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DrRocket
2010-Jul-06, 03:52 AM
Some recent actions, and inactions, by the moderation team have demonstrated to me a lack of what I consider to be appropriate ethics with regard to the operation of BAUT. These issues are, in my opinion, such as to impugn the integrity of the forum and to cast doubt on the technical content of what are advertised as hard science forums and the accuracy of what are represented as “reliable” answers to legitimate questions. I feel that these issues represent potential harm to younger, well-meaning, and innocent questioners. Therefore I will not be posting to BAUT unless and until I perceive a change in the attitude of management and a return to what I had originally thought was an attitude of high regard for the integrity and content of science. Until these recent incidents I was of the opinion that the policy at BAUT was one advocating high standards of honesty and that BAUT, particularly in the Q&A forum offered people, particularly younger people desiring to learn science an opportunity for accurate responses to legitimate questions. I am no longer confident that such is indeed BAUT policy.

Specifically I find the, apparent if not written, policy with regard to two issues unacceptable in a supposedly objective above-board science forum. 1) A lack of emphasis on accurate and correct scientific responses to questions posed in the Q&A forum. 2) An extreme overemphasis on the “authority” of the moderation team, even when moderators use their position to browbeat members in advocating what appears to me to be an unethical position and to advocate a personal agenda that is contrary to the simple ethical principle of telling the truth.

There were some recent threads on the subject of responses to questions in the Q&A section (merged here (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/104852-Is-BAUT-s-Q-amp-A-section-becoming-intimidating?p=1746030&highlight=#post1746030)). Some members, and one moderator, Moose, adopted the position that, as elementary school educators, they were expert in answering questions and their opinion was unassailable. This despite a clear attitude that inaccurate responses were preferable to accurate responses, so long as the responses were sufficiently simple as to be easily comprehended, with little regard to accuracy.


Which is why no one is suggesting them. What we are suggesting is simple, inaccurate explanations that give a place to start with the caveat that they are incomplete and require further study to be understood properly. "Sound right" is not a criterion. "Is understandable" is.

Not only was this statement made, but when the intent to provide inaccurate information was appropriately labeled, by me, as “just plain dishonest”, Moose, acting as moderator, labeled this as name-calling and awarded infraction points. He went so far as to alter the post to replace the words “just plain dishonest” with “[name-calling]”, as though the original words were vulgar. Sorry, but there is no other description for the intended action than “just plain dishonest”. Lying is dishonest. Period.
There is no need to provide inaccurate explanations, even to the very young. It is quite possible to provide simplified but accurate explanations. But to do so requires an understanding of the subject matter, an understanding that those advocating inaccurate explanations simply do not possess.

What is of equal concern is the attitude that someone with moderator status can use that status to advocate an unethical position, and that his rather open flaunting of his position in that advocacy goes unchecked.

In response to Neried’s statement that “You both seem to be saying that a wrong answer can be perfectly OK.” we have


No, Nereid. Nobody at all is saying that. And I'll be a much less cranky moderator once you, Rocket, and others kindly stop insinuating that this is what anybody's suggesting. We're not. Full stop.

Not only is Moose’s statement clearly false, but it is equally a clear use of moderator status to intimidate a board member making a perfectly valid point. Why should anyone care if Moose is cranky? He was cranky simply because the point raised was valid. While Moose did not personally advocate providing inaccurate information, he most certainly did use his position to support those who did.

Moose also took official umbrage at the purely factual statement that one should not underestimate third graders, and some of them are smarter than their teachers. Now, this is an absolutely true statement. Any teacher, at any level, should expect that some of his students will be smarter than he is. When you also factor in the fact that the average intended education major scores well below average on the SAT (see references here (http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d09/tables/dt09_145.asp), here (http://www.educationreport.org/pubs/mer/article.aspx?id=3121), and here (http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/williams041999.asp)) and education graduates have on the average very low scores on the Graduate Record Examination (see references here (http://testprep.about.com/od/thegretest/a/GRE_Education.htm) and here (http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/williams051904.asp)) it is a statistical certainty in the third grade that some students will be smarter than the teacher. I certainly knew lots of kids in the third grade who were smarter than their teachers – and that is a good thing. But it is a bad thing when a moderator who makes his position as an elementary school teacher known also uses his position to attempt to intimidate board members who make purely factual statements, apparently in order to further a personal agenda tied to a personal ego. One finds in that thread a stinging criticism of higher education professors – a telling position given that U.S. universities are the envy of the world, while our primary and secondary schools are the laughing stock of the community of developed nations, clearly defining the agenda of an anything-but-objective moderator.

These issues were raised to higher levels of authority in BAUT in two ways. First, I requested, via the usual reporting procedure, clarification as to how the labeling of an intent to provide inaccurate information as “just plain dishonest” could possibly be construed as “name calling”. Several weeks have now passed, surely enough time, with no response whatever.

Second, I called attention via PM to Moose’s inappropriate moderation of threads in which he was an active participant, and provided examples of his use of moderator status to intimidate other participants. I was told that this was a valid concern. I have enough experience running large business segments, with overly controlling or inadequately performing supervisors (up to an including vice presidents) to be able to recognize a need for decisive action, including removal. I don’t need to be told that a concern is valid. What I need is to see the results of appropriate management action. While I did not expect any direct return response I did expect to see the results of needed management action. I was again disappointed.

To Seek once said “Moderation in moderation”, and that would be a good policy, if enforced.

Since my major concerns regarding the necessity for accuracy in answers to questions is clearly subordinate to simplicity, and that moderator authority is more important than ethical moderator behavior, I will not be posting until I sense a change in attitude on the part of board management. If this post or this position is unacceptable to BAUT management then we have a nice match, since the de facto policy is not acceptable to me. Order may be important. Veracity is more important.

I certainly hope that any young viewers will take heed and view answers to questions with appropriate skepticism and not accept them at face value. A simple, easily understood, wrong answer is worse than no answer at all.

Kids, do some research on your own and don’t accept simplistic erroneous tripe offered in place of real information. Be smarter than your teacher. It is not hard to do.

Jens
2010-Jul-06, 04:26 AM
Some recent actions, and inactions, by the moderation team have demonstrated to me a lack of what I consider to be appropriate ethics with regard to the operation of BAUT.

You know, to be honest I don't really have a strong position on the actual issue you're debating, easiness vs. accuracy. I can go both ways, really. But I do have a problem with the idea that there is this standard and that we should all be giving harmonized answers or whatever. I'm not paid to be here, and when I give an answer to a question in Q&A it's because I feel I'm participating in a sort of fun community and I don't see anything wrong with a little bit of diversity on these problems -- some people giving simple but not completely accurate answers, and others giving the fuller truth to explore. We're not professionals.



One finds in that thread a stinging criticism of higher education professors – a telling position given that U.S. universities are the envy of the world, while our primary and secondary schools are the laughing stock of the community of developed nations, clearly defining the agenda of an anything-but-objective moderator.

That's not really true (about the laughing stock), except in American perception. I've never heard anyone outside of the US laugh at US schools. They are all complaining about how terrible their schools are, and how everybody laughs at them. Go figure.

Jeff Root
2010-Jul-06, 05:08 AM
In the interest of veracity over ease of access, we need to shut down the
Internet until such time as the accuracy of its assertions can be certified.

Also most books. And almost all magazines, newspapers, and TV programs.

Imagine the energy savings! The trees that will be saved!

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Spoons
2010-Jul-06, 05:12 AM
In the interest of veracity over ease of access, we need to shut down the
Internet until such time as the accuracy of its assertions can be certified.

Also most books. And almost all magazines, newspapers, and TV programs.

Imagine the energy savings! The trees that will be saved!

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis
While I'm all for a bit of humour here and there, DrRocket does have a valid point with regard to accuracy in the Q&A section. It should not be comprimised for ease of access. Some questions are not simply answered, that's down to the nature of the question.

There's nothing wrong with asking questions, but there's also nothing wrong with realising you may not yet be capable of processing the full and complete, accurate answers.

ETA: I would also suggest that Jens has a very good point too - nobody here is getting paid, so just as it isn't fair to demand too much of moderators it also isn't reasonable to dictate how members must answer. A variety of levels f answer should be something of value - it would cater to various degrees of knowlegde, which should only be a good thing.

Jens
2010-Jul-06, 05:36 AM
While I'm all for a bit of humour here and there, DrRocket does have a valid point with regard to accuracy in the Q&A section. It should not be comprimised for ease of access.

I suppose it goes a tad beyond my statement that we're not getting paid. I don't really see the problem is somebody (like me!) comes up with a simple answer that may not address all of the complexities, and then having somebody else like Dr Rocket add a message saying, "though if you take relativity into account. . ." It's not like there is a restriction of having only one answer to one question. Plus, this is a forum, not an FAQ, so it's also partly a conversation in progress. I mean, I sometimes post answers that I later learn are wrong (usually wrong at the edges), and learn myself while sort of teaching others. I don't think there's a problem with that. I only thing it becomes a problem when posters start arguing about a subtle point that goes above the head of the person asking the question, and especially when people start having metadiscussions.

Spoons
2010-Jul-06, 06:13 AM
Yes, answers aimed at different levels should be encouraged. The idea that the question is only allowed to be answered tailored to the specific level of the question leads to the requirement for someone to come back later and ask the exact same question but asking for more detail, or thread necromancy. Which is preferred?

Regardless, I think it's unfortunate that DrRocket feels how he does, as we lose what I see as a valuable asset from our community.

Sometimes there is much information which can be provided, which the initial questioner doesn't know about in order to ask about, but is still relevant. I'd rather have seen the range of answers left unrestricted and infractions doled out just for arguing in Q&A. Mind you, I can imagine some would disagree. It seems they did.

Jens
2010-Jul-06, 06:22 AM
It seems they did.

No they didn't!

But seriously, I agree pretty much completely. I think doling out infractions for arguing it the logical way to do it. I really don't mind when somebody says something wrong and it is pointed out. What irritates me is when people spend page after page talking about some obscure issue that has little relevance to an original question.

Nereid
2010-Jul-06, 07:50 AM
No they didn't!

But seriously, I agree pretty much completely. I think doling out infractions for arguing it the logical way to do it. I really don't mind when somebody says something wrong and it is pointed out. What irritates me is when people spend page after page talking about some obscure issue that has little relevance to an original question.
FWIW, the thing that alarms me the most, in the Q&A section, is the rather large number of 'answers' that are - sometimes quite explicitly - nothing more than personal opinions ... and that's despite the clearly stated new Q&A policy (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/105054-About-this-section-of-the-forum-(for-the-natives))!

If we really do want the Q&A section to be what Fraser apparently wants (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/21281-About-this-section-of-the-forum-(for-new-arrivals)), shouldn't we all - ordinary members as well as mods - be trying harder?

ETA: the new policy is quite good in that the kind of long discussions you mention can be handled simply and effectively (in principle anyway).

Jeff Root
2010-Jul-06, 08:51 AM
Spoons,

I think Jens's point was that the question answerers are not paid,
not that the moderators are not paid. That means BAUT is not as
reliable as, say, Encyclopedia Britannica, or the New York City Public
Library reference desk. If BAUT paid question answerers, it would
go out of business in a month.

Nereid,

I want to see the rest of the argument you were making with
"ScienceIsReligion". ("Imagine a simple detector, ...")
Other posters assumed they knew what you meant. I don't.

Jens,

I'm irritated that I made a really bad (because it was so simple)
math error, and it took five days for anyone to catch it. There
is no doubt that it was an error, but I'm still trying to fight my
math aversion to work out exactly what my error was. My best
guess is that I used one variable to mean two different things.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Spoons
2010-Jul-06, 09:04 AM
Jeff,

I was aware of what Jens was saying, which is why I addressed it in the ETA on my post #4. Not to be curt, just addressing a point. Cheers.

Strange
2010-Jul-06, 12:24 PM
I don't see anything wrong with a little bit of diversity on these problems -- some people giving simple but not completely accurate answers, and others giving the fuller truth to explore. We're not professionals.

I tend to agree. There are two benefits to this: the answers will be pitched at different levels and will suit different readers (the OP as well as others); different approaches/analogies work for different people.

I do think it is important that completely wrong answers (or personal opinions) are "stamped on" quickly; the Q&A section is about the only area where there is a case for deleting erroneous posts (or at least flagging them in some way as unreliable; e.g. making all text strike-through).

I also agree that there is a danger from people relying too much on pop-sci explanations which are not accurate. Especially when they think that is all there is too it; they then stretch the analogy too far and get confused. (And sometimes end up in ATM hell!)

However, I am not sure that all questions can be answered in a simple form without sacrificing some accuracy. I know I only understand some areas largely by analogy and a loose grasp on the mathematical basics. But the important thing is, I know there is stuff I don't know.

Often there is no explanation in "normal" language that is not "wrong" in some sense. Take Hawking radiation, for example. The standard explanaton is by means of virtual particles - which (I think) comes from the man himself. But this does not represent what is "really" happening according to the math (and no verbal explanation can). But the math is probably too complex for someone who has been confused by trying to stretch that analogy too far.

So it is very important that when such a simplified explanation is used, there is a caveat that "there is more to it than this" or even "this is not really how it works" (even though, I guess, this is the sort of answer that DrRocket would object to). This also allows people to ask for more detail if they want to get further into it.

ETA: I would also hate to see DrRocket stop answering questions. He is able to explain incredibly complex things in a very clear way.

Jeff Root
2010-Jul-06, 12:59 PM
I think the *biggest* benefit of allowing the public to answer questions is
to the people who answer the questions. They probably learn more from
answering questions than all the question-askers and lurkers combined.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Swift
2010-Jul-06, 01:02 PM
I only thing it becomes a problem when posters start arguing about a subtle point that goes above the head of the person asking the question, and especially when people start having metadiscussions.
That was one of my main concerns. Even more so, are the cases where the OP is basically forgotten, and the experts start arguing the subtle points among themselves (I'm not sure if that is what you meant by a metadiscussion - I use that term differently).


So it is very important that when such a simplified explanation is used, there is a caveat that "there is more to it than this" or even "this is not really how it works" (even though, I guess, this is the sort of answer that DrRocket would object to). This also allows people to ask for more detail if they want to get further into it.

I think that is an excellent idea.

DrRocket may or may not be correct that there are third graders who are smarter than their teachers (I thought I was the last one ;) ), but not all are. I think it important to adjust our answers to the understanding and interest of the person asking the question. We want to stretch people, but we dont' want to overwhelm them (IMHO).

Jeff Root
2010-Jul-06, 01:21 PM
My *impression* is that thrd graders generally do not yet quite comprehend
how the world works, compared to the understanding of fifth-graders, which
is far more advanced. A third grader might admire science, and think science
and what scientists do is neat, but at the same time have no idea how science
might be different from magic. It isn't that third-graders don't know enough,
and it certainly isn't that they aren't smart enough or rational enough. It is
that they haven't yet figured out how the information they have about the
world fits together into a coherent whole which makes some kind of "sense".

(A functional test of whether one's view of the world makes "sense" is the
extent to which that person can accurately predict the behavior of things
which he or she has never before experienced.)

I doubt that there are many, if any third-graders who read more than a
couple of posts on BAUT. Fourth through eighth grade is where I would
expect the demographics to rocket upward.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

tusenfem
2010-Jul-06, 02:15 PM
The problem was, as Jens and Swift say, that in numerous Q&A threads the experts started discussing among themselves about the deeper philosophical finesses of the problem. That is what we wanted to stop, with the whole discussion that we have had about the reorganization of the Q&A section resulting from that.

I am not for giving wrong answers, but simplified answers are okay, and if the OP wants to know more, then she can ask for that in a follow up post. An example would be if someone want to know how to calculate the radius of an event horizon, and you answer just put the escape velocity equal to the velocity of light and tadah you got it. Then you are making 2 mistakes that happen to counteract each other and you get to the correct answer. For me the motto is "Simple is Good and sometimes Less Simple is Better." It all depends on the situation, and I don't really care for some hurt egos of the experts.

CJSF
2010-Jul-06, 02:25 PM
I'll risk my first infraction point and say, you know, there are plenty of people willing to answer questions in Q&A in an appropriate manner and level of description. The moderators do an amazing job trying to balance everything involved, though they may be far from perfect. If you don't want to post here, well, it's a big Internet and we're (on the whole) courteous enough to keep the door from hitting your backside on the way out.

CJSF

Nereid
2010-Jul-06, 02:33 PM
I tend to agree. There are two benefits to this: the answers will be pitched at different levels and will suit different readers (the OP as well as others); different approaches/analogies work for different people.

I do think it is important that completely wrong answers (or personal opinions) are "stamped on" quickly; the Q&A section is about the only area where there is a case for deleting erroneous posts (or at least flagging them in some way as unreliable; e.g. making all text strike-through).
This is, I think, one of the things which could make a huge difference!

Once the Q&A section is seen to be reliable, in the important senses, it will, all by itself, attract more traffic.

However, it's also clear that making this happen will take quite a while ... too many long standing BAUTians, for example, still haven't got this particular memo, or have not understood it.



I also agree that there is a danger from people relying too much on pop-sci explanations which are not accurate. Especially when they think that is all there is too it; they then stretch the analogy too far and get confused. (And sometimes end up in ATM hell!)
This is another way we can, potentially, really stand out.

In fact, I think answers which acknowledge the pop-sci explanations, and then go on to (briefly) discuss their limitations and minefields and point to better ones, would likely be recognised as among the best answers of all.



However, I am not sure that all questions can be answered in a simple form without sacrificing some accuracy. I know I only understand some areas largely by analogy and a loose grasp on the mathematical basics. But the important thing is, I know there is stuff I don't know.

Often there is no explanation in "normal" language that is not "wrong" in some sense. Take Hawking radiation, for example. The standard explanaton is by means of virtual particles - which (I think) comes from the man himself. But this does not represent what is "really" happening according to the math (and no verbal explanation can). But the math is probably too complex for someone who has been confused by trying to stretch that analogy too far.
It's important to not pitch the explanations, and answers, at too low a level.

For example, in a recent Q&A thread, on virtual particles and electromagnetism (for which accurate answers are incredibly difficult to understand), I was astonished to find that the OP (a newbie) was OK with a (John Baez) website (albeit s/he said it was heavy going)! From the way the OP was stated, I doubt anyone could have predicted that!

There's also the gravity is not a force (in GR) thread ... the idea is one of the most profound in modern physics, yet is so counter-intuitive, that it generated (and still generates) incredulity. How to address this?



So it is very important that when such a simplified explanation is used, there is a caveat that "there is more to it than this" or even "this is not really how it works" (even though, I guess, this is the sort of answer that DrRocket would object to). This also allows people to ask for more detail if they want to get further into it.
I agree.

And I think it was a strong recommendation, by several BAUTians, in the thread (in this section) on the new Q&A policy. If the regulars were to adopt this, as a matter of SOP, I think it would likely catch on.



ETA: I would also hate to see DrRocket stop answering questions. He is able to explain incredibly complex things in a very clear way.
Me too. Especially as we have so few who do understand some of the most important, yet most counter-intuitive, aspects of space and astronomy, especially relativity and cosmology.

Nereid
2010-Jul-06, 02:35 PM
[...]

Nereid,

I want to see the rest of the argument you were making with
"ScienceIsReligion". ("Imagine a simple detector, ...")
Other posters assumed they knew what you meant. I don't.

[...]
Thanks for the feedback! :D

I didn't continue because a) SIR left, and b) no one expressed any interest.

I'll continue, in thread.

Nereid
2010-Jul-06, 02:37 PM
I think the *biggest* benefit of allowing the public to answer questions is
to the people who answer the questions. They probably learn more from
answering questions than all the question-askers and lurkers combined.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis
Not sure about 'biggest', but there's no doubt that the answerers do learn a great deal, both from trying to answer, and from the other answers/responses.

Nereid
2010-Jul-06, 02:41 PM
The problem was, as Jens and Swift say, that in numerous Q&A threads the experts started discussing among themselves about the deeper philosophical finesses of the problem. That is what we wanted to stop, with the whole discussion that we have had about the reorganization of the Q&A section resulting from that.

[...]
And, to repeat myself, one of the changes - per the new policy - allows for this to be dealt with (if it continues to happen) simply and effectively.

Job well done mods :clap:

Strange
2010-Jul-06, 02:51 PM
In fact, I think answers which acknowledge the pop-sci explanations, and then go on to (briefly) discuss their limitations and minefields and point to better ones, would likely be recognised as among the best answers of all.

Absolutely. And wouldn't it be good if more popular science outlets did that themselves, rather than glossing over the fact they have presented a relly simplified story.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Jul-06, 03:07 PM
I am not for giving wrong answers, but simplified answers are okay, and if the OP wants to know more, then she can ask for that in a follow up post.
You know? Somehow I get the impression that this whole discussion is about DrRocket still being terribly wound up over the use of the term "lies to children" to describe this simplification:D

aastrotech
2010-Jul-06, 04:10 PM
You know? Somehow I get the impression that this whole discussion is about DrRocket still being terribly wound up over the use of the term "lies to children" to describe this simplification:D

Smarm^

Somehow I get the impression, although he put it in position 2 in his OP, that Dr Rocket's issue is "2) An extreme overemphasis on the “authority” of the moderation team, even when moderators use their position to browbeat members in advocating what appears to me to be an unethical position and to advocate a personal agenda that is contrary to the simple ethical principle of telling the truth."

Correcting that isn't going to happen. I've tried. No use. Just results in more rules and "policies" to allow them to dodge around and continue to do it. Doesn't help that they have a vocal minority with no problem with it and will defend it with smarmy replies.

John Mendenhall
2010-Jul-06, 04:22 PM
In general I support Henrik's position. There has been some bow-wow (erroneous) stuff on Q&A.

Henrik, please keep posting. You always make me think.

Regards, John M.

Swift
2010-Jul-06, 04:38 PM
Smarm^

...

Correcting that isn't going to happen. I've tried. No use. Just results in more rules and "policies" to allow them to dodge around and continue to do it. Doesn't help that they have a vocal minority with no problem with it and will defend it with smarmy replies.
You may criticize the moderators here, but accuse another member again of making smarmy comments and you will be infracted. There will be no further warnings.

Gillianren
2010-Jul-06, 05:16 PM
DrRocket may or may not be correct that there are third graders who are smarter than their teachers (I thought I was the last one ;) ), but not all are. I think it important to adjust our answers to the understanding and interest of the person asking the question. We want to stretch people, but we dont' want to overwhelm them (IMHO).

I think there are third graders who are smarter than their teachers--I was one, too! But that's largely because there is no requirement for teachers to be of genius-level intelligence, whereas they will inevitably end up with a few students over the years who are unless they specialize in special education. However, I think "smart" confuses the issue. I don't think anyone would argue that a third grader is more educated than their teacher; that would be wrong by simple definition. It is education level which is often a deciding factor in understanding. You have to have a foundation. A third grader may be smart enough to understand calculus, but if they don't know long division yet, that doesn't matter.

Tensor
2010-Jul-06, 06:13 PM
I think there are third graders who are smarter than their teachers--I was one, too!

Hey, me too. Who would have thought that all these smart third graders would have ended up here on BAUT?

kleindoofy
2010-Jul-06, 07:19 PM
... Not only is Moose’s statement clearly false, but it is equally a clear use of moderator status to intimidate a board member making a perfectly valid point. ...

Example:


Speaking just short of having my mod hat on, I'm becoming increasingly unhappy by some of the more disingenuous behavior I'm noting in this thread. Without naming names or implying anything based on my immediately previous replies, I would suggest that participants in this thread carefully consider their posting styles before official notice has to be taken. Consider this friendly advice for the time being.
http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/102119-Is-There-Too-Much-Advertising?p=1704322#post1704322

The above was in response to members who simply disagreed with Moose.

The politest word I can find for that post is "threat."

korjik
2010-Jul-06, 08:22 PM
Example:


http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/102119-Is-There-Too-Much-Advertising?p=1704322#post1704322

The above was in response to members who simply disagreed with Moose.

The politest word I can find for that post is "threat."

You are right. Moose should have put his mod cap on and made it an official warning. THY was over the line.

And no, I am not missing your point. I have gotten two warnings for the exact same behavoir that THY was showing. I got warned cause it wasnt to a mod, so the only thing Moose ever got close to doing wrong was trying to keep someone from getting infracted due to the arguement he was having. Had I been the one in Moose's shoes, THY would have gotten infracted (maybe).

Spoons
2010-Jul-06, 08:42 PM
I'm not so sure that THY was, but that is not the point. Mods should not moderate threads they're involved in, it creates a conflict of interest. This is not an attempt to pick on anyone or take sides, it's a practical issue that is well understood in nearly all facets of life. Conflicts of interest can colour judgement, and mods need a clear mind when assessing posts.

The best course of action would be for a participating mod to report the post, as is suggested to all other participants of threads.

Moose
2010-Jul-06, 09:21 PM
Without getting into specifics, a further deterioration of the temper of that thread (and it was deteriorating rapidly) had the potential of causing at least one major suspension due to accumulated points. Despite certain claims, we don't actually like infracting/suspending people. We really don't like the situation where a minor infraction triggers a big suspension. Timely civility reminders are usually sufficient to cool off a thread enough to prevent or delay real trouble. (It's particularly effective when most/all of the participants are long-time regulars and know better.) In other cases, the offense is sufficiently clear cut that, particularly when no other mods are active and the matter is urgent, immediate action is required.

For what it's worth, I've never minded being disagreed with so long as the discussion remains civil. I BAUT to socialize and to learn: I'd much rather adjust my thinking to better facts as they are presented, so I can be right for the right reasons, than to win an argument on the internet, right or wrong.

Also, for what it's worth, shortly after the merger, my activism was largely responsible for the mod team instituting our back-check guidelines in the first place, so I'm very much aware of the issue, as I was when I determined that immediate action was necessary in both cases to prevent more severe incidents.

I stand by my actions; they were correct given the circumstances, and the tone in both threads improved significantly. But I apologize for any/all chill caused beyond what was required.

Nereid
2010-Jul-06, 09:29 PM
I'm not so sure that THY was, but that is not the point. Mods should not moderate threads they're involved in, it creates a conflict of interest. This is not an attempt to pick on anyone or take sides, it's a practical issue that is well understood in nearly all facets of life. Conflicts of interest can colour judgement, and mods need a clear mind when assessing posts.
This has been, AFAIK, the default policy for quite a long time; in fact, I was one of the (then) mods who was involved in forming, and implementing that not-stated-openly policy.




The best course of action would be for a participating mod to report the post, as is suggested to all other participants of threads.
Yes, recusing oneself is by far the best approach, I think. However, there are also practical considerations, especially at times when the mod work load is heavy and mods are scarce.

Swift
2010-Jul-06, 10:04 PM
I stand by my actions; they were correct given the circumstances, and the tone in both threads improved significantly. But I apologize for any/all chill caused beyond what was required.
And if I had moderated that thread, I would have posted the same or similar moderation instructions. I see nothing wrong with what Moose did in that thread.

As has been pointed out, moderators tend not to moderate in threads they are active in, and I've seen and participated in numerous examples where moderators have asked for someone to step in and do just that. But, as has also been pointed out, sometimes that is just not a practical or the best course of action, at least in the determination of the moderator at that time. It is much easier to second guess the actions well after the fact and find fault with them (not that anyone is doing that in this thread).

I also think that such recusing is sometimes not necessary. I have been a particpant in this thread, but I've also posted a warning (in purple, official moderator warning) - sometimes the rule violations are so obvious, or so unrelated to the topic of discussion, that it is easy and obvious for a moderator to momentarily switch hats.

Spoons
2010-Jul-07, 12:15 AM
For what it's worth, I'm not commenting on the person, just the actions, and I do appreciate the fine line. It was something of an idealistic comment, which is a habit of mine. I certainly have no issues with Moose, nor do I wish for any misunderstandings to develop.

DrRocket
2010-Jul-07, 02:22 AM
I stand by my actions; they were correct given the circumstances, and the tone in both threads improved significantly. But I apologize for any/all chill caused beyond what was required.

Yet in the earlier thread infractions were applied within literally seconds of a post that contained the same statement made here (that an intended action to deliberately provide "inaccurate information" is "just plain dishonest"), in response to exactly the same post quoted here. If it was name calling then (it most certainly was not) then it is name calling now (and it is most certainly not, and labeling an intended action, not a person, can hardly be termed name calling in any case). So it is abundantly clear to any and all that the intent was quite clearly to use the status as a moderator to intimidate those who held a position contrary to yours.

The tone in the threads did not "improve significantly" unless one adopts the perspective that those with positions contrary to yours were effectively silenced. Lacking logic and facts, you turned to power.

You have proved my point nicely. Conduct unbecoming a moderator is being at least tolerated and perhaps encouraged. It appears that we are seing in this thread behavior which is similar to that which is held in contempt when it is observed in practice in the wider society by members of a police firce (the so-called blue line).

Jeff Root
2010-Jul-07, 03:19 AM
... So it is abundantly clear to any and all that the intent was
quite clearly to use the status as a moderator to intimidate
those who held a position contrary to yours.
It seems to me vastly more likely that the moderator's
interpretation of the statement being criticized was
significantly different from yours. So the intent had no
connection at all to what you think the intent was.

But it is still good to remember that power corrupts even
those who really, really want not to be corrupted.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

peter eldergill
2010-Jul-07, 04:07 AM
Yet in the earlier thread infractions were applied within literally seconds of a post that contained the same statement made here (that an intended action to deliberately provide "inaccurate information" is "just plain dishonest"), in response to exactly the same post quoted here. If it was name calling then (it most certainly was not) then it is name calling now (and it is most certainly not, and labeling an intended action, not a person, can hardly be termed name calling in any case). So it is abundantly clear to any and all that the intent was quite clearly to use the status as a moderator to intimidate those who held a position contrary to yours.

The tone in the threads did not "improve significantly" unless one adopts the perspective that those with positions contrary to yours were effectively silenced. Lacking logic and facts, you turned to power.

Glad you haven't left yet and I hope you stick around

Pete

Jens
2010-Jul-07, 04:29 AM
FWIW, the thing that alarms me the most, in the Q&A section, is the rather large number of 'answers' that are - sometimes quite explicitly - nothing more than personal opinions ... and that's despite the clearly stated new Q&A policy (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/105054-About-this-section-of-the-forum-(for-the-natives))!

Thanks for mentioning that. I did read that policy when it first came out, and didn't really find anything to disagree with. I read it again and still find it pretty acceptable. So I'm not saying that purely personal opinions are a good idea. It's just that I'm not a physics wizard, but I sometimes try to answer questions, usually those that involve some interesting aspect (like, "why doesn't the IAU give an official name to the earth?"), and occasionally (sometimes more than occasionally) I end up being wrong, but usually I learn from it too, so I would be against making the standards too high. But in any case, it seems that pretty much everyone agrees with this more or less. I think there is more or less agreement that it is arrogance that is the problem, not being wrong per se.

Jens
2010-Jul-07, 04:53 AM
I think there are third graders who are smarter than their teachers--I was one, too!

Sorry, off-topic, but I'm intrigued by this. I assumed that Swift was sort of joking around with the statement, but I'm not sure about Gillianren and Tensor. Do you really think that you were smarter than your third-grade teachers, or are you only being semi-serious?

Spoons
2010-Jul-07, 06:29 AM
Pretty sure they're serious, though I think what they mean is "higher IQ" rather than "greater wealth of knowledge at the time". I've seen similar comments elsewhere.

When either of them get back, please feel free to correct me, just thought in the meantime I'd share my understanding of the comments.

Gillianren
2010-Jul-07, 06:39 AM
Yeah, we're talking higher IQ. Also, looking at my third grade teacher, a better view on the Real World. (He told our class people wouldn't eat food if it wasn't pleasing to the eye; we suggested he eat in the cafeteria now and again to be disavowed of that notion.) But he taught me long division, and I've no doubt he knew a ton of other things I didn't. But that was my point. Yes, I was smarter. No, that isn't completely relevant to how much any explanation would or wouldn't have helped me when I actually was in third grade. Eventually, you probably could have gotten me to understand certain astronomical concepts on the level some people think Q&A should be handled, but boy howdy, I would have needed a lot of background.

In retrospect, Mr. Knowles probably would have done, too.

Spoons
2010-Jul-07, 06:46 AM
This whole thread, and the one that caused this one, reminds me of the Isaac Asimov essay, The Relativity of Wrong.

Jens
2010-Jul-07, 06:52 AM
Pretty sure they're serious, though I think what they mean is "higher IQ" rather than "greater wealth of knowledge at the time". I've seen similar comments elsewhere.


What struck me isn't actually the reality. I have no doubt that a number of third graders have higher IQs than their teachers. What is really surprising to me is that a third grader would actually understand that. When I was in third grade, I would not have thought of comparing myself to my teachers. As far as I was concerned they were the teachers and I was one of the kids.

Spoons
2010-Jul-07, 06:57 AM
Yes, that's probably generally true but when you are correcting your teacher you've got to start wondering.

pzkpfw
2010-Jul-07, 08:08 AM
How old is a third grader? (Usually)

Jens
2010-Jul-07, 08:12 AM
How old is a third grader? (Usually)

In the US, I think about 8-9 years old?

Jens
2010-Jul-07, 08:36 AM
That was one of my main concerns. Even more so, are the cases where the OP is basically forgotten, and the experts start arguing the subtle points among themselves (I'm not sure if that is what you meant by a metadiscussion - I use that term differently).


I think I probably meant the same thing you understand. I meant "discussion about the discussion," so for example, one poster writing, "your last post was not appropriate for this section. . ." In other words, posters discussing openly what should be PMs with moderators or what not. But I agree with the problem about subtle points as well.

tusenfem
2010-Jul-07, 09:29 AM
In the US, I think about 8-9 years old?


Let's stop the third grader discussion now, please

aastrotech
2010-Jul-07, 01:17 PM
Let's stop the third grader discussion now, please


Why quote Jens for answering and not your moderator pal for asking?

Nereid
2010-Jul-07, 02:55 PM
And if I had moderated that thread, I would have posted the same or similar moderation instructions. I see nothing wrong with what Moose did in that thread.

As has been pointed out, moderators tend not to moderate in threads they are active in, and I've seen and participated in numerous examples where moderators have asked for someone to step in and do just that. But, as has also been pointed out, sometimes that is just not a practical or the best course of action, at least in the determination of the moderator at that time. It is much easier to second guess the actions well after the fact and find fault with them (not that anyone is doing that in this thread). Also, I'm talking in general terms, not about any particular case.

I also think that such recusing is sometimes not necessary. I have been a particpant in this thread, but I've also posted a warning (in purple, official moderator warning) - sometimes the rule violations are so obvious, or so unrelated to the topic of discussion, that it is easy and obvious for a moderator to momentarily switch hats.
On the matter of recusing oneself, I think we may need to agree to disagree.

First, some scope: the only recusing I'm considering is from posting, in mod mode, in a thread in which you, the mod, are actively participating. Also from issuing infractions to participants in such a thread, for their behaviour in that thread. Two exceptions only: posts stating thread closure, at the request of the OP (applicable in ATM and CT sections only); and posts stating thread moves.

I think any mod mode posting, or infraction issuing, of this kind is insidious, and will lead, over time, to a chilling effect on the very things BAUT is about. This is particularly so in three sections: ATM, CT, and this Feedback one (it may also become important in Q&A, depending on how the new policy works out).

From a mod's perspective, the switching of hats may seem reasonable, even totally innocuous; from many ordinary BAUTians' perspectives it is anything but.

And it's not that, in any particular instance, there are any direct negative vides, but that it is a concrete example of what mods can, and will, do ... and that there's no guarrantee whatsoever that the next hat switch won't be so innocent. Keep in mind that, to non-mods, mod mode can happen at any time, out of the blue, for no apparent reason*.

I myself feel the balance of practicality vs recusal should be heavily weighted towards the latter; most practical matters are pretty ephemeral, but perceptions of misuse of mod power are not.

* which is one reason why any mod moding should be crystal clear, whether in purple, dark orchid, red, blue, or ...

Nereid
2010-Jul-07, 03:08 PM
I hope this is not OT; if so, perhaps we could start a separate thread?

FWIW, the thing that alarms me the most, in the Q&A section, is the rather large number of 'answers' that are - sometimes quite explicitly - nothing more than personal opinions ... and that's despite the clearly stated new Q&A policy!Thanks for mentioning that. I did read that policy when it first came out, and didn't really find anything to disagree with. I read it again and still find it pretty acceptable. So I'm not saying that purely personal opinions are a good idea. It's just that I'm not a physics wizard, but I sometimes try to answer questions, usually those that involve some interesting aspect (like, "why doesn't the IAU give an official name to the earth?"), and occasionally (sometimes more than occasionally) I end up being wrong, but usually I learn from it too, so I would be against making the standards too high.
I did some Q&D analyses, around the time of the policy change, and found that, in the sample I had selected, there were only a few people who were posting 'answers' that were, IMHO, merely personal opinions. The intent of the new policy is to emphasise an objective authority - the generally accepted scientific mainstream - and thus, as a corollary, that those answering should try to reflect that. Further, these few people posted rather often (and no, you are not one of these Jens).

(There's a separate issue of answerers who keep repeating wrong answers, even though it's been pointed out, multiple times, that their answers are wrong, and what better answers are; my Q&D analysis showed this exists, but is not common).

As you point out, wrong answers are also an opportunity to learn, one which many BAUTians have grasped, and continue to grasp, with both hands (so to speak).


But in any case, it seems that pretty much everyone agrees with this more or less.
On the personal opinions? I don't think so, based on some of the Q&A posts, post the new policy; at least not at the level of actual behaviour.

And it's certainly true that how obvious this is, or not, differs greatly among regulars.


I think there is more or less agreement that it is arrogance that is the problem, not being wrong per se.
I don't think it's an either/or; both could be problems (or neither).

tusenfem
2010-Jul-07, 05:42 PM
Why quote Jens for answering and not your moderator pal for asking?


because I wanted to end the discussion at the end and that happened to be Jens, note that it was not a warning or anything.
and if you don't like "moderation" then use the report button /!\ you have been a member long enough to know this
and if you don't like it here, like your signature seems to indicate, you can always leave and go to another bulletin board

Nereid
2010-Jul-07, 07:14 PM
It seems to me vastly more likely that the moderator's
interpretation of the statement being criticized was
significantly different from yours. So the intent had no
connection at all to what you think the intent was.

But it is still good to remember that power corrupts even
those who really, really want not to be corrupted.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis
If that's so, then it's a particularly good example of why mod moding, in a thread in which you are also an active participant, should be avoided. Objectively, the costs of such can be very high indeed.

astromark
2010-Jul-07, 07:58 PM
Not wanting to draw a infraction or even annoy the group of moderators...

whom for the most part do a very good job of keeping this forum clean and respectful...

I go on about tolerance and understanding... with good reason.

BUT... that was unfair. Look at what has happened here. An apology is warranted and should be forthcoming.

... 'Jens'., answered a question. and yes I saw that you did not warn or even imply discipline... but it landed short of its target.

It LOOKED unfair. Please have another look.

I have stayed away from this discussion because I saw a fair and well reasoned discussion, conversation ...

and moving forward at a proper rate.

For the most part I see moderators performing a thankless task of piece keeping. and for the most part I see a fair and thoughtful attitude.

I too look with regret that a group member feels to walk because of perceived attitudes. A period of quiet reflection might modify that view...

The contributions of such members will be missed and the reaction seems un-necessary. It should never be personal.

So do not change the way you's control the Malay... its pretty good. DO NOT miss-interpret this note as a put down... Its not one.

PetersCreek
2010-Jul-07, 08:17 PM
One more time, folks...while this thread is about moderation, if you wish to contest or complain about moderation of this thread, please use the report button.

tusenfem
2010-Jul-07, 08:38 PM
Why quote Jens for answering and not your moderator pal for asking?

I humbly apologize to Jens for apparently giving the idea that he did something wrong, I should not have quoted his post, I was wrong, I will withdraw myself now.

korjik
2010-Jul-08, 01:38 PM
I humbly apologize to Jens for apparently giving the idea that he did something wrong, I should not have quoted his post, I was wrong, I will withdraw myself now.

Since it isnt in red....

Tusenfem, you didnt do anything wrong. You took official notice that the thread was going way off topic and said to stop it. Using the last post that was OT is only logical.

Too many people here seem to think a colored post means an infraction has been given. It dosent.

Too many people here seem to think a colored post means somone is 'on the list' for banning. It dosent.

No apology was needed here.

The rules here may be a bit strict, but they make this place a nice place to be. I personally think that the moderation is very well done here and dont want it to change.

Ken G
2010-Jul-08, 02:08 PM
On the matter of the issue DrRocket has with the Q&A policy, the opinion I've espoused in the past is that I feel the only thing we need to worry about here is impoliteness and personal attacks that are not fundamentally an expression of a viewpoint about astronomy or science. As long as people are polite, and are expressing views they can support with arguments, then I fail to see why disputes in Q&A are viewed as such a problem (perhaps not surprisingly-- no doubt I am among those who get into those arguments being flagged as a problem). When the arguments are impolite, or overly repetitive of the same points, then they should be flagged as nonconstructive, but not before. Indeed, for those caring to really understand this universe we live in, I submit you will learn more from a spirited argument than from a canned answer.

I think the real problem here is, OPs ask questions which are right on, or beyond, the frontier of what is known, and this creates a kind of uncomfortableness among those who wish to pretend we understand everything. So they want to see simple canned answers to these OPs, and expect the OPer to go away thinking "glad that's solved." That's the kind of "dishonesty" DrRocket is referring to, though it's not dishonest on the part of any individual, it's more a kind of shared dishonesty of the attitude that we really know these things. When we instead admit that we have a lot of work to do, and some spirited arguments along the way, before we can claim any real insight into the kinds of questions that are common in Q&A, only then will we really advance toward an honest answer. And if along that path, some people give simplified answers, and others give more technically probing answers, and if arguments spring up around either, I say no one is at fault, and no one is doing anything counter to the interests of the forum. Vive la difference, until there is impoliteness or excessive repetition.

Maybe if DrRocket and the mods could agree to that much, he could continue to post here, and all would be satisfied. For my own part, I am perfectly willing to make my points, give my stance in an argument, and try not to go on and on about it. But I do bridle a bit at the suggestion that an answer that is basically wrong is still what we want in Q&A if it is simple but wrong. I don't think posts like that should be criticized for having been posted, but I think their flaws should be pointed out, and let the OPer form their own opinion. Let's face it, lots of times the OPer never seems to follow the thread very long anyway (and those that do seem thankful to have a more complete picture), so I don't see a lot of merit in the claim that we are "forcing them out" by initiating longer discussions. But I also don't think people should feel discouraged from answering, for fear that someone else will come along and tell them they are wrong.

PetersCreek
2010-Jul-08, 02:13 PM
Since it isnt in red....

Enough, people...please. The apology's lack of red coloration doesn't make comments about the moderation any more acceptable, even when support the moderator(s). Short of infractions, I'm running out of ways to say drop it and use the report button.

01101001
2010-Jul-08, 08:58 PM
Now that we're back to the principal matter, a matter of principle...


Some recent actions, and inactions, by the moderation team have demonstrated to me a lack of what I consider to be appropriate ethics with regard to the operation of BAUT. These issues are, in my opinion, such as to impugn the integrity of the forum and to cast doubt on the technical content of what are advertised as hard science forums and the accuracy of what are represented as “reliable” answers to legitimate questions. I feel that these issues represent potential harm to younger, well-meaning, and innocent questioners.

I don't think we've begun to approach a resolution of this. In my book, the integrity of the forum remains impugned. Could I hear what the moderation team proposes to do to about some de-impugning and re-accuratizing? Or do they think the integrity, and the accuracy, are at all-time highs?

Is BAUT Forum the go-to place for reliable answers to questions about space and astronomy?

pzkpfw
2010-Jul-08, 09:25 PM
I don't think we've begun to approach a resolution of this. In my book, the integrity of the forum remains impugned. Could I hear what the moderation team proposes to do to about some de-impugning and re-accuratizing? Or do they think the integrity, and the accuracy, are at all-time highs?

Is BAUT Forum the go-to place for reliable answers to questions about space and astronomy?

To me this sounds like black and white (binary?) thinking. It's as though answers must be "accurate to the nth degree" or else they are "wrong". There's (apparently) no middle ground.

But, the question "I'm on top of a train doing 50 km/h and I'm running in the same direction of travel at 50 km/h - what is my speed relative to the ground"?
...is different to the question "If a spaceship is doing half of c and shoots a laser ahead - what speed is that laser light?"

Would an answer to the first question really have to be 99.999999999999999 km/h; or is 100 km/h "good enough"?
(And almost worse; would an answer to the second question have to devolve into three pages of esoteric discussion about whether the question itself makes sense or whether [ example removed so that nit-picks of the example don't detract from the point ] needs to be taken into account in the answer?)

Me, personally, I have a hard time un-learning things. In early College years (=High School) they taught me the Bohr model of the atom. Later, when they got into more detail I had a LOT of trouble; I kept thinking "but, but, you told me...!". So I can understand the desire to be "accurate" up-front. However, I also understand that the reason why things like this are taught in bite-size chunks - and I don't disagree. e.g. You start by teaching Newtonian physics. It's "good enough". You can get into relativity later. Learning happens in steps. (I just think my teachers could have let me know at each step that what they were teaching was the "simpler version" and more would come later - to prepare me for the un-learning).

So I don't really know what the issue is, and it seems pretty simple:
1. Pitch answers at the level that seems appropriate. Don't give PHd level answers to a grade-school question. (Point out if it's the "simple answer" if you wish).
(That goes both ways. If a questioner indicates a "reasonable" base of knowledge, there's not much point giving the overly simple answer.)
2. If someone provides an answer that needs clarification or is simply wrong, fine, discuss it in the thread - but - bear in mind point 1.
3. If something is so wrong (or even ATM) that it should be "acted on" - report it to the mods.
4. Save the ultra-detailed discussion of the finer points for a thread in "Science and Technology"; link to it if you wish, so people looking at the "Q&A" thread can get into the deeper levels if they wish.

Ken G
2010-Jul-08, 10:39 PM
On the surface, all that sounds like a perfect solution. But the problem is not the difference between a classical and a relativistic answer to the speed question-- we really do not have a problem with people confusing those kinds of issues. The problem appears when, for example, the question is clearly relativistic, and some of the answers are quite dogmatic about the conventions of special relativity, say, whereas others are trying to get to the real messages of relativity (which are rather the opposite of dogma, as dogma tends to be coordinate-oriented and relativistic insights tend to be invariant-oriented). So what do you do in that situation, does the OPer want the dogma, or the understanding? Is the understanding only approachable by PhDs, and the rest should be happy with dogma?

I personally don't think so-- I think the job of the PhDs is not to be the only ones who understand this, it is to try to bring everyone to a place where they can also understand. The person who understands should try to distill that understanding, until it is accessible to all, and if that requires a longer thread, so be it. If the OPer only wants the dogma, and not the understanding, they can make their own choices about what answers make the most sense to them, but since the responses are not PMs, they can be designed to have benefit to all, and can even stimulate discussion in that direction. If the Q&A is just for the OPer, it should be rebuilt into a PM format. If it is designed to be a dogmatic FAQ, why do we keep getting the same questions over and over? If it is designed to be a living, breathing dialog that responds to the differences in every OP, then let it be something that actually gets into the interesting elements of any given question. Above all, who cares if there are both simplistic and more probing answers available in the same thread? And if probing answers create arguments and discussions, maybe that's an indicator that the OP question was a bit more profound that it superficially appeared, and there's benefit to all to recognize that.

pzkpfw
2010-Jul-08, 11:17 PM
Ken G, while I think you poison the well by use of the term "dogma" to refer to "basic understanding", essentially my point 1 covers that.

If the question is "clearly" relativistic - AND the apparent level of the questioner suits - then give the full-on complex answer that the question deserves.

The "problem" is:
A. The questioner gets left in the dust by answers way over their head - especially when the thread becomes 90% discussion between the experts.
and
B. The automatic movement of the thread into maximum complexity. Even if the topic is "relativity" - there are levels of answer.

The Q&A sub-forum should not be intimidating and/or drive away the young and/or inexperienced. The complex discussions can occur - we just need to be carefull how and where.

01101001
2010-Jul-08, 11:30 PM
The "problem" is:
A. The questioner gets left in the dust by answers way over their head - especially when the thread becomes 90% discussion between the experts.

Question about Q&A: why is there recently so much emphasis on the questioner? This is an open forum, last I checked, and there are hundreds of people reading for every one who writes. Why do the vast bulk of the readers seem to get left out? I read Q&A to learn. I don't want simplified answers. I'm part of the audience for every question answerer. I want the good stuff. I want quality. I want reliability.

Does the moderation team acknowledge that people read Q&A not only to see if their personal questions have been answered, or to see if someone's question is in need of the reader's becoming a writer, but just to read what is offered up, for the sheer pleasure and benefit of learning?

Why do you think I read Q&A?

01101001
2010-Jul-08, 11:49 PM
To me this sounds like black and white (binary?) thinking. It's as though answers must be "accurate to the nth degree" or else they are "wrong". There's (apparently) no middle ground.

When is astronomy bad?

I periodically reread the About this section of the forum (for the natives) (http://www.bautforum.com/forumdisplay.php/8-Space-Astronomy-Questions-and-Answers); I'm still trying to make sense of it. I think it's the weakest bit of moderator work I've seen in my time at BAUT.

I like this:


To put it another way, the goal of this section of the forum is to provide a reliable source of information about astronomy and space exploration, a sort of member-controlled Frequently Asked Questions section, so that people looking for such answers can find them quickly and easily.

Cool.

I cannot reconcile its conflict with:


Answers should be [...] geared to the questioner’s apparent level of knowledge.

On one hand those kind enough to volunteer their effort to provide answers are encouraged to provide reliable answers to questions that all sorts of people -- I'm one, and proud of it -- may seek out.

But on the other, those answers must fit only the questioners' apparent levels of knowledge.

What gives? What wins?

Spoons
2010-Jul-08, 11:51 PM
I'd also like to address this point of the questioner being "left in the dust".

I also think we may be being a little too precious about the questioner - as 01101001 says, many others are reading. This is part of what I was saying earlier - why can't the responses cater to more than the limited scope of any single questioner? I think this sort of thinking is a negative for BAUT and it's members.

By the time these greater discussions (call them arguments if you like - discussion isn't a problem, only rudeness, which is an important point Ken made earlier) the questions HAVE already been answered in a simple manner. The OP can stop reading after the 5th reply if they have their simple response. These discussions often correct a great many subtle misunderstandings which wouldn't have been touched on otherwise. I see this as a great 'fringe benefit' to reading that section.

There should be no point at which someone steps in and tells someone, "that is all you need to learn for now", or "stop teaching that person any more". That is probably something of an exaggeration of what happens but I think it makes a valid point.

I know this is off the mark from the OP point, but it may be related - it seems the mods may sometimes feel they need to involve themselves where it really may not be required. (Yes, I'm actually suggesting less work for the mods - madness, I know) I don't know whether this is due to unneccessary reporting of posts, whether from heated members within arguments or whoever, but I suspect it is at least partially due to people reporting posts based on personality clashes, rather than either swallowing pride or sorting it out in PMs.

Gillianren
2010-Jul-09, 12:15 AM
The reason the emphasis is on answering the person's question is that, well, they asked a question. It's polite to give them an answer they can understand. Expanding from there is great and can be helpful for others reading the thread, but is it actually helpful to dismiss the needs of the person who asked the question in the first place?

01101001
2010-Jul-09, 12:18 AM
Here, let me make this explicit, to put a face on it -- or at least a name, or number. I'm standing over the shoulder of every questioner. I'm there nodding, thinking, Good question! Now, me, I want the highest quality answer, most accurate, most rigorous, most conformant to what ground science has gained, that the writer can provide. If I don't understand its loftiness, I'll seek out more; give me all ya got. If you are able, direct your answer to me, too.

If I need to I can add a followup question whenever I feel left out and ignored. It hasn't been necessary in the past, but I can do it for this new diluted model of Q&A. I can always add a hijack in-thread, or an alternate topic, asking for the super-size answer. But I think it will save us all some effort if my interest is simply assumed.

I'm sure I'm just one of many. We are legion. Give us the good stuff. Make us glad we read Q&A. Make us keep reading Q&A for the quality it provides.

Please.

01101001
2010-Jul-09, 12:20 AM
The reason the emphasis is on answering the person's question is that, well, they asked a question. It's polite to give them an answer they can understand. Expanding from there is great and can be helpful for others reading the thread, but is it actually helpful to dismiss the needs of the person who asked the question in the first place?

Never. But why stop there? That seems to be the requirement: give no more than the questioner can handle. When did it change and why? We always used to see the full spectrum.

Spoons
2010-Jul-09, 12:23 AM
Precisely! I don't think the OP's level of understanding ever (well, maybe on the odd occasion) gets ignored, it's just that if it's a fairly basic level of questioning it gets addressed in the first reply, and the subtle details can be fleshed out in the coming page or so.

To me, seeing these greater details, and on more speculative stuff, seeing several sides to the matter, is of immense value. We have teh resources for it here, why would we shut them down from giving all that they are willing to give? Gift horse... you know the rest.

Ken G
2010-Jul-09, 12:38 AM
Ken G, while I think you poison the well by use of the term "dogma" to refer to "basic understanding", essentially my point 1 covers that.If I thought that were true, I would not need to have made my comment. I stand by my comment, even next to your point 1, so you are poisoning my poisoning. Dogma is what it is, and should be recognized as such-- common uttered words that substitute for actual understanding, creating an illusion that actually prevents actual understanding even as it appears to generate it. I see it very often in Q&A, ergo my comment.


If the question is "clearly" relativistic - AND the apparent level of the questioner suits - then give the full-on complex answer that the question deserves.Feynman said physics should be made understandable to a barmaid. Forgiving the sexism of the remark, I would say that dispenses with the "level of the questioner" argument. (Of course, Feynman also said that if he could explain his work in QED simply, he wouldn't have gotten the Nobel for it, so we have need for simplistic answers, and for probing answers framed in a way that anyone can learn to understand, and even for more technical answers that most can just ignore.)


The "problem" is:
A. The questioner gets left in the dust by answers way over their head - especially when the thread becomes 90% discussion between the experts.Again, if that happens, there is something to be learned from it. Even the person "left in the dust" gains something from that experience, if the "experts" make half an effort to be understood by all. (Some don't, I grant you, but most do.)


and
B. The automatic movement of the thread into maximum complexity. Even if the topic is "relativity" - there are levels of answer.True-- and all should be represented, or else it is quite condescending to the OPer. There's no greater insult than "you can't handle the truth, so I'll tell you a pretty lie." Rather, the answer should be "here's one answer that is easy to understand, but has the following flaws. Here's another answer that's harder to understand, but has fewer of those flaws. Take your pick."


The Q&A sub-forum should not be intimidating and/or drive away the young and/or inexperienced. The complex discussions can occur - we just need to be carefull how and where.The idea of shunting complicated discussions to other places where they won't muddle up the poor innocent minds of those who stumble into Q&A is fine in principle, but does not resolve the "pretty lie" problem.

Tobin Dax
2010-Jul-09, 12:41 AM
Question about Q&A: why is there recently so much emphasis on the questioner?

Maybe it's because they asked the question in the first place. The top priority in Q&A should be to make sure that the questioner gets an answer that they understand. That answer should be as accurate as possible in those circumstances. If anybody wants to ask a follow-up question, they can.

If somebody elects to simply read the Q&A threads, then they are stuck reading what's there and what's necessary to the given question and response. If they want something of a different level, they can either find a thread at that level or ask for a an answer at that level themselves. Or, if they want a high-level discussion of the topic, they could also start a thread in Astronomy or Science & Technology.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that higher level questions and answers don't belong in Q&A. I'm saying that if we can't answer a question in a way that's understandable to the questioner, then BAUT cannot be the go-to place for reliable answers to questions about space and astronomy.


ETA: It took me a little while to write this post, and Gillian said it more concisely than I.

Ken G
2010-Jul-09, 12:41 AM
Why do you think I read Q&A?
Exactly. The Q&A is a lousy FAQ, because the same questions get asked over and over, and answering by linking to other Q&A threads with nothing but dogmatic content is something of a slight to the possible value of a forum. I grant you that this forum is decided by the mods, not by me, but perhaps they are not taking into account the value of having living breathing people posting and reading the Q&A-- not just OPers.

Ken G
2010-Jul-09, 12:44 AM
Precisely! I don't think the OP's level of understanding ever (well, maybe on the odd occasion) gets ignored, it's just that if it's a fairly basic level of questioning it gets addressed in the first reply, and the subtle details can be fleshed out in the coming page or so.

To me, seeing these greater details, and on more speculative stuff, seeing several sides to the matter, is of immense value. We have teh resources for it here, why would we shut them down from giving all that they are willing to give? Gift horse... you know the rest.
I totally agree-- in my experience, many OPers simply don't stay with a thread once they feel content, they're not "lost in the dust", they just got what they wanted and exited. Then curious forumgoers step in to see what can be learned from the discussion. Some OPers want that too, and stay with the thread longer. It's the choice of the OPer-- some don't even seem to stick around long enough to even read more than one or two posts, if they read any at all.

Ken G
2010-Jul-09, 12:47 AM
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that higher level questions and answers don't belong in Q&A. I'm saying that if we can't answer a question in a way that's understandable to the questioner, then BAUT cannot be the go-to place for reliable answers to questions about space and astronomy.
The question to ask is, do you want BAUT to be the go-to place to really get reliable answers, or just the place to come away with an illusion of receiving reliable answers, in the form of common dogma that often obscures the true lessons that the question invokes? The latter is easy. The former, not so much.

The basic point that must not be ignored is that oftentimes the OPer does not know what they need to know, so cannot judge when they have received what they wanted to receive-- that's why they asked in the first place. If they knew what they needed to know, they could have just googled it.

Tobin Dax
2010-Jul-09, 12:47 AM
Does anyone else think that they've just read five (make that ten) posts from people who all want the same thing?

Spoons
2010-Jul-09, 12:50 AM
Maybe it's because they asked the question in the first place. The top priority in Q&A should be to make sure that the questioner gets an answer that they understand.
And I'll repeat, the answers are given, and usually in a relatively suitable level of description, generally in the first reply or so.

The fact that those answering the question do know the subject means they can either preempt where the line of inquiry is going, or even know further subtleties which we, the readers, may not know should be of great value.

I don't know what's of interest around that corner, because I haven't been there - the person answering generally has, unless they're just repeating an answer they've heard before. What's wrong with expanding on the answers?

ETA: Can you please explain what you mean above, Tobin Dax?

Ken G
2010-Jul-09, 12:52 AM
Does anyone else think that they've just read five (make that ten) posts from people who all want the same thing?
Um, you don't see any contrary views being expressed on this thread? For those with your view, I'd say, be careful what you wish for-- you might get it.

Spoons
2010-Jul-09, 12:58 AM
Um, you don't see any contrary views being expressed on this thread? For those with your view, I'd say, be careful what you wish for-- you might get it.

This is why I asked the question above. It seems a peculiar attitude. Just because one person is satisfied by reading the blurb, does that mean we should rip out the body of the book?

If someone is happy with the content of the first few replies, where the simple answer is (said for the umpteenth time now), does that mean others with a different point of view should be denied further info?

01101001
2010-Jul-09, 01:06 AM
Maybe it's because they asked the question in the first place. The top priority in Q&A should be to make sure that the questioner gets an answer that they understand. That answer should be as accurate as possible in those circumstances. If anybody wants to ask a follow-up question, they can.

But why limit the answers? That's what I do not get.

Good is fine. Better is, well, better.

Do I have to go beyond asking for the better answer implicitly -- as I have? Must I actually post my request explicitly? I've got the text prepared for cut and paste, but I fear I'll be labeled disruptive if I follow through with satisfying my own needs. Can I have a robot do it for me? Or can we just assume it? For convenience. And for making Q&A a better resource.

kleindoofy
2010-Jul-09, 01:17 AM
The title of a current thread in CT asks "why do people believe in the moon hoax?". That question could be extrapolated to "why do people believe in the alleged 2012 disaster?", "why do people believe this, why that?".

One of the main reasons is because people think things are *easy*, while often enough they are in fact extremely difficult and complex.

Reading about the complexity of many issues in astronomy (and many other fields) has time and again sharpened my view of the world, even if I didn't understand every part of every explaination. Recognizing that "no, it's not that simple" open doors to understanding, prompts towards further learning, and awakens curiosity. "Ahh" and "oh, I see" are common reactions.

Ever and again being shown that "it's more complicated than that," and why it is so, is a first step towards not being sucked in by the shallow woowoo world of superficial and imaginational conclusions.

Why proactively insult everybody's intelligence by artificially lowering the sights? It's a huge mistake to underestimate and pamper your reader. In fact, it's the best way to make sure that he won't be your reader again. If an inquiring OP doesn't understand an answer, he has the possibility of saying as much. Why underestimate his capability of doing so? That's tantamount to an insult.

Indirectly treating members, even so-called "n00bs," like irresponsible, stupid little children isn't good style. People strive by reaching up, not by stooping down.

Gillianren
2010-Jul-09, 01:38 AM
I was talking to a friend today about this particular discussion, and I explained to her the atom example. We know the mental image taught in the schools is wrong, but when I started explaining (to the best of my limited ability) what was wrong about it, she pretty quickly reached the point where she didn't understand anymore and wasn't sure she wanted to. She is one of my go-to people for "average" thinking. I can understand more about it than she did, but not by a whole heck of a lot. Is it patronizing to start with the basics if you aren't sure of someone's educational level? No! My grammar text starts with nouns, not because I'm assuming that the person studying from my text doesn't know what a noun is but because I'd rather make sure they know than risk that they don't and that I'll hit compound complex sentences without the person's understanding nouns.

Sure. No one is saying you can't expand upon the answer. What we're suggesting is that, bluntly, it's not reasonable to assume everyone knows the calculus involved in the physics. I don't, and I have an above-average educational level. I don't think assuming that I don't is the same as assuming I'm stupid. It's assuming that I may not have the educational level to understand the deeper, more complicated answer. When teaching, if you don't know someone's educational level going in, you should start with the basics. It's not insulting. It's good teaching. What's insulting is acting as though people have to know a certain level of things in order for you to deign to answer their questions.

Swift
2010-Jul-09, 01:45 AM
Question about Q&A: why is there recently so much emphasis on the questioner? This is an open forum, last I checked, and there are hundreds of people reading for every one who writes. Why do the vast bulk of the readers seem to get left out? I read Q&A to learn. I don't want simplified answers. I'm part of the audience for every question answerer. I want the good stuff. I want quality. I want reliability.
Let me ask a question to those who share this opinion (and this is not a rhetoric question, I'm truly bewildered). Why do we have Q&A (or why do you think we should have Q&A)? What makes it different from Astronomy or Science & Technology or any other section of the forum? If the desire is just to give a place for people to have a detailed discussion about some Astronomy or Physics questions, how is Q&A different from the other sections?

EigenState
2010-Jul-09, 02:22 AM
Greetings,

Being a recent addition to this forum, I am reluctant to add my voice to this discussion. Yet my sense of responsibility to my discipline requires me to do just that.

Any serious educator faces the same dilemma as is being discussed here. A student posses a question, well-formulated or not, and seeks an answer. What is the inherent responsibility of the educator facing that inquiry? Is it to provide some response targeted to the subjectively perceived intellectual level of the questioner? Is it to provide some response that may well make the questioner highly uncomfortable, yet one that offers the questioner the potential to expand their horizons and actually learn? What responsibility does the educator have to the other students within the classroom? And what is the responsibility to intellectual integrity?

I cannot answer those questions for anyone other than myself. Over the years, I have opted to fulfill my sense of responsibility to my discipline and to intellectual integrity. That is not a position that is well received by the majority of university students, until perhaps they have matured more. But "teaching" is really about providing "students" with an opportunity to learn and an environment which is conducive to learning. Learning however is a solitary pursuit, not something accomplished in the classroom, nor on a forum such as this. The classroom and the forum can only serve as a catalyst.

In some other thread, I mentioned the lack of any coherent focus at this forum on the fundamental concepts of the Scientific Method. I find it amazing that such focus is lacking at any forum that considers itself to be serious about any scientific discipline. If you do anything, I urge you to try to help interested laymen learn to think in an objective, rational, and scientific manner.

Personally, I find all too much of this discussion depressing in that the very intent of an educational organization is willingly compromised. Depressing to the point that I have formally requested that my membership in the forum be closed.

With that I bid you farewell.

Best regards,
EigenState

Spoons
2010-Jul-09, 02:27 AM
In some other thread, I mentioned the lack of any coherent focus at this forum on the fundamental concepts of the Scientific Method.

Oh, but if you look in the CT thread, responses from Jay and the like are a good example of the analytical processes of science.

That said, I agree with what I understand your general intention to be, and it sounds like it would be unfortunate not to have your participation around here.

Van Rijn
2010-Jul-09, 04:05 AM
Let me ask a question to those who share this opinion (and this is not a rhetoric question, I'm truly bewildered). Why do we have Q&A (or why do you think we should have Q&A)?


I'm not sure I completely agree with his position, but I'll answer that: We should have Q&A as a focus for question and answers, but I don't think answers should be focused only on the guessed technical level of the OP. Answers should be allowed at a range of complexity for different readers. Ideally, people will find one or more that they can understand, but it isn't always going to work that way.

I have concerns with the way some have participated in Q&A threads recently, but I think the new guidelines just make it more likely people won't even try to answer. I believe that in the long run, Q&A would be better without the guidelines, or less restrictive guidelines.

Ken G
2010-Jul-09, 05:22 AM
Let me ask a question to those who share this opinion (and this is not a rhetoric question, I'm truly bewildered). Why do we have Q&A (or why do you think we should have Q&A)? What makes it different from Astronomy or Science & Technology or any other section of the forum? If the desire is just to give a place for people to have a detailed discussion about some Astronomy or Physics questions, how is Q&A different from the other sections?
In my view, that's relatively easy to answer. I've started threads in other sections, because I felt there was an interesting topic there, and I had some insight to share and I wanted to hear how others could add to that insight. But the only question I had was "what do you make of this?" If that is the question, it's not a Q&A thread.

If there is, on the other hand, a more specific question that someone wants the answer to, like what is 2+2, then they can post it to Q&A, it will be answered in the first post, and nobody else needs to even bother with it-- a quick glance shows the question is answered.

None of that has anything to do with the issues raised by DrRocket in this thread, or the recent discussions about Q&A. Nor does having calculus show up in answers, nor does having people teach the Shroedinger equation or the Lamb shift if someone asks what an atom is. That's all completely irrelevant to the real issue here. The real issue is that people come on Q&A because they are curious about something and form that curiosity into a question. Often, the curiosity is profound, and so is the question, and often, the question is on the border of modern understanding, and often, the OPer has such a vague concept of what they are trying to find out that the question itself is quite vague and isn't even clear if it is looking for an answer in terms of some observation that has been done, or some theory that can treat the question as a gedankenexperiment, or even some fringe speculation that is extrapolated from current theory. That's the actual problem here.

It is natural for questions like that to go to Q&A, because it is in fact a question seeking an answer, but the situation is simply not so black-and-white as what is 2+2, it just isn't. So we then have several choices:

1) pretend the question really is like what is 2+2, and recite whatever canon seems most relevant. This has the advantage that the canons have been settled on because they do have some validity, and are easy to understand, and can best send the naive questioner off with a sense that their question has a nice straightforward answer that anyone can understand with essentially no mental effort. It also has the disadvantage that is largely dogmatic, generally does not represent an honest appraisal of the lessons of the modern theories touched upon, and can even prevent actual understanding by creating an illusion that there is nothing more there to understand. (Classic example: "Q: Why can galaxies move away from us faster than c? A: Because objects cannot move through space faster than c, but space itself can move at any speed." Perfectly reasonable answer, close to standard cosmological dogma, and does convey an essence of a truthful answer. But it also is intended to represent general relativity by ignoring what is probably the single most important lesson of that theory, that there is no such thing as absolute space. So do we want to send that naive questioner away with an answer that works, and might satisfy them, but will virtually guarantee they will never understand what we have recently learned about our reality-- the importance of the distinction between invariants and coordinate choices.)

2) give the dogmatic answer, but point out that it is just an effective picture, it's not the "real answer." This has all the advantages of (1), with the added benefit of being considerably more honest, while pointing to additional lessons the OPer might wish to explore. It has the disadvantages of making them feel condescended to, and ultimately unsatisfied-- if that isn't the "right answer", then what is?

3) explore, non-technically and without assuming knowledge of calculus or theorems of differential geometry, the actual lessons of modern physics that the question touches upon, including, yes, calculus, differential geometry, quantum mechanics, or whatever else is necessary. The key point is that the level of the questioner must be taken into account, but that doesn't require fooling them, it just requires distilling the key concepts into an essence that does not require those higher languages. The problem with this approach is that it is hard to do well, and won't be all things to all people, and you might even end up with an OPer or three who is a little confused. If one thinks that's a Bad Thing, then one can see a problem, but if one thinks that's a Good Thing, because confusion is the first step to recognizing there is something to be learned, then one does not see a problem.

So which of these, 1, 2, or 3, is the "right answer"? Well, I'd certainly argue that 2 is always better than 1, despite its pitfalls, because of its honesty. But between 2 and 3, it's hard to say one is better, so why not have both? In fact, why not have 1, 2, and 3, and everyone can just enter the answer that they think best fits the bill, and let the OPer (and everyone else reading the thread) pick and choose. If someone gives answer 1, and someone else clarifies it a bit into an answer 2, it's not a criticism of the original answer, it's an educational opportunity. Same thing if someone gives answer 2, and someone else corrects it by giving a shot at answer 3, that's not a criticism either, it's just a shot for greater insight. Even things that need correcting are educational in how they need correcting. I don't see this rush to selling everyone short, simply on the excuse that it's "Q&A", or the OPer is "not an expert." So what, are the experts the only ones allowed to get a glimpse of the beauty of what we have discovered, and everyone else just gets canned answers like "objects can't move faster than c, but space can"? I just think reliance on dogma like that is a huge shame, especially when alternatives are actively objected to.

Ken G
2010-Jul-09, 05:36 AM
Personally, I find all too much of this discussion depressing in that the very intent of an educational organization is willingly compromised. Depressing to the point that I have formally requested that my membership in the forum be closed.
That's a shame, your comments seem right on target. Are you perhaps giving up too early? There are always going to be contrary views expressed, and others who agree with you, and basically I feel this forum does successfully function as a medium of exchange of said ideas, even when the disagreements center on what we should do about disagreements, and even when I don't necessarily agree with the prevailing attitude of the "powers that be" here. It's a give and take, but you can still get your needs met if you are willing to accept some degree of compromise. Perhaps the most fundamentally important conclusion anyone can reach from participating in a forum like this is that even an attitude you disagree with may have some validity it would serve you to appreciate, and even a point you completely agree with might be interpreted somewhat differently from a different perspective. Isn't that an even more important lesson that what happened before the Big Bang?

astromark
2010-Jul-09, 05:42 AM
Greetings,......... 'snip'

( Then, after a lot of sensible stuff you said...)

In some other thread, I mentioned the lack of any coherent focus at this forum on the fundamental concepts of the Scientific Method. I find it amazing that such focus is lacking at any forum that considers itself to be serious about any scientific discipline. If you do anything, I urge you to try to help interested laymen learn to think in an objective, rational, and scientific manner.

Personally, I find all too much of this discussion depressing in that the very intent of an educational organization is willingly compromised. Depressing to the point that I have formally requested that my membership in the forum be closed.

With that I bid you farewell.

Best regards,
EigenState

Which I find a little odd. Almost annoyingly so. but alas I will not report... which will annoy some... but no.

Trouble was never intended and a little discussion is healthy... and it is wrong anyway.

I see the opposite view. Where questions are asked and answered to the very best scientific methodology available...

With appropriate regard for the questioners level of knowledge... I can not cite an example of unfair treatment that went unnoticed,

and fail to understand your view. EigenState., but am interested in knowing more from you. Your contributions have been seen as helpful.

Would someone close that door please... leaving is hence forth forbidden....

Strange
2010-Jul-09, 08:17 AM
On the surface, all that sounds like a perfect solution. But the problem is not the difference between a classical and a relativistic answer to the speed question-- we really do not have a problem with people confusing those kinds of issues. The problem appears when, for example, the question is clearly relativistic, and some of the answers are quite dogmatic about the conventions of special relativity, say, whereas others are trying to get to the real messages of relativity (which are rather the opposite of dogma, as dogma tends to be coordinate-oriented and relativistic insights tend to be invariant-oriented). So what do you do in that situation, does the OPer want the dogma, or the understanding? Is the understanding only approachable by PhDs, and the rest should be happy with dogma?

I think it is fine to introduce/explain an alternative view. The problem only comes when that then turns into a long, repetitive, circular "battle" between interpretations. At which point (or before then) it should be taken to a new thread - if the participants can't just agree to differ.

Strange
2010-Jul-09, 08:20 AM
But on the other, those answers must fit only the questioners' apparent levels of knowledge.

What gives? What wins?

Sureley, the point is they should start there. There is no reason not to give more detail (or even just hints that "there is more to it" or "it doesn't really work like that") whether to preempt the questioner or for "lurkers" who are thinking "yes, yes, I know that, what about ..."

Strange
2010-Jul-09, 08:25 AM
Personally, I find all too much of this discussion depressing in that the very intent of an educational organization is willingly compromised. Depressing to the point that I have formally requested that my membership in the forum be closed.

With that I bid you farewell.

Best regards,
EigenState

I find this sad; I have seen a few answers by EigenState which have been models of accuracy and clarity.

On the other hand this is "just" an internet forum. It tries to maintain higher standards of accuracy and civilty than most (and gets an occasional kicking for that) but, in the end, it isn't a university or an encyclopaedia.

Spoons
2010-Jul-09, 08:49 AM
It's certainly true that, in the end, this is just part of the internet, but I understand the intent of this forum to be based on the work of both Phil and Fraser, both of whom uphold a high level of accuracy and integrity, while maintaining a great style that is easily understandable.

I think they both show, as have a number of the members here, that it is not beyond us to do the same.

If DrRocket and EigenState maintain their current position we've lost a little bit of that, which is unfortunate considering I get the sense that this whole change came about partially due to a competition to "win a battle" rather than necessarily what is best for the forum. That's just a feeling I get, I'm not sure I can back it up with anything publicly available.

Tog
2010-Jul-09, 08:59 AM
I've been following this for a while, and as one of those who is likely to be left in the dust by some answers, I'd like t offer my views.

First a little clarity about me. Based on the tests I've taken, I might qualify as one of the dumbest people to make it into MENSA. I'm right on the border. As far as intelligence goes, I think I come in on the above average side for BAUT.
My education is limited to high school, and I didn't do well enough in math to even be allowed to take physics.

When I ask a question here, I can generally make sense out of the answer I get, but there have been times I needed to ask for clarification. Sometimes those answers come with a formula that uses symbols that mean nothing to me.

I've been around here long enough to know that I can ask for clarification, and I'm intelligent enough to know that there are many here that are much smarter than I am, and I think it's safe to say that nearly all are better educated. There is no shame asking that something be "dumbed down" to a level that I understand. I also think it's fair to say that not everyone feels this same way.

What about the person that spent days trying to decide whether or not to even register to ask the question because they felt like it might be a stupid one? They finally decide to go for it and ask something that really is simple, but could also have a much more complex answer.

For example: I've been wondering about this for a while. We always see the same side of the Moon. Does the Moon rotate?

The short answer is "Yes", and there are people here that have answered that way. It's correct, but not helpful.
The short easy answer is "Yes, but it doesn't spin around it's own axis, like a basketball on a finger, or a top. It spins around the Earth like a spot on the rim of a wheel." This offers a bit more information and might make things more clear.
From here, someone will point out that the Moon really spins around the Earth-Moon barycenter.
From there some one else will bring up reference frames.

All of the answers are correct, but only the second one, and maybe the third are helpful for the person that asked. If they a get a correct but curt, "Yes", will they bother to follow up? Maybe. Maybe not. I've gotten answers like that from other places and if that's the only answer I get, I feel like I should apologize for the intrusion.

The same goes for the answer with frames. If I asked if the Moon rotates and got a full page of math I don't understand, it would tell me that the place I asked didn't cater to people like me, and that's the sort of thing I think of when I see the term "intellectual bullying". I've seen it here, and I see it on my writing group site.

Both the first and fourth answers come off as dismissive, and if the person was nervous about asking questions here in the first place, you can just about bet that they won't be back.

I recently offered up BAUT as a research tool to a person asking a question about a SF project in my writing group. I explained what BAUT was, and she said it sounded like a good place, but that she would be too intimidated to actually ask her questions. She felt they wouldn't be worth the time of people here. Luckily, there was a person on that site that could give her a solid answer, because I never could convince her to try here. A dismissive answer would have confirmed her fears.

Now, to clarify, if the discussion grows from a simple answer to a more complex one, to an even more complex one, that's fine. It's a situation like this that I see as harmful overall:

Q: Does the moon rotate?
A1: Yes
A2: In what reference frame

A side discussion of frames breaks out, and we don't get a simple, clear answer until post 19 two days later. By then, the person has written off the site as elitist.

The in-depth side discussions are great, and very informative, but I don't see why we can't just adopt a simple format that gives the layman's answer first, then the general Physics answer, then the complex one. That way, the person gets the answer they want, and it lays a foundation for the higher end discussions among established members.

As for the comments by 10010110 about actually needing to ask for more depth in a subject, my opinion is yes. A person asks a question to understand it themselves. If I ask about something, it's a selfish act on my part. I don't care if anyone else gets anything out of it or not. The idea that the person that answers should make it more complex just because there is someone with a greater understanding lurking the thread is wrong to me. It seems to me that if someone wanted to know more about the subject, they'd ask.

That said, 10010110 does have a valid point. There are a lot of threads where I follow along learning what I can while the discussion grows. I welcome those threads that I can watch and learn. So, I'm all for more complete, advanced answers coming along in Q&A threads that may be well above the level of the person that asked the question. All I'm saying is that the person that actually took the time to ask it be given enough consideration to have first shot at a useful reply.

My suggestion is that answers in Q&A follow a general format that covers three parts.

Does the moon rotate?
The basic answer is: "Yes, but it doesn't spin around it's own axis, like a basketball on a finger, or a top. It spins around the Earth like a spot on the rim of a wheel. Does that make sense?"
The intermediate answer is: "Just like the above, only it doesn't revolve around the Earth exactly, but around the common gravity point called the Barycenter" with a short explanation of what a barycenter is.
The Complex answer is: "It all depends on the frame of reference. On the moon, the universe rotates around it" and so on.

For some questions, there may not be a basic, or even intermediate answer, but in those cases, it should at least be mentioned that those options don't exist. The basic answer to the shooting a laser from a rocket at .5 C would be, that basic Newtonian physics don't apply with a short explanation why.

And, every reply, especially, the first one, should include an invitation for the OP to ask for further clarification.

Jens
2010-Jul-09, 09:54 AM
Does the moon rotate?
The basic answer is: "Yes, but it doesn't spin around it's own axis, like a basketball on a finger, or a top. It spins around the Earth like a spot on the rim of a wheel. Does that make sense?"


I appreciate the message as a whole and I think I pretty much agree. The thing about the moon rotating though may be a good example of where things get complicated. I would say, "Yes, it does spin around its own axis." I know this is a bit subtle, but still that would be my answer.

Moose
2010-Jul-09, 09:55 AM
1) Be nice.
2) Be Nice.
3) Try to not go too far over the questioner's head.
4) Be NICE.
5) Save the side discussions for S&T or Astronomy.

Seriously, what, exactly, is so objectionable about any of this that so many of you are melting down over it?

AndreasJ
2010-Jul-09, 10:03 AM
I appreciate the message as a whole and I think I pretty much agree. The thing about the moon rotating though may be a good example of where things get complicated. I would say, "Yes, it does spin around its own axis." I know this is a bit subtle, but still that would be my answer.

Mine too. It seems to me one needs to adopt a distinctly layman-unfriendly frame of reference to say that the Moon doesn't spin around its axis. The middle-school explanation why we don't see the far side, after all, is that it spins in synch with its orbit (okay, my middle school teacher didn't use those words, but then she didn't speak English either. You get what I mean.)

Jens
2010-Jul-09, 10:07 AM
(okay, my middle school teacher didn't use those words, but then she didn't speak English either. You get what I mean.)

Yes, I assume she spoke in some funny accent like the chef in the Muppets. :)

Tog
2010-Jul-09, 10:29 AM
Bah, I knew I was going to mess up somewhere.

Yes, it does revolve around its own axis. I was too focused on the barycenter thing to clean up the analogy.

But, not once did I ever hear the phrase "tidal locking" in school. The first I learned of it was in a writer's guide to world building.

Jeff Root
2010-Jul-09, 10:50 AM
After having participated as an answerer in two long threads arguing
about whether the Moon rotates, neither of which was concluded, I am
relieved to read Andreas's post here.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

CJSF
2010-Jul-09, 11:39 AM
I don't think Toq's main point is specifically whether or not the Moon rotates, it was the way in which such questions might be answered; however, if it helps to clarify things, I would put the answers as:

A1: Yes.
A2: Yes, it rotates about its own axis, as it revolves (orbits) around Earth.
A3: Yes, it rotates about its own axis. It's rotation takes the same amount of time that it takes to orbit (revolve) around Earth. This is why we always see the same side of the Moon from Earth.

And one can imagine more complex answers as might be warranted by others "reading over the shoulder" of the asker. Those "shoulder readers" should be asking if they want to know more. It's silly, in my opinion, to expect all answerers to cater to any possible auidence reading a post.

I have to agree with Moose, though. Why are we having this meltdown? This is not a complicated issue. BAUT hosting such drama queens; who'd have thought it! ;)

CJSF

Spoons
2010-Jul-09, 12:06 PM
I have to agree with Moose, though. Why are we having this meltdown? This is not a complicated issue. BAUT hosting such drama queens; who'd have thought it! ;)
Ok, I'll state now, my distress is over the fact that we have a number of really knowledgeable members who are walking away because of what they see as problems. From what I hear the issues raised in their posts seem to have not been addressed.

I do agree, referring back to the OP, that his concerns as he raised should have probably been responded to. If he brought up a concern in a PM I think it would not be unreasonable to respond to it, and he has said it was not. Now, I've sent PMs to mods which weren't responded to, but they didn't require responses, it sounds like his would have. Plus, he's contributed way, way, way more than I have to the knowledge base here, I think out of respect for his contributions he should've been addressed.

That's why I weighed in, since then I've just been responding to what I see. But that's what I really wanted known. Fair enough, I should've made this my first and only post in this thread - I just think the mods should certainly engage with him on a private level (PMs) to see whether the issues can be cleared, corrected, whatever. This has never been about mod bashing, grandstanding or whatever, I expect interested parties would appreciate that.

aastrotech
2010-Jul-09, 12:21 PM
1) Be nice.
2) Be Nice.
3) Try to not go too far over the questioner's head.
4) Be NICE.
5) Save the side discussions for S&T or Astronomy.

Seriously, what, exactly, is so objectionable about any of this that so many of you are melting down over it?

For me it's that all five are arbitrary standards. And that when imposed on the ad hoc basis of their nature are then inarguable and unasailable as per rule 17 and are also seen as precidents of law thus making them an arbitrary never ending ever changing rule making monster.

CJSF
2010-Jul-09, 12:28 PM
That's my point: the drama of people leaving BAUT because of some perceived lack of integrity. Compared to BAUT the rest of the Net is savage anarchy. We're never going to please everyone all the time. Frankly, this bickering over how to answer questions and how unfair and biased the moderators are is getting old. Fast. This is one of the best run forums out there.

CJSF

Spoons
2010-Jul-09, 12:28 PM
If the questioner has their question answered and then is left behind, seriously, what is so objectionable about that?

Moose
2010-Jul-09, 12:43 PM
I do agree, referring back to the OP, that his concerns as he raised should have probably been responded to. If he brought up a concern in a PM I think it would not be unreasonable to respond to it, and he has said it was not.

Please keep in mind that our admin are both busy with real life concerns and don't have 7-days, 24 hour availability.

01101001
2010-Jul-09, 12:51 PM
1) Be nice.
2) Be Nice.
3) Try to not go too far over the questioner's head.
4) Be NICE.
5) Save the side discussions for S&T or Astronomy.

Seriously, what, exactly, is so objectionable about any of this that so many of you are melting down over it?

3 and part* of 5. About 30 percent of your advice. But 60 percent of your advice is be nice. So you're not doing too good.

I will stop lurking and post my explicit request for the full-deal answer if I must, but it seems like a waste of bandwidth. Must I? It will become tiresome for all. Why can it not be assumed?

I am a seeker of knowledge -- even if I am not the questioner. Stop this new intense focus on the questioner. Stop ignoring the readers. I am reading Q&A. What is so objectionable about that? In Q&A, answer my standing question, please. Expound. Please.

Look, if up front we told all questioners that they can get just the shallow answer that may satisfy them and be sort of right or they can get the best of science that members have to offer, how many would opt for shallow only? Give the questioner -- and all the readers -- the best BAUT has to offer.

And, lest I be misinterpreted yet again, I'm not saying we should throw every questioner in the deep end of the pool. Never have. By all means give a shallow answer if it's not yet been provided. But don't hesitate to give a deep one, too, if you can. Many of us readers can swim.

Moderation: please stop asking members to hold back. Please stop wasting the talents of BAUT members. I beg you.

Moose, why do you read Q&A?

--
* The part of side discussions that get argumentative and circular. Nobody but the participants wants to read that.

Moose
2010-Jul-09, 01:08 PM
3 and part* of 5. About 30 percent of your advice. But 60 percent of your advice is be nice. So you're not doing too good.

I would love it if I didn't have to remind people to be nice to each other on a daily basis. It should be common sense. But it apparently isn't.


I will stop lurking and post my explicit request for the full-deal answer if I must, but it seems like a waste of bandwidth. Must I? It will become tiresome for all. Why can it not be assumed?

... Because the mod team don't spontaneously develop psychic abilities with the additional read access?


And, lest I be misinterpreted yet again, I'm not saying we should throw every questioner in the deep end of the pool. Never have. By all means give a shallow answer if it's not yet been provided. But don't hesitate to give a deep one, too, if you can. Many of us readers can swim.

Nobody's saying every answer has to be shallow, 10010110. Only not over the questioner's head. Once the questioner understands (that's not the same thing as having been provided what, in our opinion, should be a sufficiently clear answer), then it's more reasonable for the thread to drift into deeper stuff.

And there's no reason why you can't start a thread to request as deep an explanation as you like. You're a big boy, 10010110. You're allowed to ask questions too.


Moose, why do you read Q&A?

Because I'm an educator and because I'm a mod. Both require me to think of what's best for the questioner long before I get to think about your needs. Or my own.

captain swoop
2010-Jul-09, 01:33 PM
IF you are reading someone elses Q&A thread and want more information then ask a question of your own, the emphasis is on the questioner because they are the one asking the question.. simple.

Spoons
2010-Jul-09, 01:35 PM
Nobody's saying every answer has to be shallow, 10010110. Only not over the questioner's head. Once the questioner understands (that's not the same thing as having been provided what, in our opinion, should be a sufficiently clear answer), then it's more reasonable for the thread to drift into deeper stuff.
This is exactly how it always was. The message was answered in a basic way. A few members answered it to a greater degree, giving the required corrections to the basic answer. Arguments ensued.

I would say, don't suggest to stop developing the answer. If people are arguing just infract the person that starts arguing, but not the person that's correcting. That wouldn't require 24/7 action. And it wouldn't take that to respond to DrRocket's concern. Don't pretend he's just anyone - I'm not saying he's a superhero, so lets not introduce hyperbole, I'm saying he has a history of answering a lot of questions. Like the mods, it's for no charge. Like the mods, that also deserves a degree of respect.

I go on a lot about members showing respect to the work of the mods. Just because he doesn't have a special title does not negate the effort he's put in too. People should show respect where due, not where the title suggests - that's pure authoritarianism, which should be thought of as a joke.

Ken G
2010-Jul-09, 01:46 PM
1) Be nice.
2) Be Nice.
3) Try to not go too far over the questioner's head.
4) Be NICE.
5) Save the side discussions for S&T or Astronomy.I 100% agree that being nice is the crucial piece, we can all agree there's no call to get personal (the bane of the internet that wrecks most blogs in the first five posts). Even if someone gives an answer that could use some correcting (as we just saw above), it should be handled politely and in the spirit that the answer could possibly be framed differently, or cleaned up a bit, rather than that the person who suggested it was some kind of cretin (the way it got handled above was a model of the former).

But impoliteness in Q&A has never been the issue here, that's the headache of the mods I'm sure, and is an ongoing issue on the internet, but we're talking about appropriate content in Q&A. Everyone agrees that there's no need to go "over anyone's head", but that doesn't preclude bringing in the most profound and fascinating aspects of modern science-- it just means it should be done at the simplest possible level. For the people worried about "intellectual honesty" or that sort of thing, I'm not sure what they are necessarily saying about the "simplest possible level", but personally I believe that any topic, be it relativity, quantum mechanics, or philosophical issues that have been debated for millennia, can be addressed at a simple enough level to be approachable by any educated person. Indeed, doing just that is the whole point of a science forum, I would say. So I'm not sure that point #3 is really the issue either.

Which brings us to point #5, the crux of the matter. I can certainly agree that we've seen sidebars go on and on, to the benefit of none. They can become an argument where the only goal is to put the other person down-- it's clear the other person is intransigent (all too common), they may even have their own valid perspective, and both sides have delivered all their points as well as they can say them, and are just having a "peeing contest" by that point. I totally agree that should be avoided, flagged, cut off, or closed.

But we still have not gotten to the crux of the matter, in terms of the basic content issue. Because if a question is about a fundamentally profound and interesting area, then there should be some probing answers given, and there can also be disagreements at that level of depth and difficulty. Sometimes two seemingly knowledgeable people can give conflicting answers, and if there is no "side discussion" at all, everyone (OP and others) reading the thread will be left to wonder why they disagree. They'll have little to go on in making up their minds which view they find convincing. So there does need to be some side discussion to clarify the disagreement, give additional information and talking points, and then let the readers form an opinion before the peeing contest breaks out. Starting a new thread to do that is quite clunky, and can leave behind a lot of interested parties-- especially those who don't yet understand why they should be worrying about that particular sidebar in the first place (often, the real answer to the OP lives in those sidebars, frankly).

Let me take a concrete example to clarify what I mean-- the spin of the Moon. Here we really have to recognize the profound character that is common in OPs in Q&A. If the OP is as we had above, " We always see the same side of the Moon. Does the Moon rotate?", it is very clear that the answer being sought is along the lines of "the Moon rotates at the same rate that it orbits, and this keeps the same side facing Earth." That's it, one and done, no one would give that thread a second look (unless the "why" issue crops up, and tidal locking can be explained). But what we also get in Q&A are questions like "Do we know for sure that the Moon rotates?" This is a very different question, it's much less clear what is really being asked. For one thing, the question touches on philosophical issues around scientific epistemology (the "knowing" part), and may also be about issues like reference frames and so on. In a thread like that, it would be perfectly natural to get into relativity issues, Mach's principle, Newton's bucket, and so on. If any of that "leaves in the dust" the OPer, it might still interest other readers, and frankly the OPer should have been much clearer about what they were asking in the first place if they didn't want to get into any of that. Or, maybe they just had no idea the question could lead there, and will be more educated by seeing that it can, than by a simplified answer like "we know it because we see it rotate around us."


Seriously, what, exactly, is so objectionable about any of this that so many of you are melting down over it?
I'm not sure who is "melting down." I see two people who have decided to leave BAUT out of distaste over what they perceive is encouragement to give incomplete or even intellectually dishonest answers. That may be an overly strong reaction, but it is hardly "melting down," it's just making a personal choice. As for the others, I see a split between those who are mostly worried about "intellectual bullying" or "side discussions that leave them in the dust", and those who want as complete a discussion as possible. Which of those two groups do you see as "melting down"? You seem to refer to the latter group, yet I've heard more emotionally based objections from the former group, and that is after all the group that got the whole issue started about Q&A.

Jeff Root
2010-Jul-09, 01:47 PM
I think that some of the questions raised in this thread are so important that
every mod and every admin including Fraser and Phil should contribute. If Fraser
and Phil don't contribute to answers to the critical questions here, then the mods
and the admins should not say that "this is what Fraser and Phil want". They
should instead say "Fraser and Phil are no longer setting policy here. This is
what we want."

Among the questions, but not necessarily most important, is the question
01101001 asks, "Why limit the answers?"

My best guess at the moment is that it is to prevent threads from becoming
more than two or three pages long, which is likely to put off someone looking
for an answer to a question that has already been asked, and finds a thread
apparently answering it in 200 posts! Forget it. I'll try another search!

That is the only reason I can come up with.

I agree completely with putting the question-asker first. If one person needs
an elementary answer, so will others. I answer questions for the lurkers, but
the specific lurkers I write for are lurkers who are similar to the question-asker.
If you are a lurker and the first answer doesn't make sense to you, then ask
another question of your own to get more detail, or background, or whatever
is missing from that first answer that *you* need.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

jlhredshift
2010-Jul-09, 01:59 PM
A school teacher through experience will have anticipated a set of questions that come up every semester when a new group of students roll in and have developed answers for those questions. It will be no different here. The one thing that causes me irritation is when a question is asked and the response is one seeking what the motivation of the questioner for asking the question. I do not care what their motivation is, just please answer the question if you can. We'll sort anything else out later, the mod's are good at that.

Moose
2010-Jul-09, 02:03 PM
Don't pretend he's just anyone - I'm not saying he's a superhero, so lets not introduce hyperbole, I'm saying he has a history of answering a lot of questions. Like the mods, it's for no charge. Like the mods, that also deserves a degree of respect.

Despite the perception of a vocal few, nobody at all is exempt from Rule 2.

... Particularly when warned in thread twice (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/104852-Is-BAUT-s-Q-amp-A-section-becoming-intimidating?p=1746000#post1746000) prior (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/104852-Is-BAUT-s-Q-amp-A-section-becoming-intimidating?p=1746011#post1746011), by three separate mods, within two hours of the offense that actually drew the infraction (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/104852-Is-BAUT-s-Q-amp-A-section-becoming-intimidating?p=1746028#post1746028).

His content knowledge (math or education) is absolutely irrelevant to the enforcement of Rule 2.

Spoons
2010-Jul-09, 02:10 PM
I'll have to trust you I guess, because the warnings from the mods were non-specific. I see in the last linked to post a word was changed. What it was I'll never know. It probably wasn't necessary to use the word, but I don't know what the mods were suggesting earlier. They certainly weren't warnings to him, if that was the intention.

Tinaa
2010-Jul-09, 02:12 PM
Unlike many of our members, I have had university level astronomy, physics, biology and math classes (passed all with A's). When a few of our members start trying to explain something my brain just turns off. It is not the vocabulary or the concepts, it is the way they love to hear themselves talk - on and on and on and on... If something has caught my attention, I'll go off site to find out more about it because I'm turned off by the bickering over every little detail, and I have the background and prerequisite learning to understand. Forget the layman who has looked into the sky and thought..."I wonder why?" It has become worse over time. Yes, yes, yes, we want everyone to enjoy higher order thinking skills - thank you Bloom - but that is not reality.

Back in the day of UT, one of the reasons for Q&A was to get more people interested in space and astronomy and to use those people already interested to help the new people. The more people we can get interested, the more people may realize that space and astronomy research and exploration is important, and more monies may be funneled in that direction.

tusenfem
2010-Jul-09, 02:17 PM
Just hopping out of my self imposed withdrawal.

I am getting so sick and tired of this Q&A discussion.
NOBODY really NOBODY is FORCING anyone to dumb down potential answers or give wrong answers.

Any more if these kind of idiot discussion driven by hurt egos are going to drive me away from this board.

