Posted: Feb 26, 2010 7:13 pm
by HughMcB
To whomever reads this,

This is a collection of information on what happened at RDF in the last week from forum members, volunteer staff and moderators. As since paid journalists seem to find it beyond their capabilities to actually research that on which they are reporting, we have to present the evidence and facts of what really happened ourselves.

Enjoy the read.

RDF Former Forum Staff;

RDF Volunteer Forum Staff wrote:Copy of letter sent from the RDnet forum staff

Dear Richard
We hope you will find time to read this letter, which is from all the forum staff.

We are all deeply saddened that the forum will be deleted in 28 days time. In just over 3 years, it has grown to become the busiest atheist forum on
the Internet. On average since last October, the forum has been getting 3,000 posts per day, of which about 2,000 per day are focused on science,
reason and your work. The front page average is a fraction of that at 200 - 300. The social posts on the forum only comprise about 1/10 of all posts per day so there is a great deal of substance being discarded.

Staff were told that the science and reason forum content would be migrated to the new site and we offered to help with this. Then 2 days ago, we were told that there was a change of plan and all the forum content would be deleted in 30 days. Members have been told that they can copy their posts and repost them on the new site. This is complete nonsense because it isn't individual posts that make up the forum, it's the discussion threads that are significant and members don't have the ability to migrate whole threads
across. That's what the staff were going to do for them. This is now not going to happen and over 3 years worth of threads debunking creationism & woo, challenging theism, supporting new atheists etc will be wiped out.

Andrew and Josh have now announced that the forum has been made 'read-only' due to the inappropriate actions of staff. This is 'spin' at its finest as it fails to acknowledge that their own inappropriate actions resulted in this debacle in the first place. The announcement that the forum was shut down because some staff posted the letter sent to them and made some public
complaints is nonsense. The letter was exactly the same as the one posted publicly to the members with the addition of letting staff know that their services wouldn't be required at the new website. They also told staff what
they shouldn't do:
[snip - eg email Richard, inflame the users, start any petitions, relocate groups of users to other forums.]

We decided to post this letter on the forum as it explained succinctly that staff wouldn't be required and also let people know that they shouldn't expect staff to take any action on their behalf. Andrew and Josh removed the
letter and they could have also removed the staff's permissions as they said they didn't trust staff anymore. They didn't have to make the forum 'read-only' for everybody in order to gag the staff. The fact is that they needed the staff to deal with all the complaints that would inevitably have been thrown at the forum for the next 30 days. In other words, they expected
the staff to give up their free time to act as police and lavatory cleaners for a month, without a word of dissent themselves, and then just stand aside and watch the forum they'd worked so hard for be deleted. Not much to ask was it?

Since their announcement, you have made one yourself entitled "outrage" which contains copies of some insulting comments about Josh. None of these comments came from the RD forum. They were all posted on various other websites after the forum was locked. Someone has harvested these quote-mines from other websites and presented them to you as justification for locking
the forum. Your announcement also contradicts the admin announcement which says that the reason the forum was locked was due to the staff.They are also saying that they aren't trying to stop people from going off into other forums but right from the start, they prevented members from
having any links/information in their signatures and changed the PM system to make it virtually unworkable so that members can't contact each other easily.

Andrew and Josh could have handled this so much better if they had taken up the offer we made a while ago to advise them on how to make the transition. They don't have any leadership skills or experience but several of us on the
staff do this professionally and have years of experience managing change with large and diverse groups of people. This offer was ignored and instead, they have provided a textbook example of how not to do it. This also includes putting the blame on people for reacting badly to their
ill-conceived actions. The fact that they either didn't expect such a reaction or just didn't care, serves to emphasise their ignorance of how to work with large groups of people and how to manage change.

We have all worked so hard to support your mission because we passionately believe in it. You and your work have been our inspiration to keep going on days when we were verbally abused and threatened by trolls. The staff are highly intelligent people but we were prepared to spend hours of our own time doing low-level and mundane moderating tasks to keep the forum organised, facilitate focused discussions and solve people's technical problems. We were also able to use our skills and expertise in fostering a sense of community and ensuring that all people could post there, free from homophobic, sexist or racist abuse. That's a significant part of why it has
become the most popular atheist forum on the Internet because it's a lively, challenging and supportive environment.

The Foundation's decision to remove the forum is one we deeply regret but we acknowledge that as volunteers, it's not our concern. However, we could have used our skills and expertise to help develop the new discussion area, transfer content over and manage the transition for the membership as smoothly as possible. Andrew and Josh rejected that offer and as we were told recently that we weren't allowed to contact you about any forum
matters, we weren't able to make that offer to you personally.

At the moment, we feel deflated and dismayed while we watch the destruction of such a successful forum but despite that, we continue to wish you well and we sincerely hope that the new website is successful in achieving the Foundation's goals, which is what were striving for with the forum.

The forum staff

Made of Stars (former RDF Volunteer) wrote:To those who say 'Dawkins is within his rights to shut down the forum': You're right. But you're missing the point.

The "Outrage", as Dawkins terms it, is not at the site being taken down, although there is some outrage at that.

