11 August 2020

Comments General Guidelines from Cassie Kozyrkov

I am active on LinkedIn these days and one of the people whose work I follow is Cassie Kozyrkov, Chief Decision Scientist at Google. 

She has great articles, blog posts and videos. If statistics and Decision Science interest ou, she is great. You should follow her.

Anyway, she published a set of guidelines for comments on her posts which I thought were really good.  I asked her if I could steal the guidelines and she said yes, so here we are. The following are my general guidelines. I made a few very minor changes to hers.

"Hi folks! A quick update on how I handle your comments on my posts.

"Your positive comments bring me joy and are what makes toiling on weekends worth it. I'm smiling on the inside even though I won't have time to give them all the "thank you" they deserve.

"Your comments that take the content in new directions thrill me and give me new ideas.

"Your questions provide fodder for new material.

"Your negative comments that critically and thoughtfully engage with the content specifics and help your peers (and me) learn stay.

"Your comments pointing out specific errors I've made are" kept "even after I fix my mistakes. Thank you!" [Keeps me humble a little.]

"Your comments with spoilers (e.g. "the answer is B") are deleted.

"Your comments which contain incorrect conclusions are deleted so that other readers don't get misinformed. My apologies!

"Harassing / ad hominem / negative comments like "this sucks/you suck/people like you suck" without a helpful explanation to benefit readers are deleted because they disproportionately discourage others from reading the content to form their own views.

"Why did I tell you this? So that you don't use the comments as data. They're not a poll. There are people who like my writing and there are people who don't. 

"To those who like it, thanks for joining me and keeping me motivated!

"Four more varieties:

"Comments that are harmlessly off-topic usually stay, but not if they're very distracting.

"Comments that are trying to sell something are deleted.

"Comments that make it painfully obvious that you didn't read what you're commenting on are deleted.

"Comments with intelligent humor / wordplay about the topic are my most treasured favorite thing. They make my day. (Sometimes I even respond to them when I ought to be working.) I've had some really great laughs on this forum and I'm deeply grateful for all you quick-witted, cheeky, cheerful people."

There it is. She's really great, and I really like her philosophy for engagement.

Best to all, and keep safe.

21 June 2020

Snow Fences and Protective Masks in Times of COVID

I am not going to wade into the details of whether COVID exists or whether physical distancing and shutting down the economy in the hopes of saving lives is a good trade-off or even effective.

Rather, I want to talk about masks and what they do.

Two Views

I'm going to lead by saying the early guidance that masks were ineffective was a disastrous statement and policy. The subsequent reversal left millions of people confused.

Now we hear a lot of people saying that masks don't help the wearer, they help others. What is the truth?

There are two views that I have seen about masks. The main one is that they protect others--not he wearer. There's another group of people saying that the main purpose of masks is to protect the wearer and they're not effective at that.

Both of these views may be correct in the right context, but it also depends on the mask.

Masks as Snow Fences

If you grew up somewhere with snow, you have seen snow fences.

When I was a kid I thought it was preposterous that a fence made of slats of wood with big openings between the slats could possibly stop snow from drifting. Once I started studying physics and geology it made sense.

Snow fences don't stop snow like a solid wall would stop snow something, rather they rely on physics. When the wind blows, it carries particles. It could be dust, snow, leaves, sand, raindrops, etc. The stronger the wind, the larger the particles and the more of them it can carry. Think of a tornado full of dirt, cows, houses, and wicked witches on bicycles.

Once the moving air loses energy, the heaviest particles drop out and land, as it loses more energy, all but the smallest and least dense particles drop to the ground.

The snow fence then does not block the particles, rather, it robs energy from the wind, which then causes the particles to drop to the ground because there is no longer the energy to carry them.

When you cough, sneeze, or even breathe heavily, there is relatively high energy air coming out of your mouth. The energy in that carries air, moisture, and any other stuff like snot, mucus, or COVID 19.

Fortunately, snot drops out first, the other stuff though, depending on the density, temperature, can carry feet or yards. Air and moisture are not harmful, but of course, bacteria and virii can be.

Cheap cotton masks then work like a snow fence. When you breathe or cough or sneeze, through the cotton, the energy is reduced. There is no filtration at all for small virii, but the reduction of the energy means it may not go across the store and into other aisles.

What About Filtration

This graphic shows how effective the different masks are for filtration and protecting the wearer.

