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Greg Hullender
Was there a change to the rules? I read through them, but I couldn't tell what (if anything) changed. Or are they just posted in a new location?

I would characterize them as tweaks rather than sweeping changes; there are no major additions or removals.

The overaching objective of this effort is to ensure that newcomers to UMSF have an appropriate introduction to the forum. You might have noticed that the admins & mods are also listed for easy refererence.

EDIT: Greg, the biggest changes are in 1.10, 2.8 and adding sections 4, 5 and 6 which compiles more general text from the old guidelines plus other discussions/circumstances had with members over recent years into a more formal format.
These changes are really nice; it's good to see that the previously unwritten rules are now written out. This will especially benefit folks who haven't had the benefit of lurking for years to see what's okay and what isn't.
Just an observation, as a project of the Planetary Society .. I would expect these ideas to be kept in mind.. especially in times of need.. and right now support is critical.. based on press attendance at the MSL conferences.
to quote "The Planetary Society, founded in 1980 by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray, and Louis Friedman, to inspire and involve the world's public in space exploration through advocacy, projects, and education."
$2.5 billion came from the public.. involve and inspire them

ADMIN: How is this a question to the forum administrators??? Please keep the topic on subject.
Would a post discussing Alan Stern's Uwingu project be a violation of Rule 1.10?
Yes, as well as 1.2...please read the description of the project on the link.
I've got a quick question about membership statistics: has there been a significant bump in registration and traffic since MSL landed and especially after getting namedropped on NASA TV?
Or is there some place we can see the site statistics? Alexa doesn't show very much.
Yes on both counts. The number of new members is about triple what it would normally be in this period.

If you want exact numbers on views and page loads helvick should be able to answer that better than I can.
Great, I sent a PM.
Some highlights:

As Dan has said the rate at which we are authorizing number of new members is about triple the normal level. We don't have a massive userbase, the current number of registered users is 2830.

I don't have anything in place to track the ip-board statistics over time, that's something I'm looking at but right now I'm not aware of an easy way to get them. That said we do have some data points about the most important macro indicators of server load which is the number of concurrent users. This normally ranges between 50 and 100, with the ratio of registered users to visitors typically being around 5:1.

On the morning of the MSL launch this rose to around 350 concurrent users at 6:52AM (BST), this rose a little over the next 30 minutes but we were obviously having performance issues around 07:30AM BST, and users started to see timeouts. We made some performance tweaks to address that around 7:45 and by 7:56 we had 490 concurrent users and briefly passed 1000 concurrent users at around 8:00AM BST on August 6th. I didn't keep a record of the number of users to visitors at that time but at the peak I think we had about 300 concurrent registered users and 700 or so visitors.

As a comparison the largest previous spike that we have numbers for was at around 270 users for the Phoenix landing.

Peak Bandwidth spiked from a typical average of 300kb/sec to something north of 6Mb/sec. This is averaged over an hour by our server stats package, and the instantaneous peaks were a lot higher.

I'll update this with charts later but in terms of hits\page views\visits we peaked at 1.6 million hits, 230k page views and 40K actual visits over the course of August 6th. The data load associated with an average visit rose too, to about 5x the normal 100-200K/visit since we carried about 22GB of traffic on the 6th. Overall those numbers are about 10x our normal volume.

Things have now calmed down a lot, but we're still running slightly higher than average across the board.

That's amazing; I knew the site was put under stress at crunch time, but that's a more complete picture. Thanks so much Helvik; the charts should be impressive too.
I wonder what the next high-traffic spike event will be: I can't think of any missions off the top of my head for a while at least.
Thanks helvick,

In the old days, Doug used to posts some satistics like this as well as the most popular topics, etc, and I personnaly miss them. I'd said having those details, say, once or twice a year would be great.
BTW, it stands incredible that Curiosity Landing topic reached 50% of Eduardo's Oppy route in no time.