The "Outrage" is at the way things have been done. These 'things' include:

+ Lying to the staff: We were promised consultation on the new format. We had started planning transition needs, worked on lists of tags so that old posts could be indexed to the new site, and tried to manage member concerns and expectations about the change. Ultimately, there was no consultation, just an announcement that the site would change, and we were no longer required (which is itself naive in the extreme)

+ Misrepresenting staff: There was no basis to assume that we would abuse our admin privileges through a transition, and absolutely no basis to flag this as a concern in the 'Announcement' made by 'admin'.

+ Banning individual staff and deleting their posts after they shared the 'instructions' not to resist change.

+ Demoting all the other forum mods ('blue mods') after the above event.

+ Locking the forum when dissent erupted.

+ Shutting down the PM system so people couldn't contact friends and arrange to meet elsewhere.

+ Disabling signatures and avatars that sprang up in an attempt to arrange off-site rendezvous.

+ Deleting (not suspending) dissenting members, including members who reasonably tried to contact Richard for an explanation.

+ Deleting admin logs recording the above actions. These could only have been reviewed by those involved, so why delete this evidence?

+ Continuing to disable the privileges of members who ask questions on the 'front page'. And deleting the admin logs of these actions.

+ Quote-mining the outraged posts of members who've regrouped elsewhere, and trying to pass them off as representative of all of our views.

+ Failing to provide any acknowledgement AT ALL of the thousands of man-hours provided free of charge by the staff. Not to mention the professional services offered by the staff with expertise in change management, communications, and software development. Expertise that could have helped avoid this cluster-fuck.

Personally, I'll now have 3-4 hours a day to spend doing other things than deal with reports, merge threads, deal with member emails, and moderate hot discussions between theists and atheists, creationists and evolutionary biologists, and conspiracy theorists and working scientists and engineers.

So I can't complain about that.

But what a shame to see it end in a way that was predicted and repeatedly flagged by a concerned staff.

Made of Stars
ex Forum Admin

Mr.Samsa (former RDF Volunteer) wrote:Why are you discussing the changes in the new forum structure as if that's what got everybody angry? If it were the case that RDF announced a change in format, and Josh got all that abuse, then I would absolutely support your post.

But 85,000 people who gathered around a community based on rationalism do not descend into vitriol because "they are frightened of change" (as Josh suggested we may).

Instead, your discussion about how it is Richard's right to change the forum structure is like saying that the townspeople should not become so angry when the owner of the local library wants to turn it into a Starbucks.

Yes, of course you're right, but nobody really cares about the new structure. The fact is that the owner of the library is chucking all the books out back and burning them, and having anyone arrested for trying to salvage some of them.

People were upset when they heard the new changes - that is understandable, people had grown attached to the old forum. They started up a thread to discuss and console one another. There were a few angry remarks made there but mostly at the moderators, not Josh or Richard. Then when one moderator pointed out that they were not informed of the changes, this moderator was instantly deleted and had all his posts removed. Then the thread where everyone was discussing how upset they were, and where they could possibly go to next, was deleted - that is when people became angry.

Fortunately for Josh, he had the power to turn off the whole forum. Some angry people went to the front page to ask for an explanation as to why people were not allowed to discuss how upset they are about the new changes - these users were deleted and all of their posts were removed.

By this stage, about an hour after the initial message from Josh, he had deleted about 4 users and over 30,000 posts - without warning.

The forum came back in read only form, and we were advised to take whatever we could from our posts (without the use of a functional search engine) and we were warned not to post it on another forum as the material belongs to RDF. Then the Private Messaging function was reduced to about 1 message every few hours, so nobody could contact their friends to discuss where to go to next. Josh also removed signatures from people's posts so they couldn't direct people to where they were gathering.

Then a fun little quirk appeared when people tried to archive what was left of the forum - they were being redirected to the Rick Astley video clip that had been embedded throughout the entire forum so they couldn't save any of their posts from the forum, instead they had mistakenly downloaded numerous videos of "Never gonna give you up". What a hilarious prankster Josh is.

In summary, your blog post is absolutely redundant. Nobody cares about the new changes that Richard has the full entitled rights to make. The problem came when Josh started deleting users and posts at a whim, the same guy who knows nothing about the forum or the culture within it (his last action on the forum was about 7-8 months ago when he turned off the search function, his action before that was when he last made an announcement that caused a significant proportion of members leave and form a new community).

Nobody cares about the new structure. People are angry about the wanton destruction of information and the child-like actions of the admin who carried it out.

Mike O.
(Mr.Samsa - Ex-moderator of RDF)

Topsy (former RDF Volunteer) wrote:Re: The Times article

I was feeling pretty sick when I read Richard's "Outrage" announcement because those insults he quoted were not at all representative of the vast majority of forum members, they were made AFTER the forum was locked and they were NOT sent to Josh or even posted on forum. They were harvested quotes from a very small minority of people posting elsewhere.

Richard has been informed of this and I was desperately hoping that he'd edit his announcement accordingly.

It's too late now because it's on the Times website and the thousands of loyal, intelligent, rational forum members have been misrepresented as a bunch of foul-mouthed, vitriolic thugs by the man who so inspired them.

To any moderate Christians reading this who have been labelled as disgusting due to the evil, homophobic rantings of the Westborough Baptist Church, I know how you feel.

Jain (former RDF Volunteer) wrote:Ex moderator of here.

