Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixed

Has science taken a wrong turn? If so, what corrections are needed? Chronicles of scientific misbehavior. The role of heretic-pioneers and forbidden questions in the sciences. Is peer review working? The perverse "consensus of leading scientists." Good public relations versus good science.

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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby Solar » Sat Jan 25, 2014 8:28 am

Some thoughts:

I’m trying to figure out where this is going. For my taste much of this thread seems severely over intellectualized and quite discordant. Those “10 Commandments” can basically be assessed as fundamental to organizing content in basic website design. There simply aren’t a lot of scientists participating in online social media. Why? They are not understood and ‘They’ know it:

It’s not that non-scientists are too stupid to get science. Far from it. The average person simply doesn’t have the specific vocabulary to understand a scientific paper. I’m not stupid, yet when I take my car in to the mechanic, I don’t have the specific vocabulary to understand exactly what is making my check engine light keep turning on.

This jargon wall breeds distrust. Do I overall trust mechanics to know how to fix my car? Sure. But when one starts going on and on about how my timing belt needs adjustment, my fuel injectors need to be replaced, and there’s an oil leak in my engine that needs fixing, do I fully trust that he’s not just making up problems to get me to pay more for repairs? Not for a second.

Even worse, scientists pass the buck when it comes to communicating science. We write the papers, but then hand them off to journalists and say “here, explain this to everyone else.” We hand what we’ve committed years of our life to over to a writer that may have little to no science training and even less passion for the discipline as a whole. Then, we gripe and moan when the science is shottily explained or, worse, completely misinterpreted.

Guess what? As scientists, that is our fault.– Scientific American


He’s right. It is their fault and there is a perfectly natural reason that ‘They’ are not understood. When the ‘socializing’ aspect is handed off to journalism where an attempt is put forward to make findings palatable to the public some of the resulting articles can leave a lot to be desired. The stone has been set. It may be said that there exist a general disposition that ‘we the public’ aren’t ‘qualified’ to understand, let alone dialog, in the ‘deeper’ aspects of scientific gnosis and obviously journalism can sometimes fail to convey. There still exists an even more fundamental problem even when the attempt to communicate is accurate. We're being inundated with cantilevered contradictions piled high one atop the other.

Interestingly, the EU did science a favor in my humble opinion. It not only piqued interest in an existing aspect of astrophysics (electrodynamics and plasma) it explained some basic principles in such ways that the laymen and Citizen Scientist alike can easily understand, relate to, and further pursue if desired. The flip side is that now one has officialdom balking because the EU hasn’t explained its qualitative hypothesis in the language that “science” relates to: technical papers and such mathematically elaborating the hypothesis with reproducible experimentation. Any attempt to induce communication will have to resolve the communication gap; not point fingers.

“Science” doesn’t seem to be able to bridge the communication gap it has with the public despite “public outreach” and media programs while conversely the EU (easily recognized and understood by the public) is characterized by science as not having bridged the gap that “science” demands (“rigor”). It seems that there exists a type of ‘inverted’ relationship that centers on the ability to communicate effectively. I find it difficult to believe that scientist have a problem with communication considering the technical prowess demonstrated in many of the papers that I’ve read over the years. The problem is elsewhere.

Generally speaking it seems to me that your quest is actually much larger than facilitating communication solely with regard to the EU. As the above referenced article suggest there may be little to no understanding between science and its public overall. It is a known issue that is being pondered over in many ways:

Social Networking for Scientist: The Wiki

I think most of the references provided in this thread are coming at this from the wrong angle. It’s not about delving into the subjectivity of how the mind might work. It’s about re-establishing the ‘bridge’ that was torn down once theoretical physics commandeered the ship of state and took astrophysics into the realm of speculative dimensions such as the article referenced (here). If you read that article the problem becomes rather obvious. What is the problem?

Assuming that the above referenced article has conveyed the basics properly the mind is perfectly capable of the immediate recognition of contradictions and tires when trying to resolve them. The end result of trying to resolve a contradiction can simply be ‘rejection’, you just walk away because there exist no Understanding. That is why the “jargon breeds distrust”; the “jargon” is presenting ideas and concepts that are contradictory and inconsistent regardless of ‘Who’ is trying to convey them and no matter the venue. It would then be inaccurate to point the finger of blame at journalism when (ideally) it is just doing its job; it only conveys what it was given to convey. It’s the concepts themselves that are the root the problem; not how the mind works, or doesn’t, in trying to rationally resolve something intended not to be resolved or understood.

Therefore, I think Plasmatic is correct in pointing to this fundamental problem. It is a mistake to ‘label’ this fundamental as “Objectivisim” to only then place it on a shelf out of sight as a 'thing' doing away with what is the essential cause of *ALL* of the communicative problems between the public, the unwitting ‘middleman’ of journalism, and some aspects of the sciences. If you strip the Objectivist ‘label’ off the problem of contradictory ideas and concepts the result is still the same; confusion, and the very lack, if not the complete failure, of ‘Understanding’. To me the case is not simply that the “Emperor has no clothes”; it is also the case that I feel as if ‘someone’ is trying to induce me into thinking that what I witness with steady streams of contradictory ideas and concepts from astrophysics is “A king who’s innocent of the things of which he’s guilty?” - Kristin Cashore, Graceling

Without including the ability to foster identification of the ‘back-reaction’ that a reasonable Mind **naturally** has when encountering contradictions; communication, owed to the lack of Understanding that contradictions induce, will always fail. Does it really need to be called “Objectivisim” for this to be recognized? No; it doesn’t. Unless this fundamental is addressed the title alone of "commandment" number eight ("Do Not Ramble") will be violated because contradictions induce ceaseless rambling; not 'Understanding'.

What are your efforts doing to eschew contradictions and therefore foster a reasonable "Understanding" of consistently integrated concepts and ideas?
"Our laws of force tend to be applied in the Newtonian sense in that for every action there is an equal reaction, and yet, in the real world, where many-body gravitational effects or electrodynamic actions prevail, we do not have every action paired with an equal reaction." — Harold Aspden
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Sat Jan 25, 2014 2:06 pm

Okay, now I see that I need to start becoming more blunt.

The problem here -- which is actually an unfortunate quality of the larger EU community at this point in time -- is that people think that they can intellectually reason through the problem space without actually trying to create a solution which will actually be widely used by actual people.

