Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

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Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby Grant » Tue Feb 19, 2008 1:10 pm

Note added on 2/25/2008: Based on conversations within this forum thread I created a few new policy based FAQs that can be found in the about us section of the FAQ. The information found in the FAQ is the current best attempt at documentation regarding forum policies. The information in the thread below is not the policy but rather the brainstorming and discussion that helped arrive at the policy.


This thread was originally designed for people to report any problems with the new forum software. However on February 20, 2008 at 6:35pm eastern time I retitled this thread into a discussion about forum policy. I deleted a few posts pertaining to resolved forum software upgrade issues. The thread flows quite nicely as a forum policy discussion :)
Last edited by Grant on Mon Feb 25, 2008 3:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: I added the note in red on 2/25/08

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Re: PhysicsGRE.com Forum Upgrade

Postby 400nm » Tue Feb 19, 2008 6:26 pm

I'd like to know more about the "report this post" feature. What are considered good reasons for reporting a post, and what will the moderators do about off-topic, inappropriate, or offensive posts?

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Re: PhysicsGRE.com Forum Upgrade

Postby Grant » Tue Feb 19, 2008 7:31 pm

400nm wrote:I'd like to know more about the "report this post" feature. What are considered good reasons for reporting a post, and what will the moderators do about off-topic, inappropriate, or offensive posts?

That was a part of the new forum software. I am not quite sure how we will use it. If you have any ideas for how to use it to improve the site then please let me know. I just checked and so far nobody has reported a post. However, thanks for reminding me about that new feature so I remember to check it from time to time.

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Re: PhysicsGRE.com Forum Upgrade

Postby twistor » Tue Feb 19, 2008 8:00 pm

Grant wrote:
400nm wrote:I'd like to know more about the "report this post" feature. What are considered good reasons for reporting a post, and what will the moderators do about off-topic, inappropriate, or offensive posts?

That was a part of the new forum software. I am not quite sure how we will use it. If you have any ideas for how to use it to improve the site then please let me know. I just checked and so far nobody has reported a post. However, thanks for reminding me about that new feature so I remember to check it from time to time.


I think that if someone reports a post that report gets sent to /dev/null and is never actually read by anyone.

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Re: PhysicsGRE.com Forum Upgrade

Postby Grant » Tue Feb 19, 2008 11:05 pm

I think that if someone reports a post that report gets sent to /dev/null and is never actually read by anyone.

I just tested it out and the report feature works. I just reported your post and then read my report :wink: I just click on a "view reports" link and it shows the reports. I believe the moderators can see this as well as it is part of the moderator control panel.

This can be a very good tool to use. At some point I will make the default selections more applicable to the kinds of issues we deal with such as copyright violations, promotional, inappropriate content/language, etc.

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Re: PhysicsGRE.com Forum Upgrade

Postby zxcv » Tue Feb 19, 2008 11:46 pm

I think the reporting posts issue comes up because there has been controversy about appropriate tone and humor on this site (sexist? racist? homophobic? etc.). But I'm not sure what I think of the alternative of using censorship... self-censorship and the threat of grad schools finding out seems to be sufficient for most people.

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Re: PhysicsGRE.com Forum Upgrade

Postby 400nm » Tue Feb 19, 2008 11:54 pm

Grant, thanks for checking!

First of all, I think you should make your policy clear and post it in the FAQ. People won't use the feature if they don't know what it's for.

A few off-topic comments here and there are OK, but I would suggest moving entire threads to the Physics Lounge. It may seem drastic to do this, since there are so many right now, but actually grae moved ~10 a couple weeks ago, and a poll (http://www.physicsgre.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1017) showed that the majority of users prefer it that way. And if people know you are going to move them, they will just start going to the Lounge directly.

Then borderline offensive comments can just stay out of the main pages. In my opinion, sexist/racist/etc. comments have no place on the physics pages, but on the lounge it's a little fuzzier. You will have to decide how much you will moderate. However, I think you should consider deleting direct attacks on forum users, such as telling females they should stay out of certain threads or making comments about a particular user [edited by Grant: Yes I agree this is not appropriate].

(RG has edited these comments now. But this would still help to get the comments deleted quickly in the future.)

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Re: PhysicsGRE.com Forum Upgrade

Postby Grant » Wed Feb 20, 2008 12:19 am

I have not read much of PhysicsGRE.com lately but apparently I need to pay more attention. Maybe now is a good time to start leveraging this new forum software and use the report post feature. Please report any post you feel I should look at even though there is no clear policy defined yet. It will help me arrive at a policy. I think having a policy is a very good idea. I want a professional discussion forum where members are respectful of each. Any suggestions you have to help are appreciated. Also, if anybody wants to become a moderator please send me a private message.

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Re: PhysicsGRE.com Forum Upgrade

Postby zxcv » Wed Feb 20, 2008 1:15 am

The marking of read/unread posts with the new forum software is not reliable for me. Also, the "mark threads as read" feature doesn't seem to work, either.

