Squawk box

I sense a disturbance in the force.

This thread is for people to tell me what they think is going on, going wrong, and what they think we should do about it.  I’m listening.

Lizzie

[Edit added 18.40 pm CET 20/08/2018 by Alan Fox]

As the comments have ballooned, Lizzie would very much like members to summarize their thoughts and suggestions into one statement and there is now a dedicated thread, “Summaries”, where they can be posted. Please just post one summary and please do not add other comments. You are welcome to comment on other people’s summaries in this thread. The idea of the “Summaries” thread is to make it easier for Lizzie to get your input. Comments judged by admins not to be summaries will move to guano.

Members who would rather keep their thoughts confidential are invited to use the private messaging system. Lizzie’s address is Elizabeth.

1,219 thoughts on “Squawk box

  1. Lizzie,

    You’ve presumably already seen my email, but let me post it here for the benefit of others:

    Hi Lizzie,

    In your absence, Alan has taken the rather Arringtonian step of imposing a 30-day suspension on me, preventing me from both posting and commenting at TSZ.

    He quoted an email of yours, trying to spin it as justification for the suspension. However, I see nothing in your email that indicates support for that sort of action, and I know from past experience that you have been passionate in opposing censorship. It was one of your reasons for creating TSZ, after all!

    I also know that you are admantly against the use of moderation actions as punishment, reprimand, or in the service of personal grudges. Alan is nursing a deep grudge, and his intention with this suspension is obviously punitive, against your stated moderation philosophy.

    I am in the middle of several exchanges at TSZ. One of these is in a thread I created discussing a published philosophy paper of walto’s. The discussion is civil and non-rule-violating. By imposing a suspension, Alan is preventing me from continuing in that discussion and others, out of spite. It’s censorship, pure and simple.

    Could you please intervene? Or in the unlikely event that you actually think Alan’s action is appropriate, could you let me know?

    Thanks,
    KeithS

  2. Hi Elizabeth,

    Is this a visible return or a secret return?

    p.s. Sometimes walto makes entirely too much sense.

  3. So let’s start with just the latest kerfuffle.

    keiths went all attack dog on another moderator at another site in an OP. Moderators took steps. keiths objected. keiths posts updated version of OP in “Moderation Issues.” Moderators objected. keiths objected to the objections. keiths has account suspended for 30 days.

    Alan Fox: I’ve just suspended the account of Keiths for a minimum of thirty days.

    I think the suspension is (a) too harsh (b) without warning (c) possibly not even warranted.

    Trying to get clarification from the mods is proving a bit of a chore.

    Neil thinks the content of even the revised OP is “inappropriate for TSZ.” Doesn’t say why.

    DNA_Jock points to rules that it breaks, but doesn’t say why those rule-breaking violations are not allowed in Noyau.

  4. Mung: I think the suspension is (a) too harsh (b) without warning (c) possibly not even warranted.

    Technically, wordpress has no facility for a 30 day suspension. It actually has no provision for suspension. So keiths is in moderation until that restriction is lifted. And it appears that he can still post to the thread that he started, without going into moderation.

  5. This thread is for people to tell me what they think is going on, going wrong, and what they think we should do about it. I’m listening.

    Well, obviously the main thing was your absence!

    I’ve just got in. Need an hour to shower, change and eat.

  6. The rules require too much judgement from moderators and the guano-ing action is pointless, since it leads to ongoing arguments about whether rules are being properly interpreted and enforced.

    Have simple, clear rules, such as no libel, no hate, no pornography, no copyright violations. Avoid platitudes like “Attack the ideas, not the poster”. Give the moderators authority to delete at their discretion any posts which break these clear rules and to ban posters who consistently violate rules. The only recourse of the posters should be via a private channel to moderators. Any attempt to complain in public should lead to an immediate ban or suspension.

    I lurk at the Philosophy Forum site where there are many more posters and posts than at TSZ but no posts that I have ever seen like the ones that are guano-ed here. The Terms of Service at that site is what I based this post on. It seems to work very well for them.

    I have been screwing up links in some of my posts, so here is the URL:
    https://thephilosophyforum.com/page/terms-of-service

  7. Neil,

    And it appears that he can still post to the thread that he started, without going into moderation.

    Even some of my comments in my own thread are being held in moderation. Please release them.

