Humoring cranks and racists

Discussion in 'Site Feedback' started by birch, Nov 12, 2016.

  1. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

    Not so much, no - however;

    Quite possibly... and there has been plenty of "excitement" over the last few years in the back room about policy and such issues as we are (have been / created for ourselves) facing. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that we Mods are appointed to uphold a standard and rules set by the Administration... but as time has gone on, things have gotten muddied because of exceptions and a general sense of "catering to the lowest common denominator" when it comes to things such as intellectual dishonesty, supporting evidence, and overall good practices. What has us in a bind now is a lack of clarification... many of us haven't wanted to simply pursue what, by the letter and spirit of the rules, is right because we have been overruled before (and rebuked as well). That is the right of the owners after all... but in that case, we need guidance and the community, at large, needs to be informed of why policy has changed to allow behavior that was once prohibited (or vice versa); especially given the proclivities of certain members to outright flaunt and disregard what Moderators say.

    Kind of a "Damned if we do, damned if we don't" situation really...
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  3. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

    A science forum unfortunately needs the crank in my view.
    So someone posts re new research links a paper and then silence.
    I do not like to generalise but I will now.
    Mainstream readers read the post say thank you to the poster, sometimes, and rarely discussion eventuates.

    However when the crank chimes in he is presented with science which I am confident onlookers benefit from.

    Then we have Paddoboy taking the crank on and what follows is often entertaining.

    Site traffic presumably is higher and I suspect the subject is given a better airing.

    I do not like the name calling etc but it is a little like professional wrestling ...but I suppose we must first ask do we want fair dinkum wrestling that no one will watch except others directly involved in the sport or do we want a show and a wide audience appeal.

    It would seem to keep the doors open we need a show, and we need our cranks.

    The visitors to this site won't all be scientists.

    I think firstly members should be able to behave like adults.
    Secondly the moderators should not have to act like teachers who's days are constantly interrupted by "tell tales".
    Thirdly let the readers decide who presents the most credible case.

    danshawen, zgmc and birch like this.
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  5. RajeshTrivedi Valued Senior Member

    It's a commercial site, so figures are of interest. Open and almost bordering to breach of trust admission by kittanaru notwithstanding.

    First we must know the reason behind uncivilized behavior, secondly mods must know when to act and thirdly what we want in science forum.

    A. Uncivilized behavior or fights come when someone is objected to. If there are two differing interpretation of mainstream science, then one who is wrong, must be corrected before it becomes too hot to handle. Who will correct? Are mods required to do so? The question is who can resolve what is right interpretation of mainstream. Take for example this dependence of density for BH formation. I am in cross with physbang and James R, I am fully convinced that I am not wrong, thread flared up and shockingly participating Mod JamesR took moderation action? This is also bad.

    B. Paddoboy is mostly present in many threads, why his bland accusations are tolerated? To increase the site traffic?

    C. In alternative theory segment, how is that the alternative pusher is countered with the theory against which he is pushing his idea? In this section, if the OP's intent is questionable or the content is absurd or content is suitably rebuffed, then close it as soon as possible.

    In the nutshell Mods must intervene earlier, if I recall physbang is going because he felt that mods did not take action on his report, which he erroneously took as license to use abuses and lies, in turn he got further aggressive, and he was infracted.
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  7. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Almost zero.

    It is not the job of the moderators to be arbiters of who is right and wrong on issues of fact. Such matters can be debated in the public forums. In fact, that is partly what sciforums exists for.

    There is no reason to suppose that moderators, in general, have any more expertise than the general membership on any given topic. Of course, readers can judge that for themselves where any particular moderator's contributions are valuable or not, based on posts that they make.

    Suppose that a moderator were to shut down a thread and censure a member merely because the moderator decided that the member was "verifiably wrong" on some issue. And then what if it turned out that the moderated member was right after all? Or what if the issue is contentious and there's no general consensus on what the "right" answer is? Would it be right for a moderator to use their moderator "powers", as opposed to their own ability to persuade as somebody posting on the forum, to curtail the discussion? I don't think so.

    There people here are adults. They don't need "teacher" to step in on every discussion and adjudicate on who is right and wrong. Nor, I think, do they need to run crying to "teacher" every time another member says something they disagree with.

    That's what trolling is - posting not because you want a real discussion, but because you want to upset other people or get a reaction or make yourself the centre of attention.

