Rules

As this site is still a fledgling, I’m feeling my way with regard to rules.

So I’m going to start a bit vague, then get more specific as need arises.The principle is in the strapline: Park your priors by the door.  Everyone has priors, they are crucial to way we make sense of the world.  But the impetus behind this site is to be a place where they can be loosened and adjusted while you wait.  So leave them by the door, and pick them up again as you leave!

There are plenty of blogs and forums where people with like priors can hang out and scoff at those who do not share them.  There’s nothing wrong with those sites, and I’ve learned a lot from them. But the idea here is to provide a venue where people with very different priors can come to discover what common ground we share; what misunderstandings of other views we hold; and, having cleared away the straw men, find out where our real differences lie.  In my experience, when you reach that point, who is right becomes obvious to both parties 🙂

Edited 1/12/15 to change from third to first person plural.

 

So draft rules:

  • Assume all other posters are posting in good faith.
    • For example, do not accuse other posters of being deliberately misleading
  • Do not use turn this site into as a peanut gallery for observing the antics on other boards. (there are plenty of places on the web where you can do that!)
  • 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.
  • Don’t advocate illegal activities.
  • Don’t post porn, or links to porn, or any material liable to risk the integrity of another poster’s computer*.

ETA 8th September 2013

  • If you have author permissions, and post an OP, you may find you have the technical ability to edit comments to your post, and move them.  Please do not do so.  Rule violating posts will be moved by moderators, and it is a principle of this site that comments are not edited, deleted, or hidden.

ETA 27th January 2014

  • Don’t use this site to try to “out” other internet denizens or indulge in ad hominem speculations.  Such speculations may, notwithstanding general principles regarding deletion, be deleted. ETA 13th June 2015: please read the guidlines in ETA6 below and note that the rule applies even if the person in question has made the information possible to find out)

That’ll do for starters!

Posts won’t be moderated unless I find there’s a problem – if your post is held in moderation it’ll just be because the spam filter caught it.

If you want to post OPs, let me know and I’ll register you as a Subscriber.  That means your OPs will be held in moderation until I click the publish button.  If all goes well, I’ll push people up to Author.

One last thing – I’ve set the nesting for threaded comments to be quite deep, because I like nested sites – derails are much less of a problem and I’m an inveterate derailer.  So use the nesting if it suits your post i.e. if you are replying to a specific post rather than making a general point re the OP.

And thanks for coming!

Lizzie

ETA: I’ve added the coloured text above for clarity (22.2.2012)

ETA2: Blue text added above for clarity (7.05.2012)

ETA3: New rule added in purple (12.05.2012)

ETA4: *Violation of rule in purple will result in immediate and permanent ban (14.05.2012)

ETA5: Peanut rule gallery relaxed a little (5th November 2012)

 ETA6, June 13th, 2015): Below is a copy&paste from a a post of mine in a discussion regarding the outing rule:

It is part of the founding philosophy of TSZ that no-one “deserves” to be banned. People are banned for one reason only: to ensure that we don’t get posts containing the very narrow range of material that is not allowed here, namely porn/malware (or links to); and material that gives the RL identity of people known to us by their internet names, without their permission (also known, I understand, as “doxxing”).

There are a couple of grey areas regarding that last one but I think I have made the boundaries clear, and will try to make them clearer still:

Firstly: If someone has made it clear who they are in RL, e.g. by linking to their publications, that is fine, and it is still fine for others to acknowledge the identity if their publications are being discussed. However, it is not OK to use that person’s RL name in personal attacks, which are against the game-rules anyway (“assume the other person is posting in good faith”; “address the argument, not the person”) but are not in themselves things I would ever ban anyone for. Such posts just get moved to guano, just as pieces get moved off a chess board. But if in breaking those rules, you invoke someone’s personal ID, that is not on, the reason being that I don’t want such personal attacks here to come up in a google search of that person’s RL name, as such things happen, as I know to my cost.

Secondly, if the person in here is not a regular poster here, but is nonetheless effectively party to the conversations we often have by loud-hailer as it were, at another site, then membership protections apply. In any case, in the case of kairosfocus, I think he is, or was, a registered member here, and you easily can’t tell in any case. So if in doubt, assume membership, either actual or virtual, and don’t link identity with internet handle. In other words, do not post the RL identities of people with whom our personal relations, as it were, are in their internet identities.

