I admit up front that I’m going all paternalistic on the Dawkins Forum people, and Imma gonna let you finish your imminent self destruction and all, but first I wanted to use this moment in time as an object lesson in communication.

A letter was recently posted somewhere by the RDF forum staff to Richard, and most of this letter was reposted in a comment on this thread by Peter.

When I read it, I laughed and cried and hacked up my coffee all over the keyboard, which is a problem because we are almost totally out of espresso here and that coffee was needed. So, I sent my family on a mission to get some more coffee, and decided to do a first-cut rewrite on the letter.

I assume that the purpose of the letter should be to convince Richard Dawkins to bring the staff to the table in the conversation about how to make the transition, to listen to their ideas (which I understand have already, in part, been posted) and to welcome them into the process as continuing volunteers.

The letter does in fact make this argument, but it also does some other things. You can assume as a staff member that Richard either trusts and/or likes his main people or not and that your yammering about how evile and unfair they have been to you is not only a distraction from the point of the letter, but a clear indication that the staff are not really ready to help. This yammering is, rather, a clear indication of the staff’s need to make sure that blame is squarely placed where they think it should be placed. Most of the verbiage and effort expended on this letter focuses on that goal. The best possible outcome from that is distracting the person to whom the letter is written. The worst outcome is probably en-maddening him, and verifying that the staff are not really worth engaging with.

This leads to another element of the letter that is more subtle. If the staff are really correct about how badly handled this has all been by Dawkins’ people, then there should be a certain amount of screaming and yelling and rending of cloth over Dawkins’ management style. But there is not. As the lady in the commercial says, “You don’t get a discount for agreeing with me.” … especially when the letter is all about making sure there is lots of blame stirred up, mixed with sticky glue, and smeared all over the places it seems to go. Sycophants can only get so far because, well, they don’t get much respect.

All I did to this letter was to delete all the arm waving about who did what and how horrible everyone is, changed a few words here and there, and more or less left what I assume to be the key message intact. If I were me, and not Dawkins, I’d look at these two letters and think … “Yeah… if these forum staff could truly rid themselves of the blame-smearing yammering part, they’d be great. They are making great points, but the whole problem is that these points are embedded in this harsh and useless cultural baggage.”

I understand why the letter was written as it was, but my advice is this: Yes, write a letter like this if it will make you feel better. Then edit the arm waving out of it. Then edit it again for style and to make sure your key points are very clearly and well stated (and don’t let the yammering back in when you do that).

Then read it over and tweak it.

Then red it over and tweak it again.

Making the argument is often a matter of refining both the argument and the presentation. Rarely does adding self victimization, outrage and large booming sounds help.

So here is the original letter as posted here by Peter:

Dear Richard,

We hope you will find time to read this letter, which is from all the forum staff.

We are all deeply saddened that the forum will be deleted in 28 days time. In just over 3 years, it has grown to become the busiest atheist forum on the Internet. On average since last October, the forum has been getting 3,000 posts per day, of which about 2,000 per day are focused on science, reason and your work. The front page average is a fraction of that at 200 – 300. The social posts on the forum only comprise about 1/10 of all posts per day so there is a great deal of substance being discarded.

Staff were told that the science and reason forum content would be migrated to the new site and we offered to help with this. Then 2 days ago, we were told that there was a change of plan and all the forum content would be deleted in 30 days. Members have been told that they can copy their posts and repost them on the new site. This is complete nonsense because it isn’t individual posts that make up the forum, it’s the discussion threads that are significant and members don’t have the ability to migrate whole threads across. That’s what the staff were going to do for them. This is now not going to happen and over 3 years worth of threads debunking creationism & woo, challenging theism, supporting new atheists etc will be wiped out.

Andrew and Josh have now announced that the forum has been made ‘read-only’ due to the inappropriate actions of staff. This is ‘spin’ at its finest as it fails to acknowledge that their own inappropriate actions resulted in this debacle in the first place. The announcement that the forum was shut down because some staff posted the letter sent to them and made some public complaints is nonsense. The letter was exactly the same as the one posted publicly to the members with the addition of letting staff know that their services wouldn’t be required at the new website. They also told staff what they shouldn’t do:
[snip - eg email Richard, inflame the users, start any petitions, relocate groups of users to other forums.]

We decided to post this letter on the forum as it explained succinctly that staff wouldn’t be required and also let people know that they shouldn’t expect staff to take any action on their behalf. Andrew and Josh removed the
letter and they could have also removed the staff’s permissions as they said they didn’t trust staff anymore. They didn’t have to make the forum ‘read-only’ for everybody in order to gag the staff. The fact is that they needed the staff to deal with all the complaints that would inevitably have been thrown at the forum for the next 30 days. In other words, they expected the staff to give up their free time to act as police and lavatory cleaners for a month, without a word of dissent themselves, and then just stand aside and watch the forum they’d worked so hard for be deleted. Not much to ask was it?

