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djellison
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
hendric
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
djellison
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
Richard Trigaux
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.
djellison
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
Tesheiner
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".
angel1801
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?
Bill Harris
Item 3.5 is useful.
PhilCo126
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 !
TheChemist
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".
odave
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.
Richard Trigaux
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.
ElkGroveDan
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.
Bill Harris
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
dvandorn
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
djellison
I had no idea on the flood control - perhaps us admin's don't experience it. I've set the normal member flood control time out to 10 seconds - I hope that's not too bad. It helps keep the SQL load under control, or something... smile.gif

I'm not too keen on FAQ's. There are 1001 places to go and learn about a mission, a planet, an instrument etc. This isn't an encyclopedia, it's a discussion forum. I do agree on the 'questions and answers' sort of sub forum though. People are always going to ask the more simple question and if they're going to do so, it would make sense for there to be a home for it, perhaps a 'Beginners Forum' - for the more basic questions.

However - this isn't a forum for 'everyone' - I don't think it's fair to ask people to consider the layman in every post, it's just inappropriate. To have a thread tackle something from the ground up in the 'beginners forum' would make sense.

Doug
climber
I personaly agree with what you're saying. I understand how hard he can be to balance between a high standard and a free forum. Administrators rule have to be THE rules.
May be one suggestion. If technicaly possible, you may include reading "the rules" in the inscription form for Newbie ?
Then, I also understand how hard it can be for you to keep the site "up and clean" but, we, Newbie, members, etc, we realy need your expertise/moderation on the topics even more. I'm too new here without any authority, but I'd love too help any time in the future if needed... and if I'm not on the "2-4 list"..
djellison
I think a link to the rules, once properly sorted and made final, will go into the 'welcome to' email to all new members - I can sort that no problem.

Doug
The Messenger
Do you want threads on topics such as Seti and LIGO discontinued?

I think they are relevant, because of the close association between LIGO and Gravity probe B, for example,
and they compete with unmanned space for funding and VLA time. But it is your call.

Thanks, Doug,
djellison
Their focus, however ,is on observational astronomy and physics - which don't relaly fit under the UMSF banner at all - but then nor do the Hubble images of Mars that I've been playing with. It's a difficult call, and will probably be made on a case by case basis, depending on where the thread is going.

Seti, yes, that thread is not to continue. It's not UMSF in any way shape or form, unquestionably. There are other places to talk about it.

Doug
ngunn
This is a plea for allowing 'newbies' to continue posting in mainstream discussions, rather than being relegated to a part of the forum the experts will ignore. There's a huge amount to say but I'll try to be short.

Everyone can have useful ideas, including farmers(!) and especially young people. When it comes to spotting connections between widely separated fields of expertise even the inexpert is in with a genuine chance. Of course it is the various experts who form the heart of the forum and most newbies like myself are more likely to be looking for answers to questions than posting new information. I have never - anywhere - found the answer to a question I wanted to ask in a FAQ list. On the other hand I have learned much, for example, about Titanian weather from excellent summaries by a certain B.M. (surely not one of those 'on report' for polemics??). Professionals like volcanopele have not only generously posted fantastic insider insights keeping forum readers well ahead of the game on the interpretation of Cassini images, but he and others have been willing to respond to casual points and queries raised by a wide range of members. Long may this continue. (But where is the new blog - are we allowed to know?)

If spaceflight itself (not just this forum) is to have a great future the excitement of millions of people must be engaged. This is where the will and means for exploring the universe must come from in the end, not just from the odd maverick billionnaire. I think UMSF has an immensely valuable role to play here by enabling interested 'newbies' to participate genuinely, in however small a way, in the discourse of discovery.

People who rightly praise the forum for its immediate value as an academic fringe resource should not overlook the time dimension and the wider social context in which science operates. There will be a future world and a future space programme - and they will be run by newbies.
ljk4-1
QUOTE (djellison @ Apr 5 2006, 03:21 AM) *
Their focus, however ,is on observational astronomy and physics - which don't relaly fit under the UMSF banner at all - but then nor do the Hubble images of Mars that I've been playing with. It's a difficult call, and will probably be made on a case by case basis, depending on where the thread is going.

