# Suggestion Personal theory forum/less ridicule

1. Nov 18, 2016

### Isaac0427

I get that on PF we value real scientific discussion, however I do have some suggestions to make this place more welcoming. These, I have noticed, attack the roots of problems that some people have with PF.

1. Have a separate forum for personal theories. A lot of people have them. While you may think it is nonsense a lot of people value it as a learning source.

The bigger one is

2. Less ridicule...for everything. Sometimes on PF, those of us who are less educated say something an expert would deem stupid, such as throwing in a bad term or just outright getting a concept wrong. Making these mistakes make you subject to all types of ridicule on the forum, such as people talking to you as if you were an idiot, people being very rude to you (sometimes outright calling you an idiot) and even a warning for spreading false information. While PF is a wonderful community, this sometimes makes me stray from it, and I can tell from many posts that it does the same to other people.

As for the part about adding a bad term in, people will spend an entire post saying that you can't, for example, "derive" the Schrodinger equation. However, when I ask how to derive the Schrodinger equation, you definitely know what I mean: I want to know where it comes from, how Schrodinger came up with it, etc. People get so caught up on the technicalities that they focus their entire post on them and not answer the implied question.

This is just my feedback on problems with PF so that the moderators and Greg can make this site a better place (not that it is not great, but as with everything there is always room for improvement).

Thanks!

2. Nov 18, 2016

### Staff: Mentor

We had that in the past and it was a disaster. We have a niche, we stick to known, mainstream, accepted science so that we do not confuse students and people that want to learn. If you have a personal theory, once you get it published in an accepted peer reviewed journal, then you may discuss it here.

Since this would be different with every post, my suggestion is if you are not positive of what you are saying, (you do not have an accepted peer reviewed journal or school textbook to link to as your source), then do not state it as a fact, say that you have nothing to back it up and are wondering if it is correct, this should prevent criticism. It is when you say something incorrect, but perhaps come across as if you believe it to be true that you are most likely to run into criticism.

3. Nov 19, 2016

### Staff: Mentor

We did have this in our earlier days, first an unmoderated version, then a moderated version. It didn't work out. In our experience, the people who wanted to use their personal theories as a learning tool were far outnumbered by the people who had no interest in learning, but were convinced that established science was wrong and were out to make us recognize the "truth." You can see a summary of our history in this area here:

https://www.physicsforums.com/help/speculation/

Please use the "Report" link on such posts when you see them. This gets the mentors' attention pretty quickly.

4. Nov 19, 2016

### PeroK

I think the second point @Isaac0427 makes is worthy of more consideration. There are frequently cases where a response to a naive question by someone who is obviously not a physics student is unencouraging, to say the least. The replies are perhaps short of what one may want to report, but clearly give the impression of "not wanted here".

That said, PF is free of the typical online descent into heated argument, so this is very much a suggestion to improve an already exceptional forum.

5. Nov 19, 2016

### ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
I disagree, and I challenge you to show me evidence that such a forum is a "learning source" for "a lot of people". This is part of science, providing evidence to support your claim. You simply stated something, and made a speculation. What you seem to not be aware of is that we have tried such a thing. In fact, we even tried it at least a couple of different times and different ways!

https://www.physicsforums.com/threa...y-forum-like-we-need-a-computer-virus.765736/

The fact that we had tried it many times, and saw no clear benefits from it, is my evidence to contradict your claim.

But see, rather than using this as a learning experience, you turned this into a negative, I-am-not-going-to-learn-from-it experience. I've always stressed that one of the most valuable things one can learn from PF is the nature of asking a question, and how things needs to be precise. Otherwise, what you are asking is vague, and what you'll get in return will be equally vague! So for this case, at the very least, you should then learn that the word "derive" has a very precise meaning, and to know when and how to use it.

You may think that we should know what you mean, but we don't! Especially if you're new, we can't tell what background you already have and cannot predict what you already know, and what you don't. Assuming that we should know what you mean is extremely presumptuous of you, and it implies that you expect us to do a lot more than just answer your question.

But more than that, you are ignoring the fact that you get to learn a bit about the science "culture" and how it is often done. You get to learn that the handwaving, vague, imprecise description that one gets away with in ordinary settings are just simply inadequate in a scientific discussion. This is part of doing science, and it is why we make sure we choose our description carefully. I hear all the time of how many people are very curious about how science is done. There are books and documentaries on this. You are getting a valuable, first-hand look at one aspect of it, for free!

Rather than learning from it, you are complaining about it.

Zz.

6. Nov 19, 2016

### Isaac0427

Here is an example:
Just looking at the question, it is very obvious that the OP was not a professional. The question was "what happens if you try to confine an atom into a place smaller than the atom. There were some technicalities in there that did not make sense, but looking in the comments, almost everyone understood the actual question, and the OP confirmed that my interpretation of the question was correct. Instead of dedicating a post on the technicalities, have a post about the implied question and then mention the technicalities. I am not denying the importance of the technicalities, but people come here to ask their question, and they deserve an answer.

Also, somebody once posted a personal theory. He mentioned that he was a teenager interested in physics. I can't find the link and I don't remember his username but I remember looking at the thread. He received the link to "are you a quack?" Very discouraging at the least.

