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. Patrick:

    You’re misunderstanding.The issue is time, not space.I would have to prepare everything, including the squawk box posts, before posting my summary.You can’t link to posts that haven’t been made yet.

    Nope, not misunderstanding. As I said, I understand working on a single post summary it takes time and work.

    I don’t see the technical issue: prepare all the posts in an offline editor, then post the squawk box ones, then add links and post the summary.

    When my subordinates did not take the time to organize and streamline their thoughts [ETA: providing input for my review and decision], I told them not to make me do their thinking for them. Not if they wanted me to take their ideas seriously.

  2. 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,

    I disagree with keiths here[*]. I don’t see a problem with a thread allowing one summary comment per registered user, so long as the rules apply equally to everyone.

    I’m not objecting on grounds of unfairness. Just pointing out that the discussion would have been better served if members were allowed to post more than once to the Summaries thread, as long as each additional post was part of a coherent summary and not just an ad hoc response to something someone else had written.

    [*] See how that works? Disagreeing with someone but still supporting their right to speak?

    Wait — you’re disagreeing with me? Censor him, moderators!

  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.

    petrushka,

    I try to follow the rules, and I have never had a problem with moderation.

    I commented on that sort of thinking earlier in the thread:

    keiths:

    Not sure what your point is. Surely you’re not saying “I haven’t had a problem with moderation at TSZ; therefore there are no problems.” Are you?

    petrushka:

    I have tried to follow the spirit of the rules, and I have had no problems. On a few occasions I lost my temper, and my posts were moved to guano.

    So, surely, I am saying there should be no problems. Yes I am.

    keiths:

    That’s a terrible argument. Here’s an analogy to help you see that.

    You’ve talked about growing up in the South, and I know you’re especially conscious of race issues. Imagine two southern blacks having the following conversation in the 1950’s:

    Black #1:

    I’m happy with the way I’m being treated. I follow the rules, and I get along just fine. If a sign says “Whites Only”, I respect that.

    Black #2:

    You might be fine with that, but I think it’s outrageous! I’m fighting against that kind of treatment. It’s a huge problem.

    Black #1:

    There’s no problem. I follow the rules, and I get along just fine. You should do the same and stop complaining.

    The moral should be obvious: If the logic you’re using could have been used to support discrimination in the Jim Crow South, then you’re using bad logic.

  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.

    Patrick:

    phoodoo:

    Alan Fox: I am resigning from my duties as moderator here

    Still not true.

    phoodoo,

    I laughed. Remind me again why I don’t like you?

    That made me think of this comment from Moderation Issues:

    phoodoo:

    How does Lizzie choose her moderators, by a crayon drawing contest or does she just use cadaver dogs?

    Mung:

    I have to say, this cracked me up. In my case, I hope it’s crayons.

    Me too. 🙂

    One of the things I like about TSZ, and its ethos of resistance to censorship (though that is being battered these days by the current crop of moderators), is that by giving certain people a voice — even when those people don’t always have the most enlightening or worthwhile things to say — you open yourself to hearing the good, or valuable, or funny things they say when they do say them, and are not being censored.

    I disagree with much of what phoodoo says, but he’s made me smile twice today — once with the crayon/cadaver dog comment above, and once with his characterization of the current moderation situation:

    Alan strove to make the rules a silly rusty carnival ride. Neils wants to turn the site into a bad Yves Tanguy landscape of nonsense. And DNA Jock is his muse.

    Vive open discussion! Down with censorship!

  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.

    Patrick, to petrushka:

    It’s the boiling frog syndrome. First it’s small abuses of authority, as with the admins’ treatment of phoodoo and J-Mac. Then more blatant abuses as we see where Alan, Neil, and DNA_Jock are settling a personal score with keiths. If Elizabeth doesn’t do something about that, I wouldn’t want to be in Sal’s, Fifthmonarchyman’s, or Nonlin’s shoes.

    TSZ used to be better than UD. It can be again.

    One of the manifestations of “boiling frog syndrome” is the moderators’ chronic habit of inventing new rules instead of following Lizzie’s.

    We saw it with Neil’s imposition of a “timeout” on two commenters — an act of censorship that is not permitted by the rules. If I recall correctly, you (Patrick) had to intervene against Neil in that case.

    We saw it with Alan’s “W(h)ine Cellar” move — the creation of a new Guano where comments that the moderators considered to be “whiny” could be moved. Lizzie had to step in and nix that. Alan petulantly refused to fix his own mistake, so Lizzie had to undo the damage by moving the comments back to their original locations.

    We saw it with Neil’s closing of comments on the Nina Paley thread, for no valid reason.

    And we’re seeing it in the current situation, where I have been suspended for an OP that Alan admits did not violate the rules, using an authority that Neil admits the moderators don’t have — of suspending people.

    These guys simply can’t get it through their heads that this is Lizzie’s site, not theirs, and that they should be applying Lizzie’s rules, not inventing their own whenever they get the urge.

  6. Patrick: And we’re seeing it in the current situation, where I have been suspended for an OP that Alan admits did not violate the rules, using an authority that Neil admits the moderators don’t have — of suspending people.

    Just to repeat the rule that we don’t call fellow members liars of course applies to OPs as well as comments. Looking at the “rules” page, it doesn’t differentiate between comments and OPs. It’s farcical that you claim not to have broken that rule. I’ve no doubt, when Lizzie gets round to organising a rules rewrite, that will be made explicit. Though God knows why it needs to be said.

    Regarding the suspension, I personally take full responsibility for that. I’m still prepared to lift it if Keiths will give some undertaking as to future conduct (or if Lizzie indicates it should be rescinded).

  7. petrushka:
    I can be brief, but no one want to hear what I have to say.

    We should have a “like” button. I try to read your comments – they’re insightful and quirky.

    I try to follow the rules, and I have never had a problem with moderation

    Thanks for posting a summary. As I’ve remarked before, for most people, for most of the time, moderation is redundant.

  8. Alan Fox:

    Regarding the suspension, I personally take full responsibility for that. I’m still prepared to lift it if Keiths will give some undertaking as to future conduct (or if Lizzie indicates it should be rescinded).

    Alan,

    Elizabeth’s exact words were “I’d say, put him in pre-moderation, and explain why. If the problem recurs, ban.” You have overstepped your authorization from the site owner by banning keiths (even if it is a limited duration ban). Please follow her instructions instead of making up your own rules and punishments.

  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.

    Bruce,

    Nope, not misunderstanding. As I said, I understand working on a single post summary it takes time and work.

    Remember, you were (from what you described as your “high horse”) asking why Patrick and I hadn’t posted in the Summaries thread. I explained why, and the issue is time, not space.

    You responded with this, which is about space:

    You could have an executive summary post in Summaries with your main points, action plan, and justification, and which had embedded links to posts with details in the squawk box thread. Lizzie could then decide where she wanted more details on your main points.

    But again, that’s not the issue. The issue is time.

    I don’t see the technical issue: prepare all the posts in an offline editor, then post the squawk box ones, then add links and post the summary.

    The issue is time. I cannot post the summary until after I have posted the Squawk Box comments I intend to link to. Why? Because you can’t link to comments that haven’t been posted yet. You will have to wait until I have had the time I need to prepare my summary.

    When my subordinates did not take the time to organize and streamline their thoughts [ETA: providing input for my review and decision], I told them not to make me do their thinking for them. Not if they wanted me to take their ideas seriously.

    Try to relax a little, Bruce. Patrick and I are going to post summaries, but we are going to do so in a way, and at a time, that accords with what we are trying to accomplish. It’s out of your hands. Don’t try to control what, how, or when we write.

    As Patrick notes, that’s a character flaw. 🙂

  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.

    Alan,

    Phoodoo’s point is not the quote itself. It’s that you resigned from moderator duties, but then couldn’t control your impulses. You unresigned yourself, without consulting anyone, because you saw something that you personally disliked, and you wanted to interfere using moderator privileges that you had supposedly given up.

    It’s the classic Alan Fox “leap, then look” move.

    Phoodoo is mocking your lack of impulse control, and your lack of respect for boundaries.

  11. Patrick: Alan,

    Elizabeth’s exact words were “I’d say, put him in pre-moderation, and explain why. If the problem recurs, ban.”You have overstepped your authorization from the site owner by banning keiths (even if it is a limited duration ban).Please follow her instructions instead of making up your own rules and punishments.

    She also said her primary principle is for the moderators to use their best judgement, you keep forgetting that.

  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.

    Alan,

    Your story keeps changing. One of the entertaining parts of my summary will be to list of all the excuses for the suspension that you and your fellow moderators have tried and discarded.

    The algorithm you’ve followed has clearly been:

    1. Suspend purely out of spite.
    2. Realize that the suspension is bogus and cannot be justified.
    3. Scramble for three weeks, trying to find an excuse to maintain the suspension.

    Take a look at your original excuse for the suspension:

    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.

    You’ve told us that you still stand behind that comment. Do you see how damning that is?

    You are telling us that you suspended me to stop me from criticizing the moderators. That is directly counter to Lizzie’s wish that moderators be accountable and subject to challenge. And as Neil has acknowledged, the moderators have no authority to suspend people. He is requesting that authority in his summary.

    Your action was therefore doubly unjustified.

    You’re a little boy who acted on a grudge, and is now looking for an excuse to justify your screwup.

  13. newton: She also said her primary principle is for the moderators to use their best judgement, you keep forgetting that.

    If this is their best judgment, they should use someone else’s.

    Elizabeth set clear constraints. Alan, Neil, and DNA_Jock ignored those to settle a personal grudge. They should be ashamed.

  14. Patrick: Elizabeth’s exact words were “I’d say, put him in pre-moderation, and explain why. If the problem recurs, ban.” You have overstepped your authorization from the site owner by banning keiths (even if it is a limited duration ban). Please follow her instructions instead of making up your own rules and punishments.

    And the problem did recur. keiths subsequently evaded pre-moderation by posting his derogatory OP (version 2) as a comment. So, per Lizzie’s instructions, he should have been banned.
    Personally, I think that’s overly harsh.
    I also think that the commenter who counseled de-escalation has done a bang-up job since then ensuring escalation.
    Cool cape, bro.

  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.

    An earlier exchange, for everyone’s edification:

    Patrick:

    1) Neither you nor any other admin has been able to point to any rule that keiths violated.

    Alan:

    There was no specific rule. There should be.

    Oops.

    How many more times is Alan’s story going to change?

