Abd on Abd as the Center of the Universe

They are talking about me on LENR Forum again. While the history of my ban there is quite open, if one studies history on LF and looks at what I wrote here about it when it happened, it’s obvious that few actually know the history. LF Staff are far from transparent, which is a major part of the problem.

Let’s start with this: the Condensed Matter Nuclear Science (CMNS)  community needs to develop what are called, in my training, Structures for Fulfillment. From the beginning, the community was fragmented and ineffective, compared to what might be seen as possible. When I came into the field in 2009, I found no evidence of sane collective decision-making procedures that were anything more than ad hoc. Fund-raising was isolated and largely individual. Factions were fighting with each other, but aside from a few highly opinionated individuals, internal criticism was mostly missing. Experts in CMNS did not criticise the work of others, they would not even comment on it (and I asked).

I saw, in CMNS conferences, no mechanisms for finding and expressing consensus. So, from a social point of view, it was all primitive, and mostly the community was reactive, blaming the lack of progress on “them,” the mainstream refusing to accept experimental reality. But how was that reality being communicated? Was it effective and clear? Were experts in communication being sought, either as paid consultants or as volunteers?

Mostly not. Something was missing, and, since I could see it, it became my responsibility to create it. So, now, to LF. This will be long, because many complex issues are raised. Part of the problem is an intolerance of complexity. Complexity is not for everyone, but what I’ve found, many times, is that those who hate complexity will act to suppress it, even though they could simply step around it. What we do not understand, we try to kill, it is probably a basic survival instinct, xenophobia.

In a sane organizational structure, complexity is channeled. In an insane one, it is repressed, censored, or at least ridiculed and insulted.

Eric Walker wrote:

 

Rigel, the mods reserve the right to promptly ban people who are a nuisance here. No one who is polite, who is participating in good faith, and who responds to moderator requests is in the slightest danger of being banned, even temporarily, regardless of his or her views on controversial topics relating to LENR.

I like Eric Walker. I routinely work with him, he is downloading case files, and just one filing can be $100. When I began at LENR Forum, Eric was not a moderator, he is fairly new in the role. What he has said here may be true for him, but it is not historically true, and I’m proof.

There may be other counterexamples, but it’s very difficult to tell, because the process is secret. Secret administration process and deep community organization (the kind that can generate open and genuine consensus) are incompatible. It may work for some time, if there is a benevolent dictator, but it’s unstable and unreliable.

Problem cases are considered individually, on a case by case basis. In all but the most egregious cases there is a process of deliberation among the mods beforehand, and a series of warnings are usually given.

So who are the mods who participate in this? How do they make decisions? There is a staff list. Who chooses who has the privileged tools that allow a user to delete content, to edit the posts of others, and to ban? Someone has the tools to assign privileges. This is often an “administrator,” but I have indications that that level of tool access is not assigned to ordinary Forum administrators. The level of tool access for individuals is not public.

One account is shown as Founder. He is not very active. The Forum hosts advertising. It appears to be an individual enterprise, even though it has volunteer staff and, of course, volunteer content creation. On WMF wikis, that assignment of tools is the responsibility of bureaucrats (who may be anonymous), but this is overall supervised by stewards, who are not anonymous before the WikiMedia Foundation, which can intervene, and supposedly the structure all exists to empower the community, but … in reality, election methods known to be defective by those who study such things were used to assign tools and to advise those who hold them (and to elect the WMF board); WMF wikis are highly vulnerable to factional domination.

I have never seen the LF control structure documented. Someone had access to the .htaccess file, when incoming links from CFC were banned for a time as retaliation. That takes root access on the domain host, and someone with root access could do almost anything, they could directly modify the database. Absent other information, I assume that the Founder has control of tool assignment. And what are his positions on issues and does he follow rules, or is it all ad-hoc, which is actually what Walker is saying? There is no description of process, of what someone who might be warned might expect and, in fact, there is no guarantee of warning, so LF is vulnerable to all the problems of pre-democratic societies, such as ex-post-facto laws and star tribunals.

