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Thread: Moderators as thread participants

  1. #1
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    Moderators as thread participants

    In this post I suggested that BAUT moderators should not act as moderators in thread they are participating in.

    Since Duane was offended by this I decided to break off my response to his comments as a new thread. I really didn't want this to be a big deal - it was merely a statement of my opinion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Duane
    Well, this thread has certainly taken off in the last few hours. This will likely be a long post, because I see a number of issues that are getting swamped by the rhetoric.

    First, because I too am a moderator, I wish it stated clearly that I do not believe there is any conflict with Nereid's {or indeed, any other moderator's} discussion of this subject and the moderation of the thread. Nereid is not the only moderator watching this discussion. As moderators, and get this straight folks, we do not force, through our moderation duties, our views of any particular subject, whether or not we agree with it. Our duties speak to the flow of the discussion, the politeness of the participants, and the application of the rules as it relates to the discussion as a whole. To suggest that somehow this precludes us from having an opinion is an insult both to the moderators and to the other participants in the discussion itself.
    I never said it precludes moderators from having an opinion. What I said is that in my opinion, the duty of a moderator should not be mixed with participation in the arguments of a thread. I don't run the board or make the rules so if those of you that moderate the board don't see that as a conflict of interest, then please continue. There is no reason to feel insult.

    But if you really stop and think about it - traditionally when a debate has a moderator the moderator does not make arguments for one side or the other as part of the debate. Where this is relevant here is that we have this rule about answering questions in a timely fashion that has become an important rule for BAUT. Since Nereid asks a lot of questions and demands answers, and then references her role as the moderator (ie in terms of whether or not Narlikar&Arp is to be discussed on this thread), I consider that a situation where the moderator's heavy involvement in the discussion would make it a conflict of interest to be moderating the discussion. I'm not saying that Nereid cannot and does not moderate fairly. I'm simply saying that given the large numbers of moderators on this forum, there is no need for Nereid to be in the position of being the moderator of a discussion she has become so deeply involved in. Its simply a suggestion.

    f there is doubt, voice your concerns clearly to another moderator or to the administrators of the site. To surreptitiously suggest some ulterior motive to a moderators participation in a discussion is dishonest at best.
    Talk about assigning ulterior motives. This is what I said Duane:

    Quote Originally Posted by dgruss23
    Personally, I think it is a conflict of interest for a BAUT moderator to act as moderator in a discussion they are participating in. In such threads it would be more appropriate for the moderator to set aside the moderator role and have a different moderator not participating in the discussion moderate the discussion. That is just my opinion - but I think it would be a better protocol.
    Where exactly did I "surreptitiously suggest some ulterior motive"?

  2. #2
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    I'd have to agree to a point. While I have no intellectual doubt the mods here can keep their moderation duties well separated from their personal opinions, I have never felt comfortable disagreeing strongly with someone who is actively moderating a discussion in which they've taken a position.

    It's perhaps less of an issue on BAUT than on a more, but I would expect it to be more so in the ATM and conspiracy threads where the problems that crop up tend to require more subjective judgement.

    I've been on boards where the policy is that no moderator or admin takes (non-emergency) action in a thread they are actively participating in. That doesn't make the chill feeling go away entirely, but that can't really be helped. Preventing the mods from participating in threads outright would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

  3. #3
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    I agree with you overall. The problem is that the moderators capable of following some of the more arcane ATM discussions tend to be ones who also have strong opinions on the matters being discussed. I generally avoid most of the ATM threads because I am neither interested nor sufficiently informed to be able to follow them.
    Everything I need to know I learned through Googling.

  4. #4
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    My 2 bits:

    I see no problem with moderators getting actively involved in discussions and moderating at the same time here. "Here" is the operative word as, from what I've observed, all moderators on BAUT are professional enough to separate their status as moderators from their POV as thread participants and should not have to wait for another moderator to intervene in the event of a rules violation. In the event a particular poster feels a participating moderator is letting their POV color their moderating they could always follow the guidelines established in Rule #17. I for one would like to see more participation from the mods/admin here.

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    Going further on ToSeek's point, in the ATM section, we are actively vetting Alternative Theories, by encouraging members to look at, understand, and question what the new theory is saying, and its implications WRT observed phenomena. In the ATM section there is some real debate going on, but the moderator has an active role. More than that, we only have a very few moderators who care, or can follow the threads. It is unrealistic to ask one of us to stay completely out of the discussion.

    At the other end of the spectrum, many of the complaints that result in moderator intervention happen in the Off-Topic Babbling section. In MOST of those threads, moderator participation in no way affects the "debate". If someone posts a naughty acronym, ToSeek has the right to moderate, even if he's posted a thousand acronyms in the thread.

