Pharyngula

I run a blog, not an open forum, and I’m reminded once again why I prefer the former.

The Richard Dawkins site is revising their forum. This substantial change is causing a great deal of unwarranted anxiety — people are unhappy (which is fair enough) and complaining, and many are flocking to a new open forum, which is also just fine. They’re also complaining to me, which is odd. So I’ll say a few words.

  • First and foremost, it is not my site, and it is not your site. It is Richard Dawkins’ site. People have lost sight of the fact that Dawkins has his own views on how the site should function, and he has the right and even the obligation to try and shape it to his goals. If you don’t like it, fine, go somewhere else. I know, that sounds so cavalier, but that’s the reality of it all. Richard spends the money to keep it going. He’s the boss.

  • There has been a lot of vilification of Josh Timonen going on, which does not win my sympathy. Josh is a good guy, and he’s neck-deep in work for the RDF — not just the richarddawkins.net site, and not just the forum, which only represents about a quarter of the daily visits to the site overall. Yet the forum represents most of the drama and trouble in maintaining the whole business. If it’s not reflecting Dawkins’ vision, and if it’s a headache to maintain, you have to appreciate why they would think revising it would be a smart idea.

  • I’ve been active in forums on the web in the past, and I’ve also played a role as a moderator. It takes a lot of work to keep a forum afloat. Every one I know of follows one of two paths: a slow decline into quiet apathy, or a rapid growth in membership and activity which leads to an eventual implosion into chaos, acrimony, and drama as disparate interests try to tug the forum in different directions. The forums at richarddawkins.net should not have competing interests, but only one: that of the Richard Dawkins Foundation. I think the recent changes are intended, in part, to remind participants of that.

  • The forums are not going away, but they are going to change in character. That hurts if you have an attachment to the old forums, but this is reality, and reality is dynamic and change happens all the time. Adapt or die. Who knows, the new format may be even better than the old — try it!

  • You can always just come to Pharyngula and chat here. Or any of the other atheist sites on the net. The community is not going away and is not harmed by a change in one outlet for its expression, and if it is, then it’s not much of a community, now is it?

So, move on. Adapt. Express yourselves wherever. Check out the new RDF discussions when they emerge later. This is not a crisis, it’s a change.


Richard Dawkins expresses his opinion.

One very weird thing about this whole contretemps is how people are treating Josh like some evil Rasputin. Josh and Richard are on very good terms, and Richard has clear opinions on how the site should be run — and there is no doubt about who is in charge.

Comments

  1. #1 Glen Davidson
    February 24, 2010

    I don’t know that it’s Dawkins’ site exclusively (in the moral sense), not once he has allowed a host of people to become invested in it. I’ve never liked the attitude that it’s a privilege (except in the narrower sense) for one to comment on a forum, especially since most blog owners very much desire comments.

    Nonetheless, Dawkins, or some entity close to him, pays for it, and has the primary responsibility for its proper functioning. Because of that, it is primarily up to Dawkins (again, in the moral sense) to deal with it as he sees fit.

    IOW, I mostly agree. But when a blog owner acts arbitrarily and without proper respect for commenters (I think of LGF, for instance)–not the case with Dawkins, as far as I know–it does not simply come down to the fact that someone “owns it.” Dawkins is not to be faulted because he is not being capricious or unfair (not that I can see), not solely because he owns the site.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  2. #2 mephmt
    February 24, 2010

    Well put PZ. I agree. I also agree with Glen. Richard himself never seemed, to me at least, to be intensely active on his own site. Sure I’ve seen him post here or there, but not nearly as much as PZ interacts with the community here. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing! I’m sure Richard has tons of other stuff to do. To each his own, of course.

    Like PZ said, it’ll be a change, not the end of the world. Having been apart of forum drama in the past, I’m perfectly content to stay out of this one! (Or any others for that matter!) ;)

  3. #3 SC OM
    February 24, 2010

    I’m actually a bit surprised by your attitude about this. I don’t know the entire story there, true. But if you behaved similarly in making a change and treated commenters [including some who've been commenting for years and volunteered as moderators (if this blog had them)] I would be really disappointed. In fact, a major part of what I’ve liked about this blog is that you respect the community and when you’re considering changes you ask for feedback and appreciate the effects they might have.

  4. #4 Jadehawk, OM
    February 24, 2010

    it is a crisis when people have their accounts deleted prematurely and are kept from exchanging contact information. I have no personal stake in this, since I never posted there, but this just isn’t being handled well.

  5. #5 Sven DiMilo
    February 24, 2010

    All good points.
    Here, though, as in the recent Ladengate dustup, teh CO is conspicuously choosing to make no comment at all about the really despicable online behavior that seems to have gone on.
    This is a personal and political decision that makes sense. However, I think it is important to avoid the appearance of whitewash. We should not forget the behavior just because the behavers are on our side.

  6. #6 Rick Miller
    February 24, 2010

    I had forgotten that the RDF had a forum. Maybe I’ll go visit. :)

  7. #7 bart.mitchell
    February 24, 2010

    Exactly right.

    The virtual world has the same realities of the real one.

    If owners of the Minskoff Theater want to gut it and turn it into a strip mall, they should be able to. The culture and society that has been built up around it doesn’t make a lick of difference to the owners as long as they get their own personal vision for the space satisfied.

    Snark aside, RD is only part of the reason for the success of his site. The community that visits there is equally responsible for its existence. I agree that he has the right to do what he likes with his property, but someone who relies on their popularity for their career should really consider the opinions of his fans before making sweeping changes.

  8. #8 Bald Ape
    February 24, 2010

    Seems like this entire dramatic saga could’ve been quickly and succinctly diverted with a direct message directly from Mr. Dawkins to the community that had become established.

    PZ – could you honestly imagine the fallout if
    1) Commenting was permanently disabled on your blog
    2) The decision to cancel commenting was proclaimed not by yourself, but by some background scienceblogs techie
    3) Said techie deleted all criticism of the decisions, and deleted all prior comments of any especially vocal critics
    4) Said techie announced that PZ was far too busy to deal with this issue; and that all blog visitors should *not* contact him about it.

    This is precisely the analogous situation we have on RDN. Yes – it’s Richard’s site, and frankly, a simple direct post (possibly endorsing an alternative forum for those who wish to continue with that format) from Richard would make your support of him in this ordeal fully justified.

    However, it seems that at best, he’s handled the disabling of his forums in a way which is downright despicable.

  9. #9 https://me.yahoo.com/a/RPuarI8Lze61hZk1PGjwDbui2fIshFKUh6U8SM6lsg--#d17ca
    February 24, 2010

    Oh god here comes the mob mentality. People are seriously calling for blood, for violence, and for trolling for chrissake.

    I understand that people are upset with the way Josh has apparently treated some of the hard working mods and deleted criticisms, but this outlash at both him, the RDF, and even Dawkins himself is inexcusable. There are tons of rumors, one-sided stories, and little information to be had, and yet people are already threatening to stop donating to the RDF.

    I guess that a lot of people had it in their minds that the forum was the important work their money was going to.

    Honestly, I can’t say much more other than that I’ve been appalled at the lack of reasoning used by some of these people. And also, a bit sorry for Dawkins, who apparently is very busy and probably going to have to go to his hotel tonight and find a ton of angry comments about something he wasn’t directly involved with.

  10. #10 https://me.yahoo.com/a/JQ.xyEE6tcrowzWnYOiZeDpTv69ibxfb#ac1dd
    February 24, 2010

    PZ: “First and foremost, it is not my site, and it is not your site. It is Richard Dawkins’ site. People have lost sight of the fact that Dawkins has his own views on how the site should function, and he has the right and even the obligation to try and shape it to his goals.”

    I think what people object to most is Richard’s silence on the issue. Let’s hear it from him directly that he no longer wants the forum community as it had developed. The problem is in a suddenly severed relationship, not some weenie disingenuous ‘who legally owns what’ argument.

  11. #11 calilasseia
    February 24, 2010

    As someone who has spent 2½ years moderating that forum, including taking flak on RD’s behalf during the previous episode of drama, and striving to ensure that the forum contains valuable material, that matches RD’s vision of a future in which people are scientifically aware, and therefore immune to infection by doctrinal mind viruses, I think I’m entitled to a little more consideration than being subjected to the mushroom theory of personnel management.

    Since RD’s vision leans so heavily toward reason and science, I have striven assiduously to uphold that. I think I can safely say that posting around 2 million words on scientific subjects, citing 400+ scientific papers and presenting around 50 of them in detail, means that I haven’t been derelict in my duty. I seem to recall you were rather fond of some of my work in the past when I brought it here. I exert diligent effort to maintain such standards to the best of my ability, and to be told that I am surplus to requirements after exerting that level of labour, whilst doing my utmost to ensure that RD’s battle cry is rallied around, does not endear me to the project. I suspect you would have some fairly robust things to say about a scientifically ignorant administrator who rode roughshod over your own work – well, I consider myself entitled to adopt the same robust approach.

  12. #12 SC OM
    February 24, 2010

    If owners of the Minskoff Theater want to gut it and turn it into a strip mall, they should be able to.

    People like you make me very glad for zoning, environmental, and historic preservation laws.

  13. #13 colmol42
    February 24, 2010

    In your blog you say the forums are not going away, merely changing in character, unfortunately that isn’t true.
    In 28 days time the old forum is going to be removed from the internet.
    2271827 posts gone, not moved to a new format.
    A new format which requires pre-approval for the starting of new discussions, how wonderfully Orwellian.

  14. #14 https://me.yahoo.com/a/RPuarI8Lze61hZk1PGjwDbui2fIshFKUh6U8SM6lsg--#d17ca
    February 24, 2010

    His silence? Isn’t he in fucking Australia?

  15. #15 Carlie
    February 24, 2010

    I don’t think PZ needs to comment on it at all – he’s not responsible for every atheist on the internet, and shouldn’t have to be.
    I agree that if the site wanted to change, fine, but the way they’ve gone about it is despicable, if as it’s been characterized. Telling staff moderators they aren’t allowed to contact Dawkins to ask about it? Declaring that other forum sites aren’t allowed to take disgruntled commenters? Preventing commenters from exchanging contact information and deleting everything they’ve ever posted when they dare to criticize? That is some bad shit, and I think the person who did those things should be held responsible for them.
    Regardless of any overall desire to overhaul and refocus the site, it’s created a huge amount of ill will and resentment towards the Richard Dawkins Foundation and website from some of its former strongest supporters, and that’s something that Dawkins himself should be deeply concerned about.

  16. #16 Squawk
    February 24, 2010

    Most are not happy that the forums are to be disbanded. Fine, it’s Dawkins site, he can do what he wishes with it.

    That is not the core issue. The core issue is the manner in which it has been done. PZ, you mention the hard work in keeping a forum running. I refer you to the moderators, all unpaid and volunteers, who have carried out that task for YEARS, making several thousands of posts each. They were simply dismissed by the techs (Josh) without warning. In the letter informing of dismissal they were patronised to great extent.

    Moderators accounts have subsequently been deleted, including entire posting history.

    The rebellion is not about a proposed change alone, though it is part of it. The rebellion is about the awful and scheming manner in which it has been carried out. Alienating the mods in teh way it was done is the key issue IMO, but the wider implications are vast. Dawkins has, in this action, lost the core of his support.

    Actions speak louder than words, the actions taken in shutting down the forums have spoken and spoken as loud as any of Dawkin’s history as a science communicator. I admire the man for his literary works and his contribution to science. As a man of the people he has failed, and failed hard. This WILL have ramifications.

  17. #17 SC OM
    February 24, 2010

    His silence? Isn’t he in fucking Australia?

    Did he travel back in time as well? :) Or do you just mean it’s night there?

  18. #18 Jadehawk, OM
    February 24, 2010

    People like you make me very glad for zoning, environmental, and historic preservation laws.

    I think that was supposed to be sarcasm, comparing PZ’s stand on the forums with that of a libertarian on meatspace property.

  19. #19 colmol42
    February 24, 2010

    “His silence? Isn’t he in fucking Australia?”
    Yes, apparently he is.

    Does the World Wide Web not extend to the Southern Hemisphere?

  20. #20 Ray Moscow
    February 24, 2010

    I seldom posted at the RD site, but it seems to me that a lot of good posters — not just Dawkins himself — invested a lot of time and effort over there.

    Why not let the senior contributors/managers copy the content to another board and carry on, without Dawkins’ name attached to it? They would have to raise the money amongst themselves to carry on, but it seems fairly easy to me.

    By the way, refugees can come over to Secular Cafe as well as to Rationalia.

  21. #21 natselrox
    February 24, 2010

    Seeing that many people came to the forum after having serious doubts with their faith, with queries about Evolution and Natural Selection (and other science issues), with misconceptions about Evolution and so on and almost all of them found support of some of the dedicated forum members over there, I’d say this has been a very insensitive decision. Richard Dawkins is a popular brand and many people were directed to the forum on hearing his name. They had the opportunity of starting a new thread with whatever queries they had and those were eventually answered by some highly knowledgeable members of the forum. I don’t see how this can happen at any other forum as they don’t have the name of RD associated with them.

    All in all, if this foundation was meant to promote science and reason, I think the forum would’ve helped its cause.

    At the end of the day, it’s your turf and you get to set the rules. No hard feelings.

  22. #22 Stuart
    February 24, 2010

    Richard has commented: http://forum.richarddawkins.net/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=110356

    PZ is right, it is Richard’s Forum so he can change it in the way he wants. I’ve seen other outrages about minor changes to other sites that result in splinter forums and the like but in the end the fuss dies down and the changes end up as for the better.

    It is a shame however that the old forum can’t be preserved in a read only format for historical and research purposes. There’s a lot of useful and interesting stuff on there

  23. #23 https://me.yahoo.com/a/RPuarI8Lze61hZk1PGjwDbui2fIshFKUh6U8SM6lsg--#d17ca
    February 24, 2010

    So far we have: IT people suck and do dickish things because they are in a special position of power.

    Have any of you at university or a workplace ever experienced anything different?

  24. #24 Miranda Celeste Hale
    February 24, 2010

    I appreciate this post, as I feel much the same way but have been rather afraid to say so.

  25. #25 Sili
    February 24, 2010

    The community is not going away and is not harmed by a change in one outlet for its expression, and if it is, then it’s not much of a community, now is it?

    True.

    But from the summaries on the Thread Everlasting, somebody has gone to a lot of trouble preventing people from exchanging the necessary contact information needed to keep the ties. That’s hardly conducive to nurturing any sort of community.

    And why go about it so rushed and cavalierly? Why not give people a chance to adopt or move on? Instead accounts have – supposedly – been deleted left right and centre, cutting people off without a chance leave a forwarding address.

    I use very few pseudonyms because I’m lazy, so I fairly easy to stalk. But “Atheist007″ and “John0807″ can be pretty hard to track down once lost.

  26. #26 Carlie
    February 24, 2010

    Interesting response by Richard. I do wonder if he is aware of all of the concerns that the moderators at his forum have brought up – not just concerns over the changes, but of the process and some of the retributive acts. I’ve never gotten into those forums, but another factor that I wonder if he understands is how much of a community can be and was formed there. I quail to think of the kinds of messages he got, but they were people lashing out about the sudden, immediate loss of something that was really important to them. Online communities can be just as real to people as IRL ones, sometimes more so. It’s somewhat analagous to someone knocking on your door, telling you you have to move to a new town RIGHT NOW, you don’t have time to take any of your stuff with you, and you’re not being allowed to leave anyone your future contact information either. It’s not just that people are upset about structure and change, they’re hurt. I can see that just from the bit I’ve read about it since yesterday.

  27. #27 Matt Hone
    February 24, 2010

    PZ, you and Richard have missed the point. This isn’t about Josh or whether or not the RDF have the right to do what they want with their own site. This is about basic civility. This is about deleting user accounts and thousands of posts. This is about whether or not valuable scientific discussion should be deleted or removed from existence.

    Richard has rushed to Josh’s aid in his own take on this affair but has failed to address the concerns Peter Harrison raised in his blog (www.realityismyreligion.com). The forum staff were treated like scum by Josh and Andrew, and the rest of us were all given the moniker of troublemakers.

    Your analogy to the pain of moderating your blog is a false one, since the RD.net forum had a team of hard-working volunteers who did a great job of clearing out the rubbish and settling disputes between members.

  28. #28 PZ Myers
    February 24, 2010

    Richard has spoken.

    Seriously, Josh has his full support, and I talked with both of them before posting this. Hard decisions were made. Yes, moderators and contributors poured a lot of hard work into the forums, but at the same time, the output wasn’t what Richard Dawkins wanted. YOU, the happy participants in the chaos of free-wheeling discussions, wanted what you got, but ultimately it’s the RDF that has to decide whether it serves their goals.

    Now I like happy chaos and enjoy seeing what bizarreness it produces, but I’m not in charge of a big-budget professional organization that has to deal with a rather stuffy world. I’m also confident that no matter what Richard Dawkins does, that happy chaos will erupt somewhere else…just somewhere else where Richard doesn’t have to feel responsible for it.

  29. #29 Matt Hone
    February 24, 2010

    Another thing I find outrageous is how Richard Dawkins belittles the old forum as ‘trivial gossip’. Excuse me? Has he not looked at the Faith & Religion, Debunking Creationism, Evolution and General Science forums? Hundreds of people supported the aims of the RDF by bring science resources to the table. I expected more from a man like Richard Dawkins than to generalise an entire forum by the behaviour of a few people.

  30. #30 Tenebras
    February 24, 2010

    You’re completely missing the point.

    It’s not just that they wanted a new “forum”, (if you can call it that, because by the sound of it, it really isn’t,) it’s not just that it’s RD’s site and he can do whatever he wants with it. It’s that Josh looked at all the people who have spent thousands of hours doing an AMAZING job moderating and working on the forum FOR FREE and basically said “You’re worthless now, and don’t you children dare misbehave and have the audacity to complain.”

    They were promised that they would have a hand in providing input into the new site in order to make it the best it could be. This was a flat out lie. They were never allowed any such input, any suggestions or criticism they had was either ignored or forcibly silenced. Josh then went into the admin panel and removed all traces of the banning and account deletions he did in his attempt to silence all dissent. Reminds me of a kid who breaks the cookie jar and tries to hide the mess before Mom and Dad get home.

    Given how poor a job Josh did in keeping anybody else informed, I really have to wonder how much RD knows about this. The other mods and admins were all fairly blindsided by this. Does RD endorse this wrecking-ball approach, or has Josh simply not told him?

  31. #31 Matt Hone
    February 24, 2010

    Again, PZ, you support Richard in his assertion about ‘free-wheeling discussions’. There was a General Discussion and an Off-Topic forum, yes, but they represented a tiny proportion compared to the plentiful discussions about science and religion elsewhere. Calilasseia, Peter Harrison, Justatheory, Theropod, these people put thousands of hours worth of material up on the forum and it helped educate many people about science.

  32. #32 https://me.yahoo.com/a/RPuarI8Lze61hZk1PGjwDbui2fIshFKUh6U8SM6lsg--#d17ca
    February 24, 2010

    Yes, apparently he is.

    Does the World Wide Web not extend to the Southern Hemisphere?

    Does that mean he should drop everything he’s doing to respond to a situation that he (like most people) probably doesn’t even fully understand yet?

    If he did so maybe he would of denounced the mods, like everyone else was for “making trouble”, before other parts of the story started getting out.

  33. #33 Jadehawk, OM
    February 24, 2010

    splendid. and this excuses keeping people from exchanging contact information and organizing themselves to not lose contact…how?!

  34. #34 aratina cage of the OM
    February 24, 2010

    It really has nothing to do with the change, it is how they went about it. First off, it was a little like what happened when scienceborgs decided it would redo everything about commenting without fixing the registration system (which is still broken for openid users). We retaliated and they retreated and ditched the plans. The other thing is the viciousness of the RDF administrators in trying to suppress organized dissent. That fails on the internet every time as the quacks know; now RDF administrators know that, too.

    I would agree with you if the RDF administrators had given fair warning allowing users to take their business somewhere else and then plowed ahead with the changes, but they did not. The notification letter was abrupt and that was not the end of it. The same day, they deliberately censored not just the forums but private messages and signature lines, and entire accounts were deleted along with every message ever posted under them. It was a royal Fuck You to RDF forum members.

  35. #35 natselrox
    February 24, 2010

    Seems like Richard completely missed the point in his defence of Josh. There were real human beings working their ass off trying to educate people on Science and stuff on that forum! There were qualified individuals trying to keep the forum in order! You don’t treat them like that. Closing the forum is different but there must be a method, even to a madness like this!

  36. #36 Kome
    February 24, 2010

    A moderator named Jeff from Fark.com said it best when Fark went through a major redesign a bit over a year ago: You’ll get over it.

    And, sure enough, people did. Facebook is going through a similar thing right now because of its most recent design. Facebook groups like “restore Facebook to what it used to be” and all that.

    People just want to complain when things change. You’ll get over it.

  37. #37 Paula Kirby
    February 24, 2010

    Thank you, PZ – a very welcome breath of fresh air and REASON. Who would have thought that people who are supposed to pride themselves on being rational and level-headed, and reaching conclusions based on data rather than emotion, could respond with such mad vitriol to a simple change in the way a forum is to be managed?

    And well done for making the point that RD.net is not OUR website, but Richard Dawkins’s. He has every right to state that it is for Purpose A and not Purpose B. If people want a site with a different purpose, they are free to set one up (as, indeed, they have) – there is no reason why either RD or his Foundation should provide it for them.

    I don’t for one moment blame the website team for taking the forum down straightaway when the ridiculous responses started. They are under no obligation to provide a platform for such appallingly vindictive comments and, since the whole site is being rewritten at the moment, they no doubt have far better and more important things to do with their time.

    From everything I have heard about the site plans, there is still going to be the facility to start new discussions, and users are still going to be able to comment on them; there is simply going to be a change of approach to ensure that the discussions are actually relevant to the purposes of the site. Users can save their old forum posts in the meantime, and can re-post then on the new one if they wish. Rational, sensible people should be able to take that in their stride, surely, without this ludicrously OTT wailing and abuse? I have been truly appalled by some of the responses.

  38. #38 Matt Hone
    February 24, 2010

    Jadehawk, you’re just repeating a complete non-sequitur. Josh and Richard have claimed those complaining about this change wanted RichardDawkins.net to be a social network. That is completely untrue. If any of you had the time to actually LOOK at the forums, you would see just how much discussion there was about completely non-trivial topics… topics that actually, Richard Dawkins cares about. Faith, religion, atheism, scepticism. It is completely understandable why so many people are angry, because you aren’t listening to what we are complaining about!

    Of course Richard can do what he wants with his own website. But many of us have donated to the RDFRS. The forum staff did a lot of hard work for NO PAY. People like Calilasseia waded through creationist muck for NO PAY. One moderator, Mazille, ran a science-writing award and what did he get for his efforts? His account deleted, and every post he ever made wiped. Just like that, because Josh didn’t appreciate dissent.

    Please, before you side with Richard and Josh and dismiss the rest of us as whining trolls, try to understand what happened here. http://www.realityismyreligion.com/ is a good place to start.

  39. #39 Treppenwitz
    February 24, 2010

    I only posted there a few times, so I can’t really get all MY CULTURE about it. That said, by all indications Josh Timonen has been an ass about the whole thing. Actively preventing posters from regrouping elsewhere (e.g. by disabling signatures and PMs) and deleting the entire post history of long-time contributors was, as far as I can tell, unnecessary. That he then apparently went back and removed evidence of having taken these steps from whatever admin activity logs exist on the backend is also curious.

    From what I can tell, the proposed new system really wouldn’t be a new forum; it’d be more like a blog with only guest contributors. Given the size of the previous forum, I don’t see how they intend to keep up with submissions.

    Frankly, I think having RDF-branded forums was a bad idea in the first place. From what I can tell, there were recurring disputes over issues like profanity and sexual content, and I can understand Dawkins and/or the RDF not wanting to get bogged down in that. Really, even if that wasn’t the motivation for closing the forum, claiming that it was and then giving people a chance to figure out where to regroup probably would have avoided most of the drama.

    And with this post I’ve probably written about the RDF forum than I’ve written on the RDF forum.

  40. #40 SC OM
    February 24, 2010

    Richard has commented: http://forum.richarddawkins.net/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=110356

    I understand his response to the vicious things said about him (what the hell is wrong with people?), but I think he’s focusing on those to the exclusion of the reasonable anger and frustration at what people see as disrespect toward their community. He should appreciate the importance of an ongoing online atheist/freethinking/skeptical/science-based community more than anyone, and yet he seems not to at all, or to see that this could and should have been done very differently. Puzzling.

  41. #41 Matt Hone
    February 24, 2010

    Paula, the real vindictiveness came not from forum members but from RDF staff like Josh who deleted user accounts and posts merely because they disagreed with the new changes. Take off the rose-tinted glasses and actually pay attention to what happened here, please. The treatment of staff and of one of the most popular atheist forums out there was completely undeserving.

  42. #42 Jadehawk, OM
    February 24, 2010

    erm… how is #38 a response to anything I said? :-/

  43. #43 Ray Moscow
    February 24, 2010

    PZ:

    They’re also complaining to me, which is odd.

    Only PZ can make the world right again.

  44. #44 https://me.yahoo.com/a/JQ.xyEE6tcrowzWnYOiZeDpTv69ibxfb#ac1dd
    February 24, 2010

    I’m surprised that Richard Dawkins endorses collective punishment. Why not stifle only those in conflict with his vision? Not everyone who is upset is “OTT”.

  45. #45 Matt Hone
    February 24, 2010

    That is why I think Richard completely missed the point. This isn’t ‘let’s all have a go at Josh’. There are definitely people who have done that, of course, but the majority of us are just really displeased with the behaviour of the foundation staff towards the forum staff, and the subsequent deletion of accounts and posts. Speaking personally, the only ‘insult’ I’ve hurled at Josh is comparing him to Stalin in his re-writing of history, which I think is a fair one. Stalin edited photos, Josh has edited administration logs. I would really like to see Richard defend that because that is what this is all about, not about nasty names and fear of change.

    And again, there has been no explanation or defense of the fact that valuable scientific discussion is all going to waste. From what Richard and others are saying, the forum looks like a place for kids to hang out and talk to each other about completely unimportant things. That just isn’t true, and you’d know that if you just looked at the forum.

  46. #46 grh123
    February 24, 2010

    It surely is Richards site to do with as he wishes.

    However common courtesy would have meant explaining the changes in advance to the dedicated mod team instead of lying to them for months.

    It would also have meant allowing members to find a new place to have the ‘free wheeling chaotic’ discussions instead of removing all Private message functionality and signatures in an attempt to prevent members exchanging contact details. The message to the mods specifically forbade them from helping people move to a new forum.

    It would also have meant that if he really had to silence dissent by banning members with over 10k posts covering real science there was no need at all to also delete their entire post history.

    Some people are trying to archive the content of the site for future reference, as teh messae specifically invited people to do, and since this morning, anyone attempting to do that has the archiving program redirected to a rickroll – and he has the temerity to say the people complaining are childish.

    The fact is, that this was handled in a terrible manner by someone who might be a great person while speaking to his idols, but turns out to be completely terrible at speaking to people he deems below him.

  47. #47 ozewiezeloose
    February 24, 2010

    When atheism.ru was doing a forum make-over, members were alerted by e-mail about the change, and advise to save anything they found important enough to their HD.

    What Josh did with the RDF forum was a far cry from respect for your forum’s contributing members, people who put time and effort into their – sometimes extremely educational and informative – contributions.

    I didn’t mind the forum changing. I DO mind that it was handled this way: overnight, I lost access to godknows how many posts, articles, links AND people that were important to me.

  48. #48 Endor
    February 24, 2010

    Oh sure: “A suppurating rectum. A suppurating rat?s rectum. A suppurating rat?s rectum inside a dead skunk that?s been shoved up a week-old dead rhino?s twat.?” Nothing vindictive about that at all!

    “Take off the rose-tinted glasses and actually pay attention to what happened here, please. ”

    Since you disagree, Paula, clearly you’re just a silly naive clueless gurl!

    Neither Dawkins nor his moderators owe the forum participants a damn thing. He could have completely deleted the entire forum with no notice at all and still owed them nothing. If they want to delete posts and accounts, they can. Of course people won’t like it, but who gives a crap. The infantile temper tantrums will cease, they’ll get the fuck over themselves and they will go back to the forum. And even if they don’t, others will.

    Of course, if even half of what Dawkins quoted was in response to him doing what he has every fucking right to do with his website, its amazing he’s even bothering to reboot the forums.

  49. #49 kirkinson
    February 24, 2010

    The most upsetting aspect of this from my point of view is that making the forum read-only for 30 days apparently disabled the search function, so I can’t go back and archive any of my posts or any useful discussions I was involved in unless I can remember exactly where and when each one occurred over the last few years. And I participated relatively little, so I can just imagine how much more upset people who spent a lot more time writing there feel about that.

  50. #50 tenebra98
    February 24, 2010

    PZ, I was a moderator in the forums, under the username Darkchilde.
    It was the way that members and staff were treated which was appalling. When the announcement was made, and the members voiced their concerns, Josh Timonen deleted the entire thread from the forum. Then he proceeded to delete entire accounts along with thousand of posts of prolific writers, most of whom had spent hours in posting articles and writings about actual scientific subjects, debunking bad ideas etc. Just because they said all the things Josh did not want people to know.
    Peter Harrison in http://realityismyreligion.wordpress.com has a very good account of what has happened and the absolutely appalling way we were all treated.
    There was no consideration neither for the staff nor the members. it was just dropped, no warnings, no nothing.
    I spent more than 2 years in the forum, and was a moderator for over a year now, starting in the debunking creationism section. A section I loved, exactly because creationism was bombed there by a lot of people, one of whom is Calilasseia, who has written here too.
    After the way they treated us, without any respect, as if all of us were just nothing, I am not going to support the foundation any more.

  51. #51 ozewiezeloose
    February 24, 2010

    “If they want to delete posts and accounts, they can. Of course people won’t like it, but who gives a crap.”

    If that’s your attitude as an educator, you’re not very good, IMHO.

    Oh, and I do strongly advise that everyone has a look at Peter Harrison’s blog, to get a more complete view of the whole affair.

  52. #52 Harry Tuttle
    February 24, 2010

    So far we have: IT people suck and do dickish things because they are in a special position of power.
    Have any of you at university or a workplace ever experienced anything different?

    Good gods, I hope you don’t actually say stuff like that around your IT staff.

  53. #53 Matt Hone
    February 24, 2010

    Endor, nice straw man you erected there. And you’re just proving my point. Abuse thrown at Josh clearly will not help matters. As for ‘infantile temper tantrums’, I think people will take a look at the arguments presented on Peter Harrison’s blog, and then your post, and see who is acting the brat.

  54. #54 Minus
    February 24, 2010

    I’m having serious deja vu here. I’ve been online for twenty years and have seen this type of event transpire countless times. In BBS, UCCP, all over the internet. Things change. Forums and groups have a natural life span. They begin, mature, deteriorate and die. RDF did what they had to do. The time had come. Something newer and better will most likely appear; it always has before.

    Anyone who invests themselves into an enterprise which they do not control is running risk of having the switch pulled.

  55. #55 Ol'Greg
    February 24, 2010

    Well I never really posted on the RD site so I guess I missed it all. It’s a shame that people won’t have time to grab and mirror the previous discussions on a new forum at least.

    Sounds like the forum had gotten a little too healthy and too independent. I hope the new free forum takes off then in that case.

  56. #56 natselrox
    February 24, 2010

    No one opposed change. But the utter disrespect shown towards the staff and posters in the forum indicates a sick mind, not suitable for rational thought.

  57. #57 calilasseia
    February 24, 2010

    Paula, were you not there during the so-called “October revolution”? You know, the one you were provided details about by concerned members of staff? Where those members of staff that were concerned stood up and defended RD when he took the requisite measures, and took a lot of flak for it?

    I remember reminding people about the political dimension inherent in having people post some of the content that was being removed, and for my pains I was likened to George W. Bush. Remember that, do you?

    As for RD wishing to keep a tight focus on science and reason, did you ever read any of my posts, or those of something like two dozen other battle-hardened veterans of Debunking Creationism, who included among their number tenured professional scientists who took time out of their busy schedules to support RD’s battle against duplicitous ideological warriors for mythology-based masturbation fantasies? Do you know how much hard science was reviewed in those threads? I suggest you take a good, long, hard look at the substantive content in there whilst it lasts, and see the hard work that a lot of people put in, to provide a first-class resource for those who wished to take on professional liars for doctrine such as the DI head on. This is material that RD should be glad people provided, even more so because they provided, free of charge, a standard of material that many consultancies would charge a king’s ransom for. What people are not merely upset about, but incandescent over, is the fact that during Josh’s petty, petulant and vindictive purging operation, some of that valuable material was lost forever. This includes, to my knowledge, submissions covering in detail, peer reviewed science in evolutionary biology, which Josh trashed wholesale because he didn’t like having the poster in question dare to do other than genuflect before his corporate hologram. Do you consider this reasonable behaviour? Because if you do, you are operating on a different definition of “reasonable” to the one I learned in English classes at school.

  58. #58 PZ Myers
    February 24, 2010

    I know. People get very attached to forums and the people they meet there. A good one (and the RDF forums are good ones) can be like a pleasant coffeehouse, where everyone wants to be there. People are used to being treated as people, and the discussions are mutual and interesting.

    But try just a little reversal for a moment. The contributors want to be recognized for what they’ve added to the forums, and they resent what they perceive as arbitrary and unjust treatment. And you may be right, that you were handled abruptly. But then why is everyone treating Josh and Richard as monsters? Posters to the forums get to be recognized as fellow human beings, but Josh Timonen is the wicked tyrant who is destroying everything?

    Imagine that coffeehouse that you find so copacetic is also the place where the barrista is routinely abused, insulted, and treated as a personal slave. The owner is not going to view his clientele as people enjoying mutual conviviality (even if you honestly were!), but as a gang infested with riff-raff who are destroying the atmosphere.

    And when you get thrown out, you aren’t going to convince him otherwise by amplifying your complaints about the poor sap who used to serve you coffee. He’s also not going to feel much regret at evicting the troublesome complainers, either.

    You either recognize that the administrators are equally valid contributors (and even more important in controlling the service), or you don’t really deserve to have been in that environment in the first place.

  59. #59 Antiochus Epiphanes
    February 24, 2010

    An insult hurled at someone (moserator?) at Dawkins.net (from Richard Dawkin’s statement).

    A suppurating rat?s rectum inside a dead skunk that?s been shoved up a week-old dead rhino?s twat.

    Why didn’t I ever visit these forums before they were dismantled.

    *sob*

    WHY???

  60. #60 keinsignal
    February 24, 2010

    Dawkins has always been fond of saying that organizing atheists is like herding cats. Now he seems to be finally confronting the obvious follow-up question – supposing you could get one, what the hell use is a herd of cats anyway?

  61. #61 Antiochus Epiphanes
    February 24, 2010

    Whiff!

    Whiff!

    “moderator”

    Whiff!

    (The flagellation continues through the afternoon)

  62. #62 bart.mitchell
    February 24, 2010

    SC OM

    You might have missed my /snark tag after declaring the Minsk should be made into a strip mall.

    It was a satirical bit pointing out that the people that frequent a place are just as important, if not more so, than the owners of the establishment.

    I always forget that satire and sarcasm rarely work on the intertoobs.

  63. #63 Matt Hone
    February 24, 2010

    PZ, again, it isn’t necessarily the change itself which is made us so angry (although that is a significant part of it). The main thing is the treatment of staff and members alike by Josh. We still haven’t heard anything about the bannings, the deletions, the tampering with the admin logs. You don’t set an entire community against you just because you want to change the website. You do that through discourtesy, and yes, I know they have the right to do what they want, and yes, I know some people on our side have been terribly abusive, but there is a reason behind it.

  64. #64 AJKamper
    February 24, 2010

    I have absolutely no stake in the issue; I’ve never been to RDF. I’m mostly interested in this fro a social dynamics standpoint. But I gotta say, when you see a comment like:

    “Speaking personally, the only ‘insult’ I’ve hurled at Josh is comparing him to Stalin in his re-writing of history,”

    you just have to giggle about the complete lack of perspective. Because editing administration logs in a forum is JUST LIKE hiding the murder of 20 million people. TOTALLY fair.

    FWIW, I’ve seen this dynamic in a number of online communities; people identify with the community more than the forum, and when the rug is yanked out from under them, they totally lose perspective. Not saying that there wasn’t some really poor communication and sensitivity here, but the immediate fury as a response is indicative of how personally people took, well, an internet forum they in no way owned.

  65. #65 grh123
    February 24, 2010

    PZ – First of all the entire staff has been turfed out along with the customers after the guy from head office who never normally shows up arrived one morning and locked the doors.

    To others – Yes the quotes about Josh that Richard cites are pretty awful. However, every single one can be traced to rationalia, after Josh :

    a) Removed PM Functionality
    b) Deleted tens of thousands of science posts
    c) removed signatures that attempted to give people another place to meet
    d) Locked the forums and turned off search completely to make it nigh impossible to archive any content.

    Unfortunately I can’t direct you to the thread discussing the changes which was far more civil because josh has

    a) Deleted it
    b) Removed said deletion from the server logs.

  66. #66 https://me.yahoo.com/a/JQ.xyEE6tcrowzWnYOiZeDpTv69ibxfb#ac1dd
    February 24, 2010

    It’s a shame that the main discussion thread of the changes has been disappeared. Not just the nasty, inappropriate posts. The whole thread. The evidence of how much was reasonable versus nasty has been destroyed. Is it “OTT” to call this craven?

  67. #67 SC OM
    February 24, 2010

    SC OM

    You might have missed my /snark tag after declaring the Minsk should be made into a strip mall.

    It was a satirical bit pointing out that the people that frequent a place are just as important, if not more so, than the owners of the establishment.

    I always forget that satire and sarcasm rarely work on the intertoobs.

    Yeah, sorry. I’m usually better at making the distinction. Too many propertarians about – sets me on a hair trigger.

    :]

  68. #68 Miranda Celeste Hale
    February 24, 2010

    @63

    I know some people on our side have been terribly abusive, but there is a reason behind it.

    A reason isn’t a justification, though. There’s no excuse for the level of vicious invective that has been expressed.

  69. #69 bart.mitchell
    February 24, 2010

    keinsignal said
    ‘ Now he seems to be finally confronting the obvious follow-up question – supposing you could get one, what the hell use is a herd of cats anyway?’

    HAHAH! That gave me a real belly laugh. Well played sir.

  70. #70 calilasseia
    February 24, 2010

    PZ, here’s a basic question for you.

    If some people are abusing a public facility, what do you do? Do you target the abusive individuals with something resembling precision, and leave the rest untouched, or do you kick the pants of the very people you have giving their free time policing the facility for you?

    Because that’s what has happened here. The moderation staff were subjected to the mushroom theory of personnel management, treated as if they didn’t matter, and when valid questions were asked about whether or not this corporate hologram being dreamed up was something other than vapourware, we were labelled “troublemakers” and sidelined.

    Josh manifestly knows nothing about proper personnel management. All we wanted was some form of evidence that these proposed changes were likely to be an improvement over what was currently extant. Given that RD himself has been exhorting people to base important decisions on evidence instead of nebulous waffle, don’t you think it’s a little strange that we should be treated in this manner for acting upon RD’s own maxim?

  71. #71 ozewiezeloose
    February 24, 2010

    PZ: “But then why is everyone treating Josh and Richard as monsters?”

    Only I didn’t. I cordially expressed my disappointed. All I got in return were RD and Josh utterly ignoring EVERYONE who cordially and courteously expressed their concern, and posting comments that made US look like monsters.

    Now, if you think people like Cali are monsters, you cannot be anything but a creationist. ;)

  72. #72 Matt Hone
    February 24, 2010

    AJKamper, I stand by comparison of Josh to Stalin. Josh, or Andrew, or somebody else involved in RDF deliberately tampered with the admin logs and also deliberately deleted the discussion thread about the changes. This was all done AFTER the forum was made read-only.