I would just like to say that I was proud to be a moderator of the forum. The moderation team were excellent and worked very hard to keep the forum to a standard I feel was excellent. The topics covered in the different sections of the forum were kept free from spam/porn and nudity/trolls and personal insults were not tolerated. The forum was an oasis of free thinkers but it was also moderated so well that smut and bad behavior was quickly removed keeping the forum free from, what I believe non members seem to be surmizing, being a free for all chaotic mess. The forum was organised well and moderators covered every area to ensure the forum was acceptable for all people to join.
The topics were interesting and I have learned more there about science than I could ever have thought possible. This was down to joining in with discussions and reading the informative posts made by the many members there, becoming part of the community there.
The community there was fantastic, many of the members contributed a wealth of knowledge. If I had a question, about anything, I was sure to find the answer on The members there covered all walks of life and professions and there was no question that couldnt be answered.

Now its gone. Yep its Richard Dawkins forum and he can do what he wants with it. But the people there were there because of him, because of the respect and admiration they had for him and his cause.

His latest post 'outrage' tells us about a few posts that, yes I agree with him, are disgusting.
But do those few posts that are so awful have to take up his whole statement? Out of 85,000 members it would be naive to think that some wouldn't write such things. They would never have gotten away with it on the forum. They weren't even written on the but quote mined from another forum.
Surely after he had shown his disgust at the awful posts he should have mentioned all the fantastic members, the dedicated staff that worked for FREE and gave so much of their lives to the forum. A thank you would have been nice and a few kind words to the members that support him and admire him for what he stands for and his brilliant work.
It really wouldnt have taken a lot, but instead he focused on something that was not what the forum was about.
I'll miss the forum and my friends there. I will always be proud to have been a moderator in such a fantastic community of rational people.

Calilasseia (former RDF Volunteer) wrote:Dear Sir,

I do not know if you are aware of the recent events taking place on the Richard Dawkins Forums, and frankly, I sincerely hope that you are unaware, because if not, this leads inexorably to the asking of several disturbing questions. But I shall deal with those another time. First, I wish to address several pressing issues, and seek some answers from you, which, as someone who has served loyally in a volunteer position on those forums for two and a half years, expending much labour in the process, I think I am entitled to ask for.

I discovered, entirely by surprise, that the entire forum was being shut down, courtesy of a unilateral decision that was made without consulting any of the numerous individuals who had expended their time and effort toward building what was, prior to the Pol Pot style "Year Zero" operation performed upon it, possibly the premier place for atheists and scientific rationalists to spend their time and share valuable experiences and knowledge with others. With a membership approaching no less than 85,000 individuals, of which something like 1,200 were long-term and voluminous contributors, providing the very dissemination of knowledge that you claim to be in favour of, the Richard Dawkins Forums was a unique Internet resource, one that provided people with, among other gifts, direct access to peer reviewed scientific papers on a range of subjects from physics and geology to evolutionary biology, and extensive discussion thereof. As a regular participant in this exercise, I am well placed to survey the breadth and depth of the material submitted by regular forum members over my two and a half year tenure, and a good number of those contributors have been roundly applauded for their diligent and patient exposition of concepts that that not immediately amenable to the layman. As a consequence of this activity, which included a huge amount of effort dealing with the oft-repeated and tiresome canards erected by duplicitous ideological warriors for mythology-based doctrines, whose activities frequently provided valuable evidence of the suppurating mendacity lying at the heart of those doctrines, of which creationism was simply the most noxious, the educational value of those forums, as a means of providing the evidence supporting the reality-based world view, the evidence supporting valid scientific postulates, and the evidence of skulduggery writ large on the part of propagandists for supernaturalist masturbation fantasies, was immense. It is no exaggeration to state that the content of the "free fire zones" of the forums, within which I saw considerable action myself, constituted a veritable treasure house of resources for those who wished to rally to your flag.

But now, that has come to an end. We are told that the forums will cease to exist in their current form, and be replaced by - what? Some nebulous vapourware concept erected by one or two individuals who, quite frankly, have not only exhibited zero competence in the field of personnel relations, but who have, upon beginning the implementation of their New World Order, exhibited exactly the duplicity that many of the forum members spent long hours exposing on the part of your enemies.

In what conceivable universe does this constitute a "reward" for those who have striven assiduously on your behalf to fend off the ideological stormtroopers, unmask their devious subterfuges, and expose their numerous acts of discoursive abuse? In case you have not visited the relevant forum sections, this activity includes painstaking detective work with respect to revealing the wholly foetid underbelly of the polished, yet sleazy and meretricious pontifications by professional liars for doctrine. People who might otherwise have fallen prey to the assorted charlatans and fraudsters making up the corporate industry that is professional creationism, have instead been presented with carefully executed, forensic dissections of the lies that this well-funded and politically well-connected industry disseminates, and have emerged from examination of those dissections with a wholly different perspective upon the issues involved. Indeed, several of those have offered public thanks on the forums for those labours, and also expressed gratitude to those on the staff, whose difficult and frequently thankless task consisted of ensuring that such expositions could take place, free from corruption and spin. Indeed, the ruthlessness with which the purveyors of mythology and anti-science pursue the business of seeking hegemony for their tacky little doctrines has also been educational, and the staff have provided a means by which said ruthlessness could be subject to proper critical scrutiny, the falsehoods laid bare, and the fallacies and rhetorical mischief rendered impotent. The staff and members of the Richard Dawkins Forums have performed a valuable public service throughout their endeavours, without the benefit of pre-arranged lecture tours, symposia or conferences, without the benefit of influential backers, without the benefit of political connections, and they have not only withstood vicious ideological warfare, they have prevailed.