AndreasJ
2010-Jul-09, 02:17 PM
Let me take a concrete example to clarify what I mean-- the spin of the Moon. Here we really have to recognize the profound character that is common in OPs in Q&A. If the OP is as we had above, " We always see the same side of the Moon. Does the Moon rotate?", it is very clear that the answer being sought is along the lines of "the Moon rotates at the same rate that it orbits, and this keeps the same side facing Earth." That's it, one and done, no one would give that thread a second look (unless the "why" issue crops up, and tidal locking can be explained). But what we also get in Q&A are questions like "Do we know for sure that the Moon rotates?" This is a very different question, it's much less clear what is really being asked. For one thing, the question touches on philosophical issues around scientific epistemology (the "knowing" part), and may also be about issues like reference frames and so on. In a thread like that, it would be perfectly natural to get into relativity issues, Mach's principle, Newton's bucket, and so on. If any of that "leaves in the dust" the OPer, it might still interest other readers, and frankly the OPer should have been much clearer about what they were asking in the first place if they didn't want to get into any of that. Or, maybe they just had no idea the question could lead there, and will be more educated by seeing that it can, than by a simplified answer like "we know it because we see it rotate around us."
Wouldn't it be better in such cases to ask the OP to clarify their question rather than bringing up every conceivably related theoretical and philosophical issue?

Moose
2010-Jul-09, 02:21 PM
I'll have to trust you I guess, because the warnings from the mods were non-specific. I see in the last linked to post a word was changed. What it was I'll never know. It probably wasn't necessary to use the word, but I don't know what the mods were suggesting earlier. They certainly weren't warnings to him, if that was the intention.

a) Rule 2 applies to everybody at all times. It isn't optional. We understand that threads overheat, and we try to remind folks to cool things off before official action has to be taken, but that warning is a courtesy. You are always responsible for your own behavior with regard to Rule 2. No exceptions.

b) An in thread generic warning is a warning to everybody. In thread general warnings are warnings that one or more members are close to the infraction point. Continuing the behavior warned about, just because you weren't named explicitly, is incautious activity.

c) When there is only a single post between the first warning and a separate reminder warning, that post's author should probably start, if he/she hasn't already, considering an immediate adjustment to their posting style.

Spoons
2010-Jul-09, 02:22 PM
What will be will be.

Ken G
2010-Jul-09, 02:31 PM
Wouldn't it be better in such cases to ask the OP to clarify their question rather than bringing up every conceivably related theoretical and philosophical issue?
Not if, as is often the case, the OP cannot be expected to even know what they are asking-- that's why they are asking.

R.A.F.
2010-Jul-09, 02:42 PM
...as is often the case, the OP cannot be expected to even know what they are asking...

This is why I avoid the Q & A section...some posters tend to "talk down" to those who might not possess a certain amount of knowledge, and I just don't see that as "being nice".

This might be seen as a personal attack, but it needed to be said, so I accept any consequences of this post.

Ken G
2010-Jul-09, 02:43 PM
Unlike many of our members, I have had university level astronomy, physics, biology and math classes (passed all with A's). When a few of our members start trying to explain something my brain just turns off. It is not the vocabulary or the concepts, it is the way they love to hear themselves talk - on and on and on and on... If something has caught my attention, I'll go off site to find out more about it because I'm turned off by the bickering over every little detail, and I have the background and prerequisite learning to understand. That's not actually as easy as you imagine. You simply are not going to find the issues discussed as directly as is happening in the thread that has triggered your interest. It's as though you are missing the whole point of a forum. If you want the forum to be a FAQ, why not replace BAUT with a FAQ and be done with it?


Forget the layman who has looked into the sky and thought..."I wonder why?" It has become worse over time. Yes, yes, yes, we want everyone to enjoy higher order thinking skills - thank you Bloom - but that is not reality. You mean, it's not your reality. I think it is a perfectly worthwhile goal for a forum. But I'm not a mod, and don't want to be one, and you are, and your efforts are to be commended. I'm not bashing anyone, I'm trying to help inform better decisions, or at least give some reasons for why more patience in regards the deeper issues is probably a good thing.



Back in the day of UT, one of the reasons for Q&A was to get more people interested in space and astronomy and to use those people already interested to help the new people. The more people we can get interested, the more people may realize that space and astronomy research and exploration is important, and more monies may be funneled in that direction.Absolutely, get more people interested. Dogmatic answers don't do that.

Ken G
2010-Jul-09, 02:44 PM
This is why I avoid the Q & A section...some posters tend to "talk down" to those who might not possess a certain amount of knowledge, and I just don't see that as "being nice".
Again that's a different issue, the issue of tone and politeness-- not content. For those who really want to explore deeply into what is true, little issues of tone are minor concerns, though of course no one wants to have their ego bruised and there's no need to set out to do that.

Ken G
2010-Jul-09, 02:46 PM
NOBODY really NOBODY is FORCING anyone to dumb down potential answers or give wrong answers.
If that were really the position being espoused, none of this would have ever come up in the first place. That's pretty much what I imagine is true whenever I post, and would be more than happy to continue to imagine that.

AndreasJ
2010-Jul-09, 02:50 PM
Not if, as is often the case, the OP cannot be expected to even know what they are asking-- that's why they are asking.

Still don't see why you shouldn't ask. If they can clarify, jolly good, if not, what have you lost?

Moose
2010-Jul-09, 02:54 PM
If that were really the position being espoused

As we've been explaining endlessly, that really _is_ the position being espoused, Ken. Really.

You need to consider that there has been a serious misunderstanding, somewhere, and most of the vocal reaction has been to a position that simply isn't being advocated. By anybody.

AndreasJ
2010-Jul-09, 02:54 PM
You mean, it's not your reality. I think it is a perfectly worthwhile goal for a forum.
You seem to be saying here that the forum should aim at having only members with "higher order thinking skills". Am I understanding you correctly?

Gillianren
2010-Jul-09, 05:01 PM
The answer "it's a forum!' strikes me as missing a major point, which is that the back-and-forth must include the original questioner to be helpful. If Q&A is about answering questions--and if it isn't, it should be renamed--it is by definition more about the person asking the question than anyone else who might just happen to be reading. Again, if you want to know more, nothing's stopping you from asking your own questions. Treating the questioner as unimportant in the process is failing at teaching. I'm sure the professional educators here will agree that, if you don't look to the person asking the questions to help them, you're just lecturing, not educating.

What's more, the interaction with a new person will be different. That's not unreasonable, actually. If I were having a conversation with either of my best friends about libraries, I could start at a much higher level than I would when talking to someone I didn't know had been haunting libraries since about infancy. With one of them, I can have much higher-level conversations about the more obscure parts of literature than pretty much any of my friends--and I know that. I know that, if I'm talking to certain people, "Elizabeth" is obviously Elizabeth I; to others, it's obviously my little sister. But to people I don't know, I wouldn't expect them to know that I'm low-level obsessed with Elizabeth I or that I had a younger sister named Elizabeth, so I start by explaining that. If it turns out they're actually a scholar of the era themselves--or one of my cousins I haven't seen in years!--well, that changes how we talk about things. It's all part of the get-to-know-you process, isn't it?

tusenfem
2010-Jul-09, 05:22 PM
If that were really the position being espoused, none of this would have ever come up in the first place. That's pretty much what I imagine is true whenever I post, and would be more than happy to continue to imagine that.

This whole "topic" runs around the perceived injustice that is supposedly been done to DrRocket by Moose
and about the quote of Neried
In response to Neried’s statement that “You both seem to be saying that a wrong answer can be perfectly OK.”

Swift
2010-Jul-09, 06:10 PM
Just hopping out of my self imposed withdrawal.
And I'll be imposing one on myself. To be accussed of being unethical for a fairly benign rule change is just about the last straw for this camel. The never, never ending second-guessing and criticism of everything I do here, and for what.... this is supposed to be my fun.

As I've already told the moderation team, I won't be particularly active for a while. You all take care...

HenrikOlsen
2010-Jul-09, 06:12 PM
Yes, it does revolve around its own axis. I was too focused on the barycenter thing to clean up the analogy.
Rotate:)

It rotates around its axis and revolves around the earth-moon barycenter

The rule of thumb I always use for remembering the difference is that a revolver should really be a rotator, because the thingie with the bullets rotates.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Jul-09, 06:16 PM
If the questioner has their question answered and then is left behind, seriously, what is so objectionable about that?
It depends on how they're left behind.
If it happens before the questioner got an answer they understood to their satisfaction, then it's objectionable because we've taught yet another person that science is too hard and elitist to bother with.

Gillianren
2010-Jul-09, 06:17 PM
As I've already told the moderation team, I won't be particularly active for a while. You all take care...

I, for one, am sorry to hear that. Moderator seems a high-burn out position, and it makes me kind of concerned. It must be deathly frustrating to have every statement of yours analyzed and re-analyzed every time.

captain swoop
2010-Jul-09, 06:56 PM
That's why we 'tag' in the controversial forums. Up until recently Q&A was seen as a benign posting.

aastrotech
2010-Jul-09, 07:20 PM
I, for one, am sorry to hear that. Moderator seems a high-burn out position, and it makes me kind of concerned. It must be deathly frustrating to have every statement of yours analyzed and re-analyzed every time.


Must make 'em feel like an ordinary member sometimes.

CJSF
2010-Jul-09, 07:22 PM
Wow. Thanks for telling me I am an extraordinary member! Woohoo!! :)

CJSF

Ken G
2010-Jul-09, 08:05 PM
Still don't see why you shouldn't ask. If they can clarify, jolly good, if not, what have you lost?
I agree there are situations when asking for clarification is useful. But there are many situations where you can tell what is being asked, and you can tell why the question is ill posed, and you can tell what information the OPer needs to have in their toolkit before they can understand why the question is ill posed. All of which is much better than just offering a canned answer. But it's hard to say much hypothetically-- it all depends on the thread itself. We could look at some examples from Q&A, but I don't think the readers of this thread have the patience to go into that kind of detail at this point, it sounds to me like a kind of consensus is approaching: be nice, avoid long arguments, but don't feel you have to "dumb down" answers to the point that they are just creating a kind of illusion of understanding, or referencing the understanding we had 300 years ago and have moved quite a long way from since. For example, I could easily see asking an OPer, "Your question touches on issues that we have changed our perspective on quite significantly in the last century or so, so do you want the answer Newton would have given you 350 years ago, or do you want the best understanding that modern science has accomplished in regard to your question?" But I think most OPers are here to get the modern view, especially if the answerer is willing to keep it as simple as possible.

Ken G
2010-Jul-09, 08:09 PM
You seem to be saying here that the forum should aim at having only members with "higher order thinking skills". Am I understanding you correctly?
Not if you are implying everyone should already have them. Instead, my point is that we should not say "you don't have the skills to understand the answer because it requires logic and critical thinking, so I'll give you an answer that doesn't challenge you to think that way", instead, we should say "here is how you need to think about this to be able to understand the issues that your question relates to."

AndreasJ
2010-Jul-09, 08:13 PM
Not if you are implying everyone should already have them. Instead, my point is that we should not say "you don't have the skills to understand the answer because it requires logic and critical thinking, so I'll give you an answer that doesn't challenge you to think that way", instead, we should say "here is how you need to think about this to be able to understand the issues that your question relates to."

Thank you for the clarification. :)

Ken G
2010-Jul-09, 08:18 PM
As we've been explaining endlessly, that really _is_ the position being espoused, Ken. Really.

You need to consider that there has been a serious misunderstanding, somewhere, and most of the vocal reaction has been to a position that simply isn't being advocated. By anybody.

Well I can certainly live with that as far as the official stance goes. However, I do see on this very thread several people saying that Q&A threads should not be, essentially, "muddled up" with more probing analysis of the kinds of issues that OP questions can involve. I see people advocating purely superficial and dogmatic answers because don't threaten anyone, don't "bully" or "intimidate" anyone, and should be the stock in trade of Q&A. That's exactly the content-oriented stance I'm questioning. But as long as the attitude is, we can have those non-"elitist" (gag me, seriously) kinds of answers coinciding with more probing answers, and just let everyone find their own interest level, then I personally have no problem at all-- I agree with 101001 that this is how Q&A has been done in the past, and if there isn't a movement to change it, I have no issue with how it is moderated. By and large, I see the moderators as mostly just stepping in when people are getting too chippy, and threads are about to leave the realm of constructive dialog.

Ken G
2010-Jul-09, 08:23 PM
This whole "topic" runs around the perceived injustice that is supposedly been done to DrRocket by Moose
and about the quote of Neried
In response to Neried’s statement that “You both seem to be saying that a wrong answer can be perfectly OK.”
And those are kind of personal matters, I'm not really speaking directly to that, more to the significant number of posts on this thread that are quite clearly objecting to posts in Q&A that actually attempt to take the OPer to a place where they can really learn the answer to their question in a way that might fascinate, stretch, confuse, challenge, and amaze them. All those nice words simply get replaced with "bully", "intimidate", "talk down to", and "turn off from science". I don't get it.

Ken G
2010-Jul-09, 08:28 PM
And I'll be imposing one on myself. To be accussed of being unethical for a fairly benign rule change is just about the last straw for this camel. The never, never ending second-guessing and criticism of everything I do here, and for what.... this is supposed to be my fun.
I too think that's a shame, for this should be your fun, even as a moderator. It's a thankless and important job, and the forum wouldn't run without it. I personally never came to this thread in support of the idea that anyone was being unethical, rather that I can see a certain tension between what some call intellectual honesty, and what others call elitism. From my standpoint, if someone makes an effort to answer a question at a fairly straightforward but rather superficial level, there's nothing "intellectually dishonest" about it, it's just one way to slice that pie, and if someone else makes an effort to dig more deeply, get into a more probing discussion, and bring up talking points on the frontier of our modern understanding of our reality, that doesn't make them "elitist." They're both cheap shots to be avoided. But I also don't feel the BAUT standards should come down in favor of one type over the other, as it was definitely beginning to sound like it was doing.

Ken G
2010-Jul-09, 08:32 PM
It depends on how they're left behind.
If it happens before the questioner got an answer they understood to their satisfaction, then it's objectionable because we've taught yet another person that science is too hard and elitist to bother with.

Where is your evidence that that's really happening? Can you give any examples where, for example, a post I provided had that effect?

Ken G
2010-Jul-09, 08:35 PM
The answer "it's a forum!' strikes me as missing a major point, which is that the back-and-forth must include the original questioner to be helpful.
The OPer makes their own choices about continued participation, and I see lots and lots of very positive interactions with initially unsophisticated OPers who get a lot more sophisticated in their understanding as the result of a probing discussion in Q&A. I also see lots of OPers who never post even a second time to their own thread, regardless of what kinds of answers they get. It's the full spectrum, I don't see why posters to Q&A need to be responsible for the vagaries of various different OPers. Often, those who benefit the most from a Q&A thread are not the OPer, and I concur with 101001: what's so bad about that? That's the difference between a forum and a FAQ.

Tinaa
2010-Jul-09, 09:08 PM
I think it is not what one says but how one says it. Many times sarcasm doesn't come through in writing but condescension and patronization nearly always do. And frankly some of our more learned members come across as exactly that.

Ken G
2010-Jul-09, 09:13 PM
Ah, the "tone" issue. What about when getting to the truth is seen as more important than tone? Can it be that when someone simply strikes out to give the simplest, clearest, most self-consistent answer they can that still includes sophisticated modern concepts, the net result might just come out sounding patronizing at the other end, when in fact it was nothing but the simplest, clearest, most self-consistent answer with the fewest assumptions about what the other person might or might not know, or for lurkers too? A large problem on the internet is how things go out versus how they come in. For example, no one ever thinks they are attacking someone else, but they always think they are being attacked. I have no solution for that, other than not trying to belittle someone, but I really only care about the scientific issues that are being discussed, perhaps to a fault. When people say I'm being "patronizing" or "elitist", I just think "whatever. Don't you think that whatever piece of what modern humanity has managed to learn about reality that we can access by plugging into the knowledge of the people on here is worth a few bruised egos?" Agreed, when people start posts with "rubbish" or "gibberish", that's pretty egregiously patronizing, but the "tone" stuff just seems like too much added baggage. You can talk about how hard it is to be a moderator, and I'm sure you're right, but we can also talk about how hard it is to put in the effort to give a more interesting/complete/probing answer, and get called patronizing or elitist.

Tinaa
2010-Jul-09, 10:36 PM
Why yes, tone is a big issue. It is an indication of attitude about the subject AND your audience.

Ken G
2010-Jul-09, 10:48 PM
Except, that is, in situations where you think you are talking about the tone put into a post, when in fact you are only talking about the tone you perceive from a post. The latter doesn't indicate any of those things, of course.

Spoons
2010-Jul-10, 12:41 AM
It depends on how they're left behind.
If it happens before the questioner got an answer they understood to their satisfaction, then it's objectionable because we've taught yet another person that science is too hard and elitist to bother with.

It the risk of attracting the "whiner" tag, as many points from this side of the table seem to get labeled, this is a curiously ironic response. Being the questioner, and providing my own clarification, I can state clearly that this is not an answer to the question I posed. My question contained the proviso "if the questioner had their question answered...".

I'm not sure if that was a misunderstanding or another attempt to suggest that those who like detailed answers, even discussion, don't care about answering the question posed. I'd prefer to think the former, so that's how I'll take it unless told otherwise - rather than implanting a tone of my own determination. (if someone does think they've detected a tone that concerns them, they probably should seek clarification - it does cut both ways, the idea of clarifications)

ETA: Oh, I also want to say that I am sorry that Swift feels how he does. I have never tried to suggest any unethical behaviour.

Van Rijn
2010-Jul-10, 12:55 AM
I think it is not what one says but how one says it. Many times sarcasm doesn't come through in writing but condescension and patronization nearly always do. And frankly some of our more learned members come across as exactly that.

I agree that's a real issue, but doesn't that come down to enforcement of rule 2? I don't see why that would require the new Q&A guidelines.

Perhaps I did misunderstand the intent of the guidelines, and I'm sorry, but reading the guidelines, my sense was that they were still more restrictive rules on how people can post, and to me it is feeling like this has reached the point of the cure being worse than the disease. I don't like saying this, because I've generally not had an issue with BAUT rules, but it's starting to go too far in my opinion.

I am not saying anyone is being unethical - I'm sure moderators think they have good reason for these changes, but you just can't fix everything with more rules and guidelines.

aastrotech
2010-Jul-10, 12:56 AM
Why yes, tone is a big issue. It is an indication of attitude about the subject AND your audience.

Haven't I read some of you assert that "The tone issue" is an ATM dodge?

Gillianren
2010-Jul-10, 01:15 AM
The OPer makes their own choices about continued participation, and I see lots and lots of very positive interactions with initially unsophisticated OPers who get a lot more sophisticated in their understanding as the result of a probing discussion in Q&A. I also see lots of OPers who never post even a second time to their own thread, regardless of what kinds of answers they get. It's the full spectrum, I don't see why posters to Q&A need to be responsible for the vagaries of various different OPers. Often, those who benefit the most from a Q&A thread are not the OPer, and I concur with 101001: what's so bad about that? That's the difference between a forum and a FAQ.

I think you miss my point. My point is that, if the needs of the OP aren't taken into account, all the back-and-forth in the world doesn't serve the purpose of that section. I'm not saying that other people don't or shouldn't learn from the thread. I'm saying that the person asking the question is and should be the important figure in the discussion. There wouldn't be a thread were a question not asked, and if worrying about answering them properly, however one defines properly, isn't a consideration, what is the section for?

Spoons
2010-Jul-10, 01:27 AM
Maybe you need to provide some examples of where the OP is pretty much disregarded, as you seem to be saying?

This whole discussion is pointless, it's just a repeat of the "simple explanationers" claiming the questions aren't being answered and the questioner isn't being considered (which I don't see as the reality, seems more like a blatant strawman), the "further explanationers" saying that they are but further detail is of value (which I find hard to fault) and people who are sick of reading about this dropping in, pointing out they're sick of reading it and dropping out again (which is generally of little value to any discussion - it's all voluntary participation here).

This time the going off topic seems like it's been welcomed though - none of this is what the OP was specifically was about. My questions about the OP were pretty much dismissed. I'm not going to ask again though.

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 01:53 AM
Well put. Perhaps this thread has had the advantage of letting the air be cleared on some issues that have been creating friction. Perhaps those who get labeled as elitist can take extra pains not to sound that way, and perhaps those who do the elitist labeling can look a little more closely to their own reactions and perceptions. Perhaps those who tend to get sidetracked into arguments can cut those off before they go too long, and perhaps those who dislike arguments can recognize that if there is an issue that knowledgeable people can argue about, that might flag an issue of additional importance or subtlety that could be worth paying attention to. Maybe then everyone will be happy. As for complaints by the mods, and about the mods, perhaps everyone can try to be more forgiving. It's not easy to be a mod, and it's also not easy to give good answers at a level that is educational to those who don't have much background, stimulating to those who do, and challenging to those who have other viewpoints.

Gillianren
2010-Jul-10, 02:07 AM
Maybe you need to provide some examples of where the OP is pretty much disregarded, as you seem to be saying?

If that were what I was saying, I would. What I am saying is that people who are asking why the emphasis should be on the OP don't make sense to me. If you like, I can point out examples of that.


This whole discussion is pointless, it's just a repeat of the "simple explanationers" claiming the questions aren't being answered and the questioner isn't being considered (which I don't see as the reality, seems more like a blatant strawman), the "further explanationers" saying that they are but further detail is of value (which I find hard to fault) and people who are sick of reading about this dropping in, pointing out they're sick of reading it and dropping out again (which is generally of little value to any discussion - it's all voluntary participation here).

When people ask why the concern is on what's best for the OP--which, again, I can find examples if you need them--that is, to me, worrying. When someone gets upset because people aren't educated enough to ask questions, that is also, to me, worrying. (I can find you a thread that starts with that one.) No, what's a strawman is the statement that people who are concerned about the needs of the OP are suggesting outright lying. Do you need examples of that as well?


This time the going off topic seems like it's been welcomed though - none of this is what the OP was specifically was about. My questions about the OP were pretty much dismissed. I'm not going to ask again though.

We've hashed out what the OP believes in his first thread on the subject. Quite a few of us don't think what he believes is what's best for the board or the people asking questions on it. Honestly, I don't remember your questions, so if you'd like to ask again, go ahead.

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 02:22 AM
I think you miss my point. My point is that, if the needs of the OP aren't taken into account, all the back-and-forth in the world doesn't serve the purpose of that section.The needs of the OP are taken into account, even when the discussion gets probing, or generates sidebars as disagreements emerge. It's because the OPer does not always know their needs, which is why they come to a forum to find out what it is that they need to understand. That's the difference between "what is 2+2" and "how can galaxies move away from us faster than c", or the difference between searching through a FAQ and asking a body of breathing human beings to comment on a question.


I'm not saying that other people don't or shouldn't learn from the thread. I'm saying that the person asking the question is and should be the important figure in the discussion. No disagreement there at all.

Spoons
2010-Jul-10, 02:22 AM
What I am saying is that people who are asking why the emphasis should be on the OP don't make sense to me.
Everyone has agreed that the initial emphasis should be on the OP. If you think you can find an example of where someone has said something contrary to that, sure, quote it. I would then state that I agree that this would be a poor position to take. I honestly don't think we're in disagreement on this matter.

You appear intent on arguing (or countering, call it what you please) with positions I do not hold. I see no value in this. I'm not here to argue, I'm not here trying to win anything.

My questions regarding the OP weren't directed to yourself though, and it's not something you could answer. I'm not being rude or dismissive, that's just fact. (Oh, but if you review the OP of this thread, you'll notice he wasn't looking for an opportunity to argue the topic of the previous thread. He was approaching a different issue.)

HenrikOlsen
2010-Jul-10, 04:01 AM
I think that some of the questions raised in this thread are so important that
every mod and every admin including Fraser and Phil should contribute. If Fraser
and Phil don't contribute to answers to the critical questions here, then the mods
and the admins should not say that "this is what Fraser and Phil want". They
should instead say "Fraser and Phil are no longer setting policy here. This is
what we want."
From the cases I remember, when moderators recently referred to "what Fraser and Phil want" it's been in reference to things said a while ago, not in reference to new policies.
It is my understanding that Phil and Fraser aren't really available to set new policy and the other admins and the moderators have been left with the thankless job of trying to guess what they would have wanted any new policies to be.
It's my impression that this is something everyone knows is a non-optimal situation to be in for long and I expect the mod team is working hard on finding a long term solution.

Jeff Root
2010-Jul-10, 04:05 AM
Thanks, Henrik.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Gillianren
2010-Jul-10, 06:06 AM
Question about Q&A: why is there recently so much emphasis on the questioner?

This, to me, pretty much sums up the "why should we worry about answering a specific person's questions in Q&A?" thought process I referred to.

Spoons
2010-Jul-10, 06:11 AM
That is selective quoting. Here is another quote from the same poster:

And, lest I be misinterpreted yet again, I'm not saying we should throw every questioner in the deep end of the pool. Never have. By all means give a shallow answer if it's not yet been provided. But don't hesitate to give a deep one, too, if you can. Many of us readers can swim.

Does it look there as though there is no concern for the learning experience of the questioner?

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 06:52 AM
Yes, and I might add that emphasis on the OPer is not the same thing as "worry about answering." One can see it as a priority that the OPer get a good answer they can use and understand-- while still not placing total emphasis on the OPer. There can also be a recognition of the needs of others, also-- that's certainly what I took 01101001 to mean (with apologies for dropping some 01s in the previous posts!).

Nereid
2010-Jul-10, 07:13 AM
If that were really the position being espoused, none of this would have ever come up in the first place. That's pretty much what I imagine is true whenever I post, and would be more than happy to continue to imagine that.This whole "topic" runs around the perceived injustice that is supposedly been done to DrRocket by Moose
and about the quote of Neried
In response to Neried’s statement that “You both seem to be saying that a wrong answer can be perfectly OK.”
I seem to have lost my ability to use Google fully; the only instance of the phrase "You both seem to be saying that a wrong answer can be perfectly OK" - and many proper subsets of it - I can find using Google is the post I'm quoting.

Can someone help me please? Where did I write this?

Nereid
2010-Jul-10, 07:27 AM
I think it is not what one says but how one says it. Many times sarcasm doesn't come through in writing but condescension and patronization nearly always do. And frankly some of our more learned members come across as exactly that.I agree that's a real issue, but doesn't that come down to enforcement of rule 2? I don't see why that would require the new Q&A guidelines.

[...]
This has come up before, several times, in other Feedback threads.

To the extent that it's real - and I think the evidence is pretty clear that it does happen - I think it's worth investigating further, to find out why some people - and especially some n00bs - seem to find answers (posts) expressed in certain ways intimidating, to feel that they're being 'talked down to', etc.

This is not a Rule 2 issue ... it seems that answers/posts can be perfectly nice, yet intimidating (etc).

And it is something peculiar to the Q&A section, given that section's special policy.

So here's a question: instead of relying our memories of how, and how often, such perceived intimidation (that's a shorthand) occurs, what would an investigation into this phenomenon/behaviour look like?

Nereid
2010-Jul-10, 07:32 AM
The OPer makes their own choices about continued participation, and I see lots and lots of very positive interactions with initially unsophisticated OPers who get a lot more sophisticated in their understanding as the result of a probing discussion in Q&A. I also see lots of OPers who never post even a second time to their own thread, regardless of what kinds of answers they get. It's the full spectrum, I don't see why posters to Q&A need to be responsible for the vagaries of various different OPers. Often, those who benefit the most from a Q&A thread are not the OPer, and I concur with 101001: what's so bad about that? That's the difference between a forum and a FAQ.I think you miss my point. My point is that, if the needs of the OP aren't taken into account, all the back-and-forth in the world doesn't serve the purpose of that section. I'm not saying that other people don't or shouldn't learn from the thread. I'm saying that the person asking the question is and should be the important figure in the discussion. There wouldn't be a thread were a question not asked, and if worrying about answering them properly, however one defines properly, isn't a consideration, what is the section for?
As a practical matter, how can anyone (other than the OP) determine if the OP's needs have been met?

The new guidelines seem to be saying, in part, that this is a* worthy objective (meeting all OPer's Q&A needs), and there's lots of discussion on how we, collectively, might do that. But, absent further posts from the OP, how can we tell if the objective is being met?

* not the only objective, of course

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 07:58 AM
As a practical matter, how can anyone (other than the OP) determine if the OP's needs have been met?One thing I just tried on a Q&A thread ("Black hole question") is to hint at a more complete answer, and then directly ask the OPer if he/she would like that more complete answer to be elaborated. They did. I suspect that will generally be true, but for now, I'll continue to ask. If it's always true, eventually I'll skip the asking.

tusenfem
2010-Jul-10, 08:18 AM
And those are kind of personal matters, I'm not really speaking directly to that, more to the significant number of posts on this thread that are quite clearly objecting to posts in Q&A that actually attempt to take the OPer to a place where they can really learn the answer to their question in a way that might fascinate, stretch, confuse, challenge, and amaze them. All those nice words simply get replaced with "bully", "intimidate", "talk down to", and "turn off from science". I don't get it.

It's obvious you don't get it.

You have actually no perception at all how far your philosophical depth approach with nuances up to your neck is away from the everyday interested person on BAUT.

Heck, I have a PhD is plasmaastrophysics and I even get put off by all the discussions by alleged "experts" on relativity (coz that's where it's mainly happening) that cannot even agree on whether a clock is ticking slower or faster or should be turned backward or forward.

A message you see as an interesting philisophical dilemma gets immediately reported by another expert claiming "this is full and utter ATM cow manure". (see what we have to deal with as moderators here?)

And that kind of confusing discussions were the end of many a "simple" relativity question in Q&A, pages and pages of "experts" fighting each other, which may show the "state of the art" in current understanding of the special/general theory of relativity, but if the members of this board want to see Q&A as a sort of FAQ (which it is not really but can be used as such) then it should be all but obvious that such side discussions can better take place in S&T, with a quick link in the Q&A thread mentioning "okay, let's discuss the finer points in this new thread."

tusenfem
2010-Jul-10, 08:19 AM
I seem to have lost my ability to use Google fully; the only instance of the phrase "You both seem to be saying that a wrong answer can be perfectly OK" - and many proper subsets of it - I can find using Google is the post I'm quoting.

Can someone help me please? Where did I write this?

You better ask DrRocket, as it is in the OP.

pzkpfw
2010-Jul-10, 08:49 AM
Does it look there as though there is no concern for the learning experience of the questioner?

Yes.

From the quote you provided yourself:


And, lest I be misinterpreted yet again, I'm not saying we should throw every questioner in the deep end of the pool. Never have.

O.K., fine so far.


By all means give a shallow answer if it's not yet been provided.

Well, this is already sounding like the "shallow answer" (which itself already seems like it's used in a perjerative way) is something distasteful.


But don't hesitate to give a deep one, too, if you can. Many of us readers can swim.

See, this sounds to me like:

"But don't hesitate to" = go ahead and don't worry about context, or the level of the questioner, just go and do it.

"if you can" = a challenge to the members to demonstrate their knowledge. (I think this is where it leads to those seemingly endless games of one-up-manship; where the questioner ends up ignored and the thread delves off into the minutia; a debate between a limited set of our experts).

"Many of us readers can swim." = the person who asked the question? Nah, the thread's not for them.

----

The World is not black and white; or binary. We are not saying all threads must be kept "simple", we are just saying they don't all need to go "complex" either. For goodness sake, anyone can ask a question in the Q&A forum (or even Science and Technology).

One doesn't need to wait for some newbie to ask a question, to have ones discussions at whatever level one wishes.

Any one of you can start your own thread - don't be shy: ask a question, start a discussion.

Just stop turning other peoples questions into more than they should be.

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 08:57 AM
You have actually no perception at all how far your philosophical depth approach with nuances up to your neck is away from the everyday interested person on BAUT.

Heck, I have a PhD is plasmaastrophysics and I even get put off by all the discussions by alleged "experts" on relativity (coz that's where it's mainly happening) that cannot even agree on whether a clock is ticking slower or faster or should be turned backward or forward.Perhaps you need to look one step deeper. Is it just possible that even a PhD in plasma astrophysics does not come with a complete toolkit to fully appreciate what modern science has figured out about our reality? Maybe it hasn't occured to you-- you are still missing quite a lot, and the lovely thing about a forum like this is that it might, just might, give you that opportunity, even now, even after all your education that didn't so far. If you are open to it, that is. (For example, the knowledge of relativity that is quite common in this forum is actually not very good, frankly. This is just a fact, it comes up all the time, even with all those PhDs. If you don't believe my posts, read those of publius, or grant hutchison, or Grey, or the erstwhile DrRocket, or any of the others who will go beyond the dogmatic language that is all a PhD actually gets in most cases.) The degree to which philosphical breadth is helpful in that process is another matter, and is a source of debate-- more opportunities to stretch and learn, more purpose to a forum.



A message you see as an interesting philisophical dilemma gets immediately reported by another expert claiming "this is full and utter ATM cow manure". (see what we have to deal with as moderators here?)Yes, I can see that problem-- but perhaps you don't. The problem is, the "experts" aren't. I once had a thread placed in ATM that the real experts quite easily noticed, and posted as such, was not ATM at all. I knew it all along. But again, that's the point-- if the "experts" always knew what they were talking about, we also would not need to forum to help them find out what they are talking about. That goes for me too.



And that kind of confusing discussions were the end of many a "simple" relativity question in Q&A, pages and pages of "experts" fighting each other, which may show the "state of the art" in current understanding of the special/general theory of relativity, but if the members of this board want to see Q&A as a sort of FAQ (which it is not really but can be used as such) then it should be all but obvious that such side discussions can better take place in S&T, with a quick link in the Q&A thread mentioning "okay, let's discuss the finer points in this new thread."Notice your use of the term "finer points." What you see as "finer points", I (quite correctly, by the way) see as the whole message of relativity that is completely being lost in the dogmatic adherence to special relativistic jargon that replaces true understanding (specifically, mistaking coordinate-oriented arbitrary language for invariant-oriented physical truths), all too often in this forum. Shall we call it a "finer point" to actually understand what relativity is? I don't think so. Now, I also don't think that dogmatic adherence to uninsightful language is any kind of sin-- that kind of language can still solve a subset of relativity problems just fine, and is mostly all anyone gets access to in a standard physics education. But some might, and most should, shoot higher. It's all out there, we don't have to stop at the PhD, and even high-school students can get a taste of it just as easily.

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 09:26 AM
Well, this is already sounding like the "shallow answer" (which itself already seems like it's used in a perjerative way) is something distasteful.
"Shallow" is not perjorative, it is just what it is-- not deep. And if 01101001 saw it as "distasteful", why on Earth would he clearly condone including it? He thinks we should definitely include distasteful elements? That doesn't make any sense, why would you think he thinks that?



See, this sounds to me like:

"But don't hesitate to" = go ahead and don't worry about context, or the level of the questioner, just go and do it.I guess we'll have to ask 01101001, but to me, "don't hesitate" sounds like "don't be afraid that the mods are going to dislike you if you try", not "don't give a hoot about anyone reading the thread."


"if you can" = a challenge to the members to demonstrate their knowledge.Again, my interpretation of "if you can" is, well, if you can. In other words, don't hold back from something you could contribute, simply because you think the forum does not want that contribution in a Q&A thread (of course making the effort to be understandable).


(I think this is where it leads to those seemingly endless games of one-up-manship; where the questioner ends up ignored and the thread delves off into the minutia; a debate between a limited set of our experts).Personally, I never have the least bit of interest in "minutia", I wouldn't even waste my time. The issues I care to argue are seen by me as absolutely essential for appreciating the depth of what modern science has actually figured out about our reality, in the most sweeping and fundamental ways accessible to my own knowledge and ability to comprehend. But I certainly agree that any argument can easily turn into "one-up-manship", and that's a very hard line to draw-- obviously, if someone thinks they have an important insight to offer, even if it sounds to those who don't yet understand it like complete hooey, they are going to argue it quite strenuously until they can succeed in sharing that insight. That can look like an attempt at one-up-manship-- perhaps the best way to tell if it really is is if cheap rhetorical tricks are being employed, rather than substantive argumentation. But in any event, we all must make an effort to avoid excessive repetition or impoliteness, and when we fail, the mods help enormously.


"Many of us readers can swim." = the person who asked the question? Nah, the thread's not for them.Wow, what a huge extrapolation! It almost sounds like you are saying that Q&A should not include any statements not understandable by our best guess about the least common denominator of internet clientele (unless the OPer presents their resume so we can better determine what statements are within their current education), so there should be no effort to advance or teach, merely to inform with uninspired, dogmatic, simplistic pleasantries that would never challenge anyone to leave their comfort zone of everyday analogies to the actual discoveries of modern science. OK, perhaps I'm extrapolating there too, but no farther than you just did.


The World is not black and white; or binary. We are not saying all threads must be kept "simple", we are just saying they don't all need to go "complex" either. For goodness sake, anyone can ask a question in the Q&A forum (or even Science and Technology).Yes-- and anyone deserves to get a decent answer, too-- an answer that really brings them into contact with what has been learned about modern physics and astronomy, not just what was known 350 years ago, simply because it's closer to what they may have already seen in school, or closer to the common widespread misconceptions around these profound topics (and make no mistake, the Q&A questions are often quite profound, those are the ones we are talking about here). And let me clarify, I am never criticizing a simplistic answer, they have an important place-- but one of those places is in identifying weaknesses that are educational to correct or advance, and within the thread where they appear.


One doesn't need to wait for some newbie to ask a question, to have ones discussions at whatever level one wishes.
What I'd like to know is, where is the evidence that the objections you speak of are coming from the newbies? The ones I'm seeing on this thread are coming from veteran participants who don't seem to want to know anything more than they know already, or don't like to feel "patronized" by challenging answers, or feel that anyone exhibiting any knowledge beyond the standard canon is "showing off." Like they think someone takes the time to formulate a deeper answer for any reason other than the pure love of what humanity has been able to figure out!


Any one of you can start your own thread - don't be shy: ask a question, start a discussion.

Just stop turning other peoples questions into more than they should be.
This is a very important point, and I totally see the validity in what you are saying here. But I return to the issue that the OPer is really not in a position, when they ask these profound questions (and yes, they do), to even know what level of an answer is really going to have the insight they are looking for. You see this problem of naive OPers being bullied or intimidated, but the nature of this thread is we don't have newbies reporting that, we have veteran people reporting their own, very different, beefs. In my experience, the newbies are often much more open to deeper insights than the veterans are. Maybe I'm wrong-- maybe the mods have access to all this information that newbies are getting turned off. But so far, none have commented on this private information-- the information on this thread is all of the type I've mentioned (except for one newbie who apparently got turned off by the opposite problem).

Len Moran
2010-Jul-10, 09:53 AM
It's obvious you don't get it.

You have actually no perception at all how far your philosophical depth approach with nuances up to your neck is away from the everyday interested person on BAUT.



I am astonished at this remark. My whole period on this forum has been fed by the the kind of discussions you seem to decry here - I would not wish to be a member of this forum if your perceptions indicated above turned into a policy that discouraged such approaches.

I am also very sorry that Dr Rocket has decided to leave this forum, I didn't always agree with his style, but he brought a lot of expertise here.

Spoons
2010-Jul-10, 10:09 AM
That's an illuminating, but alarming, analysis you've done pzkpfw. I am surprised at how much additional meaning has been crammed into that. If that's how all the responses are being read then I can see why the apparent dislike for actual details in the answers. That wasn't parody, was it?

It need not be read in such a negative light, as I think Ken has highlighted above.

pzkpfw
2010-Jul-10, 11:41 AM
That's an illuminating, but alarming, analysis you've done pzkpfw. I am surprised at how much additional meaning has been crammed into that. If that's how all the responses are being read then I can see why the apparent dislike for actual details in the answers. That wasn't parody, was it?

It need not be read in such a negative light, as I think Ken has highlighted above.

I was more reacting to your claim of "selective quoting" to Gillianren.

I didn't (and still don't) think your own quote 01101001 was all that useful as a counter.

Now you go and say "apparent dislike for actual details in the answers". Oh boy, what that says to me...

Tensor
2010-Jul-10, 12:12 PM
From the cases I remember, when moderators recently referred to "what Fraser and Phil want" it's been in reference to things said a while ago, not in reference to new policies.
It is my understanding that Phil and Fraser aren't really available to set new policy and the other admins and the moderators have been left with the thankless job of trying to guess what they would have wanted any new policies to be.
It's my impression that this is something everyone knows is a non-optimal situation to be in for long and I expect the mod team is working hard on finding a long term solution.

Henrick, It's my impression, that while Phil is basically too busy to worry abut the administration of this forum, I think that Fraser is still involved. I say that simply because he have been deeply involved i doing the upgrades to new software. While he may not be involved in every little decision, when it comes to a change to the rules (especially on that changes the feel of the forum) I think Fraser is notified and he lets his opinion be known. Phil may also, if he notified. Now, having said that and knowing you were, at one time, part of the mod team, I readily admit you may know more than I do.
Of course, we could have a deep philosophical discussion on who's running what and at what time they will post about it....:lol:

Tensor
2010-Jul-10, 12:37 PM
Notice your use of the term "finer points." What you see as "finer points", I (quite correctly, by the way) see as the whole message of relativity that is completely being lost in the dogmatic adherence to special relativistic jargon that replaces true understanding (specifically, mistaking coordinate-oriented arbitrary language for invariant-oriented physical truths), all too often in this forum.

Which is exactly what the questioner may want. My wife finished high school, much to her surprise. At the time we were married, thats all I had also. I've since gotten much more, but she hasn't, living with me she has picked up a high school level physics education, something she didn't study in HS. When she hears some sort of relativity question, all she cares about is a quick and dirty answer. Mostly, a coordinate oriented answer. Which is what I give her.


Shall we call it a "finer point" to actually understand what relativity is? I don't think so.

In her case, it is a finer point. She loves my explanations, however, when I try to explain relativity, her eyes glazed over and she starts doing other things. At which time, I stop the explanation. To her, any explanation on the how's, why's and wherefore's of relativity are all finer points to her. And we have to remember that there are many poster and questioners in Q and A that are like that.

So, to throw my two cents in, I tailor my answer to what I've seen from the poster on the forum. If it's someone I don't know or haven't seen all that much, I still try to tailor the answer (mostly based on how the question is asked). If that mean I give them a simple, incorrect answer (incorrect in the sense of Newtonian Gravity or an analogy that may help them understand), so be it. That's what most of the posters what. OTOH, I also let them know there's more to it than what I gave them, (or the analogy has a limit) allowing them to ask more, if they want it.

It must be working. From the PM's and comments in the threads that I've gotten, the questioners seem pretty happy with it. And I've gotten several follow ups. So, I'm just going to continue to answer the way I have been, if I get a warning about my way of answering, I'll just quit answering.

Nereid
2010-Jul-10, 12:40 PM
I seem to have lost my ability to use Google fully; the only instance of the phrase "You both seem to be saying that a wrong answer can be perfectly OK" - and many proper subsets of it - I can find using Google is the post I'm quoting.

Can someone help me please? Where did I write this?You better ask DrRocket, as it is in the OP.
Thanks, I'd forgotten that.

Google still gives me limited answers, but BAUT's own search works!

The relevant post is #313 (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/104852-Is-BAUT-s-Q-amp-A-section-becoming-intimidating?p=1746504#post1746504) in the Is BAUT's Q&A section becoming intimidating? (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/104852-Is-BAUT-s-Q-amp-A-section-becoming-intimidating) thread.

tusenfem
2010-Jul-10, 01:28 PM
A message you see as an interesting philisophical dilemma gets immediately reported by another expert claiming "this is full and utter ATM cow manure". (see what we have to deal with as moderators here?)

Yes, I can see that problem-- but perhaps you don't. The problem is, the "experts" aren't.


I think by writing up what is a problem for me (and other moderators) I can actually see what problem there is. So I have not got the foggiest what this remark is supposed to mean.

But I am glad that you say that the "experts!" aren't.
That means I don't have to take the "experts" serious anymore.

tusenfem
2010-Jul-10, 01:37 PM
I am astonished at this remark. My whole period on this forum has been fed by the the kind of discussions you seem to decry here - I would not wish to be a member of this forum if your perceptions indicated above turned into a policy that discouraged such approaches.

I am also very sorry that Dr Rocket has decided to leave this forum, I didn't always agree with his style, but he brought a lot of expertise here.

Why? This whole thing about Q&A started when several threads about a question regarding relativity became "nothing more" that a few experts disagreeing with eachother about the interpretation that should be given to <fill your pick here>, with enough reports from one against the other about "stating ATM stuff" or "being wrong" and the same discussion was give again and again.

That is something that we, as moderators, wanted to streamline with the new rules for Q&A, which basically state that you should give the correct answer to the OP, but when there appears an extended discussion about interpretation, is should be moved to S&T or astro. However, that led to some members of the board interpreting this as "just give any old easy answer and don't bother whether it is correct or not" which is actually as far away as possible from what the moderation team wants.

Just read the thread "Is BAUT's Q&A section becoming intimidating? " that Nereid linked to, which was basically the starting point for this whole issue.

grant hutchison
2010-Jul-10, 01:43 PM
That means I don't have to take the "experts" serious anymore.That should be a general rule: take the experts seriously; don't take the "experts" seriously.

Distinguishing between the two (the real and the self-styled) is fairly easy, but can be time-consuming. I suspect mods just don't have the time or the inclination to track the details at the necessary resolution, so it's going to be a recurring problem.

Grant Hutchison

Nereid
2010-Jul-10, 02:00 PM
Some recent actions, and inactions, by the moderation team have demonstrated to me a lack of what I consider to be appropriate ethics with regard to the operation of BAUT. These issues are, in my opinion, such as to impugn the integrity of the forum and to cast doubt on the technical content of what are advertised as hard science forums and the accuracy of what are represented as “reliable” answers to legitimate questions. I feel that these issues represent potential harm to younger, well-meaning, and innocent questioners. Therefore I will not be posting to BAUT unless and until I perceive a change in the attitude of management and a return to what I had originally thought was an attitude of high regard for the integrity and content of science. Until these recent incidents I was of the opinion that the policy at BAUT was one advocating high standards of honesty and that BAUT, particularly in the Q&A forum offered people, particularly younger people desiring to learn science an opportunity for accurate responses to legitimate questions. I am no longer confident that such is indeed BAUT policy.

Specifically I find the, apparent if not written, policy with regard to two issues unacceptable in a supposedly objective above-board science forum. 1) A lack of emphasis on accurate and correct scientific responses to questions posed in the Q&A forum.

[...](bold added)

Going right back to the OP.

A great deal of the discussion, both here and in at least one other Feedback thread, has had an - often implicit - assumption that an accurate and correct scientific response both exists and that any answer to a question in the Q&A section can be judged to be such a response (or not).

There are also many posts which - mostly implicitly - propose (or discuss) how 'good' answers can be given, sidestepping the 'accurate and correct scientific response', at least to some extent.

Some BAUTians have sketched what they see as what a very good answer, if not ideal, should look like; AFAIK, no one has disagreed with any of these sketches*.

If we could find a way to facilitate such very good answers appearing as among the first five responses to a Q&A OP, I think we'd be on our way to making BAUT a much more attractive website (and, if you read what Fraser has actually written (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/21281-About-this-section-of-the-forum-(for-new-arrivals)), I think you'll see that this is one of his objectives, or hopes).

One, somewhat (!) impractical, way to do this might be to have Tensor, Tog, Jens, Spoons, Strange, or 01101001 post the first response, to questions within a certain scope. We could also do surveys, to find out which BAUTians are perceived as consistently giving very good answers.

And of course there should be no restriction on other BAUTians posting to a Q&A thread once it's got beyond ~5 responses; by then the OP's question will, often, have been answered in a way that meets their needs, and there are already good tools available for dealing with ATM intrusions, incivility, threads that have become too long or too OT, etc.

I think this end state would be highly desirable; it would make the Q&A section very distinct from a FAQ or a wikipedia page, and it would, very likely, be just the sort of thing Fraser has said he hopes for.

* I know, I should have done my homework and pulled together a summary of these

Moose
2010-Jul-10, 02:00 PM
Henrick, It's my impression, that while Phil is basically too busy to worry abut the administration of this forum, I think that Fraser is still involved.

Or you could ask us. He's only involved in harware/vBulliten emergencies.

kleindoofy
2010-Jul-10, 02:03 PM
... it's going to be a recurring problem.
This is one of the defining aspects of this thing we call the internet.

