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Discussion > What exactly is considered to be Off Topic?

Richard Drake

The only problem I have with you which is the sole cause of our argument is your war on pseudonyms.
You have said that you have not spoken against pseudonyms and I pointed out that whilst in the main you do not personalise your attacks you do make what I consider to be snide remarks about Pseudonyms in general

I pointed that out here:

You have said before and said again in the above post: "I have solidly supported the use of pseudonyms here". When speaking to individuals I think that was almost always the case, however you did make harsh remarks about "nyms" in general and in doing so you inadvertantly made some BH regulars who use pseudonyms feel uncomfortable. I think it was that generalisation that was the problem.
I think your new thread might help us sort everything out.
Nov 22, 2012 at 4:19 PM | Registered CommenterDung

You responded here:

Dung, I don't doubt the truth of what you say. I have had real contempt in my heart for something in this area and it has sometimes showed


But it would have been far simpler for anyone responding if you've given the reference first, as I, and I think Hilary, undoubtedly would have. One of the better habits of people using real names here, if my judgment of the correlations are right. I wonder why that should be
Dec 3, 2012 at 8:16 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake.

I don't recognize splitpin as a name but the unknown anonymous commentator who turns up in a crisis and pronounces judgment, apparently from a great moral height, but giving nobody a clue as to what gives them the right and wisdom to make it ... oh yes, that I do recognise.
Nov 21, 2012 at 8:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

There are lots more Richard if you want me to dig up more. All I have ever asked is that you do not raise the nyms issue directly or indirectly on the main blog pages, were you to do that I could have no problem with you.

Most people are sick of our arguments even here in the discussion threads, if you do not raise the nyms issue in the main blog there will be no more arguments and everybody will be happy.

Dec 31, 2012 at 12:17 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Dung: you know that I object to all such framing as my "war on pseudonyms".

I believe there are specific problems with pseudonyms, as used by mydog, ZDB, BBD, Albert Pierrepoint and not a few others, and that there are also more general problems, because of the lack of what I have dubbed reputation cost. This last point was admitted to me by someone who has always used an assumed name on Climate Audit and here, someone I had come to respect for over four years, within moments of us meeting for real for the first time at a public event in the last six months. My reputation on this goes before me and by no means all feedback is negative.

You yourself came to this debate quite late, is that not right? You said the other day, for example, that you barely knew who Jonathan Jones was. I was especially struck by that, because, for me, Jonathan's decision to 'go public' on Bishop Hill in February 2011 about hiding the decline being a "blatant breach of the fundamental principles of honesty and self-criticism that lie at the heart of all true science" was a key milestone for this blog and the sceptic cause generally - an intervention I used three days later in my own five minutes on hiding the decline. So we no doubt come to some of these issues from a very different place.

I don't find any of the quotes you give objectionable, let alone cause to have me banned. If this is the worst you can find I don't think you have even the beginnings of a case. None of my comments on this subject have been snipped by the host, unlike the many deletes of AlecM on the GHE. And you have never said that you disagree with the Bish snipping that nym - nor have you said that he should be banned. I wonder why, even before my first snip, you think I should be?

I continue to argue that those using real names tend to behave better, on average, than those using nyms. Albert Pierrepoint would never have used his real name, because he wanted to use Bishop Hill to incite to murder, albeit in a jokey manner. Once such cases are taken into account, of course on average nyms come out worse. We should be able to talk about such problems and I'm glad I have done so. I consider it a key part of freedom of speech here. But I agree that it can be off topic. I'm sure you will point out where you think it is and that is also a vital part of free speech. So I don't think we have a big problem, except for you calling me to be banned. Why not use the phrase "I disagree" instead?

Lastly, you say:

Most people are sick of our arguments even here in the discussion threads

I don't doubt this may be true but what does that matter. The other day, for example, I saw Dung had begun a discussion called Did the Tories make a mistake in electing Cameron as leader? I wasn't interested enough even to click once to look inside. But I would never use my lack of interest in a topic as an argument that somebody else should be prevented from talking about it.