  8. Bruce, how is it that ‘attack the ideas…’ is a platitude that is hard to fathom, but ‘no hate’ is a simple, clear rule?

  9. Lizzie

    It must be obvious to regulars that I think Keiths’s abrasive style is counterproductive in (if that is his aim) in persuading others to his view and also in losing us several (at least) former members. I’ll acknowledge that fashion changes and people move on to other interests but it’s always puzzled me why Keiths needed to be so damn strident. I’ll also acknowledge that he’s a sharp tool and can provoke interesting interchange. But Keiths has never accepted the concept that Lizzie (if I have understood her) has tried to develop here of a venue where people of widely differing opinions could attempt to understand each other. I have taken a back seat from moderating this year and an unfair burden was loaded on to Neil in trying to stem Keiths’ increasingly disruptive commenting style.

    The events which led me to (attempting to) suspend Keiths’s account began with remarks to walto about posting an OP criticizing a philosophy paper walto had recently had published. It sounded, on my reading, as almost a threat. I thought it had not yet been published and mentioned copyright as an issue. Walto said he wasn’t phased but that the paper was paywalled and he was under contract not to make copies available. So I said “fair enough”.

    At the same time,(this is from memory) Gregory posted about Joshua Swamidass and his new website “Peaceful Science”. Somewhere along the line Keiths was invited by Swamidass to participate and described his deconversion. The thread degenerated with, in my view, Keiths again using a threatening tone, to expose Swamidass’s perceived bad behaviour here at TSZ.

    When I saw the OP and title I thought it extremely bad form and reflected badly on TSZ. You can see my comments in the thread and Keiths’ reaction “Butt out'”.
    You are probably aware how thing got from there to here. The suspension was intended to stop the unwarranted abuse Neil and DNA-Jock were getting from Keiths for their efforts in trying to solve the problem of the arguably libellous OP.

    I can find links if you need. I thought I’d get the basics out first. And it was solely my idea to suspend Keiths.

  10. Just to make my own position clear.

    The admins contacted me to say there had been a problem with a post. One of my principles (the only principle ethically compatible with my absentee landlord status IMO) is that I trust the admins to come to the best decision they can, whether it is a decision I would have made or not, and whether they agree with each other or not. So my first response was based solely on their reports, which was that a post had been made that they considered violated TSZ rules.

    They proposed making the post “private” initially (i.e. invisible), while we discussed what to do, then putting the poster in “pre-moderation” – i.e. posts wait to be “released” before being made visible. My response was:

    “Good call, guys!

    Thanks!

    They then proposed making the post visible again, in the interests of transparency, but closing to comments, and asked my view on this, and what to do about suspension/premoderation.

    Regarding the post I responded:

    My instinct is to make visible, but closed to comments and a disclaimer.

    In response to the issue of conditions for continuing to post, I responded with my general philosophy that I don’t expect people to agree to change what they do. They either do it, or not. Asking people to agree to change…

    …never works anyway, and it can put a kind of moral spin on the issue, even unintentionally. I’d say, put him in pre-moderation, and explain why. If the problem recurs, ban.

    My principle generally has been that we have rules, not moral edicts. If someone doesn’t want to stick with the rules, then fine (I was brought up in the tradition of civil disobedience and conscientious objectors!) – but it is a condition of posting at TSZ that posters keep within the rules, so if they don’t want to do that, then they can’t post.

    Does that help? Feel free to quote me!

    In other words: we have rules at TSZ that may not be perfect, nor even easy to adjudicate on, but they are what they are unless we agree (or I agree) to change them, and to the best of our ability, we will make compliance with them a condition of the access to posting here. I want to re-iterate: my personal philosophy is that what is within a given set of rules or laws is not coterminous with what is ethically right. I’ve known absolute assholes who stick to the letter of every law and people of high ethical probity who break them. Sometimes breaking rules is the Right Thing To Do.

    I say that, because if I ever ban someone at TSZ, they should NOT take it as any kind of moral reprimand. I always saw the TSZ rule as the rules of a game, not Rules of Life. And the game we play here has the somewhat arbitrary fundamental rule: “Assume the other person is posting in good faith”. Yes it’s agame because we all know, or at least suspect, that other people do NOT post in what we would consider “good faith”. But the game we play here, as I envisaged it, is that you post as though they are. My life experience tells me it’s often a useful approach, as it often turns out that my original assumption (that the person is NOT posting in good faith) isn’t actually correct. So worth a punt.

