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  Public apology on a moderator decision

+ 1 like - 2 dislike

Dear PhysicsOverflow community,

This post serves as a public apology for a hasty decision on my part, which went against some of the core principles of PhysicsOverflow – community moderation, and user rights.

You may see from some recent meta discussions that I had made the blunder of actively editing out certain comments from a user’s comments for being “offensive”. PhysicsOverflow explicitly guarantees freedom from any political censorship, including the censorship of rudeness, and I recognise that my actions are a complete violation of this policy.

PhysicsOverflow grants a number of rights to its users, including that they have the final say on the content of their posts. As a comment edit history is not implemented yet, my actions are also a blatant violation of these fundamental rights of PhysicsOverflow users.

As I had edited out sections from comments, they did not qualify as deletions to be recorded as such in the event log. Please be assured that this was not deliberate.

My actions were made out of haste and panic, as I was afraid that the comments were repulsive to new users. However, I now realise that such actions of censorship are much more repulsive than any such comments.

Please be assured that I, or no other moderator, to the best of my knowledge will ever repeat such a mistake again.

I recognise my blunder as a blatant violation of the very principles of PhysicsOverflow, and a terrible form of content censorship. I consider this the first official warning against my moderatorship, for having violated the principles of PhysicsOverflow. Two more, and I will be forced to step down from moderatorship. But be assured, that I will not leave any opportunity for even one more, as I will not violate the principles of PhysicsOverflow. I will openly cast a vote to delete on any comment discussion that I consider off-topic, and not unilaterally misuse my moderator powers. And I will certainly not delete a comment for being offensive again.

I apologise to the community and pledge to not go against the principle of community moderation, or to violate the fundamental user rights again.

asked Jan 26, 2015 in Conflict Resolution by Dilaton (6,240 points) [ revision history ]
recategorized Jan 15, 2016 by Dilaton
Is what Ron Maimon claims true?

@Dilaton, how about your famous "anti-crackpot" position? Wasn't it another, the main motivation guiding your previous "special practice" in my respect? You only apologize for the last "hasty actions", but there have been many others before! The last ones were just the last drop in the bowl of my patience.

By the way Phil Gibbs runs a really free forum ("crackpot's Eldorado") and I do not see much activity there.

@VK: Vixra is a place for free speech, but it replicated arxiv and does not have voting, and the discussions are limited. This means there is no no self-correction mechanism, and no progress toward accuracy. PO is not censored, it is voted, and the votes lead to self-correcting behavior which should be sufficient to get arbitrarily high quality without any further content moderation. Stackexchange demonstrated this in the era when it was free.
@RonMaimon: Yes, that's why I was on PO rather than on vixra forums.
@Dilaton: Did you do your Ave Maria's already?

@drake The facts are right, but the deductions are not as far as I can tell. I don't think Dilaton knowingly hid the information from the other moderators. I'm very sure he didn't do it for power or for a systematic goal, but out of haste and panic. I don't think that the keeping silent in public was to get an excuse later, I think that it was out of guilt. 

Ron is wrong on the "go away and stop moderating" issue too - it was initially Ron himself who had threatened to leave.

@dimension10: You must be a very gullible person to think Dilaton didn't hide it from you, as you were the one running around saying "no deletion happened" "VK is hallucinating" over and over, and Dilaton upvoted you instead of correcting you. I know for sure I was lied to, and nobody apologized to me.
@RonMaimon He thought I was trying to protect his actions, or something. Looking at some of the older emails now, it was quite clear he thought I knew about the issue. The apology above is for you, VK, and the community (which includes you).

@dimension10: What you don't understand is that allowing someone to lie for you is even worse than lying yourself. You need to step forward and say "Vladimir is talking about the incidents where I erased comments and parts of comments", and then, if one suspects that you knew about it and are lying, tell you that this is a gross abuse of power. You as an administrator just don't have a right to lie to people about administrative matters, nor to allow someone else to lie for you.