  16. DNA_Jock:

    Elizabeth’s exact words were “I’d say, put him in pre-moderation, and explain why. If the problem recurs, ban.” You have overstepped your authorization from the site owner by banning keiths (even if it is a limited duration ban). Please follow her instructions instead of making up your own rules and punishments.

    And the problem did recur. keiths subsequently evaded pre-moderation by posting his derogatory OP (version 2) as a comment.

    He posted a modified version, as requested, that addressed the supposed rule violation. That is not a recurrence of the problem. Neil refused to let him post it as an OP.

    So, per Lizzie’s instructions, he should have been banned.

    No, because it does not meet her criteria of a recurring problem.

    Take a step back, let go of the ego, and do the right thing. Control freak is not a good look for you.

  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.

    Jock:

    And the problem did recur.

    How could the problem recur, when there was no problem in the first place? The OP didn’t violate any rules, as Alan acknowledged in the quote I just provided.

    keiths subsequently evaded pre-moderation by posting his derogatory OP (version 2) as a comment. So, per Lizzie’s instructions, he should have been banned.

    First, Lizzie’s instructions were based on a false report from the moderators, of a rule-violating OP.

    Second, as Patrick just explained, I amended my OP in response to the moderator’s complaints, even though I hadn’t violated any rules in the first place.

    Neil’s refusal to publish was an abuse of privileges, done purely out of spite.

  18. 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.

    As I’ve shown, Alan has admitted that my OP did not violate any rules. Regarding the rule he wishes had existed, here is a comment from earlier in the thread:

    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 [now three weeks!] — 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.

    It gets even worse for Alan, because I did not accuse the commenter ‘swamidass’ of lying. My accusation was against Joshua Swamidass of Peaceful Science. Anyone with half a brain could figure out that they are the same person, of course. But I didn’t link them in my OP or in the comments. That’s exactly why Jock’s “quasi-doxxing” argument failed.

  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.

    Alan, Neil, Jock:

    Patrick’s advice to Jock applies to all of you:

    Take a step back, let go of the ego, and do the right thing.

    You have been maintaining an unjustified suspension for three weeks, out of ego and personal prejudice, and are still scrambling for excuses. The damage to your reputations has been done, and I’m afraid it’s irreversible.

    However, you could salvage at least some dignity by acknowledging your mistake and correcting it. Why not take Patrick’s advice?

  20. OK, here’s the biggest problem with TSZ: the bulk of recent OPs are by J-Mac, nonlin, and Sal Cordova. It’s impossible to have a serious discussion of the nonsense they post. Even if the subject weren’t a problem, it’s impossible to have a serious discussion with any of them.

  21. John Harshman:
    OK, here’s the biggest problem with TSZ: the bulk of recent OPs are by J-Mac, nonlin, and Sal Cordova. It’s impossible to have a serious discussion of the nonsense they post. Even if the subject weren’t a problem, it’s impossible to have a serious discussion with any of them.

    Whenever Harshman produces a bulk of OPs, or he opposes the OPs that expose his life work as pointless, worthless or speculative to the point of a joke, someone loses privileges at TSZ. Since Harshman hasn’t produced any OPs or papers lately, thanks to Darwin, could we make sure not even $0.01 of tax payers money is lost on his unfounded speculations how flightless birdies have lost a major bone without any evidence other than his evolutionary delusion?
    We already have a delusional president…Why would we need delusional scientists pretending that they have something to offer to the society other than science fiction stories?

    ETA: I just don’t understand why Harshman would oppose the experiments that would prove the very beliefs he holds so dearly…Unless, the experiments would expose those beliefs as false…but Harshman wouldn’t hold on to such beliefs, would he? I mean; why would someone deceive himself deliberately?

  22. My apologies to Patrick. I have made an error when I suggested that Lizzie’s rules implicitly apply to opening posts..

    In fact the rules do apply explicitly to opening posts – not just implicitly. Apart from mentioning “comments” twice when making clear authors should not edit or delete comments in their threads, “comment” is not used at all. On the other hand, Lizzie uses “post” -including plural and as a verb) 28 times. Opening posts and comments are subsets of posts. Thus there is no need of further clarification. Opening posts and comments, collectively known as posts, are subject to Lizzie’s rules.

    Apologies for this error. I hope that settles the nonsense claim that OPs aren’t subject to the site rules.

  23. This comment of Lizzie from a couple of years ago clarifies the TSZ position on OPs.

    …one of the motivations for starting TSZ was the idea that I’d like to have a discussion forum that was basically a place that would foster discussion between people coming from very different assumptions as rationally (heh) with as few rules as possible. But having been involved in a board (Talk Rational) where we tried to devise such a set of rules collectively, I figured that there was some merit to a place where the ultimate arbiter was a single site owner. Almost the complete opposite of TR in fact. But the inspiration was actually Daily Kos, which is still Markos Moulitsas’ blog (although I notice that he calls himself a “publisher” now), with nonetheless a vast army of commenters and posters. And occasionally Kos comes in and in a somewhat arbitrary and high-handed fashion simply lays down the law.

    It’s not a recipe for government, but it may be (as I thought) one for a blog.

    This is why I have resisted moving to forum software, although I have been tempted. I am still inclined to think that benign (I hope) autocracy may have its merits in this context. So why I wanted banning to be rare, I was not ever against banning posters absolutely. And while I was very happy to give people posting rights on request, I did not make it an automatic right of membership.

