Some NCFP Blog History and Philosophy

Folks asked for my opinion on these topics, and we have new folks (which is good!) since we started in 2009, so here goes:

This blog was specifically started to have discussions between academics and practitioners. Therefore, any claims can be brought here, peer-reviewed or not. Part of the point is to look at the forest as perceived by people who work and live there, people who belong to interest groups, academics, lawyers, scientists of all stripes, and see how their pieces of information fit together, or don’t.

When someone posts something, I like to hear what they think. So when I post something, you will usually find a note from me..sometimes as simple as “I find this interesting because” but not always. I LIKE people to share why they posted it; what they agree or disagree with, because I am interested in the people on this blog and what they think. But it’s not required.

Now when I post something, I am not going to defend the claims made, unless a) I agree with them and b) I have the time and inclination..otherwise, the authors speak for themselves. The authors are welcome to contribute to the blog and defend their positions. A great many people I speak with don’t want to do that, though,… one of the reasons being..

Lack of civility found on many blogs and sometimes on this blog. While Bob says we have more readers when people are like that, my feeling is that we are/should be better than that. And if we are few and civil, that would be better than having more readers and being rude and disrespectful. Look at the U.S. Congress, for example, how’s jerkiness workin’ for them (and us)?

In the past, I’ve noticed that sometimes people get into uncivil disagreements. When that happens, there is no way I can drop everything else I do, and moderate it. So I have asked folks 1) not to do it, and 2) any other folks around who observe it to call people on it.

I told Steve Wilent this week that those discussions are like “fingernails on the blackboard of my soul.” Sometimes in the past, I have thought that I was being gender- insensitive to want to get rid of it, as maybe it’s a guy equivalent of puppies play-fighting. They get over it and go on about their business, just letting off steam, and perhaps I shouldn’t be so judgmental. But I’m neither going to read those comments nor moderate them.

Other reasons people who write papers don’t want to discuss it on blogs, including this one include 1) it can suck up a lot of time for 2) no professional or other rewards. I like to think of blogging as 21st Century Extension (in the research, extension, education model) but so far this idea has not caught on with anyone with funds. So here we are :).

Finally, sometimes whether folks reveal their real names becomes an issue. This started with people “outing” Larry, lo those many years ago. I personally want to hear more from current FS people so I want people to have fake names if they otherwise feel they wouldn’t participate. People have their own reasons, and as long as they bring something thoughtful to the table and are respectful, I am fine with it.

7 Comments

  1. Sharon, Thank you for sharing some of the history and philosophy of this blog. I think it’s important, from time to time, for all of us to review this.

    I hope everyone can clearly see you, as the moderator and “owner” of the blog, have directly answered a few of the more continuous issues that popped up in this recent comment thread.

    For example, you stated:

    any claims can be brought here, peer-reviewed or not. Part of the point is to look at the forest as perceived by people who work and live there, people who belong to interest groups, academics, lawyers, scientists of all stripes, and see how their pieces of information fit together, or don’t.

    That makes sense and falls in line with the history and philosophy you’ve outlined above.

    You also clearly pointed out:

    Now when I post something, I am not going to defend the claims made…the authors speak for themselves.

    Hopefully that statement from Sharon, the moderator/owner of this blog, puts to rest the notion from one blog participant that if anyone on this site shares information on this blog: “You buy it, you sell it, it is your fact sheet whether you wrote it or not.”

    Thanks again Sharon.

  2. Sharon and Matt: in agreement with both of you. I would also like to draw attention to the statement:

    “I personally want to hear more from current FS people so I want people to have fake names if they otherwise feel they wouldn’t participate. People have their own reasons, and as long as they bring something thoughtful to the table and are respectful, I am fine with it.”

    I’m not so interested in current FS people as Sharon, but I think the point is to be “throughtful” and “respectful” if you feel the need for some reason to remain anonymous (and other than actual job security, I can’t think of too many other reasons). My pet peeves are ad hominem attacks (including mockery) and condescending statements and lectures (“from an anonymous source”). Sometimes there is a fine line involved in these approaches, but they are usually fairly obvious. And, just as Matt V has done, he says right up why he is anonymous, and that adds a lot of credibility to what he says. Same with JZ and others.

  3. Sharon

    Re: “And if we are few and civil, that would be better than having more readers and being rude and disrespectful”
    –> Agree, let’s not admit the instigating rude and disrespectful comments in the first place. The instigators will get the message and others will not be provoked. If you have a moderator who is the source of continuous “rude and disrespectful” comments, remove them from that role so that their comments are subject to review.