In the "real world," universities and other institutions of learning and study have had centuries in which to consolidate, set, and maintain standards.

On this new-fangled thing called internet, any old blowhard can pipe off his nonsense as loud as he wants, often in immediate juxtaposition with true experts.

As I see it, BAUT is on the internet.

There's a mean task ahead.

Tensor
2010-Jul-10, 02:13 PM
Or you could ask us. He's only involved in harware/vBulliten emergencies.

I could have, but it was much more fun speculating. :razz: Thanks Moose, that does make things much clearer for me, appreciate the response.

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 02:18 PM
When she hears some sort of relativity question, all she cares about is a quick and dirty answer. Mostly, a coordinate oriented answer. Which is what I give her.But it's possible, just possible, that that is all she wants because that is all she knows to want. And if you weren't married to her, you might not be able to tell the difference-- just guessing the tenor of an OP.


In her case, it is a finer point. She loves my explanations, however, when I try to explain relativity, her eyes glazed over and she starts doing other things. At which time, I stop the explanation. To her, any explanation on the how's, why's and wherefore's of relativity are all finer points to her. And we have to remember that there are many poster and questioners in Q and A that are like that. And that's fine, she gets to decide how deeply she goes, by the eye-glazing thing. But that's just the point, she gets to decide-- you aren't deciding for her with some "policy" about how you explain relativity.

If that mean I give them a simple, incorrect answer (incorrect in the sense of Newtonian Gravity or an analogy that may help them understand), so be it. That's what most of the posters what. In other words, you make your best guess at what answer they will get the most from, and try to explain it at that level. Someone else might make a different guess at a different level. Then the OPer gets to pick and choose what serves them from the smorgasbord of answers. That's exactly what I do too. I just have a different idea of what they have the right to at least be exposed to before they decide what answer or answers serve them.


OTOH, I also let them know there's more to it than what I gave them, (or the analogy has a limit) allowing them to ask more, if they want it. Yup, I get lots of Q&A OPers asking for more. And others who don't. Just like you do.


It must be working. From the PM's and comments in the threads that I've gotten, the questioners seem pretty happy with it. Yup, me too-- if we are talking about OPers, that is. The veterans who enter to give answers, well, for that you can look to the comments in this thread.


And I've gotten several follow ups. So, I'm just going to continue to answer the way I have been, if I get a warning about my way of answering, I'll just quit answering.Ditto on all counts.

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 02:22 PM
I think by writing up what is a problem for me (and other moderators) I can actually see what problem there is. So I have not got the foggiest what this remark is supposed to mean.

But I am glad that you say that the "experts!" aren't.
That means I don't have to take the "experts" serious anymore.
Are you aware of Feynman's definition of science? (Belief in the fallibility of experts.)

aastrotech
2010-Jul-10, 02:23 PM
A message you see as an interesting philisophical dilemma gets immediately reported by another expert claiming "this is full and utter ATM cow manure". (see what we have to deal with as moderators here?)



I think you may (albeit inadvertandly) have put your finger on the very simple solution to this particular problem right there.

If a self proclaimed expert, all be he quite expert, has run his expertiese to the point where the only response he has is to make unsupported claims that the other person's post is "cow manure", "woo woo", "word salad", or some other, (all be they based on some esoteric or nuanced) opinion, or is skulking behind the scenes to get an inexpert mod to make a ruling then that strikes me as a reasonable place to mark the testimony of that "expert" ended. I don't think that it should end the discussion or any other poster's contribution. Just the one who has reached the end of his expertiese.

If I understand the desires of the mods here reasoned discussions among experts is not neccesarily being discouraged but unreasoned discussions are. It should be fairly easy to recognise when someone is making an unreasoned "argument". If you can't tell, because the argument is too esoteric or nuanced, if the argument is reasonable or not then you shouldn't wade in to make a ruling. But if some poster is reporting it as unreasonable then that is also an indicator of who has reached the limit of his reason.

This would not be an effortless panacaea. But it could be easier than what appears to be the problem at present.

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 02:27 PM
That is something that we, as moderators, wanted to streamline with the new rules for Q&A, which basically state that you should give the correct answer to the OP, but when there appears an extended discussion about interpretation, is should be moved to S&T or astro. However, that led to some members of the board interpreting this as "just give any old easy answer and don't bother whether it is correct or not" which is actually as far away as possible from what the moderation team wants.And I'm perfectly fine with the stated goals in that paragraph. Now go back and read this thread from the beginning, and ask yourself, is that really the "beef" being expressed? Not at all, instead, what I see are complaints about "leaving the OPer in the dust" via "intellectual bullying", "elitism", being "patronizing", or "showing off", when really any of those terms can be reinterpreted as someone simply trying to provide a deeper insight into the very issues that the OP raises. We even had a mod complaining about tone, apparently not recognizing that tone is not an objective characteristic of a post, but rather is something that involves subjective interpretation. And it also doesn't cover the problem of people reporting (often incorrectly) other people's answers as being "ATM". The problem there is quite different-- many people don't know the subject matter as well as they might care to, and one of the great things about a forum is it gives them an opportunity to do so-- but only if they are open to it.

R.A.F.
2010-Jul-10, 02:34 PM
In the "real world," universities and other institutions of learning and study have had centuries in which to consolidate, set, and maintain standards.

Those organizations also differentiate between science and the philosophy of science. The Q & A section of this board does not.

As Jamie of the Mythbusters is so fond of saying, "well there's your problem".

Nereid
2010-Jul-10, 02:48 PM
This is one of the defining aspects of this thing we call the internet.

In the "real world," universities and other institutions of learning and study have had centuries in which to consolidate, set, and maintain standards.

On this new-fangled thing called internet, any old blowhard can pipe off his nonsense as loud as he wants, often in immediate juxtaposition with true experts.

As I see it, BAUT is on the internet.

There's a mean task ahead.
Not only a task - which I think it's fair to say we're off to a pretty good start on (BAUT is not at all like a free-for-all discussion forum) - but also an opportunity.

If we can create a Q&A section close to what Fraser apparently wants (or hopes for), we become more distinct, more attractive, etc.

And the more successful we are, the more successful we will become.

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 02:52 PM
In the "real world," universities and other institutions of learning and study have had centuries in which to consolidate, set, and maintain standards.

On this new-fangled thing called internet, any old blowhard can pipe off his nonsense as loud as he wants, often in immediate juxtaposition with true experts.I'm not sure the issues that have arisen here wouldn't be alive and well in universities too, quite frankly. I really don't see the problem being that people who have no idea what they are talking about get on Q&A and say ridiculous things. If answers are given, they have strengths and weaknesses, and when there are errors, they are usually very educational errors and get fixed up quickly, which is one of the beauties of a forum of living beings (as opposed to, say, a textbook). Instead, the problem appears to be when people who actually know quite a bit still don't agree on what is the "best" answer to a question-- but I think we should expect that, and more, we should embrace that. It's the best possible situation when a question on Q&A results in people who thought they understood something pretty well discover that there remain points of dispute or discussion that everyone can benefit from (when it doesn't turn into a contest of one-upmanship, I agree). I'm not saying you don't agree, but it's not clear to me that everyone is "on board" this important recognition.

Also, even if there is no disputes about content, there can still be subjective disagreement about the "best answer", which we should also expect, and embrace, because it allows the OPer to really see that there is a range of answers to any question. Maybe they'll even start to recognize that this is a rather important element of this thing we call "science", and perhaps a science forum is not the place to pretend that science is something different from what it actually is.

That's what I'm saying, vive la difference, vive la discussion, vive la debate. The idea that all that should be shunted off to some other area, to "protect" the innocent minds of Q&A OPers from being "intimidated" or "turned off", and instead send them off with a completely false idea of what issues their question relates to, in regard to what modern science has really figured out about our world, just seems like a complete waste of the power of a forum.

tusenfem
2010-Jul-10, 02:56 PM
That should be a general rule: take the experts seriously; don't take the "experts" seriously.

Distinguishing between the two (the real and the self-styled) is fairly easy ...

Hardly, however I will not go into names here. I keep on using "experts" because I am not convinced sometimes of the expertise of the experts.

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 03:07 PM
Hardly, however I will not go into names here. I keep on using "experts" because I am not convinced sometimes of the expertise of the experts.
And indeed we should all be skeptical about all posts, not just those from posters in our own personal "pet peeve" department. How can we claim to be a science forum if we have forgotten the central tenet of all science? Question, debate, look under the hood, and above all, stop pretending that vastly profound and probing Q&A questions are really cut-and-dried forays into oft-repeated canons.

grant hutchison
2010-Jul-10, 03:12 PM
Hardly, however I will not go into names here. I keep on using "experts" because I am not convinced sometimes of the expertise of the experts.That's how I understood you to be using it, and that's how I used it, too.
But you snipped off the bit of my quote where I pointed out that distinguishing between "experts" and experts can also be time-consuming. It's easy to learn the behaviours to watch out for, but time-consuming to spot a pattern.

Grant Hutchison

orionjim
2010-Jul-10, 03:28 PM
(bold added)

Going right back to the OP.

...

If we could find a way to facilitate such very good answers appearing as among the first five responses to a Q&A OP, I think we'd be on our way to making BAUT a much more attractive website (and, if you read what Fraser has actually written (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/21281-About-this-section-of-the-forum-(for-new-arrivals)), I think you'll see that this is one of his objectives, or hopes).

One, somewhat (!) impractical, way to do this might be to have Tensor, Tog, Jens, Spoons, Strange, or 01101001 post the first response, to questions within a certain scope. We could also do surveys, to find out which BAUTians are perceived as consistently giving very good answers.

And of course there should be no restriction on other BAUTians posting to a Q&A thread once it's got beyond ~5 responses; by then the OP's question will, often, have been answered in a way that meets their needs, and there are already good tools available for dealing with ATM intrusions, incivility, threads that have become too long or too OT, etc.

I think this end state would be highly desirable; it would make the Q&A section very distinct from a FAQ or a wikipedia page, and it would, very likely, be just the sort of thing Fraser has said he hopes for.

* I know, I should have done my homework and pulled together a summary of these


To me this seems to be the logical solution. I have seen sites where people ask questions and the best answer (so far) is the second post and then other answers follow. On sites like this; while not science sites, I enjoy reading other answers, not just the one deemed “Best”.

This allows multiple people to answer and gives what is felt to be the best answer. Of course how do you decide “Best” could be a big job. But as Nereid suggests it could be from a select group of knowledgeable people. And disagreements and discussions would be taken to S&T.
The software used on this site may already have a built in function, if not, the “Best Answer(s)” could be inserted into the OP.

In my mind this would keep Q&A to just that - questions and answers.

Like others have stated, the part of Q&A I enjoy are the discussions. As long as there is a way to give answers, but also keep the discussions (in S&T) then nothing is lost.

Jim

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 03:51 PM
I just fear that solution would, along with its advantages, have two compelling disadvantages:
1) discourage those deeper discussions from ever actually happening, as those who like them would simply stop coming to Q&A (and interestingly, it is those innocent and naive Q&A posts that have a knack for getting into topics others would not generally even think to start a thread about), and
2) the OPers would be separated from the "good stuff" that emerges in those more probing discussions-- essentially we would be "protecting" the OPers from really learning something beyond what's on the back of the cereal boxes.

You know, when I teach astronomy to students who know no science at all, and then I give them probing questions on the final exam, they invariably do better on the questions that relate to general relativity, something they would probably never have even heard of if not for that class, than they do on the ones that relate to the causes of the phases of the Moon, something they were supposed to get by age 10. That tells me that what we think is easier for people to understand, and what is actually easier for them to understand (based on some objective probe of that understanding), is often not the same. Maybe I'm being fooled by students' ability to parrot key phrases and simulate understanding, but I can say that I really do end up feeling like my students understand various different ways to think about gravity better than they understand the phases of the Moon.

Jeff Root
2010-Jul-10, 04:10 PM
What I already knew: That you are a fanatic about relativity.

Edit to add/explain:

This was in reply to a rhetorical question at the end of Ken's post,
which he apparently removed in an edit after I downloaded it but
before 20 minutes had gone by after he posted. The question was
what his student's understanding of relativity could tell us. My
comment implies that Ken puts a special emphasis on the topic of
relativity in his class.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

captain swoop
2010-Jul-10, 04:49 PM
If people want deeper discussions they can go to Sci & tech and discuss till their routers fry. In Q&Q an answer should be given, if a couple of the experts want to talk endless detail past each other then if they do it in Q&A they will get called on it by the Mods.

I have given up reading Q&A threads as if I see the responses are by certain of our so called 'experts' I know they will be unreadable and I will learn nothing of value.

grant hutchison
2010-Jul-10, 05:00 PM
I have given up reading Q&A threads as if I see the responses are by certain of our so called 'experts' I know they will be unreadable and I will learn nothing of value.That's certainly a good way to learn nothing of value.

Grant Hutchison

Gillianren
2010-Jul-10, 05:22 PM
But it's possible, just possible, that that is all she wants because that is all she knows to want. And if you weren't married to her, you might not be able to tell the difference-- just guessing the tenor of an OP.

Are you kidding? All he has to do is know her, not necessarily be married to her. Or ask. Or base it on clues as to how the questions are asked.


And that's fine, she gets to decide how deeply she goes, by the eye-glazing thing. But that's just the point, she gets to decide-- you aren't deciding for her with some "policy" about how you explain relativity.

Okay, but the thing is, you seem to think a better default is to assume they do want to know all the details, and I really don't think it is. I don't think that's what most people come here for. Now, if the question is being asked by a regular, it should be a relatively (ha!) simple thing to look back at their previous posting behaviour and know what they want. But much as I hate to tell you this, most people don't really care as much about science as we do. The problem with certain people's perceptions of how to answer questions is that they're mostly living in a rarefied environment. If most of what you spend your time with is academics and engineers, you're going to have a perception that most people want to know all the fiddly bits. The fact is, the average person doesn't even have the toolbox to understand all the fiddly bits. You need to know certain things going in before you can understand the most detailed and precise answer possible. A quarter of Americans have a BA, and while 85% have finished high school, it's not only possible but easy to get through high school with no calculus or physics. Heck, you don't need chemistry; I didn't take it.


In other words, you make your best guess at what answer they will get the most from, and try to explain it at that level. Someone else might make a different guess at a different level. Then the OPer gets to pick and choose what serves them from the smorgasbord of answers. That's exactly what I do too. I just have a different idea of what they have the right to at least be exposed to before they decide what answer or answers serve them.

Whereas I think that, if they're "thrown in the deep end," odds are not all that long that they could drown. Hence simple with the caveat that it's not, if you see what I mean. (Though why anyone should start now . . . .) I think the discussions of the finer points of Relativity get so long and so technical--and involve the same people every time--that I don't read them, even though I can learn something by it. The writing doesn't encourage me to, and the attitude of the people in the debate drives me away. If you're inclined to that, great. Seek it out. Going on for pages about it every time doesn't help most people. Even, I'll wager, most people here.


Yup, I get lots of Q&A OPers asking for more. And others who don't. Just like you do.

And if they ask for more, give it to them by all means. I do, however, suggest actually keeping tabs on how many do or don't for a while, even if you start with the simplest answer.


Yup, me too-- if we are talking about OPers, that is. The veterans who enter to give answers, well, for that you can look to the comments in this thread.

And if it drives away people who are good at giving answers the average OP can understand, that's a bad thing. I am, at the end of the day, considered with the quality of the answer the OP is given. However, I really don't think a lot of the "complete" answers are that high quality, even if the person writing them knows the science. It's quite clear that a lot of regular responders don't know how to educate.

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 05:45 PM
In Q&Q an answer should be given, if a couple of the experts want to talk endless detail past each other then if they do it in Q&A they will get called on it by the Mods.Let's take a concrete example. Go to the current Q&A thread "Black hole question", and decide which of those possibilities you think is happening there.


I have given up reading Q&A threads as if I see the responses are by certain of our so called 'experts' I know they will be unreadable and I will learn nothing of value.After you have read the "Black hole question" thread, if you can honestly say you didn't learn a thing, then I'll never raise the issue with you again.

AndreasJ
2010-Jul-10, 05:46 PM
The fact is, the average person doesn't even have the toolbox to understand all the fiddly bits. You need to know certain things going in before you can understand the most detailed and precise answer possible.
That's true, but I think also less than entirely relevant. Look at say Ken G's posts in the recent BH thread - even when asked to go into the details, he kept it at a layman level (albeit an advanced layman level); he didn't break out the tensor artillery or anything like that. I don't think anyone else is in the habit of either. It's possible what he does post is intimadating to some - it wouldn't surprise me if it is - but he certainly tries to keep it accessible for someone without much background knowledge, even at the cost of sacrificing mathematical detail and precision that could be given.

Gillianren
2010-Jul-10, 05:57 PM
There is no way I can respond to that without being rude.

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 06:01 PM
Are you kidding
Okay, but the thing is, you seem to think a better default is to assume they do want to know all the details, and I really don't think it is.First of all, I wouldn't use the word "details." You may be rest assured that the details never appear on BAUT. Never. Details are in 300 page textbooks, or journal articles, not BAUT posts. So we're not talking about the details, we are talking about the essences of the theories that come up, and that can certainly mean different things to different people, and in different contexts.


I don't think that's what most people come here for.If we are still talking about "details", I agree, but if we are talking about essences, I don't.

But much as I hate to tell you this, most people don't really care as much about science as we do.Then it's our opportunity to get them to care, by triggering their further curiosity-- not by sending them away thinking that science is one giant Q&A session, like putting in a quarter and getting your fortune. Yes, it is called "Q&A", but look at the questions we get on there.

If most of what you spend your time with is academics and engineers, you're going to have a perception that most people want to know all the fiddly bits. The fact is, the average person doesn't even have the toolbox to understand all the fiddly bits.I'll offer you the same example I offered captain swoop. Go to the open Q&A thread "Black hole question", and decide if you think what is in there is an example of "fiddly bits", or an example of essences around what is being asked in the OP.
However, I really don't think a lot of the "complete" answers are that high quality, even if the person writing them knows the science. It's quite clear that a lot of regular responders don't know how to educate.Well I have no idea what "regular responders" you are referring to, but first read the thread "Black hole question", and then decide if you can get any education out of it.

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 06:04 PM
It's possible what he does post is intimadating to some - it wouldn't surprise me if it is - but he certainly tries to keep it accessible for someone without much background knowledge, even at the cost of sacrificing mathematical detail and precision that could be given.Thank you, and I can agree that intimidation is not the goal-- so when it happens, it's just an unfortunate byproduct. I really don't see this mass exodus of newbies, whose budding interests in astronomy are getting snuffed out by elitist intelliectual bullying. If anyone has any actual evidence that is happening, I would surely like to be made aware of it, but there hasn't been any raised here.

Nereid
2010-Jul-10, 06:16 PM
What I already knew: That you are a fanatic about relativity.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis
It's the people - natives and newbies alike - who are fascinated by relativity.

In the Q&D analysis I did earlier, relativity and cosmology are among the most common Q&A OP topics (they may be one and the same, of course); in fact, I doubt there is a more common topic (with relativity and cosmology combined into one).

While there may be some cosmology questions that can be adequately answered without reference to relativity, I suspect they are few.

tusenfem
2010-Jul-10, 06:32 PM
But it's possible, just possible, that that is all she wants because that is all she knows to want. And if you weren't married to her, you might not be able to tell the difference-- just guessing the tenor of an OP.

Comments like this are so denigrating, I cannot even fathom it. That is exaclty the way the old conquerers went to Africa, America etc. to teach "the dumb savages" what real civilization and religion is. Shame on you for being a teacher.

captain swoop
2010-Jul-10, 06:35 PM
I won't bother because I don't like the whole tone of the Q & A Forum any more. I only go in there if I have to put on my Mod hat.

NickW
2010-Jul-10, 06:41 PM
Comments like this are so denigrating, I cannot even fathom it. That is exaclty the way the old conquerers went to Africa, America etc. to teach "the dumb savages" what real civilization and religion is. Shame on you for being a teacher.

No more denigrating then your own statement. I didn't take his post that way at all. In fact I understand completely what he was talking about because my own wife does the same thing. The easy parts of an explanation are easy for her to understand, but if I go to in depth, she shuts down and at that point I have to stop. She only wants to know the "shallow" stuff. Everything else isn't all that important. Of course the same goes when she is trying to explain the finer points of her job and I really don't want to know about it.

Moose
2010-Jul-10, 06:49 PM
But it's possible, just possible, that that is all she wants because that is all she knows to want. And if you weren't married to her, you might not be able to tell the difference-- just guessing the tenor of an OP.

Yikes, I missed this the first time around. Yeah, Ken, that's precisely the sort of comment that will alienate a student, quite possibly permanently. It comes off very condescending. An adult might forgive you for a verbal lapse like that if their intrinsic motivation is already very high, but a typical teenager is likely to reject everything you have to say from then on, even if you happen to be absolutely right, and may well reject the subject of interest entirely, solely on the basis of a single unnecessarily bad experience.


The easy parts of an explanation are easy for her to understand, but if I go to in depth, she shuts down and at that point I have to stop. She only wants to know the "shallow" stuff. Everything else isn't all that important. Of course the same goes when she is trying to explain the finer points of her job and I really don't want to know about it.

I've quoted this because it goes to what the mod team's been saying. What would happen, Nick, if you tried to force the issue and not stop once she's shut down?

Gillianren
2010-Jul-10, 06:54 PM
First of all, I wouldn't use the word "details." You may be rest assured that the details never appear on BAUT. Never. Details are in 300 page textbooks, or journal articles, not BAUT posts. So we're not talking about the details, we are talking about the essences of the theories that come up, and that can certainly mean different things to different people, and in different contexts.

Semantic arguments aside, most people neither care or are equipped to handle the more technical conversations.


If we are still talking about "details", I agree, but if we are talking about essences, I don't.

I don't think you've made a clear distinction between the two.


Then it's our opportunity to get them to care, by triggering their further curiosity-- not by sending them away thinking that science is one giant Q&A session, like putting in a quarter and getting your fortune. Yes, it is called "Q&A", but look at the questions we get on there.

Look at the level of questioning, too. Yes, we've found that a lot of Q&A is about relativity and cosmology, but how involved are the questions? How many of them come from regulars whose educational levels can be determined--and whose interest levels can be determined? There is not one level of answers which are right for all questioners.


I'll offer you the same example I offered captain swoop. Go to the open Q&A thread "Black hole question", and decide if you think what is in there is an example of "fiddly bits", or an example of essences around what is being asked in the OP.

Thank you, no. I hardly read any Q&A at all anymore, because too many people seem to be more interested in showing off their knowledge than helping.


Well I have no idea what "regular responders" you are referring to, but first read the thread "Black hole question", and then decide if you can get any education out of it.

What if I don't care about black holes? I'm not saying I don't; I'm saying that telling me to go to one specific thread which is, in your mind, the epitome of what's done right is ignoring all the threads--with, yes, some of the same people involved--which have driven me away from Q&A in the first place. There are two or three people here who, once they start trying to explain things, I stop reading the thread.


Thank you, and I can agree that intimidation is not the goal-- so when it happens, it's just an unfortunate byproduct. I really don't see this mass exodus of newbies, whose budding interests in astronomy are getting snuffed out by elitist intelliectual bullying. If anyone has any actual evidence that is happening, I would surely like to be made aware of it, but there hasn't been any raised here.

If they leave after just lurking because they feel the attitude of "do your homework first" is too intimidating, how would we have evidence of that? On the other hand, we might consider how many people who have joined for the express purpose of asking a question stick around--or even just respond to the answers given them.


No more denigrating then your own statement. I didn't take his post that way at all. In fact I understand completely what he was talking about because my own wife does the same thing. The easy parts of an explanation are easy for her to understand, but if I go to in depth, she shuts down and at that point I have to stop. She only wants to know the "shallow" stuff. Everything else isn't all that important. Of course the same goes when she is trying to explain the finer points of her job and I really don't want to know about it.