ETA 29th November, 2015:

This post by Reciprocating Bill sums up the ethos of the site brilliantly so I’m quoting it here:

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.

13th December 2015:

This post by DNA_Jock sums up how the implementation of the rules essentially works, and how I think it should work.  If you think it doesn’t, let us know:

DNA_Jock:

walto: it’s arbitrary and capricious which posts get guanoed

I think not. It is stochastic.
Things that increase vs. decrease the probability of guanoing:
1 Clearly breaks rules vs. may be interpreted as rule-breaking.
2 Guanoing requested vs. Target requests post not be guanoed
3 Author perceived to be “home” side vs. Author perceived to be “visitor”
4 Target perceived to be “visitor” vs. Target is an admin
5 Substantive content is low vs. Substantive content is high
6 Derailing active discussion vs. ancient bloody history.
As to the relative importance of the different factors, YMMV.
<snip irrelevant bit>
Discrete-choice modeling, it’s fun.

410 thoughts on “Rules

  1. If a person registers by their real name, it is ‘normal’ that anyone curious will ‘search’ them digitally.

    The character named ‘Mike Elzinga’ is no exception.

    As for me, I have linked to my real-life website. Others at TSZ have even links it on TSZ pages, without it being sent to guano. And I have not objected.

    What’s the problem here?

    You’ve got people here hiding from the truth and quasi- using their names and ‘status’ behind it. Mike says he’s a Michigan University professor. I didn’t write that. He did. Is it true or not?

    Most Michigan professors, at least, according to the official university website, either have their own web page or a link to it. But I don’t see one for anyone named ‘Mike Elzinga’ or ‘Michael Elzinga’.

    So, what’s the truth, folks? Will you allow at least some exposure, given what you’ve allowed people here to link about me?

    I find Lizzie’s policy full of holes. I’ve written posts that deserve record, which are thrown idly into ‘Sandbox’ or ‘Guano’ ONLY because of one word. The alternative = edit that one word and post the d%mn message. Seemingly you want to censor encouraging, anti-atheist messages at TSZ. That’s rather obvious.

    I don’t find this place-blog very welcoming for this reason.

  2. Gregory: If a person registers by their real name, it is ‘normal’ that anyone curious will ‘search’ them digitally.

    NO it’s not normal.

  3. Only if they are famous or an established author.

    I will say two things. First, a person wo registers using a real name should expect people to look around.

    Second, on an informal chat blog like this, asking for credentials is tantamount to saying you have no argument. This is a conversation, not an academic presentation.

  4. Mike Elzinga: It seems that it has become a hangout for William Murray and Gregory; and occasionally the disembodied vapors of Robert Byers.Murray makes no sense and Gregory strikes me as an Internet stalker or part of a phishing scam with his constant taunting for detailed personal information.

    I think I will stop posting here.These two characters are just not interesting, and they spoil the discussions at every turn.

    I, for one, would find that regrettable. Your comments are among those I make a point of reading in full, even when skimming to catch up after missing a couple of days. I suppose I’ll have to follow you on AtBC instead.

    I very much appreciate Lizzie’s respect for freedom of expression. That doesn’t mean I personally choose to give my attention to the nonsense posted by Gregory, Murray, or Byers. This forum would be even more interesting if it had tools similar to Usenet newsreaders, in particular the ability to view (and ignore) by thread within a larger topic and to maintain personal killfiles.

    Are there any WordPress plugins with those features?

  5. Patrick: Are there any WordPress plugins with those features?

    I didn’t see anything useful the last time I had a look. It seems that feature is common in forum software. I guess Lizzie could consider retrying the “Penguin Colony” forum which is supposed to nest seamlessly with the blog software. It didn’t seem to pan out like that before, though that was on the old Mickey Mouse hosting service

  6. Alan Fox: I didn’t see anything useful the last time I had a look. It seems that feature is common in forum software. I guess Lizzie could consider retrying the “Penguin Colony” forum which is supposed to nest seamlessly with the blog software. It didn’t seem to pan out like that before, though that was on the old Mickey Mouse hosting service

    Poking around a bit, I see there is something called FUDForum, but it doesn’t appear to be a drop-in replacement for WordPress comments.

