I had been a little "involved" in this meta question regarding overzealous comments, and I noticed this in Martin's answer:
I agree, that these comments may be seen as a bit overzealous. They suggest that this is a community driven by rules, which is definitely not the case.
I saw the sentence that I highlighted in bold, and a chill went up my spine. My whole life was a lie. I have always viewed SE as a very strict place, where "rules" are enforced to the core. I always appreciated this alot, even though it annoys me from time to time. But honestly, I did not expect this, at all. SE has no rules?
Ever since I noticed this, I have been looking around on Mother Meta. I found a few posts that do say that SE has no rules, but only guidelines. I, however, don't agree that the FAQ is made up of just mere guidelines. My views of what a guidelines is, and what a rule is:
Guidelines are like "You may do...", but rules are like "You must do...".
Guidelines make it easier for users to use a certain feature, but rules make it possible to use the feature. You can use the feature if you don't follow the guidelines (albeit not so smoothly), but you can't use the feature if you don't follow the rules. (you simply won't be allowed to)
Now, let's consider a couple of examples from the Help Center:
Be Nice: We all know this rule/guideline. SE does expect users to maintain professionalism while using this site. But of course, this is very much a rule from my perspective, because if you violate the rule, you will be suspended/banned from using the site.
What topics can I ask about here? : Here it's even more obvious that the very idea of what SE is, a Q/A site, is made up of rules, or else we wouldn't have such a question in the FAQ anyway. Why is the question What topics can I ask about here? such a frequently asked question anyway? Because we at SE, won't allow answering questions that don't follow it. It's pretty much a rule to me.
I will be adding more examples if needed.
Please keep in mind, I am not against the fact that SE has rules. I very much support having rules, it has made SE the cleanest and concise Q/A site I have ever seen. But dismissing the FAQ as not rules seems to be a bit off to me. Please let me know your views on this matter.