Confessions of a banned Unmanned Spaceflight member

I hesitated to join them in the first place due to all I have heard about Doug, but I decided to give them a try, anyway. I have officially been banned after posting to only one thread/topic. I cannot pull the thread, because I have been denied access to the server. Maybe someone could post the thread "levitating ice caps" for reference. Anyway, after posting, I rec'd the following "pre-emptive warning" from Doug (included with my response):

My "Pre-emptive" warning:

Hi Gil,

I'm going to give you a heads up. This place is very very different to Mark Carey's forum where I know you've posted in the past. Thinks work very very differently, as I'm sure you know. I have no doubt you're testing the water in what is and isn't acceptable in your posting about the 'plume' images.

You've already set off on the wrong foot by arguing with the man who not only works with MOC but knows more about the angle of illumination of any one MOC image than anyone on the planet. Great move.

I'll try and help you stick within the guidelines we have here, but as a rule of thumb, if you ever think "should I post this?", the answer will probably be no.

I thought it only fair to give you a heads up that I'm keeping an eye on you, as I would anyone who came here from Marks forum, as the two places are so very different.

If in doubt - ask me and I'll do my best to help you out.



My Response:

Hi Doug,

I am really not sure why you sent me this? I am simply trying to make sense of these pictures, as they relate to some new research that was just released. As far as I know, I did not offend Mr. Caplinger, and am not "arguing" with him, but rather, just trying to explore different possibilities. I am well aware of the fact that he is an expert, but that doesn't make him off limits for questioning, does it?Mike ,himself, wrote this:

"Hey, we're not infallible. The "image of the day" release lighting direction could be wrong"

I am not interested in posting in a forum that is "keeping an eye on you" and sends me "pre-emptive warnings" for nothing more than trying to have an open discussion. If I wanted that, I would just correspond with my own government.

I guess I will return to Mark's forum where the ideas (and, I'll admit, some are pretty far out there) flow freely. BTW, I am also going to go ahead and post this whole conversation, as well (how's that for testing the waters?). My guess, is that you do not have the cajones to allow it, because then everyone would be able to see what's behind the curtain...........


gil, Thanks for sharing, I just read that thread over there. Thanks for the heads up. It's frustrating, but its Doug's site, he can do what ever he wants. Even if that includes banning intelligent contributors and at the same time driving away lurkers like me. Oh and remember, BillyMer was banned just last June.

Go to the Mars Forum section on this Blog we are debating this at the moment "Flumes from Venting", also its on Picture of the Day.
Sounds like the Thought Police are running riot on the other site, what is the point of a Blog without freedom to discuss things " no matter how out of this world the subject maybe! I like it here there is humour, some very heated debates from time to time, welcome.

I think the point of Doug's blog is simply to attract and rub elbows with mainstream scientists.

It's not really for the exchange of new ideas, or for questions from the curious amateur. Those things are embarrassing to Doug and simply not respectable on his board.

Not every board is for everybody.

I bet Doug subcribes to this
Beter to rule in Hell then to serve in heaven

I had another recent similar message (again) from Doug, also (see below).

This started because I asked about one of the MRO images, of interesting slump or debris areas inside two craters, and, as I clearly noted at the time, I asked about it in a geological context. He quickly accused me of promoting artificialty in those images, which I was not, and said so at the time. He is still saying that, refusing to admit he was wrong. To say that as a mistake is one thing, but to still not simply acknowledge that he was in error about it, in the tone used, is what bugged me.

He noted that my image could be pulled by "Hoagland-types" and used on their web sites. Maybe, but when I asked about other much more blatant images, sometimes modified, by other posters on UMSF to show faces, writing, etc.(!), he said these were ok as they were just done as humour. Could they not also be pulled and used out of context though? But because mine was a serious inquiry, somehow he assumed I was inferring something Hoagland-ish, which I was not.

Then I made the mistake of starting a thread on the "alien rain" topic...

His comments were aimed at my personal background, although he knows little about me; I have done, and still do, research in other "controversial" areas, so am just automatically relegated now to the "fringe woo-woo crowd" simply because I am open-minded to other ideas. I also kept all that completely separate from UMSF. Oh, well. For example, as well as my planetary exploration blog (The Meridiani Journal), I also do (serious) crop circle research here in Canada (since the early 90s), but we work with mainstream scientists and labs, approaching subjects like this from a scientific perspective as much as possible:

He also made reference to the "core crowd" of UMSF and "dictatorship by committee"; I do like how UMSF tries to keep to serious discussions, that's why I joined there, I just think Doug's definitions of "fringe" etc. are too broad. It comes across as condescending. Personally, it can be awkward because I am certainly not in the far-out "woo-woo" crowd, but at the same time I think that mainstream science often overlooks or ignores too many "controversial" subjects.

And no, I am not trying to "get away with anything"...?

I wouldn't usually post this, but just for reference, and since he also made reference to this "fringe" forum, here is Doug's e-mail reply (July 15):


I'd ask you to read this

The red rain thread was NEVER welcome at UMSF. It was on borrowed time. It
had just about 'gone to bed' but was brought back to life and at that point,
it was time to cull it. It was bringing in a lot of bad types of new
membership. It's maybe a biology topic. We don't even know if it's an
astro-biology topic. And in either case, it was NEVER a UMSF topic. It was
bad for the forum and I culled it - it's that simple.

You have a history of fringe subject posting - you know it, I know it. And
it's fairly obvious that your time at UMSF is ALWAYS going to be difficult.
You are not the typical member. You're a problem waiting to be happen if I'm
brutally honest. Just google around for the sorts of place you hang about -
Cydonia discussions, crop's not UMSF compatible subject
matter. You may not be a full out member of the Hoaglanderati, but imho, you
are certainly familiar with the woo-woo crowd if not a card carrying member
of it.

Yes - people have stitched silly pictures together...for A LAUGH. Your MRO
images were identical to the crap that Hoagland was putting together at the
same time. It was NEVER going to last at UMSF. When people in the 'core'
crowd ( and yes, there is a core crowd, UMSF is about excluding a lot of
people, not attempting to include them, it's exclusionary, getting rid of
80% of the utter shite that exists in most space discussion forums ) post
something for a laugh - it's quite clearly for a laugh. We all know it.
When you posted that MRO was clearly NOT a laugh and directly
linked to the same shit Hoagland was pulling. I refuse to have UMSF watered
down by fringe nonsense like that.

You want the simple rules. It's easy

If my admins and I think it's stays. If we don't it wont.
It's a dictatorship by committee. It can not be written in black and
white...the entire sphere of discussion is too vague to put down specific
guidelines....but you'd have to be genius to figure out what is and isn't
acceptable after two years of visiting. If you still struggle, then the
even more simple rule for you...if you can't figure out if it belong at UMSF
or not - chances are 99% that it doesn't.

I agree - Mark's place get's flack....but not from me you might notice. It's
a place that serves a purpose, and truth be told it's purpose is to serve
people like yourself - who are a bit on the fringe of conventional. Why
double up on the discussion...just go and have it there.

Your age, your profession, how long you have been registered and if you
consider yourself respected or not have NOTHING to do with what you can
post, what you think is right, what you believe you can get away with.

If you can't figure out for yourself what is or isn't acceptable at UMSF,
then perhaps you should just not try to figure it out and go and post
somewhere else where there are essentially no guidelines of any sort. That
would be, far and away, the best solution for all of us.


Oops, the portion quoting Doug's e-mail was supposed to be non-wrapped and italicized. I don't want to be too negative or get into a whole debate or anything about it either, just putting in my 2 cents about how I've been treated personally, similar to some others. Just unfortunate, since I think UMSF is a great forum, in and of itself.

It's a wonder he has anybody visit his forum at all.

I simply can't understand that the leader of the other great forum is so cynical, but that seems to be true.

So what does everone think of ink publications?

Francis Reddy, Astronomy, July 2006:

Strange Martian Ice forms.

Burn all copies, burn the Editor to the stake, kill all who buy it!

I believe in free speach no matter, let us all keep it this way and talk, from that we learn. There are not many species here or anywhere else we know who can do it and that puts us at the top of the food chain.

Ta ta to the bottom feeders!

Let's talk.

This is the BillyMer thread:

Here is the thread about why Doug left - according to Doug:

Doug’s problem is he will never admit an error. When he was posting on this Forum, he usually supplied good information. But every now and again he would make a statement that was just nakedly WRONG, and then he would not back down from it.

One such instance I recall were his statement about a “pseudocloud” which supposedly hung out around the International Space Station. He did not stay on this subject for long, but long enough for it to become obvious that he had no understanding of the molecular model of gas.

Another time was when he supported, endlessly, that MINI-TES could easily distinguish between organics and minerals.

Most people, working so publicly as we do in this Forum, have made errors at one time or another. Usually, we later admit them. And I may be making another one now:

Can anyone show me a case where Doug ever admitted to making an error?

About 250 years ago someone named François-Marie Arouet (better known as Voltaire) said:
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Now we have Doug Ellison.

If I were evil I could say that evolution doesn't deal with intelligence.

Oops, I'm evil.

I found a thread from his site when i was investigating HDR photography.

He stated that this Process, would be USELESS, with the MER images. In this thread "slinted" disagreed.

