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Comments: The Crackdown

I’m sure you all knew this was coming. I enabled comments on Universe Today about 6 months ago, and it was great to have everyone’s feedback. But now people are abusing the system, being rude to each other and advertising their personal theories, so it’s time to crack down. I’m going to implement some new policies that should keep things cleaner. This is a shortened version, inspired by the powerful (but fair) rules over at the Bad Astronomy/Universe Today forum.

The writers and I will be deleting any posts that break the following rules:

  • Be nice – Don’t abuse other readers, the writers, or the Universe in general. Don’t swear, make racist or sexist comments, etc. I think you know when you’re being rude. Stop it.
  • Be brief – Don’t write a long rambling comment that’s longer than the original article.
  • Don’t advertise – Don’t use the site to promote your product, service, or your own website. If you’d like to promote your stuff, buy advertising.
  • Don’t promote your personal, alternative physics theories – This is the same as advertising. You’ve got an idea and you want the world to know about it, then start up your own website, and blog away, but don’t do it here.

I’m also going to make commenters register with the website shortly, so you have to create an account to be able to comment.


Fraser Cain is the publisher of Universe Today. He's also the co-host of Astronomy Cast with Dr. Pamela Gay.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Todd Coolen April 25, 2009, 4:19 PM

    My work is based on many things coming together to a greater means and I choose to explore them on my own. I have a tool that unlocked Riemann Hypothesis and I am not about to share that with anyone until I have fully explored it. It is having implications as far as string theory and my exploration will not end.

    i understand your proposal. I have been told this before. If you read any of my posts, I said that I am not one to usually put my self out there for attack.

    People always scoff at me. I don’t mind.

    Anyway, I will remain silent.


  • Nereid April 25, 2009, 4:35 PM

    You have “a tool that unlocked Riemann Hypothesis”?

    And you have chosen not to publish this?!?

    The leading mathematical puzzle that has withstood over a century of attempts to solve it?!?!?

    If so, then no doubt you’d be among the first to appreciate why people always scoff at you!

    I mean, if you’re under 40, you’ve passed up the opportunity to win the Fields (and be recognised as among the best mathematicians to do so); if not, you’d still rank among the top ten mathematicians of the past ~100 years.

    Todd, something doesn’t add up … what are you doing writing comments in UT, when you could be basking in glory?

  • Todd Coolen April 25, 2009, 4:52 PM

    In 2007, I was over 40. I have talked to doctors but no one here east coast Canada can evaluate it, not to be well you know arogant or underscore the first class talent here. I have contacted Dr. Sarnak in Princeton with no response and I am definitely not going to bug the guy to death in respect for the amount of crackpots he probably has to deal with. Who else… Dr. Andrew Odlyzko…. A doctor from DAL gave me a contact of someone in BC. Fat lot a good that does. i might as well try my luck in Princeton. I’m not a rich man who can travel around all the time.

    But the good thing about it has been the further exploration I have done.

    Anyway, I’m taking up space here and this is not about me. It is about trying to resolve the blatant attacks of some commentors.

    I just wanted you to know where I am coming from. A million dollars. YEAH. WOW. I’d love to get that, but it has been such a long and arduous road to talk to someone about my work, I try to keep the frustation away by just keeping busy with my work when I get a chance from other obligations.

    I am eventually going to get a second degree and more directed in the math field so I can get my chance to be taken seriously.

    Until then… I am just crunching along.


  • Jorge April 25, 2009, 5:14 PM

    Dude, that’s just not how science works. “Talking to people” won’t do you any good.

    Get yourself to ArXiv, download some papers, learn, if you don’t know already, how they are done, use them as templates, try to find as many as you can about your thing and take your time to actually read them, then write up your stuff, framing it into previous research, and submit it to some peer-reviewed publication relevant to that field of study. Or to arXiv directly.

    “Talking to people”, strolling around comment boxes in science blogs, setting up promotional websites and the like can only discredit you.

  • Todd Coolen April 25, 2009, 6:29 PM

    Thanks for the advise. I am not unfamiliar with the ArXiv.

    My website is not promotional — it is personal.

    I’ll get through to someone someday. It is a high profile hypothesis.

    The math realm is a hard society to ‘break’ into.

    I have said all I’m going to.

    Thanks again and Good Day to you and Nereid.

  • Total Science April 25, 2009, 7:08 PM

    If we can’t promote our personal theories then whose theories are we supposed to promote?

  • Timber April 25, 2009, 11:42 PM


    I’m not sure how to express myself about these changes, maybe just disappointed.

    Up to now when I read an article I would usually look to see how many comments there were, if the article was not interesting enough to have a lot of responses, it was not likely interesting enough for me to spend much time on.

    I enjoyed the controversial debates and often learned more from the debate than the article, my supposition now is that the site will become bland, sterile, a polite agreement between established PHD’s, with few meaningful comments.

    My expectation is that I will be one of the former readers that just quietly drifted away.

    It was fun while it lasted, thank you.