There are a few important things to note. The N95 mask in the graphic has a vent. This is an unfiltered vent that allows air to go out but not in. So while the N95 gives the wearer excellent protection, protection of others is much lower. It's not zero though. The vents are typically directed downwards, and in any case, there will be some reduction of energy as it passes through the mechanism of the vent.

Surgical masks are not quite as effective in terms of bacteria, but because there's no vent, it would be more effective at protecting others. There is strong filtration and a snow fence effect.

Once you get to the bottom from the main impact from a virus standpoint is as a snow fence. The wearer gets very little protection from viruses.

E4E Take:
All this can be summed up below.

Cotton masks at the bottom do very little to protect the wearer but have some positive (snow fence) impact in protecting others.

N95 masks with a vent do a good job of filtration but are less effective in protecting others. This is because the vent is unfiltered. N95 masks can feel stifling to some people.

Surgical masks are slightly less protective of the wearer than N95s but are also quite good in protecting others. There is both filtration and the snow fence effect going on.

There may be some downsides to wearing masks, but I have not seen empirical evidence that the net effect on public health would be negative.

13 March 2020

Wait But Why?--Why are we so polarized and why are those other people so stupid and evil?

I have been following this blog for a while. It mostly has pretty interesting, fun, light, but thoughtful content. For example here is one called "Eleven Awkward Things About Email."  Here's one on Procrastination and one on beating procrastination.

Tim Urban, the author, even did a TED Talk on procrastination.

In 2019, he started a series called "The Story of Us"

It's one of those series that you just know is right--and maybe really important.

The entire series covers the spectrum of how and why we think, act, and argue. I have put some incomplete summaries of the posts below. But read them for yourself. It changed the way I think about discourse and you may find it useful as well.

Chapter 0: Introduction - The US is looking pretty bad these days. The divide between the two major parties is bitter and troubling. There's something wrong, but it's hard to know exactly what. Even writing about these topics can be contentious and troubling. As you read through the series, try to remain humble and keep your mind open. I know that the series has opened my mind to a new way of thinking about what I know and how I think I know it. Off we go.

Section 1: The Power Games
Chapter 1: The Great Battle of Fire and Light - Humans are animals. All animals have survival genes that run on automatic. It's what Kahneman calls System 1. That thinking system is wired for survival of the genes. A few million years ago, humans developed a superpower--the ability to reason. This is Kahneman's System 2. The two systems are in constant conflict in your mind. When System 2 is in charge, logic and reason prevail. When it's system 1, instinct takes over. Primitive vs Higher Mind; Fire vs. Light. That is the conflict in us all.

Chapter 2: A Game of Giants - The Emergence of Life started with cells banding together. Those cells joined other cells, which formed organs, systems of organs, and ultimately animals emerged. Those animals, in turn, formed tribes. Those tribes in the ancient world were necessary to survival. They could combine to bring out the best or the worst of humanity, depending on the circumstances. We can turn from kumbaya to dog eat dog at the flick of a switch.

Chapter 3: A Story of Stories - Tribes have similar tendencies as humans. It is a level up from individual humans. We slide up and down the scale from individuals to part of a tribe to part of a large society easily depending on circumstances. Ultimately a person's behavior is a function of Motivation (Morals, Primal Urges, Values) and their environment, which is really their perception of reality. Enter the STORY. Stories are the narratives that tie together Motivation and Environment. Stories that become "viral" tie tribes together. The most lasting and powerful stories have a set of attributes in common. They create an indoctrination-intimidation feedback loop that makes the story and behaviors driven by that story self-perpetuating. This brings us further up the emergence tower from thousands to millions and billions. But the tribal behaviors persist, just at a higher level. The problem here is that the HIGHER MIND takes a backseat in this. The feedback loop is driven more by the power games of the primitive mind. Is there some way to raise the game away from the primitive and into the light?

Section 2: The Value Games
Chapter 4: The Enlightenment Kids - The US Declaration of Independence and Constitution were two things: a Power Game to prevent taxation without representation and a framework establishing an intellectual framework for our system of governance. This was driven by the enlightenment in Europe, which created a new story that "talked about ideas like human rights and equality and tolerance and freedom. According to this new story, humans had made incredible advancements in knowledge, wisdom, and technology—but they were still doing government like it was 7,000 BC." A unique characteristic of the constitution is that instead of being created to lead to an end state, it laid out rules about the means of governance, with only very general principles about the ends. It creates a feedback loop between the rules, the government, and the citizens.

