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.
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: