TSZ – The Future

Dr Elizabeth Liddle conceived, created and grew this website to the success it is today. It was a new idea. Many other sites can be found where a particular worldview is being promoted or a particular sphere of interest draws people of like interest. TSZ was intended to address the problem that Lizzie saw first-hand at other sites I and many others watched her participate in. Her being turfed from one well-known ID blog was partly the catalyst to trigger this venture.

However Lizzie’s inclusiveness, readiness to put all her energy into taking all at face value in an attempt to achieve real understanding must have sapped her enthusiasm and she has been an elusive figure her in recent times. A huge distraction, I believe is that some participants don’t share her optimism that listening can be as effective as talking when promoting ideas. Dialogue has always been Lizzie’s aim; attempting to see and understand a different viewpoint.

To that end she framed a mission statement, supported by rules of engagement to facilitate productive discussion between people of widely differing opinion. She decided to be a benevolent dictator, inviting participation from anyone with an opinion to voice, news to bring for discussion, scientific discoveries to announce and explain, philosophical arguments to popularize, even religion to promote or criticise. Personally, I think this was a brave and worthwhile effort in view of the increasing polarisation that pervades modern politics and that entrains extremism, insult and ad hominem rather than reasoned argument.

During Lizzie’s absence there has been some dilution of these ideals and the signal to noise ratio has declined. I hope that Lizzie returns soon to reaffirm the ideals she set out originally. I suspect that the wrangles over moderation, argument over moderating decisions, enforcement and non-enforcement of rules don’t encourage her return. So I’m proposing a solution.

I invite ideas from anyone who shares Lizzie’s ideals on dialogue (or who doesn’t) to propose in the comments any suggestions that they think would help to improve how TSZ operates. The rules could possibly benefit from being collated in one place, as later amendments are scattered over several threads. What about a competition for the most concise and elegant summary of the aims, rules and guidelines? On her return, Lizzie could pick a winner, or she could cherry-pick from the best efforts and this would also save her time and hassle that she could better spend setting the World to rights.

So, ideas please!

My first plagiaristic attempt at a rules summary:

Attack ideas and not the people who hold them!

Another idea that Neil has suggested is to add a forum format. I also think this would be good to try. In fact I already did set up a forum using the Elkarte template to act as a demonstration. I invite all interested members to play around with the functionality. Anyone wanting to tweak it, just PM me for the permissions.

Edited 26/01/2018 17.41 CET to add an on-line poll:

380 thoughts on “TSZ – The Future

  1. Alan,

    FWIW, look at what happened to Pandas Thumb. It used to be the rivalry was between PandasThumb and UD, and then became UD against TSZ.

    I’m pointing out PandasThumb to highlight the fact, the declining interest in defending evolution is not endemic to TSZ, it’s everywhere. Whatever is going on with TSZ probably has little to do with moderation good or bad.

    The report of RBH’s passing garnered less than 20 comments.

    In contrast, this mindless entertainment video about nerf guns got 36 million views:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jevjR4ZifaU

    If I may ask, why did you get involved in this topic and blog. Was it that interesting to you? Did you meet people here that gave you things worth reading time and again?

  2. stcordova: I’m pointing out PandasThumb to highlight the fact, the declining interest in defending evolution is not endemic to TSZ, it’s everywhere. Whatever is going on with TSZ probably has little to do with moderation good or bad.

    The main factor in the declining interest in defending evolution is that the quality of attacks on it went way down. Jerry Coyne, for example, had to start filling his blog with cats, food, etc. because otherwise the defenses would get too repetitive.

    Also for PT, the move to the Disqus comment machinery has made keeping track of responses harder, which has irritated a lot of participants. This may be fixable with some work in the future.

  3. Alan, I completely disagree with you (and keiths) about the dynamics and what caused the deterioration of this website. It was never the guanoing of posts that was the problem, some posts obviously need to be removed, instead it was the partial way which it was done, and the way you, Patrick and Neil made some many excuses for the vitriol of the atheists here.

