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Discussion > Dung's inspired idea

Earlier today Chris M wrote this on what we would all say is a rejuvenated version of Rhoda's thread An experimental demo of GHE:

'Twas an inspired idea of Dung's to revive this thread, and some interesting stuff followed. Unfortunately there was an unwelcome intervention from someone (yes, him again) all too forcefully asserting, in effect, that if the 'right' people don't say it, it can be dismissed out of hand.

Dung had indeed restarted proceedings on the thread, on 29th December, after a gap of over two months, with this intro:

Recent threads on the main blog have led me to return to this great discussion as a means of silencing the "Increasingly Insufferable One" ...

But that wasn't his first port of call when the going got tricky on 'the main blog'. Here's how he began his initial response, on 27th December, in a new thread called What exactly is considered to be Off Topic?:

I do not ask because of The Legend that is the IIO but because I find it hard to draw the line.
Taking the Matt Ridley thread as an example; the article which heads the thread is about a number of different things. It could be said to be about the differences between two men; Matt Ridley and Joe Romm but it could equally well be about the difference between empirical evidence and theoretical evidence. At the end of the day it is about climate change or the lack of it and it includes the dreaded GHE ...

But in the Matt Ridley thread the relevant posts were not by Dung at all, who initially was greatly offended by the idea that general GHE discussion was best done elsewhere, but by myself on 26th December, talking of responses to Dung on the GHE by Martin A and Rhoda:

These are both very helpful explanations but do they really belong, after all this time, on this thread?

and then Martin A the next day:

Rather than get into a discussion here that might be tediously uninteresting for others, let me email you the simple model and see if we agree on it. (I think I have your email address somewhere, if I can find it).

I'll re-post my Dec 26, 2012 at 5:43 PM posting above on "unthreaded".

Martin was quite wrong to think (in his humility) that the interaction would be tedious for others but he was dead right about moving it, as I said in the next post:

Thanks Martin for agreeing to move the discussion of general greenhouse theory to another thread or email. As you no doubt picked up, that was the point of my remarks yesterday.

I think therefore Chris M is wrong to give Dung all the credit for this excellent turn of events. But I agree with Chris that it was an inspired idea, one that I have in turn been inspired by here.

What was the idea? To use discussion threads to separate concerns. That was all I wanted on the Matt Ridley thread. There is no way, surely, that the GHE discussion that now exists would have been as successful clogging up that thread, which was on something quite different, as it is in its new home, courtesy of Rhoda.

We're all on the same side on this I think. I'm perfectly happy to pat Dung on the back for his part in listening to me and Martin and making the move. And I say we should do it far more: separate concerns.

I'd like to think through here just how radical we should be on that. But this thread itself is a good example. And note I provided LINKS. Key to making such separation bearable, not insufferable. :)

Jan 4, 2013 at 5:26 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Forgive me gentlemen but when the climate wars history is written some poor researcher in 2075 will kick his dog, commit suicide trying to work what the **** Richard and Dung were ever on about when talking to each other.

Be warned you have future blood/animal cruelty on your hands.

Ps. at least I now know what IIO now means, I couldn't be bothered to work it out/search for it...

Jan 4, 2013 at 6:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Jiminy: Easy to deploy the blame-all-equally meme and a cop out, as any true historian will tell you. But this specific story is both simple and educational. General GHE discussion had broken out on the Matt Ridley thread, due to Dung's questions (and his support for someone called therealviffer). Martin A in particular responded very helpfully on the issues raised - but I thought unwisely, because it was clearly ...


Let's stop right there. One of the things I'm trying to do on this thread is to look at the two sides of the OT coin. Only a few things are off topic for the whole of BH. The person calling themselves 'Anon' who tried to libel Alistair McAlpine recently wasn't going to have any joy with that anywhere. But most things belong somewhere - just not always where they first break out.

The problem with bad off-topic diversions is that both subjects - what you might call the host and the parasite - suffer. Actually, not such a good analogy, is it? :) Let's make it mother and embryo. Also not perfect - suggestions please. But the point is that both suffer. And the GHE discussion begun by Dung, Martin and Rhoda is a fine example of the embryo being moved from the wrong place and finding its proper home, which is shown by it making significant new strides through much more informed discussion with new contributors like TheBigYinJames and Paul Dennis.

Would TBYJ and Paul have taken part if it had stayed in the original thread? It would seem unlikely. It was a move that needed to be made, for the good of both parent and child.

But one can, I assume, try to separate out too much. I want to look at the continuum and suggest we do more. I think this is one of the most striking examples we've had for a while.

Jan 4, 2013 at 6:49 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

I support Richard here. I enjoy BH because it is one of the blogs where, over the past years, topics have largely remained on topic. When I've contributed the debate and interaction has been a positive experience. Other contributors, nyms and real names, are usually thoughtful, relevant and polite. What is more the discussion is not buried in noise and hubbub. I can't speak for others, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is a significant factor that encourages people such as Richard Betts, Tamsin Edwards, Richard Tol, Paul Matthews and others to use BH as a forum to engage with the wider community.

However, over the past few months I've detected a tendency for topics to be hijacked. The example of the Ridley/Romm topic and it's railroading by contributors wanting to discuss the GHE is but one example.

The rekindling of the GHE discussion shows what high class, informative debate can be had. Rhoda seeking answers to her questions and the contributions of TBYJ, MartinA and others shows this. I feel much more comfortable contributing in this environment. There is a degree of structure to the thread and one can readily trace the development of ideas, concepts etc.

I'd hate to see BH degenerate into a the anarchic jungle that is WUWT at times, entertaining though that is to read.

Just my two penneth!

Jan 4, 2013 at 7:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Dennis

The discussion forum was set up with the specific purpose of helping to keep blog threads on topic. I rely on users to know when to shift to the forum though since it's hard to police closely.

Jan 4, 2013 at 7:53 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Now you've said that's what they're for Bish, perhaps people will be less fearful to use them when the topic strays, a long as the combatants agree to move there. I know I didn't start threads in Discussion for ages because I thought only mods were allowed to.

Jan 4, 2013 at 8:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

This seems like a very welcome development. I confess I have not to date spent much time on "Discussion" threads, but I do get distressed when tension mounts or flames break out on "regular" BH threads. One aspect is whether a regular thread starts to go OT, and of course different people have differing levels of interest or toleration for what may be considered OT.

My brief suggestion is that all of us come to feel more free to make or receive the suggestion "please start a discussion thread for that" without anyone giving or feeling offense.

I know that happens to some degree already, hence some of the past discussion threads, but I think that perhaps more amiability* could be sustained among BH regulars if the suggestion to move to a discussion thread was accepted as routine, non-hostile, standard operating procedure, etc.

*p.s. While people vary a lot on whether they regard "amiability" as a virtue, and a lot depends upon context, I regard it as an important virtue (ala Jane Austen) for social and intellectual settings.... especially those which are voluntary (e.g., BH participation) and not essentially combative. Some prefer the clash of ideas as personal and intellectual combat, but I like to explore facts and ideas in a more congenial setting most of the time. Especially when I am doing something highly optional like visiting a favorite blog instead of some other avocation of mine......

Jan 4, 2013 at 8:32 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Wow. Four weighty contributions, thank you. I was hoping to write something thoughtful in response but other duties have intervened. Worth noting Dung's reaction and my response. For 'later today' read 'soon'. Apologies.

Jan 5, 2013 at 6:36 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Skiphil, I too value amiability. In that spirit I await R Drake's apology for his blatant trolling of me on Dung's original thread. It is not the first time ...

Jan 5, 2013 at 10:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterChris M

That sounds like anger, Chris M. I'm not angry with you for ascribing the 'inspired idea' of my title to Dung, when it was originally my suggestion to move the discussion from the Ridley thread and Dung railed against me, including starting the thread to which you refer. So we have an asymmetry. But given your last sentence I think we need to discuss this elsewhere. Amiability, anger and apologies.

Jan 7, 2013 at 1:59 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake