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I wish I didn't have to write this.

But this site is in trouble.

Nearly two years ago, one of my co-workers at the time wrote Why Sectarianism is Ruining Your Site, warning y'all about the dangers of allowing inflammatory, accusatory discourse to flourish.

And yet here we are, many months later, and still every time I visit the site I find acrimonious comments and meta posts, folks who really should know better refusing to engage in constructive discussion.

Also way back when, I warned y'all of the dangers of allowing answers that plagiarized or heavily borrowed from other sources to proliferate here. And yet again and again I return here to see folks who really should know better asserting their right to leap face-first into this easily-avoidable pitfall, turning the aforementioned accusations and vitriol on anyone who would pull them away from it.

So perhaps we were too subtle before. I do apologize. Let me be clear:

This behavior is unacceptable. It will destroy this site if unchecked.

Maybe you don't care. Maybe you see this as nothing more than a soapbox upon which you can stand, and anyone who chides you an enemy to be attacked. If so, then this is not the site for you - leave now, and don't come back.

But if you do care about building a high-quality repository of information about Islam, then it's time to get serious. A site full of childish bickering and answers copied from others isn't a site to be proud of. And if you're spending your time here, devoting serious energy toward building this thing, it had better be something you can take some satisfaction in.

Specific guidelines

All of this has been discussed here before; therefore, these are not up for debate. If you disagree, then you may wish to go somewhere else. It is a big Internet.

Assume good faith

Be it a question, answer, meta discussion, or a moderator action, assume by default that the author or moderator thought there was good cause for it. If you see a problem, then assume it was an honest mistake unless given very good cause to think otherwise and respond accordingly.

Therefore, when you observe someone launching straight into accusations or personal attacks, flag for moderator attention and expect that it will be removed. Do not engage in this behavior yourself.

Additional guidance for moderators: immediately warn users who engage in name-calling or sectarian bickering, and do not hesitate to suspend them if this behavior continues. It is vital that you rid your community of bad apples before the rot spreads to others.

Do not tolerate answers consisting primarily of text copied from other sources

It is praise-worthy to cite and quote from primary sources that support your conclusions when answering, but less admirable to compose an "answer" by stitching together quotes from other forums, particularly when no credit is given to the original authors.

Therefore, when answering

  1. Don't copy without attribution
  2. Don't post answers that are mostly quotes from others
  3. If you struggle to write in English, just do your best and ask an editor to help you improve it.

...and when reviewing answers by others

  1. Flag answers that copy without attribution.
  2. Downvote answers that are mostly quotes from others, flagging egregious cases.
  3. Help authors who struggle to write in English to produce high-quality original work.

Additional guidance for moderators: when a post is flagged for plagiarism or a lack of original content...

  1. Verify that the offense is real (if it is not, decline the flag)
  2. Immediately delete the offending post.
  3. Then leave a comment so that the author is aware of what happened:

    We require that answers consist primarily of the words of their author, and that all quotes be clearly marked as such and attributed to their respective authors. If you can abide by these rules, you may post a new answer here.

  4. Allow authors to re-post answers when the new answer corrects the problems identified in the old one. Refrain from undeleting answers that were originally plagiarized - this just rewards trickery.

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    Copy-paste version of the comment template: We require that answers consist [primarily of the words of their author](http://meta.islam.stackexchange.com/questions/953/the-copy-paste-issue-revisited), and that [all quotes be clearly marked as such and attributed to their respective authors](http://islam.stackexchange.com/help/referencing). If you can abide by these rules, you may post a new answer here. – Bleeding Fingers May 30 '14 at 6:46
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    Unfortunately, a lot of decent users have concluded similarly and left (including myself). Thanks for trying to save the site, though. – ashes999 Jul 5 '14 at 19:37

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