Since their announcement, you have made one yourself entitled “outrage” which contains copies of some insulting comments about Josh. None of these comments came from the RD forum. They were all posted on various other websites after the forum was locked. Someone has harvested these quote-mines from other websites and presented them to you as justification for locking the forum. Your announcement also contradicts the admin announcement which says that the reason the forum was locked was due to the staff.They are also saying that they aren’t trying to stop people from going off into other forums but right from the start, they prevented members from having any links/information in their signatures and changed the PM system to make it virtually unworkable so that members can’t contact each other easily.

Andrew and Josh could have handled this so much better if they had taken up the offer we made a while ago to advise them on how to make the transition. They don’t have any leadership skills or experience but several of us on the staff do this professionally and have years of experience managing change with large and diverse groups of people. This offer was ignored and instead, they have provided a textbook example of how not to do it. This also includes putting the blame on people for reacting badly to their ill-conceived actions. The fact that they either didn’t expect such a reaction or just didn’t care, serves to emphasise their ignorance of how to work with large groups of people and how to manage change.

We have all worked so hard to support your mission because we passionately believe in it. You and your work have been our inspiration to keep going on days when we were verbally abused and threatened by trolls. The staff are highly intelligent people but we were prepared to spend hours of our own time doing low-level and mundane moderating tasks to keep the forum organised, facilitate focused discussions and solve people’s technical problems. We were also able to use our skills and expertise in fostering a sense of community and ensuring that all people could post there, free from homophobic, sexist or racist abuse. That’s a significant part of why it has
become the most popular atheist forum on the Internet because it’s a lively, challenging and supportive environment.

The Foundation’s decision to remove the forum is one we deeply regret but we acknowledge that as volunteers, it’s not our concern. However, we could have used our skills and expertise to help develop the new discussion area, transfer content over and manage the transition for the membership as smoothly as possible. Andrew and Josh rejected that offer and as we were told recently that we weren’t allowed to contact you about any forum
matters, we weren’t able to make that offer to you personally.

At the moment, we feel deflated and dismayed while we watch the destruction of such a successful forum but despite that, we continue to wish you well and we sincerely hope that the new website is successful in achieving the Foundation’s goals, which is what were striving for with the forum.

Sincerely
The forum staff

And here is the first-cut edited version:

Dear Richard

We are all deeply saddened that the forum will be deleted in 28 days time. In just over 3 years, it has grown to become the busiest atheist forum on the Internet. On average since last October, the forum has been getting 3,000 posts per day, of which about 2,000 per day are focused on science, reason and your work. The social posts on the forum only comprise about 1/10 of all posts per day so there is a great deal of substance being discarded.

Staff were told that the science and reason forum content would be migrated to the new site and we offered to help with this. Then 2 days ago, we were told that there was a change of plan and all the forum content would be deleted in 30 days. Also, members have been told that they can copy their posts and repost them on the new site. However, we feel that individual posts do not make up the forum, but rather it is the discussion threads that are significant and members do not have the ability to migrate whole threads to a new location. This would have been done by the staff. It would now seem that 3 years worth of threads debunking creationism & woo, challenging theism, supporting new atheists etc. will be wiped out.

We feel that an earlier offer we had made regarding how to handle a transition to a new format is still a good one, and we are still very willing to engage in a conversation about how to make this transition, and to help in doing so.

We have all worked so hard to support your mission because we passionately believe in it. We feel, and it is generaly acknowledged, that our past efforts are a signfiicant part of why this has become the most popular atheist forum on the Internet, and a lively, challenging and supportive environment for atheists and skeptics.

The Foundation’s decision to remove the forum is one we deeply regret and we acknowledge that as volunteers, it’s not our decision. However, we are part of the community that made the forum possible, and the foundation could have used our skills and expertise to help develop the new discussion area, transfer content over, and manage the transition for the membership as smoothly as possible. That offer is still on the table.

At the moment, we feel deflated and dismayed while we watch the destruction of such a successful forum but despite that, we continue to wish you well and we sincerely hope that the new website is successful in achieving the Foundation’s goals, which is what were striving for with the forum.

Sincerely
The RDF forum staff

Of course, it is probably too late now.

Comments

  1. #1 NewEnglandBob
    February 27, 2010

    I rarely participated in the RD.net forums. At this point, waiting for the “new, improved” version might be the the best track.