I'll take a stab at that too. And just to show the long term trend of total posts per month since we started back in 2004:

Click to view attachment

Offhand I can see the New Horizon's Launch peak ( Jan 2006 ), NH Jupiter flyby, Phoenix Launch ( Aug 07) and Landing ( May 2008 ) in there. General trend has been down but that is understandable given the nature of this site and the type of outreach data flow it requires to keep large numbers of people engaged. MSL should drive a lot of traffic for an extended period of time.

Note this is also just total post counts, a significant part of the reduction in volume has resulted from long term efforts to keep S/N ratio high, and since we have no post rating system in place it is not possible to tell whether the volume of _good_ posts is trending down in the longer term.

QUOTE (climber @ Aug 16 2012, 01:30 AM) *
BTW, it stands incredible that Curiosity Landing topic reached 50% of Eduardo's Oppy route in no time.

To be fair, that's because we are militant about keeping chatter out of the Oppy route thread, and were lenient in the landing thread. Most threads should be somewhere between those extremes smile.gif
Emily & Helvick, thanks... And I've got the point.
Some long term info for those interested in the volume of traffic over time.

Click to view attachment

If you want to dig into the data a bit more you can play with the chart a bit and see the details, including the most popular topic for each month since UMSF began by following this link:
UMSF Monthly Stats Posts, Topics, Registrations and Views

I'm trying to find an easy way to show traffic by day for those interested in specific events but for the record the top 3 busiest days ever in terms of posts have been:

Aug 6th 2012 - 569 ( MSL Landing )
May 26th 2008 - 499 ( Phoenix Landing)
Jan 19th 2006 - 369 ( New Horizons Launch )

MSL has caused an enormous spike in traffic. We had more topic views on MSL on the 6th of August than we had on the entire board between April 1st and August 5th.

For a more general snapshot of how MSL has affected traffic here are some comparisons of our August traffic vs cumulative traffic over the past year or two as reflected in the number of views per topic, sorted by popularity for the given period. I'm still trying to figure out how to present these in a sustainable way but if you are just interested in the trending stuff this will give you some answers.

Click to view attachment

Two final bits of info.

The all time top 3 Topics in terms of views are:
Opportunity: 8,198,261
Spirit: 4,917,572
Cometary and Asteroid Missions: 2,559,320

MSL is currently #13 at 1,246,743 ., age clearly counts for something. smile.gif

I'm using the term "Topic" here the way the IP-Board admin panel's stats page does because that is giving me the numbers. We usually call them Forums or sub-forums and refer to individual threaded discussions as Topics but I'm not using the term that way here. Just in case anyone is confused.
And that's pretty much exactly what I was asking for. I wonder how much bigger the current spike will get over time.
Thanks again helvick!
Would discussion of this relatively recently published paper be banned here due to potential astrobiology content?
Yes. Try, the BAUT forums, or the Yellow Forum.
I noted the reminder about rule 1.3, so I reread it.

I'm pretty sure that it used to say astrobiology *could* be discussed ONLY within the strict context of specific, related mission goals.

Am I misremembering? And if I'm not, can someone say something about the problems that caused the tightening up?

Lastly, I appreciate the acknowledgement that a future change might be appropriate. I do understand the tsunami you are keeping at bay, but the idea that the very concept of "organics" cannot be discussed in a forum devoted to a mission looking for them is...quite remarkable, whatever the provocations that spurred it.


wheel.gif wheel.gif wheel.gif wheel.gif
QUOTE (stevelu @ Nov 20 2012, 07:39 PM) *
I noted the reminder about rule 1.3, so I reread it.
QUOTE (mcaplinger @ Nov 20 2012, 07:45 PM) *

Thank you for the pointer. I looked for that context but was unable to find it.

A personal message highlights that I was unclear above. When I said "forum devoted to" I was referring to the rule applying to the MSL forum, devoted to Curiosity. Sorry about that. Though I'm not very active, I have been around here for years, following Oppy & Spirit -- and sometimes even non-Mars missions! 8^)

I would be very interested in a reply to Floyd's question, which he asked in response to the rule-modification notice you kindly linked to above:
My only question is about organics. I can see not trying to link detection of organic compounds to astrobiology, but does this remove all discussion of compounds containing Carbon? Are we not to discuss minerals containing carbonate? Does this mean that Juramike's fantastic lessons on atmospheric chemistry are unwelcome. Maybe you could clarify this a bit...

