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  Proposed amendment of user rights

+ 1 like - 2 dislike

The rights of users of PO are currently fixed in this document. The page was installed by dimension10 upon the suggestion of Ron Maimon, sofar without any discussion. The meta discussion in the last few months, in particular here, suggests to me that it is high time to open a public discussion of the issues and to propose certain amendments that in particular clarify how text is protected. 

I post the current version just for discussion; after the discussion subsides I'll make an updated proposal for voting; if necessary split into several parts.

Apart from the proposed changes, I'd like to suggest that the page with the user rights should have a history, and a link to all pages where they are discussed. Also, the link to the user rights is at present almost invisible at the very bottom of each page; I propose to move it (and a link to the FAQ) to the right of the Tags link at the top of each page.

The following four proposed changes are 100% compatible with the current wording of the user rights, but if accepted will significantly improve the atmosphere on the site. In parallel to these changes, I propose to  change Section 8 of the FAQ (''How do I edit a post?'') to ''Editing posts'' (with a more comprehensive discussion of editing). This will be discussed in a separate post.

Proposed changes: 

*1* add after first paragraph (... hearing.):

Suspicions about violations of these rights should be brought up on meta.

*2* replace first paragraph (''The ... reversion'') in ''Protection of text'' by:

All text a user contributed can be edited by the user. All text (except that on users' walls) can be edited by moderators and by users with enough reputation. For all edited text, a history of revisions is kept in a link so that anyone can access older versions of the text. 

Editing by others than the original contributor is restricted to matters of spelling, languange, and politeness that do not change the scientific meaning; see the editing section of the FAQ. Original contributors are notified of any change to their contribution.  

There is no imposition of content change without the possibility of reversion by the original contributor. The final say on the text always belongs with the original contributor. However, in case of a persistent value conflict between different authors, indicating by multiple edits or reversion without emerging consensus, moderators may replace the problematic text by a link to a page where the conflicting versions are stated and can be discussed. To inform the moderators, post here.

*3* Drop in ''No secret trials'' the last 9 words (''and the main goal is to avoid censoring topics politically''. Indeed, the main goal is not what is currently stated there but to have informative questions, answers and discussions about high level physics.

*4* Drop in the very last paragraph the last 6 words (''which are easy to fix online''), which are irrelevant in this context.

asked Mar 15, 2015 in Discussion by Arnold Neumaier (13,959 points) [ revision history ]

I have to read your ammendment in detail, but let me say that it's not true that the user rights weren't discussed. There was a discussion, albeit an informal one, over here, and the proposal had actually hit 4 votes when I put in the user rights from that with some polishing, but then someone reverted their upvote and transformed it into a downvote a few weeks ago.

I disagree with this, for the reasons mentioned here.

 @dimension10: I had only quoted you, including the link where you said verbatim

the "user rights" document - to be fair, that was discussed by just Ron and I (Ron proposed it, I modified it and made it official, without consulting anyone). 

@ArnoldNeumaier Yes, I was wrong in that quote, and had a hazy memory of that discussion. But I found it later.

3 Answers

+ 5 like - 0 dislike

To clarify the role of a moderator, I had suggested the following changes to the User rights.

The section "Protection of text" will be changed to

"Protection of Scientific Viewpoint"

All Scientific Viewpoint will be preserved in a form of the author's choice.

Moderators are allowed to remove what does not belong to a scientific forum.
However there will be no censorship in favour of a popular viewpoint.

Any closure/deletion of text will be for a publically stated reason, which is "off topic, spam, duplicate, plagiarism, low-level material, incomprehensible text which could not be explained by author".

I had decided against this because of the following line "Moderators are allowed to remove what does not belong to a scientific forum." Because Ron indicated that it will be subject to misinterpretation.

I am completely in favour of Jia's proposal, which is to leave a soft remainder to the users on the general tonality that is expected of them in the site.

I am absolutely against any form of forceful implementation of a rudeness polity. What some might find rude others might find as gold. It has a rather subjective interpretation, and most easily used to bias discussions.

In the event that someone brings up a renomination of Dilaton as a moderator, I will be in favour of such a thing. I would sincerely request that in the event that an incident happens where the moderator makes a mistake, It will not be dealt with in such a haphazard manner.

Most of all, I am in favour of an extremely speedy resolution of this Issue.

answered Mar 20, 2015 by Prathyush (695 points) [ no revision ]

Given the present infrastructure, please be assured no irreversible damage can happen anymore, even in the worst case that rudeness rules get passed. But right now it seems to be converging to only a guideline/suggestion. Currently it seems the quarrels are mostly about ideology. But yes I guess such quarrel drains some of the energy that could have gone to Q&A section.

And if it can be made categorically clear in the guideline document that "This document is strictly inferior to User Right", then I'm willing to view them as a more detailed version of "politeness reminder/encouragement", though some of the examples for edits that Arnold proposed look still bad to me.

@JiaYiyang @ArnoldNeumaier I am alright with either, though I would prefer a simple remainder, and leave the rest to moderators.

Yes, It will be harder to come up with a list of changes that is somewhat exhaustive and agreeable with the community.

It would also be faster to keep it simple, this has been going on for a while.

+ 2 like - 2 dislike

This is a seriously problematic proposal. The main problem is the new idea that posts may be edited collectively by high reputation users, much as on Wikipedia articles are edited collectively.

This cannot be abided for the simple reason that the author's name appears on the bottom. When your name and reputation are attached to a post, you need to have final say on the content. The content must be controlled by you, down to the last comma.

Further, the proposal states that edits are to be restricted to those that don't change meaning. This is not necessary, and such a rule can cause problems. There is no restriction on edits when you have the author's permission. With permission, you can rewrite the whole thing from top to bottom! This sometimes happens, and the author is sometimes happy with the result.

The only case you need to consider in rulemaking is when there is a conflict: the author wants things one way, and the moderator and collective of high rep users want it another way. In this case, the individual whose name appears on the bottom must take precedence, as it is their reputation that is at stake.

