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Donnie B.
2005-Sep-15, 04:41 PM
In the "Ask the Expert" forum, is there intended to be a limitation on who is allowed to answer? Or is it entirely wide open to any and all?

I'm wondering whether, if it's the latter, the title of the forum may be misleading. For example, if someone like Moshe Thezion were to answer a question there, the questioner might assume that his response reflected the mainstream thinking on the subject -- which is not at all certain.

Should it be titled "Ask the Community" or some such? Or should there be a sticky to explain that the answer may not come from a knowledgeable professional in the field of Astronomy or Physics?

Alternatively, should there be some qualification process before a poster is allowed to respond to questions on that forum (or is that even possible)?

The Supreme Canuck
2005-Sep-15, 04:53 PM
That's a good point. The goal, I would assume, would be to have anyone answer the question correctly with regards to current scientific thought.

Kind of hard to regulate.

antoniseb
2005-Sep-15, 05:00 PM
I'm wondering whether, if it's the latter, the title of the forum may be misleading. For example, if someone like Moshe Thezion were to answer a question there, the questioner might assume that his response reflected the mainstream thinking on the subject -- which is not at all certain.
Ask The Community might be a better way to express it. At the moment, we are still working on rules beyond simply 'be nice'. One of the proto-rules that we're enforcing, as a leftover from the UT forum is that Alternative Theorists may not represent their ideas as accepted facts or otherwise promote their ideas in any forum section other than Against The Mainstream. Nereid, Duane, and I are especially vigorous on this issue, since allowing such things in to the questions and answers area, or story comments seriously degrades the whole forum as an educational tool. Promoters of alternatives have an incentive to try and paint every story with the words mystery, unexpected, unexplained, etc. as evidence for their theory. The whole thing turns into an advertisement for things which aren't taught in school.

That being said, I'd like to praise our members who are supporters of such ideas for not taking advantage of this. I disagree with their science, but admire them as good citizens of our community.

Joff
2005-Sep-15, 05:03 PM
Interesting - I wonder if we could rate each other (in various subject areas) and develop a stable system...

AS it is I think you have a serious point Donnie, newcomers may not be aware that the first answer they get may a load of hogwash. This used to happen from time-to-time on the UT "Questions & Answers" forum which of course did not promise expertise...


Declaration of interest: I like to both ask AND answer on that forum... some things I am confident of the answer, and some things I'm puzzled about. So in any system, I'd like both to be an expert and to ask those who are experts.

The Supreme Canuck
2005-Sep-15, 05:05 PM
Interesting - I wonder if we could rate each other (in various subject areas) and develop a stable system...

Not a bad idea. Apparently a reputation system is in the works here, so perhaps a slight alteration of that is possible.

nokton
2005-Sep-15, 06:00 PM
Are we not all in here to learn from each other, and come together in mutual understanding, is that what we are about in here?
Nokton

Donnie B.
2005-Sep-15, 06:27 PM
Are we not all in here to learn from each other, and come together in mutual understanding, is that what we are about in here?
NoktonYes we are, and I don't think this issue is a problem for any of the regulars. After all, once I become familiar with "Poster X", I know how much trust I have in his/her contributions.

My only real concern is for the newer members who may be unfamiliar with the predispositions of those answering their questions.

Ricimer
2005-Sep-16, 11:45 PM
A simple solution may be to give individuals who demonstrate an adequate ability to relate mainstream ideas a slightly different title, or an addition. No extra privleges, or anything, it just shows the community's and the members confidence in the persons answers to be correct from the mainstream point of view.

Something like, I don't know, "Mentor" instead of Member. Or, if you don't want people to be biased outside of the "experts" forum, you could merely post a list of such people in a sticky with a note saying, "answers from these people have been found to reliably relate the current knowledge of popular science"

And to keep things simple, people could put out a request for such a title in a thread in the "experts" forum.

And if ATM proponents are wondering why we'd be excluding their theories from the answering of general questions outside of the ATM forum, it's simple: One must know and understand the current system, in order to see it's flaws. Quite often the source of an ATM idea is an incomplete understanding of the standard science (and observations) behind it. Example: Sunspots are holes in the sun. Quite often the person knows nothing of temperature vs luminosity relationships, blackbody radiatiors, and spectra, all of which can show the sunspots aren't holes, but cooler spots with strong magnetic fields.

Champion_Munch
2005-Sep-17, 07:41 AM
Oops...I should take more care in posting in that section from now on...


Interesting - I wonder if we could rate each other (in various subject areas) and develop a stable system...


That's an interesting idea...but there are far too many members to go around rating them all. And what about new members who are knowledgeable, do they get a chance? Will they have to 'apply?' And what about those of us who, say 1 year from now, know a hell of alot more than we currently do? (I know I didn't know much of the stuff I am a little more familiar with now 12 months ago).

And who's gonna do the 'rating,' the general membership or the mods?

with regards

Ricimer
2005-Sep-17, 11:26 AM
rating could be done by the members. Remember, it doesn't have to restrict anything. New members can still post in the "experts" forum. The purpose is to help identify to new members and lurkers who the community trusts to provide good, current, answers to questions in that specific forum.

Wolverine
2005-Sep-17, 01:11 PM
I agree that noteworthy concerns have been expressed within this thread. The simplest answer involves retitling the forum in question.

Donnie B.
2005-Sep-17, 01:46 PM
I agree that noteworthy concerns have been expressed within this thread. The simplest answer involves retitling the forum in question.Slacker!

(Just kidding!) :razz:

Lianachan
2005-Sep-17, 01:54 PM
Plus, there's no point in identifying somebody as an "expert" via a members voted rating system unless it's clear what they're an expert in! There are, for example, some things that could come up that I could be considered an expert in, but astronomy isn't one of them by the standards set on this forum.

Wolverine
2005-Sep-17, 01:58 PM
Plus, there's no point in identifying somebody as an "expert" via a members voted rating system unless it's clear what they're an expert in! There are, for example, some things that could come up that I could be considered an expert in, but astronomy isn't one of them by the standards set on this forum.

Wholeheartedly agreed.

Donnie B.
2005-Sep-17, 02:00 PM
Plus, there's no point in identifying somebody as an "expert" via a members voted rating system unless it's clear what they're an expert in! There are, for example, some things that could come up that I could be considered an expert in, but astronomy isn't one of them by the standards set on this forum.Excellent point. And even "experts" can make a mistake, or misunderstand a question.

Furthermore, who rates the qualifications of the voters? I can think of a few members whose vote I wouldn't particulary trust. (There may be some who would say the same of me!)

Fraser
2005-Sep-17, 04:06 PM
I'm just going to change the title to Questions and Answers. How about that?

dgruss23
2005-Sep-17, 04:13 PM
Plus, there's no point in identifying somebody as an "expert" via a members voted rating system unless it's clear what they're an expert in! There are, for example, some things that could come up that I could be considered an expert in, but astronomy isn't one of them by the standards set on this forum.

And its important to understand that even within a subject researchers have very specific expertise. An "astronomer" is not a person that can be expected to be an expert in all areas of astronomical research. That's why they consult each other when their own research enters a new direction they are less familiar with.

Nereid
2005-Sep-17, 05:43 PM
I'm just going to change the title to Questions and Answers. How about that?A very good idea! :clap:

01101001
2005-Sep-17, 05:59 PM
Could the general sticky there remind people to put some flavor in the thread title, so we don't have threads with names like "Question" amd "A Quick Question"?

crosscountry
2005-Sep-17, 06:28 PM
This thread has been mainly answered by long time members.



I would like to add that there are some new members, "unrated", that follow mainstream ideas and are knowledgeable, well spoken, and available to answer questions.

on this forum those people may not be considered "experts" or even have a peer rating. Those people should be allowed to post answers too.


We learn best by teaching.

Fraser
2005-Sep-17, 09:14 PM
Okay done.

Champion_Munch
2005-Sep-17, 10:49 PM
Okay done.

Cool. B)

with regards

Moose
2005-Sep-18, 12:00 AM
Not that it matters anymore, but I'd like to point out that tagging experts would be by definition a massive "appeal to authority" logical fallacy. Ideas need to be considered on their own merits, not by who's name appears beside them.

Ricimer
2005-Sep-18, 01:10 AM
First, changing the name of the forum is indeed the easiest solution (and I noticed it's been done) so this discussion is moot. But...

actually, appeal to authority isn't always a fallacy. Afterall, its the entire reasoning behind expert witnesses in courts.

Now, it's not the strongest basis for an arguement, but it's a valid one.

The fallacy is more along the lines of appealing to unqualified authority. Like asking a Dr. in medicine about physics.

As for experts being highly specilized, true. But ask most astronomers the questions you see on these boards, and they'll be able to answer them to a significant extent.

Also, the idea of labeling people "experts" wasn't to deny others the ability to post. Just to demonstrate whose answers everybody tends to trust.

crosscountry
2005-Sep-18, 01:12 AM
what about putting a tag like these


astronomer
alternative theorist



beside the person's name. There would be no discrimination, just posting facts.

dgruss23
2005-Sep-18, 05:02 PM
First, changing the name of the forum is indeed the easiest solution (and I noticed it's been done) so this discussion is moot. But...

I agree.


actually, appeal to authority isn't always a fallacy. Afterall, its the entire reasoning behind expert witnesses in courts.

Now, it's not the strongest basis for an arguement, but it's a valid one.

