Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Make PF more democratic

  1. Jun 10, 2008 #1
    This forum feels like a total dictatorship. It seems like there is a very select group of members that comprise the judicial, executive, and legislative branch here that basically do whatever they want without no notice or regard to what the general membership thinks. We learn about important PF policy decisions that are made only when the cult of leaders decides to announce it in this forum.

    I think this needs to stop. When you want to make a policy decision about PF, you should ALWAYS at least put a poll up in this forum. At the very least, get the opinion of the PF population before you decide how to act. You could still ignore them but you NEED to know our opinions before you take actions that affect us.

    But I think you should definitely do much more than that. I think the people who make the policies here should be ELECTED not appointed. I think perhaps you should let some of the policies here be decided by polling.

    Some examples of this unilaterial action are the creation of the PF Library, the 30 minute editing period, the auto-linking.

    Note: I am serious about all of this.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 10, 2008 #2
    Yes the forum is a dictatorship, but I like to think of it as a benevolent dictatorship :smile:

    We do welcome comments and suggestions on everything we do.
     
  4. Jun 10, 2008 #3

    berkeman

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor


    I disagree. The PF is the best run, most valuable web forum that I've ever visited. The policies are well thought-out, and are there for very important and valid reasons. The Homework Help forum works as well as it does because of the policies and Rules. I know you don't like those rules, but tough. The rules are there to help students learn well, and to discourage cheating. The editing time limit is there for similar reasons. The rules against crackpottery in the general technical forums are there to make the PF a valuable, respected scientific website. Every rule in the "Rules" link is there for a reason.

    As Greg says, feedback and suggestions are welcome. Your suggestion to force polls on every forum Rule is not helpful, IMO. There are other web forums that may match your desires better....
     
  5. Jun 10, 2008 #4

    cristo

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Exactly.. aside from the fact that there is no need to poll the members on new rules, since the PF has no reason to be a democracy, it would make so much more work. It'd turn the place into an admin building :yuck:
     
  6. Jun 10, 2008 #5
    I never said I did not like the rules. In fact, there probably just one or two rules that I disagree with. For example, I (have come to) agree with the editing time limit and the Homework Help forum rules. I think the dictators here do a really good job making the rules. But the same was true for real political dictators. The point is that there is no safegaurd or anything if Bernhardt goes insane or something or he dies or quits and some insane person takes over (not saying these are likely!). That seems to be what happened historically e.g. in Tsarist Russia-they alternated between benevolent tsars and brutal ones. Just because the system has worked well doesn't mean it will continue to and we want to preserve PF for as long as possible.

    Can you please explain why, IYO, polls would not be helpful?
     
  7. Jun 10, 2008 #6

    cristo

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    But this isn't politics; the forum is not just run by Greg, but he owns it! Besides, the situation you describe is not just unlikely, it will not happen.
     
  8. Jun 10, 2008 #7
    So? I am not saying that Greg does not have the right to be a dictator, I am saying that is not the best thing to do.


    Well thats a question of certainty...it is definitely possible and less severe things are also possible.
     
  9. Jun 10, 2008 #8

    berkeman

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Several reasons. As cristo said, they would increase the amount of work significantly. And since all of us staff folks (Mentors, Homework Helpers, Science Advisors, etc.) are volunteers with regular day jobs, there just isn't much extra bandwidth available to baby-sit polls.

    Second, there already is a very large amount of dialog and coordination that goes on in the Mentor forums. You just have no idea how much we talk and discuss options, and debate the best way to do things here. And the people who are discussing the issues (the Mentors, with the help of the Admins) are people who have been here for a while, and understand what it takes to keep the PF the best scientific forum on the web. To publish polls in the general forums with all kinds of people voting on them (including newbies, crackpots, spammers, members who disagree with important rules, etc.), would dilute the value of the PF.
     
  10. Jun 10, 2008 #9

    D H

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Science is not a democracy. Why should PF be run in democratically? What advantages would arise from doing so? I can certainly see many disadvantages. We don't have polls when threads get out of control, denigrate religions, or fall into crackpottery. The mods simply close them, and sometimes ban users. Threads have been reopened and users restored on appeal.

    PF is run like science -- a meritocracy.

    Regarding the PF library, if you don't like it, don't go there. Regarding autolinking: Autolinking 1.0 was just that -- version 1.0. Greg most likely will be refining it based on feedback.
     