For a specific stackexchange example of where this came up: on a question regarding Neitzche, I quoted an extremely racist passage of Nietzsche, the quote was saying that 'Negroes' feel very little pain compared to 'civilized people', and I called this passage "the stupidest thing I have read in a book". This 'stupidest thing' opinion was deleted (the reason cited was that it was rude), and the result of this omission made me look like I wanted to debate whether black people feel as much pain as white people! I was not willing to look like I am accepting of racism, I was horrified. Still, my name was permanently attached to this post, the post was locked, and there was nothing I could do about it. This is not an acceptable situation, and I hope this example explains why content with your name on it must always be controlled by you.

Change 1 is both unproblematic and pointless (it is simply inserted as a political trick, a way of making the other proposals look more reasonable, by starting things off with something uncontroversial).

Change 2 is not acceptable in any way shape or form, due to the right of an author to control content under their name (see above)

Change 3 is not acceptable either, but less so than change 2.

The main goal of the user rights is to avoid censoring topics politically. This is the main danger on sites such as this, the constant blocking of folks who have an opinion that is different from that which is the mainstream. This churning and testing of mainstream opinion is the sine-qua-non of internet sites, it is the main purpose, and it is the reason that things seem so rude--- internet comments are actually effective at changing opinions.

The only advantage of the internet over traditional media is the ability to correct a false consensus. This requires bending over backwards to not censor any opinion, to have full freedom of speech, and to allow unlimited conflict (within the confines of no-repetition and no off-topic content).

There is a culture issue here, perhaps, as those from Europe remember the Nazi era, and instituted restrictions on speech to prevent Nazis from doing politics. The USA never restricted Nazis, and dealt with their own neo-Nazis using free speech against these groups. In Europe, after a slow decline, the neo-Nazis use the laws against them as a persuasive argument that they are right, and this gives their arguments a legitimacy that they do not have in the US. In the US, holocaust denial does not exist, and neo-Nazis are totally powerless and would never win an election. This is precisely because they lost without their free-speech rights having been curtailed. The US is less accomodating of racism than anywhere else, precisely because it has no laws against racism. It is less accomodating of sexism than anywhere else, precisely because it has no laws against sexism. Once you experience freedom of speech, you never see the point of going back--- there is no speech that needs to be restricted because it is wrong. The only speech that needs to be restricted is that which is repetitive spam, or which is a direct threat to another person's well-being or safety. While arguably neo-Nazi stuff was a direct threat in 1950, it is not a direct threat today, and its suppression paradoxically makes it stronger than it would be under conditions of total freedom, as is shown by the example of the US. In case one thinks that the reason is the isolation of the US from Naziism, must I remind you that the Ku-Klux-Klan is homegrown to the US, predated European Naziism, and was politically dominant in the South throughout the 1950s and exerted influence well into the 1980s.

The omission of the line, while not altering the policy, alters the intent.

As for change 4, the word "fix" in this context means "rig". "Fixing an election" means inviting your friends to vote up your nomination and vote down others. If you wish to say "easy to rig online" instead of "easy to fix online", that's fine.

Elections on online fora are not usually a good statistical sample of opinion of the community. As the elections proceed, some people leave (those who disagree with the outcome of previous elections) and the group of involved folks shrinks to those who most agree with the current policy, much like the elections within one single political party. The result is analogous to one-party rule, where folks with different ideas are never allowed to moderate.

The statement that moderators are chosen for high level contributions is to make sure that the moderators understand physics, and are focused on science, not on politics. The election process on Wikipedia is extremely dirty, as there are 10 moderators who will vote on every election and guarantee that only those that they approve of will get a position of moderatorship. I don't think there is the idea that policy is to be decided by a neverending process of one-party rule, like ArbCom on Wikipedia.

I hope that you can go along with the current user rights, as they are mininal freedoms. The one example of moderation overstepping the bounds was only fixed here because we could use this document. I hope there is no change at all to the policy.

answered Mar 16, 2015 by Ron Maimon (7,590 points) [ revision history ]
edited Mar 16, 2015 by Ron Maimon
Most voted comments show all comments

I absolutely agree with this (maybe the "absolutely" should be edited out, hehe), and the Neitzche issue you encountered sounds terrible.

Even Wikipedia needs some kind of content protection, even if it doesn't associate an article with a specific user; look what happened to the AdS/CFT article, for example. Lubos started it, many contributors came in and the article flourished, but then some know-nothings came in and degraded it into some popular-level nonsense with people's faces replacing mathematical identities, and this was assisted by the so-called "administrators" on wikipedia who banned anyone who tried to restore it to its original glory. Then the severely dumbed-down article got "featured" on the main page.

The main problem is the new idea that posts may be edited collectively by high reputation users

This is explicitly allowed according to the current rules, independent of any amendment:

Indeed, posts on Physics Overflow are editable. If you have more than 500 reputation points, you can edit a post (questions, comments, answers, everything!) directly, by clicking the "edit" button below the post. 

There are currently no rules or guidelines at all about which edits are desirable, permitted, or forbidden.

Downvotes of this statement do not alter the fact, which everyone can read in point 8 of the FAQ.

On PO we are not discussing negroes or nazis but physics. 

Freedom of speech is guaranteed as long as the original version of the author is accessible, and this is guaranteed by my proposal. Freedom of speech does not mean that what is being said has to be visible where it was originally posted. And note that I nowhere proposes to lock an edited answer that the original author wants to revert - instead, in case of persistent conflict, both the author's and the editor's version are moved, with the author's version clearly marked as his. 

@dimension10: Then where are the rules that specify which edits are forbidden? The current user rights don't contain them. At least they are open to a very wide margin of interpretation. I believe that my proposed amendment contradicts the current user rights as written in not in a single point.

And who decided upon these apparently unspoken rules? I though that PO should be a democratic site, but it seems that just Ron and you make the rules and decide how they should be interpreted.

Most recent comments show all comments

@ArnoldNeumaier: All edits are allowed, if the OP agrees with the edit. Use your judgement, you are a high-rep user, we expect responsible editing. The OP is the person who decides what text will appear under their name, and if they aren't there, you shouldn't go around editing their text to say something other than what they meant.

Whether it's Nazis or racism, or claiming to support one theory over another, edits can and do easily shift meaning, especially edits which are there to enforce a style or tone. This is why the OP has the final say. Would you want someone else putting words in your mouth? It's outrageous to even contemplate. ((meta comment--- the comments are appearing out of order in this discussion! Bug?))

@ArnoldNeumaier What? "Untampered speech" is exactly what the user rights mandate, it's not new, and it would be nice if you could stop pretending that it is. And it doesn't disallow edits, it only gives the final verdict to the author. That's all. It's a trivial rule if you think about it.

+ 1 like - 2 dislike

As I understand it, these suggested amendements of the user rights do not change the "substance" and "spirit" of free open discussions on PhysicsOverflow, as  intended by the original text.

Apart from politically inconsequantial changes of the formulation, it expands and makes the meaning of the paragraph on the protection of text more precise which is helpful.

So I generally think these suggestions (or improved versions of them as needed?) can be savely adopted.

answered Mar 16, 2015 by Dilaton (5,140 points) [ revision history ]

The changes are far from "politically inconsequential" - they completely change how edit conflicts are handled.

@dimension10: Currently, there are no rules at all how to handle editing conflicts. In the only recent case, the conflict was handled by applying psychological pressure to force the handling moderator to resign. I hate this inconsiderate way of treating a valuable moderator. (Unfortunately it had happened during the two months I was absent from PO for personal reasons; otherwise I'd have protested in time.)

@ArnoldNeumaier: I wish you had not been absent so that you would see exactly what happened, and why such psychological pressure was applied. The moderator in question went about editing VK's posts, and didn't tell the other moderators about it, and left us to think that VK was crazy for claiming his material was vanishing. The result was very abusive, and abusive in a similar, but worse, way as moderation in stackexchange was abusive.

What the heck can you do in such a situation? It is completely unbearable. This is what this site was made to abolish--- interference with scientific debates by unchecked moderation power. The only reason it was exposed was because I kept going with it, even though I wasn't sure for a long time if VK was crazy or misremebering or not. It turned out he was not crazy and non misremembering, but that his comments were secretly edited by the moderator in question, who then deliberately hid this from the other moderators.

If you see the tail end of things, after this behavior was exposed, you would think it was some sort of horrible ganging up on a valuable member of the community for no reason just because of some minor dispute. It was nothing of the sort.

From months of discussion, it has been clear that the moderator in question has a philosophy of community power which allows the community to censor an individual who is grating. This is not acceptable at all, because it has the effect of blocking the minority side in any scientific dispute. Those who have unpopular opinions, for example, MOND supporters, LQG people, or even those who believe that, say, the dual-resonance-bond picture of high-Tc superconductivity is valid, these people all get on others' nerves (although perhaps to a less extent than VK). When you edit one person's comments and no one else's, when you don't tell anyone about it, it is not a theoretical issue. It happened here, and I sensed it was going to happen many months before it actually happened. Please review the actual comments and the actual events.

@ArnoldNeumaier, No moderator will be forced to resign due a simple edit conflict, that's just not what happened.

I am quite curious why my last comment received a downvote, it was almost a plain factual statement.

Because here there has not been established a "forgiving" attitude so far. I experience it every time.

@VladimirKalitvianski, it's not about forgiving attitude, I'm just genuinely curious: I assume whoever the voter is he/she must have witnessed what happened back then, and who on earth would think it was just a simple edit conflict?

@JiaYiyang Well, either someone wants moderators to resign for being involved in an edit conflict, or thinks that the problem was seriously just an edit conflict, or disagrees with the outcome of the events, or they voted because of your other opinions in this thread. The latter is probably the real reason, but is also a terrible voting agenda.

I personally did (and still do) disagee with the outcome of events, but that's a ridiculous reason to downvote for.

@RonMaimon the suggested improvements and clarifications of the user rights and editing guidelines you disagree with, are among other things intended to help avoid that valuable members of PhysicsOverflow are unnecessarily driven away and leave the site permanently in the future, as it unfortunately happend for example with Marco Frasca last year. BTW it would be a good idea for the people responsible for that incident to reinvite him to PhysicsOverflow.

 I wish you had not been absent so that you would see exactly what happened, and why such psychological pressure was applied.

@RonMaimon: I know exactly what happened (as far as it was documented) since I took the time to read all related posts. I was horrified. This is worse than what happened with you on SE-Physics. But you dont see it as you are now on the side that has the power, and you use it in an opposite direction, namely to protect rudeness rather than civility.  If things do not change I am inclined to leave here as well. Contributing to PO is a valuable gift and PO should do everything to attract experts by making the atmosphere tactful and professional. Even though these are somewhat subjective, prospective users notice them quite clearly


 But you dont see it as you are now on the side that has the power, and you use it in an opposite direction, namely to protect rudeness rather than civility.

To be fair, Ron and VK was the much less powerful side when it first started, most people thought Ron was making a fuss over nothing, including me, and most of the moderator team members were either against Ron or staying neutral. I didn't joint any side until it became clear what exactly happened. And back then there wasn't edit history, user right was rightly a much bigger issue than rudeness. 

@Yiyang Ron has (and always had) a huge phychological power over the whole site and other users, and after resigning as an administrator he explicitely stated that he does not need to have special (admin/mod) powers to execute it, which is unfortunately true.

@Dilaton, I can't speak for others, but I would've never changed my neutral attitude and supported Ron and VK if it didn't turn out that they were telling the truth. I was not psychologically influenced by them.

@JiaYiyang: Ron was always powerful, though not without opposition.

