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Although sometimes used interchangeably with the term 'convention', a Rule is a well-defined principle of acting within a given system. Rules are ordained by an explicitly defined authority and enable the administrators, managers, or owners of a system to guide behavior in a system and identify deviations.

From a sociological perspective, the effectiveness of rules in a system is generally linked to the negative outcomes of not following the rule. In environments where enforcement is strict, rules tend to be followed in letter (even though the same cannot be said of the spirit). In other cases, where rules are often given the go by, users tend to form their own Norms.

Rules are laid out in response to a community's needs at a point in time and are rarely flexible enough to evolve as these needs change. Rules can be administered in a system manually (as in by a person, or a group), or automated (as in automated exception trackers).