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Keeping UMSF at an 'impressively high level', Please take a moment to read
djellison
post Apr 3 2006, 10:24 PM
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I, my ever-helpful co-admins, and several members have all noticed that UMSF has begun to get a little bit 'noisy' recently. Its #1 quality is often cited as being the signal-to-noise ratio, and in the last few months, this has suffered to a certain extent. This post is an attempt to explain how and why I think it's happened, and the rules that we are now putting in place and some action that we are taking/will take to attempt to return UMSF to the prior level of discourse.

UMSF started life, as some of you will know, as a much smaller, MER-specific forum, and over time grew to include Cassini, and then essentially everything it covers today. Relaunching as UMSF just over 12 months ago saw the beginning of a more popular forum, and as more people have begun posting, the quality of discussion has, to an extent, suffered. For more than a year, I've been expecting it - it's part of a forum's growth pattern and is often the point at which a forum is made or broken. UMSF has always done well by having an informal, silent but understood agreement between its members which up until the 500-or-so membership level worked beautifully, but as more people have joined, has broken down considerably. As a result these rules are now going to have to be formalised and enforced - forcefully and rapidly. Some of them may alienate some members, some may be seen as an attempt to 'censor' or 'silence' certain trains of thought and, to be brutally honest, in some cases that is not altogether untrue. UMSF exists for the discussion of UMSF...that's the reality of it. If you want to talk about something else, go elsewhere.

1. Acceptable Subject Matter
- 1.1 The clue is in the name of the forum. If what you are posting is not related either to Unmanned Spaceflight, or a directly related matter, it may be deleted without notice.
- 1.2 Politics - the discussion of policy is acceptable, the distribution of money within agencies is a valid and reasonable subject - however this is different to political debate. Discussion of politicians, political parties, various topics of the moment (Iraq, Terrorism) are all very much off topic and posts that include them will be removed.
- 1.3 Astrobiology - Discussion relating to biological instrumentation past or proposed is acceptable. i.e. Viking instrumentation yes - Martian Meteorites - no. This may meet objection, but again - there are other places for this sort of discussion, take it there.
- 1.4 Manned Spaceflight - changes will soon be made to the Manned Spaceflight forum - bottom line, it's fundamentally off topic to this forum, and in combination with 1.2 it is one of the primary sources of arguments and 'ranting'. Most people agree that Shuttle/ISS is a monetary hog - we do NOT need to see it mentioned every other post. This forum does not exist as a platform to be anti-manned spaceflight (despite the title) - do not use it as one.
- 1.5 Conspiracy theories and pseudo-science are totally unacceptable.
- 1.6 Other guidelines may be added as and when they become necessary.

2. Acceptable Behaviour
- 2.1 Every post must remain respectful of the opinion of others, even if contrary to your own.
- 2.2 Posts should make a contribution. Think - does what I am about to post add anything to the discussion. If the answer is no - should you really be posting it?
- 2.3 Before asking a question or starting a thread for which there might be something similar already in existence, have a brief look for a similar thread, or use the forum search tool to search for it first.
- 2.4 Don't rant. If you have a point to make...make it and move on. Do not litter your every post making the same point again and again. If you want somewhere to vent - get yourself a blog. (P.S., this place is a forum or discussion group - NOT a blog...sorry, just a personal rant there, I wont mention it again...see biggrin.gif )
- 2.5 Arguments. If an argument between two people begins, take it to email or private message - we don't want to see your fights in the forum.

3. Posting etiquette
- 3.1 Formatting - do not use excessive formatting. It looks messy and childish. Use it only when it is necessary to make your message clear (such as my MRO MOI time line thread).
- 3.2 Images - do not post an image 'in line' (i.e. one that will load when someone views that thread) if it is more than 100kb. This is to maintain the sanity of those who still use slower connections.
- 3.3 Attached images - do not attach an image to a thread that is freely viewable on a server elsewhere - simply link to it.
- 3.4 Scientific papers are always a useful and valuable resource, but many forum members are not fortunate enough to have subscription access to the various bodies that manage them. If you post a link to a paper which will require a log in, say so in the post (i.e. http://dngsdgsadgdsg/asdgdsa.pdf (requires login) ) - to save people without access finding out the hard way. Only post links to papers directly relevant to a discussion and that fit the rules of section 1
- 3.5 Quoting. If you're replying to a post - you don't need to quote it in full, or indeed at all if it's the first reply to that post. It simply litters threads and makes them harder to scroll through. Also, avoid quoting images, it causes the same problem.