VK isn't powerful (and I never claimed that he was)  but he flooded PO with low quality contributions. Nevertheless I view him as a useful member of PO since discussions with him are to some extent fruitful before they degenerate.

Can the downvoters explain why you downvoted my last comment, it's really getting on my nerve. What's so disagreeable with my comment

I can't speak for others, but I would've never changed my neutral attitude and supported Ron and VK if it didn't turn out that they were telling the truth. I was not psychologically influenced by them.

I was only describing how I would behave! Do the downvoters think I'm deluding myself about my own thought??

There are two kinds of powerful--- there's the kind of powerful which is due to having some credibility and being able to persuade people that you are right, I admit that I was able to persuade some people on some points (but not on others). There's also another kind of power, which comes from being able to unilaterally do things without other people agreeing, because you can make punitive restrictions on others. I only have the first type of power, and this is not really power but persuasion, as all the people who come to agree with me are independent people with an independent opinion, they aren't joining in because they are afraid of me. I don't have any of the second type of power since I resigned as moderator. I don't mind difference of opinion, as I am not always right. But when I persuade a bunch of other people to agree, you should at least consider that I might be right. Not out of respect for me, but out of respect for the other people who agree with my position.

In this case, I acknowledge that I was too rude to Dynin (it wasn't on purpose, I was just writing a quick reviews without consideration to tone).  But I also believe that it is important to maintain an atmosphere where there is explicitly no restrictions on speech except those that come from social consensus, and that the social consensus has no power to impose, rather just to request. This is important, because the power to impose has always led to abuse, and voting sites like this have an independent socially mediated reputation mechanism which is broadly distributed and much more democratic than moderator action, which has the power to suggest and not to impose. The power of suggestion is actually stronger than the power of imposition--- in sincere contributors, downvotes lead to change in behavior quickly, while moderator imposition usually leads to conflict and people leaving the site. Every rude post I made cost me votes, and I know it.

I am not pulling strings behind the scenes, I can't! If nobody agrees with my position, there's nothing I can do except leave. The difference between being right and being powerful is that when you are right, you do not even need to exist for your opinion to prevail. I could be shot dead, and my position would still be right. The reason is not because I am some hypnotizing Rasputin, exerting magic mind-control on other people, it is because I am probably right on this rules business, due to long internet experience.

The younger people with more internet experience and less pre-internet experience can agree with this, as they haven't been brainwashed by long experience with print literature, which operates in a very different way, and where different sets of rules are appropriate. The print literature does not have voting, and it maintains professional tone by editorial decisions and through top-down authority. This is inappropriate online. This difference in organization structure of online communities, the online communities have less top-down authority and more diffuse authority due to voting, is noticible to many early internet people, which is why you have a very visible community of internet anarchists.

@RonMaimon it is true that your policies have always been strictly followed even while you were absent, but this is because of the unhealthy psychologicel power you always had on the site and other people, not because you are right.

You use your physchological power together with being rude and personal insults of people in the same way as certain people use pistols to enforce their will. In that analogy it also happens, that people do not dare to act against the will of the villain with the pistol, even if he is absent or out of sight for a while, because he might come back and cause a bloodbath if he comes back and sees that his will is not exactly obeyed.

Of course you dont cause any bloodbaths, but you kick off very destructive meta wars if you see that your policies are not (or even might not be in the future) exactly followed, which is desastrous and devastating for the site.

This is the same kind of using raw brutal power certain villains with pistols or other weapons apply, and I personally most strongly disagree with this.

@Dilaton: Marco Frasca makes up fiction, disguises it as science, and then does politics. I explained his precise reasoning from first principles on a review you read: his main claimed discovery is that a solution $\phi$ of $\phi^4$ can be converted into a solution of SU(2) Yang Mills by the ansatz $A_i = \phi t_i$ where $t_i$ are the three SU(2) generators. This is completely wrong, as a simple check of the equations shows. He "proves" it by substitution into the action, which is a mistake not even an undergraduate would make. He uses the result to ingratiate himself with lattice groups that see strange effects, by claiming his hocus-pocus explains the effect. His claims are uniformly wrong in an offensive manner that shows lack of respect for scientific honesty.

If you want to tolerate this kind of professional fraud on this site, you are right, you need to block all rudeness, because there is nothing to say in response to this kind of fraud which isn't rude. It is precisely to deal with such things that you need blunt honest peer review. He left because his ridiculous mistake was exposed. But he is still welcome to return, of course. When he has something non-fradulent to say I would be the first to upvote it.

@RonMaimon: What you call persuasion can as well be seen as bullying. You are using all the questionable rhethorical weapons available to those who want to force their opinion on others.

I am not pulling strings behind the scenes,

 but you are pulling strings in the open, writng on Drake's wall:

I tried to get Dilaton to step down in every way I could think of. I asked for "no anonymous moderators" (that means Dilaton steps down), I asked you to change your question to "Moderator review: Dilaton" and then put three answers "Dilaton should stay on as moderator" "Dilaton should step down as moderator" "Other ideas". For sure, "Dilaton should step down as moderator" would win the vote.

You also wrote (now no longer visible, and there is unfortunately no history for that) on the wall of Prathyush:

I see now! You want RUDENESS RULES. This site is free of rudeness rules, it was always free of rudeness rules, and it will ALWAYS be free of rudeness rules. Rudeness is the essence of peer review, it prevents the accumulation of authority, and it allows ideas to make progress only using the evidence, not using any authority. Without the ability to diminish authority using rudeness, the authority clouds the review process and makes it useless. Politeness is evil, and must be resisted, I mean, like to the death. So I will throw my body in front of a speeding train, and get myself crucified before ever agreeing to limit expression to polite stuff. ALL TEXT IS PROTECTED, ESPECIALLY text that is personally insulting. The rudeness rules are the FIRST that are used to block review, I was blocked for rudeness on physics.stackexchange (and several others) whenever I made a criticism of someone who percieved themselves as in an academically more authoritative position. Authority is the enemy of science, as is politeness, and you are fucking nuts.

