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The Education Forum

Changes to the Administration of this Forum

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Andy Walker and I set this forum up in December 2003. The original idea was that it would provide a home for educators and students to debate issues. The use of the term home is significant. It was a place where you invited people to have friendly discussions. We expected people to behave as if they were invited guests. Of course, we were aware that discussions would always result in disagreements. However, we thought that people would be able to behave in the same way that they do in university seminars. That is why we insisted in people’s right of freedom of speech. After all, one of the reasons we had been booted off another education forum for expressing opinions that were different from the administrator. We hoped to show students that people could hold very different opinions but could discuss these issues in an academic way. In fact, we planned to use the forum to illustrate how the past is interpreted in different ways (this is part of the UK’s national curriculum for history).

For the first few months we had no problem at all with running the forum in the way we envisaged. Then we had people applying to join the forum who were not teachers or young students. They claimed that they were life-long students who were interested in education and history. They were admitted and behaved in the appropriate manner of a mature student at university. The system continued to work well and the only problem we had during this period was with an extreme right-wing pro-Jewish group based in America (they objected to what they considered to be pro-Arab comments posted on the forum). Their membership was deleted but they continued to cause us problems and made several attempts to bring the forum down. We also had trouble with a Holocaust denier who posted photographs of Andy and myself on his own forum and encouraged supporters to cause as trouble.

However, over time, we did attract other strange individuals who were quick to abuse other members. It seems they had more experience of the Jerry Springer show that a university seminar room. In an attempt to bring an end to this we began to insist that members posted a photograph as an avatar and added a link to their biography in their signature. It was hoped that this would both humanize and validate people’s postings. This seemed to work for a while but it seemed that certain members were determined to abuse other members. When Andy, I and the moderators attempt to control these people, we are then abused. We try putting them on moderation but as soon as they are off, they return to this unacceptable behaviour.

These people tend to work in pairs. When they are told off about their comments, they always say, well the other one started it. As we have told you so many times before retaliation is no defence. If someone abuses you, contact a moderator and they will deal with it.

Although moderators attempt to deal with all these problems, it is an impossible task. As a result, visitors to our forum are provided with a constant stream of abusive arguments.

I have tried for sometime to persuade leading historians, researchers and journalists to join this forum. As you know, I have persuaded a significant number to participate. However, an increasing number have rejected the offer because of the behaviour of some members of the forum. This situation cannot be allowed to continue.

We are not alone in suffering from the problem. For example, I posted Chris Dolmar’s email about the problems he has had with running the American Town Hall forum. He has found the only solution to these people he describes as trolls is something he calls “instant death”: His forum rules includes the following: “Obviously abusive disruption tactics exhibited here (Of which the Admins/Mods here ARE All Too familiar with) will not be tolerated and will simply result in the banning of the offending member(s). Any member(s) banned for violations of the aforementioned guidelines or the Forum Code of Conduct listed below will not be reinstated. While forum members recognize the code of conduct, trolls don't. Once again; To the trolls: - be assured of the instant death policy.”

It has become clear over the last few months that the main offenders are members of other forums. One even went as far as to urge other members to boycott our forum. Others have urged to starting up of rival forums. It seems that their disruptive behaviour is more than just an expression of being psychologically disturbed.

This forum gets a large number of page impressions. One of the reasons for this is that the Spartacus website creates deep links into the forum. Spartacus has over 6 million visitors a month. This is why authors and researchers are keen to make use of the forum. That has obviously created a great deal of jealousy amongst those who run less-popular forums.

I am happy for members of other organizations to use our forum to publicize their activities. For example, the conferences that are taking place in November. However, I will not allow members to try and discredit this forum by their disruptive behaviour.

After a long talk on the phone yesterday, Andy and I have decided to bring in a tougher moderation policy. We will no longer tolerate trolls on this forum. We will initially place these offenders on moderation. After 25 moderated postings we will consider reinstating them. If they are readmitted, any further bad behaviour will result in the deletion of their membership.