    There have not been just one or two or three occasions where you have allowed insulting, pointless, ad hominem attacks, and then you duplicitously tried to intervene to any response, just not so coincidentally mostly in favor of the atheist position. And this worked for you for a long while, because all the moderators here were atheists, and so when ever you cut off the theists, no one cared. Ah, but then you had to deal with keiths, who was another atheist, but who had disagreements with you personally, so that’s when things got sticky. It was fine for everyone when you were being biased against theists here, heck Lizzie practically encouraged it herself. But then when the infighting happens, Uh OH!

    Look at the history of how many times I pointed out rules violations against me, and you ignored them, then moved my posts which responded with the EXACT same words. Or when you started claiming the only regular rules breakers here just so happened to all be theists, when you had Richard, and Adapa, and Glenn, and Omagain, and a whole slew of garbage artists.

    So when you say the original idea here was to let all voices speak here, that idea has never, ever been implemented here. You let guys get away with murder, because they were on your political side. Its why this site refused for so long to have a real moderator from the other side. This site was designed to promote the skeptic, guerilla, atheist worldview that exists in 100 other sites, no more no less. Yea, you let a few opposing sides post, so it wasn’t completely preaching to only the choir, but that has always been the gist.

    More than anyone here, I pointed out the hypocrisy of the moderation, and you ignored it, and Lizzie ignored it. Don’t try to rewrite that history now. It isn’t so complicated Alan, all you had to do was make it so direct insults, moved or deleted as soon as possible, and allow normal discussion to continue. Its what MODERATORS do. But you didn’t want that, you wanted to allow attacking, as long as it came from the right side.

    Other sites have figured it out, insults aren’t allowed, period. How hard is that? Pretty hard, when you also want to promote a worldview I guess.

  4. Joe Felsenstein: The main factor in the declining interest in defending evolution is that the quality of attacks on it went way down. Jerry Coyne, for example, had to start filling his blog with cats, food, etc. because otherwise the defenses would get too repetitive.

    That’s nonsense Joe. Jerry Coyne DOES NOT ALLOW opposing views on his site. He blocks virtually ANYONE who challenges him, immediately. try an experiment if you don’t believe it. Give a rigorous retort to any of his ideas, which sounds like it is coming from a theist perspective, void of any insults, but truly challenging of his ideas. You will be gone soon, I guarantee it.

    Guess, when this site had its best participation Joe? When Mung and I were posting the most, that’s when.

    So now you have your choir, so of course the site turned to hell. Don’t blame the theists for not existing.

  5. It would certainly help if some creationist would lay out a clear position, present evidence for it, and be willing to engage at length in defending it through rational discussion. So far, not. This, it seems to me, is the major stumbling block.

  6. John Harshman,

    It would certainly help if some evolutionists would lay out a clear position, present evidence for it, and be willing to engage at length in defending it through rational discussion. So far, not. This, it seems to me, is the major stumbling block.

    Instead they would rather just insult, and have Alan, Neil, and Patrick (and Lizzie) support them.

  7. I mostly read and lurk. Over the years I’ve seen the art of quote mining advance, but not the art of reasoning. I’ve seen nothing from the ID camp worth responding to.

    I continue lurking, because we have acquired some first class explainers.

  8. Phoodoo, I think there’s a good deal of truth in what you’ve written above, but don’t forget that JohnnyB offered to be a mod, was and given the keys, before first saying he would be too busy for awhile and then taking a powder completely. I really don’t know, but I think Vince would be allowed to moderate here if he wanted to.

    At least Patrick, the only real flame-thrower in the corps is gone.

  9. I have suggested other ways, but one way to improve TSZ would be to find moderators who were interested in supporting Lizzie’s wishes rather than undermining them.

    Lizzie wants moderators to be accountable. She does not want moderators who abuse their powers in order to silence critics. Alan disgraced himself by silencing ALurker for absolutely no valid reason. Neil seems eager to disgrace himself too.

    This thread is about improvements to TSZ, including in the area of moderation. My comment was on topic and should not have been guanoed, for exactly the same reason that comments in the Moderation Issues thread cannot be guanoed.

  10. All I can say is like TSZ pretty much the way it is and its been a fun place for me after Arrington exiled me from UD.

    However, in light of recent events, I’m preparing to move on in case TSZ disbands. Wish you all the best.