Which has been part of my point all along. Would you want someone telling you that you just need to be taught to appreciate the finer points of her job? No! You know they're there, and you don't care. Your wife knows the in-depth stuff is there, and she isn't interested. And to say, well, she just needs to be taught to be interested is to say that your personality and interests can be superimposed on top of hers. No matter how much one of my friends tells me about cars, I'm still never going to care. My boyfriend doesn't care about several of my interests. My mother doesn't care about video games. Now, yes, any one of us might have a single question in one of those fields, but not enough to get involved in the really complicated parts. "What are you playing?" is not an invitation for me to tell my mother all the game mechanics of Civilization.

tusenfem
2010-Jul-10, 06:59 PM
No more denigrating then your own statement. I didn't take his post that way at all. In fact I understand completely what he was talking about because my own wife does the same thing. The easy parts of an explanation are easy for her to understand, but if I go to in depth, she shuts down and at that point I have to stop. She only wants to know the "shallow" stuff. Everything else isn't all that important. Of course the same goes when she is trying to explain the finer points of her job and I really don't want to know about it.

No, it is the "that she knows to want" part that I object to. The presumption in Ken G's mighty mind that people do not know what they want to know.

NickW
2010-Jul-10, 06:59 PM
What would happen, Nick, if you tried to force the issue and not stop once she's shut down?

That depends. If it was her and I having the conversation at home and I pushed the issue she should tell me that she doesn't understand what I am talking about and to please stop. If I was with a few friends at the house and the same conversation came up, she would go with the flow of the conversation because of multiple people were included, not just her and I.

My second example sounds a lot more like a forum to me then the first. I do agree with both sides of this argument. On one hand, if you pound at the most in depth answer to a questions right away, you can potentially scare someone away, but if you slowly bring up their level of understanding you might hook them and keep them interested in the conversation.

Jeff Root
2010-Jul-10, 07:03 PM
I just edited the post that Nereid quoted, to explain what I was
responding to.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Moose
2010-Jul-10, 07:08 PM
My second example sounds a lot more like a forum to me then the first. I do agree with both sides of this argument. On one hand, if you pound at the most in depth answer to a questions right away, you can potentially scare someone away, but if you slowly bring up their level of understanding you might hook them and keep them interested in the conversation.

Yes. The amount of depth that someone can handle at any given moment, relative to their current knowledge (and somewhat to aptitude) is called the "zone of proximal development"*. As their knowledge and skill increases, you can "scaffold" them to more in depth knowledge. The problem is that scaffolding is not an instantaneous process, or even an especially quick one. You can't scaffold someone by presenting depth outside of their zone of proximal development (or level of motivation, but that's a separate issue entirely). You can't take someone from algebra to vector calculus in a thread.

Depending on their personality and level of development, they'll shut down, with reactions that can range from asking you to stop or to some form of lashing out.

* Both terms are wikiable and reasonably accessible. They're worth looking up for the basic concepts.

grant hutchison
2010-Jul-10, 08:39 PM
Is any of this actually going anywhere? I'm not getting a sense of constructive dialogue from the last few pages.

Edit: By which I mean to say: Might a time-out be in order?

Grant Hutchison

NickW
2010-Jul-10, 08:45 PM
As their knowledge and skill increases, you can "scaffold" them to more in depth knowledge. The problem is that scaffolding is not an instantaneous process, or even an especially quick one. You can't scaffold someone by presenting depth outside of their zone of proximal development (or level of motivation, but that's a separate issue entirely). You can't take someone from algebra to vector calculus in a thread.

Good point. I completely agree. Thank you. I that is exactly what I was talking about without actually knowing I was getting at that.

Nereid
2010-Jul-10, 09:27 PM
Is any of this actually going anywhere? I'm not getting a sense of constructive dialogue from the last few pages.

Edit: By which I mean to say: Might a time-out be in order?

Grant Hutchison
I thought I made a constructive suggestion, in the last page or two, and at least one other BAUTian agreed that it was such! :)

Nereid
2010-Jul-10, 09:38 PM
Here's a(nother) suggestion: for those who find relativity - special or general - a hard slog, and who don't really want to more about either, do not read Q&A threads on it. That means all threads on black holes, FTL, wormholes, and most (but not all) threads on cosmology too. It is very likely you will find yourself, fairly quickly, wrestling with some subtle concepts and ideas (not certain of course).

And a question: how does one (a BAUTian preparing to post an answer) go about determining the zone of proximal development for a n00b with a (Q&A section) question on, or closely related to, relativity? It's not too hard to (almost nearly correctly) guess at it for those who've been on BAUT a while - just check their past posts.

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 10:03 PM
I won't bother because I don't like the whole tone of the Q & A Forum any more. I only go in there if I have to put on my Mod hat.
Wow, you won't bother. What moderating hat? I suggest you may have misplaced that well before you lost the desire to bother to even check out one single thread to try and understand what I'm talking about. Let's say you are just jaded from doing a tireless, thankless job, and cut you some slack. But it's obviously affecting you, when you make sweeping statements about a section of the forum you are moderating, and won't even bother to look at.

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 10:08 PM
No, it is the "that she knows to want" part that I object to. The presumption in Ken G's mighty mind that people do not know what they want to know.Then you obviously did not understand what I was talking about. Let me try again. As an educator, one of the most obvious things I recognize about educating is that, since I'm the one with the knowledge to convey in some classroom setting, I'm also the one who has the "lay of the land" for making decisions about what the students need to know. I suppose, if you were a teacher, you'd start class each semester with "so class, what is that you want me to teach you?" Now, there's nothing wrong with querying a group of would-be learners where their interests lie, but no self-respecting teacher would dream of asking those who don't yet know to decide what it is that they need to know. So, with this new understanding of what I was actually saying, you might try reading my post again, so you won't have such an astonishingly bizarre interpretation of what I was saying. But you should be cut some slack too-- the hardest thing is always communication, that's something that those with a little more patience in this forum have actually managed to figure out.

It seems Grant was right, and this thread has for some reason gone south. The moderators are jaded, we get that. They're doing a tireless, thankless job, we get that too. Maybe the "problems" in Q&A aren't really all that bad, and we should just let this whole topic retire.

Moose
2010-Jul-10, 10:10 PM
And a question: how does one (a BAUTian preparing to post an answer) go about determining the zone of proximal development for a n00b with a (Q&A section) question on, or closely related to, relativity? It's not too hard to (almost nearly correctly) guess at it for those who've been on BAUT a while - just check their past posts.

The nature of the question itself will be a pretty big clue. If the question implies some fairly major misconceptions or reads like a layperson, give a reasonably complete layperson's answer, then stop. Ask if that answers their question and if he/she would like more detail. The followup will give you a better idea if you need to re-express the explanation to try and accommodate for a differing learning style, if you can (or should) provide more depth to the answer, if you need to simplify the explanation, or if you can go harder core.

Ultimately, there'll be some trial and error. We're not expecting you to master this first time, every time, guys. Even professional teachers get a couple of years of learning curve before their honeymoon's over. We're not interested in breathing down your necks or monitoring every thread for a too-complex answer.

Yes, Q&A has been less-than-ideal in the newbie-friendliness department for a while now. We'd like you guys to work on the "bedside manner" a bit, tone down the one-upsmanship (and/or take it to S&T or Astro, two mainstream forums that literally exist to accommodate those kinds of discussions), and to keep more firmly in mind that Q&A is first and foremost about helping the OP. These aren't big adjustments we're asking for: certainly not anywhere near as drastic as some of you are worried about.

grant hutchison
2010-Jul-10, 10:19 PM
I thought I made a constructive suggestion, in the last page or two, and at least one other BAUTian agreed that it was such! :)OK, a fragment of constructive dialogue did take place. :)
Elsewhere, however, I see this thread leaking oily clouds of unpleasant smoke which I fear bode no good end.

Having now drawn this to people's attention once more than I intended doing, I'll just go and busy myself elsewhere. :lol:

Grant Hutchison

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 10:20 PM
Here's a(nother) suggestion: for those who find relativity - special or general - a hard slog, and who don't really want to more about either, do not read Q&A threads on it.Excellent suggestion. And extend that to the OPers-- for those OPers who fear they will be "left in the dust" by "intellectual bullying" about "actual topics in how relativity works", they might try a simple solution: don't ask relativity questions in the first place-- especially those really probing, really profound ones, that just keep getting asked over and over.

Nereid
2010-Jul-10, 10:23 PM
Question: does anyone, actively posting to, or reading, this thread feel there are more than a tiny handful of examples of intimidation, intellectual snobbishness, elitism, condescension, etc in Q&A threads, over the last year (say), on topics other than relativity and cosmology (defined broadly)?

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 10:25 PM
Yes, Q&A has been less-than-ideal in the newbie-friendliness department for a while now.What I'd like to know is, what evidence do you have in support of this claim? Are you basing it on the fact that certain veteran members don't like it, or are you really getting newbies rushing away in intimidated bullied hordes, compared to how things used to be? I'd like to see some real evidence, in the form of a comparison of data of some kind, that this claim has any real validity. If you are just talking about posts getting reported, then ask who is reporting them, and why. And if it isn't the newbies you are trying to protect, then who are really the ones you are trying to protect?


We'd like you guys to work on the "bedside manner" a bit, tone down the one-upsmanship (and/or take it to S&T or Astro, two mainstream forums that literally exist to accommodate those kinds of discussions), and to keep more firmly in mind that Q&A is first and foremost about helping the OP. These aren't big adjustments we're asking for: certainly not anywhere near as drastic as some of you are worried about.And never was a more reasonable request made. It's just not a request that has anything to do with most of the posts in this thread-- but it is a worthy and important request that I'm sure everyone can support, and might be a good ending point to avoid the "black smoke" that Grant sees on the horizon!

Moose
2010-Jul-10, 10:29 PM
As an educator, one of the most obvious things I recognize about educating is that, since I'm the one with the knowledge to convey, I'm also the one who has the "lay of the land" for making decisions about what the students need to know.

There are two major camps of education theory. The camp of "we know best" (otherwise known as the "back to basics" movement, the one that comes up with legislation in the vein of No Child Left Behind and Race for the Top and is centered around college prep) is the dominant one now, and it's funny, when you trace the history of education, the stats always plunge when this is the dominant approach.

The other camp (last dominant in the 70s and 50s (sort of, the Space Race was a big driver there)), which is more centered around developing upon the student's interests (and frequently do poll the individual students), tend to see dramatic increases in average assessment scores.

Educators overwhelmingly favor the latter camp. The people (mostly non-educators) who wind up making these decisions often favor the former camp.

If you have access to a decent library, Philosophic Conflicts in American Education (Joseph Watras, 2004, Pearson) covers the topic reasonably well. It's not especially light reading, but it's accessible enough.


I suppose, if you were a teacher, you'd start class each semester with "so class, what is that you want me to teach you?" Now, there's nothing wrong with querying a group of would-be learners where their interests lie, but no self-respecting teacher would dream of asking those who don't yet know to decide what it is that they need to know.

I am a teacher, and this is precisely what I do with my science classes. Oh, there are a few essential units (such as the scientific method and evolution, health science) that are non-negotiable, but broad topic areas are chosen by the students. (I retain right of veto for things that are too impractical or dangerous. Otherwise, I try to accommodate as many interests as I can.)

Students are more motivated throughout the year when they feel you give two licks about their needs and actual interests.

We really only use the school's textbook so the students can learn how to read the abomination that most school science-writing turns out to be. (Textbook authors are too often not experienced educators either.)

Nereid
2010-Jul-10, 10:31 PM
And a question: how does one (a BAUTian preparing to post an answer) go about determining the zone of proximal development for a n00b with a (Q&A section) question on, or closely related to, relativity? It's not too hard to (almost nearly correctly) guess at it for those who've been on BAUT a while - just check their past posts.The nature of the question itself will be a pretty big clue. If the question implies some fairly major misconceptions or reads like a layperson, give a reasonably complete layperson's answer, then stop. Ask if that answers their question and if he/she would like more detail. The followup will give you a better idea if you need to re-express the explanation to try and accommodate for a differing learning style, if you can (or should) provide more depth to the answer, if you need to simplify the explanation, or if you can go harder core.
And this incorporates at least two components of what several people have, earlier in this thread, suggested (with no dissent, AFAICS) of what a 'good answer' would be.

One missing part: a boilerplate sentence or two, towards the end of the answer, to the effect that the 'full treatment' is a great deal more complicated, and involves subtle aspects, much counter-intuitive stuff, etc. Also, perhaps, another boilerplate sentence or two on how certain/many popsci explanations are misleading/wrong/etc (depends very much on the specific question etc).


Ultimately, there'll be some trial and error. We're not expecting you to master this first time, every time, guys. Even professional teachers get a couple of years of learning curve before their honeymoon's over. We're not interested in breathing down your necks or monitoring every thread for a too-complex answer.
Thanks for this.


Yes, Q&A has been less-than-ideal in the newbie-friendliness department for a while now.
In general? Or is it mostly concentrated in relativity and cosmology?


We'd like you guys to work on the "bedside manner" a bit, tone down the one-upsmanship (and/or take it to S&T or Astro, two mainstream forums that literally exist to accommodate those kinds of discussions), and to keep more firmly in mind that Q&A is first and foremost about helping the OP. These aren't big adjustments we're asking for: certainly not anywhere near as drastic as some of you are worried about.
I presume that the "you guys" also includes all mods? After all, mods can answer Q&A questions too, can't they?

R.A.F.
2010-Jul-10, 10:41 PM
Excellent suggestion. And extend that to the OPers-- for those OPers who fear they will be "left in the dust" by "intellectual bullying" about "actual topics in how relativity works", they might try a simple solution: don't ask relativity questions in the first place-- especially those really probing, really profound ones, that just keep getting asked over and over.

Gee, Ken...when you get your own forum, you can do just that.

Moose
2010-Jul-10, 10:42 PM
If you are just talking about posts getting reported, then ask who is reporting them, and why. And if it isn't the newbies you are trying to protect, then who are really the ones you are trying to protect?

Actually, we've been getting more (often far more) complaints about Q&A over the past three or four months than all other forums combined, including ATM. We're quite aware of who's complaining and why. No, I'm not going to get into specifics, for obvious reasons. This is largely based on direct observation, both of the goings on in Q&A, the ongoing discussion (wrangling) in these threads, and the weather ear we keep out for the general visit patterns of our new users.

R.A.F.
2010-Jul-10, 10:44 PM
What I'd like to know is, what evidence do you have in support of this claim?

Heck, that's an easy one...the evidence is your behavior which seems to be getting worse.

Now you're advocating that newbies simply not ask questions based on your personal guidelines.

What a laugh. :)

EDG
2010-Jul-10, 10:47 PM
Oh for crying out loud... :wall: :wall:

Seriously? Do we have to go through this all again?

HenrikOlsen
2010-Jul-10, 10:47 PM
Excellent suggestion. And extend that to the OPers-- for those OPers who fear they will be "left in the dust" by "intellectual bullying" about "actual topics in how relativity works", they might try a simple solution: don't ask relativity questions in the first place-- especially those really probing, really profound ones, that just keep getting asked over and over.
And that, right there, is the attitude that is the problem.

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 10:47 PM
The other camp (last dominant in the 70s and 50s (sort of, the Space Race was a big driver there)), which is more centered around developing upon the student's interests (and frequently do poll the individual students), tend to see dramatic increases in average assessment scores. Yes, and I mentioned that approach. But we are talking about physics and astronomy here, and we are already letting the OPer ask the question. So we already know they are coming from a place of interest. All I'm talking about is using our knowledge to decide what aspects of their question they need to be educated about before they can appreciate what the answer is. Leaving that to the questioner is letting the patients run the hospital.



Educators overwhelmingly favor the latter camp. The people (mostly non-educators) who wind up making these decisions often favor the former camp.
Not educators who are teaching relativity or quantum mechanics, like the endless stream of questions on those topics in Q&A. Or do you have data on that camp?


Oh, there are a few essential units (such as the scientific method and evolution, health science) that are non-negotiable,And who decides that? Those who know, not the students.

Students are more motivated throughout the year when they feel you give two licks about their needs and actual interests.
Yup, that's why in Q&A, we let them ask the questions.



We really only use the school's textbook so the students can learn how to read the abomination that most school science-writing turns out to be. (Textbook authors are too often not experienced educators either.)Right-- and that last bit is exactly what you seem to be saying you want the answers in Q&A to look like too.

Moose
2010-Jul-10, 10:51 PM
In general? Or is it mostly concentrated in relativity and cosmology?

It is especially problematic in relativity and cosmology, but there's always room for improvement, Nereid. No educator worth their chalk ever stops actively looking for ways to improve.


I presume that the "you guys" also includes all mods? After all, mods can answer Q&A questions too, can't they?

When mods have any real slack time to speak of. Keep in mind that you've already seen two (or was it three?) mods who've said flat out they're not interested in participating in Q&A in its current state. (Add one more, I used to go there often. I've been more than fed up with the behavior there for a few years now.) Especially with the continuous circus-threads in Feedback, there's very little time left for... actually enjoying BAUT from time to time.

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 10:51 PM
Now you're advocating that newbies simply not ask questions based on your personal guidelines.

It seemed you rather missed the nuance of my position. The "problem" here is those of you who are telling the OPers what they can and cannot handle in an answer, even though it is the OPer who chose to ask the extremely profound question in areas on the forefront of the last century in two thousand years of physics and astronomy. What I'm actually saying is that if you think the OPer needs to be protected from the actual answer to the question they are asking, you should protect them by shielding them from asking those pesky probing questions.

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 10:54 PM
Keep in mind that you've already seen two (or was it three?) mods who've said flat out they're not interested in participating in Q&A in its current state. (Add one more, I used to go there often. I've been more than fed up with the behavior there for a few years now.).Your turn-- go to "Black hole question" and find out what you have been missing about what can be fun and informative in Q&A. Or just agree to never learn anything ever again. (And what's with all these mods who know all about the problems of Q&A but never go there unless some veteran has a bruised ego about being patronized by elitism?)

EDG
2010-Jul-10, 10:58 PM
It seemed you rather missed the nuance of my position. The "problem" here is those of you who are telling the OPers what they can and cannot handle in an answer, even though it is the OPer who chose to ask the extremely profound question in areas on the forefront of the last century in two thousand years of physics and astronomy. What I'm actually saying is that if you think the OPer needs to be protected from the actual answer to the question they are asking, you should protect them by shielding them from asking those pesky probing questions.

I don't think anyone's shielding anybody from anything, and nobody's saying that people can't handle the answers. Look, it's really simple:

- answer the question the OP is asking, at the level that they can understand (based on what they've said so far).
- If they're interested in more detail, let them ask about it themselves. Nothing wrong with saying "but it's really more complicated than that" when answering though.
- Don't forcefeed them with detail they don't necessarily need. Again, if they want it, they'll ask for it. Let them learn at their own rate.
- Most importantly, stop making assumptions about what they want to know.

What's so massively offensive about that, exactly?

Thing is, I think that over time, people will ask questions about a given subject at different levels of knowledge. So over time, a database of answers will build up here, all at those different levels of knowledge. I don't think anyone's going to lose out on the more advanced answers, because sooner or later the more advanced questions will be asked.

Moose
2010-Jul-10, 11:04 PM
Not educators who are teaching relativity or quantum mechanics, like the endless stream of questions on those topics in Q&A. Or do you have data on that camp?

Yes. Very few (and I mean _very_ few) college professors outside of education ever bother to audit so much as a single education class or read education books/research. There's no requirement for college professors (as teachers do) to pass state certification in education psychology, methods, and ethics before they teach. (Those tests are based heavily on modern education theory, so it's not something you can just bluff your way through.)

It's counter-intuitive, perhaps, but a Math PhD (except in situations where a school district is permitted to recruit non-certified teachers) actually cannot teach in schools (elementary or secondary), either in the States or in Canada, without that certification.

The very nature of the college tenure system requires professors to produce and publish content research (which is fine), which requires them to be content specialists (also fine). But at no point are they required to be knowledgeable about education. Students who make it to college are usually sturdy enough to thrive despite this.


Right-- and that last bit is exactly what you seem to be saying you want the answers in Q&A to look like too.

No.

Moose
2010-Jul-10, 11:08 PM
Your turn-- go to "Black hole question" and find out what you have been missing about what can be fun and informative in Q&A.

No thanks.


Or just agree to never learn anything ever again.

I learn plenty. You're simply not my go-to person for "fun and informative".


(And what's with all these mods who know all about the problems of Q&A but never go there unless some veteran has a bruised ego about being patronized by elitism?)

When you're done copping that attitude, maybe you'll figure it out.

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 11:28 PM
I don't think anyone's shielding anybody from anything, and nobody's saying that people can't handle the answers. Look, it's really simple:

- answer the question the OP is asking, at the level that they can understand (based on what they've said so far).
- If they're interested in more detail, let them ask about it themselves. Nothing wrong with saying "but it's really more complicated than that" when answering though.
- Don't forcefeed them with detail they don't necessarily need. Again, if they want it, they'll ask for it. Let them learn at their own rate.
- Most importantly, stop making assumptions about what they want to know.Go to the "Black hole question" thread, and make sure you know what you are talking about. I know it's just one isolated example, but I think it's a quintessentially good one.


I don't think anyone's going to lose out on the more advanced answers, because sooner or later the more advanced questions will be asked.That's just the point-- they are asking the "more advanced questions" now, and have been for quite some time.

Ken G
2010-Jul-10, 11:31 PM
No thanks.

Add one more mod who refuses to even know what he is talking about. You've now told us that the only reason you go to Q&A, for years, is to look at reported posts. And it has never occurred to you that might have skewed your view of the place? Really, you still think you are in a good position to discuss it's values and qualities, when literally all you have seen in years there is reported posts?


When you're done copping that attitude, maybe you'll figure it out.It's a funny thing about "copping an attitude"-- eveyone thinks someone else is the one doing it.

R.A.F.
2010-Jul-10, 11:37 PM
I simply can not believe, Ken, that you are an "educator". I pity the students you talk down to.

captain swoop
2010-Jul-10, 11:41 PM
OK Folks. Be Nice

Gillianren
2010-Jul-10, 11:57 PM
Okay, let's try this.

Say my car is making a funny noise. I will then go to a mechanic (actually, a friend's husband who happens to be a mechanic) and say, "What's wrong with my car?" I can make decisions from there about how much I need to know other than, let's face it, how much it would cost to get it fixed. When my best friend learned to change her oil, she was interested in learning how to change her oil. She doesn't want to know how to rebuild her engine. She's showing interest in fixing her car, but only to a certain level. Being interested in one small aspect of something doesn't mean that she wants to know everything about it. Similarly, someone trying to understand the Balloon Analogy doesn't necessarily want to know about dark energy, the Planck Constant, Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation. They just might want to know how it's possible for there to be no center of the universe.

Ken G
2010-Jul-11, 12:34 AM
I simply can not believe, Ken, that you are an "educator". I pity the students you talk down to.Fortunately, I have the valuable ability to ignore statements based on lack of knowledge. I will continue to do what I do in Q&A. If any would like to know what that actually is, check out "Black hole question." If any mods think what I'm doing is not according to what they'd like to see, they can say so in specific threads. If they ever go there.

Andrew D
2010-Jul-11, 03:02 AM
I simply can not believe, Ken, that you are an "educator". I pity the students you talk down to.

As a university student, I can say that if I had more teachers like Ken, I would be much more comfortable with my outrageous tuition.

And here are some quotes from his actual students:

"Very good teacher, makes you think conceptually instead of specifically, really interesting stuff."

"Do not buy the book. Just listen in class, or read the notes off of his website."

"He's a good professor, and he really tries to get you to think. ALthough the tests are hard and his lectures can be hard to understand sometimes, he's always willing to help when you have questions. He's a ver nice guy and you can tell he's very passionate about what he does and getting you to learn the material"

"A very good teacher who cares about teaching and making sure the students actually learn something."

"Yes, tests are hard but he grades accordingly. He will ALWAYS help you with problems and concepts. His teaching style is something the Astronomy and Physics Department could use more of. Don't take his classes if you don't want to learn or do a minimum amount of work."

EDG
2010-Jul-11, 03:22 AM
Go to the "Black hole question" thread, and make sure you know what you are talking about.

What's to see? The situation that the OP was asking about was explained, the OP was asked if more detail was wanted, he said yes, and they were provided. That's how it's supposed to work now.

But that is not what you or Dr Rocket were doing before the rule change. All it does is show that you at least are capable of following the new rules. Well done?

EDG
2010-Jul-11, 03:30 AM
FWIW I agree with Moose (and GillianRen) completely.

Also, baiting a mod is generally a bad idea.