You have wanted to talk about what you see as my gross deficiencies - implying I think that I was worse than any other commenter on Bishop Hill - and, to some degree, if only to put the record straight, I have wanted to reply. As long as the host doesn't delete or forbid further debate of any topic I am happy to let anyone get on with anything and that is doubly true here.

I don't think calling for the banning of someone else is at all common so on that I have tried to challenge you. I think you have a very weak case indeed and I'd be gobsmacked if anyone said I didn't have the right to say so.

Dec 31, 2012 at 1:17 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Richard Drake

I strongly support your right to state that you should not be banned. I have said so already and pointed out that my opinion on the issue is irrelevant since it is not my blog.

You comment on my discussion thread " Did the Tories make a mistake in electing Cameron as leader?"
I do not have any objections to your lack of interest and in that sense the discussion area is very democratic; if a thread is not of interest then nobody replies and I have had plenty of those ^.^
However to compare that to your Pseudonyms thread is inappropriate, I explain why:

Your Pseuds discussion was excellently supported with 246 comments last time I checked, there was obviously great interest. However the interest was almost 100% based on BH contributors telling you that they did not wish to use real names and giving you many justifiable reasons why not. The thread was originated by Paul Mathews who supports real names, someone called James whose second name escapes me also supported you and one other I think but I can not name him/her. There is a big difference between the way you have behaved and the way the other supporters of real names behaved.

You are the only person who has continued a crusade into threads on the main blog, not one other BH contributor has done this.
You have a cause which is basically quite noble, even I can see that. You have seen wrongs perpetrated by people under cover of false names and you see this as an injustice, I have no great disagreement with you there. However the methods you have employed to right this wrong are completely misguided.
Firstly far from being the home of such problems, Bishop Hill is a haven of good behaviour and intelligent discussion, yet it is here that you decided to pursue a solution?
It is also the case that The Bishop is the final arbiter of right and wrong on the blog and if you think there are things that need to be changed then your argument should be with him and not other contributors.
If you can not see what is wrong with the examples I gave then there is not a lot more I can do.

Dec 31, 2012 at 2:18 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Dung: every time you argue against me you frame things in a way I find abhorrent. That should be a warning sign to others that we are speaking at cross purposes. I don't read the Paul Matthews thread in anything like the way you do. It was always part for me of a long-term project to get the population of BH to think more deeply about pseudonymity, it was never a crusade or a cause, even if I like your adjective noble (thanks). That's the simplest thing to say. I can't spend much more time explaining today, New Year's Eve 2012, but I'm sure I'll come back to it in 2013. I think you and others, if interested, should spend more time on my specific proposals in the Paul Matthews thread, on the pros and the cons of them, which I came back to on 9th November. You can tell I'm sure that I have no problem about doing so but it's not a crusade or a cause. My two initial comments there were prompted by one piece of 'nymity that I thought brilliantly exemplified how things could be done differently in future.

Of course in saying things could be done differently I'm saying that Bishop Hill isn't perfect. The host knows that I am saying this and doesn't seem to have any problem with the concept, smart man that he is! He does have questions about practicality and on that I agree. That makes me different from someone on a crusade, for whom practicality is not as issue. We would need to get into the detail to make further progress. And I have no problem with anyone not having the appetite for that. The Bish decides and he will explain his reasons, as and when he makes any changes. But the debate has made some people think and not everyone thinks that is a negative :)

Dec 31, 2012 at 3:14 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

<very deep sigh> Now you've done it, Dung!

In the absence of anything remotely resembling a responsive reply to those who find his "arguments" considerably less than compelling (not to mention bordering on intellectually dishonest), RD has now jumped from his hobby-horse to his high-horse - and with his blindspots, Gaia alone knows where he might gallop to next!

But he does seem to have a rather remarkable - if not bottomless - capacity for self-exculpatory "revisionism" with which he liberally lards his "responses" (for want of a better word).

Oh, well ... I suppose it's all part of his game, which must always be played in accordance with Richard's Rules of Order™ - the major one of which appears to be that his "reading" of anyone's words (including his own, it would seem) trumps their actual words in context every time.

Jan 1, 2013 at 3:01 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Hilary Ostrov

Now that I am back from the dictionary I have to award you another gold medal, this time for the phrase "self exculpatory revisionism"! I have written those words down but I doubt I would ever have the bottle to use them ^.^

Jan 1, 2013 at 9:55 AM | Registered CommenterDung

I reiterate that I don't see myself on a campaign or crusade, Hilary. That was my point. Happy New Year!

Jan 2, 2013 at 8:04 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

OMG Dung, what have you done? The IIO is now all over the shop posting here, there and everywhere. Rhoda said elsewhere that she doesn't want to be a player, and that would apply to most of us. But there are real players and faux players, and just because someone views himself as a player, doesn't mean anyone else does or should. You seem to have had a temporary salutary effect though; I have seen a couple of posts without the usual fluff and with some actual on-topic content, although it would be too much to expect that to last.

Jan 2, 2013 at 6:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterChris M

The question I raised has now been answered by the Bish on RD's thread entitled "Dung's inspired Idea".
The Bish has stated that the whole idea of Discussion threads was to move off topic discussion out of the main blog and from now on I will do exactly that.
However I do think there is a downside to that as follows:

1) Topics raised by the Bish do have different aspects.
2) There are some people who never use the discussion threads and therefore the discussion that begins on the main blog does not move to the discussion thread, it just stops.
3) There are people (holds hand up) (holds another hand up for alecm ^.^) who see many discussions as pointless when the GHE itself is not proven, the GHE underpins every other discussion one way or another.

That said, I will obey the great leader!

Jan 5, 2013 at 11:10 AM | Registered CommenterDung

Dung: quick feedback on that.

a) good point, which I think we need to discuss more. I'll be doing so on the thread the Bish made the statement in later today.

b) not important. They'll have to get used to it.

c) ridiculous. But I think we need another thread for that. See What if the slayers are right?

I also think it's inappropriate to use the word 'obey' here. It isn't that simple as we consider the right way to separate concerns, the general use of Discussion threads and off-topic-ness both in main and disc threads.

It is that simple though after many specific host interventions. Best not to confuse the two.

Jan 5, 2013 at 12:38 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

(Not in reply to RD)

Yes Dung, but who determines what is off-topic, if the Bish doesn't determine that himself in a particular thread? It seems to me that anyone who self-appoints as a thread moderator, as we have seen repeatedly, is bound to generate friction and discord. By what or whose authority does such a person seek to impose their will? Why should the overly assertive be permitted to drive off others with valid opposing opinions or perspectives?

A sociologist or organisational psychologist might be able to clarify, but I suspect there may be a primitive tribal aspect to this sort of behavior. Any attempt to establish a bare knuckle pecking order, a la Lord of the Flies, is not in the spirit of cooperative internet interactions and should be strongly resisted. The vast majority of posters on this site are thoughtful, courteous and considerate people. All the more reason to call out the one or two exceptions, so that the tone of this valuable blog is not lowered and harmony destroyed.

If the intention of the new discussion thread on this same subject was to provoke a reaction that would attract the adverse attention of our host, no apologies are due for not biting.

Jan 5, 2013 at 7:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterChris M

Chris M:

... apologies ...

You're doing well my friend. Keep up the good work :)

Jan 5, 2013 at 7:03 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake


you could also make the point that AlecM's posts fall into one of two camps - either GHE does not exist because of n basic mistakes and ignorance of Poynting's vectors etc, or else government policy is designed around a system to establish a world government via carbon trading, as set up by ...guess which bogeymen of the day/hour....

At least your posts are harder to predict in advance :)

Jan 5, 2013 at 7:10 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

That sort of blatant trolling clearly deserves sanction, and provides an example of the lowering of tone I was referring to. How about giving up on your vendetta, and allowing this blog to return to a semblance of normalcy?