    At the very very least, please let’s figure out a way to archive some of the good discussions like the Drifting Weasel project in case TSZ disbands.

  11. walto,

    Yes, its good that Patrick is gone. But Lizzie also used to let a lot of pointless insults go, that came from her side.

    Its not that hard to just say, Oh knock it off. Delete.

    Mung offered to be a moderator many times, why wasn’t he allowed?

  12. Alan,

    If you decide to leave TSZ, I just want to take the opportunity to thank you. It’s been nice having you as a foe and friend over the last 15 years. Maybe we’ll see each other elsewhere on the net.

    Neil,

    Thanks for all you’ve done here.

    I hope TSZ holds together, but just wanted to say all this just in case Lizzie disbands us.

  13. Looking ahead, I think the best solution by far is to eliminate the moderators’ power to guano comments. If that isn’t acceptable to Lizzie, I also have a couple of ideas that I presented a while back on forms of guanoing that would be far less disruptive and onerous to readers, and more in line with her stated goals, than the current system.

    I’ll elaborate on all of this in a later comment.

  14. Since any proposed improvements to TSZ will need Lizzie’s approval, here is a comment containing important information about Lizzie’s wishes for Guano:

    A lot of people, and not just newton, seem to be confused about Lizzie’s aims regarding Guano. Let me quote an exchange I had with her on the topic.

    keiths:

    Would you regard the following as a fair summary of your position?

    1. You don’t want to control what people write, and moving comments to Guano is not intended to punish or shame them.

    2. You don’t want to control what people read, which is why you’re adamant about not deleting comments.

    3. You do see moving comments to Guano as a housekeeping function that keeps the “living area” clean, so that people aren’t forced to step in shit as they they move about.

    Lizzie:

    Yes, although I don’t want to over do the “shit” metaphor.

    keiths:

    Yes, the “Guano” title is unfortunate, because it strongly implies that the comments therein were judged to be shit.

    Lizzie:

    I would prefer to phrase it as:

    3. I do see moving comments to Guano as a housekeeping function that keeps the discussion focussed on content by removing intervening posts that are not.

    Keep her wishes in mind as you make your suggestions.

    If you want to see that comment in context, you’ll need to go to the Moderation Issues (4) thread, not Moderation Issues (5). Alan abused his moderator privileges again today by shutting down (4) and creating (5), for no valid reason.

  15. Neil,

    This is a discussion of how to improve TSZ. TSZ has some rather severe problems with moderation right now. My comments were on topic and should not have been guanoed.

  16. Sal,

    I hope TSZ holds together, but just wanted to say all this just in case Lizzie disbands us.

    There’s certainly no reason to disband TSZ, when we can get TSZ working smoothly again by curbing moderator powers. We’ve already seen the evidence for that.

  17. Neil:

    Discussion of moderation belongs in the moderation thread.

    It’s mind-boggling that Neil thinks we can discuss the future of TSZ without discussing moderation, the problems we’ve had with it, and how to eliminate those problems going forward.

    You’re circling the wagons, Neil.

  18. What is the problem with TSZ that we’re trying to solve, exactly? Lack of participation? Participant discontent? Lack of interesting content? Devolution of threads into veiled flame wars? Inability to have meaningful conversations between opposing views?

  19. William J. Murray:
    What is the problem with TSZ that we’re trying to solve, exactly? Lack of participation? Participant discontent?Lack of interesting content?Devolution of threads into veiled flame wars?Inability to have meaningful conversations between opposing views?

    All of the above, maybe. But I don’t see that as a problem with TSZ specifically. I think that it’s an inherent feature of Internet discourse.

  20. William,

    What is the problem with TSZ that we’re trying to solve, exactly?

    I would say

    a) moderator abuses and incompetence, and

    b) systemic flaws in the rules that would lead to problems even with honest and competent moderators.

  21. Joe Felsenstein:Also for PT, the move to the Disqus comment machinery has made keeping track of responses harder, which has irritated a lot of participants.This may be fixable with some work in the future.

