The Demise of the RD.net Forum

It’s a shame but the RichardDawkins.net Forum is dead.

I highly recommend you read the link above to Peter Harrison’s blog, an ex-moderator from the Forum who put a lot of time and effort into his work for the Forum and for the RDFRS and who is now working very hard to expose the truth of the debacle surrounding the closure of the forum and the uproar this has caused all across the internet. I could retell most of the events here, but I think Peter does a better job (and I’m also lazy :P) so please do check it out.

UPDATE: Probably should have shared this link to Professor Dawkins comment on the forum

And this link to Peter’s updated comments on the whole situation

In addition to that, I’d like to share with you all my experience of the forum and the current kerfuffle through an email I wrote to Richard Dawkins (or at least his General Email contact link on the website) this morning which recounts my experience with the forum:

Regarding the Forum Changes:

Dear Professor Dawkins,

I would just like to express my sentiments to you regarding the recent issues surrounding the upcoming changes to the website and the forum system and also regarding the conflagration the announcement of these changes created.

I first came across your website after reading your book “The God Delusion” back in 2008. I was on work experience in Germany for 6 months, living alone in a foreign country, and I took great solace in the warm community that I found on your website and, primarily in the forum.

Now, please bear in mind, I say none of this in the hopes of changing the decision to revamp the website and move away from the previous forum model. I know that yourself, Josh and Andrew have agreed on the direction you wish to move the website in, however I merely wish to offer my humble perspective on the issues surrounding it.

In the forum I found a fabulous community of rational, logical freethinking people and I also found ways to network with others who shared, to various degrees, some of my views and who would offer fabulous arguments against ridiculous ideas. I spent many long months talking with these people, debating daft fundamentalist creationists and even volunteering to help out the Foundation where possible through online works.

As it moved into 2009 I was back at college for my final year, so I didn’t have as much time to offer to the forum but I kept up as much of a presence as possible. The forum inspired me to begin blogging on religious issues within Ireland and to freely and publicly express my views and opinions on everything and anything in a very fulfilling way, however at certain points I made a number of posts and threads on the forum that while placed in the Off-Topic and Open Discussion areas, they were still rather off-topic and there was a push from the moderators to tone down these kind of posts as a lot of the forum was publicly viewable and certain malign elements would have no objections to using this kind of material against yourself or the Foundation as some kind of smear tactic. As I was merely being open and talkative and certainly had no intention of causing harm to anyone’s reputation in the process, I apologised publicly on the forum to the members and to yourself, though I doubt you ever saw the post itself, for any inapproriate remarks or posts I may have made.

After this point I moved into full time employment and was unable to dedicate any real time to most of my online outlets, let alone the RD.net forum. As a conseqeunce of this, I only had a vague connection to the forum over the last few months, though I did purchase your latest book and this satiated my hunger for rational discourse for a time. That being said I did (and continue to) maintain a watchful eye on the main website ‘front page’ as the articles and news that is featured there regularly is a wonderful resource and certainly helps me stay current on important issues in both religion and science.

Then we come to the last 48-72 hours where I found out that not only was the forum closed down, but the website was going to move away from the style of forum that I had come to know and love, and value for it’s community and rationality, towards one more like the current comment system for news and articles as featured on the ‘front page’.

Again, please bear in mind that I say all this merely from my point of view using my interpretation of the comments I have read and the people I have talked to.

Shocked, I searched to learn the reason for this, and the reason for the comments made by some previous members and moderators stating that the admin team had been inconsiderate and wilfully deaf to their increasing calls to be included in any upcoming changes to the forum and/or website as they felt that despite the fact that they were volunteers they had put in just as much time and effort to the forum and its community as anyone else, in fact potentially more as it was on a voluntary basis. Many comments stated that communications between moderators and the admins were generally one way with not much feedback coming from the admin team.

One thing I must point out that I have seen over this last period, whether or not these claims are founded or unfounded, and to be honest, I do feel that Josh may not have been as helpful as he could have been in the way he dealt with this issue as it grew, I saw no one directly blaming you for any of this or anyone directly throwing insults at you. All the abuse and comments I saw, and there were many, were all aimed primarily at Josh for his handling of the situation.

Now, I understand that a lot of the comments that you have seen or been made aware of are vulgar, crude and highly offensive, but I would like to draw your attention away from the minority who are loud, brash and generally just plain abrasive, to the majority of people who, while they believe this issue was handled badly by Josh and may withdraw a lot of their support for the website and or the Foundation due to their feelings about this, these people bear no ill will towards yourself or the Foundation and respect you highly, whether they agree with your decision or not.

I realise that most of this message will be ignored among the flood of others like it that you may receive, but I implore you to ignore the comments of vitriolic anonymous posters on a website and to listen to the people who, whether you knew it or not, stayed close to you, made your website and forum the #1 place on the internet for freethinkers, atheists, skeptics and humanists and who all have the utmost respect for you and your work:

We simply want to be heard and recognised for the work we have done. Josh has clearly done good work with the Foundation and with the website, but if it was not for us and the community we built around your example of reason and science, there would have been nothing for Josh to build upon. We do not wish to depose him, we do not wish to abuse him, but we do wish to point out that we feel he did not do right by us, whether or not he did right by you. There is a tacit obligation of mutual respect between us and all we ask for is that respect, regardless of the comments of quick-to-anger loudmouths.

Kind Regards,

dj357.

I don’t consider myself to be qualified to speak on behalf of everyone else, but I do believe my statement above is pretty close to being an accurate assessment of how we, as a community, feel about this issue. As is our wont, a lot of people will diverge from this in varying degrees (herding cats and all that) but I feel certain that this is near enough to the general concensus.

As always feel free to disagree with me and tell me your side of things.

Peace,

dj357.

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