Dr Liddle, the site owner has called for thoughts regarding TSZ in the Squawk Box thread here.

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.

This thread now has approaching 1,000 comments and she has been unable to wade through it. Member, BruceS, suggested, to make things easier for Lizzie to review, all those interested in contributing criticisms, thoughts and ideas about how TSZ works or doesn’t and might be improved could produce a summary for Lizzie to read without having to skip through the back-and-forth that has drowned out the signal with noise. Lizzie thought this idea was “brilliant” so I’m hoping our members will find time to contribute. Some comments I’ve seen in Squawk Box seem ideal already as summaries and I’d just ask the authors to paste them here, hoping that is not too much trouble.

In order to keep this clean, I will ask everyone to limit themselves to one comment and I will move any extraneous comments to guano and ask other admins if they’d do likewise. Anyone wishing to add meta-commentary can use the existing Squawk Box thread.

Anyone wishing to pass on thoughts to Lizzie in confidence can use the private message system. Again I’d urge members to be succinct and to-the-point. Lizzie’s PM address is Elizabeth.

12 thoughts on “Summaries

  1. I am a long time member but mainly lurk and post only occasionally. In the last couple of years the site has deteriorated so much that I haven’t logged in for long periods of time. To get to nuggets of interesting insight one has to wade through pages and pages of pointless personal attacks, mud slinging, trolling and abuse. I am just not interested in having to wade through a bar fight to get to my drink.

    The idea that freedom of speech trumps the ordinary rules of polite interaction is rubbish on an internet forum. Unfettered free speech just allows those lacking in normal interpersonal skills to dominate the conversations to the point where it is no longer worth the trouble to come here.

    This issue is orthogonal to the ID debate. I have had my most pleasurable and interesting interactions here with people whose ideas I deeply disagree with (Salvador, FMM, William J. Murray for instance). Why? Because exchanging ideas with others who think differently is interesting and stimulating, but only when done in a way that upholds basic decency and respect, and the people I mentioned generally do so (sure, every now and then we can all go too far, myself included, that is only natural, and this is where moderation should come in). That way we can actually focus on the ideas instead of on the character of the people expressing the ideas. Isn’t that what this site is intended for?

    This is what I would propose:

    No ‘rules free attack zone’ and no public discussion of moderation. All this does is generate noise, splits participants into camps, and causes escalation to the point where we are now: far more energy is spent on discussing how the board is run, and on who are the bad guys and why, than on the actual topics this board was set up for.

    Mimimal moderation was a noble try, but humans being humans it simply doesn’t work. That doesn’t have to mean a draconic zero-tolerance regime, moderation could range from light (a warning in the thread) to medium (offending posts being removed) to severe (temporary or permanent banning). The rules would be simple: post as if you were talking with someone in the bar, in the pub or at a party – and sober, if possible 🙂 .

    If you can’t do that, you are not welcome. Simples.

    I do think that a mixed team of moderators is needed to try and keep some balance. Humans being humans, there will undoubtedly be some bias from time to time but that is for the moderation team and Lizzie to address.

    Just my 2 cents. It is of course up to Lizzie what she wants to do with this board.

  2. In addition to my suggestion of a zero tolerance policy of making comments or implications about the mental state, character, honesty or motivations of **anyone**, I agree with KN’s suggestion to get rid of Noyau and I think guano should not be public (same reasons as stated by faded_Glory and BruceS), but rather where moderators copy/paste rule-breaking posts so that other moderators can double-check and have internal discussions about it – perhaps re-instating it, perhaps using them as the basis for suspensions or bannings so they have a record.

    I agree that there should be no public criticism or discussion of moderators – if you have an issue, use private message or email to address them. IMO, the “moderation” thread should be removed.

    Also, I think that anyone who thinks a post violates the rules (whether it is about them or not), should privately message/email the moderators WITHOUT making any comment or complaint about the offending post in the thread. This way we can ALL contribute to moderating the forum, lessen the reading load on the moderators, anonymously wrt other posters.