If members of the EU community wish to have an impact upon the world on their own terms -- rather than terms dictated to them by the scientific community -- then one way to do that is to formulate hypotheses for what is happening, and then transform those hypotheses into products which alter the way that people do things, the way that people think, their attitudes about science, etc. By lowering the bar for the problem you're trying to solve, you've actually made your solution irrelevant. And by taking psychology and sociology out of the equation, you've actually guaranteed that it will never be relevant to anything which people in the real world actually do.

Much of what I've written in this thread follows from direct observation of and communication with people who design products at successful consumer products corporations -- namely, the Unilever, Proctor & Gamble and Clorox paradigm of product innovation. In the business world, these are the titans of consumer product innovation. There are people at these companies who invent new ideas for a living every day, and they battle against one another over pennies on the dollar at every spot on your grocery store. These people are paid to know exactly what you are thinking when you look at their product packaging. When I look at where the EU community is today, and I compare it to where those people are today, there is this enormous gap. This does not bode well, guys. I hate to be so blunt -- but, I'm now getting the sense that I will not get through without doing so -- so, I will say it:

If you are feeling a general sense of discordance about what you are seeing, it is to some extent a feature of being so far removed from how innovation is done by people who do it for a living. The fact is that you didn't get to this point by paying attention to those things. But, if you are to now do something with this incredible knowledge that you've learned, you will have to learn how successful products are, in practice, designed. Nobody can force you to do this. You can only be inspired by watching somebody else do it. Without any intervention, the community will continue to do that stuff which got people here, in the first place. What I'm trying to show people is that -- if we simply follow our interests to where they lead us -- we will all die without having acting upon them. I hate to be blunt, but it's up to each individual if that's their legacy. For many people, this truly is just a hobby. But, I suspect that there are some for whom it is more.

Interestingly, the EU did science a favor in my humble opinion. It not only piqued interest in an existing aspect of astrophysics (electrodynamics and plasma) it explained some basic principles in such ways that the laymen and Citizen Scientist alike can easily understand, relate to, and further pursue if desired.


This is, btw, an incredibly low bar to set for the community.

I would also disagree that the EU can be easily understood. That is perhaps true so long as nobody tries to question the claims being made. The second that people start to actually question the knowledge offered to them, then very serious problems start to pop up. Many EU advocates seem to follow in the footsteps of university professors who pretend like they can simply ignore people "who do not get it". As I see it, there exists some danger here in what path the EU will decide to take: Will it follow in the footsteps of mainstream science education, by providing knowledge without the context and thinking skills necessary to question and extend that knowledge into new domains?

I find it difficult to believe that scientist have a problem with communication considering the technical prowess demonstrated in many of the papers that I’ve read over the years. The problem is elsewhere.


Can you explain why technical prowess would necessarily lead to effective communications? You're making some sort of an assumption here which you are not explaining, and which fails to explain what happens, in practice, at actual corporations that make products. In the corporate world, PhD's are actually at the bottom of the hierarchy -- and for good reason. They tend to all arrive, like the MBA's, thinking that they own the place.

However, within just a few short months, they invariably come to observe that their specialist knowledge not only obscures their own ability to comprehend the big picture, but they also come to see that they are incredibly dependent upon people in marketing to communicate their findings. There are positions in these groups whose sole functions are to convert what the PhD discovers into actual product designs. The PhD's don't know how to do any of that. In terms of the creation of something which people will actually use in the real world, the PhD's are actually cogs in the machine. All they do is generate data. This is a really tiny role, in the bigger picture.

I think most of the references provided in this thread are coming at this from the wrong angle. It’s not about delving into the subjectivity of how the mind might work.


It saddens me very much to hear you say this, because I worry that people in the EU community will look at this statement as justification to continue to ignore the way in which people formulate decisions on uncertain, complex problems. I guess I need to be more blunt:

People who believe that there is no point to understanding how the mind works will most likely never create any product which will ever be used by any sizable segment of the population. That seems to be an artificial constraint on the future of the EU which I feel need not be adopted.

It’s about re-establishing the ‘bridge’ that was torn down once theoretical physics commandeered the ship of state and took astrophysics into the realm of speculative dimensions such as the article referenced (here).


From what I can tell, you've decided to ignore Kahneman's model, rather than learning it and applying it to the practice of designing an actual product which people will use. I believe that this is a mistake, and it leads you to this conclusion -- which offers us a "solution" which none of us here can actually act upon. Unless you have some plan for how you will pitch this idea to professional scientists, you seem to have led us to a dead end, and called it a solution.

What are your efforts doing to eschew contradictions and therefore foster a reasonable "Understanding" of consistently integrated concepts and ideas?


You guys are overly-focused upon epistemology. I'm sorry, but I need to be blunt again: That is a function of the interests which brought you to this point. I am also intensely interested in epistemology, but in talking to people who actually design products, I now see there is no route through epistemology to an actual solution which can overcome the immunity to change within scientific culture, because the immunity to change originates within these associatively coherent stories which the subconscious pops into peoples' heads. I'm very sorry that I've apparently failed to explain this on terms which you can see. To me, at this point, it's actually completely self-evident that the epistemological contradictions really occupy a very minor role in the design of a solution which involves an actual product which people will use.

I wish I knew how to explain this such that I don't offend anybody. I will apologize in advance for having to be blunt, but it seems that I am not getting through to people …
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby Solar » Sat Jan 25, 2014 6:14 pm

pln2bz wrote:
Much of what I've written in this thread follows from direct observation of and communication with people who design products at successful consumer products corporations -- namely, the Unilever, Proctor & Gamble and Clorox paradigm of product innovation. In the business world, these are the titans of consumer product innovation. There are people at these companies who invent new ideas for a living every day, and they battle against one another over pennies on the dollar at every spot on your grocery store. These people are paid to know exactly what you are thinking when you look at their product packaging. When I look at where the EU community is today, and I compare it to where those people are today, there is this enormous gap. This does not bode well, guys. I hate to be so blunt -- but, I'm now getting the sense that I will not get through without doing so -- so, I will say it:

If you are feeling a general sense of discordance about what you are seeing, it is to some extent a feature of being so far removed from how innovation is done by people who do it for a living. The fact is that you didn't get to this point by paying attention to those things. But, if you are to now do something with this incredible knowledge that you've learned, you will have to learn how successful products are, in practice, designed. Nobody can force you to do this. You can only be inspired by watching somebody else do it. Without any intervention, the community will continue to do that stuff which got people here, in the first place. What I'm trying to show people is that -- if we simply follow our interests to where they lead us -- we will all die without having acting upon them. I hate to be blunt, but it's up to each individual if that's their legacy. For many people, this truly is just a hobby. But, I suspect that there are some for whom it is more.


By all means be as blunt as you like. The clarity it affords is needed at this point.

No, I don't develop consumer products for a living. That isn't the nature of my work. It sounds to me that you actually need to continue that kind of research with those who do as opposed to casting a line in the internet ocean hoping to catch the right kind of fish; then throwing it back perplexed as to why you didn't get the one you were looking for. Did not those things you "observed" in the business world also present what to do with that aspect of things in their studies?? You're dealing with a wide girth individuals when you post on an internet forum, not a focus group.

This is a science forum; not a forum for business and product development. It seems to me that you're fishing in the wrong pond with the wrong bait:

pln2bz wrote:What I'd like to suggest to the forum is that our unique perspective as outsiders struggling to make a case for a paradigm that competes with conventional wisdom lends us a unique knowledge about the kinds of obstacles that new ideas face in our modern world.


The inference above is incorrect. There is no "our unique perspective". Sometimes people on the forum agree; sometimes they disagree. You can't really use the forum membership as a 'united front' to "make a case". It can be used to mine resources though. There are several years worth of referenced source material accompanied with both opinion and analysis for certain. However, I don't think its possible to 'coral the troops' around, what seems to be, 'the politics of science' and how to incorporate techniques designed for the 'presentation of consumer products' to hopefully "fix" online scientific discourse.

No wonder you didn't answer my question. We're not speaking the same language. Commandment number two ("Design for a target audience") wasn't followed in the presentation of your ideas in this thread. You've got the wrong audience for this.
"Our laws of force tend to be applied in the Newtonian sense in that for every action there is an equal reaction, and yet, in the real world, where many-body gravitational effects or electrodynamic actions prevail, we do not have every action paired with an equal reaction." — Harold Aspden
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Sun Jan 26, 2014 10:58 am

It sounds to me that you actually need to continue that kind of research with those who do as opposed to casting a line in the internet ocean hoping to catch the right kind of fish; then throwing it back perplexed as to why you didn't get the one you were looking for. Did not those things you "observed" in the business world also present what to do with that aspect of things in their studies?? You're dealing with a wide girth individuals when you post on an internet forum, not a focus group.

This is a science forum; not a forum for business and product development. It seems to me that you're fishing in the wrong pond with the wrong bait


Ah, yes. So, this is the point where I am starting to repeat myself, but so be it ...

Here is what is going to happen to every single one of us: We will all die. Myself included, actually. Now, if we are so fortunate as to have time to contemplate our lives during this process, we will ask many questions about whether or not we made the right choices. What I am doing here is putting the thought into your mind right now that everybody here is already making a very important decision right now which affects the entire world, and that decision is this:

Choice A: I choose to believe that the stagnation of science is fundamentally evidentiary and epistemological in nature. Although we may at this point be the largest science-based community in the world (?) from which a collective sense -- a motive for action -- may emerge that science has gone astray, we prefer to exclusively think and talk about physics and epistemology here. If the world has a need, and we are the only people who see it, that does not overrule our preferences for what to think and talk about.


… or …


Choice B: I agree that the stagnation of science will require the presentation of evidence to get out of, but the causes for the problems we see are ALSO fundamentally rooted in the domains of psychology and sociology. I choose to go out of my way to learn models in these domains not because this is where my interests have naturally led me, but rather because I now see that learning those models will help me to see, understand and predict the human attitudes, beliefs and behavior which are stagnating science. The insights which we have gained into this universe within this still-small community offer us the unique opportunity to change the future of science and the world. Since nobody else in the world is aware of the degree to which science has run amok, we realize that it can only be our choice to fix the problems that we observe. Nobody is going to do it for us, because nobody else has an appreciation for the full scope of problems which we see. Although we did not choose to make it so, all paths to a solution necessarily lead through this gate at this point in time. So, we should deeply reflect upon the meaning of that, as well as our own role in the history of this world.


One of the most fundamental things we've learned from observing the EU's clash with mainstream science is that the way you frame the problem largely determines the solution. This situation is no different: Those who frame the problems of science as fundamentally technical or philosophical in nature will look for solutions within those domains. But, these solutions will not actually lead to any change in the world, because without the applied sciences of psychology and sociology, they are simply ideas which remain disconnected from -- since they are never manifest into -- human action, beliefs or behavior.

There has been quite a bit of debate in the EU community about whether or not the public can or should play a role in the formation of scientific models. What I am trying to tell you guys is that there is a decision which is already being made which basically determines whether or not it can happen.

Those who decide to leave their comfort zones (their interests), and add psychology and sociology to their cognitive toolset, subsequently know the skills necessary to actually take that knowledge they've gained about the universe, and in some way relate it to the world of people who are currently -- and largely unconsciously -- obstructing it.

The inference above is incorrect. There is no "our unique perspective". Sometimes people on the forum agree; sometimes they disagree. You can't really use the forum membership as a 'united front' to "make a case". It can be used to mine resources though. There are several years worth of referenced source material accompanied with both opinion and analysis for certain. However, I don't think its possible to 'coral the troops' around, what seems to be, 'the politics of science' and how to incorporate techniques designed for the 'presentation of consumer products' to hopefully "fix" online scientific discourse.


Okay, so you may not realize it, but you are offering a vision for the future here. And I think that it explains a lot about the role of this community relative to mainstream science. What you are suggesting is that this community does not collectively strive for any particular future which would be better than the current trajectory which is imposed upon it by others who do not see what we see.

Personally, I get the sense that this mindset is simply a byproduct of the fact that nobody here is thus far actually acting upon anything. I also get the feeling that EU newcomers who have not yet been encultured into this refusal to conceive a better future will be less stuck in the no-action mindset.

From what I can gather, everybody here is okay with talking about the problems of science. But, once somebody proposes that something very specific actually be done about it, then at least certain people here tend to lose interest because the solution falls outside of the scope of physics and epistemology. Is this really the legacy of this community? It doesn't sound to me like a story which people will be telling their grandchildren about. Are we observers of the world, watching it like television, through a window? Or, are we participants who have a stake in what happens?

Commandment number two ("Design for a target audience") wasn't followed in the presentation of your ideas in this thread.


So, if I'm hearing you right, what you're saying is that the Thunderbolts forum / EU community IS the target audience. But, this seems to not resolve the question of how the EU can relate itself to the ideas which the people of the world are having. You formerly pointed to an idea for resolving an epistemological contradiction between professional science and the EU -- which is indeed a piece of an idea -- but you seem to just stop there, as though you've formulated an entire solution. And the reason you stop short of actually finishing your idea is because you're obstructing your own education. If all you did was learn Kahneman's mental model for how people think, you could take that last step and actually formulate a plan for how you will link from what professional scientists are thinking today, to what you want them to be thinking.

