Richard Dawkins Forums meltdown -- how it went down, in quotes - blog by Gurdur

 




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Richard Dawkins Forums meltdown -- how it went down, in quotes
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Posted 02-Mar-2010 at 12:26 AM (00:26) by Gurdur
Updated 25-Oct-2010 at 03:15 PM (15:15) by Gurdur

Looking at the Richard Dawkins Forums meltdown, in quotations, as the years went by, not necessarily in order. All original sources given, so you can check full context for yourself


Quote:
... It is a community, and that is a valuable part of it. Many of our forum threads have an atmosphere of friends going out for a drink and chatting. I think that is valuable, and I don’t think we should insist on sticking to serious topics. That would be a good way to stifle the sense of community, and that would be a real shame.
...

--- Posted by Richard Dawkins, October 09 2008
Quote:
Update: 2010-02-23
A few points to clear things up.
......
The decision to revamp the forum was made by The Richard Dawkins Foundation. .... We understand that for some of you it was a place to hang out and converse with like minded people but we are not looking to be a social network. There are many other sites that provide this service ...

Announced, 23 February 2010
Quote:
.......
Was there ever such conservatism, such reactionary aversion to change, such vicious language in defence of a comfortable status quo? What is the underlying agenda of these people? How can anybody feel that strongly about something so small? Have we stumbled on some dark, territorial atavism? Have private fiefdoms been unwittingly trampled?

Be that as it may, what this remarkable bile suggests to me is that there is something rotten in the Internet culture that can vent it. If I ever had any doubts that RD.net needs to change, and rid itself of this particular aspect of Internet culture, they are dispelled by this episode.
......

Posted by Richard Dawkins, February 24, 2010

Quote:
Topsy (a former RDF Volunteer and former top admin of the RDF forum board itself):

Posted by: Topsy | February 25, 2010 9:21 AM | #354
Re: The Times article


I was feeling pretty sick when I read Richard's "Outrage" announcement because those insults he quoted were not at all representative of the vast majority of forum members, they were made AFTER the forum was locked and they were NOT sent to Josh or even posted on RD.net forum. They were harvested quotes from a very small minority of people posting elsewhere.

Richard has been informed of this and I was desperately hoping that he'd edit his announcement accordingly.

It's too late now because it's on the Times website and the thousands of loyal, intelligent, rational forum members have been misrepresented as a bunch of foul-mouthed, vitriolic thugs by the man who so inspired them.

To any moderate Christians reading this who have been labelled as disgusting due to the evil, homophobic rantings of the Westborough Baptist Church, I know how you feel.
Quote:
.... OF COURSE the vile comments I quoted were not made on our forum, and it was never my intention to suggest that they were, or that it was these comments that had led to its closure. .....

Posted by Richard Dawkins, February 28, 2010
Quote:
.... You will notice that the forum has in fact been closed to comments (not taken down) sooner than the 30 days alluded to in the letter. This is purely and simply because of the over-the-top hostility of the comments that were immediately sent in.
.....

Posted by Richard Dawkins, February 24, 2010
Quote:
.... The forum is not being destroyed. Users will still be able to initiate and contribute to the new Disussion section. There will be still be an online community here. You will be able to re-post items from the old forum on the new site if you want to continue discussions that had already been started. There never have been plans to make RichardDawkins.net a fully moderated site with all comments having to be approved before they appear.
.....

Posted by Richard Dawkins, February 28, 2010
Quote:
... The new discussion area will not be a new forum. It will be different. We will be using a system of tags to categorize items, instead of sub-forums. Discussions can have multiple tags, such as "Education", "Children", and "Critical Thinking". Starting a new discussion will require approval, ....
The approval process will be there to ensure the quality of posts on the site. .....

Announced, February 22, 2010
The Richard Dawkins Foundation net forum (RDF) self-destructs -- yet another big atheist board immolates itself (24-February-2010)


A deeper look at the RDF self-immolation and public reactions to it (25-February-2010)


Richard Dawkins Forum implosion -- more public reactions (01-March-2010)


Richard Dawkins Forums meltdown -- how it went down, in quotes (01-March-2010)


Down among the dead men -- not just a board, never just a board (02-March-2010)


The persistence of the negative stereotypes of atheists caused by New Atheist Richard Dawkins (12-August-2010)


Richard Dawkins sues, alleges Josh Timonen embezzled $375,000 from Richard Dawkins Foundation (RDF) (24-October-2010)


More details on Richard Dawkins and RDFRS suing Josh Timonen, Maureen Norton, and Upper Branch Productions (25-October-2010)





Edited to add (11 March 2010) since the originals have disappeared from the original host; the first full quote was originally hosted at:
http://forum.richarddawkins.net/view...?f=60&t=110356
and has since been taken down:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Dawkins
Wed Feb 24, 2010 6:27 pm

Outrage : A Message from Richard Dawkins about the website updates

Imagine that you, as a greatly liked and respected person, found yourself overnight subjected to personal vilification on an unprecedented scale, from anonymous commenters on a website. Suppose you found yourself described as an “utter twat” a “suppurating rectum. A suppurating rat’s rectum. A suppurating rat’s rectum inside a dead skunk that’s been shoved up a week-old dead rhino’s twat.” Or suppose that somebody on the same website expressed a “sudden urge to ram a fistful of nails” down your throat. Also to “trip you up and kick you in the guts.” And imagine seeing your face described, again by an anonymous poster, as “a slack jawed turd in the mouth mug if ever I saw one.”

What do you have to do to earn vitriol like that? Eat a baby? Gas a trainload of harmless and defenceless people? Rape an altar boy? Tip an old lady out of her wheel chair and kick her in the teeth before running off with her handbag?

None of the above. What you have to do is write a letter like this:

[quotes the message cited earlier in this thread by RD forum admin]

You will notice that the forum has in fact been closed to comments (not taken down) sooner than the 30 days alluded to in the letter. This is purely and simply because of the over-the-top hostility of the comments that were immediately sent in. Note that there is no suggestion of abolishing the principle of a forum in which commenters can start their own threads. Just an editorial re-organization, which will include a change such that the choice of new threads will be subject to editorial control. Editorial control, mark you, by the person who, more than any other individual, has earned the right to the editor’s chair by founding the site in the first place, then maintaining its high standard by hard work and sheer talent. The aim of the letter is to describe an exciting new revamping of our site, one in which quality will take precedence over quantity, where original articles on reason and science, on atheism and scepticism, will be commissioned, where frivolous gossip will be reduced. The new plan may succeed or it may fail, but I think it is worth trying. And even if it fails, it most certainly will not deserve the splenetic hysteria that the mere suggestion of it has received.

Surely there has to be something wrong with people who can resort to such over-the-top language, over-reacting so spectacularly to something so trivial. Even some of those with more temperate language are responding to the proposed changes in a way that is little short of hysterical. Was there ever such conservatism, such reactionary aversion to change, such vicious language in defence of a comfortable status quo? What is the underlying agenda of these people? How can anybody feel that strongly about something so small? Have we stumbled on some dark, territorial atavism? Have private fiefdoms been unwittingly trampled?

Be that as it may, what this remarkable bile suggests to me is that there is something rotten in the Internet culture that can vent it. If I ever had any doubts that RD.net needs to change, and rid itself of this particular aspect of Internet culture, they are dispelled by this episode.

If you are one of those who have dealt out such ludicrously hyperbolic animosity, you know who should receive your private apology. And if you are one of those who are as disgusted by it as I am, you know where to send your warm letter of support.

Richard


Quote:
The controversy caused by our decision to close the forums on RichardDawkins.net has greatly upset me. It has been raging for several days now and I have spent that time – frustratingly hampered by long haul flights, jet lag and the need to consult people in several different time zones – talking to colleagues and trustees, and reading a multitude of emails as well as open letters, blogs, internet comments and even newspaper articles, and I am now finally in a position to respond publicly. Please forgive me for replying collectively rather than individually. I am engaged in a strenuous book promotion tour of Australia and it would take too long to write separately to everybody who has written to me.

I would like to start by apologising for our handling of this situation. We have not communicated well with our forum volunteers and users (for example in my insensitive 'Outrage' post, which was written in the heat of the moment). In the process we have caused unintended hurt and offence, and I am very sorry about that. In a classic case of a vicious circle, some of the responses to our announcement also caused considerable hurt and distress to us, and in the atmosphere of heightened emotion that followed, some of our subsequent actions went too far. I hope you will understand the human impulses that led to this, and accept my apology for them. I take full personal responsibility.

One thing in particular, in my ‘Outrage’ post, has caused some confusion, which I must dispel. It is clear to me now that people were expecting me to post my explanation of why the forum had been closed, and read my piece in that light. My purpose in writing at that time, however, was rather different: it was simply to express my full support for Josh and my horror at some of the truly appalling personal abuse he had been subjected to during the day. I still stand by that. Josh is a personal friend of mine, one of the most talented people I have ever met, and a vital and highly valued member of our team. The character assassination inflicted on him and other team members was beyond reason. In my passionate haste to defend them, I evidently did not express myself as clearly as I would have liked. OF COURSE the vile comments I quoted were not made on our forum, and it was never my intention to suggest that they were, or that it was these comments that had led to its closure. The connection with our forum was simply that the comments – of necessity now made elsewhere – had been written by a few individuals who had previously used our forum, and revealed a disturbing sense of territorialism, entitlement, and extremism of language; and that this reinforced our determination to ensure that the whole of RichardDawkins.net should more closely serve the purposes for which we set it up.

