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Locking protocol.

  1. Mar 14, 2007 #1
    A number of users have complained here that threads were locked by a biased mentor or one who misunderstood their words. Those who speak up may be a mere sample of those who feel the same way. If a single mentor is able to lock a thread then it seems that false positives are more likely.

    Of course a lock can be contested. But some users are supine. Some don't want to risk exacerbating any stigma. Some don't know they can contest. Some don't trust the fairness of the process. Some have their own reasons not to. Besides, it is better to prevent a mistake than to fix it. Overall, threads seem a bit too simple to lock and too complicated to unlock. I submit that the forum could benefit from some simple "fair warning" protocol which is easy to establish.

    What I have in mind is that when a mentor feels a thread should be locked, this should be clearly stated (as a lock request) along with the reason instead of unilaterally applying an immediate lock. A workable delay for response really should be allowed, say 12 hours to accomodate work time and/or sleep time around the globe. To prevent personal bias, the mentor who requests a lock should not be the one who applies it. This is simple since 12 hours later a different mentor is most likely monitoring the section. Any other mentor who concurs in spite of possible counter-arguments posted in the meantime can lock the thread. This other mentor should post accordingly so users know it was not a one-mentor action.

    I don't think this would create much extra work for mentors since every thread is usually read by more than one already. Yes, it makes locking a thread a two-step process instead of just one, but this can be seen as a Good Thing (tm). I don't find a 12-hour delay unreasonable given that discussions remain visible for a very long time anyway. It lets thoughts cool off if needed. During this time clarifications can be issued; other users also have a fair chance to provide input; the requesting mentor may cancel the request; another mentor who disagrees may request continuation instead and effectively cancel the lock request (by a tie vote); and of course mentors can exchange PMs as they see fit the way they already do.

    I expect that a protocol like this would help prevent misunderstandings and enhance everyone's experience of the forum. At the moment, threads can get locked abruptly, sometimes mysteriously, frequently by an unknown mentor. This can give a feeling of inequity. Increasing transparency of a process often increases its credibility. This suggestion of course does not affect immediate removal of prohibited posts or other emergency action. As I said, I suggest this to give a "fair chance" in possibly misguided yet harmless discussions, so those who are misunderstood have time to explain themselves before being shut down.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 14, 2007 #2


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    The mentors already have a protocol. Threads are typically locked for a violation of the PF Guidelines (stickied in this forum), or because the thread is degenerating and not going anywhere helpful.

    The Mentors discuss all locks, and the locks are reported to all Mentors. Sometimes the Mentors discuss a lock, and decide to unlock the thread for a bit to see if it can still be productive.
  4. Mar 14, 2007 #3


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    Most threads are locked for a clear reason (violation of guidelines, etc..). As for the dubious "should it-shouldn't it be locked" type of thread, I imagine that this gets discussed in the mentor's private forum. This is just a guess, but it's clear that this sort of discussion happens, since in these type of threads more than one mentor tends to post before it gets locked.

    I think the system works fine as it is, and such "lock-requests" which you seem to think should be a public issue (to which I disagree) would just add work to the already over-worked mentors!
  5. Mar 14, 2007 #4


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    As has already been said, practically every thread that are locked are reported for ALL the mentors to see. In many instances, these are thread that were already being reported by several of the members of PF. If not, the mentor him/herself would make a report of that post or thread and then it is locked.

    So yes, all the Mentors get to see this, and yes, there have been instances where the actions were discussed, some time at length.

  6. Mar 14, 2007 #5


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    As others have mentioned, a protocol exists.

    Perhaps one fails to understand that a mentor will contact via Private Message (PM) someone who has violated guidelines, and that is of course, private. Or, mentors will post an explanation of the reason the thread is locked.

    I have yet to see a thread locked without reasonable justification, and I have seen threads unlocked after discussion, usually via exchange of PMs.

    As far as I can tell, the system works.
  7. Mar 14, 2007 #6


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    Just to add to what has been said, we also do give "fair warning" if a thread is starting to head in a direction that looks likely to lead to a lock but hasn't gotten to the point where it's an absolute necessity yet. A mentor will post in the thread to try to bring the topic back on track. Also, if there is enough merit to the other posts, and only a few start getting off track and ruining an otherwise good thread, we may just delete the bad posts and leave the thread open.