In the power games, you start with complete individual freedom, then you get or keep what you can through power or force. The US turned that on its head and said you can swing your arms unless you hit someone else's nose. This established a line between freedom and safety. However, oftentimes, rights were in conflict, so we needed a concept of fairness--both of process and, to some extent,  outcome. Why only to some extent? Well, most in the US believe in some form of a meritocracy where people earn what they deserve and work for--we don't want communism with a forced complete redistribution by a distributed government, nor do we want a dictator to take from us. Communism removes incentives and markets; dictatorship removes fairness and markets. Ultimately, this creates a fairly narrow window in which our government exists. It must have the right amount of fairness while still respecting the boundaries of individual rights and freedoms.

This fairness framework that has been in place for over 200 years in the US has lifted the lot of the average person, prevented, the worst outcomes for most and by converting the push of power games into the pull of markets, and unleashed colossal innovation.

Chapter 5: The Mute Button - Is about censorship. We all have our innermost thoughts and feelings as well as what we express to the outside world. In a world with ACTUAL free speech with no consequences, the outside and inside would match. In a power games world, there is someone with power and authority preventing that speech from happening. There will always be societal norms and gaps between what a person thinks and shows. It's when the external speech is altered BECAUSE of power and control, the very thoughts of people begin to change to reflect that control. "By silencing certain ideas, the mute button prevents the giant from having the wrong thoughts. And when you can control a giant’s thoughts, you can control the giant’s actions." All of this is why the first amendment of the US Constitution says, "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech." This freedom ends when that speech does harm to others, AND, it does not restrict YOUR control over what others to say in your domain. That is still your business.

Chapter 6: The American Brain - The marketplace of Ideas or MPI is the bell curve that represents the distribution of thought around a given topic at any time.

"If you live in a democracy, and you’re not zoomed out far enough, you might look at the politicians running your government and mistake them for your leaders. In the short term, sure, they jostle with each other over the country’s policies and steer the country on the international stage. But with a step back, the real long-term leader of a democracy is the giant communal brain of the citizen body."

"Mute buttons in any form should raise an alarm in all of our heads, though they sometimes seem to go unnoticed. When all you’ve ever known is freedom, it can be easy to forget just how precious it is."

"With a mysterious, foggy future ahead, free speech would give the new nation a way to figure things out as it went: a flashlight to help see the truth, a compass that would help point it towards wisdom, and a mirror that would help an orphan child raise itself."

Part 3: Thinking: in 3D
Chapter 7: The Thinking Ladder - Why do we believe what we believe? There's what you believe, but there's also Why we believe. In many ways the why is more important. There is a range of whys, driven by the different systems of the mind. There is careful, well-reasoned thoughts driven by logic, values, and facts. Your logic, value, and facts may lead you to communism or fascism. Most people will fall in between into a fairly narrow band. What is important for conversation is that you applied logic, values, and facts (LVF), and for discussion that you are transparent about those. This is thinking like a scientist: gather info, form hypothesis, test hypothesis. Lather, Rinse, repeat. In the scientist zone, you strive to be on the line, with conviction appropriate to your knowledge.

The next three rungs on the ladder are the sports fan, lawyer, and zealot. Each rung successively applies less LVF, and takes a position based more and more on the primitive mind. (BTW, no offense to lawyers. When they represent a client, it is literally their job to cherry-pick and represent their client's interests. There is a lot of content on this page, and the infographic at the end to sum it up is great.

Chapter 8: Idea Labs and Echo Chambers - There is a 3rd dimension to the thinking ladder. That is the "Emergence Tower." So now we have the style of thinking (Why), What we think, and now whether it is thinking as part of a tribe, as an individual, or with more of a universal frame.

This third dimension brings in the concept of culture and cultural incentives. Start with an Idea Lab. Idea Labs are groups of people that provide incentives for members of the "lab" to think like scientists. They like independent thought, intellectual diversity, and try to stay close to the humility line described above--neither over- nor under-confident. People in idea labs may have different views of the world, but they are united by their shared manner of reaching their conclusions. They're all ultimately, "on the same truth-seeking team." Because of free speech, the US has historically been a giant idea lab. This is arguably the source of at least some of the success of the nation.