    OK, enough of that.

    Where I think we go from here is perhaps another look at the rules.

    • Which ones are causing problems?
    • Should we drop any?
    • Should we add any?
    • Should we change any?
  11. BruceS:
    The rules require too much judgement from moderators and the guano-ing action is pointless, since it leads to ongoing arguments aboutwhether rules are being properly interpreted and enforced.

    Have simple, clear rules, such asno libel, no hate, no pornography, no copyright violations.Avoid platitudes like “Attack the ideas, not the poster”.Give the moderators authority to delete at their discretion any posts which break these clear rules and to ban posters who consistently violate rules.The only recourse of the posters should be via a private channel to moderators.Any attempt to complain in public should lead to an immediate ban or suspension.

    I lurk at the Philosophy Forum site where there are many more posters and posts than at TSZ but no posts that I have ever seen like the ones that are guano-ed here.The Terms of Service at that site is what I based this post on.It seems to work very well for them.

    I have been screwing up links in some of my posts, so here is the URL:
    https://thephilosophyforum.com/page/terms-of-service

    Thanks Bruce. I’ll think about that. I won’t make any hasty change as I have a lot of catching up to do.

    TSZ was an experiment with a particular approach to rules, and I was always aware that it might not work.

    But I’m not going to give up in haste 🙂

  12. Elizabeth: Where I think we go from here is perhaps another look at the rules.

    Which ones are causing problems?
    Should we drop any?
    Should we add any?
    Should we change any?

    A summary of the current rules in one place would be useful.

  13. Lizzie,

    Where I think we go from here is perhaps another look at the rules.

    Which ones are causing problems?
    Should we drop any?
    Should we add any?
    Should we change any?

    I have some suggestions to offer, but my first request would be that you reverse Alan’s action by allowing my comments to appear when I post them, rather than being placed in moderation.

  14. I think that one of the big problems we have at TSZ is that a lot of people who post here have no interest in arguing in good faith. They want to score cheap points in a debate. Polite civil discourse is something that they don’t have the training for, nor the motivation.

    I don’t see any how change to the rules is going to change temperament, education, intelligence, willingness & ability to learn, or competence of basic rules of English grammar and spelling.

    I do think that the “assume the commenter is posting in good faith” rule is a bad rule, because a lot of people here simply aren’t. Insisting on this rule actually limits our ability to call out bad behavior and it permits abuse to flourish. When someone can act abusively, but calling them on their abuse is rule-breaking, there’s a problem.

  15. Elizabeth,

    Which ones are causing problems?

    The problem is that there are unlimited fouls without further consequences. This makes the moderators job impossible as there is no real penalty for fouling as many times as you want.

    In the NBA 6 fouls and you are out of the game. Perhaps 6 posts in guano and you are in moderation for x time period. A second 6 fouls your in moderation for y time period etc.

    I personally think the rules are quite good for proper philosophical discourse and very easy to follow.

  16. keiths calls me a liar/dishonest and nothing is done. keiths calls KN a liar/dishonest and the posts get sent to Guano.

    Posts which clearly violate the rules are pointed out to the moderators and nothing is done.

    The rules are not onerous, but the enforcement seems to be.

  17. Where I think we go from here is perhaps another look at the rules.
    ◾Which ones are causing problems?
    ◾Should we drop any?
    ◾Should we add any?
    ◾Should we change any?

    I say this as someone who has been very happy here, and my major reason for input is to ensure TSZ prospers. Why?

    Look at the participation we got on some subjects. Paul Nelson, Bill Basener, Joe Felsenstein, Tom English, Dennis Venema, Winston Ewert, Josh Swamidass, Kirk Dursten, Larry Moran, Arlin Stoltfuz, etc. In other words authors and professionals who are in leadership positions regarding some of the topics that have been of interest. We get kind of the next tier too like me, VJTorley, Johnny B, etc.

    Where else on the net does this meeting of truce happen? Nowhere. This place is special. I can tell you John Sanford was reading this blog too and chided me for some of my choice of words….