7. Nov 19, 2016

### PeroK

@Evo said all that needed to be said simply and politely, so why the need to flame an enthusiastic young member of our community?

If someone persists with a contrary point of view, fair enough, but make a suggestion and you risk getting your head bitten off!

8. Nov 19, 2016

### ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
And for each post that you can cite for this, I can cite another post in which what the OP intended is not what others understood! Your posts come to mind immediately!

Either we treat each post on a case-by-case basis, or we will make an over-reaching generalization that everyone should know the intention of all members making these types of posts every single time. Do you think this is a rational assumption?

I am still waiting for your evidence that such personal theory forum is an effective learning source.

Zz.

9. Nov 19, 2016

### Greg Bernhardt

@Isaac0427 let's put the personal theory forum idea to rest, it's not going to happen. However, we can always step back and look how we treat each other. We should strive to encourage good science and education in members of all ages and experience. Let's all take a minute to reflect and consider more clear, patient and caring approaches towards members. Thanks for bringing this to our attention Isaac. I'm happy you're part of this community!

10. Nov 19, 2016

### Krylov

I think this is good.
I think this is good, too.

I remember that at some point, because of the snark that I sometimes see on PF, I became rather snarky myself. (Sorry for using the word "snark" again. I like it a lot, because to me it is almost an onomatopoeia.) An example is this post of mine, of which I am not terribly proud in spite of its scientific correctness. Actually, I felt a bit ashamed afterwards when I received a "like" and a "thank you" message from the person to which I was directly responding.

On the other hand, when I see that an OP does not want to make any effort and behaves as an entitled "consumer", I can still be quite ironic at times, but I try to keep it together.

All in all, when it is clear that the intentions of the OP are good and constructive (such as in the present thread) and there is the willingness to make an effort, I don't see any reason to react with... snark.

11. Nov 19, 2016

### Isaac0427

There is no need to make this about any particular person's post. This is exactly what I am talking about. While my last example was about your post, I do not think all your posts are like that. You add very important contributions to the community.

I get the thing about personal theories, however I agree that if somebody says something about it with good intentions, they should be met with less snark, and NOT a link about being a quack. That can really make somebody trying to learn feel bad. Maybe just a simple "hey, we don't really like personal theories on this forum." I get snark when they think science is completely wrong, but a simple theory "adding to science" shouldn't be met with rudeness.

12. Nov 19, 2016

Staff Emeritus
One of the worst habits of the PF Membership is the response to unclear posts. Instead of waiting for the OP to clarify, people get into all sorts of arguments about what he or she must have meant. I wish the forum software had a feature "lock until a specified member replies" - then a Mentor could simply ask for clarification, and put the thread on hold until it was provided.

As far as personal theories, the proper response is to report the thread. If that were not the response, ridicule would be entirely appropriate. The person agreed not to do this when they joined, and as far as the rest of the argument, as usual the great Steve Dutch does a much better job that I could here. One quick quote: "If you think I'm disrespecting you, you're right. I have no respect for people who are uninformed, get angry when someone contradicts them, but are too lazy to get informed, and too cowardly to face failure, criticism, and the possibility they might have to change their minds."

13. Nov 19, 2016

### Collin237

I didn't post any personal theory. You did. You theorized about what I was going to type next. I reported you, and the report was rejected.

14. Nov 19, 2016

@Isaac0427 I found your OP above quite interesting. One problem I think any physics website faces is there are an awful lot of "wannabees" out there=when they have no physics or math background whatsoever and start making a claim such as how they believe time comes in discrete segments, it is necessary that the mentors weed these out as quickly as possible. I think they encounter quite a number of these, many of which get deleted before we even get the chance to see them. $\\$ On your second point, some of this comes with the very nature of their make-up. Physics people are often perfectionists, and in the process, some of them can come across as being a little snooty at times. I found that to be the case with a number of university professors in my college days, and it requires extra patience and taking their comments with as much levity as possible.

15. Nov 19, 2016

### StevieTNZ

If questions are unclear, there should not be a whole page in that thread dedicated to members wondering and posting 'what exactly is the OP's question(s)?' A simple, and polite, way forward would be to ask, kindly, for an elaboration etc.

16. Nov 19, 2016

### Drakkith

Staff Emeritus
Indeed. I think this is something that can be worked on. I just wish it were easier to tell when someone posts something with 'good intentions' vs when they post something with no intention of listening to the other members.

17. Nov 19, 2016

### Bystander

Matter of experience --- look over previous posts. No previous posts? You have to take your chances.

18. Nov 19, 2016

### BillTre

Probe them with a revealing question, in a nice way.
Problem is it may take time for them to reply. Additional replies pile up, which might make the OP seem non-respondent, creating more emotional issues.

This favors @Vanadium 50 's suggestion above about putting it on temporary hold:

19. Nov 19, 2016

### phinds

I really like Vanadium's suggestion of adding a feature to report posts that need clarification and have a mod lock them until the OP provides that clarification, BUT ... I recognize that that's easy for me to say since I'm not a moderator and doing it would not make any more work for me. The mods here do a great job and I'd love it if they would take this on but if they view it as too onerous, I would respect that.

20. Nov 19, 2016

### Bystander

Seconded. Could it be "automated?"