That's all for now - but they will evolve and change with time as the need arises - they are a sensible start however. These rules wont be exercised retroactively - what has been posted is done. These rules apply from now and will be enforced without warning.

I've had a struggle with my own conscience about this entire issue - how to address the problem without seeming to be a censor or overly draconian. But at the end of the day, to maintain the high quality this place enjoys, rules are now clearly required. If you object to them, if you find them contrary to your own standards, then perhaps UMSF is not the place for you and you should consider joining other discussion forums instead.

A few members (two) will be getting temporary suspensions with a request to either post within these new guidelines, or leave. A further two have or are about to have a repeated request to change their posting behaviour or, again, leave (they may or may not elect to respond to this thread, but they can't magically remove the damage that they have done over the past few months). This course of action will be deployed more rapidly in the future to maintain standards.

No one here could question my admiration of MER PI Steve Squyres, and last April he was kind enough to send me a brief note about UMSF which made me very very proud of what the place had become - "Both the discourse and the image work are at an impressively high level," he said.

We all need to think a little before pressing 'post new topic' or 'post reply' to make sure that Steve's kind words remain true and UMSF maintains its healthy reputation, high quality of content, and good-natured debate and discussion.

I hope none of this upsets the long-standing, well-respected members of UMSF, the people who are the foundation upon which the reputation and content of this place stand. I often find myself in awe of some people's contributions, and it is because of the content which so often amazes me that I must take this action to keep its home a happy one.

In closing, I wish to thank my co-admins, whose input into making this change in policy has been so valuable, for their ever-helpful opinions and support - Guys, I couldnt do it without you. They are the 'directors' of this place, and I am forever grateful for their help and advice. However, we need people at a step below that - moderators - to help deploy these new rules. If you are a member of more than 6 months, with several hundred posts to your name and might be able to take on the task of looking after a little bit of UMSF, let me know. It's a thankless job, but you get two perks - access to the Administrators forum (the 'board room' for the directors), and if you would like one, an @unmannedspaceflight.com email address.

This has been a big long post, and well done for getting to the end of it - and I hope that it will begin a refocus of UMSF to give it the big long future it deserves.

Doug
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hendric
post Apr 4 2006, 05:54 AM
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QUOTE (djellison @ Apr 3 2006, 05:24 PM) *
- 2.3 Before asking a question or starting a thread for which there might be something similar already in existence, have a brief look for a similar thread, or use the forum search tool to search for it first.


Does anyone else have problems with the forum search tool? When I try to search on more than one term, it always responds as "cannot be found".

Just did a test, and it seems that it always matches the complete phrase, as written. For example, searching for Callisto Ganymede won't return threads that talk about the two moons unless they happen to contain "Callisto Ganymede" exactly.

Doug, any idea how to do a multiple keyword search?

PS - I, for one, welcome our new Earthling overlords! laugh.gif laugh.gif


--------------------
Space Enthusiast Richard Hendricks
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"The engineers, as usual, made a tremendous fuss. Again as usual, they did the job in half the time they had dismissed as being absolutely impossible." --Rescue Party, Arthur C Clarke
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djellison
post Apr 4 2006, 07:08 AM
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I must admit, I often struggle with it. The alternative is this....

go to Google, and search for

callisto ganymede site:unmannedspaceflight.com

That will search just here, for those keywords. Because quite a lot of people link to UMSF, Google keeps a healthy eye on us and catalogues most of the content, so it's usually quite succesfull in finding things. It always links to the 'lo-fi' version, i.e. sans-graphics, but you can always then click back through to the pretty version once you know where you've got to go

Meanwhile, I'm going to have a look into improving the sites search tool anyway - see if any other invision users have advice about getting it working a little better.

Doug
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Guest_Richard Trigaux_*
post Apr 4 2006, 07:41 AM
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So at last you did it, Doug.

I think it is better to remove a thread from the beginning than after let feel to the contributors that they are not welcome. For instance there was recently a thread which topic was despising the Kaaba (the muslim sacred stone) and you removed it at once, Allah may reward you tongue.gif . It was off topic, it was ranting and uselessly despising, starting anyway from a nutter document. A similar concern was about the thread on Intelligent Design. Here with the gratuitous despising of spirituality I felt very not at ease, and it is why I involved into this thread (not all members of UMSF are atheist fundamentalists!). But such a discution needs to be conducted in a fair and constructive way, or not at all. So, frankly, from experience, I prefer that in the future such topics are removed. (for interested people I have a forum on spirituality on my own site http://www.shedrupling.org. But anti-spirituality is off-topic and will be removed!! laugh.gif ). A recent thread like "alien rain on Kerala, possible evidence of panspermia" evolved in an interesting way, as some contributors were able to unearth the science reoports and kill the wild speculations. The only "suspicious" thread I ask you to maintain is the one of SETI, as I think the subject is a valid science research (as it is conducted by the SETI institute, of course). But as the forum owner you set the limit about if it is space flight ot not.