    So right now, my inclination is to side with Alan and Neil in the matter of principle: i.e. that not all OPs should be automatically published. And I think the decision should probably rest with majority vote amongst active admins.

    There are two reasons for this: one is that I am ultimately responsible for what appears on this site, and there are some things I am simply not prepared to host*, just as a publisher (and I can see Kos’s point here) is not obliged to publish anything, and by being selective is not denying free speech. I am a free speech advocate, but I remain of the view that there is a fairly clear line between regimes that ban publication and publications that select what they will publish.

    *My emphasis

  24. phoodoo: Alan Fox, still not NOT a moderator.

    For what it’s worth:

    When Alan said that he would no longer moderate, I took that to mean only that he would stop closely monitoring what is posted.

  25. Alan Fox (quoting Lizzie from several yars ago):

    So right now, my inclination is to side with Alan and Neil in the matter of principle: i.e. that not all OPs should be automatically published. And I think the decision should probably rest with majority vote amongst active admins.

    My original post to this thread suggested no moderation except for legalities. From her response here, I conclude she would be hesitant to change this basic view on the role of moderation at TSZ..

    Alan, has Lizzie suggested a deadline by which all should have posted to Summary so that she can review all ideas in one go?

  26. J-Mac: unfounded speculations how flightless birdies have lost a major bone without any evidence other than his evolutionary delusion

    I’ve corrected you on this quite a few times, but of course you don’t read. Flightless birds have not lost a major bone. You think the “keel” is a bone, but it isn’t. The sternum is a bone, and all flightless birds still have one. You need to modify your insults.

  27. 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.

    John Harshman:

    OK, here’s the biggest problem with TSZ: the bulk of recent OPs are by J-Mac, nonlin, and Sal Cordova. It’s impossible to have a serious discussion of the nonsense they post. Even if the subject weren’t a problem, it’s impossible to have a serious discussion with any of them.

    John,

    I agree that J-Mac, Sal and Nonlin produce consistently poor OPs, and that they are extremely poor discussion partners. They are precommitted to their religious beliefs and too unacquainted with the basics of scientific and logical reasoning to contribute much to the discussions, except as foils.

    Even so, there is a lot of value in the comment threads.

    Readers get to see guys like you, Rumraket, and Joe handing the creationists’ asses to them, explaining the science carefully and patiently along the way. There’s real value in that, and I’ve learned a lot about phylogenetics by watching you guys do it.

    So yes, the OPs in question are terrible, and the guys producing them aren’t contributing much. But no, that doesn’t mean that the discussions have no value. Far from it.

    Regarding OP quality, I think it’s up to those of us on the reality-based side to produce OPs of our own to counterbalance the poor quality of the OPs we’re lamenting here. Having seen your comments, I know you’d be able to write insightful and interesting OPs, and topics that you find interesting are likely to be interesting to many of us. Please write some!

    I’ve tried to start interesting threads of my own. My latest one, on walto’s philosophy paper, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it does appeal to a number of us who are quite interested in philosophy in general and the issue of Cartesian skepticism in particular. (Discussion of that OP has ceased, not because of lack of interest, but because of censorship. The local tinpot despots — Alan, Neil, and DNA_Jock — are preventing that discussion from continuing. They are truly the bane of TSZ. Hopefully Lizzie will soon step in to correct the problem.)

    In practice, here’s what I think tends to happen. The reality-based folks visit TSZ to see what’s being discussed. If there are active discussions going on, they tend to get absorbed in those, even if they are of the repetitive “teach basic science to colewd” type. When they’re absorbed in those discussions, they don’t even think about writing OPs of their own. We need to change that and write more OPs, thus achieving a ratio of substantive discussion to remedial education that is more suited to an adult audience.

    I’m prepared to do my part, but I can’t do that until the local Arringtons stop censoring me.

  28. 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 Fox:

    Regarding the suspension, I personally take full responsibility for that.

    It was your stupid idea, but Neil and Jock have fully backed you in maintaining the suspension for three weeks. It’s their responsibility as much as yours, and their shame as much as yours.

    I’m still prepared to lift it if Keiths will give some undertaking as to future conduct…

    Do you have any idea how ridiculous you look, Alan? You (and Neil, and Jock) are the ones who have been brazenly violating the rules right and left, not me.

    You’ve admitted that my OP violated no rules, and Neil has admitted that the moderators have no authority to suspend people. So what did you do? You suspended me — for 30 days. Completely ignoring Lizzie’s rules in so doing.

    Both of you, along with Jock, know that Lizzie wants you to err on the light side of moderation. So what did you do? You imposed the heaviest penalty possible, short of banning. Your attitude seems to be “Screw Lizzie and her ‘err on the light side’ business. We have a grudge, and we’re going to indulge it. Suspend him for 30 days.”

    Lizzie started this thread and invited responses from everyone. She even explicitly expressed a desire to hear my contributions, in an email excerpt which I shared with you earlier in the thread:

    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!

    So what have you done? You’ve deliberately maintained the suspension. You know what Lizzie wants — an open discussion of the future of TSZ — and you are deliberately trying to prevent that from happening, by censoring me. Patrick has had to step in and make sure that the open discussion actually happens, by posting my comments here. Without his intervention, there wouldn’t have been an open discussion, and we wouldn’t be talking about the CYOM proposal.

    Why are you moderators, if you’re so adamantly opposed to what Lizzie is trying to accomplish here?

    And then, you — Alan — who have opposed Lizzie’s wishes at every turn in this debacle, have the gall to ask me — who didn’t violate the rules — for assurances about my future conduct. You are the one whose behavior has been a “recurring problem”. Shall we ban you, then, as Lizzie instructed? (Note to readers: For the record, I am not asking that Alan be banned. Just pointing out the abject hypocrisy.)

    You’ve made an absolute ass of yourself, Alan. And you wonder why people don’t respect you?

    Even phoodoo is laughing at you. And rightly so.

  29. 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, piously quoting Lizzie:

    There are two reasons for this: one is that I am ultimately responsible for what appears on this site, and there are some things I am simply not prepared to host,

    You’ve shot yourself in the foot again, Alan.

    We know Lizzie is prepared to host accusations of lying. She made one against Stephen Meyer, remember?

    Oops.

  30. 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 Fox:

    In fact the rules do apply explicitly to opening posts – not just implicitly.

    (Followed by linguistic gymnastics trying to equate “posts” as in “comments” with “posts” as in “OPs”.)

    Your desperation is showing, Alan. Even if that were true, and even if it applied to accusations against commenter ‘swamidass’, it wouldn’t help you, as I’ve already explained:

    It gets even worse for Alan, because I did not accuse the commenter ‘swamidass’ of lying. My accusation was against Joshua Swamidass of Peaceful Science. Anyone with half a brain could figure out that they are the same person, of course. But I didn’t link them in my OP or in the comments. That’s exactly why Jock’s “quasi-doxxing” argument failed.

    But it’s interesting that you’re suddenly so concerned about the rules. Where was your careful concern about the rules before? Where was your careful analysis of the rule allowing you to suspend me? You know, the rule that doesn’t exist? The rule that Neil is asking for in his summary, since you don’t have it now?

    Suddenly the rules don’t matter anymore. This is the point where you toss the rules out the window and go back to claiming that you can do anything you want, anytime you want:

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

    You’re a complete hypocrite, Alan. Pretending to care about the rules when it’s to your personal benefit, and then tossing them out the window when that suits you.

    The suspension was bogus, and you know it. Every day you maintain it, you are just digging your hole deeper.

    You seem to have forgotten that you are here to serve TSZ, not yourself.

    How does it serve TSZ for you to prevent me from posting in the thread on walto’s paper, or in any of the other threads?

    How does it serve TSZ for you to (try to) prevent me from posting in this thread, when Lizzie has explicitly indicated that she wants to hear my contributions?

    How does TSZ benefit when Lizzie has to come in and clean up your messes, including the W(h)ine Cellar screwup, the ALurker fiasco, and now this ridiculous kerfuffle?

    Why are you maintaining the suspension when there is no justification for it and no benefit to TSZ?

    Why are you escalating the situation when you are supposed to do the opposite?

    We all know the answer: You are a vengeful prick, seething with resentment, who simply cannot resist abusing his privileges. You have put your own interests above TSZ’s and above Lizzie’s. You’re indulging your worst tendencies when you should be doing your job and supporting TSZ.

    What is wrong with you, man?

  31. John Harshman:
    OK, here’s the biggest problem with TSZ: the bulk of recent OPs are by J-Mac, nonlin, and Sal Cordova. It’s impossible to have a serious discussion of the nonsense they post. Even if the subject weren’t a problem, it’s impossible to have a serious discussion with any of them.

    John,

    This is an interesting observation. While I was catching up here, I noticed exactly the same problem. The real quality of those threads is in the comments, thanks to you, Joe Felsenstein, Rumraket, Entropy, DNA_Jock, and others. The question is, what could be done about it? If Elizabeth were active here, she could curate what she wants to see on the site. Without her active guidance, it becomes more subject to admin bias.

    One possibility is an upvote/downvote system. There are plenty of WordPress plugins that allow OPs to be sorted by that kind of rating. The drawback is that threads with low quality OPs but high quality comments could get buried. Another option is to list recent contributors on the front page with links to their OPs. Each member could only take up one slot.

    How would you approach it if this were your site?

  32. Alan Fox:
    My apologies to Patrick. I have made an error when I suggested that Lizzie’s rules implicitly apply to opening posts..

    In fact the rules do apply explicitly to opening posts – not just implicitly. Apart from mentioning “comments” twice when making clear authors should not edit or delete comments in their threads, “comment” is not used at all. On the other hand, Lizzie uses “post” -including plural and as a verb) 28 times. Opening posts and comments are subsets of posts. Thus there is no need of further clarification. Opening posts and comments, collectively known as posts, are subject to Lizzie’s rules.

    Apologies for this error. I hope that settles the nonsense claim that OPs aren’t subject to the site rules.

    This is a giant red herring. You are not addressing the fact that keiths broke no rule. His post did not call out any TSZ member. It was not “unprecedented”, as you tried to claim, because Elizabeth herself made similar claims about Stephen Meyer.

