New Cracking the Code forum guidelines!

Hey, we’ve rewritten our forum guidelines and want to share them with you, both to make sure everyone is on the same page as far as expectations, and see if you have any feedback.

Previously our guidelines have been more or less just the default ones written by Discourse, which are good but are missing some of the things we’ve found are specific to this forum. We also didn’t link them prominently at first, so many of you may not have seen the guidelines at all.

We’ve been running this place for a year now (as of yesterday!) and have gained a lot more insight into the sorts of things that can help make the community better, as well as what kind of behavior we want to avoid. These things will only become more important as the forum continues to grow, so we spent some time the last couple days rewriting a new set of guidelines, which you can read here:

We’ll add a link to this to our forum welcome email, as well as on the main site homepage. It’s also linked in the pinned banner that new users see when they first get to the forum.

We think this covers most of the important stuff, but are open to amending or clarifying these guidelines when- and wherever necessary. Please take a look and let us know if you have any questions / concerns!


I think the reference to Markdown is going to confuse a lot of people. I don’t have a suggestion for how to address that. It doesn’t help matters that the people who maintain the Markdown overview page you link to don’t make it particularly easy for a layperson to find/see examples from the current spec. I definitely agree the mention of how to embed youtube links on the forum is worth calling out on its own.

Maybe add another sentence or two to help less techie people understand what Markdown is and how it can apply to forum posts?

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Ah yeah good point, maybe better to just remove that part, seems most people figure out the basics anyway since things like bold (cmd-B), italic (cmd-I) and linking (cmd-K), as well as lists and quoting, are accessible via shortcuts and/or editor toolbar anyway.

Haha yeah the video linking is definitely one of the most common formatting issues I see (that, and improperly paragraph-ized posts) so we thought worth a special mention!

I actually hate this, and I don’t use it. At least not that I am aware of. I shouldn’t have to learn to program to write a damn message in English. Lord knows I’ve done enough of that already for one lifetime.

I agree, nobody should be required to do this. If the software is not smart enough to auto-add it where necessary, then that’s that.

I agree with the suggestions found in Discourse’s guidelines for civil conversation. They’re very reasonable. For some reason you felt the need to add even more guidelines – things which were not mentioned in Discourse’s guidelines and I think I know why they were not mentioned there. The reason being that they seem unreasonable.

My purpose in writing this is to encourage thought regarding some of these extra rules. To begin on a positive note, I agree with not allowing name calling, ad hominem attacks, or combativeness. I agree with avoiding escalating arguments by pouring gasoline on the fire. Those are very sensible, reasonable rules which any fairly mature person should be able to follow.

After you wrote that, then things got a little unclear. I agree with the general principle of not antagonizing others; it’s a good principle. But then you added “even indirectly.” That’s unclear, or at least it is to me, and I suspect I’m not the only one who finds it unclear. How does one know if he’s antagonizing someone indirectly? Could you give a few examples to illustrate what you mean by “antagonizing someone indirectly”?

So that leads to the final rules: “Don’t post things that are offensive, obscene, or otherwise disrespectful.” Obscene and disrespectful are fairly clear cut concepts which are easy to understand. The problem with “Don’t post things that are offensive” is that is unless one has a crystal ball, he doesn’t know whether an opinion or observation he makes will be considered offensive to someone. I’m not referring to material which is blatantly offensive; I’m referring to things which one doesn’t find offensive in the least and posts without the intent of offending anybody.

The problem with trying to enforce a rule that requires forum members to not post things that are offensive is this: Everyone has different ideas of what they find offensive.

Offensive by what standard? Do you mean offensive based on the word of God, and if so, by which religion’s god? If they’re based on a particular man’s standards, what makes his standards any more valid than the standards of the next man? As human beings we’re all very fallible, so nobody’s standards are perfect. So to say one man’s set of standards for what is considered offensive is the best standard and the standard we must all abide by is bound to be controversial at best!

I have one more thing to add and this one is near and dear to a lot of our hearts and when I say “our”, I’m referring to fans of rock music, especially rock musicians. There are certain things that made me gravitate to the field of rock music decades ago and one of those is that rock ‘n roll has always been a place that has not only attracted outspoken people and rebels, but is a field where people who don’t necessarily fit in the mainstream of society have thrived! They’ve become legends and millionaires in the process and they didn’t do it by being meek, acquiescent people who always made sure to never do anything that might possibly offend someone. On the contrary, rock musicians tend to be some very outspoken people with very definite opinions about what they believe.

Axl Rose, Yngwie Malmsteen, Ritchie Blackmore, Ted Nugent and Gene Simmons are all very outspoken, strong minded men and as a result of their outspokenness, they’ve offended some people. Should they have been more meek, and acquiescent? I don’t think so. It’s hard to argue with success and all those men have been extremely successful, largely because they did things their way and had the guts to do things their way. People find men like them to be fascinating. It’s no wonder that a lot of these men are in constant demand for interviews both in print and on TV.

I have a strong feeling that if Gene Simmons or Ted Nugent were to join your forum under aliases, they’d soon be banned for being offensive! Yet I don’t find them offensive; I describe them as outspoken. The tradition of rock ’n’ roll pushing the standard of what some people consider offensive goes way back to the 1950s and Elvis Presley! Do you realize that not just thousands but millions of people nationwide found him incredibly offensive because he shook his hips when he sang? What if he’d given into their demands and had stopped doing it? He would have set a very dangerous precedent for the industry which would have been incredibly destructive for all those legendary bands who followed him and were trying to grow, to expand the boundaries of what was considered acceptable in rock music because they felt there was value in what they did and weren’t afraid of the millions of people asking them to back down and acquiesce to their holier than thou standards! These so-called (at the time anyway) “offensive men” have been role models and even idols to a lot of us because of the amazing music they gave us and because they had the guts to dare to be who they are! That has held true in rock ‘n’ roll from Elvis Presley to the hard rock icons like Ted Nugent and KISS, to so many of the heavy metal legends of more recent times.

Rock legends as disparate as Frank Zappa and Dee Snider actually went to Congress to testify before Tipper Gore’s PMRC committee which was formed because of how offensive they found the pop, rap and heavy metal music of the 80s. Those rock musicians stood up for what they believed in and put themselves and their reputations on the line because they had such strong conviction in what they believed – that for rock to remain a vital force it had to have the freedom to grow, the freedom to push the boundaries of what some considered offensive and the freedom to speak out against mainstream views because rebellion has always been the spirit and the backbone of rock ‘n’ roll! That goes hand in hand with the spirit our country was founded upon which began when we rebelled and revolted against the British by staging the Boston Tea Party and finished with us whipping the British in The Revolutionary War despite overwhelming odds against us!

You hold the power to eventually eliminate all outspoken people from your forum but is that really what you want? Do you want a forum where everything is “safe”, where nothing outspoken or controversial may be brought up on the slight chance it might possibly offend somebody? If you truly want your forum to grow, you’re going to want people with some outspoken, strong personalities who say what they mean and mean what they say! I find those types of people far easier to deal with than the types who will say one thing to your face and the opposite thing behind your back.

If your ideal forum poster is one who is so bland, so meek and so far from being the outspoken type such as the aforementioned musicians whom a large portion of your forum has grown to know and love over the years, I’m afraid you’re going to end up with a relatively, small, bland, and boring forum

I agree that “offensive” is vague!

No. Quite simply, our ideal forum poster is one who legit wants to find out what other people think, because it might be food for thought for their own growth.

As part of that, this ideal poster should have enough social intelligence to express even strongly divergent ideas without being a jerk about it. In fact, this ideal poster should totally care about not being a jerk to other people, not because we’re snowflakes and can’t take it, but because why would you be a jerk to your friends?

On the flip side, this ideal poster needs to be able to hear divergent ideas without taking them too personally or getting emotional and going on the attack, because that’s just the way discussion works sometimes. This is true even for discussions of highly political topics such as federalism, socialism, communism, and CAGED.

This ideal poster should also know when they’ve sufficiently made their point and to stop posting. They should know that continuing to repeat themselves in longer and longer formats, even though nobody seems to agree, and coming back to resurrect old threads for the purpose of same, isn’t having a conversation. It’s just talking at people, and showing them that you don’t actually care what they said to you in the first place.

Finally, the ideal poster should be willing to accept that they might actually be wrong about all of the above when enough people they respect have told them so, even if they can’t actually see it themselves.

That’s pretty much it. If your mind is right, your typing hands will follow.

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I think Troy already said basically everything that needs to be said here, and I think a better man than I would shut up and back out of the thread…

…but I guess the only thing I’d add is that the spectrum between meek and outspoken, and the spectrum between pleasant and offensive, are two wildly different spectrums, and you can be outspoken yet still friendly. You can also be meek and kind of a jerk. Speaking personally, I want to be a part of a community of passionate and outspoken, but also thoughtful and considerate, musicians. Or, worst case, I want to be thought of as a passionate and outspoken, but also thoughtful and considerate, member of that community.

It’s worth thinking about, anyway. You can be outspoken without being offensive, and in fact if you want to be listened to, you’re better off being outspoken without being offensive.


Thank you for acknowledging that because I think “offensive” can be extremely vague in some instances. Obviously calling someone rude names or saying someone is stupid is blatantly offensive. What concerns me is what happens when someone says something they legitimately didn’t think would offend anyone but as the fallible beings that humans are, they failed to think of a certain reason why it might be offensive to some people. If that happens to me, then as long as I make sure not to escalate the situation and also apologize for failing to consider every possible way in which the statement in question could be considered offensive, then would that be enough, or would action still be taken against me?

Finally, and I’m sorry if I’m being a pest for asking this twice, but in my first post in this thread if you could maybe give a few examples of what “indirectly antagonizing” someone means? This is slightly embarrassing but I honestly don’t know what examples of indirectly antagonizing someone would be.