    Personally, I think web forums are a huge step backwards in terms of usability compared to Usenet. From a technical perspective, it makes more sense for the web forum to be one view of the underlying data, which should be stored and accessed via NNTP. That would allow any participant to use either the website or a local newsreader. Each new topic could be a separate group, i.e.: wordpress.theskepticalzone.moderation, or (more likely) a top level topic with threads branching from there. To give the forum owner some control, just make the group moderated.

    I’m not a WordPress hacker, but I’d donate some time to building something like this if there was interest.

  7. Moderators,

    Due to a copyright claim, the link to the Carroll/Craig debate video no longer works.

    Could one of you replace it with this one, which is provided by the copyright holder?

    [Change made — Neil Rickert]

  8. Is my comment on the “Hard Problem of Intentionality” thread still being “moderated”?

    Thanks.

    W

  9. walto,

    There are no comments awaiting moderation. I did approve your first comment and all subsequent comments should appear immediately. There’s nothing in the spam filter either. Here is the only comment we appear to have for you.

    ETA correct wrong link

  10. I want to post a topic on misogyny in online skeptic communities. It was pointed out that I should ask Lizzie if this is an appropriate topic for this site, considering that it is possible it could create extra work for the moderators.

    So, Lizzie, is this okay?

  11. It’s Lizzie’s site, obviously, but I think that the problem of misogyny in on-line communities is a huge thing that we should at least be talking about, even though we’re a small site with little traffic. In fact, I’d rather talk about social justice issues rather than metaphysics any day of the week.

  12. @ Davehooke

    Lizzie’s contact details can be found on her university website.

    I’m curious whether such a thread would melt down as some predict but I’d rather Lizzie gave her OK.

  13. Although I likely would not join the discussion myself, I think a discussion of misogyny would be interesting. I do worry that it would quickly dissolve into an emotion-laden flame war however. I think it would be beneficial to come up with a specific set of parameters for the discussion. Something like:

    1) assume everyone is posting in good faith
    2) No accusing anyone of libel or slander; any such accusations will be moved to guano.
    3) When referencing third-party sites or third-parties in general, simply post facts, no opinions or assumptions.
    4) Avoid ad hominems – you may attack comments with logic, but do not attack the person making the comment
    …and so on. I suggest such explicitness so that the participants know exactly what can and cannot transpire. That is, unless you don’t mind having a place where people can just vent.

  14. I’ve just read a few of these discussions. Never posted to them. I haven’t seen one that didn’t get personal real quickly.The threads have been painful for me to read, because people have left forums, and it appears that friendships have ended.

  15. petrushka:
    I’ve just read a few of these discussions. Never posted to them. I haven’t seen one that didn’t get personal real quickly.The threads have been painful for me to read, because people have left forums, and it appears that friendships have ended.

    Quite so Petrushka. I believe it was one of the reasons that Louis left AtBC, which I found to be quite a shame. That’s why I suggested creating an explicit set of parameters for such a discussion – some sort of attempt to keep the emotional responses and nastiness in check. Of course, maybe it’s not possible for such a subject.

  16. I would not try it without Lizzie here to moderate, and if she’s as smart as I think she is, she’ll stay too busy.

  17. Robin:
    2) No accusing anyone of libel or slander; any such accusations will be moved to guano.

    I strongly disagree with this restriction. If someone posts a defamatory claim about someone else without evidentiary support or continues to make such a claim after it is refuted, it should be within the rules to point that out. To do otherwise empowers those who wish to cast aspersions without backing them up.

  18. Some original, forward-thinking discussion on social justice issues could be interesting. Rehash of stuff that has already been gone over a million times, probably not so much. Focusing on specific personalities? I’m sick to death of it.

  19. Hi. I wanted to post a new entry here, but I don’t know how (or even if I’d be allowed to). Can someone advise me?

    Thanks.

    W

  20. You should have posted that comment to “moderation”. I’ll move it (and my reply) later.

    I have now given you Author permissions. So you can start a new topic. Look for “New” in the page header near the top of the screen, and select “Post”. You might have to reload the page before you see the “New”.

  21. Hi Walto

    May I suggest a page break after the first paragraph, say. Otherwise a long post tends to generate tendonitis in the scrolling finger!

  22. Thanks, Alan. I’d be happy to do that if I knew how. If you or Neil have the requisite authority, please feel free! Or if you want to explain to me how to insert a page break I’ll give it a whirl.

    edit: I’m also noticing how much of a first draft this thing really is. While I do think there are some similarities between Newcomb and the placebo effect, I’m not sure this little essay makes much sense at all. I’ll spare y’all the details of just WHY I (or anyone) would slop something like this together in a couple of hours for no apparent reason, but it’s along the lines of a timed crossword puzzle entry.

  23. When you’re logged in and navigate to your post, you should see a grey box at the top left marked “edit”.Click and you return to the edit page. Position the cursor where you want the page break to appear then click on the button marked “more” in the row across the top. Job done!

    I’ll clear these comments to moderation page after you’ve done it.

  24. If you want to polish your post a bit, you can always switch back to draft until you are happy with it.

  25. That’s fine. You might just check out the site rules. The blog owner, Dr. Lizzie Liddle asks that, though authors have the technical ability to edit and delete comments, they should not do so. Comments that are outside the rules may be moved to guano by admins. Please ask if you think a post needs moving from your comment thread.

    And thanks for taking the trouble to write a post and publish it here.

  26. Patrick: I strongly disagree with this restriction.If someone posts a defamatory claim about someone else without evidentiary support or continues to make such a claim after it is refuted, it should be within the rules to point that out.To do otherwise empowers those who wish to cast aspersions without backing them up.

    I don’t see why pointing out such a case needs be stated as libel or slander. Using such terms merely flames emotions and doesn’t general solve the issue. I just think that in order to attempt to keep things somewhat civil, emotional flaming terminology should be keep out or at least at a minimum.

  27. Robin: I don’t see why pointing out such a case needs be stated as libel or slander. Using such terms merely flames emotions and doesn’t general solve the issue.I just think that in order to attempt to keep things somewhat civil, emotional flaming terminology should be keep out or at least at a minimum.

    There is already a rule in place about assuming people are posting in good faith. The first time someone posts something defamatory and untrue about another person, that rule requires asking for evidence and presenting evidence and arguments to rebut the claim. If the person making the claim refuses to support it or retract it in the face of contradictory evidence, noting that they are libeling their target is perfectly justified.

    The problem with adding your proposed rule to those already in place is that it gives those people who do make unsupported, defamatory statements protection from having their behavior pointed out. It also gives them a way to derail the discussion with rule-lawyering rather than keeping it focused on evidence and logic. Such a rule has no benefits and too high a potential cost.

  28. Perhaps the issue’s that there are rules and objectives. I think Lizzie’s objective, or one of them, was to establish an open forum where topics could be discussed without minority views being flamed out. Not to sat that minority views require some positive discrimination, just that they should be addressed and challenged without abusing the presenter.

    I initially though it was hopelessly idealistic but it seems to have worked at least to some extent. Do Robin and Patrick disagree on objectives? I don’t get that impression. I think Patrick is right in saying that Robin’s objective should be achievable under the current rules if the admins interpret them fairly. An unsupported claim, repeated after evidence that it is untrue is presented, becomes in my view, a lie, which is guano material.

    ETA Typos (new specs on order)

  29. Alan Fox:
    That’s fine. You might just check out the site rules. The blog owner, Dr. Lizzie Liddle asks that, though authors have the technical ability to edit and delete comments, they should not do so. Comments that are outside the rules may be moved to guano by admins. Please ask if you think a post needs moving from your comment thread.

    Hi, Alan. Would you mind explaining this a bit more? When you say “authors have the technical ability to edit and delete comments,” do you mean that authors of original posts can edit or delete the comments of others to those posts (or just change/delete their own comments to those posts)? And is Dr. Liddle requesting that we not edit or delete our own comments? I mean, if I notice I’ve left out some words or spelled something wrong, does she prefer I not fix it?

