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McSpotlight Debating Rooms - Frequently Asked Questions.

We are often asked questions about the Debating Rooms. This document is an attempt to explain some of the more frequently asked ones. As such, it is liable to be updated occasionally, as people are always asking questions.

If you have a query about the Debating Rooms or moderation, check this document first. If you can't find the answer you are looking for, email us at and we will mail you back. If it's a really good question, we'll probably add it to this document!

1. The Debating Rooms.

2. Policy and Moderation.

3. Technical notes.

4. General Queries.

1. The Debating Rooms.

1.1 Why does McSpotlight exist?

McSpotlight exists to provide a space for the alternatives to multinational corporations (like McDonald's) to be heard.

Much of today's mass media is directed towards furthering the interests of transnational companies and organisations. If you have an opinion that is unwelcome to a large and powerful group, the odds are that you will not be able to make your voice heard. McDonald's is a good example of such a company; for many years they have used their size and fiscal muscle to silence wouldbe critics around the world. The McLibel case was the result of a rare show of defiance, and McSpotlight was set up to make sure that the McLibel evidence could never be suppressed

For a more complete explanation, visit

However, McSpotlight also covers related issues and campaigns related to the resistance against transnational domination - read around the site for more.

1.2 Why do the Debating Rooms exist?

We don't expect you to read this site and agree or disagree with everything in it. You are free to raise questions, discuss the topics and the wider implications with anyone else. To make that easier, we have provided these Debating Rooms for you - a place for you to make yourself heard and for you to discuss the subjects with anyone else around the world.

1.3 Can I post here?

That's what it's there for!

You will need a keyboard-equipped device with a standard browser; we can't confirm that TV-based devices will work, but most browsers will - we have used it successfully with Konqueror, K-Meleon, Lynx, Mozilla, Internet Explorer, Netscape, Opera and Galeon.

1.4 What are the rooms for?

Each room is supposed to cover a different topic; and discussion of that topic is supposed to be limited to that room.

In practice, it's not that clear-cut. Topics of discussion often fit into two or more rooms; and threads mutate from one topic into another. If the moderator judges that the thread belongs in another room, they are free to move messages from one room to another; and will generally leave a short note to that effect in the original room.

1.5 Can I add a room?

In short, no. However, if you think that we're missing a room, mail us. If enough people mail us, we might consider adding a room.

1.6 Do I have to log in?

No. Just turn up and read as much as you like - and if you feel like responding, so much the better.

1.7 Can I remain anonymous?

Certainly. We don't keep tabs on our posters (although we do have a log of TCP/IP addresses). Posters are free to use their real names, or use pseudonyms, or leave the name field totally blank.

2. Policy and Moderation.

2.1 Moderation? What is moderation and why do you do it?

This is a debating room - a room for constructive dialogue and argument. It is not a forum for users to abuse or threaten other users. Neither is it a board for people to spam with obscene or illegal junk posts.

To maintain some control over the tone of the debate, we are a moderated forum. When you have finished your message and sent it to the Debating Rooms, it will be dropped into a holding pen to await the moderator's attention. The moderator will look at it and either approve it (it will be posted onto one of the rooms) or reject it (if it is too obscene, objectionable or illegal).

The moderators do their best to check the holding pens a number of times every day. On receiving a message, they will read through it. Providing it doesn't fall foul of moderation guidelines, they will then approve it and forward it to the appropriate room.

Apart from abusive and irrelevant messages, the moderators will also reject spam messages and duplicated postings. If you have posted a message in error, send another message to the same room requesting that the first message be deleted. The moderators will be happy to oblige.

2.2 Are the moderators paid?

No. McSpotlight is a non-profit site run entirely by volunteers on donated hardware and space. No-one makes any money from McSpotlight, and any donations we get go towards keeping the site running or helping the McLibel case.

2.3 This is an anti-McDonald's site - surely the Debating Rooms will be biased?

The Debating Rooms occupy a slightly different position to the rest of McSpotlight. While McSpotlight is opposed to McDonald's practices (among others), the Debating Rooms are a place for our readers to discuss the issues. We do not take sides in the debate and do our best to keep the stance of the Debating Rooms as neutral as possible.

That said, our moderators are human, and do have feelings of their own. They are known to join in threads on occasion if they feel that it involves McSpotlight. However, if you feel you have been moderated unfairly, feel free to mail us or post a message on the McSpotlight room. The moderators will be happy to explain their decisions.

2.4 I posted a message, why isn't it there?

The most frequent cause is simply a slight delay in moderation. Our moderators are all volunteers, after all. We do our best to moderate all messages within the day, but it is not unknown for messages to take a bit longer, especially around weekends.

Alternatively, it might have been reposted to another room, especially if it's not strictly relevant to the current room. Try looking in a room that might be more related to your message.

2.5 I still can't see my message! Where is it?

If your message hasn't been posted within a week, then it's probably been rejected.

The moderator in question will have decided that your post is either irrelevant or offensive enough to warrant this. If you feel you have been unfairly treated, try reposting it in a slightly more lucid or more reasoned tone.

2.6 Why was my message rejected?

It will either have been judged abusive or irrelevant. Of course, you might disagree with the moderator; so here are the definitions we try to keep to when moderating.

Abusive - something that is pointlessly unpleasant about a poster or moderator or person.

Note that you don't have to use swearwords and obscenities to be offensive - our moderators are human, not robots, and are well capable of spotting gratuitous offensiveness. As such, a polite post calling someone a demented paedophile is going to get rejected.

Irrelevant - something that really doesn't belong in the forum.

This is a bit of a fuzzy area. It can be as mild as something in the wrong forum (which will usually get redirected to the correct forum), or something as extreme as a post that corresponds to no known language.

(In case this sounds extreme, we get at least one post every day that consists of plokta - an apparently random stream of letters.)

To avoid getting rejected as irrelevant, do try to stay vaguely close to the topic of the Debating Room. The moderators will give posters some leeway here, but don't merely assume that a message will fit into any room. Complaining about McDonald's service in the Capitalism and Alternatives room is irrelevant!

There are a couple of 'special' questions about McDonald's, see sections 4.1 and 4.2.

Furthermore, we do not provide a debating room for people to debate the virtues of one faceless fast food transnational over another. Anyone posting to the old "McD's/BK/KFC is better than BK/KFC/McD's" thread will have their posts discarded. One of our regular readers started a Delphi forum at this location. If you want to debate one fast food over another, please go there.

Be aware that the 'irrelevant' class is the more important guideline here; the moderators are generally tolerant of bad language as long as the post is relevant to the topic under discussion. However, 'hate speech' is not tolerated here and never will be.

2.7 Isn't this censorship? - I though McSpotlight opposed censorship!

We do. However, this is a Debating Room, not a free-for-all flamefest. The Debating Room is for all people to be able to express their points of view on the topic at hand without intimidation, and it is the moderators' job to ensure this.

2.8 So what do the moderators do?

The moderators are there to keep the Debating Room running smoothly. That means moderating, keeping the debate productive, and troubleshooting. Additionally, the moderators can trim excessive quoted material in a post and provide translations for messages posted in foreign languages. The moderators will not edit messages in such a way as to change the meaning of the post or distort it in any way.

If you have posted a message in a non-English language, we will do our best to moderate it as fast as possible and provide an English translation for the text. However, our translations are unlikely to be exact. If you would like to speed up this process as much as possible, please provide us with an English translation!

People have objected to us trimming text in the past. If you post a 58-line post consisting of 54 lines of quoted text and 4 lines of original text, we are free to remove as much of the quoted text as we can without losing the connection to the 4 lines of original text. For more clarity in your message, remove as much irrelevant quoted text as you can - anyone who wants to read it can check the previous message in the thread, after all.

So, to take an example post;

> rest of life story...n lines
> This is why I think X is the case

I think you're wrong

If you could trim the surplus parts (the rest of the quoted life story) while replying, it would be helpful. If you don't, it is likely that the moderators will; we have limited space on our servers.

2.9 My message got posted with a different title!

We encourage people to use their own titles for their post; and if they don't give their post a title, we take a relevant section of the posted message and use that as the title. It's a lot more interesting to read than endless chains of "Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: your message" - and it's much easier to pick out your message if you recognize the article text or title.

If you don't like us giving your article a title, do us a favour and give it a title yourself!

2.10 I think the moderators are biased!

We do our best not to be, however, we are human. As remarked before, mail us or post your comment to the McSpotlight room if you have any questions or comments about our behaviour.

