We've republished this great message from Hooper to folks new to Rocky Top Talk a couple of times, and we're doing so again now (with updated particulars) because it's important.
On Thursday night, South Carolina and Vanderbilt will kick off the 2012 season on ESPN. Our own beloved Vols take the field the next evening against N.C. State. We'll continue to have more content this week, but let me first take this time to plug the SB Nation websites and some of their features. This is geared more to the newer members or those who lurk but haven't signed up, but a couple of the comments might be useful to even the most veteran SBNers.1) Sign up early, sign up often. The SBN network is designed for individualized logins for each site. Signing up at Rocky Top Talk doesn't automatically sign you up at Garnet and Black Attack or Anchor of Gold, for example. It's a network feature that may seem like a small deal, but has really helped us in two ways. First, we don't get a lot of shotgunners who just arbitrarily scatter comments across the winds (Chinese spam excepted, of course). Second, it helps us manage the sites locally. But the consequence is that if you want to comment on another team's site (e.g. BBacking the Pack this week), you may have to sign up on that site before you can comment. Since some sites have instituted a 'cooling-off' period on new signups, you'll want to sign up well ahead of time. Some wait periods are as long as five days after signup before you're allowed to comment. It's a restriction that does a great job of cutting down drive-by trash talking, but can be particularly annoying if all you want to do is offer condolences to another fanbase. So again, sign up today for the sites you want to visit tomorrow.
Update from Joel: We don't have a wait period here at RTT, largely because we've had so few problems. My philosophy on that is that by shutting out the idiots, you've also closed the door to new folks who legitimately want to come in and become part of the community. Yes, opening the doors to all means that some you wish would not have will enter, but again, we haven't had much of a problem there, and we've always been able to handle it without the wait period. We're all adults here, and the best way to quiet a fool is to ignore him until he concludes someone else will be more fun.
2) SBN does not mine your personal information. When you create a new SBN profile, you'll have to enter in a minimal amount of information, such as your name and a valid email address. Unless you use your name as your handle, and unless you make your email address 'public', those pieces of information are never available to others on the site. They're only required so that SBN (e.g. Joel, Will, Brad, and Chris) can get in touch with you if necessary. We don't solicit via your email and we don't share/sell your information.
3) SBN sites are always emotionally biased toward the home team. Most arguments in sports are subjective and based on your personal team preferences; there isn't often a 'right' or 'wrong' answer. SBN doesn't try to pretend otherwise, and instead is designed to allow fans to revel in their biased feelings with like-minded individuals. If you're over at Conquest Chronicles, for example, don't expect them to share the same attitude toward Lane Kiffin that Vols fans might have. Heck, we're even managed by admitted fans of the respective teams; rather than trying to pretend we're indifferent, we lay out our feelings so that our thoughts can be seen in a proper context.
4) That said, please don't be THAT fan. Most sites fashion themselves to be places where fans of the respective teams can come together and simply be fans. Fans of other teams are treated as guests. They should be given the benefit of the doubt and welcomed, but if they take advantage of that and just want to stir up trouble, they will find themselves barred from the conversation in favor of the home fans. Each site has its own tolerance threshold, and it changes depending on the collective mood of the community. At RTT, we would like our community to, as a general rule, welcome fans of other teams if they're respectful. If they're not, use the troll flag and do not feed them by engaging them. Consider it a sort of low-tech troll-caving. Other sites may be more or less tolerant, so keep that in mind when you venture there from RTT.
5) We have the best commenting system on the 'net. It's live. It's real-time. It automatically updates the conversation without the need to continually refresh the page. If you have never signed up for an SBN site before, you haven't seen this. If you're curious, just sign up to RTT for the N. C. State game, login during the game, and lurk in the comment thread. I think you'll be amazed at how slick the system works. (For everybody: take a note of the fine print at the very start of the comments section. 'Z' and 'R' are your case-insensitive friends. Also, be sure the 'Auto-refresh?' radio button is checked.)
6) You're never alone. Stuck on a business trip watching the game in a hotel room far away from home? No other Vols fans around? We'll be here. Thanks to the commenting system, you'll find it easy to interact with other fans while still being fully able to watch and enjoy the game.
7) You're encouraged to contribute. The FanPost feature allows you to write your own editorials. Don't feel intimidated: if you have something to write about, write away! (Just remember the family-friendly rules of the site.) If you don't feel comfortable writing, you can always email one of the moderators or some of our regular commenters for some tips. (You can find moderator emails at the bottom of any Rocky Top Talk page, and public emails can be found on the profile pages for the members, if they choose to have a public email.)