“Uncommon Descent” and “The Skeptical Zone” in 2016

(For last year’s results, see “Uncommon Descent” and “The Skeptical Zone” in 2015)

Fig 1

In 2016, “The Skeptical Zone” (TSZ) overtook “Uncommon Descent” (UD) – at least with regard to the number of comments:

Number of Comments 2005 – 2016

year 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
UD 41,400 28,400 42,500 53,700 53,100 28,000
TSZ 2,200 15,100 16,900 20,400 45,200 54,200

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Meta-threads

I have closed comments on two recent threads, The War Against Barry A. by Mung, and Barry Arrington’s Bullying, by stcordova.

I am more than happy for people to discuss here views expressed in OP’s at Uncommon Descent, not least because one of the functions this site serves is a place in which people can continue conversations started at UD, or discuss issues raised at UD, if they are banned at UD.  However, I do not want it to dominated by discussions of the rights and wrongs of UD moderation policy.  UD is Barry’s site and he is entitled to select who posts and what is posted there.  We have a different set of policies here, and so a different style of discussion.

The War Against Barry A.

Salvador Cordova recently posted in Noyau the contents of a private email he received from Barry.

Administrator Neil Rickert thanks Salvador for posting it and suggests an OP.

Administrator Alan Fox suggests an OP.

Administrator and site owner Elizabeth Liddle suggests an OP.

None of them call into question the wisdom of posting the contents of private emails on the site.

Extremely poor judgment by them all.

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Rule edits

I made some minor edits to the rule page. The “Address the post not the poster” rule now reads:

Address the content of the post, not the perceived failings of the poster. [purple text added 28th November 2015]

  • This means that accusing others of ignorance or stupidity is off topic
  • As is implying that other posters are mentally ill or demented.

And for guidance I also added text from an excellent post by Reciprocating Bill:

Participation at this site entails obligations similar to those that attend playing a game. While there is no objective moral obligation to answer questions, the site has aims, rules and informal stakeholders, just as football has same. When violations of those aims and rules are perceived and/or the enforcement of same is seen as arbitrary or inconsistent, differences and conflicts arise. No resort to objective morality, yet perfectly comprehensible and appropriate opprobrium.

 

Moderation at TSZ, part 1

Gathering my thoughts on moderation at TSZ, I found that I really have two OPs to write: one discussing the effects of rules and moderation at TSZ, and another exploring why the moderation — particularly the Guano-related stuff — has those effects. The second topic is by far the more interesting, but it’s the first topic that has the most practical import, so I’ll address it now.

In a nutshell: We’ve already experimented with different levels of moderation at TSZ, and the results are in. Less moderation works better.

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Cabbages and Kings: open thread

Having taken a brief break from commenting and still taking a break from proactive moderating, I still find myself sucked into reading OP’s and comments. Not wanting to stir the hornet’s nest of currently active discussion and not having enough time to get up to speed on all the current issues where commenters are discussing deep issues of the day, I wondered about opening a thread titled something like “Suggestion Box” to get people’s thinking on any improvements Lizzie could consider that might ameliorate concerns over site policy, aims, aspirations etc. Continue reading

Permissions

Apologies to anyone who tried to post an OP or send a PM over night and couldn’t.  Permissions are restored.

I was trying to set up a means for the admins to confer together on site rather than singly by PM  or by email, as a result, set the cat among the pigeon (skua among the penguins?) by first of all making a “password protected” page for the admins, new comments to which appeared in the “new comments” list, arousing great alarm, and in any case turned out to be visible from the dashboard.  So I tried another WP option which was to make it a “private” page, but people could still see it from the dashboard.  So I switched off that.  But then people couldn’r post OPs or receive PMs.  So I’ve restored it again.  We will keep the “private” admin page, but for those curious about it, you will find you can access its comments via the dashboard.   Which is fine by me – it wasn’t like we wanted to plot anything anyway, just have a means of conferring about stuff (security issues, strategies, plug-ins, rules etc) between our selves.  So this seems a good solution.  Nobody need get paranoid because they can always check the record, but it won’t be a prominent feature of the site.

The Rules of the TSZ Game

As we have some newcomers, and some new-oldcomers (including me!) I thought I’d just draw everyone’s attention to the Rules of the Game at TSZ.  They are written here and updated from time to time, but I have also pasted them below.  We do try not to be heavy-handed with them, and to be as equitable as is humanly possible, but we will make judgements that you disagree with, possibly with good reason.  The good news is that you can discuss these in Moderation Issues, and that, with the exception of a very narrow and specific range of material, posts will only be moved, not deleted.  Moving a post because it contravenes a rule does NOT imply ANY kind of moral judgment on the post.  A post can be morally justified yet contravene the rules, and can be morally indefensible yet remain within it.  The rules are entirely orthogonal to morality, and when we ask you to “assume all other posters are posting in good faith” we do not require that you believe it, any more than the assumption of innocence until proven guilty requires belief in a person’s innocence.That is why I call them “Game rules”.  They are simply the rules of the discussion game as played here at TSZ.  We also have the Sandbox for off-topic scrapping that is getting in the way of discussion, or even off-topic chat about fun stuff.

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Putting a few things straight….

Apologies for absence (which will continue a little longer, but the end is in sight) – I am just catching up with things here.

First of all, I’d like to confirm for both regulars and occasional readers that the policy of this site is not to delete comments (apart from commercial spam).  They can be moved, but remain visible.  The only content that is redacted is content that is NSFW or malware links.

Similarly, the only grounds for banning (again apart from commercial spammers) are posting NSFW content or malware links.

If you have author rights here, you will find you have the technical ability to temporarily delete comments, but please do not do so.  Thanks to those who restored the deleted comments, and thanks to KN for his graciousness over this matter.

To some of those at UD who have commented on Barry’s thread claiming he was “effectively banned” here:

  • No, he was not, although it may have seemed like it at the time, and I have now given him the permissions to post an OP if he would like.
  • The strapline to this blog is addressed to all who post here, including me.  I have always liked that line from Cromwell, and it is a core principle of this site, however difficult to adhere to.
  • We are not a “bunch of atheists”.  A lot of us are opponents of the Intelligent Design movement, but not all, and of those of us who are, not all of us oppose all aspects of Intelligent Design as a concept.  Also of those who are opponents of Intelligent Design, not all are atheists. And of those who are, at least some of us have come to that position via a long and thoughtful, sometimes painful, road.
  • Finally: anyone from UD is welcome to post here, and while the default registration is “subscriber”, author permissions can be given on request.

 

Charity and desserts

The game rules of this site are “assume other posters are posting in good faith”.  This applies whether or the assumption is valid.  The reason for this rule is that I set up this site to be a place where we could get past arguments about motivation and down to the nitty gritty of whether an argument actually makes sense, or is supported by evidence.

Things get a little tricky when it comes to perfectly valid topics like church-state separation, or other topics with a political dimension, for example anthropogenic climate change.  But I want to make it clear to all readers that the game rules for this site are simply: for the purposes of debate here, assume other posters are posting in good faith.  You do not have to assume that people are acting in good faith when they are acting as public figures, or elsewhere, but you do have to assume it when they are posting here.

So, no, I don’t think ID proponents “deserve” charity, nor do “Darwinists”.  I don’t think that anyone “deserves” charity.  I think charity is a good thing, but I think it is orthogonal to what anyone “deserves”.  It is also irrelevant to the rules of this site, where the assumption that other posters are posting in good faith is simply a rule that applies irrespective of who the other poster is, or what anyone thinks they “deserve”.

 

Mounting skepticism….

TSZstatsJuly2013

The spike in files and hits in January was the hack, followed by a drop in traffic, not surprisingly!  Since the fix and the move to the new hosting service, things have been getting steadily busier, with average daily visits for each month steadily increasing (monthly visit totals are the yellow bars).

Lovely to see such vigorous discussion!  Thanks, guys!

Final word to KF

In response to KF here: In my view it is no more, or less, slanderous imply a relationship between “Darwinism” and Nazi-ism than it is to imply a relationship between “anti-homosexualism” and Nazi-ism.  To point out that the Nazis conviction that the “unfit” should be “culled” may have owed something to their reading of Darwin, is at least equivalent, I would say, to pointing out that the Nazi’s conviction that homosexuals should be “culled” may have owed something to the view that homosexuality is deviant, immoral and dangerous.  To say the first is not to say that Darwinists are Nazis; to say the second is not to say that anti-homosexualists are Nazi.  To insist that the first is justifiable but the second slander, is, I suggest, to impose a double standard.  Moreover, to suggest, as KF does, that by “enabling” posters here to suggest a comparison between the anti-homosexualism of some religious views and the anti-homosexuality of the Nazis I am somehow comparable to the “good” Germans who “enabled of Nazi-ism is at least as “slanderous” as the comparison he objects to.  However, I can live with that.  The best response, in my view, to slander, is effective rebuttal, not censorship.

I agree with KF that comparisons to Nazis is inflammatory.  That is as far as I will go.

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FOR RECORD: An explanatory note to KF of UD

Re this:

The principles on which this site is run are summarised here and here.  The key rule is: “assume other posters are posting in good faith”.

That does not mean that you have to believe that they are posting in good faith, simply that you should make that assumption for the purposes of discussion.

I will not “correct” posts – people are responsible for their own posts, and for any errors they contain.  I will not delete posts, although I may move posts to a different thread, or to the Sandbox or to Guano.  They remain publicly viewable. I will however, delete links to porn or malware, and posting such links or material are the only grounds on which I will ban anyone.  Posters are complete free to disagree with me, with each other, and to be mistaken.

UD is run on different lines.  Fine.  I prefer mine.