The Foundation grew, slowly, like a tree, spreading all over the net, making a nice, amiable and yet intellectually challenging space for atheists and others all over the world. Josh Timonen & co (excluding RD, since my sources have nothing on the matter), have forcibly, disrespectfully and shamefully disposed of this space.. The Forums are essentially gone, and so is the community.
I repudiate the actions taken by Josh Timonen and Co. and retract my support of the Foundation until further notice.
The above is me. I remain resolved on it. The RDF boasted of a large user base and a large group of talented and dedicated people, who oversaw the running of the fora, and contributed immensely to them. As with any other forum, especially a large one, it will obviously have the bad apples. But Professor Dawkins dismissal of all this as frivolous gossip is nothing short of contemptible. This is what he wanted! A site where science, reason, scepticism and atheism could be discussed freely and intelligently. A site where atheists could come together (need I remind you of the OUT campaign?). This is not frivolous by even the most ridiculous stretch of the word.
Second, about his “rebuttal” to the straw man about vitriolic responses(I can’t call it anything but a straw man); not all the responses to the incident consisted of vitriolic insults, those that did were on other boards (the moderating staff was extremely diligent when it came to personal abuse and such things, adding insult to injury) and, anyway, Timonen & Co. deleted the original criticism thread! How could Dawkins know what it contained? Plus, all insults quoted happened after the event, so how could it cause it? Besides all this. did he even he read Peter Harrison’s post on the matter? Darkchilde’s? It seems that no, he did not, because then he’d surely have mentioned the way the mods were treated, which brings me to the next point: the message delivered by Timonen & Co. to the moderating staff (did I mention the hours of unpaid work that were spent by these users?), which I will reproduce promptly, with highlights by me:
“Dear forum moderators,
We know that this is a big decision. We know some of you moderators will be against this change. We ask that you respect our decision and help make this transition as smooth as possible. These decisions have all been approved by our organization, and we ask that you don’t add to our work by causing trouble.
We will not be migrating moderator roles to the new discussion site. Again, we’re sure this might come as a shock, and we hope you don’t take it personally. We can’t thank you enough for your contributions to the old forum. The new system will not require a large team of moderators, as the discussion area will be more focused. We encourage you to contribute to the new discussions area, and are welcome to flag inappropriate activity for review.
Please understand that this transition is going to be a lot of work for us. I’m sure as you read this, you will have a lot of questions and concerns. We also know that this is a change from what we had been discussing previously. This announcement does not require a response, but we wanted you to be aware. Please do not email Richard with complaints, we have discussed this transition thoroughly with him, and he is currently on tour in Australia and New Zealand. Please do not attempt to inflame the users, start any petitions, or “relocate” groups of users to a separate forum. Do not use any of the data held by the foundation (such as email addresses) through the control panel to cause any trouble. Any behavior of this kind will not be tolerated. We don’t expect you to do these things, but we say all of this only to discourage any well-intentioned moves that would only frustrate the situation.
Many thanks again.
The Richard Dawkins Foundation”
Now, imagine that you spent dozens of hours and millions of words on a project, for free, because you cared about it, and then you are abruptly and insensitively told that you’re services are unnecessary, that input from you is equally unwanted and that you’re just going to have to shut it and put up with it (and no stealing the users! They’re ours, I tell you). Tell me then, would you still support such a project? I don’t know about you, but neither I nor the moderators would. As I alluded to earlier, a thread was started on the subject filled with disagreement and opposition to this affront. The thread was deleted and erased from the logs. A user, Mazille (one of the many wronged and invaluable contributors), was deleted (not banned, deleted. this means that 13K+ worth of content-laden posts was destroyed, irretrievably).
CJ, another poster with an immaculate record of contributions, was deleted as well, after publicly repudiating the measures taken. When I heard of this, I posted my quoted post at the beginning of this one on the front page: it lasted a while (maybe no one was watching), but was also deleted, along with the few responses it got (my account is still intact, last I checked). These users were not the only deletions, they were joined by Darwinsbulldog, kiki, and Valden (as far as I know, no more), all valuable contributors and Darwinsbulldog a mod as well.
As to the community itself, though I doubt it will simply vanish, was definitely affected; (it was a real community despite what some superficial comments might imply)efforts to relocate were met with intentional roadblocks, such as a heavily restricted PM system and a deletion of signatures (in which links to refugee forums were posted, for regrouping). It is, again, the same complete disregard for the people involved rearing its ugly head again, the same disregard that makes me adamant in my repudiation of Timonen & Co.’s actions.