28Jun2012

 Beware The Forum Quorum

Now, I wouldn’t normally run a story berating any astronomical organization in this country, but I’m going to make an exception here. Simply because of the unfairness.

I’m doing that simply because I’ve had a similar experience and seen others treated in a comparable manner by this particular group.  Nobody should be treated like this young lady has and this should serve as a warning to think very clearly before exposing yourself to a forum. It also highlights the level of competence of those given the title ‘moderator’ – but more than that, it also shows how destructive this can be to an individual who reaches out for help and advice only to be ‘sent to Coventry’ for what?…wanting to expand their knowledge!

A few weeks ago I was approached by a readers of my newsletter service (Astro Space News) Nicole K. (surname withheld) and asked  to read through and comment on a personal ‘theory’ she’s been working on for some time. The theory involved where dark energy is coming from and how it’s speeding up the expansion of the universe. The basis of her thesis is not important, what transpired later is.

I felt her work was impressive and coming from an amateur who suffers from a severe literary disability (Dyslexia) also felt humbled by the obstacles she would have faced just to get the idea in print. After deliberation, I passed it on for evaluation from a member of the professional astronomical community as she wished me to do. Our collective critique was passed back to Nicole who mentioned to me she’s like to take it further, so I advised her to join an astronomy forum and get a wider read assessment.

I personally advised her to try the Ice In Space astronomy forum  (ISS) simply for the wider exposure – this turned out to be the worst thing I could have done for her!  

Here’s her reply to me after taking my advice:

“Hi Dave, is there a group other than Ice In Space? IIS seems to have the idea that I am a troller!? I just posted  the same theory that I sent to you (with a few more specified points and within less than 24hrs (and after some wonderfully positive feedback – along with a  piece of constructive – it was removed.”

Her post was cut off – we can only assume by the moderators – and the only feedback Nicole got as to why was an inference she was “trolling.” They also questioned her motives and “the level of “unrest” her theory would generate. Trolling!!! She was asking for help!!!

Now come on! I’ve read her paper and passed it on to a professional research astronomer working at one of Australia’s most respected facilities for adjudication and suggestive comment… she’s no trouble maker, nothing in her correspondence to me even minutely indicated that. She was genuinely reaching out for someone to read her work and tell her if she was heading in the right direction.

Here’s more of what she wrote me this morning:

“I’m not sure I feel comfortable on IIS; being judged so harshly just for thinking outside of the box. I am Dyslexic, which makes the rules of how to write professionally very challenging for me. I ask you to please bear with me grammar/punctuation-wise.   I have been denied access to my work (luckily I kept a copy of my typing) and denied access to the feedback that I received from other IIS members (which I did not keep a copy of, as I never would’ve dreamed that something like being denied access to it could actually happen when I was not being disrespectful of other members). It just seems a bit extreme. So I am  wondering if there is another space discussion forum you could refer me to, where someone without professional space knowledge can be a member, so I can get back to working on my theory?”

Am being too harsh! Absolutely not! I’ve seen the tactics used by the owner of this forum and seen the destructive and unethical methods he originally went to to populate his forum. He may not have been the one who handled Nicole’s post but he’s the one at the top and the buck stops there. Why did I refer Nicole to this forum? Simply because I never dreamed, in my wildest imagination, anyone would react like this. I also felt that maybe, just maybe, after all this time ideologies there might have changed… sadly it wasn’t the case.

 My advice is to shun this particular forum if you’re looking to join a group. There are many more reputable ones online and if you email me I’ll make sure you get put in touch with ones I now know of that have the right built in intentions and will treat you with at least a modicum more respect.

 If you’re a professional astronomer or anyone who can give a qualitative assessment of Nicole’s work without rubbing her nose in it, I’d like to hear from you. I dislike smart-asses! I dislike rancor, animosity, or closed minds in open forums- and I likewise will not tolerate the lack of  compassion shown to those with disabilities.

It is Nicole’s defence alone I write this and I stand by every word!

Dave Reneke

 

Dave says:

First of all, if you’re going to discuss me and spread it around to other people PLEASE get your facts right! There is nothing worse than a loudmouth like you making public comments about something you know nothing about.
I have no “past life.” I had nothing to do with the running of Sky and Space Magazine. I didn’t own it; have shares in it or any other interest. I was just a volunteer writer like everyone else who contributed.
I was not the editor. I had absolutely nothing to do with printing the magazine nor did I have anything to do with subscriptions. The money did not go to me.
You challenge me to put this on my site. Well guess what? It is, right here. I have nothing to hide. People like you who attempt to destroy another’s hard fought for reputation need to be exposed. That is why I have printed your name in full and your email address.

