Pharyngula

I hope this resolves the whole mess

Richard Dawkins has posted a clarification and apology. The key points are that he stands by Josh Timonen (and really, the vituperation against him that I saw was just absurdly excessive), the old forums will definitely be retained as a read-only archive, and the new forums are going to still allow free discussion, but the changes have the intent of focusing any new threads on topics relevant to the RDF.

Everyone moves on now, right?

Comments

  1. #1 aratina cage of the OM
    February 28, 2010

    I hope this resolves the whole mess

    It does for me.

  2. #2 SC OM
    February 28, 2010

    I just posted this on The Thread:

    SC, #61 – Boy, am I glad to see that.

    Me, too. I was hoping for something like that, which I thought there was good reason to expect after he apologized recently for something else. (I do wish he had said something about the deleted users’ posts, though, and I wouldn’t blame people if they were wary about being involved with Timonen still at the helm, especially since he hasn’t apologized publicly for his actions.)

    I thought it was classy overall.

  3. #3 Crocodile Gandhi
    February 28, 2010

    There is still some discontent regarding the deletion of accounts, but the first step is always the most important and I fully accept his apology.

  4. #4 mr-zero
    February 28, 2010

    Ahh – the wisdom of the mob.

  5. #5 https://me.yahoo.com/a/AhK6VzN7pIBqZlVkJfQVUKo32HmQ#1e3b2
    February 28, 2010

    Refreshing to admit when one was wrong!

  6. #6 richardprins
    February 28, 2010

    The most important part was to admit that mistakes were made in the handling of the transition, as well as seeing the value of some of the content in the forum.

  7. #7 Simon Gardner
    February 28, 2010

    Everyone sounds very relieved. Many are mollified. Many others are never going to trust Prof Richard Dawkins again – at least not as they did.

    Few seem inclined to want to help rebuild RD.net forum in whatever shape or form it eventually is. BUT the apology and the reassurance that threads will not after all be pre-censored or vetted has been a great relief bearing in mind what was said before.

    At least the mods finally got an apology and thanks for all their work.

    Personally, I don?t regret making Dawkins? life as difficult as possible over the last few days. He thoroughly deserved it.

    Apology has been well-received by almost everyone.

  8. #8 Matt Hone
    February 28, 2010

    Richard’s post was most welcome but it didn’t go far enough. I don’t expect Richard to apologise for Josh’s behaviour, I just him to acknowledge that Josh did terrible things that just can’t be justified. Where was the explanation for the deletion of user accounts and posts, particularly in the case of Mazille, the moderator responsible for the science-writing award? And what about the sabotage of the admin logs and the RickRolling?

    Furthermore, the inaccurate reporting of this whole affair in the media has done, in my view, irreperable damage to the reputation of Richard Dawkins and the community at large. We were made out to be thugs and savages. The forum itself was made to look like an unmoderated hellhole. Will those slanderous articles be withdrawn? Of course, those are outside Richard’s control but he helped create them via his ‘Outrage’ post and his phone call with a reporter from The Times. He has apologised, but I fear that apology will just be ignored by the media who have done their darndest to make atheists look bad yet again.

  9. #9 'Tis Himself, OM
    February 28, 2010

    I notice that Josh Timonen’s apology for acting as a suppurating rodent’s rectum hasn’t appeared.

  10. #10 ods5926
    February 28, 2010

    I am a complete stranger to whatever the whole issue was. I only saw the announcement by Josh, the “Outrage” post by Dawkins, and the Apology posted right now, so I am a bit unclear on what the fuss was all about, so what I am about to say maybe nonsense:

    What really struck me as weird was this:

    The only significant difference between this and the old forum will be that new threads (note: not the comments) will have to be approved before they appear. This is purely and simply to ensure that all new threads are on subjects relevant to reason and science.

    While I obviously don’t expect any kind of censorship or anything like that, I am not convinced that this is a good idea, at least the way it was phrased here. It strikes me as obvious that one of the most important parts of forums, blog commenters, or even any other real-world community with some common goal, is the utterly off-topic parts. The off-topics are usually what make a community really a community, something beyond just the one-track common goals.

    So, I am not sure by the phrasing here if he means that posts about random things such as book clubs, random pictures of users, or even discussions of politics, would be off limits. If that is what is meant, I personally think that it is a very bad idea.

  11. #11 Simon Gardner
    February 28, 2010

    @ Matt Hone February 28, 2010 4:13 PM

    All very fair points but the media are beyond RD?s or our control. This may be covered in the ?press?. But I doubt it. What do you expect RD to do about it exactly? I can?t see there?s much he can.

  12. #12 Sven DiMilo
    February 28, 2010

    Pretty class move (finally) on RD’s part.

    But re this guy Josh, he scrubbed the admin logs. Rickrolling might be all in good fun, but deleting entire accounts/archived posts and then covering up the evidence is NOT GOOD.

    IMO.
    Personally, I moved on long ago. Actualy, I never really moved off.

  13. #13 bubbabubba666
    February 28, 2010

    Seems to me this is a classic case of not wanting to adapt to Internet culture. As an example, if you have a blog and you want readers, you better allow comments. Similarly, if you want a contributing community, then the idea that each and every thread has to be approved is, IMO, laughable.

    His statement that “it is akin to the editor of a specialist magazine accepting only articles that are relevant to the topic of that magazine” is humorous, if only because it reveals what he wants, except that’s not the way a vibrant Internet community works. He wants a better signal to noise ratio, but a low signal to noise ratio is the nature of the Internet.

    I have encountered a few forums over the years that don’t allow threads to be seen until they have been approved, all run by control freaks. In every instance they are a desert wasteland.

  14. #14 Knockgoats
    February 28, 2010

    Dawkins’ apology is certainly welcome, and goes a considerable way to repair the damage, but some is beyond repair. Still, if sufficient people have learned the lesson: Put not your trust in leaders!, then the whole affair will probably be a net positive for rationalism.

  15. #15 Valden
    February 28, 2010

    “(and really, the vituperation against him that I saw was just absurdly excessive), ”

    Actually, it was fairly tame compared to what’s been said to non-forum members that are greatly disliked. It was hardly excessive.

    As long as they go back and get the posts that were deleted, all will be well again in RDF world.

  16. #16 raven
    February 28, 2010

    Dawkins did the smart thing.

    Rule #1. When you find yourself in a hole, first stop digging.

    You would be amazed at how many people never, ever figure that out.

    Blogs and forums are symbiotic with their readers. It doesn’t do any good to post content on the web if no one reads it or cares.

    It seems like a lot of public intellectual life has migrated onto the internet. This is the Athenian forum and/or Agora, repackaged.

  17. #17 https://me.yahoo.com/a/RPuarI8Lze61hZk1PGjwDbui2fIshFKUh6U8SM6lsg--#d17ca
    February 28, 2010

    Wow, look at that! A reasonable explanation for his actions and an apology.

    Now if only the mob could apologize and admit their vitriol was excessive and even uncalled for.

  18. #18 Valden
    February 28, 2010

    #17: It was not excessive, nor uncalled for. Non-forum members have had it even worse on the RDnet forum, and it was always well within the rules.
    And so the attacks of Josh were also well within the rules on Ratz.

  19. #19 Jon A
    February 28, 2010

    It was good to see the response form RD. It is clearly sincere and I think all those affected should take Richard’s apology should all in good (dare I say it) faith.

  20. #20 Michelle B
    February 28, 2010

    I accept Dawkins’ apology to the extent that I will continue to use his writings for references in answering questions about atheism. But I will never again click on his site and will continue to post here (thanks to the many who got the problem of maltreating volunteer staff like SC, Carly, and ‘Tis Himself, and others) and at the diaspora site of rationalskepticism where the people who fought for this apology are staying instead of joining the ethical deadbeat contributors who remained oblivious over at RD.net.

    I also remain disappointed in Myers’ being easily satisfied that Dawkins was not doing something that Myers would not tolerate if volunteer staff at a local museum or hospital in Mn was treated in a similar way because the maltreatment was under Dawkins’ watch. I probably will just hang out in the comments section here and forego reading Myers post as he has shown he is not consistent in trying to find out the truth.

    Timonen needs to apologize publicly.

  21. #21 Legion
    February 28, 2010

    Matt Hone:

    I just him to acknowledge that Josh did terrible things that just can’t be justified. Where was the explanation for the deletion of user accounts and posts, particularly in the case of Mazille, the moderator responsible for the science-writing award? And what about the sabotage of the admin logs and the RickRolling?

    Sounds like he covered that here:

    I would like to start by apologising for our handling of this situation. We have not communicated well with our forum volunteers and users (for example in my insensitive ‘Outrage’ post, which was written in the heat of the moment). In the process we have caused unintended hurt and offence, and I am very sorry about that. In a classic case of a vicious circle, some of the responses to our announcement also caused considerable hurt and distress to us, and in the atmosphere of heightened emotion that followed, some of our subsequent actions went too far.

    Our guess is that he recognizes that Josh screwed up, but feels there’s no need to draw up a list. He just wants to move on and we think people should let him. After all, it’s possible to be an atheist (as most of us are) and still forgive others — not in the name of some fake-believe god, but because it’s the right and mature thing to do.

  22. #22 phanastasio
    February 28, 2010

    rabble rabble rabble!!!

  23. #23 Sven DiMilo
    February 28, 2010

    phanastasio

    cool nym, phriend

  24. #24 Menyambal
    February 28, 2010

    I much prefer things here, thank you, so haven’t spent any time at the Dawkins forum. I hope the mess clears up, and I applaud Dawkins for trying to make things better.

    A slight suggestion for forums, that might not work or may already be common practice: Let folks start a new thread any time, with no pre-censoring from monitors. After a thread gets going, it is checked on, and, if it is deemed unworthy, monitors label it as inappropriate, lock it from further comments, and leave it up as a bad example. That doesn’t delete anyone’s work, and it will be found by anyone searching the topic and will be seen to be marked as unwanted.

  25. #25 https://me.yahoo.com/a/RPuarI8Lze61hZk1PGjwDbui2fIshFKUh6U8SM6lsg--#d17ca
    February 28, 2010

    @#18

    Please tell me how threats of violence, ridiculous attempts to pin quote mining on dawkins, and overall hysteria was “called for”.

    I still maintain that many people acted prematurely and irrationally. So it would be nice to see some other apologies.

  26. #26 Matt Hone
    February 28, 2010

    Dawkins did quote-mine. He took the views of a minority of posters on a completely different forum and tried to pass them off as the views of the RD.net forum. He has apologised for it now, but the fact remains.

    You show ignorance about this issue, which isn’t a crime, but repeating the misinformation without doing your research should be.

  27. #27 F
    February 28, 2010

    Everyone moves on now, right?

    I certainly fucking well hope so.

    Ans I’m oh so glad some forum members accept RD’s apology. When do the letters of apology start streaming in to Richard and Josh and anyone else involved?

  28. #28 Topsy
    February 28, 2010

    Hi PZ

    The vituperation against Josh that you saw, which was just “absurdly excessive” was NOT posted on RichardDawkins.net (as Richard acknowledges)

    Just saying, in case any journalists are reading this and would like to edit their articles that vilify of the RD.net members.

    cheers
    Topsy

  29. #29 Simon Gardner
    February 28, 2010

    @F

    When do the letters of apology start streaming in to Richard and Josh and anyone else involved?

    You?ve gotta be joking – right? That was a piss-take?

  30. #30 Valden
    February 28, 2010

    #25: You clearly have no idea what you’re talking about. There were no actual direct threats made, Dawkins was quote mining (which he apologized for) and the “hysteria” was anything but.

    The only one that acted prematurely and immaturely was Josh.(deleting members and their posts, turning the forum off)

    Remember, nasty comments towards non-forum members was completely allowed on the RDFs forum, and on Ratz, where the majority of the more “mean” comments were made towards Josh. So don’t actually expect any of us to apolgize for something we’re simply used to doing towards someone that we not only do not like, but who is also not protected under the forum rules, because he’s not a member of Ratz.

    If Josh were a member of Ratz, he’d had been protected from the nasty comments. Just like he was on the RDF forum, where he was an actual member.

    Seems to me you consider it all hysteria and “uncalled for” only because you’re not used to expressing your views, by using naughty language, on a non-forum member as many of us ex-RDF posters are.

  31. #31 ted.dahlberg
    February 28, 2010

    I also remain disappointed in Myers’ being easily satisfied that Dawkins was not doing something that Myers would not tolerate if volunteer staff at a local museum or hospital in Mn was treated in a similar way because the maltreatment was under Dawkins’ watch. I probably will just hang out in the comments section here and forego reading Myers post as he has shown he is not consistent in trying to find out the truth.

    That’s great. I’m sure you’ll have lots of interesting things to say about posts you won’t be reading *killfile*

    Anyway, speaking as an outsider who has barely visited the RDF, I was a bit worried by reading about this a few days ago and what it seemed to say about someone I’ve respected. It reminded me about Randi writing about climate change a while back. But unlike Randi’s explanation, I’d say that Dawkins’ apology is very convincing. And certainly seems absolutely sincere. As for not explicitly mentioning what Timonen did or didn’t do… I won’t criticize someone for not denouncing a good friend. I think we all tend to forgive those close to us even when we sometimes shouldn’t. Best just to move on.

  32. #32 https://me.yahoo.com/a/RPuarI8Lze61hZk1PGjwDbui2fIshFKUh6U8SM6lsg--#d17ca
    February 28, 2010

    @#26
    No, I don’t believe Dawkins did quote mine.

    He never indicated in his original outrage post that those quotes were from his site (he said “a site”), and I do not think that those quotes were from a minority of the comments. After all multiple page threads were made devoted to hating on josh.
    Of course due to the nature of the “outrage” post it wasn’t as clear as it could have been, so I’m not going to hold it against you. You should probably just stop repeating your misinformation.

  33. #33 Carlie
    February 28, 2010

    I think that was about as good an apology that could be hoped for. It would be nice if he had asked Josh to also submit a letter of apology for the way he handled it, but perhaps that’s forthcoming, or perhaps he decided to handle it internally. It’s understandable that he could have upbraided Josh in private (hopefully), but still doesn’t want to skewer him in public over what happened. At the least it seems that he now understands more of the importance of the events.

    And it still was a quote-mine. Even if you take at face value that he didn’t mean to insinuate that the comments came from his forum rather than elsewhere, he pulled out a quote that he claimed said “X” directly to Josh, when the original quote (linked to many times) was basically “I’d really be tempted to say X to Josh, which is why I’m glad that cooler heads than mine are constructing the replies to him instead of me”. Totally different context.

  34. #34 Valden
    February 28, 2010

    Forgot to mention, the majority of the ex-members of RDF are actually well hebaved. But even we sometimes like to take cheap shots at non-members just for the fun of it. It fairly uncommon. We’re not a bunch of thugs.
    But when Josh angered so many of us, it really should have been expected that we’d direct our anger, in a verbal manner, towards him as we have.

    I wont apologize to Josh, as I’ve nothing to apologize for. I still believe he’s a bully, and I hope he’s learned his lesson. But I wont hold my breathe.

  35. #35 Valden
    February 28, 2010

    #32: Those comments WERE a minority. As for the threads “hating” on Josh the majority of the comments were still very tame to what they could have been. People seemed to really hold themselves back out of respect towards Ratz.

    As for the quote mining, RD did not bother to clarify where exactly he got his quotes, along with the fact he made it sound as if they represented the majority, when in reality, they did not.

    Please stop spewing false information. However because you were not actually part of the purge, I don’t blame you for not actually habving any idea what really went on, and what was really said.

  36. #37 Valden
    February 28, 2010

    Anyways as I said before, anyone hoping or even expecting that those of us who used the naughty language when venting out our anger towards Josh will apolgize might as well just move, as it’s not very likely to happen.

  37. #38 ted.dahlberg
    February 28, 2010

    Seems to me you consider it all hysteria and “uncalled for” only because you’re not used to expressing your views, by using naughty language, on a non-forum member as many of us ex-RDF posters are.

    Frankly, if I wouldn’t call a friend a fucking idiot (or suppurating rat’s rectum, what have you) I wouldn’t call someone I disliked a fucking idiot, either. I don’t mind foul language in the slightest (especially when it gets inventive), but your rules for when to use it seem rather peculiar.

    And am I the only one finding the dividing of humanity into “forum members” and “non-forum members” slightly… creepy?

  38. #39 https://me.yahoo.com/a/RPuarI8Lze61hZk1PGjwDbui2fIshFKUh6U8SM6lsg--#d17ca
    February 28, 2010

    And am I the only one finding the dividing of humanity into “forum members” and “non-forum members” slightly… creepy?

    No, especially since many seem to be making assumptions on who is which by what they say.

  39. #40 Valden
    February 28, 2010

    ted.dahlberg: I’d call a friend a “fucking idiot” in joke. And I’d also call someone I consider to be an idiot, a “fucking idoit.” And in my eyes, that’s fairly tame to what I could say. But I’d also take the time to explain why that person is a “fucking idiot” as well.

    As for the dividing, I don’t find it creepy. :P

    Topsy: Lol! I was literally just wondering the very same thing! Get out of my brain please. <3

  40. #41 Stogoe
    February 28, 2010

    I never had an account at the RD.net forums, but I did lurk regularly a while back, and I for one won’t feel good about the whole mess until Josh Timonen is taken out and beaten with a stick. This is what happens when you give a troll admin powers – he nukes the forum for no other reason than because he can.

  41. #42 lordshipmayhem
    February 28, 2010

    Basically what we have here is an incredibly poorly handled attempt at upgrading to new software. There are proper ways to handle it, or you can do it Josh’s way, which is a textbook example of how NOT to handle it.

    You consult with your users – especially the power users, in this case the volunteer moderators. You give them feedback, you respond to their e-mails (which he had not been doing before this foofara started). He promised to consult with them, they agreed to test the new software, and then Josh told them “this is how it’s going to be – you’re not going to be moderators any more.” He then locked the forums and disabled Search. When the by-then-former moderators tried to talk to him, he deleted their entire ID’s, including all their posting history… and scrubbed the logs.

    Josh’s actions here has been beyond poor. He really mismanaged this entire situation, and made a distasteful situation worse. I’m glad Professor Dawkins apologized and accept it, but I still want to see Josh looking for alternate employment.

  42. #43 CalGeorge
    February 28, 2010
  43. #44 ted.dahlberg
    February 28, 2010

    I’d call a friend a “fucking idiot” in joke. And I’d also call someone I consider to be an idiot, a “fucking idoit.”

    Personally I’d call a friend a fucking idiot when they need to be told how they’re acting, and I’d call a true idiot a fucking idiot as a joke.

    You fucking idiot :P

  44. #45 https://me.yahoo.com/a/JQ.xyEE6tcrowzWnYOiZeDpTv69ibxfb#ac1dd
    February 28, 2010

    Free discussion… within vague limits… FTW.

  45. #46 https://me.yahoo.com/a/JQ.xyEE6tcrowzWnYOiZeDpTv69ibxfb#ac1dd
    February 28, 2010

    Make that: Free discussion… within vague (but now more restrictive) limits… FTW.

  46. #47 Azkyroth
    February 28, 2010

    You consult with your users – especially the power users, in this case the volunteer moderators. You give them feedback, you respond to their e-mails (which he had not been doing before this foofara started). He promised to consult with them, they agreed to test the new software, and then Josh told them “this is how it’s going to be – you’re not going to be moderators any more.” He then locked the forums and disabled Search. When the by-then-former moderators tried to talk to him, he deleted their entire ID’s, including all their posting history… and scrubbed the logs.

    I was never involved with the Richard Dawkins Forums before and I haven’t been very tuned into events here, but if true, the above is absolutely inexcusable, and if Dawkins doesn’t see the problem with it, then there’s either some amazingly stupid generational thing at work here, or something very, very wrong with him.

  47. #48 Ilovelucy
    February 28, 2010

    As an ex RDF mod, I’m happy to hear the apology, have the misinformation corrected and the forum to remain archived. I’m not out for vengeance or the resurrection of the forum. However, I’ve learned quite a bit from this episode, especially the pratfalls of basing so much around the standing and actions of one individual. So I doubt I will be part of the new richarddawkins.net, but I’ll wish those who will be good luck.

    Niall

  48. #49 Ol'Greg
    February 28, 2010

    Hmm… maybe I’ll go on and check it out when it is back up. At the risk of offending people the few times I did check it out I found the forum extremely distasteful. I’m sorry, I know some one in the other thread said something that was similar to my experience and maybe it’s not normally like that. It can get ugly here, but the relaxed atmosphere makes it easier to defend yourself. The combination of abusive personalities and limited recourse available made the forum seem very unpleasant, not to mention a generally inflated tone from some.

    To be honest though without the casual, relaxed, and often OT areas people like me will probably never get comfortable there to post, especially since any peep from us losers will probably cause much twisting of pearls.

  49. #50 Simon Gardner
    February 28, 2010

    @Ilovelucy

    So I doubt I will be part of the new richarddawkins.net, but I’ll wish those who will be good luck.

    My sense from the traffic elsewhere tonight is that very few will be and RD is probably setting himself up for forum failure through not understanding the net.

    But everyone is mightily relieved to have that apology.

  50. #51 Ol'Greg
    February 28, 2010

    but if true, the above is absolutely inexcusable, and if Dawkins doesn’t see the problem with it, then there’s either some amazingly stupid generational thing at work here, or something very, very wrong with him.

    That seems to be the problems. If what people are saying is true then all evidence has been erased and it now comes down to what some of the people from the boards say against what some of the people in charge say. I, like you, wasn’t around to see any of it and don’t have a personal stake in it. The problem… and I may be overstepping here… seems to be that Dawkins does not believe this to have been the case.

  51. #52 PZ Myers
    February 28, 2010

    Please. All this complaining about Richard Dawkins “quote mining” people is completely wrong: it’s an abuse of the term “quote mine”.

    It would be valid if Richard had pulled a number of out-of-context quotes to misrepresent what people were saying. This is not the case. The people who said the rude things about Josh intended to say rude things about him, and if anything, have increased the rudeness since.

    I’m seeing an increase level of misuse of some common terms around here — not just “quote mine”, but “troll” is probably the all-around worst offender. Think about what you say when you say it, please!

  52. #53 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawlKVGJiyQX-vQetPeaeLzqvQyv24B9viaM
    February 28, 2010

    And then we all remembered it’s the internet and it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of the universe.

    Richard, and all of the people getting emotional over the forum, really look quite juvenile to someone like me who doesn’t possess the endless hours for chatting on forums. “Storm in a tea-cup” is a fitting description for this laughable nonsense.

    GET >>> OVER >>> IT

  53. #54 'Tis Himself, OM
    February 28, 2010

    Dawkins did quotemine. He wrote in his Outrage letter:

    Or suppose that somebody on the same website expressed a ?sudden urge to ram a fistful of nails? down your throat.

    The actual quote was:

    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.

  54. #55 https://me.yahoo.com/a/xSbZ2t8Yqto7v2NHwk1efbhZHaKZVE.fdJZMkLd7uqsSafFalfA-#7b01d
    February 28, 2010

    Yup, and I hope RDF continues to do well. I’ll be trying out the new discussion boards at least.

  55. #56 Jon A
    February 28, 2010

    Just as you thought it was safe…

    The apology seems to have re-opened this can of worms. It’s a website people, just a website. I understand that a lot of people put a lot of energy and time into this but if they are still upset they should concentrate something else for a while. Perhaps they should go for a drink with friends, watch a movie, visit that elderly relative they haven’t seen for ages, take up an extreme sport like sky diving.
    Forgive. Not because some religion says so but because it will make you feel better.
    Now stop worrying and enjoy your lives.

  56. #57 Carlie
    February 28, 2010

    Jon A and #53 – telling people what to care about is pretty fucking patronizing. One might wonder why you are using your precious time to tell other people what to do with theirs.

  57. #58 Peter Beattie
    February 28, 2010

    Everyone moves on now, right?

    Why are you so eager for others to move on? Surely, moving on should be conditional on actual issues actually having been addressed. The main issue, though, behind this kerfuffle was what appears to be the shabby treatment of volunteers and the admins’ autocratic sabotage of the forum in the face of fairly mild dissent, resulting in the alienation of large parts of a dedicated and pretty large community. This was not even mentioned in RD’s “apology”.

    Just going through the motions is not the point of apologising. The only points anybody should be interested in are that the apologiser acknowledges specific things that went wrong and that they are willing to make sure that they don’t happen again. Unfortunately, RD has done neither.

    What’s more, it is the volunteers and the community that RD and RDFRS owe a lot to. They certainly deserve more than a blanket nonpology about not having “communicated well” and of taking “full personal responsibility”, usually empty words which any slick politician would recognise with a knowing smile.

  58. #59 tfoss1983
    February 28, 2010

    Please. All this complaining about Richard Dawkins “quote mining” people is completely wrong: it’s an abuse of the term “quote mine”.

    PZ is right. Dawkins wasn’t quote-mining, and as skeptics you should all know better.

    He was cherry-picking. Get it right.

  59. #60 Orac
    February 28, 2010

    Seems to me this is a classic case of not wanting to adapt to Internet culture. As an example, if you have a blog and you want readers, you better allow comments. Similarly, if you want a contributing community, then the idea that each and every thread has to be approved is, IMO, laughable.

    Exactly. This incident clearly shows that Dawkins still just doesn’t get it when it comes to the Internet and Internet communities.

  60. #61 negentropyeater
    February 28, 2010

    RD did what he had to do, apologize and reverse course (ensure the contents of the old forum will not be lost).

    AFAIAC, all is forgotten.

  61. #62 xrayzed
    February 28, 2010

    I’m pleased that RD has apologised, and I wish RD and the RDF well.

    That aside, the new editorial direction he has outlined doesn’t interest me overmuch. I’ve never been a huge fan of the core RDF pages, and there are other science sites and blogs that I find more interesting.

    Despite it often being unruly and off-topic, it was the forum that drew me to the RDF pages. The new editorial policies may well serve RD and the foundation better, but I don’t expect that I will be returning to the site very often.

  62. #63 Orac
    February 28, 2010

    I was never involved with the Richard Dawkins Forums before and I haven’t been very tuned into events here, but if true, the above is absolutely inexcusable, and if Dawkins doesn’t see the problem with it, then there’s either some amazingly stupid generational thing at work here, or something very, very wrong with him.

    I vote generational and suggest that he just doesn’t grok how Internet communities work.

  63. #64 Valden
    February 28, 2010

    PZ: You said “It would be valid if Richard had pulled a number of out-of-context quotes to misrepresent what people were saying. This is not the case. ”

    It was indeed the case. However, he’s apologized for it. So no longer a big deal.

    “The people who said the rude things about Josh intended to say rude things about him, and if anything, have increased the rudeness since.”

    I can’t help but think you’re just seeing things.

    Jon A: Lets pretend for a moment that you have a horse that is very dear to your heart. You’ve had this horse for two years, and have made many great memories with this horse.
    Lets say the original owner of the horse comes up and shoots it, killing that horse.
    Now lets say I just wander up to you, when you’re already heart broken and say “Hey man, it’s just a horse. Get over it.”

    It’s completely and utterly patronizing. You wouldn’t be very happy about not only your horse dying, but my insensitive comment about it.

  64. #65 Valden
    February 28, 2010

    tfoss1983: You know, you’re right. He was indeed cherry picking. That term does better suit his actions. Cheers!

  65. #66 Danish
    February 28, 2010

    Not quote-mining? The quotes were taken out of context with respect to how they were written, where they were written, when they were written, and by whom they were written.

    This resulted in a very skewed view of the entire situation that made the reaction seem much worse than it really was and put the blame on the wrong people. The fact that some really nasty things actually were said and done, doesn’t change this. Quote-mining isn’t a strong enough word for what happened. A better word would perhaps be deception.

    I’m happy that Richard has apologized. That was definitely needed in order to move forward productively. What isn’t needed, though, is for people to try to explain away what happened. The truth may hurt. But the truth is always better than lies.

  66. #67 PZ Myers
    February 28, 2010

    Are you seriously suggesting that the views of the people Richard quoted were misrepresented by his particular use of their words? That was neither quotemining or cherrypicking. It was quite accurate. The people who expressed such venom towards Josh DID feel that kind of venom, and their attitudes were accurately portrayed.

    I don’t understand why you’re all disagreeing with me on this. Your case is that many people felt betrayed and upset; Dawkins pointed out that people expressed that anger with words that were a bit over the top, to put it mildly.

    Are you really trying to claim now that they were not so angry?

  67. #68 catsittingstill
    February 28, 2010

    Well, I haven’t been to the Dawkins forum. Maybe I’ll go.

    Tis Himself–I thought quotemining was using a piece of a quote to make it look as though the speaker supports something/someone he doesn’t support or opposes something/someone he doesn’t oppose.

    In the quote you gave as an example, that Dawkins paraphrased to show the sort of opposition he was receiving–did the writer actually mean to *support* Dawkins? Because that would be quotemining as I understand it. Otherwise, not so much.

  68. #69 Pierce R. Butler
    February 28, 2010

    whoknows @ # 25: … threats of violence …

    Eh? I missed that part – who & where?

  69. #70 Carlie
    February 28, 2010

    PZ – from my perspective, the error is in how and where that expression took place; it was written in the first “outrage” post as if the venom was hurled straight at Josh, when it was people griping about it to each other somewhere else that they could reasonably expect Josh not to be. It seemed to be more of the first in-group venting before deciding how to approach the admins.

    I took the one comment about the nails as a quotemine because it wasn’t saying that the person wanted to do such things to Josh, but that in general they would feel like doing such things IF in a situation of being patronized and lied to, which at the time they weren’t entirely sure that they were. It wasn’t so threatening and direct as it was made out to seem. There’s a difference between saying “I’d feel like hurting anyone who destroyed my forum and then told me to be happy about it” and “I want to hurt Josh”.

  70. #71 Menyambal
    February 28, 2010

    Yay, PZ, for trying to keep this from spiralling into craziness. I, for one, am not disagreeing with you, and applaud your getting in here to address issues in ways that Dawkins did not do soon enough.

    I just looked at the “fistful of nails” original and how Dawkins used it, and don’t see any mis-use of it at all. It was not quote-mining. The original was possibly a bit abstract, perhaps, rather than a direct threat, but, damn, folks, it was rude.

    All else can be attributed to the vagaries of textual communication. Anybody who says that they know exactly what was meant is forgetting to keep a bit of skepticality in mind.

    Having said that, let me say that the guy, Josh T., messed up. I’ve had tech guys screw up my internet before–I was stranded, broke and phoneless, depending on one e-mail account to do my job and my communicating, and the tech guy shut it off by mistake, and wouldn’t reactivate it without me standing in front of him–and we all know that it happens.

    Take a breath, take a bath, and take steps toward peace.

    And for the love of God, do not annoy PZ on his own blog.

  71. #72 Topsy
    February 28, 2010

    PZ
    The problem was that those quotes were used as a justification to lock the forum but they weren’t even made on the forum and they were made AFTER the forum was locked. Other websites were then mined for quotes to “prove” that the RD.net forum had to be locked because of all the vitriol being posted.

    Call it cherry-picking, quote-mining or downright bloody lies and deception but somebody led Richard up the garden path.

  72. #73 mk
    February 28, 2010

    @Tis Himself…

    Do you know what quote mining is?

  73. #74 Carlie
    February 28, 2010

    Per my @70 – which I do understand is entirely my own interpretation, and I know that YMMV on these things.

  74. #75 'Tis Himself, OM
    February 28, 2010

    mk

    Yes.

  75. #76 PZ Myers
    February 28, 2010

    Look at it from a pragmatic point of view.

    Richard knows Josh well, and works with him often. They get along well, and Josh has his complete trust (and I think he deserves it…a statement which will not win me any friends in this debate, I know). Richard is also far less clueless than everyone is assuming. Trust me, he’s a smart guy.

    Trying to argue that Richard is misrepresenting the vitriol directed against Josh will not score you any points with Dawkins. At all. It will diminish his regard for you. Keep hammering at it, and all it will do is scuttle your credibility with Richard on this topic.

    Seriously, move on. Make constructive comments about the new forums, state what issues are most important to you as individuals, but continually trying to assign blame, and in particular, damning Josh is a dead end.

  76. #77 mk
    February 28, 2010

    Tis…

    Don’t think so.

  77. #78 'Tis Himself, OM
    February 28, 2010

    Quote mining is taking a quote out of context and/or using it in a way that it was not meant. Dawkins gave the impression:

    (a) The “fist full of nails” quote was a threat directed at Timonen or possibly Dawkins when it was just an expression of anger and frustration at being told to shut up and being patronized;

    (b) The “threat” was a reason for locking the forum when in actuality it was written after the forum was locked.

  78. #79 Odonata
    February 28, 2010

    Jon A @ 19-
    I also agree in the sincerity of RD’s apology. As the variety and number of interpersonal connections continue to grow across the globe, I often wonder how the communication methods are influencing these sorts of brouhahas. If more RDF folks had opportunities to engage in face-to-face communication, would they have acted any differently?

    I had the good fortune to attend US RDF-related events. RDF volunteers follow RD around the globe for opportunities to support science and reason, and meet RD. RD was always very gracious and seemed genuinely appreciative of the work of the volunteers. He spent time chatting with individuals, discussing forum monikers, and standing patiently for photo after photo after photo with volunteers.

    As for Josh T – he really is a very talented and nice person, and I can see why RD would regard him as a highly valued member of the team. (As an aside, Josh also knows an incredible amount of movie trivia which makes for a very fun conversationalist!)

    Hope to see some of you in the new RDF discussion area!

  79. #80 https://me.yahoo.com/a/RPuarI8Lze61hZk1PGjwDbui2fIshFKUh6U8SM6lsg--#d17ca
    February 28, 2010

    @#69

    Look through rationalia, or even in the comments of the “Reality is my Religion” blog. Which I would link to, but PZ did in his previous post and someone already has up above and no doubt another ten people will do so below this. Seriously, if one more person links me to that saying that “I need to know the REAL story”…

  80. #81 cckitkat
    February 28, 2010

    And the Green Goblin sayeth to Richard Dawikins:

    Well, to each, his own. I chose my path, you chose the way of the hero. And they found you amusing for a while, the people of this city. But the one thing they love more than a hero is to see a hero fail, fall, die trying. In spite of everything you’ve done for them, eventually they will hate you

  81. #82 Sven DiMilo
    February 28, 2010

    Richard knows Josh well, and works with him often. They get along well, and Josh has his complete trust (and I think he deserves it…a statement which will not win me any friends in this debate, I know).

    Lesson learned: PZ is extremely reluctant to publicly call out his real-world friends and acquaintances for their unethical behavior.

    I think this is understandable.

  82. #83 mk
    February 28, 2010

    I will say this… watching the OM Heathers screeching at PZ, very entertaining.

  83. #84 Ichthyic
    February 28, 2010

    Richard’s apology was well thought out and I would be happy to accept it, if I even felt it was relevant! Frankly, I don’t think Richard has much to apologize for, other than being at a disconnect from his forum, and he’s a busy guy so I don’t blame him for that. If JOSH had written that apology, THEN everyone could move on nicely, I think.

    I’m curious, PZ. Did you ever look at the history of how the “transition” actually WAS handled by Josh? It’s well documented and would only take you 10 mins at most to read.

    Most think this:

    http://realityismyreligion.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/locked-entry-will-open-soon/#comment-113

    is a pretty balanced and thorough account of exactly what happened.

    If so, did you think Josh handled it just fine and dandy?

    or do you think, rather than Richard, that Josh is really the one that owes the RD forum users an apology?

  84. #85 Opus
    February 28, 2010

    Lesson 2 learned:

    RD, like PZ, s extremely reluctant to publicly call out his real-world friends and acquaintances IT manager/friend for their the IT Manager/friend’s unethical behavior.

  85. #86 PZ Myers
    February 28, 2010

    If what Richard had done were unethical, I would be saying so.

    We’ve had private email exchanges about this issue, and I’d seen an earlier draft of his letter, before it was posted. I’ve had plenty of opportunity to say privately if I’d had objections — I haven’t.

    I’ve worked with both Richard and Josh at the same time, too. Really: Josh does good work, Richard and he get along very well.

  86. #87 Ichthyic
    February 28, 2010

    Seriously, if one more person links me to that saying that “I need to know the REAL story”…

    -you might actually read it and learn something?

    -you’ll have a stroke?

    -you’ll go ballistic and firebomb a random building in your neighborhood?

    -you’ll continue to whinge irrationally?

    I’ll put money on the last one.

  87. #88 'Tis Himself, OM
    February 28, 2010

    Trying to argue that Richard is misrepresenting the vitriol directed against Josh will not score you any points with Dawkins. At all. It will diminish his regard for you. Keep hammering at it, and all it will do is scuttle your credibility with Richard on this topic.

    I didn’t know I was trying to get into Dawkins’ high regards. On the contrary, I think he needs to get into mine. He may think that Timonen is the greatest IT guy since Turing. I think that Timonen is just barely competent as a web administrator and I know that he’s completely incompetent as a personnel manager. I didn’t see Dawkins saying “my number one man, Ol’ Josh, fucked up big time and I’m sorry he did.” Which is actually what happened. Dawkins has yet to admit this. Until he does, I’m less than impressed by Richard Dawkins.

    Dawkins doesn’t know me from Adam. I’ve once addressed a post to him on this blog (which he didn’t answer but I didn’t really expect an answer). Other than that, he and I have had zero interaction. As a result, I’m not going to cry myself to sleep if Richard Dawkins doesn’t think I’m a nice person. I’m sure he feels the same way about me.

  88. #89 mk
    February 28, 2010

    @Tis….

    Written exactly like someone who cares far too much.

  89. #90 Ichthyic
    February 28, 2010

    Really: Josh does good work, Richard and he get along very well.

    …and unfortunately, none of that is relevant to the complaints about Josh’s BEHAVIOR in this particular case.

    I don’t get it.

    Either you don’t agree he handled that situation with duplicity and no tact whatsoever, or you do, but refuse to publicly say so.

    *shrug*

    I don’t see what continuing to repeat your fine estimation of Josh’s technical skills and his friendship with Richard have to do with this whole thing over much.

    @mk

    I will say this… watching the OM Heathers screeching at PZ, very entertaining.

    remember that the next time you troll here and claim we all “march in lockstep”/”groupthink” etc.

  90. #91 'Tis Himself, OM
    February 28, 2010

    mk,

    Thank you for your insightful comments. Now please do me a further favor. Fuck off.

  91. #92 gplaine
    February 28, 2010

    Don’t give a rat’s bottom that Josh is the Leonardo of websites (considering he couldn’t maintain a php forum such that it’s search function was working, I’d not say that was likely – Talent implies abilities with planning and scalability, but I digress) the UNPROFESSIONAL behaviour leaves a gaping whole in the trust the plebeians should place in a future ‘social experiment on the Dawkins’ site. There is no way to spin that, or white wash it. It’ was juvenile, assine, and gives one of my chosen disciplines a bad name.
    PZ, unless he’s prithee to something he’s not saying, is now playing Jesuit, or simply closing rank with the Alpha Ape of the flange (there’s usually excrement thrown in the latter case, so I’d favour the former for the moment).
    “Get over it, move on” is an facile, and inept, defence for unprofessional behaviour of that magnitude, and I’d fire blood kin for it if they did it on my watch.

  92. #93 https://me.yahoo.com/a/RPuarI8Lze61hZk1PGjwDbui2fIshFKUh6U8SM6lsg--#d17ca
    February 28, 2010

    @#84

    Wow, it only four posts before someone linked to that AGAIN.

  93. #94 mk
    February 28, 2010

    @Ichthyic…

    Oh c’mon! You don’t think there’s a certain Heatherish aspect to many of you in here? Seriously?

    And disagreements? Even the actual Heathers had them. Big deal.

    And I don’t troll douchebag… I’m just having a little low-rent fun. Deal.

  94. #95 PZ Myers
    February 28, 2010

    Arrgh. Not only did I read Peter Harrison’s entry thoroughly, I linked to it right at the top of my first post on this subject. Yes, I read it. Really. I tried to encourage everyone to read it, too. I kind of sympathize at this point with the people who are getting a bit tired of being told they have to read the “real story”.

    I don’t think Josh handled it perfectly. Read his announcements, though, and they were perfectly courteous…but RD.net, through him, was clearly asserting that the forums were theirs, that they were deciding on a new direction, and that they were making a decision from the top about how the new forums were going to work. That’s their prerogative. I know it rankled, but that was the situation. It would have been disingenuous and dishonest to invite user input at a time when the decision had already been made.

    Where I definitely think he fumbled was in the statement, “The forum will then be taken down from the web.” Either he had the wrong impression, or he misstated what he meant, which was that the forums would be shut down as a site for active discussion. I know Richard was surprised at the idea that they would not be kept as an archive.

  95. #96 Ichthyic
    February 28, 2010

    And I don’t troll douchebag… I’m just having a little low-rent fun. Deal.

    Well, I have to say you probably are at least quite familiar with low-rent fun.

    strange how it doesn’t seem to dawn on you how that reflects on your personality.

  96. #97 mk
    February 28, 2010

    @ Tis…

    “Now please do me a further favor. Fuck off.”

    Ouch. Now that’s just mean!

  97. #98 eeanm
    February 28, 2010

    Really it was a textbook case of how to not manage a community site.

    (up until this apology, which is good)

  98. #99 mk
    February 28, 2010

    My personality? Really? In an internet forum? You’re talking about personality?

    Seriously. I think you need to get a life.

  99. #100 Opus
    February 28, 2010

    PZ
    I know I’m a relative rookie around here, but

    I don’t think Josh handled it perfectly.

    has to rank right up there with

    You go to war with the army you have, not the army you want.

    The problems started a long time before the memo to the mods. . .

  100. #101 Ichthyic
    February 28, 2010

    Read his announcements, though, and they were perfectly courteous…

    …and perfectly disingenuous.

    I can’t believe you’re saying this, after the very link you posted very clearly documents how Josh promised the mods and users input into the new forum design, and before that promised (for MONTHS) improvements to the old design), and yet simply blew past all of those promises to announce summarily closing the forum in 30 days.

    sorry, you must have deliberately missed something obvious there.

    here’s an example of what I am talking about:

    Josh said that when the time came for a new system, the staff would be involved and would be able to provide input. We would be able to offer advice on categories of discussion in the system, and they promised that we could test-run the new system before anyone else got to see it. Still no timeframe, but at least they promised to keep us in the loop.

    I rather think this is the kind of thing the users are really pissed off about, not that there would be a new forum, but that they were PROMISED input as to how it would work, and given a chance to try it out.

    so was Josh simply lying? Did he intend to offer this but simply ran out of time?

    we get no explanation.

    and the deletion of entire user accounts, including mod accounts?

    I was an IT manager for 6 years and hardly would have found that anything other than childish spite on his part.

    sorry, Josh may or may not be technically competent, but he DOES need to at least clarify what happened there for everyone involved to “move on” as it were.

  101. #102 Ichthyic
    February 28, 2010

    Seriously. I think you need to get a life.

    says the man(?) who likes to spend his time getting his jollies commenting on people disagreeing with one another.

    I think you need to project less.

  102. #103 'Tis Himself, OM
    February 28, 2010

    PZ,

    Josh’s letter to the forum members was polite. His letter to the mods was patronizing almost to the point of being insulting. But that’s really neither here nor there. It’s what Josh did afterwards that show his true colors.

    Banning people and deleting their entire posting history for disagreeing with The High And Mighty Josh is several steps beyond overkill. Deleting change logs screams “guilty conscience.” Shutting off PMs and signatures to keep forum members from communicating with each other was pure meanness. The rick roll tactic was incredibly unprofessional and contrary to what Josh said about retrieving archives in his letters.

    In short, Josh was an asshole. You and he may be friends. So what? Being your friend doesn’t mean he isn’t an asshole to others.

  103. #104 mk
    February 28, 2010

    @ Ichthyic(Heather)…

    “Spends his time”?

    Again, really? How often do you see my moniker in here? How often yours?

  104. #105 Ichthyic
    February 28, 2010

    Again, really? How often do you see my moniker in here? How often yours?

    counts this thread…

    8 for you, unless I missed one, all content-less, inane, metacommentary.

    me: 5, 3 of which are on topic, and 2 blasting you for being an off topic ass.

    If you don’t care about the topic, then you’re the one wasting your fucking time here, eh?

    get lost.

  105. #106 Pierce R. Butler
    February 28, 2010

    PZ Myers @ # 95: Read his announcements, though, and they were perfectly courteous…

    Remember, folks: civility trumps substance!

    My unsolicited 2 cents’ worth: one key problem here is that old primate reflex towards bonding.

    Timonen is both a friend and an employee to Dawkins. Most experienced business/political/whatever people will tell you this is a recipe for trouble. Whenever (cue the “we’re all humans!” chorus) the employee screws up, either the friendship or the business management will pay a substantial price.

    Dawkins has chosen to let his foundation and his own reputation take a big hit rather than to give his friend a ripely-deserved asskicking. It’s kind of noble in a personal, classical-tragedy way, but it’s a sacrifice that the entire atheist movement gets to suffer, however involuntarily.

  106. #107 Sven DiMilo
    February 28, 2010

    f what Richard had done were unethical, I would be saying so.

    To clarify: I don’t think RD has behaved unethically either.

  107. #108 mk
    February 28, 2010

    OK Heather.

  108. #109 CalGeorge
    February 28, 2010

    I can see why the forum is not wanted anymore. Half of it has nothing to do with what Dawkins is trying to accomplish with his Foundation. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time it was started but then gradually it took on a life of its own and they had to make a decision.

    If he thinks the forum is doing damage to the Foundation, he has the right to shut it down but he should have aired his feelings, and his plans, well in advance of making any move. People get emotionally invested in the online communities they join and it’s very traumatic to have someone suddenly pull the plug.

  109. #110 Sven DiMilo
    February 28, 2010

    I don’t think Josh handled it perfectly. Read his announcements, though, and they were perfectly courteous…

    True. Also, the admin logs were very courteously scrubbed.

    ok…other things

  110. #111 'Tis Himself, OM
    February 28, 2010

    I don’t think Dawkins acted unethically. Timonen, on the other hand, did.

    I’ve just realized my major objection to Timonen’s actions. He’s a bully. He used his position as Chief IT Guy to harass and punish people who disagreed with him or otherwise acted in ways that Josh didn’t appreciate. He also punished the entire forum membership and, apparently, told Dawkins that it was their fault.

  111. #112 windy
    February 28, 2010

    What really struck me as weird was this:

    The only significant difference between this and the old forum will be that new threads (note: not the comments) will have to be approved before they appear. This is purely and simply to ensure that all new threads are on subjects relevant to reason and science.

    While I obviously don’t expect any kind of censorship or anything like that, I am not convinced that this is a good idea, at least the way it was phrased here.

    It strikes me as naive. How will that prevent off-topic discussion in the threads? It doesn’t do it here, and it doesn’t in the “front page” threads on RD.net. You’d need to close the threads very quickly, or an army of moderators to comb the threads for off-topic comments… but wait, you just got rid of them…

  112. #113 WowbaggerOM
    February 28, 2010

    mk wrote:

    OK Heather.

    Seriously, if you’re going to use film references to make your inane pissant comments, at least try something people under the age of about 35 – no small proportion of the readers of this site – are going to understand; after all, Heathers came out in 1989.

    Or, better yet, do as was suggested upthread and either fuck off entirely or at least attempt to add something to the discussion.

  113. #114 Jim
    February 28, 2010

    PZ Myers: “…the vituperation against (Dawkins) that I saw was just absurdly excessive…”

    Yep. It reminded me of the level of discourse that is so typical of Pharyngula.

  114. #115 'Tis Himself, OM
    February 28, 2010

    Yep. It reminded me of the level of discourse that is so typical of Pharyngula.

    Or on AGW denialist websites.

  115. #116 WowbaggerOM
    February 28, 2010

    Yep. It reminded me of the level of discourse that is so typical of Pharyngula.

    Then why come here? Surely you could find somewhere more amenable to your refined tastes and sensitivity. Or perhaps you’d like to have a fainting couch installed for those moments when your concern overwhelms you?

  116. #117 Patricia, Ignorant Slut OM
    February 28, 2010

    Yep. Reminded me of the level of discourse that is so typical of Pharyngula.

    Try not to let the door bust your ass on the way out.

  117. #118 Caine
    February 28, 2010

    WowbaggerOM @ 113:

    no small proportion of the readers of this site – are going to understand; after all, Heathers came out in 1989.

    I’m well over 35 and I know there was a movie called Heathers, but that’s all I know. I never saw it and don’t know what it’s about. So there’s that contingent too. A movie reference can be meaningless to a whole lot of people for different reasons.

  118. #119 Patricia, Ignorant Slut OM
    February 28, 2010

    Wait, isn’t heather a Scottish plant?

  119. #120 WowbaggerOM
    February 28, 2010

    Caine, #118

    True. I was going to mention that it’s probably too obscure a reference to be using as freely as the pissant, mk, is using it – but I wasn’t sure that it’s not (proportionately) more commonly-known in the US than here in Australia so I just pointed out its age.

    Really, using movie references here – recent or otherwise – is almost useless unless it’s a) extremely well-known around the world, or b) you reference it somehow (e.g. a link to the scene on YouTube).

    mk, the pissant, did neither.

    It is, btw, a fun movie – back in the day when Christian Slater had a career. But I’ve a distinct fondness for black comedies, and it’s definitely that.

  120. #121 Caine
    February 28, 2010

    Patricia, Ignorant Slut OM @ 119:

    Wait, isn’t heather a Scottish plant?

    Yep. A lovely one at that. A friend of mine sent me some Heather honey a year ago. Didn’t last long enough, good stuff.

  121. #122 Caine
    February 28, 2010

    WowbaggerOM @ 120:

    It is, btw, a fun movie – back in the day when Christian Slater had a career. But I’ve a distinct fondness for black comedies, and it’s definitely that.

    Ah. I love a good black comedy. I’ll have to look it up and add it to my Netflix queue.

  122. #123 Patricia, Ignorant Slut OM
    February 28, 2010

    mmmmmmm- honey. We have a lavender field out at the farm that we allow a bee keeper to use in exchange for honey. Damn now I’m hungry.

  123. #124 Caine
    February 28, 2010

    Patricia, Ignorant Slut OM @ 123:

    mmmmmmm- honey. We have a lavender field out at the farm that we allow a bee keeper to use in exchange for honey. Damn now I’m hungry.

    Oh, I love lavender honey. Good, good stuff. Most of the bee keepers close to us set up their hives in clover fields. The local honey is amazing stuff. I might have to make biscuits now. Biscuits and honey…

  124. #125 windy
    February 28, 2010

    It would be valid if Richard had pulled a number of out-of-context quotes to misrepresent what people were saying. This is not the case. The people who said the rude things about Josh intended to say rude things about him, and if anything, have increased the rudeness since.

    When Chris Mooney described the desecration of the crackers in his latest book, and pulled the “classic quote from PZ?s blog” trick, was that fair and accurate because the quotes he chose were intended to be rude? Or did leaving out the context matter?

    (I’m not saying that the insults directed at Josh were equally justified, just that the misrepresentation of the insults is similar.)

  125. #126 Pierce R. Butler
    February 28, 2010

    Do we have to wait until the new software is online before suggesting threads for RDFNet 2.0?

    * Forum/Moderator Contract

    * Thread Rules

    * Community Standards

    * Technical Feedback

    * Site Design

    * Dungeons, Barroom Walls, Disemvowelment & Other Sublethal Crowd Control

    * Lessons Learned from RDFNet 1.0

    * …

    What do you say, Richard’n’Josh? Are all of these acceptable under the New Order?

  126. #127 calilasseia
    February 28, 2010

    @PZ Myers:

    Please. All this complaining about Richard Dawkins “quote mining” people is completely wrong: it’s an abuse of the term “quote mine”.

    It would be valid if Richard had pulled a number of out-of-context quotes to misrepresent what people were saying. This is not the case. The people who said the rude things about Josh intended to say rude things about him, and if anything, have increased the rudeness since.

    Actually, PZ, you’re missing the point.

    Those quotes constituted a venting of steam by a small number of people. Timonen duplicitously presented them to his boss as if they constituted the substantive views of the entire forum membership. This certainly constitutes quantifier abuse, a known abuse of discourse that several on the Richard Dawkins Forums have previously taken creationists to task over. Furthermore, evidence has now surfaced, in the form of the resurrected thread that Timonen deleted, that the original criticisms he was too immature to take were much milder, and contained numerous salient points. That thread is available here to read in full. Anyone reading that thread will realise that legitimate concerns were being raised, but Timonen decided by act of fiat to silence all dissent in a manner that makes many of us hope he never rises to a position of political power.

    I’m seeing an increase level of misuse of some common terms around here — not just “quote mine”, but “troll” is probably the all-around worst offender. Think about what you say when you say it, please!

    PZ, what else do you call someone who destroys entire user accounts out of spite and vindictiveness? What else do you call someone who vandalises a valuable database containing a record of the struggle between reason and unreason? What else do you call someone who destroys administrator logs in order to cover his traces? What else do you call someone who changes links to software backup code to point to a fucking Rickroll?

    PZ, you should remember me. I was considered worthy of a prize by you in a past blog section, on the basis of writing I submitted to you. Writing of equal or even greater calibre, was routinely submitted in defence of reality and valid science, by at least two dozen contributors I know of through their user names, and probably at least two dozen more. Some of those contributors were tenured professional scientists like yourself. And, material of this calibre was among the material that Timonen destroyed in his fits of pique and petulance. Furthermore, this material, which constitutes exactly the material Dawkins himself has stated publicly he wants to see more of on his website, was therefore destroyed by Timonen in direct contravention of his boss’s publicly stated wishes. Some of my past employers, faced with actions like this, wouldn’t merely have sacked the perpetrator, they would have launched criminal prosecutions.

    To put this into perspective, PZ, imagine that, during the life of the forum, creationists had hacked that forum, and destroyed tens of thousands of posts containing expositions of peer reviewed scientific papers in evolutionary biology and abiogenesis. You would be incandecent with rage if this happened. Why are you so reticent to address like vandalism with the same passion, simply because the person perpetrating said vandalism happens to be someone Dawkins adores? This makes no sense at all, in any logically consistent universe. This individual, who, qhite frankly, is a boy being given a man’s job, has earned the odium with which he is viewed, along with his partner in crime, courtesy of the fact that he engaged in multiple, egregious instances of manifest duplicity and deceit. Would you want someone like that working for you? I know I wouldn’t, and I’m still amazed that Dawkins stands by this individual, given that he has engaged in manifest duplicity and deceit. Indeed, my personal view is that Timonen’s actions are criminally liable, and if I were in Dawkins’ shoes, facing the evidence before me, I would require very solid substantive reasons to exercise restraint and not call in law enforcement.

  127. #128 Simon Gardner
    February 28, 2010

    @PZ Myers February 28, 2010 7:51 PM

    All it will do is scuttle your credibility with Richard on this topic.

    Which would be some sort of a problem because…? What exactly?

  128. #129 PZ Myers
    February 28, 2010

    Pierce, at a guess, no. No interest. I think you’re missing the point — Dawkins would like less navel-gazing, less finger-pointing, less fussing over the layout of the walls of the forum. You didn’t mention evolution, reason, science, atheism, etc. — the stuff it would be better to focus on.

    calilasseia, I’ve already stated my position here: if you want to argue actual criminal misconduct, you’re going to get absolutely nowhere. Dawkins isn’t buying it. If you tried talking to a lawyer or police, they’d give you the stinkeye and shoo you out of the office. It’s a totally unproductive approach to the problem.

  129. #130 Ichthyic
    February 28, 2010

    It’s a totally unproductive approach to the problem.

    I thought you said there wasn’t a problem?

  130. #131 jcmartz.myopenid.com
    February 28, 2010

    Is the drama over now?

  131. #132 'Tis Himself, OM
    February 28, 2010

    What Josh did wasn’t criminal. However it was certainly unethical and unprofessional.

    You didn’t mention evolution, reason, science, atheism, etc. — the stuff it would be better to focus on.

    You mean like the stuff in thousands of posts that Josh destroyed?

  132. #133 calilasseia
    February 28, 2010

    Which still leads me to ask you, PZ, what exactly is the difference between the vandalism being perpetrated by Timonen, and that perpetrated by creationist hackers, other than the former is an inside job?

  133. #134 Simon Gardner
    February 28, 2010

    I’ve certainly enjoyed this African account of the dÚbÔcle more than any I?ve seen in the press http://blogs.timeslive.co.za/expensive/2010/02/28/dawkins-over-board/

  134. #135 PZ Myers
    February 28, 2010

    Simon: Because Richard is the final authority on his site. If you want input on the next iteration of the forums, if you want issues on RD.net resolved, then he is the man.

    Of course, if you don’t care about RD.net, then you’ve got no worries. So move on.

    I don’t quite get it. If people were telling me how to run Pharyngula, I’d be telling them to push off, too, and I wouldn’t be half as polite as Richard or Josh. This is the thing: my site, RIchard’s site, anybody’s site on the web is their little domain, and all we do is run them how we personally see fit. If that jibes with what our readers want, they hang around and participate. If it doesn’t, they go off to some more copacetic site.

    This is a perennial problem. The more participation a site has, the more entitlement the readers feel, and pretty soon, they feel like they own it…and then these conflict arise, and resentments grow, and boom, it blows up. It especially blows up when you’ve got a large group of people like moderators who have legitimately invested a great deal of time and effort in it, and do feel a sense of ownership, and value the collection of information that accumulated. But you don’t own it.

    RD.net was a wild garden with a lot of strange stuff in the corners. That’s not a bad thing if you like that sort of arrangement; I would love such a thing myself, as many of you do, too. What’s happened, though, is that the owner has decided it was a little too scraggly and unrestrained, and is taking steps to prune it back and shape it the way he wants.

    That’s his privilege. He owns it. OK?

  135. #136 Ichthyic
    February 28, 2010

    Here, PZ, would this simplify the whole thing?

    after reading the account YOU linked to…

    Your analysis of Josh’s behavior based on that would be:

    1. Exemplary. Josh didn’t nothing inappropriate.

    2. Egregious. Josh made many mistakes in how he handled not only the previous forum’s issues, but the transition to the new forum.

    which one, 1 or 2, is closer to your conclusion, having read the link you provided.

    clear enough?

  136. #137 Ichthyic
    February 28, 2010

    didn’t-> did.

    lack of sleep.

  137. #138 'Tis Himself, OM
    February 28, 2010

    PZ, we understand that Richard or his foundation owns the site and he and his lackies can do whatever they damn well please on it. If he or his lackies want to get rid of the forum then there’s nothing anyone can do.

    The thing that have people upset is not that the forum went away. It’s how the forum went away. Odd as it may seem, people do not like being misled, do not like being patronized, and sure as death do not like being rick-rolled. Your buddy Josh, acting with Richard’s approval, did all those things and more.

    Josh and Richard are your friends and you’re sticking up for them. It speaks well of you to have such loyalty. That doesn’t change the fact that Josh acted in a completely unprofessional manner and Richard approves of Josh’s unprofessionalism. That doesn’t speak well for either of them.

  138. #139 PZ Myers
    February 28, 2010

    You mean like the stuff in thousands of posts that Josh destroyed?

    These “thousands of posts” are a big cipher as far as I’m concerned. I don’t know that they were a collection of sober, serious discussions of science and atheism at all — we know there was a lot of chaff on the site (again, I don’t mean that pejoratively. Some people, like me, find the social noise useful, some don’t).

    However, this is a perfect example of where people could make a difference. Dig up the data where you can. If you have a case that there were threads with solid, on-topic, good stuff that was deleted, you put a case together (without shouting that Josh Timonen is a criminal), and ask that it be restored when the old forums are archived. Richard Dawkins will pay attention. He has no interest in seeing substantive material on his site lost.

    Again, though, waving it about as proof of Josh’s malfeasance justifying 72 point “Josh Is Scum” headlines won’t accomplish what you want…which is the restoration of the good stuff. Right? That is what you want?

  139. #140 'Tis Himself, OM
    February 28, 2010

    Dig up the data where you can. If you have a case that there were threads with solid, on-topic, good stuff that was deleted, you put a case together (without shouting that Josh Timonen is a criminal), and ask that it be restored when the old forums are archived. Richard Dawkins will pay attention. He has no interest in seeing substantive material on his site lost.

    That’s kind of hard to do when your buddy Josh set it up so archiving software is directed to a rick-roll.

  140. #141 'Tis Himself, OM
    February 28, 2010

    Never mind, PZ. You win. You’re convinced that Richard and Josh are completely blameless in this and the people who got screwed over are just whiners. I won’t go any further in this matter.

  141. #142 Simon Gardner
    February 28, 2010

    @PZ Myers February 28, 2010 10:52 PM

    Simon: Because Richard is the final authority on his site. If you want input on the next iteration of the forums, if you want issues on RD.net resolved, then he is the man.

    I don?t. I long ago gave up on that. The apology is an improvement (not least for the reputation of atheism and for Dawkins himself) but it again makes it clear that there will be no place for me and no place for what made the forum such a unique place. Even its counselling role (not to be sneezed at) looks like being a gonner.

    And no, I?ve found arsing around on blogs (mainly political ones which is my particular bent) completely unsatisfactory. Whereas the forum was something else and I found myself accruing 7.5k posts in under a year without breaking a sweat.

    The best hope I can see is to try and establish something similar-ish outside the control of the RD foundation. It will be difficult without the “name” drawing in new people but it will certainly assist matters if any RD attempt fails. Fortunately, it looks very much like it will – so that’s a plus.

  142. #143 tfoss1983
    February 28, 2010

    I don’t quite get it. If people were telling me how to run Pharyngula, I’d be telling them to push off, too, and I wouldn’t be half as polite as Richard or Josh.

    Yes, and if you had been telling your readers for months that you’d be seeking their input on how to run Pharyngula, that they’d be involved in any changes you were considering to Pharyngula, and then you told them to push off, I think they’d be justifiably upset.

    I’m an outsider to the whole thing, but even I’ve seen that the situation is not just “people got attached to the forums and felt ownership.” It’s “people who worked on the forums were told that they’d be involved in deciding the upcoming changes, and then were told abruptly that, in fact, they wouldn’t. And they wouldn’t be involved after the changes were made, either. And please don’t be babies about it, ‘kay?”

    What Dawkins apparently wants is a blog run entirely or mostly by guest contributors. That’s fine, but it’s not a forum. And it’s fine that he doesn’t want a forum, too. As you say, it’s his site. What’s not fine is telling people that you’re going to keep them in the loop and make them part of the decision making process, and then you make the decisions without them and cut them out of the loop. Yes, it’s his site. But that doesn’t mean that people are unjustified in feeling slighted.

  143. #144 Sven DiMilo
    February 28, 2010

    This is the weirdest conversation ever.

    I am guessing–just guessing here–that in the private e-mail corespondence mentioned, RD has asked PZ not to publicly disparage Timonen on Pharyngula, and that PZ has agreed out of friendship and respect*. If I am correct, then further hounding of PZ is pointless. It makes sense of the strange dance he seems to be doing here–it’s not that he is obdurately missing the point, it’s more that he gets the point (how could he not? scrubbing admin logs? come on) but has promised not to let on.

    That’s a shitty position to be in, for sure, but we lie in the beds we’ve made.

    *(I’m guessing–again, guessing–that something similar went on in the borg backchannel with Laden.)

  144. #145 Sven DiMilo
    February 28, 2010

    of course, I could be wrong as hell

  145. #146 PZ Myers
    February 28, 2010

    Jeez. Look. Stop assuming that everyone at RD.net is your enemy. If something in the configuration of the site is interfering with getting at useful old posts, address that. Write something non-accusatory that requests that the interference be lifted. It’ll either be fixed or you’ll get an explanation for why it’s in place.

    I don’t even know what it means that “archiving software is directed to a rick-roll”. There’s an assumption that it’s malicious, but it could very well simply be ordinary protection against automated copying of the site (Pharyngula, for instance, is cloned at several places on the web by people trying to grab some of its google traffic.) Spiders and bots can cost a site a bit in bandwidth, you know.

    Seriously: “Josh is Evil! Here’s proof! Fire him!” requests will get you absolutely nowhere. “We’d like to get X fixed and have access to Y on the old forums” requests are reasonable and someone will listen. I’m even willing to act as an intermediate and pass along such requests. I know that when I wrote to Richard and suggested that people want the old forums preserved, he was sympathetic, a little surprised (he had assumed that was what was going to be done), and asked if there were other misunderstandings.

    The people over there aren’t your enemies. Everyone needs to stop acting as if they are.

  146. #147 windy
    February 28, 2010

    I don’t know that they were a collection of sober, serious discussions of science and atheism at all

    Isn’t the deletion of the entire posting history of one of the science moderators a pretty good clue?

    (I’m not familiar with Mazille’s posts, but I doubt someone who posts mostly ‘chaff’ would have been chosen as a moderator?)

  147. #148 PZ Myers
    February 28, 2010

    of course, I could be wrong as hell

    Yep.

    There has been no personal communication with Richard about Josh at all, and I haven’t talked to Josh in a few months.

    I don’t know what people have been saying on the Sb backchannel, either. I steer clear of that place — it’s a hotbed of maladjusted acrimony and bad social engineering, with way too much drama.

    Sorry.

    You’ve got the wrong idea about my place in the social universe. I’m kind of the pariah of the Sb collective — not one of the cool kids. I’m the geeky loner everyone sneers at because I smell bad and look funny. Consider me the Bill Gates of Sb.

  148. #149 Caine
    February 28, 2010

    PZ @ 146

    I don’t even know what it means that “archiving software is directed to a rick-roll”. There’s an assumption that it’s malicious, but it could very well simply be ordinary protection against automated copying of the site

    It is malicious and it most certainly is not any sort of protection.

    http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_does_it_mean_to_be_%27Rickrolled%27

  149. #150 Sven DiMilo
    February 28, 2010

    Yep. Apologies for the misconstrual.
    You’re just being super, super polite, then?

    Consider me the Bill Gates of Sb.

    um…OK, if that’s what you want.
    Say, can you lend me a couple million until Tuesday?

  150. #151 PZ Myers
    February 28, 2010

    I know what rick-rolling is.

    That says nothing about why a site would redirect automated spidering of its contents to an off-site link.

  151. #152 PZ Myers
    February 28, 2010

    I’m never polite. I’m saying what I think.

    Billionaires don’t stay billionaires by handing out millions to anyone who asks. So, NO.

  152. #153 Sven DiMilo
    February 28, 2010

    thanks for nothin

    OK, then. I am going to bed puzzled, but fortunately I will wake up again not giving a shit.

  153. #154 Pierce R. Butler
    February 28, 2010

    …less navel-gazing, less finger-pointing, less fussing over the layout of the walls of the forum. You didn’t mention evolution, reason, science, atheism, etc. — the stuff it would be better to focus on.

    Please think this through a little further.

    The current trainwreck was not a failure of science. Neither was it a divine smiting.

    Are you saying that RDF would not benefit by -

    * A clearer understanding between moderators and The Powers?

    * Guidelines on what topics are worthy of pixels?

    * Well-defined rules about what lines should not be crossed?

    * Feedback from the factory floor to Upstairs?

    ? Suggestions for improvement?

    ? Training for the rookie who fired his Taser with one hand and tear gas with the other when unarmed citizens asked him for street directions?

    ? Learning from history rather than adding yet another data point in support of Santayana’s Law?

    Would RDFNet 2.0 work better if these nuts-&-bolts were worked out openly by all stakeholders or if they were handed down, Once and For All, from Olympus Sinai The Committee The Upstairs Corner Office Number Two the same people who just jumped the locomotive off the tracks?

  154. #155 Simon Gardner
    February 28, 2010

    @Posted by: PZ Myers February 28, 2010 11:22 PM

    The people over there aren’t your enemies.

    Hmm. It very much begins to look like they are, actually.

  155. #156 Ichthyic
    February 28, 2010

    I give up.

    even a simple dichotomous questionnaire apparently was too much to ask for.

    all i will say, in conclusion, is that I had NO stake in RDFnet before this all started, but it was even obvious to me, via the link YOU provided, PZ, that Josh’s behavior regarding the forum over the last months has been inexcusable.

    nothing to do with Richard.

    nothing to do with the type of forum most appropriate for RDFnet.

    Sorry you simply seem to refuse to actually follow the history laid out there, but I can’t see any way of MAKING you see it either.

    *shrug*

  156. #157 virphen
    February 28, 2010

    @PZ
    A number of people have made comments on the apology comment thread asking for the version of the forum left online to be taken from the last backup before the announcement that kicked this all off. That is so it would include some the posts of the two deleted mods who definitely put some good hard science up there.

    If you were to suggest this to it would be appreciated, there’s no way for us to know if the suggestion has even been considered – (and that’s not a whinge, it’s just how it is with that front page system).

  157. #158 Patricia, Ignorant Slut OM
    February 28, 2010

    Bullshit! You don’t look bad, and you don’t smell funny. I’ll aim a loaded chicken at Sb if they say so.

    *stomping off mad, in a dignified manner*

  158. #159 PZ Myers
    February 28, 2010

    Well, yes. Asking me to say whether a gray smear is either black or white won’t get me to say what you want.

    Pierce, you’re asking the wrong guy. Getting more moderator input would be useful if you are trying to build a forum with lots of moderator input, no argument. Have you got the message yet that that is not what RD.net is going to be?

    If we’re going to learn from history, I’m also the wrong guy to ask. Years ago, I participated in quite a few forums, was a moderator on iidb, etc. They all fell off a cliff into disaster (not my fault! I was a minor figure in all of them). If it were up to me, I’d say forums are all disfunctional and not the best road to take.

    And yes, all of them went through this stuff where they’d sincerely try to get user input and make the forums more democratic and participatory, which always made the stresses worse. As you can see right here, people who get involved deeply in these forums are all individuals who are also highly opinionated and used to expressing themselves strongly. Ker-boom. Every time.

  159. #160 Ichthyic
    March 1, 2010

    Well, yes. Asking me to say whether a gray smear is either black or white won’t get me to say what you want.

    wow.

  160. #161 Pierce R. Butler
    March 1, 2010

    … if people were telling me how to run Pharyngula, I’d be telling them to push off, too

    A one-man band can do that. A bandleader, by definition, works with an ensemble.

    IOW: Richard Dawkins is not John Galt.
    (Research continues as to whether Josh Timonen is Gregor Samsa.)

    the Sb backchannel… — it’s a hotbed of maladjusted acrimony and bad social engineering, with way too much drama.

    * gasp *

    It’s – it’s not the ultimate High Table of evolution, reason, science, atheism, etc?

    * runs shrieking into the night *

  161. #162 Scourgeoftheheavens
    March 1, 2010

    If RD forums was such a good thing, then how come many of you are preemptively throwing it away?

    I hear statements like the RD community is dead. Such hopeless statements make me wonder how much value you placed in that forum.

    If this is something you honestly enjoy being part of shouldn’t you try to compromise with RD’s vision to keep the community together?

    Don’t get me wrong. It’s ok to be discontent with the situation; venting your frustration is ok, but calling it quits without an effort to make it work seems childish.

    I hope you understand what I’m trying to say…

  162. #163 Patricia, Ignorant Slut OM
    March 1, 2010

    Gawd dammit, this is Pharyngula not RDF.

  163. #164 Pierce R. Butler
    March 1, 2010

    … if you are trying to build a forum with lots of moderator input, no argument. Have you got the message yet that that is not what RD.net is going to be?

    I’m beginning to wonder if it’s going to be North Korea.

    If it were up to me, I’d say forums are all disfunctional … . Ker-boom. Every time.

    And yet you smile and wave as your hearty shipmates set full sail straight into the same treacherous shoals. Pirate talk and Bill Gates comparisons don’t touch it – you’re a hard man, Dr. Myers.

  164. #165 F
    March 1, 2010

    Simon @ 29

    No.

  165. #166 Menyambal
    March 1, 2010

    I find this thread bizarre.

    Richard Dawkins is a well-known atheist with a website. Folks think that he shut down part of that website because of a few insults directed toward one of his friends.

    So they come over here to the website of PZ Myers, another well-known atheist with a website. And they start getting rude to PZ and insulting his friends.

    If the very basis of your argument is that an atheist shut down access to his site out of hurt feelings, you shouldn’t be trying to hurt the feelings of another atheist, who is a friend of the first atheist, and likely to have the same reaction.

    I’m giving even more props than before to PZ for allowing this thread to go on, and for all his calm responses in the face of a storm of froth.

  166. #167 anthonzi
    March 1, 2010

    The key points are that he stands by Josh Timonen
    I must protest the very first point then.

  167. #168 Made of Stars
    March 1, 2010

    @ 162

    If RD forums was such a good thing, then how come many of you are preemptively throwing it away?

    I hear statements like the RD community is dead. Such hopeless statements make me wonder how much value you placed in that forum.

    We’re not throwing anything away. The *community* we valued so much is alive and kicking and we’ve moved it elsewhere:

    http://www.rationalskepticism.org

    [Apologies for spam, but...]

  168. #169 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmRjbXoDgCq4N0aNWT2Z2RtB4Mm9CbDVys
    March 1, 2010

    And so the moral of this story is: Don’t get emotionally attached to anything on the internet, because it might go away without your permission.

  169. #170 PZ Myers
    March 1, 2010

    Yarrr, I be a very hard man. (Wait, you’re not a nubile and aroused woman…what are you doing telling me that?)

    Anyway, I’m a little more sanguine about what Dawkins is doing because he is trying something different. Different is good. Maybe it’ll work. Maybe it won’t. It’s an experiment.

  170. #171 elwoodwv
    March 1, 2010

    I had fewer than a dozen posts on the Dawkins Forum, but I was a frequent lurker and kept the site in my favorites. I have been a big fan of Dawkins, and have traveled a couple thousand miles to see him speak in person. I have to say that I am deeply disappointed in the way this has been handled. My wife was a long-time unpaid moderator on another message board and I can attest to the long hours of parsing posts, dealing with spammers and testing software upgrades. She didn’t have to do it, but the site would not have been the same without her. She was always consulted about changes before they were made, including reshaping the forum in a different direction to better meet its mission. Whole categories of the board were eventually let go, but it was a team effort after much discussion.

    Looking at the consistent story being presented by the moderators here, it is simply difficult to fathom that anyone, especially someone of Dawkins’ caliber and renown, would keep somebody on staff after a stunt like what Josh pulled with the deleting of accounts and then the rickrolling. I work in IT and I have fired long time coworkers, who were previously good friends for less. I am really uneasy supporting RDF when actions like that are tolerated. It shows a belittling attitude toward some of the most avid fans, as if they are beneath Dawkins and his foundation rather than the reason it can exist. Why any organization dependent on donations would act in such a way is beyond reason or comprehension, and it smacks of the sort of blind trust and faith that we criticize in religious people.

  171. #172 SaintStephen
    March 1, 2010

    I wish I’d gotten “Rickrolled”.

    Seriously, I’m jealous. I also admit I had to Google the word before I understood it.

    It’s just a very fun word to say: Rickrolled. Rickrollllllllled. Humphrey Bogart could have said it in Casa Blanca.

    And it sounds so very uncomfortable. Like somebody was beaten and robbed in a dark alley, by out-of-work bartenders or something. Or perhaps dumped out rudely onto a cobblestone street by a runner-pulled rickshaw…

    The phrase also engenders sympathy quite well. “I was Rickrolled, dammit! RICKROLLED, you heartless bastards!

    (*Coat*)

  172. #173 natselrox
    March 1, 2010

    Forget Rickrolled! Someone’s just been Joshed! Call the Police! NOW!

  173. #174 Agi Hammerthief
    March 1, 2010

    just what is the problem of hosting the entire forum under a new name?

    Get the last backup and slap on a new logo.

    The way it looks now the people from the forum are not going to provide free content to the new system in a hurry anyways.

  174. #175 His Noodly Appendage
    March 1, 2010

    Hi PZ, long time lurker, first time poster.

    I don’t have great stake in RDF – I only posted there a few times; it wasn’t really the place for me.

    However, I did live through the IIDeBacle, and the parallels were frightening.

    Richard’s apology was of course a vast difference, and a very good sign, which I am very glad to see.

    Reading through these comments, I can’t help but think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick. People do keep saying this, but your responses constantly seem to gloss over the point:

    I (and most of the people here, I think you’ll find) don’t care very much at all about the forum being suspended. Yes, it’s sad to see a community die (and yes, with no spontaneity, that is what will happen), but fair enough – as everyone keeps pointing out, it’s his site, to do what he likes with.

    What was *not* a good sign, however, was Josh Timonen’s attitude as evidenced by his actions.

    * Mass-deleting the accounts and posting history of long-term users and moderators.

    * Forbidding users to organize alternate forums to carry on discussions.

    * Forbidding users to contact Richard Dawkins.

    * Making a mockery of past promises to make archived posts readable, by redirecting to a rick-roll.

    * Deleting the admin log to hide the evidence.

    * Dismissing the mod team with barely a word of acknowledgement.

    * Reneging on promises to collaborate on changes, with not one single word of apology.

    These specific things are blatantly unprofessional and smack of spite and other major flaws of… let us be kind and say judgment.

    It really doesn’t matter how good his technical skills, or how good a friend he is of Richard, you or anyone else. These actions constitute an *astounding* failure of leadership and PR, and constitute incredibly shabby treatment of everyone involved, on a personal level.

    For these actions, Josh needs to acknowledge how poorly he treated people, and apologize for it.

    And however otherwise noble and awesome he may be (I don’t know the guy from a bar of soap), others need to stop defending these particular actions of his. Loyalty is well and good, but if you follow it over a cliff, it becomes utterly devalued.

    Do you find this viewpoint unreasonable? If so, could you explain where and how you find it so?

  175. #176 Caine
    March 1, 2010

    Agi Hammerthief @ 174:

    just what is the problem of hosting the entire forum under a new name?

    That simply can’t be done. The forum as it was belonged to RD’s site. Still does. A lot of former RDFers have moved to a newly created forum though:

    http://www.rationalskepticism.org

  176. #177 Ol'Greg
    March 1, 2010

    RD.net was a wild garden with a lot of strange stuff in the corners. That’s not a bad thing if you like that sort of arrangement; I would love such a thing myself, as many of you do, too. What’s happened, though, is that the owner has decided it was a little too scraggly and unrestrained, and is taking steps to prune it back and shape it the way he wants.

    I kind of get this and agree with it. While I love certain dark alleys of the internet (I really do) I can also understand a website owner not wanting a little FYAD or like popping up on the forum. Those rabbit holes… they just go and go and go.

  177. #178 Rorschach
    March 1, 2010

    PZ, I fail to see how the term “vituperation” applies wrt to Timonen’s actions, as far as I can judge from what’s been written about it, the guy acted like a little pocket dictator, and was called out on it.
    RD’s apology is welcome, and somewhat classy, I don’t think he had any idea what actually went on when he posted “Outrage” and what his minions had been up to behind his back.
    I suspect words were exchanged behind the scenes here, because RD realised that Josh was getting a crash course in the Streisand effect that was damaging the reputation of RDF.
    Now if Josh could show the same class as RD and learn from this and apologise, maybe then all those mods and forum people can really move on.

  178. #179 dannystevens.myopenid.com
    March 1, 2010

    Actually I think there is only one practical problem.

    If Josh is not willing to admit an error on his own part then none of us will be willing to trust our input to the new site.

    I have personally only communicated with Josh a few times and he was courteous and helpful. On the other hand I have been evicted unceremoniously from a community context as part of a foolish group punishment. It was abrupt and emotionally disruptive.

    If you want people to contribute to a site like Richard’s then the people with the power must elicit trust by the contributors.

  179. #180 Agi Hammerthief
    March 1, 2010

    the way I read RD’s

    “I take full responsibility” :

    I knew Josh sucks at PR.

    In full this knowledge of this I left him in charge of the transition while on a tour anyways.

    he apologised for that, end of drama

  180. #181 Esquelito
    March 1, 2010

    HNA #175 you took the words right out of my mouth.

    As a fellow long-time lurker I’m intrigued by PZ’s reluctance to appropriately acknowledge Timonen’s mishandling of this.

    IMHO the Dawkins apology was necessary and welcome but Timonen owes those involved a far greater one.

  181. #182 SaintStephen
    March 1, 2010

    I’m the geeky loner everyone sneers at because I smell bad and look funny.

    Strawman. I met you at De Anza College in January, Professor Myers, so I should know.

    You don’t smell that bad.

    ;-P

  182. #183 llewelly
    March 1, 2010

    Some basics:

    • (0) An administrator who is not deeply involved in reading and writing comments on a forum has no empathy for those who are. This remains true even though the administrator is otherwise a friendly, moral, upstanding guy who’d give you the shirt off of his back if you needed it.
    • (1) An administrator who handles the technical underbelly of a rapidly expanding website has a great deal of frustrating, highly difficult work to do, and is likely to end up viewing the users as problems.(0)

    Now imagine said administrator(1) must make, for technical or political reasons, an unpopular change to the forum. He’s not an expert in politics, so he’s completely flubbed the social introduction of said change. People get upset. Since this is the internet, “upset” means he gets compared to the most vile dictators of history, and the most disgusting body parts and/or sexual acts. Some of the people complaining about his behavior have made temperate, well-reasoned posts – but those aren’t the posts that drive the administrator’s emotions. But they are the people who are driving the complaints, and making the strongest arguments. They’re a problem, and he’s got no empathy for them. So he starts deleting users. Delete user Scott Hatfield, OM, with 131,071 posts? Well, who the fuck is this annoying Catholic prick anyway, and how did get so many posts, and so many followers on a board for atheists?(2) Whatever, the admin thinks, I’ve got to make this change go smoothly. (Remember; the admin has no empathy for his users.) Delete.

    But a few hours later, he discovers that his users weren’t really angry before. Now they are really angry. And they’re emailing the boss in huge, but unknown numbers. They’re exchanging details that will allow them to meet up and discuss in other forums, or in real life. Worry for his image sets in. He’s done something they think is bad – he’s got to cover tracks. Well – the forum is not a big deal to him. It’s just a very frustrating, difficult job. So editing the admin logs is not a big deal.

    But people find out he cleaned up the admin logs, and all hell breaks loose. Refugees flee in all directions. Partisans set up rebel bases in neighboring, formerly friendly nations. The reputations of the admin, and the big boss, are irreparably damaged. The community will never be the same.

    Lessons Learned:

    • (0) Keep your comments short, snarky, and low-rent.(3) Do not invest significant effort on any piece of writing which will be posted on a forum, blog, etc, which is not unambiguously owned by you.
    • (1) Never expect long life from any sort of internet discussion environment. It is very likely any given internet discussion environment will either be destroyed due to misunderstandings and social acrimony, or will die of neglect.
    • (2) Never agree to be a moderator. It is a difficult and thankless task. Worse, when the forum inevitably changes in a way you don’t agree with, you will feel obligated to exert great effort to prevent or modulate that change. You’ll have a hard time remaining temperate when this happens. But despite the expectations of your tribe-ape emotions, you’ve no real influence over such changes – if the admin doesn’t agree with you, you’re fucked.
    • (3) Never rely on an internet forum as your sole means of social interaction with someone important to you.(4)
    • (4) Never become emotionally invested in a blog, forum, or other internet interaction device. It is extremely likely to someday melt down or change in a way you don’t like. Any emotional investment on your part will greatly hamper your ability to react appropriately, and greatly increase your suffering.
    • (5) All this advice is easy to write and hard to follow. Many people have known it all along, but are nonetheless learning the hard way they failed to follow it again.

    (0) Bad behavior for an IT professional, but even the best make that mistake from time to time.

    (1) Not Josh, but influenced by my perception of him. More strongly influenced by my perception of administrators of other forums that underwent ugly melt-downs, which I paid more attention to.

    (2) Only intended to represent the rationalizations of the administrator, not any particular user who got deleted on RDF.net .

    (3) This is the principal reason I’ve not bothered to get all the details right in this particular post.

    (4) I’m looking at you, endless thread.

  183. #184 Rorschach
    March 1, 2010

    Never become emotionally invested in a blog, forum, or other internet interaction device. It is extremely likely to someday melt down or change in a way you don’t like

    That’s a bit like saying “dont get into a relationship with someone because you might break up someday”.
    If the endless thread ends someday, I will thank the host for having it there for us for as long as it lasted, and of course everyone has everyone else’s contact details by now anyway(pretty much) ….:-)

    I totally accept the argument that RDF or PZ or whoever can do with their forum or blog whatever they like, but just dont be an asshole about it, like IMO Josh T was.

  184. #185 Paul W.
    March 1, 2010

    About quote mining…

    Here’s ficklefiend’s notorious comment from rationalia.com (not RDF), verbatim and in full:

    lordpasternack wrote: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.

    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)

    To me, that doesn’t seem nearly as bad as Dawkins’s out-of-context quote.

    The guy was clearly saying that in situations like that, he gets really pissed off, but he immediately said that it’s a good thing that in the actual situation, well-known people with calm and honest opinions were trying to talk to Dawkins.

    It seems to me that he was venting, and making it clear he was just venting, while recommending a calm, civil, and constructive course of action.

    Note that that was after Josh had done things like deleting thousands of posts by some of the most valued contributors (leaving the forum full of holes), locked everyone out, and apparently sabotaged attempts to copy things that remained, before they disappeared forever. (Rickrolling archiving requests.)

    IMHO, the users and dismissed moderators had good reason to be really pissed off, and vent about it. (As Dawkins now seems to partly understand.) It wasn’t about the decision to change formats—it’s Dawkins’s site and he can do what he wants—but the willful destruction of thousands of hours worth of writing by well-meaning volunteers.

    ficklefiend was just venting a bit, and saying so.

    But that’s not at all how it came across in several widely-read newspapers that quoted Dawkins quoting ficklefiend. It sounded more like saying that somebody actually should shove a fistful of nails down Josh’s throat.

    So, is that cherry-picking, or quote mining?

    After what Josh did, I think he and Richard should expect some venting like that.

    As somebody over at rationalia said, their complaining about venting is like somebody driving their Rolls through a puddle and drenching a commoner on the sidewalk, and when the commoner cusses them out, using that as an example of the vulgarity of the common people.

    Seriously. Josh didn’t just accidentally drive his rolls through a puddle. He did it on purpose, precisely to fuck with people that he had power over.

    That’s a major dick move, and a serious apology from Josh is in order. Richard should also make it clearer that some vitriol was pretty understandable under the circumstances.

    The discussion at RDF was not vitriolic when Josh went off and started deleting thousands and thousand of old posts, disabling communications between forum members, and then locking everyone out. The vitriol, such as it was, was in response to those things.

    That’s important. It does matter who started it, and who did the major escalating.

    It’s just not true that the RDF forums had descended into stunning vitriol before Josh did those things. (Read the cached copy of the discussion at RDF, which several people have linked to, if you don’t believe me.)

    Josh was way out of line. ficklefiend wasn’t.

  185. #186 ihedenius
    March 1, 2010

    I wanted to suggest that the time had come for Dawkins to come to Jesus and now it seems he has :)

  186. #187 ianmhor
    March 1, 2010

    llewelly #183 sums it up for me. I keep thinking this is just a case of someone panicked on the internet. Josh didn’t do his job well but I strongly suspect he didn’t have any clue of what he was about to let loose. I would hope that an apology and the righting of the wrongs in relation to posts deleted will appear soon but put yourself in his position – he isn’t going to find it easy.

  187. #188 John Morales
    March 1, 2010

    It would seem RD’s apology is very well received, but evidently Josh has lost the trust of many ex-contributors (if not that of RD).

    I think that Josh’s silence and the tacit minimisation of his culpability by RD (“I take full personal responsibility.”; “[...] some of our subsequent actions went too far.”)¹ maintains the tenseness, inasmuch as this same person apparently continues to enjoy RD’s full trust and friendship and remains in charge.

    ¹ … and by PZ, (who uses litotes) “I don’t think Josh handled it perfectly.” :|

  188. #189 John
    March 1, 2010

    I would just like to say a big well done ?????.. primarily to the ex moderators and also members of the RDF.

    Your restrained and patient persistence over this last week has been the catalyst that has forced Richard Dawkins to renounce his ?Outrage? post and produce this apology. Unfortunately, like all statements of this type they immediately raise further questions but it seems unlikely that they will be addressed now. He should be commended though for putting it on the Front Page rather than burying it inside the forum. As others have said, let?s also hope he contacts any other agencies he has communicated with this past week and corrects any misinformation that may have been given.

    I don?t believe this, albeit carefully worded retraction would have appeared without you continually pressing home the events of a week ago, forcing the discussing back to the real issue and backing it up with solid evidence, something Richard will no doubt be proud of.

    However there is still another apology that is noticeable by its absence and that of course, is from the Admin-in-Chief whose actions last Monday evening are the main cause of the events we are seeing unfold now. However as everyone knows from their own experience, a sincere apology is only given when the perpetrator feels that they have something to apologise for and silence is as voluminous as any statement no matter how ineptly it may have been constructed originally.

    Finally the Homer Simpson award for Completely Missing the Point must go to PZ Myres for his illuminating posts on this very Blog. I am sure this one will stride boldly into perpetuity ?

    ?I don’t think Josh handled it perfectly.?

    It will be interesting to see who will want to work with him on the new forum.

  189. #190 Rorschach
    March 1, 2010

    Finally the Homer Simpson award for Completely Missing the Point must go to PZ Myres for his illuminating posts on this very Blog

    Do try to at least spell the man’s name right mate.He’s given the likes of you and the RD forum mods a place to vent after all, and while I think he has it wrong regarding Timonen, I also suspect that there is stuff going on behind the curtain here that you and I will never know about.

  190. #191 scooterKPFT
    March 1, 2010

    meh, Atheists love to argue, theists love to kill each other for God.

    popcorn?

  191. #192 John
    March 1, 2010

    “Do try to at least spell the man’s name right mate.”

    My apologies to PZ Myers of course, is it Josh’s turn now?

  192. #193 rEvolutionist
    March 1, 2010

    PZ said: “Please. All this complaining about Richard Dawkins “quote mining” people is completely wrong: it’s an abuse of the term “quote mine”.

    It would be valid if Richard had pulled a number of out-of-context quotes to misrepresent what people were saying. This is not the case.”

    Actually, it is the case. The difference with a normal situation is that he is misrepresenting not a number of *individuals*, but a whole category of people. He used those few quotes to tar the whole lot of us ex-members. It was a giant strawman erected on the basis of a few quotes.

    In addition to this, his use of the quotes was inaccurate. He implied that they were the reason for the forum premature closure, when in fact they were a reaction to said closure.

    If that’s not ‘quote-mining’ to misrepresent his opponents arguments, then I’m not ‘ere.

  193. #194 Rorschach
    March 1, 2010

    is it Josh’s turn now?

    I agree with you that it is.
    I doubt it will happen tho.

  194. #195 SC OM
    March 1, 2010

    If something in the configuration of the site is interfering with getting at useful old posts, address that. Write something non-accusatory that requests that the interference be lifted. It’ll either be fixed or you’ll get an explanation for why it’s in place.

    Would addressing such requests to “Your Highness” be overkill, do you think?

    Seriously: “Josh is Evil! Here’s proof! Fire him!” requests will get you absolutely nowhere. “We’d like to get X fixed and have access to Y on the old forums” requests are reasonable and someone will listen. I’m even willing to act as an intermediate and pass along such requests.

    You make it sound like they can justifiably hold the forum hostage to get people to shut up. No one should have to phrase a request to preserve the forum just so or ignore the recent history or have to make a case for the value of the deleted accounts in order for them to do it. They should do it – including restoring the deleted users’ posts if at all possible – because it’s the right thing to do, for the people who gave so much to it, for those who can use it as a resource in the future, and for present and future researchers. No one should have to request it in the first place, or require an intermediary (though it’s generous of you to act as one, and possibly saved some of it from destruction). If they fail to preserve it because they find people insufficiently obsequious or because of an inability to appreciate the importance of preserving that archive, then they are doing the wrong thing.

    I know that when I wrote to Richard and suggested that people want the old forums preserved, he was sympathetic, a little surprised (he had assumed that was what was going to be done), and asked if there were other misunderstandings.

    If he had assumed that was what was going to be done, he should have been shocked that tens of thousands of posts were apparently deleted in a fit of pique.

  195. #196 Michelle B
    March 1, 2010

    Rorschach: …and while I think he has it wrong regarding Timonen, I also suspect that there is stuff going on behind the curtain here that you and I will never know about.
    _____

    You got it the wrong way around, there is stuff happening behind the curtain that Myers and Dawkins do not know and they don’t seem to be that much interested in the wrong that was done by Timonen. They are brushing that glaring fact aside.

    Myers is fond of spouting, always ask questions. Well, chappie, why don’t you follow your own advice?

  196. #197 toth
    March 1, 2010

    Man, the internet is SERIOUS BUSINESS.

  197. #198 jafafahots
    March 1, 2010

    fuckin drama.

  198. #199 Ray Moscow
    March 1, 2010

    The main thing that I don’t get: what do comments on another site, however angry or rude, have to do with the supposed necessity for closing the RD.net boards early?

    From Dawkins’ original statement: “You will notice that the forum has in fact been closed to comments (not taken down) sooner than the 30 days alluded to in the letter. This is purely and simply because of the over-the-top hostility of the comments that were immediately sent in.”

    Uh, no. Does anybody shut down his own operation because someone else, somewhere on the internet, posts rude things about him? Or even emailed directly to him, for that matter?

    Josh had to go looking for these comments on Rationalia, apparently to make the case to Dawkins that he was being persecuted.

    Anyway, I do like Dawkins’ subsequent apology, and I hope it will go a long way towards clearing up the bad blood.

  199. #200 TWood
    March 1, 2010

    This is just so dumb. Why isn’t the new forum already up and running? Each day more and more members of the community wander away, that’s how the interwebs work. They could have set it up in private and had it ready rumble the day they flipped this switch.

  200. #201 PZ Myers
    March 1, 2010

    That was the original plan. But then they let the moderators know what was afoot, pretty soon the gossip and hostile reactions spun out of control, and they had to stomp a big foot down.

    I hate to think what the response would have been, though, if they’d constructed the new forums and flipped a switch, unannounced, one day. I don’t think that would be a formula for escaping drama.

  201. #202 Holytape
    March 1, 2010

    I still think that this shows that the RDF is not a place to donate money or time. The apology was the first step but it does make up for the problems this episode has exposed. With the way Josh treated the mods, the deletion of accounts, the deletion of the admin logs, and the “Rickrolling,” he should be fired, friends with Dr. Dawkins or not. This type of behavior would not be accepted anywhere. RDF’s inability to let go of bad employees shows that this organization has not matured beyond Dr. Dawkins’ pet project. In the end Dr. Dawkins must decide the future of the RDF. If it is to serve the Athiest and Rational Thinking community, then he must make the hard decisions, and put the foundations needs before his wish. If the purpose of the foundation is to serve him, he can keep Josh as an employee and he can say to hell with us. But then we as a individuals and as a community have the right to say to hell with him.

    Dr. Dawkins did quote-mine. He misrepresented selected quotes to prove his point. Yes, the quote did show a disdain for Josh, but Dr. Dawkins used the quotes to both show the people’s disdain for Josh and to give justification to why the forum was closed. The claim was that those quotes where a representation of why the forum had to be shut down, despite the fact that the quotes were neither on the forum and they were made after the forum had been shut down. Just because Dr. Dawkins is on our side and isn’t a dick most of the time, doesn’t mean he can pull a dick move. This was most definitely that.

  202. #203 Paul W.
    March 1, 2010

    Man, the internet is SERIOUS BUSINESS.

    Anything involving 85,000 people, 2.4 million attempts at communication, and many thousands of hours worth of volunteer’s time in service of a cause… well, yeah, that’s serious business, duh.

    It doesn’t really matter whether it’s on the internet.

  203. #204 CalGeorge
    March 1, 2010

    About this site:

    http://richarddawkins.net/aboutThisWebsite

    Forum / Accounts
    If it’s your first time here, be sure to check out The Forum, which is growing every day by leaps and bounds. Create an account, and you can use it to post messages there in the forum or to comment on articles. We have a whole team of volunteer admins and moderators in the forum who are there to help if you have any questions. They can be contacted through the tech support forum.

    Come on, Richard, shell out a few buck to pay someone to keep your pages up-to-date. The Forum is bounding and leaping no more!

  204. #205 TWood
    March 1, 2010

    Anything involving 85,000 people, 2.4 million attempts at communication, and many thousands of hours worth of volunteer’s time in service of a cause… well, yeah, that’s serious business, duh.

    And they ran that on phpBB which is freeware. That’s not serious at all.

    I hate to think what the response would have been, though, if they’d constructed the new forums and flipped a switch, unannounced, one day. I don’t think that would be a formula for escaping drama.

    The unannounced part would be a problem, but they did say they would consult their moderators, and then didn’t. Plus, they’ve had years to prepare. There’s no reason they aren’t up and running now except for poor planning.

    Setting up a forum using a professional grade program like vBulletin takes about an hour, three max if you want to tweak a bunch of settings.

  205. #206 Copyleft
    March 1, 2010

    I wouldn’t expect a comment from Timonen, but it might be interesting to see if Dawkins announces that the forum archive will be a restored one from backups, with all missing content restored.

    From all secondhand reports, it apparently had some worthwhile content that was pitched overboard along with the dregs in the Timonen Square Massacre.

  206. #207 David Marjanovi?
    March 1, 2010

    Unsurprisingly, I agree with comments 175, 183, 185, 187, 188, 195, and 199. Timonen is either incapable of his job or unwilling to do it properly (or of course both) and should therefore, if legally possible, have been fired long ago.

    Even if the rickroll was already installed (apparently it wasn’t) and really was a protection against malware (?but why make it impossible for everyone to use the search engine???), telling people to use it to archive their posts was either a case of stupid forgetfulness? or it was done for teh evulz. Both possibilities should lead to firing.

    What other possibilities have I overlooked?

  207. #208 David Marjanovi?
    March 1, 2010

    I wouldn’t expect a comment from Timonen, but it might be interesting to see if Dawkins announces that the forum archive will be a restored one from backups, with all missing content restored.

    Oh yes.

  208. #209 Paul W.
    March 1, 2010

    PZ Myers:

    That was the original plan. But then they let the moderators know what was afoot, pretty soon the gossip and hostile reactions spun out of control, and they had to stomp a big foot down.

    Um, no, not as I understand it.

    As I understand it, what happened was mainly that people were doing what you say they should do under such circumstances and Josh was trying to prevent them from doing what you yourself recommend.

    By your own standards, they were being reasonable, and Josh was panicking and pulling increasingly bizarre dick moves.

    Specifically, they saw what was going down, mostly accepted it—it’s Dawkins’s site, and if he wants to do things differently there, that’s up to him—and began to make plans to move on to somewhere more to their personal liking.

    Josh was not acting like you. He was not saying “this is how it is, take it or leave it.” He was trying to have his autocratic cake and eat his online community, too.

    He tried to keep people from leaving, by preventing them from exchanging contact information (disabling personal messaging) and by preventing them from leaving notes saying where they were going (disabling signatures).

    He tried to shut down not only the web site, but the community that had grown up over a period of three years and 2.4 million posts.

    He was trying to destroy what he didn’t like about that community, and drive dissenters away, while keeping the rest as a captive audience by technical means.

    That sucks, PZ, and I’m disappointed that you don’t seem to be able to understand that, no matter how many times it’s explained to you.

    I hate to think what the response would have been, though, if they’d constructed the new forums and flipped a switch, unannounced, one day. I don’t think that would be a formula for escaping drama.

    I think that the response would have been better, if and only if Josh had

    1) simply left the old forum up in read-only mode and searchable, so that people didn’t see thousands of hours worth of stuff they’d created being flushed down the toilet with no option for salvaging any of it, and

    2) let people exchange contact information.

    It was the failure to do those things that really set people off. They were pissed at Josh not mainly for doing what he saw fit with the site—Dawkins certainly did misrepresent the significance of the “vitriolic” quotes, and what they were actually in response to—but rather because he tried to control their responses illegitimately.

    He said “take it or leave it,” and when they said, “OK, we think this sucks, but it’s your site, so we’ll leave it,” he panicked.

    He brought it upon himself, in a big way.

    (By the way, this is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about over at Greg Laden’s, with the analogy to autocracies and their crises of legitimacy. If you’re too high-handed, ham-handed, heavy-handed, and under-handed, you can’t expect people to simply accept the status quo, much less a heavy-handed change for what they see as the worse.)

    Notice also that the vitriol—and there was some, eventually—over at rationalia.com was not against the rules there, or the rules at the RDF forums.

    It was the kind of vitriol that was allowed at the RDF forums, against people off-site. The rule against personal attacks was only about people who were at the site, not people elsewhere.

    In other words, Josh and Richard seem to be objecting to a standard of behavior at rationalia.com that was no worse than the standard they promulgated at their own site.
    They always allowed invective against people elsewhere, but freaked right out and got indignant when it happened to them.

    I personally think that maybe there should be a higher standard of civility at both sites—maybe you shouldn’t be allowed to just vent and cuss people out with invective-filled rants.

    But you shouldn’t be such hypocrites about it, especially when you’re just begging for it.

    Either way, Dawkins was wrong to imply that the shutdown of the site was to shut down nasty comments. The nasty comments were happening someplace else, and shutting down the RDF forums did nothing to prevent that—it just made things much worse.

    Josh did things far worse than cussing people out. He was destroying their work, which he happened not to value, but they did. He was also trying to split their community, driving away and fragmenting dissenters, so that they couldn’t take his option of “leaving it” in the only sensible way.

    Poor Josh. He can’t have his cake and eat too. He can’t treat people horrendously shabbily, and say “take it or leave it,” and expect people not to say OK, and leave it. He can’t repeatedly escalate the situation without getting cussed out on another site. He can’t shut down his site in response, and get away with saying it was to prevent the cussing out.

    Poor, poor Josh. He can’t be a peremptory, destructive autocrat and a whiny titty about people’s responses, and still get the obsequious respect he thinks he deserves. A few people on another site—not the majority—cuss him out about it.

    I think that the response by most of the RDF moderators and users has been quite reasonable and measured. They’ve responded sensibly to an ultimatum by trying to leave and salvage what they could. They’ve tried to communicate calmly to Richard about what they see as the problems, and why many feel they must leave if Josh is left in charge without any promises he won’t pull such dick moves in the future.

    They are right not to trust Josh, and to say so, and say why.

    Richard’s apology goes a long way toward addressing some of the most serious concerns—especially the wanton destruction of 2.4 million posts. Kudos to him for that.

    Unfortunately, given there’s no apparent prospect of Josh being replaced or even seriously rebuked for specific egregious dick moves, people should not trust him much. It’s reasonable for them to go elsewhere, where they trust the management more. It’s also reasonable for some people to wonder whether Richard knows how to run a foundation that relies on volunteer efforts.

    You just can’t treat volunteers that badly and expect there not to be some blowback. They’re not paid enough to take that kind of shit. You certainly shouldn’t go whining about it to the press if you don’t want to make the situation much, much worse.

    I greatly admire Richard Dawkins, and greatly value the causes he’s fighting for. I do think he still needs to reevaluate some of his strategies, and his loyalty to a certain staff member over the legitimate interests of thousands of other people.

  209. #210 tenebra98
    March 1, 2010

    As an ex-RDF mod, by the name Darkchilde, I have accepted RD’s apology. And I have moved on to the new forum: http://www.rationalskepticism.org

    I wish the new RD.net site well, but I don’t think I’ll be contributing. Because as far as I know, it will be more like a blog, and I already have two blogs of my own I can write to. And there are a number of good blogs out there, I like to read and sometimes comment. Never a big blog commenter anyway.

    A lot of people feel like I do; and that’s why they have moved to the new forums.

  210. #211 PZ Myers
    March 1, 2010

    Exactly what you should do.

    Rationalia and rationalskepticism look like good forums, but I admit to being a bit negative about forums in general, just because I’ve burned in the past. I’d just warn you before you get deeply invested again: who owns and runs those two forums? Is there a reason you think they’ll be more appreciative of your contributions than RD.net? I hope you don’t have the false illusion that you’ll have more control elsewhere.

  211. #212 Coleslaw
    March 1, 2010

    I’m giving even more props than before to PZ for allowing this thread to go on, and for all his calm responses in the face of a storm of froth.

    Allowing this thread to go on? it’s not as if posters hijacked a thread on the creationist museum to complain about Dawkins situation. PZ started this thread himself by posting about what he knew was a volatile situation. Furthermore, it’s the second blog post he’s made about the RD.net events, so it’s not as though he couldn’t have predicted the kind of comments he would get.

  212. #213 Agi Hammerthief
    March 1, 2010

    @ Caine #176

    I’m aware that the forum belongs to the RD site.
    but it’s just data that can be hosted anywhere.

    Just as RD has the right to delete it, archive it in read only etc. RD has the right to give it away.

    There is no technical problem, no legal problem,
    only the fear of Josh and RD that giving the whole thing to a new site will draw so much traffic that their precious RD.net will run dry.

    But as I said: after this PR debacle, the discussion board looks pretty doomed as most of the high profile posters on the forum are burned by the way this was handled. His apology is helping but might not be enough to keep the idea alive.

  213. #214 PZ Myers
    March 1, 2010

    Heh. No, Coleslaw, people always surprise me with their comments.

    Except the creationists. They’re always predictably unimaginative.

  214. #215 Paul W.
    March 1, 2010

    PZ:

    I’d just warn you before you get deeply invested again: who owns and runs those two forums? Is there a reason you think they’ll be more appreciative of your contributions than RD.net? I hope you don’t have the false illusion that you’ll have more control elsewhere.

    I think that those are reasonable concerns, but it’s also reasonable for people to be optimistic that it won’t be quite as bad elsewhere. IMHO, Josh blew it about as badly as you can, and Richard was apparently more or less out of the loop (or clueless about forum culture) and asleep at the switch.

    People should be concerned that any other forum may eventually melt down, with somebody pulling weird shit and fucking with other people.

    It seems like a good idea to learn from this experience (and PZ’s experiences), and make a policy for such sites—there should be regular off-site backups under different people’s control, so nobody can throw the whole thing away.

    Even backups every three or four months would be enough to prevent the worst losses.

  215. #216 John
    March 1, 2010

    @PZ Myers#211
    “I hope you don’t have the false illusion that you’ll have more control elsewhere.”
    Still missing the point big time I see.

    None of this has ever been about control except for one person.

  216. #217 Bill Dauphin, OM
    March 1, 2010

    I have neither the knowledge nor the standing to comment on the kerfuffle over the RDF forums, not having ever visited them, but I’m puzzled by one aspect of the ongoing conversation: Do people really think blog/forum owners have some sort of duty of stewardship to preserve and protect the stuff that gets written online?

    I get that there’s a difference between forum/BBS postings and blog comments, and a difference between what you write on your own site and what you write on others. I also get that people put a lot of thought and effort into what they write online (FSM knows how many hours I’ve invested in my contributions here, for instance). But when I launch my words into teh intertoobz, I never assume I’ll ever see them again, unless I’ve bothered to archive them my ownself. Certainly, I never assume the website’s owner (or his/her IT minions) has a responsibility to make sure I can get all those words back in some indeterminate future.

    I used to participate on a fan forum for The West Wing, and I wrote some pretty sharp stuff there, if I do say so myself. But at some point, those pages just disappeared. Maybe there was notice — after the first-run episodes were all done, I didn’t visit often enough to be sure there wasn’t reasonable warning — but even if there wasn’t, I wouldn’t feel ill-used.

    It seems to me that a discussion forum is a discussion forum, not a content management system for contributors’ writings. Do others truly have some other expectation? Were promises made or implied on that score at the RDF Forums? What am I missing here?

  217. #218 Paul W.
    March 1, 2010

    Bill,

    Any web site that has a professional staff should have regular off-site backups, in case of disaster. (Like a flood or fire destroying the computers hosting the site.)

    Period. That’s absolutely standard industry practice, and any site administrator who doesn’t ensure that the system is backed up is simply not doing his job, and should probably be fired. He should at least be clearly told to start doing his job, make regular backups, and keep copies off-site.

    So, for basic operational reasons, the contents of the forum should be available to the RDF.

    Now if perchance Josh was not doing his job in that way, and a flood or fire took out the web site and it was unrecoverable, people would be right to be upset—Josh wasn’t doing his job, and he lost the result of years of volunteer effort.

    I’m sure the reaction would have been very different in that case. People might mourn the loss of something they valued, and be rather annoyed with Josh for dropping the ball, but they wouldn’t be upset the way they are rightly upset now.

    Josh set out to fuck them over.

    You, PZ, and a number of other people seem to think this is a simple black and white issue, where you either have an absolute right to expect stuff to be permanently available, or you have no grounds whatsoever for complaining if it disappears, even if it disappears because somebody set out to fuck you over.

    Here’s an analogy:

    Suppose my wife and I separated, and I moved out. If I didn’t come back and get my stuff, it might be reasonable for her to get rid of it, after a decent interval, if she wanted the space for something else, or just to get it out of her sight.

    It would be very different if we agreed that I should come back and get my stuff, only to find that she’d changed the locks, locked the doors, and wouldn’t open up, and gloated about keeping my stuff away from me, even though she clearly didn’t want it for herself.

    It would be even more different if I came to get my stuff at an agreed-on time, only to find it smoldering on the lawn.

    That’s basically what Josh did. He told people they could come get their stuff, but he turned the forum into swiss cheese by deleting thousands of posts by major contributors to the site.

    He went further, and rickrolled the archiving requests, so that people couldn’t even retrieve slices of swiss cheese.

    That’s piling insult on top of injury on top of intransigence on top of incompetence.

    It’s extremely unprofessional behavior, which would get any professional site administrator fired anywhere I know of, and certainly anywhere I’ve worked. You just don’t do that shit and expect to keep your job or your professional reputation.

    And if you do do that sort of thing with 2.4 million posts representing many thousands of hours of effort by dedicated volunteers, you shouldn’t expect people not to feel slighted, and cuss you out for it.

    Is that so hard to understand?

    It’s not a simple matter of whether you should count on stuff on the web being reliably and permanently available. It’s a question of whether you can expect people not to gratuitously fuck with you in a tremendously insulting way.

  218. #219 SC OM
    March 1, 2010

    I’d just warn you before you get deeply invested again: who owns and runs those two forums? Is there a reason you think they’ll be more appreciative of your contributions than RD.net?

    Didn’t RD just say that he was very appreciative of people’s contributions? I thought he was being sincere at the time.

    This is getting strange. People new to this blog reading these posts and your comments would have the impression that you operate very differently than you do. In the time I’ve been here, you’ve hosted discussions which probably made you uncomfortable, promoted other people’s blogs and work, asked commenters for feedback when making changes or considering banning people, apologized for inconveniencing people, asked people to serve as guest bloggers, started an award for commenters, posted congratulating people for their accomplishments, and generally been decent and respectful. Other people have sent traffic your way, thanked you for your work, defended you against scurrilous attacks, written to your university president in support of you, sent you material, and so on. A relationship of trust and respect has been built up that’s no less real because it’s the internet.

    If you were to* suddenly, say, ban truth machine and delete all of his comments and his name from the Molly list, and then if Sastra complained done the same to her, then shown complete disrespect for the rest of the commenters, it would be totally shocking and disappointing, and feel like a betrayal, because of the kind of person people have come to recognize you as. If this wasn’t due to something serious going on with you, it would of course lead people to say bad things about you and to feel differently about you, and rightly so.

    It seems to me that a discussion forum is a discussion forum, not a content management system for contributors’ writings.

    As was discussed on the previous thread about this, it’s a unique historical document and valuable resource resulting from years of work. So yes, in this case I do think they a duty of stewardship to preserve and protect it (and make it available), or to allow others to do so.

  219. #220 Paul W.
    March 1, 2010

    Bill Dauphin:

    It seems to me that a discussion forum is a discussion forum, not a content management system for contributors’ writings. Do others truly have some other expectation? Were promises made or implied on that score at the RDF Forums? What am I missing here?

    Some things you’re missing:

    1) One of the things that got people to participate in the RDF forums is that they respected and trusted Richard Dawkins.

    2) Another thing that led them to trust the site not to do flaky shit and disappear was that it was professionally run. A site with a paid staff can usually be expected to be more reliable than an all-volunteer fan-run, amateur-run web site.

    3) I assume that many people came to the RDF forums partly on that understanding—that it would be a stable thing backed by a professional staff, overseen by the RDF and ultimately by Richard Dawkins himself. That is presumably one reason why so many volunteers committed to moderating forums for years, and writing thousands of posts, rather than choosing some underfunded, amateur-run site to do it at, or to do something else with their precious thousand of hours of time.

    4) Up until the recent debacle, Dawkins didn’t express much dissatisfaction with the forums. At last word, he said that he liked the social aspect of it, that community was a good thing, etc. He did not give the volunteer moderators and contributors feedback about his dissatisfaction with the site, or the job they were doing, until suddenly everything went haywire with Josh and Dawkins defended him at the expense of well-meaning volunteers who thought he liked the job they were doing, but were quote-mined and unfairly vilified in newspapers read by hundreds of thousands of people.

    That’s a little like waking up from what you thought was a fairly good marriage, only to find your stuff smoldering on the lawn and your wife talking about what a flaming asshole you are in the newspapers.

    Apparently, what they’d been led to believe was valuable work to benefit the cause was just idle gossip and embarrassing incompetence, and loserly obsessiveness with something of no value whatsoever, such that they deserve no sympathy if it’s wantonly destroyed.

    Not to mention that Dawkins was simply wrong about the amount of idle gossip vs. serious discussion of absolutely on-topic issues. Apparently, he didn’t much read his own site’s forums, and he didn’t give his longtime, dedicated volunteers a chance to improve what he saw as wrong with the site—which they would have done if he’d only told them!—before telling hundreds of thousands of people what a disgusting, embarrassing rabble of losers they were.

    Yikes. That’s gotta hurt.

    I’m really glad I don’t have a personal stake in this; I never posted over there much, much less wasted my time moderating, or crafting very serious posts meant to endure for reference.

    If I had done those things, only to be taken aback by being treated so astonishingly shabbily, I’d be really pissed off—far more pissed off and less forgiving than most of the regulars there actually were, or are.

    I think those people deserve thanks for mostly trying to be civil and honestly communicative through a process of being insulted, humiliated, and systematically fucked over, after years of what they thought was valued service.

    Concretely, I think Richard needs to say whether there are backups of the site from, say, a month ago, from which to recover the deleted posts and threads by the most valued contributors (in many users’ eyes, anyway), such that people can salvage something more than swiss cheese.

    If not, it should be acknowledged that Josh fucked up enormously, failing to do the absolute minumum required by a competent professional site administrator, and then willfully and spitefully fucking people over by wantonly destroying unrecoverable information that they valued, because he didn’t, and he was having a shit fit.

  220. #221 Rebelest
    March 1, 2010

    I sympathize with Josh Timonen and Dr. Dawkins, there was probably no way ever to placate the forum moderators-not if their behavior was consistent with how they have handled this situation-what a bunch of creeps/frenemies. I mean with friends like them who needs enemies?

    Yesterday, on RD.net, quite a few people were using their avatars to direct people to a competing website and bully posting just like they’ve done here and across the net. They have been the motivation for the mainstream media to use their antics to trash Dr. Dawkins-it was probably one of them who alerted the MSM in the first place. Here’s a comment from Zamboro on the “Apology” thread @ RD.net:

    I hope everyone who threw a fit over the forum closure realizes that in doing so, they played right into the hands of our detractors. Don’t think this mess escaped their notice. They love nothing more than to see us at one anothers’ throats.

    I couldn’t agree more-thanks y’all!

    Now it seems the Heathers have converged on the illogical premise that talking about your ex-friends behind their backs is permissible and fair play-just as long as it’s done behind their backs and anonymously it’s hunky-dory. Net-ethics=savage feeding frenzy.

    Here’s a quote from Peter Harrison:

    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

    We’ve seen the same self-serving lies repeated by a few here in this thread and others around the net but it’s just Peter Harrison’s unsubstantiated opinion-I guess that I have to beg to differ. I haven’t seen anyone dare to quote any statement of Dr. Dawkins that supports such a conclusion. We’re just supposed to take their word for it-no evidence necessary right Peter?

    Here’s a quote from Calilassia from above:

    Timonen duplicitously presented them to his boss as if they constituted the substantive views of the entire forum membership.

    How do you figure that Cali? I think it’s you who is duplicitous. Do you have it from Dr.Dawkins that he lets Josh lead him around by the mouth? Yeah, I guess you’re right, I phD’d scientist couldn’t possibly access the Rats site and see for himself what a rathole it is(my opinion). I didn’t reach the same conclusion as you did because I don’t jump to conclusions without the evidence to support such-but duplicity is all that you need…keep saying it over and over Heathers and that will make it true. I’m sure that the forums at RD.net will really miss all of the juvenalia that is on display at Rationalia (I mean how could we possibly live without calling fellow human beings “cunts” and “a suppurating rat?s rectum inside a dead skunk” and the photoshopped book covers and photographs were all so cute and adorable! Every one of you over there should be really proud of yourselves. Good riddance! I felt like taking a long, hot shower and being scourged after visiting that site…of course none of you have your name on the site so if I register over there and start throwing around epithets and making unsupported claims as a Rationalist none of you will have any problem with that, right?

  221. #222 Aquaria
    March 1, 2010

    of course everyone has everyone else’s contact details by now anyway(pretty much)

    Huh.

    Nobody has mine…

  222. #223 broboxley
    March 1, 2010

    dont have a dog in this fight as I have never felt the need to visit the Dawkins website but why does anyone here think that PZ should give a rats ass about what someone else did somewhere else that he had nothing to do with?

  223. #224 Paul W.
    March 1, 2010

    Nice quote-mine, Aquaria. :-)

    (Rorschach put a smiley right after the quoted statement.)

    Nobody has my contact info either. (Although, oddly, Chris Mooney does. Hmmm…)

    I would certainly be taken aback and quite annoyed if PZ suddenly shut us out without an opportunity to exchange contact information, or to arrange an evacuation point so we could keep in touch. I’d talk smack about him for a while—partly as a means of finding the other shut-out people talking smack about him for the same reason!

    (Y’know, maybe there should be a web site like those sites that help you find people in your high school graduating class, for people trying to find other ex-members of a forum they got shut out of, with listings for, e.g., Pharyngula Class of 2010.)

  224. #225 Paul W.
    March 1, 2010

    broboxley:

    why does anyone here think that PZ should give a rats ass about what someone else did somewhere else that he had nothing to do with?