    But fair enough, you can dismiss me as an incredulous fool if you like for making a gross exaggeration about Josh/Stalin. I’m not going to pretend to be perfect. But you can’t dismiss all the other complaints too.

    This all boils down to how you want to run a foundation that is dedicated to reason and science. Richard is obviously content to let Josh act on his own prerogative; unfortunately, that means dissent is either dismissed out of hand (by Richard), or deleted entirely (by Josh).

  73. #73 bart.mitchell
    February 24, 2010

    SC OM, I don’t know if you caught my apology in the last Libertarian thread.

    I said I was sorry for being one. Im still kinda proud for my closing line.

    I’m sorry I bought into such a short sighted philosophy. Like masturbation, it felt great at the time. Unlike masturbation, I was fucking someone else while I pleasured myself.

  74. #74 Matt Hone
    February 24, 2010

    Miranda, #68, I agree with you, of course some of the really extreme threats and such are inexcusable. But what isn’t fair are posts like Richard and PZ’s, which while I’m sure are well-intentioned, completely ignore the legitimate concerns we and the forum staff had with the way things were run at RD.net and which ultimately resulted in the fracturing of the community.

    People have been saying, ‘so what? It’s an internet site, deal with it’, but the fact remains that many of us donated to RDFRS and the staff did a lot of unpaid work, which deserved more than the deletions and the threats sent from foundation staff.

  75. #75 Stuart
    February 24, 2010

    The first I’d heard about this was on this blog, I’ve just caught up on events from this blog post by one of the moderators: http://realityismyreligion.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/locked-entry-will-open-soon/

    If that is the case then I think all the complaints by those affected are justified… but not the level of abuse highlighted by Dawkins.

    I’ve dipped my toes in the RD forum a few times but wasn’t a regular posted or reader, however I am and have been a part of many web communities in the past. The closing of a forum is the breaking up of a community and it happens… but to stop people passing on contact details or alternative meeting places is just wrong. As is the deletion of profiles and posts even though everyone’s been told they have 30 days to retrieve anything they want to take (not that that’s an easy thing to do)

    It’s a major internet PR gaff for Dawkins

  76. #76 the2ndsaint
    February 24, 2010

    I’ve read the other dude’s summary of the events leading up to this gigantic clusterfuck and all I can think of is “That’s it?” There’s been this large a shitstorm over a reboot?

    I’m curious, though, did the moderators post the private correspondence as a “Fuck you” to Josh, or what?

  77. #77 Ilovelucy
    February 24, 2010

    With all due respect PZ, I need to correct the barista analogy. The hard working baristas (unsalaried) were the moderators, I was one of them, who dealt with the clientel ( the 85,000 forum members). Josh was the coffee house manager who stayed in his office and ignored our attempts at communicating with him.

    After being told that we would have an input into the new site, we were largely ignored ( especially when we told him that things would kick off with the users). Then, we got a message saying our services were no longer required. Rather than a thank you, the message ended with a threat telling us not to complain, make petitions or try contacting Richard.

    We voiced our dissent on the forum (nothing bad by the way) and the thread got deleted. Moderators that tried voicing dissent on the front page got their accounts, and entire posting histories, deleted.

    I am also disturbed to find that the post by Richard insinuates that we were behind the nasty comments about Josh. Those comments came from the Rationalia forum made by members that were not forum moderators.

    Anyone who wants to find out what really went down should read this blog by ex admin Peter Harrison.

    http://realityismyreligion.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/locked-entry-will-open-soon/

    It accurately relays how things happened and how they appeared to the team of moderators.

  78. #78 Sven DiMilo
    February 24, 2010

    But then why is everyone treating Josh and Richard as monsters? Posters to the forums get to be recognized as fellow human beings, but Josh Timonen is the wicked tyrant who is destroying everything?

    Pz, are you reading this stuff? Why is this Josh guy being treated as a monster? Because he acted monstrously (afaict). Richard? His name’s on the top of the page.

  79. #79 CJ
    February 24, 2010

    Hi I?m CJ one of the members who had all their posts (13,889) at RDF deleted by Josh Timonen. I had been there for 3 years. Now the ONLY thing that really gets me is the wanton destruction of a historical document the like of which will never be seen again. How will future historians see this act by Josh and Richard? I think they?ll hold their heads in their hands and cry at the loss. There is NO record like this of the reaction to the publication of one book, The God Delusion, in the history of mankind. Nothing like it exists in the past because the Internet was not mature. Nothing like it will exist in the future as the nature of reading is changing out of all recognition. The forum is a unique resource that needs to be preserved not destroyed and it?s being destroyed, bit by bit, by Josh Timonen. The last backup before this debacle needs to be preserved for future generations. Please, please, please make Richard see sense on this point if you do nothing else. Richard won?t listen to the people who have dedicated thousands of hours fighting his cause on his forum, so I hope with all my heart that he will listen to you and not destroy a unique historical document. 2.4 million posts gone as if they had never existed. Heart rending stories of theists finding their way out from the tyranny of religion, gone. Creationist arguments picked apart and destroyed, gone. If this forum is lost it will be one of the greatest acts on intellectual vandalism the world may ever see. And all they need to do is send a backup to a museum that will host it in a read only form for future generations to read. I will pay Richard 1p for the last backup (it?s going in the bin anyway so why should he care how much is paid for it) before the debacle and I will do my level best to get it hosted in a read only form somewhere. Regards Chris

  80. #80 tsig0
    February 24, 2010

    This episode makes Dawkins a hypocrite. He’s a champion of free speech and inquiry then shuts down without warning the biggest site in the internet because of some frivolous speech.

    I was a member but I never posted much because I never liked the odor of sanctity that hung around Dawkins.

  81. #81 natselrox
    February 24, 2010

    Josh is an invertebrate. I never insulted him. In fact, I didn’t even know about this great fiasco. I return from class and I see that I’ve been defriended by Josh on Facebook(Like I care). Now why would anyone do that? I bought his fancy t-shirts and mugs (all in the name of rationality! How could I be so dumb?), donated to his rational project and so on and I thought he’d have at least some amount of respect for me. But he was so scared of being abused over the internet that he defriended me. I still have no intention of abusing him. I’m just stating the simple fact that Josh Timonen is a coward and a spineless creature.

  82. #82 somnia.mortis
    February 24, 2010

    As the ex-RDF poster tytalus (now on rationalia), I found one of the ironic comments there apropos: in defending Timonen, Dawkins quote mined us. :) I don’t think it quite fits, but it’s close. Nothing like cherry-picking the absolute worst of the many comments, skipping over the likes of my own dull, mild, profanity-free concerns, and then denouncing us all as a bunch of anonymous internet miscreants.

    Still, I appreciate PZ being in touch with Prof. Dawkins about this — I was skeptical of the RDF post as having any more involvement from Dawkins than his signature. And for that matter, I wondered if the cherry picking was a result of Timonen filtering information for his master. Thank you for your enlightened, considered, evidence-based opinion of me, Prof. Dawkins. Feh. Sarcasm intended.

    If nothing else I have polished my rhetorical and logical skills at the RDF forum, increased my knowledge of science, and I will move on; I’ve been reading this site for a long while, could post a bit. And maybe I’ll take some of my new spare time and start a blog.

  83. #83 Simon Gardner
    February 24, 2010

    @Ray Moscow “Why not let the senior contributors/managers copy the content to another board and carry on, without Dawkins’ name attached to it? They would have to raise the money amongst themselves to carry on, but it seems fairly easy to me.”

    Agreed. As a heavy user of the RD.net forum, that?s seemed to me the obvious solution since this mess erupted very suddenly on Monday [22-2-10]. It would have been helpful if Dawkins had facilitated this move – to an extent – rather than the bloody shutdown and butchery which has occured. It still would be.

    Dawkins no longer wants the forum. The very large community of users of it still do and relations are decidedly sour thanks to the way things have been done.

    Divorce would seem the obvious solution and as in most divorces, money remains an issue. The ex RD.net forum membership would be better advised trying to find new funding rather weeping over what was.

    This all hasn?t been helped by petty destruction of parts of the forum before it could be copied.

  84. #84 Greg F.
    February 24, 2010

    In the IT world, this kind of reaction from users is sometimes called the “who moved my cheese?” response and it almost always dies when the new product is up, running and people had a few days to get used to it.

    I know there’s a lot of sentiment flowing around that the web is now social and users are as much a part of the site as its content and it’s true to some extent. However, even in this “Web 2.0″ world, the site is owned by those who pay for it and administer it rather than those who use it.

  85. #85 Holytape
    February 24, 2010

    Dawkins has the right to do as he pleases with his site. If he thinks that the forum is not reflecting his goals then he has every right to drop it. However, the right to do something, doesn’t mean your not a dick for doing it. He, or at least his subordinates, handle the situtation very poorly. They ignored the work of non-paid staff and their customer base. People invested time and effort into the website. Those are real investments. To have their investments and work destroyed and then told too bad if you don’t like it, and to be told told don’t complain and then to top it all off treated like children; of course it is going to piss people off. The way they treated the mods was the upmost of disrespect. A organization that relies one volunteers which treats them with the disrespect that Dawkins and company have shown doesn’t last long. They alienated their core followers, and right now they are getting blow back from it. If Dawkins doesn’t realize this then he is an arrogant ass, which he has every right to be.

    What they should have done was be up-front form the start. If they had kept the mods and the users in the loop about what changes were happening, or at least treated them with even the least bit of respect, Dawkins changed his website and dropped the forum, with little or no problems.

  86. #86 Bella Fortuna
    February 24, 2010

    Next time RD lectures on quotemining he has only but to present that bit of writing as the pinnacle of the art.

  87. #87 Valden
    February 24, 2010

    Hello, I am one of the members that was completely deleted off the RD.net forum.

    I had been part of the forum for a little over two years, racking up more then 5.5k posts during that time. Though I spent most of my time in the Politics and Current Events section, I would often go into the Science sections of the forum, seeking to expand my mind with knowledge that other members, such as Cali, were so kind enough to share.

    I also had a great many memories there. From laughs, to sympathy. When I first joined, I was a Deist. And it was because of the people on that forum, that have shown me that my beliefs were nothing more then a security blanket.

    When everything went out of control and Josh turned the forum off (before it went into read-mode) I made three protest comments (None of which were at all bad) on the front page. In one of those comments, I asked to be banned, as I no longer wanted anything to do with the entire website itself.

    But instead of just being banned, I was deleted. All my posts were gone. My memories, thrown down a cliff as if they were nothing. It was as if I had never been a member there in the first place.
    I had received only two warnings my entire time there. I was a fairly well behaved member. Such treatment was completely out of line, and not needed.

    Before I was deleted, I was still thinking about just merely lurking around the new forum and posting here and there. But now, I don’t want anything to do with the place due to the treatment of not only myself, but several other members who were also deleted, the staff, and members.

    PZ, you ask why Josh is being treated as a monster. Wouldn’t you consider someone who burns a book to be the same as a monster? Deleting our entire history on that forum is in my eyes, the same as burning books.

    This is not about how the new forum will function. It’s about how all of us were treated like dirt. Josh is NOT a valid contributor, he almost never posted on the forum. He doesn’t understand the basics of forum life. If he bothered to put more time into being part of the forum community, then perhaps this all could have been avoided.

    But instead, he ignored the warnings of the staff, people who were actually part of the forum community and spent months, to years of their time keeping it together. Josh does not understand that, and apparently, neither do you or Richard Dawkins.

    Josh is a liar, and I can not help but think Richard is being shown one side of the picture, which is Josh’s. He has attempted to shift the blame entirely on those of us who were deleted, and make it look like he had done nothing wrong.

    I am not impressed.

  88. #88 davem
    February 24, 2010

    I used to comment on the RDF forum, but not recently. I seem to remember that RDF had a poll a while back, asking about radical changes to RDF, and that the main response was ‘No thanks, just fix a few things’. That message was acknowledged, and, it now seems, ignored completely.

    It looks like RD wants some kind of dry academic discussion area, which misses the point. He seemingly doesn’t understand the Internet. Forums don’t work like that. Witness PZ’s everlasting thread – it has a life of its own, not because of it content, but because it is building an on-line community. Lots of eclectic posts with the odd diamond thrown in. Forums work when they are social networks, and they fail when they aren’t.

    Over-regulation kills off that sort of community very quickly. The changes may work, but they might just be the RDF’s biggest own goal.

  89. #89 Bald Ape
    February 24, 2010

    I did not participate on those forums, so this is an outside-looking-in perspective.

    IMO, everything about what Richard Dawkins has done and said is “a-ok” – except for allowing the deletion of content posted to the forum criticizing the decision and, worse, deleting all content ever posted associated with the more outraged users.

    To me, *those* actions are anathema to the entire “freethought” cause Mr Dawkins claims to represent.

    As I said, I did not participate in the forums, but I have contributed monetary support to his foundation in the past.

    Unless and until Mr. Dawkins

    1) Addresses and justifies /these/ actions in a reasonable fashion
    - or –
    2) Acknowledges that they were not justified and issues an apology (and takes whatever measures can be taken to rectify the wrong)

    … I will not contribute any more support to his organization.

  90. #90 https://me.yahoo.com/a/JQ.xyEE6tcrowzWnYOiZeDpTv69ibxfb#ac1dd
    February 24, 2010

    Thank you Bald Ape for comment #89. That’s all this particular torch-wielding peasant wants too.

  91. #91 ozewiezeloose
    February 24, 2010

    “Unless and until Mr. Dawkins

    1) Addresses and justifies /these/ actions in a reasonable fashion
    - or -
    2) Acknowledges that they were not justified and issues an apology (and takes whatever measures can be taken to rectify the wrong)

    … I will not contribute any more support to his organization. ”

    I’m afraid he’ll have to do a lot more that that if he wants me to contribute in the future.

  92. #92 Greg Laden
    February 24, 2010

    Here, though, as in the recent Ladengate dustup, teh CO is conspicuously choosing to make no comment at all about the really despicable online behavior that seems to have gone on.

    I get a “gate”???? Wow. I feel so special.

    I assure you, though, that I made my opinion known to exactly whom I wanted it known and in the manner in which I wanted it known. If this is unsatisfying to you, write me an email and explain why, or put a post on your own blog about it and send me the link.

  93. #93 Endor
    February 24, 2010

    “nice straw man you erected there. And you’re just proving my point. ”

    Oh goodie, the old “i’ve got nothing so I’ll misuse from logical fallacies” dodge. Great.

    It’s his forum. he can do what he wants. Get over it.

  94. #94 jack.rawlinson
    February 24, 2010

    Those who are attempting to downplay what has gone on here are simply not paying sufficient attention. There has been some extremely bad, underhand and vindictive behaviour from Timonen, and while the more excessive instances of verbal abuse he is receiving are unjustified, the basic criticism is not.

    Sadly, in (I hope at least somewhat blindly) supporting Timonen RD has lost one hell of a lot of support from many of the 85,000 users at the forums, especially the regulars (of which I am – or rather, was – one) and I have little doubt that loss of support will, unfortunately, carry through to the RDF, too. This has been a shot right to the foot for RDF.

  95. #95 ozewiezeloose
    February 24, 2010

    Hats off to Jack Rawlinson!

    Seconded. Wholeheartedly.

  96. #96 raven
    February 24, 2010

    I’ve almost never visited Dawkin’s forum so have no dog in this fight. But from what was reported, my 7 cents.

    1. It is never a good idea to alienate people for no particular or good reason. You will anyway, just make sure they are the right people for the right reasons.

    2. Blogs and fora are symbiotic with their readership. It requires an owner/author, moderators (maybe), and readers/commenters. PZ Myers could close comments and just post whatever he felt like every day. But if no one reads it, what would be the point? In fact, it totally misses the point which is communication between people.

    3. That being said, it is Dawkin’s forum and he can do anything he wants and people accept it whether they like it or not. Seems counterproductive but that is the way it goes. It has happened to me before and I just point my browser somewhere else and go. The internet is a big place.

  97. #97 Holytape
    February 24, 2010

    I couldn’t figure out why this pissed me off so much. But I figured it out, — In all of the responses to to the mods or commenters, not once did Richard Dawkins or his subordinates once thank the mods for their work. I have been a volunteer and been in charge of volunteers, and I can tell you that the very worst thing you can do is not to thank volunteers for their work. Even if you no longer need their work. Not thanking people makes people bitter and angry. That kind of attitude is poison for a non-profit.

    Of course if Dawkins is the sole funder for the Dawkins foundation, then it shouldn’t matter. If however, the foundation depends on gifts or volunteers to any extent, then the foundation is in trouble until Dawkins can pull his head out of his ass.

  98. #98 SpeedOfSound
    February 24, 2010

    The internet is a remarkable thing. I was out of town (Bloomington MN) on the night you got tossed out of the mall. My son emailed me your post on the incident while Richard was still at the movie. I was not aware of RDF and signed up that same night.

    9823 posts later, on Monday night, I’m in the middle of a pitched battle with a CosmoCon and the rug is pulled out. I understand the plans had been posted for months on some nearby star but somehow I didn’t hear the rumble.

    It wasn’t just a little internet thing to me. I had spent two years there getting the best education in the philosophy of consciousness that my time could afford. It shaped my studies in the neuroscience of the consciousness and refined my world view with solid ground that I had never attained before in my 59 years.

    I believe the next pitched battle after creotard vs. evolution will be about the physical nature of consciousness. My fervent posting against the woofull detractors of neuroscience painstakingly called out there faulty premises in great detail. I had a library there that is going to be plowed asunder in about 27 days. I captured some of it but things were so fast that I missed a lot.

    When you get deeply involved in these little social cyber-villages, as Richard is not, you get this sense of a real village with real people. The village was torched and the residents driven off helter skelter into the jungle. Many of us picked up our spears and went fighting. Not surprising. Myself I just want the damned content saved and perhaps some consideration given to moving the community intact.

    Or, we will just go on somewhere else in some fashion. No problem. They have real genocides in Africa that are probably a lot worse.

    Anyway. The situation could have been handled better. The warnings against the mods to shut up and not try and form a new assembly elsewhere were over the top. I think because Richard and yourself were not invested as some are that you fail to see the human factor here. You can’t see this sort of thing from the outside.

    Richard is probably very surprised at the damage this has caused his public persona. And Angry I’m sure. But peace treaties never hurt in these situations. Wars are made of mutual silence.

  99. #99 HughMcB
    February 24, 2010

    Just to get one thing clear….

    This is the order in which events happened at RDF (I was there for the whole thing);

    - Notification given to all members that RDF Forum was to close in 30 days, new “Discussion Board” would be highly regulated, new threads had to be pre-approved, any “chit-chit” posts which were deemed not valuable would be deleted. Members told not to try to migrate to another forum or promote alternatives. Users told to back up any posts they needed before it was all going to be deleted (despite the forum search function being down for months)

    - Thread started by members to voice outcry, this was within Forum rules. Tensions were high but this was disillusionment rather than hostility.

    - Mods tell members that they had no hand in any of this (as the masses were getting restless) and provide the pm they received to show that they were as in the dark, and more importantly completely disrespected, as the rest of us. They were essentially told “we don’t need you anymore, don’t let the door hit you on the way out”

    - Josh rides in on his white horse, shuts down the entire website, deletes all dissent from the Forum and any (within Forum rules) criticism. Communication between members was cut, many of whom were unaware as to events or didn’t know how to contact each other. Now users couldn’t even track their own posts as they were shut out, now way to search any posts at all, by any means other than dicing through the whole forum.

    - Josh deletes the mod Mazille and member CJ for their part in the criticism (Mazille for posting the pm and CJ for criticizing the treatment of mods on the RDF front page). nearly 20,000 posts lost by these two alone who were both high profile, high quality content posters.

    - Members started to find each other on another website and slowly getting the word out to those who were wondering WTF was going on, while simultaneously furiously trying to back-up the Forum so that the couple of million strong user posts that were used as an educational database of hard science and wonderful creative ideas and knowledge.

    - Josh continues to delete posts and prevents users from changing their profiles to indicate to others where we had all gone, mass censorship was underway. Even the logs of Josh’s activities were deleted and recycle bins emptied so no trace of these could ever be recovered.

    - Tensions mount on alternate forum where many RDF-ers gather, the dispicable behaviour by Josh and disrespect to the moderation team and members is voiced (and yes we did use some f-ing crude language)

    - Finally Dawkins speaks out after numerous pleas from site staff (or should I say ex-staff) and members alike to stop the madness. This was met with essesntially the statement “My Joshie’s a lovely boy and you’ve all been very mean to him, you should be ashamed, I’m glad I kicked you all to the curb now”

    - New developments pending

    On a personal note I would like to say I’m absolutely appauled at the mistreatment of RD’s loyal fans by both Josh, and himself.

    Tell me Richard, will the money saved in ditching the Forum be worth the losses incurred by s#$tting all over your biggest contributors?

    What 85,000 ex-members x $0 ?

    For a full detail of what happened read Peter Harrison’s blog on the matter (Google it).

    Thank you,
    HughMcB

  100. #100 SpeedOfSound
    February 24, 2010

    BTW PZ. Bravo for commenting. Had Richard commented earlier this would not have reached the boondoggle size it has.

  101. #101 Holytape
    February 24, 2010

    I couldn’t figure out why this pissed me off so much. But I figured it out, — In all of the responses to to the mods or commenters, not once did Richard Dawkins or his subordinates once thank the mods for their work. I have been a volunteer and been in charge of volunteers, and I can tell you that the very worst thing you can do is not to thank volunteers for their work. Even if you no longer need their work. Not thanking people makes people bitter and angry. That kind of attitude is poison for a non-profit.

    Of course if Dawkins is the sole funder for the Dawkins foundation, then it shouldn’t matter. If however, the foundation depends on gifts or volunteers to any extent, then the foundation is in trouble until Dawkins can pull his head out of his ass.

  102. #102 Matt Hone
    February 24, 2010

    #93.

    I didn’t misuse a logical fallacy. You strawmanned me by making it look like I told Paula Kirby to shut up, or talked to her in a sexist way. Your whole ‘get over it’ routine is really petulant, and adds NOTHING to either side of this issue. You are the equivalent of a bystander pointing and laughing, the Nelson Muntz of Pharyngula.

  103. #103 the2ndsaint
    February 24, 2010

    Um, Holytape, the PM explaining the migration contains the phrase “We can?t thank you enough for your contributions to the old forum.”

    Not a lot, but it’s something.

  104. #104 moochava
    February 24, 2010

    Holytape—”Dawkins has the right to do as he pleases with his site. If he thinks that the forum is not reflecting his goals then he has every right to drop it. However, the right to do something, doesn’t mean your not a dick for doing it.”

    This is an excellent point and I suspect many people will not and perhaps even cannot understand it. Whenever I wonder why creationists make the same inane arguments (of the “2nd law of thermodynamics” variety or whatever), I look at the multitudes who cannot grasp that there is a difference between legality and morality, and I accept that creationism is merely a subset of the Great Hominid Category Error Project that’s been going on for several million years with no signs of abating.

    Also, if I talked down to my underlings like this–”Please do not attempt to inflame the users, start any petitions, or ‘relocate’ groups of users to a separate forum. Do not use any of the data held by the foundation (such as email addresses) through the control panel to cause any trouble. Any behavior of this kind will not be tolerated”–, I suspect they would find out where I slept and come for me in the darkness. This guy shouldn’t be in charge of a tree house with a “no gurlz alowed” sign, let alone a major forum.

  105. #105 Bella Fortuna
    February 24, 2010

    PZ – thanks for taking the time from your busy schedule to come to Rationalia and interact with some of us and perhaps see a little more of what’s really going on.

  106. #106 sadpanda
    February 24, 2010

    Reposting a comment by ‘old soul’ from http://jerome23.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/the-end-of-an-era-richard-dawkins-forum-to-close/ for perspective

    >>?Richard Dawkins needs to make some kind of statement ? if he?s worried about the content of his site for PR reasons, this is going to cause a lot more problems.?

    No sir, this is not correct. There will not be any problems. This is not the experience that atheist organizations have had. Decades ago, Madalyn Murray O?Hair shut down every chapter of American Atheists, alienating thousands of people, but doing no long-term harm to herself or the group. No problem there.

    In 2007, the Internet Infidels Inc, a nonprofit educational group, shut down their extremely popular ?IIDB? Internet Infidels Discussion Board, driving away thousands of people, many of whom had donated money to the group for both its regular operations and the upkeep of the forums. When the II, Inc. began banning and silencing its forum users, it lost very little real revenue, as the major donors who supported the organization did not care one bit about the teeming masses on the message board. The II, Inc. did not lose any real income or its reputation amongst the atheist elite. It sold the IIDB to a woman from New Zealand, who changed the forum name and continued to silence all dissidents. The II, Inc. did not suffer any loss or long-term damage after divesting itself of its forum. No problem there, either.

    The management of the Richard Dawkins Foundation is a major player in the upper echelon of atheists that none of you are part of. Unless your individual cash donations are five figures or more, you mean nothing to any of these atheist organizations. If you utilize their websites without paying your way, you are little more than a leech. You do not matter, and you never did. Your posts on the forums do not matter. Your feelings do not matter.

    This is just business as usual for atheist organizations, why are you all so surprised? This is how it is done. Richard Dawkins will not lose any face. He will not suffer a publicity backlash. As far as his staff is concerned, you are all ungrateful for complaining about not being able to use the forums any more. Guess what? They do not care. They will make new websites, write new books, and speak at new conventions. Where thousands of you dare not tread, thousands more unsuspecting atheists will fill the seats you won?t occupy, and buy the books you won?t read, and visit the websites you won?t support. No problems.

    There are millions and millions of atheists worldwide and no major atheist group has ever lost any money by not accommodating all of them. For every hundred of you who leave in disgust, two hundred more will take your place. For every post that is deleted? the same. The outcry of atheists who are offended by being silenced is not a problem in the grand scheme of organized atheist groups.

    These groups operate in a realm that none of you occupy. It is a world in which *you* do not exist, and none of them (on the national or international level) are focused on ?atheist community? or ?the needs of nonbelievers.? They are money-making operations supporting authors, lecturers, philosophers, and publicity hounds, all in the name of atheism, and all for naught.

    If you are operating a large atheist organization, shutting the internet out of your atheist group will not hurt you in the long run. This is demonstrably true, and the RDF staff certainly knows it. Now you all know it too. Visit this page again in 2 years, when Dawkins? books are selling like hotcakes, his lectures are standing-room-only, and his new website discussion area is busy and bustling with passionate atheist activity. All of this complaining is not going to change anything.

    There will be no problem for the RDF. Atheist herd migration will not disrupt the activities of any major atheist group, certainly not the biggest moneymaker of them all.

  107. #107 Matt Hone
    February 24, 2010

    I’d like to second Bella’s post (#105). I think we all appreciate PZ’s attempts to understand our position and suggest ways to move on from this. That’s a hell of a lot more than what Richard has done for us. Anyway, now we’ve got what we wanted; we’ve put our case across, and now I think it is time to move forward. There’s way too much negativity at the moment. Apologies are needed; the way the forum staff were treated, and other members who had their accounts deleted, was just despicable. But at least there’s been some kind of progress, thanks to PZ. My biggest fear was this whole thing being swept under the carpet and the sceptical community never really finding out what happened at RD.net.

  108. #108 Teshi
    February 24, 2010

    Whoa. I had no idea that the forum wasn’t supposed to be social.

    I recognize the right of forum owners to lay down the rules- I’ve been a member of various forums that have had similar problems. Nevertheless, I think it seems very badly handled. I had only started to become involved and I feel sad that it’s basically gone.

    It seems as if the ‘do not attempt to relocate’ request was given prior to any actual attempt to do so (am I wrong?). If this is the case, that seems unduly cruel.

  109. #109 Kel, OM
    February 24, 2010

    Now to test the Michael Ruse prediction: will a whole lot of Dawkinsites find Jesus after this event?

  110. #110 grh123
    February 24, 2010

    @Teshi

    Neither did we, In 2008 Richard said this :

    ?It is a community, and that is a valuable part of it. Many of our forum threads have an atmosphere of friends going out for a drink and chatting. I think that is valuable, and I don?t think we should insist on sticking to serious topics. That would be a good way to stifle the sense of community, and that would be a real shame.?

  111. #111 clockkingfl
    February 24, 2010

    This is what happens when comments start drifting light years away from the topic they’re posted to and anything resembling professional demeanor evaporates.

    All the existing posts are available for copying and archiving to any who want them. There’s no reason to expect RDF to pay to attempt to convert everything in the old database to the new database. Even if the old and the new are both MySQL and PHP, every content management system behaves differently. Not everything will convert accurately or convert at all.

    Donations made to the RDF are for the public work they do on our behalf, not to provide anyone with free server space to say and do as they please.

    Where the web site and forums are concerned, Dawkins owes us nothing. It’s the public activities of the foundation that count. If what’s happening in the forums is undermining that effort, then something has to change.

  112. #112 orpheus
    February 24, 2010

    Yes, Bald Ape summarizes it nicely.

    Also, remember that one of Richard’s stated goals – a very important one, according to him – is to help atheists stand up and recognize one another, to help them to feel they’re not alone.

    The RDF forum did that in a huge way. Most of the purely social conversations there were precisely that. When people denigrate the social aspect of the forum, they seem to be ignoring that this was one of the stated goals. And it is emphatically not trivial. It’s a really important goal, and the RDF forum had gone a long way toward furthering it.

    If you say that it’s important for atheists to recognize and associate with one another for solidarity, and you start a forum with that as a big part of the intent, then you should be happy when it actually is successful. I find it puzzling that many people don’t get this point, nor how important it is. I don’t want to sound mawkish or sentimental, but that aspect of it was fantastically important to many members – a lot of whom were stuck in places or situations where they truly felt alone and unable to “come out”. Many deep friendships formed there. I know of at least one member who met her fiancée there. You encourage a community – and you’re successful. You get one. What do you expect a real community to be? It’s going to have purely social conversations. I don’t see why that’s so bad.

    And now, it’s been suddenly, forcibly dispersed. This is not just hyperbole on my part. Yes, I’ll “get over it”, as some of you have rather unkindly said. But please note that there were many people I met there who I have communicated with for years – who I cannot now communicate with. All signatures have been deleted. Nobody is allowed to send personal messages anymore. I have no way of finding them, so we can’t communicate off-site (unless we are fortunate enough to bump into one another on Rationalia or another site). In short, Josh et al did everything they could to try to keep us from remaining a community. Did they really have to take away the means for us to find one another off-site?

    PZ, I listened very carefully to your wonderful interview on Point of Inquiry. You said that we could reach the fence-sitters, and that that was important to do. So I think you’d appreciate that a very large contingent at the RDF forums were in fact fence-sitters that appreciated precisely the welcoming community. Many climbed off the fence to our side as a result.

    Before anyone jumps in to say that these social aspects weren’t the purpose of the forum, yes, I know they weren’t the main one. But they were – as stated many times by Richard himself – an important one.

    As to the other purpose of the forum? The social threads were dwarfed in number by the ones on science, skepticism, and religion. And, as others have pointed out, those were very very fine indeed, with a great amount of information generously provided by a community of very knowledgable people. And now it’s unsearchable, and thousands of those posts are gone. Forever. This is shocking. And it was so avoidable. Even if Josh and/or Richard were troubled by the words of some people, why not just lock those accounts and ban them? Did they really have to delete their entire posting history?

  113. #113 aratina cage of the OM
    February 24, 2010

    From what I can tell, the beginning of a call to move the forum to rationalia started here (link to rationalia.com), before Josh T. wigged out and started deleting content and suppressing communique and private messages. In Josh T.’s announcement of the forum closure, he explicitly makes it known that the forum and all its contents will be inaccessible after 30 days:

    We will leave the current forum up for 30 days, giving regular users an opportunity to locally archive any content they value… The forum will then be taken down from the web.

    He should have left it at that and stuck to the plan. It is shocking, but fair enough. The next moves he made went too far.

  114. #114 Will Von Wizzlepig
    February 24, 2010

    future of forums.

    PZ runs this blog, moderates it, and while it is a lot of work, he knows who his clever posters are, and who his problem posters are.

    I say, if you wanted to make a forum on Pharyngula that works and needs almost no moderation, make a forum and only give access to 15 or 20 of your best blog-comment-posters. When you post things on the blog, those select users can discuss it in the forum. All the coach-class passengers can flail away in the blog comments as usual, or go read the composed and smarter discussions in the forum… the oh-so serene forum discussions… devoid of that added crappy flavor of the coach-class inane lolz commentary.

    Which makes me think- along with registering on a blog service like typepad, maybe there should be a grading scale blog owners could employ to increase the reputation of comment posters.

  115. #115 Pierce R. Butler
    February 24, 2010

    Coming soon to a video screen near you:

    Expelled II!

    - featuring an internationally notorious villain and a cast of thousands!

  116. #116 Paula Kirby
    February 24, 2010

    #49 Kirkinson: No, the search facility has not been disabled, but it is transpiring that in some cases forum users do not have all the permissions they should have. Just contact the site support and they will fix it for you.

  117. #117 debeuk
    February 24, 2010

    #116 Paula Kirby: The search function has been disabled for months on the RD forums. Even moderators weren’t able to use it.

  118. #118 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmgEWHsiEYkXz9M0APUZvCFOC82Wanv6dQ
    February 24, 2010

    Hi,

    I’m going to echo what a lot of people seem to feel about this…

    Sure, RDF can do what they will with the forums… but it doesn’t mean that they should.

    Rather like an atheist’s argument against a theist that God shouldn’t squish you just because he can.

    Anyway, I didn’t post on the forums really, but I loved to read the stuff that was up there. I learned a lot and it saddens me to think of all the posts I won’t ever be able to read if it disappears.

    Can anyone confirm if the content will be preserved at all? Can anyone in touch with RD beg him not to bin it until something can be sorted out? I think that’s where most of the anger comes from – RD has the right to change the format of the forums… but the content is the work of the users and it shouldn’t just be thrown out.

    Cheers.

  119. #119 grh123
    February 24, 2010

    @clockkingfl #111

    Except any attempt to use software to archive the 2.2 million posts redirects to a Rickroll.

    Which i think is particularly mature.

    And search is borked completely.

  120. #120 HughMcB
    February 24, 2010

    #108
    “It seems as if the ‘do not attempt to relocate’ request was given prior to any actual attempt to do so (am I wrong?). If this is the case, that seems unduly cruel.”

    Yes, you are correct it was a preemptive move.

  121. #121 Jef
    February 24, 2010

    “Yes, moderators and contributors poured a lot of hard work into the forums, but at the same time, the output wasn’t what Richard Dawkins wanted. YOU, the happy participants in the chaos of free-wheeling discussions, wanted what you got, [b]but ultimately it’s the RDF that has to decide whether it serves their goals.[/b]”

    Although it was initially a part of RD.net, the Richard Dawkins Foundation have had their own, completely separate, website for quite some time. If I recall correctly, this was said to be done so that the RDF could not be directly associated with the material posted at RD.net.

    This suggests that this was a personal decision by RD, not the RDF.

  122. #122 orpheus
    February 24, 2010

    In comment #111, clockkingfl said this:

    “All the existing posts are available for copying and archiving to any who want them.”

    This is not true. Josh deleted tens of thousands of posts, including entire posting histories.

  123. #123 urnuababy
    February 24, 2010

    Just because it’s not wrong, that doesn’t make it right.

  124. #124 HughMcB
    February 24, 2010

    Plus we have no means of searching any posts as the search function doesn’t work and members have been locked out of searching their own posts. You would literally have to trawl through all 2.3 million odd posts to find the ones you want.

  125. #125 PZ Myers
    February 24, 2010

    I’ve written to Richard and Josh and suggested that preserving the existing forum content in a read-only archive would be a good move. It would be a bit much to expect it to be searchable, though: search is a huge performance hit on these sorts of sites.

  126. #126 aratina cage of the OM
    February 24, 2010

    sadpanda #106, are you saying that lack of revenue stream was the problem? I suppose we will see if the “new” RD.net has corporate advertising. If so, maybe it was a problem of putting the sponsors’ needs over the needs of the user base.

  127. #127 dahduh
    February 24, 2010

    So. This is interesting. I’ve just spent two hours reading all about the hoo-ha. And now my question is, do Dawkins and PZ rise above it all? Can they set aside politics and spin and personal allegiances and Speak Frankly, and act in a Right and Rational manner? How exciting, we shall see!

  128. #128 SpeedOfSound
    February 24, 2010

    Thanks PZ. Most of us would settle for having the contents dropped in a box even as raw sql. It would be easier for me to get the content I need from it that way. It’s time for a little peace.

    Still. I gotta tell you. This has probably permanently reversed my opinion of the Professor. His reaction in the next few days will make a big difference one way or the other. It’s too bad. I believe he had no idea that this would be taken so seriously.

  129. #129 https://me.yahoo.com/a/AmR3kBNk38i.xu2SYtHoagGsxM3Ow2IWmuD.iRW0g64Fz32BGG7tDjU-#33748
    February 24, 2010

    Here is a message I sent to RD. The vilification levelled at Josh is not based on the decision that was made but at the actions of someone who has evidence a complete lack of skill in managing such a change.

    ————————————–

    I have just read your announcement.

    Unfortunately you have completely missed the motivation behind the protests levelled at the 2 people in question.

    When the original announcement was made there was no vituperation levelled at Josh. There were a number of objections registered the overwhelming percentage of which were polite in questioning the reason for the changes proposed.

    At the start of this it was felt that the moderators were supporting the change, Two of the moderators posted a message from Josh sent to all the moderators, strictly speaking it was against the rules of the site to repost something from the staff only forum but this was not revealing personal communication but a policy change nor had there been any suggestion that an attempt to misuse private member information by the volunteer staff was even being contemplated.

    It was also made clear by some mods that over the past few months the staff had been in communication with the 2 people involved and not only had communications been ignored but the staff had been told things that were just not true, and the people making those statements must have known they were untrue when they made them as such a radical change to the forums cannot have been proposed, planned and decided in a few days.

    It was the actions taken by Josh from this point onwards that have attracted so much distaste from a wide variety of the membership.

    1) Posts that politely criticised or questioned the change were removed – these did not include insults to Josh.

    2) The moderators who reposted info from the staff forums were not stripped of their moderator priveleges or even banned. Instead their accounts were deleted which removed every single post they had made, this resulted in the loss of exactly the type of posts that were supposed to be available for members to archive. No communication was received by any other moderators who may have been willing to keep things going over the 30 day period.

    Deleting accounts has never been the policy of the forums, only deletion of specific posts. The fact that thousands of useful and relevant posts have been deleted certainly angered many regular users.

    3) Josh did not respond to any private messages or e-mails send by staff questioning what was happening.

    3) The forums were locked – this prevented any further questioning of the changes, polite or otherwise.

    4) Private Messaging was effectively disabled which prevented members communicating with each other in any manner whatsoever. The announcement “We were not telling the regular users what they could and couldn’t do, they were all welcome to move to a separate forum.” was obviously false as disabling both posting and PM’s prevented the regular users from doing anything.

    5) The admin logs showing what had been done have been deleted, and well over 100,000 posts have disappeared from the forums on the past 2 days.

    6) The updates announcements on the closure were condescending to regular users and contained lies. There was no valid reason to delete accounts rather than de-moderating or banning members. There was no reason to stifle polite discussion by reguilar members.

    It was not the decision that was taken that has enraged so many but the actions taken after that decision was announced.

    It is Josh’s [u]actions[/u] that have attracted the criticism levelled at him and, coupled with his supression of any form of dissent by regular members, have lead many to regard the past 2 days as a debacle that will drive many away from any future support of the foundation. It will certainly do so in my case, I will give no support to an organisation that has so abruptly and egregiously silenced the voices of so many in the atheist community.

  130. #130 geode
    February 24, 2010

    I’m not sorry to see the forum at RD.net go. Some people may have seen it as a friendly community but that wasn’t my experience. I found it to be an aggressive and hostile environment a lot of the time, with long-standing members seeming to think that they could say whatever they liked to new people.