Echo chambers, on the other hand, are dark places. If you do not toe the line of what is in the echo chamber you become an outcast, an enemy, one of "them." "Virtue signaling" is an important value. Echo chambers make its members arrogant, more primitive, and intellectually helpless, and it bullies its members into submission.

"The multi-colored brain network in an Idea Lab is a marketplace of ideas that functions as a super-brain—a giant, superintelligent thinking machine. But the Echo Chamber’s network isn’t a giant brain at all. It’s a solid-colored agreement network—a bloc of hijacked brains, tightly glued together by shared beliefs in order to generate brute strength in numbers." Idea lab members have different ideas, they are united by their thought process; echo-chamber members are divided by their ideas, but without a significant thought process behind it.

[e4e take: One thing that I see happening is the pure exhaustion of Trump's lies, breaking of convention, and probably breaking the law--all in the open--has simply exhausted the higher minds of many people. When your higher mind is exhausted you default to the lower effort lizard brain. I'm not trying to say Trump is guilty of crimes, and at the same time, his constant tweeting and defiance of convention have clearly been extraordinary.]

Part 4: Politics, in 3D
Chapter 9: Political Disney World - Revisiting the psych spectrum: thinking like a scientist vs thinking like a zealot and everything in between. On the political side though there are two aspects to think about: the thinking side and the motivational or values side.

The thinking side is similar to the psych spectrum. It's the difference between seeking truth vs seeking confirmation of your beliefs. The political activism side is fundamentally different. It relates to the goals of politics. On the high-minded side is seeking a "more perfect union." On the primitive side is political triumph. Tim's thinking though is that there is a high correlation between the two ladders, so they can be collapsed into one.

He says that politics is, by its nature, a bottom-heavy topic. Like religion, it starts with belief, then people look for confirmation of those beliefs. There are people on the higher rungs, but the ratio is bad and much more heavily weighted to the lower ones.

Perhaps the most important concept in this series so far is to separate how we think from what we think. The political spectrum is a good way to do this.

Let's consider global warming beliefs. In terms of what you believe and how a person might get there.

  1. Anthropogenic global warming is a scientifically proven fact, it is catastrophic and will spell the extinction of humans unless we immediately cease and desist all emissions of carbon that are unnecessary including cow farts.
    1. High Rung Thinking - There is a tremendous amount of peer-reviewed science that has studied this. Even many skeptical scientists have come to this side after examining the data. There are computer models, which while imperfect, point to possible devastating climate paths. Given what is at stake, we should do everything possible to mitigate the worst effects of CO2 emissions.
    2. Low Rung Thinking - 97%! The deniers are trying to kill us. It's all about profits for oil companies! Vote blue to save the planet. AOC and Greta say it's right. And by the way, no to nuclear either.
  2. The planet is not actually warming. There is no need to take any measures at all, much less the restrictive ones being proposed by so many.  
    1. High Rung Thinking - The published temperature data say it is, but that is after corrections much larger than the actual effect being measured. Burning fossil fuels has had numerous very positive impacts on the planet and on human beings. If the trace element in our atmosphere of CO2 is actually damaging, it has to be measured against benefits including increased agricultural productivity. 
    2. Low Rung Thinking - Global warming is a total hoax, pushed by the Chinese. Not only is CO2 good for the environment, we should be pushing to generate more, because plant food. The president says so.
These are my caricatures of the arguments and meant as examples, not real arguments. They're meant to illustrate how people can have either very different conclusions, but arrived at through similar thought processes or similar conclusions arrived at through different thought processes.

This post has so much more content than I will attempt to summarize, including how the removal of free speech and threats against people with dissenting opinions can alter or remove high-level discourse and some of the biases and tactics that occur in the discourse, so please go to the blog and check it out. I'll leave you with one more graphic that illustrates how idea-lab vs echo chamber culture influences our perception of other people.

Oh and one more thing. The tile of this one, "Political Disney World," refers to how in Disney movies and tales, the good guy/girl is all sweetness. light, and sunshine, while the bad guy/girl is evil and dark. It's about the extreme polarization and characterization of people who do not share the same beliefs.

And there's so much more. Just read it. There are lots of pictures!