    Because some of the threads will be by people prominent in the discussion, the mods on those threads should be a bit more enforcing and maybe have even stricter standards for participation in those threads. In other threads, let the authors have the right to say “noyau” rules, or “relaxed” rules and let people sling mud at each other if they want in that thread.

    I had recently a thread that went over 5,000 comments on common descent. Paul Nelson read some of it to my utter astonishment. There wasn’t much mud slinging on it. Same for a 1,500+ comment thermodynamics thread. Keiths was on both, was never guanoed on that thread to my knowledge. So why did that thread “work”??? They were on relatively technical topics and argued over technical issues. I really didn’t perpetuate the insults etc. because defending my credentials or knowledge or character wasn’t why I’m here. I was here to find a place to extend my thoughts and have my teaching materials get some editorial review.

    What I sense is some people obsess with paying back someone else or just be jerks. They can try to do that elsewhere, but they prefer to do it here. I have the ignore button. On my 5,000 comment thread, Keiths wrote 300-1000 (my guesitmate) comments in his usual style. He satisfied his appetite to bash someone, and kept my thread alive, and I got some good data points, corrected mistakes, and learned something. Both got something they valued.

    If Keiths, Entropy, and other of my haters here get their jollies bashing me, that’s fine. I have the ignore button, and it pleases me they waste hours of their lives writing comments I’ll never read, nor which my supporters and fans will give much credence to. So, it’s somewhat of a win win.

    May TSZ prosper and continue. I’m appreciative of what Alan Fox and Neil Reikert have done here, and you.

  18. Mung,

    keiths calls me a liar/dishonest and nothing is done. keiths calls KN a liar/dishonest and the posts get sent to Guano.

    I agree with this.

  19. KN:

    I do think that the “assume the commenter is posting in good faith” rule is a bad rule, because a lot of people here simply aren’t. Insisting on this rule actually limits our ability to call out bad behavior and it permits abuse to flourish. When someone can act abusively, but calling them on their abuse is rule-breaking, there’s a problem.

    Right. The “assume good faith” rule actually creates a perverse incentive by (in many cases) punishing honesty and rewarding dishonesty.

    I understand Lizzie’s motivation in creating the rule, but it simply doesn’t work well in practice.

    Example: Quote mining. Under the rules, there is no penalty for quote mining, but a person who calls someone else out for quote mining can be penalized by having his or her comment guanoed. The rule ends up protecting quote mining instead of discouraging it.

    In the real world, sometimes it really is necessary — and helpful — to call people on their dishonesty.

  20. “We get kind of the next tier too like me, VJTorley, Johnny B, etc.”

    “Kind of the next tier”? Lol. What we’re seeing is a brash younger generation. Swamidass seems to be the fullest ‘next tier apparent’. That’s why Torley should join him, whether it means having to become more of a ‘Swamidass model’ evangelical than ‘catholic’ in the process, of course, isn’t the main issue.

  21. Kantian Naturalist,

    “I think that one of the big problems we have at TSZ is that a lot of people who post here have no interest in arguing in good faith.”

    You don’t have enough people who have ‘faith’ period. That’s according to their preferred rationalism or ‘naturalism’. & of course, I don’t trust KN’s philosophistry for a second. Can see right through it down to its existentialist anti-religious roots in his ideology.

    So for an agnostic-atheist to promote ‘good faith’ is already problematic. & then they just ‘mute’ you from their feed if they don’t like hearing what ‘good faith’ actually means in discussing multiple sides of a topic, i.e. not just the cultural materialist one. Far from dialogue friendly or inspiring among these skeptics.

    And then there’s apatheist Alan who arrived in only 50 minutes to be able to reconnect with his heroine, who really gives the site a lazy feel to it. Eeyore. Turn off such charm, please.

  22. Gregory: And then there’s apatheist Alan who arrived in only 50 minutes to be able to reconnect with his heroin

    Help is available, Alan.

  23. 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.

    Well, to hear some people talk, that’s not at all what the idea is behind TSZ. Some people think they have a better idea of what TSZ is about than Elizabeth.

    There ought to be a rule against that. 😉

  24. Gregory: “I think that one of the big problems we have at TSZ is that a lot of people who post here have no interest in arguing in good faith.”

    Exhibit A:

    That’s according to their preferred rationalism or ‘naturalism’. & of course, I don’t trust KN’s philosophistry for a second. Can see right through it down to its existentialist anti-religious roots in his ideology.

