Before I returned to PO in the beginning of March, I had acted on the assumption that only technical matters need to be regulated, and that competent PO users would automatically resolve conflicts in friendship.
Due to what had happened in my three months of absence from PO (and maybe begun in secret even earlier) I became convinced that at least guidelines for desirable behavior are necessary; perhaps even strict rules.
Given how vehemently Ron Maimon fights strict rules I tried in all what I proposed to find a way to accommodate his interests; we'll see whether it proves practicable and sufficient. I didn't expect that freedom of speech should have on PO a much higher value than professionality, but among those currently active in meta it seems to be the majority view. This is deplorable. It seems that concerning politics, physicists are not better than other people, not even with regard to their own affairs.
The very first day I came back to PO (March 3) after a 3 month break that had nothing to do with PO (and wasn't initiated by anyone as all thought I had left for good), I saw polarkernel's emergency call,
what I see today is a desert. 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.
Today, PhysicsOverflow has fewer users than in private beta. There was a time at the beginning, where more than 200 users contributed to PO, at least by voting. Almost all of them have gone.
Politics seems to be much more important than physics. The Q&A category is dried up, there is almost nobody on the site that is able to give answers and nobody anymore writes reviews. We are near to have more moderators than users.
which alarmed me to the highest. Most professional scientists (as most people in general) want to spend their free time only in an environment that is friendly and inviting. Thus this must be achieved by the active users, even against the private interests of those who don't care about this.
In order not to fall victim to the disease myself, I first wrote a number of scientific answers since this is the declared highest goal of PO (not freedom of speech as Ron Maimon wants us to believe). Then I replied to the emergency call from my knowledge based on my past presence (dating from Nov.26, according to my answer history). I didn't understand all polarkernel had said, and therefore started reading the meta history in more details. What I found out over time (at first I didn't spent much time on it) was much worse than what I had expected. And some of what polarkernel said, his complaint
It makes me sick to see how you try to undermine and pervert fundamental rights, as privacy and anonymity.
makes sense to me only since very recently. Nothing of this was resolved but Ron Maimon still claims today on my wall that
we found a compromise where everyone was happy, and things could be unanimous? I was sure I was leaving the site on the day before Jia got the compromise settled, VK was angry, Dim10 was angry, everyone was unsatisfied. With the moderator rotation and resignation promise, all was healed. I don't understand how anything that is so simple to do and produces such peace can be bad.
Nothing was healed, there was no peace, just a thin cover to hide the worst. Once I started to spend more time on it since my real life duties again allowed it, the problems surfaced again, and much more.
My picture of what seemed to have happened is still changing as new information comes up. It wasn't a good idea to clear the site of so much of the war that one cannot afterwards still get a reasonable picture of the main issues. I hope that after the second war created by me there will remain something more tangible, if only to be able to point to it if such things should threaten to occur again.
The most recent piece of information is JiaYiyang's remark,
you didn't taste the rampaging anxiety we had when Dilaton stopped responding in public, I hope you can try to sympathize the feelings on the other side [...], I was quite sure Ron, Drake and VK would permanently leave the site if the stagnation continues. It's hard to make you feel that now, I hope you were there. Actually if you were there you probably could solve the stagnation much more easily, with the trust and respect both sides have on you, but unfortunately you weren't.
Unlike earlier post factum reports from both sides on what had happened this one is neither defensive nor confrontational but human, and describes a real emergency situation (whatever the underlying cause). This moved me to reconsider my judgment of what Jia Yiyang did. Although we have very significant differences regarding certain values I really appreciate his efforts and his achievement to avoid a breakup of PO, whose traces are currently hinted only at in a remark by Ron Maimon,
barring a competitor starting immediately, which I believe is always possible (meaning, I've got a right to fork you).
He might well have started a competitive site by cloning PO, and the scientific world would have laughed at our quarrels and punished both sites by ignoring them.
Why I opposed all of you, Ron Maimon, Jia Yiyang, and dimension10 (I am not counting drake who contributed to the site only sporadically; alone he would have been powerless) was that the human factor was almost completely lacking. (almost - I had upvoted dimension10's response to the impeachment threat, but of course many weeks too late.)
This can be seen from the quotes above: The healing, the peace, and the averted fear of leaving are about Ron, Drake, Dim10, and VK - nobody cared whether dilaton was healed, had peace, or would permanently leave the site.
This is the problem with justice - it is always the justice of the winners, never that of the loser. This is why in real life, justice is complemented by settlements. A judge who achieves a settlement among the opposing parties is much more worth than one that is just according to the law but inconsiderate according to the single case. The latter gives peace only to the winners; the former gives peace to the whole community.
This is why I was pressing for mercy - unconditional mercy. My boss, we-all-know-who, was once asked how much we should forgive others, and he replied, 70 times as much as you think is sufficient. This seems ridiculous on first sight and completely impractical in practice. But you might be curious how Albert Schweitzer, the winner of the 1952 Peace Nobel Prize, notable for his philosophy of ''reference for life'', commented this story.
I accept VK though he often plays the clown on PO; it is fine with me as long as the clowns form a minority of those contributing actively to Q&A. I do not mind that Jia Yiyang and Ron Maimon have values quite different from mine in some respects - it strengthens the site, though only as long as their activities are strictly subordinate to the goal of PO, to be a site where those interested in physics are informed, educated and corrected for free.
I have forgiven Ron Maimon though his (according to the old PO rules fully legal) actions were far more detrimental to PO than all dilaton ever did wrong. If Ron, Drake and VK would permanently leave the site, ad Jia Yiyang had feared, the scientific part of would suffer very little as (though for different reasons) none of them contributed significantly to the scientific part, the core of PO. But dilaton founded the site and if he would leave, I wouldn't find it worthwhile to remain here.
I apologize to all I may have hurt by confronting them in the strongest possible way with how I view matters. I tried to do so with consideration of your feelings. I learnt it from my boss - he ended up on the gallows for it, but it was enough to change the world forever, and to set a very attractive example for me.
But this is not my usual style. I work for the peace for all in PO. Until now it had cost me an inordinate amount of my time, but I hope it is well invested. From now on I will be quiet on all this, trying to heed the advice of Urs Schreiber,
Comparing to this site here, which is by and large empty and populated only by import from other forums, to get such a healthy ratio of physics content over politics, the latter would have to be restricted to miniscule amounts. Having fights among moderators here is like members of a rockband fighting with each other on stage while the audience hall is empty, a pitiful and off-putting sight for every potential fan who happens to arrive to the site after all.
What seems to be under debate here is the plain obvious: of course a site that wants to be perceived of as being professional has to stick to standard professional behaviour, basic rules of conduct. One wants the physics content to thrive, and wants everything that could get in the way of that to be removed.