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Re: PhysicsGRE.com Forum Upgrade

Postby grae313 » Wed Feb 20, 2008 1:16 am

The poll did show that more people approved of me moving some of the threads, but the few who did not approve were very vocal. Some people were extremely upset, so I didn't attempt to move any more threads. However I definitely agree that off topic conversation should be in the lounge, and it is also a good place for the more humorous posts that some may find offensive.

Grant, if you agree that it should be that way, I'm happy to help with moving threads to the Lounge.

Also, I frequent a forum that has a section called "The Basement" and it is just for the members to hang out, make jokes, and talk s**t. If you feel that some of the discussions are too much, even for the lounge, I think it would be good to make a separate forum for it. Then, if threads get out of hand, they just get moved to "the basement" and it is understood that if you are sensitive to language or un-politically correct humor, don't go into that part of the forum. Or perhaps, The Lounge can be our "Basement." As happens in these online communities, people have begun to make online "friends" here, and I know I would appreciate a place to talk with them where it is OK to drop a cuss word or make a bad joke.

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Re: PhysicsGRE.com Forum Upgrade

Postby Grant » Wed Feb 20, 2008 8:29 am

zxcv wrote:The marking of read/unread posts with the new forum software is not reliable for me. Also, the "mark threads as read" feature doesn't seem to work, either.
I believe this has to do with cookies. I just switched things so the server stores the read/unread items so hopefully this is now more reliable. Please let me know if you are still having trouble.

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Re: PhysicsGRE.com Forum Upgrade

Postby Grant » Wed Feb 20, 2008 9:55 am

Grant, if you agree that it should be that way, I'm happy to help with moving threads to the Lounge.
I don't know all the details of the situation as you are much more in tune with the forum sentiment than me. However, please do what you feel is best. If somebody is ever upset by your decisions then let them know they are always welcome to contact me to explain their case (private messaging is best). If they don't have a case to make then they probably won't contact me. If they do have a legitimate case then I believe I will be able to work something out that makes them happy and also benefits the site. For example maybe we put a poll in the appropriate forum but feature that poll at the top of every page on the site (assuming the poll questions are of a professional and respectful nature).

I frequent a forum that has a section called "The Basement" and it is just for the members to hang out, make jokes..
I like some aspects of the basement forum concept as it could be a good to have a semi-private place to handle squabbles, tell jokes, rant about the ETS, etc. It could give a more professional image of our site and our members to keep some of this stuff away from the public. However, my concern with the basement is I don't want it to be seen as a license to become a bad language forum. I am not a big fan of bad language or rude jokes so I am a bit hesitant. Also, some things don't belong anywhere on physicsgre.com regardless of whether or not it is hidden in the basement, the attic, or a cave. With the new forum software I believe it is possible to have sub-forums so perhaps we can have a public lounge with a private lounge sub forum where the private lounge is only visible when logged in. It is basically like your basement concept except to me the lounge phraseology conjures up images of intelligent people sipping tea and coffee respectfully talking amongst each. Other people's thought are welcome as we try and sort this out.

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Re: PhysicsGRE.com Forum Upgrade

Postby twistor » Wed Feb 20, 2008 11:14 am

I think the enactment of a censorship policy will drive many users away, myself included.

Science itself can thrive only on open dialog. Should we stop talking about evolution because it offends the creationists who might like physics?

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Re: PhysicsGRE.com Forum Upgrade

Postby 400nm » Wed Feb 20, 2008 11:49 am

twistor, I don't know why you're so upset that I asked for off-topic comments to be posted in the Physics Lounge instead of the Grad School Forum. Changing the organization of the site is not the same as censorship. However, some censorship may be appropriate anyway. The comments that are being made are discouraging some people from posting, including myself. I'm trying to compromise by suggesting they be posted in the lounge. I agree with Grant that if other people have suggestions they should post them, and I am certainly open to other possible compromises.

Also, I think what you said about discussing evolution is not a good analogy for the discussions that have been taking place on this forum (that have nothing to do with science). Having an intelligent discussion that someone doesn't agree with is different than directing hateful comments at another person.

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Re: PhysicsGRE.com Forum Upgrade

Postby Grant » Wed Feb 20, 2008 12:10 pm

twistor wrote:I think the enactment of a censorship policy will drive many users away, myself included.

Science itself can thrive only on open dialog.

We don't want to drive people away. We want science to thrive. However, I don't think four letter words help promote scientific discussion. Actually they probably drive more users away than they help retain. I like you approach of wanting to bring users towards our discussions while providing an environment where science can thrive. I think we should run every issue we have against this approach. I haven't had a chance to look at all the issues yet but it seems like some of the issues are bad words, inappropriate comments, off-topic posts. I think we will be able to adopt a policy to deal with issues in such a way that we bring people into our discussions and allow science to thrive.