  2. #2 Pierce R. Butler
    February 27, 2010

    This yammering is, rather, a clear indication of the staff’s need to make sure that blame is squarely placed where they think it should be placed. … The best possible outcome from that is distracting the person to whom the letter is written.

    It looks like, from the moderators’ viewpoint, the best outcome would be the removal of Josh Timonen from RD Forum management. Your version, by eliding that goal, cuts out more than “arm-waving”.

    Not having been part of RDF (2 comments in 3 years), I got no dawg in this fight – but I can’t help but think the actual RDFugees will see your “help” as raw concern-trolling.

  3. #3 Knockgoats
    February 27, 2010

    first I wanted to use this moment in time as an object lesson in communication. Greg Laden

    *snort*
    Given the recent trainwreck here, I’d say taking lessons in communication from Greg Laden is like taking lessons in evolutionary theory from Ken Ham.

  4. #4 debunk
    February 27, 2010

    Imma gonna let you finish your imminent self destruction and all

    Wait, the people who frequented the forums are self-destructing now?

    but first I wanted to use this moment in time as an object lesson in communication.

    Might be better if you gave Richard Dawkins and whoever wrote that condescending note to the forum moderators one. Just saying’…

  5. #5 'Tis Himself
    February 27, 2010

    Dear Greg,

    Considering what a poor communicator you are and your reputation for awkward and malicious editing, it might be wise if you just STFU about something that’s none of your concern.

    Just sayin’.

  6. #6 Stephanie Z
    February 27, 2010

    Pierce, even in union negotiations, the staff doesn’t get to determine who management is. It’s never on the table.

  7. #7 Doazic
    February 27, 2010

    This was seen coming over a year ago. Rehash of the Chat room debacle. The foundation, the website, everything is a sham.

    It’s obscene that everyone, Dawkins included has managed to tarnish a movement that was trying to prevent and rectify the atrocities committed in the name of religion. I stopped donating long ago. Hopefully this will inspire others to do the same.

  8. #8 Pierce R. Butler
    February 27, 2010

    Stephanie Z @ # 6 – Even if we accept the capital/labor paradigm as applicable here (which I don’t), are you saying that unions never get to challenge abusive supervisors?

    Maybe in the tamest, weakest, most docile unions. But here’s the first result (of 2.4M) in a Google search for “union, abusive supervisors”:

    [PDF] Postal Service Supervisor AND Manager Guilty of Abuse An …

    The union sought removal of the supervisor.

    Lots more at workplacebullying.org.

  9. #9 Stephanie Z
    February 27, 2010

    Pierce, they were let go. From volunteer positions, yes, but let go. The worst complaint in their own letter was that they were subjected to “spin.” No bullying.

    And the pdf you link to wasn’t part of a negotiation. You just don’t ask for removal of management as part of a negotiation.

  10. #10 HughMcB
    February 27, 2010

    Wow, great reporting on this scenario! *rolls eyes*

    Perhaps a slightly less subjective and scathing blog is too much to ask for?

    With the sudden collapse of the Richard Dawkins Forum (the biggest forum of its kind on the internet), many members have banded together and started their own forum. We have all the old moderators from RDF and all of our old friends are back together;
    http://www.rationalskepticism.org/index.php

    We encourage all to join no matter what your beliefs or outlooks are.

    Diversity is paramount to stimulating discourse!

    We are somewhat new and improved there. We are still committed to the guidelines allowing criticism of ideas but not attacks on the person. Now we have been able to rationalise the structure without the Richard Dawkins sales/fan aspect and with wider science range. On the old site there was General Science and then evolution and biology. The new site now includes Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry, Geology and more. The area on religion is more comprehensive and focused as is the scope of topic areas for debunking creationism, pseudo science and other enemy of reason stuff.

    Read the full story of the collapse of the old forum and controversy with Richard Dawkins here; http://www.rationalskepticism.org/viewtopic.php?f=40&t=454

  11. #11 Pierce R. Butler
    February 27, 2010

    Stephanie Z – Your # 9 is just further evidence why the capital/labor framework doesn’t fit this situation very well.

    The overall pattern of grievances does indicate that “bullying” (insofar as that concept applies to cyberspace) could reasonably be used to describe Timonen’s approach to RDF moderators.

    Even more so, the history as we have it so far (not just the letter Greg L posted above, apparently written in an attempt at reconciliation) shows that one word which does not pertain here is “negotiation”.

  12. #12 NewEnglandBob
    February 27, 2010

    I visited the new ‘replacement’ forum at rationalskepticism.org.

    What a bunch of loonies!

    Some of them are hater creationist (proud that their prayers brought down the forums) and others are just plain crazy. A scan of several of the threads nearly made me puke. RD.net is well rid of those people.

