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.

1,218 thoughts on “Squawk box

  1. Alan Fox:

    You are not actually listening.

    I believe I am, though not exclusively to you.

    Your belief does not reflect reality. If you were considering your actions objectively, you’d directly address the issues I raised. Instead, you ignore them and repeat your demands.

    If you can’t think of any way you could have de-escalated, you’re not trying hard enough.

    Takes two to dance that tango!

    You’ve banned keiths from the dance floor. That doesn’t mean you win, it just means you won’t listen.

    From your relayed texts, I see little chance that will happen. My offer to negotiate stands. It will have to be via email.

    That’s not an offer, it’s a restatement of your recalcitrant attitude. You continue to fail to demonstrate any empathy or willingness to reconsider.

    What’s the worst that could happen if you let keiths participate fully on this thread? Would it be so bad for you to be seen as, finally, reasonable and fair?

  2. DNA_Jock:

    If you can’t think of any way you could have de-escalated, you’re not trying hard enough. If you’re just going to repeat what you said above without actually thinking about what you’re doing, save yourself the typing effort.

    Well, some of the missives that you chose to relay were singularly unhelpful in that regard. You are responsible for what you post here, regardless of who wrote it.

    I do not accept responsibility for keiths’ words. Those are his alone. Some I agree with and some I do not.

    I do accept responsibility for allowing him to speak — something you and the other admins should be ashamed of preventing.

  3. The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission. I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    Mung, to Patrick:

    Oh please. I did ask him.

    You’re his mouthpiece. Pretending to speak for him. So if I ask you I am asking him.

    Or does your ability to act as an amanuensis only work one way?

    Angry Mung is angry, but why? Patrick answered his question.

    Relax, Mung. Your sphincter must be as exhausted as newton’s.

  4. The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission. I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    Neil:

    But, beyond the limitations of the software, there are no rules for administrators.

    This is just the Neil Rickert version of the same goofy argument that Alan makes (when it’s convenient for him). I commented on Alan’s version earlier:

    Lizzie is just a tool as far as Alan is concerned. When he wants to overstep his authority, he claims that Lizzie has given him absolute power:

    Lizzie is an absolute monarch, and she has delegated that absolute power, in her absence, to Neil and myself.

    When he doesn’t want to do something — including undoing his own abusive actions — he claims he can’t act without her approval.

    It’s utterly contradictory and unprincipled. Alan doesn’t care. He’s just using Lizzie as a convenient excuse for his own impulsive and abusive moderation actions.

    This isn’t a one-time phenomenon. He did exactly the same thing during the ALurker fiasco — censoring both ALurker and Patrick by suspending their accounts, and then claiming that he couldn’t undo the abuse without Lizzie’s blessing.

  5. The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission. I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    Neil:

    I consider myself to be under a moral obligation to attempt to keep the site running in the way that Elizabeth would want, based only on my understanding of what that amounts to.

    Then you’re failing to uphold your moral obligation, to put it very mildly.

    No one could be clueless enough to think that Lizzie would actually want you to pull the kind of crap you’ve pulled, like refusing to correct obvious moderation errors, or refusing to respond to moderation complaints at all — simply stonewalling instead.

    Or by standing by silently, instead of intervening, when another moderator abuses his power or makes a serious moderation mistake. I mentioned an example of that recently: When Alan imposed his ridiculous OP censorship scheme on J-Mac, you initially objected to it, knowing that there were better alternatives on the table. Then, inexplicably, you simply rolled over and submitted to Alan, giving no reason whatsoever for your reversal.

    You think that’s how Lizzie would want you to handle yourself? Please.

  6. The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission. I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    And of course Jock is no exception.

    From an earlier comment:

    It’s been a longstanding and familiar pattern for Alan and Neil, and now you can see Jock doing the same thing. His silly refusal to announce and link to guanoed comments is nothing but adolescent rebelliousness. It’s against TSZ’s interests, and Jock knows that. But he does it anyway to show that he’s a big boy. No one’s gonna push him around. You think he should do his job? He’ll show you by refusing to do it.

    He thinks that demonstrates strength. In reality, it just shows that Jock is a weak guy in thrall to his own fragile ego.

    Does anyone really think that Lizzie wants her moderators to be petulant and spiteful children who refuse to do the right thing, just to show that they can refuse? I’m not buying it.

  7. The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission. I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    Alan:

    That’s my “Golden Rule” too. I ask myself “what would Lizzie do?”.

    Yeah, right. So your thought during the ALurker affair was “I know what Lizzie would do. She would go after ALurker for criticizing her. She’d violate his/her privacy by looking through IP address records, trying to support a bizarre theory that ALurker was a sock puppet of Patrick — something that wouldn’t have been a rule violation even if it had turned out to be true. She’d suspend ALurker’s and Patrick’s accounts out of spite, and then refuse to restore them. And after it was all over, she’d close the Moderation Issues 4 thread in an effort to sweep the humiliation out of the spotlight and under the rug.”

    Come on, Alan. Lizzie isn’t an asshole, and she wouldn’t have behaved that way. You did, because you had your moderation privileges and couldn’t resist abusing them.

    That was pure “Fuck Lizzie. I’ve got the power. I’ll use it to punish ALurker, who has dared to criticize me. And I know ALurker is Patrick, so I’ll suspend both accounts.”

    But of course you were just being an idiot. You later had to issue a humiliating apology for your behavior.

    Lizzie trusted you, Alan. You’ve betrayed that trust again and again, and the ALurker affair is just one example.

  8. The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission. I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    Mung, to Patrick:

    And isn’t it clear that he broke your own rule that he must retract? You appear partisan.

    Patrick:

    From what I saw, keiths attempted to support his claim. If we can get a resolution to the admin abuses, we can discuss that further.

    That’s right, and I wouldn’t have made the claim in the first place without being able to support it.

  9. The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission. I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    Mung:

    Does he think he broke any TSZ rule by calling JS a liar?

    No, and even if I had broken a rule, it wouldn’t have merited a 30-day suspension. Not by a long shot. The moderators really blew this one, and after all this time — it’s been more than a week — they still haven’t settled on a believable story connecting what I did with the appropriateness of a 30-day suspension.

    Let me comment further, anticipating an objection from you and the increasingly desperate Alan (who is still on record standing by his statement that the suspension was done to prevent me from criticizing the moderators — an obvious abuse of his privileges. Unbelievable.)

    We all seem to agree that it was fine for Lizzie to accuse Stephen Meyer of lying. I see my accusation toward Joshua Swamidass as being no different.

    You and Alan would presumably say “But he was once a commenter here! You can’t accuse fellow commenters of lying!”

    So let me ask you an obvious question. Suppose Stephen Meyer had shown up a few years ago, registered, and posted a single comment here at TSZ, saying something like “Hi TSZers. Just checking this place out.” Do you really think that Lizzie, years later, would have refrained from accusing him of lying, saying to herself “Oh, I can’t do that. He was a commenter here once.”? I’m not buying it. I don’t believe for a minute that Lizzie wanted visits to TSZ to buy the visitors permanent immunity from harsh criticism. That would be counterproductive, and yet one more instance of punishing the honest and rewarding the dishonest.

    There is nothing about Swamidass’s visits to TSZ that should immunize him from accusations of dishonesty. If Stephen Meyer is fair game, then so is Joshua Swamidass.

  10. The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission. I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    TSZers,

    I’m heading to eastern Oregon tomorrow in search of dark skies for the Perseid meteor shower. The trip will last a few days.

    I expect to continue commenting during the trip, but possibly not as prolifically. If you’re expecting a response and you don’t hear from me right away, keep my travels in mind.

  11. The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission. I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    It amazes me that Alan — a grown man living in a Western democracy — sees nothing unfair about:

    a) imposing a draconian 30-day suspension for a “crime” that the moderators can’t even agree on,
    b) maintaining the suspension despite being unable to come up with a justification,
    c) preventing the accused from speaking in his defense, and
    d) preventing him from speaking in a thread whose exact purpose is to gather input for Lizzie’s benefit in deciding on the future of TSZ.

    He then has the gall to claim that he’s just doing what Lizzie would want him to do.

    That is a profound insult to Lizzie, Alan.

  12. The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission. I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    DNA_Jock, to Patrick:

    Well, some of the missives that you chose to relay were singularly unhelpful in that regard. You are responsible for what you post here, regardless of who wrote it.

    So you’re telling us that Patrick’s protest against censorship would have been more effective if he had censored my comments.

    Might want to rethink that, Jock.

  13. Patrick: That’s one possible reason.

    We agree

    Another is that she didn’t want to publicly disagree with her admins and cause more meta-discussion.

    Less likely, anyone with a passing familiarity with with this place knows meta-discussion would still occur , keiths would still be discussing the suspension and how he was vindicated just without your intervention.

    Another is that she simply didn’t have time to review it all.

    Possible, but generally in that case the most conservation action would issue a stay until a review is complete. She opted not to.

    I do think that her request for input on this thread should be taken to include keiths’ perspective.

    And her awareness that keiths has her email address would be an opportunity to do that, another option she may been aware of as well was Alan stated willingness to discuss what it would take to elimate the suspension.

    If keiths choose not to avail himself of either of these options to share his input , then it was his choice.

    He and you choose another option.

  14. Patrick: I do not accept responsibility for keiths’ words. Those are his alone. Some I agree with and some I do not.

    How delightfully Pontius Pilate of you.
    That you and keiths chose foot-stamping over de-escalation is your (joint) choice. I view you as responsible for your behavior, even if you try to avoid it.

  15. The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission. I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    Jock:

    That you and keiths chose foot-stamping over de-escalation is your (joint) choice.

    Typical censor tactics. “Oh, I’m not preventing anything valuable from being said. They’re just foot-stamping.”

    What you’re dismissing as “foot-stamping” is a vigorous protest — a defense of TSZ against abuses and censorship imposed by the very people — you three moderators — who are supposed to be protecting it.

    I view you as responsible for your behavior, even if you try to avoid it.

    He’s not avoiding responsibility. He’s affirming it:

    I do accept responsibility for allowing him to speak — something you and the other admins should be ashamed of preventing.

    Think about how goofy your argument is, Jock. By your logic, Lizzie is responsible for the contents of Gregory’s comments, because she makes it possible for him to be heard.

  16. DNA_Jock: I view you as responsible for your behavior, even if you try to avoid it.

    I’m avoiding nothing. I accept responsibility for providing keiths with the ability to defend himself here.

    You are also responsible for your behavior. The difference is, mine isn’t shameful.

  17. The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission. I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    newton,

    You’ve been trying very hard to project your personal desires onto Lizzie’s actions (or lack thereof).

    Let me quote from an email I received from Lizzie:

    What I do want is some input from members into how we go on from here, so when I have an opportunity I will make sure that you can contribute as well. I’ve valued your contributions in the past and hope that you will be able to continue!

    She wants to hear my contributions to this thread. The moderators are trying to prevent that from happening.

  18. I have a feeling that if Lizzy pulls the plug on TSZ, few people will have to find new hobbies, including big names, such has Felsenstein, Harshman and so on…
    Another blog can be easily created and we could continue to debate the same thing.. I can… I would be the only moderator and if someone accuses someone of dishonesty, I would ban them for a month…
    My point is that if Lizzy doesn’t feel like she wants to support this blog, as she had not for a while, why should she come back now?
    Alan Fox can buy it from her and voila!

  19. The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission. I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    It’s pretty easy to sum up what’s gone wrong here:

    Lizzie assumed that she could trust her moderators, and so she left them unsupervised while she was off doing other things. She figured that while they might not behave exactly as she would have in any given situation, they’d at least be trying to uphold her ideals and goals for the site.

    That was a huge mistake.

    As this thread shows, the moderators do not share Lizzie’s values and are knowingly and deliberately acting against her interests — and against TSZ’s.

  20. Has keiths explained yet how name calling, and insulting people, and calling people liars, is acting in TSZ’s best interests and how they reflect Elizabeth’s values?

    Because I just don’t see it.

  21. The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission. I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    Mung,

    Since you yourself have done all of those things, I take it that you are volunteering for — nay, demanding — a suspension of 30 days for yourself. After all, you described such treatment as “lenient”.

    See you in 30 days.

    But before you go, would you care to explain why you think it’s okay for three moderators who voluntarily took on the job, and who claim to be acting in Lizzie’s and TSZ’s best interests, to do exactly the opposite and abuse their privileges in the service of a personal grudge?

  22. The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission. I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    Mung,

    Amazing, isn’t it? So many comments, and yet not a single one in which a rule violation is identified and a 30-day suspension is justified.

    You’d almost begin to suspect that there is no rule violation and no justification.

  23. Patrick-keiths: After all, you described such treatment as “lenient”.

    It comes as no surprise to me that you would misinterpret my comment regarding the lenience of the mods.

    As far as your 30 days goes, I have been quite clear that I thought it was unwarranted and excessive.

    However, I recently learned that there is an offer on the table where you can actually do something to have it lifted.

    I’ve been in a similar situation to yours, and I’ve already shared with you what I did to get myself out of it. So it seems to me that as things now stand, your own 30 day suspension is entirely self-imposed.

    Suck it up keiths.

  24. Mung: Has keiths explained yet how name calling, and insulting people, and calling people liars, is acting in TSZ’s best interests and how they reflect Elizabeth’s values?

    Because I just don’t see it.

    No, he hasn’t. Probably never will. Even appears to agree with me that they do not.

    Yet he and Patrick are both lobbying for everyone to have the ability to do just those things, at will. Even though those things are clearly contrary to Elizabth’s desires for the site. All the while claiming to have nothing but Elizabeth’s goals for the site to heart. Acting in TSZ’s best interests and reflecting Elizabeth’s values?

    What inconsistency you ask.

  25. Patrick:
    The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission.I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    newton,

    You’ve been trying very hard to project your personal desires onto Lizzie’s actions (or lack thereof).

    Let me quote from an email I received from Lizzie:

    She wants to hear my contributions to this thread.The moderators are trying to prevent that from happening.

    I don’t think your conclusion follows from the evidence.

  26. Mung:
    Yet he and Patrick are both lobbying for everyone to have the ability to do just those things, at will. Even though those things are clearly contrary to Elizabth’s desires for the site. All the while claiming to have nothing but Elizabeth’s goals for the site to heart.Acting in TSZ’s best interests and reflecting Elizabeth’s values?

    What inconsistency you ask.

    Ah, Mung, you know that’s neither an accurate nor fair summary of my position. I’ll lay it out in bullet points.

    * The current rules reward dishonesty by making it a violation to call it out. Even DNA_Jock agrees with that statement. It shouldn’t be against the rules to identify dishonesty as long as the person making the accusation can support it.

    * No one is advocating for name calling or insults. The argument I’m making is that occasional instances of those are less disruptive to TSZ than the volume of meta-discussion arising from trying to eliminate them. The benefit/cost ration of moderation drops even further when we consider that it’s stochastic (leading to the appearance of bias) and that at least one of the moderators took it upon himself to Guano comments that don’t violate the rules.

    * Enabling admins to censor posts and comments is not the only way to reduce name calling and insults. The Ignore button works for repeat offenders and social opprobrium suffices for most of the rest. Plus, sometimes people really are behaving like jerks — calling them out on it can be an effective deterrent.

    * The fact that none of the risks that concern the pro-censorship members became issues when moderation was light-to-non-existant nor in threads declared “no Guano” shows that the benefits of moderation are overrated.

    It’s worth the experiment of running without censorship for three months. I’m willing to put my hypothesis to the test. It seems that some people don’t want to take the chance of finding out that a community can self-regulate just fine without top-down control.

  27. Mung,
    While we’re on the topic of the goals and rules, I’d like to bring up a question I don’t remember you answering. Do you agree that the admins broke the rule of “. . . it is a principle of this site that comments are not edited, deleted, or hidden.” in their dealings with keiths?

    Do you recognize that this behavior raises legitimate questions about their judgment and impartiality?

  28. Patrick: Do you agree that the admins broke the rule of “. . . it is a principle of this site that comments are not edited, deleted, or hidden.” in their dealings with keiths?

    I did answer this, but perhaps too obliquely for it to have been noticed. No such rule exists. It follows that the moderators did not break that rule. I make a distinction between rules and principles.

    Perhaps it will help if I provide an example:

    The principle is in the strapline: Park your priors by the door.

    I don’t see that as a rule. It certainly has never been treated the same as the other rules.