Part of the lack of interest in participation in meta of users who want to contribute science rather than politics may well be that meta is a much more hostile place than Q&A, to a good extent because of you. So only those who have to and a few idealists are there....

Regarding your comment about "enforcing opinion by shouting", you are talking nonsense here--- shouting is not that effective when you are wrong, it just alienates people and gets you downvotes. It only is effective if other people agree with you independently anyway. I exert no power of dimension10, he simply came to see I was right, after long acrimonious exchanges. The same is true for others. It is disrespectful in the extreme to think that you are the only person with independent thinking, and it is a sign of the desire to impose your will on others by coercive methods. I never used a coercive method in my life, and I am not about to start now.

@Arnold: I deleted that comment on Pratyush's wall because you asked me to! I do not consider it bullying to express your opinion forcefully, in a case where you have no special authority (I don't anymore). If Pratyush has a strong opinion, he would just give a counterargument (we talked a long time in personal chat about this, and he argued very forcefully with some suggestions, not all of which were silly).

It isn't "pulling strings" when it is in the open. It is being honest about your political motivation. I didn't think Dilaton needs to step down until Drake told me what it feels like to see such abuse as a user, that it feels like user contributions are not valued. Drake was adamant that Dilaton needs to step down immediately, and I came to agree with him, only out of respect to his perspective as a user, and did everything I could to make it happen, by persuasion and by example, by stepping down myself first, so that nobody would lose face, and it wouldn't be seen as punitive or retributive.

You are confusing the ability to speak with the ability to impose. They are not the same, even though I can sometimes be a persuasive speaker. The difference is that even if you shoot me, others will say the exact same thing I am saying, only perhaps after another 10 or 20 years, on another website, and I don't think it is prudent to wait.

@Ron Maimon BTW you like to use the term "politician" as an insult, but at least on PhysicsOverflow it is you has become a pure politician yourself:

All that you come to the site for since more than half a year (!) is to enforce your personal point of view by brutal (psychological) power and raw force, whereas on physics (remember, high-level physics and related maths is what PhysicsOverflow was set up for?) seems to no longer interest you in the slightest, at lease not on PhysicsOverflow (I dont know about your physics activities elsewhere).

I became a pure politician because I was not willing to contribute science to your site. You simply don't deserve my material, it is good stuff, and I am still not willing to give it to you. I stopped cold turkey on the day I saw you turn on VK, and I was in the middle of several things, including the asymptotic safety business and some new stuff on stochastic quantization approaches like Hairer's.

I still am not at all convinced it is worth investing time here, as I don't see you as any better than David Zaslavsky, in fact, you are somewhat worse as DZ never considered himself authoritative to edit physics. I incline toward "yes, contribute now" only because of the presence of sensible young people here, since I know, speaking actuarily, the young people will probably live longer (as Planck noted, if people didn't age out, we would never have progress). You and Arnold seem to be intent on making censorship using editorial methods of imposing tone. If you suceed, every contribution I made will have to be redone elsewhere. It is very difficult to choose to support people who you know for sure are not committed to the values of free speech and open discussion you devoted your entire life to promoting. I am sure you will not understand.

@RonMaimon PO is for physics and not for political power games as you exclusively play them here. For strategical power games there exist other online role playing games and communities and you could consider using them for your purpose of playing politics, instead of PO which has been set up for physics.

@Dilaton: You know very well that this is not a power game. It is an attempt to create a unique place where free discussion of physics, without imposition of top-down authority, is tolerated. It was created explicitly to allow free speech after discussions were censored by the same pattern of moderator abuse on Wikipedia, then on Stackexchange, then on Quora. Without freedom of speech, there is no point to your website, it is a worthless stackexchange clone, and you do not deserve my content any more than stackexchange does. It is difficult work to do original research and place it up here, I was only willing to do so when the site was free for everyone to speak without censorship. You decided you wish to implement censorship, you still seek to do so. I will not work to increase your power, as you are simply a bad person. At the moment, you are outnumbered by the other mods. But I am sure now that you do not intend to keep the freedom to speak, and I can only participate reluctantly, under the knowledge that the other moderators will prevail eventually, even if it takes a generation.

@RonMaimon you only place physics material on PhysicsOverflow if the site exactly follows your personal point of view how the site should be run in detail. Fine, this is your decision.

What I strongly disagree with and object to are your continuous ongoing attempts to prevent the site from taking off and live up to its purpose, namely to be a high-level professional physics site where an academic audience can feel at home and is welcome.

The fact that things have gone wrong on other places such as Wikipedia, Physics SE, Quora, etc is no reason or excuse for refusing to hold up any level and professionality of the discussions and atmosphere on PhysicsOverflow.

There are research-level Q&A sites that work perfectly well, such as MathOverflow, Theoretical Computer Science SE (they dont adopt any SE philosophies), or Theoretical Physics SE which was only closed because SE prefers mass visibility over high quality. So PhysicsOverflow can in principle succed too.

@RonMaimon, now matter how the edit policy issue will end up, I don't think you have much reason to fear now. Given the revision history feature we have here, the worst it can possibly get is that authors may get annoyed by the edits, but nothing abusive like the one happened before can occur.


You know very well that this is not a power game.

You don't see it as one but everyone else knows.  polarkernel rightly said:

The site got an arena of politics, where gladiators and self-proclaimed prosecutors produce an abominable mud-wrestling, in order to get power over the site. It makes me sick to see how you try to undermine and pervert fundamental rights.

Bystanders in SE (though perhaps with an interest to see PO fail) observe that

Oh man, the PO meta is a battlefield

It is all about power - about whose views of freedom in science will reign the future of PO. This has nothing to do with physics but with personal preferences, and you fight very consciously and very hard for it, using all the power you can muster, limited only by your own values.