Edit: maybe make a distinction between organic compounds as in organic chemistry and biological compounds as in biochemistry... No need to kill carbon, it is a perfectly good element.
QUOTE (stevelu @ Nov 20 2012, 06:39 PM) *
but the idea that the very concept of "organics" cannot be discussed in a forum devoted to a mission looking for them is...quite remarkable, whatever the provocations that spurred it.

This place was founded long before MSL even left the drawing board - it's certainly not 'devoted' to MSL. It was started as a place for people to share/compare/discuss the processing of imagery from Spirit, Opportunity and then Cassini. Yes - it has well grown outside that remit - but that remains the core purpose of UMSF. It was never nor is it 'devoted to' MSL.

In many respects - what you are saying is that it's remarkable that there's no soccer game being played in the middle of a cricket pitch.

The astrobio rule (and latterly the manned spaceflight rule) were put in place and maintained to maintain UMSF as a home for the discussions for which it was intended - without the flame wars, arguments and other digital blights one can see on any number of other internet venues when the question of astrobiology arises. That is the provocation that spurred it - to defend the core founding purpose of UMSF from the fringe theories and craziness that often blights places that invite those conversation. It was never intended to be all forums for all people. That's how and why I founded the place and currently, how the admin team are running the place.

Will rules have to be tweaked and adjusted to accommodate sensible discussion - no doubt. But history tells us that people will abuse that opportunity and generate unnecessary work for the admin/mod team.

Remember - this is not the only forum on the web. Many other forums exist for the discussions of spaceflight, MSL, astrobiology and so on. If anyone feels a compunction to discuss things outside the remit of UMSF - they are, of course, free to have that discussion elsewhere.
does this remove all discussion of compounds containing Carbon?

I'm not a moderator, but not all carbon compounds are considered organic. From, "a few types of carbon-containing compounds such as carbides, carbonates, simple oxides of carbon (such as CO and CO2), and cyanides, as well as the allotropes of carbon such as diamond and graphite, are considered inorganic."

That said, rule 1.3 says no organics, and modern chemistry gives an adequate definition of what "organic" means IMHO.
Two of MSL's four science goals are strictly astrobiological, so clearly they run outside the rules here.

However, whatever the goals are, that doesn't translate into a proportional breakdown of mission activity or relevance to the day-by-day activities. I think it's clear that MSL's intended activity will generate enough data to write a few books purely on the geological aspects of Mars. The single greatest focus of its activity will be to characterize what is expected to be a past era that was warmer and wetter and Ph neutral. Assuming it operates successfully, that will leave a vast amount to say within the context of this board. Not to mention all of the other eras it may give us a peek into as it climbs higher: The history book of Mars's early geology and the corresponding climate. That's quite a broad set of topics.
You're right; that's a major contrast between MSL and Viking. When I was interviewing Matt Golombek for my articles on MSL, I asked him if MSL was "Viking on wheels," since they're similar-size spacecraft with similar-sized payloads, and he said sort of, but mostly not; Viking "swung for the fences" in life discovery, while MSL has different science goals, and an instrument suite to back them up, that will produce major scientific results no matter what it discovers.
What Emily said.

And my cheap two cents worth:

We aren't touching astrobiology. We're just not. Not indirectly, not obliquely, not for love, and not for money.

I hope by now that is abundantly clear.

If it's not...please feel free to PM me for clarification, and esp. before posting anything related to the subject...but please be sure to read rule 1.3 first.
Hello. I'm having a problem viewing the last posts in a thread (any thread). Here is a screenshot of what I see. Please let me know what's up. I have sent a message to a mod with no response, yet. Thanks.
Looks like your viewing options have been changed to Outline mode.
Look under the 'Options' button upper right and change the Display Mode to 'Standard'.
That'll fix it. smile.gif
Thanks, Astro. I never knew I could do that (change the type of view) in a forum. Awesome!
QUOTE (iMPREPREX @ Jan 13 2013, 09:54 PM) *
Thanks, Astro. I never knew I could do that (change the type of view) in a forum. Awesome!