In a legal court its necessary, but the experts brought in are asked to defend their points and the opposing lawyers will bring in their own experts.

I'm not really disagreeing with the truth of what you're saying, I just think its a non-issue on this forum. How does one actually define an expert? Obviously a first step is if you happen to be a researcher in a particular field. But non-researchers can become familiar enough with the research literature to have expertise. Ultimately it boils down to what the individual says and that persons ability to explain, provide references, and when necessary explain the content of those references.

Anybody that has followed the ATM discussions will know that Gerbil94 is an expert on gravitational lensing. He doesn't need to be labeled as an expert on the subject. It comes through loud and clear every time he posts on the topic.

All I'm saying is that an understanding of expertise works itself out on this board without labels. And I'm not trying to make a big deal out of this because the original question is already addressed as far as board function goes. I'm speaking now about the philosophical aspect of this topic of expertise.


The fallacy is more along the lines of appealing to unqualified authority. Like asking a Dr. in medicine about physics.

I think the degree is less important than the words of the individual - in this venue. I've known doctors that have an extreme interest in astronomy/cosmology. They are capable - if they so desire - to become familiar enough with these topics to speak with expertise.


As for experts being highly specilized, true. But ask most astronomers the questions you see on these boards, and they'll be able to answer them to a significant extent.

Certainly they will in many cases - but I think offering an "expert" label is counterproductive to the original concern raised. The expert in cosmology may not be familiar at all with questions involving solar system geology. That's where I was going with the point about specialization.


Also, the idea of labeling people "experts" wasn't to deny others the ability to post. Just to demonstrate whose answers everybody tends to trust.

Well, like I said - I don't want to make a big deal about it. Just from my experience I think the question of expertise and who is trusted works itself out without the labels.

Moose
2005-Sep-18, 10:24 PM
actually, appeal to authority isn't always a fallacy. Afterall, its the entire reasoning behind expert witnesses in courts.

Arguing credentials doesn't, on its own, invalidate an argument, no. It does, however, remain a logical fallacy.

"Einstein said this" doesn't necessarily mean Einstein was right. He had "off" days just like the rest of us. Perhaps fewer of them, but... ;)


Anybody that has followed the ATM discussions will know that Gerbil94 is an expert on gravitational lensing. He doesn't need to be labeled as an expert on the subject. It comes through loud and clear every time he posts on the topic.

Exactly.

Expertise derives from the quality of the argument, not the other way around.

Van Rijn
2005-Sep-18, 10:29 PM
*shrug* Most of us aren't professional astronomers and a good number of the questions aren't strictly about astronomy anyway. I think if we're careful to post only if we are sure we are very familiar with the issue, only are posting if we have something significant to add, and, if it is a speculative subject, are clear that our comments are speculative, there shouldn't be much problem. If I post and mess up, I expect someone will come along and point out my errors.

Fram
2005-Sep-19, 08:18 AM
what about putting a tag like these


astronomer
alternative theorist



beside the person's name. There would be no discrimination, just posting facts.

Many are both (e.g. Fred Hoyle, and probably a lot of people here), and much more are neither (I'm no astronomer, and I'm usually not into alternative theories).

Joff
2005-Sep-19, 11:51 AM
Some interesting responses to the idea of rating our fellow board members, thanks

My proposal was more in the nature of an experiment - if we had such a system, would it produce sensible results? I'm not sure that we can capture opinions about the usefulness of a given poster's responses using a simple linear scale, although I fear that any more complicated system would not be workable. It would be essential that rating process was extremely easy to do, or no-one would bother.

A statistical analysis of the responses might be interesting, and combining this with a similar analysis of the ratees might allow a decompostion of the (regular) population into classes.

Champion_Munch
2005-Sep-19, 11:55 AM
Why not have a poll for every member, and everyone must vote either: expert, well-knowledged, good, unkowledgeable or fully-fledged woo-woo - for everybody else before going on with their daily surfing? :D

just joking

with regards

Jorge
2005-Sep-19, 08:59 PM
I vote for Woo Woo... lol (joking)

I'm not Astronomy expert... i'm here to learn.

But i'm quite good with webserver (apache) and windows and programming.

So what happens to poeple with expertees in other arias?

also note spelling is not one of my expertees

Ricimer
2005-Sep-20, 12:19 AM
Ignoring the debate on wether we should rate people or not, here's a couple of ways to do so:

You could just rate the users posts (not the user in general) on how interesting/pertinent/correct they are... I.e. the overall value of a post as you see it.

You could average a scale if they wish.

Or you could just mark the post in question as useful. Then add all the "useful marks" for a posters posts together for a score, and turn that into a rating (probably using a logrithim conversion so it's not hard for people to hit a decent level). This prevents people from purposefully deflating a persons rating by repeatedly giving them low scores on a scale.


