Question of the Week: June 11, 2014

Jun 11, 2014

We would love your feedback this week on the new website!

Give us your ideas on how the website can best grow the secular movement, advocate for science in schools and the public debate, and make a real difference.




Winner and Winning Response:  Stephen of Wimbledon

Supporting science in schools needs to become a more positive political force. The NCSE (National Center for Science Education) has done a great job of defending science over the years but its approach tends to suffer from a weakness:

It can look defensive and, right or wrong, defensive actions tend to be viewed as negative because it looks like we’re handing the initiative to the attackers: We win in Dover, then we wait in the trenches for the next attack which comes in the new tactic of ‘academic freedom’.

What the RDFRS could be doing is getting some of our troops out of the trenches and pushing forwards.


To all who commented on our new website:  thank you for your input.

196 comments on “Question of the Week: June 11, 2014

  • I cannot access the latest comments. This was very useful at the previous address, but not here. Until I ‘crack’ this, the website is (for me) only about 40% of the old one.

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  • I always enjoyed the “likes” feature. It made me feel great when a comment i made was read and liked.

    I also NEED the latest comments as well as the list of my own comments that i could always access when I clicked on my own (or anyone else’s) avatar.

    I also do not like the amount of articles on the new site that do not have commenting as even an option.

    I realize there is a learning curve on any new product and am willing to stick out the transition while my brain acclimates to the new format. And, perhaps some of these things i mention are, in fact, already here and I just haven’t figured out how to find them.

    I like the enhanced toolbar above the comments, but am confused as i thought it was a philosophical decision to preclude pictures from comments (lest we look like facebook).

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  • I was glad to see the demise of the Discussion forum – it had become rather tired and seemed to only attract preachers, the close minded and people who can’t use a search engine to answer simple questions.

    I appreciate that it was, perhaps, the only on-line place where secular humanists could practice their debating skills with faith-heads on a regular basis.

    However, the RDFRS has always been clear that accommodationism was not on its agenda and the forum was dependent on people volunteering their time. In addition, the forum had evolved in a certain direction – aimed at a broad audience – and the RDFRS were therefore clearly finding it increasingly difficult to adopt policies that were easy to police, supported robust dialogue and attracting that wider audience.

    On balance I think this Site is better off without it. However, that doesn’t equate to us being better off without it. In the end I support the RDFRS’s political activities over other potential goals and that means being accessible to the majority.

    Those of us who like a good argument will need to find an additional home.

    Now that I have spelled out my only difficulty I can say that I love everything else. The new style, the links to other sites, the highlighting of secular behind-the-scenes workers who would otherwise go unrecognised, the front page links to other language sites … all excellent.


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  • Thanks for bringing up those points Pabmusic and crookedshoes.

    It may just be that I too haven’t yet learned to drive this new setup, and therefore haven’t been able to find them, but I’m also missing the “Edit” and “Delete” facilities.

    Overall though, it’s a much less fussy design.

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  • In response to the ‘What next?’ question:

    Supporting science in schools needs to become a more positive political force. The NCSE has done a great job of defending science over the years but its approach tends to suffer from a weakness:

    It can look defensive and, right or wrong, defensive actions tend to be viewed as negative because it looks like we’re handing the initiative to the attackers: We win in Dover, then we wait in the trenches for the next attack which comes in the new tactic of ‘academic freedom’.

    What the RDFRS could be doing is getting some of our troops out of the trenches and pushing forwards.

    What form could this attack take – and who are the real enemy?

    The new standards in science education – the National Science Education Standards (NSES) guidelines – in the United States needs support.

    Although established by the National Research Council the NSES influence over the states’ own science learning standards is starting to look patchy.

    The headline is that State-wide standardized curricula and testing are at stake where political activists are pushing back on the NSES guidance. The underlying story is that science and mathematics are the only subjects which guarantee young minds are exposed to critical thinking. What’s needed is direct action to support the uptake of the standard as close to the original intentions as possible.

    The NCSE, by its very nature, as an organisation that needs to stand a head and shoulders above the common herd of education charities in court houses would be risking the profile that it has worked so hard to build by being seen to actively propose certain policies rather than critique the results.

    The RDFRS, meanwhile, has the leadership profile to be very actively involved in providing encouragement, and leadership – though I suspect that resources are not so easy to come by …

    Can the RDFRS mobilise that activism? Now is the time to do it. There is no try*.


    with apologies to Yoda.

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  • articles that do not have commenting

    Yes, perplexing. I stop short of saying it is bait & switch, a tease.

    Remove “count indicator” if discussion and opinions are denied.

    I think there will be more visitors if said articles are open for comments.

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  • 8
    StickyWillie says:

    Like the new layout – a few bugs that could be ironed out as described by others but no doubt these will be seen to in due course. The site is fully responsive and almost works better on an iPhone. All in all, a good effort at modernising one of my favourite sites.

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  • 9
    david smith says:

    I would love to comment on how sectarianism effects those who come in contact with it on a daily basis. Being homeless and an atheist, having to live under the rules and dictates of Christian-owned homeless shelters has given me a whole new, but not totally shocking view on how narrow a world, and also how self-centered and hypocritical a world the sectarian world can be.

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  • The new layout is okay but I’m a lazy bugger and i don’t like change SO STOP IT but seriously i enjoy your site and get a lot from it, so as long as you continue to provide the same as before that’s cool by me.

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  • 12
    inquisador says:

    I agree with crooked shoes [like!]

    To add: – I miss the ability to sort comments in a long thread by different criteria. It was helpful in finding any given place in there. Also, why are comments no longer numbered?

    Overall i like the new site.

    Cool and jazzy. just like me. ahem.

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  • 13
    CdnMacAtheist says:

    Although I could sense that something was changing the last few months, it was still a shock to have Discussions just be killed off without a word of warning, or any explanation….

    Can the Discussions be made available as archives – with no new Comments – since there was a huge amount of history & information over 8 years which can be helpful to old & new readers?

    I’ll get used to the new website, but won’t be contributing as often, so farewell to many old ‘Discussion’ friends around the planet…. Mac.

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  • 14
    phil.kyson says:

    The new site looks fantastic. Haven’t been here for a while. I come back to this, Fantastic.
    The concept of asking a question is also great.
    So we just post any question on this blog and sit back, is that how it works?

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  • 16
    phil.kyson says:

    I post a fair bit of stuff on my Facebook page when it comes to science and atheism. What are the protocols for sharing information and articles on my Facebook page?

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  • 17
    alaskansee says:

    1) For starters the comment box is too far from the article, below the rest of the comments which can be in the hundreds. When commenting it is very hard to ensure you are accurately commenting on what was written without multiple lengthy scrolling.

    2) The previous redesign seemed to take away the ease of “replying”, only your name and the name of the person you commented on appears, the actual stuff that matters is cut so much most of the time you have to again scroll back to the comment just to ensure accuracy of your comment.

    3)The general design is a bad as the last version and still not as good as the first. Putting the least topical articles that never change at the top so that they have to be ignored every single time to get to the sections that do change. Perhaps a vertical split between the stuff RDnet wants to show us and the stuff we want to see?

    4)The dark background seems old fashioned and the title block at the top makes it look like a dozen people designed it, without any vision.

    5) On the positive side the reintroduction of the words “Reason Science” and the new “Progress” is a big big positive. Being able to remind posters that this is a Reason and Science web site is needed all too often.

    To the question “give us your ideas on how the website can best grow the secular movement”. This is normally a very tricky question but in this case just juggling your content around and bringing your design out of the early internet should be real easy, pick a good graphic designer, just one.

    and finally what’s with the “post comment” button’s location? How about UNDER THE COMMENT! I guest that was just another request for better layout/design.

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  • There are elements of design on this new site that I find to be a great improvement (such as the news articles that seem to come in and out of view) but generally I find it disappointing. I miss ready access to the comments. When I read the newspaper I usually make a beeline for the Letters to the Editor, as I really like to read comments by the man on the street as opposed to those by journalists who are paid to express a point of view.

    It’s easier to format answers without having to go through the complicated procedure of using > or*. It took me a while to get used to that aspect on the old site. It seems that being able to cut and paste from other comments is going to be just as easy and the results are more obvious to the observer.

    Is it possible to edit or delete after a comment has been posted? These are really important tools!

    I hope that the new layout will appeal to those with a contrary opinion as these debates provide some of the most interesting reading IMO. Unlike one of the comments above, I really liked the discussion threads.

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  • 20
    Katy Cordeth says:

    I had resolved to give up commenting as I haven’t been able to take to the new-look website at all. Since members’ input is now being sought, though, and the hoped-for grassroots boycott which would result in a reinstatement of the old site didn’t materialize, and since I’ve begun jonesing for my regular fix of the opinions of the poor Hellbound wretches who contribute to this forum and whose musings will represent unimpeachable evidence of their rejection of the Almighty when they stand before Him on their day of reckoning, I will eat a slice of umble pie and offer my own two cents regarding how this bolted horse might be corralled.

    I’ll offer some advice first: Sighs. Fellas, you should have consulted contributors before completely overhauling the site instead of waiting till it was finished to ask what we think. If you’d inquired from members first whether, for example, we wanted to be able to like other users’ posts, a consensus could’ve been reached among us and you would have saved yourself a bit of earache. One hopes that we on the obverse side of the looking glass are not viewed as entirely superfluous to requirements by those on the reverse.

    I am aware that none of the above could be regarded as advice. The following, howmever, is.

    Liking members’ comments. How am I supposed to know how brilliant or witty my offerings are without this facility? Yes, others can submit posts of their own expressing, in abbreviated form, ‘lots of love’ (that always seems somehow inappropriate on a discussion forum), or telling me they agree with my latest pearl of profundity, but then I feel I’m being rude if I don’t respond to these and it all becomes hideously embarrassing and British. It’s just so much easier being able to click like. I’ll go further and suggest a downvoting feature be implemented; you could do the same as other sites and make users sign in before they’re able to use it if you’re worried about its being abused.

    A chronological comments stream. This is a no-brainer. No one wants to have to enter individually thread after thread in order to view new posts; it’s massively time consuming and a royal pain in the ass. Discussions can have a long life, but as new threads are posted it’s all too easy for older ones to be forgotten by all but a few, unless comments also appear prominently near, or ideally on, the main page. Despite appearances, this is not Facebook; RDnet’s target audience, surely, is those with an attention span longer than that of a goldfish, or Sun reader.

    Permit members to link to their own blogs. I should say that I don’t have a blog of my own so haven’t any personal stake in this. I honestly do not understand why when someone includes a link to their personal website, the mods step in and delete it. I thought the goal was to create some sort of atheist ‘community’. You guys’ rallies are great and all, but non-believers in Mogadishu or Timbuktu might find it difficult to attend a shindig in Washington, D. C. or Los Angeles. The reality in the modern age is that communities based on ideology—if we’re talking about those ones for which membership is voluntary—tend to exist online, and openness is essential here; anything else is counterproductive. I really think the site is shooting itself in the foot with this. A simple disclaimer on the ‘legally binding’ terms and conditions page to the effect that RDFRS does not endorse members’ views and is not responsible for the content of any website or blog which might be linked to would be sufficient to distance the Foundation from any controversial links. Isn’t that Faircloth cat a lawyer?

    I imagine a comment that went “Hello everyone. My name is Malala. I am fourteen years of age and live in Pakistan. My government is shortly to restrict access to western sites such as yours but you can still get in touch with me and my friends by visiting my website, here [Link to personal blog removed by moderater]. We hope to hear from all of you soon!!”

    Discussions. Bring these back, natch. I read something the other day—don’t ask me where, I think it was in one of the suggestions accessed by clicking the question mark at the bottom left—in which someone said they’d had an email from the site saying Discussions had been kiboshed because there weren’t sufficient moderators to monitor it. Now, this isn’t one of those websites where when you go to have a look at an article’s comments you find the tally stands at something like 3,500 and the thing was only posted a couple hours ago, and when you do try to read a few, the message Five new comments have just been submitted. Show comes up. I think it’s fair to say that our little oasis is a small one. On a slow day—bearing in mind all things are relative—fewer than fifty comments might be submitted; the rest of the time, what, about 200 max? This is hardly Mickey and the self-replicating floor mops. Rope in one of the interns, guys, because you can’t have a discussion site without discussions.

    Part of me suspects that, as I believe happened a few years ago, the moderating staff has been relieved of its duties or has gone on strike or something (If you haven’t and are reading this, I hope you don’t get mad at me, because believe me I’m on your side, as I hope every site member would be if it came to that). This would also explain why articles weirdly keep getting posted which cannot be commented on. Give us a shout to let us know you’re alive and well, mods. Twitter is good for that sort of thing, if RDnet has gagged you. I don’t Tweet, and my name is unique I believe; you have my ‘legally binding’ permission to set up a temporary Twitter account using my Jen Hancock if you so wish in order to blow any whistle that requires blowing. Fight the power.

    I’ve just been looking at the updated rules and regulations. Has RDnet always “use[d] session and login cookies, which help us keep track of when a person is logged in and determine the content or sites users link to, and which services people use,” or is this a new thing?

    I tend to remain logged out unless posting a comment, but since the site has a stay signed in capability, I imagine there are a fair number of members whose entire browsing history is available to RDnet staff. Kinda glad right now that I’m the paranoid, cookie-deleting type. If I want to chill out with a viewing of Barely Legal (18+) Cabaña Boys or chat with some of my politically like-minded pals on I’d prefer if this was kept between me and my laptop. It’s just a thought, but why not leave the routine monitoring of internet users’ activity to the totalitarians? A site such as this one should be free from that sort of intrusion. Atheism is illegal in about half the world, I would guess. An oasis shouldn’t have CCTV cameras peering down from the palm trees.

    What else. Oh yeah, email notifications don’t work for me. The ability to edit would be a plus—the one-hour editing window we used to have was great. The Spellchecker is temperamental. Has all content from the previous version of the site gone permanently to the cornfield or will it be returned? The writing on comments is wicked small and could be darker; some of the older members might have a problem here.

    That’s all I can think of for now. Please donate the copy of My Appetite for Wonder to the inner-city library or school of RDFRS staff’s own choosing. Thank you.

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  • “I was glad to see the demise of the Discussion forum – it had become rather tired and seemed to only attract preachers, the close minded and people who can’t use a search engine to answer simple questions.”

    I think a lot of the discussions were like that. I usually just ignored those for the most part. But some of them were good and I think it was a terrible decision to leave them off. If you didn’t like the discussion topics the simple answer is just create some you think are actually interesting.


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  • “Fellas, you should have consulted contributors before completely overhauling the site instead of waiting till it was finished to ask what we think. ”

    This isn’t just a question of basic common sense or showing respect for your user community, although it is that, but if you had a competent UI designer on the team that created this new piece of shit web site rather than a bunch of graphic designers who know all about colors and fonts but don’t know or care much about how people actually use software, then that competent UI designer would have told you to follow best practices and get input from your users about what they like and don’t like BEFORE you start redesigning the site.

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  • I would like the option to edit comments for a few minutes after posting as I inadvertently posted before I had finished and have spotted a punctuation error.

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  • 28
    Y14073056 says:

    Let us Tag People in reply

    Bring back the Edit function

    Teach the system what a weak password really is. I gave it a complicated new password and it called it weak. I dont believe this ahahha

    and of course ask us next time beforehand, less headaches for everyone

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  • 32
    cmirana says:

    It reveals the truth in what is false and the false in what is true.
    It is informative, including scientific topics.
    It is unbiased.

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  • I think it would have been unproductive to have tried to get a design consensus beforehand, it’s far better to take the design initiative and then road test.

    Witness, the nit picking here and now!

    It’s as if some people want to take over the site; change happens, get used to it.

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  • Under ABOUT I was unaware the RDF was focused ONLY on changes in America – I think your focus and influence should target a broader audience possibly with the US as target #1.

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  • suggest a downvoting feature be implemented

    Disagree. I’ve the opinion RD site is too small and personal for such a feature.

    comments is wicked small…some of the older members might have a problem

    In agreement with this point, at the very least, groggy morning eyes fight to focus.

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  • Your first point, my thought as well.

    change happens, get used to it.

    No one likes having the rug pulled out from under them, but yes, acclimation can occur.

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  • Katy Cordeth:

    Nice to see your correct use of the expression “umble pie”.

    Umbles, or numbles, being the entrails of cattle; the cheapest form of fodder, at one time fed to the poor and destitute.

    Nowadays, I believe it goes to the pigs; heavens, how we’ve moved on!

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  • Discussions. Bring these back, natch. I read something the other day—don’t ask me where, I think it was in one of the suggestions accessed by clicking the question mark at the bottom left—in which someone said they’d had an email from the site saying Discussions had been kiboshed because there weren’t sufficient moderators to monitor it.