    The problem, from a moderation perspective, is that it is very easy to accuse somebody who refuses to accept your point of view of "trolling". It's easy to think "What I'm saying here is reasonable, and any reasonable person would agree with me. But this guy/girl I'm engaged with refuses to see sense. Therefore, in refusing to accede to my point, he must be deliberately trying to anger or upset me."

    Again, I think there are good reasons for moderators not to insert themselves in the middle of disagreements over facts, especially where one party is trying to "win" the argument by asking the moderators to shut down his or her perceived opponents.

    Moderators should be especially wary in ruling on "trolling" when the topic is a hot-button issue like religion, or politics, or racism, or just about any other -ism.

    As for the administrative perspective, occasionally I have seen moderators overstep the mark, using their powers to shut down discussions and/or censure people with whom they, personally, have been arguing. That is hardly ever a good look, and can lead in the long run to a general distrust of the moderators and the (possibly accurate) perception of moderator bias. Very rarely, I have found it necessary to step in to deal with that kind of abuse of moderator power, to wind back inappropriate moderator actions. As an administrator, the last resort is to demote the moderator concerned. But that is an extreme action that should only ever occur when the administration has lost confidence in the moderator's objectivity and/or appropriateness to oversee the forums. It has only happened on a handful of occasions here in over 15 years.

    While I agree to some extent with the sentiment here, I urge caution, for the reasons I have expressed above.

    I cannot speak for the owners of sciforums. But my own impression is that the idea that the administration cares only about site traffic is largely a myth, and I'm not quite sure where it came from.

    If the ruleset that we currently have is considered inappropriate, it is not set in stone. The rules are always up for revision in the light of debate among the moderators and among the general membership. In fact, aspects of the current ruleset have been tweaked from time to time in response to specific issues that have arisen.

    The current ruleset that we have was drawn up after some research on the kinds of rulesets that other sites have, as well as on experience that we have built up here over years. That doesn't mean our ruleset is the be all and end all, or that there aren't things that could possibly be changed for the better, or that we couldn't add other rules or make some things more specific. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that the more explicit the rule set becomes, the less discretion the moderators will have. Personally, I prefer to work with broad general principles and an overarching philosophy in mind, as opposed to blindly adhering to a rigid set of prescriptions that must be enforced in a black-letter sense.

    No, but moderator actions are subject to review. Usually this happens informally via discussion in the Moderators forum. The moderation team/administration is not an edifice, but is made up of individuals. Everybody brings different ideas and perspectives and we do not agree on everything, which is fine. The forum can still operate effectively with some divergence of opinion and approach among the moderators.

    On occasion, individual moderators adopt that approach. It is rare that any such action is reversed, but it has happened once or twice. It depends very much on the circumstances. In most cases when moderator decisions have been reversed, there has been substantial and sometimes heated discussion among the moderator group concerning all the circumstances surrounding both the original action and the reversal.

    This is an ongoing (possibly never-ending) discussion, and one not restricted to the moderator group.

    Our "tolerance" for "cranks" is an issue that comes up regularly. So do discussions of what should be done about whoever is the member of the moment who is perceived as creating the most discord on the forum at any given moment. I sometimes perceive a certain level of impatience, particularly concerning "troublesome" members. There is often a sense that something more must be done now, when in fact those members usually end up excluding themselves from the sciforums over a period of time, as they accumulate official warnings.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2016
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  8. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    The people who are posting in the thread will correct. See my post above. The moderators are not walking encylopedias or gurus of who is right or wrong on any issue of fact or theory under dispute. Differences of opinion are best discussed in the the discussion forums. That is what they exist for.

    Having said that, we have a policy of trying to keep pseudoscience out of the Science sections, as far as possible. Obvious pseudoscience is moved to more appropriate forums for discussion and almost never censored. Pure nonsensical drivel can be shut down on occasion, as it is a waste of space on the forums and brings down the general level of discussion. Many topics that arguably sit on the borderline between science and pseudoscience are given the benefit of the doubt. Similarly, topics that discuss "mainstream" science fairly, even if disagreeing with it, are often allowed to remain in the Science sections, unless and until they become too "cranky".

    You were moderated there because you were incapable of carrying on a civil discussion with PhysBang, not because you are wrong on the topic under discussion.

    Personally, I am not particularly interested in pursuing the particular topic of discussion with you. I think you're unlikely to change your mind and I'm unlikely to say anything that will affect your thinking. But none of this has anything to do with my role as a moderator.

    Complaining about paddoboy is a bit rich, coming from you. You constantly make "bland accusations" of your own. When you stop your own poor behaviour, maybe your compaints will be taken more seriously.
  9. cluelusshusbund + Public Dilemma + Valued Senior Member

    Inconsistency is inherent in moderation... but for some time now James R has had noticable success in keepin the train on track an makin Sciforums more hospitable to diferent types of views... kudos to James R.!!!

    Discussions that dont meet the standards of a scientific community need to be kept in a seperate area... an when science type people visit those areas they need to be as civil as the rules require... an after givin it a shot an ant able convience ther opponent... dont get mad... jus go back to the more science minded areas of Sciforums.!!!
    It realy is that simple... an will make Sciforums more fun for all an will allow Sciforums to be even more successful.!!!
    danshawen and zgmc like this.
  10. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    You would be amazed at the disputes this staff has engaged and endured over the years. Most disputes come back to a constant tension between a phantom dedication to an overriding respect to the scientific method―and don't ask what that's supposed to mean because, you know, tension―and protecting diversity to such a degree that we must countenance the question of civilized society as a suicide pact. To wit: Does diversity require Sciforums should be specifically hostile to entire populations? Yes.

    Here's a fun one about trying to discuss anything: Does diversity require that our overriding respect for the scientific method should permit and even encourage not-quite arbitrary redefinition specifically intended to lighten one's argumentative burden? Yes.

    Here's an abstraction: If you say we are proposing to ban an entire subject, and I reply with the obvious bit about certainly allowing for an actual rational, objective discussion based on real information and circumstances, should that not be sufficient? It cannot be sufficient. Must we, then, accommodate conspiracism? Yes. Must we, then, accommodate petulant because-I-say-so fallacy demanding to trump reality? Yes.

    In the past we've encountered some strange circumstances, including actions overturned. We've even seen policies invented specifically to get the job done, so part of the problem is that it's all political. Those irrational, antisocial obligations have a general common theme; they protect a particular range of behaviors.

    To the other, there are the occasionally inexplicable episodes when the Administration simply undercuts the staff seemingly for the hell of it. Even now, trying to phrase the preceding sentence and considering its implications, I can only shake my head and remember there is Super Lemon Haze° in the box, and that'll put an end to such futile wondering.

    We have our moments, to say the least.

    It's pretty much a matter of definitions, and it's all in how you say it. There are better ways to make certain points that coming out with the lazy blurting belligerence regardless of how otherwise appropriate such retorts might be under any given circumstance. The point is that certain manners of asshole must be shown proper respect, and it is certainly disrespectful to expect any respect whatsoever from such manners of asshole.

    Now that everybody knows the secret, they're welcome to take the risk.

    Nor are the themes particularly easy to figure out.


    ° Lemon Skunk x Super Silver Haze
  11. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    Many objections that do occur, in essence, do so because of a flagrant disregard of posting alternative nonsense in the sciences, claiming aLIGO and GP-B were fraudulent experiments, or claiming that the Hulse Taylor binary pulsar system and it being taken as the first evidence for gravitational waves was not properly researched......
    When requests for citations or references supporting such claims is further ignored, the problem is then further exasperated.

    I also totally rebuke your claim re BH formation and density, and do not see it as a matter of interpretation, rather some silly pedant obtuse nonsense, that totally fails to invalidate the case that mass density is responsible for BH's
    But you were also wrong with your old BNS concept as shown by Professor Link.
    I do not make bland allegations.
    But common sense and logic tells me that when certain members, more or less oppose, ridicule and dismiss, just about all 21st century cosmology, then It is certainly reasonable to assume an agenda of sorts.
    The "god of the gaps" agenda is one of those, and particularly applies when some will dismiss, ridicule and rebuke standard 21st century cosmology, and offer nothing reputable in its place.
    And of course every last one of us has an agenda of one type or another...mine is science.