The unspoken assumption here, is that people who routinely write "useful" posts, and get a higher score, also know when not to post (or how to post) more questionable replies.


Now, the debate on wether we should rate or not:

I do agree that this does become apparent over time who the quality posters are, and who aren't. And our opinions will differ over the same individuals even.

But, this may be a way of helping new members to size everyone up.

Btw, I don't think it's necessary, just like I don't think an extensive "post count = title" system is needed. The title system basically needs: New Member (so people can provide help and be tolerant of people unfamiliar with netiquet), member, and perhaps "Regular" as opposed to "senior member". Maybe another one or two to distinguish the lifetimers floating around (like ToSeek) who may, on an outside chance, have a life away from the boards.

Champion_Munch
2005-Sep-20, 05:17 AM
The biggest problem facing the "rating" system, in my opinion, is that people who are friends with someone else (either from outside of BAUT, or from BABBling) will automatically give them a high rating, regardless of how knowledgeable/patient/considerate they are.

with regards

Argos
2005-Sep-20, 02:27 PM
Experts can be wrong, as history shows. By 1400 experts said that the Earth was flat. By 1900 experts said time was absolute. Conversely, outsiders can be right. Rating someone as an expert can lead to authority argument abuse. A trusted person for me is the one with coherent arguments and right answers, not necessarily an "expert".

Lianachan
2005-Sep-20, 03:06 PM
Is there any requirement to identify "experts" anyway? If somebody asks a question, any submitted answers will be read by others and commented on - if a faux expert dips his toe in the water, I'm sure it'll get bitten off. Experts are self-identifying, and obviously so, by what they say. Expert in history? Answer a historical question if you spot one asked and can help, regardless of your degree of either self-percieved or peer-voted expertise.

(edited clarification - history may seem like a strange choice, but it was the first non-astonomy related thing that sprang to mind, where there could be experts, purely to indicate that expertise can be across a multitude of subjects)

montebianco
2005-Sep-20, 03:32 PM
Plus, there's no point in identifying somebody as an "expert" via a members voted rating system unless it's clear what they're an expert in! There are, for example, some things that could come up that I could be considered an expert in, but astronomy isn't one of them by the standards set on this forum.

Well, ain't that the truth. This board is overrun with people who claim (often truthfully) to be experts in various physical sciences, but who turn into instant woo-woos when discussing, let's say economics, and don't have a clue that they sound to me like Nancy Leider does to them. It's probably a function of the threads I inhabit, but I tend to think of this board as a woo-woo site these days...

Argos
2005-Sep-20, 03:53 PM
Is there any requirement to identify "experts" anyway?

An expert would be a professional in a given field. But as I said they can be wrong, and oftentimes they are. I should say that Im tired of arguments of authority thrown left and right by "official" experts.

montebianco
2005-Sep-20, 04:13 PM
OT, but Argos, I really like what you have done with the Brasilian flag there...

Argos
2005-Sep-20, 04:18 PM
OT, but Argos, I really like what you have done with the Brasilian flag there...

Well, thanks, pal. ;)

TriangleMan
2005-Sep-20, 04:34 PM
This board is overrun with people who claim (often truthfully) to be experts in various physical sciences, but who turn into instant woo-woos when discussing, let's say economics, and don't have a clue that they sound to me like Nancy Leider does to them.
Thankfully I don't see too many economic/tax threads at BAUT because you're right, the odd time these types of threads come up I'm usually left going :eh: .

In some ways I think many posters do not exercise critical thinking when dealing with topics outside their expertise. If you're a physicist and discussing your speciality you do not need to use critical thinking as your knowledge of the topic is extensive. Outside of such topics I occasionally see people at BAUT making assertions without any support or background research. Hopefully over time more and more people will use critical thinking approaches outside of physical science discussions.

As I'm not a physicist I have to use critical thinking to participate in most ATM or non-science controversial threads here.

Donnie B.
2005-Sep-20, 08:17 PM
And of course, there are always those "areas of expertise" for which critical thinking is a decided drawback -- such as astrology or dowsing. :lol:

cran
2005-Sep-23, 09:44 AM
You might want to construct a 'BAUT Community Hall of Fame'...?
After all, a 'hall of infamy' seems to be developing in the 'Banned Posters' thread...
:shifty:

Fortunate
2005-Sep-23, 04:08 PM
I feel privileged to be able to ask physics questions and receive accurate answers or informative links from people who know what they are talking about. I am grateful to those who have attempted to answer my queries.

Some responses have been more lucid than others. I feel it is up to me to separate the wheat from the chaff. If I get three good replies and ten suspect ones, I feel thrice blessed. And, what the hell, ten other people had some good, clean fun. Isn't that the purpose of life?

Argos
2005-Sep-23, 06:08 PM
You bet it is. ;)