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Re: PhysicsGRE.com Forum Upgrade

Postby grae313 » Wed Feb 20, 2008 1:42 pm

Grant wrote:It is basically like your basement concept except to me the lounge phraseology conjures up images of intelligent people sipping tea and coffee respectfully talking amongst each. Other people's thought are welcome as we try and sort this out.


I know that for me, personally, and I think I speak for many of the more prolific posters on this site, I don't want to talk science every day all day. I think we want a place where it is OK to make jokes and talk about random stuff with like-minded people. It is your brainchild and if cuss words are not your thing, than I know I can handle that and those who don't like it can leave. But I think we at least need a place where we can joke around and have off-topic conversations. I also have a potty mouth and enjoy using it, but I can put a sock in it if I must :wink:

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Re: PhysicsGRE.com Forum Upgrade

Postby twistor » Wed Feb 20, 2008 1:47 pm

However, some censorship may be appropriate anyway. The comments that are being made are discouraging some people from posting, including myself.


So who is ultimate moral authority who can decide which things are appropriate and which aren't? You, perhaps?

Also, I think what you said about discussing evolution is not a good analogy for the discussions that have been taking place on this forum (that have nothing to do with science). Having an intelligent discussion that someone doesn't agree with is different than directing hateful comments at another person.


You will deal with hateful comments from people no matter where you go. Ignorance is ubiquitous. I'm not saying it's appropriate for you to be insulted here or anywhere else. If you think someone is ignorant you can try to sway their opinion. If they don't listen that's their problem, not yours.

Obviously there are some things which should be kept off the site because of legal issues (copyright infringment) or safety issues (warnings or threats of violence should be reported) but I think all else should be fair game.

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Re: PhysicsGRE.com Forum Upgrade

Postby twistor » Wed Feb 20, 2008 2:05 pm

I like you approach of wanting to bring users towards our discussions while providing an environment where science can thrive. I think we should run every issue we have against this approach. I haven't had a chance to look at all the issues yet but it seems like some of the issues are bad words, inappropriate comments, off-topic posts.


Here are my views:

First, if you want a forum where users only talk about GRE physics problems and science than you're too late because Yosun has beat you to it. What will keep people coming is here is it's unique combination of humor, physics, and commraderie. I know you haven't said explicitly that is what you wanted but I fear all this talk about censorship and moving off-topic posts is in the interest of creating exactly such a site.

Regarding the specific things you mention:

Bad words: You can't cover the kiddies' ears forever.

Inappropriate comments: Everyone knows they are in bad taste. Users can choose to ignore them. Anyway, who gets to decide what's in bad taste?

Off-topic posts: Moving these interferes with the natural flow of conversation. Most topics tend to peter out shortly after the topic of conversation changes, anyway, so there's really no need to worry about this at this point. I agree with moving off-topic posts in special cases only, like the Admission results thread, where uniformity and organization will benefit everyone.

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Re: PhysicsGRE.com Forum Upgrade

Postby twistor » Wed Feb 20, 2008 2:21 pm

The poll did show that more people approved of me moving some of the threads


I was opposed to moving the threads because it made everything seem out of context to me. If people want threads moved to different forums or split it's not a major issue for me.

More on censorship:

I think it would wise in the future if all users tried to voluntarily restrain themselves from making lewd and inappropriate posts.

Both of these comments are likely to offend users but I would consider only one of them to be inappropriate for discussion on this forum (for the record I don't really believe this, I'm merely illustrating a point):

"Research shows that women perform worse on physics tests than men. I suspect that this because women have less of an ability to perform spatial reason operations than men. Also, I think it's because women have not evolved the same set of logical reasoning skills that men possess."

vs.

"I think [dogs] are stupid. They [stink] at physics 'cause all they think about are [cats] all day long."

The first one can be discussed but the best thing to do about the second is to ignore it.
Last edited by Grant on Thu Feb 21, 2008 9:43 am, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: Saying something in inappropriate and then saying that which is inappropriate is not appropriate.

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Re: PhysicsGRE.com Forum Upgrade

Postby zxcv » Wed Feb 20, 2008 2:22 pm

I think there is a compelling argument that borderline offensive humor should be actively discouraged, because I agree with 400nm that it drives people away. The toxic humor makes it a space for only those who are comfortable with it.

Unfortunately, judging from my experience with online forums, it is difficult to "uproot" such language and tone once it has fallen into use. The only really effective method is banning members who post inappropriate messages, and I doubt anyone likes that solution.

I would try encouraging "off-topic" or offensive discussions to move to other forums like the lounge. I think this is not too inconvenient, especially with the new organization of the site. Assuredly caustic writing will "leak" back to the more serious forums, but we can see if it makes a difference.

P.S. Grant, the read threads marking is working now for me. Thanks.