    Patrick: Do you recognize that this behavior raises legitimate questions about their judgment and impartiality?

    Yes But what would be different about that? 🙂

    It might help if I could somehow see the moderators as vindictive keiths-haters, but I am not there yet. I can’t even manage to hate keiths myself.

  29. Mung:

    Do you agree that the admins broke the rule of “. . . it is a principle of this site that comments are not edited, deleted, or hidden.” in their dealings with keiths?

    I did answer this, but perhaps too obliquely for it to have been noticed. No such rule exists.

    Please follow this link to the Rules page and scroll down to the section beginning with “ETA 8th September 2013”. It reads:

    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.

    It is an explicit rule. Note that there is no exception for moderators. In fact, it specifies the moderators will move rule violating posts. It gives no permission for moderators to edit, delete, or hide them.

  30. Patrick: It is an explicit rule.

    I disagree. [edited to add strike through.] The explicit rule is directed at people who create an OP. It says nothing about what Elizabeth herself may not do with regard to what others post [ETA: or change] or delete [ETA: or move].

    In fact, it specifies the moderators will move rule violating posts.

    I believe you have misunderstood the intent of that statement.

    This is Elizabeth telling the author of the OP to leave things in the hands of the moderators, that the author of the OP should not take action on their own if they think a post violates the rules, even though the author of the OP might find that they have to power to change or delete a post in their thread.

    Leave it to the moderators to make such decisions and take action (or not). That’s the message. And of course, that undermines your case.

    It gives no permission for moderators to edit, delete, or hide them.

    This is true. Do you think Elizabeth needs explicit permission to do as she sees fit at her own blog?

  31. Mung: I believe you have misunderstood the intent of that statement.

    I agree with Mung’s interpretation here.

    Full disclosure. I often edit posts and comments.

    For posts, it is mainly to add a “more” tag or to fix a broken link.

    For posts, it is mostly to fix unmatched “blockquote” tags. And sometime when $ is used as currency symbol, it triggers latex. So I try to fix that.

    My take is that Elizabeth has no problem with this kind of editing. But then I am not a hard core rigid literalist.

  32. Much as I hate to say it you may want to go through it twice. First with an eye to resolving (or ruling on) the current “keiths situation.” Then with an eye to proposed changes.

  33. Mung:

    It is an explicit rule.

    I disagree. [edited to add strike through.] The explicit rule is directed at people who create an OP. It says nothing about what Elizabeth herself may not do with regard to what others post [ETA: or change] or delete [ETA: or move].

    The admins are not the owner. They follow the rules, like everyone else. They do not make them.

    In fact, it specifies the moderators will move rule violating posts.

    I believe you have misunderstood the intent of that statement.

    This is Elizabeth telling the author of the OP to leave things in the hands of the moderators, that the author of the OP should not take action on their own if they think a post violates the rules, even though the author of the OP might find that they have to power to change or delete a post in their thread.

    Leave it to the moderators to make such decisions and take action (or not). That’s the message. And of course, that undermines your case.

    That is not the meaning from a straightforward reading of the text. The first part is a specific rule: “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.” The next sentence is an explanation of the general principles underlying that rule: “Rule violating posts will be moved by moderators, and it is a principle of this site that comments are not edited, deleted, or hidden.”

    The latter part does not have an exception for admins. It clearly states a principle of the site. It adds the context of the reasoning behind the specific rule, it is not limited by it.

    The first part of the last sentence is a perfect example of an exception that proves the rule. By specifying that moderators may move posts, immediately followed by the principle that comments are not edited, deleted, or hidden, the rule clearly limits the scope of admin action to moving posts. That is the only exception they have to the general rule.

    It gives no permission for moderators to edit, delete, or hide them.

    This is true. Do you think Elizabeth needs explicit permission to do as she sees fit at her own blog?

    Again, the admins are not the owner. Elizabeth can do as she likes. The admins need to follow her rules like every other member.

  34. Neil Rickert: I agree with Mung’s interpretation here.

    Full disclosure.I often edit posts and comments.

    For posts, it is mainly to add a “more” tag or to fix a broken link.

    For posts, it is mostly to fix unmatched “blockquote” tags.And sometime when $ is used as currency symbol, it triggers latex.So I try to fix that.