Ron fights for freedom. I join him. We are not a political party with a political program, we are different, and it is good for science. Our difference and freedom permit to find out something new in Physics.


This is what this site was made to abolish--- interference with scientific debates by unchecked moderation power. 

No. This is what you wanted and want the site to be. The site was made to be a continuation of SE-Theoretical-Physics, but moderated by physicists only. These were the declared goals, long and thoroughly discussed. Just a few comments in this whole discussion were about freedom of speech - a sideline, nothing essential. You are redefining the goals of PO to something else to an extent that most of the membership decided against it - not by votes but by abstinence.

@ArnoldNeumaier exactly. Ron did not only never accept the purpose of PhysicsOverflow as described here which is his own business and personal right, but he actively and continuously counteracted any attempts to make PO a place where professional and academic physicists feel at home by redefining the purpose of the site in agreement with his personal point of view to be something else.

@ArnoldNeumaier: I will ask you to review the discussions on Lubos Motl's blog, where I suggested the site, the serious discussion on Schrodinger's Cat blog where the site was planned, and the initial documents when all of us were in agreement, and all thought the same way. The differences in opinion began when there was a disagreement regarding what to do with VK's contributions, with some opting to censor. The idea was that censorship would drive out VK.

I am actually surprised at the high level of participation on the site, and I think it will succeed regardless of the policy implemented here, barring a competitor starting immediately, which I believe is always possible (meaning, I've got a right to fork you). The problem is the issue of academic power censoring material based on academic consensus. This was an issue on stackexchange as well, and was an issue on mathoverflow to a small extent (its only a small extent because of the degree to which mathematics has an objective standard of proof. The only place where you have real conflict of opinion is in set theory and foundations). The requirement of no top-down power imposition is essential to allow new material to survive online. Physicist are not better at evaluating radical new physics, as the example of quarks and S-matrix theory shows. The internet allows these things to be discussed afresh without censorship, but only if the moderation does not shut people up, even if they are grating.

I don't see a rudeness problem on PO at present, at least not on the main site. Please give specific examples of what you need new policy to deal with, before making policy to deal with it.

@RonMaimon sorry, but it was not you who suggested to create the site, but it was me and Dimension10.

You joined in only much later by stating in a few isolated comments from time to time what you would like to see on the site  (that may or may not be created for serious). The review section was a good idea.

You only joined in more seriously, as most of the things have already been done, discussed, and set up in private beta. I invited you to join PhysicsOverflow and was very happy as you did so in private beta.

It has always been clear that PhysicsOverflow is meant to be a revival of Theoretical Physics SE and a physics analog of MathOverflow, until you tried and still try to overthrow everything, disregarding what other people have said and decided long time before.

@RonMaimon I blame to a signigicant part your unreasonable but authoritive talkings about hypothetical "academic censorship" that might happen in the future or rather not (which is not and has never been an issue on the 3 research-level sites I mentioned above including MathOverflow), and the corresponding hostile attitude which you treated academic or professional physicists who were willing at the beginning to offer their knowledge and time to PhysicsOverflow with, for the fact that the site was never able to seriously take off or gather and retain any minimal stable professional audience so far.

@Dilaton: Yes, it was you two who made PO. Unfortunately, you made it for everybody, not for "high quality" physicists and mathematicians. And now, what you are uncomfortable with, is nothing with respect to gains that freedom of speech brings in here, believe me. I am an old fart and I have seen many "groups" and "establishments" where some people oppressed others for "noble" purposes. And indeed, it worked well for some people, but was too bad for science.

Do not blame Ron, his participation has nothing to do with "the site taking off". Professionals have their own circles, networks, places, etc. PO is not the only thing available in their life. No wonder most of participants are either crackpots with agenda (like me), or enthusiasts.


 I deleted that comment on Pratyush's wall because you asked me to!  

Thanks God that you deleted it. But my comment was about your use of language as a weapon (what you called persuasion) in the last few months; I just took an example of your style that I didn't need to search for. 

Why capitalize words if it not intended to have an effect on the reader?
Why writing insults that in real life could even be used in a law suit against you?

Apparently because, as you stated over and over again, you believe it to be the only powerful weapon against those who oppose the freedom of speech. Why shouldn't we think that you didn't mean to use this weapon when you are rude, when you explicitly and with utmost emphasis recommend it for this purpose?

@Dilaton: I suggested to start a new site on Motl's blog at the time of my yearlong suspension, right after the elections, because I wanted to keep writing and I figured stackexchange was hopeless. You participated. I remember it well because some mystery person actually set up a functioning OSQA website! I logged on once, checked it out, but I didn't know who this person was, it was totally sketchy, so I didn't take up his offer to host the site (whoever he was). You and dimension10 were still active on stackexchange for the next few weeks or months, but gave up when Manishearth started doing officious things. You were simultaneously saying that the old high-level physics site needs to be revived, and you were going to do something and solve the moderation problems, and get a good community functioning again. While I went to relatives to get help with hosting, I saw you were actually doing it, more competently than I could, so I stopped. I started again two months ago, but stopped again when things returned to sanity here. I am a single incompetent person, while here were three competent people who actually did it (and did it with the superior Q2A), and I figured we were on the same page on everything. That is just to show you to what extent we were on the same page. The discussion is still on Motl's blog.

A major goal in reviving the site was to avoid the censorship problems at stackexchange. This is NOT theoretical, it happened on this site a few months ago! You removed a reference to VK's "reformulation" in comments where he mentioned it, leaving only the half of the comment which didn't mention reformulation. Every post of his having to do with reformulation led to hounding, moving material, and eventually direct threats of blocking for posting off-topic material. The goal was to entirely remove all mention of "reformulation" from the website.