As a corollary, the forums became the place to develop rigorous and robust means of combating the professional liars for doctrine, many of whose copy-paste lackeys visited the forums specifically to prosecute their odious activities, only to find that they ran into the brick wall of an educated, aware membership equipped to meet the challenge head-on. As a historical record of the bitter warfare between reason and unreason, the forums, in effect, stood out with a prominence that made comparisons to the classical Library of Alexandria only mildly hyperbolic.

That has now been cast to the flames.

First of all, the staff were told that a "solution" was being prepared to address the inadequacy of the current software to support the demands being placed upon it. That "solution" was supposedly to be presented to the staff, in the form of a test bed, so that they could determine whether or not it was likely to be a success. Requests to provide specifics in this regard were met with little more than curt dismissals to the effect "trust us, we know what we're doing". It became increasingly apparent, as the gap between those requests and the answers required opened into a yawning chasm, that these two individuals did not know what they were doing. They possessed absolutely no understanding of the dynamics of the extant forum, and how those dynamics contributed to its utility value as a weapon in the war against the pernicious evils of the doctrine centred world view. Disappearing into their technocratic rectal passages, these two overgrown schoolboys engaged in Borg-like stonewalling interspersed with the occasional episode of Dalek-esque vomiting of yuppie business school Newspeak, and their patronising, condescending attitude toward the membership and the staff would have been an exercise in chutzpah on a galactic scale if it had been deployed by a professional politician, let alone these two manifestly ill-equipped, ill-suited and woefully incompetent oiks.

Not satisfied with subjecting everyone to the well-known mushroom theory of personnel management, when matters came to a head, their reaction was that of failed dictators everywhere - suppress dissent by the most lead-footed, iron-fisted, Neanderthal means to hand. Dissent that would never have arisen in the first place, if the part-time cameraman and his recycled yuppie sidekick had once bothered to attend to the matter of engaging with the membership, who would have to live with whatever hologram they had dreamed up whilst listening to the music of the spheres of their own verbal diarrhoea.

Now, as a scientist of repute, you have repeatedly exhorted people to make decisions based upon evidence. This we were unable to do with respect to their particular Brave New World, because not once was any evidence provided to us, that their project was something other than a figment of their imaginations. Even if the end result departed markedly therefrom, a few basic screenshots of the work in progress would have been enough to tell us that something resembling a usable software solution was being developed. Even these meagre crumbs failed to fall from their table. Tell me, did these individuals ever provide you with actual evidence that their project bore some resemblance to a working website? If so, why could they not provide us with the same? if they didn't provide you with that evidence, then how can you purport to be in a position to educate people, with respect to developing critical thinking and an evidence-based approach to important issues, having abandonded this yourself and given these individuals carte blanche to do as they see fit?

Now, these two miserable specimens have compounded their incompetence with acts of actual deceit. Including wholesale destruction of the post history of six users, at least one of them a moderator to my knowledge, and the deliberate erasure of moderation logs in order to cover their traces with respect to other, subsidiary acts of administrative mendacity. They acted against these six individuals in a manner that is immediately and manifestly suggestive of spite and petulance, wrought on a scale that was last witnessed being deployed under the hideous spectre that was Pinochet in Chile. Fuller, more detailed expositions thereof are now readily available in the public domain, should you care to avail yourself of them, which, as an individual committed to evidence, I respectfully suggest that you do.

All this would be bad enough, were it the sum total of the damage inflicted upon the community that was once the most vibrant in the secular community. But by treating loyal, committed forum members and staff as if they were little better than floor sweepings, they have inflicted serious and quantifiable material damage upon your entire vision for the future, a vision that those curtly dismissed members were striving to work for on your behalf. They have tainted that vision, and moreover, exposed you to potentially critical political damage on the wider global arena, by handing, on a silver platter, a propaganda gift to the professional liars for doctrine you have been working so hard to combat. Indeed, these two sorry, woebegotten and lamentably pathetic little persons, indulged with powers and responsibilities far beyond their manifest abilities, could not have done more damage to your vision of global empowerment and education against the pernicious influence of doctrinal blind assertion, if they had been creationist moles within your organisation. The legacy they have left, as a result of being handed the keys to the liquor cabinet of power and drink themselves senseless upon the contents, is one of lasting harm to the very causes you have striven for decades to advance. They have, in short, sabotaged your life's work by their actions.

It is in your hands to undo this, messy, thankless and tedious a task this may be. But to put right the wanton vandalism that has ensued, you will have to act decisively, and take unpleasant decisions. First and foremost being the replacement of these two over-indulged, under-regulated and wholly unfit minions, with people who are competent at the task. Do you have the steel in your being to do this? If not, decades of your labour will be in ruins. The situation is that serious, that critical. You are engaged, for better or for worse, in outright warfare against ruthless, committed ideologues, who will stop at nothing to roll over you, and you don't win wars by allowing the battle-hardened veterans by your side to be subject en masse to a drumhead tribunal, at the hands of staff officers who cannot even command a desk properly.