    Yes, that was something I posted in a different thread since (at the time) there seemed to be no other place to discuss it. Here’s the message I received from support:

    Discussions have been removed. The time and personnel required to moderate them are simply not available to us at this time. Given our current resources, we felt that focusing on high-quality reputable content was a more efficient use of those resources.

    I have since been told that an archive of past discussions will be made available “soon.”
    I feel sad for those who feel the discussions were useless because they “seemed to only attract preachers, the close minded and people who can’t use a search engine to answer simple questions.” Yes, there were certainly a lot of repetitive debates between close-minded theists and adamant atheists, but the discussions also provided a wonderful way to get information and opinions from people who knew a lot more about science than I do. Sure, when I posted some detailed questions about evolution in a discussion thread last year there were some rude responses along the lines of “go read a book and don’t waste our time,” but most of the responses were extremely thoughtful and really helped be understand a lot of what I had been struggling with. I have plenty of additional questions I would love to ask about evolution and other science-related topics, but now that opportunity has been taken away from me (on this web site, at least).

    Perhaps I’m in the extreme minority, but I didn’t come here just to read the latest news in the world of religion, science, politics, etc. There are plenty of other site on the web for that. I came here to engage with other like-minded people and have the chance to continue my ongoing education that started when I left fundamental Christianity behind and came out as an atheist. And that education comes not just from reading what others say but also by asking questions.

    So, yeah. The site as it currently stands is pretty useless to me.

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  • How to improve the site?

    Bring back the discussions.

    Edit facility.

    Like facility.

    Navigation to older threads.

    Otherwise I don’t care what colours are used, or the particular layout, as long as I can find my way around. I’ve been here for a few years and now we’ve gone back to the old formatting system of when I first joined, but I’ll learn to adapt, – unevolve !

    The main way to improve the site is to keep the content strong! Not everyone reads Nature, Science Daily or Lancet. Nor should they have to.

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  • Having read that moderating the discussions forum was not considered a priority, I can (now) see some reasons for ending them. There were threads that were repetitive & did not add much (that didn’t stop me posting on them though!!).

    However, the forums did seem to provide an outlet for atheists / etc who were just ‘coming out’ – or not out, but living in such a place that forums like this was their only support. Maybe other aspects of RDFRS / secular movements can provide that. But some places (e.g., the maybe caricatured small town Bible belt US?) sounded bleak & I’m sorry the forums are no more for folk like that.

    But I also wonder – how much was the forum closure a desired strategic choice, or a forced decision due to lack of resources?

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  • 42
    alaskansee says:

    Nobody’s perfect, as we can clearly see from these changes. No one wants to “take over the site” because they answered the question they were asked. I also can’t see any requests for no progress just better progress. Your straw men have blow away.

    Nit picking where? What comments deserve ignoring? That’s part of the process too, THAT THEY ASKED US FOR! Just saying nit picking is worse that saying nothing. Dissatisfied but mysterious and useless?

    Some of the changes are truly terrible and without any REASON. I can find very little nit picking. Did you realise you were commenting on a thread where they asked for comments on the new design?

    Also if the “nit picking” changes are easy what difference does it make getting it absolutely right? It many be harder to change more important stuff but they’ll never know what stuff unless we tell them!

    Personally I feel there is much room for improvement and have no trouble with change for the better, get used to it!

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  • 43
    Imperius says:

    If your goal is to turn atheism into yet another middle-of-the road, corporate, PC, generic progprop outfit, then your new direction is fine. But if you want to attract smart, free-thinking, interesting, passionate but often contrarian people, then this site is going south rather rapidly. Atheism and rationalism do not have to imply beigocracy!

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  • 45
    HMS Beagle says:

    The web site could use a science question and answer section.
    This could be directed for young school children up to adult enthusiasts.
    The section could also have a picture and/or video answer.
    ie: if the answer was fossil then a picture of a fossil or a short video of a fossil find would be available.

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  • Perhaps things will improve with time, but at the moment there isn’t enough content to keep me going. The site is aesthetically pleasing but more substance is required.

    Another nit to pick; I agree with Katy Cordeth regarding the faint script being difficult to read.

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  • The most glaring ommision is the removal in it’s entirety of the “Get Involved” menu option, including the Discussions section. Does this indicate the direction the site intends taking? One of the most wonderful things about the Internet as a medium for sharing information is its’ interactive capability. Eiminate this and you are left with a static and somewhat boring shop window.

    Yes the News articles are interesting, but many other sites have the same or better – and few of the ones here are originals. What was original was the intelligent and insightful discussions.

    Aside from that it’s hard to see the improvements. Does it load any faster? I don’t think so. Easier to navigate? Nope. So really, what are the benefits? Perhaps if those behind the redesign could tell us what the goals were we could discuss whether they have been achieved. As a user I am disappointed. I’m well aware that many users will hate new things to begin with, but in this case I believe the sentiments are entirely justified.

    As a postript – I have seen the comment that the reason for removing discussions was the amount of time being spent moderating them. Perhaps a community-moderated system would be better? The ones I have seen work quite well.

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  • 48
    Cairsley says:

    Hello, John. You make excellent points there.

    Moderating discussions may be a problem for the website managers under present arrangements, but, as you suggest, this can be dealt with more easily by way of a community-based system.

    But what this revamp of the website design seems to be aimed at is a change in the direction of the website away from the on-line community of freethinkers committed to reason and science that it has been hitherto to a website devoted to promoting political action with regard to such commendable things as secularism and science in schools ‒ a big change in what the owner and managers of the website see to be the use to which they want it to be put. As Fergie mentions above, political action is much narrower and more local than the topics that have generally been the matter of discussions here.

    This Question of the Week seems even to suggest that this website should now be devoted to dealing with the peculiar problems concerning secularism and science education found in the United States of America. A commendable aim, to be sure, but is it necessary to eviscerate this rarest of things, an on-line community of freethinkers fostering reason and science, in order to use the website for political action? We were all kept in the dark about the changes just made to the website and the first word we get from the managers about these changes, this “new website!” (complete with exclamation mark), mentions nothing of the reasons for the changes made but asks us what we think of it (not how it may be improved) and how it can be used to promote “the secular movement, advocate for science in schools and the public debate, and make a real difference.” One notes the political exhortation.

    We who have enjoyed the rational ambience of this website until now do not own it and can only be grateful for the on-line experience it has afforded us. Many of us may like the new political approach of the website, whereas others of us may find this new approach too local and particular to be of interest or to justify the use of time here. One may even wonder whether there is something like a party line, as yet undisclosed, which those who remain here will be expected to toe, for the sake of politcal discipline.

    I for one have learnt here more than I can say and have immensely enjoyed the many interesting and insightful exchanges of thoughts that have taken place on this website. It has been an excellent forum, complete with all the imperfections to be expected of anything human, and I am grateful for that to the Richard Dawkins Foundation and all who have participated in it. Being no political animal, however, I must now bid you all farewell and take my leave.

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  • Oh Cairsley, don’t jump the gun …it may improve given time. It’s a shame that they’ve taken away the best part of our little oasis, but I’m hopeful that they’ll re-install the parts we miss!

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  • 51
    CdnMacAtheist says:

    I posted this 2 days ago, also just posted a ‘Like’ Reply to Katy’s great comment, but I can’t see either here – wth?

    There goes 4 years of commentary, a great meeting place & many friends around the planet…. Mac…. 8-(

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  • Hi Cairlsey, first thanks for your comments. The quality and class of your entire post, (along with many others that came before it), makes the point far more eloquently than I ever could, that the real value of this site lay in the users who participated here.

    However with time to digest all you say I do understand that the sites’ owners owe us, the users, precisely nothing. They have an agenda; to promote secularism and reason in public spaces. A noble and worthwhile agenda to be sure. But that obviously means any additions to or omissions from the website must be judged against this yardstick.

    Dropping the discussions section probably means I won’t be coming back often. RDFRS had become one of the small number of sites I visit every day, and while I enjoy browsing the news stories and other articles here the real draw was the intelligent debate and dialogue – sadly, quite a rare thing on the Internet. So while I wish RDFRS all the best in their endeavor I will have to get my daily talk fix somewhere else 🙂

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  • Hi CDNMacAtheist

    We haven’t removed the 2 posts you mention here, and can see them both above. If you do a page search on your user name, you should find them. If not, could you alert the technical team via the blue bubble with the question mark in it, please? You’ll find that at the bottom left of each page.


    The mods

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  • Cairsley: One may even wonder whether there is something like a party
    line, as yet undisclosed, which those who remain here will be expected
    to toe, for the sake of politcal discipline.