Seti, yes, that thread is not to continue. It's not UMSF in any way shape or form, unquestionably. There are other places to talk about it.

Doug


What about reporting on unmanned probes that conduct SETI? Believe it or not,
it has been done with the Copernicus astronomy satellite and the Soviet Mars 7
probe in the early 1970s, both of which looked for optical signals from ETI.

http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/S/SETI.html

And Corot has a connection with an Active SETI project, though even I consider
it to be more of a publicity stunt than actual science.

http://www.cosmicconnexion.com/static/index.html
djellison
QUOTE (ljk4-1 @ Apr 5 2006, 11:30 AM) *
What about reporting on unmanned probes that conduct SETI?


Same rule applies - there are places to talk about SETI, in any incarnation, this isn't one.

Doug
odave
QUOTE (djellison @ Apr 5 2006, 03:21 AM) *
Their focus, however ,is on observational astronomy and physics - which don't relaly fit under the UMSF banner at all

I think it depends on the definition of UMSF that we're using. If the view is broad - something flying in space (or had previously flown in space to get there), without people on it, making scientific observations - then Hubble et.al. fit. Taking everything down to basics, the biggest difference between MRO and Hubble is the distance from them to their subjects wink.gif If the view is more narrow - say observation/investigation of planets and small bodies only, then I guess they don't fit.

QUOTE (ngunn @ Apr 5 2006, 06:39 AM) *
This is a plea for allowing 'newbies' to continue posting in mainstream discussions, rather than being relegated to a part of the forum the experts will ignore.

I don't think this proposed forum would be a place beginners are asked to stay until they are ready to "leave the nest". Say there's a discussion going on in one of the MER forums, and someone asks a basic question about how basalts form. Rather than have the thread spin off into a background lecture on basalt, someone else would post something like "hey, that's a good question, let's move it over to the beginner forum" and then start a new topic there. And it would be a place where beginners can start basic topics of their own. I'm sure some of the experts hanging around UMSF have the heart of a teacher and would gladly participate in that forum.

And just a clarification to my earlier post - I was talking about a FAQ in the purest sense, a list of questions that come up often enough to irritate the regulars, not a comprehensive encyclopedia. But after thinking about it for a while, I agree that a beginner forum is a much better way to handle it.

Again, UMSF is a wonderful exception to the rule as far as Internet discussion goes, and I'm glad Doug and the other admins care enough to keep it that way smile.gif
ljk4-1
I think it needs to be determined exactly what is and is not wanted for the
UMSF forum.

Here is my take on the matter:

Apparently just because a spacecraft is unmanned (robotic), that does not
automatically qualify it for discussion here.

If the robot craft is designed for exploring planets (besides Earth), moons,
planetoids, comets, and the interplanetary medium, that is okay.

Space-based robot observatories like Hubble are not, even though they
have imaged various bodies in the Sol system. Personally I think excluding
such satellites gets into murky waters, as the science and the Universe are
not subject themselves to strict borders and definitions as created by humans.

All manned missions are out, even if their destinations are among the above-
mentioned celestial objects.

SETI, interstellar spacecraft drives, and speculations on the Cosmos are out,
even though the missions of virtually all space probes are to analyze a part
of the mysteries of the Universe. And how often have we heard from NASA
that finding extraterrestrial life is one of their ultimate goals, poor as their
current behavior with astrobiology budgets are?

What about space probes designed to look for alien life on other worlds? If
the said target is not intelligent, does that make it okay? This would make
MER okay, as its discovery of ancient water on Mars does not necessarily
lead to intelligent alien natives of the Red Planet. And Cassini's exploration
of Titan and Enceladus are okay because the highest life forms on those
worlds could not be more than microbes and maybe segmented worms.

Europa is okay, even if its life forms might reach the jellyfish and fish level.

What about other worlds we currently do not think could have life? This could
change as we continue to explore and discover new things about these worlds.

You say there are other places to discuss many of the topics I have brought up.
I haven't found many with the quality level I find here. Either the discussions
and information levels are nil, or they degrade into Hoaxland territory. It is a
true shame that in the year 2006, talking about alien life is still being placed in
the science ficiton and science "ghetto" category, even decades after we have
found creatures that can live miles under the ocean next to boiling hot
hydrothermal vents. Recent satellites have even determined that simple
microbes can handle being directly exposed to space.

