The community guidelines are where this document began — though really they can be summed up as “don‘t be a poozer.”
Last modified: 1st of August, 2012.
All items can be clicked to go straight to the corresponding answer.
1/ Goal of the community
Common topics include discussion of game campaigns, rules question, debating optional changes to the rules, writing up published characters famous and obscure, writeups of home-grown characters, GMing advice, questions and remarks about the game universes, etc. Though it turned out that character writeups were a popular subject of discussion (and an excellent way to discover areas in which the system needs to be reinforced), they should not obscure the rest !
Discussion of closely related material (comic books, movies ) also happens, but should remain brief and germane. Off-topic subjects are discouraged, and off-topic subjects with a potential for conflict - such as politics or religion - are out.
2/ Real short history
The original community was founded around 1995 by Joshua D. Marquart as a mailing list. For years it was kindly hosted on the servers of a small web design company, Idyll Mountain (now defunct) headed by Kynn Bartlett. In 2002 it became a group on Yahoo!, albeit some continue calling it “the DCH mailing list”. Traffic in is the hundreds of messages per month.
The community, with Josh as its interface and editor, was behind much of the content for the Sidekick rulebook published by Pulsar for Blood of Heroes. A further evolution of this content comprises much of the new rules in Blood of Heroes : Special Edition, the most recent version of the game system. Eventually, the Pulsar property was bought by members of the community in an effort to further improve it - which unfortunately proved unfeasible for legal reasons.
Our most visible presence is the online archive for our writeups. It was created in late 1998 and eventually became writeups.org (or WORG for short - it‘s a pun, you see). It went through a number of versions as technology, bandwidth and the webmaster‘s lamentable technological and design skills evolved.
June, 2002 — the writeups.org domain now exists and the site now runs on a SQL database. IIRC the blue blocks on the left and top are frames.
October, 2005. The 2002 layout was tweaked in 2004. The “blue fade” version of the site lasted until 2009, and was thus the longest-lived one.
May, 2009 — the “gamma radiation” design. The switch was done in April of 2009 (update message). This version was a big step forward, though looking back the design was too crammed. This “green green green” version lasted until 2012 and saw various improvements, including switching to an Open Search Server search solution, a first attempt at social network tools, newsfeed tools and switching our update messages page to a page built using Wordpress code.
3/ Advice on joining the community
Like all communities, the DCH mailing list has its set of implicit social rules - barging in with a preconceived notion of how it works or no interest toward established standards is just too big a potential for waste. Not all online communities share the same character, far from it.
Newcomers are encouraged to read a bit through the older messages to gain a sense of standards. Exchanges are expected to be courteous, calm, mature, open-minded and productive ; grammar and spelling are expected to be standard (barring disabilities, English as a second or third or fourth language, etc.) and in more than 15 years there have been about two memes/private jokes. Conflict and grandstanding are generally discouraged so everybody can feel comfortable and appreciated ; signal is greatly encouraged over noise.
Generally, if you‘re about to say something you wouldn‘t say to Ivan Drago, to his face, while he‘s in a bad mood don‘t.
The rare moderation messages are normally preceded with a [MODERATION] header in the title. The moderation team strives to be polite and understanding.
Oh, and please don‘t overquote. The content is also distributed in lengthy digests and overquoting makes those a mess. Snip away all that‘s not necessary to follow what you‘re writing.
4/ Spam control
Spammers are immediately banned from the group after the first such message, and the group remains largely spam-free. Such bans are no longer announced, since that just doubled the clutter from spam messages.
Some messages get erroneously caught by Yahoo!‘s spam filters, but a moderator will normally get those unstuck within a day or two. Some messages do disappear in the ether, though, but it‘s rare.
The community is hosted for free by third parties (currently, Yahoo!) and has to make sure it doesn‘t lose that. The main way of overstaying our welcome with Yahoo! would be to have complaints filed about us regarding infringement of intellectual property - such as providing instructions, support, encouragement, etc. about pirated comics, RPGs and the like. In order to make sure we‘re not kicked out, the moderation requests that community members do not ask for, or offer, pirated material.
