For a couple of years now, I've been a semi-regular visit to Richard Dawkins's website at richarddawkins.net. Partly for all the interesting articles there about science and religion, but mostly because the site allowed ordinary people to submit their own articles for discussion and engage in conversation with fellow atheists as well as the few brave theists who wanted to explain just how and why we were wrong about everything we believed (or didn't believe, as the case may be).
I personally found the discussions a great way to expand my scientific knowledge and had some great experiences posting some questions I had about things like biology and evolution. It wasn't quite the same as sitting down for a discussion with Sir Richard himself, but still a very valuable and rewarding experience. In addition, I enjoyed engaging in debates with a number of the aforementioned theists on a wide variety of topics. In fact, many of the posts I make on this blog are based on those discussions.
Anyway, a few weeks ago, when I first thought of creating this blog, I decided to go through the discussion archives at richarddawkins.net and save some of the posts I had made there onto my hard drive. I didn't really need to, I figured, since the archive would always be there, but it would just be easier to look things up on my own hard drive than having to keep running queries.
Well, as it turns out, timing really is everything. As of a few days ago, the entire discussions forum has been completely removed. And I do mean completely. There are no links to it on the main page and any old links elsewhere return 404: Page Not Found errors. The archived discussions are likewise completely gone as if they had never existed.
I sent an e-mail to support and eventually received the following response:
Discussions have been removed. The time and personnel required to moderate them are simply not available to us at this time. Given our current resources, we felt that focusing on high-quality reputable content was a more efficient use of those resources.Well, they are certainly welcome for my feedback, but not for my understanding. Unpaid moderators don't typically require a great deal of resources, but that's not for me to decide. What bothers me most, however, is the loss of all archived discussions. You don't need any resources to moderate archived discussions, especially if you lock them so no additional posts can be made. I suspect there was more going on here than simply a lack of moderation resources but, again, that's not for me to say.
Thank you for your feedback and understanding.
What I can say, however, is that I doubt I will be spending much time at the site anymore. I still support Richard Dawkins and the mission of his Foundation for Reason and Science, but the thing I valued most about his website -- the ability to ask questions of and engage with like minded people -- is now gone.
Just wanted to get that off my chest, especially since nobody else seems to be talking about it anywhere (not that I can find, at least). We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming...