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 Post subject: Does this forum have to be a platform for cranks?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 01, 2019 11:18 pm 
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In the past year or so I have seen a lot of threads by people who are immune to reasoning and/or established concepts in programming, computer architecture or math. I am not referring to only a single thread but to multiple threads from different persons that were posted over a longer period of time.

This forum is incredibly tolerant towards this kind of bullshit. Other platforms like Wikipedia or StackOverflow immediately ban those discussions. I understand that the purpose of this forum is different than e.g. StackOverflow: we want to encourage discussion instead of merely providing Q&A.

Still, I think this is taking it too far. Do we have to provide a platform for those people? Can't we lock those threads once they start to derail and ban the offenders when they keep creating them repeatedly?

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 Post subject: Re: Does this forum have to be a platform for cranks?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 01, 2019 11:32 pm 
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My view on this is that anyone who is interested in this topic is by definition a crank, so yes.

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 Post subject: Re: Does this forum have to be a platform for cranks?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 01, 2019 11:36 pm 
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You are going to have to be a bit more specific. I'm guessing you mean manhobby and his multiple incarnations (by which I mean that QuantumRobin has a very similar style to manhobby). Well, they don't bother anyone outside of their threads. (There is a "Mark Threads Read" button at the top of the forums page)

What I am more worried about, is people bandying about with a banhammer because they don't like the style of some of their correspondents. Are you that childish that you need other people to curate your forums feed for you? Grow up! Being able to select your own reading material has often been a mark of adulthood.

For what it's worth, I would oppose a move to more censorship just because some people can't really articulate their ideas well and... actually, Korona, why are you offended?

@Schol: Good point. Everyone is a crank to someone else.


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 Post subject: Re: Does this forum have to be a platform for cranks?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 01, 2019 11:41 pm 
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I must admit, I'm becoming pretty fed up with those kind of threads/posters as well. Unfortunately some of the posters do make valuable contributions when they stick to the topics at hand, but any long discussion seems to just get hijacked eventually so they can get on their soapboxes. Also the forum isn't very active at the moment either, banning or driving off active posters now seems like it would only serve to hasten the decline (although getting a rep as a forum that entertains this kind of pseudoscience might also have that effect).

Another issue, who arbitrates crankery? Obviously SO and Wiki are places intended to collect orthodox information, but this place should cater to people with experimental and "out there" ideas to the extent that they aren't generally disruptive to others. If someone wants to re-write 3 centuries of mathematics and use the results to develop a messianic AI OS, more power to them. However, when every thread they post in becomes a debate about it, that's disruptive.

I don't exactly know what the right answer is, but I do think it's time to address that particular elephant in the room.

E: Wow, fast moving thread! For what it's worth, curating discussions to keep them on topic on a privately owned forum with a specific, narrow, focus is a good thing. This isn't twitter, this isn't 4chan, banning someone who is continually disruptive is more akin to asking someone to stop talking or leave in a lecture than censorship.


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 Post subject: Re: Does this forum have to be a platform for cranks?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 01, 2019 11:53 pm 
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Schol-R-LEA wrote:
My view on this is that anyone who is interested in this topic is by definition a crank, so yes.

Let's define, for the purpose of this discussion, a crank as a person who is unwilling to change his stance on a specific topic, even when presented with overwhelming evidence against it and without coming up with substantially new arguments to defend it. I don't think that everyone interested in a topic like OSDev is a crank. This forum has a lot of valuable contributors and people who developed great hobby OSes. The OSDev-related discussions usually go fairly well and stay on-topic and/or provide meaningful insights for newcomers. This does not hold for many of the the non-OSDev-related discussions though.

@nullplan and StudyCaps: I agree with you that blatantly swinging a banhammer on posters is not a good idea. However, I dislike reading the same bad arguments in the same threads over and over again. This drives me away form those threads and ultimately also from the forum. I could imagine that this is also true for other good contributors. My suggestion would be to lock those threads rather quickly and only move to banning people if they keep opening such threads. This especially applies to people who do not contribute anything meaningful to on-topic OSDev discussion. People who post meaningful contributions start getting tired after a while when their arguments and posts are ignored while "cranks" get free reign to repeat their bullshit over and over since they do not seem to get tired so easily. I think that we can define certain non-OSDev topic to be out of scope for this forum. Sure, that is some form of censorship but that's totally okay - we want to be an OSDev platform and not a general purpose discussion board.