My suggestion is that UMSF split into two forums, one for the unmanned probes
to other worlds and the other for the rest of the Universe. I would hate to lose
all the great info and talk that has gone on here already, to say nothing of losing
some valuable members who may not be intimately involved with, say, the geology
of certain areas on Mars or know how to process their own moon maps, but who
are valuable nonetheless.

I also do not want to see "newbies" chased away, as everyone was new to the field
at one time, and if someone turned them off to the subject, their loss to the field
would be ours as well.

And while I cannot host such a second forum physically, I would put my money
where my mouth is by offering to help moderate and build such a forum.
The Messenger
QUOTE (ngunn @ Apr 5 2006, 04:39 AM) *
This is a plea for allowing 'newbies' to continue posting in mainstream discussions, rather than being relegated to a part of the forum the experts will ignore. There's a huge amount to say but I'll try to be short.

Everyone can have useful ideas, including farmers(!) and especially young people. When it comes to spotting connections between widely separated fields of expertise even the inexpert is in with a genuine chance....

Hear Hear!

I grow much more tired of the jokes than the basic and/or uninformed questions/speculation - and I hope all of these site assets will continue to be tolerated within reason. (Except for Lipovan, which has a life of its own that is well beyond reason;)
chris
It seems to me that the essence of what we are talking about could be summed up as "Unmanned Space Exploration". Its where robots are, will be, or might be sent in place of humans. It is about those spacecraft that we all would kill to get a seat on if we could.

If you think like this, Cassini and the rovers are a dead cert, and things like LIGO and Hubble, while worthy in their own right, don't fit.

Chris
djellison
QUOTE (ljk4-1 @ Apr 5 2006, 04:05 PM) *
My suggestion is that UMSF split into two forums, one for the unmanned probes
to other worlds and the other for the rest of the Universe.


I'd be happy for there to be a spin-off forum for things outside the remit of what UMSF has always been about (going places and doing science basically) - I'm not sure if it's easy to do, but I'm sure there's a way to export a subforum or set of posts to transfer them over if using Invision board elsewhere. It's not something I could do - UMSF already limits what spare time I have, there are so many things I want to do (mosaics, 3d anims, maps, the book ) but they all have to move to a back burner when it comes to maintaining this place (and that means basically reading every single post that gets made). I'd be happy to advise and give guidence if someone wants to start a 'spin out' for Observational Astronomy or Cosmology, Astrophysics that sort of thing.

This place started with a very very specific focus - MER imaging. It spread to other Mars spacecraft, and then to Cassini, and now to where it is today - which I consider too broad. However - it is totally impossible to have simple guidelines that dictate what can and can not be discussed - and it's always going to be a case by case basis on the 'edge' of the cut off. One can go on and on about it, get anal to the n'th degree - but it's simply going to be a judgement call by me at the end of the day. Seti, Astrobiology, they're the subject most likely to attract the sort of person I simply do not want here. There are about 15, 20 posters here who make up the very core of this place. For it to retain the quality it must, then UMSF must be the perfect forum for those few people - not everyone - just a few.

Just because this is a forum with a good SNR, that doesnt immediately make it a home for topics for which people can not find somewhere else . To justify the discussion of SETI here because the SNR is good isn't going to cut it - one might as well say "well - there's a forum for Man Utd, but it's really noisy - let's talk about it here!" - No - this place was founded with a specific group of people in mind, a specific type of discussion at its heart - and whilst it's grown beyond that - it's not going to cover anything and everything. Ask yourself why there are no high SNR boards about SETI and astrobiology...then imagine bringing that sort of discussion here...and you can see why it's just not going to happen. I will not let the scope of this place grow to the detriment of it's core subjects and values - that's going to dissapoint some people, it's going to turn some people away, but I'm afraid that's 100% OK in my opinion to maintain the UMSF that is considered with high regard by professional scientists and engineers.

Chris has it about right - this forum is about those mission that go to explore, the things they do, the data they collect, and the magic people can work with that data. It's not a catch all for space science and astronomy, and it never will be. It is small and focused, and because of that it produces great things. If it becomes big, fat and bloated, it's achievments will be lost in the noise.


