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February 14, 2009
A thought by James Berardinelli

Regular readers of ReelThoughts know that, for about a year, I have struggled with the concept of somehow making ReelViews interactive. Reader opinion was split: about half of the e-mails I received encouraged me to go in this direction. The other half wanted things to stay the same. Ultimately, the argument that swayed me was an article I read (sorry, can't recall where it was to cite it) indicating that sites without some form of interaction were withering.

Having decided to include interactivity, the next step was to determine what kind of interactivity I wanted to pursue. There were two obvious possibilities: page-specific comment logs (where the roster of comments appears beneath the article/review/content on the same page) or a forums area. I chose the latter for two reasons: greater freedom of interaction and the ability to allow those who don't want to deal with reader comments to ignore the section altogether.

The forums are part of what I'm calling a Version 2.5 expansion. While they are the largest element of this release of ReelViews, they are not the only one. There are other changes, most of which are subtle. The one most likely to be noticed is the widening of text areas. One comment that surfaced about Release 2.1 was that the review/Reelthoughts content areas were too narrow. So I have added about 100 pixels to them. This damages the site's integrity on 800x600 monitors but doesn't break it. The reviews are still readable - it's the right-hand column that suffers. Also, the ability to print out reviews without the ads has been cleaned up a little. Before doing this, you may want to check out print preview, however, to make sure you're getting what you want.

This is the last planned major upgrade to the site for a while, although there may be small, incremental changes along the way. I have some forward-looking ideas but I'll save them for future discussion. There have been enough changes to the site in 2009 that there's no reason to look ahead to 2010 at the moment.

Back to the forums, which can be accessed here or through one of many links found around the site… The goal is to create a friendly community. Anyone can read the posts but you have to go through a free, reasonably painless registration process in order to post. Non-posting guests are welcome but will be on the outside of the community looking in. Also, while spirited discussion is encouraged, unfriendly conduct (attempts to start flame wars, violation of posted guidelines, personal attacks) will be met with warnings, censure, and (as a last resort) banning.

For those who may be interested, here are the forums' guidelines/rules:

1. Be civil. Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. This forum has a zero-tolerance policy on personal attacks toward forum users. A certain amount of criticism of James Berardinelli or other public personalities is allowed as long as it does not become a personal attack. Anyone engaging in personal attacks will be moderated (meaning that a moderator will have to approve each post) or banned from the system.
1.a. Report Abuse. If you see something inappropriate, please contact a moderator. Our moderators will remove the item if they believe it goes against our Terms & Conditions.
1.b. No flame wars. If you see a post that is obviously designed to generate angry responses, contact a moderator and DO NOT RESPOND.

2. Stay on topic. A certain amount of leeway will be allowed, but please do not venture off on unrelated tangents. Topics or replies which do not belong will be moved elsewhere without notice to the author.
2.a. Before opening a new topic, check to see if someone else is already discussing your subject. Redundant topics will be merged without notice to the author.

3. DON’T YELL, PLEASE! Typing in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS is considered YELLING. Capitalizing (or using bold or large fonts) occasionally for emphasis is fine, but your entire post should used mixed case and normal fonts.

4. Use the View New Posts link to see what you’ve missed. This will save you time by keeping you up-to-date on all postings from all Forums since you last logged in. See our FAQ section for help.

5. If you see a technical problem or need to contact a moderator, use the "The Team" option (found near the bottom of the main page). That will provide you with contact information for all moderators and the administrator.

6. Use PG-13 language. Some limited profanity is allowed but posts with excessive profanity or vulgarity will be edited or deleted. Those repeatedly breaking this rule will be moderated or banned.

7. Don’t create multiple accounts - doing this can cause all of your account information to be permanently banned from the forum.

8. Please speak English. Because we moderate the forums to keep inappropriate posts offline, we need all posts to be in a language that all of our moderators can read. Posts not written in English will be deleted and the poster warned (even if the post does not contain inappropriate content).

9. Plagiarism is not allowed. All quotes must be sourced. Claiming someone else's writing to be your own in a bannable offense.

10. SPOILERS: First, it's necessary to define a "spoiler." This is problematic since there's no consistent definition. For purposes of these forums, consider it to be the revelation of any significant plot element. Be conservative when determining whether or not something is "significant." If you think something might be a spoiler, treat it as one.
For how long after a movie is released should something be considered a spoiler? Again, there's no clear answer. My rule-of-thumb is that the statute of limitations expires one year after a film's theatrical release (in the United States) or six months after its home video release, whichever comes later. For major plot developments, add another six months to a year. Again, err on the side of caution.
It is helpful to label topics with an indication of whether or not spoilers are allowed to be discussed in the thread. If there is no such indication, ASSUME NO SPOILERS! The only time spoiler discussion is allowed is when the topic title indicates something along the line of "SPOILERS welcome" or "SPOILERS allowed." At the moment, the forums do not have a means to automatically designate/hide a spoiler within a post, so it is very important to follow this guideline. Those who do not will be subject to moderation or banning (not to mention the possibility of getting a lot of hate PMs for other irate members).