    As a newbie I posted on several discussions and initiated some… several members were aggressive towards me and on mentioning it to mods I was told to suck it up. Other members told me that if I couldn’t ‘take it’ then I would ‘have a hard time here’ and so forth. I was ad hommed many times (supposedly against forum rules) and the mods just ignored the posts I reported. I soon got the message. There is also a very blokey atmosphere on the forum, and discussions about sexism/feminism on RD.net have been some of the nastiest I’ve read or been a part of.

    There was also an incident a while back where long standing members and mods started threads where they shared violent sexual fantasies (e.g. descriptions of women being tortured), and when female members objected, they were told in no uncertain terms to f**k off. Members who were involved in that debacle were still there when I left and are probably still there now. It says a lot about a forum when these types of people are allowed to continue posting on what is supposed to be a friendly space for *all* atheists.

    If Richard Dawkins wants to distance himself from that forum then all power to him and I think he’s doing exactly the right thing.

    The nasty comments directed at Josh Timonen don’t come as any surprise to me.

  131. #131 Rawful le Mayo
    February 24, 2010

    As someone who has lurked for years in both places, this is really upsetting news. Watching your heroes disappoint you is never fun, necessary as it might be sometimes, so seeing how Dawkins reacts in the coming days will be key for me, personally.

  132. #132 CJ
    February 24, 2010

    PZ wrote.

    “I’ve written to Richard and Josh and suggested that preserving the existing forum content in a read-only archive would be a good move. It would be a bit much to expect it to be searchable, though: search is a huge performance hit on these sorts of sites.”

    Thank you very much indeed, that is very good to see. If it is from the last backup before the slicing up, that would be even better :)

    Thanks again Chris

  133. #133 brianjordan
    February 24, 2010

    It is *not* Richard Dawkins’ site. It belongs – so far as the UK Charities Commission is concerned, at any rate – to “1119952 – THE RICHARD DAWKINS FOUNDATION FOR REASON AND SCIENCE”.(It may be different in the USA – I believe it took a while to match the two jurisdictions).
    Nor is it a blog like yours, PZ. You struggle manfully to keep the crap at bay. The mods on the RDF forum have put in vastly more effort than any blog proprietor can possibly do, but have been cast off as lightly as a crustacean’s shell.
    Along with a veritable Wikipedia of informative posts which the religious fundamentalists will be delighted to see similarly discarded.

  134. #134 Walton
    February 24, 2010

    I say, if you wanted to make a forum on Pharyngula that works and needs almost no moderation, make a forum and only give access to 15 or 20 of your best blog-comment-posters. When you post things on the blog, those select users can discuss it in the forum. All the coach-class passengers can flail away in the blog comments as usual, or go read the composed and smarter discussions in the forum… the oh-so serene forum discussions… devoid of that added crappy flavor of the coach-class inane lolz commentary.

    HELL NO! The above is a really, really awful idea. Those of us who are “coach-class passengers”, but are nonetheless regular posters and spend a lot of our time here, would feel unjustly excluded and frustrated at not being able to join in the discussion. And I am personally deeply offended and hurt at the suggestion that everyone here who is not in your hypothetical group of “15-20 of the best commenters” (presumably coextensive with those who hold the Order of the Molly” produce nothing other than “crappy… coach-class inane lolz commentary”.

  135. #135 Walton
    February 24, 2010

    Sorry that #134 wasn’t very coherently expressed. I’m feeling exhausted tonight for some reason.

  136. #136 Matt Hone
    February 24, 2010

    geode: I don’t know what RD.net you’re referring to when you’re talking about torture fantasies but it wasn’t the one I was a part of. There were some really inappropriate discussions going on last year but they were sorted out when the staff took action. The undesirables fled to a site called thinkingaloud. They represented a tiny tiny fraction of the larger RD.net community.

    All the female members I knew there, which included two admins (Topsy and sciwoman) were very much feminists and would have had no time for horrible behaviour. They took action against trolls. They deserve better than your unfounded accusations.

  137. #137 stevieinthecity
    February 24, 2010

    Wow. Pz states I don’t want to get sucked in and here we are with the RDF crowd bellyaching here. No one killed your puppy. Almost everything on the web is temporary. Move on. No one killed a kitten.

  138. #138 Sven DiMilo
    February 24, 2010

    Dr. Laden sez:

    I made my opinion known to exactly whom I wanted it known and in the manner in which I wanted it known.

    Well, that’s great! You were successful in accomplishing your goals, then. Jolly good.
    It is irrelevant to you, then, that your chosen manner caused me and a number of other people to write you off permanently as a weaselly asshole.

    If this is unsatisfying to you, write me an email and explain why, or put a post on your own blog about it and send me the link.

    Unsatisfying? No, I am perfectly satisfied. I am satisfied that you are a weaselly asshole.

  139. #139 John Morales
    February 24, 2010

    To you ex-RDF (mods and others) who’ve posted here, I feel your pain. It was a betrayal of trust, I’d feel hurt in your position.

    I think the deletion of content¹ is reprehensible. I think the selective nature of these deletions and their basis is despicable.

    Actions do speak louder than words.

    ¹ I’m pretty sure it’s still around, in archived backups. Maybe even in the Cloud.

  140. #140 Jon A
    February 24, 2010

    I didn’t realise this whole RDF forum thing had kicked off. I joined the site a while ago bit hadn’t really posted much. Iv’e just been reading a few bits and pieces and I’m a little Shocked. PZ is right to point out that it’s Richard’s site and he can do what he wants with it. He seems to want a forum dedicated to more high brow discussion and not “gossip”. Fair enough, he’s a scientist and people who want to chat could surely meet up in person. Obviously it isn’t possible to meet over large distances but the site was big enough for local groups to form.

    I was shocked mostly by the vituperation and the horrific insults thrown at RD. All he did was change a website, HIS website. Perhaps it was handled badly, I don’t really know but some fo the responses were way out of proportion. I don’t doubt that the forum was a source of solace to many, a great social meeting place and very successful and large discussion resource. And no disrespect to RD, Josh Timonen and others who put in so much hard work but it’s a wesite we’re talking about. It’s just a website and frankly if you’re that devastated then perhaps you need a little more going on in your life. Sorry if this sounds harsh.

    Finally all you moderators out there. You do this as a labour of love. Yes you expect to be treated with courtesy and respect but you are not employees and no one has any obligation to you, contractual or otherwise. Harsh but again factual. Perhaps this will help to put hings in context.

    J

  141. #141 https://me.yahoo.com/a/AmR3kBNk38i.xu2SYtHoagGsxM3Ow2IWmuD.iRW0g64Fz32BGG7tDjU-#33748
    February 24, 2010

    To those who argue that the forums may not have contained content that was exactly what the RDF might have wanted the logical solution would have been to change the forum rules.

    If there had been a properly prepared statement that explained why the rules were being changed to prevent, for example, any swearing, all off-topic posts, lol cats etc does anyone here think that there would have been the level of outcry at what has actially been done.

    No there would not, there would have been a bit of grumbling and perhaps a handful of people would leave but 90%+ of the posters would have accepted this change and brought the forums in line with what RDF seem to want.

  142. #142 John Morales
    February 24, 2010

    Von Wizzlepig,

    I say, if you wanted to make a forum on Pharyngula that works and needs almost no moderation, make a forum and only give access to 15 or 20 of your best blog-comment-posters.

    We don’t need a forum, we have the Endless Thread.

    It’s open to everyone.

  143. #143 Josh, Official SpokesGay
    February 24, 2010

    Perhaps this will help to put hings in context.

    Or perhaps it will simply insult people who do know what happened, and have a legitimate grievance about the way they were treated. Perhaps you are the one who needs context. This timeline from a former moderator is a very good place to start.

  144. #144 gcedwards10
    February 24, 2010

    On the bright side, I learned a new word today! “Suppurating.”

  145. #145 Knockgoats
    February 24, 2010

    The contributors want to be recognized for what they’ve added to the forums, and they resent what they perceive as arbitrary and unjust treatment. And you may be right, that you were handled abruptly. But then why is everyone treating Josh and Richard as monsters? Posters to the forums get to be recognized as fellow human beings, but Josh Timonen is the wicked tyrant who is destroying everything? – PZ

    Bullshit, PZ. Timonen and Dawkins have behaved very badly towards the moderators and forum users, and many people here and elsewhere have complained about that without threats (which are clearly wrong) or hyperbole. I should note that I’ve posted only a handful of messages there, if that, so this doesn’t affect me personally; but I know a contemptuous disregard for others’ interests when I see it.

  146. #146 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmFNYLxWloJ03STzmE-W5JxDunnIUSeQzo
    February 24, 2010

    RDforums had it’s ups and downs, like anywhere else. The new incarnation of it will have a whole new set of the same.

    Thanks for having a bit of a pootle round rationalia PZ, it’s nice to see people checking out the background to what they are posting. Two sides to every coin, right?

  147. #147 John Morales
    February 24, 2010

    Jon A:

    Finally all you moderators out there. You do this as a labour of love. Yes you expect to be treated with courtesy and respect but you are not employees and no one has any obligation to you, contractual or otherwise. Harsh but again factual. Perhaps this will help to put [t]hings in context.

    In context, it shows a power relationship where said power was abused.

    Legal, yes. Moral, no.

    You’re talking of thousands of hours worth of effort going up in smoke due to petty vindictiveness. Have you no empathy?

  148. #148 Simon Gardner
    February 24, 2010

    Unlike some – possibly many – of the RD.net forum regular users, I have never been a particular fan of atheist Richard Dawkins (as opposed to biologist Richard Dawkins). It bemuses me as to how successful and influential his atheist books are in the US as well as his TV and lectures (clearly they are). Fundamentally I had nothing to be disappointed about in his recent behaviour. Just another celebrity behaving badly because he could.

    If I want a public atheist, give me the Hitch any day.

    But notwithstanding, it would be well for Dawkins to facilitate the continuation of the successful RD.net forum by other means outside his foundation rather than permit the piecemeal destruction which has gone on over the last few days. That is the binning of sections of the site despite promises not to do so.

    All that business about atheists not combining (whereas on RD.net they were) rings a bit hollow for some.

    If the money can?t be raised to continue the forum outside of the Dawkins Foundation, so be it. It is indeed Dawkins’ website and, legalities aside, Dawkins’ Foundation. The forum grew so big on Dawkins’ name.

    The way everything has been done this week has been pretty cowardly.

    But disappointed? No.

  149. #149 zoon
    February 24, 2010

    PZ Myers wrote:”I’ve written to Richard and Josh and suggested that preserving the existing forum content in a read-only archive would be a good move. It would be a bit much to expect it to be searchable, though: search is a huge performance hit on these sorts of sites.” I hope very much that they take up your suggestion, the wholesale deletion of so much atheist effort seems to me the worst of it, and unnecessary.

  150. #150 davem
    February 24, 2010

    PZ sed:

    . It would be a bit much to expect it to be searchable, though: search is a huge performance hit on these sorts of sites.

    Not really. Given the static nature of the old posts, indexing them would be a one-off exercise, and you wouldn’t see any delays.

    I just went to the RDF. The search is there, but rather crude. I was one of 2 posters plus 17 guests. Dead. So it seems obligatory to finish off with a Monty Python sketch (sort of):

    C: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this forum what I browsed not half an hour ago.
    O: Oh yes, the, uh, the RDF Blue…What’s,uh…What’s wrong with it?
    C: I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it, my lad. ‘E’s dead, that’s what’s wrong with it!
    O: No, no, ‘e’s uh,…he’s resting.
    C: Look, matey, I know a dead forum when I see one, and I’m looking at one right now.

  151. #151 tfoss1983
    February 24, 2010

    Here’s my problem: I’m inclined to accept Peter Harrison’s account, since it was the first place I heard of the debacle and since he backed up his claims with quotations. As a skeptic, I’m interested in reading the other side of the story, however. I’d like to know whether or not the quotes Richard Dawkins posted were representative of the general trend of criticism, or if they were outliers (you know, like the kind that Ham and Hovind and Comfort like to pull from comment threads like this one to demonstrate what horrible people all atheists are). Unfortunately, I can’t, since relevant posts, threads, and users have been deleted. If the situation were as terrible and vitriolic and over the top as the note from Dawkins suggests, then it seems like the best way to demonstrate it would be with a link to the extant thread where such vitriol existed for everyone to see. Since such a link is apparently no longer possible, I think further credibility is lent to the Harrison account.

  152. #152 ozewiezeloose
    February 24, 2010

    What’s even worse, if you asked me, is properly described by an ex-mod:

    “I’m still curious to know why Josh and Andrew had to clear the admin logs every time they deleted threads or members. By that point, there was only person they could be hiding the actions from.”

    That’s cowardice and intellectual dishonesty of the worst order, if you ask me.

  153. #153 HughMcB
    February 24, 2010

    We never got a chance to try to raise the money and form our own forum, to transfer over the posts, cut ourselves loose from RDF and start a fresh. We weren’t even given a chance to contact each other.

    We we’re shut out, shut down, blinded, deleted from the annuls of history and then got a condescending quote mine of an email from RD saying “why are you being so mean to my little Josh? I’m glad you’re all gone” Where he used quotes after the fact of all this to highlight how rude we were.

    You try having 100,000+ posts deleted and entire user histories wiped out for just asking “why is this happening? I’m not too sure about this” in a very polite manner (the thread of which was subsequently deleted!) and then not want to call those responsible little f-ing s@#ts!

    Is this the RD we thought of as promoting atheist solidarity and clear, rational thinking? My arse!

  154. #154 ozewiezeloose
    February 24, 2010

    “I’d like to know whether or not the quotes Richard Dawkins posted were representative of the general trend of criticism, or if they were outliers”

    As far as I know, what Dawkins quotes are all comments made AFTER the forum was locked. AFTER Josh had begun deleted stuff he didn’t like, and AFTER he had begun erasing the traces of his actions.

  155. #155 grh123
    February 24, 2010

    @tfoss1983 #151

    not a single one of those quotes came from the RDF Forums.

    They all appeared on Rationalia, after :

    a) Removed PM Functionality
    b) Deleted tens of thousands of science posts
    c) removed signatures that attempted to give people another place to meet
    d) Locked the forums and turned off search completely to make it nigh impossible to archive any content.
    e) specifically forbade mods from helping people to arrange to go to a new forum
    f) redirected archival programs to a Rick-roll

    Unfortunately I can’t direct you to the thread discussing the changes actually ON RDF which was far more civil because josh has

    a) Deleted it
    b) Removed said deletion from the server logs.

    Proof is here :

    http://www.rationalia.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=75&t=9149&p=355615#p355577

  156. #156 Josh, Official SpokesGay
    February 24, 2010

    Even if the overwhelming number of responses were vulgar or out of line, and had no context (none of this is the case – I’m posing a hypothetical, mind), that does not make it reasonable to ignore the sensible, justified, contextual reactions from people who were legitimately wronged.

    It would not matter if only one person were wronged, and 100 bystanders starting beating on the perpetrator. That one person wronged was still wronged, and it’s outrageous to ignore that, and to justify ignoring it because of the tone or behavior of others.

  157. #157 SC OM
    February 24, 2010

    What Sven @ #138 said.

  158. #158 tfoss1983
    February 24, 2010

    Unfortunately I can’t direct you to the thread discussing the changes actually ON RDF which was far more civil because josh has

    a) Deleted it
    b) Removed said deletion from the server logs.

    Right, which is the biggest problem I have with the whole thing. I wasn’t a poster on the RDF, but I did have an account and visited once upon a time. I’m saying that I have to side with the Peter Harrison account (and by proxy, with the disenfranchised Mods) since it’s the one with evidence on its side, while it appears that the other side has squelched dissent and destroyed relevant evidence.

    I don’t necessarily agree with the hyperbolic insults, but then, I can’t say I’m surprised to find atheists devising new and colorful ways to describe irrational behavior and dishonest people. After all, this is Pharyngula.

  159. #159 John Morales
    February 24, 2010

    I wonder if RD will read this thread.

  160. #160 tfoss1983
    February 24, 2010

    I just realized how bad/theistic that last bit sounded. I wholeheartedly approve of other atheists coming up with colorful new ways to describe the dishonest and irrational, and I suspect that I’ll be calling Ray Comfort or Mike Adams a “suppurating rat’s asshole” at some point in the near future.

  161. #161 Carlie
    February 24, 2010

    I say, if you wanted to make a forum on Pharyngula that works and needs almost no moderation, make a forum and only give access to 15 or 20 of your best blog-comment-posters.

    DO NOT WANT. I have no idea what the benefit of a forum like that would be at all. I’m with Walton on this one. (Hi, Walton!)

  162. #162 llewelly
    February 24, 2010

    Given the size of the previous forum, I don’t see how they intend to keep up with submissions.

    Right or wrong, they’ve driven away so many people they won’t have any problem.

  163. #163 https://me.yahoo.com/a/RPuarI8Lze61hZk1PGjwDbui2fIshFKUh6U8SM6lsg--#d17ca
    February 24, 2010

    To everyone deciding to stop donating to the RDF because of this:
    Fuck you.

    I mean seriously I know this didn’t go over well, but how fucking petty can you be. I seriously can’t believe the number of people who claim that they paid apparently just to fund the fucking forum.

    And to treat it like he was burning books? Did you really think those posts would be there forever? Sure, they could of been less dicks about it, but the accusations here make the RDF sound like monsters.

    I spend more time than I care to admit on certain forums, or discussions on blogs or newspaper articles, most of which will die eventually and I don’t care. It’s the way of the internet, some junk just deserves to be deleted. I don’t care how many hours I took debating fucktards in the comments of an ohio paper about why the ten commandments should be taken down, I don’t want it to be saved for all eternity.

  164. #164 David B
    February 24, 2010

    I was only an occasional poster, and an irregular lurker at RD forum, but I was a poster with over 10 k posts at IIDB before something similar happened there a couple of years ago.

    There do seem a lot of similarities – both RD and II seemed to value their core website much more highly than the forums which had most of the traffic. Both saw some of the sort of posting that they didn’t really want to be associated with.

    And both instituted draconian measures when faced with dissent from the people who ran, and contributed to the forums. RD more draconian than II, it seems, since little of what was posted has been lost, and the bulk of that seems to have been accidental.

    At least II had the wisdom, in the end, to pass on ownership of Internet Infidels discussion board to a group of those who stayed with the board, and it is now known as FRDB.

    Many harsh words were spoken at that time, as now. A number of spin off boards arose out of the old IIDB, some of which I was associated with before settling on http://www.secularcafe.org/ which I helped to found.

    With the passing of time, while there are still hard feelings on both sides, more friendly relations are slowly developing between FRDB and some of the spin off boards, resulting in some cases in mutal links, and the ability to post links to other boards on FRDB without being banned, as sometimes – often – happened at the meltdown. I know about this because I was involved in the negotiations which led to mutual friends links being posted at FR and Secular Cafe.

    A lesson to be learned, I think, is that discussion boards are best run by people who love discussion boards, rather than those who have them as an add on to a site which the ownership is more concerned with.

    The best thing that could happen to the RD forum, I think, is that the forum could pass over to ownership of a consortium of the officers and prominent members of the board, hopefully with as many as possible of the lost posts being restored. From what I’ve read so far, my hopes of that aren’t high.

    In the meantime, I’d suggest to members of the RD diaspora that they check out a number of secular boards founded and run by fellow discussion board aficionados, and find one or more where they like the moderation style, the people, the quality of posts, and contribute there.

    I, of course, would recommend http://www.secularcafe.org/, but then as one of the founding admins, I would, wouldn’t I?

    David B

  165. #165 Caine
    February 24, 2010

    Josh, Official SpokesGay:

    It would not matter if only one person were wronged, and 100 bystanders starting beating on the perpetrator. That one person wronged was still wronged, and it’s outrageous to ignore that, and to justify ignoring it because of the tone or behavior of others.

    Absolutely. This situation was handled in a shameful way and there simply is no defense for why it was done.

  166. #166 Matt Hone
    February 24, 2010

    #163

    I can’t speak for the others, but as far as I’m concerned the feeling is mutual.

  167. #167 jack.rawlinson
    February 24, 2010

    stevieinthecity #137

    Many of “the RDF crowd bellyaching here” are Pharyngula readers and commenters too.

  168. #168 Topsy
    February 24, 2010

    I just wanted to correct something I posted incorrectly elsewhere due to being knackered at the moment.

    I told PZ that the RD forum had on average (since last October) about 3,000 posts per week. This should read 3,000 posts per DAY. I’ve corrected it where I posted it but he might not read it.

    Of those 3,000 posts per day, at least 2,000 per day were focused on the topics of Dawkins, Reason and Science. The social Off-Topic posts only comprised about 10% of all posts per day. I have all the data to back up these figures.

    Could someone make sure that PZ gets this info as I wouldn’t like him to quote my previous error.

    thanks
    Topsy
    ex RDF admin

  169. #169 'Tis Himself, OM
    February 24, 2010

    When I read how this whole thing was handled, I was reminded of an old joke:

    Just before morning muster, the captain tells the sergeant: “Tell Corporal Jones his wife has died.”

    So the sergeant stands in front of the mustered company and orders: “All married men, one step forward. Where do you think you’re going, Jones?”

  170. #170 Paul
    February 24, 2010

    I mean seriously I know this didn’t go over well, but how fucking petty can you be. I seriously can’t believe the number of people who claim that they paid apparently just to fund the fucking forum.

    Does not follow. People are under no obligation to donate to charities which they feel snubbed them. This does not mean they feel the snubbing was the main purpose of funds donated, it means that they simply do not want to donate money to those who mistreated them.

    It’s bullshit to try to frame it otherwise. Nobody thinks RDF funds were “just for the forum”. That doesn’t mean actions on the forum cannot sour people on the behavior of the RDF.

  171. #171 'Tis Himself, OM
    February 24, 2010

    People are under no obligation to donate to charities which they feel snubbed them. This does not mean they feel the snubbing was the main purpose of funds donated, it means that they simply do not want to donate money to those who mistreated them.

    I’ve never posted on RD.net nor have I ever given money to RDF. I don’t have a dog in this fight but I don’t feel inclined to begin donating to RDF.

  172. #172 robert
    February 24, 2010

    About that post titled OUTRAGE,

    http://forum.richarddawkins.net/viewtopic.php?f=60&t=110356

    It is not in the character of the Richard Dawkins I think I know to send out a public letter and ask for private responses.

    It is not at like like Dawkins to take an unpopular stand and not listen to criticism of it. Quite the contrary…

    It doesn’t even read like anything I’ve read by Richard before.

  173. #173 Made of Stars
    February 24, 2010

    Thanks to PZ for posting on this.

    To those who say ‘Dawkins is within his rights to shut down the forum’: You’re right. But you’re missing the point.

    The “Outrage”, as Dawkins terms it, is not at the site being taken down, although there is some outrage at that.

    The “Outrage” is at the way things have been done. These ‘things’ include:

    + Lying to the staff: We were promised consultation on the new format. We had started planning transition needs, worked on lists of tags so that old posts could be indexed to the new site, and tried to manage member concerns and expectations about the change. Ultimately, there was no consultation, just an announcement that the site would change, and we were no longer required (which is itself naive in the extreme)

    + Misrepresenting staff: There was no basis to assume that we would abuse our admin privileges through a transition, and absolutely no basis to flag this as a concern in the ‘Announcement’ made by ‘admin’.

    + Banning individual staff and deleting their posts after they shared the ‘instructions’ not to resist change.

    + Demoting all the other forum mods (‘blue mods’) after the above event.

    + Locking the forum when dissent erupted.

    + Shutting down the PM system so people couldn’t contact friends and arrange to meet elsewhere.

    + Disabling signatures and avatars that sprang up in an attempt to arrange off-site rendezvous.

    + Deleting (not suspending) dissenting members, including members who reasonably tried to contact Richard for an explanation.

    + Deleting admin logs recording the above actions. These could only have been reviewed by those involved, so why delete this evidence?

    + Continuing to disable the privileges of members who ask questions on the RD.net ‘front page’. And deleting the admin logs of these actions.

    + Quote-mining the outraged posts of members who’ve regrouped elsewhere, and trying to pass them off as representative of all of our views.

    + Failing to provide any acknowledgement AT ALL of the thousands of man-hours provided free of charge by the staff. Not to mention the professional services offered by the staff with expertise in change management, communications, and software development. Expertise that could have helped avoid this cluster-fuck.

    Personally, I’ll now have 3-4 hours a day to spend doing other things than deal with reports, merge threads, deal with member emails, and moderate hot discussions between theists and atheists, creationists and evolutionary biologists, and conspiracy theorists and working scientists and engineers.

    So I can’t complain about that.

    But what a shame to see it end in a way that was predicted and repeatedly flagged by a concerned staff.

    Made of Stars
    ex RD.net Forum Admin

  174. #174 ozewiezeloose
    February 24, 2010

    To Made of Stars:

    I cannot but agree. Y’all did an ace job!

    S.

  175. #175 https://me.yahoo.com/a/JQ.xyEE6tcrowzWnYOiZeDpTv69ibxfb#ac1dd
    February 24, 2010

    @163
    I respond to you the same way I posted in the now missing discussion thread. There are many worthy places where I can send my money. I donated (and encouraged others to donate) to the RDF because of the affinity created through the RD.net forums. Now that that is gone, they’ll have to get in line and compete for my dollars along with all the many other worthy causes that have no strong relationship to me. Mm’kay?

  176. #176 Legion
    February 24, 2010

    We haven’t read all of the posts in this thread, but what we have read suggests the following:

    Online forums can evolve into real communities where real people make real investments in time and effort.

    We agree that RD can do whatever he wants with his own web site, but we wonder if this situation would have been handled differently if RDF was a brick and mortar community center. We think it would have.

    When you’ve got a community like RDF’s it pays to approach changes the same way any large organization would — with great care and consideration of your current and future clients.

    We think this incident will serve as an object lesson in how not to manage major changes within an online community.

    Considering the blowups at LGF, the Laden imbroglio, and now this, there’s plenty of fodder for a book on blog culture for anyone out there with a social sciences and technology background. It would make for interesting reading.

  177. #177 SC OM
    February 24, 2010

    To everyone deciding to stop donating to the RDF because of this:
    Fuck you.

    Oh, but fuck you.

    It’s a perfectly reasonable decision to stop contributing, with money or time, to an organization that blatantly disrespects its long-time volunteers and active members. There are plenty that don’t.

  178. #178 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawnb-E55g7vrnvH-3L1M6d7QuDYWoM_IDEM
    February 24, 2010

    To all those who are complaining:
    Start your own site & blogs & forums.

    As you seem to know exactly how these things should be run & funded, then you will have an instant success, that will never deviate from your goals.

    Oh: Until then, please shut up.

  179. #179 https://me.yahoo.com/a/AmR3kBNk38i.xu2SYtHoagGsxM3Ow2IWmuD.iRW0g64Fz32BGG7tDjU-#33748
    February 24, 2010

    #163

    If an organisation treats me badly and lies about those I respect why shouldn’t I give my donations to a different organisation that does not do those things.

  180. #180 orpheus
    February 24, 2010

    #163:

    You wrote:

    “I spend more time than I care to admit on certain forums, or discussions on blogs or newspaper articles, most of which will die eventually and I don’t care. It’s the way of the internet, some junk just deserves to be deleted. I don’t care how many hours I took debating fucktards in the comments of an ohio paper about why the ten commandments should be taken down, I don’t want it to be saved for all eternity.”

    Did you spend any time looking through the RDF forum? Many, many posts emphatically did NOT deserve to be deleted. It’s not the hours debating fucktards. It’s the hours spent writing lenghthy, well-written and serious essays dense with information that gave many a surprisingly good science education on their own.

    Besides, whether or not threads deserve to be deleted is not the point. The points are: 1) it was against stated forum rules. 2) It was – initially at least – done only to those who criticized or even questioned what was going on. 3) It was so sweeping – not just the offending posts, but the entire posting history of the user.

  181. #181 David B
    February 24, 2010

    PZ, I really hope you are reading through the comments.

    And remembering that you recently awarded a prize to calilasseia, post 70.

    cali also went through the IIDB meltdown, IIRC, and went to RD following that.

    It is, as you say, Dawkins board. But it is a right royal fuck up for all that.

    David B

  182. #182 SC OM
    February 24, 2010

    …I don’t care how many hours I took debating fucktards in the comments of an ohio paper about why the ten commandments should be taken down, I don’t want it to be saved for all eternity.

    If this is any indication of the typical quality of your posts, I can see why.

  183. #183 martha
    February 24, 2010

    For a number of years I was a moderator on a fairly active forum. The forum owner was tiring of the forum and decided to sell it to a for profit entity. Some of the moderators, who put in hours of free labor, were disheartened at not having the site marketed to them first. But at least he didn’t kill the site. I understand the feeling of ownership that comes from participation. Just because it is a company town doesn’t make it less of a town.

    As some have said, there is a difference between what someone can do and what they should do. Clearly, this should have been handled differently and an apology is due to the membership and mods. The site owner is ultimately responsible, whether it is Dawkins or the foundation, or whoever. Criticism should be leveled there. If it was employees who made bad decisions the responsibility still rests with the employer. I always have found it a bit odd how fawning people can be over Dawkins. He is just a guy, more famous than most.

    I hope that the content is preserved for those who want it, including recently deleted content. Too bad the membership were not given the opportunity to buy the forum and move it elsewhere. That would have been the right thing to do.

    Me, I still miss the infidels.

  184. #184 grh123
    February 24, 2010

    Here is Josh ensuring that the Archiving that was specifically said to be OK actually got redirected to a Rickroll :

    http://www.rationalia.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=75&t=8966&view=unread#p356795

    And they wonder why people got upset and called him naughty words? …..

  185. #185 SC OM
    February 24, 2010

    To all those who are complaining:
    Start your own site & blogs & forums.

    Many who are complaining did just that. With years of volunteer time, effort, and aggravation.

  186. #186 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmRjbXoDgCq4N0aNWT2Z2RtB4Mm9CbDVys
    February 24, 2010

    We atheists are far too emotional, and far too quick to be filled with anger.

    Let’s try to emulate Mr. Spock a bit more.

    Get over being treated badly, and move on.
    If this RDF forum is all you have to be extremely angry about, your lives are far too easy.

  187. #187 Simon Gardner
    February 24, 2010

    Personally, I think things were so much easier when discussion was only carried on Usenet. Newfangled web forum nonsense.

  188. #188 strange gods before me ?
    February 24, 2010

    It is a shame however that the old forum can’t be preserved in a read only format for historical and research purposes. There’s a lot of useful and interesting stuff on there

    It can be preserved like that, and at very little cost relative to the operation of a forum.

    What makes a forum slow, leading to the expensive technical problems that are apparently part of this decision, is that a page is generated dynamically whenever it’s requested by a browser.

    So if I want to see a comment thread, I click on the title of the thread. The title is associated with a unique key to the database. The dynamic page handling software (like PHP) takes this unique key and hands it over to the database, making several requests. It requests the content first ten comments in the thread, plus the names of the users who posted those comments, plus their avatar pictures, post counts, and signatures. All this is handed back to PHP, which then arranges the content into pretty rows and columns, HTML formatted for human viewing. After you receive it, the freshly-generated HTML is deleted again from the server. And this whole process happens every single time a page is requested. It’s very processor-intensive.

    It’s so complicated because the database is not a flat text file. It’s a complex arrangement of nodes, which are stored distinctly but connected to each other in relevant ways, like the user’s signature is connected to the user’s avatar. It has to be in this format to allow new comments to be stored with meaningful connections to older content.

    But if you were going to archive the entire forum read-only, you wouldn’t need the database anymore. What you could do is dynamically dump the whole database as HTML one last time, and then save the HTML files (and delete the database if you want to save space), and now whenever a page is requested, just deliver a pre-formatted flat HTML text tile. This is very cheap, because all the dynamic content is generated just once, and never again. Serving these files is very fast, because the webserver software can do it all by itself, without ever calling PHP to call a database.

    TL;DR: the forum’s old content could be retained at trivial cost, if the RDF cared enough to bother.

  189. #189 Josh, Official SpokesGay
    February 24, 2010

    Get over being treated badly, and move on.
    If this RDF forum is all you have to be extremely angry about, your lives are far too easy.

    Piss off.

  190. #190 Made of Stars
    February 24, 2010

    “We atheists are far too emotional, and far too quick to be filled with anger.”

    The staff have for *months* been trying to negotiate and consult on the proposed change, and warn of the consequence to RD.net of this sort of mismanagement.

    Senior staff resigned after being told to ‘STFU’. The admin in question didn’t kick up a stink (even with the other staff), he just bowed out.

    A little emotion is warranted, I think.

  191. #191 Caine
    February 24, 2010

    178:

    Oh: Until then, please shut up.

    Might want to take your own advice.

  192. #192 martha
    February 24, 2010

    Checked out Rationalia. The huge avatars/signatures are a major distraction and are so not safe for work.

  193. #193 strange gods before me ?
    February 24, 2010

    The most upsetting aspect of this from my point of view is that making the forum read-only for 30 days apparently disabled the search function, so I can’t go back and archive any of my posts or any useful discussions I was involved in unless I can remember exactly where and when each one occurred over the last few years.

    Here, Kirkinson. Here are all your posts.

    Anyone else can save their posts this way too, using Google to search instead of the RDF’s own search function.

  194. #195 Teshi
    February 24, 2010

    Yes, Rationalia is no substitute (On my screen, the brown-on-brown font/background combination is difficult to read), but it isn’t a replacement. It was a small, unassuming, private-sized forum that has very graciously been okay with turning into a somewhat vitriolic refugee camp.

  195. #196 Caine
    February 24, 2010

    Martha @ 192:

    The huge avatars/signatures are a major distraction and are so not safe for work.

    There is generally an option in your user control panel to shut off avatars. Also, Firefox & AdBlock.

  196. #197 SpeedOfSound
    February 24, 2010

    Teshi. My thoughts too when I saw the brown. You can change all that so it looks a lot like RDF. Refugee camps are often chaotic at first. This too will pass. We can put RDF and any thoughts of Dawkins behind us.

  197. #198 SC OM
    February 24, 2010

    Get over being treated badly, and move on.

    Is this a general principle? Always? Any exceptions?

  198. #199 Carlie
    February 24, 2010

    Is this a general principle? Always? Any exceptions?

    I see where this is going, and I’ve got the popcorn.

  199. #200 SaintStephen
    February 24, 2010

    @70 calilasseia

    All we wanted was some form of evidence that these proposed changes were likely to be an improvement over what was currently extant.

    I believe this sentence nearly says it all. (The complaints regarding loss of archived material are probably red herrings, because I’m sure system backups were done periodically and that everything up until the day of shutdown is very likely still available in storage somewhere.)

    Unfortunately, calilassiea’s request here, as reasonable as it sounds, is virtually impossible to satisfy, because what possible real “evidence” could anybody provide on the future of RD.net? There is no evidence. Only plans and decisions made by the people running the show. And the hopes and dreams of everybody interested in the future of atheism on planet Earth.

    If I may be allowed to read her mind a bit, what I hear calilassiea really saying is that she wanted to be INCLUDED in these plans or discussions. And this is understandable, but fairly naive. Richard Dawkins is driving the boat on RD.net, and I’m certain he never had any intention of forming a Parliament or a Senate Exploratory Committee and submitting the proposed changes to a vote. This would be vastly foolish, truth be told, and a fruitless waste of time in reaching any meaningful consensus by the atheistic “herd of cats”, even if we’re only talking about a dozen… or even a HALF dozen moderators or so. Furthermore, it’s ignorant to assume that these discussions would proceed smoothly or have ANY degree of security whatsoever: the moderators are private citizens with computers, for Crom’s sake. After witnessing what happened here in one night, does anybody really think nobody would have gotten pissed-off and stormed out of the “planning committee” discussions, and headed straight for their blogs to rant and rave? The idea is ridiculous on its face.

    The private plans and goals of the RDF are nobody’s business but the RDF’s. Forming a committee, filling it with volunteer moderators from all walks of life, and then expecting this committee to perform swiftly and silently behind the scenes — is patent nonsense.

    It may sound odd, but I see a lot of “jilted lover” syndromes in this episode on RD.net. It is eminently clear that people are IN LOVE WITH Professor Richard Dawkins — profusely. They love his courage, and fame, and his rebellious nature. He is a HERO to many, myself certainly included. (I definitely love Richard Dawkins!) This love is what has caused people to turn on Josh Timonen and vent their rage at him — it’s the classic case of shooting the messenger. After reading all the blogs, and all comments everywhere I could find them, I simply cannot see how Josh Timonen is guilty of any mismanagement. His original letter was crystal clear, IMHO, and as soon as it was aired, the jilted lovers began planning their divorces and breakups.

    Oh well. Let the “making up” phase begin, because we all know how fun THAT can be.

  200. #201 necronomikron
    February 24, 2010

    Looks like Rationalia is straining from the load. Looks like they’re going to get a very quick lesson on caching.

  201. #202 Mike O.
    February 24, 2010

    PZ: Why are you discussing the changes in the new forum structure as if that’s what got everybody angry? If it were the case that RDF announced a change in format, and Josh got all that abuse, then I would absolutely support your post.

    But 85,000 people who gathered around a community based on rationalism do not descend into vitriol because “they are frightened of change” (as Josh suggested we may).

    Instead, your discussion about how it is Richard’s right to change the forum structure is like saying that the townspeople should not become so angry when the owner of the local library wants to turn it into a Starbucks.

    Yes, of course you’re right, but nobody really cares about the new structure. The fact is that the owner of the library is chucking all the books out back and burning them, and having anyone arrested for trying to salvage some of them.

    People were upset when they heard the new changes – that is understandable, people had grown attached to the old forum. They started up a thread to discuss and console one another. There were a few angry remarks made there but mostly at the moderators, not Josh or Richard. Then when one moderator pointed out that they were not informed of the changes, this moderator was instantly deleted and had all his posts removed. Then the thread where everyone was discussing how upset they were, and where they could possibly go to next, was deleted – that is when people became angry.

    Fortunately for Josh, he had the power to turn off the whole forum. Some angry people went to the front page to ask for an explanation as to why people were not allowed to discuss how upset they are about the new changes – these users were deleted and all of their posts were removed.

    By this stage, about an hour after the initial message from Josh, he had deleted about 4 users and over 30,000 posts – without warning.

    The forum came back in read only form, and we were advised to take whatever we could from our posts (without the use of a functional search engine) and we were warned not to post it on another forum as the material belongs to RDF. Then the Private Messaging function was reduced to about 1 message every few hours, so nobody could contact their friends to discuss where to go to next. Josh also removed signatures from people’s posts so they couldn’t direct people to where they were gathering.

    Then a fun little quirk appeared when people tried to archive what was left of the forum – they were being redirected to the Rick Astley video clip that had been embedded throughout the entire forum so they couldn’t save any of their posts from the forum, instead they had mistakenly downloaded numerous videos of “Never gonna give you up”. What a hilarious prankster Josh is.

    In summary, your blog post is absolutely redundant. Nobody cares about the new changes that Richard has the full entitled rights to make. The problem came when Josh started deleting users and posts at a whim, the same guy who knows nothing about the forum or the culture within it (his last action on the forum was about 7-8 months ago when he turned off the search function, his action before that was when he last made an announcement that caused a significant proportion of members leave and form a new community).

    Nobody cares about the new structure. People are angry about the wanton destruction of information and the child-like actions of the admin who carried it out.

    Mike O.
    (Mr.Samsa – Ex-moderator of RDF)

  202. #203 SpeedOfSound
    February 24, 2010

    Looks like we brought down still another server over on rationalia.

  203. #204 SC OM
    February 24, 2010

    If I may be allowed to read her mind a bit, what I hear calilassiea really saying is that she wanted to be INCLUDED in these plans or discussions. And this is understandable, but fairly naive.

    Democracy. How ridiculous.

    It is eminently clear that people are IN LOVE WITH Professor Richard Dawkins — profusely.They love his courage, and fame, and his rebellious nature. He is a HERO to many, myself certainly included. (I definitely love Richard Dawkins!)

    Uh. Therapy – get it.

  204. #205 SaintStephen
    February 24, 2010

    @204 SC OM:

    Uh. Get a real job. Then you’ll find out what I’m talking about. Ever heard of a layoff, clown? People lose their friggin’ sources of INCOME.

    This situation is laughable by comparison.

