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newsgroup protocol
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Zaz
science forum beginner


Joined: 07 Mar 2005
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2005 3:00 pm    Post subject: newsgroup protocol Reply with quote

[Moderator's note: The following is not on-topic according to the
charter of sci.physics.strings. But the points raised seem to be
important enough for the group in its current form that it should
be worthwhile to allow a thread with discussion of these issues. -usc]

I have made the following observations when reading this newsgroup:

* the topics are of interest to a great number of people (as evidenced, e.g.,
by news coverage in the media)

* the quality of posts, especially those answering direct questions, is very high

* the discussion is dominated by a very small number of contributors

* many questions reappear periodically but are not simply redirected
to a reliable FAQ's repository

* anonymous posts are allowed

* the moderator sometimes interrupts another's post to inject his own
comments

* mosts threads have a small number of articles

* traffic is sometimes very light

The last observations are disturbing in view of the fact that this field
is so interesting to so many of us. I think that newsgroup
protocol is responsible for some this. The greater string community has
an interest in this group's effective functioning. There are many
researchers in small institutions worldwide who would benefit from
more robust on-line discussions.

Here are a set of recommendations that I think could resuscitate
this newsgroup and help communication in the field in general.

* Discourage (or prohibit) more than one post per person per day.

* Moderator should not interrupt another's post.

* Repeated questions (why ten dimensions? what is a brane?)
should not be answered but should simply be directed to a
website with FAQ's (e.g., the moderator hosts a website).

* Occasionally announce a "focussed discussion" topic ahead of time,
accompanied by invitations to researchers to join.

Maybe the problems with this group are not related to protocol,
but we should certainly try to take SOME action to address them.
They are, after all, problems.

I hope you will consider these suggestions. Thank you,

Eric Zaslow
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Peter Woit
science forum beginner


Joined: 05 Apr 2005
Posts: 7

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2005 5:26 pm    Post subject: Re: newsgroup protocol Reply with quote

[Moderator's note: Peter Woit expresses his opinions only. LM]

Since no one seems to be responding to Eric's attempt to
get a discussion going about some of these issues going, let
me make some intentionally provocative comments:

1. Any forum of this kind attracts at least two kinds of
problematic people: those who can't be bothered to spend
some time looking around the internet for
answers before posting questions, and those who have
their own agenda involving their personal TOE. Setting
up a FAQ isn't going to help deal with these people, since they're
actually not very interested in learning anything.

2. There are a lot of books and web-sites about string theory out
there devoted to hyping string theory. These uniformly obfuscate
the fact that the theory can't predict anything, and exactly what
the theory is. An intelligent person who just reads one of these
sources is likely to end up confused about these issues and may
appear here to ask about them. If a FAQ is set up that further
obfuscates these issues (by e.g., using a non-standard meaning
of the word "prediction", or mixing wishful thinking with
accurate information about the state of the theory), it will
do more harm than good.

3. From the physics point of view, the theory is in real trouble
these days, with extremely few new ideas of any kind to talk
about (I've recently written about the SPIRES evidence for
this situation on my weblog). So one reason no experts are
having discussions here is there is little or nothing new to
talk about. This is much less true of the mathematical
implications of string theory, which remain a much healthier
field. sci.math.strings might do better.

4. Many of the people who are still working on trying to
somehow make a TOE out of string theory have signed
on to the "landscape" philosophy, an empty idea which
can never be used to actually do any legitimate science.
They like to issue press releases, write papers, and give
colloquia at which no one is likely to be impolite enough
to challenge them. They don't like to appear in a forum
like this where someone may call them on their
nonsense. They don't have an answer when this happens,
so they pick up their marbles and go home, never to
reappear.

Anyway, that's my diagnosis of why interesting traffic
here has been light. I'd also like to see this situation
change.

Peter




Zaz wrote:

Quote:
I have made the following observations when reading this newsgroup:

* the topics are of interest to a great number of people (as evidenced, e.g.,
by news coverage in the media)

* the quality of posts, especially those answering direct questions, is very high

* the discussion is dominated by a very small number of contributors

* many questions reappear periodically but are not simply redirected
to a reliable FAQ's repository

* anonymous posts are allowed

* the moderator sometimes interrupts another's post to inject his own
comments

* mosts threads have a small number of articles

* traffic is sometimes very light


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Phil11102
science forum beginner


Joined: 19 Mar 2005
Posts: 7

PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2005 7:03 am    Post subject: Re: newsgroup protocol Reply with quote

I'm only a lurker but since very few others replied I will see if something
can be stirred up.