BTW, your essay on “The Ideal Poster” is brilliant! It’s genuinely a very nice piece of writing and I think it’s good enough that you should give it it’s own thread to increase the likelihood that everybody reads it. I know I haven’t always been the ideal poster but it’s a goal I am honestly working towards!

Hey, thanks for the feedback so far. We’ll see if we can clarify a bit on some of this stuff.

To address a couple of the points raised—

We have no problem with strong opinions, as long as they’re expressed respectfully. Of course there are cases where “opinions” and “respectful” are inherently at odds; it should go without saying that anything racist, sexist, or homophobic, for example, is never okay.

This forum is first and foremost a place for musical learning; anything that detracts from that is something we should try to avoid. As Troy indicated above, this includes posts that feel more like rants rather than being in the spirit of actually having a conversation and learning from one another.

^ That about sums it up!

This will always be situational, but I think it’s reasonable to expect that you consider possible reactions / interpretations before posting, particularly with anything that seems like a sensitive topic. That said, yes, apologizing and de-escalating when someone calls something out as offensive, even if you didn’t intend it as such, is appreciated.

As a side note, I think the “flagging” functionality of the forum software basically addresses this. I think a good rule of thumb would be: if you post something and one person finds it offensive, maybe they just misread. If you post something and several people find it offensive, and flag as such…that’s a solid indication that there actually is something wrong with the post.

A few things I’d include as related to this sentiment:

  • Being passive aggressive
  • Saying things that feel mean-spirited even if couched as a “joke”
  • Being unnecessarily argumentative to the point of tedium
  • Assumed superiority or unwillingness to listen to others
  • Being dismissive of others’ opinions or accomplishments
  • Comments that are derogatory even if not directed at a specific individual

By no means a definitive list but I think you get the idea!

Finally as a general point I’ll note (and the Discourse guidelines mention this too) that we can’t hope to capture every possibility. We’re relying on good faith and good judgement from everyone here, and with these guidelines we wanted to capture as many big picture things as we could without ending up with an overwhelming hyper-detailed set of rules.

Beyond that we’ll figure out any issues that arise on a case by case basis. We can adjust as needed, and when in doubt about something feel free to ask us!


First, late happy birthday to the forum!

I have two questions about the guidelines, asking them publicly as other users may have similar ones:

  1. I have this technique critique thread “critique my playing etc. etc.”, where I posted some YouTube covers, would this be against the new guidelines? I like the idea of sharing a few things that I’m now able (ish) to record thanks to what I learned here, but I can also see that if everyone did it this could become unsustainable.

  2. Is there a preferred way to acknowledge CTC and the forum in things like youtube guitar lessons and similar?
    I’m toying with the idea of recording some short lessons or tutorials using concepts like dwps and so on (who knows when I’ll actually do this!), so obviously it seems fair to acknowledge the source (like one would do in a scientific paper for example).

Thanks :slight_smile:


Intent matters. The purpose of “Technique Critique” is to get feedback on your playing. If there is some specific thing you want feedback on, and it just happens to be a part of a song you recorded, sure. If it’s, ok, I took that advice, and now I can do that thing differently, here is an example of how that advice worked for me on this phrase which occurs at such-and-such time marker of this cover tune I recorded, I think that’s fine too - because it’s a follow-up and relevant to the original purpose of the thread.

But if instead it just becomes a long thread of hey I did another cover, here it is, I would say that’s not really “Technique Critique” and just making it harder for people learn from whatever technical issues you were originally posting about.

More generally, if you’re saying, can we have a forum section where people can post covers because they think others here might want to discuss them in some fashion, sure, we can think about that. I would leave that up to all of you to discuss.

What I don’t want is people who are really just looking to drive traffic to other stuff they are doing and dumping links here with no serious intent to start a discussion on something specific. Yes, this is hard to police. But let’s be honest - when you’re doing that, you know you’re doing that. So it’s on you.

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Haven’t thought about this. But I would imagine if you hunt around YouTube there must be lots of this happening. We’ve never attempted to control the narrative, so to speak. If people want to acknowledge us in whatever fashion, we’re happy to be acknowledged!


I think Ben Eller sets a good example for “etiquette” on this sort of thing. When he does a video inspired by CTC, he verbally credits @Troy early in the video and encourages viewers to check out CTC themselves. I’m not sure if he links to in descriptions, but that’s something I’d probably do if I were posting stuff.


Ben sets a good example for everything. He’s the best.


A post was split to a new topic: Cover tunes and where they should be posted

Just an FYI, made a few edits to the forum guidelines on the subject of linking to external items when they are things you yourself created. We’ve had a few different conversations on this topic recently and it has helped us clarify our thoughts on the subject. That section of the guidelines now includes some examples of when we think this works and doesn’t work:

On the subject of linking to external videos and articles, I think most of the reasons you’d do this are not really the greatest examples of conversation. It’s totally understandable that you may not want to laundry list your thoughts on a subject for the hundredth time. But if you’re not interested in at least summarizing those thoughts in the thread at hand, leaving your blog link kind of feels like another way of saying you’re not interested discussing in the topic.

I’m sure there are edge cases here - feel free to suggest them and we’ll consider / incorporate.