We also prefer not to have material written by Mayfair writers reposted in a way that infringes on that intellectual property, though this stems more from respect toward those writers than concern about getting evicted from our little virtual space.
About distribution of unauthorized copies of DCH/BoH material — while electronic copies of some now-defunct RPGs are freely available on public websites (notably the original Marvel Super Heroes RPG from TSR), no such public repository of either the DC Heroes nor the Blood of Heroes RPGs exists. Furthermore, discussion regarding distribution of unauthorized copies is discouraged on the list for the following reasons:
- 1) Long-standing list policy, as noted above, is to respect the intellectual property rights of creators, whether it involves the games themselves or the materials that they are based on.
- 2) The Yahoo! Groups Terms of Service explicitly bars use of Yahoo! Groups to distribute illegal materials (which would include unauthorized electronic copies of DCH and/or BoH materials) or otherwise make such materials available. Penalties can range from banning up to and including legal action against the guilty party.
- 3) Likewise, there are numerous parties associated with the game system who might also feel compelled to take legal action. John Colagioia, one of the current owners of Pulsar games:
“For reference, though, republication (i.e., scanning and distributing) might incur Pulsar‘s wrath (we‘re kinda required to defend our position as sole licensee of the system), could incur the owner‘s wrath (they may have a direct interest in defending the use of the system, since failing to do so could jeopardize the Pulsar contract), but will almost certainly incur the wrath of Time-Warner, who own all the DC trademarks.
“Trademarks, unlike copyrights, *must* be vigorously defended, because you can get out of a trademark infringement suit by showing a single case where the trademark was not defended in the past. That‘s why Disney is always in the news suing local bakeries for making unofficial Mickey Mouse birthday cakes for people.”(1)
Limited quotation of selected stats or passages of the rules is considered fair use for discussion purposes. More than a paragraph or two of quoted text or an entire character writeup from the Mayfair or Pulsar material would begin to cross into inappropriate territory — please use your best judgment. Exchanges of such material on a personal basis off-list are acceptable. For example, it‘s fine for someone to request Superman‘s official DCH stats to be emailed to him off-list, but don‘t post those stats to the list itself.
Writeups that revise or expand on existing official stats are entirely acceptable, though it‘s best in such cases if such writeups include at least as much new material as previously-existing stats.
6/ Peer review
The DCH mailing list and its pet WORG are a good example of community-generated, quality specialized content — and it started a decade before the whole Web 2.0 thing, too.
Thus, content that is written to last (writeups, proposed optional rules changes and clarifications, articles - as opposed to everyday conversation) goes through an informal peer reviewing process. That is, other community members are encouraged to comment, ask questions, suggest changes, point out what they think are mistakes, offer alternative approaches, etc.
The objective is to improve the work before publication, and it is expected that all relevant comments will be taken in account and duly credited in the “Helper(s)” section of the work. One does not have to blindly agree to everything, of course, but our long experience has been that it is nearly always better to receive help and discussions.
The peer-review process can only work if everybody is honest and open-minded, and more interested in producing quality collective work than in “defending opinions”. Diplomacy is always necessary, and backing points with examples to help the main writer is always a plus. It is much closer to a scientific process where evidence is compared, than to an adversarial debate.
Sometimes no peer can comment - for instance because the character is so obscure nobody else knows much about them, or because the writeup seems straightforward and well-crafted. Sometimes discussions last for months as the community tries to nail down something complex, without a clearly superior solution ever emerging. In those cases an effort is usually made to talk about viable alternative approaches in the entry, since we value options and different takes.
Note that it means that it‘s completely OK to join the community to just comment, help and discuss rather than write articles. It‘s a discussion space, not a content mill.
7/ Contributing writeups for publication
There‘s now a whole section about this topic, since there‘s quite a bit of experience to share on this subject.