Doug
elakdawalla
One place that interested folks could take discussions of SETI, cosmology, etc. would be The Planetary Society Members Forum (if, that is, you are members). Because it's members-only it should screen out some of the kooks. We have a very open policy toward the topics that can be discussed on that forum, because it's really meant just to be a meeting place for our members to discuss whatever is on their minds, though we have a strict policy against conspiracy theories and outright looniness. We would be delighted to see some of the quality discussions that Doug is trying to excise from this forum moved there.

http://planetary.org/members/

--Emily
helvick
QUOTE (chris @ Apr 5 2006, 04:59 PM) *
Its where robots are, will be, or might be sent in place of humans. It is about those spacecraft that we all would kill to get a seat on if we could.

That's seems to capture it quite succinctly, for me at any rate.

My position on all this is that Doug's very single minded vision and dedication have made this place what it is more than anything else. He hasn't been wrong in the past and I'm glad to see that he still has a clear vision of where he wants this to go. This demonstration of strong and decisive management is very welcome, great things rarely happen without it.

On the issue of topics that are now out of bounds but which clearly interest a significant number of the denizens here (myself included) there really is no reason to be annoyed. An alternate forum can be set up very easily if anyone really cares sufficiently. I honestly don't care enough to do it though.
djellison
I was hoping you would mention that Emily - I didn't want to pimp it (not my forum) but currently it's a quiet, but well maintained place and I'm sure some great discussion could kick off over there!

And frankly, if you're not a TPS member - then you should be ashamed smile.gif

Doug
elakdawalla
QUOTE (helvick @ Apr 5 2006, 10:30 AM) *
My position on all this is that Doug's very single minded vision and dedication have made this place what it is more than anything else. He hasn't been wrong in the past and I'm glad to see that he still has a clear vision of where he wants this to go. This demonstration of strong and decisive management is very welcome, great things rarely happen without it.

Hear, hear. What makes this forum unique -- apart from its much vaunted signal-to-noise ratio -- is the depth of discussions on image processing and the quality of work that the forum participants are doing on that. There is no other place like it on the Web, and I think that the niche is worth defending. Ever since I discovered as a grad student that this data was out there I was wishing that there was a place for people to meet and exchange ideas about what they could do with the data, tips on how to do it, and share the results; this is that place, and I am delighted that it's here.

--Emily
helvick
QUOTE (djellison @ Apr 5 2006, 05:36 PM) *
And frankly, if you're not a TPS member - then you should be ashamed smile.gif

Err. Duly ashamed but that lapse has now been rectified. smile.gif
chris
QUOTE (helvick @ Apr 5 2006, 07:02 PM) *
Err. Duly ashamed but that lapse has now been rectified. smile.gif


Ditto smile.gif
Richard Trigaux
Doug,

I don't agree with your implicit statement as what subjects like SETI or astrobiology would necessarily attract kooks, and subjects like MERs would not. If you remember some experience on "another forum" there was a full team of kooks commenting the MER images. From my own experience in other forums, any subject will atract kooks, stalkers, spammers, etc. I remember a painful experience with a forum on 3D modeling (the kind of place where I could meet you) where I was insulted and attacked in a very deloyal way for not being some sort of punk, and also on another forum of a non-violent organization!

Basically what makes the quality of a forum is a proper management, including a discrete but firm hand to expell the kooks, stalkers, spammers, etc as soon as they appear. Usually people with unpleasant behaviour start in a friendly way, and only little by little they become unpleasant, up to open conflict when other posters try to defend of them. But there is no way to really defend correct posters if the forum manager don't remove the unpleasant/useless messages. And this can happen on any forum, provided that the moderator lets do, either he is weak, stupid or accomplice. (In a legal case, he will be considered accomplice).

So, you want to restrict your scope, that is your right, you have good reasons, you don't need to justify with such motives as above. I think it is possible to lead a forum on any subject, including fringe ones, provided that bad posters are rebuffed at once.

