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Not so frequently asked questions

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  1. Sep 3, 2014 #1
    From the https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=617567 page one can conclude that this forum is owned by Greg Bernhardt, a Web designer. It is not a bad thing to have a Web designer in control of the server, but how the policy is decided? Some professional researchers and acknowledged experts (such as Arnold Neumaier) are present here, but to which extent do they influence the policy?

    An organization allegedly in charge of the forum is certain “Bernhardt Media LLC”. Has it any achievements but development of Android software and partnership with Scientific American? Has it connections with academic institutions? Ī can infer that the main mission of the site is popularizing physics among Android users, and popularizing the site itself, whereas better understanding physics is something of low priority.

    At https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=506643 certain Neumaier’s thread is mentioned numerous times, but nobody posted a Web link. Are these data destroyed? Ī’d asked there if moderators weren’t close the thread.
     
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  3. Sep 3, 2014 #2
    Welcome to Physics Forums! I do own the website. It's under Bernhardt Media LLC for legal reasons. It's true I am primarily a web developer. We have lots of professionals and experts here. The staff is 20+ strong and they are integral to the planning of policy here. We also have a nice group of Science Advisors and Homework Helpers who provide much needed feedback and input.

    I'm interested in why you bring up andriod? We have an app, but we are not an andriod developer. We have a loose connection with Scientific American. Recently we were added as a sponsor for the Wisconsin Science Festival which is run by the University of Wisconsin Research Foundation. I have good contacts with them.

    I think the longer you stay around, the more mistaken you'll feel about your last statement :)

    Mr. Neumaier is a respected member here. I'm not sure what thread is being talked about.
     
  4. Sep 3, 2014 #3

    Borek

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  5. Sep 3, 2014 #4

    phinds

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    That is an utterly absurd contention.
     
  6. Sep 3, 2014 #5
    If he really wanted to popularize the site so badly (and make "understanding physics" a "low priority"), he'd just bring back the Philosophy section and allow crackpots to post..
     
  7. Sep 3, 2014 #6
    And make no mistake, it's not an either-or situation. We can achieve popularity with our target audience with the above average quality controls. :)
     
  8. Sep 3, 2014 #7
    I'm not sure where these questions are coming from... have you noticed some administrative policy that you feel is contrary to the development of a strong scientific community? If so, you should certainly voice your concerns. I do not think I have noticed any such policy, however.
     
  9. Sep 3, 2014 #8

    Fredrik

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    Why would it matter if it's connected to a specific academic institution? Your conclusion is very wrong, and also very strange. It's hard to guess how you came to it. To look at this site and say that it's not about better understanding physics is like looking at a cheese slicer and say that it's not about cheese.

    It's very likely that this is the thread that marcus mentioned: https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=490492. It looks like it was closed automatically due to a long time of inactivity.
     
  10. Sep 3, 2014 #9
    That's true. Threads are often closed after 2 years with no further replies.
     
  11. Sep 3, 2014 #10
    The only nasty thing Ī noticed was denial to register with an Email in my own domain. Ī attributed it to information leaks due to an earlier registration at a physics-related mutual admiration site, subsequent conflicts and possibly one private mail From:ed with it, although it might be simply a piece of local paranoid policy for somewhat other reason. But if my negative publicity on rotten sites really can cause such a crap, then Ī obviously “feel it contrary to the development of a strong scientific community”.


    Do you know other ways to save communities from degradation? Let’s put aside Internet projects made initially for mutual admiration and look at democratically governed physics.SE. Why the site became infested with megametres and kilotonnes of rubbish? Namely because it is governed not scientifically, but democratically. This site hasn’t such awkward form of democracy… good. But what does it have? Which structure controls processes? Of course, it’s the busyness of a software developer to construct and manage a site, but not to lead a scientific community.
     
  12. Sep 3, 2014 #11
    This is regrettable. We've had to block certain email providers and even IP blocks of countries where spam was coming from. In PF 4.0 I'm hoping we won't need to do that.

    Other members will have better answers to your other questions, but note we are not a democracy. We use a benevolent overlord system and it's worked well for 13 years. Stick around and you'll find out. :smile:
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2014
  13. Sep 3, 2014 #12

    Fredrik

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    Greg manages the site. This includes choosing which users to give the title of "mentor". The mentors routinely delete crackpot posts and spam, and ban users who post such things. They also do their best to get people to follow the other rules. They move, merge and split threads to keep the forum better organized. They shut down discussions that have drifted far off-topic, or into petty bickering between two people.

