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Hello and welcome! Whether you are a veteran of Gaia's forums or brand new to them, things can always get confusing. Gaia actually has hundreds of forums in its database and each serves a different purpose, so it's easy to get lost in them. The purpose of this thread is to help new and old users alike gain a more collective basic knowledge of the forums, general guidelines of the forums as a whole and basic rules and guidelines for many of them individually, and terminology. The links below can take you to each section of the guide which is denoted by the text of the link; these will open in a new tab or window on your browser.

Please feel free to give feedback or criticism on this guide. I want it to work for you!

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Terminology of the Forums, General Etiquette, and the Basics of BBCode


What is a forum? A forum is, in the most basic and purely modern terms, a message board that is usually permanently accessible to the users of the website it is on for both light conversation and discussion of any sort or depth. Think of it as a public meeting hall, but online. Many web-forums (that is, a conjunction of a website and its associated forums) are topic-focused in that the rules of that forum revolve around keeping things on the topic of the forum. Many such forums also include a section for light conversation, chatter, and other such things that do not have much focus or discussion of a particular topic. Within forums are topics and there may also be subforums for more narrow topics within the broad topic of the main forum.

A topic is also commonly known as a thread, especially on Gaia. Within a thread there is an original post, frequently known as the OP (though this may also stand for original poster, depending on context), and the replies, which may simply be noted as a regular post. The original post is always the first post on the first page of the thread. Gaia's forums are set up so that each page of a thread has exactly fifteen posts, no matter their length, though deleted posts and posts by a person on a user's ignore list will not show up. Such invisible posts may still be quoted and may still be read by a moderator or administrator of Gaia.

Each forum on Gaia is different with regard to what the users there deem as appropriate and what is out of bounds. The discussion forums are generally more strict on what is seen as spam, irrelevant, and common knowledge, while the others are generally more lenient. It would be comparable to writing a phone book to list all of the general guidelines here, so I'll cover the basics. Always be polite with other members - people are more willing to accept that you are willing to learn and to adjust yourself within the guidelines of different forums if you are. Ask questions, but check for guides or an FAQ first to see if your question is already mentioned a lot. Doing so can save you from being flamed and insulted on the forums, and while that doesn't get to everyone, some are more easily angered or upset by others being mean or hateful in a thread. If someone attacks you verbally, do not reply to them. Replying informs the attacker that you are affected by it and will likely cause further insult. By ignoring the person, either mentally or physically via the ignore feature, you show that you can handle this in a way that will dissuade further flaming and encourage more helpful, constructive, or friendly responses.

BBCode (short for Bulletin Board Code) is one type of forum coding. The most common other type is HTML coding, which is a bit more complex than BBCode is - Gaia and many other web-forums use BBCode for the ease of their users. To alter the text or content of a post in a certain way the user may make use of various codes within the forum to change the size, color, or appearance of their text; to include pictures, links, or in some cases video; to make use of emoticons to show emotion or attitudes; to quote another user's post; and to change the alignment of the text in the post. Each code has four parts - the brackets, code, opening tag, and closing tag. The brackets and code are part of both the opening and closing tags - the brackets are what show, to the website, that the text or content of the post is to be altered and the code specifies what part.
[u][/u]

The brackets are always the same for forum (as well as comment, journal, and profile) text - they are the square brackets [ and ]. The code in the above example is the u, which underlines the text within the opening and closing tags. The opening tag on Gaia is always the code with square brackets on either side while the closing tag is the same as the opening tag but with a backslash between the first bracket and the code. Closing tags are not required, but if a post without the proper closing tags (such as if the quoted post uses the bolding opening tag but fails to include the closing tag at the end of the post) will cause the quoting to break, like so.
you
me
you
lol look at this person
omg lol no way
blah blah blargh omg.

Because of the lack of the closing bold tag in the original quoted post, the first quoter's post has moved down to look like the second quoter's material, while the second quoter's material moves down into the current post. Again, it is not necessary, but it is polite and helps keep things straight within a thread, especially if people are frequently quoted for conversation or discussion. Some people may have particular ways of formatting, or changing the nature of the text and content of their post, that they are fond of - some may prefer a certain color while others like to have a smaller font size. Gaia's forums are very lenient of testing and experimenting with post formatting, so feel free to make use of them to do so (but read the forum rules first so you don't get in trouble!).