But you are totally deluded. It was obvious to everyone that you didn't know, that includes Dilaton. I should add, there are still comments threads where you did not hide or edit your comments that said that Vladimir is crazy for claiming deletion, e.g. in the "Rudeness rules" questions.

Here's how a sincere apology for this looks like: Dilaton would apologize to me and to you for lying, would apologize to Vladimir for erasing comments, and then would restore VK's offical account, and comb through the site looking for all of Vladimir's posts, now anonymous, and reattach them to the account one by one. Then he would go back to all the comments that he downvoted, and remove the downvote. That would bring things back to where they were, more or less.

Further, DIlaton would forthrightly provide a full accounting of all extra-judicial edit-deletions since the beginning, not just the ones that he happened to be caught doing. Instead, DIlaton is shutting up and hiding when this is discussed, thinking it's going to blow over one day, and people will forgive and forget.

That's how political organizations work. People move on, forgive and forget, etc. That's just not how open forums work. The information is always there, and nothing ever blows over, ever ever. That's what makes it essential to always be a completely naive goody-goody. To always tell the truth bluntly, to admit when you make a mistake, even before you get caught, and to apologize for it properly, by undoing all the damage, even when nobody asks. You know, like I always do. Unlike in the real world, on a free forum this is not only the right thing to do, it's also in your self-interest.

A sincere apology, including all the things above, would fix everything, but that's never going to happen, as Dilaton still operates under the illusion that the forum needs to be protected from Vladimir. Despite the obvious sneaking and lying, he feels he was doing the right thing when the big picture is considered, and we're just two saps who don't understand the real world. It doesn't matter that Vladimir was at negative rep, and there were long arguments discussing all the weaknesses in his ideas, for people like Dilaton, you simply need to shut people like Vladimir up administratively.

Also, for the record, he never stopped downvoting all my comments, including this one. Sorry to be a dick, but absurd insincere apology not accepted.

As you can see on my wall, there was a dispute with dimension10 well before the recent events. At that time (in October) I suspended my participation. The partially edited comment in full reads:

S. Weinberg says that even though the underlying theory is renormalizable, after integrating out short-distance physics one obtains an effective theory with all possible operators, etc. It implies that in the best case the underlying theory is renormalizable. However, in a "reformulated" theory there is no need to cut integrals off and fulfill renormalization. Integrating out short-distance physics in calculations is carried out automatically rather than manually.

Somebody (Dilaton presumably) removed the last part and my comment turned into something like

S. Weinberg says that even though the underlying theory is renormalizable, after integrating out short-distance physics one obtains an effective theory with all possible operators, etc. It implies that in the best case the underlying theory is renormalizable.

Thus, my message was distorted. Distorted in order not to let me talk on PO about reformulation. dimension10 has always actively been against reformulation, and Dilaton too. No excuses for this "motivation" was brought up so far.

So before I take my decision on my returning to PO, you have to explicitly decide yourself whether you will tolerate my reformulation approach (which consist in figuring out new equations). If the latter is forbidden on PO, I will never return.

P.S. S. Weinberg says this here.

@Dilaton can you please verify if the above said by VK is true? Where was this thread, and did you really edit it as VK claims? Please be completely honest.
@RonMaimon It simply isn't Dilaton's responsibility to restore VK's account - VK requested for account deletion, without specific claims against moderation, until his account was deleted. There are thousands of VK's posts strewn everywhere, this is not practical. As I said, I interpret the apology as one to not only the community (for violating the principle of community moderation), but also to VK (for violating his user rights). He's even warned himself, what more do you want? As for reporting all such deletions, I suppose no other such event occured.

VK requested for account deletion, without specific claims against moderation

@dimension10: ??? How about this? Are you sincere? Are you going to continue spreading shit about me? dimension10, you are as responsible for my departure as Dilaton. You both wanted it so much and treated me correspondingly.


No, by specific, I meant what you said afterwards, the exact comment and what had exactly happened with it. I'm not spreading anything about you, I just said that the deletion of your account cannot be blamed on Dilaton. I do not deny that Dilaton or I don't like your contributions (I suppose Ron too?), but that is not the mistake. The mistake was to censor your comments. 