3. Technical notes.

3.1 How do I follow up to a message?

O.K. You're looking at a message and want to reply to it?

Under the message, you will see a link saying "...reply to this".

Click once on this and you will get taken to a page with several fill-in fields labelled "Post Message".

The first three fields are all optional - 'your name', 'country' and 'email address'. You can leave any or all of these blank without breaking anything.

The fourth field ('title') can be left blank, but if you do, we'll give your article a title for you. If you want your article to have a title, put it in this box.

The fifth field is the important one; the 'message' field. This is where your message should go.

Note for habitual users of Microsoft Outlook: in English, it is usual to put the answer to a text after the text itself. Not before, as Outlook does. So move the cursor down until it is below the text you are responding to before you type your own text in.

It is also a good idea to put an empty line between the text you are replying to and your reply. It makes it much easier for people to tell which is the original text and which is your reply.

Don't remove the '>' marks before the quoted text - and you don't need to add those marks to your own comments, as explained in section 3.2.

Once you've put everything in your message, it's time to send it; click once on the 'Post Message' button at the bottom of the page. If all goes well, you should be taken to a page that says your message is awaiting moderation. The moderation will happen as soon as the moderator looks at it.

Sometimes, due to Internet congestion, your message will throw an occasional 'failure to get through' error.

This isn't a hard-and-fast certainty; your message will often have got through O.K., even though it threw up an error on the confirmation page. If you're in doubt, try hitting the 'back' button in your browser and hitting the 'post message' button again. Don't send a message more than three times; if three attempts all failed, then thirteen attempts aren't likely to do any better.

If you've followed all of the above steps, then there should be a message waiting for moderation.

If you get to the point of posting and decide that you want to start over again, hit the 'start again' button - but be warned, this will erase all text you have entered into the fields. Don't press this unless you really do want to 'start again'.

3.2 What are all these > marks all over the place?

They distinguish quoted text from your text. If you're following up to a message, then the Debating Room will put a '>' mark in front of every line of quoted text. Every time someone follows up, another layer of '>' marks will get added. So, '>' shows the text you are following up to, '> >' shows the text quoted from the message before that one, '> >>' shows the message before that, and so forth.

As such, you don't need to add your own '>' marks to your comments; it makes it impossible to tell your comments from that of the previous poster!

3.3 Can I put links and pictures in?

Not at present. We're working on this, though.

3.4 What does the 'Recommend this' button do?

As you can see on the index page, we list a few articles under a 'highlights' section; they are felt to be particularly good or powerful messages; the best articles in the Debating Rooms. These are done on the basis of votes. If you like a message enough, hit the 'Recommend this' link under a message, and it will send a vote to a queue for that message. If a message gets a lot of votes, we are much more likely to put it up on the front page.

That said, we do have mechanisms for recognising vote-stuffing (server stats and IP addresses linked to scripts); and will not post messages that receive a huge number of votes in a very short time unless they're very good.

3.5 I'm unable to connect!

McSpotlight is a volunteer site, run on a shoestring budget by unpaid volunteers. We receive no sponsorship from anyone (although donations are welcome). As such, problems are fixed as soon as we can get to them. This isn't always immediate.

In addition, the ISPs who host McSpotlight aren't immune to outages themselves. It's the 'net - these problems are part of everyday life for websites. Please be patient and mail us if you think there might be something wrong; we will try to sort it out as fast as possible if it is our problem.

4. General Queries.

4.1 I want to complain about a McDonald's store!

We're not the place to go to. We have no connections with any branch of McDonald's - remember, the vast majority of this site is anti-McDonald's. We certainly aren't going to shed tears about McDonald's losing customers due to poor service or uncleanliness - quite the reverse.

This means that complaints to the McDonald's room about specific stores are irrelevant. It's not what the McDonald's room is for. The McDonald's room is intended for wider discussion about the McDonald's phenomenon and its impact on our society.

If you want to complain about a specific McDonald's, then speak to McDonald's about it. It's almost impossible to find a direct telephone number for customer service (as many previous posters have commented) - but you can fill in an online complaints/comments form at this location on the McDonald's site. (for US restaurants only).

However, be warned; McDonald's hold copyright information and ownership of any text you send to them, and will use your name in their publicity materials; read their extensive legal conditions for submissions of opinions at this link - any text you send them is theirs, to deal with as they wish.

