227. Your Help Needed Defining Rules of New Skeptiko Forum

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#81
I did hear Alex say the upcoming episodes were covering UFOs, ay? Just as well for the mods that we're starting this brave new world with an uncontroversial topic... :eek:
 

Alex

Administrator
#82
Was it really that bad in the old forum? Can't you just employ that system where enough "dislikes" collapses an annoying post, thus flagging it as a problem, and then it's up to the reader if they want to open it up and read...
pls change your Avatar.
 

Alex

Administrator
#83
I suggest questions and comments pertaining to the look and features of the new forum be moved to a different thread, to keep this one about moderation, the rules, etc.
good idea. can you pls start. also, would be very helpful if folks could try and answer/solve their own problems (of possible) then share the learn'n. this is a pretty popular forum platform (xenforo) there's a lot of help out there.
 
#86
Andy, Alex has just told me that he's raised the conversation limit from 5 to 25 participants (thanks, Alex). This makes it more feasible to tell people to take wayward arguments into conversations. Note: "conversations" on this forum are a bit like PMs on the old forum, but easier to use, I'd say.
 

Bart V

straw materialist
Member
#87
First rule - be a fan of the podcast!
Definitely agree with that, i was listening to podcast for a long time before i started posting on the forum.
I sometimes wildly disagree to what is said, but i always keep listening, other non-skeptical podcasts often make me switch of after a few minutes.
Beyond that... well, there's a continuum of positions from accepting every little anomaly as evidence of psi, right through to rejecting the best possible psi studies (with some silliness at either end :) ) and we're all on that line somewhere.
Again, definitely agree, and i make no secret of the fact that i find myself on the latter end of that spectrum, stopping just before the silliness starts.

about moderation, i think everybody agrees that the first rule must be mutual respect, no discussion about that, anything else is going to be subjective and weighted by opinion.
Some of the proposals for new rules are designed with past encounters with specific posters in mind.
Not a good idea IMO, in the end the new rule does not accomplish what it was intended for, and it becomes ballast because it is abused by other forum members to further their agenda. Trying to solve a problem here often leaves one creating another problem over there.
 
#88
thx for this Robert. I have a sense that you're onto something. Perhaps we could look at reviving something like the Skeptiko Haven, but in reverse... i.e. have a forum for "Believer versus Skeptic" debates (because there's a need for that sometimes, but keep the "Skeptiko Podcast" forum free from skeptical nincompoopery... cause you're right, it can get draining... and it's defiantly unproductive.
Alex, this is lifted directly from your homepage (the very first paragraph) "This podcast is a leading source for intelligent, hard-nosed skeptic vs. believer debate on science and spirituality. Each episode features lively discussion with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics."

Additionally you mention that the science is controversial at the beginning of each episode. To stifle debate on the main podcast forum would seem contrary to the very aims of the project.
 
#89
It was funny, but it was also sad to see that you're on that site.
No, not really that funny, actually
I've been out of town and basically offline for a while and was pleasantly surprised to see this new forum. The old one was great for being incredibly active and for the input being intelligent and knowledgeable. However, I must admit I found it disheartening and even depressing. I think that was due to a couple things. One was the outright discord. I don't mind disagreement, but I am very uncomfortable with the antipathy that often goes along with it, and that I felt I saw a lot on the old forum. The other was just the complete lack of accord on the most basic of issues. You've got "materialism is dead--utterly refuted." And you've got "there literally is no evidence for anything paranormal." As a result of those two factors, the more time I spent on the forum, the worse I felt. So I tended to check in and give my thoughts on the latest podcast and on Alex's "tee-up" questions, just because I enjoy the podcast so much, and then not say much more. It was just too draining.