This is not “wrong.” It represents, however, an owned resource, without any promises of trusteeship based on declared goals. The site titles itself “The independent low energy nuclear reaction community.” There is no apparent recognition of a real community, larger than LF, much larger. It is ironic that Peter Gluck complained about the name of CFC. Allegedly I had no right to use that name, but has he complained about LENR Forum? (No, except to periodically bail because of the “insults.”)

Yes, right now, I am chief cook and bottle washer, everyday spam filter, and I could Ban Your Ass. But that is not how I operate and it is not ever how I have operated. I am committed to serving the CMNS community as a trustee, turning over power and control as soon as there are structures in place to receive it. I know how to build those structures, consensus structures, and I have long experience at it. But it is obviously something I cannot do by myself. It takes at least two, and there are even books written about this…. Who, involved with LENR, reads them?

Those who have been banned will not have been surprised about it.

In a word, horseshit. I was banned twice and was astonished both times. There was no warning, other than obvious dislike from Alan Smith. The second time, I objected to the arbitrary and without-warning deletion of comments, by Alan, which is intolerable to a writer, and so I declared that I would be boycotting LF until this was addressed. What I wanted was not control of LF, as some imagine, but warning or some provision of deleted content to those who had contributed it. On E-Cat World, if comments are deleted, they still exist in the user profile, so the writing is not lost. It is a basic courtesy to content contributors.

The response was, apparently by Alan Smith, “you can’t boycott us, you are banned.” And that was it. With both bans, there was no warning, “continue this and you will be banned.” There was a process page, rules for users and about banning. It was not followed at all. As Dewey Weaver wrote, LF is amateur hour, it cannot satisfy the real needs of the LENR community, because it does not have the structures and necessary competent staff. Alain is very well-meaning, but hates conflict and essentially bails. Eric as well, is sincere but is not willing to confront administrative abuse, and that is where the pedal hits the metal. Who watches the watchers? It is an ancient question and there are solutions, but they involve community and transparency. Wikipedia, at least, got that part down, but were afflicted with deeper problems, the structure and ideals required consensus, but they then rejected those who knew how to create consensus, experts on it, and they went with a “no-bureaucracy” rule, thus tossing centuries of experience out in favor of an overheated “we are free, we can create Wikipedia just like we created free software” naivete. When they were faced with interest groups with billions of dollars at stake and a willingness to corrupt the structure, or with other interest groups with thousands of volunteers ready, they were clueless, so they only slapped down the naive. And the position of Wikipedia administrator attracted those who liked to exercise power. The best administrators burned out quickly.

(After I was banned on Wikipedia, I was paid, nicely, thank you, to advise others who had fallen into difficulties there, including writing wikitext. I turned being banned into cash. Cool, eh? And perfectly compliant with policies, even if some may bite their tongues in frustration. A WMF board member, a lawyer, threatened that I would be sued for what I did for a short time (editing while banned). I wasn’t, but it would have been wonderful if I had been. It would have established some precedents that they did not want established.)

And several of the members who were recently temporarily banned will not be missed if they do not return, and if they do return they will be in danger of being permanently banned if they are not on their best behavior.

Some have returned and are essentially trolling. So what Eric Wrote was meaningless. Strict rules with unreliable enforcement are worse than useless. They then become a tool for biased moderators to use, giving them cover. There is no recusal policy on LF. I wrote recusal policy for Wikiversity, including how to deal with the ever-present “emergency” situations. It is not difficult, but such rules are typically rejected by administrators because they believe it decreases their power, and administrators generally believe that they know what is best for the community. I was, at that time, as I recall, a Wikiversity administrator, but this was very unusual, and it was due to one of the best Wikiversity features: “probationary” administration. Long story. That was eventually crushed, as to substance, by the WMF. I think they were afraid of the precedent spreading to other wikis. It would have returned real control to the community. Instead, all the wikis are controlled by very small cliques, though there is constant tension with the community. The WMF world is fascinating, and complex as hell.