    You, Neil, and DNA_Jock, however, have broken the rules. You exceeded the authority granted by Elizabeth when Neil refused to allow keiths to add an updated version of his post, despite being asked for exactly that. You banned him for 30 days despite Elizabeth’s explicit instructions to “put him in pre-moderation, and explain why. If the problem recurs, ban.” The admins don’t have the authority to ban members for anything other than the explicitly listed bannable offenses in any case, as Neil recognizes in the Summary thread.

    You behavior throughout this situation has been indefensible. It’s well past time for you to follow Elizabeth’s instructions and stop making up rules and punishments on your own.

  33. BruceS:
    Alan, has Lizzie suggested a deadline by which all should have posted to Summary so that she can review all ideas in one go?

    Any deadline should be after keiths has the opportunity to post his summary. The admins have spent enough reputation capital trying to deny him a voice and control the narrative.

  34. John Harshman: I’ve corrected you on this quite a few times, but of course you don’t read. Flightless birds have not lost a major bone. You think the “keel” is a bone, but it isn’t. The sternum is a bone, and all flightless birds still have one. You need to modify your insults.

    Yes! Yes! And yes! Thank you John! You’ve been great!

    I really appreciate your unfounded speculations based on the premise that evolution must be true… the rest is just schmaltz…
    Your agenda is simple: The OPs that allow your speculative imagination run wild are the OPs you want… Whenever your speculations are challenged or require experimental work to prove your points, that’s when your crying-baby character comes out…
    Lets face it: My little birdie experiment that challenged Dr. Dial’s fixed experiment pushed your right button didn’t it?

    I just don’t understand why someone would resist the experimental evidence over unfounded speculations? Do you?

  35. Patrick:

    How would you approach it if this were your site?

    There needs to be some standard for posters. I suggest, at a minimum, the ability to write a coherent English sentence and assemble several of them into a coherent paragraph. That let’s out J-Mac, nonlin, and Byers immediately. I also suggest that there be some requirement to engage the comments seriously. That also lets out J-Mac, nonlin, and Byers, and also Charlie. Sal at times makes an attempt, so perhaps he would meet that standard.

    But look at the evidence right here. J-Mac can’t even reply to a simple statement of fact. He shouldn’t be writing OPs. We need some way to attract a better class of creationists.

  36. Gotta say that I agree with John. I would be more inclined to post substantive OPs that discuss actual interesting science (because I enjoy that sort of thing), if I didn’t know from experience that it would be drowned out by utter nonsense. When I wrote my first OP some while back, which discussed a recent paper that I found exciting, I was almost immediately trolled with off-topic comments by mung, which didn’t exactly make me feel super inclined to regularly attempt more science discussion oriented OPs.

    IMO, this site has a major quality control problem, leading to a high ratio of noise to substance. I don’t have many thoughts about what should be done about that, but I do think that these problems make the quality of conversation suffer.

  37. John Harshman: There needs to be some standard for posters.

    Why don’t you set an example?
    When one day you publish an OP someone other than Darwinists interested in evolutionary speculations will comment on it will be a real blast…

  38. J-Mac: Why don’t you set an example?
    When one day you publish an OP someone other than Darwinists interested in evolutionary speculations will comment on it will be a real blast…

    Don’t you see that you’re making my argument for me?

  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.

    Regarding the low-quality OPs of J-Mac and others, there are potential solutions worth considering that don’t involve censorship.

    The problem of J-Mac’s low-quality OPs became apparent some time ago, and Alan and Neil responded with an idiotic censorship scheme. Or I should say that Alan responded with an idiotic censorship scheme. Neil initially opposed it, since there was a much better non-censoring solution on the table, but he then silently capitulated to Alan, offering no explanation for his spineless reversal.

    Like Neil, DNA_Jock has failed to challenge Alan on this dumb scheme. The censorship scheme is still in place.

    Why is it idiotic?

    1. It imposed (imposes) censorship, unnecessarily, at a site whose owner is adamantly opposed to censorship.

    2. It imposed censorship in response to actions that violated no rules (similar to the current suspension fiasco). In this case, J-Mac had posted a number of stupid OPs, but he hadn’t violated any rules.

    3. It singles out a single person for discriminatory treatment. Under the scheme, J-Mac’s OPs alone are singled out and held up for moderator approval. Because of this dumb scheme, J-Mac can rightly proclaim that he is being treated unfairly and is subject to censorship.

    4. It grants the moderators the power to nix J-Mac’s OPs not on the basis of rule violations or bannable content, but on whether the moderators deem the OP “sufficiently interesting to the readership.” Moderators have no business making that kind of judgment regarding content.

    5. It didn’t solve the problem, as anyone can see.

    There was a much better solution on the table. Walto had suggested a rate limit on the publication of OPs, and we had discussed several variations on how that could be implemented.

    Alan and Neil refused to correct their mistake, even though a far better solution was available. (No surprise there.)

    The alternative had huge advantages over the censorship scheme:

    1. It didn’t impose censorship, so it was more in line with the TSZ ethos and with Lizzie’s desires.

    2. It didn’t punish someone who hadn’t violated any rules.

    3. It applied to everyone equally instead of singling out a member for discriminatory treatment.

    4. It rightly left OP content in the hands of the author, with no moderator interference (except in the case of rule-violating or bannable content.)

    5. It would have vastly improved the situation, by preventing J-Mac or anyone else from cluttering up the home page with idiotic or repetitive OPs.