Some remarks in random order:

-There is a link "Forum Guidelines - Please Read" at the top of every page. This is the place to write your rules

-about quotes, there was in the former version of the forum a little arrow in quotes, which led to the original posting. I think it was useful.


-About Bruce Moomav, I think he is a well informed person, who often makes interesting contributions. So I think it would be a pitty if he was out of the forum. Please Bruce follow the rules and keep with us. And, if you repeat our ideas to others, alway quote who is at the orign of the idea!


-I see that this forum is still very MERocentric (centered on MER and Cassini). There are thousands of posts on these topics. But when I tried to lauch discutions on other kinds of missions (I proposed a lunar rover, a venus lander...) there are little contributions. Pity, I think.

-There are many threads launched by people who don't have much scientific/technical knowledge, and are rather demands of information or beginner speculations. For them it is important, but it takes place in the forum. Perhaps a specific sub-forum??

-I used to make Google searches on the site as you tell. It often works, but sometimes I was unable to find a thread (Damn, I though, this time Doug did it, he suppressed the thread!). It was relatively ancient threads, so I don't think it is a Google problem.
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djellison
post Apr 4 2006, 07:50 AM
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QUOTE (Richard Trigaux @ Apr 4 2006, 07:41 AM) *
-There are many threads launched by people who don't have much scientific/technical knowledge, and are rather demands of information or beginner speculations. For them it is important, but it takes place in the forum. Perhaps a specific sub-forum??


That's an excellent idea. It's harsh to refer to that particular occurance as a 'problem' - but it did add a bit of noise to those who were already well up on the basics. You hit the nail on the head quite well on some other points - it's a hard balance to make, but we've done very well in the past and I think with a bit of work, we can get to the same place we were at about 6 months ago.

The new guidelines are still a bit 'under review' - but once we're happy, they'll live in that forum rules section, and I'll send an email to every member letting them know what we've done

Doug
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Tesheiner
post Apr 4 2006, 08:19 AM
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QUOTE (hendric @ Apr 4 2006, 07:54 AM) *
Doug, any idea how to do a multiple keyword search?


IIRC, it accepts "and" and "or", for instance "callisto or ganymede".
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angel1801
post Apr 4 2006, 02:56 PM
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someone didn't read 3.5 - the quote was 5x the length of the post - hardly sensible was it. - doug.

One point I would like to mention. Since man first put things into outer space, attention has always been on current missions. The reason is simple. Unless there is a very urgent need to re-visit old missions, people's attention levels only extend enough to current missions.

There are so many things in outer space now that it is hard to keep count on them all. Only the ones that get mentioned in the media will be noticed by most people.

So, for example, it is no shame that those early NASA moon orbiters (1966-1968) don't get much time now.


And another point. Alot of the publicity that planets and missions get comes from outside strict science guidelines and convention. For example (like it or not!) Mars is remembered by most people outside the scientific community for the alleged "face" and those now defunct "canals" and many B-grade movies about the planet made in the 1950's.

Now many books and movies have you seen about Mercury or Uranus compared to Mars?


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I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed.

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Bill Harris
post Apr 4 2006, 03:00 PM
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Item 3.5 is useful.


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Guest_PhilCo126_*
post Apr 4 2006, 03:19 PM
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O.K. Doug ... no offence to the 'Newbie' forum-members asking questions about unmanned spacecraft and the solar system in general ...
On the contrary, take a look at the "Huygens-probe question " started in the Cassini-Huygens > Titan part of the forum ... that question went on into a great topic !
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TheChemist
post Apr 4 2006, 03:31 PM
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QUOTE (djellison @ Apr 4 2006, 01:24 AM) *
- 3.4 Scientific papers are always a useful and valuable resource, but many forum members are not fortunate enough to have subscription access to the various bodies that manage them. If you post a link to a paper which will require a log in, say so in the post (i.e. http://dngsdgsadgdsg/asdgdsa.pdf (requires login) ) - to save people without access finding out the hard way. Only post links to papers directly relevant to a discussion and that fit the rules of section 1


Doug,
thanks for laying out this set of rules, they were needed.
Just a small justification with respect to posting behaviour leading to Item 3.4 problems.
Most universities have IP verification handling access to scientific journals or publishers transparently to academic users.
So it is not always easy to tell which articles or journals need login or special rights to be accessible from "outside".
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odave
post Apr 4 2006, 04:12 PM
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QUOTE (djellison @ Apr 4 2006, 02:50 AM) *
[...] It's harsh to refer to that particular occurance as a 'problem' - but it did add a bit of noise to those who were already well up on the basics.