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Re: PhysicsGRE.com Forum Upgrade

Postby zxcv » Wed Feb 20, 2008 7:00 pm

The new forum descriptions are nice and consistent, but way too long. In my view paragraph long descriptions overwhelm rather elucidate.

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Re: PhysicsGRE.com Forum Upgrade

Postby 400nm » Wed Feb 20, 2008 7:06 pm

So who is ultimate moral authority who can decide which things are appropriate and which aren't? You, perhaps?

twistor, I think it is a good idea for the community to have a discussion about this topic, and now seems to be a good time since the site is making some changes anyway. I just wanted to state how I felt, and I thought there might be some people who agreed with me. Actually, it feels like your the one with a hard stance on this subject, and that you think you should be the authority on what is appropriate.

In fact, if the moderators want to keep this thread about technical issues, feel free to move these posts to a different thread. That is, if people want to have a longer discussion about this topic.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby Grant » Wed Feb 20, 2008 7:47 pm

Hey everybody I just changed this thread from the forum upgrade thread to its new title. I also deleted some posts about forum issues that have been resolved. Feel free to keep talking about forum policies.

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Re: PhysicsGRE.com Forum Upgrade

Postby Grant » Wed Feb 20, 2008 8:07 pm

zxcv wrote:The new forum descriptions are nice and consistent, but way too long. In my view paragraph long descriptions overwhelm rather elucidate.

Yes those paragraphs did look pretty bad. I did play around with them a bit more. They still don't look all that great. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby Grant » Wed Feb 20, 2008 10:10 pm

I don't see anybody making a logical argument in favor of bad words so unless I hear otherwise when I wake up tomorrow I plan to "map" all bad words to become ***. I believe there is a feature where users have the ability to turn off these mappings for their own viewing. Let me know if anybody has any better ideas.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby grae313 » Wed Feb 20, 2008 10:12 pm

I think that is a fine idea. If the **** or whatever is the default view, then guests and members who prefer it that way can just see that, and the rest of us could cuss away to our heart's content (well, within reason of course :wink: )

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby twistor » Wed Feb 20, 2008 10:32 pm

Actually, it feels like your the one with a hard stance on this subject, and that you think you should be the authority on what is appropriate.


No, that's not true. Users can decide what to read and what not to read. That's the beauty of this type of forum: you can ignore anything you don't want to read.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby twistor » Wed Feb 20, 2008 10:37 pm

I don't see anybody making a logical argument in favor of bad words so unless I hear otherwise when I wake up tomorrow I plan to "map" all bad words to become ***. I believe there is a feature where users have the ability to turn off these mappings for their own viewing. Let me know if anybody has any better ideas.


I think it would be better to keep the default setting off and allow users to turn it on if they choose not to read said words.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby Grant » Thu Feb 21, 2008 9:23 am

I've given a start to the policies. So far it is just an introduction and just addressing the one issue of bad words. Comments are welcome.

Grant - Work in Progress Draft of Policies wrote:I. INTRODUCTION TO POLICIES
The objective of PhysicsGRE.com is to be a free yet valuable resource for prospective and current physics graduate students. We strive to provide an environment that encourages and enables people to share their knowledge and learn from others. We want people to feel good about recommending PhysicsGRE.com to their friends, classmates, and students.

#. INAPPROPRIATE LANGUAGE
The administrators of PhysicsGRE.com believe inappropriate language does not promote the goals and objectives of this site. We encourage people not to use inappropriate language when discussing topics on PhysicsGRE.com. To help insure that the language on our forums is appropriate, we have placed a system that maps bad words to three asterisks ***. The system also allows those who want to see bad words to see them via their personal preferences in the user control panel. If you do elect to use inappropriate words in your posts then the burden is on you to make sure the general population (those people not logged in) are not able to see your inappropriate language. You can request that I map additional inappropriate words onto the filter and I will take the time out of my day to create the mapping for you so you can use that inappropriate word without hindering the objectives of our forum. It is worth mentioning that, for our website, the definition of appropriate language would be the type of language you would use if you were a teaching assistant receiving free tuition from a non-liberal university and up in front of a classroom teaching a huge room full of the University's Junior and Senior physics students. This classroom analogy is essentially what you are doing when you share your knowledge on PhysicsGRE.com. If you notice a post that is inappropriate then please contact me or better yet use the built in system to report a post so the administrators and moderators can look into the situation.

Note: I have also implemented the bad word filter. I tried to override the bad word filter on a test account but I can't get it to work where one has the option to see bad words. I believe I have everything configured correctly. I will investigate this later.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby Grant » Thu Feb 21, 2008 10:46 am

Inappropriate comments: Everyone knows they are in bad taste. Users can choose to ignore them. Anyway, who gets to decide what's in bad taste?