What apparently matters is your preference to think about physics and epistemology. And the world's need for a more rational scientific culture are apparently in service to those interests. It's actually a complete circle, to those who are closely watching, because specialization is actually part of the scientific culture itself. So, specialization -- which, btw, is the opposite of the Natural Philosophy approach -- gets elevated from its societal function -- a tool for maintaining hierarchy in large organizations -- into a mindset which becomes an implicit part of the scientific culture itself, and which people ultimately post-rationalize as some sort of important tradition. But, specialization is itself a decision to remain ignorant of entire domains of knowledge.

I've been there. I was you. I've moved on, and I hope -- for the world's sake, actually -- that others here will make a rational, conscious decision to move past this mindset. The biggest point I want to make here is that what is happening to the Electric Universe today is not something we observe like spectators, as in a television program. The future of scientific discourse is actually, to some extent unfortunately, a decision which will be made in large part by this small community. I wish it didn't have to be that way, but it is. My role is to help you to understand that you are already making that decision through these other choices.

(And, btw, I already knew that you guys hate to think about anything beyond these subjects. I already know these arguments you make before you make them. That is what ethnography is: It's the learning of personalities in order to make predictions about people.)
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Sun Jan 26, 2014 12:05 pm

Steve Jobs on How Death is an Inspiration to Not Become Trapped by Other Peoples' Dogma

Image


My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby Solar » Sun Jan 26, 2014 3:42 pm

pln2bz wrote:And the reason you stop short of actually finishing your idea is because you're obstructing your own education. If all you did was learn Kahneman's mental model for how people think, you could take that last step and actually formulate a plan for how you will link from what professional scientists are thinking today, to what you want them to be thinking.


I'm... stunned. Obviously I do not understand because it can't be that you're not explaining things well.

I don't get the impression that you actually realize that you are not really talking to 'Me' the individual person do you? Your post are continuously littered with what you think you know; about what I think I know, they are about what I only think I want to do, and/or want to not be doing, due to a bevy of influences other than, my own Free Will and Volition. No, I'm not a programmable human automaton prone to the powers of suggestion form top dollar Corps. They are trying to 'preemptively' keep up with individuals; its not the other way 'round.

I'm afraid that we are not effectively communicating because 'I' the actual Individual do not exist to you. Instead the impression is that you seem to be constantly speaking to the 'vortex' of studies that has you convinced beyond measure that you are an Ethnographical Jedi:

pln2bz wrote:I've been there. I was you. I've moved on, and I hope -- for the world's sake, actually -- that others here will make a rational, conscious decision to move past this mindset. The biggest point I want to make here is that what is happening to the Electric Universe today is not something we observe like spectators, as in a television program. The future of scientific discourse is actually, to some extent unfortunately, a decision which will be made in large part by this small community. I wish it didn't have to be that way, but it is. My role is to help you to understand that you are already making that decision through these other choices.

(And, btw, I already knew that you guys hate to think about anything beyond these subjects. I already know these arguments you make before you make them. That is what ethnography is: It's the learning of personalities in order to make predictions about people.)


Who are you and what have you done with Chris?

So, instead of simply dialoging with scientist in a professional manner one has to go get the 'coercive' tools of 'advertising' and by said tools 'inject', or 'persuade', the thoughts and thinking approaches one wants to see from the 'other side' at some unspecified time in the future; before we all die. That impresses me as dishonest and fatalistic. I wish I could wish you the best with it but I don't like what I'm hearing.

Actualizing one's potential (self-actualization) and the pursuits thereof, was covered pretty good by Abraham Maslow based on a 'hierarchy of needs' and 'values' some while ago. for me those would be 'My' values; not yours. It conjoins well with making one's self productive according to one's own standards. Not the standards you're putting forth; but one's own. The individual.

Listen, you can have the last word of course. Let me off the EU train if this kind of thing gets implemented. Yes, I actually do have a plan, no you're not eligible to have it revealed to you; and no, the forum membership is not to be used for a Jedi Council.

Thank you for providing my comments and thoughts for me. Goodbye.
"Our laws of force tend to be applied in the Newtonian sense in that for every action there is an equal reaction, and yet, in the real world, where many-body gravitational effects or electrodynamic actions prevail, we do not have every action paired with an equal reaction." — Harold Aspden
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby Plasmatic » Sun Jan 26, 2014 11:38 pm

Someone who reads the forum but doesn't comment, sent me this private message:

The problem with you, plasmatic, is you think people are actually capable of
being reasonable. (echo's of Chris, reverberating in my mind.)


I guess "we" should generalize the above to read:

"The problem with the "EU community" is, that you waste your time on justifying your premises with actual arguments designed to persuade willful listeners...... all those products, conferences, videos, books, TPods, email updates, private discussions, forum posts, and generally all the things that worked on you, will never work with others!.....All designers know that their products are in every single individuals (who fall within their predetermined mind control focus group) homes.... RESISTANCE IS FUTILE !"

I'd deconstruct all the unjustified assertions ,contradictions and outright evasions in the recent posts, but I don't talk to robots! On second thought, maybe thats why no arguments are attempted, they don't work to stimulate conceptual change!

Chris, could you upload the mind trick your designing to my subconscious so I can use it on you instead of reasoning? ;)

On a serious note..... Chris, if you decide you would like to make an actual attempt at a reasoned argument, or justify your assertions, answer evaded questions, withdraw demonstrably false claims, that is, actually discourse, I'd be happy to reduce Kaneman's claims to absurdity here in this thread. But, I will only do so rationally, via justification, that is, I wont treat you like a robot!

Edit: anyone interested in the collectivist nature of the political designs built into the "need" based credo of Constructivism should read this paper for starters:

http://www.academia.edu/801168/Marxist_ ... sm_Report_
"Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification"......" I am therefore Ill think"
Ayn Rand
"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
Aristotle
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Tue Jan 28, 2014 9:29 am

The Human Mind is NOT Like a Computer

The unfortunate byproduct of refusing to learn something is that you don't know what you don't know. In this particular instance, there is a choice which is being made to ignore the mental model which is being suggested by Daniel Kahneman, which I thought was important enough to teach to people that I sat there and typed the entire 50-minute transcript in. Kahneman received the Nobel prize for this work, and it has already been successfully applied to more than one discipline.