    Noooooo! We know it looks as if a lot has changed, but the rules of the site have not. Users are still free to argue their position, whatever that may be and regardless of whether we happen to agree with them. All we ask, regardless of the view being expressed, is that users argue rationally, analytically and civilly and don’t get bad-tempered, rude or aggressive to those who disagree with them.

    Hope that helps to reassure you on that point, at least!

    The mods

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  • Getting feedback from users before you change the functionality of software is not the same thing as requiring a “design consensus”. Getting user input is just following the scientific method. Technical people and designers don’t view sites the same way as average users. To do truly good design it’s essential that you ask the actual users, not just go by the intuitions of people who are experts in designing and writing software. This has been shown countless times in various empirical studies of software development; getting input is essential to a good design and most developers don’t do it because they are lazy and because they would rather design a site (like the current redesign) that looks slick even if it doesn’t do much of what many users liked the most. Of course you can never please everyone that doesn’t mean you just give up and don’t ask for input at all.

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  • You make a great point Steve, we were one of the few places and atheist in a hostile environment could come to and it does not have to just be the Bible belt, there are atheists in Islamic areas as well. If we are to promote atheism we should be in a position to help others.

    As for some of the other comments, I agree some discussions were stale, although part of that were down to those who accepted them to start with, perhaps a little more selectivity if we ever get them back.

    If, as has been suggested, resources are the reason for the changes, then there is nothing we can do but if it is just a policy decision I hope it will be reconsidered. I am not a regular poster on the forum but am a regular reader and I would suggest there are a many others like that. The forum can be an interesting place for us all, even if we do not post on it.

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  • 60
    CdnMacAtheist says:

    My original 2 posts have now shown up, but I couldn’t see them for 1.5 days, despite reloading the page several times, both from the RDFRS e-mail link & from my Toolbar link. I don’t know why the Posts didn’t show up? Mac.

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  • The only comment I can make is: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
    This website is a travesty on the old one. It lacks the features and useability of the old site. It lacks the content of the old site, and in return for this we get a slicker interface that avoids the fact that it hides a lesser truth.

    How American!

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  • That’s the main feature of the site. Apart from RD himself, it’s become totally American. Just checked the spell-checker and find it does British English, so not quite totally. As a campaign vehicle ‘moving’ to America is an understandable strategic decision. That does mean that its usefulness will depend on what the Secular Coalition does to advance secular causes in the United States.

    So, we can expect reports of how this or that state legislature was lobbied, a school board confronted, a demonstration held to protest the firing of an atheist employee. This will provide the content. Throwing a selection of media stories on the front page, with a not very enthusiastic invitation to make a comment, will not be very effective.

    So, the change from talkboard to campaigning organization has to be far more profound than a re-design of the website.

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  • 64
    inquisador says:

    Here’s a question:-

    On the previous website there was a link to the website before that, referred to as the ‘old site’; an archive of several years of news, debates, reviews, comments etc. Some users still went there on occasions; even continuing or reopening old discussions.

    Is there a link to all that in this new format, or has it now all gone?

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  • In reply to JC Sheepdog @ 4.11 am 14.6.’14:

    I entirely agree with what you say.

    Over the years this forum has gradually become more cohesive and easy to navigate, but, despite teething problems being inevitable, this latest design seems to have resulted in its fragmentation.

    Perhaps the designers need to take a leaf out of nature’s book: if the evolution of a species doesn’t result in its improvement, one way or another, that species will eventually go extinct.

    Ooh! I’m getting heavy now.

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  • “an archive” inquisador

    Years of comments have vanished as though they never existed. I notice that some threads are still active, so some comments survive from the newer old site. In following an argument it was also useful to click on a username and see the posting history. That’s gone too.

    Perhaps the moderators will make the archive available, as was done with the ‘Old Site’.

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  • I agree. I’ll say it with fewer words: this new site sucks. There is nothing here that is in any way an improvement over the old site except the design (fonts, layout, colors, etc.) is better. But even saying that is too strong, design is or at least should primarily be about usability so the superficial aspects of the design are improved but everything else is worse. And I think this is not just a single example, it’s a continuous trend of Dawkins in particular and New Atheism in general going from being a true intellectual movement to just another group of celebrities. Granted celebrities who are smarter than the average celebrity but being smarter than Justin Bieber is a pretty low bar for someone like Richard Dawkins or even Sam Harris. It is however, a proper goal for some of the other “Secular Stars” (e.g., Dan Fincke).

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  • I agree about the American bias. I think it goes hand in hand with dumbing down. IMO “dumbing down” and “catering to an American audience” are more or less synonymous. However, fyi things like the spell checker are usually part of your browser and OS not the specific site. I think you will find that if you go to any other site (at least one that doesn’t have it’s own sophisticated editing system such as some of the tools you can use on sites like Wikipedia) the spell checker functionality remains the same regardless of the site.

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  • Reply to bonnie @10.40 am today:

    Thanks for the link.

    I’m beginning to think that I’m missing tricks on this new set-up; perhaps the facilities I’m asking to have reinstalled are already here, and I just haven’t found them yet.

    If that is the case, please accept my apologies Mods; if not, my requests remain.

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  • 72
    BillDixon says:

    I started using the site about a month ago, because I found that it gave access in a very unconstrained way to thinkers and their thoughts through the ‘Discussions’ section. It was flattering and rather fun that the moderators chose to post one of my discussions, interesting to get some comments and replies and personally satisfying to get to know a few of the contributors. I joined in by commenting on other discussions and it all seemed rather convivial as well as valid: what I think Jacob Bronowski was talking about when he coined the phrase ‘democracy of the intellect’. Richard Dawkins is one of those thinkers but not the only one.
    Perhaps I am still learning to navigate around the new site, but it seems to me that the ‘intellectual watering-hole’ is not there in the same open, free-wheeling sort of way. A website ought to be the perfect venue for this sort of thing- please can we have it back?
    Bill Dixon

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  • 73
    BillDixon says:

    Ahh…just seen it….

    “Discussions have been removed. The time and personnel required to moderate them are simply not available to us at this time. Given our current resources, we felt that focusing on high-quality reputable content was a more efficient use of those resources.”

    Reputable….I can buy Scientific American in the shops…
    ……………………..bye bye………………..

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  • 78
    CdnMacAtheist says:

    Thanks Bonnie….

    RDFRS – can we have a link to the ‘new old’ site please?

    Bring back: Discussions, Comment History, Comment #’s, Edit, Delete, Like (& Dislike) buttons….

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  • 79
    Imperius says:

    Right, and the hyper-corporate, PC style, with its heavy-handed “diversity” propaganda is a dead giveaway that the site has been taken over by American “progressives”. I could be more specific about who these people are, but let’s just say that it’s a particular, very powerful demographic who specialize in aggressively re-engineering societies. It looks like they’re going to try to do with atheism what they’ve done with previous causes they support. The problem is that atheism isn’t inherently leftist or progressive, so to see another group falling into the clutches of “the Cathedral” (the vast, transnational PC memetic empire) in this way is disappointing and somewhat nauseating, but hardly surprising. RIP New Atheism; it’s time for free-thinkers to move on to neoreactionary atheism!

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  • 81
    This Is Not A Meme says:

    The old format was better for lurking, contributing, and the movement.

    Movements require social hubs. This site has functioned very effectively as such. It has never functioned as a primary content provider. I’ve almost never seen a story debut here. Singularity Hub, i09, Reddit… RDFRS is not going to compete with the internet for content. RDFRS is a critical social hub to the movement. People come out of the closet here (a primary part of Dawkins’ strategy). Where else can they do that? Many people lose their faith or articulate their atheism as a result of Dawkins’ books, and this is where they can first express themselves in a meaningful, personal way.

    We have some preachy flame wars, but we also have scientists and other brilliant types. I’ve learned more from discussions on this site than I have from articles, because of generous and thoughtful contributions. I’ve also had a chance to lend my brilliance when the room could use it. I’ve seen my thoughts influence the productions of others, giving me a feeling of pride but also humility to the community. Many of our contributors have their own circles that they spread ideas too.

    Mods always did a great job, and I wondered about the labor. Often, modding can be done by the group, placing mod powers in the hands of proven contributors (Katy, Crookedshoes, that communist puppy, Alan, Peter Grant, and other recognizable names) who don’t mind deleting a post when they see noise. That’s rightly a community burden. Whatever the case is with labor, I did not join for the content, only the discussion, and as a result I have been much more active in the movement IRL. There is a wide appeal for people to join because RDRFS has cultivated a following, and now we are being nullified.