I agree that pretty much everybody knows what is in bad taste. However, I don't subscribe to the notion that the solution for dealing with inappropriate comments is to simply ignore them. For one, it is difficult to ignore some comments especially if you are an active reader and poster. Secondly, often times with life in general, people who make inappropriate comments are looking for attention and their need for attention tends to make them quite persistent such that they will find a way to not be ignored. Thirdly, I don't want PhysicsGRE.com to be a free yet valuable resource for people who can ignore inappropriate comments :)

Note: There is nothing wrong with needing attention. Everybody needs attention. I am actually a bit bummed that people keep ignoring the physics web log feature I built but I'll keep being persistent with it :)

Nothing of what I wrote above is a solution. It is more just stating my belief that ignoring inappropriate comments is not a solution. As far as a solution goes, I believe "deciders of bad taste" for the shades-of-grey issues would best be made by the people who spend time freely volunteering to moderate this board. If anyone wants to be a moderator please let me know. It is a thankless job where you typically only hear from people who complain. However, you will get a free t-shirt (when they are ready) and you can help to make PhysicsGRE.com a better resource for current and future generations of physics students. The new software has lots of features to help moderate the forums such as warnings and temporary timeouts and things like that. The report post feature can significantly help facilitate moderators both from inappropriate comments and from people who spam the forums with obvious promotional stuff. In the 5+ year history of PhysicsGRE.com moderation hasn't really been an issue. Maybe there has been a minor issue once or twice a year as physics students seem to be very able to resolve things on their own. However, lack of moderation over the years can slowly build up and can have negative effect. At some point the site is in need of a little spring cleaning. Volunteers are always welcome :)

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby 400nm » Thu Feb 21, 2008 11:11 am

For me, it’s not really about the bad words, or even most of the off-topic comments. I know other people have been offended, and if they want to post their opinions that would help with the shaping the forum policies. I’ll post my story, since I had a particularly negative experience. Maybe then it will be easier for people to understand where I’m coming from and why I think the policies should change.

After my very first post on this site, RG responded by telling me to stay off certain threads because they are only for boys. Eventually he edited that comment, but not before making a thread called “MALE LOCKER ROOM”, which was made for the purpose of letting the guys “act like football players” and excluding dissenting/feminine opinions. Honestly, I haven’t read that thread past the first few posts because it was too upsetting, but every time I came back I saw it there in all capital letters.

It wouldn’t have made me happy, but it would have been much less upsetting if this thread had been in the Lounge instead of on a Grad School Admissions forum. It reinforces the attitude that the physics community is a boys’ club. This site does not exist in isolation. For example, you may not realize this because I haven’t posted my stats, but the schools I am considering overlap with other members of this forum, including RG. If we end up at the same place, this will carry over into grad school. How do you think it feels knowing that my future classmates don’t respect me and don’t even want me included in conversations about physics, let alone other topics?

At this point the admissions process is almost over, so I’m trying to think of a way to make the forum better for next years users. You can’t stop people from posting hateful comments, but if people respond to them it changes the atmosphere of the forum. I know it made a difference when zxcv took up for me, and when some of the threads were moved to the lounge. Though I was disappointed that the worst ones have stayed. If the moderators move the conversations, then they don’t necessarily have to censor/delete them, but it sends a message that the community doesn’t think its OK.

The real question is what kind of atmosphere do members want this forum to have. I’m not trying to force one way of doing things, but if I don’t speak up about my experience then no one will know how I felt about it. The point I’m trying to make is that there are consequences of the offensive/hateful comments on this forum and how we respond to it.

Thanks to Grant for keeping this conversation going and being open to change.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby twistor » Thu Feb 21, 2008 11:23 am

teaching assistant receiving free tuition from a non-liberal university


What universities are considered non-liberal? Maybe you have the following universities in mind:

Alaska Bible College
Alaska Christian College
Heritage Christian University
Judson College
Southeastern Bible College
Christian Heritage College
Calvary Chapel Bible College
Colorado Christian University
Nazarene Bible College
Southern Adventist University
Tennessee Bible College
Tennessee Temple University
Trevecca Nazarene University
Kentucky Christian University
Kentucky Mountain Bible School
Louisville Bible College
Southern Baptist theological Seminary

to name a few.

Thirdly, I don't want PhysicsGRE.com to be a free yet valuable resource for people who can ignore inappropriate comments


Ehhhh??
It reinforces the attitude that the physics community is a boys’ club. This site does not exist in isolation. For example, you may not realize this because I haven’t posted my stats, but the schools I am considering overlap with other members of this forum, including RG.


400nm, this is going to happen anyway. You can't control what RG thinks or where he goes to school. I'm not saying it's right, but it's out of your hands. The only thing you can do is try to convince him that he's wrong and this is exactly why an open policy is much more valuable then censorship. Censoring this website won't make these problems go away; it will simply ignore them. You will be blissfully unaware that you are going to school with these people, but they will still be there. Better to confront the problems now in anonyminity where you might be able to convince someone they are wrong than to confront them in person at your school and possibly suffer persecution because of your views. If you are willing to that it's great, and you should stand up for what you believe, but it's far safer here.