  13. #13 Stephanie Z
    February 27, 2010

    Pierce, I don’t see any reason why the labor framework doesn’t work here. You have a group of people referring to their skills and expertise and calling themselves staff. They’re employing the framework themselves.

    And while I don’t see much friendly behavior, I don’t see any bullying either. What do you think constitutes the bullying?

  14. #14 fyreflye
    February 28, 2010

    When will sane people wake up and face the obvious fact that a significant minority of the atheist/skeptic community is batshit crazy? And I’m not just talking about posters on the RDF.

  15. #15 SpeedOfSound
    February 28, 2010

    Batshit crazy? Plain crazy? Hmm. Not my self-image but who knows.

    I had 9,823 posts on RDF. Mostly fighting with atheists about the 12th step programs and my fight with people who want to call a halt to consciousness research. I peppered my posts with ample explanations of the human brain.

    My time on the forum gave me an accelerated education in philosophy and evolution that could not have happened in any other way. Then there is the birds-eye view of a slice of global contemporary culture.

    Those of you that pop in and take a quick look see only the ripples on the surface. It’s like walking by a bar and judging every human drama inside by listening to the cacophony on the street. If you don’t participate you don’t see.

    This is what ailed Mr. Dawkins. He brushed it off as trivial and he seemed horribly shocked at the reaction he got. This is because he had not a clue what was happening in his fan club inspired community. Should humble him a bit.

    Oh well. It’s over now and I’ve mourned the loss of friends and forum and moved on.

    The important thing to note here is the value of these forums. A historical record of global span that is being laid down in bits and will persist for centuries (If we don’t toss them in the bit-bucket as Dawkins tried to do). A new kind of socialization across an entire planet at the speed of light. A cross-section of human diversity.

    That latter is what you may be mislead by if you pop over and causally judge. You may see only the vocal and the profane. You will not see the humanity of the thing unless you study it.

    Bat-shit crazy RDF poster SpeedOfSound.

  16. #16 Varangian
    February 28, 2010

    @ NewEnglandBob: “I visited the new ‘replacement’ forum at rationalskepticism.org.

    What a bunch of loonies!

    Some of them are hater creationist (proud that their prayers brought down the forums) and others are just plain crazy. A scan of several of the threads nearly made me puke. RD.net is well rid of those people.”

    That is a lie, and anyone (rational) visiting our forum will expose you for what you are: a spiteful twerp.

  17. #17 Pierce R. Butler
    February 28, 2010

    Stephanie Z @ # 12 – A “staff” of volunteers is qualitatively different from a workforce. Would you continue to participate in this blog if Greg L started ordering you around in a way you’d consider reasonable from an employer?

    As for the grievances of the moderators, those have been rehearsed at length at various blogs. From overt disrespect to sabotaging the search function and disabling personal messaging to wholesale deletions to refusing communication, there have been a series of actions, mostly or all by Timonen, that can only be considered as gratuitously hostile.

  18. #18 IanW
    February 28, 2010

    Pierce – Don’t try rationalising with Steffie. Nothing works after she’s got the wrong end of the stick and started beating about the bush with it (my thanks to Eric Idle for that line!). Best just let sleeping dogs lie.

    As far as the Dawkins kerfuffle goes, who cares? It’s an Internet forum as fleeting and flimsy as the electrons and magnetic signatures from which it’s composed. There are no promises, and no guarantees. The owners can do whatever they want whenever they want. That’s the bottom line. Once you post something on the Internet you should mentally kiss it goodbye.

    Those who want a “permanent” or an “unbreakable” forum need to start their own instead of relying on someone else to do the work. Problem solved.

  19. #19 Pierce R. Butler
    February 28, 2010

    IanW @ # 17 – So far Stephanie Z has been reasonable and coherent in her comments, so I hope to continue the dialog – even if we never reach agreement.

    And while everything on the ‘Net is ephemeral (even while it all, so far, endures in scattered archives), as a long-time political activist I’m interested in how movements succeed and fail. You gotta admit the Dawkins Debacle is a non-trivial case study in online organizational dynamics.

    Now if only Dawkins & Timonen would provide some considered statements better defending their own side of this…

  20. #20 Rich Griese
    February 28, 2010

    What I am really surprised at is that a internet forum, and the people that participate in it would be something that causes drama.

    lol…. oh shit, all that espresso is coming out of my nose.

    OMG! will somebody think of the threads! How can we allow all that valuable internet chatter disappear! Oh… the humanity!

    I say delete them all! God will know his own!