There are also a few different types of threads in the forums. A regular user, one who has no moderating or administrative power on the board, may only post regular threads, but those who are forum staff may post stickies or announcements. Announcements are always at the top of the thread listing in a forum (that's the place where you pick a thread to read) with the newest being at the top, and stickied threads are underneath announcements, also by date. Note that the date reflects the date and time of the last post in the thread and not the date and time of the original posting of the thread. A user may make an average of one post per minute or so, but one can post up to three times in quick succession without the 'you're posting too fast' notification.
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Forum Sections and the Different Types of Forums on Gaia


On Gaia's main forum page you will see that there are several subsections of forum links, each different from the rest. Each forum cluster (or group, but I will refer to it as a cluster because it sounds cooler) has a specific focus. I have included common abbreviations for some of the forums.

The Gaia Online cluster is mostly for forums pertaining to Gaia itself. Announcements, Welcome to Gaia (WtG), Questions and Assistance (Q&A), Bug Report and Technical Support, Site Feedback (SF), Gaia Meet Ups/Convention Tour, and Gaia News & Updates are the main forums here. The Gaia Community cluster is where most users actually interact with each other for conversation and light (or heavy) discussion. The forums here are Gaia Community Discussion (GCD), Chatterbox (CB), Lifestyle Discussion (LD), Gaia International, General Discussion (GD), Extended Discussion (ED), Barton Town, Gaia Guilds, Gaia Aquarium, and Heaven (available only to users older than 6 months on the site and with good records).

The Gaia Gaming cluster is home to discussions of the games on Gaia as well as trade in items and other items such as artwork, signs, and graphics. The games forums are Monster Galaxy, zOMG! (Gaia's MMO), OMGPOP, Ocean Party, Frontier Skies, and Gaia Gaming Discussion, while the trade forums are The Gaia Exchange and Mini Shops. The Entertainment cluster is home to the discussion of the things we use to entertain ourselves, from comics to video games to music to sports. The Entertainment Discussion, Anime/Manga/Comics (AMC), Gaming Discussion, Computers and Technology, and Sports forums are here. The Artist's Corner is the cluster for everything related to art and writing (excluding trading art for art or gold, which is in Mini Shops, and roleplaying, which is in Barton Town). Here the forums are Art Discussion, Writing, and Picture Post.

The Hot Topics and Miscellaneous clusters cover pretty much anything else. The Miscellaneous cluster is home to past Hot Topic forums, the Test forum, the Memorable Threads archive, and Gaia Polls, for those who prefer polls to posting. The current Hot Topics forums are Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows, Internet Memes/Culture, Achievements, Pokemon, Current World Events, and Pets.

There are five main types of forums on Gaia - discussion forums, commerce forums, Gaia-related forums, the spam forums, and other.

Discussion forums comprise the bulk of the forums, with well over half the main forum listing being discussion forums; Extended Discussion, Music, OMGPOP, and Writing are discussion forums. The topic ranges for these are fairly broad and as such they often have subforums, but spam and irrelevant material are not allowed in these forums. The commerce forums are exclusively for the trade of items or other material on Gaia. Only two of the main forums, Mini Shops and The Gaia Exchange, fit into this category, though all of their subforums do as well.

The Chatterbox and it's subforums, the Recycle Bin and Friends Chat, are the only spam forums (Friends Chat to a lesser degree). Everything and anything that does not belong in any other forum is ultimately moved to the Chatterbox (or to the Recycle Bin), though threads that are better off elsewhere are rarely moved out of the Chatterbox to the proper forum due to the inevitable spammy posts that show up in them.

The Gaia-related forums are all of the forums within the Gaia Online cluster. These forums are somewhat about discussion but mostly revolve around new users, help, and feedback and questions about the site and its workings. The 'other' classification is for the remainder of the forums that don't really fit into the other categories. Most of the present and past Hot Topics forums, the forums in the Miscellaneous cluster, and Heaven are examples of these that are harder to classify.