  205. #206 Tenebras
    February 24, 2010

    I feel bad for the people over at Rationalia. They were nice enough to let us join their forums, but there were so many of us, we dun killed ‘em. :(

  206. #207 grh123
    February 24, 2010

    @ Mike.O. #202

    Well said.

    I also happen to find it completely incredible, that a man who has been quote mined and mis-represented as often as Professor Dawkins now has the temerity to post a message at the top of his own forums that actually quote mines a thread set up after the debacle, on different forums and attempts to use quotes from that thread (a minority by far of the whole board, you yourself PZ have posted there) to claim that these messages were posted on RDF and justify all of Josh’s actions.

    The actual, now deleted thread on RDF was pretty civil.

    Dishonesty of this level is not what I would have expected from Dr. Dawkins.

  207. #208 nick.s.edwards
    February 24, 2010

    Re@ SaintStephen:

    What a total red herring. So because no one has lost anything like their job over this matter, it’s a total non-issue? We should just politely accept getting dicked over on something many people dedicated a lot of time and energy into, to the benefit of fellow rational thinkers/fence-sitters?

    Hilarious. Next time someone loses their job, you can console them on their predicament being a total non-issue because they at least don’t have AIDS.

  208. #209 zarkwon
    February 24, 2010

    Clown? Fool ^^^

    Rationalia’s gone pop.

    Check this out.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5Amy0ScBtQ&feature=player_embedded

  209. #210 SC OM
    February 24, 2010

    Uh. Get a real job. Then you’ll find out what I’m talking about. Ever heard of a layoff, clown?

    Absurd ad hom.

    People lose their friggin’ sources of INCOME.

    Yes, and we’re talking about people who have volunteered their time and energy to a nonprofit they believed in for years. Relevance?

    (There’s a very creepy vibe to all of this.)

    This situation is laughable by comparison.

    Nope. You are.

  210. #211 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawkMMnoyw4icjnKIjI5hpplUm9TckIG2S7Y
    February 24, 2010

    I have been a member of the forum for a little over a year. My 12,000 or so posts represent a great deal of repetition, but also constitute a document of my journey from somebody mildly interested in science to a hardcore didact. I am generally known as the sweary one (the other one), and for being absolutely merciless in the pursuit of truth and rationality.

    When this débâcle began, I entered the discussion thread counselling calm, and it largely was, apart from a bit of reactionary emotion, largely due to the fait accompli nature of the changes which, incidentally, have at no point been made clear as yet. All that has been presented is a nebulous statement that it will not be forum, but something different. All of this is one thing, but as soon as concerns were raised, instead of actually discussing these changes and what they would mean for the members, the admin proceeded to delete the thread and to delete the accounts of two of the most prolific members of the forum. In the case of some of these, this represents a wealth of knowledge and educational material, and the presentation of important breaking news in the frontiers of science. The comparison of this exercise to the burning of books is apposite, and constitutes for me the real casualty in all of this. Over 40,000 posts by my estimate, now consigned to oblivion, another Alexandria in the making, and this is only the start, if attempts to save the content are unsuccessful. We have our fingers crossed, and clever people are working on the problem.

    I still counsel calm, and I have been a little dismayed at the level of vitriol displayed by some of my comrades. I do, however, pragmatic as I am, recognise that much of that stemmed from very real grievance at the way this situation was handled. However; the response from Richard has also dismayed me somewhat. In effect, he has taken the comments of a few and tarred every member with the same brush. Some of us are still clinging to rationality, hard though that actually is at the moment. Many of us are sporting hard-won battle scars in the defence of reason, and in the furtherance of the goals of the foundation. While the forum in its current form may not fit the vision of the foundation, or of Richard, no indication has yet been given what that vision might be, or whether our visions or efforts lie in the same direction. No useful communication has been entered into in this regard, even with the moderating staff, after repeated assurances that they would be kept in the loop. Not to mention that when concerns about the future of the forum were raised in the recent past, the members were assured that the forum cntent would be retained, and that improvements were ‘on the way’. All of this seems now to amount to no more than blowing smoke, with a liberal dose of flannel. Nonetheless, I and several others, injured as we are at the treatment handed down by Josh, especially to the moderating staff, who took a huge amount of flak and heloed to build along with the regular members, one of the premier resources on the net for education in critical thinking and the dissemination of valid science.

    All of this could have been avoided with better communication and the ability to efficiently deal with what was always going to be a difficult situation.

    Most of my efforts since the closure of the forum have been geared toward retaining contact with the regular members, most of whom simply came to the forum to find that they were locked out. All attempts to leave any information about where we might be found were silenced.

    Again, I regret the comments of some of my fellow forum members, and I do ultimately recognise that the vision for the future of the foundation rests with Richard, but the reactionary way this has been handled, particularly in the treatment of the staff, has left a sour taste in many mouths, especially given the input of those people in the furtherance of the aims fo the foundation.

    A good night’s work has been done in the cause of unreason in this fiasco, and the creationists are crowing with glee.

    hackenslash

  211. #212 Caine
    February 24, 2010

    SaintStephen @ 205:

    Uh. Get a real job. Then you’ll find out what I’m talking about. Ever heard of a layoff, clown? People lose their friggin’ sources of INCOME.

    This situation is laughable by comparison

    No, it’s not laughable. Not at all. Your little analogy of a love affair was incredibly off the mark and stupid as well. I was there for the meltdown of IIDB, I know exactly how the people of RDF feel, and they are justified in their feelings.

    Now here’s a surprise – people on the internet do have real jobs, assclown. My husband recently lost his job of 19 years and he’s 56 years old, so don’t bother telling me I don’t know about that situation. That doesn’t make being treated abominably on the internet a laughing matter.

  212. #213 dsharkov
    February 24, 2010

    Richard and Josh wanting a change isn’t the issue — it’s how the transition is being carried out that’s the issue. People aren’t complaining about what Richard wants. The way Josh is implementing what Richard wants has cost RD.net a lot of dedicated and experienced staff as well as otherwise valuable contributors, and that is a cost. It’s a cost that could have been avoided if Josh and Andrew had communicated their intentions much earlier and in a less aggravating manner. Certainly the way things have gone for now is in no way an improvement over anything. They will have to make up a lot of lost ground, and it’s basically all their fault. Sucks to be them, heh.

  213. #214 Treppenwitz
    February 24, 2010

    I don’t really think the accusations of quote mining are fair. There are enough “fuck Josh” posts on Rationalia that it’s not like it takes a lot of digging to come up with some quotes. Of course, the fact that Josh deleted polite complaints drives up the proportion of impolite complaints, and in any case complaining about rudeness sidesteps the issue of what people were upset about in the first place.

  214. #215 thaumasthemelios
    February 24, 2010

    For those having trouble with rationalia, the Rational Response Squad is also welcoming RDFugees. It’s been around for 4 years and is very stable and capable of handling high traffic.

  215. #216 SaintStephen
    February 24, 2010

    As I’m sure many in here don’t know, since they’re students, etc… but during job layoffs NOBODY is told what is going on except the top executive staff. If the rumors are allowed to escape, people tend to go ballistic, and others begin causing trouble of all sorts. Why? BECAUSE THEIR VERY INCOME IS AT STAKE.

    Is this fair? Not completely, but it’s the only practical means of handling sensitive issues involving people’s lives. People are potentially losing the ability to pay their children’s doctor bills, for their cars and houses… losing moderator status in an online Forum isn’t even in the same moral Universe.

    I never said anybody shouldn’t feel depressed or even vent their spleens. Feel hurt if you need to, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  216. #217 David Marjanovi?
    February 24, 2010

    I’ve never posted on the RD(F) forums, never donated to the RDF (no income, you see), never even read the forums except for 2 or 3 pages (not threads ? pages), so none of this touches me personally.

    And I don’t want to defend the way over-the-top insults*, let alone any threats.

    But having read Peter Harrison’s post, this entire thread, and Dawkins’s reaction, I cannot escape the conclusions that:

    • Dawkins comes across like a conservative Austrian politician who lets off a little snark about “the Internet generation” (and then goes on to lose the next election a few years later, though that was only one of the reasons) because he simply has no clue about what the Internet is and what happens there… Dawkins seems to have no clue what is posted at his very own forum;
    • Timonen deletes accounts (even of moderators) with every single of the 5,000 to over 10,000 posts ever posted from each one of them, rickrolls the search engine, prevents people from talking to each other and (thus) from going elsewhere, and messes with the admin log for teh evulz. There is simply no reason other than “I find it fun” why the discontinuation of a forum could possibly lead to such actions. Timonen should have been fired long ago, should seek therapy if any exists, and (till cured) should not ever again be given a position where he can do anything to people or information other than staring at them from a safe distance.

    What have I overlooked?

    * Though… the one Dawkins cites is a work of art. I’d almost feel flattered to have that one directed at me.

  217. #218 Matt Hone
    February 24, 2010

    Thaumas: We haven’t forgotten RDF’s disgraceful vendetta against Richard Dawkins a while back. I doubt many of us will want to go there.

  218. #219 gregvalcourt
    February 24, 2010

    #13, How naive are you?

    > A new format which requires pre-approval for the starting of new discussions, how wonderfully Orwellian.

    The new approach is NOT Orwellian. You can post as much as you like on existing discussions. You can even create new discussions, as long as they get approved.

    This is all about filtering trolls who try to dominate the index. Do we really need to allow people to spam the index with “How frogs from outer space are controlling atheist minds”?

    And really, this is much more democratic than this blog site. It’s akin to letting anyone blog on PZs blog, with approval from him after he’s reviewed it, and anyone can comment on it.

  219. #220 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmFNYLxWloJ03STzmE-W5JxDunnIUSeQzo
    February 24, 2010

    “I’d like to know whether or not the quotes Richard Dawkins posted were representative of the general trend of criticism, or if they were outliers”

    I’m sorry, I don’t know how to quote properly on here. I was one of the posters that had a quote pulled by Richard. It was made a couple of days after the forum was closed, on another forum, and was actually specifically about a line in the announcement I found patronising(saying that change was “frightening”). I was obviously in a harsh mood, but I have actually not directly insulted anyone during this whole rumpus. It’s not really in my nature.

    As it happens, Dawkins didn’t even quote the version of the announcement that I was talking about.

    Here is what he quoted
    “Or suppose that somebody on the same website expressed a ?sudden urge to ram a fistful of nails? down your throat”

    My post in full
    “When someone tells me that change can be frightening in order to at both times shut me up and patronise me, I get a sudden urge to ram a fistful of nails down their throat”

    I then went on to thank another member for sending a well thought out and calm email, suggesting this was a good approach.
    It wasn’t the nicest post I’ve ever made, but it wasn’t what Richard has made it look like either.

    I’ve actually been posting a little on pharyngula for quite while too, although I seem to sign in with a different name everytime, lol. :)

  220. #221 Matt Hone
    February 24, 2010

    Whoops, Freudian slip. ‘RDF’ should be ‘RRS’ in my previous post.

  221. #222 SaintStephen
    February 24, 2010

    @212 Caine:

    The key phrase in my post, which you completely misunderstood, was “by comparison“. Please wipe the tears from your eyes and try to read what I said.

    It’s okay to be pissed. But keep things in perspective, fer chrissakes.

  222. #223 Topsy
    February 24, 2010

    Copy of letter sent from the RDnet forum staff

    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

  223. #224 zarkwon
    February 24, 2010

    It is my right to withdraw my support as it was his to delete the RDFRS forum. The mismanagement of which will prove a costly mistake for the charity. Abandoning and belittling ones core is at best imprudent.

    A related point is that Richard really does need to review his tendency to consider himself always the most intelligent person in the room. Or at least letting the assumption so inform both his discourse and visage. His ill-founded disdain is palpable sometimes.

  224. #225 Matt Hone
    February 24, 2010

    If the ‘Outrage’ post is anything to go by, he’ll read your excellent letter and snort, ‘Petulance!’.

    The best thing we could hope for was for news to get out, and get out it has. I think this is as far as it will go.

    But still, that was an excellent letter written by the staff.

  225. #226 David Marjanovi?
    February 24, 2010

    to over 10,000 posts

    Far over 10,000. 13,889 in the case reported in comment 79.

  226. #227 SC OM
    February 24, 2010

    …during job layoffs NOBODY is told what is going on except the top executive staff. If the rumors are allowed to escape, people tend to go ballistic, and others begin causing trouble of all sorts. Why? BECAUSE THEIR VERY INCOME IS AT STAKE.

    Is this fair? Not completely, but it’s the only practical means of handling sensitive issues involving people’s lives. People are potentially losing the ability to pay their children’s doctor bills, for their cars and houses…

    See you in the Caymans, asshole.

    Yes, people are losing that. It’s part of why a system in which a handful of greedy assholes control the destinies of millions of others needs to come to an end. Have you been decrying this on the forum?

    One place this can to some extent, some of the time, be avoided is in the nonprofit world. As we’ve seen, though, autocrats thrive there, too.

    …isn’t even in the same moral Universe

    It’s a single moral universe.

  227. #228 Mike O.
    February 24, 2010

    @SpeedOfSound:

    Looks like we brought down still another server over on rationalia.

    Maybe they should try turning off the search function for 8 months? If that doesn’t work, they could make the forum read only – RDF runs like a dream now after all of Josh’s hard work.

    We are all excited about the new changes.

  228. #229 HughMcB
    February 24, 2010

    @214

    Actually the accusations of quote mining are very fair; Dawkins wrote in his email X, Y and Z quotes from rationalia. He then said “and what deserved this?” and proceeded to post the letter originally given to the members of RDF.

    Basically, he fails to realise that these comments came as a reaction to Josh’s despicable behaviour after that letter, after he deleted tens of thousands of posts, deleted moderators and members, deleted the logs of all admin actions, emptied the recycle bins so that we could never recover them, prevent people from communicating with their friends. So forgive us if some people called him X, Y and Z after all of this (on a completely separate third party forum mind you).

    Yes quote mining is exactly what I’d call it, congrats to RD, he’s now finally in league with the cretonists.

  229. #230 David Marjanovi?
    February 24, 2010

    I’m sorry, I don’t know how to quote properly on here.

    ScienceBlogs requires raw HTML, so quoting is done

    <blockquote>this way</blockquote>

    giving this result.

  230. #231 Caine
    February 24, 2010

    SaintStephen @ 222:

    Please wipe the tears from your eyes and try to read what I said.

    I don’t have tears in my eyes. I did read what you said, in all its stupidity. Is it possible for you to stop acting the asshole?

    It’s okay to be pissed. But keep things in perspective, fer chrissakes.

    I’m not pissed. I have no personal stake in RDF. I’d say you aren’t too good at reading comprehension, for all your admonitions. I was around when IIDB bit the dust and many of the same types of actions were taken. I was around for the spin-off forum and the forum which then spun off from there. What I said was “I understand exactly how the moderators and members of RDF feel and they are justified.”

    This is not about what you seem to think it’s about, which is people’s personal feelings toward Dawkins. While you might be in love with the man, you’re missing the huge elephant in the room by projecting that love onto everyone else. The way people have been treated is flat out wrong. The fact that this is taking place on the net does not make it trivial nor does it make it less wrong. Every single person who has had this wrong done to them has a life outside the net; they all have their problems. This particular problem is no different than any other. People have been insulted and wronged. It’s an asshole who would say “oh get over it, it’s not real life, there’s worse, etc.” It is real life and being wronged causes hurt among other things.

    You aren’t helping your so-called case by flinging insults and continuing to be an asshole.

  231. #232 Caine
    February 24, 2010

    Matt Hone @ 218:

    We haven’t forgotten RRS’s disgraceful vendetta against Richard Dawkins a while back. I doubt many of us will want to go there.

    *snort* You aren’t the only one who remembers that not-so-little fiasco.

  232. #233 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmEnhXgNJLXU9AsPGfYZTtwCttEiiRDhYA
    February 24, 2010

    SpeedOfSound @ #98:

    Like you, I also think that the next “war” will be on the definition and ‘irreducibility’ of consciousness. I work in neuropsychology and am interested in these types of topics. I was surprised to see you post about discussions of that subject at RDF as I had never seen or heard of them taking place, although I am now sad at the prospect ofthem disappearing due to the ongoing forum issues.

    I hope a great effort is made to preserve the archives of those discussions as well as similar topics.

  233. #234 SaintStephen
    February 24, 2010

    Here is my first reaction to this incident, posted last night.

    I think this comment expresses an appropriate degree of sympathy, if you’re under the rash assumption that I don’t have any. Only after reading today what Dawkins wrote, and after what PZ wrote, and Paula Kirby, and after seeing what the moderators themselves wrote — did I change my mind somewhat.

    But I’m done here now. I’ll keep reading responses though.

  234. #235 SC OM
    February 24, 2010

    SaintStephen,

    I understand your hostility, but I think it wrongly directed. Richard Sennett’s The Corrosion of Character might be of interest, though he has too much respect for religion, IMO.

    Best.

  235. #236 akiwiinoz
    February 24, 2010

    This whole episode reminds me that we are all flawed and fallible human beings (where even our heroes have feet of clay) and that we often rise to positions where our complement of skills and attributes are inadequate to deal with the complexity that our position requires.

    Josh has done some excellent work in building up the resources of the RD website (as have many others). He has obviously made some decisions that have upset people, and has not exhibited perfect people management skills. But FFS he’s human. Just remember that when slinging the merde around.

    The ex-moderators obviously have grievances. But these will only be resolved with some calm discussion between all protagonists. Not by calling the referee a wanker and storming off with one’s ball.

  236. #237 thaumasthemelios
    February 24, 2010

    “Thaumas: We haven’t forgotten RDF’s disgraceful vendetta against Richard Dawkins a while back. I doubt many of us will want to go there.”

    Matt, the ‘disgraceful vendetta’ was rumour-mongering by haters. If you look into it, you will find zero evidence of any wrong-doing. RRS members have never had any vendetta against RD. If you can find any evidence of this ‘vendetta’, I would be interested to see it. I’ve never seen any. Just because haters spread rumours doesn’t mean they’re true.

  237. #238 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawkMMnoyw4icjnKIjI5hpplUm9TckIG2S7Y
    February 24, 2010

    ^^ I agree, and so do the staff. It’s a bit difficult to enter into discourse, however, when all lines of communication have effectively been severed.

  238. #239 gplaine
    February 24, 2010

    And it’s not precisely ‘storming off with your ball’ when you’ve been kicked out and told to take your stinking spheroid with you.

  239. #240 wanderinweeta
    February 24, 2010

    grh123 #65:

    b) Deleted tens of thousands of science posts
    c) removed signatures that attempted to give people another place to meet
    d) Locked the forums and turned off search completely to make it nigh impossible to archive any content.

    I’ve been through three forum/community breakups before, each time becoming a “refugee” in a new forum. Each time, the same things happened, to the accompaniment of acrimonious complaints, emotional rantings (justified, I often thought) and plenty of verbal abuse. (I remember a co-forum member working steadily through a night and a day copying his work, and re-posting it on the new forum before it got deleted. Just in time, too.)

    Such things happen. It seems almost inevitable, and I’ve seen it in other types of organizations, as well.

    I’ve learned something. Things change. May as well accept that they will change and keep backups and contact info. I’ve lost touch with people I really valued because of being blocked from forums. It’s a loss I still grieve.

    Not only that: information, explanations, science, all other people’s work that I didn’t copy and save; after all, there it was, I had the link; it’s all gone. A great loss. It’s worth the extra time to keep copies of valuable stuff, if it’s found on a forum.

    And I’ve been very leery of getting too involved, putting in too much work on anything controlled by a group of people; it’s far too likely to be co-opted to other purposes, used as a sort of blackmail (“Lay low, don’t complain, or we ban you and delete all your work.”) or just simply dropped in the trash without warning.

    I’m sad to see RDF go the same way. Not surprised; just saddened.

  240. #241 Stublore
    February 24, 2010

    While I agree with some of the posters that RD.Net is RD’s to do with as he pleases, I do not agree with the way in which it was handled.
    Perhaps the most disappointing of all was RD’s post in which he quoted the vitriolic attacks.
    By not including the signatures at the end it looks like the attacks are directed at him, not the IT staff, who seem to deserve the lions share of the blame, if not the vitriol.
    Nor does he in any way shape or form make it clear that these attacks took place after the forum was disabled, not posted on RD.net, and makes no mention of the deleting of users and subsequent automatic deletion of their posts.
    For someone who relies and advocates on both truth and evidence this smacks of intellectual dishonesty and cover up.
    For shame!
    (PS Who knew JT was held in such high regard!. Personally as an occasional user of the site, I certainly barely knew he even existed, much less what he actually did!)

  241. #242 akiwiinoz
    February 24, 2010

    Storming off with one’s ball was a figure of speech.

    Apologies.

    Human.

    Hopefully RD, when he has finished here Down Under, will seek a face to face meeting with as many of those concerned as possible. A nice cup of tea should sort it.

  242. #243 grh123
    February 24, 2010

    #236 @ akiwiinoz

    There is a difference between ‘not exhibiting perfect management skills’ and sheer bloody minded spite.

    I class wiping out post histories of 13k+ science related useful posts for daring to express dissent as spite.

    I class disabling PM’s to stop members exchanging contact details with friends from the site as spite.

    I class rickrolling people who are desperately trying to preserve the info from the science sections of the site as spite.

  243. #244 Pierce R. Butler
    February 24, 2010

    Behold, ye sinners: you sneered, you scoffed, you even taunted, but the divinely inspired warnings from the Holy Prophets of an Atheist Schism have been fulfilled in all their terrible glory!

  244. #245 llewelly
    February 24, 2010

    SaintStephen | February 24, 2010 8:41 PM:

    … but during job layoffs NOBODY is told what is going on except the top executive staff. If the rumors are allowed to escape, people tend to go ballistic, and others begin causing trouble of all sorts.

    A few basic facts of human psychology:

    • (0) People are far less likely to react violently, and more likely to react rationally when they’re given advance warning of a disaster.
    • (1) People given advance warning of a problem are much better able to prepare for it, and they suffer less from it.
    • (2) People who give advance warning that they will do something that negatively affects another person are perceived as being more open, more honest, and more respectable than those who do not.
    • (3) People don’t like surprises. Making a surprise out of a bad event will always enhance negative reactions to that event.

    The fact that American corporate culture is in love with the myth that no advance warning for layoffs is best is yet another indicator that most executives haven’t a tenth that rationality they pretend to have, and that their “business knowledge” is deeply polluted harmful myths and unnecessary callousness.

  245. #246 Mike O.
    February 24, 2010

    @akiwiinoz #236

    To extend your sports analogy, it’s like the referee blowing the whistle for a fair tackle, then banning that player from the game and removing all his stats ever accrued over his life.

    Then, when the touch judges try to step in and say “Look, you’ve gone way over the line there, you need to cool off for a minute”, he fires them, calls a halt to the game and prevents everyone from contacting each other to organise a new location for the game.

    When those in a position of some authority try to contact the head guy in charge of the entire league, they receive no reply for a few days until finally a vague response arrives filled with misunderstandings, quote mines and plain ignorance of the details.

    Some people have gone down to the pubs and are now sharing a cold drink complaining about how they’d like to give that referee a punch, but that doesn’t mean our entire approach has been to simply run away and whine about it.

    We’ve sent numerous letters, emails, PMs to various people simply asking for an explanation of their actions, and received nothing but Dawkins’ pitiful response quoted in this blog post.

    Yeah Josh is only human, but he’s made a MAJOR mistake. If he were in the business world, where the people above him were aware of the potential money and consumer base that he’s just lost, he would have been fired instantly. Fortunately, Dawkins seems to have little knowledge of the internet and he has thus far failed to comprehend what Josh’s actions mean for his foundation.

    We are not the ones who have acted unreasonably and need to be told to have a calm rational discussion to work things out. That’s what we’re trying to do. We keep getting stonewalled with these blatant misrepresentations of the situation and treated like children who are sad because someone has taken our toy away.

    We are people who have been kicked in the balls by the ones we have dedicated a significant proportion of our lives to for free, because we wanted to support their cause. Dawkins obviously has no legal obligation to us, but surely a statement such as this would suffice:

    “Sorry guys, Josh was feeling particularly sensitive that day and due to his inabilities to function like a reasonable human being, he has destroyed significant contributions to one of the largest atheist communities on the internet. I apologise for his actions but I hope that you will return to the newly designed website where perhaps we can learn from our mistakes and pave a new way forward.”

    That’s all he needs to do. Accept that Josh has made a massive error in judgement and, in my opinion, hire someone else to take care of the website (as the design and running of the website has been absolutely abysmal from day one. I’m not sure what his camera skills are like but he is certainly not a talented web designer).

  246. #247 Ichthyic
    February 24, 2010

    A related point is that Richard really does need to review his tendency to consider himself always the most intelligent person in the room.

    I met him 20 years ago in Berkeley.

    that IS his most fatal social flaw.

    otherwise, one of the nicest guys you’ll meet.

  247. #248 TWood
    February 24, 2010

    They ran a forum that big on phpBB? Freeware instead of spending a couple hundred bucks on vBulletin? That should have been a sign that they were never really serious about the forum from the start.

    In any case, they should have a least a few backups of the database that could be archived, including those posts that are now deleted.

  248. #249 Ichthyic
    February 24, 2010

    a bit late, but since PZ has decided to make a lengthy post on the matter that somehow constitutes “not being dragged in”, I am guessing he never got the full history of what happened.

    I’m also surprised this wasn’t posted as one of the first comments in this thread, though I’m sure it’s in there somewhere:

    http://realityismyreligion.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/locked-entry-will-open-soon/

  249. #250 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawkMMnoyw4icjnKIjI5hpplUm9TckIG2S7Y
    February 24, 2010

    If you look at the links in PZ’s post, the second one is to that very blog. ;)

  250. #251 AndroidAR
    February 24, 2010

    To those who say that, “What they did wasn’t wrong, it’s his website/forum, he can do whatever he wants with it,” I’ve heard a similar argument, it goes something like, “God can do whatever he wants (including kill everyone with a flood) cause it’s His creation, He can do what He wants with it.”

  251. #252 Krubozumo Nyankoye
    February 24, 2010

    I have to admit that I am a little surprised that the people who participate in the RDF forum and the administrator/s of same have behaved so badly.

    I have seen in this thread already the reaction by the wingnuts snickering and making generalizations about atheists and no doubt all the vitupriation will provide them with years if not decades of glee.

    I am particularly upset that so much anger is aimed at Dawkins. Does anyone here think he arbitrarily decided to thumb his nose at all his ‘loyal followers’? As far as I recall he has quite limited skills in system administration. PZ at least knows him as a person so can maybe shed a little light with respect to how engaged Dawkins actually was with his forum, I can’t. But I doubt if it was very much. So I am somewhat at a loss to understand why this unfortunate situation should so immediately tar him.

    I won’t attempt to make any excuses for the sys admins, they apparently have acted badly and rather high handedly. They may even have gone so far as to decieve Dawkins as to what was really going on, from what I have seen so far it is very hard to tell but I suspect an element of that occurred and I think that Dawkins will not be pleased by the way this developed. With respect to his Sys Admins that is to say.

    Still, I fail to understand the panic. As someone pointed out upthread, there are surely backups that predate this whole dustup and so there should be no reason why they cannot be restored to a readonly adjunct, as also stated elsewhere indexed once because it is static, and fully searchable. There may be some subtle issues with this that are worthy of consideration.

    I do have to say one thing in defense of the Sys Admins because I do that kind of job still and have done for more than 15 years. They probably have a fairly ugly time of it most days trying to defend the website from the hundreds of millions of loonies who equate atheist with ultimate evil. To have their own community turn on them in a heart beat, might well have provoked a kind of panic on their own part.

    One last point I think is worth making. We don’t have all the facts, and we probably never will unless Dawkins himself devotes a week or two to sorting it all out and then explaining what happened. I think that is a remote possibility.

    To all those feeling hurt, disparaged, undervalued, etc. etc. all I can say is, you can hope that is the worst thing that ever happens to you. Sure you walked all the way down to town and the local pub is closed for rennovations. Is that any reason to burn it down?

    Ciao,

  252. #253 gplaine
    February 24, 2010

    @246 – MikeO
    If the stories of deleting logs are true, you’re looking at something a little worse than inept. Also, the Rick Rolling of Wget requests implies a well spat out dummy, and possibly a thrown teddiy too.
    No professional admin *needs* to excise logs, and no professional rick rolls a valid internet request.

  253. #254 strange gods before me ?
    February 24, 2010

    SaintStephen, stop being a piece of shit.

    If you can’t stop being a piece of shit, then just go away.

  254. #255 Ichthyic
    February 24, 2010

    PZ is right, it is Richard’s Forum so he can change it in the way he wants.

    translation:

    “PZ is right, anyone can shoot themselves in the foot any time they want.

    people seem to be unaware that the forum drew an order of magnitude more traffic that the actual website.

    and I’m not exaggerating that at all; the month before Josh started fucking with it, it did indeed draw EXACTLY ten times the traffic that the website did.

    Don’t know about Internet business models where others come from, but when I was in Internet Entertainment, you tended to promote and encourage the things that drew the most traffic.

  255. #256 wanderinweeta
    February 24, 2010

    Ichthyic #249

    Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
    :(

  256. #257 supernorbert
    February 24, 2010

    @ Ichtyic #249

    Just click on “unhappy (which is fair enough) and complaining” in PZ’s original post :)

  257. #258 Ichthyic
    February 24, 2010

    If you look at the links in PZ’s post, the second one is to that very blog. ;)

    yeah, i finally noticed that, but I guess the reason I missed it is because he obviously failed to read any of it himself.

  258. #259 Josh, Official SpokesGay
    February 24, 2010

    Sure you walked all the way down to town and the local pub is closed for rennovations. Is that any reason to burn it down?

    It wasn’t the pub customers who burned the pub down, it was the managersm, who then blamed the customers when they weren’t even there. For Christ’s sake, that isn’t hard to understand – what is it about that that you don’t get?

  259. #260 Ichthyic
    February 24, 2010

    I hate to say it, but my conclusion is that PZ shouldn’t have even bothered to make this thread.

    I don’t think either he OR Richard have a good grasp of what actually happened there.

  260. #261 Krubozumo Nyankoye
    February 24, 2010

    gplaine

    Since your post comes just after mine may I ask why do we suppose that the admins in charge of RDF are really all that professional?

    I haven’t yet read the gap upthread so I may be missing something.

  261. #262 Noel
    February 24, 2010

    Fucking precious petals.

    Really.

    They should get over themselves.

  262. #263 Richard H.
    February 24, 2010

    With regard to, “He has a right to do as he wishes.”

    This seems a bit disingenuous to me. Of course he has a right to do what he wishes. Has anyone proposed legal action to seize RDs property rights?

    If not, then there’s no real question of rights.

    It seems like the subtext is, “He has a right to do as he wishes and be immune to criticism.” This is simply not true.

    I’m not a poster on RDs forums, and have no idea how they ought be run. But, we would not accept this “I have a property right” logic from theists.

  263. #264 Ichthyic
    February 24, 2010

    In 2008, this is what Dawkins himself had to say about our community:

    “It is a community, and that is a valuable part of it. Many of our forum threads have an atmosphere of friends going out for a drink and chatting. I think that is valuable, and I don’t think we should insist on sticking to serious topics. That would be a good way to stifle the sense of community, and that would be a real shame.”

    PZ above:

    Seriously, Josh has his full support, and I talked with both of them before posting this. Hard decisions were made. Yes, moderators and contributors poured a lot of hard work into the forums, but at the same time, the output wasn’t what Richard Dawkins wanted. YOU, the happy participants in the chaos of free-wheeling discussions, wanted what you got, but ultimately it’s the RDF that has to decide whether it serves their goals.

    OK, so which is it Richard and PZ?

    it was a valuable community, or a disposable afterthought?

    seriously, I DON’T think you spent enough time researching this before you posted this, PZ.

  264. #265 Ichthyic
    February 24, 2010

    They should get over themselves.

    Oh, i do so hope someday some irate IT manager decides to delete all the information on your puter simply because he didn’t like what you had to say.

  265. #266 Josh, Official SpokesGay
    February 24, 2010

    Fucking precious petals.

    Really.

    They should get over themselves.

    Kind sir, may I invite you to eat me raw? Or, should you be already sated, would you like a seat on this sandpaper-upholstered rod?

  266. #267 gplaine
    February 24, 2010

    @Krubozumo Nyankoye #261
    I think it’s self evident they are not ‘professional’ in any way, shape or form. I was responding to a comment that it was ‘human error’. No, it wasn’t human error, it was unprofessional behaviour. One assumes, since they’re paid to do a role, they are nominally competent, and, as system admins, are nominally professional – lockdown if you think it’s necessary, but wholesale deletion, redacting logs, quotemining and spin are not the actions of non-mens rea. The screw up was unprofessional, the hole digging is a whole different ball game.

  267. #268 SC OM
    February 24, 2010

    To all those feeling hurt, disparaged, undervalued, etc. etc. all I can say is, you can hope that is the worst thing that ever happens to you.

    Yes, if there’s anything worse ever that can happen to you, or anyone, than that which has happened, shut the fuck up.

  268. #269 Krubozumo Nyankoye
    February 24, 2010

    @ # 259

    I think you missed my point entirely. And make it very neatly.

  269. #270 HughMcB
    February 24, 2010

    @252

    “I do have to say one thing in defense of the Sys Admins because I do that kind of job still and have done for more than 15 years. They probably have a fairly ugly time of it most days trying to defend the website from the hundreds of millions of loonies who equate atheist with ultimate evil. To have their own community turn on them in a heart beat, might well have provoked a kind of panic on their own part.”

    Eh, I think you’ll find actually it was the mods and staff admin (who volunteered at the site) were the ones who ran the day to day running of the forum and dealt with all the shit and loons.

    The two techies responsible for all this behaviour (who are PAID by the Foundation)have very little to do with the forum and actually failed miserably at providing it with many basic needs (including a search function for thew past 8 months )so that now we cannot retrieve old posts).

    They have given a big fuck you to all those volunteers (and contributors) and then succeeded in covering up the whole debacle by forwarding some juicy quote mines as per his email response which showed a severe lack of understanding about the situation.

  270. #271 Josh, Official SpokesGay
    February 24, 2010

    SC:

    Yes, if there’s anything worse ever that can happen to you, or anyone, than that which has happened, shut the fuck up.

    Yeah, SC, that’s right. Cuz ya know, if any individual commenter here doesn’t have an investment in the topic, that means all the rest of us are Whiney Bitchez (TM). Don’t you understand? We’re not allowed to care about anything they don’t care about.

    Cuz we ain’t shit.

  271. #272 Mike O.
    February 24, 2010

    @Krubozumo Nyankoye, #252

    I do have to say one thing in defense of the Sys Admins because I do that kind of job still and have done for more than 15 years. They probably have a fairly ugly time of it most days trying to defend the website from the hundreds of millions of loonies who equate atheist with ultimate evil. To have their own community turn on them in a heart beat, might well have provoked a kind of panic on their own part.

    Josh didn’t handle that though. He never touched the forum, he simply left it in the dark and occasionally removed certain functions, like the search engine.

    The fact that RDF was successful, and that it managed to keep away spammers, trolls and keep civil, intelligent debate going, was IN SPITE of Josh. It was purely due to the hard work of the volunteers – not just the moderators, but the members there too.

    It was never Josh’s community, as he has already been quite explicit in the fact that he hated the forum and has wanted to get rid of it for quite some time.

    However, I do agree that some of the anger directed at Dawkins is either mistaken, or at least premature, given that we are unsure as to how much information he has been given on the situation. In fact, given his update where he seems to think the members started insulting Josh because of that announcement, it suggests to me that he knows VERY little about what happened. But on the other hand, I know personally that a number of people have sent him extremely detailed accounts of what went on – the problem is that he trusts Josh over the people who spent all the time working on the forum.

    @gplaine, #253

    If the stories of deleting logs are true, you’re looking at something a little worse than inept. Also, the Rick Rolling of Wget requests implies a well spat out dummy, and possibly a thrown teddiy too.

    Definitely. I was just trying to give him the benefit of the doubt but you are absolutely right – the actions of Josh can not be attributed to a ‘mistake’. They were the purposeful actions of someone with some gripe or agenda against the members of the forum. Either that or he’s just a sensitive wee soul who couldn’t handle the fact that people thought his “new and exciting change” was stupid and bound to ruin the Dawkins Foundation.

    (And on the deleting logs debacle, I can tell you that it’s 100% true. I saw his logs disappear before my very eyes, one by one).

  272. #273 Caine
    February 24, 2010

    Noel @ 262:

    Fucking precious petals.

    Really.

    They should get over themselves.

    Quite the precious little snowflake yourself, aren’t you? You demonstrate zero knowledge of the event. Kindly go fuck yourself.

  273. #274 gplaine
    February 24, 2010

    @272 – I didn’t see it, so… I’ve seen it happen in some places (to cover unauthorised access of manager e-mail) and I nailed that sucker by recovering the files. Log deletion is not a debacle, a mistake, or anything that one could even ascribe to error. It’s covering one’s tracks for a purpose. If you’re DOING your job properly, then the audit trail isn’t a problem. That they felt the need to remove the audit trail implies, to me,something very, very wrong.

  274. #275 epepke
    February 24, 2010

    In many respects, this is uncannily like the self-destruction of the Internet Infidels Discussion Boards.

    I predict that there won’t be a new forum. When people are seriously interested in making a new forum, they do it and allow it to operate in parallel for a while.

    I’m afraid that, like the IIDB fiasco, this has rekindled my disappointment with atheists. This distresses me, as I consider myself an atheist. Nevertheless, the evidence is mounting up that atheists are pathological. When they get to a certain level in organizations, they are characterized by gullibility or sociopathy or both.

  275. #276 Rob Janzen
    February 24, 2010

    I’ve lurked at RD.net for some time now, and I can’t help but remember how often Wee Flea was called to task for deleting and punishing dissent when he (WeeFlea) had a forum, for killing his forum, for quotemining. I imagine he’s laughing his irrational ass off about now!

  276. #277 gplaine
    February 24, 2010

    @275 – It’s nothing to do with ‘atheists’ and everything to do with ‘arse holes.’ When I last checked they come in all shapes, colours, creeds, and sizes…
    To paraphrase MCP in Tron – This is what you get for using humans

  277. #278 strange gods before me ?
    February 24, 2010

    With regard to, “He has a right to do as he wishes.”

    This seems a bit disingenuous to me. Of course he has a right to do what he wishes. Has anyone proposed legal action to seize RDs property rights?

    If not, then there’s no real question of rights.

    It seems like the subtext is, “He has a right to do as he wishes and be immune to criticism.”

    Very well said, Richard H. PWND, even.

  278. #279 pcarini
    February 24, 2010

    The motivations behind their changes aside, there is absolutely no excuse for deleting the (or even part of the) data. That RDF could so casually even consider destroying the combined output of tens of thousands of posters over the timeframe involved — I’m dumbfounded. Regardless of whether they legally own all of the content or not, they should feel the moral obligation to provide a complete archive, at least for some reasonable time-frame.

    Making such an archive need not be expensive in either developer time or bandwidth / processing costs. The simplest way would be to publish a raw database dump, perhaps with some (user) information redacted, and let whoever cared enough to grab it deal with sorting out the data. A more user friendly method would be to pre-compute all of the forum pages and then archive the results, just as strange gods before me suggests above. Either method would take little to none of Josh’s (or whomever’s) time, and would allow these discussions to continue to enlighten others in the future.

    In response to #111, where clockkingfl asserts that it would be impossible to move the old postings to some other site(CMS) – bullshit! I think clockkingfl underestimates how many computer geeks the atheism / science advocacy community contains, some number of whom must be competent. IMO a good developer or DBA could hammer out a script to migrate data from one forum to another in a matter of hours, perhaps a couple of working days tops. The volume of data is perhaps daunting but, as an artifact of the forum software, it’s consistently formatted, which is better than can be said for what most of us have to deal with. These problems may be time-consuming to sort out but they’re in no way intractable. Especially in situations like this, where there seems to be plenty of will to get something done.

    In closing I’ll admit that I don’t have a dog in this fight either — although it is sad to see the RDF, whom I have had a great deal of respect for, act so ham-handedly. I first started following these communities about the time IIDB imploded — it actually dissuaded me from registering there — and somehow, happily, ended up reading Pharyngula. Since then I have learned an immense amount, started paying attention to the various battles for equality and reason, and discovered that there are things which I care about enough to fight for. (I was much more jaded when I was younger)

    Situations such as this are perhaps disheartening, but they’re at most only temporary setbacks. The rational movement will continue to gain ground, mostly because we’re right. I still can’t agree with blowing a chunk of its history straight to hell, however.

  279. #280 Ichthyic
    February 24, 2010

    Nevertheless, the evidence is mounting up that atheists are pathological.

    When shall we expect your forthcoming journal article on the subject?

    here’s me, laughing at you.

  280. #281 atomjack
    February 24, 2010

    I SO can’t avoid comment

    With all due respect to those who have given their all to the RDF, a hypothetical situation:

    Person 1 in the server room: “Do you smell smoke?”

    Person 2 in the server room: “FIRE! Run!”.

    All equipment lost! !@#$%^&*()_

    Keep it in perspective how ephemeral we all are- are you an atheist, or not? Yes, you may perceive your treatment as inhumane. But, understand, the minute you attack an admin (yes, I know ALL did not), the reaction is going to be to pull the plug, maybe in a panic. I’ll bet that all the data is out there on the internet_ somewhere. Patience, chilluns, and go look for it.

    My take, || to PZ: It’s RD’s site, and he can do what he bloody well pleases. As has been posited above, he’ll rise as the phoenix, and most of the posters will return to the teat to post yet again- if you can even believe that mixed metaphor- that’s one of my worst.

  281. #282 negentropyeater
    February 24, 2010

    I am just flabergasted to see how both PZ and RD are so missing the point entirely about this whole thing.

    Very dissapointing.

  282. #283 gplaine
    February 24, 2010

    Isn’t hyperbole a psychopathic trait? ;)

  283. #284 https://me.yahoo.com/a/RPuarI8Lze61hZk1PGjwDbui2fIshFKUh6U8SM6lsg--#d17ca
    February 24, 2010

    There is rumors going around that the “outrage” post was posted by Josh who managed to change it to Dawkin’s user name.

    There is also a few of people on Rationalia claiming that the “Josh Timonen” who registered on that forum and Rick Rolled people was a (poor) joke by one of their members.

    The examples in the “outrage” post have been claimed to be from personal letters, pm’s, and forum , and a number of people have claimed to have written them.

    And despite no one having a 100% idea of what is going on, the outrage and namecalling just seems to keep going.

    So rage on you self-righteous posters, rage on…

  284. #285 SC OM
    February 24, 2010

    With all due respect to those who have given their all to the RDF, a hypothetical situation:

    How stupid.

  285. #286 gplaine
    February 24, 2010

    “But, understand, the minute you attack an admin (yes, I know ALL did not), the reaction is going to be to pull the plug, maybe in a panic. ”
    With due respect, nonsense.

  286. #287 gplaine
    February 24, 2010

    “Rick Rolled people was a (poor) joke by one of their members.”
    The rickroll was reported as a roll over for wget when someone tried to dl the content via a script. Has that changed?

  287. #288 gplaine
    February 24, 2010
  288. #289 gplaine
    February 24, 2010

    This also makes an interesting point.
    http://forums.randi.org/showpost.php?p=5653761&postcount=123
    It is a social network then it’s not a social network…

  289. #290 https://me.yahoo.com/a/RPuarI8Lze61hZk1PGjwDbui2fIshFKUh6U8SM6lsg--#d17ca
    February 24, 2010

    The rickroll was reported as a roll over for wget when someone tried to dl the content via a script. Has that changed?

    I was talking about the rationalia forum. YOU JUST QUOTEMINED ME!

    Ha, seriously though, I don’t know, I didn’t attempt that. But I’m seriously questioning a lot of what people are saying now since there is so much conjecture and contradictions.

  290. #291 pcarini
    February 24, 2010

    With all due respect to those who have given their all to the RDF, a hypothetical situation:

    Person 1 in the server room: “Do you smell smoke?”

    Person 2 in the server room: “FIRE! Run!”.

    All equipment lost! !@#$%^&*()_

    Keep it in perspective how ephemeral we all are- are you an atheist, or not?

    Any IT team worth a kick in the ass keeps offsite backups, if not multiple redundant datacenters.

  291. #292 gplaine
    February 24, 2010

    @290 – Rationalia has been of minimal accessibility, throwing the opendns error page for me. However, since when has a request for clarification been a ‘quotemine’? The sources are easily separated – if it’s an ex-Mod, then it probably knows something, if it’s not, it almost certainly doesn’t, unless it can link to a mod.
    For supposedly ‘scientific’ people, there’s a lot who seem incapable of basic internet search skills and the ability to weigh probability of anecdote.

  292. #293 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawkMMnoyw4icjnKIjI5hpplUm9TckIG2S7Y
    February 24, 2010

    To be clear, the user who signed up as Josh at rationalia was not Josh. Whoever embedded the rickrolls in the forum was a member of the adminteam, which means either Josh or Andrew.

  293. #294 negentropyeater
    February 25, 2010

    seriously, I DON’T think you spent enough time researching this before you posted this, PZ

    Exactly.

    And it seems RD with his “outrage” message is victim of the same laziness.

    Hint : when so many people are so outraged, there’s usually a reason. If you don’t spend enough time trying to find out why, things don’t get better.

    That RD doesn’t want to spend the time to read and listen to the complaints, because he’s too busy and “important”, is even more outrageous.

  294. #295 pcarini
    February 25, 2010

    @gplaine #292:

    For supposedly ‘scientific’ people, there’s a lot who seem incapable of basic internet search skills and the ability to weigh probability of anecdote.

    I personally can vouch for wget not returning the correct results from the RDF forum pages (it actually returns the main RDF page), I can make the output files available if you’re interested. curl (a similar utility) does retrieve the forum pages correctly, so there you have it.

    Neither currently redirects the user anywhere off the RDF site, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen in the past.

  295. #296 negentropyeater
    February 25, 2010

    Atomjack #281,

    why do you even bother taking the time to write this ? We’re all so ephemeral, don’t you know ?

  296. #297 Krubozumo Nyankoye
    February 25, 2010

    Mike o @ #272

    I think you are wrong about that, sys admin involves a great deal of behavior that would never affect the forum directly but is critical to the overall website. Perhaps I misunderstand your point but if I were sysadmin to a forum and the lucky few who had elevated privileges began to break rules and act on their own, I might also be inclined to take draconian measures. After all, were any of the moderators who had certain system privileges vetted? As volunteers did they incur any professional risk?

    I am not trying to defend the stupidity of the admins actions, I am just saying they may have had motives that most people cannot understand.

  297. #298 clockkingfl
    February 25, 2010

    @279

    “In response to #111, where clockkingfl asserts that it would be impossible to move the old postings to some other site(CMS) – bullshit!”

    I never intended to imply that it was impossible. But I certainly could have used much clearer wording and done a better job of editing before posting. Mistake 1.

    I also inserted myself into something that’s none of my business. Mistake 2.

    This isn’t my fight. I really should have left it alone.

  298. #299 pcarini
    February 25, 2010

    This isn’t my fight. I really should have left it alone.

    It’s not really my fight either, so I equally should have left it alone ;)

    That said, I feel the least they could do is make the data available, in whichever format takes the least of their time, and let those who are really interested in it sort it out. Classy? no, but far less barbaric than just destroying it.

  299. #300 HughMcB
    February 25, 2010

    @290

    Seems like you seem to have doubts over what happened, for what its worth (which I know probably doesn’t mean shit to you) I have been involved in this all since day 1, I can say that Peter Harrison’s blog http://realityismyreligion.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/locked-entry-will-open-soon/ probably has one of the best accounts of what actually happened.

  300. #301 llewelly
    February 25, 2010

    epepke | February 24, 2010 10:56 PM:

    Nevertheless, the evidence is mounting up that atheists are pathological. When they get to a certain level in organizations, they are characterized by gullibility or sociopathy or both.

    I’ve seen essentially similar behavior in online communities centered around various programming languages, around operating systems, around certain applications, around MUDs and MUCKS, around creationism, around various woo interests, and well, online communities of every sort go through similar sorts of self-destructive confusion.

    Similar crap happens in meatspace organizations of all sorts as well. All this really shows, is something we all should have known all along: being rational is really hard, for everyone, and being an atheist only makes you more rational about one area of life.

  301. #302 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawkMMnoyw4icjnKIjI5hpplUm9TckIG2S7Y
    February 25, 2010

    Perhaps I misunderstand your point but if I were sysadmin to a forum and the lucky few who had elevated privileges began to break rules and act on their own, I might also be inclined to take draconian measures. After all, were any of the moderators who had certain system privileges vetted? As volunteers did they incur any professional risk?

    None of the mods or admins broke any rules. The actions taken were in response to mild criticisms and the raising of valid concerns that Josh didn’t want to deal with. This isn’t about not being privy to information, I was there as it unfolded, and Peter’s blog is a fair and accurate account.

  302. #303 Ichthyic
    February 25, 2010

    and most of the posters will return to the teat to post yet again

    you must have missed the part where the new “forum” will be discussion based on pre-approved topics only.

    no, most will assuredly not return to post there.

  303. #304 Ichthyic
    February 25, 2010

    This isn’t about not being privy to information, I was there as it unfolded, and Peter’s blog is a fair and accurate account.

    it took me 10 minutes last night to read Peter’s account.

    I can’t understand why everyone who feels the need to comment on this thread can’t do the same.

    It presents a pretty clear case of abuse on Josh’s part, backed up consistently.

  304. #305 HughMcB
    February 25, 2010

    @302

    If by “breaking the rules” you mean posting the message the tech team sent to the mods in order to show that they were completely in the dark then yes they did. If you think that this entitled draconian measures such as deleting tens of thousands of posts, shutting down the entire forum, preventing people from contacting one another and taking measures so no one can retrieve the forum contents were warranted, then you are entitled to that opinion.

  305. #306 Mike O.
    February 25, 2010

    @Krubozumo Nyankoye, #297

    I think you are wrong about that, sys admin involves a great deal of behavior that would never affect the forum directly but is critical to the overall website.

    Yes of course, the Dawkins website was more than just the forum. However, the forum was where the largest amount of traffic was being generated (over 10x more than any other area) and it was given no attention by Josh.

    And then when we look at the rest of the website, ignoring the forum for now, we see a haphazard attempt to put together a shiny website that looks like something any 13 year old in IT class would design. It’s an eyesore. (I imagine the new website has fixed this up though, or one would hope).

    Perhaps I misunderstand your point but if I were sysadmin to a forum and the lucky few who had elevated privileges began to break rules and act on their own, I might also be inclined to take draconian measures. After all, were any of the moderators who had certain system privileges vetted? As volunteers did they incur any professional risk?

    This has already been pointed out above but I’ll add it again in defence of myself and the other ex-moderating staff – no rules were broken. We were continuing to do our jobs. The only “violation” was when two moderators made it clear to the public that we were in as much the dark as they were, because we had to deal with pages of criticisms being thrown at us. Once the membership realised we were screwed over like they were, they started asking Josh for answers.

    Instead of answering their concerns, he deleted a few mods and members, then deleted the thread that criticised his ideas for a new forum.

    In other words, the only rule we broke was the rule that said “Agree with everything Josh says”.

    I am not trying to defend the stupidity of the admins actions, I am just saying they may have had motives that most people cannot understand.

    The motives are pretty clear. We’ve spoken with Josh during the planning stages and obviously on numerous occasions before that. He never wanted the forum and he wanted it gone. Once people started questioning him he obviously figured it wasn’t worth the hassle and just shut the whole place down.

    The way he’s gone about it – the silencing of dissenters, the removal of the private messaging feature, the rickrolling of the archive, deleting all records of his actions etc etc. It all adds up to him throwing a spaz and doing whatever the hell he liked, rather than doing things for the good of the foundation.

  306. #307 Krubozumo Nyankoye
    February 25, 2010

    I lost track of what is being discussed and can’t seem to get it back together. Sorry.

  307. #308 Krubozumo Nyankoye
    February 25, 2010

    My last post in response was trashed by login timeout. I’ll see if I can find it.

  308. #309 Mike O.
    February 25, 2010

    @Krubozumo Nyankoye, #307

    I lost track of what is being discussed and can’t seem to get it back together. Sorry.

    To be honest, I don’t even remember either. Sorry if it sounded like I was attacking you personally, I understand you don’t have any interest in this case either way..

    I’ll buy you a beer or something one day! :)

  309. #310 Esquelito
    February 25, 2010

    PZ,

    Your response to this issue surprises and disappoints me almost as much as RD’s.

    To once again echo many of the fair and rational sentiments already posted here the important issue is not that the RDF forum is changing, it’s the damaging and disrespectful manner in which that change is being effected.

    For the sake of brevity I won’t repeat the details, they are clear and available for everyone to see, but I think it is fair to say that RD has been shown to be guilty of sloppy cherry-picking and not taking the time to investigate this issue fully before taking a public position. Disheartening to see this come from a person who has always been an outspoken attacker of ignorance.

    PZ you are complicit in this hypocrisy by not acknowledging that the censorship and wilful destruction of valuable information displayed by the RDF and apparently endorsed by RD himself was completely unneccessary and unacceptable to a community that strives for and thrives on open discussion and pursuit of knowledge.

  310. #311 grh123
    February 25, 2010

    #288 @ gplaine

    Here is a screen shot showing wget requests getting rickrolled for any that continue to doubt it.

    http://www.rationalia.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=75&t=8966&view=unread#p356795

  311. #312 Rorschach
    February 25, 2010

    If the Outrage message is indeed from RD, he must have been in a big hurry what with all his commitments( btw, I keep hearing he’s in Australia, havent seen a single article or clip on TV, where is he meant to be exactly ?), and has a rather autistic view of the importance of this forum for its regulars and the amount of work the mods had put in there.
    The cherry-picking and quotemining is rather painful to watch and not up to RD’s usual standards.

    And while all those that point out that this forum is the property of RDF and they can do with it whatever they like, true enough I guess, but why do it in such a just generally assholey fashion, and show so little respect and gratitude towards those moderators ?
    Sounds to me like Timonen needs a bit of a reality check, he’s not Dawkins after all, he’s his cameraman and web techie.

  312. #313 Michael
    February 25, 2010

    Yep he is definitely heading to Australia. I’m seeing him talk next Tuesday in Adelaide then he is off to the convention in Melbourne.

    http://www.atheistconvention.org.au/

    Michael

  313. #314 https://me.yahoo.com/a/dIdU0lJ8tNzRAlxvw2WoxpWewuUfMs41#ac864
    February 25, 2010

    Well, this is perfect timing, with the conference three weeks away. Someone upstream is right; all the RDF-hate going around could well be used by the media to run an ‘atheist schism’ type line, and overshadow everything else.

    PZ, surely, as someone running one of the most ‘open’ blogs on the net, often referred to as a bear pit, you can understand our utter disbelief at the RDF forums not being allowed to carry threads decrying the changes to the site? Deleting whole archives of posts, etc etc in some dummy-spitting exercise?

    What would havebeen the harm in allowing forum members to vent, if you’re taking the site offline in a month anyway? Give them a special section in which to do it, shrug, and say SIWOTI. Is that so hard?

    Josh Timonen sounds to me like someone who is autistic. If he’s not, then he’s a fool. I have no management training, but I could have written a letter that would have dealt with this issue standing on my head.

    And his excuse that he spends most of his time on the rest of the site? The one thing that marks the RDF site is the fact that it looks as though it’s been put together by a ten-year old who got Dreamweaver for Christmas. I always assumed it was because he was also a volunteer, and now I learn that he’s being PAID?!

    Dear FSM, someone talk to RD about this, please….

  314. #315 Bride of Shrek OM
    February 25, 2010

    #314

    Josh Timonen sounds to me like someone who is autistic. If he’s not, then he’s a fool.

    I’m not making comment on the merits of any arguements here as I know little about the facts but can I please ask you,gently and respectfully, to not equate the symptoms of autism with being “a fool”. That is intensely disrespectful towards people with ASD and diminishes their continued struggles to gain acceptance. Thanks.

  315. #316 ozewiezeloose
    February 25, 2010

    “Dear FSM, someone talk to RD about this, please….”

    I am still puzzled as to whether RD really knows what happened.

    If he doesn’t his “Outrage” post was very premature indeed, and not worthy of anyone who calls himself ‘rational’.

    If he does, I cannot but support the idea that his reasoning is as sound as any OEC’s. The usual fallacies are there, too. So again, not worthy of anyone who calls himself ‘rational’.

  316. #317 https://me.yahoo.com/a/dIdU0lJ8tNzRAlxvw2WoxpWewuUfMs41#ac864
    February 25, 2010

    I didn’t associate autism with being a fool. Autism often prevents people from understanding the social signals that others take for granted. If you are not autistic, understand these social signals and choose to ignore them, then yes, you are a fool.

    BTW, I’m an Aspie. I have a reasonable idea whereof I speak.

  317. #318 John
    February 25, 2010

    Reading Richard Dawkins statement on the RDF forum reminded me of the clichéd and often misquoted line from Hamlet – The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

    The telling phrase for me from this is one ?Surely there has to be something wrong with people who can resort to such over-the-top language, over-reacting so spectacularly to something so trivial.?

    I have a question Richard, what people specifically and how many?

    In that statement alone he shows a complete lack of understanding for the work put in on his behalf by many loyal and dedicated Moderators. Now he may well argue that they were all volunteers who he never asked to sign up to his cause and therefore accepts no responsibility what may occur as a result of his actions. I would say that is ignorance in the extreme. One of the key points of Human evolution for me is the fact that we are able to rise above our genes and our instincts and frame our behaviours in a civilised way albeit relating to events which don?t turn out as we expect.

    Let?s try and dispel some of that ignorance. In what seems to have escalated into an embarrassing episode for him he appears to have accepted the gift that has been given to him by a number of members of the RDF forum who have resorted to levelling abuse at Josh Timonen, some of which he has quoted in this statement. Now there is no doubt that Richard Dawkins is one of the most intelligent people on the planet, and whilst he may be upset at the lambasting of his colleague, friend and recipient of the dedication of his latest book, I am also sure he has taken this opportunity to erect a smoke screen around what so many have already pointed out as the real issue surrounding this matter, the shameful treatment of the moderators of the RDF forum, in order to justify a decision that needs no justification and which had it been managed differently could have led to a seamless and positive transition carried out by many willing helpers.

    Whether you like forums or not they can be productive places if moderated well and that takes skill, experience and many hours of work, something that is hardly recognised outside of those circles not to mention the Internet itself. Josh Timonen, on the other hand, is a young and skilled technician it seems, who has not been involved in moderating a large and very lively forum before. On Monday he found himself wearing the Captain?s hat and then proceeded to steer the ship straight onto the rocks. To be honest I think he is simply no more than a very naïve young man who quickly found himself out of his depth and who may or may not have learned something from this episode. However judging by the handling of a previous episode on the forum, my guess is learning in this context is not high on his agenda.

    One of the highlights of this sad affair for me is Peter Harrison Blog which ironically, stands out as an oasis of clear-thinking. I am sure Richard has read it but has probably dismissed it as irrelevant.

    Another group that has come out well are the Moderators themselves and I think it is shameful that their massive contribution has been so frivolously dismissed by Richard. He knows I am sure, that they were not responsible for the comments he cites. It could well be that the forum did not head in the direction he required and yes, maybe it is time for a change but that is not the point as many have indicted in various ways. It is they who have be insulted by his silence as much as Josh has by vitriol.

    Whether unwanted or not he has found himself in charge of an organisation going through change. An organisation made up of people. As many company?s and CEO?s have found to their cost, managing that change can be rewarding and productive or ghastly and horrible. Ironically the managers who come out feeling good are the one who do it successfully together with those who simply don?t care about people.

    Richard has repeatedly said it is not a slur to be ignorant and points out that he is ignorant of many things. What is less acceptable to remain so when one has the opportunity do something about it.

  318. #319 Quine
    February 25, 2010

    I am mostly a “front pager” at RD.net but still find this whole thing disturbing, especially the loss of community, and the postings of people I highly respect. I am, also, not looking forward to the ridicule that is about to be heaped upon us by our usual critics.

  319. #320 Simon Gardner
    February 25, 2010

    @Krubozumo Nyankoye

    I am particularly upset that so much anger is aimed at Dawkins. Does anyone here think he arbitrarily decided to thumb his nose at all his ‘loyal followers’?

    Oh yes.

  320. #321 jack.rawlinson
    February 25, 2010

    I am disappointed but unsurprised to see that a significant number of posters here have still clearly not fully apprised themselves of the circumstances leading to this mess. I really do wish people would learn to shut the hell up if they’re unwilling to show seriously aggrieved (and much better informed) people the respect of making that effort.

    And comments such as SaintStephen’s, suggesting that the aggrieved should quit moaning because worse things happen at sea are so damned lazy, fatuous and insolent they make my goddamned temples burst.

  321. #322 jack.rawlinson
    February 25, 2010

    John #318

    Good comment.

  322. #323 CJ
    February 25, 2010

    Just a little correction on the number and types of posts that were lost when Josh Timonen deleted whole user accounts. 6 users were deleted totalling about 30,000 posts about 3/4 of which could be considered RDF form goals ‘On-topic’. My 13,000 or so were mostly in Welcome where I greeted over 4,500 new members. I had a lot in Evolution where I built and maintained the Evolution Resources thread http://forum.richarddawkins.net/viewtopic.php?p=321071#p321071 something I am quite proud of. By sheer luck those posts were transferred to a service user EvoResources or they would have gone too! Josh obviously had no idea what he was deleted and patently could not have cared less. This later situation is perfectly illustrated by the deletion of Mazilla’s account. Not only was Mazilla a moderator he was responsible for instigating the science writing competition that was in it’s second month when the forum was closed. Interestingly the first (and now only) first prize was won by Jerome the longest standing theist member of the forum, which in its own way puts the lie to Richard Dawkins dogmatic assertions about the science capabilities of theists. So Josh had no comprehension or care for the damage he was doing, none whatsoever. He did what he did out of an emotional response there was no rational thought in what he did. So it appears that it’s perfectly ok for him to behave irrationally and emotionally but not the people he writes rude and patronising notes to, this wiffs more than a little of hypocrisy and loss of perspective by many concerned.

    And this brings me to the crucial point. Josh and Richard are too emotionally involved in the website and forum to make adequately objective management choices about how either should be run or implemented. In additions Josh’s people skills are non-existent. He is obviously way, way out of his depth in this respect. I don’t say this with malice as I have earned my living for quite few years analysing and changing business processes in companies as diverse as fittings manufacturers to cake makers! It is patently unfair of Richard to expect his young web designer to handle complex remote relationships after he has previously demonstrated is lack of capability in this area (I cite the 2008 melt down caused by the mishandling of the removal of the Veterans forum where the senior forum admin OBC resigned, also the hacking incident where the senior forum admin RichardPrins resigned and the latest debacle where all the staff effectively downed tools due to the ham fisted way Josh handled the issue). There is also the incident of the front page moderation which was ineptly handled primarily due to the total lack of empathy shown to the members of the site

    IMO this whole sorry fiasco is down to non-existant skills and/or training in people management. If handled correctly the migration to a new format of discussion/forum area could, and should have been, a community enhancing experience that would have reinforced the strength of RDF not alienated a significant proportion of its membership and endangered the existance of a unique historical resource.

    Richard is not without blame here either. He has continually failed to effectively explain what he wanted the forum to actually be. This is illustrated by the fact that he requires what there is to change into something else. At no time, and after repeated attempts by myself (while I was a Moderator earlier in the life of RDF)and others to obtain a clarification of the aims and objectives of the forum area was any comment ever forthcoming from Richard or anybody else. In fact Richard’s desire for a community aspect to the forum was the only guidance ever given.

    The more I look at this the more it becomes evident that there is a function missing, that of Foundation Manager. This roll would be filled by a professional manager tasked with the effective, smooth running of the foundation,s site, forum and marketing thus freeing Richard and Josh to do what they do best.

    Regards
    Chris

  323. #324 Hirnlego
    February 25, 2010

    It’s disappointing to see so much negative emotion from a supposedly rational group of people.

  324. #325 octopode.myopenid.com
    February 25, 2010

    Oh for goodness’ sake… It’s only a web forum – you’d think by the responses that some sort of crimes against humanity had been perpetrated.

    If you have data up anywhere on the Internet which you have failed to back up in some fashion then it’s your own fault if you lose it all, whether by accident or human fiat. If people spent so many thousands of hours writing their posts, they clearly didn’t value those thousands of hours too much if they didn’t at least save a local copy on their own hard drive.

  325. #326 CJ
    February 25, 2010

    A prime example of the impact of Josh’s knee jerk reaction in deleting my account.

    In this post created by me in my EvoResources guise http://forum.richarddawkins.net/viewtopic.php?p=2451813#p2451813 I created links to other articles in the Evolution forum where I (as CJ) had created discussion topics on fossils. All the links in this post are now dead as Josh deleted all the OPs because he deleted me (CJ) as a user.

    Josh made no attempt to find out what the impact of his deletions would be on the integrity of the forum which in itself shows his utter disregard and lack of understanding of the use the forum was being put to by it’s users.

    I also spent many hundreds of hours in the Atheism and Parenting forums assisting people with practical advice on how to reveal their atheism to their hyper-theistic families, all now destroyed in a fit of irrational rage by a person who openly states he is an atheist who wishes to remove people from the clutches of theism.

    Josh’s performance throughout this has been woeful, that can not be denied, except apparently by Josh and Richard; which does no bode well for the foundation. Accepting there is a problem (lack of management expertise) is the first step to solving a problem. I hope that Richard stops denying there is a problem and starts to do something about it.

    Regards
    Chris

  326. #327 Caine
    February 25, 2010

    Hirnlego @ 324:

    It’s disappointing to see so much negative emotion from a supposedly rational group of people.

    Yes, because everyone knows rational people always act in groupthink, and aren’t supposed to have emotions. Right? It’s disappointing to see so much assholery over this event.

    Do some reading: http://realityismyreligion.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/locked-entry-will-open-soon/

    Maybe you’ll be able to figure out why people are upset.

  327. #328 Rorschach
    February 25, 2010

    Captain Platitude @ 324,

    It’s disappointing to see so much negative emotion from a supposedly rational group of people.

    Care to elaborate on this profound statement of generic concern ?

  328. #329 NMcC
    February 25, 2010

    There are many aspects of the whole sorry saga that are amusing (as well as regrettable and disturbing, of course) but the most hilarious of all is the constant mantra that the site is Dawkins’ personal property and that he therefore can do what he likes with it. Firstly, would Myers, and Dawkins sycophants like Kirby, come out with this ‘the biggest money-grubber has a right to rule the roost’ utterly offensive bullshit in any other circustances other than this? I doubt it.

    And, secondly, has any one else noticed Dawkins’ constant referral to ‘our’ site when he posts on the site? Now, of course, the truth is out (not that it was ever really concealed, except from naive idiots): It’s not ‘our’ site, Richard, it’s your fucking site! The ‘our’ bit is simply window dressing; let’s be frank about it, when the rubber hits the road, all pretensions concerning the question of ownership resolve themselves into money? You pay the piper, so you dictate the tune. What a shock! For some, apparently!

    Incidentally, I don’t include myself in this ‘our’, because I pointed up Dawkins’ dictatorial and dismissive attitudes in regard to his site users, as well as his arse-kissing of his surly and churlish (supposed) employee Timmonen, around a year ago and left the site.

  329. #330 Caine
    February 25, 2010

    Octopode @ 325:

    Oh for goodness’ sake… It’s only a web forum – you’d think by the responses that some sort of crimes against humanity had been perpetrated.

    If you have data up anywhere on the Internet which you have failed to back up in some fashion then it’s your own fault if you lose it all, whether by accident or human fiat. If people spent so many thousands of hours writing their posts, they clearly didn’t value those thousands of hours too much if they didn’t at least save a local copy on their own hard drive.

    Oh goody, another uniformed asshat. Try to read and comprehend: http://realityismyreligion.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/locked-entry-will-open-soon/

    People were told and assured they would have 30 days to archive. It’s not their fault Timonen went full asshole and starting deleting posts and user accounts right and left.

  330. #331 Made of Stars
    February 25, 2010

    Hopefully RD, when he has finished here Down Under, will seek a face to face meeting with as many of those concerned as possible. A nice cup of tea should sort it.

    As a Down Under Forum Admin, I invited Richard to have breakfast or a coffee with the Down Under staff during the forthcoming Global Atheism Convention.

    This was while we were trying to engage with Josh Timonen and Andrew Chalkley about how to manage a smooth transition to the new format.

    Richard never responded.

    I can’t speak for the others, but I’d still be happy to meet with him, if only to get some inkling of his level of involvement in this process.

    I have no interest whatsoever in talking with Josh Timonen while he’s here. He has been singularly dismissive of the forum and our attempts to keep the community alive, and his subsequent actions give a clear indication of his character. I’ve no time for the man.

    Made of Stars
    ex-Forum Admin
    Sydney, Australia

  331. #332 Coryat
    February 25, 2010

    Well, Dawkins has the right to do what he wants with his site. He has the right to let a dickwad ride roughshod over the posters and admins who put in thousands of hours. He has the right to alienate massive swathes of his readers and contributors, myself included, who will not return to his stupid hierarchical new website. He has the right to write either a dishonest or profoundly misinformed open letter which skates over the facts. And we have the right not to associate, contribute or support Dawkins’ new venture. And to call Josh a distended arsehole.

  332. #333 Matt Hone
    February 25, 2010

    #315

    I’d like to second that. While not autistic myself, we had autistic members on the RD.net forums and they both had cracking senses of humour. One of them contributed the most of anyone to the science discussions.

  333. #334 Carlie
    February 25, 2010

    Although being autistic can sometimes make a person come off as an asshole, being an asshole is no indicator of being autistic.

  334. #335 Rorschach
    February 25, 2010

    Although being autistic can sometimes make a person come off as an asshole, being an asshole is no indicator of being autistic.

    Don’t, just don’t, get me started here.

  335. #336 octopode.myopenid.com
    February 25, 2010

    @Caine

    If you’re the one getting so worked up about a sodding web forum, then you’re the only one who deserves the label of ‘asshat’.

    I’ve read the posts around the topic, and can only conclude that this is yet another episode of pointless drama of the kind that Internet communities seem so adept at producing.

    As I said, if you want to save your stuff, you back it up. You don’t wait until you’re given notice of deletion to do so – you just do it. Woe betide all who don’t look out for the continuity of their own data if they value them.

  336. #337 CJ
    February 25, 2010

    @ octopode.myopenid.com

    #336

    As I said, if you want to save your stuff, you back it up. You don’t wait until you’re given notice of deletion to do so – you just do it. Woe betide all who don’t look out for the continuity of their own data if they value them.

    On a discussion forum simply backing up one’s own material is rather like recording just one part of a multi person conversation, it is futile as without all the inputs being recorded the message is lost. Imagine simply recording only your own post in this discussion, the result would be meaningless with the loss of context.

    To be of any value whole threads need to be archived and that is simply not possible for the non-moderator. So Richard and Josh are destroying a unique historical resource for no reason at all, very, very sad.

    Regards
    Chris

  337. #338 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawkMMnoyw4icjnKIjI5hpplUm9TckIG2S7Y
    February 25, 2010

    I have posted a blog, with another potted history, and some of ym own thoughts on where we should be moving from here. We’re all supposed to be on the same side, after all.

    I would like to thank PZ for his input which, while not necessarily what we want to hear, is still clear and rational.

    http://reciprocity-hackenslash.blogspot.com/2010/02/reciprocity-when-you-fight-yourself.html

  338. #339 octopode.myopenid.com
    February 25, 2010

    @ CJ
    #337

    unique historical resource…

    Er, this is a web forum you’re referring to, not the Rosetta Stone or the Bayeux Tapestry, right?

    The web is ephemeral, and cannot be trusted to save things for posterity.

  339. #340 supernorbert
    February 25, 2010

    #314 said:

    The one thing that marks the RDF site is the fact that it looks as though it’s been put together by a ten-year old who got Dreamweaver for Christmas.

    I often wonder why the hell do they put the most static content on the most prominent place right in the middle of the site. The section that frequently changes is “Latest News” and you need an extra click on the tab to reach it. And thats only the most obvious design flaw on RD.net (in my Opinon)

  340. #341 Rorschach
    February 25, 2010

    Dimwit @ 339,

    The web is ephemeral, and cannot be trusted to save things for posterity.

    I’m getting a bit tired of your strawmanly goalpost shifting .
    This is not the fucking point, now is it.The web can not be trusted? What kind of an asshole are you ? Well, it would seem obvious that Josh Timonen can not be trusted, I think we have established that by now.
    So people that posted 100s, 1000s of comments over years, who had some reasonable expectation that their posts were appreciated and welcomed, and in the process educated a million other folks, now find themselves erased,you would tell them that “the web is ephemeral” ?

    Well fuck you lol.

  341. #342 octopode.myopenid.com
    February 25, 2010

    @341

    No strawmen here, and I haven’t shifted any goalposts. As I’ve said, if you want to save things you save them yourself. Forums come and go, some moderators are aresholes, others are not. If you can’t handle this rather simple fact then you get what you deserve.

    It’s Internet drama, it happens all the fucking time. Get the hell over it.

  342. #343 supernorbert
    February 25, 2010

    @octopode #342

    Maybe ‘getting over it’ is a process and it happens right here.

  343. #344 Shirakawasuna
    February 25, 2010

    Well, I always liked using the Richard Dawkins Forum when I wanted to move a discussion to an open forum. I used it because it was almost guaranteed to allow discussion of the topic (religion, science, etc) so long as it didn’t turn into childish insults. With all threads requiring editorial approval, I won’t be using it that way any longer. In fact, I have to wonder how many threads can be approved by a few moderators, given how popular the forums were. While the stated goal is to increase the diversity of the participants, they might actually see a significant decrease :/.

    With that said, the schoolboy attacks on Josh are idiotic and only serve to support the switch to a non-open, non-forum.

  344. #345 Rorschach
    February 25, 2010

    master of sweeping generalisations @ 342,

    Forums come and go, some moderators are aresholes, others are not

    Wake me up when you are ready to address any particular arguments.

  345. #346 octopode.myopenid.com
    February 25, 2010

    @ supernorbert #343

    You appear to be attempting to conflate the fallout of a spectacularly idiotic episode of internet drama with the process of grieving for somebody’s death.

    That would be a tiny bit of an over-reaction don’t you think?

  346. #347 Carlie
    February 25, 2010

    The one thing that marks the RDF site is the fact that it looks as though it’s been put together by a ten-year old who got Dreamweaver for Christmas.

    I guess it’s kind of a pile-on to say, but honestly one of the reasons I’ve rarely visited the RD site is that it hurts so much to look at it. Not just from a “wow sucky aesthetic” perspective, but it confuses me – figuring out where to look, where to find the newest stuff, where to find something I’m looking for in particular. It just looks cluttered to me, and something about the layout is difficult for me to process.

  347. #348 gplaine
    February 25, 2010

    @#346 – It depends how much time one spent on the deal. you could say the same thing about being upset about the death of a beloved pet. ‘It’s only an animal.’ I’ve known people unable to speak of a beloved gecko years after the event. Lizards are not prone to being either affectionate, nor being overly blessed with character beyond ‘Can I eat it? Can I mate with it? Should I run away from it? Is it a rock?’ OK, I have a tortorise who is rich in charater in my opinion, and he’s been with me since 1970 (Forty years this May)… Am I over blowing the fact I will be upset if he doesn’t out live me? Humans form attachments, be it to Grandma’s Parisian Lady, a dog or cat, or a virtual community. When they’re gone, we grieve.

  348. #349 Carlie
    February 25, 2010

    For all the “get over it” comments – why are you bothering to read this in the first place? It’s not like people are banging on your front door and forcing you to hold them while they weep uncontrollably. There was an event, people were treated like crap, they’re mad about it, and they’re… posting on a thread that is specifically about that event. Ooo, big overreaction there.
    Really. Either you care about the people or the principle involved and empathize over it, or you don’t think it’s important and ignore it. There’s no justifiable reason to come in and tell them they’re wrong for having their own reactions because you think there are more important things in the world. Good for you – go off and pay attention to those instead, then.

  349. #350 grh123
    February 25, 2010
  350. #351 Simon Gardner
    February 25, 2010
  351. #352 gplaine
    February 25, 2010

    That noise you heard was the genie leaving the bottle.

  352. #353 CJ
    February 25, 2010

    @ octapod

    Er, this is a web forum you’re referring to, not the Rosetta Stone or the Bayeux Tapestry, right?

    Did the people who created the Rosetta stone create it out of pragmatism to solve a current problem or as an object of incredible historic significance? Very few things are created deliberately for the needs of future historians. Neither you nor I have the ability to see into the future so it is our responsibility, and I mean you and I and all people, to attempt to preserve all information for future generations and the historians therein.

    Like it or not (and I do) The God Delusion is a highly influential book. It spawned the forum, thousands of the forum members joined because of that book. They laid out their life stories for all to see among the 2.4 million posts that are now at risk of petty destruction.

    A 1,000 years from now when historians look back at the first decade of the 21st century what will they find? Old copies of The Daily Mail (or the US equivalent), although I will be long dead I don’t want to be judged on the contents of tabloid rags like that. We have a chance here to leave our version of the Rosetta stone behind, knowing full well that it is a unique record of many things, not least of which will be the intellectual struggle of real people to get their heads around the fight between rational thought and faith. This alone requires that it be preserved.

    To say the Internet is ethereal is true, but that is no reason to accept that the information it contains, it’s real value, should be shackled to that unfortunate condition. My wife is doing her Masters in History at the moment which is the reason I am possibly more sensitive to this issue than I would have been a while ago, I have had to read her work on the disappearance of information services.

    The value of a book is what is written in it, not the paper it is written on. The value of a forum is what is written in it, not the storage device that holds it. I doubt you would burn a book without some consideration of its contents, but you appear to be quite happy to stand by and watch while the combined thoughts of 85,000 people spread over a three year period are consigned to oblivion. I don’t think that is a very thoughtful way to behave. These people range in age from 12 to 90, from over 70 countries (yes I used to keep track of that), from all the major religions, from professor to the utterly ignorant (simply un-educated, not stupid), it was a nexus of debate and an insight into the lives and beliefs of it’s contributors.

    It needs to be preserved and frankly that is not a difficult thing to do, the only person standing in the way of its preservation is Richard Dawkins. What possible reason could he have for not wanting to preserve all that effort and insight? I can see no rational reason and as the Prof’ considers himself a rational man I hope he will see reason and do the right thing.

    Regards
    Chris

  353. #354 Topsy
    February 25, 2010

    Re: The Times article

    I was feeling pretty sick when I read Richard’s “Outrage” announcement because those insults he quoted were not at all representative of the vast majority of forum members, they were made AFTER the forum was locked and they were NOT sent to Josh or even posted on RD.net forum. They were harvested quotes from a very small minority of people posting elsewhere.

    Richard has been informed of this and I was desperately hoping that he’d edit his announcement accordingly.

    It’s too late now because it’s on the Times website and the thousands of loyal, intelligent, rational forum members have been misrepresented as a bunch of foul-mouthed, vitriolic thugs by the man who so inspired them.

    To any moderate Christians reading this who have been labelled as disgusting due to the evil, homophobic rantings of the Westborough Baptist Church, I know how you feel.

  354. #355 gplaine
    February 25, 2010

    I think you’ve underestimated the level of commentary correcting the the Times article. Jerome makes some very good points, again. Peter Harrison’s blogged time line is also repeatedly linked (although, from PZM down we’ve seen how well links are followed)

  355. #356 Topsy
    February 25, 2010

    Thank you gplaine

    Currently, I don’t have the heart to even go there and read them. I am so appalled that thousands of people who donated funds to the RDFRS, contributed significant science and reason content, and defended Richard against quote-mined misrepresentation, could be so misrepresented themselves.

