Cafébar and Thou shalt not Waffle

The famous Café Tortoni in Buenos Aires. Photograph used under Wikimedia Commons.

I grew up in a news publishing family. This means that for me freedom of speech and, the right to freely discuss topics is a given.

But, at the same time as it is a given and necessary right, it comes with responsibilities. In the end the rights and responsibilities go hand in hand with democratic ideals.

A scary amount of years ago Volcanocafé was founded by a few dear old Ladies who pulled me and Lurking in the ear and told us that we should set up our own shop to talk about science in general, and volcanoes in particular.

This rapidly evolved into Volcanocafé. From the beginning it was intended as a living room, a café environment, or perhaps even more as a front porch where we could write articles and go off on tangents.

Over the years we have gotten up to the sum total of having 3 rules for the site. And mostly they have worked quite well. Probably because they are simple. And in 8 years we have had to ban only 5 individuals.

Compared to most sites, moderation has been featherlight, mostly because the denisens of Volcanocafé are extremely well behaved. Something to cherish on an internet that has grown uglier over time.

One thing that has been there from the beginning is our disinterest in policing things that are off topic. The main reason for this is that both me and Geolurking are masters of running of tangentially on things, and banning ourselves would kind of be counter-productive.

Also, the off topic parts often contain a lot of interesting stuff about volcanoes, or other scientific parts. It is also there that we get to know each other, and where the feeling of Volcanocafé is expressed.

So, do not expect off topic to go away. That being said, we needed a new rule.


Waffling is when you wilfully try to push others out of the discussion with the intent of taking over a public space. This is normally done by writing incessantly about a subject trying to make it the main topic, and it is also a way to win discussions by grand standing.

In other words, waffling is an attempt to suck up all the oxygen in the room. Or, a way of trolling a place.

And to our horror we found that our basic rules did not really cover waffling. “Be nice”, “Do not spam”, and “All comments about moderation shall be taken privately and via email” did not really cut it.

Yes, waffling can be seen as not nice, and as a form of spamming. But we needed to clarify things. We needed a rule stating “do not suck up all the oxygen” in a distinct manner.

That being said, this rule will be used exceedingly sparingly, and it has taken us 8 years to come to the point where we felt that we needed such a rule, and 8 years to come close to using it for a permanent ban. We did though not issue that ban since the rule is new.

This is the first time we felt a need for such a rule, and I dearly hope that we will never again have to use it.

Now, over to the carrot after having explained the stick.

The Volcanocafé Cafébar

Doing major changes to a complex WordPress site like Volcanocafé is akin to doing open cardiac surgery. Thankfully we have very cunning administrators working on the technical side of things.

We have said that we would open a chat-environment for all things tangential that will not break the comment flow. This obviously is taking quite a bit of time since this is not what WordPress is suited for.

But, our technically minded administrators (mainly Beardy Gaz) has done the deed and we are therefore opening the Cafébar today. It still needs a bit of wrinkling out and paint in the corners, but we felt that we really needed it.

We will still be liberal with the off-topic part on the main part, but with the express touch that if you go to far you will be asked to move arse over to the Cafébar. In other words, a few comments is okay, a herculean diatribe is not okay.

So, without further adue I declare the Cafébar open for business. The digital champagne is on the house today.




36 thoughts on “Cafébar and Thou shalt not Waffle

  1. This will also be one of the few times that we will openly allow discussion about moderation.
    Obviously we will not discuss specific people, or specific instances. But we are open for discussing and getting input on the general parts of moderation of Volcanocafé.

    So please tell us if we are to harsh, to soft, or come with suggestions how we can improve moderation.

    Also, please feel free to come with any suggestions on how we can improve the place so that we will not become dusty has-beens. 🙂

  2. And if CBUS could get in touch with the Admins about your generous offer, we would be happy. 🙂

  3. “Waffling is when you wilfully try to push others out of the discussion with the intent of taking over a public space. This is normally done by writing incessantly about a subject trying to make it the main topic, and it is also a way to win discussions by grand standing.

    In other words, waffling is an attempt to suck up all the oxygen in the room. Or, a way of trolling a place.” I have been impressed at how Volcano Cafe continues to air well-researched articles which do not adhere to one pole or the other of highly polarized, politicized scientific topics. I tend not to follow discussions because the threads so often get hijacked.

  4. Bravo! I am honestly impressed by the level of sensitivity you´ve shown in moderation and the try to set up a place that suits everyone. This kind of considerate moderation is not a given, thanks for the time you put into this. If anything, moderation was too soft so far.

    This should improve things substantially in terms of not comparing every volcano and every post and every question to something about Hawaii or the worlds biggest magma supply or which edifice is the highest.. Even worse, many answers were claiming numbers for eruptions or feed rates that were completely random/ far-fetched/not supported by any sientific background. One thing all those comments had in common was that they always had way higher and more extreme numbers than what science tells us.

