Discussion by: Red Dog
One of the most enjoyable times I had at work was when I was one of the first few people hired for a new industrial lab on software engineering. It was me, a couple other nerd friends, the lab leader who was out chasing funding, and one business oriented guy.
At first I had no use for the business guy but he was one of those people who shattered my stereotypes about what business people were like. He was fascinated by the computer science issues and eager to have me explain them to him which of course I was all too eager to do. This will probably shock people who have read my comments but I kind of like showing off what I know. At the time a big topic I was working on were meta-languages. A meta-language is a language used to describe a language, e.g. objects, relations, etc. When I explained what they were he was fascinated and from that point on whenever he wanted to move the discussion up a level, to get us to not focus on whether to use Prolog or LISP but questions like what is the real goal of the lab he would say "let's get meta!"
So with that long introduction I was wondering if perhaps it would be worthwhile to get meta about the RD.Net site itself? What are the issues around using it? How would we like to change it? Is it/should it be a site with a wide open agenda or should it be more focused on a few specific issues relevant to atheism and science education?
Some specific issues I have in mind are the following but these are just mine and if this topic is accepted I'm advocating a fairly wide open discussion:
1) Why not have an Open Thread topic? Crooks and Liars and other blogs do this and it's great. Twice a day they start a new discussion that is then closed after 6 hours or so and within the guidelines of normal site usage is wide open. They will also initiate discussion by including a news item or music as part of the open thread but unlike other topics you can comment on whatever you want.
2) General tone. This site is more polite than 90% of the open sites on the Internet but that isn't a very high bar. Especially when we get the rare theist posting a question they are usually overwhelmed and they don't stick around. (I can understand the urge to overwhelm them, some of the questions are so lame it's hard to resist mocking them even for me). I think we've done a good job there but we could and should try to do better. What do other people think?
3) Should we divide the discussion topics into more categories? There have been several really basic questions lately. On the one hand I think this site should definitely be a place where anyone can come and ask a naive question about science and get a respectful, thoughtful answer. On the other hand perhaps it would make more sense to divide discussions into general science questions and deeper issues where those of us that want to get serious can do so.
Those are just three, my guess is that people will have many more so I will leave it there. I want to emphasize though let us not turn this into a bitch session about the site. It's the nature of users to complain but we should remember that the people maintaining the site do an amazing job and I'm sure are doing it for little or no pay.