You call me a”fraudster.” I want an apology for that! Furthermore, I want you to provide ME with an apology in writing for the abovementioned false claims you made or I will take it to legal action against you. Do you understand?

You made a veiled threat to me along these lines… and I quote you along with your poor spelling, “Your day will come.” I want a retraction from you. Finally, I want any and all reference to me in any of your posts, especially posts to the ISS Forum, removed immediately. I will do a check to see if this has been done.

Dave Reneke.

Bassnut (Fred) says:

Search as I may, I cannot find NicoleK’s theory anywhere. Please post here or provide a link. It amazes me that all this diatribe has ensued without direct reference/link to the original material that created the problem in the 1st place. How can one evaluate without all the evidence?.

BTW, IIS is Mike Salways sand box, not a democratic free for all, it was never presented as anything else.
If you dont like it, dont go there.
IIS moderating in my experience has always been appropriate, including deleted posts from me and chiding when required. I have total respect for Mikes moderating, always fair IMO.. The old maxim goes “theres always 2 sides to an argument”, so lets see NicoleK,s theory, and try to fathom why it would cause such drama?.

Cheers
Fred

Dave says:

She was a new member. She joined IIS at my suggestion to get the benefit of ‘experienced’ members looking at her ideas. Her posts were locked out. Moderators inferred she was trolling. The experience shattered a young well meaning young woman who only wanted to be heard. THAT’S what your “fair” hero and his crew did.

You’ve obviously missed what went on.(I suggest find out) You likewise don’t know the past history of a certain individual … one day you might find out. It’s not up to me to tell you.

A few other points:

Nicole’s work is now being evaluated by one of Australia’s top pro astronomers.

You’re right – I don’t like it and I “don’t go there”

Lastly my friend…. it’s not “diatribe”

NicoleK says:

After weeks of having received no response from IIS about specifically why I was being accused of being a troller, on the 10th I decided to message IIS (in fact, I messaged the very same moderator who has refused to treat me with any common courtesy, by offering me some sort of response/logical explanation as to specifically WHY he was accusing me of trolling: Houghy) with a link to this article. I wanted to see if it would make any difference to breaking down the wall of silence that was built up around me… Wouldn’t you know it, I got a response the very next day!

***********************************************************************************
Hi Nicole

My name is Mike Salway and I’m the owner of IceInSpace.

It’s unfortunate that your thread was removed the way it was and I’m sorry for the lack of communication and for any feelings of ill-treatment. It’s certainly never our intention when we moderate threads to have it end up the way it has.

Unfortunately I was away on leave when you posted your thread and wasn’t within internet range to be able to weigh in on what happened and I’ve only just got back and trying to catch up on everything.

I also note with interest the goings on on the Dave Reneke site, with Dave seemingly acting on your behalf to bad-mouth IceInSpace and taking it upon himself to campaign against the site.

What you don’t know, is that Dave has a hidden agenda. He has been unfriendly to IceInSpace for many years and has held a grudge against us. There’s also a personal ‘dislike’ between him and I, so he tries to use any opportunity he can to put me down or to put IceInSpace down.

He’s now using your ‘issue’ to publicly defame IceInSpace, putting himself out there as acting in your best interests, but in reality he has his own hidden agenda and is using you to mount the campaign against IceInSpace. He knew full-well in referring you to IceInSpace what he was doing. If he really wanted to help you with your ‘theory’, he could’ve referred you to many of his other contacts.

While I don’t claim to understand or try to understand your theory, that type of non-mainstream / alternative science theories don’t usually go down well because often the claims are completely left-field with no science or fact to base them on. What usually ends up happening is some members of the community make fun of the thread or post garbage and the thread degenerates.

IceInSpace is probably not the best place to discuss non-mainstream science theories, and other places like [name withheld] forum have also specifically banned them because of the same reasons.

So just to finish up, you’re still very welcome to be a contributing member of IceInSpace and take part in any of the other topics or sub-forums on the site. I’m sorry for the way you were initially treated and I hope i’ve clarified any issues and have made it clear why Dave Reneke is acting the way he is against IceInSpace.

We have thousands of happy members and make a great many positive contributions to amateur astronomy around the world, and I hope you don’t let the biased opinions of Dave Reneke put you off, especially when he is running his own agenda and using you as a pawn.

All the best to you and I hope your jewellery sales are doing well (I looked at your facebook page :)).

Cheers and please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.

********************************************************************************
Mr. Salaway,

Your allegations that Dave only referred me to IIS to use me as a pawn against Ice In Space; “Dave has a hidden agenda,” and, “He knew full-well in referring you to IceInSpace what he was doing,” are nothing short of outrageous!

It is 100% your site’s moderator’s actions that are to blame for me having to email Dave to request a referral to a site which treats it’s members with some common courtesy. Had your site/moderators not treated me the way that it/they have; a bold and UNFOUNDED accusation that I was trolling, followed by NO answers to ANY of my Q’s about specifically WHY I was being accused of trolling; there would have been NOTHING for Dave to have written “Lice In Space” about. (To be 100% clear -I- contacted Dave to request a referral to another site. He did not contact me to ask how I was being treated by IIS.)

I posted my theory in IIS in the hopes of getting constructive criticism and other feedback to it. My ONLY purpose in posting was to learn. You denying my right of access to the posted comments to my theory, comments gifted DIRECTLY to me by other IIS members (comments which could help me to learn) is most loathsome! As for your invitation to continue on your site in the future, WHY would I ever bother to waste my time posting anything else on your site?… Just to get locked out of the discussion and have the feedback I get ‘stolen’ from me again? No thank you.

BTW: Thanks to Dave’s article I now have one of the top astronomers in the country willing to work with me. So your allegation that Dave doesn’t really want to help me is really pretty out-there. He has done nothing but go above and beyond in his attempt to help me.

Sincerely,
Nicole Kozminuk

Ps. Defamation, by definition, is one spreading UNTRUTHFUL statements about another with the intent to cause damage to the reputation of the subject of the untruthful statements. Dave is only reporting TRUTHFUL facts; therefore he is not defaming IIS.

Dave says:

Well said Nicole. The reply from this dimwit and his long winded attempts to discredit me are nothing short of sad… and expected, but normal practice as many will attest to… and I’ll continue to pursue him and his group if matters like this arise again. Make no mistake about that.

To quote Shakespeare: ” He protesteth too much!”

Nicole, I’ll email you separately – I’ve had enormous positive feedback on your situation and we’ll get your work looked at this week coming by professional people. who know what they’re doing.

Andrew Pike says:

The differance between humans and others humans advance by thinking outside the box we are not set in our line of thought
Imagine if I said there were things we could not see that make up our universe 250 yrs ago most would not belive but some and some would,,,, and they would work to prove if i was right or not as its outside the box
I like to think that we dont burn books now that disgree with the norm but we move foward by our imagination

I think becase I can prove me right or prove me wrong

Dave says:

Thanks Bert and Kelvin. I’ve received a LOT of positive feedback in support of this story from past and current members of this forum. I intend to repost the story and continue pursuing this until they write an apology to Nicole on their pages AND inform me it’s done.

Anyone else have supportive evidence of their activities?

Bert from Eltham says:

I am shocked and horrified that people who pass themselves off as rational can treat any one like this.

The exchange of ideas without fear or favour is what science is built on. Each idea will stand or fall with experimental evidence.

I have no fear in declaring who I am, avandonk on IIS.

I have no idea what or who you people are. I am not a troll.

The PM I was sent by the great man himself made me very angry!

Dear avandonk,

You have received a new private message at IceInSpace from iceman, entitled “deleted post”.

To read the original version, you must log in here:
https://www.iceinspace.com.au/forum/private.php

This is the message that was sent:
***************
it wasn’t helpful Bert. and not appropriate.
***************

I am into imaging not pedantics.

This was sent to me after referring to this blog.

I will not lead you all into some sort of set opinion of what transpired.
What we have is someone who is very insecure in his own mind. i am sure he is watching this thread.

What was the theory of dark energy again NicoleK?

Bert

Kelvin Valet says:

Congratulations Dave for finally ‘outing’ the great fraud IIS.

The IceInSpace Forum has for many years run under the self-imposed title of Australia’s Premier Astronomy Website.
Back at its creation in 2005 the owner and Administrator of the site, Mike Salway, had only been doing Astronomy for 10 weeks when he started the site (his own admission in his first posts). There is nothing wrong in that itself, but he immediately started ‘teaching’ seasoned Astronomers, and his membership numbers skyrocketed within months by poaching members from Australia’s most popular Astronomy Forum (I know, I was one of the ones poached).

As years went by the site tended to claim itself as the authority in the Australian Astronomy Arena, despite the fact that other Australian Astronomy Forums existed with much more experienced contributors assisting its members, and without ego’s involved.