When you go out of your way to avoid constructing an accurate mental model for how people actually think, your mind is then free to make up any story it wishes, to yourself. (In fact, this tendency is a very important part of that system, and is therefore part of what we would otherwise be modeling!). By leaving a void in place where you could opt to put a model that is based upon actual observations of actual human decision-making, you are making a decision to refuse the opportunity to look at your own decision-making from a perspective other than your own.

You have arrived at an opportunity to learn a tool which can help you to reflect upon how you think. Knowing this information could drastically improve your ability to think clearly, and it would -- without a doubt -- improve your ability to relate your ideas to the ideas of others. Learning how the mind works is not a form of witchcraft. And neither will this model be at all like the simple story that you have convinced yourself of. And that is actually a very important part of the problem which the EU faces today: People are making sweeping assumptions about how the mind works which we now know to be completely FALSE.

And your choice at this point in time is to refuse that knowledge. What I am telling you is that this choice has enormous consequences for your own ability to come up with an idea which will be relevant to what is happening in the world of people. After all, the people you would be competing against ARE learning this model, and they already ARE using it to get you to do, buy and think things today. Right now, in fact. You don't get to opt out, unless you decide to move to a deserted island, or sit in an isolation tank all day long. If you learned the model, you'd very clearly see the reasons for all of this.

The world is not like a television. It doesn't happen TO us. We are a PART of it. If it seems to anybody here that you lack an ability to change the world, the reason is not because THEY are doing it to YOU. It's because YOU are refusing to learn the things which YOU would need to know in order to CHANGE IT.

That probably sounds rude to some people. I am probably crossing some sort of a line. You don't even know me. How would I know anything about what you are thinking?

Please stop wasting my time, and learn the model, guys. I should be working on the design right now, and instead I am here trying to convince you to watch a 50-minute YouTube lecture on a subject which, in truth, should interest you at least a little bit.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Wed Jan 29, 2014 11:16 am

Let's Reflect on the Big Picture of this Thread

  • This is essentially a conversation about how to have a conversation about science. What that necessarily means is that we are diving very deep into some topics which are not common topics on this forum, and which very predictably will fall outside of the zone of interest for many people here. If somebody thinks that they can simply skim through these materials and nevertheless formulate a meaningful opinion, they will predictably misunderstand the data/arguments/ideas. You get out of this investigation what you put into it. For most people here, the idea of a scientific social network is not your passion. For me, it is. I am very deeply engaged in this subject, so if you are just skimming, realize that you're missing a bunch of stuff.
  • There has apparently been a flurry of activity in what is called decision science over the past few decades. People are free to argue over the meaning of these findings, or whether or not they are valid, but it's important that people at a minimum develop some fluency in what those findings are, before they argue against them, because not only do they have enormous consequence for this particular topic, but they also point to a model for the mind which is not at all the traditional view. This (and nothing else) is what I mean when I say "You are wasting my time." That is very blunt, but it is also true: If we permit ourselves to talk about what we imagine the mind to be -- without basing that discussion upon actual observations of actual decision-making -- then we are literally wasting our time, and even causing unnecessary confusion.
  • Once a person starts to learn about these decision science experiments, they will notice (a) how simple many of them are; (b) how many of these experiments have actually been done already; and © how they all appear to tell a consistent story. A person who doesn't like the notion of irrationality should maybe put some deep thought into what it means to observe it happening far more frequently than is traditionally believed. You can of course decide to reject the conclusion, and maybe even use Google to try to find arguments which undermine the findings of decision science. But, there is yet another option here: If you don't like irrationality, then you can also decide to study Kahneman's model in order to figure out how to bridge peoples' pre-existing irrational behavior to objective sense-making. In fact, this is actually what I am already trying to do. But, notice that in order to do that, we have to learn some psychology and sociology.
  • There is something more than slightly suspicious about a suggestion that psychology and sociology are not important subjects for a discussion about a scientific social network. For those who have put a lot of effort into avoiding this subject of marketing, marketing is simply decision science + psychology/sociology + a tiny dose of graphic design (+ sensory science, which I am leaving out), applied to product design. Notice that all three of those things are also relevant to how people choose scientific models to pay attention to. And as I've previously pointed out, marketing is a subject which is already heavily funded. So, what I have suggested is that we should check to see if there are important findings from that discipline which can be used to elicit rational sense-making. And people who are closely following will notice that my interest in this subject is very deliberative: I am specifically interested in the decision science aspects of marketing. So, for people who are are unable to get past the voodoo feelings which come with this word, please realize that you cannot choose to avoid this stuff. And if you learned the model, you'd see why.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby Plasmatic » Wed Jan 29, 2014 1:26 pm

Chris said:
People are making sweeping assumptions about how the mind works which we now know to be completely FALSE.


What you think you know is a consequence of what you think knowledge is. Which is a consequence of what your criteria for evidence is. All of which is involved in justifying what you think is true, and consequently how you determine what is "false"! What you think you know is determined by your psycho-epistemology. (Wether you chose or perform it consciously or not)

The sweeping assumption here is yours! I personally have not "ignore(d) the mental model which is being suggested by Daniel Kahneman". I don't have the same criteria for evidence as you or him. Nobel prizes, consensus of psychologist, and statistical/mathematical models of consciousness underpinned by invalid concepts, or invalid conclusions, aren't evidence to me. They don't constitute a valid argument/justification to me.

For you to keep calling this a "choice to ignore", "refuse", or "avoid" the model you've simply quoted is ridiculous.

Chris said:
By leaving a void in place where you could opt to put a model that is based upon actual observations of actual human decision-making, you are making a decision to refuse the opportunity to look at your own decision-making from a perspective other than your own.


Where is your justification for what constitutes a "perspective" worth spending ones time on? So far it appears to be any arbitrary statement whatever is supposed to be claim mandating that one ought (a prescriptive/normative concept) to "focus on" it.

My criticism of Kahneman is incoming....
"Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification"......" I am therefore Ill think"
Ayn Rand
"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
Aristotle
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Thu Jan 30, 2014 10:34 am

Nobel prizes, consensus of psychologist, and statistical/mathematical models of consciousness underpinned by invalid concepts, or invalid conclusions, aren't evidence to me. They don't constitute a valid argument/justification to me.


What people need to realize is that a number of these studies are rather straightforward. For instance, from Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy, pages 31-32:

How we actively create, rather than passively perceive, the world around us is illustrated by the following experiment. Consumers were given a vanilla pudding that had been made to look brown by using tasteless food coloring, so that it closely resembled a chocolate pudding visually. The consumers were asked to taste it and, in doing so, to describe how it tasted. The fascinating outcome was that what they reported had nothing to do with what they, objectively, were eating -- most of them described the taste of chocolate. They all subjectively experienced what they implicitly expected, misled by the appearance of the pudding.

Subjects in a related study who believed they had been given standard coffee showed an increased pulse and heart rate even if they had, in fact, been given decaffeinated coffee.


This situation is not at all different from the Electric Universe: We have a new way of thinking about the universe, and a decision has to be made about whether or not we should learn this model, and attempt to view the world through that perspective. As designers -- as opposed to epistemologists -- our primary goal is to create things which people will find useful. And one of the pitfalls we are specifically trying to avoid, as designers, is getting stuck in epistemological debates. So, our standard of success is NOT epistemological in nature. Instead, we have to ask questions like: Have we understood what our users are thinking? Did they have questions which we did not answer? Did we help them to solve their problem?

The point of reframing is to practice the skill of switching perspectives -- and one of the reasons we do this is to mitigate the risk of having an inaccurate model. But there are other reasons as well: We want to get good at this so that we can avoid becoming stuck in one particular worldview -- a problem which not only limits our ability to develop creative solutions, but also limits our growth potential and even our own ability to critique our own ideas -- for if we over-commit on a particular model, as occurs for graduate physics students who are basically forced to learn one particular worldview under threat of expulsion, then there exists a subsequent observable sociological tendency to defend that one model which we have learned.

So, in the case of the Kahneman model, we see that it is actually a very simple model. It can be learned in just a few hours of reading and watching videos. So, what we do as designers is learn the model, and attempt to apply it to our design. And over time, we check to see whether or not the model is working -- because this is all that we care about. For the purpose of design, we are not interested in actually proving the models we use. We only care about whether or not they help us to create things. It is a different way of thinking from what scientists do. Ideally, we don't want to be either Tesla (the scientist) nor Edison (the businessman) -- Ideally, we would want to be able to switch between these two modes, at will, and on-the-fly.

The job of scientists and philosophers is to not only observe WHAT is happening, but also necessarily to answer the question, WHY it is happening -- whereas the job of a designer is to simply produce a thing which people DECIDE to use. This fundamental distinction is the same reason why GPS cannot prove Relativity: GPS was designed in service to functionality, and the designers stopped once it started working. But, this point of functionality almost always occurs long before the question of WHY is answered. GPS was never intended as an experiment meant to validate a theory.

Designers react to customers, whereas epistemologists engage in deep WHY questions. The epistemologist is permitted to never arrive at an answer, and that would be just fine. They might nevertheless still be viewed as successful amongst other epistemologists. For a designer, that would necessarily be an indication that he has failed.

Part of the risk of engaging in debates about epistemology in a thread that is focused upon design is that it shifts the mindset of the group into a direction which is not action-oriented. There are many mistakes which we can make in an effort to build a scientific social network. Guys, to be clear, this is a very basic one. In fact, I would suggest that people who get stuck at this point will never create any social network at all.

The reason why we choose to not get stuck at this point is so that we can have a chance at success. People who choose to frame a scientific social network as fundamentally an epistemological problem are basically not interested in building a social network. The reason is that they don't care about whether or not they will succeed, since they have not linked their success to some target user's needs. They are imagining that people are going to want this because THEY personally want this.

Epistemology is indeed a part of the design process, but it's clear from decision science that there are probably much more fundamental things going on that relate to the way the mind makes decisions. And this is where there is the most NEED amongst scientific thinkers for help. Kahneman's model suggests that our minds work in a very particular way, based upon our need for survival and staying out of harm's way. There is nothing at all "objective" about that, so we have to make a choice: Do we simply ignore peoples' inherent need for survival within our design? The answer to that is clearly no, for it leads us to over-simplify the way the mind actually works in the real world.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Mon Feb 03, 2014 7:29 pm

An Example of a Document Annotation

So, unfortunately, I've been coming at this problem of how to explain the EU much the same way that you guys have, for a very long time now. It was only recently that I became aware of user-centric design ("aka design thinking"). And so, I am honestly in a transition of sorts -- trying to reconfigure my thought processes so that they situate according to actual real-world needs by actual real-world people. Thinking from the perspective of other people still requires an enormous amount of effort, but I am told that it becomes far easier with sufficient practice.

So, what I've yet to get good at is defining problems. There is a very particular way that problems are defined in the world of innovation, and from what I am hearing, it's very important to get this exactly right. And although what follows is not a complete explanation, the process for defining problems goes something like this …

  • Start the statement with “how might we...”
  • Has an object/goal
  • Outward focused on the need of a target
  • Does not describe the solution or symptoms
  • Broad enough to sink your teeth into
  • Keep problem statements focused on needs by thinking of needs as “verbs” and solutions as “nouns”.
  • Rewrite the question 5 different ways or until you discover a more essential question than the one you started with.
  • Create a hierarchy of problems by asking why & how?
  • Reframe the problem statement.


Readjusting to that mode of thinking is almost certainly going to affect the types of designs I come up with. But, I thought I'd go ahead and share a very basic template for Verschuur's findings which has yet to be populated with the actual arguments. All of the features of this design follow from the principles that I've been learning. The actual content that goes into those four rectangles would be quite small by comparison to the text you see there. For instance, I already know that the first square has 11 separate parts (detailed beneath the graphic), and each part builds upon the former. It is highly graphical, but unfortunately, I am still working on those parts ...

Image


This design would work well as a physical poster or infographic, but the original intent is as an animated annotation widget for a document. So, this is obviously a static version here, but it has been designed with animation in mind.

Here are the 11 parts that would go into that first rectangle, and what you see here is the title which precedes the detailed explanations (yet to be created) …

  • Radio emissions are in particular important to interstellar space because these wavelengths are long enough that they pass straight through most dust particles.
  • Radio astronomers pay particular attention to the universe’s most common element, hydrogen. This hydrogen between stars can be observed in a variety of states, and what is observed is commonly filamentary like spaghetti.
  • There are three fundamental types of emissions which are known to originate in interstellar space: thermal, non thermal and spectral. The HI signal is spectral.
  • Although the HI signal is known to be very thin at its source, it oftentimes arrives shifted at the radio telescope.
  • Radio astronomers convert these shifts through different representations, with the assumption that the shifts are the result of motion, aka Doppler shifts
  • These inferred Doppler shifts are then compared to our expectations for the galaxy’s motions.
  • When Verschuur performs a careful analysis of the HI hydrogen observations by hand rather than by some automated statistical analysis done by computer, he observes two completely unexpected features
  • First, he notices that there are particular shifts in the 21-cm signal from these interstellar clouds which, if interpreted as motion relative to our galaxy, are in fact anomalous given their inferred locations.
  • Second: When he analyzes the Doppler shifts, he notices that contrary to expectations, the inferred Doppler shifts tend to center around particular speeds. There are four of them, and they correspond to the speeds which are known to laboratory plasma physicists as the critical ionization velocities (CIVs).
  • If charged particles moving through space happen to slam into a neutral cloud of gas at a sufficiently large velocity, plasma physics experiments suggest that the spectral shifts will tend to stall at particular values
  • Radio astronomers have thus far not paid a lot of attention to Verschuur’s claims. There are numerous reasons for this oversight which should be considered collectively.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Tue Feb 04, 2014 9:55 am

San Francisco Media Startup Incubator Matter Now Accepting Applications

I just ran into this incredible opportunity which is having an open house this Wednesday just down the street from me. Applications are due by March 1st. These guys are trying to change media through an intensive 4-month program that is based upon the same exact design thinking principles that I've been talking about here. See the video here …

http://matter.vc

We support media entrepreneurs building a more informed, connected, and empowered society through our start-up accelerator in San Francisco.

[…]

Matter supports early-stage entrepreneurs building start-ups that make society more informed, connected, and empowered. We invest in people first. We seek entrepreneurs who are driven by the positive impact they can make on society and who believe that leveraging the best practices of for-profit entrepreneurship will be their most effective way of scaling and sustaining that impact. We seek disruptors bold enough to ask what a great media company would look like if you built it from scratch today, harnessing emerging technologies, seeking new sustainable business models, and, most importantly, building for the needs and behaviors of their audiences.

Our target ventures are existing startup teams of 2-4 co-founders with skill sets covering technology, business, design, and storytelling. The have built an early stage prototype of products or services ranging from participatory platforms to B2B services to mobile-first applications to content production engines. We have a loose definition of media and fully expect some of the best start-ups we invest in will be pursuing ideas in spaces we had not predicted. Overall, we seek scalable startups that create a strong signal in today’s media noise.


Take a look at the questions they expect applicants to be able to answer … Sound familiar, folks? ...

What is your 1-sentence elevator pitch?

What is your mission?
What is motivating you to build this company? How does your company make society more informed, connected, and/or empowered? Why does your company matter?

Who is your customer?
Vividly describe the person (audience/user/customer) who will use your product/service and the context in which they will use it.

What problem are you solving?
What is the specific need you are meeting for your end user? (i.e. ___ needs a way to ___.)

What is your current solution?
What is the current way you are trying to solve this problem? (Your latest prototype solution.)

Why is this a big opportunity ripe to be solved now?
What big technological or societal trends make this the right time to tackle this opportunity? Where are you betting the world is heading? How big is this opportunity?

What is your business model?
How do you plan to be financially sustainable? How do you plan to generate revenue? Who ultimately pays for your product/service?

Why bet on your team?
Why is your team uniquely qualified to execute on solving this problem with this solution? How did you meet and how long have you been working together?

Why Matter? Why now?
What do you hope to accomplish in the 5 months of the program? What are your key next steps?


I'm going to now switch gears to preparing this application.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Tue Feb 04, 2014 12:33 pm

An Historical Look at the Idea of Annotation

The following New York Times piece from September 20, 2013, has lingered in my head since I read it. It's the only historical review of the idea of annotating articles as a means of social networking that I think has ever been written -- which makes it, in my view, an incredibly important article:

No Comments
By Michael Erard

Dip into the comments, the American text genre of the moment, and you can sense the currents that move American life. “The comments are where the real America is,” someone once wrote in a comment thread. Comments also may be the most obnoxious development of the Web, the wild back alleys where people sound their acid yawps. Their tenor is now so bad that last November a game designer, Shane Liesegang, set up a Twitter feed, @avoidcomments, where he tweets things like “I once showed a comments section to a man in Reno, just to watch him cry.” He now has 27,000 followers.

When we complain about comments, I’ve noticed, we do so as if we’re dealing with some emanation of human nature or the lusty democratic energies of the American soul. But when I went digging into the history of the Web to find out where online comments really came from, it’s clear that they’re the consequences of what was technically feasible at a certain point and how that feasibility was subsequently implemented. We tend to think that comments represent the culture, but in fact the distinct culture of commenting grew out of digital constraints. Given what Web users had to work with, comments were bound to get weedy.

Comments as we know them — lines of text stacked atop one another in chronological order — are direct descendants of bulletin-board systems, or B.B.S., which date to the 1970s; users could dial in with a modem and contribute to discussion forums. The computer code that determined the order in which text appears on a B.B.S. also provides the basic architecture of the comment thread. That code, or script, became the basis for an early commenting function called the “guest book”: a place for simple text entry in which any visitor could type a note. Guest books were attached to the Web site as a whole, not to any specific content on it. This created confusion about the sort of opportunity that the guest book presented. Was it the soapbox of the online world? Or was it a bathroom wall?

Fray.com, a popular Web site started in 1996, which used freeware guest-book script, was among the first to harness the potential of the guest book. A question would be posed, and answers contributed by readers would be published in real time. The Web site was essentially a collection of guest books, each one with a prompt, and the replies were all stand-alone contributions, adrift in a sea of other people who were speaking to themselves.

It’s difficult to give credit for the invention of comments as we now understand them to one specific person or site. An interactive book, “Travels With Samantha,” which allowed readers to submit comments via a form (much as modern comments are), won a Best of the Web award for document design in 1994, which was the same year that a consortium of World Wide Web developers created W3 Interactive Talk to discuss technical matters — on which discussion points were submitted by a form that made them part of a topic page.

There are competing claims about the first blog to offer comments. One pioneer is Bruce Ableson, who created Open Diary in 1998, an Internet journaling project that allowed diarists to respond to one another’s entries. Around the same time, the software developer Dave Winer created a discussion board with a commenting feature. The first comment there arrived on Oct. 5, 1998: “Too bad coders can’t be like rock stars and get their money for nothing and their chicks for free.”

As the Web evolved, the simple top-to-bottom arrangement of autonomous lines of text had a huge influence on the culture of commenting — and it now feels as natural as having sidewalks on two sides of the street. But the typical Web page presents a hierarchy. At the top is the article, post, video or image, while the comments dangle underneath like suckerfish from an indifferent shark.

“Having the comments at the bottom of the page — people feel that; they feel they’re not as legitimate a voice as the original post,” says Travis Nichols, who moderated a Poetry Foundation blog for several years and drew on this experience to write a novel, “The More You Ignore Me,” whose belligerent narrator takes over a cooking Web site with a venomous lament. Commenters show up with an immediate grudge, Nichols observed — they know they’ve been relegated to the steerage class of the public discourse.

As a result, commenters became territorial. “When we had to be more aggressive in deleting comments that violated our commenting policy,” says Bill Adee, The Chicago Tribune’s vice president of digital operations, “I got far more complaints about deleting comments than I did about the level of discourse.”

In the late ’90s, early bloggers expected the level of discourse to be high. In fact, intelligent commenting was seen as a path to gaining respect in the blogging community. At the beginning of 1999, there were only about two dozen blogs (which were mainly lists of interesting Web sites), but as the number exploded, it became hard for bloggers to follow the fragmenting conversations. In 2000, the blog service Blogger introduced permalinks, which allowed each blog entry to have its own URL, and in 2002, Moveable Type implemented the TrackBack, which automatically alerted an author that a permalink from his blog had been posted elsewhere. The TrackBack was meant, at least in part, to blur the lines between commenters and writers; the conversation surrounding one blog post no longer needed to be relegated to the comments section, but could be sprinkled across disparate blogs with the TrackBack as its link. That was great, in theory. But while conversations were the model for interactions, the technology couldn’t sustain what real conversations required.

What killed the promise of the culture of openness in early blog culture was the blizzard of link spam that hit in the mid-2000s. Planting millions of links to penis-enlargement ads in the comments of the most innocuous of blogs could trick Google bots into ranking certain penis-enlargement services higher when actual humans search “penis enlargement” (which, apparently, they do). Cleaning spam out of comment sections became a bigger headache for bloggers than policing the trolls. A lot of them disabled comments for good.

The invasion of spam highlighted the problems with early blog moderation, which grew out of a culture shaped by attitudes and tools inherited from the free-speech cowboys of the B.B.S. era. It took site owners years to realize that they’re not providing platforms and soapboxes but creating communities out of lines of text, which requires a more subtle approach. The Web forum MetaFilter, for instance, which is known for a positive commenting flavor, depends on a 24/7 team of moderators. “People come to us all the time and say, ‘Here’s a problem with people behaving badly, we want a tech solution,’ ” says Paul Bausch, a MetaFilter developer. “We tell them that human problems require human judgment.”

Yet high-traffic sites continue to leave comments unmoderated or use imperfect automated moderation. Only a few seem to have tried user-moderation systems like the one developed by Slashdot’s creator, Rob Malda. Founded in 1997, Slashdot rapidly began to suffer from what Malda called “signal-to-noise-ratio problems” as tens of thousands of users showed up. Rather than embracing the chaos (which was a hallmark of Usenet, another digital channel of communications) or locking things down with moderators (which e-mail lists did), Malda figured out a way for users to moderate one another. Moderation became like jury duty, something you were called to do.

In my view, the worst places to visit aren’t the comment jungles of 4chan or YouTube, but the overly manicured comment lawns of some newspapers. Papers have mistakenly treated comments as the digital equivalents of letters to the editor. “We’ve got a 160-year tradition of no comments on our stories in the newspaper, so it’s not surprising it took a little bit of time to get comfortable with that idea,” Adee of The Chicago Tribune says. (At The Times, select articles, including this one, are open for comments, which are moderated by humans.)

Talking to people at newspapers makes it seem as if the future of comments is all social log-ins and filtering algorithms. But these are really just tools for putting a lid on commenting culture’s excesses, not rethinking the relationship between creators and commenters in more fundamental ways.

A step in that direction is annotation, in which reactions, corrections and elaborations are placed directly on the text itself, which could, perhaps dangerously, put commenters on the same plane as writers and reporters, who spend days or weeks or months learning about a subject. One example is Medium, which allows readers to make notes at the paragraph level. (Unlike a Wikipedia entry, where users can edit the text, the article remains intact.) Writers might balk at this, but look at it this way: people are more likely to comment on what’s in the text, which may prompt them to actually read it before commenting.

Another is the start-up Rap Genius, a community built initially around annotating rap lyrics. (They’ve expanded to things like legal decisions and poetry.) The premise is that keeping readers and commenters close to the text focuses activity and keeps the discourse informed and civil. There are still people who act like idiots, but much of the time, it’s because they don’t know what the community is trying to achieve. The goal, Rap Genius’s co-founder Tom Lehman said, is to help out people who are making real contributions by defining and rewarding “real contributions” with user badges like “Rap I.Q.”

What makes Rap Genius an especially big deal is that it received a $15 million investment from a venture-capital firm run partly by Marc Andreessen, one of the authors of Mosaic, the first widely adopted Web browser. It turns out that annotation was an original feature in Mosaic, but it was dropped in part because the annotations would have had to have been hosted on the company’s own server, which was too expensive. Plus, Andreessen said, content creators (understandably) weren’t crazy about letting “Joe random user” annotate their stuff. Interestingly, Andreessen said he had been reading a lot of postmodern literary theory at that time, so the relationship of annotations to texts was “one of the threads I was pulling on.”

It’s a fascinating alternative-history proposition: would a world of annotations, rather than comments, inspired in part by Jacques Derrida, have set the Web on a different course? Social media might look very different; you can easily imagine an alternate version of Facebook and Twitter made up of people who regularly annotate certain sites across the Web. In this version of the Web, people would be writing on the worldwide wall of history, not scrawling in little spaces under siloed bits of content. But maybe there, too, they’d never figure out what they were supposed to be writing together, except to assert that everything they individually believe is true. America, Allen Ginsberg might have said in his sarcastic poem of the same name: Your caps lock is on.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Wed Feb 05, 2014 9:06 am

Steven Wozniak is not always eloquent, but he does understand some things about what happens when geek culture tries to do innovation …

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There's no question that companies are doggedly pursuing the next big thing in technology, whatever that may be. For example, "everyone is talking about wearable computing. There are about 30 companies that seem to be doing the same thing. But nothing seems to be pointing to the right way," Woznak says. One reason is simple: "You tend to deal with the past," replicating what you know in a new form. Consider the notion of computing eyeware like Google Glass: "People have been marrying eyewear with TV inputs for 20 years."

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The future of technology is about being more human

There's another factor: being more human, more personal. Wozniak points out that people use technology more the less it feels like technology. "The software gets more accepted when it works in human ways -- meaning in noncomputer ways. ... The mouse is a good example. Using it works like how we see things in space; you're not having to think that you move 5 inches but instead move your hand," and the mouse follows along, with the computer's software intrepreting the distance in context.

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