I believe, that NASA uses HDR, Monitors, and Images, and so does JPL, and they create HDR images from the ROVERS.

Who is right?

This.. is not a small argument.

It's very simple. Those who prefer reality like Doug's forum. Those partial to fantasy like this forum.

Also, Doug would not allow this sort of discussion on his forum. Those who like it can stay here. Isn't it great that the internet provides something for everyone?

Actually, centsworth II, that is not the case. Members of Doug's forum do participate in fantasy, even to an extreme.

The few minutes I have spent over there, I have seen a barbecue on Mars thread including a picture of all of the members pretending they got together for a social event on Mars.

Another time, I took a peek over there, and the members were in a frenzy over stretched vertical images, in which they displayed the Martian hills in such a way that they looked like they were mountains.

I know geeks who would laugh with utter embarrassment if they were caught engaging in this behavior.

Doug's site is not reality based. Some of the members indulge in a great deal of fantasy.

What they don't do is engage in real discussion or debate of any issues. It is a board where they gather for tea to politely agree.

On the thread at issue involving Gil Nodges, Doug does not seem to understand the difference between 90 degrees and 180 degrees - and Caplinger corrects him (I'm sure laughing under his breath). Clearly, Doug was not even following the topic closely enough to understand or attempt to determine the direction or apparent direction of the lighting. Is this reality? No.

In Doug's reality, Doug needed to come to Caplinger's rescue in a discussion with Gil Nodges. In the real world, Caplinger is intelligent enough to take care of himself, and seemed to be enjoying the conversation.

In reality, Doug has made a very nice message board for people who like to agree. For people who want some degree of intellectual stimulation, or have a willingness to have their thoughts challenged, Doug's board is not the place. So, it is nice that there are plenty of other places on the internet.

Very well put dbn.

Gil, you raised a very interesting question on that image about why the streaks did not appear in the upper part of the image. I have to say to me they do look like streaks on the ground rather that active geysers, BUT they might still have been CAUSED by geysers.
In any case the reason why the streaks do not appear at the top wasn't even addressed by the other members in the thread on that forum. I agree with you that was very heavy-handed moderating in that case.
By not allowing discussion on your viewpoint they also cut off discussion on a fully valid point about the streaks ending at the top.
Let's speculate on that question. I'm taking the view they are dark streaks on the ground. If you look at the image there seems to be some difference in texture in the surface between the top and the bottom parts of the image. Also, the bottom part appears to be brighter than the top part.
Perhaps there is more CO2 frost in the bottom part and that is the reason it is brighter. Perhaps this is somehow connected to why streaks do not appear at the top but do at the bottom.
Or perhaps it is the position of the Sun at that time of day. The caption to the image says it is 3 km wide. From the proportions of the image it is about 6 km long. Perhaps that is a long enough distance for the bottom part to receive significantly more illumination than the top part. Then perhaps that allowed the Kieffer subsurface heating explanation for the dark spots to take place.
BTW, I was also temporarily suspended by the moderators of that forum. In my case it was for continually arguing for the possibility of liquid water brines on Mars. This is also a viewpoint that has been argued by some Mars scientists in peer-reviewed journals.
Nevertheless, it is not the mainstream view and it is not the view of the moderators for that forum, therefore I was suspended.
In an email I was told I would be allowed back on after my 15-day "punishment" (my word for it.) I responded that I would continue to emphasize Mars imaging and cite the journal publications that suggested features due to liquid water on Mars. Since I was going to continue the same arguments after my 15-day "banishment", I decided to resign my membership on that forum.
Almost every forum I've seen devoted to a scientific discussion of Mars has had moderators who take a heavy-handed view towards moderation. And on those it is always in regard to the moderators own personal views.
This forum is an refreshing exception.
In fact I don't know what the moderators own personal views are.

Bob Clark

"This is also a viewpoint that has been argued by some Mars scientists in peer-reviewed journals.
Nevertheless, it is not the mainstream view and it is not the view of the moderators for that forum, therefore I was suspended."
I beg to disagree. If there was a definition of mainstream planetary views, it would be what NASA states. Few would argue that NASA`is not the number one authority on the subject.

See here.

I think there aren't many credible scientists which believe in A H2O-less Mars, only claims that there are.

"In fact I don't know what the moderators own personal views are."
Robert, it is my opinion that the moderators views tend to get in the way of the debate. I follow most conversations here and strive to keep things somewhat civil. IMHO
Banning contributors stifles ideas and potentially also discovery. In most cases we all gather here to seriously attempt to contribute to the exploration of another world in what ever way we are able.

Regardless what opinion others may have of this forum, freedom of speech is an admirable quality.
Whatever we think we surly know about Mars is liable to change as the years go by, so why not talk about it now?