    Sorry if these are dumb questions, and again, thanks for your help.

    W

  30. Yes, authors can edit any post, but should not. Move it or leave it.

    You can edit your own post at any time of course, but it’s nice to note that you’ve done so if you’ve substantially changed it. I don’t bother to do that for typos etc.

  31. I try to fix spelling mistakes immediately and do not see any reason to make a note of that. If I add a new thought, I note that with ETA. Edit to add.

  32. walto: Hi, Alan. Would you mind explaining this a bit more?

    I’ll try to explain.

    As a thread author, the software allows you to edit or delete any comments made to your thread. That includes my comment (as an example).

    The site owner (posts as Lizzie) requests you limit yourself to editing/deleting your own comments, not those of others. If a comment is a bit outrageous, we do move to a different thread (often the “Guano” topic). You can ask moderators to move posts, if you think that appropriate.

  33. Alan Fox: What are you talking about, William?

    I think he is disclaiming authorship for this comment. However site information shows it as posted from William’s email address and IP address. I suppose it is possible that he posted something else, and then it was edited. I don’t know if there is trail of comment editing changes. I don’t see any evidence of an edit, and if there was one, it had to be prior to there being 20 additional comments, or else my RSS reader would show a version different from what is at the site.

    In any case, I can accept that William is disclaiming responsibility for the content of that comment.

  34. Alan Fox: Someone post-edited the comment?

    I doubt that, but I cannot disprove it.

    I don’t know about any glitch. But if a hacker could break into the site, I suppose they could create a fake comment.

    I’ll just leave it with William disclaiming that particular comment.

  35. Hello, all — I don’t know if this is the best place to leave this comment, but oh well — I wanted to let you all know that my commenting here will be somewhat more sporadic from now on, because I need to finish up my semester, put more work into my book, and (drum-roll, please) I’m embarking on a new romance. So if I comment much less often, please know that it’s no reflection on the value I place on this intellectual community; it’s simply a question of priorities. I hope you all understand.

  36. I think that perhaps walto, as a new contributor, misunderstood the rule about modifying other people’s comments.

    The blockquote part of the comment appears to have come from William, and the response appears to have been added inside William’s comment by someone responding to William — likely walto, since it is walto’s thread.

    The timestamp on the comment in question is just a few minutes before the timestamp on walto’s question about editing comments:

    Hi, Alan. Would you mind explaining this a bit more? When you say “authors have the technical ability to edit and delete comments,” do you mean that authors of original posts can edit or delete the comments of others to those posts (or just change/delete their own comments to those posts)?

    I suspect this will all be cleared up when walto returns.

  37. Kantian Naturalist:
    .So if I comment much less often, please know that it’s no reflection on the value I place on this intellectual community; it’s simply a question of priorities.I hope you all understand.

    All the best, KN.

  38. keiths:
    I think that perhaps walto, as a new contributor, misunderstood the rule about modifying other people’s comments.

    The blockquote part of the comment appears to have come from William, and the response appears to have been added inside William’s comment by someone responding to William — likely walto, since it is walto’s thread.

    The timestamp on the comment in question is just a few minutes before the timestamp on walto’s questionabout editing comments:

    I suspect this will all be cleared up when walto returns.

    I don’t really understand what the issue is here, but I certainly could have screwed something up trying to quote from somebody’s comment in one of my own. If so, I apologize. I’m just getting the hang of this place. (Which is not to say that I won’t screw up after I do so–screwing up comes fairly easy to me.)

    I don’t think I moved or edited anybody’s comment, though. I’m not sure why anybody would want to do that, actually.

  39. Kantian Naturalist,

    Ach, I’m really sorry that you’re splitting just as I got here! I was looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts on Royce, Sellars, etc.

    If you get a chance, I’d love to hear what your book is about…

    Best,

    W

  40. Moderators, could one of you replace my link with a Youtube embed? Apparently I don’t have permission.

  41. I left the link, because some people might prefer to access it that way. You can probably remove it if you prefer.

    I may move your comment and this reply to moderation — after you have had time to read this.

Comments are closed.