I have noticed as of late that RG has been conspicuously absent from this forum. While I cannot speak for him I suspect the changes in policy probably play a large part in this. Quizivex is also on "sabbatical" and I will probably leave soon after I have said all that I think needs to be said.

However, I don't subscribe to the notion that the solution for dealing with inappropriate comments is to simply ignore them.


Maybe we should censor books, too, since some peole seem incapable of choosing "appropriate" material to read?

The objective of PhysicsGRE.com is to be a free yet valuable resource for prospective and current physics graduate students. We strive to provide an environment that encourages and enables people to share their knowledge and learn from others. We want people to feel good about recommending PhysicsGRE.com to their friends, classmates, and students.


Truthfully if I had to recommend a site for GRE solutions than Yosun has the better site, hands down. If I wanted to recommend a site to discuss physics graduate school, discussion of study tactics, etc. this site is the best of the two.

I would not recommend a site to my friends that was under that was under constant moral policiing. It has been unecessary to date and remains unnecessary. If you want a place where children can safely discuss physics without having their virgin ears penetrated by obscenities then you are well on your way to realizing that goal.
Last edited by twistor on Thu Feb 21, 2008 11:48 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby Grant » Thu Feb 21, 2008 11:29 am

400nm,

Thanks for helping me to understand the situation better. I just created a private moderator forum and moved that thread in there until I have a chance to take a look at it. I feel apologetic and embarrassed about such a thread having existed on this site. I am sorry I didn't get to it sooner.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby Grant » Thu Feb 21, 2008 11:36 am

twistor wrote:
Thirdly, I don't want PhysicsGRE.com to be a free yet valuable resource for people who can ignore inappropriate comments


Ehhhh??

I was having fun with the real objective I stated in my post which was:
The objective of PhysicsGRE.com is to be a free yet valuable resource for prospective and current physics graduate students. We strive to provide an environment that encourages and enables people to share their knowledge and learn from others. We want people to feel good about recommending PhysicsGRE.com to their friends, classmates, and students.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby twistor » Thu Feb 21, 2008 11:49 am

Please reread my post above because I have edited several times to add content.
Last edited by Grant on Thu Feb 21, 2008 12:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Please don't test out the word mappings.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby Grant » Thu Feb 21, 2008 12:19 pm

twistor,

Your comments about creationism and your listing of the religious schools suggest you see a correlation between religion and our hashing out of policies. I don't see it that way. I also don't see it as a moral issue. Instead I see it as we are trying to achieve an objective and we are logically hashing out policies that will help us all achieve our objective.

I imagine you didn't have inappropriate comments in your personal statement because inappropriate comments would hinder the objective of your personal statement. It isn't because you were trying to shelter the admissions committee from profanity. It probably isn't because you dislike bad words. No, I quite sure your personal statement was appropriate because you wanted to achieve an objective.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby grae313 » Thu Feb 21, 2008 12:52 pm

RG announced in a post why he left. He apologized to 400nm, said he never meant to offend anyone, and that he wouldn't post anymore.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby twistor » Thu Feb 21, 2008 1:28 pm

It isn't because you were trying to shelter the admissions committee from profanity. It probably isn't because you dislike bad words. No, I quite sure your personal statement was appropriate because you wanted to achieve an objective.


You're comparing apples and oranges.

Not cursing in a personal statement is my choice as to what was appropriate to include in my personal statement. You have taken the choice of deciding what is and what isn't appropriate and placed it firmly in your own hands.

There is a difference. If I would've thought it would have been an effective way to make my point I would have sworn in my statement. There was no ruling authority to tell me otherwise.

Your comments about creationism and your listing of the religious schools suggest you see a correlation between religion and our hashing out of policies. I don't see it that way. I also don't see it as a moral issue. Instead I see it as we are trying to achieve an objective and we are logically hashing out policies that will help us all achieve our objective.


And where do you suppose those ideas you have about what constitutes appropriate behavior come from? Frankly I don't see how this form of censorship is even tangentially related to the discussion of physics.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby Grant » Thu Feb 21, 2008 2:03 pm

And where do you suppose those ideas you have about what constitutes appropriate behavior come from?

I am not an expert on the origins of societal norms, but I will concur with your notion that religion has played a major role in defining the norms of what is and isn't acceptable behavior in our society. However, I am not interested in changing society as I don't have the inspiration or energy to do that. I just want to create goals and objectives for PhysicsGRE.com make logically sound policy decisions to try and achieve those goals. I sincerely welcome feedback with both the objectives and with creating logically sound policies to help us achieve those objectives.