    Res ipsa loquitor

  25. So let’s look at some of the rules.

    …do not accuse other posters of being deliberately misleading

    Sadly, this happens all too often. Occasionally gets sent to Guano. And it’s avoidable.

    Address the content of the post, not the perceived failings of the poster.

    This one is probably the one that is broken most often. It happens all the time. Commonplace. Hardly ever gets sent to Guano. Oh, and it too is avoidable.

    _______________________________________

    Recommendation: Make a choice. Either have even less restrictive moderation, or less lenient moderation. keiths wants no moderation. Given a choice between no moderation and what we have now I’d even take no moderation.

    Personally I’d like to see the moderation take a harder line against infractions. Personal attacks and insults should not be tolerated. No toleration for accusations of ignorance, stupidity, insanity, etc. I’d really like to see us at least try that for a while.

    Oh, and for people who simply cannot resist the temptation, there is always Noyau.

    This is one of the things that has always confused me about this site. People know Noyau is there, but they choose to not use it and instead break the rules. They do it deliberately and repeatedly.

    Can’t we put a stop to that?

  26. I’ve always appreciated this site. And always recognized the tough job the mods have.

    Thank you

  27. Clarify the “peanut gallery” rule.

    I think the recent OP by keiths violated that rule. At least some of the mods seem to agree. There’s some disagreement about whether it’s allowable in Noyau.

    My take on it is that if it’s not a bannable offense it’s permissible in Noyau.

    I do trust the mods to be able to discern the difference between addressing an argument made at another site and ‘antics’ taking place at another site.

  28. Mung: Personally I’d like to see the moderation take a harder line against infractions. Personal attacks and insults should not be tolerated. No toleration for accusations of ignorance, stupidity, insanity, etc. I’d really like to see us at least try that for a while.

    I’d agree with that completely.

    Oh, and for people who simply cannot resist the temptation, there is always Noyau.

    This is one of the things that has always confused me about this site. People know Noyau is there, but they choose to not use it and instead break the rules. They do it deliberately and repeatedly.

    Can’t we put a stop to that?

    I’d happy if moderators were punitive towards people who insist on putting personal attacks in threads that are not Noyau, even if they can’t resist posting something insulting and personal in Noyau. That way the rest of us can ignore Noyau entirely and get on with it.

  29. I really hate myself for saying this, but TSZ could learn something from Uncommon Descent. Not the pompous, arrogant attitudes of Barry, Mullings, Murray or Cunningham, but the fact that the most interesting threads are those where the UD elite are presented with evidence that runs counter to their cherished beliefs.

    A good heated argument is always productive. And often entertaining. Where TSZ excels is the fact that the moderators seldom drop the ban hammer simply because they can’t mount a logical argument against one that they are fundamentally opposed to. Just look at the number of banninatiinons that Barry has imposed during discussions of abortion, homosexuality and objective morality. The only banning that I am aware of here is Joe/Frankie/Virgil/ET. And there are few here who would disagree with that one.

  30. Acartia,

    A good heated argument is always productive.

    I wouldn’t go quite that far. Sometimes heated arguments devolve into unproductive slugfests. But that happens less often than people think. There have been lots of arguments here that were heated, full of snark, not respectful — yet still substantive and highly productive.

    And often entertaining.

    Yes, and that matters too! There’s inherent value in that, plus it can motivate people to pay attention to a debate or an issue that might otherwise not hold their attention as well.

  31. colewd: keiths calls me a liar/dishonest and nothing is done. keiths calls KN a liar/dishonest and the posts get sent to Guano.

    I agree with this.

    Double Ditto that

    This is the biggest problem here. The solution imo is greater philosophical diversity in moderators.

    peace

  32. Kantian Naturalist: I’d agree with that completely.

    I’d happy if moderators were punitive towards people who insist on putting personal attacks in threads that are not Noyau, even if they can’t resist posting something insulting and personal in Noyau. That way the rest of us can ignore Noyau entirely and get on with it.

    The captain of the pirates has gone all choirboy (‘my mistake!’) now Lizzie is watching. Maybe the only rule needed here is that Lizzie has to hang out here full time–like it or not!

  33. walto,

    The captain of the pirates has gone all choirboy (‘my mistake!’) now Lizzie is watching.