Part 5: A Dangerous Trend
Chapter 10: A Sick Giant - The first nine chapters were about creating a lens through which to view arguments and peoples' motivations. Now we are getting to the meat. Seeing in 2D is about the internal tug of war between our thinking and logical side and the primitive lizard brain. The third dimension comes in when we extrapolate that from a single person to the different levels of society. The same tug of war inside each of us scales up to society levels.

This tug of war at a societal level goes through cycles, and right now, the US and the rest of the world is in a down cycle. Polarization is rampant, but not because of principle, but rather the left and right lizard brains are at war.

There are a couple likely drivers: 1. Geographic bubbles or echo chambers form due to the mobility of people today, and 2. Information bubbles driven by biased and dishonest media. Not just dishonest about the things they say, but dishonest about their position and objectivity. They have new tools and outlets that have never existed, and this further drives wedges.

It turns out though that people in this nation are fairly well aligned on values--what should be. We're much less well-aligned on what IS--our current state. This is driven by the selection bias of what news is shown (no news is good news or good news is not news). The news sources then feed what the author calls political bigotry. It is basically a disgust response to THEM. The others, who used to be wrong, stupid people are now evil, disgusting monsters.

These trends merge into four things that concern Tim greatly.
1. We're losing or ability to gain knowledge
2. We're losing our ability to think together.
3. We're losing our ability to cooperate
4. We're doing that thing that people do before really, really awful things happen.

Given all that, it appears that we are devolving further into the Power Games, and away from the Value Games.

At the risk of engaging in bothsidesism, he recognizes that the bad behavior becomes a vicious circle. He has spent the last three years trying to figure out what it will take to trigger the national immune system and raise the level of discourse, to pull the nation out of the spiral.

He sees hope in the great center, where views and values are actually pretty similar, but polarization is high because of the level and nature of the discourse.

"When the Value Games are working properly, people holding the most extreme views are relegated to the fringes—retaining enough of a voice to effect change when they’re right about something but unable to do too much damage when, more often, they’re wrong. But in the Power Games, it’s often the case that small groups of more extreme people end up with outsized power over others.

"Maybe instead of focusing on how politically active the most extreme people are, we should be asking ourselves why those who hold “more complex views” have become so inactive."

That will be the topic of Chapter 11.

Chapter 11:

Chapter 12:

13 March 2019

Voting Systems

Ranked Choice (RC) vs Instant Runoff (IRV) vs Approval

RC and IRV are technically different. RC is a way of expressing preference, IRV is a method of tabulating votes from RC ballots.

This is an important distinction.

IRV, which seems pretty good can solve one problem (e.g. Gore v Bush) but introduce others. Technically IRV is nonmonotonic. That is, a shift of public opinion toward a candidate can cause that candidate to lose, and a shift of public opinion away from a candidate can cause that candidate to win.

A different and probably superior method is one called Condorcet. It eliminates most of the IRV issues but introduces a few other, but less likely, issues. IRV is to Condorcet as single elimination is to round robin.

Superior to both of them is Approval voting, in which you select all candidates that would be acceptable to you. It’s simple to tabulate and does not have the issues of either IRV or Condorcet.

There’s a website that has wonderful graphics of how these different systems can work or not depending on the positions of the candidates. http://zesty.ca/voting/sim/

The author of the site is Ka-Ping Yee.

Our election method makes it virtually impossible for third parties to gain a significant foothold. The electoral system is an added complication for presidential races, but the same holds true for state and local races as well as primaries with crowded fields.

25 January 2019

CPAP Machines and Taking Control of Your Health

In 2010, I wrote about CPAP machines and sleep apnea.

I wanted to update things, much has happened since then.

First, I got a new machine in 2013 immediately before a move to Houston from Oakland. The former machine was pretty old, and it was time for an update. I got my sleep test, found a mask that I really liked, and changed from CPAP to APAP.

CPAP is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, APAP is Automatic Positive Airway Pressure. With CPAP, the pressure is set at a constant level and stays there until the machine is shut off. APAP, on the other hand, has a range of pressures over which it operates and increases the pressure the minimum amount required to prevent apnea. The advantage of APAP for users is that it is more comfortable to sleep without continual max pressure, which allows for higher pressure on demand.

The doctor prescribed an APAP and set the pressure range from 5 - 15 psi. The sleep test showed that 15 psi would be adequate for me. I received the machine only a few days before we left to drive to Houston.