    Cheers!
    RichGriese.NET

  21. #21 Stephanie Z
    February 28, 2010

    Pierce, I don’t consider myself staff here. Neither does Greg. But if he were to be that silly, I don’t see what the point of sticking around to try to persuade him to change would be. It’s a big internet, and I have lots of options on where to hang out.

    I have put in plenty of time volunteering, however. What volunteers do, they do in the name of the organization, and the organization keeps a fair amount of control over the process for that reason. The work is paid in food, t-shirts and warm fuzzies, but it’s generally not paid in a seat on the board. In that sense, this is still a labor/management question.

    One of the things I find frustrating about this situation is that, by continuing to try to address this within the context of the RDF, the staff is arguing from a position in which they have no power. And the argument they’re making, in the letter above and in plenty of places around the internet, is that, well, they should have power. There is no way this can end well.

    The reason this frustrates me is that they do already have power, but only if they move on. I’m repeating myself, but I think this is worth repeating. Everything I’ve heard says this staff does good work. I really hope that they end up at a forum or multiple fora where they own that work, where they actually are in charge.

    You hit on one of my pet peeves in the second paragraph of comment 16: “can only be considered as gratuitously hostile.” Actually, there is at least one other way to consider most of these, and it’s perfectly in line with everything else the staff has said about Josh and the forum. It’s limping, and he doesn’t have the skills to keep it up for 30 days in the same shape it was in or the time to do multiple steps to cut off a user and a few “bad” posts when deleting an entire profile will do. I don’t necessarily agree with the decisions, but I can certainly explain them without resorting to, “Josh is an ogre.”

    “Josh does not consider the forum a priority”? Yes, absolutely, and here’s where I think looking at it from a political organizational standpoint is useful. With the forum being as big as it was, I think RDF had become an organization with two priorities, even though there was overlap. In those circumstances, a split seems pretty reasonable. The problem, of course, is that I don’t think either side was prepared to do that consciously, so they’re both flailing around trying to do something else and angry that they’re not pulling together. However, that still doesn’t make anybody the bad guy here, just a bunch of people being very unproductive (and a few children dancing around the bonfire in glee and throwing gasoline).

    I’m torn about seeing any statements from Dawkins right now. I don’t know that anyone is ready to read, too much “can only be considered” going around. A gesture might be better. Something like finding a volunteer to host a mirror of the forum for longer than 30 days so people can still save what they want despite the limited functionality.

  22. #22 sailor
    February 28, 2010

    It reminds me how much I like this blog, apart from the fact it is well-written and run, there is no need to register, log on or get involved in any other irritant.

  23. #23 Greg Laden
    February 28, 2010

    PB: It looks like, from the moderators’ viewpoint, the best outcome would be the removal of Josh Timonen from RD Forum management. Your version, by eliding that goal, cuts out more than “arm-waving”.

    The letter is not a statement of goals. The letter is an opening to a conversation. It is quite possible that the removal of the admins is an important goal,but it is obviously not something that Dawkins thought of first, and may not be thinking at all. So I would leave it out until you sit down at the table.

    If from the moderators point of view, removal of the admins is non-negotiable, then that leaves open the question of how good they are at moderating!

    However, yes, if the goal is very very important, it could be put back in but worded in a more civil manner. Never mind what you’ve read on the internet. Dawkins is a civil kinda guy. If having him listen is important, this would be a consideration.

  24. #24 Greg Laden
    February 28, 2010

    Trolling by “Considering that I have decided to blame YOU for being so BAD at something and I get to DECIDE who is GOOD and BAD at Whatever ELEVENTYY!!!!!11!!! So SHUT UP TRAIN WRECK LADEN GO TO HELL” trolls in 3…2..1..

    Given the recent trainwreck here, I’d say taking lessons in communication from Greg Laden is like taking lessons in evolutionary theory from Ken Ham.

    Knockgoats, I do wonder what people like you do in real life. Surely, not interacting with other humans, one would hope.

    Debunk:Might be better if you gave Richard Dawkins and whoever wrote that condescending note to the forum moderators one.

    Blaming again. Huh. I suppose this is a hard point to get across to people who have spent their entire life without watching a single Dr. Phil episode….

    Debunk, who has what that someone else wants? If the moderators have only one goal …. TO SCREAM THEIR ASSES OFF UNTIL THEIR POINT IS HEARD IN BOCA RATAN … then they have already done that. If, on the other hand, they want to have a conversation with an outcome better then the one they’ve got now, they’ve got to put the “co” back in “conversation.” Not just score points, not just blame, not just Fight the Injustize!!!

    ‘Tis Himself: Nice example of above mentioned “YER DOING IT RONG” trolling. I think for you to reappear on my site I might want you to start using your real name. OK? Thanks.’