  356. #357 Shirakawasuna
    February 25, 2010

    Picking out the most insulting comments and using them to exemplify a whole group can be pretty dishonest. PZ has personal experience with this, where people blame him for his fans coming over and mucking things up, or when he has to tell those fans to stop sending threatening or over-the-top emails to a quack. If we judged people by the most insulting or misguided comments associated with them, we’d have to dismiss PZ entirely.

    Self-defeating arguments ftw?

  357. #358 calilasseia
    February 25, 2010

    I believe this sentence nearly says it all. (The complaints regarding loss of archived material are probably red herrings, because I’m sure system backups were done periodically and that everything up until the day of shutdown is very likely still available in storage somewhere.)

    If material had NOT been duplicitously deleted from the latest server configuration in the first place, there would be no need to reconstruct it from backups. What part of “thousands of posts were deleted needlessly and mendaciously” do you not understand?

    It wasn’t just the dissenting comments that were deleted, though this in itself points to an extremely disturbing mindset. When I was on the staff, dissenting comments were allowed, and if constructive and accompanied by evidence supporting the claims, welcomed because they provided the staff with a ‘heads up’ as to how to improve our performance. We were able to take criticism, Josh manifestly isn’t. This point on its own should be sounding warning bells for you if you ponder it.

    Unfortunately, calilassiea’s request here, as reasonable as it sounds, is virtually impossible to satisfy, because what possible real “evidence” could anybody provide on the future of RD.net? There is no evidence. Only plans and decisions made by the people running the show. And the hopes and dreams of everybody interested in the future of atheism on planet Earth.

    Excuse me, have you ever worked in software development?

    One of the fundamental requirements for developing a project of this sort is that the end users are consulted during the development process. I know this isn’t the case for Microsoft products, but then we’re dealing in this case with a $100 billion corporation that can tell people to go fuck themselves because it enjoys a monopoly stranglehold on the market. Most other software developers, on the other hand, have to consult the customers when developing a bespoke product, if they are to stand any chance of satisfying the customer’s requirements. What part of this elementary concept do you not understand?

    And, since the staff were, purportedly, going to administer this Brave New World that Josh and Andrew dreamed up, at the very least, they could have shown us some screenshots showing us what the end result was intended to look like, then ask us whether we had constructive ideas for change, that would make the end product run more smoothly, and perform in the manner intended. This is stuff you learn in Software Development 101. NO such consultation was provided. The staff were expected to perform administrative chores facilitating the Brave New World without once being given even the slightest hint as to how this piece of vapourware would work once actual code had been produced. That these people couldn’t even be bothered to provide a couple of screenshots of the fucking prototype says much about their attitude, which consisted of “shut up and do as you’re told, we know what we’re doing”. This situation persisted for months, and the staff exercised forbearance above and beyond the call of duty in the circumstances, continuing to administer an extremely lively and active forum whilst this situation was extant.

    These people were not interested in consulation from the outset. They were simply interested in presenting their shiny little hologram and using it as a means to wield power. And the events that have transpired have demonstrated amply that these people are unfit to wield the power they seek to abrogate for themselves.

    If I may be allowed to read her mind a bit

    Ahem, I’m male. As anyone who has read my numerous forum posts containing remarks such as “You stand as much chance of this happening as I do of fathering Scarlett Johanssen’s first child” informs those who pay attention.

    what I hear calilassiea really saying is that she wanted to be INCLUDED in these plans or discussions.

    Well since the original plan, purportedly, was that we were going to be required to administer this, don’t you think it’s appropriate to consult people whom you expect to do the hard adminsitrative work, especially if they’re expected to do this as unpaid volunteers? Or do you think that subjecting the very people you’re expecting to run a system like this to the mushroom theory of personnel management is entirely appropriate? If so, I hope never to be called upon to work for you.

    And this is understandable, but fairly naive.

    Excuse me, but what is “naive” about expecting to be told how a system we are going to be responsible for running on a day to day basis is intended to work? Or don’t you have such a thing as “training programmes” in your workplace?

    Richard Dawkins is driving the boat on RD.net

    The evidence would suggest otherwise. The suggests that he’s simply handed off all the responsibility, and the power, to these two incompetents, and they’re now embarking on a todger-tugging power trip.

    and I’m certain he never had any intention of forming a Parliament or a Senate Exploratory Committee and submitting the proposed changes to a vote.

    Ahem, the staff weren’t expecting to be given plenary powers to affect basic policy decisions, they were expecting to be kept informed as to the current status of development, and given some indication how the end result would work, so that they would be prepared to administer this in as seamless a fashion as possible during the transition. Once again, what part of this elementary concept do you not understand? What part of “if we’re going to do a job, it’s helpful to have some information to hand allowing us to do the job” didn’t you learn in Basic Employment 101?

    This would be vastly foolish, truth be told, and a fruitless waste of time in reaching any meaningful consensus by the atheistic “herd of cats”, even if we’re only talking about a dozen… or even a HALF dozen moderators or so.

    Which wasn’t what we were asking for, so kindly drop this strawman caricature of the situation. What we were asking for was the basic information necessary to allow us to do our jobs. Instead of being given this, we were effectively treated like three year olds in need of fucking potty training, but not even given the fucking potty training and expected to work out how to use the shitter ourselves. Which is a bit difficult when you don’t even know where the shitter is, or what it looks like. Again, what part of the relevant elementary concepts do you not understand?

    Furthermore, it’s ignorant to assume that these discussions would proceed smoothly or have ANY degree of security whatsoever:

    Oh please, I’m a grown up human being. I know when to keep my mouth shut and when to open it, when dealing with a project like this. There existed a specific, militarised, staff only discussion section ready and waiting to facilitate the relevant discussions. That facility was never once taken advantage of. Instead, we were told “shut up, we know what we’re doing”. We’ve seen how well that works.

    the moderators are private citizens with computers, for Crom’s sake.

    Never heard of the term “secure connection”? These things exist. Please, how many other fucking strawman canards are you going to erect here? You seem to think, like these two power-trip jokers, that I and the other staff were in fucking nappies. One of my colleagues on the staff works with government agencies involved in security and safety issues with respect to schools, and the delivery of proper care standards with respect to vulnerable childen, and is consequently involved in meeting statutory safety and security requirements with respect to such things as confidential databases. This is the level of expertise that was typically brought to the table by the staff. Now could you spare us the patronising mouth on a stick act and develop a connection with reality?

    After witnessing what happened here in one night, does anybody really think nobody would have gotten pissed-off and stormed out of the “planning committee” discussions, and headed straight for their blogs to rant and rave?

    Ahem, professionals don’t do this. This is precisely why we’re seeing World War Three break out over this, because it’s being handled by fucking amateurs. Amateurs who, in once case, seems to be behaving like a hormonal fucking teenager given the keys to his dad’s Ferrari. Care to tell me how redirecting software backup links to a rickroll constitutes “professional” behaviour? If I pulled a stunt like that in any of the workplaces I’ve been in, I’d have been given the order of the fucking boot pronto. In fact, in some of the places I’ve applied to work in the past, I’ve have been taken out and fucking shot.

    The idea is ridiculous on its face.

    Oh, so asking for the necessary information required to do the job is “ridiculous”, is it? Are you a graduate of some yuppie business school, perchance? Only this is the sort of remark I’d expect from such.

    The private plans and goals of the RDF are nobody’s business but the RDF’s.

    And once again, we weren’t asking to be in a position to change basic executive and board level decisions, we were simply asking to be given the means to allow us to implement the changes decided upon in as smooth and trouble-free a manner as possible. Once again, don’t you have “training programmes” in your workplace?

    Forming a committee, filling it with volunteer moderators from all walks of life, and then expecting this committee to perform swiftly and silently behind the scenes — is patent nonsense.,/blockquote>

    It would have performed a damn sight better than what we’ve seen happen courtesy of these two fucking amateurs. Or do you think trashing a forum in this manner constitutes “progress”?

    It may sound odd, but I see a lot of “jilted lover” syndromes in this episode on RD.net. It is eminently clear that people are IN LOVE WITH Professor Richard Dawkins — profusely.

    Bollocks. I joined because I regarded the stated mission RD expounded to be a valid one worthy of support. Namely, educating people about the dangers inherent in allowing doctrine centred world views to occupy a privileged status in human affairs, and defending valid science against duplicitous ideological attack by professional liars for doctrine. I had no wish to kiss RD’s arse at any time in this process. My posts on the forums back up my above statement resolutely, if you care to take a look. Or didn’t you bother reading the part I posted earlier in this blog about having cited around 400 scientific papers, and presenting 50 or so of them in detail? RD was nowhere to be seen whilst I was doing this, and I didn’t have to reference him once while presenting those papers, I only had to refer to the authors thereof. Once again, care to acquire a connection with reality here?

    What we’re supremely pissed off about is the fact that we’ve been treated like shit, our years of diligent labour supporting RD’s mission has been effectively for nothing, and our efforts in putting together a valuable educational resource, freely available to defenders of reality and valid science everywhere, which is, after all, what RD explicitly stated his mission consisted of among other things, have been tossed into the toilet and the flush pulled hard, by an overgrown schoolboy with the maturity of a toddler who has had too much tartrazine inhis orange juice.

    They love his courage, and fame, and his rebellious nature. He is a HERO to many, myself certainly included.

    I simply considered him a man doing a much needed job. Only he appears not to be doing it anymore, at least with respect to the forum.

    (I definitely love Richard Dawkins!)

    Kindly stop projecting yourself onto others. I didn’t “love” RD, I simply considered him to be someone doing a job that was sorely needed, in the light of the rampant abuse of human affairs and human beings perpetrated by supernaturalists. I respected what he did, and the way he stuck his neck out in public, making him a target for the likes of the mendacious propagandists for mythology-based masturbation fantasies at AiG and the DI, but these latest events have tarnished that badly.

    This love is what has caused people to turn on Josh Timonen and vent their rage at him — it’s the classic case of shooting the messenger.

    This is total bollocks, it’s suppuratingly rancid and bubotic cortical faeces of the most festeringly noxious and odoriferous order. What has caused people to turn on Josh is the fact that he has engaged in manifest acts of deceit and duplicity to add to his previously manifest incompetence. What part of this elementary concept do you not understand? Once again, how does redirecting software backup links to a fucking rickroll constitute anything other than childish petulance?

    After reading all the blogs, and all comments everywhere I could find them, I simply cannot see how Josh Timonen is guilty of any mismanagement.

    In that case, remind me never to work for you, because I would prefer to work in an environment that wasn’t a real-life incarnation of the Dilbert cartoons.

    His original letter was crystal clear, IMHO

    The hard evidence of manifest duplicity on the part of this fuckwit renders your opinion worthless.

    and as soon as it was aired, the jilted lovers began planning their divorces and breakups.

    Oh please, spare us the fatuous amateur psychology. Once again, what part of “This individual lied to people and engaged in acts of manifest deceit” do you not understand?

    Oh well. Let the “making up” phase begin, because we all know how fun THAT can be.

    For many, it’s too late. And, RD appears to have compounded the matter by placing yet more wholly unearned trust in this individual, and posting an announcement that contains blatant quote mines from an entirely different forum fed to him by this lying little shit.

    The simple fact is, RD has had 20 years of hard work effectively flushed down the toilet by this turd, who couldn’t have inflicted more damage upon RD’s mission if he’d been a creationist mole. The likes of Ken Ham and Dembski will be wanking themselves off to this at warp speed, because they’ve been handed a fucking gold-plated propaganda gift by this moron’s combination of imcompetence and venality.

  358. #359 reasonaboveall
    February 25, 2010

    I post on RDF as ‘fretmeister’

    Can this be condensed?

    1) It is Dawkins’ own site
    2) The mods should have been publically thanked for all their hard work.
    3) Irrespective of chronology the personal insults are appalling.
    4) the lack of political / public awareness of JT on behalf of RD is surprising.
    5) Quote mining no matter who does it, lacks integrity.

  359. #360 gplaine
    February 25, 2010

    TBH, it’s unsurprising that things are panning out as they are. As I’ve said before, nobody wants to be the villain of their own story. Pardon the homily.
    @Topsy is you want to keep the sight of what’s passing for the truth* out there, then I suggest you get posting on the Times comments.

    *- Truth – accepted history.

  360. #361 gplaine
    February 25, 2010

    @359 – As a comment, the ‘insults’ in context are predominantly facetious, with no small amount of grim humour. In terms of PR for the pro-fora community, they were ill advised, since they could be quote mined, but hind sight is always 20/20
    To say they’re ‘appalling’ just panders to the lack of context official line, something to almost acknowledge with your own quotemine comment.

  361. #362 gplaine
    February 25, 2010

    Oh and the Guardian has entered the fray with the same Dawkins pouty stampy ‘nasty users’ line…
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/andrewbrown/2010/feb/25/atheism-dawkins-meltdown-comments
    With no small amount of smugness.

  362. #363 Carlie
    February 25, 2010

    Also thanks PZ, for putting this thread out knowing that it would be a place for the grieved to air their side of things. Even though your post indicates that you side with the RD admins, you’ve allowed all of the other side to use the thread to put out their stories, which is admirable especially in the face of the information lockdown that appears to have happened over at RD.

  363. #364 Paul W.
    February 25, 2010

    All the people minimizing the seriousness of what Josh and Richard have done can bite me.

    Maybe most people shouldn’t take the loss of an online forum—and even their own writing on it—too seriously, but 85,000 people is a lot of people.

    Many people felt that the destruction of that forum was like a slap in the face, or worse, and I for one don’t blame them. I’d certainly rather have a slap in the face than lose a record of what I’ve spent time and effort saying over several years.

    No imagine being slapped in the face eight-five thousand times. It’s fairly serious, doncha think?

    Suppose each message on RDF took only five minutes of people’s time to compose, and others’ to moderate, and others to read, on average. Multiply that by 2.4 million posts. That’s 12 million minutes, two hundred thousand hours.

    Divide that by 2000 hours, for full-time work years equivalents, and you get 100 years. That’s a couple of lifetimes’ worth of full-time work.

    That’s fairly serious, IMHO. Throwing away somebody else’s life’s work just because you can is not something you ought to do.

    Especially if you’re the one who got them to volunteer to do it. With great power comes great responsibility.

    It’s true that most of those posts were ephemeral—not very original, and not the best posts by the particular posters, not especially worth saving, and mostly “paid for” by the enjoyment of doing it.

    Still, that’s a lot of effort invested by a bunch of people, and not something to dispose of lightly.

    And there are a number of people like calilasseia (who posted above) who put very serious effort into moderating fora over a period of years, and writing thousands of thoughtful and careful posts that were not meant simply as ephemera, but as a trove of information to be mined in the future.

    calilasseia alone deserves a huge, personal apology from Josh and Richard. As do several others who put a hell of a lot of time and energy into building a community on Richard’s plot of virtual land, only to see it bulldozed like a virtual shantytown.

    And they were lied to. They were told they’d have a month to figure out what to save, and archive it, to take elsewhere. Then they were not given that chance, and efforts to archive were intentionally foiled by redirecting archiving requests.

    That sucks hugely.

    I for one will not be giving any money to any organization that has Richard Dawkins in any position of control. He has abused his power to motivate other people to invest time and energy.

    I also won’t be buying his books in the future. He’s being a dick, and I don’t think he should get any money from me if he’s going to create a movement, and then shit on the little people who make it a movement. That’s insufferably arrogant.

    I’m not complaining that Dawkins chose to revamp his web site to be more to his liking. That’s certainly up to him.

    I am complaining that he did it in such a high-handed and underhanded way, with Josh actively preventing people from saving things they considered valuable—writings, social contacts, etc.—and taking them someplace more to their liking.

    Josh Timonen was unforgivably vindictive in his active attempts to thwart people from responding appropriately to changes they didn’t like. He was a vindictive asshole.

    If Dawkins actually stands behind them, he is a vindictive asshole too.

    I’m disappointed in PZ for taking his side to the extent that he has, as though all those people are just unwanted squatters who have no good reason to complain bitterly about how they were treated, after their extensive good-faith efforts at community building over a period of years.

    It’s one thing to make a hard decision to evict squatters. It’s another to treat them as shabbily as possible during the transition.

    PZ provided a link to rationalia.com, for people to “move on,” if they want. Good for him.

    But that’s exactly the kind of thing that Josh tried to prevent. He tried to hold onto the community that other people created, squatting on Richard’s “property,” and reshape it to his and Richard’s liking.

    It’s one thing to evict people. It’s another to drive off mostly well-meaning dissenters, and herd the remainder of the squatters into a holding area awaiting your brave new forum. That kind of thing rightly breeds resentment. It’s an abuse of power—it’s uncivil—even if it’s perfectly legal.

    Richard’s post, listing a few choice insults from a few pissed-off posters, as though that justified treating a whole community shabbily was worthy of Chris Mooney.

    It was remarkably similar to his presentation of some very non-representative remarks at Pharyngula as though they were representative.

    PZ doesn’t like that when people do that to him.

    He doesn’t seem to have noticed that that’s what Richard Dawkins was doing—he was stooping to Mooney-level biased propaganda.

  364. #365 SC OM
    February 25, 2010

    Richard’s post, listing a few choice insults from a few pissed-off posters, as though that justified treating a whole community shabbily was worthy of Chris Mooney.

    Oh, even better:

    http://scienceblogs.com/framing-science/2010/02/the_commenters_delusion_dawkin.php

  365. #366 gplaine
    February 25, 2010

    I just posted over there that it’s a quotemined quotemine. Let’s see if that get’s through

  366. #367 Topsy
    February 25, 2010

    Yes, many thanks to PZ for permitting people to correct the myth that there was a huge tide of vitriolic, abusive comments from the membership, directed at Josh and posted on the forum.

    I’m still finding this very hard to believe that the thousands of members have been painted black by the comments of a few people made elsewhere.

    The membership would largely have accepted the changed format if they had been informed of it with sensitivity and intelligence and most crucially, been told that their science and reason threads were valuable content that would be transferred over (or at least archived on the web).

    Volunteer staff had already started preparing for this by contributing ideas for categories and were willing to test-run the new discussion area to provide constructive feedback on it before it was launched.

    All this seems to have been ignored and the focus is on blaming everyone for a minority of hot-headed reactions to being told that this was now not going to happen and the forum would be deleted.

  367. #368 God
    February 25, 2010

    This just shows that you atheists are horrible people with no morals and you can’t get along with anyone, even with others like you.

  368. #369 HughMcB
    February 25, 2010

    FYI

    Ex-members of RDF have officially started a new forum…

    http://www.rationalskepticism.org/index.php

    Everyone welcome, theists, non-theists, monkeys, bananas etc. etc.!

    Hope to see you there! :)

  369. #370 HughMcB
    February 25, 2010

    @ God

    F-ing hilarious!
    :)

  370. #371 Paul W.
    February 25, 2010

    HughMcB,

    Watch it! God is not mocked.

  371. #372 Feynmaniac
    February 25, 2010

    #368,

    The God delusion.

  372. #373 Olotila
    February 25, 2010

    Dr. Richard Dawkins really nails it here! Too bad ignorance is in his part and the attack is being done by his staff …

    http://www.atheistconvention.org.au/

    “The enlightenment is under threat. So is reason. So is truth. So is science ? We have to devote a significant proportion of our time and resources to defending it from deliberate attack from organized ignorance ?”

    Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion
    Introduction to the Richard Dawkins Foundation

  373. #375 SC OM
    February 25, 2010

    This is interesting

    Oh, my word.

    A little while ago, over at RichardDawkins.net, Russell Blackford composed this little limerick about me, in response to my Times interview with the great man.

    There’s a very nice journo called Ruth,
    With theories of Ultimate Truth.
    She tested them on
    A scientific don
    Whom she’s always admired, since youth.

    There used to be a lot of extremely rude things about me on the forum.

    Wait – is she offering that limerick as an example? Seriously?

    I would go there and read them from time to time when I needed to reassure myself of the truth about the respective natures of our mutual communities, his the Godless, mine the Godly.

    Mine can be pretty bad, but goodness his is worse. For some reason, I always drew heart from the particularly vituperative nature of the comments on the forum at RichardDawkins.net. They convinced me there was indeed a God, but also perhaps a definite entity on the opposing side, even if that entity were to be known purely as the ‘absence of God’, as a Church of England report dared to define hell many years ago.

    ARGUMENT from VIOLATION OF MY DISCURSIVE NORMS:

    (A) Atheists have insulted or mocked me on the internet.
    (B) Therefore, God exists.

    Shuold be added to

    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/GodProof.htm

    if it’s not already there.

  374. #376 Rawnaeris
    February 25, 2010

    /facepalm

  375. #377 Orac
    February 25, 2010

    Josh Timonen sounds to me like someone who is autistic. If he’s not, then he’s a fool.

    That was an incredibly assholish thing to say. You clearly have no clue about autism or ASDs.

  376. #378 SC OM
    February 25, 2010

    You clearly have no clue about autism or ASDs.

    See #317.

  377. #379 Carlie
    February 25, 2010

    Holy crap. From @374, quote from Dawkins:

    He said the assumption on the internet seemed to be that websites ‘belonged’ to those who posted on them. ‘You would never expect that in a letter to The Times. You do not cry censorship if you write a letter to The Times and it is not published.’

    He added: ‘The positive thing is that we are going to try and improve the quality of the articles and comments. Josh Timonen is brilliant and is a real star and it is extremely unfortunate that he should have been vilified.’

  378. #380 Jadehawk, OM
    February 25, 2010

    *sigh*

    I’m fucking sick of people belittling the internet as if it weren’t real.

    @ CJ
    #337

    unique historical resource…

    Er, this is a web forum you’re referring to, not the Rosetta Stone or the Bayeux Tapestry, right?
    The web is ephemeral, and cannot be trusted to save things for posterity.

    this sort of attitude is one of the reasons a lot of culturally important material from the early years of cinema have been lost to posterity. Too many people sneer and belittle new media and its influence and cultural importance. some of them live to regret their attitudes; many others prefer to remain stubbornly clueless all their lives.

  379. #381 SC OM
    February 25, 2010

    Yup, it’s already there – #499: “ARGUMENT FROM EVIL ATHEIST BOARD”
    :)

  380. #382 erik.koerber
    February 25, 2010

    From all I’ve read here and in the various articles and forums about the subject – unless lots of people are lying, and I cannot imagine why they would at the time being – I don’t think I will ever again buy anything written by Charles Dawkins or support any of his activities. I’ve simply lost any respect for him and don’t have the feeling that we share much more than godlessness. And I will certainly remember this rather disgusting episode whenever I read his name or someone mentions it.

    Not that I think he will miss me or cares about my opinion in any way, or that what happened at RD.net is anything near a drama, but I don’t intend to support this kind of behavior in any way.

    A sad story of pettiness and a total lack of respect and understanding for a community :-(

  381. #383 Knockgoats
    February 25, 2010

    I don’t think I will ever again buy anything written by Charles Dawkins or support any of his activities.

    Well if Charles Dawkins wrote something I liked, or set up an organisation with aims I approved, I’d have no problem buying/support it, because I’ve never heard of him. Richard Dawkins, OTOH – no, probably not!

  382. #384 Mac_Guffin
    February 25, 2010

    I know that this has probably already been said, but the problem isn’t that the site’s changing, but that we were treated with disrespect.

    The RDF announcements talk about other sites for that sort of thing, but no one was allowed to tell anyone where we should relocate.
    There was also the draconian manner in which the change was handled. Civil disagreement was treated with zero tolerance bans.

    Of course Josh, Richard, etc. have every right to do what they’re doing, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s disrespectful.
    The RDF was a refuge for a lot of people who lived in religiously oppressive areas – some even places where it’s an actual danger to come out…
    and the community’s written off as something small.

  383. #385 erik.koerber
    February 25, 2010

    @Knockgoats:
    you got me :-)

    Interesting freudian slip – I’ll have to talk with my analyst about that ;-)

  384. #386 Douglas Watts
    February 25, 2010

    I don’t know that its Dawkins’ site exclusively (in the moral sense), not once he has allowed a host of people to become invested in it.

    So when I have a party at my house and invite people over, it’s no longer my house?

    So now the right of adverse possession extends to the internet?

  385. #387 Topsy
    February 25, 2010

    I think it’s irrational to say that you’d never buy anything written by Dawkins again or support his mission. Why not?

    Richard Dawkins has been a huge inspiration for many people, from his books to his website. He cares deeply about education and vigorously challenges any attempts to debauch it. For that alone, he has and will always have my strongest support.

    He has been misled into believing that the majority of his forum members poured vitriolic, public abuse onto Josh, who he respects and admires. Of course he’s going to come out and defend him against that and slate the people he believes did that. I can understand that. I can also understand that he won’t want to acknowledge that Josh might have handled things better but when I was Josh’s age, I doubt that I could have had the experience or skills to manage change with a large and diverse group of people. It’s also not even clear that most of the ill-conceived decisions were made and implemented by Josh himself. There is a site tech who seems to have been responsible for most of the actions that alienated the membership but Josh has copped the blame for it.

    Richard Dawkins and his Foundation are doing extremely important work around the world. This needs to be supported by all rational people if they truly care about education and enlightenment. I am dismayed and crushed by the false portrayal (in forum announcements and now in the press) of the forum members and staff as vitriolic thugs but even that isn’t enough to make me turn my back on RD and his foundation’s goals.

    I’ll keep supporting it as much as I am able to because I only have this one life and chance to make a difference for future generations. My contribution is small but it’s as much as I can possibly do.

    Please don’t turn your back on RD’s extremely important challenge to theism, woo and oppression just because a few people made a cock-up of something on the Internet.

  386. #388 Douglas Watts
    February 25, 2010

    Dawkins has learned the truth of Neil Stephenson’s quote in Cryptonomicon, that arguing with someone on the Intertoobs is “arguing with a 16 year-old, or someone who closely resembles one, with infinite time on their hands.”

    Realclimate.org, has a noticeably large number of non-anonymous posters, because it is mostly scientists, and is quite troll and poo free with a correspondingly high content value. Dawkins is correct that a good hard culling and overhaul should increase quality over quantity, at least for awhile. Perhaps he should just create one forum exclusively for non-anonymous and non-pseudonymous posters and a Swiftian poo-flinging pen for the self-indulgent Yahoos.

  387. #389 somnia.mortis
    February 25, 2010

    As one of the perks of being a skeptic, I can admire some of Dawkins’ arguments while busting him over this mess. And I could, in theory, support what he does to advance reason, science and critical thinking.

    I can admit that I am less inclined to support him, however, and that it is probably irrational. If he’s doing something unique and vital, I’d be more likely to help. Otherwise, if his efforts are just one amongst many, I may have other options, which may do no great harm to the ‘mission’ in general.

    It is interesting to see you turn around and characterize this as just a ‘cock-up of something on the Internet,’ Topsy. But however misled the higher-ups may be, they bear responsibility, and hitting Dawk square in the pocketbook is a reasonable means to express displeasure.

    Can I in theory do this without doing harm to the ’cause’ or ‘mission’? Or can’t I? I would be curious as to your answer.

  388. #390 kurshunter
    February 25, 2010

    I was fairly active in reading the RDF and even posted a few times, then it stopped looking like science forums and started looking looking more like Desperate Housewives, Internet Edition. Yes, there were some mind-altering and wonderful discussions – I’d think that’s why the forums were open for viewing for later. I’ll probably go back and save all the text from the Music discussion for myself if it’s still there when I look. I hope the best threads will be saved and resubmitted. If not it’ll give us an excuse to talk about that subject again, with a little better signal-to-noise ratio.

    Honestly, guys, it takes frighteningly little pettiness from precious few members to poison an entire population in a mob setting like an open forum. I heard the forum was shutting down, said “Oh bugger, I liked that place,” then finished my sandwich and went back to work.

    Things often don’t get handled the way you’d like them to be handled. That’s life, that’s our own personal evolutionary metaphor. Adapt.

  389. #391 Jain
    February 25, 2010

    Ex moderator of RD.net here.
    I would just like to say that I was proud to be a moderator of the RD.net forum. The moderation team were excellent and worked very hard to keep the forum to a standard I feel was excellent. The topics covered in the different sections of the forum were kept free from spam/porn and nudity/trolls and personal insults were not tolerated. The forum was an oasis of free thinkers but it was also moderated so well that smut and bad behavior was quickly removed keeping the forum free from, what I believe non members seem to be surmizing, being a free for all chaotic mess. The forum was organised well and moderators covered every area to ensure the forum was acceptable for all people to join.
    The topics were interesting and I have learned more there about science than I could ever have thought possible. This was down to joining in with discussions and reading the informative posts made by the many members there, becoming part of the community there.
    The community there was fantastic, many of the members contributed a wealth of knowledge. If I had a question, about anything, I was sure to find the answer on RD.net. The members there covered all walks of life and professions and there was no question that couldnt be answered.

    Now its gone. Yep its Richard Dawkins forum and he can do what he wants with it. But the people there were there because of him, because of the respect and admiration they had for him and his cause.

    His latest post ‘outrage’ tells us about a few posts that, yes I agree with him, are disgusting.
    But do those few posts that are so awful have to take up his whole statement? Out of 85,000 members it would be naive to think that some wouldn’t write such things. They would never have gotten away with it on the forum. They weren’t even written on the RD.net but quote mined from another forum.
    Surely after he had shown his disgust at the awful posts he should have mentioned all the fantastic members, the dedicated staff that worked for FREE and gave so much of their lives to the forum. A thank you would have been nice and a few kind words to the members that support him and admire him for what he stands for and his brilliant work.
    It really wouldnt have taken a lot, but instead he focused on something that was not what the forum was about.
    I’ll miss the forum and my friends there. I will always be proud to have been a moderator in such a fantastic community of rational people.

  390. #392 gplaine
    February 25, 2010

    Less of a volte face and more ‘Stockholm Syndrome’

  391. #393 erik.koerber
    February 25, 2010

    Topsy:
    I wouldn’t say that my view/feeling about this story is rational – but there’s not much rationality in the story itself I think.

    I simply despise the behavior that manifested itself on the side of the RD.net administrators (the paid ones to make it clear) and Richard Dawkins’ reaction so far (as far as what I read is accurate) is in my eyes not really “impressing” – I expected something different/better from a person like him.

    I am very (probably excessively) sensitive to that form of arrogance, disrespect and total lack of empathy for a community – not to mention the pettiness and the lies. That’s a despicable form of irrationality in my eyes.

    Note that I’m not saying that others should follow my example. Others – like you – may have good reasons to continue following that path. I found my way to godlessness without Richard Dawkins and I’ll continue my way without him. He needs me no more than I need him.

    I don’t care whether my choice is rational or not. I have my reasons and explained them the best I could. They’re valid for me, may not be for others.

    Of course if what I read so far is wrong or incomplete and new facts emerge that put the whole episode and R. Dawkins in a different light I’ll reconsider my position.

  392. #394 Topsy
    February 25, 2010

    Hi somnia.mortis

    I don’t view what has happened here as “just a cock-up on the Internet”. It’s much worse than that and my choice of phrase wasn’t a great choice but I’m really tired and drained by all of this so please excuse my rather sloppy writing.

    The point I’m trying to make is that the mistakes made by telling the forum members that their significant contribution to reason and science would be deleted doesn’t justify a boycott of RD’s higher purpose ie challenging ignorance and religious oppression.

    So I’m saying that a cock-up made on the Internet by a site tech – probably not even Josh himself but someone else – (albeit a monumental one with negative publicity for the higher cause) isn’t justification for saying that one would not buy RD’s books anymore or contribute to his very valuable work around the world.

  393. #395 negentropyeater
    February 25, 2010

    Suppose I’m the king Airdi Ist of the country of ARDINET on a far away planet somewhere.

    This country has 85,000 inhabitants and is my property. As king I have my court and its army that ensure my decisions about Airdinet’s governance are implemented. These decisions result from my vision about the future direction this country needs to be heading for. I have the power to decide everything, according to my vision, those become the laws, and my two head ministers Jayti and Ayci have the executive power to implement my decisions and ensure those are taken seriously by the court and the folks (inhabitants who are not members of the army nor the court). Only very few select members of the army and of the court are allowed to communicate with me. They may give feedback to me, and advise me. I might listen to them. I, together with Jayti and Ayci, choose who are these select members of the court who are called moderators and those select few members of the army who are called techies. The other members of the court or the army may write to me and I may choose to open one of these letters. Normal folks never get the chance to communicate with me, as I choose who gets to communicate with me. The folks may get to communicate with the court and the army. This is the way things are governed in my country.

    Oh, and I forget, there’s also my press, my internets and my television that all comunicate my vision and the laws to be known by all the inhabitants of my AIRDINET. Normal folks may get to read my books, communicate with each other on the internets and read some of my prose. They can also watch me on my television participating in various programmes and debates with members of my court and the Kings and courts of other countries.

    Now I, after having been advised by whomever I’ve chosen to listen to, have decided to change the vision for Airdinet and, together with Ayci and Jayti, we have decided to make drastic changes to the law. My new vision is only known by my two head ministers and the new law is also known by the army.

    Then Ayci and Jayti decide with my approval, to issue an edict informing the populace about the new law. This edict informs the inhabitants of AIRDINET that it has been decided that drastic changes will be made to the law with regards to the rules of communication via the internets. The rules will become much stricter and censored and there shall be no need for moderators. These changes will become law in 30 days, and all contents of the communications on the internets that it has been decided to erase will be erased.

    The reaction of the moderators, the court and the folks is such that Jayti issues a new edict informing the AIRDINETters that all communication is blocked on the internets with no further notice, until the new law will become effective. And that all communication with the king is absolutely forbidden.

    Then it is learned that some Airdinetters’ identity have been erased immediately and that they have been sent to another country.

    Then I issue a message saying that I’m outraged at the amount of vulgar and vitrioloc comments that I have chosen to read on the internets. And I even quote a few highly insulting comments that were written about Jayti. I inform that Jayti has my entire approval and confidence and that the new laws that have been decided correspond entirely to my vision. And that if people are not happy they may leave for another country after their identity has been erased. In this message I also go on to ponder what could possible be wrong with people who “over-react so spectacularly to something so trivial” and I conclude that “there is something rotten in internets culture” and that I am determined to purge the internets of this vicious element.

    Airdinet is no democracy. It is my property. I behave the way I decide, and everyone must obbey. If they are not happy, they can leave.

    Questions I refuse to ask myself :

    What will happen to Airdinet in the future ? Will many inhabitants leave the country ? What do people think of me, Jayti and Aici ?

    Do you really think I intend to find out, or that I’ll just continue to ignore further complaints ?

    I just don’t give a dam about the folks. That’s the message they should get :
    - I don’t give a dam about what you think. You bore me, I’m just too good for you.

  394. #396 SC OM
    February 25, 2010

    The point I’m trying to make is that the mistakes made by telling the forum members that their significant contribution to reason and science would be deleted doesn’t justify a boycott of RD’s higher purpose ie challenging ignorance and religious oppression.

    I agree with what you’re saying as far as the books and the broader mission go. But I think people are indeed justified if they think this is reason to stop supporting his specific foundation with their money or time. There are other organizations out there doing similar work, which may not be run in the same manner. I’ve volunteered at nonprofits before, and I wouldn’t do so at one that was run autocratically. Some people are making the argument that it’s his forum and he and the paid administrators have a right to run it that way. OK. I have a right to criticize and not to support an organization that doesn’t value democracy, participation, and open reasoned dissent, even among those who’ve given the most to it. The societal change I want to see includes these things (opposed to the authoritarian religious model), and I’ll give my support to efforts that value them as I do.

  395. #397 supernorbert
    February 25, 2010
  396. #398 Topsy
    February 25, 2010

    @ SC OM

    Yes there are other organisations doing similar work and they all deserve rational people’s support. I am rather biased towards RD’s work because that’s what I’ve spent the last 3 years supporting.

  397. #399 Knockgoats
    February 25, 2010

    He [Dawkins] has been misled into believing that the majority of his forum members poured vitriolic, public abuse onto Josh, who he respects and admires. – topsy

    Right. If the King knew what was happening, he’d soon chase the rascals out and put everything to rights! It’s his evil councillors

  398. #400 SC OM
    February 25, 2010

    Yes there are other organisations doing similar work and they all deserve rational people’s support. I am rather biased towards RD’s work because that’s what I’ve spent the last 3 years supporting.

    But then that’s just the thing: it hasn’t been just his work, but your work. I’m perplexed that people who are speaking out against the lack of respect and any appreciation for democratic participation are advising people just to keep giving, in spite of no efforts so far at change (or even recognition that there’s a problem) on his part.

    ***

    I find the arguments that “That’s the way things are” and “You shouldn’t expect any better” really disturbing. That’s not the way things are everywhere, and we should absolutely expect better from our organizations. If people always thought like this, we’d all be living in tyrannies.

  399. #401 Rob
    February 25, 2010

    I think the disappointment with Richard Dawkins and how this has been handed is similar to when James Randi wrote recently on global warming.

    These are men whose reputations, and with it peoples’ respect, is based on their pursuit of fact. To go off half-cocked and make statements which clearly lack a full knowledge of the details leaves them open to the accusation that their work may have as shaky a foundation.

    If you make a call to arms you have a responsibility to those who answer that call.

  400. #402 Topsy
    February 25, 2010

    @ SC OM

    I’m supporting RD and the Foundation. I’m not in any way whatsoever supporting the ill-conceived actions of a site tech, which resulted in this disheartening, embarrassing and totally unjustified outcome.

    In the same way that I am saying the staff and members shouldn’t be misrepresented by the actions of a few, I am saying that RD’s Foundation shouldn’t be boycotted just because RD was misled and ill-advised.

  401. #403 negentropyeater
    February 25, 2010

    I’ve volunteered at nonprofits before, and I wouldn’t do so at one that was run autocratically.

    That’s also my conclusion from this whole affair : why donate money or time to such an autocratic organisation ?

    We must criticize vehemently such an organisation if it is to be considered representative of the causes we fight for.

    It’s just incredibly damaging to have one of the foremost organisations of non believers being run in such an autocratic manner.

  402. #404 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawnHaNXK_5Ce6C1Sa-xM488Wdxosziu_uBA
    February 25, 2010

    As an RD forum member, (under another name, seeing as I can’t create an account here for some reason) I’m now relieved to have remained anonymous, even if anonymity is being seen as part of the cause of the “suppurating rat’s rectum” type comments (which were actually from rationalia, but resulting from an involved person’s ill feeling about the RD.net forum debacle). I don’t see why Richard quoting those comments is being called quote mining, which I understand to mean taking a quote out of context in order to change its meaning. The meaning of the quotes is clear and the same as when they were originally posted. I realised sometime after reading Richard’s ‘Outrage’ post that I had actually skimmed through those comments without noticing them that much, finding them par for the course. I must be unconsciously diluting vitriol on forums by 90% to get to a real life comparison.

  403. #405 Topsy
    February 25, 2010

    If any RDF members wish to get together in a forum environment, someone has hosted a place specifially for that here: http://www.rationalskepticism.org/index.php

  404. #406 SC OM
    February 25, 2010

    I’m supporting RD and the Foundation. I’m not in any way whatsoever supporting the ill-conceived actions of a site tech, which resulted in this disheartening, embarrassing and totally unjustified outcome.

    Those actions have thus far been publicly supported by Dawkins. Moreover, even if he’s been misled, his statements suggest that he has no real interest in having the people who have been involved in doing the foundation’s work for years have any say in how things are done. I don’t like this, and won’t support an organization run like that.

  405. #407 Paul W.
    February 25, 2010
    I don’t know that its Dawkins’ site exclusively (in the moral sense), not once he has allowed a host of people to become invested in it.

    So when I have a party at my house and invite people over, it’s no longer my house?

    I’d say that’s a poor analogy. Nobody’s claiming the house. They’re trying to move the party, and various improvements they’ve made to the house and land over a period of years of nonstop partying.

    To make the analogy more accurate, imagine somebody hosting a nonstop multi-year party on a particular unimprove plot of land that they bought very cheaply.

    Imagine that over the years, thousands of people come to the part regularly, and hundreds of people build huts and yurts and such, to create a village. Maybe nobody lives there full-time, but a lot of people spend a lot of time there, building what they consider a community, and making what they consider improvements to the property.