Yours sincerely,


Reactions from Forum members;

CJ wrote:Hi I’m CJ one of the members who had all their posts (13,889) at RDF deleted by Josh Timonen.

I had been there for 3 years. Now the ONLY thing that really gets me is the wanton destruction of a historical document the like of which will never be seen again. How will future historians see this act by Josh and Richard? I think they’ll hold their heads in their hands and cry at the loss. There is NO record like this of the reaction to the publication of one book, The God Delusion, in the history of mankind. Nothing like it exists in the past because the Internet was not mature. Nothing like it will exist in the future as the nature of reading is changing out of all recognition. The forum is a unique resource that needs to be preserved not destroyed and it’s being destroyed, bit by bit, by Josh Timonen.

The last backup before this debacle needs to be preserved for future generations. Please, please, please make Richard see sense on this point if you do nothing else. Richard won’t listen to the people who have dedicated thousands of hours fighting his cause on his forum, so I hope with all my heart that he will listen to you and not destroy a unique historical document. 2.4 million posts gone as if they had never existed. Heart rending stories of theists finding their way out from the tyranny of religion, gone. Creationist arguments picked apart and destroyed, gone. If this forum is lost it will be one of the greatest acts on intellectual vandalism the world may ever see. And all they need to do is send a backup to a museum that will host it in a read only form for future generations to read. I will pay Richard 1p for the last backup (it’s going in the bin anyway so why should he care how much is paid for it) before the debacle and I will do my level best to get it hosted in a read only form somewhere.

Regards Chris

Valden wrote:Hello, I am one of the members that was completely deleted off the forum.

I had been part of the forum for a little over two years, racking up more then 5.5k posts during that time. Though I spent most of my time in the Politics and Current Events section, I would often go into the Science sections of the forum, seeking to expand my mind with knowledge that other members, such as Cali, were so kind enough to share.

I also had a great many memories there. From laughs, to sympathy. When I first joined, I was a Deist. And it was because of the people on that forum, that have shown me that my beliefs were nothing more then a security blanket.

When everything went out of control and Josh turned the forum off (before it went into read-mode) I made three protest comments (None of which were at all bad) on the front page. In one of those comments, I asked to be banned, as I no longer wanted anything to do with the entire website itself.

But instead of just being banned, I was deleted. All my posts were gone. My memories, thrown down a cliff as if they were nothing. It was as if I had never been a member there in the first place.
I had received only two warnings my entire time there. I was a fairly well behaved member. Such treatment was completely out of line, and not needed.

Before I was deleted, I was still thinking about just merely lurking around the new forum and posting here and there. But now, I don't want anything to do with the place due to the treatment of not only myself, but several other members who were also deleted, the staff, and members.

PZ, you ask why Josh is being treated as a monster. Wouldn't you consider someone who burns a book to be the same as a monster? Deleting our entire history on that forum is in my eyes, the same as burning books.

This is not about how the new forum will function. It's about how all of us were treated like dirt. Josh is NOT a valid contributor, he almost never posted on the forum. He doesn't understand the basics of forum life. If he bothered to put more time into being part of the forum community, then perhaps this all could have been avoided.

But instead, he ignored the warnings of the staff, people who were actually part of the forum community and spent months, to years of their time keeping it together. Josh does not understand that, and apparently, neither do you or Richard Dawkins.

Josh is a liar, and I can not help but think Richard is being shown one side of the picture, which is Josh's. He has attempted to shift the blame entirely on those of us who were deleted, and make it look like he had done nothing wrong.

I am not impressed.

hackenslash wrote:I have been a member of the forum for a little over a year. My 12,000 or so posts represent a great deal of repetition, but also constitute a document of my journey from somebody mildly interested in science to a hardcore didact. I am generally known as the sweary one (the other one), and for being absolutely merciless in the pursuit of truth and rationality.

When this débâcle began, I entered the discussion thread counselling calm, and it largely was, apart from a bit of reactionary emotion, largely due to the fait accompli nature of the changes which, incidentally, have at no point been made clear as yet. All that has been presented is a nebulous statement that it will not be forum, but something different. All of this is one thing, but as soon as concerns were raised, instead of actually discussing these changes and what they would mean for the members, the admin proceeded to delete the thread and to delete the accounts of two of the most prolific members of the forum. In the case of some of these, this represents a wealth of knowledge and educational material, and the presentation of important breaking news in the frontiers of science. The comparison of this exercise to the burning of books is apposite, and constitutes for me the real casualty in all of this. Over 40,000 posts by my estimate, now consigned to oblivion, another Alexandria in the making, and this is only the start, if attempts to save the content are unsuccessful. We have our fingers crossed, and clever people are working on the problem.