    This puts it mildly. Disqus made PT essentially inaccessible. I couldn’t find comments, I couldn’t find past threads, I tried and failed to comment using different approaches. I couldn’t even see enough discussion of anything to be worth trying to follow. I gave up long ago.

    I think TSZ has been a decent soapbox, in contrast to Coyne and UD which are both too ideologically restrictive.

  22. phoodoo:
    It would certainly help if some evolutionists would lay out a clear position, present evidence for it, and be willing to engage at length in defending it through rational discussion. So far, not. This, it seems to me, is the major stumbling block.

    No matter how clear I make my position, you insist on not reading any of my comments for comprehension. I doubt you get beyond a couple lines, and I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt about that amount of reading.

    phoodoo:
    Instead they would rather just insult, and have Alan, Neil, and Patrick (and Lizzie) support them.

    That’s an interesting view, given that I’ve seen more of my comments removed than those of the creationists I’ve interacted with. I’m not complaining though. I knew my comments were clearly guano-able. I’ve also observed that some atheists come only to insult you (and Mung, as far as I have observed in my little time commenting here), most probably because they’re used to your M.O. and they have concluded that it’s useless to try and interact. They get guano-ed time and again.

    Anyway, I find the site fun. Sometimes the creationist win the insults hands down, and, oftentimes, I have surrendered and given them just that. The insults have gotten guano-ed. So be it. Life goes on.

  23. William J. Murray: What is the problem with TSZ that we’re trying to solve, exactly?

    I’d be interested to know this as well. There is a real danger in monkeying with something that works pretty well.

    If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

    There are lots of things I’d tweak if I was in charge. That is probably one good reason why I’m not in charge.

    I think folks in general just need to relax a little bit. This is just an obscure spot on the internet where folks who would never normally speak can talk about stuff. It’s not going to cure cancer.

    I think that most of the problems here could be solved simply by following Thumper’s sage advice

    quote:

    “If you can’t say something nice, Don’t say nothing at all”

    end quote:

    just my two cents

    peace

  24. phoodoo: That’s nonsense Joe. Jerry Coyne DOES NOT ALLOW opposing views on his site. He blocks virtually ANYONE who challenges him, immediately. try an experiment if you don’t believe it. Give a rigorous retort to any of his ideas, which sounds like it is coming from a theist perspective, void of any insults, but truly challenging of his ideas. You will be gone soon, I guarantee it.

    Agree that Jerry does not allow debate with creationists at his site.

    But that wasn’t my point. Jerry was posting refutations of objections to evolutionary biology. He’s actually very good at those. But some years ago he simply began to run out of objections that made enough sense to be worth trying to refute.

    Somewhat apologetically at first, he started in on the cats and the photos of food, because they just didn’t make creationists like they used to.

    I don’t think the posts and comments here by phoodoo and mung are evidence against that …

  25. Entropy: I’ve also observed that some atheists come only to insult you

    quote:
    It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.
    (Mat 10:25)
    end quote:

    peace

  26. fifth:

    I think folks in general just need to relax a little bit.

    Particularly the moderators. People are here to discuss things. If the moderators would just relax and let the discussions flow, instead of leaping in and guanoing where guanoing is not needed, then the situation here would be much more satisfying.

  27. TSZ is dead, just like many other similar blogs, such as PT, UD, sandwalk and many more for many reasons but the main one is simple: the majority of people couldn’t careless about the evolution vs ID/Creationism issues…

    “It’s boring and not even nearly as existing as social media”- that’s what I often hear…
    When I asked some of the people I work with often about these issues, surprisingly even to me not only the majority didn’t care, they said they have no time to worry about it…

    One PhD lady told me that she is going to worry about these issues when she retires…
    All religions are dying including Darwinism and ID….
    Nobody cares…

  28. Here my thoughts on the OP’s theme: I think this is ok. Sometimes it will be frustrating not to be able to call someone an ass-hole, but, as filthymonarchyguy said, maybe we should just relax.

    I’d suggest admins to also relax a bit and use their best judgement rather than being too quick on guano-ing. It’s not that I’ve experienced any guano-ing that wasn’t clear. I’m just saying that, for example, some themes are going to be guano-able all over for their very nature, like the obvious bullshit called presuppositionalism. Only imbeciles cannot see how stupid it is, and only imbeciles can convince themselves that they’re discussing in honesty when it’s obvious that they aren’t. I have no problem with “noyau-ing” them, meaning that they proceed with noyau-like rules.