    I’ve been admitting my mistakes all along, walto. You (and Alan) have both gotten burned by claiming that I don’t, when I was easily able to show that I do.

    As for Lizzie “watching”, my fondest hope is that Lizzie will look at what went on in her absence, particularly by reading the Moderation Issues threads. I think she will be shocked at the brazenness and sheer volume of the moderation abuses she’ll see in those threads, and the damage that they caused.

  34. How about someone listing a range of moderation options, and then putting them to the vote among regular users of this site? Vox populi, vox Dei.

    For example:

    1. Should posters be permitted to use expletives in their posts?

    2. Should posters be permitted to use expletives to describe other people?

    3. Should posters be permitted to accuse other living people of stupidity, arrogance, laziness, obfuscation and moral or intellectual blindness?

    4. Should posters be permitted to accuse other living people (known criminals excepted) of lying, cheating and theft (including intellectual property theft)?

    My own inclination would be to vote as follows: 1. Yes. 2. No. 3. Yes. 4. No – unless they think they can prove it.

    My two cents.

  35. Elizabeth: Where I think we go from here is perhaps another look at the rules.

    Which ones are causing problems?
    Should we drop any?
    Should we add any?
    Should we change any?

    Can we look at the rules that are not causing problems?

    No one is consistently violating the no posting of porn rule, or the no doxxing rule, or the no malicious software rule. I wonder what the difference is. I think it’s worth asking why some rules are respected while other rules are not.

  36. Speaking of voting (HT Vincent).

    Is there any sort of tagging system available, where users could tag posts?

    So, for example, if I think someone violates a rule by insulting someone else I could tag that post for that perceived infraction.

    This would, perhaps, allow us to gather statistics. Maybe even make them available. How many posts that were tagged for a particular infraction were actually sent to Guano. Who are the people with the most perceived infractions. Who is tagging those posts as infractions. etc.

  37. vjtorley:
    How about someone listing a range of moderation options, and then putting them to the vote among regular users of this site? Voxpopuli, vox Dei.

    For example:

    1. Should posters be permitted to use expletives in their posts?

    2. Should posters be permitted to use expletives to describe other people?

    3. Should posters be permitted to accuse other living people of stupidity, arrogance, laziness, obfuscation and moral or intellectual blindness?

    4. Should posters be permitted to accuse other living people (known criminals excepted) of lying, cheating and theft (including intellectual property theft)?

    My own inclination would be to vote as follows: 1. Yes. 2. No. 3. Yes. 4. No – unless they think they can prove it.

    My two cents.

    1, fucking A right!
    2. Yes, Allan and Rum are fucking brilliant
    3. Sure, we all know Trump is a lazy bum.
    4. No.

  38. A fundamental question is “Should dishonesty be protected and covered up at TSZ, or may it be pointed out?”

    It seems obvious to me that the answer should be that no, dishonesty should not be protected. We don’t want an environment that rewards and perpetuates dishonesty, and we don’t want an environment that penalizes the truthful.

    Can the right to point out dishonesty be abused? Of course, just as the right to comment can itself be abused. But just as it would be silly to prohibit commenting for the sake of preventing the occasional abuse, it would also be silly to prohibit folks from pointing out dishonesty.

    We are grownups here, and we all know that dishonesty exists in the world, even among our fellow commenters here at TSZ. Why pretend otherwise? I don’t see the value in suppressing that particular truth.

    I’d like to see a culture in which people are free to make claims, but are expected to be able to back them up, particularly if they are controversial or highly charged.

    Want to accuse someone of quote mining? Fine, but be prepared to back it up.

    The real problem is not with people making claims, but with people refusing to take responsibility for their claims.

  39. Mung:
    I’ve always appreciated this site. And always recognized the tough job the mods have.

    Thank you

    Ditto

  40. Vincent:

    4. Should posters be permitted to accuse other living people (known criminals excepted) of lying, cheating and theft (including intellectual property theft)?

    Vincent’s answer:

    4. No – unless they think they can prove it.

    That fits quite well with what I said above. It’s a matter of taking responsibility for one’s claims. If you aren’t able to back it up, then don’t make the claim in the first place.

  41. Alan,

    But Keiths has never accepted the concept that Lizzie (if I have understood her) has tried to develop here of a venue where people of widely differing opinions could attempt to understand each other.