    Other examples may be less clear cut, but considering the pay scale for the staff, you should not ask too much. We have very good moderation, and a very enjoyable forum.
    Forming opinions as we speak

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    It's simply a suggestion.
    Funny how this "suggestion" never came up when the BA was the sole "mod" on the BABB.

    He expressed his opinions and moderated the entire board. I don't see this "situation" as being any different.

    Quote Originally Posted by antoniseb
    It is unrealistic to ask one of us to stay completely out of the discussion.
    Yes...do we really want a board where the mods are "afraid" to post their opinions simply because they are mods?? I know that's not what dgruss is "suggesting", but I can certainly see that as being one result of "limiting" how mods post. And if the idea that a mod should not post opinions in a thread they are moderating isn't "limiting", I don't know what is...

    Re. "conflict of interest"...I see this phrase used, yet I see no evidence that there is an actual "conflict".

  7. #7
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    Moderator

    A Moderator is one who with reason and wisdom, arbitrates and mediates.
    In any contest of opinion, emotion will drive to the detriment of reason.
    We have a great site here. If we, and science, are to survive a new dark
    age, we have to have a coherent voice, I mean as one, not scrabbling
    among ourselves about who rules. If so, we will fail.
    Nokton

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    A problem will arise when all moderators take part in a thread.

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    As you will see if you click this link, I have resigned my mod role in the More From Arp et al. thread.

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    Quote Originally Posted by R.A.F.
    Funny how this "suggestion" never came up when the BA was the sole "mod" on the BABB.
    The BA was a paragon of moderation
    And if the idea that a mod should not post opinions in a thread they are moderating isn't "limiting", I don't know what is...
    But they should be moderate opinions, just like ours are supposed to be

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    "Moderation is for monks.
    Take big bites"

    R. A. Heinlein

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by antoniseb
    Going further on ToSeek's point, in the ATM section, we are actively vetting Alternative Theories, by encouraging members to look at, understand, and question what the new theory is saying, and its implications WRT observed phenomena. In the ATM section there is some real debate going on, but the moderator has an active role. More than that, we only have a very few moderators who care, or can follow the threads. It is unrealistic to ask one of us to stay completely out of the discussion.
    My concern primarily is with regard to controversial topics found in ATM and conspiracy theories where there is genuine contentious debate on both sides. We have a rule now that specifically states:

    If you have some idea which goes against commonly-held astronomical theory, then you are welcome to argue it here. Before you do, though READ THIS THREAD FIRST. This is very important. Then, if you still want to post your idea, you will do so politely, you will not call people names, and you will defend your arguments. Direct questions must be answered in a timely manner.


    I understand why the part in bold is included - and I don't think the rule is unfair, but if you look at some of those discussions Nereid (not picking on Nereid here - just that she happens to contribute to the threads I pay attention to) asks a lot of great questions - questions that require very detailed responses - questions that often require technical knowledge that BAUT participants may not have. So I personally think that if a moderator takes on the role of engaging in the debate such that the moderator may be creating the situation by which the non-moderators may find themselves banned, that you have a conflict of interest. When I say "creating" I don't mean that the intention is to get the person in trouble. I simply mean that by the very nature of the ATM debates the ATM proponent may find him/herself in the awkard position of trying to answer a bunch of questions from a person that has the ability to ban them if they do not give an adequate attempt to answer those questions. As I said I think this can be a conflict of interest. I'm not saying that Nereid or the other moderators lack the ability to handle those situations.

    It is probably more about perception than reality. For example, I remember in the fall that an ATM person came on and was hit with those tough questions by a moderator. It was clear to me at that time that this particular individual was intimidated by the fact that a moderator was asking tough questions and expecting them to be answered in a timely fashion according to board rules. IMO at the time, the new board member perceived that the role of moderator was being used as a bludgeon in the debate - even though I do not believe that was the moderator's intent. I considered raising this issue at that time, but then decided to leave it alone.



    At the other end of the spectrum, many of the complaints that result in moderator intervention happen in the Off-Topic Babbling section. In MOST of those threads, moderator participation in no way affects the "debate". If someone posts a naughty acronym, ToSeek has the right to moderate, even if he's posted a thousand acronyms in the thread.

    Other examples may be less clear cut, but considering the pay scale for the staff, you should not ask too much. We have very good moderation, and a very enjoyable forum.
    The moderators do a great job here. I've tried to clarify above the specific scenario that I think is the potential problem. There is a difference between contributing to a discussion and becoming one of the primary debate contributors in a contentious discussion.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by R.A.F.
    Funny how this "suggestion" never came up when the BA was the sole "mod" on the BABB.