    I’ve had critiques of format changes in the past, almost completely kept to myself. This however is a critical error. Let’s just hope it’s temporary.

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  • I joined in by commenting on other discussions and it all seemed rather convivial as well as valid: what I think Jacob Bronowski was talking about when he coined the phrase ‘democracy of the intellect’.

    My thinking as well. We had the option of really lengthy replies unlike those on other sites such as The Friendly Atheist, where replies are limited to a few sentences. The writer had a chance to develop their thoughts instead of offering a sound bite and leaving.

    The Discussion topics opened up areas not covered in the mainstream science and atheism threads, and I really miss the opportunity of being forced to consider certain issues. Not all discussions took my fancy but hey, it’s a democracy!

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  • I also spend time, and sometimes write on, a photographic forum dedicated and run by people who use cameras made by a small but expensive German manufacturer. There are not many such, so it is not hard to find.

    It has most of the features that are lamented as lost here, except for the broad form discussion. It has the sense of community that this forum had, repeat, had.

    It also accepts a limited amount of advertising, and the world does not end. Moderation is undertaken by knowledgeable and effective forum members, and while discussion is lively, it remains civil.

    I would commend this to the people running this forum to look at to see what can be done on an even smaller budget than I suspect this forum enjoys.

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  • It seemed as if the site has been ailing for the past 6 months. The comments were sluggish and topics were not rotated as quickly as I would have liked. I guess we have to take their word for it and attribute the difficulties to a high demand for moderators ( who are prepared to work for nothing it would appear.) I fear that many regulars will lose interest and depart for good.

    Regarding your farewell to friends across the planet I find this is one of the most sad features of the RDFRS recent demise/downgrade. The fact that people across the globe could come together and exchange ideas in great depth was the highlight…. to my un-technically abled mind at least. Commenting here was my only venture onto an online forum.

    I’m trying to remain optimistic and think that the demand for a continued existence must be too strong to ignore, but I have niggling doubts I’m afraid.

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  • To echo others, I don’t come here for the articles but to read – and occasionally participate in – the ensuing discussions, which are usually far more enlightening and often also present a cogent opposing view to the thrust taken by the journalist who wrote it. The fact that there are now numerous articles that do not allow comment will definitely make me a less frequent visitor (it already has in fact) as I often visit just to see how conversations are getting on. I note that many, if not all, of these non-comment stories seem to be from patheos and I wondered if the lack of comment was part of some agreement to make use of content? Less resource intensive to just lift content en-masse?

    I didn’t contribute much to the Discussions but I enjoyed dipping in to read and it’s another thing I miss. As others have said, some kind of user moderation would be preferable to dropping it altogether. Other sites with less knowledgeable and erudite clientele seem to manage it so it shouldn’t be beyond our wit. In fact, it was partly what I saw as excessive moderation by way of having to submit discussion topics for consideration/approval that put me off playing a bigger part in the discussions. Frankly, I’d welcome a slightly looser format.

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  • ‘Cross-fit video’

    Took me a bit to realize this was Poe. After all, women have “lose weight the biblical way”, and new hip-buffed preachers are replacing the 3-pieces.

    The ‘american jesus’ guy asks if christians might find offense with the video. Funny, that did not even occur to me, but why should it?

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  • Having to reply to myself since there appears to be no edit function. Just had to pick up the point about articles that we can’t comment on to point out the one about the recent Cosmos series. No story – it simply quotes the final line and asks what we thought of the series. Except we can’t say what we thought of the series here so it’s utterly pointless.

    If the intention is to encourage people to sign up to patheos, I’m actually considering it. Since this site re-launched most of the articles which have drawn my interest have been patheos ones.

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  • I wish this site and all here well in the future.

    I cannot, however, begin to understand how such an intellectually impoverished and impoverishing job has been done on the upgrade. How so much that was good and functional could have been lost. It would be nice to know if this is the result of simple financial impoverishment, a lack of volunteers, a lack of steer from the top or simple, youthful, exuberant incompetence.

    All are fixable with some honesty and effort, but I suspect the problem may be blend of all three and no admission of the size of the problem will be forthcoming.

    For what they are worth my recomendations are that we need a site like the one we have just left behind with some features grafted on from the first, e.g. page numbering to allow for long standing accumulating discussions. This latter at least acknowledges that there are key concepts and problems that will never be finished with. The crass amnesiac mode we have been living with in the last iteration and consolidated by this latest pass, produces the horrid feeling of making no progress in thinking as the same topics are reposted and earlier insights trampled in the eagerness to post rather than think more.

    Perhaps the problem is my old brain. I fully utilise the many routes to access information. I employ a messy desk strategy to be reminded of things (the same old things) again and again. I use five or more different approaches to recall the same facts and thoughts, depending on what neurons were fritzed by last nights shiraz. I am more lost now; informatioon is more lost and losable now, than ever before. I like reading what I and other people wrote on x or y in the past; how we’ve changed; how we’ve learned. Last re-inventioon we were at risk of losing the stunning wealth of great thinking that had built up when the “front pages” ruled and the archived “old site” was created. The loss now is just as great, just as wasteful and it saddens me more than perhaps anything.

    Site designers here also need to understand properly how brains work, how we wire to accommodate things like websites. Neural plasticity isn’t unlimited. There are only so many times we can re-learn how to do things. Anarchist that I am, (if it ain’t broke, break it) the clever thing about books is that the neural mechanisms for cognising, Janet and John or Dr Seuss books is the same now as 50 years ago. Thats powerful. It leaves the brain freer to spend more time thinking rather than struggling to understand. My big fear is that this isn’t a simple misunderstanding about how cognition happens but a policy change about site function.

    Apart from these prescriptions I won’t be making any further inputs to site for the forseeable future. I will drop by occasionally in case money or common sense prevails, but until the magnitude of the problem is fully accepted up top, no real progress will happen.

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  • 97
    Katy Cordeth says:

    Quite. It’s an interesting if intrue fact that the original recipe for this entrée was developed between the years 590 A.D. and 604 A.D. by the then occupier of the office of Bishop of Rome. His agnates improved upon it (through another fifteen generations), and a highly profitable Catholic-owned chain of bakeries named in his honor and serving offal-based, artery-clogging pastries eventually came into being.

    A chain that exists to this day and which, because of its religious status and connections to several influential fans of inexpensive lard-saturated political bigwigs, pays nary a cent in taxes.

    This organisation also sells—although to my knowledge has never constructed an outlet from—various sweetmeats.

    Catholics… If they aren’t fiddling with children, they’re luring them to their gingerbread establishments to cannibalize them. Probably.

    Apologies to anyone who saw the tally on this thread go from 96 to 97 and decided to trawl through all the posts they already read about a hundred times in search of a new needle in this particular haystack.

    Hey. Architects. That’s right, I’m talkin’ to you. Number the comments, or make the email notification thing work, because it doesn’t.

    Sweet Sean Hannity, RDSRF staff, do something… anything… to this newly fakakta site to give us loyal members of the Dawkiban reason to stick around. Stop posting articles we can’t comment on for one thing. A story about Ann Widdecombe appeared yesterday on which commenting wasn’t allowed. Have you heard the myth of Tantalus?

    That Hemant Mehta guy has something on Dawkins, doesn’t he? Is it photographs of the professor secretly receiving the Eucharist, or attending a Jonas Brothers concert? Don’t give in to blackmail, Richard. David Letterman got through it, you can too.

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  • 99
    Katy Cordeth says:

    Not Like, exactly. Not Dislike. Agree seems apposite under the circumstances, but might be taken as somehow approving of no more input from the person in question (still super impressed he saw the Quarrymen in concert before they changed their name and gained success as the Monkees), an eventuality as objectionable to the senses as the absence of the San Francisco fellow in the beret, or that Australian nit, or many others.

    Apropos of nothing, here is a little song. Here’s another one if the first was a bit sad.

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  • In reply to Katy. @ 12.57 16.6.

    Hello Katy.

    Yes, it would appear that the ethos of this forum has undergone somewhat of a sea change.

    I wonder if the old man knows about it; and if so, what he thinks; and if not, why not?

    I’ve also been wondering about what’s happened to certain key individuals associated with RDFRS: Mike Cornwell, and Mr Faircloth for example.

    I’m prepared to hang on in, because it may be teething problems, but it’s not looking too good at present I’m afraid.

    Feed back was requested of subscribers, but it doesn’t appear to be receiving much reciprocation.

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  • Where are the edit/delete facilities please?

    Even Shakespeare had to alter things sometimes.