I still counsel calm, and I have been a little dismayed at the level of vitriol displayed by some of my comrades. I do, however, pragmatic as I am, recognise that much of that stemmed from very real grievance at the way this situation was handled. However; the response from Richard has also dismayed me somewhat. In effect, he has taken the comments of a few and tarred every member with the same brush. Some of us are still clinging to rationality, hard though that actually is at the moment. Many of us are sporting hard-won battle scars in the defence of reason, and in the furtherance of the goals of the foundation. While the forum in its current form may not fit the vision of the foundation, or of Richard, no indication has yet been given what that vision might be, or whether our visions or efforts lie in the same direction. No useful communication has been entered into in this regard, even with the moderating staff, after repeated assurances that they would be kept in the loop. Not to mention that when concerns about the future of the forum were raised in the recent past, the members were assured that the forum cntent would be retained, and that improvements were 'on the way'. All of this seems now to amount to no more than blowing smoke, with a liberal dose of flannel. Nonetheless, I and several others, injured as we are at the treatment handed down by Josh, especially to the moderating staff, who took a huge amount of flak and heloed to build along with the regular members, one of the premier resources on the net for education in critical thinking and the dissemination of valid science.

All of this could have been avoided with better communication and the ability to efficiently deal with what was always going to be a difficult situation.

Most of my efforts since the closure of the forum have been geared toward retaining contact with the regular members, most of whom simply came to the forum to find that they were locked out. All attempts to leave any information about where we might be found were silenced.

Again, I regret the comments of some of my fellow forum members, and I do ultimately recognise that the vision for the future of the foundation rests with Richard, but the reactionary way this has been handled, particularly in the treatment of the staff, has left a sour taste in many mouths, especially given the input of those people in the furtherance of the aims fo the foundation.

A good night's work has been done in the cause of unreason in this fiasco, and the creationists are crowing with glee.


Reaction to RDF's Announcement "Outrage";

Anon wrote:I have just read your announcement.

Unfortunately you have completely missed the motivation behind the protests levelled at the 2 people in question.

When the original announcement was made there was no vituperation levelled at Josh. There were a number of objections registered the overwhelming percentage of which were polite in questioning the reason for the changes proposed.

At the start of this it was felt that the moderators were supporting the change, Two of the moderators posted a message from Josh sent to all the moderators, strictly speaking it was against the rules of the site to repost something from the staff only forum but this was not revealing personal communication but a policy change nor had there been any suggestion that an attempt to misuse private member information by the volunteer staff was even being contemplated.

It was also made clear by some mods that over the past few months the staff had been in communication with the 2 people involved and not only had communications been ignored but the staff had been told things that were just not true, and the people making those statements must have known they were untrue when they made them as such a radical change to the forums cannot have been proposed, planned and decided in a few days.

It was the actions taken by Josh from this point onwards that have attracted so much distaste from a wide variety of the membership.

1) Posts that politely criticised or questioned the change were removed - these did not include insults to Josh.

2) The moderators who reposted info from the staff forums were not stripped of their moderator priveleges or even banned. Instead their accounts were deleted which removed every single post they had made, this resulted in the loss of exactly the type of posts that were supposed to be available for members to archive. No communication was received by any other moderators who may have been willing to keep things going over the 30 day period.

Deleting accounts has never been the policy of the forums, only deletion of specific posts. The fact that thousands of useful and relevant posts have been deleted certainly angered many regular users.

3) Josh did not respond to any private messages or e-mails send by staff questioning what was happening.

3) The forums were locked - this prevented any further questioning of the changes, polite or otherwise.

4) Private Messaging was effectively disabled which prevented members communicating with each other in any manner whatsoever. The announcement "We were not telling the regular users what they could and couldn't do, they were all welcome to move to a separate forum." was obviously false as disabling both posting and PM's prevented the regular users from doing anything.

5) The admin logs showing what had been done have been deleted, and well over 100,000 posts have disappeared from the forums on the past 2 days.

6) The updates announcements on the closure were condescending to regular users and contained lies. There was no valid reason to delete accounts rather than de-moderating or banning members. There was no reason to stifle polite discussion by reguilar members.

It was not the decision that was taken that has enraged so many but the actions taken after that decision was announced.

It is Josh's actions that have attracted the criticism levelled at him and, coupled with his supression of any form of dissent by regular members, have lead many to regard the past 2 days as a debacle that will drive many away from any future support of the foundation. It will certainly do so in my case, I will give no support to an organisation that has so abruptly and egregiously silenced the voices of so many in the atheist community.

95Theses wrote:not a single one of those quotes came from the RDF Forums.

They all appeared on Rationalia, after :

a) Removed PM Functionality
b) Deleted tens of thousands of science posts
c) removed signatures that attempted to give people another place to meet
d) Locked the forums and turned off search completely to make it nigh impossible to archive any content.
e) specifically forbade mods from helping people to arrange to go to a new forum
f) redirected archival programs to a Rick-roll

Unfortunately I can't direct you to the thread discussing the changes actually ON RDF which was far more civil because josh has

a) Deleted it
b) Removed said deletion from the server logs.

Peter Brown wrote:(in response to article by Ruth Gledhill, ... eists.html)

Dear Ruth,

Would you like some *facts*, perchance? Only I gather this was something that journalists once concerned themselves with. I'd like to think that some of them still do. If you fall into this category, then please read the following.

As one of the former moderators of the forums, whose 2½ years of unpaid volunteer activity was declared surplus to requirements, allow me to provide you with a suitable summary of events.

[1] The mod team was informed, months ago, that changes were to be made to the forum. However, details were not forthcoming. The mod team were not even shown basic screenshots of the prototype new software in action, and all requests to provide the information we needed in order to implement the changes being decided upon in as seamless a manner as possible were simply ignored. I suspect a lot of foot soldiers in the IT world will be familiar with this scenario.

[2] When the public announcement was made to the forum membership, it was presented in such a manner as to suggest that the mod team assented in full to the changes that were being made, which was a blatant falsehood.

[3] When one of the moderators posted a message providing evidence to the membership that this was a blatant falsehood, said moderator was axed from the site. Not merely banned, but his entire user account destroyed, along with thousands of posts containing the very expositions of hard science that RD claims to be in favour of seeing more of.

[4] When forum members launched a thread critical of this move, the thread was summarily deleted, and several other users were expunged from the site, along with over 30,000 posts. Again, this included valuable material covering scientific topics, made accessible to the layman, of the very sort RD claims to be in favour of seeing posted. Which means that Josh Timonen, in deleting this material, was acting in direct contravention of the stated mission of his boss by destroying that material.

[5] Josh then placed the entire forum in read-only mode, wilfully destroyed information allowing members to maintain contact via other means, and in a move of truly juvenile petulance, redirected links intended to point to software backup portals to a Rick Astley video on YouTube (yes, he thought that rickrolling those wishing to back up their material constituted proper professional conduct).

[6] Members decanted in numbers to another forum, and vented their anger on that other forum..

[7] Josh lifted quote mined snippets from that forum, presented these to RD as if they constituted the substantive views of the exiled membership, whilst taking steps to ensure that his master never saw the substantive allegations against him with respect to the above-cited mendacious conduct, and took steps to hide his duplicity further by destroying moderator log entries that would have revealed his wilful vandalism of the forum and its contents.

[8] RD, placing a faintly ridiculous amount of trust in this individual, accepted these quote mines as fact, without checking his sources independently, and posted the tirade that has since become newsworthy.

In short, RD bestowed plenary powers upon Josh Timonen, who wilfully and maliciously abused them to entrench his own position of power. By doing so, Timonen has inflicted enormous damage upon his master's reputation, and indeed upon his master's stated mission, as cited above. Indeed, Dawkins' enemies amongst the professional liars for creationism could not have wished for a better result, had Timonen been planted within RD's organisation by them as a mole. Twenty years' hard work by Dawkins, alerting people to the dangers of doctrine centred world views, and attempting to educate people about valid science in the face of duplicitous ideological attack, has in effect been flushed down the toilet by his protegé.

Richard Dawkins Quote Mining;

laklak wrote:The "suppurating rectum" comment was mine. It was posted on another website, on a thread mocking Dawkin's forum administrator. It was not directed at Professor Dawkins, as anyone who bothered to read the thread would have immediately understood. It was posted AFTER was taken down, AFTER user accounts were unceremoniously deleted, and AFTER the wholesale destruction of literally of tens of thousands of posts.

No forum member I have been in touch with was furious about the proposed changes. They were concerned and upset, certainly, but there was never any vitriolic vulgarity posted on As many have said, belongs to Richard Dawkins; it is his to do with as he sees fit. The anger and sense of betrayal stems from the thoroughly unprofessional actions of the forum administrator, Josh Timonen.

We were told, by the forum admin, that the old forum structure would be maintained for 30 days. This was a lie. We were told we would be able to download our post content. This was a lie. In fact, someone in forum administration "rickrolled" the download functionality. Anyone attempting to download forum content was instead treated to Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" video.

Then someone (no one knows who, actually) trolled though a different forum, took several quotes out of context and posted them as the initial justification for shutting down This practice is known as "quote mining", and is something that Creationists have done repeatedly to Professor Dawkins in the past, a practice he has publicly criticized. Every one of these comments were made after the forum closure, NOT before. Professor Dawkins seems to have mixed up cause and effect.

Professor Dawkins praised the forum's sense of community on at least one occasion. He also requested the input of forum posters (many of whom are tenured, professional scientists) on several occasions. Apparently, though, there was too much "frivolous gossip", despite the fact that the site provided many sub-forums dedicated to "frivolous", non-scientific topics. Sub-forums like Off-Topic Discussions, Parenting, Politics and Current Affairs, General Discussions, The Book Nook, and several others. Why would provide these sub-forums and then get huffy and irritated when members actually used them?

There has been a great deal of incorrect information about this reported as truth in the media. I assumed an organization like The Telegraph would have performed at least a cursory check on it's source material before going to press, it appears I was mistaken.

No matter, this tempest in a teapot will soon blow over. Those of us interested in robust, honest, discourse (with just a hint of frivolousness and perhaps the occasional adult expletive) will move on to other sites. I'm just sad to see a once bustling online community reduced ashes by the high-handed and completely unnecessary actions of a few individuals.

95Theses wrote:Dr Dawkins,

Whatever one's postion on the matter of the forums, we must surely agree that for you to be quote-mining others in your announcement is surely beneath you, who have had the tactic turned on you so frequently.

You imply that it was statements like this posted on the RDF forums that necessitated their early closure :
Or that others expressed a “sudden urge to ram a fistful of nails” down your throat

And yet, the quote itself was taken from here and is clearly dated after the RDF forums were closed and in context reads :

ficklefiend wrote:
lordpasternack wrote:
The bottom line is that I personally am far more offended by Josh's 'handling' of this debacle than I am of the initial decision.