    I’d also like to add that I recommend a zero tolerance method in order to reduce bias as much as possible.

  3. I’ll own up to the fact that moderation here has become erratic, lax and open to the charge of bias. I think this is largely due to there being too few admins.I know we have a new admin waiting in the wings. It would be good to have offers from others who like the central aim and with more cover, individual admins could take a break.

    The best way to reinvigorate TSZ would be the return of Elizabeth Liddle. The best way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to continue with endless arguments over moderation. We should all accept that Lizzie, however benign, is absolute dictator here. Her way or the highway.

    My suggestions are few and straightforward.

    A page that contains a clear statement of the aims of the site. I think the aims are admirable. I think they are worth supporting and, as I see division more and more in political life, the more I’m convinced that dialogue – listening as well as speaking – is an essential antidote to the current trend.

    That page should also bear a clear statement of the rules. One omission that needs rectifying (and I’m amazed it’s necessary) is to point out that OPs are subject, at minimum, to the same rules as comments.

    I like the good faith rule. Dave Scot Springer mentioned once at UD the Dell slogan “Criticize ideas, not the people who bring them”.

    Can I again suggest WordPress is not the ideal platform. Could we try a forum, initially in parallel to the blog?

    If we stick with WordPress, Could we at least update the PHP version from the out-of-date version we are using?

    We need to comply with current law on privacy etc, so the page of aims and rules could also carry the necessary policy statements.

    A dedicated email should be set up and published on the aims/rules/privacy page. One that forwards messages to all admins would comply with the law and ensure anyone who needed to can contact the admin team.

  4. I have only two suggestions:

    1. Clear rules: Ensure moderators unanimously agree that new rules make it possible to unambiguously (1) determine which posts violate the rules and (2) explain why they do so.

    2. Private moderation: Make the moderation process private, as detailed below.

    I agree with the vision captured by the current rules. But I originally thought that only simplified rules could be unambiguously applied. I now think it should be up to the moderators to decide on whether the rules are clear enough for transparent enforcement. I leave it to others to suggest the details of such rules in line with the site’s cultural vision.


    1. Eliminate the moderation and guano threads. Replace guano by a private holding area for deleted posts in case they are restored after complaint by the poster.

    2. Inform the poster privately of the reason any posts are deleted, eg by message or email.

    3. Implement a private complaint process which escalates first to all moderators as a group and then to Lizzie for final decision.

    4. If Lizzie is to be unavailable for some time, designate a replacement for her in this complaint process who has final say in her absence. No further review upon her return.

    5. If anyone attempts to complain publicly about a moderation decision, immediately suspend that person’s account and prevent them from posting anywhere on TSZ until they commit via email to the moderators to private moderation only.

    6. If anyone posts on behalf of a suspended person, suspend them and prevent them from posting anywhere until they commit to cease posting on a suspended person’s behalf.

    7. Eliminate the Noyau thread: either posts are acceptable at TSZ or they are not.

    8. A rules discussion thread can be added for general discussion of changes to the rules if the moderation team deems such discussion useful at some point. No discussion of specific cases to be tolerated on pain of suspension.

    9. Have an internal lessons learned process for the moderator team.


    1. Public moderation only serves to heap scorn on moderators. There is no reason to allow this. In particular, concerns about exposing bias in moderation should be handled privately. The proposed internal lessons learned processes by moderators should detect moderators deviating from fairness.

    2. Empirical evidence: successful forums use private moderation. TSZ is less than successful in meeting its goals for posters and uses public moderation. I recognize that is just a correlation. But I think it should be taken into account.

    3. Moral outrage (see my post). Public moderation forums encourage moral outrage. The evidence is in the moderation and squawk box threads. Moral outrage is not helpful to achieving TSZ’s goals.