    And in any case, these exchanges shouldn’t be occurring here but in the main body of the website.

    Glad you finally got through Ms Cordeth.

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  • An article has appeared about Christians having a worse time than Communists and Nazis, but there’s no comment facility; this is so frustrating!

    I actually admire Ann Widdecombe for her courage and outspokenness and would very much like to say something in that vein.

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  • 104
    mcarp0 says:

    Ok, yeah this is where I am as well. I would say I feel like I’m in the dark now. I remember way back when I used to come here daily to take pulse of the atheism/theism. I don’t feel like I can do that now as all the lights are off. We used to be able to read the news on, see what people felt about it, who apposed, who agreed, what insights there were and sometimes Richard would chime in. Now its as if all that is off. I’m very sad. I like Jerry Coyne’s site, its the closest thing I know about where I can get that old kind of pulse but while I like Jerry a lot I feel I mostly get his opinion of the world rather than I used to get the opinion of the world from many points of view at I really really miss that.

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  • 105
    mcarp0 says:

    It seemed like my message was limited in length as the typing bit quit working. Anyway shouldn’t a community here be important? I feel like we’ve lost that.


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  • Date order for Secular Stars and Science Says please.

    It’s frustating to click the back arrow then go back to find a different set of articles.

    Also a bit more description before we have to go to Patheos to find its irrelevent to non americans.

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  • “Feed back was requested of subscribers, but it doesn’t appear to be receiving much reciprocation.”

    When I unsubscribed from site emails I made it quite clear I was unhappy with the way things have gone, although I doubt it will be looked at or considered. They did at least reply to my complaint, stating that there were not enough moderators and they were concentrating on high class articles.

    I am not in a position to know if there are a shortage of moderators but they are certainly not concentrating on high class articles, one of the first to appear after my email from them was about the computer that passed the Turing test, followed by several comments showing this to be fake.

    Unfortunately I feel this site has outlived its usefulness, unless there is a radical change.

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  • Reply to Stephen Mynett, June 16 @ 6.18 am.

    I hope you’re wrong about this site losing its usefulness; but you’re certainly not about it needing radical rectification.

    I don’t visit solely to comment, I do so in order to engage in discussion and learn.

    If the policy is to drive subscribers like yours truly away, they’re doing an excellent job.

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  • 110
    bonnie says:

    no comment facility, frustrating

    If you really need to scratch that itch, you can try posting here.

    Godless Guru

    At one point, GG article was revived (see post 12), and eventually became (albeit briefly) an ‘open thread’.

    Would the mods allow such a watering hole here. I feel sullen, grey matter atrophying, from not reading opinions, critical thinkers with hard facts, and everything in between.

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  • @Katy, jun16 1.44am.

    Typically I cannot reply as there is a limit to dependent indents.

    Perfect cultural references as always… I feel the same as you. I’ve learned lots from you all and this is harder than I thought.

    But its like the site has alzheimers. When it kicks off you have to start saying bye bye early whilst you still can.

    If only we could roll back time. If only we could persuade the one lonely moderator/staff member left, that they could always turn the last site back on…’s hoping.

    meanwhile…last post.

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  • I don’t think the site has ever really recovered from the body blow it suffered at the last “upgrade”. I’m sure there are some improvements in this latest version, but it will take time to find them and there will need to be plenty of them to return us to the place we were in pre-c.2011. So if anyone is thinking of jumping ship, I’d say wait awhile to see if things settle down.

    But to add my pennyworth, I’m going to list those points I agree with – all made above by others:

    Text is too light and difficult to read.

    I too come here mainly for the comments – comments from fellow RDF members. Articles which you can’t comment are on are not so interesting.

    No like facility.

    Having comments on other comments below each other seems like a good idea, but, as others have said, how can we be expected to pick up on replies to other comments when the number of comments has moved on by 50 or so?

    No numbering on comments.

    Much too American and much too Political with a capital P. This is the way the site has been going for a while now and I don’t like it at all.

    The personal discussion section was important, though I take the point it was often repetitive. But where else could someone coming out as an atheist for the first time, get such positive feedback and encouragement?

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  • phil rimmer, June 16 @ 7.56:

    Nice to know that you, Katy and others are hanging on in; makes me feel a bit less isolated.

    The old site would act as a good stopgap measure, and give the – single moderator? – time to do the necessary work.

    So, indeed, let’s hope.

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  • 118
    bonnie says:

    date order for…


    Helter Skelter, disorienting, as with strobe lights. Never seen anything like that at other sites, read: fail, fix.

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  • I agree with those who have voiced concerns about the emphasis on American issues. I am American and we are already insulated too much in this place regarding international affairs. I want international content and I want to hear from an international group of commenters with their take on these situations. I have found great value in a diversity of opinions here and have modified my views on certain issues due to the input of atheists from different countries.

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  • “I am American and we are already insulated too much in this place regarding international affairs. I want international content and I want to hear from an international group of commenters with their take on these situations. I have found great value in a diversity of opinions here and have modified my views on certain issues due to the input of atheists from different countries.”

    Laurie, this is a very good point but it works both ways. America gets bad press, often wrongly so, in much of Europe and part of this is we are given false views of American thinking – the Bible-belt and faith brigade are very loud and if we do not have contact with people like you those myths will continue spread.

    Divide and conquer is the perfect modus operandi of sectarians. All religions, whatever they may claim, are sectarian and it is only through honest interaction between all of us that we can have any chance of bringing down the faith propaganda machine.

    We also have a responsibility to all atheists and for those in theocracies fora are the only democratic voice they have, by limiting conversation on places like this we are playing into the hands of repressive regimes like Saudi and we are denying an opportunity of free speech where it is most needed.

    I fear this site is heading down the elitist road, when I see commentators use phrases like lay-atheist I cringe at the thought of an atheist group building a church-type hierarchy – that is not what we should be about. As has been said by others, we can get scientific news from a variety of sources but what we need is opinion from eveyone, whether we agree with it or not.

    The actor Patrick McGoohan when interviewed about his TV series the Prisoner said: ” I wanted to make people think, it is important people think as when they stop thinking that is when you get things like Hitler and his lot taking over.”

    Are thoughts and view are inportant, regardless of who we are.

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  • This is “The Question of the Week” section, but unfortunately no questions seem to be getting answers; or rather, no requests gaining responses.

    I’m going to have a nose around the rest of the site to see what’s going on.

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  • @ Katy Cordeth June 16 12.14 am

    You’re in fine fettle.

    @Phil Rimmer June 16 7.56am and
    @Stafford Gordon June 16

    Congratulations on finding a way to subvert the new Reply protocol and avoid having your comments tucked away under the original post!

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  • . Laurie, this is a very good point but it works both ways. America gets bad press, often wrongly so, in much of Europe and part of this is we are given false views of American thinking – the Bible-belt and faith brigade are very loud and if we do not have contact with people like you those myths will continue spread.

    I think the US is a victim of its own success. The entertainment industry, ( TV and film) is dominated by US content. This gives us the view that most of its citizens are preoccupied by rather twee concerns and have no knowledge or desire for knowledge about the rest of the world. For citizens of countries other than the US, it’s a pleasant discovery when you come across Americans who don’t fit the stereotype.

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  • @Stephen Mynett
    Jun 16, 2014 at 11:03 am

    I didn’t say I want no American content. Just keep it on an even keel. It sucks to be a lonely atheist in U.S. it’s true, but no one is threatening to kill me for it. Let’s throw strong support to the African-Middle East-South American-etc Atheists and all victims of Judaism, Islam and Xianity everywhere.

    ~written while watching news reports of ISIS sweep through Iraq, slaughtering everyone in it’s path. Despair.

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  • I had to scroll all the way down to the bottom to comment on this.
    It would be nice to have it up the top again.
    The original comment system was fine,but if I have to complain about and/or report an inappropriate comment,it would be mine.
    Nothing offends me ,it’s a great way to be.
    I just have a problem spelling nuc

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  • 128
    bonnie says:

    Sanal Edamaruku

    He was briefly on the Secular Stars lineup (no comments allowed). Gone is his beaming smile of just a few years ago. He could use some strong support, but I’ve no idea what communication (if any) is safe for him to receive.

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  • Wow, so inspiring. The poor guy. You’re right, he could use some serious support. Pity there was no commenting. He’d make a wonderful speaker at conventions. That article was exactly what I was describing above. I had heard about the ridiculous statue situation some time ago but I’d lost all track of him since then.