While I don't like reformulation, and I think it is completely appropriate to quarantine such an out-of-the-mainstream discussion to a few pages, and leave links, the response to reformulation here was a complete reversal of the stated intent to tolerate wrong material. You personally decided that VK was driving others away, so VK must go. You made a conscious decision that you didn't want VK's material on the site, and you decided that removing it was a top priority, and you harassed him, got dimension10 to harass him with you. You deleted his comments specifically leaving others' abusive comments toward him standing, gave him two official warnings that 5 off topic posts are sufficient for a ban, and at this point he voluntarily left the site because he justly realized he was being persecuted.

It was only at this point that I got involved. I talked to VK and asked him what happened, and found out about the deletions. Then I saw the two 'official warning's threatening to block VK if he posts off topic material 3 more times (they came one after the other, on consecutive days--- it was clear that if he posted anything at all, VK would have been blocked in at most 72 hours). I knew that there was hostility from personal communication, and I could see that there was a systematic persecution of a well-intentioned but occasionally infuriating user. This is how all the problems of moderation start.

There are many things that are censored in academic communities, by a consensus to ignore them. These are usually justly ignored things, like perpetual motion using magnets or other nonsense. But sometime these are unjustly ignored things, like ENCODE data, or the Soviet theory of deep abyssal petroleum. The instituting of academic standards is a codeword for allowing academics to decide what people to let through and what people to keep out, and this is always censorious by nature. On a site with voting, this is not necessary.

Avoiding this type of gatekeeper behavior was an explicitly stated goal by all involved parties at the start. It is still accepted policy on the site (despite attempts to change it), and at the time the policies were drawn up, the folks here were a unanimous collective about this, and that included me, you, dimension10, Drake, Eduardo, Arnold, and many others. I know exactly what everyone was thinking, and I know that nobody disputed my position on rudeness rules, because everyone saw the abuse that this led to on stackexchange. It also led to abuse here.

Now that the site is functioning, I don't see a rudeness problem developing (perhaps ME but I can easily fix that--- just ASK ME TO REMOVE ANY RUDE STUFF, I'LL DO IT!!). Instead, I see a set of new gatekeepers itching to establish themselves to control who to let on the site and who to keep out. There was no serious rudeness problem on the site, except maybe me, I can't judge myself. The only thing that happened here is that VK was harrassed by a moderator on the pretext of editing out rudeness.

The response to a problem caused by ignoring user rights must be to tighten the user rights, not to justify more abuse by installing new rules on users. People always gang up on others, because they don't like this contributor or that contributor, and they look for excuses. It's a natural human tendency, there is nothing you can do about it, except not give guns to censors.

When VK started to post, I got messages about how this was becoming "Vladimir Overflow", and if this isn't stopped, the quality of the site will decline, blah blah blah, the sky is falling. All because of one person who was writing with some dubious material which can be worked through in an afternoon, the parts that are wrong refuted, and the parts that are right reworked and internalized. That was what happened, and VK is still sorting out what is right and what is wrong, on his own time, and that is how it should be.

Vladimir's controversial material was initially dealt with entirely appropriately, by creating dedicated pages and working through the disputes, and moving long off-topic discussions to chat. There was no problem at all, and it certainly wasn't driving people away. It was localized discussions about a few papers, and a few scattered on-topic comments about this or that. Other off-the-wall material was analyzed fairly, and folks who under normal circumstances would never get a professional review for the first time got a professional review of their ideas instead of a curt dismissal, and whether they were persuaded or not, they now know exactly what people think is wrong with their stuff. Their rejection, whether they agree with it or not, is not a mystery to them anymore.

This is an unprecedented physics service--- peer review for whoever asks. VK has probably never gotten a complete honest professional review of his material after something like 20 years of publishing it and talking about it. The usefulness of this is probably not appreciated by anyone who didn't learn physics on their own, or who didn't go off into the wilderness to study something in a radically new way. If you only learn in school, and do pedestrian things, you don't know what the big deal with good review is, but people who make a mistake while self-learning or in doing highly original research usually can't get any feedback whatsoever on any mistake they may have made. They can't even normally get literature pointers. They need to sort out any probLems laboriously from scratch, all alone. Any self-taught person knows this feeling of total hopeless isolation very well, and this site can fix it.

For a personal example, when I was 16, I thought I discovered that monopoles can't exist because they lead to a doubled photon, due to me having no Dirac quantization condition, so I got two vector potentials for the E and B fields. Anyone who knows anything could have told me in one second that this is not so, that Dirac's monopoles are topological defects in a single vector potential, but nobody competent was around, so I was left to have to sort it out myself, which I did, a few years later when I finally got the Dirac monopole. There is no need for this nonsense anymore--- any person who has ideas, questions, anyone who is not spamming or duplicating crazy stuff or writing gibberish--- should be able to get quick feedback and have their material reviewed, no matter what stage they are at (so long as it isn't the undergrad stage) and no matter what their academic pedigree.

This site, and all academic sites, should be kept free of academic gatekeepers, deciding what to let in. At the moment, the current rules effectively eliminate every single instance of low quality material, there is not a single upvoted wrong post on this site yet and there never will be. Nobody will ever be able to give an example, because the moment it is pointed out, it will get downvoted. There is also very little material which is rude, most of the rudest stuff is mine, and I will bend over backwards to change it, because at no point was rudeness ever necessary, nor can I currently imagine a situation where it would be necessary. I don't use rudeness as a weapon, I simply don't care about it, and try to speak as informally and casually as possible. Rudeness is really ultimately just a filter checking for academic gatekeepers, as they always delete this material first. Maybe it's useful if someone is arguing from authority without understanding the authority, and the only time this happened here was when Marco Frasca falsely claimed that Wilson's strong coupling expansion doesn't work to describe long-distance gauge theory. But it's not like Marco Frasca was reflecting any sort of academic consensus--- it was just a wrong personal opinion.

The danger when you institute rudeness rules is that moderators will enforce these rules inconsistently, and use it against only those they disagree with. This harassment leads people to leave, and if the people who leave happen to be right, it allows wrong material to get stably upvoted, and not get any challenge, because academic censorship suddenly appears. If this site was around in 1998, and the ADD model came out, it would get very hostile negative comments. If the usual suspects were academic gatekeepers, this criticism would have been silenced, as it was in the published literature for a decade.