    Because he posted about it, and gave some opinions, twice. We’re commenting on his posts, which is what the comment section is for, duh.

    PZ doesn’t expect us not to disagree with him. This isn’t that kind of blog, various accusations of groupthing, blind hero worship, and tribalism to the contrary. (Usually on blogs that exhibit more groupthink, blind hero worship, and tribalism, IMO.)

  225. #226 Bastion Of Sass
    March 1, 2010

    PZ wrote:

    I hate to think what the response would have been, though, if they’d constructed the new forums and flipped a switch, unannounced, one day. I don’t think that would be a formula for escaping drama.

    And this was the only alternative course of action to the ones taken?

    Really, PZ, false dilemma?

  226. #227 mk
    March 1, 2010

    Anyway, I do like Dawkins’ subsequent apology, and I hope it will go a long way towards clearing up the bad blood.

    Heh-heh! Yeah, I think we can all see that that ain’t happenin’. This thread is one impressive case of the “Somebody’s wrong on the internet!” cartoon. No joke. Deeply disturbed, frothing at the mouth OMers, and their like, going on and on and on and on and… etc. How you people are not embarrassed beyond belief by this ridiculous behavior is beyond me.

    I guess this is to be expected. In a popular, open forum like this weird little cliques inevitably, if unfortunately, will develop. Human nature I suppose. But the entitlement that is apparently felt by so many… the expectations, the demands! Crazy, man!

    It appears there is no assuaging the anger, the feelings of betrayal… or whatever. PZ has tried, to his credit. Dawkins apologized (not good enough for some) and some dude named Josh has clearly not taken the proper beating… and man that will not stand!

    No, I’m not coming to bed honey, somebody is wrong I tell you… wrong!

    Get the pitchforks! Light the torches! Aaarrgghh!

  227. #228 Aquaria
    March 1, 2010

    Personally, I find the apology a huge concession, and I’m grateful to PZ for his part in getting RD to re-examine the issue. More can be done, but it’s a start. It’s certainly a lot more than seemed possible even a few days ago.

    I don’t care if he agrees 100% or not, when he can get something done like this.

  228. #229 Aquaria
    March 1, 2010

    Paul W–

    It’s not quote-mining, in this context:I was making a little inside joke to Rory (who has revealed some astounding data about his regard for me)

  229. #230 grh123
    March 1, 2010

    It’s also not the first display of incompetence regarding the RDF Forum.

    In the great hacking incident of 2009 in which thousands of members emails were stolen and spammed, Josh of course blamed the incompetent volunteers.

    When the dust settled and the evidence came to light, who’s Admin password was phished? oh thats right. Josh’s.

    No action taken about that either.

  230. #231 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 1, 2010

    If I had a pearl necklace I’d be clutching the shit out of it right now.

  231. #232 Paul W.
    March 1, 2010

    Personally, I find the apology a huge concession, and I’m grateful to PZ for his part in getting RD to re-examine the issue.

    I agree.

    More can be done, but it’s a start. It’s certainly a lot more than seemed possible even a few days ago.

    I agree with that, too.

    I don’t expect there to ever be a full resolution where people see entirely eye-to-eye about who wronged who. I do think it’s worth discussion and clarification.

    I also think it’s particularly worth discussing concrete measures that will help, independent of apologies, e.g., finding and restoring a backup of the RDF forum before it was reduced to swiss cheese from removing lots of old posts, if at all possible. (But maybe rolling it back by a week or a month, removing the really controversial stuff, while salvaging the vast majority of what’s there and relevant to the RDF’s mission.)

    That would make a lot of people happier, and more able to just deal with their feelings and move on; it’s hard to do than when they’re still up against concrete obstacles to salvaging their work.

    It was great that Richard acknowledged that people had grounds for being annoyed that their work was being peremptorily thrown away. That was huge progress.

    Concrete follow-through, with the restoration of the deleted posts, would consolidate that and defuse a lot of ill-will.

  232. #233 Paul W.
    March 1, 2010

    Aquaria,

    I figured, hence my smiley after calling it a quote-mine.

  233. #234 SC OM
    March 1, 2010

    Posted by: mk | March 1, 2010 2:21 PM

    That was funny.

  234. #235 Peter Beattie
    March 1, 2010

    » SC:
    As was discussed on the previous thread about this, it’s a unique historical document and valuable resource resulting from years of work. So yes, in this case I do think they [have] a duty of stewardship to preserve and protect it (and make it available), or to allow others to do so.

    I can only very heartily third that sentiment.

  235. #236 Paul W.
    March 1, 2010

    Rev. BDC,

    If I had a pearl necklace I’d be clutching the shit out of it right now.

    I drilled my pearls out and ran a 3mm steel cable through them, for just such eventualities; I got tired of them all over the floor.

    P.S. No typos? Are you feeling okay?

  236. #237 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawkVujuTsirFDrM6VfmWnsh6ZlmZiIm_mKw
    March 1, 2010

    TWood: “And they ran that on phpBB which is freeware. That’s not serious at all.”

    I guess the 95% of the world’s top 500 super-computers that run Linux are not serious business then?

  237. #238 Bastion Of Sass
    March 1, 2010

    When I deal with people, especially those I care about, and I need to deliver bad or disappointing news, I try to be sensitive to their feelings and address their concerns as best I can. I’m not always successful, but I try. One thing I don’t ever do is stab them in the back and twist the knife around several times to increase their pain.

    But that’s just me. No reason Dawkins or his admin must follow suit. No one has to act decently toward others–especially given that no god’s going to balance things out in the end.

    I want to add that I rarely read, and never posted (that I remember) to the RD.net forum, but I really understand why the moderators and long-time contributors are upset by the way things unfolded. There’s been an appalling lack of people-skills used by Dawkins and his admins.

  238. #239 grh123
    March 1, 2010

    @ Bastion of Sas #238

    Indeed, no one has to act decently to others, however it takes extreme chutpzah to piss and moan about people calling you names on another forum when you do.

  239. #240 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 1, 2010

    P.S. No typos? Are you feeling okay?

    Not really. I’m exhausted. Spent all day on Saturday drinking and photographing a brew festival then out to see some music to way to freakin’ late / early. It’s carrying over to today.

    Maybe I’m just more careful when I’m tired.

    Or lucky.

  240. #241 lurker42
    March 1, 2010

    Now I’ve got that song stuck in my head. What do I do?

  241. #242 SaintStephen
    March 1, 2010

    I hope everyone who threw a fit over the forum closure realizes that in doing so, they played right into the hands of our detractors. Don’t think this mess escaped their notice. They love nothing more than to see us at one anothers’ throats.

    This is where I think the argument breaks down. On the contrary, Professor Dawkins’ reputation among “moral conservatives” probably went up a notch over the last few days. And most religious people have such conservative leanings, one would surmise.

    If Richard is to continue gaining access to the major media platforms in America, meaning the crucially important bully pulpits (like FOX, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC) where he currently has only “bit parts” here and there, he is going to have to distance himself from the more extreme liberal aspects of his followers. I’m not saying this is right — in fact it disgusts me greatly that this political situation exists in the Land of the Free, but more national air time is exactly what the New Atheist movement — as represented by the incomparable Clinton Richard Dawkins — needs right now. (And please, no beefs regarding my use of the term “New Atheists”… I’ve heard them all. It’s an effective marketing term, IMHO.) The SCA recently met for the very first time with White House representatives, for instance, which is a very good omen, and we should use this momentum to continue the assault on American grey matter.

    If Richard needs to act like an internet prude, or even a tempestuous tyrant in order to get more national face-time on television, and to furthermore raise his standing among the members of the huge, religious-conservative voting bloc in my country: then so be it.

    The quote at the top of this post is evidence that people are, once again, losing sight of the big picture. The big picture is that U.S. LAWS NEED TO BE CHANGED, and religious minds need to be attracted to science and reason. Religious minds won’t even CONSIDER listening to Dawkins when the only mental picture they have of him is one of a Liberal Slum Lord presiding over the tawdry RD.net Forums.

    I want to win the Meme War with Creationists, and impact REAL WORLD things like laws, and discrimination, and wars, and the building of churches, and anything else that is impeding progress toward a secular world.

    In the eyes of “our detractors”, Richard scored some big points in this episode. We shouldn’t delude ourselves on this score.

  242. #243 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmRjbXoDgCq4N0aNWT2Z2RtB4Mm9CbDVys
    March 1, 2010

    I thought only Jews and Palestinians were capable of holding grudges forever.
    Now I can ad atheist forum contributers to the group.
    Peace talks, anyone?

  243. #244 Coleslaw
    March 1, 2010

    If I had a pearl necklace I’d be clutching the shit out of it right now.

    I have 2 (freshwater and cultured), but I’m not sure I should lend one out to anyone with “BigDumb” in his name.

  244. #245 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmRjbXoDgCq4N0aNWT2Z2RtB4Mm9CbDVys
    March 1, 2010

    And yes, I realize now I left the d off of the word add. Don’t hurt me.

  245. #246 Coleslaw
    March 1, 2010

    I thought only Jews and Palestinians were capable of holding grudges forever.
    Now I can ad atheist forum contributers to the group.

    This dispute has been going on forever? I thought it was something like maybe a month. I guess time really does go faster the older you get.

  246. #247 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 1, 2010

    I have 2 (freshwater and cultured), but I’m not sure I should lend one out to anyone with “BigDumb” in his name.

    be sure

  247. #248 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmRjbXoDgCq4N0aNWT2Z2RtB4Mm9CbDVys
    March 1, 2010

    Coleslaw,
    They are leaving RDF forever. Or so they say….

  248. #249 rEvolutionist
    March 1, 2010

    PZ wrote:
    That was the original plan. But then they let the moderators know what was afoot, pretty soon the gossip and hostile reactions spun out of control, and they had to stomp a big foot down.

    “Hostile reactions”? Bullshit. Got any proof for this wild statement?

    The “hostile reactions” didn’t start until AFTER the forum was shutdown. And most of them were well warranted given the vandalism carried out by the website admin team.

  249. #250 Coleslaw
    March 1, 2010

    Coleslaw,
    They are leaving RDF forever. Or so they say….

    There’s a restaurant not far from my house that I used to go to, but the last two times we were there, we had really slow service. So we don’t go there anymore. That’s not holding a grudge, IMO. It’s just a decision about how I want to spend my time.

    Other people have decided they don’t like the service RDF is providing and are going to go elsewhere. I see that as the same sort of decision as not going to a restaurant where you’ve had poor service.

  250. #251 dahduh
    March 1, 2010

    Disappointing!

    Not to detract from a most noble apology, but one would have supposed that an anti-theist evolutionary biologist would be able to figure out how to control emergent behavior without resorting to an appeal to a central authority. The failure in the system after all was not of the many, but of the few. Design one in which the many can discipline the few, not the other way around!

  251. #252 scooterKPFT
    March 1, 2010

    #250

    Depends on how good the food is.

    See ‘Soup Nazi’ episodes of Seinfeld and begin drawing parallels.

  252. #253 Bill Dauphin, OM
    March 1, 2010

    Paul W. (@218 and 220):

    I love ya’, man, but… holy crap!! My little oblique innocent question seems to have been worth a surprising number of apparently fairly angry column inches… twice.

    You, PZ, and a number of other people seem to think this is a simple black and white issue…

    No, I don’t think anything about “this”: When I said…

    I have neither the knowledge nor the standing to comment on the kerfuffle over the RDF forums, not having ever visited them…

    …I meant it: I don’t have, nor do I have any right to, any opinion about “this”… but listening to y’all talk about it has raised a separate, albeit not entirely unrelated, question in my mind. Is that okay with you?

    Your repeated analogies about marriage miss the point, IMHO: I have a contract with my wife that specifies, among other things, that we’ll take care to safeguard each other’s material wellbeing. OTOH, I have never thought that, merely by walking through the virtual door of a website and participating in the conversation there, I’ve created any contract or duty on the part of the website — regardless of how amateurish or professional it is — to safeguard my writings in perpetuity. Even if I pay for a website subscription, I don’t have any expectation that my members’ forum postings will be indefinitely available for retrieval, unless that’s an explicit part of the deal.

    It’s not a question of how adequate the site’s IT practices are: Offsite/offline backups and the like are for the benefit of the site… but the site’s IT staff doesn’t automatically become the private IT staff of each member, nor each member’s personal archivist. When I post here or anywhere else online, I consider it the equivalent of standing on a soapbox in the public square and giving a little speech: If I want it recorded or archived, I figure I’d better do it myself.

    The fact that forums and blogs do have a certain natural persistence, and can be search and retrieved, is nice, but it strikes me as an incidental bonus. With that in mind — and without making any other comment about the RDF dealie-bobber — it has surprised me that the one thing people don’t seem willing to forgive is the “loss” of their accumulated posts… when it never would have occurred to me to think of my posting in that way. So I was curious, and asked about it.

    Forgive me, if you will, for my temerity in attempting to abstract from a bitter, angry conversation something marginally less bitter and angry to chat about.

  253. #254 Rorschach
    March 1, 2010

    Nobody has mine…

    Which is a great shame…;)

  254. #255 Paul W.
    March 1, 2010

    Bill:

    Your repeated analogies about marriage miss the point, IMHO:

    IMHO, they don’t miss the point, although there is a disanalogy that’s apparently obscuring what I mean. Sorry about that.

    Replace the marriage analogy with a roommates analogy. No contract, no love, no long term commitment, no promise of permanent storage. You and your roomie decide it’s not working, and you move out.

    You return to get your stuff at a prearranged time, and find your stuff smoldering on the lawn.
    You complain, because that really does suck, then you find newspapers quoting your ex-roomie saying that you’re a horrible, unforgivable flaming ateasshole who deserved worse and should be grateful you didn’t get it.

  255. #256 Pierce R. Butler
    March 1, 2010

    Rebelest @ # 221: Here’s a quote from Peter Harrison: 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 … it’s just Peter Harrison’s unsubstantiated opinion… I haven’t seen anyone dare to quote any statement of Dr. Dawkins that supports such a conclusion.

    Apparently you missed Dr. Dawkins?s first public statement about this TARFU (see http://forum.richarddawkins.net/viewtopic.php?f=60&t=110356), and all of the subsequent debate here about whether it constituted quotemining or just cherrypicking, and whether/how much RD had been misled by Josh Timonen in his reaction.

    So read that post, and search this thread for “quotemin”, and apologize to Peter Harrison – in any order you like.

  256. #257 Pierce R. Butler
    March 1, 2010

    Oops, html fubar – if following the link in # 256, pls whack that last “)” off and you’ll get to the post indicated.

  257. #258 Paul W.
    March 1, 2010

    BTW, Bill, did you see my earlier analogy, in the previous RDF thread, about a nonstop party on an building on an unimproved plot of land, and people trying to move the party elsewhere?

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/02/i_so_do_not_want_to_get_sucked.php#comment-2303489

    An important factor in this is that the RDF mods were told that they could back up their threads. Josh clearly knew that the mods thought that was important, and said okay, but then changed his mind and sabotaged them, apparently out of vindictive spite and precisely because he knew it was important to them.

    That was a very big and very unprofessional “fuck you.”

  258. #259 Just Plain Cliff
    March 1, 2010

    See…here’s the thing. If what the RD forum members are saying is true (and from all the evidence presented it appears they are) then I need to re-examine my relationship with RDFRS. I?m not a RD forum participant, although I am a registered member; I generally stop by the ?front page? and the ?news,? but rarely comment on those pages. However, I do make periodic contributions to RD?s foundation.

    In all good conscience, I can’t support someone who treats volunteers with such callous disregard, and who leaps to conclusions that may not be justified just because a “friend” presents him with the summary of an event which may or may not be true. I suppose one is naturally inclined to believe a friend, but in this instance, with so much at stake, some attempt at verification prior to response would have been prudent.

    If RD and crew can’t even manage a smooth transition from one type of forum to another with people who trust him and are invested in his efforts, then maybe they aren’t the ones who best know how to further the atheist cause among the religious, who certainly are not favorably predisposed towards RD by any stretch of the imagination. Camus said that ?charm is a way of getting the answer ‘yes’ without ever having asked a clear question.? People skills are of paramount importance in achieving social change without the use of force; after this incident, I am unsure whether RD understands ?people.?

    And that?s why it?s important to me that the issue be discussed and the truth determined. I work hard for the money I earn, and I don?t want to invest it poorly.

  259. #260 Watson
    March 1, 2010

    Could someone please post a blog entry or web page link where the whole story is summarized?

  260. #261 Bill Dauphin, OM
    March 1, 2010

    Paul W. (@255 and 258):

    Wow, it’s like Surf City in here: <BeachBoys>”Two replies for evvvv-ryyyy post!”</BeachBoys>

    Replace the marriage analogy with a roommates analogy. No contract, no love, no long term commitment, no promise of permanent storage. You and your roomie decide it’s not working, and you move out.

    You return to get your stuff at a prearranged time, and find your stuff smoldering on the lawn.

    This may or may not be a good analogy to the situation at the RDF forums; I couldn’t say. But, as you may remember me mentioning, I’m not talking about that.

    I actually disagree with your premise that there’s no contract between roommates. It’s obviously not as strong as a marriage, but any time two people set up housekeeping together, they implicitly accept some level of mutual responsibility, including for the safekeeping of each other’s stuff.

    But that’s actually irrelevant to my pointquestion, which is why does anyone think of forum comments as “stuff” in the first place? It’s not a matter of how good a job somebody takes of safeguarding your property; it’s a matter of me wondering why people think of conversation as durable “property” in the first place? Certainly the written word can be property, with both intellectual and economic value… but internet discussion is more similar to spoken conversation than to crafted writing. Not that it can’t be both, of course, but if you see your words as the latter, isn’t it your responsibility to preserve them?

    Bill, did you see my earlier analogy, in the previous RDF thread, about a nonstop party…

    No, no I didn’t. Because — and stop me if you’ve heard this one already — I don’t have a dog in this feckin’ fight, and thus I haven’t been following it that closely. But I’ve got a party analogy of my own:

    Suppose you’re at a cocktail party, and the conversation is brilliant… no, you’re brilliant! At some point, you leave the party, but after a while, you decide that some of the things you said were really wonderful, and worth hanging on to. You go back to the party, but by the time you get there, they’re packing up to move to another location, and it turns out the one person who had a camcorder going has taped over your brilliant repartee.

    Are you furious? Do you wail about the thousands of words irretrievably lost? Do you wring your hands about your conversational companions, who are now scattered to the winds with no searchable record of their contact information? Or do you shake your head and remind yourself that it was, after all, a party… an inherently ephemeral event?

    Maybe Josh Whatsisname treated everybody on those boards like week-old shit, and all the complaints are valid and then some. But I as I’ve said before, I personally don’t even have standing to speculate about that. However, listening to y’all talk about it raised a more general question in my mind about the way people generally view their participation in internet fora. If you have an opinion about that question, I’d love to hear it; otherwise, I’d be humbly grateful if you’d stop lecturing me about a fight that is in no way mine.

  261. #262 Bill Dauphin, OM
    March 1, 2010

    Oh, shit (@me @261): On top of multiple cascading HTML fail (I think you can tease out the intent, if you care to), I forgot to add that I know my cocktail party analogy is imperfect, because one often can revisit and/or retrieve one’s prior rhetorical glory. But IMHO that’s an incidental benefit of the medium, not a promise.

    Absent a clearly stated intent to be a durable database of extemporaneous writing, I can’t see that any forum or blog has any implicit obligation to keep your comments around for any longer than it takes a few hundred of your closest virtual friends to rip you a new one over them. Thinking your comments are permanent is like writing term papers in the sand at low tide and imagining you’ll get to turn them in.

  262. #263 SC OM
    March 1, 2010

    Bill, did you look at the previous thread I mentioned? Please see this comment in particular:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/02/i_so_do_not_want_to_get_sucked.php#comment-2299773

    (The moderators were not just people posting on another’s site, either. They were the ones who largely took care of the forum.)

    This is the sort of material I use for my research, and this is a movement that’s hugely important to me. It’s amazing because it’s already digital and (when fixed) searchable, and right there online. No permissions! No headaches from scrolling through rolls and rolls of poor-quality microfilm!* No treks to a distant archive only to find there’s nothing useful there! And it’s everyone’s voices, not just those of the “leaders.” Just because something is on the internet doesn’t mean it should be seen as ephemeral. There are times, and this is one of them, when people have a responsibility to preserve it as an archive for people’s use and for researchers to learn from.

    *Not that this doesn’t have its joys.

  263. #264 Paul W.
    March 1, 2010

    Bill:

    You go back to the party, but by the time you get there, they’re packing up to move to another location, and it turns out the one person who had a camcorder going has taped over your brilliant repartee.

    Are you furious? Do you wail about the thousands of words irretrievably lost?

    In the situation you describe, of course not.

    But I would be rather peeved if the person with the camcorder had not yet taped over the tape, and understood that I wanted a copy, and had agreed to let me make a copy, but then chose, out of spite, to tape over the tape right before my eyes, just to fuck with me.

    I think that’s a closer analogy to what happened at the RDF.

    Nobody expects everything on the internet to survive forever. Many people do expect many things on professionally maintained sites to hang around for a while, and they take a calculated risk of losing them if something goes wrong.

    Maybe people are stupid to take such risks, and not copy everything all the time. Maybe they’re stupid setting themselves up for disappointment.

    But even if that’s true, it’s still a dick move to destroy information that you know other people value, when you don’t have to, just because you can. It’s a really serious dick move to do that when you’ve assured people that you wouldn’t, but change your mind and do it out of spite.

    BTW, Bill, do notice that I’m trying to address at least some of the issues you raise. Your analogy to the fortuitous taping is an interesting one.

    You are right that people should not in general count heavily on stuff on the internet to stay around. But if happens to be around, and you don’t want it but somebody else does, it’s a dick move to actively prevent people from copying something that it would cost you nothing to let them copy, and in fact costs you some effort to prevent them from copying.

    Going out of your way to deprive people of something that costs you nothing is just nasty and destructive. Especially if they made it and are proud of it.

    If I taped over somebody else’s highly valued conversation just to spite them, in front of their very eyes, I wouldn’t be astonished if I got a sock in the jaw, even if I had a legal right to do it. (Although I might call the cops on them for battery—that would be an overreaction.)

    I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if they cussed me out for being such dick, and chose to dissociate themselves from me, and warn other people away from trusting me.

    They’d be sensible to do that, and I’d be surprised if they didn’t.

    I don’t want to associate with people like that, who go out of their way to make people suffer, and I don’t want my friends getting screwed over by them, either.

    If the person making the dick move was destroying the product of thousands of hours of other people’s work, I might in fact refer them as a suppurating rat’s asshole, if I was feeling nice.

  264. #265 negentropyeater
    March 1, 2010

    Bill,

    However, listening to y’all talk about it raised a more general question in my mind about the way people generally view their participation in internet fora.

    I view it mainly as ephemeral conversation. But not only. There are subjects which I’m more particularly interested, and I bookmark some threads or comments (from other commenters or myself) which I like to have easy access to on a longer time scale.

    btw, stupid question, what happens to the contents of blogs when the blog owner dies ?

    I think blog contents can be great histiorical evidence. Just imagine if historians, sociologists, economists, etc… could access thousands of conversations that took place between real people hundreds or thousands of years ago. That we could analyse what people talked about 2000 years ago in Jerusalem for instance ?
    I think the capacity to archive some of these conversations in the past will have a huge impact on many disciplines in the future.

  265. #266 windy
    March 1, 2010

    Bill, don’t be disingenuous. Why would websites like Scienceblogs or RDF routinely spend money to uphold archives (not just posts, but comments and/or forums) going back several years, if not for a mutual assumption that someone values these things?

    Of course no one is obligated to host the content permanently, but there is a range of expectations of how long your contributions will be accessible. It’s not either/or.

