Click images for more details



Recent comments
Recent posts
Currently discussing

A few sites I've stumbled across recently....

Powered by Squarespace

Discussion > Reputations and rapport

I rejoined Bishop Hill as a vocalist, not just a lurker, on 12th July 2013. I was prompted to do so because of an attack on Nigel Lawson by eSmiff on that date. I'd like to look here at how Bishop Hill has in the last seven weeks treated the reputations of five real world people:

1. Nigel Lawson
2. Richard Lindzen
3. Richard Betts
4. Judy Curry
5. Richard North.

As I hope has become clear over three years or more, I feel strongly about trashing the reputations of real people in a forum like this. But of course that does depend on the person! I'd like to look at five threads where some of these issues have come up since I rejoined BH. This is by no means all about real names or pseudonyms though that is part of it. It is also about how we establish rapport, both with each other and with those about whom we write. In fact that is likely to be a much more important theme by the end here.

Sep 4, 2013 at 4:48 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Some interesting stats to start with. Between Lawson lays down law, about a proposed meeting with Paul Nurse on 12th July, during which I rejoined, and Walport on uncertainty, inspired by a typically incisive spot by Paul Matthews today, there have been 140 separate Bishop Hill posts, not including discussions like this one. That's 140 in 50 days, so an average of 2.8 posts a day. I've always liked round numbers.

I want to look into five of those main threads especially and may well link to others and to a few discussions. Talking of which, another real world person who's been criticised in forthright terms on Bishop Hill during the seven weeks is Baroness Vermes. It's quite something when we attract a peer of the realm to seek to correct views expressed here that he felt were too harsh. Why did Lord Donoughue bother to do that? Surely it doesn't matter what is said on this little blog, whether good, bad or ugly?

I wanted to begin both with the stats and that strange phenomenon: someone relatively important thinking that what we say about real world individuals here might matter. Differing views are as always welcome. But perhaps from a strictly logical point of view we do well to assume that our words count for something or remain silent :)

Sep 4, 2013 at 6:25 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Well, we don't always know who is reading, do we Richard?

I find posting under my own name keeps me closer to the straight and narrow. Some of the better things I've done, and said, in life didn't go unnoticed, even when I thought no one was looking. The worse things I don't like to think about either.

Sep 5, 2013 at 1:41 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

I find this attempt at navel gazing unproductive (within the context of the blog.) Of course, it produces something of value to someone. Whether it has place here is another matter.

You should perhaps start your own blog Richard.

And I as know you enjoy history, it is possible to begin see why Stalin/Mao/Hitler did have the idea of putting the intellectuals against the wall. I can just imagine them rolling their eyes, waiting for them to finish, thinking of what is for lunch, and then quietly pressing the trap door button sending them to oblivion.

Sep 5, 2013 at 6:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Richard has his own blog, unfortunately I've never managed to get the post button to work (throws an exception).

Sep 5, 2013 at 8:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Jiminy Cricket.
I agree that the only thing that dictators generally get right is trying to obliterate the pseudo-thinking classes. I think your only mistake is in imagining that any of the three you mention would bother to wait until their victims had finished their empty prattling.
I have, for example, never yet found what useful purpose Polly Toynbee serves.
Toby Young had an interesting article in last week's Spectator which I find relevant. They're none of them half as clever as they think they are.

Sep 5, 2013 at 10:19 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Let me quote from Wikipedia on part of the inspiration for this here thread, coming out of my professional work:

The term is also used in software engineering, where a retrospective is a meeting held by a project team at the end of a project or process (often after an iteration) to discuss what was successful about the project or time period covered by that retrospective, what could be improved, and how to incorporate the successes and improvements in future iterations or projects. Retrospective can be done in many different ways ... In agile development retrospectives play a very important role in iterative and incremental development. At the end of every iteration a retrospective is held to look for ways to improve the process for the next iteration. Scrum call this the Sprint Retrospective.

If you think about it when TheBigYinJames said It's all gone quiet two weeks ago it was also a kind of retrospective. But much more general. This one focuses on reputations and rapport in the last seven weeks - on how we've been doing with between 5-8 well-known real names in the climate area (I think I've expanded from five!)

Doesn't anyone think that Lord Donougue's intervention on 26th July was highly interesting in this regard? (Bernard's concern was about Verma, not Vermes. I got the name wrong. How ironic is that? I always get the Baroness mixed up with the Jewish scholar who, strangely enough, I mentioned to TBYJ in that first thread on my return on 12th July.)

Remember that logically the question in the last paragraph cannot be answered by you unless you do find Bernard's intervention interesting. (I'm asking only if anyone does. A thousand that don't cannot prove the non-existence of a reader that does.) More broadly, there's little point writing off the effort here before it's barely begun. And I wanted to talk about something different than nymity before my autumnal hibernation.

Sep 5, 2013 at 12:06 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

michael hart, sorry to leave this to the end of the week but it seemed worth keeping.

Well, we don't always know who is reading, do we Richard?

It's cool how few words are required to add something of value. I often think of Baroness Verma or someone like her giving Bishop Hill a try. The problem is we know neither who nor when.

I find posting under my own name keeps me closer to the straight and narrow.