I believe that the new RichardDawkins.net, which will be launched in the next few weeks will make this possible. The new Discussion area will still permit users to start their own threads, and to post comments. The only significant difference between this and the old forum will be that new threads (note: not the comments) will have to be approved before they appear. This is purely and simply to ensure that all new threads are on subjects relevant to reason and science. It is akin to the editor of a specialist magazine accepting only articles that are relevant to the topic of that magazine. Our old forum contained many excellent discussions on reason and science and related topics, and we certainly don’t want to lose the facility for those. However, it also contained some threads that were potentially harmful to the website’s (and therefore the Foundation’s) reputation. Our goal is to retain the valuable aspects of the old forum, the parts that actively promote the causes for which the website was set up; whilst losing those parts that do not. There will be no pre-publication moderation of comments on our new site: we will just be ensuring that all new, user-instigated discussion threads are on subjects relevant to reason and science.

While I stand by the original decision to close the forum in its current form and move to the new Discussion section instead, I want to take a slightly different course based on the feedback we have received over the last few days. It is clear that many of you greatly value some of the discussions that have already taken place and that you see it as a valuable resource. The prospect of this archive being lost to the future has clearly distressed many people, and I should have foreseen this. We will therefore not, after all, remove the old forum altogether, but will continue to make it available in a read-only form: it will not be possible to post new comments on it and it may not (after the originally promised period of 30 days) contain resource-hungry (for these things cost money) elements such as avatars and photographs. But it will preserve an easy-to-access and searchable archive of the knowledge contained in it. I think this is a reasonable and constructive compromise, and I hope it will remove any anxiety and pressure on people to archive favourite material for themselves.

I also want to take this opportunity to do something I should have done much earlier, and that is personally to thank all of you who used and contributed to our forums – especially, of course, the volunteer moderators and administrators who worked so tirelessly to keep them running smoothly. I greatly appreciate the time, commitment and sheer dedication you devoted to the cause of reason and science, and the support you have shown me personally. Thank you. I am sorry that over this unfortunate episode it came to such a painful falling-out with some of you, and would like to think that we could all learn from this sorry saga, and then put it behind us and move on.

I want to end on a positive note. The forum is not being destroyed. Users will still be able to initiate and contribute to the new Disussion section. There will be still be an online community here. You will be able to re-post items from the old forum on the new site if you want to continue discussions that had already been started. There never have been plans to make RichardDawkins.net a fully moderated site with all comments having to be approved before they appear. And although any new software is always likely to experience a few teething problems, overall the changes will result in a site that runs more smoothly, has better performance, is easier to manage, has a better look and feel, and will have a clearer focus on what we are all aiming for: the promotion of reason and science. Away from the website, we will be continuing with initiatives such as the RDF TV vignettes, an educational series of videos on evolution, a feature-length documentary on the conflict between reason and superstition, Non-Believers Giving Aid, The Out Campaign and more.

The last few days have been difficult and painful for all of us, but I hope we can begin to put them behind us now: there is lots to look forward to. It would mean a great deal to me to have your support as we do so. Speaking personally, I hope now to enter fully into the spirit of my Australian tour, which has hitherto been marred by a black cloud of despond and enervating anxiety. I hope now to be free to report on some of my experiences in this amazing and wonderfully friendly country over the next few weeks. Once again, I apologise for our mistakes and take full responsibility for them.

Sincerely
Richard
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Views 18834 Comments 4
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  1. Old Comment
    logika's Avatar
    Love it.
    Posted 02-Mar-2010 at 12:43 AM (00:43) by logika logika is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Makbawehuh's Avatar
    Enlightening and sad, even from an outsider's point of view. I really feel sorry for the Atheist online community as a whole; this sounds like an awful betrayal of trust by someone who's supposed to be a leader.
    Posted 02-Mar-2010 at 02:03 AM (02:03) by Makbawehuh Makbawehuh is offline
  3. Old Comment

    Excellent

    Thank you for a well thought out piece. Above all the media coverage you have proven the most well researched and balanced.

    Thanks.
    Posted 02-Mar-2010 at 04:05 PM (16:05) by Unregistered
  4. Old Comment

    This is Richard Exercising his Strange Randomly generated Conscience

    A creature with a conscience, and feels regrets, is either a master stroke of Evolution, a creature capable of self-torture. Or a step toward into Theistic capacity.
    Posted 25-Jan-2012 at 06:08 PM (18:08) by Unregistered
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