In the following posts I have included all of the main forums (aside from the Hot Topics as they are self-explanatory) and some of the subforums. I have not included most of the subforums to avoid writing too much, since this is a basic guide.
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There are seven main forums and eighteen subforums in the Gaia Online forum cluster - that's twenty-five in total.

Two of these main forums, Announcements and Gaia News and Updates, as well as the eight subforums belonging to those two, are staff-only and thus can only be read, not posted in, by regular users. These forums are mostly used for updates, news, and site-wide announcements posted by the Gaia administration and developers (as per the name of the two main forums). To avoid confusion, I am not going to repeat subforums when they show up in two main forums of the same section (like Gaia Guides and Resources), but I will re-list them if the linked main forums are in two different sections (like Friends Chat).

- Welcome to Gaia
      As the name of this forum implies, this forum is for those who are new to Gaia to get their figurative feet wet in the forums. As such, unless you are welcoming new users in their threads or are new yourself, posting here is no allowed.

    Gaia Guides and Resources

        This subforum is linked in both Welcome to Gaia and to Questions and Assistance. It contains mostly user-written guides and tips, such as this thread.

    Friends Chat

        This subforum is linked in both Welcome to Gaia and the Chatterbox. It is mostly for users to meet and make new friends and for light discussion and conversation.


- Questions and Assistance
      Again, the forum name indicates function - this forum is exclusively for assistance with problems or questions relating to Gaia. It is mostly user-run, and spam is highly frowned upon in this forum - spamming here is a good way to earn yourself several reports (please don't do that; bumping resolved threads or chiming in instead of making your own counts as spamming!) and possibly an earful from those who frequent the forum to help others.

    Avatar System 3.0 Q&F

        This subforum is for discussion of and help with avatar related questions and bugs as well as feedback on the avatar system itself.


- Bug Report and Technical Support
      This forum is mostly used for bringing bugs and persistent glitches to the attention of the developers so that they can be addressed. The four subforums here, Games Bugs, zOMG bugs, Reporting Bugs, and In The Queue, are used for specific types of bugs, addressing common questions regarding bugs and how to report them, and what bugs are currently of highest priority in that order.


- Site Feedback
      This forum is used for giving feedback, constructive criticism, and suggesting ideas. Due to the nature of the forum, only serious and well-thought threads are kept here while others are removed.

    Petitions

        As the name of the forum suggests, this subforum is specifically for petitions threads; these threads are for gathering signatures in support of certain features or items or the removal of either of those. As with the main forum, only serious and constructive threads are generally accepted here.

    Sponsored Offers Forum

        This subforum is for discussion, feedback, and advice regarding the sponsored offers on Gaia for Gaia Cash.

    Fireside Chats

        This subforum is merely an archive of the fireside chats. A regular user cannot make a post here.


- Gaia Meet Ups/Convention Tour
      This forum is for discussion of anything pertaining to the Gaia Convention Tour, including locations, meeting at locations where and when the tour will be and activities there, and for posting pictures of the tour. Feedback on the tour is also allowed here.
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There are ten main forums and thirty-four subforums in the Gaia Community cluster for a total of forty-four.

As mentioned in an earlier post, this cluster is where the majority of user-to-user interaction takes place on Gaia. These forums are the most populous and the busiest.

- Gaia Community Discussion
      This forum is for discussion of all things pertaining to the community of Gaia, whether it be a new feature, new items, or commentary on existing things on the site. The subforums within this forum are, as their names suggest, for more specific topics.

- General Discussion
      This forum is for lighter discussion on a wide variety of topics. Any discussion topic is welcome here, though if it isn't focused enough a thread here will likely be moved.

    Word Games and Others

        This subforum is specifically for forum-based games. Some of them can be quite fun and many can also incorporate well into guilds, so they're worth taking a look at.

- Barton Town
      This forum is exclusively for roleplaying. Any type of roleplay is allowed here (excluding ones that would break the Terms of Service, such as a sexually explicit one), though the subforums here are for more common themes or settings for roleplays.