So, Rigel wrote:

Unless I am missing something. All the locks are missing from the recent banning massacre. So both the Dew and Wyttenbach and of course sifferkoll are now able to post.

I would ask them to consider posting again albeit more thoughtfully.

Only one name is missing from this list who could contribute more than most but hey can’t due to some non existent policy of permabans…. Can’t have everything X/

I will just point out that there is no policy. There is a single person in control, who has delegated that, in an obscure fashion, to others, who act according to whatever they think at the time, and who do not restrain each other, as far as we can tell. It also appears that the site structure may not allow recovery of deleted content. At one point, Alan Smith deleted a new post of mine as spam. It was simply a mistake, he was probably deleting a bunch of spam and just went right down the list. However…. the content was apparently not recoverable and he never apologized, as I recall. But maybe I missed it. I was attempting to create new topics to cover issues that fill up topics with irrelevancies. It was opposed, and I suspect that was because I was doing it.

On this blog (CFC), spam is placed in a spam folder. It is a separate action to delete it, and I wait quite a while, which causes little or no harm. I would expect that in a sane structure, primary deletion (hiding the content from the public) and full deletion (removing it from the database) would be separate actions, so requiring the consent of two with privilege. WMF wikis are like that. Deletion is generally slow, a process of gathering consensus, but speedy deletion is quick, admin discretion. And then anyone can appeal it, and unless there are strong reasons, the content will be undeleted for review and final decision, and “final” on Wikipedia isn’t final. It could later be reviewed and any administrator can restore the content. (I often asked for deleted content, it was always supplied.) “Oversighting” apparently hides content from administrators, but still does not remove it from the database. That takes developer access, and I’m not sure I know of any example.

I see no sign that LF staff has any outside forum experience. Eric Walker mentions vortex-l. Funny he should mention that.

Jed Rothwell wrote: (responding to Rigel)

If you were to ban me I wouldn’t think of coming back. I doubt you will see any of those people again.

There is a difference between anonymous users — and socks — and real-name users. ele is back, because ele has nothing to lose, and probably has used other accounts. Dewey has not come back yet. My guess is that he has much better things to do. If he wants to contribute information, he has options. He has the direct email address of major contributors.

He will come back if it is fun. And part of the fun for Dewey — he is not alone in this — is saying what he thinks, without censoring it. LF thinks that it wants a polite forum, with reserved discussion of topics, but LF has never created structure that would encourage that. And rejected opportunities to do it. Impolite posts are very, very common, and little is done about it, and there are moderators who post what amounts to trolling. There is no policy and certainly no reliable enforcement.

Sifferkoll wrote racist posts, outed, all that, and was not banned until the recent Massacre, which mostly was Eric Walker, if I’m correct, and Alan banned Dewey Weaver, he should have been the last person to touch Dewey with tools. I wouldn’t go back, except, of course, I would create one or more socks. Never can tell when they could be useful. I just learned that LF administrators don’t have access to IP data. Wheee! I don’t even have to break a sweat to create socks! (But I have never deliberately posted on LF as a sock without disclosing it.) I do have some unbanned accounts, I recently discovered one.

But I do recognize and respect the right of site owners to run the site as they choose. And the rest of us can throw rotten tomatoes if we want. Virtual ones, that is. It’s a free world, but I just might refuse access to my apartment without a warrant.

LF, for a banned user who has not killed the cookies, totally breaks if one is banned. One cannot read private messages, which was hilarious, because when I was first banned, the message informing me could not, of course, be read. Attempting to access an LF page, I would get a message that access by pathoskeptics was not allowed. LF was started by rank amateurs — which isn’t wrong in itself — but they were not fast learners, and locked themselves into dysfunctional behaviors. Idiosyncratic software is being used, which then limits possibilities. I’m using WordPress, and there are millions of WordPress experts. My son is expert, etc. There is an overwhelming array of tools available. Free.