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  • I seriously wonder if it was a design goal of the new site to get people to comment less. I just went to comment on the article about Wikipedia and I couldn’t, all I get, as with most of the articles now, is directed to the original site. Of course I can comment there but that was what made this site special in the past was that there was a dedicated community. And what’s with all the articles from the Camel guy? And why are some of them essentially just ads (e.g., last chance to get this cool Plato T shirt)?? But back to commenting Was less commenting the goal? Are media celebrities measured in Tweets and Facebook likes so that’s what Richard wants these days?

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  • 131
    Maxi-pad says:

    Discussion section gone? Best part of the old website. That is were we had all our epic debates and learned a lot. It also connected people from all over the world.

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  • @ GPWC

    I think I will reply to myself down here.

    Firstly, I notice comments are numbered, and you can find that out by clicking on the date/time of the comment. It’s not user friendly, but it’s something.

    Secondly, I’ve now found Converts Corner under Community which is where, I imagine, new atheists could hang out. I think we will have to visit that page a bit more often to encourage and empathise. In fact Abid Ali – in the first open letter – – wants some help on a few scientific questions which I am not able to answer, but many of you here will be able to.

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  • @GPWC
    June 16 2014 at 8.33

    I’ll reply to myself down here:

    Firstly I’ve discovered a numbering system to the comments if you click the date. It’s not really user friendly, but it is something.

    Secondly, I’ve now found Converts Corner under Community where new atheists could hang out. I think we will have to visit that page more regularly. In fact the first open letter there from Abid Ali asks some questions about evolution and poor design which I can’t answer, but I know many here will be able to.

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  • And when I’m redirected to the Patheos site my comment is just one of one thousand already posted, AND I don’t know anyone there. As you said in a previous comment, it sucks!

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  • Sanal Edamaruku is on twitter with several thousand followers. He is still president of the Indian and international rationalist associations, I believe. He can be contacted via twitter on facebook (I think) and by e-mail. He is afraid of being assassinated if he returns to India or being locked up for years while awaiting trial on charges brought by fanatical Catholics.

    President of Rationalist International and Indian Rationalist Association. Author, TV commentator and defender of reason, science and secularism.
    Helsinki, Finland…

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  • Is what’s happening on this forum a matter of policy or incompetence?

    And if the latter, am I and other subscribers partly at fault in not adapting sufficiently to the changes?

    I ask because I think there’s the danger of an air of conspiracy developing here, and that’s how wars start!

    However, feed-back was requested and has duly been supplied, in abundance, but, as far as I know, none has been forthcoming; why is that I wonder?

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  • There seems to be a lack of discussion and a shortage of comments on many threads, in the new format.

    The loss of the ability to change the order of comments on longer threads, edit, delete, thrash out differences of view, etc. , would seem to be contributory.

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  • Alan4discussion. @ 4.40 am, June 16:

    There are 136 posts here, submitted in response to a request for feed-back, a great many of which are about the losses you cite, but as yet, as far as I can tell, there have been no responses to any of them.

    But may be I’m missing a cunning trick, or, being too impatient; these things have been known to occur.

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  • 141
    bonnie says:

    137, not 139

    I’m almost positive at least one comment was snuffed.

    Post from yesterday concerning lack of comments, facebook / twitter. Scary sh*t.

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  • Not so far as we’re aware, Bonnie.

    Looking through the deleted posts, there are some that had been posted several times, so it looks as if the duplicates were removed. But the mod team has not been deleting comments just for being critical of the new site.

    The mods

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  • I agree with most of the comments given by seasoned users/posters thus far. Another I’d like to add to the list is on the old site comments would dynamically update in the ‘Latest Comments’ area. Now I have to manually refresh the page to get the latest comments.

    In addition, the Latest Comments queue, which I presume many members peruse regularly as a basis for their own commenting (certainly I do this – or did this with regularity) is no longer available from the home page. You apparently have to enter (click into) an article to access this queue. Has this simply not been added in yet to the home page? I would think this would be another one of those no brainers, but perhaps it’s just me.

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  • Moderator Jun 17, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Not so far as we’re aware, Bonnie.

    Looking through the deleted posts, there are some that had been posted several times, so it looks as if the duplicates were removed.

    There were certainly posts I tried to re-post, because there was no sign of them being added to the threads after clicking on “Post Comment”. Some appeared later, and at least one appeared as a duplicate before its removal.

    Sometimes I get an error message telling me of an attempt to make a duplicate post, even though the initial post is not visible on the thread. ( Perhaps there is sometimes a delay while posts are referred for moderation of links etc. )

    Perhaps there is some glitch, but as you may have noticed by my absence, I have been having technical problems of my own. – mainly resulting from a failed land-line, intermittent connections, or from time-outs on a slow line.

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  • “…the mod team has not been deleting comments just for being critical of the new site.”

    If they had been doing so how many would now remain?

    And in any case, I think it’s fair to say, that for the most part the contributions have been intended as positive suggestions.

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  • Is it possible that they (the Mods) are simply in shock? I guess they thought that in launching their new and groovily updated website they could ask what their followers thought of it, and then they could bask in the gushing compliments that would flow in from the faithful.

    In all fairness, there are one or features that are good, but there is little point in reiterating all that is either bad, or more to the point, missing.

    Can we assume that there will be changes, after all, to ignore this much negative response does not send a good message.

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  • Just to clarify: we mods have nothing to do with the design or technology or functionality of the website. Our role is to moderate the comments to keep them within the Terms of Use. That is it. There is a reason why we refer to ourselves as moderators and not as admins! We are unable to respond to the technical/functional questions and comments users have raised, because a) we are not responsible for those aspects of the site and b) we don’t know the answers.

    The site admins – not us! – can be reached via the blue bubble with the question mark in it that you’ll find at the foot of each page.

    The mods

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  • Reply to Alan4discussion:

    Sometimes I get an error message telling me of an attempt to make a
    duplicate post, even though the initial post is not visible on the
    thread. ( Perhaps there is sometimes a delay while posts are referred
    for moderation of links etc. )

    Yes, there’s an automatic spam detection system on the site, which flags posts containing links as spam, pending moderator approval. Obviously the kind of links you post will always be approved, so if you post something that doesn’t immediately appear, please just bear with us. Next time a mod is on the site we’ll approve it for you.

    The mods

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  • I was looking at the “Community Button” under “Science Says”.

    While I note the lack of comments at present on this extensive resource, I would anticipate that it will prove to be a very useful source of links and quotes in future discussions.

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  • Congratulations to Stephen of Wimbledon for his winning response.

    For the benefit of confused Brits, the ‘Dover’ he was referring to was Dover, Pennsylvania and the Kitzmiller v. Dover case and not the place with the white cliffs. This underlines the (new) role of RDF as a purely American affair.

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  • Count me in with those who don’t like the new design, either in part or at all. I used to be a daily viewer, and a regular submitter of articles, with RD.NET set as my homepage……but with all the changes recently, I don’t come here first anymore, and it may be days before I come here at all. You have ruined it for me, sorry to say. Note how long this thread has been open before I finally read it and responded…….

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  • I just saw something else that were I in charge, would be cause for dismissal. The choice s at the bottom under Post Comment (“Notify me when…..”) on my screen appear in extremely light blue text on a white background. Possibly the worst example of visibility I have ever seen.

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  • 153
    david smith says:

    I would like to see an op-ed column for atheists to give their opinion on current events, generated by the sectarian world, whether local or national, that effect them as atheists. I would also love to contribute, since I’ve had a lot of encounters [ mostly unpleasant and rather unproductive ] from the sectarian community over the past four years.
    David Smith

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  • Good idea. Perhaps we could call them something like… “Discussions”? And perhaps besides having a forum for people to give and elicit opinions on current events we could include questions, theories, about science and really any intellectually worthy topic?

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  • If my comments seemed even a bit more curmudgeonly lately it’s because a friend of mine died recently. She was very old and not in the best of health but I still miss her. Way off topic I realize but since for the time being I no longer give a flying fuck about this site anyway…

    Getting back to the new site: the argument that “Discussions were taking too much time to moderate” is total bullshit. There are lots of potential ways to address that problem short of getting rid of the discussions. For one thing was there a huge clamor from people for MORE discussion moderating? I almost never saw that if anything what I saw were complaints (most of which I didn’t agree with) about too much moderation. So if you are spending too much time moderating don’t moderate so much. If someone makes a rude and/or OT comment so it stands for a day or two rather than an hour or two so what? We are all adults we can stand to read a few bad or rude words. Personally, I sometimes like getting nasty replies it makes me feel like I’ve definitively won the argument.