    Sometimes a thread is locked only temporarily until someone has time to clean up a bunch of bad posts, and then can be reopened.

    A lock is basically a way of saying that the thread has run its course, people are starting to argue in circles or become argumentative or have gone so far off track that there is no semblance of the original topic left, but leaves the discussion visible and available for others to still read and benefit from information posted in the topic. If a thread is egregiously violating guidelines, it won't be locked, it will be deleted. So, when we lock a thread, it doesn't necessarily mean it was worthless. We may have also deleted a number of replies that were in violation of the guidelines by the time a thread is locked, so you don't see how the discussion deteriorated, just the good parts are left behind.

    A general rule of thumb is if a thread requires an excessive amount of babysitting to keep discussion civil or grounded in science, we're likely to lock it. Threads that only continue the same discussion as in other threads will also be locked as redundant, or deleted if they continue a discussion in a locked thread.

    The best way to avoid having threads locked or deleted is to carefully read the forum guidelines and adhere to them when posting.
  8. Mar 14, 2007 #7


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    Personally I think this forum is run very well, much better than many others I've been to anyway!
  9. Mar 14, 2007 #8


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    Most people I see that have had a thread locked and complained about it appear to have had their fragile egos bruised. I can't think of any locked thread that didn't deserve it.

    Actully, I love it when they come and complain in the feedback section. It's cheap drama and the complaint threads are fun to read. We need to lock more to keep me entertained.
  10. Mar 14, 2007 #9


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    The simple truth is that this site is not for everybody.

    Our main target is students. We try to attract and like to keep students at all levels. Our students run all the way from high school to post doctorate. We are all students learning from each other. Members who are not open to learning do not stay here long.

    We have learned over the years that the people educated in a field usually appreciate the manner we regulate the posts. It is often said that our forum is a haven from the self proclaimed genius lurking behind every node in the internet.
  11. Mar 15, 2007 #10


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    That's what weirded me out about, and attracted me to, this place. The first day that I was ever on the net, I ran across a lady with a toy car/ramp problem. I had to register in order to respond... and my response was a typical Danger logical but smart-ass solution (don't break the rules, but twist them into a Mobius band if necessary). Brewnog took me under his wing and directed me to GD, where my personality belonged. After a while there, I found that I could occassionally make a relevant contribution to the more serious forums. I learn thousands of times more than I can contribute, which is incredibly valuable to me... but even that can't come close to the awsome feeling of once in a while being able to help someone. And, luckily, there are backup systems in place; if my advice is bad, someone more knowledgable will set the record straight.
    The purpose of the above narrative is to enforce the fact that I have never personally (and I admit that I've only been here for a couple of years) seen a thread locked that didn't seriously deserve it. Conversely, there are still a couple kicking around that should have been history months ago. If anything, the Moderators are overly lenient.
  12. Mar 15, 2007 #11


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    Long good-byes is a good reason to lock a thread. :biggrin:

    Sorry, but the relevant thread was locked. :rofl:
  13. Mar 15, 2007 #12
    LOL At least once the record straightening has been wrong. Not that I am all that expert (only an engineer), but I do know about some things.
  14. Mar 16, 2007 #13


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    I would like to add the following to this discussion. PF is a forum on the internet, it is not an official public institution. We don't want to have 20000 pages of legalese and procedures and lawyers and judges and all that, we simply want to have a place where science can be discussed in a relatively tidy way, and over time, a small group of people became Mentors who took upon them the task of keeping the place a bit tidy.

    In order to have some ground to place one's judgment on, and as a function of the posts and threads that gave rise to discussions in the past, posting guidelines were written down, edited, improved, changed. But a Mentor action is still a personal and somewhat subjective action, and in all these kinds of situations, there are clear cases of action where about all the Mentors would take the same action, and other, borderline cases, where one would act, and the other would still let go (people have different thresholds and different sensitivities).
    This is like cleaning out the garage: some things are clearly rubbish one can throw away, other things are clearly to be kept, and then there are the borderline cases, where one would still keep it, and the other would dump it.
    But in all of these cases, even those who would keep it, can understand that others want to get rid of it.

    We really cannot install a more "legalese" procedure with a court, a jury, lawyers for the defense, appeal courts, Supreme courts and all that. This is just a discussion forum, and we just want to keep it reasonably tidy.
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