• Register
PhysicsOverflow is a next-generation academic platform for physicists and astronomers, including a community peer review system and a postgraduate-level discussion forum analogous to MathOverflow.

Welcome to PhysicsOverflow! PhysicsOverflow is an open platform for community peer review and graduate-level Physics discussion.

Please help promote PhysicsOverflow ads elsewhere if you like it.


New printer friendly PO pages!

Migration to Bielefeld University was successful!

Please vote for this year's PhysicsOverflow ads!

Please do help out in categorising submissions. Submit a paper to PhysicsOverflow!

... see more

Tools for paper authors

Submit paper
Claim Paper Authorship

Tools for SE users

Search User
Reclaim SE Account
Request Account Merger
Nativise imported posts
Claim post (deleted users)
Import SE post

Users whose questions have been imported from Physics Stack Exchange, Theoretical Physics Stack Exchange, or any other Stack Exchange site are kindly requested to reclaim their account and not to register as a new user.

Public \(\beta\) tools

Report a bug with a feature
Request a new functionality
404 page design
Send feedback


(propose a free ad)

Site Statistics

180 submissions , 140 unreviewed
4,460 questions , 1,764 unanswered
5,131 answers , 21,839 comments
1,470 users with positive rep
685 active unimported users
More ...

Wall for Ron Maimon

What does "a little bit authority" even mean? It's the same with free speech, either you have it or you don't. Or that you are a little bit pregnant, doesn't make sense. (that was the last one)
Apr 25, 2015 by WolfInSheepSkin
What are these decentralization principles in anarchism? They didn't ever get formulated, because before the internet made it possible, anarchism never was seriously practiced anywhere in any large-scale endeavor. You can't point to Catalonia, that was just basically working factories democratically, and it was unstable to a Soviet takeover, or a Fascist takeover. The first real principles of decentralized coordination were developed in Linux kernel development. GNU was always more centralized and this is why it never developed the hard technical stuff so well. Git is an amazing tool, and it summarizes the thinking of how to make something large work when it can be evolved at any point independently, it's a huge thing. Decentralized rules for writing were sort of worked out at Wikipedia, but they degenerated like in the Soviet Union, or Catalonia, into an authoritarian nightmare. Other places try to get it right, and they always get problems of authority. The fact that you do need a tiny little bit of authority to deal with ridiculous insincere nonsense like spam or deliberate sabotage, or crazy people who want to fill up a site with their own material because they have a huge ego, that doesn't mean you need any more than this small amount. Once you deal with this stuff, you need to prevent the authority from starting to oppress the well-meaning overwhelming majority of people, and this requires some pushback when the authority gets too large and starts to harass. It's a not-so-simple a balancing act, but Linus Torvalds has really pointed the way here, I think. Being simultaneously rude and sincere is simply a gimmick for making this work, it's just a trick to test whether people listen to authority or to reason. The rude stuff gets on people nerves (for no reason at all), and this tempts people to try to censor you. If they succeed, the site is busted.
Apr 25, 2015 by Ron Maimon
You have to use some decentralization principles of anarchism, or just abandon this system if you don't want spam or garbage in the answers, which is already pro authority, but ok...
Apr 24, 2015 by WolfInSheepSkin
I put in my 10,000 hours on usenet. I didn't spend hardly any time online between 1995-2005. I became an academic corpse in 2005, and that meant I was free to write whatever I wanted, as there could be no repercussions. My usenet posts were basically garbage scientifically, no significant original ideas at all. But they worked to learn the rules of the medium, and these haven't changed.

The internet is not a magazine, and it's not TV. Everyone already collectively knows everything. You can't make the smallest mistake, because someone will catch you. That makes for three rules:

1. be 100% right.
2. be 100% original.
3. have zero authority.

Rule 3 comes because you can't establish credentials and why would you need to anyway? Someone will catch your mistakes no matter what you say about credentials

It's actually better if you have no credentials, people listen to you more. You can always tell people who don't understand online discussions because they explain real world credentials as if anyone cared about that.

It's difficult, because you need to constantly come up with new stuff, but that's how it should be.

Wikipedia was pretty much uncensored in any meaningful way until 2008, the "moderation" was simply people compromising on edit-wars to make a decent encyclopedia, which is not that hard. But then in 2008, a bunch of deletionist asses developed a policy of "no original research" which is basically when Wikipedia stopped being editable or useful, as everything that is useful online is "original research", at least according to Wikipedia's preposterous definition, by rule 2.

You can't vet Wiki using books, it's ridiculous. The stuff in books is only 90% right, and online discussions, when uncensored, are quickly convergent to 100% right. Fixing a medium that is naturally 100% right by checking for errors by comparing to a medium that is only 90% right is bonkers.