The history of Ice In Space Forum has demonstrated regular over-moderation on those members not in their ‘clique’, or those that don’t tow the line with the sites agreed theories about all and sundry re: Physics, Astrophysics, Science, and in many cases ‘general knowledge’ on non-astronomical subjects.
There have been too many cases of the Admin and Moderators practising double standards, with little to no respect shown to the poster.

Attacks on individuals have become quite common at times, with many highly skilled Astrophotographers, and in some cases even Scientists and Astrophysicists, leaving the site, running with their tales between their legs. But their registrations still counted to raise the membership level to skyrocketing numbers, mainly to impress and feed the Admin Ego.

Out of the claimed 10,000 registered members, there are only approximately 80 active members.
Several thousand members have never posted, or even logged in after their original registration date. A couple of thousand have left.

I have witnessed many people walk away from IIS after being totally ignored, run down, humiliated, or made to appear as a fool due to lack of knowledge, in some cases just because they asked a question.

IIS is an embarrassing example of Australian Amateur Astronomy when it is being run by clique-selective Moderators, an Ego-tripping Administrator, and thousands upon thousands of posts by a horde of self-professed experts churning out incorrect knowledge and facts.
The sad part is that there are also some good people in there being taken for a ride.

I asked to be de-registered from IIS twice, but they still keep me registered. They have to keep their numbers up!

Nicole, I wish you well with your search for help.
To everyone else, please beware of the Ice In Space Forum and Website.

NicoleK says:

-This is Nicole K.-

WOW! I feel so blessed to have a contact like Astro Dave!

After the IIS goings-on, I spent some time going back and forth as to how to proceed. I’m relieved that I chose to ask for another referral; and, that others appear to be so opened to helping me along in my learning process! This (trying to pursue my theory: get feedback/ constructive criticism) has once again become a positive in my life, thanks to you Astro Dave! You are THE BEST! (Please do not feel bad about referring me to IIS. You did NOTHING wrong in trying to help me with that referral. Please know that.)

Anyone who has the time to discuss my original theory about where dark energy is coming from and how it’s speeding up the expansion of the universe, anyone who wishes to offer me constructive criticism on my theory, please feel free to contact me at nicolekozminuk@yahoo.ca

Have a great day everyone!

Dave says:

Jon, your comments only echo what I said. Thanks for taking the time to write your reflections.

Jon Herd says:

or we could all write to this address, and give them a bit of what for.

enquiries@iceinspace.com.au

Jon Herd says:

well, perhaps this ISS forum is a fraud. I’ve seen so may websites that proclaim hat they are an officvial site for avariety of topics. Unfortunately on the web, calling them liars doesn’t get anywhere.

I wouldn’t worry, Dave, you made a mistake giving her that forum addres, but you DIDN’T know is was going to be a dud. You tried your level best, mate.

The moderator of the esteemed Newcastle Herald is so scared of the law and even the tiniest thing that may reflect on the Herald, that honest posts never get through.

If Nicole sticks to her guns, then good will come of it. In science therehas always been controversy, and objection to ideas, and there always will be.

I’m dyslexic too, and understand the strain that hard academic work can be. Crikey, I’m havinmg trouble putting a thesis proposal together, let alone getting a theory down.

More powewr to nicole, but she has actually done us all a favour. Now we know which forum to avoid.

The best thig to do Dave, IMO, is to discredit ISS at every opportunity, and you can use my name for that.

Hi Dave & John,

Pleased to hear that you pointed the lady in question to some professional groups. Often lateral thinking is mistaken for what was has been described in your editorial letter, one of the many reasons I gave up any involvement with many amateur astro forums some years ago.

Since my appointment as an honorary research associate in the UTAS School of Maths & Physics (astronomy) I have a group with very diverse interests/expertise with whom I can share my experience/knowledge and ask questions on a level playing field. Time is a very precious commodity these days!

I enjoy your regular ASN-makes interesting & informative reading.

Clear skies…

Dave says:

Many thanks Shevill. Thanks too for the positive feedback on the ASN site.

Dave says:

Thanks for the positive feedback John. I’ll pass all this on to her. Much appreciated.

John Rombi says:

Hi Dave,
It certainly appears that this lady was not treated correctly. Unfortunately forums tend to bring the worst out in people, when you challenge them!!
If you wish, please send her to The Macastro site, we have a very good relationship with the professionals in the field, and I’m sure we can get a clear (and respectful) answer for her.
Even though the Macastro forum is closed to non members, I could post here research on the site for member comment, and pass on the answers to her or you.

Cheers, John.

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