  • InvaderXan April 26, 2009, 8:08 AM

    It’s sad that it had to come to this… But necessary. Thanks for running a great site, Fraser (and everyone else!!). I always enjoy reading/posting here. :)

  • opencluster April 26, 2009, 5:48 AM

    Hi Fraser,
    I’m all in favor of the rules, especially number four. Please hold your ground on this one, I support you. I’ve virtually stopped reading comments on any science site because the first few are usually dead-on-arrival.

  • opencluster April 26, 2009, 6:57 AM

    Furthermore, I leave astrophysics to those qualified to do it. They seem to have done a darn good job so far. I trust the peer-review process to separate the true from the false. Of course scientists have theories, but they must prove them with observation. I come here to learn from the experts. This is a hard science site, and I comment Fraser for working to keep it that way.

  • Nereid April 26, 2009, 8:07 AM

    @Timber: would you mind mentioning a few (say three) of the most memorable things you’ve learned from the debates (rather than the articles)?

    This idea – that through discussions which include some non-standard (shall we say) ideas one can often learn something both quickly and valuable – is not uncommon, and I’m interested to understand it in more detail.

  • Sili April 26, 2009, 9:52 AM

    About time. I’ve grown tired of the commentssection lately.

    And as usual some people seem to miss the definition of censorship. It’s right up there:

    You’ve got an idea and you want the world to know about it, then start up your own website, and blog away, but don’t do it here.

    Noöne’s asking you to keep schtumm. You can rant all you want in Hyde Park, but this is Cain’s living room, and here the conversation follows his rules.

  • Astrofiend April 26, 2009, 5:20 PM

    Wow – how much can change over the weekend!

    In the end, this can only be a good thing. I’ve been commenting on this site since comments were first introduced, and reading it since it began. During that time, it has become a joy to come on here, and has been great to chat and share ideas with all of the amazing people on the site. I always prided myself on writing respectful comments and helping out those with questions. I limited attacking other commenters to those who were rude, inflammatory, aggressive or those who wore ignorance like a crown. Recently, this sort of activity has picked up to the point where I had found myself, all to often, being rude, inflammatory and aggressive. Sometimes I actually enjoyed it. It was a disappointing realisation.

    I had mixed feelings about this state of affairs, because on the one hand robust debate is a fun aspect of this site. On the other hand, most of the robust debate had little to do with the articles themselves, and there was certainly elements of blatant marketing. Almost every post of late was hijacked (either by ATMers or those who would oppose them) in the first few comments – it was ruining the site for everyone. Hence, I think this moderation was needed desperately to set some limits. UT was at serious risk of degenerating into an irrelevant free-for-all.

    Some have said that they are concerned that this will diminish the quality of debate. To those people I say check out the BAUT forums – they have debates that can only be described as rigorous, passionate, always enlightening; but they are all RESPECTFUL. It is refreshing, not stultifying.

    Bring on the scientific debate, keep the passion, get rid of the attitude, and give marketing the flick. Sounds great! Sounds like what science should be about.

    That goes for you too Astrofiend!

  • Joseph April 27, 2009, 8:26 AM

    I thought the whole idea of comments was so that people could share their thoughts and ideas about things. I’m all for getting rid of sexist and racist comments, but why can’t someone say what they think about certain theories? Or is there a forum for that because why would they want to start up their own website if they only have one or two ideas about a certain thing?

  • Joseph April 27, 2009, 8:29 AM

    And I don’t mean if they have an alternative physics theory but if the article is about man going to mars and they have an idea that might actually help out in the matter then why shouldn’t they be allowed to post it?

  • pink April 29, 2009, 3:47 PM

    ” I don’t mean if they have an alternative physics theory ”

    Then you’re good, of course!

    The policy says “alternative physics theories.” Basically I’m guessing they just don’t want to hear it if your theory says all other scientists are dogmatic blahs such-and-such blah blah blah read my blog.

  • laintal April 29, 2009, 8:57 PM

    A question for the Admins and Moderators

    I signed up for UT a while ago and had to re-regester with the new changes

    can I change my password?

    Cheers Laintal

  • jaykray May 8, 2009, 1:32 PM

    My comment is on the Planet X or the 2012 article. There is no reason to ridicule the possibilities of those scenarios, or the people who believe. As far as there being no scientific proof of a Planet X, think of this, there is no scientific proof of the miracles that Jesus performed but millions upon millions believe he did, and no scientific proof will ever make them stop believing. So therefore why are you trying so hard to convince otherwise of a Planet X or anything along the lines of 2012. If you think it’s silly then you shouldn’t waste your time. If you don’t believe it then just look at it as an incredibly great story.

  • jaykray May 8, 2009, 1:37 PM

    I am not one for conspiracies, but I don’t have availability to 100% genuine paperwork, that has been passed through the highest of authorities hands, on such matters as this, so I like to keep my mind open to the possibilities. I know that there is “word of mouth scientific proof” of no Planet X. But unless you work for government agencies or NASA, how can you be 100% certain that information you recieve is genuine.