The internet's function is to circumvent academic gatekeepers who decide what is appropriate and what is not, and replace this with gatekeeping by community voting, which is faster, more effective and more trustworthy. This is the only point of an internet review, as opposed to traditional review. If the problem is with my material, I will change it.

@ArnoldNeumaier; I'm not doing anything subtle or deep with the rudeness, I am just saying the first thing that comes to mind honestly, without any internal filter. It's not a plot or a plan, or a gimmick, it's just speaking frankly. But if it sounds terrible to you, I'll change whatever you don't like. Just ask, please, don't make rules, because asking is never a problem, and rules can be abused.

@RonMaimon just saying that a new site should be started does not make you a founder of PhysicsOverflow. Many people who are not satisfied with how certain things work on Physics SE did and do that. Arnolds suggestions do not prevent any of good things PhysicsOverflow can do meantioned in your comment above, they do not prevent frank and open scientific discussions. -1 for bringing up events of thepast in a highly misleading personally biased way.

@Dilaton @RonMaimon The discussion here is not about "who should have more authority" - the answer to that is clearly given by the principle of PhysicsOverflow - the community votes for moderation and administration, while the moderators' job is to protect the fundamental principle of PhysicsOverflow (the "constitution"). If you want to debate this, debate it in private messages or a separate meta thread (which will be of no use, but whatever).

If there are no objections within 24 hours, I will delete the comments that regard this "issue", including this one.

@Dimension10 I would at most delete the two last comments, as the rest of the discussion contains important clarifications. But I agree to stop it now. By no means should Arnold s.comments be hidden/deleted.

I have deleted irrelevant tangential comments on people's personalities and things like "who has the authority to blablabla" - here are all the deleted comments in case anybody thinks that some comments should be preserved:

 deleted comment list

(comments deleted by the OP and prior deletions have been blurred out)

@RonMaimon One of your comments had both details relating to the above and on-topic arguments, so I edited the off-topic stuff out. Obviously, you can revert my edit, although it would have been a complicated and bureaucratic procedure should the amendment suggested in this question pass : )

@Dimension10 please stop deleting important comments of @ArnoldNeumaier and others in this way. In particular you should not delete highly important comments that are linked to in other comments.

This is among the "highly important" comments that you reshowed:

@JiaYiyang: Ron was always powerful, though not without opposition.

VK isn't powerful (and I never claimed that he was)  but he flooded PO with low quality contributions. Nevertheless I view him as a useful member of PO since discussions with him are to some extent fruitful before they degenerate.


RonMaimon sorry, but it was not you who suggested to create the site, but it was me and Dimension10.

You joined in only much later by stating in a few isolated comments from time to time what you would like to see on the site  (that may or may not be created for serious). The review section was a good idea.

You only joined in more seriously, as most of the things have already been done, discussed, and set up in private beta. I invited you to join PhysicsOverflow and was very happy as you did so in private beta.

It has always been clear that PhysicsOverflow is meant to be a revival of Theoretical Physics SE and a physics analog of MathOverflow, until you tried and still try to overthrow everything, disregarding what other people have said and decided long time before.

"Curiously", you reshowed every single personal attack against Ron (I hid them back, they're incredibly off-topic, and for starting the off-topic discussions, the old off-topic rule would have had you warned) by yourself, but not a single other comment.

If this isn't propaganda, I don't know what is.

@Dimension10 I have now reshown all comments, please leave the discussion as is now instead of deleting selectively very important valuable contributions.

@Dilaton Selectively! It was not me who selectively decided what to delete to feed their propaganda. In fact, I noticed I accidently had missed out an off-topic comment by you while deleting them, while I didn't miss a single off-topic comment by Ron. If you want to prove your case, give me one off-topic comments by Ron or myself that I didn't delete.

Oh, and you still haven't stopped. You again left out the comment by Ron which I edited, and didn't revert that edit when reshowing the other posts.

And, let me reveal that the whole deletion business was simply a trick on my side to expose your political motivation in this whole discussion - that's also why I didn't wait for the promised 24 hours. I knew you would object to having the comments from your side (yours and Arnold's) deleted, and as expected, you selectively reshowed Arnold's and your own comments (all off-topic personal attacks against Ron). Because you've proven that your stance has some political motivation, I propose that if there is ever a vote on this issue, your vote should not be counted.

Don't delete anything! Don't edit anything. This is meta! There's no justification for this. My longest comment above has been butchered, it's just cut off at about the 75% mark, I can't see the edit history to restore it. What the heck? There is no reason to not leave the comments here, these kinds of deletions are exactly an example of abuse of moderator power.

@RonMaimon I've already reverted the edit. I have no idea why the edit history can't be seen, I'll ask polarkernel. Edit: they appear now.

I didn't downvote your comment, but it is not abuse of moderation power, because any 500+ rep user can edit posts, and the user rights still give you the right to revert.

The revision history doesn't appear once I unhide the 44 auto-hidden comments. My long comment has been chopped off at the 75% mark in mid-word, I presume due to a bug in the revision history saving mechanism. The remainder was not so important, it appears in your image, and I can retype it, but this rush to remove discussions is not a good use of moderation power--- this is a long discussion about what to do. If you delete it, all that's going to happen is that it will reform again when the next batch of people show up, duplicating the work.

There is no reason to "clean up comments" on meta! This is not the physics site, this is where people are discussing what to do about policy. Why the heck would you remove comments? Hiding discussions doesn't help anybody know what is going on, what the issues are, or have confidence that poiicy was made fairly after listening and weighing everyone's opinions and motivations.

@Dimension10 I was travelling and on my iphone with sucking internet connection. I did only reshow all comments (in two steps with timelag of 30-60 min) while not looking at anything that was just edited, I have not even seen what your edit of Ron s comment was.

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