- Chatterbox
      This forum is, for all intents and purposes, the collection of threads that have no home elsewhere. The threads here may be for just about any purpose though and people will frequently host giveaways or small art threads here, and there is always some element of conversation present - the Chatterbox isn't just for spam, after all!

    Recycle Bin

        This subforum holds duplicate threads, usually from the discussion forums. A user may reply to existing threads here but may not post a new thread.

    Friends Chat

        This subforum is linked in both Welcome to Gaia and the Chatterbox. It is mostly for users to meet and make new friends and for light discussion and conversation.

- Lifestyle Discussion
      This forum is dedicated to discussion of various lifestyles and cultures as well as some support groups (such as for new mothers or the LGBT community). The subforums here are for discussions of what their names suggest

- Gaia International
      Gaia has a wide userbase that has people from all over the world. For discussion of culture and life outside the United States, this is your place.

- Extended Discussion
      This forum is for, despite lack of better words, extended and lengthy discussions or debates on a particular topic. The subforums here are for more narrow topics within the range of topics possible here.

- Gaia Guilds
      Despite a similar name, this forum is not for anything to do with the Gaia Guild Network[GGN] (though the two subforums here are set aside for that). Instead, this forum is more home to thread-based guilds. The Crew Lounge subforum is for support and advice regarding GGN crew or captain status and day-to-day activities that come with it while the Guilds Charter and Barter is for recruiting or trading a guild.

- Gaia Aquarium
      This forum is for showing off your aquarium and getting plays on your tank for Booty Grab. For discussion and advice regarding the aquarium, the subforum is in place to make sure helpful threads and questions can be addressed away from the various tank threads.

- Heaven
      This forum is only open to those who are older than six months on the site and who have clean records (no bans and no excessive warnings) with the site. This forum allows discussion, hang-outs, and similar threads.
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There are eight main forums and twenty-eight subforums in the Gaia Gaming cluster - that totals to thirty-six.

Much of this forum cluster revolves around the games on Gaia as well as commerce and trade on the site in items, art/graphics, gold, or services. As such, all threads that do not fit within the topic of the forum they are in are considered misplaced or spam.

- Monster Galaxy
      This forum is for discussion of the Monster Galaxy game on Facebook. The subforums here revolve around specific aspects and concerns regarding the game.

- zOMG! (Gaia's MMO)
      Similar to the Monster Galaxy forum, this forum is for discussion of zOMG! as well as questions and concerns regarding the game.

- OMGPOP
      This forum is for discussion of and tips or advice regarding the games on OMGPOP that Gaia has access to thanks to their partnership.

- Viximo
      This forum is for discussion of the newest two games to Gaia, Backyard Monsters and Resort World. The three subforums are for threads regarding their titles.

- Ocean Party
      As with the Monster Galaxy forum, this forum is for discussion of the Facebook game as well as tips or advice.

- Frontier Skies
      This forum is for discussion and tips pertaining to the recently-returned game of Frontier Skies. This game was originally part of the summer 2010 event.

- Gaia Gaming Discussion
      This forum is for all discussion pertaining to the mini-games of Gaia which includes Word Bump, Puzzles, and Fishing. Fishing has its own subforum here for questions and tis related to it.

- The Gaia Exchange
      One-half of the major commerce forums, The Gaia Exchange is all about exchanging and trading gold or items. The subforums here are for charity or listing items that are wanted by a user (if they have the money to afford them) as well as money-based games and discussion of the marketplace.

    Game Item Exchange

        This subforum, shared by The Gaia Exchange, Gaia Fishing, and zOMG!, is for trading of game items such as ink, fish, trash, or loot.

- Mini Shops
      This forum is the other half of the commerce forums. Art shops and sign shops, along with subforums for various service sales such as bumps, graphics, writing, free art, art requests or auctions, and pricing tips or suggestions. Breedable pet discussion is also covered in one subforum.
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The Entertainment cluster has six main forums and thirty-seven subforums for a total of forty-three.

The Entertainment forum cluster is mostly what it implies - it is for discussion of anything that can entertain you, from books to music to sports to collectibles to movies.

