1. Is there an actual rule on replying to old, dormant threads? On numerous occasions, I've seen people get quite bent out of shape, asking "Why did you reply to such an old discussion?" If such a thing is actually verboten, then the thread should be locked after a given time, perhaps.
No, there is no rule that prohibits one from resurrecting old threads. I think people only respond negatively to the practice because (a) it seems, sometimes, like someone is attempting to pick up the conversation from where it left off with the people who were originally involved - some of whom do not post here anymore, or (b) sometimes questions asked in older threads with no resolution have been answered in newer threads. In any case, if you feel like resurrecting an old thread, go ahead.
2. Is there a rule on the type(s) of questions that are not allowed on the forum, but which should be referred to a priest? Too frequently (in my opinion), a response to a given question is "Go ask your priest." This is a discussion forum, so if there are topics which are not to be discussed here, I'd recommend they be stated as such in the forum rules.
There is no general rule about what kinds of questions can be asked here. Usually, suggestions to "go ask a priest" are made in order to acknowledge that the answer may involve pastoral sensibilities (i.e. the answer is either difficult to hear, or involves personal information), or because the person feels that a priest is uniquely qualified to answer. So yes, this is a discussion
forum, and we promote discussion. We only encourage those who have questions that involve deeply personal information ("I have slept with so-and-so," or "my parent x beat and molested me") to seek professional advice in a private setting (priest, counselor, etc.) rather than post that information on the forum.
3. I don't understand the "we already have a thread on that" replies. A discussion forum is a metaphor for "real-life" discussion, and in real life there is nothing unusual about a group of folks resurrecting a topic that's been discussed for thousands of years. What is the actual expectation of the "check before you post" rule, and what is the consequence of violating it?
Yes, we discuss many things here on the forum that have been discussed before (some would say ad nauseam
). Sometimes, though, a question posed in a thread has been sufficiently answered elsewhere, which makes the reference to an old thread useful. It would be akin to bringing up a topic that's been discussed for "thousands of years" in real life, and having someone refer you to a book that was written 100 years ago about it, saying, "I think that book sufficiently answers your question." Only when a particular topic of discussion dominates the forum unduly (like the subject under moratorium at present) will the moderators step in an instruct people to read old topics first before posting new ones.
4. I realize that moderator decisions are not debatable within the thread they are made. However, is there a place where moderator decisions, or more generally, forum policies, can be openly discussed and debated?
Well, this thread was specifically created to discuss forum policies, so yes, there is one place. As to a place to discuss moderator decisions - no, not really. Our moderators are volunteers who give of their time, talent, and energy to help facilitate good discussions here. We all make mistakes at one time or another, which is to be expected. When moderator mistakes are made, however, we do not allow public discussion of that, since we do not want to encourage a witch-hunt mentality on the forum, and we want to protect the volunteers from undue criticism which may arise out of such conversations. Additionally, it would be nearly impossible to recruit new moderators to fill vacancies if they knew that any little slip-up could become a 20-page thread about them on the forum. We do not want to quash legitimate discussion of a moderator's actions - we only ask that those conversations happen one-on-one with the moderator themselves, the GM that oversees them, or the Administration.
5. I agree with the previous post. I realize the green letter moderatorial posts are a compromise, and think I understand the reasons and logic behind it. However, on more than one occasion, I have found myself thinking "that's not fair" when a mod has been debating with someone, things get heated, and then the "someone" finds themselves getting warned or worse. It can leave a very distinct (and not fond) taste. Are there alternative methods under consideration for moderator participation in discussions?
We have seen the models used by other fora (including forcing the moderators to post under pseudonyms different than their moderator user ID), and have concluded that our model works best for us: it forces the human person behind the keyboard to be accountable to the forum and to the administration for all their comments, both official (mod) and unofficial (user). Our mods are selected in part because of their good history on the forum as participating members - we want that to continue while they are moderating.