    So, in summary, let’s relax, be creative, and keep having fun. It’s not as if a few comments going to guano should make a huge difference in our enjoyment or lack thereof.

  29. Entropy,

    Sometimes its ok to call somewhere a fucking retarded asshole, it just depends. Let the moderators decide when its ok.

    Great suggestion Entropy. Clearly we need more of that, not less.

  30. Entropy: Here my thoughts on the OP’s theme: I think this is ok. Sometimes it will be frustrating not to be able to call someone an ass-hole, but, as filthymonarchyguy said, maybe we should just relax.

    In 20 or 30 years it’s going to be over for most of us and then, only then, we’re all going to be able to relax fully… Why not now??? Will any of this sh.. matter then?

    ETA. When I want to get a positive outlook on life, I often read Jerry Coyne’s blog…
    He very often refers to the time “…when I’m gone…” or ” …after I’m gone…”

    It makes me wonder why a man, no doubt an intellectual, accepted the notion that shear dumb luck was able to create life nobody of the intellectuals knows how and yet when it finally figured it out, it left the most intelligent and complex products of its creation destined for death, while leaving the lonely, insignificant jellyfish immortal…

    That dumb luck is truly unfair… it’s is the worst…
    Can you believe this dumb luck?

  31. phoodoo,

    More of what phoodoo? More of calling someone an ass-hole? I didn’t suggest that. More relaxing instead? Surely.

  32. J-Mac:
    TSZ is dead, just like many other similar blogs, such asPT, UD, sandwalk and many more for many reasons but the main one is simple: the majority of people couldn’t careless about the evolution vs ID/Creationism issues…

    “It’s boring and not even nearly as existing as social media”- that’s what I often hear…
    When I asked some of the people I work with often about these issues, surprisingly even to me not only the majority didn’t care, they said they have no time to worry about it…

    One PhD lady told me that she is going to worry about these issues when she retires…
    All religions are dying including Darwinism and ID….
    Nobody cares…

    Yup. Nerf war videos get more attention than all the posts and comments I’ve written in the last 15 years on creation and ID. 36 million views of two guys shooting nerf darts at each other. Sheesh!

    That’s why I’ve decided the issues have to be presented in a far more entertaining way. Can that be done? Don’t know, but here was one attempt by my friend Ian Juby:

    Fast forward to 5:30 to see an explanation of Genetic Entropy using a machine gun:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XZ7LYi85xU

  33. Another idea that Neil has suggested is to add a forum format. I also think this would be good to try. In fact I already did set up a forum using the Elkarte template to act as a demonstration. I invite all interested members to play around with the functionality. Anyone wanting to tweak it, just PM me for the permissions.

    I just registered. I’m awaiting admin approval. Thanks for doing this Alan.

  34. I should remember not to read Salvador’s comments. That kind of BS makes it hard to relax. 😁

  35. Jerry Coyne noticed over the years that creationists stopped trying. After several years of reruns, cats look pretty interesting, in comparison.

  36. petrushka:
    Jerry Coyne noticed over the years that creationists stopped trying. After several years of reruns, cats look pretty interesting, in comparison.

    I think you may be referring to the origins paradoxes creationists never got any answers for… But this very fact wouldn’t even make one of the intellectuals like you think that there may be an issue like that because the devotion to materialism is absolute…

  37. petrushka:
    Jerry Coyne noticed over the years that creationists stopped trying. After several years of reruns, cats look pretty interesting, in comparison.

    Jerry Coyne noticed that he was completely incapable of defending his views when challenged publicly, so he banned all dissenting voices.

  38. Entropy:

    It’s not as if a few comments going to guano should make a huge difference in our enjoyment or lack thereof.

    By that logic, it’s not as if those same few comments not going to guano should make a huge difference, either. That’s a point I keep making: people have a magical belief that guanoing is protecting TSZ from descending into chaos, but no one can back that up. It’s an article of faith, not a demonstrated fact.