    Then the owner of the land decides that the village is an eyesore, and it’s going to be demolished and rebuilt more to his taste.

    People try to salvage what they can from the old village—trying to move their huts, tents, personal property, etc. off the land before the village is razed, and leaving notes around for other people telling where they’re going and trying to establish a new nonstop party much like the old one, with some of the same infrastructure that they built.

    The owner gives them a month to do that—to deal with the fact that he’s going to raze their village and reclaim his land—but when some people complain about the New Order, he changes his mind.

    Now imagine that the owner of the land goes around tearing down people’s notices of where they’re going and how they can be contacted, so that they can’t move the party off his land; apparently he thinks it’s not only his land, but his party, and his social network, which nobody else has a right to.

    When people complain about this, he puts a fence around the place and won’t let people come back to reclaim their possessions and move them, or even to exchange contact information.

    The guy’s being a dick.

    So now the right of adverse possession extends to the internet?

    Legally maybe not, but I’d say that morally, similar principles apply. If you encourage people to squat and improve your real estate, you owe them some consideration when you decide to take your property back. You owe them at least the common courtesy of letting them take away the “improvements” that you don’t happen to like, and put them elsewhere, where they are welcome.

    And it’s certainly a stunning dick move to try to prevent people from exchanging contact information, and information about where to meet up elsewhere and continue partying with their friends, as they’ve become accustomed to.

    That’s what happened at the RDF forums. Josh and Richard effectively tried to claim not just their virtual land was their property—nobody disagrees with that—but that they owned the ongoing party involving thousands of people and the embedded social network were theirs to reshape as they wished, or destroy if they couldn’t have it their way.

    BTW, if you want a meatspace analogy, look at Burning Man. One guy did claim that he legally owned Burning Man, and could run it as he saw fit, and a whole lot of people were alienated by his autocratic bullshit.

  406. #408 InfraredEyes
    February 25, 2010

    I have only about a tenth of a dog in this fight. I never posted on the RDF forum, although I did occasionally read it. I’m sorry to see a well-known public voice for rationalism making a fool of itself, though–that helps nobody except the smug religionists. But I have a few thoughts:

    – When the dust settles, and all the herds of cats have been seen off the premises by the fighting dogs, we will have what we have always had on the Web: a quarrelsome, sometimes foul-mouthed crowd of free-thinkers who are frequently rude to each other, but also capable of staggering feats of reason and rhetoric. We’ve have just had a lesson in idolatry (specifically, the chapter on clay feet). This will turn out to have been a Good Thing, however painful for those involved. No, seriously, too many people have been posting in this thread about “loving” Dawkins and how his only mistake has been to trust Josh too much, etc., etc. NO. He’s a remarkable scientist and he’s written some great books. He’s also really screwed up the running of a popular Website that has his name on it. Lesson learned: put not your faith in charismatic leaders, they are just like the rest of us. Isn’t that part of the point of our sceptical/rationalist stance, anyway?

    – I always wondered why Dawkins used his own name for the Website and the forum, instead of something clever like, say, “Pharyngula”. He may be wondering the same thing himself now. Lesson learned (it’s the same as the first one, really): the argument is more important than any of the personalities involved. And I mean “argument” in every sense of the word.

    – Finally, as a spectator, I have to say that rickrolling the archive requests strikes me as a highly creative piece of utter crassness. If we are going to have vitriolic fights, I can only hope for this level of ingenuity in all of them.

  407. #409 negentropyeater
    February 25, 2010

    I think the disappointment with Richard Dawkins and how this has been handed is similar to when James Randi wrote recently on global warming.

    I’m much more dissapointed with Dawkins than with Randi.

    One has shown himself ignorant about a subject he knew little about.
    The other has shown himself insensitive, arrogant, and choosing to run an organisation in an autocratic manner.

    It’s just not on the same level.

  408. #410 somnia.mortis
    February 25, 2010

    I see SC OM has beaten me to the punch and then some (just a figure of speech!). It’s interesting to see the biases explored on both sides. I will own up to mine, I feel wronged and am not inclined to continue to support Prof. Dawkins, and that’s not the most rational argument I’ve ever put together. But then, neither is owning up to a serious investment of time and support over years, and not wanting to kick that to the curb overnight.

    Since I’ve been reading rationalia a bit too I was curious about the whole ‘cock-up on the internet’ thing as I had figured Topsy’s reaction was a bit stronger there. I am not about to begrudge you being tired either; my posting record as tytalus on RDF broke 1k posts, but that’s no big deal compared to the dedication of the moderators. :)

    At any rate, I’m not set in my ways just yet, and we’ll see how it goes. I imagine there is much that Prof. Dawkins could do to mend fences with his fans, and perhaps vice-versa as well. I am skeptical, however, that my imaginings will ever become reality. I am unsure even that they should.

  409. #411 negentropyeater
    February 25, 2010

    The meaning of the quotes is clear and the same as when they were originally posted.

    You’re the CEO of a company making soft drinks. You announce that you are going to change its taste. You get thousands of letters of complaints.

    Do you choose to announce that you are going on with the change anyhow and that a few letters (that you quote) have been vitriolic ?

    What’s the point of quoting them ? Wouldn’t you better focus on the thousands of complaints that were not vitriolic ?

    Don’t you think that by only quoting the most vitriolic complaints he is indicating to the other people that he doesn’t give a dam about what they think ?

  410. #412 SC OM
    February 25, 2010

    I will own up to mine, I feel wronged and am not inclined to continue to support Prof. Dawkins, and that’s not the most rational argument I’ve ever put together. But then, neither is owning up to a serious investment of time and support over years, and not wanting to kick that to the curb overnight.

    Both sound rational to me.

  411. #413 gplaine
    February 25, 2010

    Focusing on the worst of the worst, rather like the religionists he vilifies, justifies what ever he wants to do. IF I were to engineer something, in that Machiavellian way I have, I’d do the same.
    It’s a standard behaviour.

  412. #414 HughMcB
    February 25, 2010

    FYI to (ex)RDF-ers?

    We have set up a new forum for all those who had to flee the sinking ship of RDF and delve into the great unknown of the internet.

    http://www.rationalskepticism.org/index.php

    Many old mods have returned to their posts there and the forum is rapidly expanding with old faces. Its starting to become business?s as usual.

    Also just to recognise a big thank you to Rationalia who have so graciously weathered the storm of refugees that brought their system to a crashing halt yesterday and still had a smile on their face and open arms.

    I urge everyone to keep up their contributions to Rationalia and to let your appreciation be known by supporting their safe haven for forsaken heathens like us!

    Cheers!

  413. #415 Topsy
    February 25, 2010

    @ somnia.mortis

    My reaction here has been consistent with my reaction elsewhere and I’ve said many of the same things.

    The specific point only made here was about someone saying they were going to boycott RD’s books and Foundation due this debacle. I made a poor choice of words in response because I’m tired, deflated and dismayed at the destruction of something I worked so hard to support.

    I’m sure most people can see the point I was trying to make even if they don’t agree with me (and why should they). RD’s work and the Foundation is not something I think should be boycotted due to the events of the last few days. That’s not underestimating the size and impact of the cock-up by a site tech (and maybe a site admin). It’s just trying to disassociate one from the other. Maybe I just need to do that at the moment in order to believe that all my hours of work weren’t for nothing.

  414. #416 HughMcB
    February 25, 2010

    Sorry it was extremely rude of me! Any other people who wish to join this forum please feel free, the more the merrier!

    http://www.rationalskepticism.org/index.php

    We don’t care if you’re theist, non-theist, fence-sitter, klingon or darlek, ALL WELCOME!

  415. #417 gplaine
    February 25, 2010

    There’s a ‘cock up’ and then there’s the nasty ‘I’m correct’ ‘Outrage’ post. It’s almost Nietzschian in how it embraces the tools of the people RD is supposed ‘better’ than.

  416. #418 SC OM
    February 25, 2010

    Topsy,

    Sorry to be so contrarian, even though I don’t think your disassociation effort makes sense. I think you and others have been wronged, and I’m angry. Regardless of the outcome of this, your work hasn’t been for naught, and I’m sure it’s appreciated by many more people than you realize.

    :/

  417. #419 supernorbert
    February 25, 2010

    Times Online: Outraged atheists lose faith in Dawkins as he censors website

    http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/the_web/article7041878.ece

  418. #420 Sven DiMilo
    February 25, 2010

    I am concerned that the level of concern here does not seem to match precisely my personal level of concern.
    This has me very concerned.

  419. #421 SC OM
    February 25, 2010

    http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/the_web/article7041878

    Good. Grief.

    The change was scheduled for next month but such was the torrent of abuse after the announcement that the forum had to be locked down, deepening the rift between Professor Dawkins and his 85,000 online fans.

    (If nothing else, the reporting of this should make clear to everyone that many journalists have very little interest in the facts of the stories they “report” and are often willfully ignorant of them.)

  420. #422 Ichthyic
    February 25, 2010

    NO. He’s a remarkable scientist and he’s written some great books.

    well, technically he’s an average scientist, but he HAS written some great books and is one of the BEST science communicators.

    RD never really did devote his career to pure research, after all.

  421. #423 Holytape
    February 25, 2010

    I don’t think that RDF deserves to be supported. I think the causes they support are worthy, but I think this episode has exposed some glaring weakness in the organization itself.

    1. The RDF does not understand who their stake holders are. Either the mission of RDF is to be Richard Dawkins’ pet project, to do with as he pleases, in which case it shouldn’t be supported at all. There is no need to support another person’s inflated ego. Or RDF mission is to support science and rational thinking. If it is the latter, then they are clueless about what they are doing. They isolated and insulted their core supporters. You wouldn’t invest in a company as clueless to their customers and staff as the RDF has been in the last several days.

    2. Their employees behaved in a very unprofessional manner. While it was childish for volunteers and commenter and IT staff, to get into a war of words, it should be said that the IT staff is getting paid. It is their job to act in a professional manner, and they failed. Deleting records, in specific the admin logs, is a dangerous sign. The Rickroll prank was stupid and childish to the extreme, and drove away the people the RDF is supposed to be serving. I can not imagine an IT staff person keeping his or her job if they did either one of those two things, let alone both. Would you invest in a company which allows employees to be so unprofessional?

    3. The management appears not to be able to separate personal from business obligations. I understand that Josh and Richard are friends, but Josh is an employee of RDF and not of Richard Dawkins. His actions severely damaged RDF’s reputation and hurt it’s ability to accomplish its goals. Dawkins failure to act is a troubling sign.

    Overall, it seems like the RDF is an immature organization, and its long term effectiveness is called into question. It is an organization that does not have in place enough checks and balances, to prevent the bad decisions of one or two of their employees from causing the whole thing to collapse. Therefor, donations are probably better served elsewhere. Unless of course, Mr. Dawkins grows up and realizes that a foundation that accepts other peoples money is not his exclusive personal toy.

  422. #424 Ichthyic
    February 25, 2010

    As I said, if you want to save your stuff, you back it up. You don’t wait until you’re given notice of deletion to do so – you just do it.

    5 bucks says if I visit your house or work, I will be able to find a great deal of your efforts that have not been backed up.

    Moreover, just because YOU don’t value the contributions many have made to communications within any given forum (including this one, btw), hardly makes your opinion anything other than that of an uninformed asshat.

    good luck with that.

  423. #425 Ichthyic
    February 25, 2010

    Still, that’s a lot of effort invested by a bunch of people, and not something to dispose of lightly.

    I keep imagining what would be the result if PZ just got miffed one day and decided to delete all of Pharyngula.

    …all of it. All the posts ever written over the years by everyone here.

    FFS, half my bookmarks relate to threads or posts made HERE over the last 5+ years!

    It would be like ripping a significant portion of my brain out of my head!

  424. #426 madamX
    February 25, 2010

    Very happy and excited about new changes at RD.net! Keep up the great work : ))))))

  425. #427 negentropyeater
    February 25, 2010

    A deeper look at the RDF self-immolation and public reactions to it

    (also check the author’s reaction to PZ’s post)

    btw, I wonder what are the odds Dawkins stops behaving like an arrogant autocratic dick and starts considering this affair as something more than a storm in a teacup ?

  426. #428 Carlie
    February 25, 2010

    neg – bad link! Help!

  427. #430 Caine
    February 25, 2010

    Negentropyeater, your top link is borked.

  428. #431 Caine
    February 25, 2010

    negentropyeater @ 429:

    A deeper look at the RDF self-immolation and public reactions to it

    Not bad at all. I know the author of that piece from elsewhere though, and my opinion is not the best. I’ll have to go back and read again, and try to discount my bias.

  429. #432 gplaine
    February 25, 2010

    “Unless of course, Mr. Dawkins grows up and realizes that a foundation that accepts other peoples money is not his exclusive personal toy. ”

    I confess, I’ve always felt that Professor Dawkins is somewhat neotenous at times.

  430. #433 gplaine
    February 25, 2010

    As a qualifier – as are we all.

  431. #434 jack.rawlinson
    February 25, 2010

    Caine @431

    Not bad at all. I know the author of that piece from elsewhere though, and my opinion is not the best. I’ll have to go back and read again, and try to discount my bias.

    I know what you mean. That guy posts as “Tim Skellett” at The Guardian and I have had numerous (and sometimes quite severe) disagreements with him. But I have to say, he’s right on the money with this.

  432. #435 MichelleZB
    February 25, 2010

    People keep saying “It’s Richard Dawkins’ site”. But it isn’t, is it? I thought that the whole website is an outreach initiative funded by the RDFRS. At least, that’s the impression I was left with when I watched an RDFRS video in December where they begged me for my money. They said, “Give us money–we reach a lot of people with our website.”

    I bought that line and contributed. Now I’m sorry I did, because the organization is coming off as very irresponsible and badly run. I’m not sure if I’d have wanted to spend my money on them if I’d known this. Who knows what my money will be used–or wasted–on.

    I sit on the board of a non-profit organization, and one of the first things you learn is not to piss off your volunteers. They are unpaid workers who toil for your organization simply because they love you and love your cause. Richard’s treatment of his volunteers has been shown to be appallingly rude and dismissive. So he hated the forum–they didn’t know that. They thought they were helping him all these years, and he just called them frivolous and childish. If the forum and its goals weren’t what he wanted, perhaps he should have let them know before they wasted hours of their time every day. Their valuable volunteer time could have been used elsewhere.

    This is not the kind of non-profit organization anyone in good conscience should support, because it will fail to do the work it promises to do. I agree with Topsy that the vision is worth supporting, so find someone else who will execute it better, and give them your charity dollars.

  433. #436 TWood
    February 25, 2010

    #388 – Realclimate.org, has a noticeably large number of non-anonymous posters, because it is mostly scientists, and is quite troll and poo free with a correspondingly high content value. Dawkins is correct that a good hard culling and overhaul should increase quality over quantity, at least for awhile. Perhaps he should just create one forum exclusively for non-anonymous and non-pseudonymous posters and a Swiftian poo-flinging pen for the self-indulgent Yahoos.

    I think it would be a very good idea to require real names for certain forums. One way would be to require a Facebook sign-in using your real name and account. If that’s the way they are going then this hard reset might end up being an okay way to get there.

    I wouldn’t bother with setting up the poo-flinging pen.

  434. #437 llewelly
    February 25, 2010

    Douglas Watts | February 25, 2010 3:26 PM:

    Realclimate.org, has a noticeably large number of non-anonymous posters, because it is mostly scientists, and is quite troll and poo free with a correspondingly high content value.

    The principal reason for this is that those who run Realclimate.org nearly kill themselves eliminating spam and troll posts. They delete an awful lot of garbage which would otherwise pollute the site. It has nothing to do with the portion of non-anonymous posters. RC still allows pseudonyms, and registration is not required.

    RC exists precisely becuase several people concluded that while internet AGW deniers may behave as if they have infinite time on their hands, it is nonetheless necessary to argue with them.

  435. #438 MartinH
    February 25, 2010

    A propos of a question raised about Dawkin?s body of work, given his apparently poor evaluation of the evidence in the present case, here?s a discussion of some sloppy research in ?The God Delusion.? I tried twice to send a similar commentary to Dawkins through his website, because I thought it would be good if he were aware of the errors, but I never received a response. Now I wonder if he ever saw it.

    There is a reference in ?The God Delusion? to a book entitled ?The New Republic,? written by H.G. Wells. As far as I can tell from searching the web, there is no such book, but Dawkins not only claims to be quoting from it but tells us he has done so in a previous work. However, the string of quotes that follows the reference is clearly taken from another book Wells wrote, ?Anticipations Of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human life and Thought.? The quotes are out of context and appear to have been cobbled together to create the impression of someone proposing a ?Final Solution.? The whole text of this book is available on Project Gutenberg, and I have provided excerpts in context below. While this writing exhibits obnoxious racism and belief in the superiority of Wells’ own “race,” as well as surprising callousness, the chopped and out-of-context snippets misrepresent him. Significantly, “the” is added to the last phrase.

    This is the passage quoted in ?The God Delusion? on p.269; it seems to have been picked up from the internet:

    And how will the New Republic treat the inferior races? How will it deal with the black?…the yellow man? … the Jew?…those swarms of black, and brown, and dirty-white, and yellow people, who do not come into the new needs of efficiency? well, the world is a world, and not a charitable institution, and I take it they will have to go…And the ethical system of these men of the New Republic, the ethical system which will dominate the world state, will be shaped primarily to favour the procreation of what is fine and efficient and beautiful in humanity – beautiful and strong bodies, clear and powerful minds…And the method that nature has followed hitherto in the shaping of the world, whereby weakness was prevented from propagating weakness…is death…The men of the New Republic … will have an ideal that will make the killing worth the while.

    Compare this to the excerpts in context:

    And how will the New Republic treat the inferior races? How will it deal with the black? how will it deal with the yellow man? how will it tackle that alleged termite in the civilized woodwork, the Jew? Certainly not as races at all. ?It will, I have said, make the multiplication of those who fall behind a certain standard of social efficiency unpleasant and difficult, and it will have cast aside any coddling laws to save adult men from themselves. ? Whatever men may come into its efficient citizenship it will let come–white, black, red, or brown; the efficiency will be the test. And the Jew also it will treat as any other man. It is said that the Jew is incurably a parasite on the apparatus of credit. If there are parasites on the apparatus of credit, that is a reason for the legislative cleaning of the apparatus of credit, but it is no reason for the special treatment of the Jew. If the Jew has a certain incurable tendency to social parasitism, and we make social parasitism impossible, we shall abolish the Jew, and if he has not, there is no need to abolish the Jew. We are much more likely to find we have abolished the Caucasian solicitor. I really do not understand the exceptional attitude people take up against the Jews. ? The Jew asserts himself in relation to his nationality with a singular tactlessness, but it is hardly for the English to blame that. ? He foregathers with those of his own nation, and favours them against the stranger, but so do the Scotch. I see nothing in his curious, dispersed nationality to dread or dislike. He is a remnant and legacy of mediævalism, a sentimentalist, perhaps, but no furtive plotter against the present progress of things. He was the mediæval Liberal; his persistent existence gave the lie to Catholic pretensions all through the days of their ascendency, and to-day he gives the lie to all our yapping “nationalisms,” ? The Jew will probably lose much of his particularism, intermarry with Gentiles, and cease to be a physically distinct element in human affairs in a century or so. But much of his moral tradition will, I hope, never die…. And for the rest, those swarms of black, and brown, and dirty-white, and yellow people, who do not come into the new needs of efficiency?

    Well, the world is a world, not a charitable institution, and I take it they will have to go. The whole tenor and meaning of the world, as I see it, is that they have to go. So far as they fail to develop sane, vigorous, and distinctive personalities for the great world of the future, it is their portion to die out and disappear.

    THE FOLLOWING IS LOCATED ABOVE THE PREVIOUS PASSAGE

    ? Procreation is the triumph of the living being over death; and in the case of man, who adds mind to his body, it is not only in his child but in the dissemination of his thought, the expression of his mind in things done and made, that his triumph is to be found. And the ethical system of these men of the New Republic, the ethical system which will dominate the world state, will be shaped primarily to favour the procreation of what is fine and efficient and beautiful in humanity–beautiful and strong bodies, clear and powerful minds, and a growing body of knowledge–and to check the procreation of base and servile types, of fear-driven and cowardly souls, of all that is mean and ugly and bestial in the souls, bodies, or habits of men. To do the latter is to do the former; the two things are inseparable. And the method that nature has followed hitherto in the shaping of the world, whereby weakness was prevented from propagating weakness, and cowardice and feebleness were saved from the accomplishment of their desires, the method that has only one alternative, the method that must in some cases still be called in to the help of man, is death. In the new vision death is no inexplicable horror, no pointless terminal terror to the miseries of life, it is the end of all the pain of life, the end of the bitterness of failure, the merciful obliteration of weak and silly and pointless things….

    The men of the New Republic will not be squeamish, either, in facing or inflicting death, because they will have a fuller sense of the possibilities of life than we possess. They will have an ideal that will make killing worth the while; like Abraham, they will have the faith to kill, and they will have no superstitions about death. They will naturally regard the modest suicide of incurably melancholy, or diseased or helpless persons as a high and courageous act of duty rather than a crime. And since they will regard, as indeed all men raised above a brutish level do regard, a very long term of imprisonment as infinitely worse than death, as being, indeed, death with a living misery added to its natural terror, they will, I conceive, where the whole tenor of a man’s actions, and not simply some incidental or impulsive action, seems to prove him unfitted for free life in the world, consider him carefully, and condemn him, and remove him from being.

    It seems that on this Dawkins – or his researchers – left homework undone. Dawkins, like Wells, and like most of us, has feet of clay.

  436. #439 Diane G.
    February 26, 2010

    #157
    Posted by: SC OM | February 24, 2010 5:51 PM

    What Sven @ #138 said.

    + 2 (re “Ladengate”)

    #177
    Posted by: SC OM | February 24, 2010 7:07 PM

    To everyone deciding to stop donating to the RDF because of this: Fuck you.

    Oh, but fuck you.

    It’s a perfectly reasonable decision to stop contributing, with money or time, to an organization that blatantly disrespects its long-time volunteers and active members. There are plenty that don’t.

    + 1

    And see also SC @ #396 & after.

  437. #440 Ichthyic
    February 26, 2010

    Fuck your spam, MartinH

    not the right thread or time.

    If you could delete that, I would suggest you do so.

    at best, you should apologize and just go away.

  438. #441 John
    February 26, 2010

    Topsy:
    ?He has been misled into believing that the majority of his forum members poured vitriolic, public abuse onto Josh, who he respects and admires.?

    That?s very generous of you to defend RD?s position in this way but do you have any evidence for his being misled? Of course no one can know the content of any conversations between Josh and Richard but it simply doesn?t stack up. However Richard Dawkins is a very smart guy and nobody?s fool.

    The beauty of much of what goes on over the Internet is that it?s mostly out in the open and if it?s not it soon will be. The so called vitriolic comments can be traced and show that they were not made by moderators, were not published on the RDF forums and were written after the forum had already been switched off.

    In the Outrage Statement he talks about ?a website? and ?comments that were immediately sent in? whilst carefully avoiding the suggestion that they were specifically the reason why the forum was closed. In fact the first of these appeared at another forum on Tue Feb 23, 2010 7:49 am after it had been locked down.

    Conversely had the moderators been fully informed about the planned changes before this week, I have no doubt, that whilst a few may have resigned many like yourself would have stayed to assist in the transition. What is absolutely certain is that comments like that would not have existed for more than nano seconds had they been posted on the RDF.

    To me this statements is simply a cleverly worded piece of politics and clearly demonstrates that Richard Dawkins had no interest in the forum other than occasionally use it for his own ends, did not appreciate the hard work carried out by staff and has found a tenuous reason to support the inept actions of his staff and prove that it was the correct decision to make.

    Richard Dawkins: ?If I ever had any doubts that RD.net needs to change, and rid itself of this particular aspect of Internet culture, they are dispelled by this episode.?

    Who knows who he thinks he is fooling because it can?t be anyone on the internet however I can be sure that the press will twist and simplify the events as they normally do so perhaps that?s what he is hoping for.

  439. #442 John Morales
    February 26, 2010

    Well said, John! (#441)

  440. #443 anthonzi
    February 26, 2010

    …it is not your site. It is Richard Dawkins’ site.

    This is so naïve. The site is has an active community and belongs equally to them as much is it belongs to Dawkins. The closure within less than a few days notice does not show respect for the users at all.

  441. #444 gplaine
    February 26, 2010

    I’ve been banned from FD twice, for using my real name, since it is the same as a minor celeb. People kept complaining that I was ‘pretending’ to be their hero, when all I was doing was posting as me. In the end I took my name back to it’s cultural roots, and have had no more issues.

    Real names are a two edged sword.

  442. #445 MartinH
    February 26, 2010

    Ichthyic @ 440

    Fuck your spam, MartinH
    not the right thread or time.
    If you could delete that, I would suggest you do so.
    at best, you should apologize and just go away.

    Thanks for your expression of concern, Thread Policeperson Ichthyic. Since there are many definitions of spam, I?m not sure what you have in mind. Perhaps ?Useless off-topic or annoying posts?? You are mainly fretting about what you see as irrelevance?

    If so, I disagree. I think the material I presented in #438 is germane to elements in this thread essentially discussing whether or not Dawkins did his homework before expressing his opinion, and the implied question of whether or not he is careful to check his sources before making charges.

    It also suggests issues with the gatekeepers at the website, thought I confess the evidence is weak.

    I have no idea what you think I should apologize for. Please feel free to explain.

  443. #446 phi1ip
    February 26, 2010

    Quote, from the Preface to The God Delusion:

    Nowadays, a book such as this is not complete until it becomes the nucleus of a living website, a forum for supplementary materials, reactions, discussions, questions and answers ? who knows what the future may bring? I hope that http://www.richarddawkins.net/, the website of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, will come to fill that role, and I am extremely grateful to Josh Timonen for the artistry, professionalism and sheer hard work that he is putting into it.

    Sadly, I think Dawkins and Timonen have badly miscalculated the sheer number of people who had been drawn to the RDFRS site, and have frittered away a very large quantity of good will; the “living website” will very probably have a significant dieback. It is worth noting this isn’t the first blow-up on the forum, as there had been a large blow-up in 2008 (I think – it’s hard to search the forums now!) when a number of posters had bulk posts removed, and another short-lived one with the commenters on the front pages of the site at the start of 2009.

    The forum is a victim of its own success, as it had already become too unwieldy to manage a year ago without the good will of a large number of volunteer moderators, who nonetheless struggled to moderate the forum with the sheer volume of activity, and there have been several badly implemented attempts at managing the disparity between the front-page of the site and the forums. Turning off the search features some time ago was perhaps a signal of the forum straining at the resources supplied by the foundation.

    My guess is that Dawkins has been disappointed that the forums have not turned out to his expectations, and Timonen’s lack of involvement with the day-to-day running of the forum led to the needlessly destructive shut-down; deletion of users and mass deletion of their posts to remove a few negative examples is unprofessional from a so-called admin. Dawkins wanted to promote his website to help the consciousness-raising of atheists, and provide resources for those who are in difficulty breaking away from a religious upbringing, so the crippling of a major portion of the site is a major loss for the community.

  444. #447 claudio.esp
    February 26, 2010

    MartiniH,

    your comment is completely OT – yet I can’t let it go, since what it alleges is completely wrong.

    The New Republic is an American magazine aimed at an elite readership.

    Who has done a sloppy research, then?

  445. #448 Simon Gardner
    February 26, 2010

    Re: Anonymity

    Apart from the obvious special possibility of a work-conflict problem, I have never understood at all why people use pseudonyms when posting. It all seems a bit juvenile. I never, ever have right back to Usenet. The most I ever did was to “x-noarchive”.

    Don?t people want to take responsibility for their actions and words or something?

    Of course Dawkins knew what he was doing all along. He?s just been disingenuous and a bit dishonest about it.

    All this “if-he-only-knew-what-was-being-done-in-HIS-naming” just sounded deeply implausible from the get go.

  446. #449 Peter Ashby
    February 26, 2010

    Sorry people if put stuff, any stuff, on a computer whether it be on your own lap or desktop, on the cloud or on someone else’s site and you don’t keep a backup of that stuff and some shit goes down that means you lose access to it or lose it totally then no sympathy.

    I used to run amateur computer support in labs I worked in for Macs because I had acquired and took pains to learn useful stuff and because back then the IT people were too busy to do it and/or didn’t have my expertise with Macs. I have wasted MY work time diving into deleted files on discs to try and rescue someone’s precious files but I was rightly grumpy about having to do so and gave lectures on not backing your stuff up.

    I gave up the support when OSX came along, I moved labs and IT got its shit together wrt Macs (probably something to do with them now being UNIX boxes is my opinion), but my attitude with the family is the same: back your stuff up and don’t complain to me if you lose it.

    Also if you develop a relationship with someone having only one method of contacting them seems strange to me. When I was active on usenet I had lots of people’s non munged email addresses archived and phone and meatspace addresses for some too. Again, yes it’s tough but if that relationship was really that important to you . . .

  447. #450 Peter Ashby
    February 26, 2010

    I should add that both at work and here at home I made sure that there was both the facility to back up and offered training to all about doing it with notices on those machines to the effect that space constraints meant your data were liable for deletion to make space.

    Both the offspring have capacious external drives and use them. This computer has not one, but two external hard drives, an internal superdrive and an external one along with supplies of CDR, CDRW, DVDR and DVDRW discs.

  448. #451 erik.koerber
    February 26, 2010

    Peter Ashby:
    Thanks for the lessons. Hope you feel superior. Nevermind that it’s mainly off topic.

  449. #452 Paul W.
    February 26, 2010

    Peter,

    Apart from the obvious special possibility of a work-conflict problem, I have never understood at all why people use pseudonyms when posting. It all seems a bit juvenile. I never, ever have right back to Usenet.

    If you’ve been on the net since USENET (as I have) and still don’t know why other people might value anonymity more than you do, and call it juvenile, that’s a bit juvenile.

    I used to use my own name, and have mostly stopped, for several reasons. One is the workplace thing that you mention, but don’t seem ot think is important. Employers, potential employers, and coworkers these days are likely to google you and get into your business, and give you shit, not hire you, or whatever, because they don’t like personal facts about you or your beliefs in any of a number of ways.

    Another is interpersonal stuff. For example, if the right subject comes up, I might recount certain things that transpired between me and my ex-wife which are maybe embarrassing to both of us. I like my ex-wife, and do not want to embarrass her by talking about those things in public in a way that makes me, and thus her, easily identifiable.

    I’ve had several experiences that make me value anonymity more than I used to. One is several recurring and false stories that were spread about me when I was on the tenure track, and almost resulted in my not getting tenure. They were tar-baby things that I tried to rebut, but rebutting them just draws more attention to them, and many people assume that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. I got a bit swiftboated, mostly by people who weren’t “out to get me” but did not know that the information they were getting was neither complete nor accurate—but it was interesting enough to talk to others about. Luckily, one senior faculty member took it upon himself to straighten that stuff out, as much as he could, and I got tenure. If it hadn’t been for him, I probably wouldn’t have.

    On the intertubes, I’ve sometimes been quote-mined and intentionally misrepresented as holding truly appalling views by malicious people who didn’t like certain other views I do hold. Luckily, none of that seems to have filtered back into my meatspace life, but maybe only because I’ve been increasingly pseudonymous over the years.

    About ten years ago I was dating, and met a lot of new people. I found that many googled me as soon as I told them my real name, or enough information to piece together my identity and find out my real name. (E.g., what kind of work I do, and where.) If I were still dating, rather than happily remarried, I’d be worried about that shit. I would not want to have a potential date to encounter some of the crap that has been said about me by certain trolls at a certain blog.

    Likewise, I’m happy if most of my relatives don’t encounter some of my more blunt statements, or others misrepresentations of my statements, on the intertubes. That’s not what I put them out there for.

    A vivid illustration of some of these things happened to somebody else in a discussion I was involved in recently. Somebody made some comments to the effect that her comments might be perceived as antisemitic by reasonable people looking in on the discussion, even though the person saying that didn’t think she actually was.

    Sure enough, in the course of that discussion, other people actually took that wrong, and accused her of actual antisemitism. Intentionally or not, it was a Glen Beck-style sneaky slam, saying “I don’t believe X, but some people do, and with good reason, so it’s worth discussing the possibility of X.”

    That sure convinced me that her pseudonymity was a good idea. It was bad enough that she was put in the position of defending her pseudonymous reputation against a ridiculous “have you stopped beating your Jews?” charge, without that filtering back into her meatspace life and academic career.

  450. #453 CJ
    February 26, 2010

    At phi1il #446

    I was one of the tens of thousands of people that followed that link in The God Delusion and started investing time and effort in supporting Richard Dawkins position, what an ultimate waste of time that turned out to be. Having said that I learned something there every day and I hope helped other visitors all around the world. One being a 17yo muslim girl in Abu Dhabi who didn’t understand evolution or how natural selection, she was still a good muslim when I finished but she understood evolution well enough to feel confident to defend it to her friends and class mates, a small victory that I hope grows around her.

    Regards
    Chris

  451. #454 Rorschach
    February 26, 2010

    It was bad enough that she was put in the position of defending her pseudonymous reputation against a ridiculous “have you stopped beating your Jews?” charge, without that filtering back into her meatspace life and academic career.

    Did she really have to kneecap the guy though ?
    :P

  452. #455 Paul W.
    February 26, 2010

    Peter,

    I’m one of those people who doesn’t make a local copy of everything I post that I might at some point want to save.

    When I put particular effort into things I post, and think it came out well, I do try to remember to save a copy.

    Sometimes I forget.

    And sometimes I don’t know which is the good stuff, until the subject comes up again and I google myself and review the stuff I wrote before and other people’s reactions to it. I don’t go to the trouble to do that until the subject comes up again, partly because I can’t tell what I think is actually well-written until I have some distance from it. Being able to revisit a thread in a month or a year or even three years is very cool.

    If PZ were to simply shut down Pharyngula and delete all the comments—or vindictively delete all the old comments by certain highly esteemed and Molly-winning commenters I like—I’d be pissed off. Rightly, I think.

    I want to be able to google a subject and a person (e.g., Sastra, or SC) who I think talks about those things well, and review what they’ve written, to clarify my own thinking.

    I’m not going to archive everything on Pharyngula so that I can still do that in case PZ has a shit fit and starts deleting threads, commenters, or the whole damned blog.

    I assume he won’t, because he’s not a shithead, and he knows that a lot of people value what they and others have written on Pharyngula over the years, whether he does or not.

    Many people assumed similar things about Josh and Richard. They were wrong. Josh was a vindictive shithead, rickrolling people’s attempts to archive threads written by other people, but which they valued. And Richard is still supporting him.

    To defend against that sort of crap by people in control, everybody’d have to archive everything all the time. That would be stupid. There’s a reason people back up web sites, and if they willfully destroy a website valued by thousands of people and make the backups inaccessible to people desperately trying to archive thousands of hours worth of writing, they are shitheads.

    And if you can’t see that, so are you.

  453. #456 CJ
    February 26, 2010

    At phi1il #446

    I was one of the tens of thousands of people that followed that link in The God Delusion and started investing time and effort in supporting Richard Dawkins position, what an ultimate waste of time that turned out to be. Having said that I learned something there every day and I hope helped other visitors all around the world. One being a 17yo muslim girl in Abu Dhabi who didn’t understand evolution or how natural selection, she was still a good muslim when I finished but she understood evolution well enough to feel confident to defend it to her friends and class mates, a small victory that I hope grows around her.

    Regards
    Chris

  454. #457 Paul W.
    February 26, 2010

    Rorschach:

    Did she really have to kneecap the guy though ?

    It was just the one knee. I thought she showed admirable restraint.

  455. #458 Simon Gardner
    February 26, 2010

    @ Paul W. 10:27 AM

    Well that told me. :)

  456. #459 CJ
    February 26, 2010

    At phi1il #446

    I was one of the tens of thousands of people that followed that link in The God Delusion and started investing time and effort in supporting Richard Dawkins position, what an ultimate waste of time that turned out to be. Having said that I learned something there every day and I hope helped other visitors all around the world. One being a 17yo muslim girl in Abu Dhabi who didn’t understand evolution or how natural selection worked, she was still a good muslim when I finished but she understood evolution well enough to feel confident to defend it to her friends and class mates, a small victory that I hope grows around her.

    Regards
    Chris

  457. #460 Peter Ashby
    February 26, 2010

    @PaulW

    You undermine your own little polemic there by using ‘assumed’ not once but a number of times. Yes, you all ‘assumed’ someone else would do it all for you without overtly confirming that this was in fact going to be the case. Complaining now that your assumptions turned out not to be valid is too late.

    When civilisation ends it is likely people like you who will be sitting there bemoaning the fact and complaining that somebody else isn’t or hasn’t or won’t be doing stuff all for you while people like me shrug it off and figure out how to make life in the new reality work.

    Calling people who have the temerity to disagree with you a shithead is also not helpful. Thankyou btw for reminding me why I so rarely bothered to go there any more.

  458. #461 erik.koerber
    February 26, 2010

    @Peter Ashby:
    You’re quite infatuated of yourself, aren’t you? And you still don’t seem to notice that you totally miss the actual point…

  459. #462 CJ
    February 26, 2010

    AH! I didn’t mean to post that 3 times!

  460. #463 grh123
    February 26, 2010

    @ John #441

    While I think it’s nice of you to be sticking up for the staff against Richard, can i just point out that Topsy was one of the unpaid admins that got fired and is now being accused of the vitriol by Richard.

    The fact that you took her comments to be defending Richard I think is interesting, because she is as angry about it as the rest I believe.

    This is the sort of Vitriol laden thug that Richard speaks of is his ludicrous message ………….

  461. #464 Paul W.
    February 26, 2010

    Peter,

    You undermine your own little polemic there by using ‘assumed’ not once but a number of times. Yes, you all ‘assumed’ someone else would do it all for you without overtly confirming that this was in fact going to be the case.

    I quite intentionally used the word “assumed” several times, to indicate that I do understand that such assumptions are not safe ones. I do think that they are sometimes reasonable assumptions, and fair ones.

    I think it’s reasonable to defeasibly assume that PZ will not just discard years of comments by valued commenters. I could be wrong.

    I do not have time, at present to sort through all the comments on subjects I’m interested in by all the commenters whose opinions I value. That’s what google is for, on the admittely unsafe assumption that PZ values his commenter base as much as he indicates—e.g., with Molly awards—won’t just be disappeared out of spite.

    I don’t archive all the threads I might be interested in at some point in the future, and I know I’m taking a risk that they might not be there when I do want them. (E.g., if at some point I write an article or book about some things I and others discuss here.) I think that’s a reasonable risk that I take, and that it’s a reasonable expectation that PZ won’t willfully sabotage people who trust him the way I do.

    I also realize I’m taking a risk in that Seed might suddenly go under and pull the plug, taking the whole site down before anybody has a chance to search for and archive stuff they want to save.

    It’s a calculated risk.

    It’s also a calculated risk to trust PZ. I could be wrong. Maybe he’s more of an asshole than I think he is. Maybe circumstances beyond his endurance will send him into a humanly-understandable tizzy in which he says fuck it, and destroys Pharyngula’s comment database because he’s sick of it all.

    Here’s an analogy to a real-world meatspace situation I’m currently involved in, in which I’m trusting certain people not to do something vindictive and destructive of things other people value.

    I was a charter member of an atheist organization, which has a library of atheism and atheism-related books—hundreds and hundreds of them.

    I personally donated several hundred dollars worth of books to the organization. They belong to the organization now, not to me, and I’m not involved in the running of the organization at present.

    I donated those books for a reason. The library was built as a resource for the members, including me, and especially as a resource for members who put on a weekly cable TV show and a biweekly internet radio show.

    I assume that those books will not simply be discarded and end up in a landfill. The request for donations implies, to me, some responsibility for doing something reasonable with the hundreds of dollars worth of donations I made.

    I unsafely assume that should the organization decide to disband, or that the library collection is not worth storing, that valuable property will either be returned to me, or given to somebody else who will appreciate it and maybe use it for some goal consistent with the goals of the organization. (If only to educate themselves; it’s an education organization.)

    If the librarian decided to just send the books to a landfill, or burn them out of spite, I would be royally pissed off. I would feel betrayed. The books are not my property, but the librarian has a moral duty not to be a vindictive, destructive shithead. Likewise, the president of the organization has an obligation not to support a librarian in such actions. If he did, I’d be pissed at him, too.

    And rightly so. The wanton and vindictive destruction of donated writings is just wrong, even if nothing in the collection is terribly valuable or irreplaceable and even if a smug shithead could tell me I should trust anybody to do anything in particular with anything I give away.

    Complaining now that your assumptions turned out not to be valid is too late.

    No, it isn’t. You are missing a major point of my comments and many of the other comments in this thread, prior to yours. Did you read them?

    A major point is that people like SC and me and several longtime moderators and contributors at RDF are promoting a social norm. We are making it clear that we think anybody who does what Josh did is a vindictive asshole, and that anybody who does what Dawkins is doing is also an asshole for endorsing it.

    Part of the point of not just “getting over it” is that people should know that if they do such things, there will be consequences—many people will be rightly pissed off at them, and some people will rightly not trust them the future.

    When civilisation ends it is likely people like you who will be sitting there bemoaning the fact and complaining that somebody else isn’t or hasn’t or won’t be doing stuff all for you while people like me shrug it off and figure out how to make life in the new reality work.

    Yep, you’ll be the salvation of civilization, I’m sure. We need more people like you who just shrug off abuses of power, and tell aggrieved parties to get over it. That’s going to make the world work really, really well.

    Calling people who have the temerity to disagree with you a shithead is also not helpful.

    I didn’t call you a shithead just because you disagreed. I called you a shithead for failing to recognize that anybody has a valid complaint in this fiasco, and saying that you have no sympathy.

    If you have no sympathy whatsoever for people who took a calculated risk, trusted people whose goals they shared, and donatd thousands of hours of their time, well, you’re a shithead, and you should learn that if you have no sympathy for people who took a gamble in good faith and saw a whole shitload of work go down the tubes, you should learn that you should shut the fuck up about your lack of sympathy, or expect to be called a shithead by people like me who see that as a wee bit simplistic and cold-hearted.

    Even if you think people were stupid to take the risk they did, you shouldn’t have no sympathy. Even stupid people deserve sympathy, and people who have no sympathy are shitheads.

    Get used to it.

    Thankyou btw for reminding me why I so rarely bothered to go there any more.

    You’re cordially welcome.

  462. #465 grh123
    February 26, 2010

    Aaand once more to expound what I believe to be the dishonesty of Richard’s ‘Outrage’ post, for those who have missed it in this monster thread.

    So, in ‘Outrage’ Richard gives the impression that the forums had to be closed because of the volume of abuse his trusted friend Josh received.

    I’ll pick one, Richard said :

    *******
    “Or that others expressed a ?sudden urge to ram a fistful of nails? down your throat”

    *******

    Now that sounds pretty terrible right? someone threatening to find Josh and shove nails down his throat?

    in fact it’s a quote mine, that a man who has been the subject of so many should be ashamed of using one to make his fallaciious point.

    In fact if we head over to rationalia, we see the following posted an hour after the forums were locked.

    First we have lordpasternack who says :

    *****
    “The bottom line is that I personally am far more offended by Josh’s ‘handling’ of this debacle than I am of the initial decision.”
    *****

    And in reply, ficklefiend quotes the above and says:

    *****
    “When someone tells me they know that change can be frightening in order to at both times shut me up and patronise me, I get the sudden urge to ram a fistful of nails down their throat.

    So, yeah, bad handling.

    (I’m glad you’ve sent a letter. A few well known names with calm and honest opinions might at least wake RD up to what has been done, even if he doesn’t care)”

    *****

    When you read it like that, it isn’t a vitriol laden threat to hunt down Josh and assault him, it’s a guy saying he’s pissed off with the way it’s been handled, that being patronised makes him want to shove nails down peoples throat, but hopefully some people will write some nice letters to Richard and sort it out.

    I, personally, find Richard’s implications that we are all mindless thugs extremely petty.

    http://www.rationalia.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=75&t=8966&p=352349&hilit=sudden+urge+to+ram+a+fistful+of+nails#p352349

  463. #466 aratina cage of the OM
    February 26, 2010

    grh123 #465,

    FYI that particular quotemine was actually discussed already by the author of said quote. See comment #220. The only reasonable conclusion is the one you come to in #465. It isn’t much different from making a play on Homer Simpson’s “Urge to kill rising…” quote. Dawkins was undeniably wrong to spin it in such a way as to vilify forum members let alone the author of that quote in the press.

  464. #467 Paul W.
    February 26, 2010

    BTW, Peter, a couple more points:

    1. One reason I don’t think it’s too late to complain, or that people should stop complaining and move on, is that I suspect it’s not too late for Richard Dawkins to do the right thing. I suspect that there’s a backup somewhere of the RDF forums before Josh started his final descent into vindictive destructiveness. That backup could be restored.

    And even if not, Richard could apologize for the fuckup, and for letting Josh betray the trust that forum moderators and contributors placed in him.

    It’s definitely not too late for that, and it’s not time to let it go. If Dawkins doesn’t realize he screwed up, he needs it explained to him. If he doesn’t get it, he needs to be told that the issue is not going away soon, and he should think about it some more—e.g., reading grh123@465 and realizing that he grossly misrepresented what actually happened.

    Nobody was threatening Josh, and most of the vivid quote-minable vitriol was NOT in response to the decision to shut down the old forum—it was in response to Josh’s vindictive sabotaging of people’s attempts to salvage something from the thousands of hours of work they put into the site.

    Richard should do the right thing and apologize, and try to remedy the situation. If he won’t do either, nobody should forget it, ever.

    2. I’ll happily retract calling you a shithead if you retract the bit about having no sympathy.

  465. #468 grh123
    February 26, 2010

    @ Paul W #467

    I used up my Daily PM (yes they are back on, but heavily time restricted …) to PM this clear evidence to Richard in the hope that he had been misled by an underling into thinking it was a true quote from prior to the forum closing.

    I was polite, explained the evidence, and provided links to the relevant site explaining his error.

    The PM has been read, and the quote stands.

    I can’t come to any other conclusion than he thinks that quote mining is A-OK as long as it supports his position.

    Personally if someone showed me clear, incontrovertible evidence that I had mistakenly quote mined someone, I’d be sharp about putting it right.

  466. #469 Carlie
    February 26, 2010

    My 2 cents’ worth on pseudonyms (since they came up):

    Everything on the internet is public. Using your real name all the time, in every forum you inhabit, is like having a microphone and tape recorder on your person at all times, archiving everything you say for everyone to access. Do you talk differently in different environments, with different sets of people? Are you more likely to swear with one group, vent about religious groups with another group, share relationship secrets with another? Of course you are – people have varying levels of disclosure, and that’s an important social lubricant. I might talk about a problem I’m having with my primary romantic relationship with my good friends, but I sure as hell don’t want my students knowing about it. Forums/blogs on the internet are different social environments, and if you want to keep them separate, the easiest way to do so is to have a different username for each.

    Also, once you consistently use a pseudonym, it becomes you. It’s just another nickname you go by that still means you, and you’ll protect its reputation as much as you would your real name. I have a few usernames including this one that I use in different online environments, and each of them is ME and I care about what people think of them. If I were to try and switch out, people at each would notice that some new person is posting in the same style as X and start questioning it, so it’s not like someone could hide by constantly switching nyms.

    As for pseudonymity breeding contempt, there are other ways to handle abuse/trolling that don’t require a lot of the site owner’s time. Peer rating flags are one option, automatically rejecting posts with certain language is another, etc. Claiming that one has to force the use of real names, as Mooney and Nesbit and Dawkins are leaning towards, is just lazy.

  467. #470 MartinH
    February 26, 2010

    claudio.esp @ 449

    I didn’t assert that there is no publication called “New Republic.” I asserted that H.G.Wells did not write a book called “The New Republic.”

    Who has done a sloppy research, then?

    That would be you.

  468. #471 Ichthyic
    February 26, 2010

    Sorry people if put stuff, any stuff, on a computer whether it be on your own lap or desktop, on the cloud or on someone else’s site and you don’t keep a backup of that stuff and some shit goes down that means you lose access to it or lose it totally then no sympathy.

    Peter, in being a complete ASS, has forgotten to think about the fact that much of what is lost in a forum HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT YOU AS A PARTICIPANT POSTED.

    I dare you, Peter, to backup to your local drive, in a readable, useable format, every post that has ever been made on Pharyngula for the last 5 years.

    good luck with that.

  469. #472 phi1ip
    February 27, 2010

    Thanks CJ for your triply-posted reply, though I would beg to disagree that any efforts expended there must have been an “ultimate waste of time” if you learnt a great deal from interacting with the community, and doing your part to help others such as the 17-year-old girl in the Emirates. I otherwise agree that the demise of the forums is a reversal of the principles that the RDFRS is supposed to stand for.

  470. #473 ozewiezeloose
    February 27, 2010

    The good news is: the community is very much alive, over at the brand new http://www.rationalskepticism.org. Join in! :)

  471. #474 phi1ip
    February 27, 2010

    Martin H,

    irrespective of other comments on your largely irrelevant intrusion into this thread, I can think of a little more work that might be required on your part before wholeheartedly accepting your thesis that Dawkins’ research is flawed: most of Wells’ early works were published in serialised format, including “Anticipations”, so I would like some evidence that the serialised version of the text is the same as the version you cite from Project Gutenberg, otherwise one might equally advance the possibility that the ordering of text in Dawkins citation happens to be following the magazine publication, rather than book format.

    Wells also revised his non-fiction works (and according to PG, the copy uploaded there is the second version) so it is possible that selective quotation aside, some of the differences stem from Dawkins using a different publication of the same work (i.e. from quoting the first edition rather than any later re-issue incorporating revisions). Have you checked the republication records to distinguish any substantial revision of the material?

    Finally, the original title appears to have been “An Experiment in Prophecy” during the work’s serialisation in Fortnightly Review (1901), which was revised for publication as a book with the unwieldy title, “Anticipations of the reaction of mechanical and scientific progress upon human life and thought” (1902). I rather doubt every single citation of the book have given the 14-word title in full, and while it is fairly easy to find the single-word title “Anticipations” on the web, have you exhausted the possibility for “The New Republic” being given as an alternative title for the entire work of for particular sections of it? A web search probably won’t do that as most extensive bibliographies of Wells material will be in printed form and may not have migrated to the web in fully searchable form yet, despite the efforts of Google Books.

    Regards, Philip

  472. #475 Bastion Of Sass
    February 27, 2010

    If you’ve been on the net since USENET (as I have) and still don’t know why other people might value anonymity more than you do, and call it juvenile, that’s a bit juvenile.

    Nod. I learned my lesson about the dangers of using my real name on usenet.

    First, a regular poster on a group I posted to for many years who used his (rather unusual) real name had a letter bomb mailed to his home by someone who had some disagreement with some things the poster had written.

    Another regular poster on that group who used his real name was harassed in the newsgroup by someone who was angry with the poster in meatspace. The harasser posted some highly sensitive and private information about the poster in the group, causing distress to the regular poster’s wife and children.

    Another fairly large group of regular posters from that group who used their real names, including me, have been stalked and harassed in meatspace for years by a deranged person who took a dislike to us for entirely delusional reasons. The psycho has stalked and harassed all of us and members of our families to some degree for almost 10 years.

    So, never again will I use my real name to post to usenet, a forum, a blog, or any similar place on the net. I even cringe a bit when I am required to use my real name on some professional listservs I’m on.

    Plus, I don’t think my friends and relatives would appreciate some of the things I write about them. And, I suspect that many of my potential clients would refuse to hire me if they knew I had written the blasphemous comments I make here or on my blog as “bastion of sass.”

  473. #476 Rorschach
    February 27, 2010

    This is easy, too many lunatics and “interested parties” with their job jealousy, personal jealousy, axes to grind etc, to make it a reasonable proposition to post things online under one’s real name.
    My real name still, after 10 years online, does not come up on a google search, and that’s a good thing.

  474. #477 Carlie
    February 27, 2010

    It looks like the forum is up and running again. It will be a bit interesting to see if anyone uses it, and if so, how many people do.

  475. #478 Simon Gardner
    February 27, 2010

    @Carlie Author

    It looks like the forum is up and running again.

    No it isn?t. Still read-only.

  476. #479 Simon Gardner
    February 27, 2010

    @Carlie Author February 26, 2010 6:10 PM

    My 2 cents’ worth on pseudonyms (since they came up):

    Everything on the internet is public. Using your real name all the time, in every forum you inhabit, is like having a microphone and tape recorder on your person at all times, archiving everything you say for everyone to access.

    Yes indeed which is why I am always careful with words and will stand behind everything I’ve said.

    Do you talk differently in different environments, with different sets of people?

    No.

    Are you more likely to swear with one group, vent about religious groups with another group…

    No.

  477. #480 'Tis Himself, OM
    February 27, 2010

    Some years ago I used my real name in a now defunct blog. I stopped doing so when my boss asked me about something I’d posted that she disagreed with.

  478. #481 MartinH
    February 27, 2010

    Philip

    Thanks for your interesting and thoughtful comments.

    I addressed the question of relevance in #445. I could add the issue of quote-mining, which has been raised in other comments and which appears to have taken place, if only by proxy, in the quote I discuss. I am curious as to how you would define the topic of this thread so as to rule out little but my comment.

    Lacking resources in this area, my searching was limited to the web, and thus I would claim only a prima facie case, not a slam dunk proof. Had I ever been able to get through to Dawkins, I might well have been able to clarify this.

    I had thought Dawkins cites a ?book,? and I would have discounted serializations or publications of excerpts as irrelevant. Prompted by your interesting questions, I took a second look at p.269 of ?The God Delusion,? I find that he doesn?t mention that it is a book. I can?t find my copy of TGD, and Google Books doesn?t show enough to allow me to find any specific reference.

    I have however tracked down in Google Books what I assume is the previous Dawkins work that references it, ?The Devil?s Chaplain,? where he provides what appears to be the same citation on p 4. Here he explicitly references ?Anticipations?? (London, Chapman and Hall, 1902), although he still refers to the cited work as ?The New Republic.? So it seems we and Dawkins are looking at the same source.

    I confess I have assumed up to this point that Dawkins had been misled by something he had found and pressure of time prevented him from checking it out, so he had the wrong book title. That is clearly wrong. So I?m left with a stronger distressing possibility that he quotemined, chopped things out of context and rearranged them. Sloppy research is still possible – maybe he lifted the quote block wholesale from some other source, and didn?t check it. The fact that he identifies it as ?The New Republic,? whereas such a title doesn?t seem to appear anywhere in ?Anticipations?? does suggest that Dawkins did not get this directly from the original.

    Perhaps others will not see anything wrong with how the source material was rendered into that selection, but to me it seems to misrepresent Wells. I find Wells? expressed views appalling, but I can?t say for example that he appears anti-Semitic after the fashion of the Nazis. This set of snippets does however seem to convey just that. I think Dawkins could have made his point ? the reality of large shifts in the moral Zeitgeist – with an intact quote from the work.

    Thanks again for your great points, which have helped me remove some sloppiness from my “research,” and led me to a clearer view of the situation.

    Martin

  479. #482 aratina cage of the OM
    February 27, 2010

    It turns out that someone named Thinking Aloud did archive a lot of the original dissent thread on the RD forum before it was wiped out → http://thinking-aloud.co.uk/temp/rdf.html

    Nothing about “a suppurating rat’s rectum”, “twats”, “a slack jawed turd”, “guts” or “a fistful of nails” there as you can see for yourselves.

  480. #483 Carlie
    February 27, 2010

    Simon – since it showed a login screen (which I didn’t recall seeing a few days ago?), I thought it was accessible. Sorry. Interesting that their new awesome fantastic forums aren’t up yet.

    Really, though? You don’t have any subjects that you discuss with some people but would rather other people not know about? Your best friend and your boss and the random kid on the street all get the same information about you? That’s counter to the way most people behave. There are simply certain pieces of information I don’t want everyone in the world to know about me, but that I would trust to a few.

  481. #484 Paul W.
    February 27, 2010

    There’s some discussion of the RDF forum fiasco going on over at Greg Laden’s Blog.

    Some of the old moderators and participants might want to go straighten out some misconceptions about what actually happened—and in particular, how Dawkins’s “Outrage” post is inaccurate and contains quote mines, as they’ve done here.

  482. #485 SC OM
    February 27, 2010

    Paul W. – I would have thought you’d have learned by now how futile it is to try to talk sense with them.
    :|

    I just posted this over at The Thread:

    Were you wondering if it was possible for Greg Laden to be any more ignorant and muddle-headed?

    It was:

    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2010/02/an_open_letter_to_richard_dawk.php

    (See the “Outrage and Civility” thread he links to, and Pierce Butler’s valiant efforts to have a reasoned discussion with him and the sidekick. Witness their continuing tendency to side reflexively with the powerful and belittle those objecting to disrespect and abuses of power.)

  483. #486 grh123
    February 27, 2010

    @ SC OM #485

    To be perfectly honest, as we now know Dawkins has been aware of these quote mines for at least 48 hours now.

    The person who should be addressing them is Dawkins himself if he wants to retain some credibility the next time he gives a talk and brings up the terrible creationist quote mines that have been performed on his own work.

    Quote mining is either OK or not, he appears to think it’s perfectly fine if it makes your argument look better.

    How very scholarly of him.

  484. #487 SC OM
    February 27, 2010

    grh123,

    Either I’m confused about your comment or you’re unclear about mine. Too many pronouns perhaps. Just to be clear, when I said “try to talk sense with them,” the “them” in question were Laden and his henchwoman. There’s an involved backstory, but I don’t think anyone should bother with statements emanating from the muddled mind of Greg Laden, especially when he can’t be bothered to learn even the rudimentary facts of the situation before condescending to people like that. Though, believe me, I understand the drive to respond to his ignorant blatherings.

  485. #488 grh123
    February 27, 2010

    Crossed wires I think.

    You suggested someone should go and put these people straight, as I have been trying to run round the net doing for days now.

    I’m getting sick of the fact that it is now becoming completely apparent that Dawkins is perfectly happy to let his quote mining stand, and I was saying I wished he would do something about it himself.

    I really had been hoping he had been presented the quotes by someone else and hadn’t seen them in context. Now I know for a fact he read my polite PM pointing them out to him (we can tell when a PM is read if you sent it) and basically he doesn’t give a toss, quite happy to lie if it helps his argument by the looks of it.

    but yes, I’ll go and put them straight, thanks for the heads up.

    If I seem a little abrupt Im just really fucking disappointed because I thought the professor was more intellectually honest than this.

    If the only way for him to make his argument is for him to lie, that should tell him something about the argument he is making.

  486. #489 SC OM
    February 27, 2010

    You suggested someone should go and put these people straight, as I have been trying to run round the net doing for days now.

    No, that was Paul W. @ #484. I suggested, in response, that it was not worth the effort in this case.

  487. #490 Carlie
    February 27, 2010

    Throwing a bone, though I’m not sure why…

    Could be that
    1. Dawkins doesn’t really read all of his private messages himself, but has a personal secretary who does and filters/digests information for him.

    2. He is doing something about it, but is doing more digging around into it before he posts publicly on the matter.

    Those would be generous interpretations, but they could be true. Otherwise, I think that he needs to own up to what he’s done. If he’s going to have a foundation with HIS NAME ON IT, then the buck stops with him. He could have just set it up as a site and foundation without his name, but he chose to have it up there to increase traffic and prestige. Fine, but then it’s his reputation on the line. He can’t have it both ways, to have it under his own name and claim no knowledge or responsibility for its actions. So fine, if he agrees with the way it was handled, but he needs to make it clear that yes, he does understand exactly what happened so that no one questions whether its employees are operating as rogue agents or under his approval.

  488. #491 Bastion Of Sass
    February 27, 2010

    Carlie wrote:

    Really, though? You don’t have any subjects that you discuss with some people but would rather other people not know about? Your best friend and your boss and the random kid on the street all get the same information about you? That’s counter to the way most people behave. There are simply certain pieces of information I don’t want everyone in the world to know about me, but that I would trust to a few.

    Simon might be one of the strangers who sit next to me on the bus and want to tell me all about their medical problems.

    Or perhaps, the slight acquaintance who I see at a non-political fundraiser who just can’t wait to explain to me, in great detail, why his political views are valid.

    Or a co-worker who keeps me well-informed as to what’s going on in her sex life.

    Or the person I needed to call to get some information about an article I’m writing, who, between bits of the information I’m seeking, tells me all about his breakup with his girlfriend and ensuing child custody and property battles.

    My advice: Filter what’s in your head by audience before releasing it.

  489. #492 Jadehawk, OM
    February 27, 2010
    Do you talk differently in different environments, with different sets of people?

    No.

    Are you more likely to swear with one group, vent about religious groups with another group…

    No.

    IOW, if one is a publically closeted gay/atheist/whatever because of potentially hostile reactions from meatspace acquaintances, or one has to keep one’s life as invisible and private as possible because of deranged stalkers form the past, one is also not allowed to find likeminded communities on the internet. and you have no problem about your boss knowing about your nasty divorce, your health-problems, your radical political positions, and your plans to find a better job ASAP. got it.

  490. #493 grh123
    February 27, 2010

    @ Carlie

    Yes, I hoped those were true at first aswell, but the longer it stays up the more I doubt it.

    We know he reads his own PM’s and uses his own account to post to the forums and front page from previous experience, so it looks ever more unlikely. Also, if it is someone reading it on his behalf do you not think it likely they would have brought the many letters from admin and staff to his attention by now.

    The whole bloody things was just stupid, as I posted on our new forums to someone who suggested that maybe Dawkins was taking too much flak for the forums and thats why they had to be shut down :

    ********************

    And yet there was no reason to behave like an utter lying prick (as someone at RDF certainly has)

    If Richard had come on the board and said :

    ‘Hello everyone, I’m taking a lot of flak for these forums, so I’m afraid I’m going to need to shut it down. We will assist you to transfer it to another domain under someone else’s name if you can find a candidate to do that, and we will be starting a new discussion board with moderated submissions. Thanks for all your help, sorry it had to end like this’

    Everyone would have shrugged and gone about their business.

    All this lying to staff behind their backs, quote mining people, vandalizing peoples hard work on science related topics etc etc was pointless, unnecessary and childish.

  491. #494 Sven DiMilo
    February 27, 2010

    if it is someone reading it on his behalf do you not think it likely they would have brought the many letters from admin and staff to his attention by now

    depends on the ‘someone’ in question, no?

  492. #495 'Tis Himself, OM
    February 27, 2010

    I’ve just left the following on Greg’s blog:

    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’.

  493. #496 David Marjanovi?
    February 27, 2010

    Let me just repeat all this.

  494. #497 Knockgoats
    February 27, 2010

    My contribution to Laden’s thread was:

    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.

  495. #498 SC OM
    February 27, 2010

    Let me just repeat all this.

    And, as someone described eloquently above, there are other aspects, too. As anyone who studies social movements knows, their records and publications – an enormously valuable resource – are often confiscated and destroyed. What an amazing historical document this forum is, a treasure for historical researchers. To think that it could be deliberately destroyed not by the movement’s enemies but by key figures in the movement itself is just terrible.

    Hmmm… Would it be possible for one of the u. library or historical institutes to take it on (at least the last backup if it can’t be completely salvaged) and make it available to the public…?

  496. #499 David Marjanovi?
    February 27, 2010

    Hmmm… Would it be possible for one of the u. library or historical institutes to take it on (at least the last backup if it can’t be completely salvaged) and make it available to the public…?

    Good idea, except I have no idea how to convince any such institution of this.

  497. #500 grh123
    February 27, 2010

    Well well well.

    Turns out that someone managed to get the thread about the forum changes that was deleted from history by Josh out of their Broswer cache, or at least a large part of it.

    Once and for all, for those who believe Richards lies that we are all a pack of frothing at the mouth lunatics and our vitriolic outrage cause him to have to close the forums early, I present to you this :

    The truth about what was said about the changes on RDF and that required such heavy handed intervention:

    http://thinking-aloud.co.uk/temp/rdf.html

    I’m certain that PZ never replies to requests for comments, but I really would be interested to know how he views his OP here now in the light of the fact that we have shown, with evidence, that Richard’s ‘Outrage’ post is a pack of quote mined lies, by

    a) Showing the quote mines in his post with evidence
    b) showing the truth of what was said on RDF with evidence.

    Thats what Richard always says isn’t it? look at the evidence.

  498. #501 Paul W.
    February 27, 2010
    Hmmm… Would it be possible for one of the u. library or historical institutes to take it on (at least the last backup if it can’t be completely salvaged) and make it available to the public…?

    Good idea, except I have no idea how to convince any such institution of this.

    This sounds like a job for the CFI Library.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Center_for_Inquiry#CFI_Institute

  499. #502 Paul W.
    February 27, 2010

    I believe American Atheists maintains a library as well. They and CFI should probably both get copies if available. (And a British organizatation or two.)

  500. #503 SC OM
    February 27, 2010

    This sounds like a job for the CFI Library.

    Paul that’s an excellent idea! Will you contact them? If not, I will.

    They offer a Certificate of Proficiency in Critical Inquiry? I think we all deserve an honorary one.
    :D

    The truth about what was said about the changes on RDF and that required such heavy handed intervention:

    http://thinking-aloud.co.uk/temp/rdf.html

    I’ve now read that. That’s everything except for the quoting of the letter to the mods? Wow. How notrageous.

  501. #504 grh123
    February 27, 2010

    #503

    Its the 13 consecutive pages with not a single post missing right up to the minute they took the forums down for all the ‘abusive’ comments being made ……

    those were all that were saved in the cache on her browser.

  502. #505 jimmyrrpage
    February 27, 2010

    Um, guys?

    http://thinking-aloud.co.uk/temp/rdf.html

    (I don’t know the proper tags)

    That is only one page and one post for me. There is nothing else there but the opening post. What’s going on…

  503. #506 grh123
    February 27, 2010

    I don’t know, it works for me, it’s straight from the cache and not screen shots.

    I’m using Chrome btw.

  504. #507 jimmyrrpage
    February 27, 2010

    Wow… I don’t know how to scroll…

    Ignore me, please…

  505. #508 HughMcB
    February 27, 2010

    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 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 focussed 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

  506. #509 Olotila
    February 27, 2010

    They are now deleting comments even in front page.

    http://richarddawkins.net/latestComments

    The godless guru -thread, see post (while it’s there):

    Comment #464561 by njwong on February 27, 2010 at 10:25 pm

  507. #510 grh123
    February 28, 2010

    What’s more they are even deleting comments complaining about the deleting of comments.

    Free-thinking oasis my arse.

    it’s more fitting of AiG or the rapture-ready boards than free thought.

    ‘Fuck the evidence if it disagrees with our propaganda’ appears to be the new RDF motto

    I forget, if people make polite comments that disagree with PZ Meyers does he routinely delete them here?

    Oh, no, because unlike Dawkins he has some integrity it seems.

  508. #511 grh123
    February 28, 2010

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKFtNuGt4rw

    Dawkins on the horror of quote mining and why it is dishonest.

    Hypocrite.

  509. #512 John
    February 28, 2010

    @ grh123 #463
    While I think it’s nice of you to be sticking up for the staff against Richard, can i just point out that Topsy was one of the unpaid admins that got fired and is now being accused of the vitriol by Richard.
    The fact that you took her comments to be defending Richard I think is interesting, because she is as angry about it as the rest I believe.
    This is the sort of Vitriol laden thug that Richard speaks of is his ludicrous message ………….?
    As a member of RDF for some 3½ years I am aware of Topsy?s role at the forum and also the frustration and anger the ex-moderators are expressing at rationalia.com so I?m afraid I don?t know why you are highlight this or what your point is. Even more than that I am impressed by their relative calm and rational response to this affair which should be recognised and applauded rather than dismissed in such a desultory way by Dawkins.
    Where I diverge from Topsy?s hypothesis is that Dawkins was misled. As I mentioned previously it would be unrealistic to expect Dawkins let alone Timonen, to be Masters of change management or even recognise that it might be useful in these circumstances. However there have been previous incidents on the forum where Dawkins had to step in to calm matters down and during this time it was made very clear to him that the proposed changes were not the cause of the unrest at that time but the methods, or lack of them by which the changes were communicated to the Admin team and the forum membership.
    It appears that Dawkins and Timonen have decided for whatever reason best known to themselves, to ignore these lessons from experience which is ironically that is the sort of wilful ignorance that Dawkins frequently castigates theists for. What is worse though is to imply that the reason for the changes is due to the vitriol expounded by a small minority when in fact that is obviously not the case.

  510. #513 windy
    February 28, 2010

    Dawkins may be “pretty savvy about this internet stuff” (PZ’s words on Rationalia) but it doesn’t seem like he’s really comfortable with internet culture? Wanting to get rid of the social and ‘trivial’ aspects of an internet community seems as wrongheaded as trying to do away with social interaction at scientific meetings.

  511. #514 grh123
    February 28, 2010

    @ John

    Yeah, my bad, on rereading your comment I realised that you were an RDF member, I thought that you were just defendng Topsy as an outsider. Unfortunately I couldn’t edit m comment to reflect that.

    @ Windy

    Dawkins himself said :

    ?It is a community, and that is a valuable part of it. Many of our forum threads have an atmosphere of friends going out for a drink and chatting. I think that is valuable, and I don?t think we should insist on sticking to serious topics. That would be a good way to stifle the sense of community, and that would be a real shame.?
    -Richard Dawkins, 2008

  512. #515 Peter Beattie
    February 28, 2010

    » SC:
    Witness [Greg Laden and sidekick Stephanie Z's] continuing tendency to side reflexively with the powerful and belittle those objecting to disrespect and abuses of power.

    That is a very good bit of analysis, SC, thanks for pointing that out.

    One other thing, harkening back to Greg’s bogus antisemitism discussion, is this absolute gem from him:

    Peter, I know that you were only implying that it would be possible to interpret Dawkins as acting LIKE a tinpot dictator, but that implication is in and of itself tantamount to sasying that he IS a tinpot dictator, especailly if anyone happens to think that is what you meant, EVEN IF such a person WILLFULLY misinterprets your so-called implication.

    Oh, the irony.

  513. #516 Sven DiMilo
    February 28, 2010

    Oh, the irony.

    that’s one word for it

  514. #517 Simon Gardner
    February 28, 2010

    @Carlie

    Really, though? You don’t have any subjects that you discuss with some people but would rather other people not know about?

    Aah. Not quite the same thing that.

    There are indeed things I would rather not etc. I never, ever put them anywhere public or semi-public on the net and never have.

    There are simply certain pieces of information I don’t want everyone in the world to know about me, but that I would trust to a few.

    Indeed so. Don’t commit them to the Interwebs or Usenet.

  515. #518 Paul W.
    February 28, 2010

    Peter Beattie@515:

    Peter, I know that you were only implying that it would be possible to interpret Dawkins as acting LIKE a tinpot dictator, but that implication is in and of itself tantamount to sasying that he IS a tinpot dictator, especailly if anyone happens to think that is what you meant, EVEN IF such a person WILLFULLY misinterprets your so-called implication.

    Oh, the irony.

    That reads like intentional irony. In fact, it read’s like Greg’s style of intentional irony.

    Up to a month ago, I would have assumed that he was being ironic if, he wrote that, and poking a little fun at Stephanie. Even now I’m not sure.

    Unfortunately, Greg’s blog has stopped making much sense to me on such topics. He seems to be a parody of himself, and to think he’s clever, but also to be pretty serious about belittling anybody who disagrees.

    Not a good combination.

  516. #519 Knockgoats
    February 28, 2010

    Simon Gardner,

    OK, fair enough, that’s your choice. Why do you assume everyone else should choose the same?

  517. #520 Carlie
    February 28, 2010

    Ok, Simon. Your choice is to never share. Other people might choose to share under a pseudonym. Why is that an inferior choice? Let’s take a recent example: on another thread, clinical depression and ways to treat it came up. Let’s say I’d had depressive episodes before, and wanted to offer some advice based on my own experiences. If writing under my real name, I might not do that at all because I wouldn’t want that to somehow come up on a first page of Google results, just because I don’t want that to define me, or there might be certain people (boss, close relative I never told about it, etc.) who I’d rather not know. But I’d do so under a pseudonym, because even though someone who wanted to badly enough could trace it and figure it out, not many people would go through that effort and I’m comfortable enough sharing in that semi-protected environment. That’s just one example of how pseudonyms can make things better for discourse overall.

  518. #521 Paul W.
    February 28, 2010

    A clarification of 518… if I was being very charitable to Greg, I’d have guessed that he was making fun of SC for being worried about how people might take his antisemitism comments, and at Stephanie for taking the same kind of “oversensitive” stance. (That would at least be constent, if wrong.)

    But given how much he seems to be hypocritical about such things, who the fuck knows what he means? He does seem to be oblivious to his own hypocrisy.

    For example, the breaking point in the previous dustup was when I said that IF we took some things he and Stephanie said seriously, THEN we should conclude that it’s less sexist to call Stephanie his bitch than his sidekick. All hell broke loose over a counterfactual, where I clearly was NOT saying that Stephanie really was “his bitch.” (Although I didn’t clearly rule it out, either.)

    I can see people being sensitive about such things, but it was especially ironic in light of the fact that Greg had said weird shit to me about wanting to squeeze my “floppy ears” until my eyes “tear up” and so on. He clarified that he was quite pointedly comparing me to an ill-behaved dog that must be painfully punished.

    Apparently, I owed Stephanie an apology for counterfactually suggesting that something which I clearly disagreed with might imply something like that about her, but it’s okay for Greg to use literally dehumanizing rhetoric—about physically abusing a particularly ill-behaved dog—about me. (And to clarify unapologetically that yes, that was exactly what he meant to do.)

    Whee. I think that Greg should refrain from intentional irony for a while. There’s too much unintentional irony flying around to expect people to know the difference.

  519. #522 Carlie
    February 28, 2010

    Also, Simon, there’s another great example. SC said a lot of things that I assume that she’d totally back up with her IRL identity; however, she got dragged through the mud due to GL being a total ass to the point that people who had never read anything she wrote were calling her a terrible anti-semite. That’s bad enough damage to try and control with one’s avatar; can you imagine if that had been linked to her real name? That could have caused some lasting, serious damage, and not because she was saying things she shouldn’t have been, but because rumors and misunderstandings can fly faster on the internet than even verbal rumors.

  520. #523 Paul W.
    February 28, 2010

    What Carlie said in #520.

    One of the great things about the internet is that people can talk about things that they normally wouldn’t talk about with their boss, co-workers, or family.

    For example, being gay, or being an atheist, or whatever.

    This allows people to not conform to oppressive rules about what’s respectable and what’s not, and to set a good liberalizing example for others.

    If we all refrain from saying things that anybody might fairly or unfairly use against us, that’s giving in to some really nasty cultural pressures.

    There’s a reason for freedom of anonymous and pseudonymous speech—even our current Supreme Court recognizes that. (Look up “Publius” and various very important anonymous or pseudonymous pamphlets in the run-up to the American Revolution.)

    Not having anonymous free speech means that we will systematically give in to the tyranny of the majority more often, in lots of small ways and a few big ones.

    That would be A Bad Thing.

    On principle, I prefer to say what I think needs to be said, and to do it anonymously or pseudonymously if I think that’s prudent. (Which, sadly, I often do.)

  521. #524 SC OM
    February 28, 2010

    Thanks, Paul and Carlie. By the way, I brought this up at the time, but I’m still perplexed by it. This was the context in which he made the initial insinuation:

    GL: An interesting feature of the above discussion [which was largely involving me, so already he seemed to be implying something about me specifically] is the interesting problem of avoiding being racist/whateverist and being generally tolerant but being intolerant of religion. That turns out to be pretty tricky.

    Me: I don?t find it tricky at all.

    GL: Much of your commentary together with this statement could lead some people to assume that you have some serious antisemitic issues to deal with. I’m not saying that, but I just want you to know that it could look this way. (I don’t happen to think it is the case.)

    I simply cannot grasp what about my stating that I don’t find it tricky to avoid being racist in any way while opposing religion would lead any sane person to assume that. Oddly enough, I don’t believe he included this statement in his “private letter” (which, given that he admitted more than once to not having read the exchanges in question, either before or after posting it, I strongly suspect was composed in large part by the sidekick).

    *This was just below where he said: “I’ve read about 5% of this discussion between you and Stephanie.”

  522. #525 supernorbert
    February 28, 2010

    Breaking News!

    An Apologie by Richard Dawkins:
    http://richarddawkins.net/articles/5165

  523. #526 supernorbert
    February 28, 2010

    I apologize for misspelling ‘Apology’

  524. #527 Bastion Of Sass
    February 28, 2010

    That could have caused some lasting, serious damage, and not because she was saying things she shouldn’t have been, but because rumors and misunderstandings can fly faster on the internet than even verbal rumors.

    I have to alert clients and potential employers that if they google my real name, among other things, they’ll find out I’m involved in an vast conspiracy against…well…everyone who isn’t involved in that conspiracy. Some of the claims made about me are that I engaged in some truly horrifying crimes.

    Most people laugh, either because they think I’m joking or because they understand the craziness of the Net, but I wonder how much business and potential jobs I’ve lost because once upon a time, I made the mistake of posting under my real name. Some people may decide not to even bother considering me because of the libelous things written about me by a loon.

  525. #528 Noel
    February 28, 2010

    Caine @ 273

    Quite the precious little snowflake yourself, aren’t you?

    Sorry, I don’t think that even makes sense.

    You demonstrate zero knowledge of the event.

    I know enough to believe that (for some) perspective has gone out the window.

    Caine, I don’t know you and you don’t know me. Perhaps I could tell you a story or two about my life that would put a little perspective on this relatively meaningless and overblown issue. Perhaps you could tell me some stories too, as I’m sure many of the Pharygulytes could.

    Kindly go fuck yourself.

    I used the expletive first – and those who live by the sword should expect to die by it – but I don’t think I aimed up specifically at you. If, however, you took personal offence at this, I apologise. Is that what you mean’t by “fucking myself” (I’ve already tried the only other meaning for that expression, and no matter how flexible and well-proportioned I am, it just won’t work)?

    What I won’t do, though, is withdraw the remark about people really needing to get over themselves. Perhaps they might need counselling, if it proves difficult. You know, from a psychologist. In the same room. As them.

  526. #529 Noel
    February 28, 2010

    Caine @ 273

    Quite the precious little snowflake yourself, aren’t you?

    Sorry, I don’t think that even makes sense.

    You demonstrate zero knowledge of the event.

    One should never EVER speak in absolutes! I know enough to believe that (for some) perspective has gone out the window.

    Caine, I don’t know you and you don’t know me. Perhaps I could tell you a story or two about my life that would put a little perspective on this relatively meaningless and overblown issue. Perhaps you could tell me some stories too, as I’m sure could most people, sad to say.

    Kindly go fuck yourself.

    OK. I used the expletive first – and those who live by the sword should expect to die by it – but I don’t think I aimed up specifically at you. If, however, you took personal offence at this, I apologise. Is that what you mean’t by “fucking myself” (I’ve already tried the only other meaning for that expression that I understand, and no matter how flexible and well-proportioned I am, it just won’t work)?

    What I won’t do is withdraw the remark about people really needing to get over themselves. Perhaps they might need counselling, if it proves difficult. You know, from a psychologist. In the same room. As them.

    Just saying.

  527. #530 Noel
    February 28, 2010

    Hmmm… I love a double post just as much as the next person.

  528. #531 wasseals
    March 2, 2010

    Finally managed to get a login, been trying since comment 404 on Feb 25th!

    What kind of login procedure lets you register and eventually after a long delay get an authentication email, which of course gets hidden in the spam folder, which when you click on the link tells you your login has expired and to re register, and then and only then informs you someone already has that username? This one, on several occasions. On another of my many attempts, I replied to the authentication email within 5 minutes only to be told my login had again expired!

    I got here eventually though, and will comment even if I’ve nothing on topic to add.