Believe me, I asked my son before installing CFC as a WordPress blog.

THHuxleynew wrote:

I find the permanent banning of Abd a bit surprising.

As one learns more about what is going on behind the scenes at LF, it becomes unsurprising. I was surprised to find what I found, fairly early on, and the depth of that advanced. I knew there were problems. It was worse than I thought. I thought there might be some possibility of moving forward. Such a possibility still exists, but it would probably take a change of heart by the Founder. If the Founder decided to make LF into a servant of the “LENR community,” as it might be imagined to be from the site slogan, it could happen, and the more the merrier. That is the great thing about genuine community. It is not exclusive. It is protected from domination, by an inclusive diversity.

He contributes good research, analysis, and is often wise.

Only often? Hmmmphh!

He is also narcissistic, long-winded, and inclined to value his opinion above others. As are many of us (me especially).

Narcissistic? Moi?

“Inclined to value his opinion over others.” That is often how my behavior looks to some, who don’t like my opinion. My actual stand is to express what I see or think, and I want everyone to do that, and especially to stand for what they hold as important. I have faced this in real-life situations, where lives were at stake. When people do this, it becomes possible to find genuine consensus. Sometimes it takes some skilled facilitation. That skill is rare, apparently. It can be trained, there are entire movements dedicated to this, such as, to name one I’m not personally involved with, NVC.

His ideas about how forums should be run seem to me to be tendentious but not stupid. It is weird that he gets into such arguments with mods. From my POV – it is hard work, I don’t want to do it, I am grateful that others do it.

And this is exactly how abusive moderation is maintained. It is a lot of work to be a functional site moderator. Most of the work is invisible and thankless. When I ended up confronting a grossly abusive administrator on Wikipedia, I was told — by another administrator — that he would not be sanctioned, but would be reprimanded, and they would put him on a short leash. He explained that the fellow had done too much grunt work, dealing with difficult issues, to be removed. He was a “valuable volunteer.” I’m sure he was. But he was driving away many ordinary Wikipedians. Administrators don’t think that important, too often. They think as administrators, no surprise! As to short leash, he behaved himself for a few months, then went right back. He became a bit more sophisticated, he would ask a friend to do the dirty work of blocking someone he didn’t like, and that is how JedRothwell was finally blocked on Wikipedia. Not directly, but it was all transparent, the asking was public, and ban process was very much not followed.

And administrators get away with that because of all the valuable work they do. And because few, if any, are willing to do that work.

However, at one point Alan wrote something like “If you think you could do better, why don’t you volunteer?” So I did. I was told that they were thinking about it. …. Yet if an admin cannot remove privileges, if the software is properly set up, there is little harm; further, restrictions can be placed for voluntary compliance. There is very little risk if someone is known to be reasonably responsible. Moderators can be supervised, and that can be based on complaints. No structure is in place though. I’d have worked on that, but mostly I wanted to organize content. There was a generally accepted procedure for dealing with off-topic posts, moving them to appropriate places (which is far less controversial than deleting them). Problem is, this is work. It’s much easier to push a delete button, especially if there are no consequences.

I did what I always do: point out the obvious, or what is obvious to me. That was very much unwelcome.

What I am describing here is very normal in amateur organizations. It takes experience or sophistication, generally, to overcome these effects.

That includes moderators such as Rends and Alan whose views on some issues I think heavily biased. And while I sometimes don’t agree with the way others moderate I’m in no position to criticise without being willing to do the hard work.

That’s a fair point, it was my position, but I then made the choice to volunteer for that hard work. And I’m doing hard work. I’m putting in well over eight hours per day on CFC. It is far easier, and far more productive, than slogging through the muck on LF. And LF is not all that bad, in some ways. But it’s terrible for creating organized content, and efforts to move in that direction were torpedoed by Alan Smith, with some collaboration from Barty. Remember when they moved all Rossi-LH stuff to its own forum? Not a bad idea, in itself, but it was then used to shut down active conversations by freezing them.

