(full document here: http://personalitycafe.com/announcements/540-personality-cafe-forum-rules.html)
Back in the INFP forum, it wasn't easy to locate even small instances of rules being broken. At first I considered the possibility that any such incidents would simply be quickly and quietly removed by moderators, but exploring the whole site further I discovered a thread in which moderators documented all observed cases of offense, pointing out exactly how the user in question broke the forum rules, and what was done to remedy the situation. All of those examples also included links to the original rule-breaking situations, which were left un-edited with the exception of removing offensive or private information or images. So there must be another explanation for the lack of any visible cases in the INFP forum.
A possible reason may be related to the particular nature of the INPFP personality type, which in all probability is a major influence on the unofficial and unwritten rules that govern interaction in that particular forum. Rather than reacting in an openly critical or judgmental manner to posts and users that don't fit in or violate either written or unwritten rules, the most common responses in the INFP forum seem to involve either offering advice on how to correct the improper behavior, or simply ignoring it altogether. The possibility of members alerting moderators in private can't be ignored either, but with no cases sowing up in the "Infractions" thread, one could conclude that this forum simply doesn't attract many troublemakers, and the offenses that do show up are usually minor and easily ignored or dealt with internally. This certainly seems to make the forum a relatively peaceful place, but it also makes for three pretty unexciting examples of rule-breaking situations, none of which necessitated any moderator involvement. Even posts on topics that commonly attract conflict due to widely differing views, such as religion, simply didn't provide me with any juicy rule-breaking material.
1. rule #7: Post Legibly & rule #12: No Discriminatory Remarks
A user posts an emotional rant titled "I HATE having this personality!", detailing why being and INFP sucks terribly, CAPSLOCK (which violates rule #7) and swearing inclusive. Although he doesn't address another user directly, his broad negative statements about the personality type could definitely count as "typism". His post attracts quite a few comments of users being sympathetic to his plight, at most asking him nicely to calm down and relax, and letting him know he's not the only one feeling that way.
At least one commenter is critical of his stereotypical descriptions of the personality type, another replies with this image, and several disagree with his perceptions or point out why being an INFP can be pretty awesome, yet almost all these disapproving replies lack real unfriendliness, and certainly no one reported the original user for any rule violations. One of the commenters points out that despite the fact that the poster, as a newbie to the forum, in essence told everyone there that as INFPs they really sucked, he still received a lot of thoughtful and even welcoming responses, and that alone should tell him something. To me that also sums up the mentality and the positive of the community to deal with conflict and rule-breaking quite nicely… but of course there's always more than one side to the story.
This rule essentially discourages off-topic posting. The Personality Café site includes a large number of forums specifically for different personality types and theories, as well as places for discussion completely unrelated to psychology or personalities, covering pretty much all the various ways users might want to express themselves, which makes off-topic posts even more unnecessary. The still pop up quite frequently though, and finding several instances in the INFP forum was not hard… I simply looked for all the posts with zero comments, and the large majority will be unrelated to any specific INFP issue. For example, a user posted a quote about frustration from another site, without explaining how this related to the community or INFPs.
Rather than pointing out that fact to the posters or making moderators aware so such content can be moved elsewhere, those posts are simply ignored and so vanish into history. Admittedly many of them sit somewhere on the borderline of being off-topic (unlike my next example), so there may not actually be a real need for moderators to deal with them, but their existence does illuminate a certain passivity and unwillingness to become involved on the side of the community.
This is the flipside of the previous situation, in that some of the most active threads in the INFP forums are actually wildly off-topic and even less related to the personality type or anything connected with it than the previous example. Threads such as "Post funny youtube videos" or "how was your day" tend to attract a large number of comments, yet if one goes strictly by the forum rules, they don't belong in the INFP forum at all, especially since Personality Café offers several forums for such off-topic conversations. But again, neither members (at least those who don't participate in that kind of thread) nor moderators take any steps to make sure the rules are enforced.
Sometimes ignoring potential troublemakers or not giving them the reaction they might be looking for (outrage, anger, etc) does seem like the right choice. In the first example the mostly positive reaction to the poster's rant certainly seemed to disarm him, and if he did post with the intention to troll (which I doubt) he would not have much ammunition to attack people who obviously were not fazed by the insults to their personality. In a much more extreme and serious shape this is how Dibbell describes the Something Awful founder dealing with threats and flames, yet in the case of online experiences leaking into real life there are definitely reasons to be cautious. As Kollock pointed out, there are various ways to sanction rule-breaking, from pointing out the rules to ignoring and making fun of the offender to banning them, and knowing the best way to react to any given situation depending on the community it takes place in is one of the major responsibilities of an administrator (even though many of those sanction can be applied by members without moderator involvement) A comment that's perfectly normal on Failblog would probably have INFP forum members up in arms (or determinedly ignoring). So being an administrator definitely requires more than just swinging the ban-hammer at every violation of the rules (and going through Personality Café's infraction documentation thread I noticed that while warnings were somewhat common, mostly for "inappropriate language" and "insulting other users", any further sanctions including bans seemed rare).
And while I didn't find an example of highly disruptive user behavior, visible or otherwise, in the INFP forum, I think Dr. Gazan made a very important point looking at such behavior from a different angle. It's easy to judge users that engage in behaviors that are destructive to themselves and the community, yet looking for ways to redirect such behavior is much more effective in the long run. Many of us wonder of anyone can get so involved, even addicted to any online community, but this is something that seems to become more and more common, with examples like virtual worlds such as Second Life, or even simple online games such as Farmville, environments that users spend enormous amount of time and oftentimes real money on. When members start deeply emotionally identifying with their online communities, administrators and designers will also have to re-think the ways that they can offer the best possible experience for all users, casual as well as highly involved.
Finally, here are my 5 unwritten rules for the INFP forum, some of which members clearly follow already, and a few that I believe would be useful for the community:
1. Approach all interactions, especially with new members, with an open mind.
2. If necessary, correct others' improper behavior rather than judging, criticizing, or ignoring them.
3. Practice peer oversight instead of involving moderators in rule-breaking situations.
4. Don't be silent or wait for some other person to deal with an issue... become involved!
5. To deal with deliberately annoying, complaining, or rude users: reply with pictures of cute furry animals with appropriate quotes.