And no, despite what Ron may demand, I will not invite you back, because PhysicsOverflow is not an invitation-only site. You are free to register again, if you want, but your old posts will not be associated with your new account, because you were given 32 hours to re-consider your decision.

@VK and also @drake: Yes I already admitted having edited comments in the higgs thread  here but there was no cynicism involved, and such an event will not happen again.

@dimension10: I am not waiting for your invitation. I just wanted to learn whether my research subject will be tolerated on PO.
@VK, you really don't need to worry, since we have further settled the no-censorship policy, but be prepared that lots of you posts might get moved to chat, given the pattern of your posts.
@Dilaton Is the specific new case stated by VK true? Which thread did it occur on?

@VK The subject of reformulation is tolerated as it has been in the past barring a few exceptions, which will not occur again. Apologies for the cases of censorship, which turned out to be real.
@VK also there has been no cut in the Weinberg comment you mentioned above. However, I'm really sorry for having censored your comments on the Higgs-less universe thread, even if off-topic there, as they distorted the meaning of the comments, as you rightly say.
@Dilaton Why did you keep silent during the discussion about VK messages deletion?
@drake I initially was completely blinded by my panic to see that there was something wrong with what I had done while I then erranously thought it is the right thing. I refrained from saying anything because I felt anything I would say, would only make things worse for the site. When I did realise that it was a bad blunder, I was really just afraid of my guilt, and also the consequences (to PhysicsOverflow, not my power as Ron may claim, I only care about the success of the site and not about myself) - since my action was a really big blunder. It was an act of both cowardice and dishonesty, I shouldn't have done so, and am very sorry.
@Dilation I believe you are being honest now. Your apologizes to the forum are enough, I think, and honor you. You should perhaps consider apologizing to Vladimir Kalitvianski specifically, as he has been the target of your persecution and censorship, and to the moderation team, because you hide them crucial information.

I am sure that Dilaton really feels sorry about what he did, and I really think he has the intention of never exerting such censorship any more, but for the apologize to be effective, I would appreciate that he spends a couple of hours collecting the lost informacion of VK account and comments to the best extent possible (including whatever might be found in the internet wayback site). In that sense I think Ron is right, an apologize works well only when accompanied by restoring the damage that was done in the first place.

This site was founded by Dilaton himself together with Dimension10 and others, with the explicit intention of having a site where everybody could argue and discuss about high-level physics with no censorship. I don't know what has happened. Dilaton probably went too passionate, I am sure he will never do this again. But the damage should be undone. An apologize alone is only enough after you insult a person or something similar. If you steal something from someone, your apologize is right only if you restore whatever was stolen, together with your apology. If you delete information, it only makes sense that your apologize if you restore that information as well, up to the best extent.

I hope Dilaton does such research work and brings to life as much of the deleted information as possible. This and a direct apology to Vladimir would be a real way of undoing the damage to the site.

@dimension10: I cannot register myself again - my name "is taken".

Given the latest comments, I believe Dilaton is sincere (sort of, there's no way in hell that deletion of the Weinberg comment was done by anyone else). But Dilaton, please, please, restore the damage, bring the site back to where it was two weeks ago, restoring the account and attaching all the posts back to it (I'll help attaching). If you do this, I won't bring it up again, as it is really damaging to the site, but when it's a sincere apology, as far as I am concerned, I can accept it, that is, when it is followed through with some actual action.

@Dimension10: Vladimir left to protest moderator problem, the length of time you gave him to mull thing over doesn't change anything, the moderator problems were real, and at the time you were unwittingly participating. He can't restore his old account, it is "taken", so fix that problem, let him sign back on using his old name, and then everything of his can be attached to the account again. Also, stop bitching at him, he never did anything wrong.
@VK I see, your username was in the "Declined users" plugin, as are all other deleted users (all self-requests), so that nobody uses the username again. I have removed it from the list now.
@RonMaimon I would agree with un-editing the comments, but as for returning the posts to the account, VK requested deletion himself, and only provided reasons after his request was completed. Maybe it would be possible for questions and answers, but simply not possible for comments.
Of course it's possible, it just might require manually entering the database.