  25. #25 Greg Laden
    February 28, 2010

    Stephanie Z @ # 6 – Even if we accept the capital/labor paradigm as applicable here (which I don’t), are you saying that unions never get to challenge abusive supervisors?

    PB: You are correct, but one does need to get to the negotiating table first. The Blastulista Style is to accuse, try, convict, sentence and execute in fewer than five paragraphs. Take no prisoners, make no friends, make sure you are screaming louder than anyone else. There is a very good reason Dawkins chose to not negotiate with them. And, again, my letter is an object lesson, not advice for them. It is too late for them, I would think. (But not too late for Dawkins to back down a bit and take a new approach)

  26. #26 peter
    February 28, 2010

    http://richarddawkins.net/articles/5165

    mending fences or something?

  27. #27 Stephanie Z
    February 28, 2010

    Total aside for clarity: What does actually happen in union negotiations is that particular standards for relations between management and labor may be determined and means of monitoring/enforcement may be set up. Both sides will agree to abide by the standards. If it’s thought that someone hasn’t, the matter will be turned over to the monitoring/enforcement agency.

    It doesn’t happen directly in negotiations for a couple of reasons. (1) You don’t get management to the table by saying, “We’ll take your friend. You may be next.” (2) The actual goal for the union (fair treatment) is much more general, so expending leverage on a single person is counterproductive.

    /diversion

  28. #28 Treppenwitz
    February 28, 2010

    What’s this Laden trainwreck people are talking about?

  29. #29 Stephanie Z
    February 28, 2010

    Treppenwitz, if you missed the whole to-do of the First Pharyngulan Invasion, you’re probably happier for it. If you’re still intrigued, I’m sure some of them will be along shortly to not only point you to it, but also tell you how to read it (hint: Greg is eeeeevil, and everything he says must be interpreted with that in mind; also, metaphors are meant to be taken literally).

  30. #30 Pierce R. Butler
    February 28, 2010

    Stephanie @ # 21: It’s a big internet, and I have lots of options on where to hang out.

    And in how many of those places have you invested as much as the core group of RDF mods have in RDF?

    … volunteer… work is … generally not paid in a seat on the board.

    Listen carefully, you can hear the goalposts shifting.

    Any organization that doesn’t pay ongoing attention to volunteers’ feedback will end up with ex-volunteers – very credible ones – badmouthing its rep. RD has just taken that two-edged sword to his own patella (to pick an unsubtle metaphor).

    the staff is arguing from a position in which they have no power.

    No formal written structural power /= no power. Ask any anthro.

    … at least one other way to consider most of these … Josh … doesn’t have the skills to keep it up…

    Incompetence as alternative to charges of malfeasance? You’re not doing Timonen any favors by using the standard Republican scandal defense.

    “Josh does not consider the forum a priority”? You seem to be asking me to justify a statement I didn’t make. I think you’re on to something with the organization-with-diverging-strategies analysis, but in yr view of the “board” having total responsibility, whose fault is it for misunderstanding and fumbling the most public aspect of RDF policies?

    I’m torn about seeing any statements from Dawkins right now.

    Take it from someone who’s been working politically since the war against Vietnam: damage control is not something to delay. The “Apology” to which peter links in # 26 is a major step forward in that regard, though probably not enough to offset the multiple leaps backward of the last few days.

    … finding a volunteer to host a mirror of the forum …

    How could RD or anyone do that without any statement???

  31. #31 fyreflye
    February 28, 2010

    Pierce R Butler: “Now if only Dawkins & Timonen would provide some considered statements better defending their own side of this…”

    They don’t have a side because it’s their forum and they can do whatever they want. What is there about this that you don’t understand? “Defending their side” would be like feeding trolls.

  32. #32 fyreflye
    February 28, 2010

    “Bat-shit crazy RDF poster SpeedOfSound.”

    You’re not bat shit crazy. You just have no life.

  33. #33 Pierce R. Butler
    February 28, 2010

    Greg Laden @ # 23 – most of what you said and what I might reply have been rendered moot by Dawkins’s public apology. Why you want to offer yourself as an advisor/spokesperson for the disaffected moderators still puzzles me, but not enough to try stretching you out on a virtual couch.

    Greg Laden @ # 25: The Blastulista Style is to accuse, try, convict, sentence and execute in fewer than five paragraphs.

    The stated goal over at the Blastosite was wanting “not to get sucked into the drama”. Myers, obviously in no position to pretend nothing was happening, nonetheless plainly owes you an abject apology for failing to live up to your image of him. Do you hold him personally responsible for what his commenters say?

  34. #34 Pierce R. Butler
    February 28, 2010

    fyreflye @ # 31: They don’t have a side because it’s their forum and they can do whatever they want.