- Entertainment Discussion
      This forum and its subforums are for discussion of books, movies, television, and so forth. Nearly anything entertaining that does not fit in one of the other forums will go here.

- Anime/Manga/Comics
      This forum is for discussion of anime and manga as well as comics. The subforums within AMC help keep the main forum clear of more common topics, such as those pertaining to particular anime or manga that are widely-known, as well as cosplay and the anime player on Gaia.

- Gaming Discussion
      This forums covers all topics related to games, whether they are MMO or table-top RPG to anywhere between. The four subforums here cover more common gaming topics.

- Music
      This forum covers all talk of music, regardless of genre. The subforums here cover different genres while one is specifically for tips, discussion, and questions between musicians.

- Computers and Technology
      This forum is specialized for discussion and tips regarding personal computers, networks, servers, programs, and the fancy electronics that all those darned kids seem to have these days.

- Sports
      This forum covers discussion of all levels of sport from amateur to professional, as well as a subforum for more uncommon sports.
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The Artist's Corner cluster has three main forums and eighteen subforums for a total of twenty-one.

- Art Discussion
      This forum is for discussion of art, techniques, or anything pertaining to art. This mostly covers drawing, painting, or graphic drawing via computer programs, but also includes subforums for work with textiles and other materials, musicians, promoting one's art, and the performing arts such as theater.

- Picture Post
      This forum is mainly for showing off your work. The subforum here is for showing works that are not yet finished.

- Writers
      This subforum is for discussion and showcasing the literary aspect of art. The subforums are for similar purposes as the ones in the Art Discussion forum; they separate threads based on content or specific genre (prose or stories versus poetry or lyrics).
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The Hot Topics cluster contains a variable number (usually three to seven) of main forums and no subforums while the Miscellaneous cluster contains four main forums and fifty-eight subforums. Together they contain seven to eleven main forums and fifty-eight subforums for a total of sixty-eight.

The Hot Topics cluster is mainly for discussion of topics that are of great interest to a number of people around the world. The title of each Hot Topics forum reflects the topic to be discussed there. The Miscellaneous cluster contains the forums that don't really fit elsewhere and archives. Event forums, like the current one for Gaia Anniversary 2012, are typically here as well.

- Test Forum
      The purpose of this forum is to provide a place for people to construct threads and to test post formats in peace, away from the bustle of the main forums.

- Gaia Polls
      This forum contains a number of poll threads created by Gaia for voting and the gold bonus that comes with it. Many of these are past polls that have since become irrelevant or were moved due to their age.

- Hot Topics Archive
      This forum contains all of the past Hot Topics forums that have been replaced by newer ones. Each subforum here is a single Hot Topic and was once in the Hot Topics listing.
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The Role of Moderators and Administrators in the Forums and Common Violations


The site staff are the ones who largely keep the site organized and delete the bad things that are not allowed on Gaia. I won't go in depth as far as the rules go - if you want to know if something is allowed you should read the Terms of Service and the Rules and Guidelines of Gaia. If you are unsure of something, you may PM a moderator directly to ask them; they will either know that personally or will ask someone who does. You can find a listing of moderators with the green [View Forum Moderators] link at the top of every forum.

Moderators are voluntary - they are mostly ordinary users who have shown themselves to be trustworthy to Gaia in order to help maintain the forums and flash worlds of Gaia. Moderators are the ones who handle reports made in those spaces as well, and they are the ones who issue warnings and bans on behalf of Gaia. Think of the mods as your friendly security guards of Gaia. They are doing what they feel that they have to do in order to deal with troublemakers and to keep threads in the proper places. If you are issued a warning you may ask any moderator (preferably the one who issued the warning, though) why they did what they did. If you are polite, you will not get into any further trouble. Moderators don't like to issue warnings and Gaia believes that most people do not intentionally break rules - the site staff know that most people don't read the ToS and R&G thoroughly and don't ask moderators if something is allowed beforehand, so they are generally much more lenient than the staff of other sites. Moderators always have a green name and their title underneath their username.

