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Complaint Why can posts be deleted from threads at the will of a single Moderator?

  1. Dec 11, 2009 #1
    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=362254"


    I understand that yall have decided to try and keep the discussion of Global Warming limited to only a couple of threads, but why are the moderators deleting posts that are not in violation of the guidelines when the moderator feels that the posts are not related to their own interpretation of the OP's intent?

    I think that a statement saying that we should try and stick to the primary topic should be made, but that posts should not be deleted unless they are blatantly off topic or inappropriate as to content. I think that it is difficult to have a serious discussion when some posts may be deleted. I have seen threads "closed pending" that were fine because I knew that the moderators were discussing it, but I have not seen posts deleted because a single moderator had issue with them.

    I understand that yall don't want PF to become flooded with crackpots, but trying to limit the hottest scientific debate in the world to a handful of threads in the Earth Sciences section and deleting posts that fall out of those chosen few seems to defeat the purpose of even coming here to try and discuss this issue with intelligent people.

    As a solution, perhaps yall can make a "Hot Topic" thread where overwhelming topics can have there own section for a while until the hype cools down. Why not have a section where global warming can be discussed without having this extreme pressure from the moderators to keep all questions confined to someone else's threads.

    Global warming is a very serious issue in the way that it will affect our way of living. It is a very scientific discussion and people should be able to come here and talk to intelligent people, scientists and maybe even a few climate experts and find out for themselves what is going on. We could have a place where published papers in this regard a listed so that people can read for themselves. Surely there will be "crackpots", but this is not any worse than any other heated debate.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 11, 2009 #2

    sylas

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    This is indeed a hot topic and the mentors are apparently discussing it. However, I do think it might be useful to have some further input from regular members.

    One suggestion I would like to make... update the guidelines to include some stuff that just about everyone can recognize as nonsense. At present, the guidelines thread has a [post=2269439]closed topics list[/post] as msg #2, and this could be extended to include some closed topics with respect to climate.

    Given that the staff are not all of one mind we probably can't have a sweeping endorsement of a tightly defined perspective, but I think it should be possible to agree that the following ought to be "closed topics"

    • Claims that the greenhouse effect doesn't exist at all, or violates thermodynamics.
    • Claims that human activity has only a small effect on atmospheric carbon levels.
    • Claims that atmospheric carbon levels are unimportant to climate.
    This still leaves discussion wide open to quantifying the climate sensitivity to forcings, or the role of other forcings on top of carbon dioxide, or other greenhouse gases, and so on. It's well in line with (for example) the closure of "plasma cosmology" or "electric universe" ideas.

    There are three other conventions I would like to recommend as useful, given my own experience as a moderator in other forums.
    • A mentor who is actively engaged in a thread as a participant is best not to be also actively moderating it. They can, of course, bring issues to the attention of other mentors to deal with. In some cases, it may be important to act swiftly, and this should still be okay; but actions in that case should reviewed and confirmed by another mentor within a day or so.
    • It would be useful to let mentors add a special mentor comment into a post. At present, mentors can edit posts quite easily; but actual edits of other people words should be unusual. Sometimes a sentence/paragraph/post will be removed entirely; but a very useful capacity -- and consistent with the idea of "guidance" as from a helpful mentor -- would be to add a formal mentor notice into a post. This could use a new tag ([mentornotice] or something like that) which encloses text in a marked box. It would be expected that only mentors may use this tag; and that can either be enforced by software or (more easily) by convention and active editing of any improper tag use. It could, for example, warn of an off topic post and advise further followup is not appropriate, which is sometimes a better option than deletion.
    • Anyone starting a new thread should be free to explicitly identify a limited scope for that thread, with the expectation that mentors will take that into account and request other users to abide by the original request.

    Cheers -- sylas
     
  4. Dec 11, 2009 #3

    cristo

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    That thread is in the politics forum and is on the topic of whether or not experts' comments should be trusted. The posts that have been deleted are, as far as I can tell, related to global warming and not the topic of the thread. Thus, the posts have been deleted.

    Sometimes a comment is made to the effect of warning members to stay on topic, but other times the discussion has been derailed so much that this would not work, and thus posts must be deleted.

    You don't see posts deleted because, presumably, unless you are intimately involved in a certain thread you will not notice posts being removed from it. Only a few threads are locked 'pending moderation', and this is usually if one mentor sees something but does not have time to act on it. It is not standard that all the staff are involved in all moderation decision, simply because it is not usually necessary. If, however, you believe a thread has been moderated unfairly, or that a certain mentor has acted in a heavy handed manner, please report the thread, which will flag the issue for debate amongst the staff.

    I don't get your point: it is a scientific discussion and, as such, takes place in the appropriate science forum.
     
  5. Dec 11, 2009 #4
    Shouldn't deletion of a post be considered an extreme action? If a mentor is participating in the discussion, shouldn't he or she have to report the post to another PF Mentor to get an unbiased opinion?

    I know that this really wouldn't make sense in your regular threads for homework or discussions about engineering or science in general, but in a debate where science and politics are truly inseparable it seems that perhaps some neutral moderation is required.
     