    It would still be nice to stress it is not proven theories but personal estimates that were sometimes described as if they were established and proven facts. Otherwise it should be highlighted as personal opinion or OT.

  5. I think that is a great idea! I really appreciate the time and effort to establish this VC Cafébar.

    Moderation of discussions is always a very tricky thing – and this does not only apply to Volcanocafe. A good moderation requires the ability to step aside for a short moment and re-read the comments from a different perspective (i.e. own feelings and interests have to be put aside).

    My impression is that there are good moderators here. I don’t blame them for allowing the waffling or hijacking of topics in previous threads. There were no specific rules regarding this (as Carl pointed out) which makes moderation even more difficult.

    If the VC Cafébar will be effective on the long term run remains to be seen, though. Similar rules and discussion rooms have been established on other websites as well (in a meteorology forum which I frequently visit, for example) but they were not so effective. On the meteorology forum it worked fine as long there was a lively discussion in the “general talk area” but when the activity shifted to a different thread (because of a major storm or hurricane) the hijackers and wafflers returned to the thread with the lively discussion.

    • Hmmm. I read Weather Underground and the comments section there has excellent up-to-the-minute information on current hurricanes/cyclones/typhoons, but it is the articles about hot weather that tend to cause climate-change trolls to come out in force.

      Other problem with that site is that the parent company is trying to shove it into a corner, and the parent company has articles written for people of average IQ and less than average education.

  6. Thanks for the split, Carl and Mods. Job well done!
    Back to watching the Mila Webcam of Hekla…waiting…waiting…zzz

  7. Thank you! Hopefully the comment threads get a bit more readable, again!

  8. Im happy I finaly convinced Carl that .. Kilimanjaro is an dormant volcano its at least ”alive ” magmaticaly
    There is hot sulfurius fumaroles in the Kibo summit all signs that there is active magma in Kilimanjaro probaly at quite shallow depth. An active volcano in deep sleep
    The hot fumaroles are good proof

    • The late Haroun Tazieff, who cut his volcanological teeth, metaphorically speaking, on African volcanoes, also held that view.

      • Since some of these fumaroles in Kilimanjaros summit emitt sulfur at almost 100 C its a sign magma is residing in the edifice itself

        Kilimanjaro is on the peak in Alkalinity
        It summit erupts highly evolved extremely alkaline sillica rich magmas. Most of Kilimanjaro consist of Phonolite, phonotephrite, tephriphonolite and Tephrite.

        And sillica poor alkaline rocks souch as basanites ane nephelinites erupts from flank vents. Its a very large volcano knowing its so alkaline. Alkaline volcanism rarely makes large volcanoes.

        The current magmas inside is very likley extremely evolved Tephrites or Phonolite

    • Well, technically, Jackson Volcano is still alive if you use ephemeral seismic events as proof.

      It’s also still a prolific CO2 producer.

      Jackson Volcano as it appeared the last time I saw it. ZZ Top was in concert.

      This is pretty much over the main vent.

  9. Actually, I have what you might call an off-the-wall solution for wafflers, particularly those who seem to know what they’re talking about. Make them an offer they cannot refuse – write a full guest post on their pet subject, or be banished to the outer darkness. If said post is submitted, then it will be subject to peer review (by one or more of the Dragons), just as it would be for an academic journal. Albert for one will be familiar with the peer review system as a full time academic himself

    • nah, we’re in a post modern world where giving both thesis and antithesis equal consideration is considered offensive.

      Open mindedness is the definition of evil in the current political climate.
      So much for the Age of Enlightenment!

      • Welcome to the realm of Homo Stultus. You’ll find that Sapiens went extinct a long time ago.

  10. What is happening at LP events at Teide volcano yesterday?? Nothing? asked over at the VCBAR but perhaps no one was listening… not complaining; just interested in a possible up tick.. Best!motsfo

    • Thanks, got my answer on the blog Vocanocafe and they say no noticeable uplift at the moment. Best!motsfo

      • Might be of interest to you sound of the swarm Teide 14th June..

  11. Does the “Be nice” rule extend to not trying to dehumanise CAGW sceptics by labelling them Deniers?
    Especially when the IPCC essentially admitted in their last report that sceptics may be correct.
    Quote from WG1 AR5 summary to policy makers
    Footnote 16/ No best estimate for equilibrium climate sensitivity can now be given because of a lack of agreement on values across assessed lines of evidence and studies.

    Personally I come for the volcanos and would prefer to leave CAGW discussion to the thousand of sites that already talk about it.
    BTW nobody is denying global warming has taken place, just that the cause, magnitude and effects have not been attributed correctly or have been doomified!
    If people bothered to study the theory the would realise the dangerous warming can only occur if a large amount of positive feedback occurs due to the enhanced greenhouse effect/water vapour positive feedback. It is this positive feedback that is key to the CAGW debate. The observation contradict its existence, and the theory is in violation of Le Chatelier’s principle.
    a principle stating that if a constraint (such as a change in pressure, temperature, or concentration of a reactant) is applied to a system in equilibrium, the equilibrium will shift so as to tend to counteract the effect of the constraint.
    Personally I give fundamentally thermodynamic principles more weight that computer modelling with a 100% predictive failure rate. But I studied hard science so what would chemistry and physics teach me about climate science. Apologies for bothering to test theories like my pre postmodern scientific training encouraged.