Often it's clicking through search engine results that seems to do it. For whatever reason, Google spiders that view sometimes.
Ok Admins…

I need to throw this at ya…..

There was a conference earlier this month at UCLA on Mars Habitability: link below

A lot of fascinating talks on possibility of transient liquid water near the surface. Alfred McEwen gives a 30 min update on Mars RSL (Recurring Slope Lineae). They are now identifying sites at Vallis Marineris that track the sun. Also updates on Phoenix results are presented. Chemistry of perchlorates. A 60 min talk by Aswhin Vasavada on early MSL results from Gale (this is as of 02/04/2013) which I have not had time to watch yet.

Those are in the early sessions.

I have thought of posting the link in the discussion thread on 'List of Evidence of Water on Mars'. But the later talks concentrate on the possibilities for current life on Mars. A taboo subject here. Hate to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Take a look and see what you think. I could just post links to the earlier sessions.


Post the links to the speific papers, that fine.
Even the conference link is OK.

If we stopped every link to a space-related conference just because there might be a reference, paper or hallway chat about 'life' then we wouldn't have any links at all.

Members are fully aware of the rules on discussion of this issue on UMSF.
Referring to a conference where it might be one of a hundred topics does not breach that rule.
One caveat would be if the conference was specific to that topic.
Thanks Astro0...

I will post ...
I noticed that the Oppy forum doesn't have a "fast reply" option, just the regular "add reply". Can someone include the "fast reply" option? Most other forums seem to include "fast reply".

Normally it wouldn't matter to me since I use "add reply", but I'm at a hotel and strangely the internet here doesn't allow me to use "add reply" - when I try nothing happens. "Fast reply", however, works fine. I'd like to post about Oppy!

I'm discussing this with the other admins just to be certain there is no reason why this is not standard across all of the forums. if there is no reason for this ( and I'm not aware of any at this stage ) then we'll turn it on.

I'll get back to you shortly.
Fred - duly discussed, agreed and I've now made the changes.

There were about 10 sub-forums that had this turned off, I've changed it throughout to be consistently enabled. If I've missed any let me know.
Y Bar Ranch
Rosetta subforum Por favor? Should be a high volume topic here shortly (fingers crossed).
QUOTE (elakdawalla @ Apr 21 2014, 02:37 PM) *

I would like to do a new post, normally its in the conferences section but I was hoping you folks would consider allowing it to live in the future mars projects section instead,
it would be a post about the mars 2020 lander landing site committee meeting of some weeks ago,
I spent most of last weekend spending at least 12 hours reading through every PDF file that was presented at the mars 2020 landing site conference and I think I make a decently good post on the conference proceedings and perhaps in future there could be sub threads or a poll on each landing site candidate?

years ago I spent alot of time reading up on landing site conferences of present missions and I see some new candidates not mentioned years ago, why?
MRO and mars express and other new data informs us of new possibility for landing sites

first thread has been covered here already but not in great detail,

so my first proposed thread would include, new proposed sites will subject to orbital imaging camping

The atmosphere will be thicker at mars 2020 EDL so many more landing sites are possible, and possibly a smaller landing ellipse do to some EDl software changes and mars 2020 will be able to land at higher elevations.

this is a "nontraditional" candidate landing site seems to meet the decadel survey and MEPAG requirements, would you vote for it? and why?

I propose to make a new thread with perhaps 3 or 4 of these candidate sites with a poll after seeing if the main post gathers any viewers

lastly I am going to post the first post here with administrators, to see if you like the content, if so can such a post be migrated to the right spot?

Good thought infocat13.
Give the team a day to think about the appropriate set up.