In terms of the new forum, I've got a somewhat radical suggestion. I've just returned home from Arizona, where my organization concluded a teacher training. The group of us had been in a very intense process for 18 months, and now that we were together again in the flesh, the accord between us felt tremendous. We've got a very adult bunch and everyone knows it is completely fair game to disagree with me (as the head teacher). Indeed, much of the broad outline of the training was designed at a group level by a group consisting mostly of the trainees (we all had been involved together before the form training). As a result, the accord felt really healthy. It felt like a joining of free minds who simply have a common perception of the key truths involved. It was a great feeling.

My observation is that Skeptiko has been split between the frank advocacy seen in Alex's podcasts and the fundamental divide present in the forum. Because of that divide, the forum gave the impression that we are, at least in part, there to hash out whether there is any truth at all in the topics that Alex advocates so strongly for in the podcasts. It was a weird divide, one that perhaps in part grew out of the gap between where Alex started and where he's ended up.

My somewhat radical suggestion is that some kind of statement of belief/perspective/purpose be crafted, one that more reflects the orientation of the podcasts. Something like: we are an evidence-based community that, while acknowledging that far more investigation needs to be done and the jury is still out on many topics, the evidence is strongly suggestive of the independence of mind from brain and the reality of paranormal abilities, and our purpose is to.... I'm not putting that forward as even a draft of a statement. But I suggest that something along those lines be crafted.

And then those who join the forum would need to tick a box in which they state that they are in accord with that statement--they agree with that perspective and that purpose. What we would get as a result is a community that is not a bunch of robots, mindlessly agreeing on every detail, but a community that at least has a common starting point. It doesn't mean we think the debunkers and deniers are evil. But they have their forums already. How many do we have?

In the teacher training I was referring to earlier, that wonderful sense of accord would have been easily spoiled by just a couple of vocal people who did not agree on the basics. Such people could have easily stopped the group from really joining. My guess is that on this forum most of want a basic accord, on top of which we are then free to explore the details and undecided issues, as well as have frank discussions about how to spread our point of view in the world.

I don't think we are going to achieve the desired result just through effective moderation. The skeptics could be quite polite and considerate and the forum could be free of interpersonal conflict, yet without that sense of fundamental accord growing up. I don't know if my suggestion would work or if it's even right, but I think it's worth considering.
Related to this . . .

I just kinda wanted to say that, as you put it, Alex's frank advocacy is something I've thought often about . . . and it's something I fully and completely get . . . and appreciate. It's just kinda like, enough's enough with all hem-hawing B.S. and having to defend against pettiness . . . this isn't to say, of course, that I believe everything posited . . . just that there's certainly ample evidence to make some sort of statement or take some sort of firm stance without all the hesitition and back-tracking . . .

All of that is basically a kind of unspoken concession to materialists and an effort to avoid the slightest embarrasment by actually endorsing something that might be paired with "believing in unicorns," and other dumb such stuff.
 
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#90
Ditto.
Long-time listener, first-time caller here.
Some mechanism to squelch the trolls is certainly a necessity, but I fear too many arcane rules to the forum will only hinder deeper discussions...
I agree. The fewer rules, the better. What I'd like to do is not enlarge on the number of rules but to understand what they mean. The more legalistic it gets, the easier it is to slip around them and cause lots of trouble.

AP
 
#92
thx for this Robert. I have a sense that you're onto something. Perhaps we could look at reviving something like the Skeptiko Haven, but in reverse... i.e. have a forum for "Believer versus Skeptic" debates (because there's a need for that sometimes, but keep the "Skeptiko Podcast" forum free from skeptical nincompoopery... cause you're right, it can get draining... and it's defiantly unproductive.
I would prefer to not have any special sub-forums, but to have a tight ship here where everyone can feel moderately comfortable. Also remember where all those came from in the first place. If we're reasonable, it shouldn't be an issue. If threads are marked so that they are off-limits to questions about the reality of psi/etc, that should be enough. Any posts that violate the spirit of the thread can just disappear.

AP
 
#94
Alex, this is lifted directly from your homepage (the very first paragraph) "This podcast is a leading source for intelligent, hard-nosed skeptic vs. believer debate on science and spirituality. Each episode features lively discussion with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics."