I guess I'm not sure what instance you're referring to. If it was a topic started by a newbie, then maybe we should encourage posters to identify those topics as such in the description field - i.e. "please help clue-in this newbie". That way the topic can be ignored by those with no interest in it. That's no help if the info request happens mid-thread, though.

Maybe this is my Usenet roots showing, but how about having pinned "FAQ" topics in each forum? I know the downsides of FAQs - they're a lot of work to develop & maintain, and you can't count on everyone reading them. But maybe a few gentle pointers to the FAQ topic will help reduce some of the noise & hair tearing the next time someone asks about dust devils cleaning Spirit smile.gif

I agree with Doug though, this isn't really a problem - UMSF is actually pretty newbie friendly. This bit-head engineer for one is grateful for all the geology lessons! I'd just hate to have people who come here with a spark of interest in space & exploration get the impression that UMSF is only for those with a certain level of knowledge or experience.

Anyway, thanks for making these tough decisions, Doug & co-admins. If it weren't for you guys and your efforts, this valuable resource wouldn't exist.


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Guest_Richard Trigaux_*
post Apr 4 2006, 04:40 PM
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QUOTE (odave @ Apr 4 2006, 04:12 PM) *
reduce some of the noise & hair tearing the next time someone asks about dust devils cleaning Spirit smile.gif

I agree with Doug though, this isn't really a problem - UMSF is actually pretty newbie friendly. This bit-head engineer for one is grateful for all the geology lessons! I'd just hate to have people who come here with a spark of interest in space & exploration get the impression that UMSF is only for those with a certain level of knowledge or experience.


As I do in some of my posts, when I use some complicated words or concepts, I do a recall for them, to be newbie-friendly. I strongly encourage others to do the same. Think that, when we reply to a post, we don't just reply for the poster, but for all who read, who may be newbie, or not with a high science education. We must reply in such a way that everybody understand (at least bachelors).

Related to this is to avoid the "science paper style". Science papers have their purpose and utility, but they are intended for readers who are already well informed of their topic, and of the mathematics involved. But for other readers they quickly become hermetic.

At a pinch, Doug, you could add a rule about this. Not to exclude high level members, of course, but to help newbies. Anyway when we are in high esoterics it is alway a good exercise to explain things to ordinary people like farmers and so.
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ElkGroveDan
post Apr 4 2006, 05:36 PM
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While we are talking about the forum in general, the only thing I have a problem with is the flood control. I understand its purpose, but is there a way to turn the dial a bit to make it kick in a bit later?

I often log on and do a couple of quick clicks and find myself locked up. In this fast-paced day and age, 20 seconds is an eternity, but more so, it's just frustrating.

Otherwise I'm happy as can be with the site and the rules.


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Bill Harris
post Apr 4 2006, 05:57 PM
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I try to avoid esoteric terms and concepts, but Google is a keyclick away and is an excellent reference source, the online environment makes it hard to talk over someone's head for long. If I'm trying to tie an obscure concept to some feature we see, I'll weave a close explanation.

I agree with OGD, I have the bad habit of double-clicking and have to frequently do the 20-Second Thumb Twiddle.

Good job of rulemaking.

--Bill


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dvandorn
post Apr 4 2006, 07:47 PM
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QUOTE (ElkGroveDan @ Apr 4 2006, 12:36 PM) *
While we are talking about the forum in general, the only thing I have a problem with is the flood control. I understand its purpose, but is there a way to turn the dial a bit to make it kick in a bit later?

I'm with you, Dan. Even though I always do a quick proof-read of my posts for typos before I hit the Submit button, I will, more often than I like to admit, find when reading the posted version there is some typo or other quick fix I need to make. I pop into Edit, make my one-keystroke fix, hit Submit, and run into the flood control barrier.

It's not a huge problem, but some of us do legitimately pour through the site pretty quickly...

-the other Doug


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“The trouble ain't that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain't distributed right.” -Mark Twain
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