    Another aspect that I have seen, and that has also been mentioned to me in discussions with a mod/admin.....that being that if one examines and researches complaints to mods/admins about mods/admins rulings etc, or whinging about other members, it is that these complaints generally come from the same members that themselves indulge in crankdom, trolling and general ignoring of site rules.
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  12. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    Yes, just as they have intervened and suspended you over at cosmoquest and closed your second alternative hypothetical thread, for amongst other things, arguing agaisnt moderation..
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  13. RajeshTrivedi Valued Senior Member

    This is just the kind of post, which must be castigated. What purpose this post is serving except an attempt to put me down.
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  14. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    I've said this before, I would enforce one rule very strongly. No ad hominems. All disagreements with members would be in the context of the argument.
    It serves several purposes. It:
    • promotes civility
    • keeps threads on-point (fewer digressions into poo-slinging)
    • is relatively unambiguous in detection, definition and action
    • encourages constructive contributors while discouraging destructive contributors
    and finally, most pertinently to the owners' preferences:
    • does not unfairly penalize anyone based on the exoticity of their views. Any ideas can be expressed freely, as long as they are done so with respect.
    i.e. it targets the actual crime with a bullet; it doesn't buckshot the entire context in which the crime occurs.
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  15. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    Let me ask you a question.
    If the roles were reversed, would you use the same info to "put me down"
    All I'm trying to point out is that people do have agendas, and people do suffer from "delusions of grandeur" and people do have over inflated egos, and those people, like you, are sure that they are right, despite being shown that they are wrong with reputable links and citations.
    And obviously it was you that appealed to the mods, [something a couple of others also have a habit of doing] and I of course was showing that aspect in action.
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  16. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    In principle, this is a good idea, which is why we have a "no personal insults" rule.

    However, an issue arises when a poster chooses to promote quite obnoxious views, whether they concern religion, sex, politics, or science. For example, is it acceptable to call somebody a racist when the views they have expressed on the forum are unambiguously racist? On the other hand, what if what they have expressed is only ambiguously racist? That is, what if one reader interprets it as racist, while another does not?

    My point is: if moderating a discussion forum like this was straightforward and obvious, we wouldn't need humans to do it; it could be done, in principle, by some kind of automated bot built into the software. Some issues that moderators confront are black-and-white and obvious to deal with. But the difficult ones always involve shades of grey. That's where the judgment and discretion of the individual moderator comes into the picture, and that's where disagreements inevitably arise, both among moderators and between moderators and (some of) the general membership.
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  17. zgmc Registered Senior Member

    The problem here is that everyone is either smart, or thinks they are, and the replys are almost always more than 5 lines long... Not me. Almost all my replys are under five lines long.

  18. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Addressing something about somone that is outside the scope of the argument is an ad hom.
    Addressing what someone has actually said in the argument is not an ad hom.

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  19. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

    Would you care to expand upon your statement.

    Personally I am happy to find somewhere that my verbosity goes un noticed.

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  20. cluelusshusbund + Public Dilemma + Valued Senior Member

    Yeah good info. for the promotion of civil discussion... but what about effectively name-callin wit-out it bein an ad hom... shoud that be allowed.???


    "... surely you are not stupid enough to be advocating..."

    "Surely you are not stupid enough to actually believe..."
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  21. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

    I am in bed suffering so bear my situation in mind if you feel bothered to ask why I bothered to help or post at all.

    Insulting someone is something I would not do but I have noticed various methods and following their lead not mine suggest some creativity be employed.

    So rather than say... You are stupid to say such a thing...

    We could say...

    Some would say you are stupid to say such a thing and whilst I could never agree with such folk I can understand why they could be driven to reply in such an unkind manner for it seems to me you are a bloody idiot... er sorry for it seems to me that perhaps you could think about this matter a little deeper and then deliver a more reasonable presentation of your position.

    Seriously being respectful must be the only way to go and if someone is less than respectful perhaps it is best to leave it to the onlookers to pass judgement... And I suspect they already do.

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  22. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Ad homs.

    A valid argument in a debate is valid no matter who makes it, or in what state they are - a child, an authority, a mentally-challenged-person.
    The intelligence or stupidity of the person outside the screen is irrelevant.

    (However, there is grey-area: when a critic changes their phrasing to "that is a stupid argument".)
  23. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    While I admire and respect that position Dave, on many occasions, disguised and not so disguised "slurs" are made on another's reputation or postings, that may or may not only be recognised by the person to whom it is directed at: I had a couple directed at me yesterday, but thankfully, after reading your's and others advice, I did not bite.....although some gnashing of teeth [mine] was evident.

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    I've got no doubt that sadly, such disguised slurs will continue.
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