    Double fail – (1) for not reading Dawkins’s Apology, and (2) for not posting your insight on an Ayn Rand fanclub site where it could be more fully appreciated.

  35. #35 'Tis Himself, OM
    February 28, 2010

    Hey Greg, if you don’t want me to post on your blog then you can ban me. It’s your blog and you can do what you want with it. Since you’ve already shown you’re an arrogant, arbitrary ass, I wouldn’t be surprised if you ban me.

    But you don’t have to bother. I won’t be back again. Have a mediocre day.

  36. #36 Pierce R. Butler
    February 28, 2010

    Stephanie Z @ # 27 – once again, you support my case that a capital/union framework just doesn’t apply here.

    “… monitoring/enforcement agency”?!?

    No one can hear you scream “referee!” in cyberspace.

  37. #37 Greg Laden
    February 28, 2010

    PB: Why you want to offer yourself as an advisor/spokesperson for the disaffected moderators still puzzles me, but not enough to try stretching you out on a virtual couch.

    Whoa nellie! I have offered myself as neither and never would. I am simply using the case as an object lesson to discuss the broader and more general issue that it is not all about what is “true” or “correct” or “proven” when one is trying to communicate, even on the internet.

    Your questions about PZ are a bit enigmatic. The Blastosite is not the Blastulistas any more than this site is, although I am starting to like the term “Blastulas” more and more. The exact nature of the relationship between PZ and his readers is interesting, though. But I’m not likley to discuss that at least at this point because it would be a huge distraction. Also, since I don’t really read blogs, I don’t know much about them.

    Himself: But you don’t have to bother. I won’t be back again. Have a mediocre day. Why do I doubt you? In any event, if you make it your habit to show up on people’s blogs specifically to tell them to shut the fuck up about a topic that as far as I can tell is not banned by any particular power or agency, you need to ask yourself some questions. Like, are you on the right meds? Do you have a life outside the interent, and if so, do you act this way there as well? If so, is it hard to not have any friends and for your family to abandon you like I’m sure they must have by now? And so on.

  38. #38 Pierce R. Butler
    February 28, 2010

    Greg Laden @ # 37: I have offered myself as neither and never would.

    Perhaps my confusion came from, e.g., “… my advice is this: …” Sounded too much like, um, offering advice to my sub-educated ear. But I concede you defined your purpose early on, which I lost in the verbiage of the correspondence being critiqued.

    BTW, my feeling is that the letter-writers deserve extra credit for both diplomacy in a multi-faceted situation and coherence through committee. It could’ve been more concise, but considering the time pressure and the likely number of spoons in the pot, they might have done much worse.

    Your questions about PZ are a bit enigmatic.

    That came from

    The Blastulista Style is to accuse…

    – was this meant to describe Prof M or the slavering horde of Minions? Either way, the generalization is incomplete at best.

    The Blastosite is not the Blastulistas any more than this site is, although I am starting to like the term “Blastulas” more and more.

    There is a resonance to the whole riff, or at least some prime pun fodder.

    … since I don’t really read blogs…

    Don’t start: they’re a huge time sink.

    G’night!

  39. #39 Greg Laden
    February 28, 2010

    Right, the blastulas are not Pharyngula readers. They are Pharyngulistas. The blasulistas/blastulas is the larger set (including some Pharyngulistas) who value this argument about rationality and atheism and stuff more than they value rationality and atheism itself, or so I am starting to think.

  40. #40 Enoch
    February 28, 2010

    HughMcB > I would be interested to know what your definition of personal attack is, how that relates to an inappropriate, out of the blue, and incorrect criticism of someone’s blog post (I don’t see how anyone would possibly think of this blog post as “reporting” … but you say it is bad reporting, all very trollish on your part). To put this a different way, the new forum of yours promises to address the argument but not the person, but the invitation to that site required gratuitous snarkiness and insult. Your efforts may fail if your approach is the hypocritical one.

    Stephanie and Pierce: Perhaps in some ways you are arguing cross purpose. A union model is perfectly useful in some aspect of this argument, but not as much in others, especially since there is no legal regulation of an internet structure like the one in question. Perhaps the comparison should be made with an organizing but not yet unionized shop.

  41. #41 debunk
    February 28, 2010

    Blame? When did I blame anyone? I pointed out that this whole thing is the result of Dawkins and co not communicating very well. Dawkins himself even admits that in his apology.

    And Dr. Phil? Please tell me you’re kidding.