Jan 5, 2013 at 7:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterChris M

not you diogenes :-)

Jan 5, 2013 at 7:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterChris M

Chris M

not you diogenes :-)

One of the great farces of the Greek era. :)

Jan 6, 2013 at 9:46 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Richard Drake

You seem now to have morphed into a kind of Jeckyll and Hyde character? You have been making some great posts right through the blog pages, joining in the general spirit of BH as Dr Henry Jeckyll. However as Mr Edward Hyde you exhibit a different personality which Chris M has pointed out.
The last two posts addressed to Chris M are totally dismissive and patronising, really nasty stuff for BH.

not you diogenes :-)

One of the great farces of the Greek era. :)

I can say with total confidence that nobody who has experienced your posts on BH can be in any doubt of your intellect, your education and your wide ranging experience of London society. This is true because you never fail to remind people of it, many others do not feel the need to parade their qualifications or other strengths, they simply say what they think.

In making the "not you diogenes" post you completely ignore Chris M's comments, choosing instead to parade your great knowledge of the classics.

It seems to me now that there are two Richard Drakes fighting for control, the quite acceptable Dr Jeckyll and the Increasingly Insufferable Edward Hyde. Have you discovered the potion to keep him under control yet?

Jan 6, 2013 at 11:14 AM | Registered CommenterDung

I have been trying to indicate, rather gently, my dear Dung, that I have found Chris M's contributions since I replied to your post of Jan 5, 2013 at 11:10 AM hilarious. I think it's best to make that clear as Chris has chosen specifically to mention me (and earlier in this thread too). If we are going to work out our differences we have to start from a place of honesty. I likewise find your response hilarious. You are both trying to parody yourselves, right? For instance:

... instead to parade your great knowledge of the classics ...

I mean, that is superb. You really thought that I really thought "Not You, Diogenes" was a farce from the Greek era? And that this displayed great knowledge of the classics on my part?

I mean, that's much funnier than the original. Keep it up, you guys :)

Jan 6, 2013 at 11:24 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Richard Drake

It seems to amuse you that people do not know wtf you are talking about ^.^

Jan 6, 2013 at 1:18 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Jan 2, 2013 at 8:04 AM | Richard Drake

I reiterate that I don't see myself on a campaign or crusade,

Considering that this is not your blog, it matters far less - if at all - how you might choose to see yourself than how your words are actually perceived by others.

But then, perhaps the extent of your vanity is such that you just don't care how others might perceive you and/or your very own words.

Jan 6, 2013 at 11:17 PM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Is a truce, or even a semblance of one, possible? Just let it go. Just resolve, for instance, to post once per thread and no more, for the next two dozen threads.

Jan 7, 2013 at 1:27 AM | Registered Commentershub


Talking to RD is for sure not my favourite pastime, the fact that he rarely listens is not the least of the problems, I am perfectly happy to keep Schtum.
I responded to assist Chris M.

Jan 7, 2013 at 5:07 PM | Registered CommenterDung

I have to admit that it is irking more and more that people refer to "you two" and then smugly suggest that we both are behaving like children and should really know better. I am not a child and neither am I behaving like one. One man and only one man is continuing to cause disruption on Bishop Hill and it aint me gov. If Drake's disruption was not personal I could happily ignore it but it IS personal.
ALL the comments about nyms were personal if you read them carefully, in this thread Chris M is the target, now if all you bigger boys want to stand and watch and leave others to be trampled then go ahead but please get off my back because I did not cause this.

Jan 7, 2013 at 6:27 PM | Registered CommenterDung

A workable solution would be for His Grace to ban both of us, at least that way you would all be spared any more disruption and I would be satisfied that I had done something good for BH.

Jan 7, 2013 at 7:57 PM | Registered CommenterDung

I don't know whom your last post is directed at, but I didn't say any of those things, nor would I say them. I agree with almost everything you have said on this subject. When I said 'truce', I only meant 'temporary cessation of hostilities'.

Jan 8, 2013 at 12:25 AM | Registered Commentershub