The New Machine Isn't Working
I tried the machine the first night and it worked fine. But the second night.was horrible! Every time just as I was going to sleep, my airway closed, and it woke me up. Once that happens a few times, I can't even try to sleep again. I called the sleep doc the next day who looked at the data from the machine. His response was that it all looked fine. (apparently, as long as you have fewer than 5 apneas per hour, it is considered successful). When I pointed out that I only slept for one hour or something, he kind of shrugged.

He was kind enough to write me a prescription for Provigil in hopes that I didn't die on the trip to Houston.

The first night we stopped in Reno. We had gotten a late start and Reno worked for us. My machine worked a little better and we set out for Salt Lake City. Between Provigil and taking cat naps in the car, I was pretty alert and the day went well.

The Crisis
We arrive at the hotel, and I started to look for my APAP mask. Well, it was white, and the only thing we could figure is that I had left it on the sheets in the Reno hotel. Now the fun began. I started making calls and searching the net looking for help with someone who could provide the mask (we were not driving back to Reno).

Finally, I found someone, they sold me one. All good.

The Insights
But, in the process of looking for the mask, I ended up talking to a number of pretty knowledgeable APAP machine techs. I got a really important insight from one of them. If the low pressure is set too low, sometimes the machine can't ramp up the pressure fast enough to open the block. That fit perfectly with what was happening on the night I didn't sleep. I asked how I could adjust the pressure and he couldn't give me that information because it was only for doctors and techs to set that. I believe he told me that it was illegal for patients to program their own machines.

The Challenge Successfully Accomplished
I took that as a challenge. If that tech manual existed on the internet I was going to find it. I started digging and exercising my considerable google-fu skills. I finally came across a website called The Apnea Board.

They have a list of manuals and even a page with instructions on how to get into the clinician settings for a number of popular machines.

There's also a link to download software that can read your sleep records from your machine. I use Sleepyhead software. Here's a link that may work only of you register with the Apnea Board.

So using the software on my mac and tracking my results, here is how I have progressed.

You can see the progression from the original 5-15 psi setting on the bottom. My Apnea-Hypopnea Index was up there around 2-5 originally. When I started my own therapy, it immediately went to 1.47, and it has improved since. AHI is how many apneas or hypopneas you have every hour. My current rate of 0.42 means that I have one event every 3 hours or so. Remember, my doctor thought my initial settings were fine. I'm killin' it.

The FL column is flow limitation and my new machine does not measure that metric, so the zero is not meaningful.

Recent Changes

The machine I had at the start was getting old and you can get a new one every 5 years on insurance. I wanted to have a spare because I really rely on the machine and a week or longer without it would be bad.

I initially tried the same brand as I had, but an updated model. I previously used a Phillips Respironics System 1Remstar Auto with A-Flex. I tested a Philips Respironics DreamStation for one night, which worked really well. It is the brightest green one on the above chart. It had a problem though. It was extremely noisy.(1) I took it back and got the Resmed Airsense 10 Autoset and have been very happy with it.

The E4E Take on This
  1. My doctor did not understand APAP technology well. He went by the book and as long as the metric was ok, he was happy. It wasn't good enough for me.
  2. Don't believe BS from people who don't know what they're talking about. Just because someone says it's illegal for you to program your own CPAP machine, doesn't make it true. It sounds thin and it is. Ok. I actually don't know, but I was willing to risk a little civil disobedience, and frankly, I don't care about the law, it's my health. Maybe it is illegal for a tech to provide instructions?
  3. The electronic world has opened a tremendous set of resources for self-care. If you are a quick learner, and especially if you are willing to apply a little engineering thought and self-experimentation, in some cases you can far outdo medical professionals. In my case, I suspect the doctor was not up to date on the newer APAP technology, and perhaps was not willing to take the time to fine-tune my results beyond the minimum acceptable.

(1) I took the Respironics Dreamstation back to the store and worked a little with the tech, who was not happy with me. When I hooked up the machine and tried to show her how much noise it was making, she was not at all impressed. Nor was I. It had been MUCH louder previously. It turns out the machine has a water reservoir on it if you want to use the humidifier feature. But if you don't, you can take it off. It makes the machine more compact, and that is how I had used my previous machine. Unfortunately, it turns out that the reservoir provides sound buffering, even more so when there's water in it. So once I took off the reservoir container, it was loud again. She switched me to the other machine.