    He expressed his opinions and moderated the entire board. I don't see this "situation" as being any different.
    But the board rules have been expanded. There is now a specific rule that "Direct questions must be answered in a timely manner. "

    Phil was the sole moderator and Phil used to give people warnings if they were trolling, committing post and run offenses - and would ban if the person persisted. But now you have a more subtle rule that if a question is asked it must be answered in a timely manner. And you have a lot of moderators. And some of those moderators love to roll up their sleeves and ask a lot of tough questions. Its a different situation as I tried to clarify in my response to antoniseb.

    Yes...do we really want a board where the mods are "afraid" to post their opinions simply because they are mods?? I know that's not what dgruss is "suggesting", but I can certainly see that as being one result of "limiting" how mods post.
    Why would the mods need to be "afraid"? I was offering this opinion more as a gentlemen's rule than an actual board law. Is it really that offensive to suggest that if a moderator wants to get involved in a heated debate on a contentious issue that it would be better form for the moderator to set aside the moderator role for that specific discussion?

    Nereid has graciously done that on the Arp thread. (Thanks Nereid!) Since as Duane noted more than one moderator watches the threads, it seems unlikely that the thread will now suffer.

    And if the idea that a mod should not post opinions in a thread they are moderating isn't "limiting", I don't know what is...

    Re. "conflict of interest"...I see this phrase used, yet I see no evidence that there is an actual "conflict".
    As I said above specifically - if questions are asked - they must be answered according to board rules. So it is a conflict of interest to engage in a contentious debate, ask a bunch of questions, and then have the ability to ban the individual for not responding to your questions. I'm not saying there is any precedent for this having been abused on BAUT. But given the emotions that come up in those discussions why add the additional complication of the moderator being a participant.

    I guess in the rare situation where every single moderator of BAUT wants to participate and ask tough questions in a contentious thread, we'll just have to deal with it.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by dgruss23
    Phil was the sole moderator and Phil used to give people warnings if they were trolling, committing post and run offenses - and would ban if the person persisted. But now you have a more subtle rule that if a question is asked it must be answered in a timely manner. And you have a lot of moderators. And some of those moderators love to roll up their sleeves and ask a lot of tough questions. Its a different situation as I tried to clarify in my response to antoniseb.
    That rule came about at least in part from the old BABB, where, again, Phil did everything. (And we're all still kind of in awe about that, at least I am.) What's more, "I don't know" is considered a perfectly legitimate answer. As is, "I'm going to have to do some more work on that." Both of those are answers that can be given in a timely fashion while further work is done. But have you considered that, if you don't know the answer, you're probably not ready to overturn physics yet?
    _____________________________________________
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  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by dgruss23
    What I said is that in my opinion, the duty of a moderator should not be mixed with participation in the arguments of a thread.
    In my opinion:

    1) The duty of a moderator should be mixed with participation in the arguments of a thread.

    Otherwise, of course, it would take a moderator who is not participating to do the moderation. That would be one who understands the arguments enough to call shenanigans, but who is sufficiently disinterested to not have expressed an opinion. (Or, should we say, to not have an opinion -- isn't the posibility of conflict still there even if a moderator hasn't expressed an opinion on the argument, but has one?)

    Yeah, sure, there are plenty of those. Moderators certainly must not have enough to do. Start analyzing those topics you don't care about and bring order.

    2) Moderators participating in the arguments of a thread should stop being so sensitive to appearing to have a conflict of interest and call shenanigans on schedule. Stop bending over backwards. Take off the kid gloves. Do your duty. Stop relishing the arguments so much that you prolong them way, way past their expiration dates.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 01101001
    ...isn't the posibility of conflict still there even if a moderator hasn't expressed an opinion on the argument, but has one?
    Please don't give dgruss any more "ideas".

    Stop bending over backwards. Take off the kid gloves. Do your duty.
    Now now, 01101001...it's not like the mods on this board are "bending over backwards" just to satisfy one posters "concerns"...oh wait...that's exactly what has happened...

    Never mind...

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by R.A.F.
    Now now, 01101001...it's not like the mods on this board are "bending over backwards" just to satisfy one posters "concerns"...oh wait...that's exactly what has happened...
    Thanks, R.A.F., nice to know you value my opinions.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moose
    Thanks, R.A.F., nice to know you value my opinions.
    I knew you were going to "call me" on that. I simply don't consider what you posted to be the same as what dgruss posted. You characterized yourself as being "uncomfortable" disagreeing with mods. You did not say that you felt there was a "conflict of interest".

    To me, these are 2 different things which is why I didn't "include" you...please accept my apology...I certainly didn't mean it as an insult to you.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by R.A.F.
    I knew you were going to "call me" on that.
    I so hate to disappoint.