  42. #42 Sallie
    February 28, 2010

    Point + “debunk” = TOTAL UNDERSTANDING FAIL

  43. #43 Greg Laden
    February 28, 2010

    Debunk,

    The way to do this has been amply and well demonstrated by Richard Dawkins in his most recent posting (referenced above). What he did there is something I wager you are incapable of understanding at this point, but I think you could learn. But so far, the material you need to learn this is being handed to you on a whopping huge silver platter and fed to you with a beautiful silver spoon and you are not getting it.

    If there were such things as saints, Dawkins would have the patience of one.

  44. #44 Stephanie Z
    February 28, 2010

    Enoch, I think you may well have a point. However, I also didn’t think we were arguing so much as discussing, a notion of which Pierce has disabused me with his “goalposts” comment.

    Pierce, if you prefer to have my prior statement end with “is generally not paid for with the ability to make personnel decisions,” feel free. Then go fuck yourself. There’s no point in my communicating any further with someone who accuses me of intellectual dishonesty that doesn’t change anything in my meaning.

  45. #45 Swami
    March 1, 2010

    Pierce@#19: “So far Stephanie Z has been reasonable and coherent in her comments, so I hope to continue the dialog – even if we never reach agreement.”

    Stephanie@#44 (to Pierce): “Then go fuck yourself.”

    Priceless!

  46. #46 PZ Myers
    March 1, 2010

    These weird comments about “Blastulistas” are kind of annoying, since they’re supposedly not about me or my site, but the name leads everyone to think you’re talking about me. Or maybe you are.

    How about talking about Ladenistas instead? Or Isisites? Or Physioprofiloids? Or just come clean and call them Pharyngulites. I’m a big boy, I can take it, and so can they.

  47. #47 Stephanie Z
    March 1, 2010

    Swami, are you trying to suggest that there is a point in trying to have a discussion with someone who thinks I’ll be dishonest just for the fun of it? If so, do please let me know what it is.

  48. #48 Swami
    March 1, 2010

    Not at all, Stephanie. I wasn’t taking sides one way or the other. I was reading through the thread and got a good laugh. I thought it was funny. That’s all. You carry on.

  49. #49 Goldenmane
    March 1, 2010

    NewEnglandBob @16:
    “I visited the new ‘replacement’ forum at rationalskepticism.org.

    What a bunch of loonies!

    Some of them are hater creationist (proud that their prayers brought down the forums) and others are just plain crazy. A scan of several of the threads nearly made me puke. RD.net is well rid of those people. ”

    Blatant fucking idiotic lies.

    I only bother to point this out because some poor bastards might think your comments were anything other than dumbarse trolling, and I don’t like to allow people to embarrass themselves by falling for idiotic bullshit.

    Carry on.

  50. #50 Greg Laden
    March 1, 2010

    PZ: Sorry to be annoying. My intent was not to annoy you. The original meaningof the term “Blastula” was clear and explicit. It was meant to refer to the body of interent commenters who share certain characteristics such as: Atheism, an interest in promoting secular, rational, and skeptical issues and discussions, and on-line activism. I chose the term “Blastula” in honor of, and to honor, Pharyngula (and because I thought it was funny), but it was meant to refer to similar blog readers/commenters on my site, on Dawkins site, on IIBB, and so on.

    The context in which that term was used also included a mild critique of us (us “blastulas”) and a number of individuals took exception to that critique, apparently never having had their modus operendus questioned before, and went on the warpath. The conversation never progressed beyond a giant blame-game orgy that itself amply demonstrated that the critique I had proposed was not only pretty close to true, but that the situation was for some worse than I ever thought possible.

    During that process, the meaning of “Blastula” became corrupted and misused, and it became part of the “Greg Laden Runs a Train Wreck Blog and is Ruinging the Internet for Everyone” trope.

    Ironically, but perhaps expectedly, the commenters who never understood the meaning of “blastula” and when I re-explained it to them chose to call me a liar and a cheater and a mommy fucker are all your readers. (Not all of your readers, just a subset.)

    So, PZ I would be annoyed as well if I were you, but you’ve contacted the wrong person about it.

  51. #51 Pierce R. Butler
    March 1, 2010

    Swami @ # 45 – Thanks for making my point for me so succinctly.

    Stephanie Z @ # 47: … someone who thinks I’ll be dishonest just for the fun of it…

    What an amazingly defensive reaction to a simple suggestion that, consciously or otherwise, the terms of the discussion were being quietly altered. Oh well.

  52. #52 Stephanie Z
    March 1, 2010

    Yes, Pierce. I’m very defensive of my time, and you’re wasting it.

  53. #53 Observer
    March 2, 2010

    ***Staff were told that the science and reason forum content would be migrated to the new site and we offered to help with this.***

    This would have been great, there is a lot of interesting discussion on the site.