I think the best content of usenet was simply stuff that you couldn't say anywhere at all. I don't mean racist stuff, that stuff is available if you look at specific literature, and nothing about it is correct or original, so it didn't get a lot of traction. I mean, there was some, but it was so over the top, that it was clearly not serious.

The original things were uncensored discussions, like a long short-story about searching for poo hidden in your house, reports of horrific injuries and trauma from the EMT's detached clinical perspective, reports of performing a circumcision on yourself and eating the foreskin, things like this that were impossible to imagine written down before 1993. The only comparable writing I have found is Sade's "120 Days of Sodom", or Solenas "The Scum Manifesto". Things that were impossible to say in print before, because they are not a part of the polite human consensus for what you can talk about in a printed medium. But this taboo stuff is honest, and it is original, and it comes from a position of zero authority.

If you remove this uncensored aspect, you just get something as unsatisfactory as any print source, and the problems of 10% wrong information recur, even worse, because now nobody is citing anything, and they are making up whatever they want without review, so you get 30% wrong, then 80% wrong, then 100% wrong. To get correct information, you can't start deciding who can speak.

Regarding TV, I don't understand why someone would want a one-way internet.
Apr 23, 2015 by Ron Maimon
I'd say there's been mini-revolutions along the way:

1992-2000 The era of people putting anything up they wanted without legal repercussions , even if racist/sexist/anti-semetic/anti-gentilist etc

2000-2010 Moderation/censorship, online collaboration via Wikipedia, blogging, online commenting to newspapers, social-networking, Youtube

2010 - Greater interplay between mobile technology and the internet.

I agree that the Internet is taken for granted nowadays and has replaced the TV as people's main source for information.

It's good to know that you spend most of your time online; it's depressing to see how quickly you can write up incredibly long comments to the comments here; I'd hate to think it was a talent you were born with ;)
Apr 23, 2015 by physicsnewbie
Sure, I was active then, but I was a snotty-nosed undergrad. Why do you think I'm always online? Everyone who was involved in usenet knew that something tremendously big was coming, some sort of revolution in human communication with the potential to bring scientific literacy to the whole world, and step-up the rate of progress in science qualitatively and permanently. But the development of the internet since 2000 has been largely commercial and uninteresting, and has only very partially fulfilled the potential regarding scientific publishing (aside from arxiv, of course, this was a huge revolution. There's even bioarxiv now!) I think with the advent of open peer review, as we do it here, perhaps this can be the useful next step. My goal was always to fix the old censorship and inaccuracy problems of peer-review which have been there since the mid 1960s, they essentially coinciding with the advent of mass peer-review. They make the literature much more conservative since 1968 than it was before, where you had people founding new fields, facing huge walls of resistance, but had no difficulty in getting published. By the 1980s, they can't get published, because the peer-review is so restrictive, and there are terrible mistakes of peer review. Since arxiv, there has been zero peer review, so there are opposite problems of flashy but ultimately easy to refute ideas getting a lot of traction, because there is no review at all. This site is a way to have your cake and eat it too, freedom to propose any ideas, and reviews to make sure that there is a sensible check on wild speculation. It's why I'm so nervous about it, because if we fail to live up to the promise, we're pretty much the last place that can produce a meaningful next step in open science communication. I think all the usenet people have this spirit, it's like the "1968-ers". We're the "1993-ers".
Apr 22, 2015 by Ron Maimon
I was having a read of the Urs/Baez interview:


"John: So I had been feeling dissatisfied too, because I always like having a big conversation always going on around me, and I like to talk a lot, and I like to show off, and have a lot of people watching what I'm saying. And I'd been doing that on sci.physics.research for several years, and attracted quite crowd of people, and it was a lot of fun for a while. But then it fell apart, in various ways, that I don't want to go into too much -

Bruce: [laughs] Crackpots... or...?

John: I don't want to go into it too much. It has to do with all sorts of things. And you can look at the archives on Google, you can actually read it and see -"

So I had a look and it's interesting because it seems someone called Jack Sarfatti was harassing John Baez at his place of work:


And you're in the thread way back in 1994!

Wow, you sure rode the Internet wave when it first hit the shores in the US.
Apr 22, 2015 by physicsnewbie
I saw that when it was current, it's interesting reminiscence, and Gell-Mann is pretty accurate.
Apr 18, 2015 by Ron Maimon
Hey Ron, I read a lot of your answers about S matrix theory as a precursor to string theory and I happened to come across this little bit of history that you might be interested in. If you know about it, just disregard it. http://www.webofstories.com/play/murray.gell-mann/46
Apr 15, 2015 by Somerandomdude

user contributions licensed under cc by-sa 3.0 with attribution required

Your rights