When someone tells me they know that change can be frightening in order to at both times shut me up and patronise me, I get the sudden urge to ram a fistful of nails down their throat.

So, yeah, bad handling.

(I'm glad you've sent a letter. A few well known names with calm and honest opinions might at least wake RD up to what has been done, even if he doesn't care)

It doesn't really sound quite as vitriolic in context does it? Especially when one takes into account the closing statement. Every single quote you cite comes from another website after the closure of RDF and it is disingenuous to claim that they were the reason the website was closed.

If you have any interest in the facts of the matter, may I suggest you ask Josh for a copy of the original RDF thread discussing this matter. If it is unavailbale I believe we have a copy if you would like to see it, it shows nothing like the level of vitriol you attribute to your once loyal forum members and staff.

Honestly, I would have expected more from you.


*** My Real Name***

PeteBrown wrote:Having been a witness to the events of that night I can only say Dawkins is himself suffering from The Josh Delusion.

What I saw was a admin post stating the changes, the user base saying they did not like the proposed format as it risked censoring out valid opinions to a topic that did not fit the editors mandate, or ignore any casual users question, especially mistaken theories which might get corrected for a University educated person need only apply to post format.

The Admins of RDF did not like this one bit and simply run amoke deleting descenting posts, users suggesting alternative forums to talk in removed, wiping whole accounts, and what was really unforgivable; some of the former mods have said the RDF team deleted the very evidence they actually done what they did.

If this claim of deleting the evidence was made about an organisation which RDF is being a charity, those involved would be under investigation and if the case proven, be instantly dismissed for professional misconduct I think.

“How can anybody feel that strongly about something so small? Have we stumbled on some dark, territorial atavism? Have private fiefdoms been unwittingly trampled?”

Well this seems true about the RDF admins on a number of issues that night. Is it any wonder fourteen hour later after the forum shutdown people started venting anger and frustration at those who committed the act? Even less of a wonder they are still attempting to place the evidence before the public when the media accepts the Dawkins response as unquestionable authority on the issue especially as it can be proven foul comments were directed at one of the leaders of the admin team 14 hours after Richard claims they caused the forum to be locked down. Talk about weasel words, truth economy and deluded facts.

Links to blogs from forum members/moderators on the account of events;

Peter Harrison: Death of a Forum
Peter Harrison: Forum Closure Update
Hack: Reciprocity - When You Fight Yourself
Jerome: And sometimes he's so nameless
Darkchilde's blog

Youtube responses;

Open Letter to Richard Dawkins;

Letters to Richard

News Coverage Links;

Online Journalism Blog- ... nt-page-1/
The actual history is well summarised by blogposts by former moderators Pete Harrison, Jerome23 and Darkchilde. The problem is not that the forum has closed; it is of the way the process has been (mis)managed – particularly because RD has taken a very hands-off approach and backed his employed staff over his volunteer moderators, when it is the former who may well be in he wrong. (Online Journalism Blog)

BBC (Will & Testament)- ... wkins.html

The Telegraph - ... iests.html

The Times- ... 041878.ece

The Times (Science blog) - ... -fans.html

The Times (religion blog) - ... eists.html

Webuser UK - ... ship-storm

The Guardian - ... n-comments

Tech Eye - ... ternet-war
He will continue his purge his website of this “vicious element”. If only there were a similar system of autocratic control on humanity which could make them behave in a way that Dawkin's likes. What ever happened to the Catholic Church? (Tech Eye)

Science blogs -

Ship of Fools (Christian site) - ... 2;t=014150
Death of Dawkins forum?
One of the brightest and best atheist forums on the Internet has gone into meltdown (Ship of Fools)

Uncommon Decent (ID site) - ... followers/
But, Dr. Dawkins, you knew they were snakes when you picked them up, why are you surprised when you get bitten? You invited them, gave them a home, encouragement, free reign, why the surprise? (Uncommon Descent)

Mohammed Abbasi - ... -a-mullah/

PZ Myers - Pharyngula - ... sucked.php

Avengelism - ... rum-drama/
"Regardless, there’s a certain unfortunate irony that a forum bearing Richard Dawkins’ name which evolved into a complicated and spectacular entity is now threatened with extinction because an intelligently designed forum has been created to replace it.” (Avenagelism)

Prometheus Unbound - ... per-place/
I hope that Richard Dawkins corrects this, and at least apologizes to the web volunteers that gave his site so many unpaid hours, but he appears to have dug in with Josh Timonen on this, and in the process he has shown himself capable of being both imperious and callous: what he writes is important; what forum contributors write is “small.” Perhaps it’s true. The average person has always been disposable. Sometimes somebody from the elite classes has to remind us of this. (Prometheus Unbound)

Eliziphanian - ... ition.html
Also, bluntly, if Prof Dawkins doesn't make a very strong effort to fix this - and counteract the impression that he doesn't care for all the people who have rallied to his cause over the last several years - then i) his leadership of same is over and ii) the cause he has been promoting for so long has been grievously hindered. (Eliziphanian)

Nick Page -

Heathenhub: Gurdur's blog (discusses PZ Myers role in this)

A Special Thanks to Jerome (our friendly neighbourhood theist) for accumulating these articles.