So I shall look at elakdawalla's planetary society forum. The idea to make another forum is interesting too, but unfortunately I am not in a situation to do so. And, what makes the interest of UMSF is not only the absence of kooks, but also the presence of several competent scientists working directly in the field, witth the best data at hand. I am afraid they will not follow if someones opens another forum or more general or more fringe topics, so that it may be better to go on other existing forums.

I remind interested people that I have several embryonic forums on my own site http://www. shedrupling.org on topics like epistemology, relations between science and spirituality, 3D virtual worlds, and in a general way on how to make our world and lifes better. But I am worse than Doug: moderation a priori (I publish a message only if it fits my limits).
Shaka
As one who has made several requests for clear posting guidelines, I am pleased to see them available now, though it would have been to my advantage if they had been available a few months earlier. I am in agreement with those rules currently available and will try to post in accordance with them. So long as they are applied uniformly, I see no serious difficulties in all members accepting them.
I have had some difficulty using the new "Insert Image" button in the format tool bar ( as opposed to the older system which seemed to automatically convert images to thumbnails for the post.) A brief summary of techniques for using this button properly with images not on the web would help me to avoid infringements of the image rules. If such guidance is already in the Help section, I have been unable to locate it.

Since I do not have the time to work through the entire forum, but enter on the MER page, a brief notice and/or link here to any new additions to the rules would also be helpful.

I might just note that a couple of minor issues not yet addressed in the rules are humor and 'coarse' or 'vulgar' language. They are difficult and subjective issues to precisely define, but they are a potential source of disagreement about "Acceptable Behaviour" and what is "Off Topic". It would be helpful if at least broad guidelines were available.
dvandorn
Well, I'm sure that Doug will observe a certain moderation in his application of these rules, since there are certainly many, many posts here (even in the past day or two) which have absolutely nothing to do with unmanned spaceflight, even by the most liberal reading of Doug's definition. Including one or two by Doug himself -- though, to be fair, while a picture of a drone rover in the Antarctic has nothing to do with UMSF, Doug *did* sort of tie it in by noting a resemblance (that I couldn't see) of the scene to Meridiani's plains. And he posted it in the "this has nothing to do with UMSF" forum, which, if you're going to ignore the rules about posting about things other than UMSF, is I guess the right place to put it...

In other words, I don't think Doug is planning to be generally unpleasant about all of this -- eh, Doug? I think we all trust you to be rational about it. smile.gif And a good, general codification of the rules *has* been well received, I think.

We know you make sacrifices to keep this place as good as it is, Doug. Please don't ever think we don't appreciate it.

-the other Doug
djellison
QUOTE (Shaka @ Apr 5 2006, 09:02 PM) *
I might just note that a couple of minor issues not yet addressed in the rules are humor and 'coarse' or 'vulgar' language. They are difficult and subjective issues to precisely define


No they're not. You use basic common sense. If I have to hold peoples hands over what words are and are not acceptable in day to day public useage, they're not welcome here. I have intentionally left out such a rule for that very reason.

Doug
Richard Trigaux
With my opinion, humour can be accepted, and limited only if a joke completely hijacks a thread. But coarse language or vulgarity are not necessary for making jokes.
CosmicRocker
QUOTE (dvandorn @ Apr 5 2006, 08:04 PM) *
Well, I'm sure that Doug will observe a certain moderation in his application of these rules...
Ditto to that, dvandorn. I think you hit it on the head.

I, too noticed a certain drop in the S/N ratio recently, but it would appear that current management practices have got that under control without a lot of complaints.

Our host's posting of what have always been the generally accepted rules for most forum communications, along with some basic netiquette seems appropriate to me. I thought Doug did a nice job of laying out some general guidelines for the forum. Reading through this thread has shown me how difficult managing a large forum can be.

It's still the best forum on the web. cool.gif
paxdan
Thanks for the guidelines Doug.

There are some other forum management techniques you may already know about:

Another option is to hide parts of UMSF from search engines using the robots.txt protocol. The Robots Exclusion Protocol prevents spiders from indexing designated pages, and certain words and phrases, and would enable you to control what the searchable footprint of UMSF is, e.g., no search for 'seti' would lead here.

For the damage already done you can also ask google to remove parts of a site from their cache using this remove your URL utility. By applying it to certain parts of the board it would effectively erase them from the web for people searching for them. This could be used to undo damage caused by off-topic threads providing search fodder for undesirables.