    My guess is that one of the things that was really going on was that it wasn’t time but space. Discussions were generating lots of comments which means has to pay their ISP more $$ to take up more space to store and archive all that data. If it was really those kinds of consideration then just be honest about it but don’t give weasel word justifications, it’s not becoming to a site devoted to Dawkins, someone who always speaks plainly and honestly.

    Speaking of which has anyone found a way to get back to the old site? I thought some of the comments on the Discussion about Placebos and Anti Depressants was quite good and I wanted to give a link to that discussion to a professional in mental health and get his feedback on it. I think it’s deplorable that those discussions have just vanished for the time being. It shows a real contempt for the users.

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  • I agree. I often went into my own comment archive to pluck out some worthy post/discussion that I’d participated in to share with a potential convert or otherwise interested party. It seems quite odd that the REALLY old site would be accessible but yet the most recent iteration of this site is not. Perhaps it’s just a matter of time before it reappears. Perhaps the mods will chime in, though I’ve had little luck getting them to address my concerns. My nom de plume does not seem to have the same cachet as yours and others.

    And though it’s not the most original idea, perhaps with all the concerns and comments here and the very spotty repartee from the mods, an old fashioned question and answer forum could be established (as it concerns the new site). Ah, who am I kidding?

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  • 161
    CdnMacAtheist says:

    Agreed TINAM….
    My first ever online comment was here in 2010 in Converts Corner, then on many Discussions & News items.

    I’ve learned soooo much here, on many different levels, from lots of great Posters & being forced to investigate & study so as to be able to respond accurately & well. My composition & content is far better now, thanks to the comments & criticisms I rightly earned from folk far more educated, experienced & qualified than I am – thanks to all of you, you know who you are…. 😎

    Thankfully – since I’m retired & have time – I saved all my own Posts into Word Files, so I have at least all my own thoughts in my History. I do this for all the places I respond to, from which I still learn about myself & how I’ve evolved as a person over the years – including responding to faithists of various stripes, learning how they think & how they got that way, which caused me to buy many more great books to better understand what the issues are & how to deal with them. I have been openly critical, disrespectful & harsh to some ‘believers’ who came here to proselytise their delusions – for which I give no apology, with this being a site for “Reason & Science”.

    Like others, I didn’t come here for ‘News’ which I had usually heard about elsewhere, so the first place I scanned were the Discussions, aided by e-mail notifications plus my Comment History – neither of which are available now?!

    I do hope that the criticisms & requests we`ve given – responding to the RDFRS request for feedback – are taken into account when assigning work to your sparse human resources – oh, that we had some of the vast riches that flow into the religious coffers every week, eh.

    I greatly miss all the regular posters – whether I agreed with them or not – including several of the old guard who had already moved on during the last year. I wish RDFRS good fortune on this new Secular Coalition direction, but I won`t be involved or donating like I was unless some of the requested features are put (back) in place…. Mac.

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  • 166
    CdnMacAtheist says:

    Thank you Bonnie – How did you find that link, which I just looked for on this site with no luck.

    (Why does the question mark symbol show up as a capital E with an acute accent….)

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  • @Steve007 June 18

    In the past I’ve taken a screen shot of any comment that has really caught my eye; whether it’s the specific wording or a fresh insight, I have ready access to a wide range of thoughts to plunder should the topic come up. Perhaps I’m admitting to a breach of copyright or theft of intellectual property here, so maybe I should keep my thoughts to myself, but it is an avenue though fairly cumbersome I suppose.

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  • Hi Steven

    Not sure which concerns you're referring to here. If they relate to the moderation of comments on the new site, please post them again and we'll reply. Though the moderation will continue exactly as before, with the same approach and policies, so you shouldn't notice much, if any, difference on that front.

    As we explained in another reply yesterday, though, we have nothing whatsoever to do with the design of the site, or the technical functioning of it, or the selection of articles, etc, so we can't respond to queries or comments about those – these are things we have no control or influence over.

    At the foot of each page there's a blue bubble with a question mark in it. That's now the best way to get in touch with the technical team, if you'd like to.

    Hope that helps. The mods.

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  • I can’t read the notification tick boxes at the bottom of the screen at all because of my flat screen. These LCD screens have a problem when viewed from an acute angle. If I tip the whole screen so that I can view it at 90 degrees, then it becomes legible, but not great. Shall I do that all the time … ?

    Anyway, now I’ve read them, I’m not sure what they mean:

    “Notify me of new posts” seems fairly obvious, but “Notify me of follow-up comments” means presumably if someone replies to your comment? Ok, I’ve ticked the first box only, which should mean I get email notification if someone replies, but not for general new comments.

    If someone could reply to this comment, then that will answer one of my questions.

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  • Thinking about it, I think email notification should be automatic when someone replies to one of your comments.

    Earlier on this thread, I mentioned Converts Corner on this site and how someone had asked a question and no one here had replied. Thanks for putting that right Alan4Discussion. But now, the Convert hasn’t followed up and I bet it is because he hasn’t been notified of the reply.

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  • 173
    CdnMacAtheist says:

    I reloaded my keyboard software & solved the ‘question mark issue’ mentioned above.

    I’m still a computer Neanderthal, so these software things baffle me at times…. Mac.

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  • Thanks, I appreciate the explanation(s). Through the collective efforts of you (Mods) and the savvy users here I see most of my questions/concerns addressed one way or another. I would still like to know if our archived comments will ever be made available. I’m not sure if this is a question that fits into the “technical functioning” box or not.

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  • I would still like to know if our archived comments will ever be made available. I’m not sure if this is a question that fits into the “technical functioning” box or not.

    It does, Steven, in that it will have to be decided by the webmaster and we mods have no influence on the matter.

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  • Thanks again, I appreciate the response. Hopefully the webmaster will note, or will be informed of this desire/request not just by me, but by other active members of this community.

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  • I think those boxes are supposed to do what you think. “Notify me of follow-up comments by email.” means that if someone replies to the specific comment you are posting you will get an email notification and “Notify me of new posts by email.” means if anyone posts a new comment on that thread (which is a more general case than the first one) you will get an email. I just don’t think they are working properly. Katy mentioned they aren’t working for her and they aren’t working for me either, I’ve been checking both boxes and have yet to get a notification from the new site on this thread or at least one other that I posted a comment on.

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  • I am still producing duplicate posts, because of a lack of an edit facility.

    The 4 space indent of text, seems to produce pasted quotes without line returns, meaning part of the text is lost off the right-hand side of the page.

    The 4 space indent of text, seems to produce pasted quotes without line returns, meaning part of the text is lost off the right-hand side of the page.

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  • I’d like to retract the nasty comment I made about posting on The Friendly Atheist. Actually, it’s not too bad and even has a couple of aspects that I consider to be an improvement. It’s true that the sheer volume of comments can be off-putting ( sometimes several thousand) and most of those are simply a couple of curt sentences with no great depth. There’s a lot of repetition due to the fact that the reader has to scroll back too far.There is a great shortage of lengthy, considered arguments and no replies that address a case point by point. However…the writer is notified immediately after a reply is made and it’s possible to conduct a sort of tit-for-tat argument that can be fun.

    I’m sure everyone here would have already sampled this avenue of expression but I thought that I’d contribute my two cents.

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  • Existing comments and discussions often represent peoples work and effort. Just pulling the rug out, again, loses members of the community forever. I was burned the first time and rarely come back.

    Back then this site was important, now its marginal at best. That is because the goal, a thriving community, has been ditched.

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  • Forums like Rat Skep and Atheist Foundation of Australia are dripping with volunteer mods who manage very healthy forum rules. This site has over time simply become a broadcast only location and not of much interest.

    To change it would require focussing on the discussions. Having articles appear in better contexts. Better discussion tools such as bringing hot discussions to the top, allowing people to track where they are up to in threads, topic tags and search tools, nested quoting functions, and rating tools to allow people to express their likes and dislikes.

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  • The site had a fantastic community based moderation system and discussion center. It was vaporised and pretty much of the good will of the global atheist community lost with it in the diaspora to other web sites. Very few of those people would ever put their faith in this group again. I doubt my comments in this thread are really worth the effort but I thought I would try.

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  • I greatly missed paged results, with no more than about 30 posts per page. When I had missed much of a conversations I could jump to the end and see if it had evolved. I don’t like nested replies because you cannot then find the “conversation front”, preffering quote functions.

    Technical hint – a qute does not have to be stored in the DB as a copy of the text. It just needs quote coordinates : post ID, first character position, last character position. Some thought has to be given to the effects of an edit function.

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