    Re: “fingernails on the blackboard of my soul.” and “I have thought that I was being gender- insensitive to want to get rid of it, as maybe it’s a guy equivalent of puppies play-fighting”
    –> This is not “puppies play-fighting”. This is serious disagreement over ideology. As such it requires some ground rules that are enforced in order to maintain civility.

    Re: “I LIKE people to share why they posted it; what they agree or disagree with, because I am interested in the people on this blog and what they think. But it’s not required.”
    –> I do too – so, why not require it?
    –> You say: “when I post something, I am not going to defend the claims made”. Doesn’t that go against your statement: “I LIKE people to share why they posted it; what they agree or disagree with”?
    —-> If you start a new thread, it would seem logical that you should have at least read it enough to, as you say: “share why they posted it; what they agree or disagree with” or even better, the even more open and civil: ‘Here is what I don’t understand about this’.

    —-> As you say: “This blog was specifically started to have discussions between academics and practitioners”. To me that means the discussion is between members of the blog. An absent and non participating proxy is by definition not a part of the blog and therefore not a part of the discussion. Likewise, charges to take the discussion out of the blog to a private exchange with the proxy, who may or may not respond, is counter to the stated goal of this blog which is “to have discussions between academics and practitioners”

  4. Hey all, been reading daily, however I’ve not had a lot a lot of time for participation…just figured out tonight how to transfer my profile from the old site.

    An observation, with no disrespect towards anyone: This site has an incredible amount of brainpower and passionate, dedicated folks, however it seems that “game” (for lack of a better word right now) is to jump all over Matt, David, Tree and others for posts about anything that is opposed to active forest management. Honestly, it gets old. And this trend towards having to have a citation for every claim…well, that’s even more dissuading, unless a written debate is all you’re after. Personally, I’d like to read more civil dialogue (as boring as it is) on folks’ positions in an effort to better understand………yeah, I get the point of all the proactive forest management folks (I’m one myself), but it seems that most conversations here are incredibly lopsided at the expense of learning from the few “personalities” that contribute a different opinion/perspective. If it weren’t for those folks, it would be pretty boring to come hear and read Bob, Larry and Gil argueing with each other…….oh, wait a minute……

    On anonimity……yep, I work for the Agency. Sharon can explain why anonimity is OK (even preferred) if anyone has heartburn. Many of the routine contributors here know who am I am and what I do thru offline conversations….not that it makes a difference.

    To the OP…I prefer civil dialogue.

  5. Jeez, JZ: I was just invoking your name earlier today and even on this string — good to hear from you! Glad you’ve been keeping up on discussions — that’s what I try to do when I’m too busy doing actual work or away from my desk. I think I’ve been the only one mostly whining about the anonymity thing (with a little help from Matt from time to time), but that is almost always specific to people who use it as a weapon or as a pulpit, and that is from several years of scar tissue, so I’m probably a little over-sensitive on the issue. Once you can get some time on your hands, it would be interesting to see what you might think about some of Botkin’s stuff. Same with the Moghissi link I put in earlier today.

  6. Sharon: It might be splitting hairs, but I’d add scientists, teachers, and students to your list as intended audiences. I tend to think of “academics” as mostly college professors. Maybe professionals for practitioners? (I think these are signs I’ve been doing too much editing the past couple of days with my blinds drawn to keep out the beautiful weather here).

  7. Yes, I agree.. we haven’t had much luck with students as far as I can tell but that was an original goal. Here is what we said when we started that is currently in the tab above marked “about.”

    Our goal is to solicit broad participation from a cross-section of interests in a respectful atmosphere of mutual learning on topics related to the Forest Service and public lands policy. We believe that ideas will be stronger and choices clearer if developed through such a multidisciplinary, multi-perspective dialogue.

    We especially seek to share perspectives among practitioners, the public and the academic and science communities.

    I think you can practice something without being a “professional”.. in fact, as Larry points out, many people are working that don’t fit the traditional “4 year degree in a specific field” criterion.. maybe that’s splitting hairs, too.

    But when you get a roomful of wildlife bios, planners, foresters, attorneys, paralegals, and NEPA folks from various backgrounds involved in discussions, as in the FS, what makes their knowledge different from academics is that they are engaged in doing something, not studying how other people do it, or developing theories as to how it could be done.

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