These are pretty standard techniques for hiding stuff on the web.
gpurcell
I'd like to suggest that non-cosmology oriented space observatories, like Kepler and TPF, be included in scope of UMSF, as they are specifically designed to provide data on planetary bodies. Similarly, I think technology demonstration missions like the ST flights of the New Millenium Program also fit in the scope of UMSF.

My 0.02.
climber
Doug,

What about setting up a place dedicated to personal (or not?) stories we could share about Unmaned probes ? For exemple, I went twice in Pasadena, for Voyager 2 encounter with Neptune and then for Spirit landing. I personaly can share what I've seen, felt, etc... OK, I can put this under Planetary Society topic since the event I went to was organized by the PS, but, I feel that more people can (want ?) share their experience too, like Astro0 coming back for JPL-KSC recently. What I do like in Planetary exploration is all the humans stories that make it happen.
Thanks
Climber
Bob Shaw
QUOTE (climber @ Apr 20 2006, 12:58 PM) *
What about setting up a place dedicated to personal (or not?) stories we could share about Unmaned probes ?


Yes. I agree!

I nominate 'Being There', 'Touching the Stars' or 'I was that soldier' as the thread title!

Bob Shaw
djellison
I think that would sit quite nicely in the Communtiy Chit Chat sub forum - by all means get lyrical therein smile.gif

Doug
climber
Doug and Bob,
I let you do it... sometimes, as I said previously, my english could turn to englitch blink.gif
DFinfrock
QUOTE (djellison @ Apr 3 2006, 10:24 PM) *
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.

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.

Doug


As member number 503, I am beginning to feel a little nervous after reading this new policy. rolleyes.gif

Seriously, as with the other posters to this thread, I am totally in agreement with Doug's new rules. But I will have to make a point of checking out the Front Page Stories more often. It took me more than three months to find the rules changes. I really do suggest finding some method to ensure that all of the membership reads this thread.

Doug mentions looking for someone with several hundred posts to help him out. But I want to point out that number of posts isn't all that important in deciding who is important to the content of this forum. (Note that I am not personally lobbying for an administartive job). But as for S/N ration, I know there are some senior members with over 1000 posts whom I consider rather... noisy. And there are "newbies" who work for JPL!

Doug stated that the forum's real worth is because of the scientific and technical contributions of 15 to 20 members. I think he's being a little stingy. I would think there are over 30, at least. The rest of us are here to learn from the "masters". I have made virtually no scientific or technical contributions to the forum. But I have tried to help out financially by donating to keep the server up and running. (And Doug, please let us know when funds are running low. There are a lot of us who feel qualified to contribute in no other way. But we want to do what we can to keep the forum functioning).

And finally, as to comments that are off-topic, I would personally feel let-down if I were to be deprived of the regular humor I find from posters such as Shaka and ustrax. And even if there is no scientific contribution, the lyrical expressions of wonder and thought-provoking topic-starters from someone like Stu are, I believe, a real service to this forum. Those three may not be in that top 15 or 20 (or even 30). But there are lots of ways to contribute to UMSF. Thanks Doug, for making it all possible.

David
MouseOnMars
Yes, FAQ's were mentioned.

I think it's the keep it simple approach! Wikipedia is full of everything. I was just looking at the entire history of Soviet unmanned Mars probes that I knew nothing about !

Of course, polite, humble new members should not automatically be thrown out just for not knowing something. A polite nudge towards wikipedia, or Google ?

The signal is about the probes, the images and data and the day to day news in this culture, that's what should be tuned in on.

I've been on many, what are cited as "open and free" forums and frankly they are NOT. They often turn into a nightmare sadly. It's a balance as always, moderate but don't become over zealous I guess.

DJ Barney
djellison
QUOTE (MouseOnMars @ Jul 22 2007, 03:51 PM) *
I've been on many, what are cited as "open and free" forums and frankly they are NOT.


We make no such claims here smile.gif . It's the exact opposite - intentionally excluding of certain types of discussions or types of people.

Doug
Bill Harris
..and there are many knowledgeable people who have cancelleled their accounts or who read but do not post here. Something to think about...
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