4.2 I was abused while working at McDonald's!

This is a difficult topic. It undoubtedly happens, and we don't object to people posting their stories in the Workers' room.

However, be very careful about what you post there. It is a public forum, and anyone can read it. That includes the person you are accusing, your boss, your relatives, your friends, and anyone else with access to a computer in the world. We cannot be responsible for anything that happens to you as a result of your posting - so consider the possible implications of broadcasting your accusation very carefully before you do it. In addition, consider the fact that an ambiguous accusation could result in an innocent person being punished. And finally, if you accuse someone who can identify themselves from your post, you are laying yourself wide open to a libel suit from them.

This is not a reason to stay silent, of course, but if you are going to post material with legal ramifications on McSpotlight, make doubly sure that your facts are well-sourced, provable and correct.

4.3 Who can see this post?

As we said above - anyone can. That includes anyone in your family, your workplace, your local police department, whatever. Anything you send to McSpotlight is likely to be stored in archives and search engines across the 'net - as long as the 'net itself lasts. We're not telling you not to speak freely - quite the opposite, but please don't hold us responsible if a controversial post of yours here wrecks your political career in 30 years time. Anything you send to these Debating Rooms is firmly in the public domain for the forseeable future.

4.4 Are there standards of behaviour in the Debating Room?

Yes, although you won't be penalised unless you post abusive or irrelevant material to the Debating Rooms.

There are accepted standards of behaviour on the 'net, known as 'netiquette' - you can find them listed at They are not enforceable in any sense of the word, but they are recognised as common courtesy and common sense in much of the 'net; and we would recommend that people try to follow them as much as possible.

4.5 Do you want to make money fa$t?


There are some incredibly stupid people who persist in posting spam to the Debating Rooms, in the mistaken belief that they will somehow Make Money Fast. They would probably be better employed juggling snowballs in Hell. This is a moderated forum, which means that the moderators control what is put up. And spam is never going to be on the menu here.

We have ways of dealing with it automatically. It's not getting through if it corresponds to a known spam subject line

4.6 Do Helen/Dave/Ronald McDonald post here??

They have been known to (apart from Ronald, who is a fictional character), and they do occasionally read the boards. However, there is no way to be certain of any poster's identity; so anyone claiming to be a Famous Person could well be an impostor. So don't assume that you are speaking to anyone when you post a message to the Debating Rooms; you can't know whether you are or not.

On an irregular basis, we run a real-time Q&A session with interesting and/or notable people. If you want to be sure of getting a message through to Dave or Helen, keep a watch out for one of the live panels - the McSpotlight staff can verify that the people involved in those are the real Dave and Helen!

An additional caveat: yes, as far as we know it was the real Spike Milligan who posted to the Creative room back in 1996. This does not mean that we know him or his agent. We can't get in touch with him any more easily than anyone else can, and messages sent to the Creative room asking for his address are irrelevant and will be rejected.

4.7 Can we put this in a book??

We have no plans to put McSpotlight in a book. It took enough effort to put it onto a CD-ROM!

That said, we have no objections to people publishing articles from the Debating Room in print. If they're your articles, so much the better. If you want to use someone else's articles, then get their express written permission first.

We don't believe in copyright, but would consider it good manners to ask someone before you use their text, and give them credit if you do use their text.

4.8 Isn't Anything Else appropriate for any topic??

Within reason. It has to be something debateable, relevant to the site and vaguely interesting to the world at large. Revealing to the world that oranges are orange isn't something you can debate; and posting birthday notices for one person isn't likely to be of interest to the other 6 billion. Exercise a bit of judgement here.

4.9 Why doesn't McSpotlight set up a chat channel?

It's logistically difficult, heavy on machine resources and not worth it in terms of the debate produced. An IRC channel is very easy to disrupt and does not lend itself to long and involved debates. That's why we don't do it.

That said, we do occasionally run live panel sessions, as mentioned in Section 4.6. These are seperate from the Debating Rooms and will be advertised on the main McSpotlight page.

4.10 Who do I contact with suggestions/complaints/commendations??

Try Or post it to the McSpotlight Room. As long as it isn't biologically impossible, we'll consider it and will probably respond.

That's all - for now.