  11. Jun 10, 2008 #10
    I think significantly is definitely the wrong word. How often does PF make a new policy? Maybe once a month? (I really have no idea because you do not announce them as I suggested in this thread: https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=229578&page=3).

    Well, the same arguments about crackpots and newbies is true in real democracies... I think there would be an overwhelming majority of voters who are sincerely interested in PF. Crackpots and spammers probably just wouldn't take the time or effort to come here and vote. If you are worried about security, then maybe you can keep your ability to make security decisions but put everything else on the table. Also, I was saying that you could ignore the results of the poll if you have good reason to do so. I definitely do not see how the Mentors can pretend to have intelligent conversations about this in the "Mentor forums" when they are such a small cross-section and they have no way to know what everyone else thinks.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2008
  12. Jun 10, 2008 #11

    berkeman

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    How the heck do you think most of us became Mentors, anyway? By contributing to the PF as regular users for a long time, giving lots of Homework Help, displaying good judgement and patience in posting, and generally being a positive influence on this collective community that is the PF. We are not a small cross-section of the PF community. We are totally representative of the community (minus the crackpots and other riff-raff), and we work hard to maintain the high standards of the PF.
     
  13. Jun 10, 2008 #12
    Over many years I have been involved with several technical forums, mostly related to 3d modeling or coding, and been an admin at a couple. My experience is that becoming strict about rules creates a "golden age" for about 2-3 years, after which point the admins and forum regulars unintentionally become cabal-like, manage to drive off newbies, and the forum dies a slow painful death of attrition.
     
  14. Jun 10, 2008 #13
    If that is true, then we've had a 5 year golden age and still going strong!
     
  15. Jun 10, 2008 #14
    I totally agree that the PF Mentors I have interacted with are very responsible hard-working, intelligent, and all-around good people. But your quote that "We are totally representative of the community (minus the crackpots and other riff-raff)" could be a dangerous fallacy. You have no way of knowing that unless you make efforts to get the input of the PF community.

    If you were elected instead of appointed, you would be more justified in making those claims above. I think we could definitely make elections work by requiring that voters have at least 500 posts or something.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2008
  16. Jun 10, 2008 #15

    D H

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    We do have honorary elected positions here: The annual user awards. Otherwise, PF is run like science. It is a meritocracy. For example, the managers of a scientific journal do not poll the membership of a scientific society regarding which articles will get published or who will act as editors or peer-reviewers.
     
  17. Jun 10, 2008 #16
    Having staff be elected would be a completely idiotic thing for me to agree to... unless you want PF to go "public".
     
  18. Jun 10, 2008 #17

    Moonbear

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Then create your own forum and run it the way you want to run it. This site is run by volunteers with donated time and money. This is not a corporation or government. If you don't think it's run the way you like, you are perfectly free to go elsewhere and find a site that is run the way you like. People who appreciate what the forum has to offer stay, and based on the size and quality of our membership, we think this is adequate evidence that we're doing things right. If you have specific complaints, this forum is here to bring them up. If we see a lot of people chiming in agreeing with a particular complaint, we may reconsider it, or a lot of people may chime in disagreeing with you. We may be constrained by the software or the time available on the part of our admins to make changes, and we decided a long time ago that we cannot be everything to everyone and still have a successful forum. The people who are unhappy leave, the people who are happy stay.
     
  19. Jun 10, 2008 #18
    Well if no one else is going to support my democratization effort, I guess it is hypocritical to continue arguing by myself. So, I will shut up unless someone who shares my opinion posts here.
     
  20. Jun 10, 2008 #19
    I ll try to be as diplomatic as possible. It 'IS' a good idea to give members a bit of say in few matters, but i don't think it ll make much of a difference, neither will it bring any crowd to vote because most members are here to solve problems or get some help, not get involved in the working of this forum(or any other forum). There are only a handful who are here but are not mentors or staff members and still help out a lot.

    For example, getting polls before some policy is kinda ok, but getting general elections for mentors and all is completely insane. I don't think mentors are paid for this job, they do so just because they want to(i guess).

    Also i am not a big fan of democracy, often democracy destroy things.
     
  21. Jun 10, 2008 #20

    Astronuc

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    We're entering the platinum age!

    And PF is always improving and adapting. New policies are usually introduced to address a problem or improve the quality.


    As for a democracy - read the terms and conditions of participation, to which one agreed.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?