I have created a Welcome Guide for users that are unfamiliar with SB Nation or just want a primer on how things work around here. It is contained in the left sidebar. I have also provided it here below the jump for your convenience.
Welcome to Coming Home Newcastle. We are genuinely glad you are here. There are a lot of great features on this site, though at first glance you may not understand all of them. Don't be intimidated. When you're done with this guide, you'll not only be more than ready to use these tools to their fullest potential to interact with other members of the Toon Army, you'll also wonder why you thought all of this was so complicated in the first place.
If you haven't already, grab yourself an account on SB Nation. You don't have to make it your real name like me, though you can if you want to. I would encourage you to be clever. I'd love to have somebody running around here with a name like "Leon Best is Mint" or "I Want Curly Hair, Too." In any case, you definitely want an account, even if you don't plan on saying anything in the threads at all. You'll see why in a second...
The Comment Section
This is far and away one of the strongest features of the SBN platform. At first, you may not notice anything different from your run-of-the-mill blog, but look a little deeper. This bar is at the top of the comments portion of every post that goes up on this site:
You want to make sure that that Auto-refresh box is checked (I believe that it is by default). This enables you to see new comments as they pop up without refreshing your page. The utility of this feature will be self-evident if you ever stop by a game thread while a game is going on. As far as the keyboard shortcuts go, it's good to know what all of them do, but the one you will use the most is definitely the Z key. Z will move forward to the next unread comment automatically while also marking the previous comment as "read" (changing its color from tan-ish to white). Not only is it easier than scrolling, but it helps you keep track of what you've already seen and keeps you from getting confused as your page refreshes with more comments. It's seriously a great tool. Once I got the hang of using the Z key as an SBN user, I found myself trying to use it on other sites. The reason you want to get an account even if you don't plan on making comments yourself is that you cannot take advantage of this feature without one.
The second important thing to know about commenting is that the "reply" button is your friend. Take the following example:
In this conversation, you can tell that I am replying directly to Justin because my comment is indented under his. It's pretty intuitive. This keeps conversations from getting muddled or out of order. Use the reply button in blue to reply to another poster (or yourself, if you hear voices or whatever). Otherwise, your comment will start a whole new sub-thread and you will look very silly.
The actions button is also pretty important. Here is what it looks like when you click it:
Use the rec button to recommend a post that you feel is deserving of special recognition. When a comment gets three or more recs from the community, it turns green so that it will stand out. You can also rec FanPosts or FanShots. (see below) Use the flag feature to inform us administrators of an inappropriate post. As much as we'd like to, we can't be around the blog 24 hours a day, so by flagging spam posts, trolls, or just inappropriate comments, you can help us to clean up the site as efficiently as possible. If you have any questions about what's appropriate or not, consult the SBN Terms of Service. Alternatively, just use some common sense and decency. We're not here to be the police or your mother.
This isn't rocket science. You know how to voice your opinion. You know how to type, and you probably know how to post images and links. There are two common courtesies I would like to make you aware of, however.
1. When posting an image, please include a title.
The title doesn't have to be descriptive of the image of all. It doesn't even have to be words. I usually use an "x". I've seen people use "." or "`" or even "☼". It doesn't matter. The point is, having a title on your comment, especially when it contains an image, gives all users the ability to click on the title and collapse the post, thus hiding the content from view. The people who browse this site while they're at work thank you very much.
2. When posting a link, click the "Open in new window?" check box.
Yes, you're awesome and you middle-click on everything so that it always shows up in a new tab in your browser. Not everybody is a power-user, and it's irritating when you click on a link and it takes you to a different page. Then, when you return to CHN, all of your unread comments are marked as "read." Don't deprive someone else of the joy that is the Z key. When you post a link, use the link icon and when the following dialog pops up, check that box. For all of us, babe.
FanPosts & FanShots
This is where the blog becomes yours. Without user-generated content, this is just Blogspot with a (much) better comment system. This is how serious I am about this: I will ultimately judge the success of our efforts here on how involved you guys are with sharing your own content using this system.
Whenever you feel that there's a gap in our coverage or if you ever want to pose a question, post your own unique perspective, or in general generate a new type of discussion, utilize the FanPosts and FanShots. These can be rec'd or flagged just like regular comments, and FanPosts and FanShots that generate enough community recs stick to the top of the sidebar menu. Furthermore, if I or RKW think that your post merits attention, we will promote your content to the front page. We want to do this. A lot.
What's the difference between a FanPost and a FanShot?
A FanPost is more of a blog entry than anything else. You are free to do whatever you want with this space. Supplement your post with media or a poll or anything else that you can come up with. You are limited by your own creativity. A FanPost needs to be at least 75 words, so if you can't come up with that many, either dig deeper into your content or consider using a FanShot instead. When you make a FanPost, do your best to tag it with the teams and/or players you mentioned in your piece. This gives your post more exposure and makes things much easier on us. It's really a win-win.
A FanShot is sort of what it sounds like: It's a quick take. Generally you would use a FanShot if you have a link to share (like a breaking news article or an interesting or funny tweet, etc.), a quote, an image, a video, or if you just want to create a space for community members to chat about the topic of your choice. As an example, on the baseball blog I frequent, we have a small group of users that like to discuss the Premier League, so every once in a while we'll set up our own FanShot and rec it up so that it sticks to the top of the menu. Off-topic, on-topic, whatever. The site is yours.
I hope you found this guide helpful. If, after spending some time poking around on the site, you feel that there is something else that needs clarification, let us know by all means. You can always get our attention in the comments section or simply send an email to cominghomenewcastle [at] gmail [dot] com if you'd like to have a more private discussion. Again, welcome!