    Of course I would like to highlight that this would be a good example of waffling!

    • Dunno. One thing that is little known here is that I am one of the stricken but have managed to co-exist around alternative views.

      My main focus is around what “pear shaped” events would look like when they inevitably occur. I also have a good friend who travels frequently and checks with me for the prevailing hazards that could affect his flights, mainly from the aspect of having alternative travel plans at the ready.

      This is why I tend towards high altitude effects when things get funky.

    • I think you’re misapplying Le Chatelier’s principle in using it as evidence against water vapor amplifying warming. If you add more water vapor at a constant global temperature, you just get more precipitation, restoring the original avg. concentration of water vapor. If you perturb the system with more heat, you shift the equilibrium concentration of atmospheric water vapor to a higher percentage.

      Note: Le Chatelier’s principle does apply in a fashion here, in that vaporizing water takes energy, decreasing the amount of energy available for a rise in absolute temperature. HOWEVER, this is only accurate for a closed system – the earth’s climate is not closed, in that it continually receives energy from the sun. If you continue to provide the earth with the same amount of incoming energy, more will be retained at the higher temperature (due to more H20 in the air), increasing the global temperature above what would be possible with CO2 alone.

      Further, I am interested in hearing what observations you have that contradict water vapor as a positive feedback, as I am not aware of any observations of lowered global average of water vapor over the last few decades

      • Oh, I’ll give it a bit of a go

        As temperatures rise so does the water holding capacity of air at any given RH%.

        So at 20C and 50%RH the air holds ~7g/kg air whilst at 30C it holds13g/kg air, nearly double (40C is 24g/l). You will get more rainfall but then this is due to matching increase in evaporation with no net change (roughly) in RH%.

        Nothing like actual figures to get a handle.

        What worries me is none of these but a global production of methane due dissociation of methane hydrates. This is likely to be large, sudden and give positive feedback as the warmer it gets the more areas will discharge methane.

        If it got to the point where water vapour caused runaway thermal increase temperature would likely have to be over 50C, in which case macroscopic life will already be terminated probably shorty followed by most microscopic life too as we head venuswards.

    • The big question is, what evidence do you need to change your mind?

      • A great question! A problem with these emotionally and politically charged topics is the tendency to engage in “decision-based evidence making or seeking”

        • Well, we cant keep debating till the last conspiracy nutjob rolls over in his grave while the world burns.

          And there will always be groups willing to pay of scientist to keep casting doubt on solid facts out of personal gain.

          I think that on topics like human caused climate change, evolution and vaccination its time to forcefully close the debate rooms and start working on solutions

          • It is definitely one of those cases where it is far better to do things, and later discover you over-reacted, instead of discovering that we are dead.

          • Dunno. Those twits that want to seed the Jung layer with aerosols might wind up in the “unintended consequences” realm if they go through with it.

          • I get sick of being called a “nutjob”, “denier”, and other pejorative epithets when I offer well documented positions that contradict the dominant paradigm on current hot button issues, in a forum that purports to be open-minded.. One reason I went into Medieval studies. I have a doctorate in biology and am well equipped to evaluate the quality of scientific research – whether the data support the conclusions, or whether the the writer has reversed a previous position without giving any scientific reason for having done so, for example.

          • Well documented and argued positions is fine, and scientific progress requires people taking the established position to task. But there is little point going into a discussion where there is no chance of coming to a conclusion. Rob’s mention of ‘no best estimate’ fails to mention that this is about a best value within a certain range. It is about whether the result gives a value with an uncertainty, or a range. It is meaningless to argue if the range that it applies to is not given. If Rob can tell us what evidence would be needed, that is fine. But that has not happened so far. So there can be no real discussion.

  12. I’m a really long time lurker so not used to write stuff here but today I noticed a to me interesting documentary on the tube. Its about the Öraefajökull. ‘A vocano awakens’ and well worth to see at least to me.
    Not sure if anybody else seen it yet or mentioned it.
    Right time to crawl back into lurking mode.

  13. Hi all. Frequent reader (of articles and comments) but infrequent commenter. I’ve learned a ton but am glad to see that the excessive commentary has been taken care of. I would scroll over most posts from those who ramble but recently had honestly been staying away. Happy for this action.

    Side note: I live for links to cams and videos of active volcanoes not being discussed in the article like Agung, Sakurajima, Etna, Galapagos, Canaries, etc. Please let those stay. ❤

    I appreciate all the work you do, moderators, authors, and other curious types like myself.

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