    My take is that Elizabeth has no problem with this kind of editing.But then I am not a hard core rigid literalist.

    While I disagree with you on many issues, Neil, I don’t think you’re an idiot. Therefore, I can only conclude that you’re being deliberately disingenuous by attempting to conflate editing the style in which text is presented with changing the content of comments and posts.

    When you are behaving like Barry Arrington and Kairosfocus, it’s a sign that you need to stop and reflect on the choices that brought you to the point of thinking “Loudspeaker in the ceiling? Great idea!”

  35. The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission. I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    Lizzie:

    Oh golly, more than 700 replies!

    Yikes.

    Besides confronting a mountain of responses, you’re going to be learning some unpleasant things about your moderators and how they behave in your absence.
    Better have a stiff drink or a glass of wine handy. 🙂

  36. The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission. I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    Neil,

    My take is that Elizabeth has no problem with this kind of editing. But then I am not a hard core rigid literalist.

    You know perfectly well what Patrick is talking about, and it isn’t the repair of unmatched blockquote tags. He’s talking about Arrington-style loudspeaker in the ceiling type editing of comments and OPs, of the kind done by you or one of the other moderators in this instance.

    Patrick lodged a legitimate complaint. Your response has been to

    a) dodge the actual issue;

    b) talk about the repair of missing blockquote tags instead, as if Patrick’s complaint had anything to do with benign formatting fixes by the moderators; and

    c) falsely accuse Patrick of being “a hard core rigid literalist”.

    It’s a textbook example of how not to handle a moderation complaint. You pull this sort of shit again and again, Neil. If your goal is to demonstrate that you are unfit to be a moderator, you are succeeding.

  37. This discussion has reached the stage where I’ve made all my points as clearly as I can. I’m going to stop my personal participation, although I will continue to forward keiths’ comments until his suspension is lifted.

    Alan and Neil — you’ve both made important contributions to the discussions here. Your behavior as admins, particularly your violation of the rules and refusal to consider basic fairness in your recent treatment of keiths, is extremely disappointing. It’s time for a change in both the rules and those who enforce them.

  38. The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission. I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    Patrick:

    It’s worth the experiment of running without censorship for three months. I’m willing to put my hypothesis to the test. It seems that some people don’t want to take the chance of finding out that a community can self-regulate just fine without top-down control.

    It’s remarkable, isn’t it? This is The Skeptical Zone, where evidence and reason are highly valued. Running experiments is one of the best ways to gather evidence. Yet when you and I propose an actual, relevant experiment, what happens? People oppose it.

    I’ve asked, more than once, for people to express their views and concerns regarding the no-guano experiment. This thread is the perfect place for that discussion. To those of you who oppose it: What are your objections, and why do you think it is a bad idea?

    A no-guano experiment is bad news for the (current) moderators, of course, because they value their power, and that power, plus their ability to abuse it, would be drastically reduced under a no-guano regime. But the power hunger of the moderators is irrelevant. This is supposed to be about what is good for TSZ, not for the moderators.

    DNA_Jock objected to the experiment because of concerns over potential “irreparable damage” to TSZ, but his alarmist assessment didn’t hold up to scrutiny.

    Lizzie established this thread precisely so that we could discuss problems at TSZ and their potential solutions. By censoring me, the moderators are already undermining Lizzie’s intent. By refusing to discuss the proposed no-guano experiment, they are undermining it even further.

  39. The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission. I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    Tonight’s fortune, from a little Chinese restaurant in Burns, Oregon. I hope it’s true!

    Heartfelt thanks to Patrick for standing up against the censors so that my ideas can be heard.

  40. The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission. I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    Mung, to Lizzie:

    Much as I hate to say it you may want to go through it twice. First with an eye to resolving (or ruling on) the current “keiths situation.” Then with an eye to proposed changes.

    It’s a good point. They really are separate issues, though there is some overlap.

    The illicit censorship can and should be corrected right away, so that I can participate fully and without interference in the discussion of TSZ’s future, which is likely to continue for some time.

  41. The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission. I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    Patrick, to Mung:

    * The current rules reward dishonesty by making it a violation to call it out. Even DNA_Jock agrees with that statement. It shouldn’t be against the rules to identify dishonesty as long as the person making the accusation can support it.