It has been drawn to my attention that some members have resorted to posting comments about the way Andy and I run this forum. This includes one member who has followed the example of the Holocaust denier of posting a photograph of me on his own forum and encouraged supporters to cause trouble. His membership has been deleted.

Also, some members have removed the link in their signature to their biography. Others are lacking a photograph. You have a week to correct this. If you do not do so, you will be placed on moderation and your posts will not become visible until you abide by membership rules.

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To reiterate from "The Future of this Forum" topic (post #14) :

"IMO Johns analysis, comments and questions are legitimate"

bla bla ... my opinions...et.c.:

"...further intransigence is a declaration of an unwillingness to abide with the rulings. This in effect means that the person has choosen freely to suffer the consequences (or perhaps, maybe being legends in their own minds, aim for 'martyrdom'). IOW the moderated or expelled person has choosen. >>The moderators are merely accomodating this choice.<< This is freedom. It is not a fault or wrongful behaviour by the moderators at all, in any way."

IOW. The moderatoors need not, unless they choose to, (which I don't advice), "take on board" any non-constructive critique.

Similarly, authors, notables, academics et.c. who choose to not participate have no one to "blame" or excuse for thier inability to deal with the "temperature of the kitchen". This is a refection of thir own personal choice based on their own (often ego driven to some extent) persona. IOW an element which to some extent, greater or lesser, that has nothing to do with the forum and its members. IMO that's their loss.

Other educators, authors et.c. gloss over the negativities. stick to the agenda and earn respect and an audience. That is a real bonus that civilises and educates on many levels.


Good on you, John, Andy and the moderators. Keep "..the wheels go round and round, I just love to watch them roll..." - John Lennon.

Edited by John Dolva
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John and Andy,

You've got to do what you think is right.

It's a bit like the speaker calling the house to order.

The last few weeks have been a bit tumultuous for this website, and many, including me, take its continuous companionship for granted. It should be recognised that many regular posters also take your tolerance for granted. I know I do. At times you've both shown restraint in the face of harsh criticism and this has not gone unnoticed.

I put it down to your admirable left wing pedigrees.

It wouldn't be a real forum if there wasn't spirited debate (and unfortunately, an obligatory display of less than endearing human character traits). That's what a free and open exchange of ideas is all about, imo, and I hope the Forum can continue its great work.

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I'm going to delete my bio just like I deleted my photo two years ago. I guess that means goodbye. I'm at war with Wikipedia, and I don't want to offer them anything to use against me.

It's partly this board's fault. The Invision Power software used by this board has settings that allow the avatar and the signature to be displayed for logged-in members only, but you don't have it set up that way. This board is insensitive to privacy issues. I do agree that everyone should use real names instead of screen names here — or on Wikipedia, for that matter — but photos and bios should be optional. The bios should be kept out of reach of the search engines. Even the photos are picked up by the engines. This board is wide open.

Anyway, this post was intended to be about how you should improve your search on this board, and I just happened to see this thread.

I have been running a Google scraper for five years. Currently I have five servers sharing the load, and get about 100,000 searches per day. Recently I added a secure search feature. While this forum, or any other site, is welcome to place a Scroogle search box directly on their page, it will also work if you launch a Scroogle search from your local browser.

Here is a diagram of how Scroogle works, and a test page for trying it out on this forum. That page is only a demo, and is subject to removal at any time. If you want to continue using it, you should download it so that you can launch it from your hard disk.

The search box could be integrated into this site by using these instructions. If that never happens, and you still want to use it, you can download that page and launch it from your own hard disk.

This demo is set up as a secure search by default, because that seems appropriate for the types of searches performed by members of this forum.

Edited by Daniel Brandt
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Running a forum is a remarkably thankless task so I take this opportunity to thank John and Andy and offering the small consolation (such as it is) that every forum I have ever come across has had similar problems.

This includes the old usenet forums many of which were unmoderated.

However the forums do more good than harm.

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Thank you to all those members who have followed Forum rules by adding a photograph and a link to their biography. There are still some members who have not done this. I am afraid that all members who fail to do this by Saturday will be placed on moderation. You can find instructions on how to do this here:


If you are still having trouble doing this, please send me the photograph and biography to me at:


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