    That’s simply false. Open discussion is exactly what I want, and I’ve fought hard for it — including for the rights of those I often disagree with (including J-Mac and phoodoo) not to be censored.

    The events which led me to (attempting to) suspend Keiths’s account began with remarks to walto about posting an OP criticizing a philosophy paper walto had recently had published. It sounded, on my reading, as almost a threat.

    A “threat” to publish an OP? You can’t be serious, Alan. I had already told walto that I was thinking of publishing one. And why not? The OP was going to be about his paper.

    Here’s the exchange you interpreted as a “almost a threat”:

    walto:

    I can’t!!!! I tell you I can’t admit I was really talking about instantiation! I just can’t stop lying about this! I don’t know why I should think this is important or that anybody in the universe but me would, but I DO!!!

    I DO!!!! Can’t everyone see that someone needs help?? (And I’m not talking about mung here.). 🙁

    keiths:

    walto,

    Given the extent of your meltdown today, I have to ask: Are you sure you’ll be able to handle it if I publish an OP critical of your epistemic closure paper?

    The fact that Alan could even perceive that as threatening is bizarre.

    The suspension was intended to stop the unwarranted abuse Neil and DNA-Jock were getting from Keiths for their efforts in trying to solve the problem of the arguably libellous OP.

    And there you have it. Neil and Jock were being challenged in the Moderation Issues thread, which is a perfectly legitimate use of that thread. Moderation issues are a sort of obvious topic for the Moderation Issues thread.

    It wasn’t against the rules, but Alan didn’t personally like it, so he unilaterally unretired himself as moderator, re-grabbed the levers of power, and started censoring.

    He’s a loose cannon, and this sort of thing has happened again and again.

    I really hope you’ll read through the old and current Moderation Issues threads, Lizzie. You may be dismayed by what you find there, but if you want to improve TSZ, it’s very important that you be aware of the extent of the problems we’ve had with moderator abuses.

    If TSZ is going to have moderation going forward, it is extremely important that we figure out how to rein the moderators in — or replace them with better people.

  42. Just my preference, but I see no place at all for commenting favorably or unfavorably on the persons behind the posts.

    I’m sure I have violated the rule, but I am not proud of such.

  43. Mung: This would, perhaps, allow us to gather statistics. Maybe even make them available. How many posts that were tagged for a particular infraction were actually sent to Guano. Who are the people with the most perceived infractions. Who is tagging those posts as infractions. etc.

    I think we are going to need a lot more moderators.

  44. Well, I’m a little hungry and a little broke, so if you could order me some Chinese, that would be appreciated.

    … or did you mean group specific issues?

    We’re all sick of J-Mac.

  45. walto:
    Bruce, how is it that ‘attack the ideas…’ is a platitude that is hard to fathom, but ‘no hate’ is a simple, clear rule?

    Use the hate laws and libel laws of UK. Use the “I’ll know it when I see it” criterion for pornography.

    Strengthening the powers of the moderators so that their decisions are final, at least for public threads, is an important part of the changes I’d like to see.

    I could imagine a private appeals process where multiple moderators, hopefully with different worldviews, would get involved.

  46. Elizabeth: T

    TSZ was an experiment with a particular approach to rules, and I was always aware that it might not work.

    But I’m not going to give up in haste

    Would it be possible to get a definition of “experiment”? I’d like to understand what hypothesis you are trying to test and what experimental conditions you are willing to vary. Have the results of the experiment so far had any effect on these goals and how you intend to accomplish them?

    The site rules includes this paragraph:

    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

    From that, I would guess that the experiment is to see whether some general guildelines to correct behavior for posting on this site combined with weak moderator powers will lead to the type of conversations where people see what common ground they have and understand the point of view of others better. Is that a fair description of the experiment?

    BTW, do you still believe that last sentence? If so, I’d be interested in hearing about the types of experiences you have that make you think it is true!

  47. TristanM: We’re all sick of J-Mac.

    You don’t like my style??? Or perhaps, more so, you don’t like what I stand for? Can you elaborate, please? I’d be glad to do whatever it takes to make you as happy as possible… as long as you don’t ask me to promote nonsense…

    How many people were you speaking for exactly when you said WE’RE?

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