Introduction:
Since 1999, I've been managing and running forums from the old Ezboard hosted forum days through to vBulletin and some of the key rules on my forums has always to keep discussions civilised (basically you can agree to disagree if a person(s) opinions differs from your own) and with the absence of personal attacks.

Not everyone understands the difference between a personal attack and providing a negative comment or opinion in a civilised manner so I thought I'd provide an example of the difference below.

Examples:
The example (and here) is in the context of this thread started at here (always good to have context ;) ).

The Problem
Seems the problem here is not everyone understands the definition of a 'personal attack' versus a 'negative commentary or opinion' and what constitutes a civil debate or discussion - which is kind of surprising.

Below are 2 examples highlighting the differences

Example 1:
I am surprised that TAZ members in this thread who collectively have 100s of years experience in administrating their own forums, fail to understand the difference between a 'personal attack' versus 'expressing a negative opinion or commentary' in conducting themselves and their debates and discussions in a civilised manner.

Being civilised, doesn't mean it's the right thing to do, to return fire using personal attacks against someone personally attacking you or calling you names.

Being civil means, you can respectfully agree and understand that other peoples opinions may differ from your own and that you don't have to agree with their opinion nor force them to see it your way or have the last word.
Example 2:
WTF, some clueless folks here who are admins on their own forums don't have a fuc*in clue as to how to conduct themselves in a civilised manner. If you can't get it through your thick head what constitutes a 'personal attack', then maybe this forum isn't for you. Good riddance !

Though, I doubt any civilised web master forum would condone and take such crap from any asshats who doesn't share the same definition of a 'personal attack' as the one I outlined in Example 2.
Summary:
  • Example 1 = civilised way of conveying your message
  • Example 2 = personal attacks !

Seriously, if you admin your own forum(s),
  1. Would you take a different stance on the definition for a 'personal attack' ?
  2. If your own forums' members posted the above 2 examples, would both be acceptable or would you consider Example 2 as a personal attack and not condoned and not acceptable ? Any properly moderated and civil forum would never condone Example 2 I suspect - be it on TAZ or vbulletin.com own forums.
  3. There's a right way to convey a message and a wrong way - whether that message is of a positive or negative nature.

p.s. Example 2 is just an example and apologise for any offence :)

Hope my example clarifies what TAZ admins are trying to convey about leaving out the personal attacks and being more civilised in your debates/discussions. I actually have this written into my forum rules about personal attacks :)
Basically the difference between example 1 vs 2, is that the first example, I speak and direct my opinions and commentary to each member's actions, behaviour or opinions. Whereas in second example, I direct it to the person(s) themselves and/or name calling which is either irrelevant to the argument or position I am conveying and/or has no evidence to back it up.

If the above example still doesn't help clarify what constitutes a personal attack, Wikipedia's own rules and guidelines have a more extensive list of examples posted here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:No_personal_attacks. The most relevant part being the below:

Avoiding personal attacks

As a matter of polite and effective discourse, comments should not be personalized. That is, they should be directed at content and actions rather than people. In disputes, the word "you" should be avoided when possible. However, when there are disagreements about content, referring to other editors is not always a personal attack. A posting that says "Your statement about X is wrong because of information at Y", or "The paragraph you inserted into the article looks like original research", is not a personal attack, but "The statement..." and "The paragraph inserted..." is preferred, or instead—"The paragraph inserted here [DIFF] into the article looks like original research", which also is not a personal attack, and avoids referring to the other editor in the second person; providing the DIFF also cuts down confusion. Similarly, discussion of a user's conduct or history is not in itself a personal attack when done in the appropriate forum for such discussion (for example, the other editor's talk page, WP:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents or WP:Requests for comment/User conduct).

Editors should be civil and adhere to good wiki etiquette when describing disagreements. The appropriate response to an inflammatory statement is to address the issues of content rather than to accuse the other person of violating this policy. Accusing someone of making personal attacks without providing a justification for your accusation is also considered a form of personal attack. (See also: Incivility.)
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