    There were a couple of ways of implementing it. The best way, in my opinion, was to make it a “police yourself” scheme initially. That is, every contributor would be informed of the rate limit — x number of OPs per week, say — and would be expected to conform voluntarily to that limit.

    Upon exceeding the limit, and only upon exceeding the limit, the contributor would be placed into moderation, so that subsequent OPs would require moderator approval in order to be published.

    They would be released from moderation upon giving assurances that they would henceforth honor the rate limit.

    I think something like this is promising, and it fits Lizzie’s aims far better than the current idiotic censorship scheme. It would also actually do something about the problem, unlike the current scheme, which just delays J-Mac’s OPs.

  40. 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.

    Regarding the low-quality OPs of J-Mac and others, there are potential solutions worth considering that don’t involve censorship.

    The problem of J-Mac’s low-quality OPs became apparent some time ago, and Alan and Neil responded with an idiotic censorship scheme.Or I should say that Alan responded with an idiotic censorship scheme.Neil initially opposed it, since there was a much better non-censoring solution on the table, but he then silently capitulated to Alan, offering no explanation for his spineless reversal.

    Like Neil, DNA_Jock has failed to challenge Alan on this dumb scheme.The censorship scheme is still in place.

    Why is it idiotic?

    1. It imposed (imposes) censorship, unnecessarily, at a site whose owner is adamantly opposed to censorship.

    2. It imposed censorship in response to actions that violated no rules (similar to the current suspension fiasco).In this case, J-Mac had posted a number of stupid OPs, but he hadn’t violated any rules.

    3. It singles out a single person for discriminatory treatment.Under the scheme, J-Mac’s OPs alone are singled out and held up for moderator approval.Because of this dumb scheme, J-Mac can rightly proclaim that he is being treated unfairly and is subject to censorship.

    4. It grants the moderators the power to nix J-Mac’s OPs not on the basis of rule violations or bannable content, but on whether the moderators deem the OP “sufficiently interesting to the readership.” Moderators have no business making that kind of judgment regarding content.

    5. It didn’t solve the problem, as anyone can see.

    There was a much better solution on the table.Walto had suggested a rate limit on the publication of OPs, and we had discussed several variations on how that could be implemented.

    Alan and Neil refused to correct their mistake, even though a far better solution was available.(No surprise there.)

    The alternative had huge advantages over the censorship scheme:

    1. It didn’t impose censorship, so it was more in line with the TSZ ethos and with Lizzie’s desires.

    2. It didn’t punish someone who hadn’t violated any rules.

    3. It applied to everyone equally instead of singling out a member for discriminatory treatment.

    4.It rightly left OP content in the hands of the author, with no moderator interference (except in the case of rule-violating or bannable content.)

    5. It would have vastly improved the situation, by preventing J-Mac or anyone else from cluttering up the home page with idiotic or repetitive OPs.

    There were a couple of ways of implementing it.The best way, in my opinion, was to make it a “police yourself” scheme initially.That is, every contributor would be informed of the rate limit — x number of OPs per week, say — and would be expected to conform voluntarily to that limit.

    Upon exceeding the limit, and only upon exceeding the limit, the contributor would be placed into moderation, so that subsequent OPs would require moderator approval in order to be published.

    They would be released from moderation upon giving assurances that they would henceforth honor the rate limit.

    I think something like this is promising, and it fits Lizzie’s aims far better than the current idiotic censorship scheme.It would also actually do something about the problem, unlike the current scheme, which just delays J-Mac’s OPs.

    Thank you! Please let your buddy keiths know that I was moved almost to tears and that I support his prompt return.
    I also recommend he joins the whyevolutionisfalse website that will be admined by Sal, provided he agrees to it…

  41. John Harshman:

    How would you approach it if this were your site?

    There needs to be some standard for posters. I suggest, at a minimum, the ability to write a coherent English sentence and assemble several of them into a coherent paragraph. That let’s out J-Mac, nonlin, and Byers immediately. I also suggest that there be some requirement to engage the comments seriously. That also lets out J-Mac, nonlin, and Byers, and also Charlie. Sal at times makes an attempt, so perhaps he would meet that standard.

    But look at the evidence right here. J-Mac can’t even reply to a simple statement of fact. He shouldn’t be writing OPs. We need some way to attract a better class of creationists.

    I suggest, quite seriously, that people capable of thinking clearly and writing articulately tend not to be creationists. There are a few, but it’s not the way to bet.

    The issue you raise is far more important to the health of TSZ than policing the occasional rude comment. When someone new visits the site, the topics on the front page are the first impression. If that consists of posts that couldn’t even clear the bar at Uncommon Descent, it could result in fewer new members.

    Elizabeth’s current rules attempt to encourage participation by everyone. I think that’s admirable, but “everyone” does include people who manifestly aren’t engaging in a manner aligned with her goals. If she wants a less crank filled front page, she’s going to need some new rules.

    One option is, obviously, to limit who can create new threads. That isn’t aligned with her current goals and it will result in claims of bias (some no doubt accurate).

    Another option is to pin quality posts to the front page. Unless it’s Elizabeth herself doing the curating, this too will have the potential for abuse. As long as no posts are deleted, though, it might address the problem of attracting new members.

    Personally, I like the idea of using one of the upvote/downvote plugins to rank posts on the front page. One issue I see there, already mentioned, is that some of the best comments, including many of yours, are in threads based on very poor quality original posts. There would need to be some discipline among the reality-based members to start new threads rather than responding directly to cranks.