    There are also users with the title of "science advisor". They are chosen by the others who were given that title before them. The title is supposed to show that this is a person who writes a lot of good replies. When someone posts a question, there will typically be some bad replies and some good replies. The science advisor title is supposed to indicate that this is a person worth listening too. If a science advisor says that the previous replies are wrong, they usually are.

    The mentors are usually, but not always chosen from the group of science advisors, to ensure that there's a high level of competence within the mentor group. When a mentor feels that he doesn't know what do do with a thread, because of insufficient technical knowledge or any other reason, he asks for input from the others.

    This system is far from perfect, but it works well enough to make this the best place on the web to discuss physics, math and a few other topics, at least at the undergraduate level.
     
  14. Sep 3, 2014 #13

    Borek

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    Greg has the final word, but in general if any of the mentors (often including those retired) objects, that is enough to shut down a nominee.
     
  15. Sep 3, 2014 #14
    Sounds reasonable (although Ī do not believe in absolute truth). But how does the system distinguish high-quality posts of commoners?

    This inner-circle-like system is inherently irresponsible and prone to a slow, albeit steady, degradation. Were academics or respectable external communities ever invited to assess achievements of mentors?
     
  16. Sep 3, 2014 #15
    At the moment we struggle with that recognition. In a month we'll have a "like" system that will help with that. It's important to understand that with our quality controls you can, within reason, be confident, that posts are being written honestly and with at least fair quality. If someone is wrong, they will be corrected sooner than later. PF is a community which is unlike SE. We aren't after sterile answers. We want a thought out discussion. We want sound opinions and ideas.

    You have been here all of a day. You can't make that statement yet. If you knew PF's history, you'd understand every year PF gets better. The mentors all work together and we are often not slow to respond to needs. In fact, I usually get heat for acting too quickly :) Members and staff are judged on what they do within the community, not outside.
     
  17. Sep 3, 2014 #16

    Evo

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    Just a history of accurate posting, good manners, and a helpful, friendly attitude are what we look for. We are not afraid to admit when we are wrong, and welcome being corrected, no one is automatically 'correct' just because of a designation.

    Also, we don't look at non-staff as 'commoners' BTW. Many 'non-staff', could be staff, many have been offered staff positions but turned them down for personal reasons, many are on the list, but we just don't have enough positions. We respect all of our members.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2014
  18. Sep 3, 2014 #17

    Ryan_m_b

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    By "the system" do you mean the forum? That's all down to the quality of our members. Many years of operation have created an environment that many academics appreciate; namely the strict rules regarding speculation on pseudoscience.

    Out of the mentors (and retired mentors) I think around half of us are academics, or work in industry. But that's slightly bye-the-bye, our academic achievements aren't as relevant to mentor work as one might think. To be a good mentor takes commitment to building and maintaining a healthy community as well as being qualified to moderate our respective sub-forums.
     
  19. Sep 3, 2014 #18

    Fredrik

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    In my opinion, this is completely wrong. In particular, the knowledge levels of mentors and science advisors keep going up. I don't see any reason to think there will ever be a steady degradation.

    Not formally, but they are certainly welcome to comment on the quality of our posts, or just write better posts.
     
  20. Sep 3, 2014 #19

    Evo

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    I believe all of the mentors are either in academia, a science related industry or engineering.
     
  21. Sep 4, 2014 #20
    Sounds just like an advertisement speech. Mentors provide quality control, Ῑ agree it’s a reasonable solution, probably the best the humankind can present. But Ῑ do not see why can’t the system be overrun by a Wikipedia-style irresponsibility and incompetence. They (Ῑ mean en.wikipedia) had a nice start, they had once a great community, better than you can hope ever to build… but now it became a social network where “quality” is an archaic word.


    Do you mean “some academics like to speak here”? Or… ?

    Ῑ do not care about academic achievements of the mentors. Ῑ care about academic supervision of the mentors. Sooner or later, many of you will understand Ῑ give a valuable and timely advice.

    Many people have good-faith delusions about what a “healthy community” ought to be. There are two types of common delusions. First is to mistake a comfort (either personal or collective) for health. It begins just where the conscience ends: humans are biological beings and, hence, homeostatic organisms. Second is to mistake a (successful) remedy for the Most Dangerous Disease for health. Different communities have different most dangerous diseases: it was spam for Usenet, trojan scripts for IRC networks, trolling for Wikipedia, junk posts for StackExchange, and pseudoscience for PhysicsForums. But isn’t a community healthy just because it managed to cure one of its diseases.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2014
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