    I simply don't consider what you posted to be the same as what dgruss posted. You characterized yourself as being "uncomfortable" disagreeing with mods. You did not say that you felt there was a "conflict of interest".
    Well, I have to grant there's the potential for one in how we do things, and I further have to grant that some might see the appearance of one (though I never have, not on BAUT anyway).

    I have been on a site (as co-admin) where the other admin turned out to be abusing his power, and even after getting rid of this guy, the rest of us were never quite able to recover from the reputation hit. Perhaps that's made me a bit over-sensitive to issues like this one.

    Still, I can't bring myself to ignore dgruss's concerns. They're valid, to a point, though I don't agree the actual practice is anywhere near as bad as he seems to be implying.

    To me, these are 2 different things which is why I didn't "include" you...please accept my apology...I certainly didn't mean it as an insult to you.
    Apology accepted, though.

  20. #20
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    If I was an ATM proponent (don't hold your breath! ) I would expect to hear tough questions and if I couldn't answer them then, as Gillianren posted earlier, my revolutionary concept isn't quite ready for Prime Time.

    Should the tough questions only be asked by non-moderators? Should someone that knows his or her stuff in a given field (like Nereid) refrain from asking the tough questions just because they are a moderator? I think not. Isn't it the responsibility of the ATM promoter to know what they are talking about? I think so. So, unless someone is willing to provide evidence that Nereid or any of the other mods are abusing their moderator status to gain an unfair advantage in a debate, I think this thread is counter-productive. Why? It shows a lack of confidence in the mod's ability to do their jobs and makes an issue out of them doing something the rest of us take for granted and the reason we all joined in the first place - stimulating discussion.

    I have little sympathy for someone that can't defend a particular ATM concept they propose and if they feel "intimidated" here, how can they realistically expect to sell their idea out there in the real world?

  21. #21
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    There's a lot of action going on behind the scenes with the moderators that everyone on the public boards don't know about. Having been one myself until recently I have seen it from that side.

    Without seeing what happens on the Moderator boards, one might be easily inclined to wonder about the concerns expressed.
    Again, having had the privilidge of seeing it myself, I can state that the mods go well out of their way to be fair. Many times they are even too fair.
    Nearly every action each of them take, or consider taking is expressed on the mod. board, where all the mods. and admin. is allowed input, wheither they personally are involved or not. I have seen strings stretch out to 30 or 40 postings by others weighing in before an action is taken.

    I have seen mods specificly ask for another mod. to look at and act on a situation if he/she has any reason to believe their personal involvement is such to affect their ability to moderate clearly and fairly. I have done it myself, and have gotten involved at the request of another on occasion as well.

    Also, the mods are a very diverse group of people. Literally covering many different intrests, backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs.
    No action that I know of has ever been taken arbitrarly, or in vendictiness, or in ones personal interest. Every discipline issued is well thought out and discussed, and taken because it was warrented.

    Naturally no one is going to spend much time in a thread or subject which is not of interest to them. So you will see them in areas of their interest which is also areas where they participate. If things get out of hand, yes they will handle it. If they think their objectivity is slipping, they will ask someone else to step in. If their objectivity slips and they don't see it or act on it, then another mod will indeed call them on it via P.M.

    BTW I am no longer a mod only because I have not been an active participant myself in much going on, and felt in all fairness that oppertunity should be given to someone who is active. I was not fired, nor asked to step down, but a couple of us who had been inactive mods saw that, and felt a step down was best for all involved.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gillianren
    That rule came about at least in part from the old BABB, where, again, Phil did everything. (And we're all still kind of in awe about that, at least I am.) What's more, "I don't know" is considered a perfectly legitimate answer. As is, "I'm going to have to do some more work on that." Both of those are answers that can be given in a timely fashion while further work is done. But have you considered that, if you don't know the answer, you're probably not ready to overturn physics yet?
    Do you think I brought this up because Nereid has asked ME questions that I am having trouble answering - and therefore I don't want to have to answer them?

    Not even close. I don't and never have claimed to have all the answers to the questions asked. Here is an answer I just gave to Cougar yesterday:

    Quote Originally Posted by dgruss23
    As for other observations. I don't know for sure because the question goes beyond my expertise. If NGC 7603B did in fact pass through NGC 7603B and draw out this bridge of material, what effects will that interaction have upon those gases? Can those effects be observed?Is the gas dense enough for star formation to be enhanced? Can the age of any star formation in the bridge be determined and compared with a reasonable estimate of the age of the ejection? Is there diffuse higher redshift material from the ejection event(s) mixed into the bridge that can be spectroscopically identified?