The owner of the site has the full right to do or to allow whatever silliness or oppressive action he chooses. Dewey’s point was, though, that the world is opening up, and amateur hour won’t be enough. I think he’s right. We will move into the future or the future will leave us behind.

Still – I’d like to think that Abd’s isolation was his inability to integrate rather than any policy of LF. I’m therefore surprised at a perma-ban for anyone carrying such positives.

I have no idea what that means, “inability to integrate.” Perhaps it means “to work with others”? In what kind of structure or context? Peers?

And I’m not isolated. People are sending me money. Just how isolated is that? Isolated all the way to the bank! Ah, don’t misunderstand. I have enough to pay expenses, which is all I need; more money will allow me to do more, particularly tavel.

I am simply banned on LF; I could post there any time I wanted to, but I don’t want to. This is much better. I would rather that LF users who like something here link to it there. Some have been afraid that this would be disallowed. So far, it looks like not. Not yet, anyway. For a time, Wikipedia went that way, it was defacto prohibited to mention BADSITES. Like Wikipedia Review. But the best editors were there, on the critic sites….

On another issue. Transparency is a great good. One way to make moderation more supported is to openly publish all warnings with the relevant posts. This helps everyone calibrate things, whereas a private history of warning and breech is just not understood and banning then seen as disproportionate.

 Basically, it is trivial to imagine ways to improve LF. But if the core is rotten, it won’t do much good. Is the core rotten? I don’t know. The core is hidden, concealed, very much not transparent. I don’t want to reveal what I know because it comes from private email and I was not given permission to disclose it.

Still, looking at the proposals, there should be two levels of warnings. Private warnings would be that, by PM, with email copies to the user. Then the next stage of escalation would be public warnings, readable by all, and with a responsible moderator. Moderators involved in personal conflict should ordinarily not issue these aside from emergencies. LF should have enough with the tools to allow recusal. If there is a dispute over warnings, not to mention later blocks, there should be a mailing list, publically viewable at least, where an appeal can be filed. Absent appeal, and pending resolution, a member would be expected to heed all warnings, even if they strongly disagree. Probably the best structure for that mailing list would be as a semi-moderated list. Anyone may join and read it, but initial posting would require moderator approval, and any list moderator may put any member on moderation, which is not banning, and the traditions would be that any one of the collection of list moderators may approve a post, and that posts would not be rejected except for lapse of time without any approval.

These are all tools for facilitating genuine consensus that does not remove individual freedom of action, but essentially requires supermajority approval for a permanent ban, and with the process being transparent.

But people want to hide, they are afraid of taking open stands. Nevertheless, those who want to serve the community cannot be hiding in fear. Let someone else do it who is not afraid.

I was not warned, other than vague mutterings.

There was a question asked of the LF community, how to handle user problems.

The starting post (by “admin” — who is that?) ended with:

We should democratically set up a few forum rules which we will publish afterwards, so everyone has knowledge of them and we can take decisive action on the specific user profiles

 Great. However, this is being managed by people who have no concept of real democratic process, nor how to create it. Nor do they want to know. I do know, I have served as a parliamentarian. What happened?

The discussion went for what is now four pages. It was a typical Forum discussion, poor focus, lots of irrelevancies, drastically off-topic, and all a result of the structure. There is no “motion on the floor,” only a vague idea of topic. And nobody presents a motion. My guess, if someone had, it would have been shouted down as Not What We Do. But this is standard. While an organization can meet as a committee, or as the Committee of the Whole, where rules are suspended and people can pretty much say what they want, that is not how any binding decisions are made. There must be a Motion, and then a Second, before it is even discussed, and then discussion is moderated (“chaired”) to keep focus, and there are motions to amend, table, refer to committee, etc., and all of them are decided by vote. To do that on-line takes some time, but it is quite doable.

(There are full-on consensus organizations that often neglect this process, and such organizations tend to lose members over time, because the process can be so tedious. The way for the future is hybrid, and about this I have possibly written more than about LENR, just not so much recently.)

