Here are some of my thoughts on the topic of maintaining civil discourse on the forums. I do not believe that these suggestions are unique to this forum, but rather are good guidelines for professional communication in all areas of life. They certainly apply here, though.
1. Don’t post when you are angry. Stress brings out many emotions, and competitive robotics is stressful. Make sure you have given yourself a chance to calm down about a topic before posting. If you find yourself getting worked up when you are crafting a post or reply, that is an indication that you need to step away from it for a while before posting and cool off.
2. Read and re-read your own post before posting. A forum such as this is a purely textual means of communication. It is not possible to convey meaning through body language, facial expressions or tone of voice in a text-based environment. That means you need to be very careful about what you say and how you say it so that you don’t lead others to infer a tone that you didn’t intend. After you have composed a post, make sure you go back and read it as objectively as possible and re-craft it if you find anything that could be taken in a way other than you intend.
3. Don’t make assumptions. If you don’t understand the meaning or content of something someone else posted, ask for clarification or explanation, don’t assume a specific inference or meaning. Don’t make over-generalizations or use unsupported claims or stats. If you feel someone has said something to slight or belittle you but aren’t sure, ask for clarification. Try not to infer a negative tone or sentiment from someone else’s post.
4. Don’t fight fire with fire. If you are subject to an attack or feel someone has inappropriately responded to you, don’t sink to their level and sling something back. The community here is pretty good at flagging posts that stray into that territory - let those posts be hidden. Sometimes the best response is not to respond.
5. Expect everything you post to be permanent and make sure it reflects well on you. Before you post something, ask yourself if there is any circumstance, either now or in the future, that you would be embarrassed to have what you posted brought up. If so, gravely reconsider your post. You must assume everything you post online will always be accessible and will always be able to be attributed to you. Make sure you can be proud of the way you acted instead of apologetic.