    These are questions that researchers that look at these types of objects are better qualified to answer - and such researchers could probably ask much better questions as well.
    I quite aware that "I don't know" is an acceptable answer. I am the one that wrote the "Advice for ATM Theory Supporters" opening post in which suggestion #8 is: "8. You’re going to be asked tough questions. When someone asks you a question – answer it. If you don’t know the answer – say so."

    Looking over the responses, I'm somewhat mystified by the level of offense some such as R.A.F. seem to be taking to my suggestion. Isn't that what the "About BAUT" forum is supposed to be "about"? Someone suggests an idea or asks a question ... and others provide responses.

    Obviously that's what I'm getting here - responses - but I don't understand why some people are offended. Is this another case where the language used doesn't capture the thoughts properly?

    R.A.F. - you seem to be upset by my use of "Conflict of interest" but you're OK with Moose feeling "uncomfortable". I provided you in my response with a detailed explanation of what I mean by "conflict of interest".

    I have not stated or implied that moderators are abusing their role. This was simply something I put out there and I've tried to make sure that everybody understands no insult or accusation of abuse is intended:

    Quote Originally Posted by dgruss23
    I don't run the board or make the rules so if those of you that moderate the board don't see that as a conflict of interest, then please continue. There is no reason to feel insult.
    Quote Originally Posted by dgruss23
    I'm not saying that Nereid cannot and does not moderate fairly. I'm simply saying that given the large numbers of moderators on this forum, there is no need for Nereid to be in the position of being the moderator of a discussion she has become so deeply involved in. Its simply a suggestion.
    Quote Originally Posted by dgruss23
    I simply mean that by the very nature of the ATM debates the ATM proponent may find him/herself in the awkard position of trying to answer a bunch of questions from a person that has the ability to ban them if they do not give an adequate attempt to answer those questions. As I said I think this can be a conflict of interest. I'm not saying that Nereid or the other moderators lack the ability to handle those situations.


    Quote Originally Posted by dgruss23
    The moderators do a great job here. I've tried to clarify above the specific scenario that I think is the potential problem. There is a difference between contributing to a discussion and becoming one of the primary debate contributors in a contentious discussion.
    As I said above specifically - if questions are asked - they must be answered according to board rules. So it is a conflict of interest to engage in a contentious debate, ask a bunch of questions, and then have the ability to ban the individual for not responding to your questions. I'm not saying there is any precedent for this having been abused on BAUT. But given the emotions that come up in those discussions why add the additional complication of the moderator being a participant.
    R.A.F. - what line have I crossed in putting this idea out there that you feel it is appropriate to make sarcastic comments like this:

    Quote Originally Posted by R.A.F.
    Please don't give dgruss any more "ideas".


    Quote:
    Stop bending over backwards. Take off the kid gloves. Do your duty.

    Now now, 01101001...it's not like the mods on this board are "bending over backwards" just to satisfy one posters "concerns"...oh wait...that's exactly what has happened...

    Never mind...
    After reading and reflecting upon the well stated opinions of Archer17 and others that posted here, I would agree that there is not a need for moderators to follow a new rule. This was never something I brought up for my benefit. It was merely a thought I had watching some discussions I wasn't even participating in back in the fall. I brought it up as something for people to think about with the same good intentions that I had when I invested significant time putting together the "Advice for ATM theory supporters thread". I think I've clearly explained why I thought it was worth thinking about but I have no problem with the way things have been running on BAUT. If that is not readily evident in the comments I've made on this thread, then I don't know how else I can put it.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by [url=http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php?p=689555#post689555]Kaptain K[/url]
    "Moderation is for monks.
    Take big bites"
    Well, you know me, I'm no monk

    My point was just that moderators should be held to the same standards as anybody else, when they post to a thread.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by dgruss23
    what line have I crossed in putting this idea out there that you feel it is appropriate to make sarcastic comments like this:
    Actually that bit of sarcasm was "aimed" at the mods...yikes...

    The "bottom line" for me is "if it ain't broken, then don't "fix" it."

    ...and that will be my last comment on this subject...

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by hhEb09'1
    My point was just that moderators should be held to the same standards as anybody else, when they post to a thread.
    Exactly. Just report them. Phil and I get every reported thread, so if you think they're abusing their power, feel free to inform us privately. We can assess the situation and take action. But if you think we need rules because the moderators might abuse their power, that's probably a little premature.

    And I don't think we could get people to be moderators if they weren't allowed to participate in the forums.

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    First, I'd like to thank dgruss23 for starting this thread - I welcome this discussion.

    Second, I'd like to thank all those who've contributed their opinions in this thread.