Instead, at some point “admin” simply created rules. There was no specific proposal that members then discussed, amended, voted up or down, etc., it was just someone — not openly identified — who took action:

Forum Rules

These rules were not discussed. There was no vote. This was not “democratic,” it was autocratic. The rules are largely a collection of wishful thinkings, not backed by experience.

 We don’t tolerate any aggressive or insulting language.

Every day, there is aggressive and insulting language on LF.  It is not only tolerated, there are moderators who indulge in it. Even the best moderators sometimes cross what would be sensible boundaries.

Quite simply, those rules are not followed, no clear process was set up, there is no rule of law, which is fundamental to deliberative democracy. Participants must know what to expect.

Sane moderation will guide users toward compliance with what creates a positive environment. It is not punitive, it is educational. It will provide mechanisms for handling personal disputes with moderators, such that final decisions represent the community, not an individual.

In an owned site (and all sites must be, legally, owned), there is some owner who is legally responsible. That owner has full rights to regulate the site and can even take it down. (The owner may be a corporation but an individual is always delegated the direct responsibility).

Fora like LENR Forum cannot afford paid administration, so such will generally share some of the administrative burden, but the buck stops with the owner. With LF, in actual control there is a star chamber, some hidden meeting or communication process. What happens there is private and secret. My understanding, though, is that the most community-oriented members of that cabal are in despair about it. But they are not talking. See, if you belong to a cabal like that, and you talk about it, they will kick you out. All for perfectly good reasons, of course.

From this, I would not be surprised if LENR Forum abruptly disappears, certainly there is a risk of that. If I had others working regularly on CFC, there would be more than one person with full access to backups, so that the site could be replicated if needed. I have already worked out procedures for how to handle a possible dispute between me and my own community, should the community ever attract enough participation. It’s not difficult. These problems were, in the real world, solved, for the most part, before I was born.

Roger wrote: (in response to THHuxleynew)

Don’t worry, he’s passed the filibustering relay to you and you’re doing a flawless job

Now, this is on the Playground, set up by Rends in as a common reaction to people being people. He explains it in this post.

Here are no rules, it is a playground build up as a reaction of the endless in circles rotating and thus pointless debates here in the forum, where in principle the only aim is to discredit the debaters through unsubstantiated personal attacks. If you what to do this, or if you like it, or need it (there are people out there you have such desires) then come over here to the playground, but do not complain.

So, technically, even though his post is flagrantly uncivil, Roger is not violating the Playground rules, because there are no rules in the Playground. Except there are. I would ask why the Forum is catering to the “desires” of people who want to fight and discredit others. Playground posts show up in Recent Posts and people are exposed to them. Does LF want to host unmitigated libel, doxxing, etc?

But then why did Eric raise his issues in the Playground, instead of a Forum or Forum administration topic? What I am seeing is what I’ve seen for a long time, no maturity in moderation and administration.

Hence, even if unbanned, I might not post on LF, and especially if the problem of arbitrary deletion of content is not resolved, which boils down to creating supervision of moderation.

Notice that Rends says “do not complain.” But elsewhere mods point out the complaint button, clearly suggesting that it be used, and such tools then give, in actual practice, excessive power to complainers! “We have received a lot of complaints” is a common mod complaint about someone.

Again, there are ways to handle all of this, but LF admin is not seeking them and has no process for discovering true consensus. Such process could easily be created, but it takes people willing to stand for it and to work for it. It is not going to happen all by itself, or it would already have happened. How to do it is know, but it requires “boots on the ground.” Just knowing is far from enough.

Meanwhile, I’m having a Ton of Fun here. Mixed in with Slogging Through the Muck, where my reward is knowing something of value is being created.

Hey, come on in! The water’s fine!

 

Author: Abd ulRahman Lomax

See http://coldfusioncommunity.net/biography-abd-ul-rahman-lomax/

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