    I’m curious to hear what Elizabeth has in mind for the future of the site.

  42. Dave Carlson:
    Gotta say that I agree with John.I would be more inclined to post substantive OPs that discuss actual interesting science (because I enjoy that sort of thing), if I didn’t know from experience that it would be drowned out by utter nonsense.When I wrote my first OP some while back, which discussed a recent paper that I found exciting, I was almost immediately trolled with off-topic comments by mung, which didn’t exactly make me feel super inclined to regularly attempt more science discussion oriented OPs.

    IMO, this site has a major quality control problem, leading to a high ratio of noise to substance.I don’t have many thoughts about what should be done about that, but I do think that these problems make the quality of conversation suffer.

    Dave,

    Have you looked at keiths’ choose-your-own-moderator (CYOM) proposal? Would that have addressed the issue of off-topic comments in your thread?

  43. Patrick: There needs to be some standard for posters. I suggest, at a minimum, the ability to write a coherent English sentence and assemble several of them into a coherent paragraph. That let’s out J-Mac, nonlin, and Byers immediately. I also suggest that there be some requirement to engage the comments seriously. That also lets out J-Mac, nonlin, and Byers, and also Charlie. Sal at times makes an attempt, so perhaps he would meet that standard.

    But look at the evidence right here. J-Mac can’t even reply to a simple statement of fact. He shouldn’t be writing OPs. We need some way to attract a better class of creationists.

    I suggest, quite seriously, that people capable of thinking clearly and writing articulately tend not to be creationists.There are a few, but it’s not the way to bet.

    The issue you raise is far more important to the health of TSZ than policing the occasional rude comment.When someone new visits the site, the topics on the front page are the first impression.If that consists of posts that couldn’t even clear the bar at Uncommon Descent, it could result in fewer new members.

    Elizabeth’s current rules attempt to encourage participation by everyone.I think that’s admirable, but “everyone” does include people who manifestly aren’t engaging in a manner aligned with her goals.If she wants a less crank filled front page, she’s going to need some new rules.

    One option is, obviously, to limit who can create new threads.That isn’t aligned with her current goals and it will result in claims of bias (some no doubt accurate).

    Another option is to pin quality posts to the front page.Unless it’s Elizabeth herself doing the curating, this too will have the potential for abuse.As long as no posts are deleted, though, it might address the problem of attracting new members.

    Personally, I like the idea of using one of the upvote/downvote plugins to rank posts on the front page.One issue I see there, already mentioned, is that some of the best comments, including many of yours, are in threads based on very poor quality original posts.There would need to be some discipline among the reality-based members to start new threads rather than responding directly to cranks.

    I’m curious to hear what Elizabeth has in mind for the future of the site.

    I’m just curious: What’s your relation to the defender?

  44. J-Mac:
    Patrick,
    Why would you defend someone who is despised by his own people, the atheists?

    Can anyone tell me what J-Mac is talking about?

  45. 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 John Harshman:

    The issue you raise is far more important to the health of TSZ than policing the occasional rude comment.When someone new visits the site, the topics on the front page are the first impression.If that consists of posts that couldn’t even clear the bar at Uncommon Descent, it could result in fewer new members.

    Yes. Seeing crap OPs on the front page may create the wrong impression. If there’s nothing but crap, that’s even worse.

    Another thing that may scare away new visitors is that the front page can easily give the wrong impression about the site’s aims. The first thing visitors see, at the very top of the page, is Cromwell’s rule:

    “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.”

    Imagine a first-time visitor seeing that, with its mention of Christ, then scrolling down to find a bunch of creationist OPs from Sal, J-Mac, and Nonlin. You can see why they might conclude that this is a Christian, creationist site and immediately go somewhere else, thinking “I thought this was going to be a skeptical site, but it isn’t.”

    I fully support Lizzie’s aim of hosting OPs from a wide variety of perspectives, and I think the fact that TSZ does so is one of its strengths. A willingness to listen — really listen — to opposing views is part of being a good skeptic. But it might be good if the front page made it clear that this is a skeptical site, run by a skeptic — but a skeptical site that happens to encourage participation, including in the form of OPs, from “the other side(s)”.

    Elizabeth’s current rules attempt to encourage participation by everyone. I think that’s admirable, but “everyone” does include people who manifestly aren’t engaging in a manner aligned with her goals. If she wants a less crank filled front page, she’s going to need some new rules.

    I think that rate limiting could help, as long as the reality-based folks did their part by producing high-quality OPs to occupy part of the front page.

    Personally, I like the idea of using one of the upvote/downvote plugins to rank posts on the front page. One issue I see there, already mentioned, is that some of the best comments, including many of yours, are in threads based on very poor quality original posts.

    That also runs the risk of promoting “echo chamber” tendencies, where the OPs on the front page end up reflecting the preferences of the majority rather than being a cross-section of members’ views. I think the latter is what Lizzie is aiming for.

  46. 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.

    Another thing that may scare people away from TSZ is the abusive moderation.

    Take a look at these three comments describing the ALurker fiasco.

    It doesn’t exactly attract members when your moderators include assholes like Alan who will abuse his privileges to invade commenters’ privacy, in an attempt to dig up dirt on someone who has criticized him.

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