    Third, let's try to stick to what dgruss23 has written - disagreeing with him and the ideas presented is fine, but let's make sure it's what he actually said (and if you consider a BAUT member's posting history is also worth taking into account, remember that dgruss23's is the first post in the READ THIS FIRST link right there in capital letters in the guidelines for posting to the ATM section, followed by (The Bad Astronomer's) words "This is very important", and that dgruss23 has contributed well over half the content of the Advice for ATM theory supporters thread).

    Fourth, in the Down with scientific dogmas thread, you can read some other comments about moderation (I will be PMing Saluki, to ask her/him to join in in this thread).

    Now to the content of this thread.

    Of the BAUT sections I have written many posts in, and which I regularly read (ATM, Astronomy, Q&A, General Science; I wish I had time to read Life in Space), I feel it is only in the ATM section that the kind of concern expressed in this thread could possibly arise (if we had a Politics, or a Religion, section, I'm sure it would arise there too, but we don't). And this arises only because the ATM section has distinct guidelines for discussion (it is explicitly adversarial, wrt ATM ideas).

    There have been times when I've paused, when drafting a post in an ATM thread, to think about the two roles I have, about perceptions I may be creating, and so on. Occassionally I've decided to ask another moderator to do the moderation I felt necessary, to avoid creating perceptions of bias, unfairness, or conflict (the key is perceptions; I've no doubt whatsoever that if any BAUT member did detect actual bias, unfairness or conflict, they would report it, using the Report Post button, or by PMing another mod or an admin). Just once, that I can remember, did another mod take a different view of what should be done, wrt moderation, than my own view (and, for the record, mods probably average between two and ten moderation actions a day - most BAUT members have little idea of how many Reported Posts there are, how many spamming posts are detected, deleted, and the offending spamsters permanently banned, etc).

    Within the ATM section, the More from Arp et al. thread (in which a post of mine triggered dgruss23's decision to start this thread) is almost unique. For starters, it is one of very few that contains anything quantitative1. Second, it's been running for a long time (so the key points have all, likely, been at least raised, if not discussed2). Third, there are several articulate and well-informed BAUT members willing to defend the ATM ideas that are the topic of that thread. Fourth, on the whole, there's been less need to moderate the thread, at the level of 'breaking up fights', or 'please stay focussed/that's OT', or 'please answer the question', or 'read the rules - no ad homs, no advertising, no cross-promotion of ATM ideas, no ...' (this means, among other things, that moderation may seem more directly related to the 'real' content of the thread than is the case in most other threads).

    So, in conclusion, I feel that we have a unique set of circumstances (Nereid's moderation of the More from Arp et al. thread, in the ATM section), and am happy to have had a discussion on this.

    But, it seems I have a reputation to live up to, so I will end with a question: can any BAUT member, reading this thread, provide another example of 'moderators as thread participants' where perceptions of bias, conflict, fairness (etc) could legitimately arise?

    1Not that purely qualitative ideas aren't allowed - they are - but I can't see how moderation of ATM threads that are purely "mainstream bashing" or number/math/equation-free could possibly give rise to the kind of concern that dgruss23 is raising here.
    2barring new developments, of course.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fraser
    Exactly. Just report them. Phil and I get every reported thread, so if you think they're abusing their power, feel free to inform us privately. We can assess the situation and take action. But if you think we need rules because the moderators might abuse their power, that's probably a little premature.

    And I don't think we could get people to be moderators if they weren't allowed to participate in the forums.
    Looking back at my original comment I see now that it was written much more broadly than my intent and certainly can and has been interpreted in ways I was not thinking.

    I was specifically thinking of contentious threads in which the rule about answering questions could result in a person being banned. If in those circumstances the person to be banned was not answering questions asked by moderators, then it could certainly be interpreted as a conflict of interest. But my intention was not even really that moderators should institute a new formal rule for themselves. Rather I was thinking that moderators might want to consider in those situations simply setting aside their moderator role for those specific threads.

    But the prevailing opinion is that such a move is not necessary. I don't have a problem with that. It was never my intention to stir up controversy or get people ticked off - but it seems that some people have reacted to it that way - inferring that I was saying moderators cannot effectively do their jobs.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by dgruss23
    Looking back at my original comment I see now that it was written much more broadly than my intent and certainly can and has been interpreted in ways I was not thinking.

    I was specifically thinking of contentious threads in which the rule about answering questions could result in a person being banned. If in those circumstances the person to be banned was not answering questions asked by moderators, then it could certainly be interpreted as a conflict of interest. But my intention was not even really that moderators should institute a new formal rule for themselves. Rather I was thinking that moderators might want to consider in those situations simply setting aside their moderator role for those specific threads.