Granted there is probably room for debate about whether or not inappropriate comments help or hurt our objectives. After all, controversy draws crowds. However, I don't think the short term benefits of Jerry Springering ourselves a crowd is worth the negative effect it can have on our community.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby twistor » Thu Feb 21, 2008 3:13 pm

Granted there is probably room for debate about whether or not inappropriate comments help or hurt our objectives. After all, controversy draws crowds. However, I don't think the short term benefits of Jerry Springering ourselves a crowd is worth the negative effect it can have on our community.


I'm not saying you should open the flood gates of iniquitiy. Just allow people to express themselves freely and the forums will more or less take care of themselves (as they have been doing).

I approve of your goal, just not your methods.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby 400nm » Thu Feb 21, 2008 5:02 pm

grae, RG did apologize for offending people, but that was before he started the male locker room thread, so I didn't take it to heart.

I'm not saying you should open the flood gates of iniquitiy. Just allow people to express themselves freely and the forums will more or less take care of themselves (as they have been doing).

twistor, you obviously think that what happened to me is just fine, as do several guys on this site, or all of you wouldn't have stood up for RG and thought the male locker room was a great idea. So from my viewpoint, the forum did not take care of itself. If it had, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

The above incident is the only thing I was personally upset about, and it is being taken care of now. So I don't have anything else to to say until I see what happens to thread that Grant moved. I know other people have felt offended, but if they don't post I can't speak for them. Maybe they felt it worked itself out (or certain people stopped posting, which I suppose is the same as it working itself out without input from the moderator). Or maybe they are still upset, but there is some other reason they're not involved in this discussion. I don't know.

Just to summarize what I said before, I think it's a good idea for entire threads that are off-topic to be moved to (or started in) the Lounge, and that posts which are hateful/offensive that are directed at another person should be deleted, or at least responded to, if that person reports them.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby twistor » Thu Feb 21, 2008 5:14 pm

I give up. Enjoy the new and very boring physicsgre.com.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby Grant » Thu Feb 21, 2008 5:32 pm

400nm wrote:So I don't have anything else to to say until I see what happens to thread that Grant moved.

From a public perspective that thread is already deleted. I plan to read that thread and delete it. I just feel obligated to read it before I delete it. However, I am procrastinating because I sincerely don't want to read it.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby grae313 » Thu Feb 21, 2008 6:06 pm

400nm wrote:grae, RG did apologize for offending people, but that was before he started the male locker room thread, so I didn't take it to heart.


No, he apologized in the original thread that was renamed to this thread. The post was deleted by grant, I guess, when the thread was renamed and cleaned up. He announced that he was leaving in that same post.

400nm wrote:twistor, you obviously think that what happened to me is just fine, as do several guys on this site, or all of you wouldn't have stood up for RG and thought the male locker room was a great idea.


It was not just fine, and people said so. Your very first post was telling RG that you felt his comments made the forum unfriendly to females, which I really don't get because I'm female and I've always felt welcome. He responded to you somewhat angrily and it was wrong. But he's a good-natured guy. He said a million times that he was just joking around and didn't want to offend anyone. He was genuinely shocked that women readers were getting upset about what he wrote, because he really didn't write anything much besides "I hope I meet a hot chick in grad school that would be so great" and "I like getting laid." I'm paraphrasing, of course, but c'mon, if you think 95% of guys don't think that way, you're fooling yourself. The "Male Locker Room" was not a place where women couldn't post, only a place where RG thought he could joke around freely without worrying about offending you. And the jokes he made weren't crude.

Just to summarize what I said before, I think it's a good idea for entire threads that are off-topic to be moved to (or started in) the Lounge, and that posts which are hateful/offensive that are directed at another person should be deleted, or at least responded to, if that person reports them.


Agreed on the hateful part, but not so much on the offensive part. Anyone can find anything offensive. That line is personal and subjective. When it becomes directed at another individual specifically and/or is hateful (like what happened to you) then I agree.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby Grant » Thu Feb 21, 2008 6:30 pm

The post was deleted by grant, I guess, when the thread was renamed and cleaned up.

Yes I do recall deleting a one line post when I was cleaning up this thread. I thought somebody was making a joke about the report post feature and I didn't realize the significance of that post. I really am not very good at being a moderator. I hope this doesn't have anything to do with people leaving and other people being mad at them. Sorry about that.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby 400nm » Thu Feb 21, 2008 7:21 pm

As for RG's apology, I'll sort of take your word for it, but I can't respond to it if its deleted.

And I did mean offensive comments specifically directed at people.

The only person who disagreed with RG was zxcv. Sorry to keep using zxcv as an example, but he actually called RG out on being sexist before I did, and I was just agreeing with him. Just because women could post in the male locker room doesn't make it OK. If people agree with me, then why are they arguing so vehemently against me? Why did I have to report the thread to an administrator to get it moved?

I stand by what I said before and the suggestions I made. I was just telling my story and now it's out of my hands.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby grae313 » Thu Feb 21, 2008 7:35 pm

400nm wrote:As for RG's apology, I'll sort of take your word for it, but I can't respond to it if its deleted.