Additionally you mention that the science is controversial at the beginning of each episode. To stifle debate on the main podcast forum would seem contrary to the very aims of the project.
I don't think he wants to stifle debate any more than I do, but no one wants to watch a bunch of people yelling past each other. When either side completely (or nearly completely) ignores what the other party is saying, you aren't having a debate. A real debate wouldn't bother me at all. Frankly, I think it would be refreshing.

Let's keep in mind what Skeptiko is though, because it is much more than a place for debate, it is a place to find in one place information that is very hard to find anywhere else. The Skeptiko podcasts are something to explore. It may be that some day, an enterprising parapsychologist will go through the podcasts to study the attitudes connected to skeptical positions.

AP
 
#95
Expletives are acceptable, of course, correct? Most of the time I cannot write without using them...
I hate to say this, but please try to restrain this instinct. If you can't help yourself, and in the context it is okay, then fine. If it is your habit though, it is easy to get careless and let fly inappropriately, particularly in a forum like this where many members are rather sensitive to nuance.

AP
 
#97
But how does one figure out what is nincompoopery. For example, you suggested my write up of the Lancet article made the same error as a Michael Shermer article. However, none of the issues I raised in my post are even brought up in the Michael Shermer article.

Look Alex - the journal of parapsychology doesn't consider these issues to be nincompoopery (see the Kennedy paper as an example)- so why should you?
To use an art-related analogy: If I started a Photorealist art forum, I would not appreciate people constantly posting that Photorealist paintings aren't art because they are based on photos. There are artists who do this, principally because they favor other artistic traditions, and they can point to essays and journals that argue their case. But on my Photorealist forum I'm only going to tolerate so much of that kind of thing before I cut it off. Here, Alex has gone to more trouble than any normal skeptic I have ever heard of to educate himself on the issues discussed here. That has led him to his own opinions on the merits of the evidence, and those are valid, particularly given the effort that went into developing them. For a person who claims no personal experience of psi, it is amazing to me that he has gotten on the phone with so many prominent people on both sides of the parapsychological fence. If anyone is in a position to trust his own knowledge of these subjects, it's Alex. He may not have a degree in the subject, but it is clear from listening to him in the podcasts that he really understands psi research, the Journal of Parapsychology notwithstanding. You should also keep in mind that the JOP has a policy of publishing dissenting opinions, so that does not constitute an endorsement.

AP
 
#98
I don't think he wants to stifle debate any more than I do, but no one wants to watch a bunch of people yelling past each other. When either side completely (or nearly completely) ignores what the other party is saying, you aren't having a debate. A real debate wouldn't bother me at all. Frankly, I think it would be refreshing.

Let's keep in mind what Skeptiko is though, because it is much more than a place for debate, it is a place to find in one place information that is very hard to find anywhere else. The Skeptiko podcasts are something to explore. It may be that some day, an enterprising parapsychologist will go through the podcasts to study the attitudes connected to skeptical positions.

AP
Cool. I was specifically referring to having a separate sub-forum for debate. I think you've been clear on this too.

I think this thread is a great resource for new members to read through. It will give them a feel for the evolution of what's acceptable, and what the forum is trying to achieve. Reading this discussion would (IMO!) be of way more value than the usual "forum rules" in terms of some of the nuances and subtleties of interaction. This comes from someone who got himself into a little trouble as a newbie on the other forum:eek:ops:
 
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I can't add much to what everybody's been saying. Creating a "safe harbor" in order to facilitate civility between paranormalists and anti-paranormalists is, of course, a great idea. But what happens when the sea gets choppy? Free speech is free speech, sarcasm is sarcasm, and hate speech is hate speech. Drawing lines between these various modes of self-expression must be a very difficult thing. Just an obvious hunch: there's a difference between insulting an idea and insulting the holder of that idea. Moderators should call a halt when posters get personal with other posters - but not necessarily when posters simply get sarcastic with other posters' claims and ideas.
 
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