. For that reason, we don’t allow abusive, vulgar or obscene language, or thinly disguised versions of it (eg, using asterisks).

You may find instances of an offensive word or phrase in an existing post. But that does not mean that we have seen it and left it there, or in any way ‘approved’ its use. We don’t – can’t – read everything that’s posted on the boards, so unless a post is reported to us we almost certainly have no idea it exists.

Please note that The Motley Fool reserves the right to decide what is or isn’t acceptable, to remove offending messages and, ultimately, to terminate the membership of anyone who repeatedly posts such content.