  6. Dec 11, 2009 #5

    sylas

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    I seem to have screwed up here. I now see that this thread was rather more focused on a particular thread of discussion. My comments in msg #2 were intended to be a bit more general in scope, as ideas for helping manage what is a bit of a hot button topic that can sometimes get out of control. Sorry about that.

    I think I can see what happened in the specific thread in question that Pattonias asked about. The thread [thread=362254]"Should we trust experts to guide us concerning matters in their field?"[/thread] is split off from another thread. Indeed, the first post of the new thread starts as a reply to [post=2485161]msg #41[/post] of the earlier thread, "What IF agw is wrong?".

    In principle, I think it is a good idea to split of a useful subtopic, but it might be useful to make sure everyone knows what has happened. The new thread is confusing. It still has most of the post titles marked as "What IF agw is wrong", which is a tad awkward if the desire was to make a new thread on trusting experts without being an AGW thread. Unfortunately, I don't think there is an easy way to fix 30 thread titles; so it's going to be important to be really clear in the notices given.

    (I know how tough the job can be guys; I'm not wanting to be critical, but to make suggestions that might help!)

    In this case, it is not until [post=2486156]msg #30[/post] in the new thread that a mentor speaks up to say plainly that this is not an "AGW thread", and yet we still have "agw" appearing in the title of just about every post of the thread. I can understand contributors being confused. The notice should have stated explicitly that this new thread was a split off, and that this is why a more limited focus is required; while the original thread is still present for the agw stuff.

    There is a notice in [post=2485333]msg #59[/post] of the original thread, advising of the split to a new topic; this should have been stated plainly also in the notice at [post=2486156]msg #30[/post] of the new thread. A "mentornotice" tag could help make these advisories stand out better. If such a tag was available, it would also have helped to include a notice in the first post of the new thread, saying that it has been moved.

    I think the split was a good idea, by the way.

    Cheers -- sylas
     
  7. Dec 11, 2009 #6
    Thank you for pointing that out, I had not noticed that either. While I still have some issues with the method for deleting posts this does make more sense now.
     
  8. Dec 11, 2009 #7

    cristo

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    You're right that it would have been useful if a note was added when the thread was split off: I have added one now. I admit the old title is a little confusing, but that is only at the top of posts-- the correct title is at the top of the page, and the thread is in the politics forum (it should be quite clear that scientific discussions take place in the relevant science forum).
     
  9. Dec 11, 2009 #8

    cristo

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    Like I said: report a thread if you think the moderation has been unfair.
     
  10. Dec 11, 2009 #9

    Integral

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    Yes I did indeed delete posts which were off topic. Chris PMd me about it and asked for the text of his posts I gladly sent it to him. I believe that trust of experts is a worthwhile topic and would like to see the thread stay on topic. I do not know if there is any way to mass change the post header with Re: Global warming. Perhaps that is the cause of the confusion. There is a need for members to be aware of what thread they are posting and I need to communicate a bit better.
     
  11. Dec 11, 2009 #10

    sylas

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    I'm pretty sure you can't mass change a header. Some of the messages could have been a bit clearer, particularly in the new thread; but I don't think its a hanging offense. The idea of a new thread was a good one. Don't sweat it; you guys are doing well at a hard job. I appreciate it.

    Cheers -- sylas
     
  12. Dec 11, 2009 #11

    D H

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    This site, like almost all other internet forums, has one overarching rule: Stay on topic. That certainly is a rule here:
    Do not hijack an existing thread with off-topic comments or questions--start a new thread. Any off-topic posts will be deleted or moved to an appropriate forum per administrator or mentor discretion.

    Threads that encompass multiple, distinct threads of discussion tend to degrade quickly. Chaos ensues, and in short order, dogs and cats start living together.

    The best thing to do with off-topic posts is to delete them as soon as they appear. This nips the problem in the bud. This isn't always possible. Suppose someone makes an off-topic comment regarding some hot button issue. By the time the moderator comes back from their real-life, real paycheck job to do their volunteer, zero-paycheck jobs here, that single off-topic post might well have engendered a slew of responses. Now the moderator has a problem. What happened in this particular thread was an example of good moderation, not bad. The moderators could simply have deleted the off-topic post. Instead, they went to the extra effort of identifying the sub-thread of discussion that this created and moved the whole lot to a new thread. This required significantly more effort than the expedient delete-delete-delete response.

    This particular moderator action deserves a tip-o-the-hat, not a complaint.
     
  13. Dec 11, 2009 #12
    I'm sorry if you feel that this post was some sort of a personal attack against the moderators as it was not intended so at all.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2009
  14. Dec 11, 2009 #13

    Integral

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    Ok, so recently I was complaining about some of the moderation in a PWA thread. It has always been my belief that if someone is going to make the effort to complain about things they ought to shut up and pitch in.

    So after years of actively avoiding the PWA forum I donned a hazmat suit and dove in.

    I sincerely apologize for any earlier criticisms.

    My main goal on going in was to be a non participating MODERATOR. I have found even this simple goal to be very difficult. Not sure if it is possible.