1 Answer

+ 2 like - 2 dislike

Apologize to PO? You should first apologize to Vladimir Kalitvianski. He's not on PO now.

It's not called a blunder if you know it's wrong as you are doing it. It's also not a very credible apology if you are forced into it by being exposed first, it's a Nixonian Checkers speech. The issue is not only the comment deletion, which violated Vladimir's user rights. Another issue, more pressing for me, is that you didn't tell the other moderators about it, you knowingly misled us, and happily let us accuse Vladimir of lying when he brought it up. And then you let him leave the site over this, knowing what happened. And you continued to keep quiet, until I happened to figure it out. "Detective" wasn't part of the job description, you know.

You also took the time to smear me a ton in private emails as I was looking into this, not like I cared, except I figured you must have done something wrong. You asked me to go away and stop moderating, and so on and so on. You still bring up my scientific criticism of Marco Frasca as if it were a personal attack, or a dirty trick. I only bluntly pointed out Frasca's scientific mistakes, and when he didn't get it, I made too-rude comments on his wall in frustration.

You also have the cojones to introduce a novelty: "three strikes" for moderators.

I consider this the first official warning against my moderatorship, for having violated the principles of PhysicsOverflow. Two more, and I will be forced to step down from moderatorship

How about that? You get to lie to the moderators twice more. That sounds like fun. Do you realize what a collossal waste of time this was? Do you think people have patience for two more? Also, there's no guarantee that the next time won't be super subtle. It's not like anyone noticed anything was wrong until I started cursing about it.

What did we say about official warnings? There is no need for them, not even against yourself. We don't have a "three strikes" policy for moderators, we never made policy about moderation problems, besides being allowed to discuss it openly on meta. No moderator has ever really been accused of any deliberate wrongdoing before. I think the community decides whether to accept a moderator, based on all available information. That voting community must include Vladimir Kalitvianski, by the way.

The question is how to prevent this kind of nonsense in the future. I think one problem here is anonymity. I see no need for anonymous moderatorship. It helps prevent problems if your real name and reputation is at stake, just like everyone else's.

answered Jan 26, 2015 by Ron Maimon (7,720 points) [ revision history ]
edited Jan 31, 2015 by Ron Maimon
Most voted comments show all comments
@RonMaimon The spam filter and bugs issue was different, regarding the old deletions; that was really caused by the weird spam filter (which is now disabled). By the way, as for "go away and stop moderating", that was started by you, actually.

@physicsnewbie It is still true, and it is also true that the wall messages were deleted by Vladimir himself, as nobody else has the ability to delete wall messages.
@RonMaimon Well I believe polarkernel and these deletions were happening instantly throughout all time zones.
@dimension10: But polarkernel said it was not due to my low reputation! Where does "low reputation" come from in your explanation?
@VK yes, I was confused then, and conflated some different, separate issues in the same email. It was the stupid automatic spam filter, not the negative reputation as I had claimed.
@dimension10: my highly negative reputation (thanks!) was preventing me from commenting, but I found a backdoor and informed polarkernel about it. Later on I was allowed to leave comments.
Most recent comments show all comments
@Dimension10: He only admitted it after the first comment where I figured it out, read the discussion. Then he panicked and broke his vow of silence on the matter (which was taken so as to have an excuse as to why he didn't tell us in case it was found out). @physicsnewbie: Dimension10 didn't know anything, and neither did I, and he blamed the spam-filter, bugs, etc, because he was at a total loss as to what happened. So was I.

@Dimension10: How do you know it was "really" a spam filter? Please be a little less gullible--- it is clear that the comment erasures have been going on for months, VK has complained about it since the beginning of time. I don't believe in any spam filter, sorry. (Edit: there seems to have been a spam message which included the word "reformulation", now lost)

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