    Things did not go to hell when Alan was offline during his trip to England. They did not go to hell when he ran his illicit “experiment” and turned the FMM/Bus thread into an extension of Noyau. They do not go to hell when Alan and Neil are absent and not guanoing. Are there still rule-violating comments? You bet. Yet TSZ does just fine in those cases without Alan and Neil’s constant and incompetent meddling.

    The value of guanoing — and in particular heavy-handed guanoing — is hugely overrated by some folks here.

    The purpose of TSZ is to host discussions about issues. When those discussions are proceeding, TSZ is stimulating and even entertaining. The biggest sources of noise interfering with those discussions are moderation screwups and the resulting chaos.

    Moderators ought to be asking themselves, before taking an action, “Is this action actually going to make TSZ a better place?”

    Look what happens instead.

    Things like this:

    1) Alan disgraces himself trying to silence a critic, abusing his moderator privileges, suspending two accounts, and making baseless accusations in the process. A huge kerfuffle results, and in the end Alan has to issue a humiliating apology for his poor judgment and restore the two accounts.

    Did that screwup make TSZ a better place? What about the following?

    2) In a thread soliciting suggestions for the future of TSZ, Neil starts guanoing on-topic comments containing suggestions for the future of TSZ, including this one:

    Looking ahead, I think the best solution by far is to eliminate the moderators’ power to guano comments. If that isn’t acceptable to Lizzie, I also have a couple of ideas that I presented a while back on forms of guanoing that would be far less disruptive and onerous to readers, and more in line with her stated goals, than the current system.

    I’ll elaborate on all of this in a later comment.

    His rationale for guanoing that comment?

    Discussion of moderation belongs in the moderation thread.

    My incredulous response:

    It’s mind-boggling that Neil thinks we can discuss the future of TSZ without discussing moderation, the problems we’ve had with it, and how to eliminate those problems going forward.

    Did Neil’s actions make TSZ a better place? No. They were pointless and they interfered with free and open discussion. The same for Alan’s actions.

    It’s a lot easier to relax when the moderators relax too and aren’t pulling shit like the above.

  39. keiths,

    Perhaps they should just save guanoing for pointless page after page rants that not a single person here wants to read?

  40. keiths:
    Entropy:

    Things like this: …

    It’s a lot easier to relax when the moderators relax too and aren’t pulling shit like the above.

    You just can’t help yourself.

  41. phoodoo:
    keiths,

    Perhaps they should just save guanoing for pointless page after page rants that not a single person here wants to read?

    My suggestion is have a designated thread for moderation questions.

  42. keiths:
    newton:

    Yeah, I have a bad habit of being on-topic.

    Just what I meant ,helpful in case someone is suffering from short term memory loss.

  43. Don’t assume that everyone has read the Moderation Issues (4) thread, newton. It’s not at the top of the thread list anymore.

  44. J-Mac inadvertently suggests that we all commit suicide:

    In 20 or 30 years it’s going to be over for most of us and then, only then, we’re all going to be able to relax fully… Why not now???

  45. Fwiw, I miss hotshoe, Bruce s, and reciprocating bill. I’m pretty sure it was not excessive moderation that drove any of them away (although admittedly it WAS the excesses of a former moderator that drove one of them off).

    The point is that this whole ‘to guano or not to guano’ question is not only thoroughly uninteresting, it’s also irrelevant to whether the site will thrive. I mean I personally would like stricter moderation, but who the fuck cares. It might make the place somewhat more pleasant, but it’s hardly going to be the difference-maker when it comes to whether the place is worth the candle.

  46. keiths:
    J-Mac inadvertently suggests that we all commit suicide:

    Hah. Well, I don’t really believe I’ll be around to relax, but if I did I’d be tempted to respond, ‘I will if you will!’

  47. walto,

    The point is that this whole ‘to guano or not to guano’ question is not only thoroughly uninteresting, it’s also irrelevant to whether the site will thrive.

    It’s not about making TSZ thrive. I think TSZ is already doing quite well, and I enjoy participating here. It’s just that TSZ would be much better without guanoing, or with a guanoing scheme that was more in line with Lizzie’s aims.

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