QUOTE (Astro0 @ May 29 2014, 06:39 PM) *
Good thought infocat13.
Give the team a day to think about the appropriate set up.


ok thanks!

more thoughts,
at what point does a approved mission move from future mission to mars missions?
remember the record traffic this sight had on curiosity landing day? an exciting 4 year talk on landing site committee proceedings and polls here on sets of landing sites could be an enabling in powering discussion to point to on mars 2020 landing day
curiosity landing site committee was full of proposed traverses such as phil does

indeed the landing site committee really does not have such a public input, and this is what the planetary society does right? UNC could be that citizen landing site committee!
if we built it would they come?
perhaps not................
not at first.
does the planetary society ever refer readers here?

landing site committee conferences has to be the most exciting idea for citizen participation I can think of even if its low key here..................
and you never know the folks who post here have an eye for orbital imagery and perhaps if we did this we could make a contribution to the landing site committee in the next 4 years?

mars missions forum
mars 2020
in future missions (existing thread)
they discuss technology
transfer to mars missions thread or leave there for now
make thread header
add subthreads......................
mars landing committees goals and engineering
proposed landing committee presentations
does it meet MEPAG and decadle survey goals?
vote on landing targets!
not sure how to order them for a vote,how does the landing committee vote?
our ums could set our poll to reflect what they do, or not
ooops I am repeating myself sorry

so we need a sandbox here

it would have new thread in mods section to write a complex post for review before ............................

The Forum has a major aversity to running polls, so I dont think we'll be doing that.

Like any section on the Forum, discussion topics will evolve over time.
The Admin/Mod Team are trying to keep some logical structure in each section and in the future to avoid us having to do major restructring (eg: the recent rebuild of the New Horizons section) we want to keep a tighter reign on the larger covering sub-forums. Topics need to follow a structure that allows future readers to get a clear picture of how the mission evolved and progressed.

Cool I look foreword to your thoughts on the restructuring of the mars 2020 thread and the next 4 years of MEPAg mars lander committee reports....................
QUOTE (infocat13 @ May 29 2014, 08:03 PM) *
Cool I look foreword to your thoughts on the restructuring of the mars 2020 thread and the next 4 years of MEPAg mars lander committee reports....................

possibly in future the members here with your great skills could create our own landing sight candidate and submit to the landing site committee, that would be a fantatsist citizen science contribution...................

so i am working on a post for the conference site here but i will wait for mods to guide me or or some day the conference site post I may make could be migrated to an active mission?

I am working on a general mars landing site post

and three other posts

one is a landing site in the 4 original mars 2012 lander sites

the other is paleo river and lake sites
the third is

Landing Sites in and Near the Chasmata

posts beyond these are UMS created new landing sites ?
or you folks are so creative with imagining of future MRO imaging of the landing site committee candidates?

I sleep now and dream of mars 2020 as seen through the eyes thereof MEPAG decadel survey landing site committee........... its 5 years from now but join me

Starship Asterisk is mentioned in the rules as a place to go to discuss the topics banned at this forum. While it may be true for some things like astrobiology or some casual talk about Pluto's planethood, it's not a good place to send people regarding pseudoscience, aliens, politics, religion, etc. I'm one of the three admins there and while we want to be very open to anyone who is curious about astronomy and science in general, we've tried very hard to turn the forum around in the past few years. It's still not a place where serious discussions happen often but it is slowly changing. We aggressively moderate crackpots and anti-science and try to keep it informative and stick to mainstream science.

I think Asterisk was added to that list when there were no rules and the crackpots were running rampant. I don't know if it is even necessary to change the wording of the rules, but I do want to say that I don't want the garbage flowing over to my forum any more than it already does! wink.gif

Anyway, from one admin to another, I admire the work and passion you guys put into your forum.
Noted, Judy! But I think the same is true of some other forums mentioned there as well (notably NASASpaceflight). I think Starship Asterisk and NASASpaceflight both represent good locations to discuss human spaceflight and astrobiology, both of which are banned topics here, for instance. How about we add the following sentence to that list: "Each of these forums has its own unique rules of conduct and allowable content."
Nod. I'm sure the other forums don't want people ignoring their rules, either. It's hard to keep up with them but I would guess that a lot of them have gone through similar processes restructuring to cut the chaff out. There's probably not a lot of legitimate places to go have an argument about aliens these days. Asterisk was one of the last.
Is it possible to change my username?
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