  266. #267 Paul W.
    March 1, 2010

    Bill,

    What SC said. I think you should acquaint yourself with the relevant facts to the actual case, because it’s the actual case that people are most interested in, and they’re more interested in similar cases than dissimilar cases.

    We’re not talking about a chat room, or an amateur-run forum. We’re talking about the Richard Dawkins Foundation forums, and not just random users, but volunteers in positions of responsibility who thought they were doing a valuable service, and, often, writing stuff of fairly enduring value, for later reference. (E.g., Cali’s 50 discussions of peer-reviewed articles, among his over 2 million words of varying durability of value.)

    The moderators thought that by moderating the forums, and often by contributing heavily themselves, they made the forums better, and of more enduring value.

    I think it is a reasonable expectation under those circumstances to think that the site admins will make backups, and will not just throw away the results of thousands of hours of people’s work, whether there’s a contract to that effect or not.

    IMHO, the situation is much more analogous to the roommate situation than to some ephemeral chat room conversation, because the stakes are clearly much higher.

    The people who chose to work hard on the RDF Forums because they were the RDF forums and not some chat room are stakeholders, like roommates.

    They may not be the owners, but they’re still stakeholders, like a roommate who pays rent to the person who owns the house, or holds the lease.

    In that kind of situation, the stakeholders should be valued just because they’re people pulling their weight—or at least trying to in lieu of any feedback that they’re not doing it right.

    I’m sure that Cali, for example, had more of an investment in his writing on the RDF blogs than most people have in relationships with their roommates. That shouldn’t make him a stupid loser who deserves what he gets if somebody pulls the rug out from under him—it should make him an admirable and valued member of the rationalist movement that Richard Dawkins is trying to foster, and one whose stake in the outcome is taken seriously.

    He and others like him should not be gratuitously fucked over by anyone who’s not a rodent’s posterior, or who doesn’t want a reputation as being one.

  267. #268 Bill Dauphin, OM
    March 1, 2010

    SC (@263) and Paul (@264):

    Forgive me: I should’ve realized this was too raw and personal to move the conversation to one about a tangential abstraction (and I say that with no hint of snark, I promise).

    I take y’all at your word that the forums were a valuable resource, and that the mods were ill used, and that what Josh did was “a dick move.” But I didn’t have anything to say about any of that, and stayed out of all of one thread and most of another because I knew I had no place in the conversation.

    Then it struck me that people — posters, not just mods — were sounding proprietary about their past comments, in a way that I’d never noticed or thought of before, and that struck me as interesting in its own right, entirely independently of the actual case that made me wonder about it.

    BTW, Bill, do notice that I’m trying to address at least some of the issues you raise.

    I notice that you’re responding to my analogy, but in a way that I still don’t think responds to the issue I was trying to raise… which is probably a sign that my analogy was fatally flawed. Of course it’s a dick move¹ to willfully destroy something someone else holds valuable… but what had me scratching my head — and the only idea I meant to be addressing — was the notion that so many people seemed to hold conversation, which strikes me as evanescent almost by definition, as having that kind of durable value in the first place.

    Ahh, but this is futile. It’s a case of me saying to myself, “I don’t know anything about this A people are talking about, but the way they’re talking about it makes me really wonder about B“… without noticing that everyone in the room is still too pissed off about A to even be able to see B. And that’s fine: Others here are apparently bereaved in a way that I can’t begin to share, and I should just respect that.

    I’ll go back to the sidelines now, on this subject at least.

    ¹ To borrow your term, Paul, though I thought we’d talked about gendered/genitalia references as insults! ;^)

  268. #269 Bill Dauphin, OM
    March 1, 2010

    Oh, FFS!! I just said I was headed for the sidelines, but I can’t let this pass!

    Windy (@266):

    Bill, don’t be disingenuous.

    WTF?? Disingenuous?? You may think I’m dense, or clueless, or not appropriately sensitive to the loss others here have suffered, but where in the pluperfect fuck do you get off suggesting that I’m posting dishonestly?? Go to Hell, go directly to Hell, and do not pass fucking “Go!”!

    Christ on a stick, folks. I had a moment of intellectual curiosity obliquely related to the current epsiode of Internet Drama©. Apparently I was way the Hell off base, but I don’t really think I’ve earned being treated like the fucking puck at yesterday’s hockey game. And to think I’d actually been missing this place!

    Paul (@267):

    I think you should acquaint yourself with the relevant facts to the actual case, because it’s the actual case that people are most interested in

    Because Dog forbid that anyone should try to move from the actual fucking case to something potentially more universal, right?

    OK, I was called away from the keyboard for a few minutes, quite incidentally giving me the equivalent of time to count to ten, and I’m a skosh calmer now. Not calm enough to not post the above, but a little calmer.

    If my little bit of sophomore insight was off the mark or even just not useful to the rest of you, well, Hell, it wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened (not for any of us, mind you), but I confess I’m feeling a bit piled on. Most of you have been civil about it (except, of course, for Windy’s invidious characterization of me, and even that may be an instance of Inigo Montoya’s Complaint®), but even so, it’s uncomfortable at the bottom of the pile.

    I thought I had an interesting insight/question. Apparently not. Move along folks; nothing to see here.

    Aside to neg: There’s a whole very interesting conversation about whether the rise of blogging will have made things better or worse for future historians (I heard John Gaddis touch on that question briefly at a Parents’ Weekend lecture at Yale last year), but it’ll have to wait for another time, if I’m to be a part of it. I’m going to soak in the tub now.

  269. #270 SC OM
    March 1, 2010

    Apparently I was way the Hell off base, but I don’t really think I’ve earned being treated like the fucking puck at yesterday’s hockey game. And to think I’d actually been missing this place!

    Uh, all I did was respond to your question. (More than you did to my last email, incidentally. :)) I think you read what some people were saying about this case too generally.

  270. #271 windy
    March 1, 2010

    what had me scratching my head ? and the only idea I meant to be addressing ? was the notion that so many people seemed to hold conversation, which strikes me as evanescent almost by definition, as having that kind of durable value in the first place.

    I don’t think the RDF forum members ever thought their conversations were set in stone. But when they thought their ongoing conversations were going to be disrupted, they apparently wanted to make sure the archives were going to be preserved, as an attempt to salvage as much as possible of the community.

    everyone in the room is still too pissed off about A to even be able to see B. And that’s fine: Others here are apparently bereaved in a way that I can’t begin to share, and I should just respect that.

    Oh, please. Of those arguing with you now, who’s “bereaved”? I don’t think Paul W. and SC even posted on RDF, and my initial reaction was “oh, well”, but we can still disagree with how the community was treated.

    (except, of course, for Windy’s invidious characterization of me, and even that may be an instance of Inigo Montoya’s Complaint«)

    No. I meant it in the sense of “pretending to be na´ve”, since I couldn’t imagine that it was news to you that people don’t like it when their internet conversations get arbitrarily deleted. But if it makes you feel better, I’ll replace that with just “na´ve”.

    PS. you fell victim to one of the classic blunders: never go against Paul W. when far-fetched analogies are on the line.

  271. #272 Bill Dauphin, OM
    March 2, 2010

    I know it’s not generally considered “manly” to take a tub bath, but it does wonders for the disposition. So glad we installed that jetted tub!

    SC (@270):

    Uh, all I did was respond to your question.

    Last one on the pile always gets the penalty flag, eh? ;^)

    (More than you did to my last email, incidentally. :))

    Yeah, sorry about that, It’s actually not irrelevant to the current conversation: I really do think of online discourse as casual conversation (though I shudder to think what it means that I can describe conversation as longwinded and occasionally pedantic as mine as “casual”), so it’s easy for me to bang on at length online; personal correspondence seems to me to demand more care, and I haven’t had much time to be alone with my brain lately. I’ll get you a response sometime this week.

    I think you read what some people were saying about this case too generally.

    Whereas I think I was trying to generalize from “what some people were saying about this case,” and folks (some of ‘em anyway) just weren’t having any. Oh, well….

    Which brings me to Windy (@271):

    Oh, please. Of those arguing with you now, who’s “bereaved”?

    Perhaps the word choice was a bit OTT, but… I was saying, in effect, “Here’s a potentially interesting (and incidentally less emotionally fraught) tangent to this whole mess,” and I was getting answers that sounded very much like “screw your tangent, don’t you understand the actual case that Josh is a dick??”

    Now, I’m lucky in that I haven’t had too many occasions to be around literally bereaved people, but when I have, a similar unwillingness to look beyond the immediate sense of loss has been a fairly common trait. I have no way of knowing what level of emotional involvement people here have, and I don’t even know who here was a regular there (since, as I may have mentioned once or thrice,I never visited the forum); I’m only reacting to what’s been said to me.

    And this…

    No. I meant [disingenuous] in the sense of “pretending to be na´ve”

    …is a nice try, but no cigar. What part of “pretending to be” something do you think doesn’t imply dishonesty in this context? I was trying to be charitable by suggesting the face-saving possibility that you didn’t know what the word means, but since you insist… two of the three definitions at your own link clearly imply some level of dishonesty; the only one that doesn’t is labeled a usage problem (i.e., back to Montoya’s Complaint). You pays yer money and you takes yer choice. Lucky for you, I can’t fence for shit, left- or right-handed.

    Finally, to Paul W.:

    You’ve made the distinction between professional and amateur (which you seem to conflate with amateurish) sites several times, and it’s taken me a while to sort out why that was bothering me about that. In part it was the implicit disrespect of the West Wing site that I had so enjoyed. I don’t know whether the folks who ran that site were professionals or not, but they ran the site in a very professional manner; it disappeared because its raison d’etre disappeared, not because it was poorly run. A site for fans of a TV show (even a very smart one) might seem lowbrow to you, but the people there were still people, on both sides of the screen.

    But I realized it was more than that: In your construction of the argument, you presumed that the content ought to be preserved, and the question about expectations hinged only on whether it was reasonable to think the site’s IT staff was up to the job. However, I was thinking of the discussion forums’ content as discussion, and the very crux of my question was whether there was in fact any a priori reason to presume it needed be preserved beyond the active life of the discussion. The level of professionalism of the IT staff is irrelevant to that question, and in that context your constant references to professional versus amateur sites seemed to suggest you think even the casual conversation of people who visit the former is more valuable than that of people who visit the latter. I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way, but there’s a hint of cultural bias in that position: Would you also suggest that the casual dinner conversation of diners at the Russian Tea Room is automatically more valuable than that of patrons at Denny’s or a local diner? If it’s really just casual conversation, why would the class of the website that hosts it make in inherently more worth saving?

    Oh, I dunno, maybe the RDF forums were really more like a de facto online journal, or a massive collaborative writing project in which everybody understood they were building a product; that would make everything different. But that’s not what “discussion forum” generally means, and I was deliberately trying to talk generally.

  272. #273 Sigmund
    March 2, 2010

    I’m a member of the RDF forum albeit one who doesn’t post there so often. I managed to miss the Timonen SQL Massacre and have been trying to piece together the correct version of events after the fact.
    Yes it seems to be a seriously bad move by Josh which was compounded by panic on his part as he tried to contain the effects of his first rror.
    That said anyone who runs a popular messageboard will know that these sorts of dramas are sadly inevitable. I was involved in setting up a messageboard for an English football team that is now far busier than either Pharyngula or the RDF forums and over the years we have had incidents that make this current spat look like nursery school playtime. I dropped out of the moderating team of that forum when I could see the train wreck it was heading for. Internet messageboards and forums are a unique social environment that are frequently (perhaps unfortunately) one of the major ways lots of individuals form friendships these days. To simply delete the community as Josh seems to have attempted is bound to lead to bad feelings, particularly when he tries to prevent the relocation of that community to another site (which is the time honored strategy of survival for threatened internet communities).

  273. #274 windy
    March 2, 2010

    Now, I’m lucky in that I haven’t had too many occasions to be around literally bereaved people, but when I have, a similar unwillingness to look beyond the immediate sense of loss has been a fairly common trait.

    Again, the people you accused of “piling on” haven’t lost anything AFAIK, at most they have empathy for those who did.

    I’m only reacting to what’s been said to me.

    Ah, so you’re pulling a Laden: if it “sounds like” bereavement to you, then that’s what it is. And if people don’t concede what you see as your brilliant point, it must be because they are overemotional and defensive, not because they think you are muddling the issue.

    a nice try, but no cigar. What part of “pretending to be” something do you think doesn’t imply dishonesty in this context?

    “No” referred to your implication that I don’t know what the word means. “Pretending to be naive” implies very mild dishonesty, do you really think it’s some sort of pistols at dawn type of accusation?

    But OK; let’s say that suddenly fencing off an internet forum with thousands of active users should not upset anyone, since it’s all water under the bridge anyway. Let’s instead make this all about Bill Dauphin, who got commented at! On a blog!

    But that’s not what “discussion forum” generally means, and I was deliberately trying to talk generally.

    Then why is content at internet discussion forums generally archived for long periods of time, while the content of conversations at Denny’s and the Russian Tea Room is not?

  274. #275 Rorschach
    March 2, 2010

    Not quite sure what’s going on here, but it’s getting a bit silly.

    “Pretending to be naive” implies very mild dishonesty

    very mild dishonesty, srsly??

    Let’s instead make this all about Bill Dauphin, who got commented at! On a blog!

    windy, is there a reason you’re trying so hard to be an asshole here ?
    Not impressed.

  275. #276 windy
    March 2, 2010

    Not impressed.

    And if you don’t know what’s going on, why should I care?

    BTW, you quoted me out of context: were you being disingenuous or just an asshole? I was commenting on the irony of Bill belittling the emotional reaction of the RD forum users, contrasted with his emotional reaction here.

    ————–
    …OK, back to the on-topic post I was trying to write:

    grh123:

    It’s also not the first display of incompetence regarding the RDF Forum.
    In the great hacking incident of 2009 in which thousands of members emails were stolen and spammed, Josh of course blamed the incompetent volunteers.

    And apparently something similar happened earlier, but on a smaller scale, with the deletion of an OT section of the forum:

    http://forum.richarddawkins.net/viewtopic.php?f=60&t=60588

    “In the angry exchanges that followed, a dominant theme emerged. Although a minority objected to the guidelines themselves, by far the greatest anger was reserved for the MANNER in which things had been done, and especially the abrupt and sudden cutting off of access to OT.”

    Hmm, sound familiar? The person apparently responsible for that incident resigned, so why did they do the same thing this time and expect a different result? (Wasn’t there also some unrest about shutting down a chatroom? And implementing moderation on the front page?)

    This is not to say that there weren’t good reasons for the proposed changes; retaining the charitable status of RDF, and promoting discussion on “science and reason”. I don’t think either Richard Dawkins or Josh Timonen are “evil” here, they are probably in a difficult position trying to implement these changes, and they overreacted – but they largely put themselves in that position. Isn’t part of being rational and scientific that we should try to learn from mistakes, especially repeated ones, not just apologise for them and move on?

  276. #277 windy
    March 2, 2010

    BTW Rorschach, this was you responding to a similar “web content is ephemeral” argument from someone else: “strawmanly goalpost shifting” “not the fucking point, now is it” “What kind of an asshole are you ?” “Well fuck you lol.”

    Maybe I should have replied like that instead of “trying so hard to be an asshole”? Hypocrite.

  277. #278 Rorschach
    March 2, 2010

    windy, Im rather unimpressed by your line of argumentation here to be honest, the ad hominems aside.

    I was commenting on the irony of Bill belittling the emotional reaction of the RD forum users, contrasted with his emotional reaction here.

    And I fail to see how he was belittling anyone in his comments to be honest, whereas I think you have just gone totally overboard in yours.

    Bedtime, enjoy.

  278. #279 Andreas Johansson
    March 2, 2010

    Maybe I should have replied like that instead of “trying so hard to be an asshole”?

    Or just maybe you could have been polite. Or, if you really thought Bill was being disingenous, had the guts to stand by the accusation.

  279. #280 Paul W.
    March 2, 2010

    Bill:

    BTW, I think that Windy was mistaken and a bit rude to say you were disingenous.

    I do think Windy was right to point out that the existence of archives that include comment threads on sites like this one indicates that some people do in fact value a durable record of comments, and that site administrators do generally recognize that to some extent.

    One thing that I think SC and I are getting at is that more people ought to recognize that keeping comments is valued a fair bit by a fair number of people. It’s the kind of feature that people are reasonable to hope won’t just go away for no good reason. And given that that’s true, it’s reasonable for site administrators to take those users’ interests into account, and for users to expect them to, and to complain if they don’t. (How will site admins know what’s a valued feature if the users don’t complain when they try to take it away?)

    I’m not sure what exactly we’re actually disagreeing about, so this is going to be a bit rambly… and probably a bit repetitive because I don’t have time to edit it, but didn’t want to leave you hanging.

    I think you should acquaint yourself with the relevant facts to the actual case, because it’s the actual case that people are most interested in

    Because Dog forbid that anyone should try to move from the actual fucking case to something potentially more universal, right?

    Well, no. One of the reasons I said that was that I thought that you were sorta misunderstanding what principles SC and I were actually arguing for, partly based on misunderstanding the particular case, and not having read our actual arguments earlier in this thread and the prior one.

    (Various things you said, including your original version of the camcorder analogy, seemed to indicate to me that you didn’t quite understand where we were coming from. Of course people have the right to reclaim storage space from stuff that they have no reason to think anybody else wants, and good reason to want the space for something else. Nobody is disagreeing about that kind of extreme situation, so all the interesting situations are at least a little bit more similar to the particular case that sparked the discussion, which is very dissimilar.)

    I don’t think that either of us is arguing that there are or should be any strong guarantees that all casual conversations on the intertubes should be stored and accessible forever. That’s not practical, and can’t be expected. (And in certain cases isn’t desirable. If you’re going to archive chat room conversations and put them on the web forever, you should warn people that what they say does NOT just disappear into the flickering void.)

    On the other hand, I think there’s a continuum of reasonable expectations about durability between something obviously very evanescent like an chat room to something like, say, Wikipedia, with things like Pharyngula and RDF forum comment threads falling somewhere in between.

    I also think that ought to be discussed, because people like Richard Dawkins ought to be made aware that there are people out there who expect their serious conversations not to simply be regarded as ephemeral, and discarded.

    (Especially if they have encouraged volunteers to put time into moderating those threads, raising their signal-to-noise ratio and making them more worthy of keeping around. Pharyngula is a bit different, in that there’s no substantial moderation. On the other hand, there are some social norms that commenters put some effort into enforcing, which have similar effects, so it’s not as different as it might seem at first glance.)

    You’ve made the distinction between professional and amateur (which you seem to conflate with amateurish) sites several times, and it’s taken me a while to sort out why that was bothering me about that. In part it was the implicit disrespect of the West Wing site that I had so enjoyed. I don’t know whether the folks who ran that site were professionals or not, but they ran the site in a very professional manner; it disappeared because its raison d’etre disappeared, not because it was poorly run. A site for fans of a TV show (even a very smart one) might seem lowbrow to you, but the people there were still people, on both sides of the screen.

    I wasn’t disrespecting amateurs at all, in terms of the quality of what they produce, especially no in light of the infrastructure and resources available. Amateur stuff is often as good as, or better than, professional stuff.

    In fact, when I read PZ’s recent pessimistic comments about forums and their inevitable meltdowns, I thought of some very good amateur-run forums I’ve participated in, which don’t seem to have the kinds of major problems he was talking about..

    However, I do think that it’s reasonable to have different expectations of professionally run forums than amateur ones, all things being equal, in terms of how durable you expect the site and its comment records to be—at least if the professionals are paid by an enduring instituation like a foundation that can be reasonably be expected to be around for a long time, and that organization has said it values its forums and commenters.

    One of the amateur phpBB sites I used to visit was a small operation, with one owner/operator and a couple of dozen major contributors at any given time, and a few hundred readers. (It’s a site for people engaged in a certain kind of craftsmanship, to make certain kinds of cool objects.)

    That site has been in operation for several years and I suspect it will be in operation for several more, but it’s run by one guy who doesn’t get paid for it, on a shoestring.

    If that guy’s health goes to shit, or his family situation and/or job situation and finances go to shit and he doesn’t have time to run that site, or if he just decides to take up another avocation at the expense of that one, it’s not clear whether anyone will step up and take over, or whether they will do as good a job. The site may suddenly die. (Or switch hands, and become dysfunctional, and slowly die due to new and “amateurish” amateur management, as opposed to the current high-quality amateur management.)

    On that site, there’s a lot of discussion of materials and techniques for making things. A lot of of it is ephemeral, but it’s also cool that even the seemingly ephemeral stuff is durable and searchable, because somebody else may have a question similar to an old one, and be able to re-use information and advice given to someone else two years ago, by somebody who’s no longer around. (E.g., me; I’m not around often these days.)

    If the guy who runs that site were to die or for some reason let the site die, it would be a sad shame, because there’s a fair bit of cool expertise in the comments there, and I’d rather it was available perpetually online, for anybody to find with a web search. (I hope it will always be archived on the Wayback Machine, but unfortunately, a normal web search won’t find it, and the site’s search function doesn’t work in a static Wayback Machine image.)

    But if that did happen, nobody would complain bitterly. If nobody stepped up to keep the site going, or even keep a static image online, everybody would accept that it would therefore die and disappear.

    My point about amateur sites was only that in that kind of practical terms, they often won’t endure because there’s not consistent volunteer time and reliable funding to keep them going.

    One would hope that things would be different for a site maintained by professional staff and funded by a foundation like the RDF. The RDF is not supposed to be a fly-by-night operation. It takes money from contributors who guess that the organization will endure for a substantial period of time and do quality work.

    Even if Richard Dawkins himself were to die, I would hope that the RDF would continue to function, including continuing to fund its web site, for at least some significant period of time. (And hopefully a very long time.) If the particular individuals administering the site die or move to different jobs, somebody can replace them, if there’s money for it. And as long as there’s somebody keeping backups and keeping the overall site online, there’s no good reason for anything to ever just disappear.

    (I think it’s reasonable for Dawkins to make the old forums read-only, if they don’t want to invest real paid-for time and energy into overseeing a live forum with all its drama. Keeping a read-only image online costs nearly nothing, as long as the overall site is kept going, and it’s good that Dawkins now sees that it’s worth it.)

    The West Wing site you mention is an interesting case. My wife and I didn’t start watching West Wing until after the show’s run was over. It’d be cool if sites like that did live forever, so that people like us could show up when we watch episode 62, and maybe resume a conversation that other people started years before, when it was first shown. (And because future historians may be in interested in how people responded to a liberal political show then.)

    It would be especially neat if such things stayed around for decades, such that if you watch an episode of that show, you can resume a conversation that was started by people of a different generation, and take a longer view of, say, some economic strategy controversy that came up on the West Wing. For example, somebody watching West Wing in 2030 might be interested in the discussions about episodes from when it was first broadcast—e.g., people talking about connections to real current events. (Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a record like that of people’s discussions of, say FDR’s fireside chats, from right after they were aired?)

    But if it’s an isolated amateur-run fan site with no consistent funding, that’s unlikely to happen, which is A Bad Thing IMO. Ideally that sort of thing would happen on some larger site that’s maintained, backed up, professionally run, and permanently funded.

    What’s especially disappointing is if stuff just unnecessarily disappears from a site that is professionally staffed and permanently funded. Not because professional stuff is necessarily better, but because that’s the kind of situation where keeping the stuff is comparatively easy. And if it’s nonetheless destroyed gratuitously, out of spite, that’s an extra special kind of suckage.

    One of the reasons I think it’s worth discussing these things is that if people are considering starting or revamping a blog or forum of their own, they might want to think hard about what’s likely to endure on the web for how long.

    For example, at a guess, I would guess that if you put something up on blogger (owned by google) it’s not likely to just disappear anytime soon, for reasons beyond your control. (Google is a going concern that cares about its reputation, so they’re not likely to just destroy the site.) If you get tired of maintaining it, you can just disable comments and stop posting, and leave what’s there up on the web for some limited approximation of posterity.