If I want to see stupid arguments and circlejerking, I can go to 4chan or /r/conspiracy or whatever. I am posting this because I do believe that this forum is a nice place for OSDevers and I want it to keep being a nice place. Sure, I can stop reading it but I'd rather like to keep reading it without running into conspiracy theories and pseudoscience. I know that when I became interesting in math and programming as a child / teenager, I was very interested in all those nice systems and theorems built by "giants". I was eager to learn about this knowledge instead of ignoring all its contents and postulating that it's all wrong and that I know better.

(Which does not mean that the is no value in skepticism. But skepticism has to be combined with rationality and it's not in those crank-fueled discussions.)

As a last point (that i already hinted at above), I do not think that we can have both a lot of good contributors and allow crankery at the same time. I can very well imagine that crankery drives away the good contributors.

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 Post subject: Re: Does this forum have to be a platform for cranks?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 12:44 am 
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I think we all know what happened last time a moderator decided to be an arbitrator of what was worth discussing and what wasn't. Let's not go through that again.

As long as the discussions are in General Rambling, let's not go down the censorship (or "I know better than you route"). I'm sure we're all old enough to ignore threads that don't interest us. Use the "foes" facility if necessary.


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 Post subject: Re: Does this forum have to be a platform for cranks?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 1:03 am 
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Regarding the fear of censorship: in the topic that nullplan mentioned there are several posts along the lines of:

"I've heard about your material but I won't study it because it's wrong. It's wrong because I have a box at home that yields a different answer. My box is right. I am not showing you my box though, because if I did, you could use it to build SkyNet."

This discussion has been open for months, without any moderator interaction. I don't think that this is healthy for the forum. A good start would be enforcing a rule such as: "(Especially) in heated discussions, make sure that your claims remain verifiable". This would already be enough to stop this instance of insanity.

A broader suggestion would be to just ban topics that are repeatedly posted and always generate a heated discussion without reaching consensus. This rule is a lot more vague; hence, the mods would be the arbitrators here. As iansjack suggested, having one mod decide the fate of a topic is problematic but the mod team could have an internal mechanism to reach consensus (or not, and keep the topic open).

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 Post subject: Re: Does this forum have to be a platform for cranks?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2019 2:08 pm 
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What happens in cases where the "crank" repeatedly points out that he doesn't want to go on discussing the matter and other people keep dragging him back in through aggressive attacks? Who is it that's being disruptive? The "crank" simply answers questions truthfully out of politeness and states what he's doing (namely, building something that is little more than a database with its structures optimised for applying reasoning to the content and for making a compiler that can handle natural langauge) while producing arguments that back up his position, but he would rather get on with his work and not be pushed into posting here. The "crank" repeatedly tells the off-topic thread starter to stop posting more threads of that kind. All you have to do is express your incredulity and stop being so damned rude.


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 Post subject: Re: Does this forum have to be a platform for cranks?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2019 4:41 pm 
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DavidCooper wrote:
(namely, building something that is little more than a database with its structures optimised for applying reasoning to the content and
for making a compiler that can handle natural langauge)
This sounds a whole lot like Wolfram's natural language programming vision from 10 years ago.
I expect natural language programming will eventually become ubiquitous as a way of telling computers what to do. People will be able
to get started in doing programming-like tasks without learning anything about official “programming” and programming languages:
they’ll just converse with their computers as they might converse with another person.
What will happen to programming languages? Actually, I think they’ll become much more visible and widely known than ever before.
Because in natural language programming interfaces one will probably be shown the programming language code that’s being synthesized.
People will see that, and gradually learn cases where it’s much faster and more precise just to enter code like that directly, without
going through natural language.
Of course, the not so obvious solution would be to merely forget about the other languages, the database (and world domination).
Simply program the rest of the code in the same natural language. This not so obvious solution has of course been available for the last 13 years.

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 Post subject: Re: Does this forum have to be a platform for cranks?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 04, 2019 2:09 pm 
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@DavidCooper Let me clarify that I do not think that it's your fault that the thread derailed. You did handle the situation professionally. What got on my nerves about your posts was your "I don't care what professional mathematicians invented; I am right and they are wrong." attitude. (Your remarks in the other thread were not as humble as in this one! I have no problem with someone building a compiler that tries to work with NLP at all. I do have a problem with broad, baseless and unverifiable claims though.)

I do think, however, that the thread should have been locked before you had to justify yourself to such an extent, mainly against QuantumRobin. His behavior is obviously unhealthy and easily could have be stopped by moderation (this was not his first thread leading to the same pointless discussion).

I should also clarify that I did not open this thread just because of the natural language programming thread - that was merely the last trigger. I have the impression that in the last few months there was much more circlejerking / "toxic" discussion on this forum than in the years before. However, it does seem that this opinion is not shared by a lot of other posters, so maybe I'm attributing too much importance to this topic in the end.

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