Thank you for saying that. I think it is valid and valuable testimony. I've had people who use a nym on BH say, unprompted, at social gatherings, something close to the opposite: that it tends to make them say things in a way they wouldn't normally and not in a good way.

Some of the better things I've done, and said, in life didn't go unnoticed, even when I thought no one was looking. The worse things I don't like to think about either.

Me neither. All relevant to my concerns about how we have treated 'real people' since July. More on that over the weekend. Thank you.

Sep 6, 2013 at 5:14 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Here are two quotes from our host, the first from yesterday night:

I think readers should try to be polite in any criticism they choose to make. Who knows, perhaps Amelia will drop in for a chat. (She interviewed me last week and was very nice).

And this from over two years earlier:

Can I please ask those readers who are of an angry disposition to park their anger at the door - it's nice to have John Cook come here and engage and I'm keen that this thread does not deteriorate as others have done in the past.

This thread isn't just about parking our anger at the door towards real people who try and engage here, it's about our expressed attitudes to real people like Richard Lindzen who I assume will never do so. But the engagers, and the superset of potential engagers, are both important subsets of all the real people this blog discusses over time. And these quotes show (and there have been many others like them) that this has been considered an issue for quite a while.

Why do people on Bishop Hill have to be told to park their anger at the door in such situations? Doesn't that make anyone else feel rather ashamed of this place, or at least uneasy? Isn't it an indication that the culture here is far from optimal? I found it very revealing what Andrew himself said about this in answer to one of the early questions from MPs on the Scitech committee in July. I'll dig that quote out in the coming week - unless someone else wants to find the right point in the transcript before I do.

Sep 8, 2013 at 6:12 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Is anger always wrong?

Sep 8, 2013 at 6:34 PM | Registered CommenterDung

The anger Andrew says is wrong definitely is, on this blog. And it has an impact on how we are perceived. I want to stick to those boundaries.

Sep 8, 2013 at 6:49 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Since this blog belongs to Andrew Montford I agree that his wishes should be respected, however on this issue, even though I have to abide by his requests, I do not have to agree hence my question.

Sep 8, 2013 at 7:03 PM | Registered CommenterDung

I'd prefer if you discussed that in another thread. This one presupposes Andrew is right on this and will look at how we've been doing in the light of that - and at other aspects of our relationship with real people and the rapport we either achieve or fail to achieve with them. Thanks.

Sep 8, 2013 at 7:13 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

I do find this all very upper middle class.

Some of the nastiest people I have met, have had the polish, the sheen of respectability.

Those that claim decency for their own. Two faces.

Do not invalidate or diminish the contribution of those with a lesser skills in giving an opinion.

This is not a gentlemen's club, and some people seem to want to turn it into one.

There are not many Working Men's Club's left. I frequented a few before leaving the north behind.

Rather that than that some false chimera of superiority.

"Good" manners hide many sins.

Sep 8, 2013 at 7:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket


1) If you're involved it won't be. Please stay!

2) Do you think Andrew was being 'very upper middle class' in what he wrote both times that I quote at 6:12 PM?

3) I want to work from specific examples. Those are two but I want to get onto the five luminaries listed at the top, plus Verma, McIntyre and maybe Montford himself. Giving specific examples, as an analytical tool for the future, in line with retrospectives in good software projects. There's nothing remotely upper- or middle-class about it. Ask Ben Griffiths, one of the leading agile thinkers and practitioners in the UK, who's resolutely from the other end of the social spectrum from where you, I think quite wrongly, are placing this one.

Sep 8, 2013 at 8:19 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Jiminy Cricket
There was an interesting article about the decline of the working men’s clubs, or more exactly the first socialist club, in today’s Observer
linking it to the decline of interest in politics and organised social action in general.
You won’t like the punchline, which has the club being saved by concerned middleclass activists as a “red and green” club, but the article does touch on many of the characeristics of our times which explain the rise of environ-mentalism.
Class tension has probably always existed in activist groupings of all sorts ever since Herr Marx got up the Working Men’s Association with a certain Mr Odgers, but I don’t see the point of drawing attention to it.
I’m not sure what Richard Drake wants to achieve with this thread, but I don’t see his tone of voice as being a problem. Like accents and other stylistic tics, it’s something we all learn to ignore when we’re interested in the content of the interaction. And if we’re not, better to drop he subject...

Sep 8, 2013 at 8:44 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers


Firstly you didn't answer my question and secondly the title of this thread is Reputations and rapport and I would say that my question was fair and square in line with that title.

Sep 8, 2013 at 11:49 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Jiminy Cricket

Richard's posts are not about class, not about forming a Gentleman's club, they are about Richard Drake. Your post mentioned skills and I got the impression that you meant communication skills (might be totally wrong of course), Richard does not have good communication skills.
Richard sees himself as someone who recognises problems that others miss and he also sees himself as the only person who can solve these problems. This attitude has megalomaniac written all over it in neon lights.