    One of the reasons why I’m inclined to engage in very serious discussions on Pharyngula is that I don’t think it’s just ephemeral. I don’t expect it to simply disappear, even if PZ were to die. I would hope that even if Seed goes under, they won’t just peremptorily disappear it, and I’d have a while to think and search and salvage some of the more interesting stuff by me and by others.

    The widespread assumption that “it’s just casual conversation on the web” and therefore ephemeral is partly a self-fulling prophecy. The less people can count on stuff staying around, the less inclined they are to invest effort in creating things that are worth keeping around—and if people don’t make much stuff worth keeping around, people won’t be motivated to keep it around, and so on.

    Oh, I dunno, maybe the RDF forums were really more like a de facto online journal, or a massive collaborative writing project in which everybody understood they were building a product; that would make everything different. But that’s not what “discussion forum” generally means, and I was deliberately trying to talk generally.

    I think SC and I are trying to talk about some general principles, too.

    One of those is that a discussion forum generally does mean at least a little more than what you and a lot of other people seem to think. It may not be a refereed journal, but it’s not just a chat room, either. That’s why there are archives.

    For example, one of my favorite things about blogs like Pharyngula, with a base of knowledgeable and varied commenters, is that if I google up an article on something I’m interested in, the comments are likely to be interesting, too—they’re likely to cast a different light on the same subject, giving me a fuller picture. And if the blogger is significantly wrong—as PZ occasionally is—somebody who knows the particular subject well is likely to catch the error and point it out. If nothing else, people are likely to mention some related work I might want to—journal articles, or a particularly clear blog entry on another blog run by an expert on the subject, or whatever.

    That’s not a “peer reviewed journal” in the sense you mean but it is literally a journal of sorts with peer review of sorts. Other scientists and relevant experts react to what is said in the posting, and correct or elaborate things, etc. It’s cool, and it’s considerably more than a casual, ephemeral chat. That’s a big value added for me.

    On any subject I’m very interested in, I often do some web searching and find postings on various blogs that are up to several years old, with links to other related stuff. Broken links suck, which is why it’s good if people promote the norm of preserving stuff that’s on the web if it’s not expensive or difficult to do.

    On any given blog or forum, there’s usually a mix of stuff ranging from utterly ephemeral rambling and banter to things that people have put many hours into thinking through and trying to express clearly and responsibly.

    The fact that most forums, even good moderated forums, contain mostly the former and less of the latter doesn’t mean that there isn’t enough of the latter to make it worth preserving. And given the costs of disks these days, it’s easier to just preserve the whole thing, and let anybody who’s interested try to sort the wheat from the chaff later; even one percent wheat makes it worth preserving a lot of chaff, because it’s dirt cheap, and separating wheat from chaff is what search engines are for.

    Preserving the whole thing should be the default, IMO, and people should talk about it being the default, and why it’s the default, as we’re dong, so that more people know it should be the default, and make sure it is the default.

  280. #281 Rebelest
    March 2, 2010

    So, Pierce R. Butler, in your response to me about Peter Harrison and others making unsubstantiated conclusions without supporting evidence like quoting Dr. Dawkins (which doesn’t even reach to the level of quote mining-it’s just scurrilous and cowardly misrepresentation-which I can now conclude that you approve of) what do you do? Quote Dr. Dawkins? No. Couldn’t be bothered with that, huh, Pierce? Just too lazy? Or no, there’s no such quote to support such a conclusion. Too bad the Olympics are just over; you and your comprehension challenged friends could all have qualified for the “Ski Jump to Erroneous Conclusions” finals-probably sweep the medals!

    FYI, Pierce, I read the “Outrage” post, the post from Josh Timonen to the volunteer moderators, the post to the readers of RD.net, hundreds of comments, the articles written about this controversy (wholly created by Dawkins frenemies) on three U.K. websites and here at Pharyngula before I ever made a comment anywhere. Nowhere have any of you deigned to quote Dr. Dawkins to support your bullshit conclusions…so, please, do it now Pierce or STFU!

    Apologize to Peter? LOL For what?

  281. #282 Matt Hone
    March 2, 2010

    PZ I’ve been reading your responses, I know I’m writing this a little bit late and you might not see it but I hope you do.

    I think your argument that ‘it’s his website, he can do whatever he wants’ fails when you remember that the RDF is a registered charity on both sides of the Atlantic, and Richard encouraged us to donate to it.

  282. #283 windy
    March 2, 2010

    windy, Im rather unimpressed by your line of argumentation here to be honest, the ad hominems aside.

    It will be a sad day before I resort to trying to impress you. “Totally overboard”? Huh?

    Or just maybe you could have been polite. Or, if you really thought Bill was being disingenous, had the guts to stand by the accusation.

    Jesus, what a bunch of pearl-clutchers. I did originally think Bill was being disingenuous, in the sense of “pretending not to get it”. Of course it was a bit rude, it was meant to be. But why is that word suddenly beyond the pale? Look, in the last thread, there were people calling PZ’s argument disingenuous:

    The problem is in a suddenly severed relationship, not some weenie disingenuous ‘who legally owns what’ argument.
    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?

    I note that nobody got the vapors for PZ being so unfairly and invidiously accused of dishonesty (of course my statement was a bit more blunt than these). And I still don’t understand why everyone is suddenly so concerned with my politeness when the same argument about the web being ephemeral apparently warranted a huge fuck-you tirade from Rorschach in the other thread? Does it depend on who is making the argument?

  283. #284 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 2, 2010

    think your argument that ‘it’s his website, he can do whatever he wants’ fails when you remember that the RDF is a registered charity on both sides of the Atlantic, and Richard encouraged us to donate to it.

    So if you donate to a charity, you get to dictate how it runs a web forumn or at the least get to dictate that the people who run the charity can’t dictate what happens to …..

    ARGAGAGAhhhhhhhhhh

    not getting involved,

    don’t care

    step away

    step away

  284. #285 Bill Dauphin, OM
    March 2, 2010

    Another reason I should never have said anything on this thread: Due to my work schedule, I remain able to read, let alone post, only in fits and starts, and that will likely to continue at least through the end of this week. Please don’t think I’m copping some kind of drive-by deal if I seem to ignore a response.

    That said… I want to make it clear that I do have empathy for those who have suffered a loss in this event, and I didn’t mean to be “belittling” anyone’s emotions. (As an aside, this is in no way an apology to Windy, who can bite me; I just don’t want anyone else to misunderstand my intent.) “Bereaved” may have been a somewhat hyperbolic choice of words, but it was said without cynicism or snark; intended entirely sincerely.

    And speaking of sincerity, Windy: Are you genuinely surprised that someone get upset at being called “only mildly” dishonest? Mind you, I’m not one of those assholes who insists on obsessive, unfiltered truth-telling, but I do insist on dealing honestly with people (and if you don’t get the distinction I’m making, tough). I’m afraid I can’t see being called dishonest in my discourse — even mildly so — as anything other than a glove to the face. That said, though, the comment about left- or right-handed fencing was a joke… a follow-on to my previous references to The Princess Bride. I would give you grief about being humor deprived on top of everything else, except that plenty of people don’t seem to get that I can be funny (or at least try to be) even when I’m angry.

    But I digress…

    Paul:

    I’m not sure what exactly we’re actually disagreeing about…

    Maybe not much. A good deal of #280 is exactly the kind of stuff I had in mind to talk about when I made my initial comment. I just don’t understand (and was too exhausted and brain-fried last night to be patient with) the necessity to pound me for failing to understand events that I never pretended to understand in the first place. Really, the specific events at the RDF fora had nothing to do with what I was musing about, other than that hearing others talk about the subject was the… I started to say “grain of sand in my oyster,” but I don’t seem to have produced any pearls, when it comes down to it! ;^)

    Your comment…

    …your original version of the camcorder analogy, seemed to indicate to me that you didn’t quite understand where we were coming from. Of course people have the right to reclaim storage space…

    …is just more evidence of the inadequacy of my analogy, because the point I was trying to make had nothing to do with folks’ right to reclaim their storage space. Rather, I was questioning whether it’s common to think of the ephemera of daily life as storage-worth in the first place (if, that is, it’s not too redundant to suggest that ephemera are… you know… ephemeral).

    It never occurred to me, before overhearing the conversation here, that they were, but I grok that may be changing, in part because online comments are in (IMHO incidental) fact durable, whether they are intrinsically durable items or not. That is, I suspect the medium of this form of discourse may be subtly (or perhaps not so subtly) changing its mode.

    You say…

    One of the reasons why I’m inclined to engage in very serious discussions on Pharyngula is that I don’t think it’s just ephemeral.

    …but my own experience/motivation is somewhat different. I imagine many here would agree (probably with rolled eyes) that I take the discussions here very seriously, and I often invest hours (and no small amount of intellectual and emotional capital) in what I write here… but it’s not because I perceive it as permanent or even durable. It’s precisely the opposite, in fact: I take contributing here so seriously because I value the conversation in the moment (and I’ll often refrain from commenting if I feel like “the moment” has passed). It’s nice to be able to revisit these conversation days or years later, but as I’ve said before, to me it’s an incidental benefit; I’ve “gotten my money’s worth” from my comments in the hours and days immediately after their posting, while they’re still being discussed. If Pharyngula went poof tomorrow, and all my erstwhile pearls were lost, I’d be sad and frustrated, but I wouldn’t feel as if PZ or Sb or anyone had violated my trust. I just don’t see this place as a vault for my work.

    But obviously others do see online fora that way, and realizing that surprised and fascinated me. What does it mean when an intrinsically transitory form of discourse acquires an overlay of — and then an expectation of — permanence because of the technology that hosts it? I don’t know the answer; I just thought it would be a cool question to ask.

  285. #286 Coleslaw
    March 2, 2010

    So if you donate to a charity, you get to dictate how it runs a web forumn [sic] or at the least get to dictate that the people who run the charity can’t dictate what happens to …..

    In the sense that free market forces dictate anything, yes, you do. If you consider how a charity’s web forum is run in deciding whether to give to that charity, and if enough other people feel the same way, then a charity might decide that improvements in running its website can lead to more charitable donations. So that is “dictating”, in a sense. Isn’t that what people try to do when they organize boycotts?

  286. #287 Bill Dauphin, OM
    March 2, 2010

    RevBDC:

    not getting involved,

    don’t care

    step away

    step away

    Ahh, where were you yesterday, when I so desperately needed this wisdom?

  287. #288 windy
    March 2, 2010

    …a bit rude to say you were disingenous.

    Sure, but least I didn’t call anyone a “sidekick”. ;) Did I just violate a social norm on Pharyngula by… being rude?

    And given the costs of disks these days, it’s easier to just preserve the whole thing, and let anybody who’s interested try to sort the wheat from the chaff later

    I think the RDF users had already started doing that, by putting together what they considered valuable resources on such things as debunking creationism. It might have developed into something like the talk.origins archive: clearly a very valuable resource that has its source in “ephemeral” Usenet discussions.

    Of course the talk.origins archive is hosted on a separate website, and does not only rely on Usenet. But perhaps it was understandable if many assumed that a discussion group on the website of Richard Dawkins would be a pretty good place to maintain an archive of valuable posts!

  288. #289 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmRjbXoDgCq4N0aNWT2Z2RtB4Mm9CbDVys
    March 2, 2010

    Bill Dauphin:
    I was once called a liar and misanthrope here a while back after posting something about humane treatment of feral cats…..
    I am amazed at the extreme and premature judgments some of my fellow atheists make!

    Honestly, everyone, I think anyone will let you down if given enough of a chance. Don’t be so emotional over it.

  289. #290 Opus
    March 2, 2010

    Rev:
    I hate to disagree with a fellow baconista, but I’ve got a bone to pick with this:

    So if you donate to a charity, you get to dictate how it runs a web forumn or at the least get to dictate that the people who run the charity can’t dictate what happens to …..

    I think that the donors do get a voice (not to dictate) how a charity runs a web forum, and I think the voice is proportional to the amount contributed. Furthermore, I know exactly how to prove it. Call Richard Dawkins and offer a $10 million donation to his charity, conditional upon the restoration of the forum. Watch how quickly it get restored. . .

    The Golden Rule* works in charity as in many other areas.

    *The real Golden Rule: “The one with the gold makes the rules.”

    PS: For the record, the bone I’d like to pick with you is from a rack of spare ribs (St Louis cut, not those wimpy baby back ribs) from BBQ joint of your choosing. My treat.

  290. #291 Pierce R. Butler
    March 2, 2010

    Rebelest @ # 281 – you say you’ve read the “Outrage” post and you still have no clue how “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…”?!?

    Let me help you with your evident reading incomprehension by shortening that:

    Rebelest … you still have no clue

  291. #292 Rebelest
    March 2, 2010

    I knew you wouldn’t be able to manage it Pierce. No surprise here…because there is no way to draw such a conclusion…if you can read…and understand what is written. You apparently can’t.

    What you were able to do was requote Peter Harrison. Wow, that was…useless. He’ll eat those words eventually.

    Now, what I’m looking for from you, is to post the sentences in the “Outrage” post that supports, Peter Harrison’s conclusion. Is that too difficult for you?

    And what’s with the “?!?” puncuation and the end of your first sentence? Is that how you indicates your hysteria?

  292. #293 windy
    March 3, 2010

    Are you genuinely surprised that someone get upset at being called “only mildly” dishonest?

    If you don’t want to be called dishonest, stop twisting my words into something I never said. You’ve done it several times now. I never denied it was insulting.

    I am a little amused if someone thinks it warrants a massive hissy fit. Statements that imply some sort of insincerity occur in arguments all the time, for instance: “that’s a strawman”, “This seems a bit disingenuous to me” or “PZ is extremely reluctant to publicly call out his friends for their unethical behavior.” Why are such jabs tolerated against almost anyone else but not at Honest Bill Dauphin? Can anyone explain this to me?

    I’m afraid I can’t see being called dishonest in my discourse ? even mildly so ? as anything other than a glove to the face.

    I see stepping into the middle of a conversation and blithering about how everyone else is too bitter and angry to see the big picture as a wet, old smelly mitten to the face.

    That said, though, the comment about left- or right-handed fencing was a joke… a follow-on to my previous references to The Princess Bride. I would give you grief about being humor deprived on top of everything else, except that plenty of people don’t seem to get that I can be funny (or at least try to be) even when I’m angry.

    Apparently you don’t seem to get when others are doing the same thing: I was playing along with your references in #271.

  293. #294 windy
    March 3, 2010

    Paul W., re: separating the wheat from chaff, this post by Topsy may be of interest:

    The majority of the forum topics were about Dawkins, Science & Reason. Personally, I don’t have a gripe about the Foundation’s decision to focus even more on their goals but the majority of the forum content could have been migrated to the new discussion area because it meets those goals. We were told by the site tech that this was going to happen but last week there was a change of plan (I don’t know who made that decision not to migrate the science & reason content).

  294. #295 Bill Dauphin, OM
    March 3, 2010

    I know I should just drop this, but I’m fascinated by what appear to be wildly differing understandings of what’s going on here.

    Windy (@293):

    If you don’t want to be called dishonest, stop twisting my words into something I never said. You’ve done it several times now.

    Really? I’d love to have you point out a valid example. I’m quite certain I’ve misunderstood people’s comments on occasion, or unintentionally misrepresented them, and perhaps you can find an instance where I’ve done that with you, but I assure you I’ve never deliberately “twisted” your words (or anyone else’s) for the sake of winning an argument here.

    This is not unrelated to what I said to Paul: that what I value about the discussion here is the discussion itself. Twisting words, quotemining, and other forms of strawman argumentation is cheating, which might make sense to someone (someone amoral) who cared about the prize more than the game, but when (as is the case here) there is no prize and the only thing of value at stake is the game itself, cheating is not only dishonest, it’s also stupid.

    Apparently you don’t have much regard for my honesty, but in any case I’m not stupid. If what I mirror back to you from your comments doesn’t sound like what you meant to say, it means either that I’ve misunderstood or that you’ve communicated poorly; I promise you it never means I’m just lying about what you said.

    I never denied it was insulting.

    I didn’t say you had. What I said was that I didn’t understand why you seemed to be¹ shocked that I was insulted in the way I was, as the quote you very helpfully provided demonstrates:

    Are you genuinely surprised that² someone get[s] upset at being called “only mildly” dishonest?

    Note that in saying that, I’ve implicitly accepted that you knew you were insulting me. The argument was never about the existence of an insult, but about its nature: When you call someone disingenous, there are only two possibilities: Either you’re impugning that person’s honesty (or at least the honesty of a particular argument or comment) or you’re misusing the word; for a bit there you seemed to be looking for a third possibilty.

    Why are such jabs tolerated against almost anyone else but not at Honest Bill Dauphin?

    Here you totally miss the point. It’s not at all about claiming “you can’t say that on the internet” nor that “you can’t say that about me!” Disingenuous is a fine word; I use it often myself. And it’s perfectly appropriate to call out dishonest arguments when you see them. But when you do, you shouldn’t act surprised when the people you’re calling dishonest get pissed off. Don’t you get angry when somebody calls you a liar? It’s not some sort of weasely, pearl-clutching self-absorption for an honorable person to defend his honor; I would expect the same from you if someone challenged yours.

    In this case, I was not only insulted but surprised, because there really didn’t seem to be any predicate for your charge in my prior comments (and this is why I originally suggested your word choice might have been in error). I could imagine you thinking I’d missed the point of the thread, or miscalculated its mood, or even that you just thought my comments were silly; I couldn’t (and still can’t) see what I’d said that might have made you suspect I was commenting dishonestly (even “mildly” so).

    I see stepping into the middle of a conversation and blithering about how everyone else is too bitter and angry to see the big picture…

    This, finally, is why I decided to respond at all. Not that I ultimately care that much what you think, but it matters to me that others in this thread know this is a mischaracterization of both what I said and what I intended to say. First, I wasn’t claiming to have some “big picture” that others couldn’t see; I had a question — which had occurred to me as a reaction to (but was otherwise not part of) the ongoing conversation — that I hoped others might find interesting to talk about. I didn’t parachute into the conversation pretending to dispense specious Wisdom From On High©; I just wanted toconverse.

    In addition, my references to others’ anger — IIRC I talked about the conversation being “raw and personal” in one place and referred to people as “bereaved” in another — were entirely in the context of acknowledging my own failure to correctly gauge the mood and flow of the thread. It was a bit of self-criticism, but it was in no way criticism of, nor disempathy with, the people who are angry over what happened at the RDF forums.

    You know, saying someone is angry is not necessarily an insult, nor even necessarily a criticism³: As SC has recently reminded us in another context, sometimes anger is a perfectly appropriate, even rational, response to events. I was recognizing (however belatedly) people’s legitimate upset, not “belittling” it. I hope and trust the people in question understood that at the time; I didn’t want them to be left with your revised version of events. (BTW, I assume you simply misunderstood me; I don’t accuse you of twisting my words.)

    ¹ Pedantic Rhetorical Note No. 1: Qualifying phrases like seemed to be aren’t just mindless punctuation; they’re used deliberately to acknowledge that I’m drawing a conclusion, with the implicit caveat that I might be mistaken.

    ² Pedantic Rhetorical Note No. 2: Are you genuinely surprised that… is an example of a common device called the rhetorical question, which doesn’t actually seek to elicit a response, but rather constitutes a statement. In this case, the statement being made is I’m surprised that you seem so surprised that…. In this context, it does not question the sincerity of your surprise; it only expresses my own surprise in response.

    ³ Pedantic Rhetorical Note No. 3: Much as we seem to occasionally lose sight of the fact, there is a distinction between criticism and insult.

  295. #296 Jacob
    March 3, 2010

    I posted this at Avangelism.com and copied it here. I intend to make it my last comment on this subject.

    Jacob Hogan says:
    March 3, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    Hi Vince,

    Thank you for posting the link to the ?Death of the Forum? thread. I had only seen it once since this all started.

    A rational person should be able to recognize the harm of divisive speech. Had the following thread appeared on my forum I?d have had serious thoughts of change too. Maybe even pulled the plug on the spot.

    ?To be honest, I can see how prof. Dawkins may want to go in this direction. He gets enough bad PR without stuff like that ?C*nts and Ni**ers? thread.?
    The treatment of the mods is appalling though, they deserve better.

    I edited a little because I wouldn?t disrespect you with such language. On your own blog no less. And yes cherry-picking is usually a warning sign but not in this case, there is no appropriate ?context? for a thread like that.

    As always, Vince, with respect. But I think you suffer from opinion bias. You are are on the wrong side of this. Not showing respect where respect is due is a sign of a lowly person. I?m not saying you are a lowly person, I just wish you would put your considerable intellect to work impartially. RD is not perfect but he has done/is doing great things.

    It?s obvious that the community RD had in mind does not include mundane vulgarity. Regardless of what pearls of wisdom may be found in the old forum I am not willing to wade through the muck to find them. I look forward to the new forum.

    There is a line, there are some things that must be protected. This is not one of them. It?s a drama on the web but what if this were real life, how much traction would these complaints get at work for example? My advise: always remember, hurt feelings will happen again, that?s our reality.

    For the ?mods? that were treated so rudely, I commend you. But you didn?t do your job. Maybe the ?admins? didn?t communicate the mission effectively, maybe the mission is a moving target. Just know that the RDF is not who you are.

    Regards,
    Jake

  296. #297 Ichthyic
    March 3, 2010

    how much traction would these complaints get at work for example?

    having been an IT manager for 6 years, if I pulled something like Josh did at my own workplace, or on a customer’s website, I would have been summarily fired, no question.

    For the “mods” that were treated so rudely, I commend you. But you didn’t do your job. Maybe the “admins” didn’t communicate the mission effectively, maybe the mission is a moving target. Just know that the RDF is not who you are.

    with all the “maybes” in there, it’s quite obvious you’re summarizing out of your ass.

    your commentary on this, however much time you spent thinking it through, is fairly off target.

    I intend to make it my last comment on this subject.

    this is likely a very good thing.

  297. #298 Paul W.
    March 4, 2010

    Jake,

    For the “mods” that were treated so rudely, I commend you. But you didn’t do your job. Maybe the “admins” didn’t communicate the mission effectively, maybe the mission is a moving target. Just know that the RDF is not who you are.

    with all the “maybes” in there, it’s quite obvious you’re summarizing out of your ass.

    Yeah. Especially combined with the lack of a “maybe” in “But you didn’t do your job.”

    As far as I can tell, in light of a fair bit of information, the mods did their job, insofar as anybody told them what their job actually was. They were told they were doing something valuable. (And they were, IMHO.)

    Then the goalposts moved—or rather, it was suddenly revealed that the goalposts had move a considerable time before, without them being told. They were summarily dismissed despite having done their job, done it for free, and done it well, as far as anybody could tell except one or two people with secret criteria. (And that was just the beginning of their being treated shockingly shabbily.)

  298. #299 jack.rawlinson
    March 7, 2010

    Late to this (I’ve been away) but I’m pleased that RD has come through in the classy and reasonable way I hoped and expectred he would.

    What I am still far from happy about is that it is RD doing the apologising and not the real villains of this piece: Timonen and Chalkley. Yes, I know Josh has done great things for RDF and yes I know he gave RD his first decent website with all the profile-enhancing benefits that entails. But he and Chalkley did some truly low, casually insolent and downright malicious things during this debacle and the fact that neither of them have apologised speaks volumes. It tells me that they don’t give a flying damn about the RD forum community. Still.

    Again: classy move from RD but I’m not inclined to either forgive or forget what Timonen and Chalkley did.

  299. #300 Epictetus
    April 5, 2010

    The discussion forum I thought had become somewhat cliquish.

  300. #301 Epictetus
    April 8, 2010

    I was out of the loop during this whole RD debacle. One of the things I heard –probably a case of “you shouldn’t believe everything you here”– was that some of the mods of whomever were leaking personal information (IP addresses, etc.)about forum members they didn’t like. If this is true, no wonder Josh felt compelled to shut the discussion board down.

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