    But the prevailing opinion is that such a move is not necessary. I don't have a problem with that. It was never my intention to stir up controversy or get people ticked off - but it seems that some people have reacted to it that way - inferring that I was saying moderators cannot effectively do their jobs.
    I didn't take the heat dgruss23. While not an active participant in most ATM threads, I read a lot of them and am aware of your contributions. As someone who used to go 'toe-to-toe' with JS Princeton and gave as good as you got (if not better), I knew your concerns weren't self-directed. Just to clarify my meaning in post # 20, while I stated that this thread was "counter-productive," that was in the context of the moderators participating in discussion, something I'd like to see more of and something I don't want them to think twice about doing. In hindsight I should have phrased that differently because there's nothing "counter-productive" about the way you handled this. Feedback is never a bad thing.

  29. #29
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    Dgruss23, thanks for splitting off this topic. It seems to be rather timely, as there are a couple of things happening in the background which dovetail nicely with the point of this discussion.

    Quote Originally Posted by dgruss23
    Since Duane was offended by this I decided to break off my response to his comments as a new thread. I really didn't want this to be a big deal - it was merely a statement of my opinion.
    Offended? Perhaps, although I feel this is too strong a word for what I was feeling at the time. More like irritated. Nereid has put alot of work into that particular topic, and has been (IMHO) very restrained in the application of the forums rules there. Mind you, there hasn't been much need to moderate the thread, as the conversation has mostly flowed well. Regardless, Nereid's participation in the thread has been more of a devil's advocate and I took umbridge with the suggestion that her role of moderator could not be separated from her role as a devil's advocate. I felt it necessary to point the role of the moderator in that (and any) discussion, whether an active participant or not.

    Whether you meant it to be a big deal ot not is irrelevant. It is a big deal when the actions or motives of a moderator are questioned in a thread. This, I'm sure, has become obvious given the course of this particular discussion. And this leads into this:

    Quote Originally Posted by dgruss23
    I never said it precludes moderators from having an opinion. What I said is that in my opinion, the duty of a moderator should not be mixed with participation in the arguments of a thread. I don't run the board or make the rules so if those of you that moderate the board don't see that as a conflict of interest, then please continue. There is no reason to feel insult.
    Part of the criteria of being chosen to be a moderator is the methodology used in responding to threads. When you have threads that are running in the 10's of pages over many months, you must be actively involved in the thread to be able to understand the nuances of the debate and try to keep the discussion from continually see-sawing back and forth about items that have already been discussed. With understanding of the arguments comes a desire to participate. This is not like a formal debate, where the moderator is there to facilitate the the statement of the succinct positions of each side to move the debate forward to meet a defined finish time. The moderation duties here are much broader and less rigidly defined. This is necessary, given that there is no set time within which the positions of the sides must be summarized and concluded.

    As I alluded to in the post you've quoted from me, the moderation duties here allow us to participate fully in the debate outside of our duties as moderators. There is no conflict unless we use our positions as moderators to unjustly influence to course of the debate. I have not seen this done at any time, and if I did I would be the first to point out such an infraction if it occurred.

    Quote Originally Posted by dgruss23
    But if you really stop and think about it - traditionally when a debate has a moderator the moderator does not make arguments for one side or the other as part of the debate. Where this is relevant here is that we have this rule about answering questions in a timely fashion that has become an important rule for BAUT. Since Nereid asks a lot of questions and demands answers, and then references her role as the moderator (ie in terms of whether or not Narlikar&Arp is to be discussed on this thread), I consider that a situation where the moderator's heavy involvement in the discussion would make it a conflict of interest to be moderating the discussion. I'm not saying that Nereid cannot and does not moderate fairly. I'm simply saying that given the large numbers of moderators on this forum, there is no need for Nereid to be in the position of being the moderator of a discussion she has become so deeply involved in. Its simply a suggestion.
    Well, again, this is not a formal debate, and should never be confused with one. Nereid's participation (to ask questions) and her duties as a moderator (to ensure that questions are dealt with/answered in a timely fashion) are not exclusive unless she uses her position to pose unanswerable questions, then ban a participant for not answering. (for eg)

    In a formal debate, the moderator would not participate in the discussion, but such a moderation role is very different from what our roles are here. My point regarding the timeframes involved is especially relevant, and the Arp et al thread is a prime example. It has been an ongoing discussion for over a year, and arose as a result of a number of different threads on the same subject for some months before that. Nereid (and other mods) are able to maintain a moderating role because of their involvment, not in spite of it.

    And, yes, I understand this was a suggestion. It seems to me, however, that you misunderstand the difference between a moderators role in a debate and our roles as moderators of this site. (That is an opinion too!)