    Expanding on Patrick’s point:

    The current rules allow unlimited amounts of dishonesty, with no penalty. That’s by design, because Lizzie (and probably everyone else) realizes that a rule against dishonesty would be hopelessly impractical. Who’s going to judge whether something is dishonest? Neil? (Try not to burst out laughing.)

    So there can’t be a rule against dishonesty, and even if there were such a rule, it would be ineffective. Dishonest people are unscrupulous to begin with, so the idea that a rule will keep them in line is naive.

    That means that you’re going to have dishonesty at TSZ, one way or another. People are people, and there are dishonest ones in the bunch. The idea behind the “assume good faith” rule is that even if we have plenty of dishonesty, TSZ is somehow better off if the dishonesty is not pointed out. But that’s a recipe for disaster, because it only encourages more dishonesty on the part of the dishonest. They know they’ll get away with it, and they know that if an honest person steps in and calls them out on it, their accuser will be punished for his or her honesty. It’s not hard to see why the rule has worked so poorly in practice.

    It’s also not hard to see why those who have a history of dishonesty, such as Mung, are eager to keep the rule and see it strictly enforced. It’s good for Mung, but bad for TSZ.

    To honestly point out dishonesty is a valuable service. Imagine if the press stopped pointing out Donald Trump’s dishonesty, out of some misguided notion of civility!

    The key is to establish an environment in which people know they will be held responsible for their claims, and that they need to be prepared to back them up.

  42. The following is a copy of a private email from keiths, posted with his permission. I am sharing it because I believe it is pertinent to this thread and nothing in the Rules prohibits doing so.

    Lizzie, from earlier in the thread:

    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 a game because we all know, or at least suspect, that other people do NOT post in what we would consider “good faith”.

    In my opinion, we shouldn’t assume that people are posting in good faith, nor should we assume that they are not. Instead of assuming, why not base our assessment on the evidence, keeping in mind that we might be wrong, and be prepared to update it as new information comes in? That kind of open-minded responsiveness to evidence is right in line with the TSZ ethos.

    But the game we play here, as I envisaged it, is that you post as though they are.

    That’s quite different from actually assuming that they are. And to post as though they are, when you don’t actually believe it, is a form of dishonesty. I don’t see the benefit in that.

    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.

    Which is why it’s important to keep an open mind and be prepared to revise one’s assessment. But you don’t need to assume good faith in order for that to be possible. You just need to remind yourself that your assessment is provisional.

    Also, the rule itself isn’t likely to stimulate the kind of open-mindedness we’re talking about. Suppose Bob is convinced that Steve is lying. Is the mere existence of a rule stipulating “You can’t say that out loud” going to make Bob think “Oh, maybe I’d better reassess”? That doesn’t seem likely. More probably, it’s just going to make him think “why does this site have rules that prohibit me from stating the truth as I see it?”

    On the other hand, imagine an environment in which Bob is allowed to say “I think Steve is lying”, but is held responsible for his claim. If challenged, he is expected to support it with evidence. An environment in which people think “I’d better make sure I’m right about my accusation, because people are going to hold me responsible for it” is far more likely to get them to consider the possibility that they are wrong.

  43. Keiths,

    FWIW, I’m for guano-free threads.

    But, can you send a few hundred more e-mails to Patrick for him to post here? I think that will help make your point more forcefully. 🙂

  44. Patrick: The admins are not the owner. They follow the rules, like everyone else. They do not make them.

    If we are dealing with real world facts, as I hope we are, this is factually incorrect.

    Further, while may be true that the admins are not the owners, it’s a distinction without any relevant difference. So they don’t pay the bills. I agree. In all else they have the same power and authority as Elizabeth with the only difference being that she who owns the site has the final say.

  45. Patrick: This discussion has reached the stage where I’ve made all my points as clearly as I can.

    I’ve considered preparing a summary. Perhaps you would like to do so?

  46. Patrick-keiths: I’ve asked, more than once, for people to express their views and concerns regarding the no-guano experiment. This thread is the perfect place for that discussion. To those of you who oppose it: What are your objections, and why do you think it is a bad idea?

    I feel I must live in some alternate reality. Why should I voice my concerns and objections yet again when they still have not been addressed?

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