"Zaz" <zaslow@math.northwestern.edu> wrote in message
news:ba9ff483.0503061654.73802ccd-100000@posting.google.com...
Quote:

* traffic is sometimes very light


Keeping a moderated group going is not easy especially when the topic is
narrow. The moderators have to work hard to make sure that posts always get
through quickly (I'm not saying they don't) otherwise the group dies
quickly.

Quote:
* Discourage (or prohibit) more than one post per person per day.

Hardly necessary when there is light traffic.

Quote:
* Moderator should not interrupt another's post.

I find it iritating when moderators reply that way. Moderators notes should
be limited to administrative comments such as "please stay on topic".
When they add comments about the content it becomes hard to format
further replies correctly to show who said what.

Quote:
* Repeated questions (why ten dimensions? what is a brane?)
should not be answered but should simply be directed to a
website with FAQ's (e.g., the moderator hosts a website).

There are not too many FAQs being asked here yet.
The s.p.strings website is good but I dont often see a post saying where it
is.

Quote:
* Occasionally announce a "focussed discussion" topic ahead of time,
accompanied by invitations to researchers to join.

Motl's "paper of the day" was a good idea, but it is not seen often.

Quote:
Maybe the problems with this group are not related to protocol,
but we should certainly try to take SOME action to address them.
They are, after all, problems.

I think the reason this newsgroup is drying up is because everyone is
posting to their own blogs instead. I have even seen comments like
"I am taking this thread to my blog because it is going off-topic" when
in fact the thread seemed very on-topic.

Perhaps blogs are the way to go. Everyone gets to moderate there own
threads. They can be tied together with links etc. They are great, but
pity they are killing this newsgroup which has the advantage of being
archived for the future. (I admit that I just started my own blog)
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Urs Schreiber
science forum Guru Wannabe


Joined: 04 May 2005
Posts: 127

PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2005 7:55 am    Post subject: Re: newsgroup protocol Reply with quote

On Tue, 22 Mar 2005, Phil wrote:


Quote:
Keeping a moderated group going is not easy especially when the topic is
narrow. The moderators have to work hard to make sure that posts always get
through quickly (I'm not saying they don't) otherwise the group dies quickly.


I am sure that moderation is one aspect which has kept this newsgroup from
becoming completely obsolete, because without moderation it would be
swamped with inappropriate posts. I also believe that the moderation
delay on s.p.s. is extremely low. We have four moderators in various
time zones eager to moderate a regrettably rather small number of posts
per day.

I also believe there is one simple thing that everybody interested in the
existence of sci.physics.strings can do to help the group stay (or become)
healthy and alive:

- Post something (on-topic preferably).

- Participate in discussion that you are interested in.

If you are dissatisfied with any reply one of the few regular posters on
s.p.s has submitted, post your own suggestion. Correct mistakes that
others have made. Correcting other's mistakes, in a friendly way, is, in
my experience, a great way to get a useful discussion going.

In the same spirit I would also suggest to those who feel they can stand
it not to hesitate to post or ask anything which might be wrong or might
look less than brilliant. Even at the risk of being corrected. Making
mistakes is one of the great ways to get a good discussion started, in my
experience, one that is useful for all participants.

On the other hand, it would of course be great if those who know they have
many brilliant things to say would consider sharing them with a grateful
audience of s.p.s. readers, thereby possibly attracting other brilliant
people with brilliant answers.

Everybody who would like to see a public forum of *professional* string
theory discussion and is dissatisfied with the level of sophistication of
some discussion on s.p.s. could easily raise that level by posting his or
her sophisticated contributions to s.p.s.

A newsgroup is much like a stock market. When there is a more than a
threshold number of high-quality posts it tends to attract many more
posts and the thing becomes self-propelled.

So if you think the existence of a serious public string theory discussion
group is desirable, buy s.p.s stocks. That is, contribute to s.p.s!


--
Urs
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elas
science forum beginner


Joined: 27 Jan 2006
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2006 9:04 pm    Post subject: Re: newsgroup protocol Reply with quote

[Moderator's note: Peter Woit expresses his opinions only. LM]

The voice of sanity in a wilderness.


--
elas - Unregistered User
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