    Quote Originally Posted by dgruss23
    Where exactly did I "surreptitiously suggest some ulterior motive"?
    In my opinion, exactly in the post you quoted from yourself. Your underlying suggestion, as I read it in the context of the overall post and within the context of the general discussion, was that Nereid was/is using her position as a moderator to unfairly influence the course of the debate. IE, assigning a motive without actually voicing it. If I misread your intent, I appologise.

    Quote Originally Posted by moose
    I've been on boards where the policy is that no moderator or admin takes (non-emergency) action in a thread they are actively participating in. That doesn't make the chill feeling go away entirely, but that can't really be helped. Preventing the mods from participating in threads outright would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
    And it is much the same here. Unless it is a gross violation, we discuss the offending post/poster before taking any action, and that is especially true if it is a topic we are involved in. Believe me when I say that we are loath to issue warnings or bannings at the best of times, and do so only after careful deliberation. More often, we issue an advisory (and one that has received a friendly suggestion from a mod should very carefully consider it, if they wish to remain an active member of the community.)

    Quote Originally Posted by hhEb09'1
    But they should be moderate opinions, just like ours are supposed to be
    I want to be fair in my responce to this, but my initial responce is "hogwash!". For example, if someone suggests that NASA purposefully killed the Apollo 1 crew for some nebulous political gain, I am going to cry loudly and with unmistakable conviction that the idea is sickening and stupid.

    In the example given (oh and BTW, we had quite a lively discussion about this topic {meaning using such descriptions about a topic} in the mods section) I stated my opinion of the topic, but explained why I felt that way. Similarily, as it relates to members expressing such strong opinions, I am not as concerned with people stating their opinion about an idea then I am with someone stating a similar opinion about a person supporting the idea. I think the rest of the mods feel much the same way.

    If someone does a hit and run (ie, "this is a stupid idea" as a one line post), we would issue an advisory, asking them to support the comment or refrain from posting. It is no different for any of the mods here. That we are subject to the rules does not mean we cannot have a strong opinion about a topic, or even a particular post in a topic. The line is crossed when someone says "this is stupid and you are a degenerate for believing it" or some such. Such a statement attacks the person, and would result in an immediate warning, if not an outright ban, regardless of which side of the debate the poster was on.

    Quote Originally Posted by dgruss23
    The moderators do a great job here.
    On behalf of the moderators, thank you. (And thank you to everyone else who have given such nice comments!)

    Quote Originally Posted by dgruss23
    I've tried to clarify above the specific scenario that I think is the potential problem. There is a difference between contributing to a discussion and becoming one of the primary debate contributors in a contentious discussion.
    So where would one draw the line? That is, at what point does one become a "primary debate contributor"? Even setting that aside, how would one police such a thing? (Yes, these questions are rhetorical!)

    Again, unless there is some suggestion that a moderator contributing to a thread, even as a "primary debate contributor" is using their position to unfairly influence the course of the debate, I can see no problem not with standing any appearence of conflict. We have a Rule in place to cover a situation where a participant feels an unjust action has been taken. This is a catchall, and a failsafe.

    Another thing is that most of the moderators are here alot. Sometimes it cannot be helped that we become the primary debators in a subject.

    Quote Originally Posted by 01101001
    2) Moderators participating in the arguments of a thread should stop being so sensitive to appearing to have a conflict of interest and call shenanigans on schedule. Stop bending over backwards. Take off the kid gloves. Do your duty. Stop relishing the arguments so much that you prolong them way, way past their expiration dates.
    An excellent point. There are a number of topics that have continued on well beyond when the topic of the OP has been thoroughly debunked. I suggest the reason we allow such to continue is that there remains interest in the subject, and/or new evidence/findings/papers/etc come up which may influence the debate. Frankly, we do not have any set criteria for calling a subject decided and closing it. Well, other than circular arguments, (ie when the same previously debated issues are reprocessed as something new). Even then, we tend to give pretty broad leaway.

    Quote Originally Posted by hhEb09'1
    My point was just that moderators should be held to the same standards as anybody else, when they post to a thread.
    They are. Perhaps, even more so.

    Quote Originally Posted by Archer17
    In hindsight I should have phrased that differently because there's nothing "counter-productive" about the way you handled this. Feedback is never a bad thing.
    I agree, and this is good feedback. Also drguss23, I think your last post succinctly stated my own feelings about the issue. Discussion is a good thing!

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duane
    Quote Originally Posted by hhEb09'1
    But they should be moderate opinions, just like ours are supposed to be
    I want to be fair in my responce to this, but my initial responce is "hogwash!".
    I assume by that you mean that our opinions are not supposed to be moderate opinions
    Quote Originally Posted by hhEb09'1
    My point was just that moderators should be held to the same standards as anybody else, when they post to a thread.
    They are. Perhaps, even more so.

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