    4. Moderator time is diverted from real discussions. This means more time needed from each moderator meaning that fewer people are interested in volunteering. This reduces pool of people Lizzie to choose from, making it harder for her to ensure a broad spectrum of worldviews in moderators.

    5. With public moderation, the pool of potential moderators is also reduced because many people do not want to bear the burden having decisions they made as volunteers and in good faith being open to public scorn.

    6. TSZ is a private undertaking, not a public process. Analogies to public institutions are not appropriate. But even if they were, the analogy must be made carefully. For an example, consider the UK parliament. Bills correspond to TSZ discussions and both should be public. Rule enforcement in the parliament, on the other hand, is by the private decisions of the speaker. Moderation should likewise be a private process.

  5. Summary:

    Alan has always been an inconsistent,biased and extremely poor moderator, who frequently made up nonsensical rationals for some of his more ridiculous actions, and who frequently either changed the rules or just ignored them, or simply claimed they had a new meaning. Mercifully, he finally, after promising to do so for some time, announced that he would no longer be a moderator.

    Then suddenly, pretending he never made such an announcement, jumps right back on board to settle a score with Keiths, simply because he holds a long time grudge against keiths, because keiths has often (rightfully so) been critical of Alan.

    If that wasn’t somehow bad enough, Neil (who banned me against every rule on this site, for the audacity I had of quoting other posters posts), who is basically an Alan clone in both style and inconsistency was then joined by their third brother DNA Jock. As one of Jocks first actions as a moderator here, he began by making the claim that keiths must be banned because he flaunted UK libel laws, and in practically the exact same breath then said that SOME academics (you know like famous ID ones) of course should be fair game to be libeled here, because really what are they going to do about it, complain? Plus we all know ID advocates are all liars, so let’s make an exception for that, won’t you.

    Alan, back from the ashes like an atheist Phoenix, jumped in to say, “Yea, yea, that’s right, we have to ban Keiths, because you know, UK libel laws and all, and then in the same breath says, well, come on, libel laws are really only for rich people in the UK.” Its farcically funny at the stupidest level, whilst at the same time, just pure scumball chicanery.

    The stink of the moderators lies should not be forgotten in my opinion-“We care about libel laws, but actually we were just joking we don’t care, we are just partisan skeptic tools, who think lying cheating, and dumbfuckery should be the norm-because who is going to notice.”

    To sum it up even more simply, there is a complete clusterfuck of moderators at TSZ.

    Quite possibly, that is exactly how Lizzie wants it.

  6. My summary view:

    (1) We should move to forum software, instead of blog software.

    (2) No “Noyau”.

    (3) No public disputing of moderation decisions. That just pollutes the discussion and hurts the site.

    (4) There needs to be an ability to suspend users who persistently break the guidelines.

    (5) Any user who posts while under suspension should be permanently banned. Any user who aids and abets such posting-while-suspended should be permanently banned.

  7. We like most aspects of the forum as it now exists, and strongly support the Principle of Charity as a foundation for the group. But keep in mind that no set of rules can encompass all possible situations, so some give and take is required.

    Most everyone engages in a bit of snark on occasion, so moderation should be light. However, some commenters tend to go overboard, leading to long and long-winded diversions. They see the rules as something to work around rather than trying to be in the spirit of the group (for instance, if there is a rule against a comment containing pornography, perversely claiming the rule doesn’t apply to original posts). Certain but light punishment is more effective than uncertain but draconian punishment, but moderation is necessarily happenstance. Constantly denigrating our moderators is not in keeping with the spirit of the group. Sure, if our own comment were censored, we might indignantly contest the action in the appropriate forum, but moderators also deserve the Principle of Charity. (“But, but it’s not in the rules!”)

    Keiths seems to be a constant arena of discussion. Banning is probably not best option as keiths often contributes positively to the group, but it would be nice to think he would be willing to work within the Principle of Charity on which this forum was founded. On the positive side, his previous violation of the rules led to our discovering other realms to explore.

  8. If there is to be moderation, I agree it should be light and well focused.

    The rule against accusing your opponent of bad faith is a good one, but I see no reason why any comment on the veracity, morality, intelligence or state of grace if other posters is required.

    I enforce this myself simply by skipping posts that start with a judgement of another poster.

    I see little difference between sides on the frequency of this offence. Unfortunately, I also see little difference in the quality of ideas among the offenders. Great knowledge and intellect do not correlate perfectly with good manners. I see only a handful of exceptions, people who argue well and who avoid personal invective. I also notice that when I post this observation, I get no replies.

  9. Since almost everyone vents here, I’d like it too.
    I think this summary OP is a joke. I think that the owner of this blog has shown she is not committed and the request of the sum up the over 1000 comments about what is wrong about her blog shows she didn’t care to read them. I wouldn’t either because of the keithspatrick nonsense…
    But, it is her blog and not being able to, or more so, not even willing to read most comments by the bloggers other than killpatik ladies, tells me it is pointless to hope something is going to change…
    I’d suggest someone with more commitment to take over, or Sal should start or encourage more traffic to his QM blog…

  10. Heavier moderation. End the public discussions of moderation. Suspend then ban the posters who routinely break the rules and principle of charity.

    Though I lurk mostly, I like the site, but it definitely went downhill the last while.

  11. Elizabeth,

    Thank you for taking the time to read these summaries. TSZ works best when you are active here. I hope you choose to return soon.

    There are two issues from the Squawk Box thread that need to be addressed. The first is keiths’ suspension. The quick summary is that Alan, Neil, and DNA_Jock overreacted, exceeded their authority, broke the site rules, and abused their admin privileges, motivated by what appears to be personal animosity. More details are documented in this comment and the preceding thread. TSZ deserves admins that behave better than those at UD. These three owe keiths an apology and their admin privileges should be revoked. They have demonstrated they cannot be trusted to use them fairly and impartially.

    This leads to the second issue of how to improve TSZ going forward. It’s clear that the current moderation approach isn’t working. Moderation is spotty at best and biased at worst. The volume of meta-discussion distracts from the goals of the site. The solution is to eliminate it. This comment and this comment go into more detail as to why.

    keiths has proposed a “choose your own moderator” (CYOM) approach. Links to the proposal are here and a summary of the benefits is here. The only drawback to CYOM is the need to create a WordPress plugin. I have volunteered time to write a detailed spec and keiths has offered to contribute to development costs.

    In the interim, TSZ should run an experiment to test whether or not moderation provides any real benefits. For at least three months, TSZ should operate under these rules (external link because the site doesn’t allow upload of HTML files). This will provide real-world data to support decisions about what rules are really beneficial for the site.

    Finally, the front page of TSZ needs to be modified and curated to convey the purpose of the site. The currently listed posts contain far too many that are, frankly, crankery. Both curation by admins and the use of a voting plugin are possible solutions.



  12. Dear Elizabeth,

    Your approach is utterly ridiculous. You seek to accommodate the members, but the members here are nuts and cannot be accommodated no matter how you try, and as far as you succeed, you see they are not worth accommodating.

    You seek to collect suggestions to make this place lovely for the members, but you had to create three threads for that (including the polls thread) because the members here generate only noise, nothing rational.

    If you want the place to continue, you need to first recognise the reality of who the members are and what sort of atmosphere they generate. And then establish guidelines to address the real issues. However, any workable solution (workable in my opinion) requires either abandoning the blog format for forum format or adopting forum format in addition to blog format (like philosophyforums used to be until they were sold and killed).

    Any lesser solution, such as creating more plugins to WordPress to manage ignores or likes or mutes or bans more flexibly, will not be workable. Any lesser solution without a complete overhaul of the rules would basically send the message that the current atmosphere is free to continue.

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