And I did mean offensive comments specifically directed at people.

The only person who disagreed with RG was zxcv. Sorry to keep using zxcv as an example, but he actually called RG out on being sexist before I did, and I was just agreeing with him. Just because women could post in the male locker room doesn't make it OK. If people agree with me, then why are they arguing so vehemently against me? Why did I have to report the thread to an administrator to get it moved?


Did you ever actually read the thread? There is nothing in there that warrants it being moved. It was just more of people chatting about nothing in particular. And here's some quotes from it:

RG wrote:EVEERY BODY RESPECTS GIRLS. THIS IS THE REASON WHY THIS THREAD IS CALLED MALE LOCKER ROOM.

I am dropping this argument and I am sorry if I offended you with the title.


RG wrote:hey pchick,
I really apologize for hurting you. I never mean to hurt any body on this forum. can we be frens and lets us all just post without over reacting on some of our offhand posts?
Sorry again.
if we ever meet, i will bow down to u.
plz don b offended. c it this way... all in good fun in this stressful time.


RG wrote:Thanks for posting, physchick. I want to say it again, I really did not mean to hurt( or offend) you or any other female mebers on this forum.



I'm with Twistor, Quiz, and RG. The reason the forum is so active this year is because we are posting a lot, talking and joking around, and making online friends that I hope I will have a chance to meet at the open houses. With a bunch of people from all over the country chatting and joking around, some people are bound to get their buttons pushed. That is the way it is with these things. Where do you draw the line if everyone is sensitive to different things and to different degrees? If it's going to be a place where no one ever gets offended ever, then it's going to be the way it was before, with a few people posting every once in a while and talking all business. I'll pass on that. I don't come here five times a day to talk about physics, I come here to talk to my friends. Last year, coming here five times a day would be worthless because there were only a handful of new posts per day.

This is sort of a crossroads right now. Is this site going to be about information and information only, or is it going to be a community where people make friends, make enemies, laugh out loud, get information, share experiences, and read something unpleasant every once and a while? I think quiz, RG, twistor, and myself have already put in our opinions, and it is out of my hands now as well.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby twistor » Thu Feb 21, 2008 8:27 pm

"I think [dogs] are stupid. They [stink] at physics 'cause all they think about are [cats] all day long."

The first one can be discussed but the best thing to do about the second is to ignore it.


Last edited by Grant on Thu Feb 21, 2008 9:43 am, edited 2 times in total.
Saying something in inappropriate and then saying that which is inappropriate is not appropriate.


How did I miss this? Another post down the memory hole.

I think all this horseshit about cleaning up the site is related to your t-shirt advertising campaign and your new blogs. Maybe you want to sell adspace on physicsgre.com and you want us to blog for you and you don' t think it's marketable if people don't want to visit our licentious forums?

Saying something in inappropriate and then saying that which is inappropriate is not appropriate.


Thank you for clarifying this outstanding moral issue. Now we can all rest safely knowing you have protected us from naughty langauge.

Oh, and you censored the word "suck" ([stink]->suck), too? How thoughtful.

Stink my cat.

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby twistor » Thu Feb 21, 2008 9:00 pm

Some math:

Your 4 most prolific posters are:

twistor, grae313, RG, quizivex

in that order.

There are a total of 746 registered users of physicsgre.com

Your top 4 posters contributed ~24% of the sites current posts. The other 742 users contributed the rest.

You have already driven away two users (quizivex, 4.4% and RG, 5.31%) who together have contributed roughly 10% of this sites posts. I'll probably be next (7.70%).

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Re: Hashing out PhysicsGRE.com Forum Policies

Postby zxcv » Thu Feb 21, 2008 10:30 pm

This may ironic considering what I've said before, but in my opinion, heavy-handed moderation is a mistake. Using moderators to filter discussions, assign penalty points and temporary bans would drive people away. This is a mostly self-regulating community with a remarkable history of people deleting (some of) their own inappropriate comments. I think confrontation and taking personal responsibility are the way to regulate any community, and this site is still small enough that we can make it work. This community will do fine with only occasional oversight.

The most serious problems I've encountered have been with competing senses of humor, and ironic posts that not everyone reads in the same way. The "male locker room" was a joke -- not one that I think is appropriate, but still a joke. Honestly, it seems like the most bothersome posts have come up as direct responses when I (or others) have been confrontational. But I think even the most notorious posters (RG) have realized that joking about this stuff just ticks others off more. I also trust that they are willing to work with others to make them feel comfortable, and I think we have good indications that that will be the case (if this is not so, then a top-down approach may be necessary).

I also think censoring words by default is a mistake. Nobody gives a *** about profanity other than you, Grant. This site is a site used by students, and we use our common vernacular. That includes words like *** and ***, so deal with it.

EDIT: So apparently even though I have profanity turned on in my preferences, I can't see the word *** in this post. WTF.




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