    A moderator needs to be unbiased with posts judged not on the side of the argument but on civil nature and relevance to the topic.

    I found that reading through a thread it is sometimes very hard to notice that it has wandered. Then going back and finding the divergence point is time consuming.

    One of the consistent problems is topics which are either to narrow or to broad. Both of these tend to lead to wandering poorly focused discussions. I have no clue what to do about this. Other then when a good sub discussion develops split it off to its own thread.

    The PWA forum is much different from the other forums here. In the technical forums we are MENTORS. That is experts in the field who can make clear cut calls on what is and what is not acceptable. There is no such thing as a political mentor, the best we can do is maintain a consistent topic and civility.

    I am very open to input so if you have comments or suggestions this thread may be a good place for them.

    I will continue to read PWA posts and as long as I am learning from the posts I will not intervene. The posts I have the most trouble with are one liner throw outs which add nothing to the conversation.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2009
  15. Dec 11, 2009 #14

    russ_watters

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    By the way, no one responded to the question in the title:
    It is too inefficient to take a vote every time a moderating decision has to be made. But rest assured, all of the important decisions are put up for discussion among the moderators.

    In this particular case, Integral did not report the post or tell the other moderators what he intended to do/did. My guess would be he felt his decision was too obvious to need discussion. After briefly looking at the first post he deleted, I agree.

    Also, you had another remedy besides posting in feedback - if you reported Integral's post, it would open a discussion in the moderator's forum. After we discussed it, someone would have gotten back to you regarding the consensus. Note, deleted posts aren't really deleted, they are just not visible to regular members. So if something is "deleted" in error, we can still restore it.
     
  16. Dec 12, 2009 #15

    Mark44

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    I disagree strongly with making the third item a "closed topic." Whether or not there is a relationship between CO2 and climate is at the very heart of the pro/anti AGW debate. Let's not make the debate format so rigid that one side might as well not show up.
     
  17. Dec 12, 2009 #16

    sylas

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    The question is really whether or not this even ought to be a matter of debate in a forum committed to education rather to open debate on anything where people have different views.

    There are already other venues where people can express any view they like no matter how poorly founded. Physicsforums is not for that level of open discussion to all viewpoints.

    In my opinion, discussion becomes more substantive and useful when there is some recognition of basic common ground, and deliberate exclusion of ideas that are falsified. We do this, for example, with "plasma cosmology". It has passionate advocates, but that doesn't mean its a useful thing to discuss.

    Which brings us back to the matter of whether the existence of a link at all between carbon dioxide and climate is something on which there is any credible scientific debate.

    There certainly is credible discussion of the magnitude of the effect. There are, I grant, some people who think there's no meaningful link at all... and in my opinion THAT is what we should consider as an extreme unscientific viewpoint that is not open to debate. It still leaves discussion wide open to matters of sensitivity and response to an acknowledged impact; which is where more credible skepticism is directed.

    Specifically, it ought to be recognized as basic thermodynamics that there is an approximately logarithmic relation between atmospheric CO2 levels and extra energy available to the surface, meaning that a doubling of concentrations results in additional energy coming to the surface of about 3.7 W/m2. That's known to about 10% accuracy, and it would be possible in principle to argue for more extreme values; though I do not think there is any research at all seriously proposing anything radically different.

    The genuine scientific questions are what temperature increase results from that forcing. Conventional science says something from 2 to 4.5 degrees. Some legitimate minority views suggest as little as 1 degree; that is part of how science works with alternative ideas.

    Discussion should also be open to the possibility that there are other larger forcings involved. Most climate science considers that at present, the increasing greenhouse effect is the strongest forcing, but there are legitimately some other possibilities to consider.

    The idea that there's no impact, or negligible impact, from greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide in particular is (in my opinion) not something that should be up for debate, any more than perpetual energy machines or young earth geology.

    However, that is something the staff would have to decide. I continue to think these three points are really basic and we are much better not to open up the forum to debate with people who don't even recognize this very limited common ground for the underlying physics.

    Cheers -- sylas
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2009
  18. Dec 12, 2009 #17

    Redbelly98

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    Just to add to what Russ is saying: while Mentors can restore a deleted post or thread, we cannot undo edits to a post.
     
  19. Dec 12, 2009 #18
    Is it possible that this feature could be added? Keep an "Edit History" of posts that have been edited (only visible to mentors, and maybe the original poster)?
     
  20. Dec 12, 2009 #19

    Evo

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    This discussion is off topic. As long as the climate scientists are debating these issues sylas, they will remain a topic for debate. This thread is not for discussing views on global warming.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2009
  21. Dec 12, 2009 #20

    jtbell

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    We already have that, in an informal fashion. It's common practice for a mentor to hit the "Report" button on a post before editing it. The report message that the other mentors then see, quotes the original text of the post, and contains comments by the reporting mentor that explain what he/she is about to change. The report message also links directly to the post that's publically visible, so the other mentors can easily see exactly what the post actually contains after editing.

    In many cases, someone else has already reported the post in question, so we already have a record of its original content, and a link, so the editing mentor simply appends a description of the changes.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2009
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