20 December 2018

Wikipedia's Standards are Off the Rails

Recently, some advocates of low carb and healthy lifestyles have been deleted from Wikipedia. This seems to be driven by an editor called Skeptic from Britain.

The reason given is that their views represent fringe views outside of the mainstream. In my opinion, this is arbitrary and an improper reason. If the people in question were nobodys, (like me), that would be fine. But they're not. They are respected authors, scientists, doctors and filmmakers with an alternative point of view.

Deleted pages include Malcolm Kendrick, Tom Naughton, Jimmy Moore, and Uffe Ravnskov. I suppose it's only a matter of time before Taubes, Atkins, and Lustig get deleted too.

Point of view should not be a consideration for deletion, but rather their accomplishments. After all, even the Unabomber has a page. He has an unconventional point of view. Should he be removed? of course not.

If you are interested in writing to the donations department this is the email. donate@wikimedia.org

Update from Tom Naughton of Fathead, ehich was also proposed for deletion.
"I've been tweeting about this whole issue for a couple of days, which drew the attention of Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia. His first several replies were long explanations of Wikipedia policies, the apparent message being that nothing was wrong, no violations of policy, no biases in tagging for deletion, move along, folks, nothing here to see. That ticked me off, because the editor’s bias could hardly be more obvious.  That’s why in my previous post, I said Wales was making a fool of himself on Twitter defending this nonsense.
I need to take back the insult now, apologize to Wales, and give credit where credit is due. "In a couple of Twitter exchanges, I pointed that Fat Head was targeted for deletion right after I wrote about Kendrick. I asked if he truly believed this editor was making objective decisions, which seemed highly unlikely.
"He replied that he didn’t know what Fat Head is and was unaware of it being targeted for deletion. He then sent me a private message asking for more information. I sent links demonstrating who the editor had targeted, how he’d changed his handle twice in a matter of days while continuing the targeting, etc.
"Wales responded that such behavior was against policy and could lead to an editor being banned.  He said he’d look into the matter."
Here's hsi response:
"Strong keep – As others have noted, WP:IDONTLIKEIT is not a valid reason for deletion. It is worth noting that the proposer is a serial name changer and POV pusher who has now apparently left the project. A quick research of the film reveals that in addition to the sources that User:Strikerforce rightly says are enough to ‘barely’ pass notability, I found an article at Motley Fool and this one at Vulture. It is not a major film to be sure, but there seems to be no reason for deletion other than the POV pushing of the proposer."

Here is the full conversation in Wikipedia Kendrick Deletion page.

I wrote the following letter to Wikimedia.org.

In the last few weeks, many advocates of low carb diets and healthy lifestyles have been removed from Wikipedia including Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, Uffe Ravsnkov, and now Tom Naughton. They are published and notable authors, scientists, doctors, and filmmakers with a non-mainstream PoV. The editor cites their non-mainstream views as the reason for removal. This is unethical and contrary to Wiki’s mission.

The editor who proposed their deletion Skeptic from Britain cited their non-mainstream points of view as the reason for their deletion. Based on that standard, you should also delete Ted Kaczynski. You have a responsibility to have reasonable, consistent standards.

The standard for inclusion should be related to their notoriety and impact, not their specific points of view. I am very disappointed in this recent turn, and in my opinion, it is contrary to the public's and Wikipedia's best interests.

I recently donated $6 to Wikimedia and I would like a refund of that money. I will not financially support any organization that suppresses points of view that are contrary to the mainstream.

Should I simply protest this donation through my credit card, or is there a better way for me to receive a refund? Please advise.


I'm pretty hacked off about this.

Edit: The following is the response I received from an unpaid volunteer of Wikipedia. I am still going to withdraw my contribution until Wikipedia cleans up their standards about biog. If you want to do the same, this is the email. donate@wikimedia.org 

"Regardless of his medical credentials, Dr Kendrick - along with the readers of his blog - exhibits a fundamental inability or unwillingness to understand how Wikipedia works. Articles on Wikipedia are deleted according to our Deletion Policy: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Deletion_policy>. "Big Pharma" do not have any say in the matter, despite Dr Kendrick's consipiracy theories.