Sep 9, 2013 at 12:15 AM | Registered CommenterDung

I'll ignore the last two posts and would obviously appreciate it if others do the same. Jiminy's comment about 'very upper middle class' - plus the link I'd already made with software retrospectives - reminded me of a thread triggered by a job ad on the London Ruby User Group's email group in April. I've just put it up on the web in redacted form. Though not strictly about class it did deal with the thorny issue of Oxbridge and usefulness. I thought my two paragraphs at the end might shed light on one or two things about me:

I had the weird experience of winning a scholarship in Maths to Cambridge and being deeply depressed on first meeting my fellow scholar at the college in question, as the guy was so far ahead of me in branches of the subject where I didn't even know there were branches. I learned much later that around eight years after we first met he'd won a Fields Medal, commonly called the Nobel Prize for maths. I guess I shouldn't have worried quite so much.

I didn't spot Simon's elevation to the very great for around fifteen years because I was toiling away in what was then the humble field of commercial software engineering. I always loved its egalitarian side, such as the guy I heard about in my early days who began as uneducated gardener at a major data centre, was brought in to shift some boxes and ended up as chief programmer. Or the revolutionary socialist who when he wasn't calling out the workers on strike against the bastard bosses was chief creator of Reuters' seminal Monitor system for the biggest banks in the world in the late 70s and early 80s. (I'm guessing those dates - certainly he was still talked about with awe when I first consulted at the place in 1986.)

I'd recommend the whole thing. Most of the guys (and handful of girls) on the LRUG list are a bit younger than me. There's another whole area there. But all of this has to do with culture.

Thanks to Geoff for his very interesting comment, especially that "class tension has probably always existed in activist groupings of all sorts". It would be great to pull through on that, not just on this thread but much more broadly.

Sep 9, 2013 at 12:45 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

For anyone reading this, you would do well to read Dung's posts. Richard is a self-promoter of the worst kind.

Sep 9, 2013 at 8:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Richard, in my day they'd say you'd "been injected with a gramophone needle." You appear to harbour very strong views on a lot of topics and approach discussion determined to say more than anyone else, as though verbosity itself confers authority on your words. You should re-read De Bello Gallico, the brevity of Caesar's pen strokes are a wonder to behold and we could all learn from them.

Jiminy put the point to you very well, but I'll re-iterate it, the person who berates you will often do less damage to your reputation than the one who smiles sweetly and berates you privately. What you are doing is projecting your own sensitivity to forthright criticism, or even abuse, on to other people, most of who don't give a FF because as my mother used to say "They're too well bred to be insulted." Especially by anonymous toe rags on the net.

Sep 9, 2013 at 8:40 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

geronimo: Very nicely put. Jiminy is entitled to his opinion but I don't actually feel that I know what it is. Were the two appeals of Andrew I quoted wrong, on the basis of what Jiminy writes? Has he in fact wandered into the wrong kind of club from the beginning? Or are we easily good enough already? I can assure you that I am not interested, in this thread, in my own reputation but in the effect our smug and hostile attitudes can have on the rapport that could be achieved with others but isn't. And I believe that has real and negative consequences.

Dung's right to say that I think that I see things that others don't. This happened with the importance of object-oriented programming in 1982, when I was 24, with agile development ideas in 1986 and with the wiki idea long before it was picked up by Jimmy Wales and Wikipedia. I've learned not to ignore such off-beat thoughts. But this case is different in that there are others that I know feel the same way and plenty of them. It's also different in that I won't flog a dead horse forever, in one discussion thread - whereas I made a successful business from the first two, at least, through persistence over around 18 years! But I will quote from Andrew in front of the select committee in July and perhaps from some other threads during the two months during which I've been active here again. I trust the open-minded will see my commitment to base this exploration on evidence, not on mere emotion or prejudice. I'm confident that I will have given them something to think about by the end. Such a retrospective can't be done without a fair few words.

Sep 9, 2013 at 11:26 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Try to find Richard Drake's name related to any of the technologies he mentions. I expect he latched onto these subjects in the way he's trying to do with climate scepticism. In 20 years time he'll be boring the pants off people telling them how he was at the start of AGW scepticism, and knew all the big names, etc. Poseur.

Sep 9, 2013 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

TBYJ: That is really weird. Leaving aside the evidence that Objective Computer Systems Limited existed from 1983 - and the numerous people I could introduce you to that worked there or knew me in those days, including Tim Berners-Lee, Ward Cunningham and Kent Beck (and I'm not in the habit of lying in my evidence to Commons select committees, come to that) - I have always acknowledged Richard Lindzen in particular as the pioneer of the fightback against CAGW since Al Gore and James Hansen got going in 1988. I consider myself nothing compared to that guy in the climate area and he was indeed the second name on my list above! One of the real people about whom I believe it's right to care what we say on Bishop Hill, though actually I believe that about all real people. But Lindzen has taught me much and already knew more in 1988 about the climate than I ever will. Sorry but truly epic fail.

Sep 9, 2013 at 11:53 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

1. Nigel Lawson
2. Richard Lindzen
3. Richard Betts
4. Judy Curry
5. Richard North.

The only one of the above who might be in mild danger on BH is Richard Betts, so why a list containing so many people we all respect? Once again you see problems that do not exist.

Sep 9, 2013 at 12:22 PM | Registered CommenterDung