Forum assistants, a subclass of moderator, are chosen by Gaia and are either in training to become moderators (if they applied for moderator) or are permanent forum assistants (if they are chosen by Gaia directly). Forum assistants only move misplaced threads and have a magenta username and their title beneath.

Administrators are the top dogs of Gaia. They don't mess with the forums much and most of their public activity is through site-wide announcements. They supervise the mod team, handle bills, and help make sure Gaia is running smoothly through the coordination of the mods, devs, and each other. That said, they have all the power that moderators have and then some, and thus they can do anything that a moderator can, including issuing bans. Administrators have an orange username and their title underneath.

I like to imagine that there are four basic types of violations on the site - un-noteworthy, mild, serious, and instant-ban level. Misplaced threads are the only type in the un-noteworthy category. Misplaced threads, if not made in great numbers or frequently, will generally be shrugged off by the staff and simply be moved as need be, though many over a shorter period can be considered spam. Mild violations are relative and what is mild to one mod could be serious or not noteworthy to another. Spam, very suggestive (but not outright explicit) sexual material, offensive or hateful language or posts, and similar things often fall into the mild category. These usually incur a warning of some sort. Serious violations are more severe than mild ones. Explicit nudity or gore, repeated or heavily offensive/hateful language, repeated harassment or threats, and offsite trading or advertising are always serious violations and will incur a warning or temporary ban. Insta-ban offenses are the most serious on Gaia and they will always carry a temporary or permanent ban. Password phishing, hacking or hijacking of another user's accounts, and gross copyright infringement fall into this category, and users who are under thirteen years of age (the minimum required to be on Gaia) are also instantly banned until their account indicates otherwise. Repeat offenders who have been banned several times prior for similar offenses each time may also incur instant banning due to previous behavior. Note that prior offenses stack and that even spamming, if done frequently or with the intention or gross interference, can lead to a ban. This paragraph in particular is all based on information I have gathered around over the years so I hold no responsibility for its accuracy or lack thereof.

You may notice, if you are new to internet culture, that there are some terms that may be unfamiliar to you. I will define some of them below.

Spam is the act of posting many images or emoticons all in a row, usually the same ones, repeatedly in several or many threads. Spam can also come in the form of chain letters (pass this on to x people or something bad will happen to you) or gibberish (such as randomly hitting keys on the keyboard). Spam posts are allowed in the Chatterbox but page-stretching, the act of posting so many things or such large images that the post balloons outward horizontally or vertically by a large degree, is not allowed anywhere on Gaia.
Trolling and Flaming are two different types of harassment. Flaming is usually in the form of a direct personal attack and is often persistent. If two people flame each other the result is known as a flame war. Trolling, on the other hand, is more indirect and is generally targeted toward a group of people based on stereotypes. Trolls, those who troll, generally seek reactions and outcry from their targeted group or attention from large numbers of people.
Password phishing is a ploy to trick a user into giving up their account information, including password, so that the account can be compromised. On Gaia this is mostly done to obtain gold or items from the account for the phisher. These may come in a number of varieties including popup windows, threats of being banned, or messages to mimic site staff. The site staff will never ask for your password and you should never enter your password anywhere but Gaiaonline.com - the phishing popups will usually have something similar but not identical for a URL and thus they are false.
Offsite trading is the act of trading or offering Gaia gold or items in exchange for an item or service that is not on Gaia. This includes buying or selling game accounts, paying for homework help, and so forth. Selling a Runescape account for gold is an example of offsite trading.
Offsite advertising is similar to offsite trading, except with ads. There is no exchange of currency or items, but writing up and posting an advertisement for a outside product or service on Gaia is offsite advertisement - this can leave a bit of a gray area so I will elaborate. Advertising a certain type of beauty cream with no purpose other than to advertise is an example of offsite advertising. Merely suggesting the same cream to someone in a relevant conversation (and with no hints of advertising features or anything along those lines) would not be offsite advertising.
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Contributions and Further Resources

For more advice and tips with BBCode and post formatting, check out BBCode and You.
For a complete list of Gaia Staff, check here.

If there is another guide that you feel I should link here, please inform me in the thread or via a PM.
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