"The article in question was deleted after a debate at <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Malcolm_Kendrick
>, because members of the community established that it was unsuitable for inclusion due to a lack of verifiable information from independent sources. If such sources are not provided during the deletion discussion - which they were not - then this indicates that the topic is not currently notable enough for a Wikipedia article. Dr Kendrick's theories and their validity had literally no bearing on the matter.

"If you believe after reading the deletion policy that the article was unfairly deleted, you can ask the administrator who deleted the article for a fuller explanation. If after an explanation you still believe the deletion was unfair, you can bring up the article at Deletion Review (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Deletion_review) where the community can take another look to see if the article was deleted in error.

"With regard to your donation, this channel is entirely staffed and managed by volunteers, and we have no involvement in the donation program. You will need to contact the Wikimedia Foundation directly to request a refund; the donations dapartment can be contacted at donate@wikimedia.org .

"Yours sincerely,

"Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/
"Disclaimer: all mail to this address is answered by volunteers, and responses are not to be considered an official statement of the Wikimedia Foundation. For official correspondence, please contact the Wikimedia Foundation by certified mail at the address listed on https://www.wikimediafoundation.org/

E4E take:
In my opinion, he is worth every cent they pay him. I found his response snarky and insulting. The discussion page regarding Kendrick's deletion is full of ad hominem statements and attacks on the people who were defending Dr. Kendrick. They attacked his science, but then said that the science isn't the issue, it's the lack of notoriety of Kendrick. There is some discussion of the lack of "verifiable information from independent sources" as mentioned by the volunteer. 

I simply do not have the time or energy to dig in and understand all of the wikipedia rules and regulations about biographical entries. Apparently, for inclusion, there must be significant external reporting on the person in question. This seems like an odd standard for someone carrying the standard of a non-mainstream view, but those are the rules.

Here are some references to the jihad against the low carb community.
The Skeptical Cardiologist (disagrees with Kendrick scientifically, but thinks deletion is wrong)
Reddit thread
Reddit page on Kendrick

A Couple of Posts that I think are pretty well-stated:
"Secondary sources, as you describe, should be unnecessary unless the subject (of the biographical page entry)'s existence has been seriously challenged by a reader. My interest is in keeping Wikipedia as a usable reference source for most web users. A subject of a biographical page is notable, by such a definition, each time a visitor to Wikipedia types in the subject's name, which the visitor almost certainly got from somewhere else i.e. from a secondary source. The great benefit of a comprehensive compendium of knowledge of all kinds, from the very trivial to the most profound, is its inclusiveness. A serendipitous wander wherever my interest takes me is another of the great pleasures of the site. These things are what I pay for when I contribute to Wikipedia's various appeals and they will be lost if too many gatekeepers try to keep material off it. Editors should concentrate on keeping pages as accurate as possible, on distinguishing clearly between orthodox and heterodox viewpoints, and on keeping the tone of the page polite, not on deleting serious entries about real people.Shirley49 (talk) 22:45, 5 December 2018 (UTC) — Shirley49 (talk • contribs) has made few or no other edits outside this topic."

"We are now talking at cross-purposes. My point is that the way some Wikipedia editors now work is destroying the web-site for the general reader. The rules for posts have become so legalistic that they are almost impenetrable. The basic rule should be simple. If someone posts something which can be factually disputed, the person who wishes to do this should do so and the matter can then be debated online. If an agreed consensus can be reached, that should stand. If not, the view, which is judged to be the mainstream or majority view, should stand, but at the base of the page should be a link to a separate page where the minority view or views can find expression. This is a common procedure elsewhere, like in the civil courts, where dissenting judgements are routine. If this were to occur, Wikipedia could then be freed of the charge of censorship of unpopular views or of ideas which challenge the rich and influential. Secondary sources can look impressive, but how much is: "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours"? I feel the main problem with science today is, that with a few notable exceptions, the mainstream scientist lacks the ability to interest and educate the lay-person. If Wikipedia has no wish for the small amounts of money I sometimes send it, I can spend it on something else.Shirley49(talk) 02:33, 6 December 2018 (UTC)"

Bottom Line of Wikipedia
Yes, WP sides with the mainstream, it's by intent and by design, see for example here and here. It's part of our structure, what we are for. But the internet is vast, so there are plenty of other places to write. What can make an article accepted here, is sources (WP:RS) as described at for example WP:NACADEMIC or WP:AUTHORGråbergs Gråa Sång (talk) 19:22, 6 December 2018 (UTC)