Who Goes There?

On my weekly foray through the various web newsites, blogs, and occasional entertainment links (such as PostSecret, which I highly recommend) I have made a point of regularly visiting Jeff Foust’s blog, Space Politics so I can keep abreast of the goings-on in my old neighborhood (Washington DC) as it pertains to space development.

Sadly, while the articles/columns are still quite informative and well-written (and yes, Robin, the format is more pleasing than a black-background blog, but hey, i’m trying to maintain a space theme here…) it appears that the curse of the space angst has finally hit Jeff’s blog.

Let us remember briefly just another one of the oh so many other fora that have since disappeared into the dustbin of space history in the 10+ short years that the WWW has been around…

The Space Arena Board – RIP 2005

What is it that killed this board? Apathy?

Well, eventually, yes.

But first, it began with the sniping and then the personal attacks. Who can forget the ever entertaining debates between the self-appointed geniuses of the alt.space “community”, who managed to make virtually every thread devolve into a back and forth of name-calling and ad hominem attacks. The use of anonymity often accompanied the postings of these gems of our sector, and it was often the case that the worst offences came from those who were too afraid to post under their own names.

So, it is with sadness i have noticed the increasing use of clever (or not) anonymous handles for comments posted on Jeff’s blog, and the corresponding increase in partisan and childish comments as well.

13 thoughts on “Who Goes There?

  1. Some observations on the devolution of the discussions in space blogs — they are devalued by:
    (1) The compulsion to have the last word on every thread;
    (2) Parsing remarks too finely and thereby misinterpreting meaning;
    (3) Not reading carefully and thereby misinterpreting meaning;
    (4) Taking comments personally that were not intended to be personal;
    (5) Exchanges involving talking past one another (an example — my recent Dec. 16 post on Chihuahuas led to a rather caustic comment about number of academic degrees — not relevant and perhaps indicative of something deep-seated within the commenter?); and
    (6) Spending too much time at a keyboard.
    Suggestions include:
    (1) Working to avoid items 1-6 above;
    (2) Sticking to the argument in the thread;
    (3) Getting a thicker skin, or letting the small things slide; and
    (4) Get a life.
    Another gripe relates to some alt.spacers criticizing recognized world experts on a topic in which the alt.spacer has no particular expertise and then declining to enter into a rational discussion about the issue with said expert. All too often, the alt.spacer snipes and criticizes without actually arguing the merits or engaging the expert in debate. A recent example came from an engineer with no particular expertise in economics criticizing an expert economist on The Space Show who had opined that LEO launch costs may not be all that elastic.
    That said, the alt.space community is largely irrelevant to advancing the cause of space exploration. In another vein, I nominate SFF for a Walking Eagle award for their efforts in getting the recent regulatory legislation passed.
    The people I care about know who I am. For the rest, I am John Jurist.

  2. Shubber, I totally agree. I enjoyed that forum while it lasted.

    As the engineer in question, yes I’ll admit that I’m not an economist. I actually agree with a lot of the conclusions that the economist in question actually came to in his paper. It was the misinterpretation that I disagreed with. He didn’t “prove” that space launch could not be elastic. At least from what I understood of what he wrote. My understanding was that he showed that existing and historical markets with existing players don’t show much promise for elasticity.

    I provided a counterexample, that of the fact that LM believes it can close a business case with Bigelow by offering lower per-flight costs for a higher flight rate. This is a perfect example of elasticity, and seems to poke a hole in the interpretation of the economists theory that you guys have been talking about. And then there’s bulk buys of launch vehicles that I’ve heard some people in the industry talk about–that once again, buying in quanitity does get you a substantial per unit price drop.

    Dr H’s paper was useful, and interesting, and provided some insight. However, especially in the light of such pieces of counter-evidence, it doesn’t appear to “prove” quite what you guys seem to think it proves.


  3. Jon —
    First, you were not the engineer in question.
    Second, you illustrate my Point #3. I wrote: “…an engineer with no particular expertise in economics criticizing an expert economist on The Space Show who had opined that LEO launch costs may not be all that elastic.” You wrote: “He didn’t “prove” that space launch could not be elastic.” I never wrote that the economist “proved” anything. You mischaracterized my statement. Look up the difference between “opine” and “prove.”

  4. John,
    Fair enough. I just noticed that in his article he seemed to jump a little too quickly from assertations to claming he had proven stuff. If he was treating it as merely his opinion, that is definitely different.

    As I said, his paper did have many good and useful points. I’m just not a fan of arguments by authority, particularly when there’s new evidence that casts doubt on the interpretation that’s been given to his findings.


  5. Dr Jurist,

    I don’t want to seem picky but please be aware that the “engineer with no particular expertise in economics” later stated he had a “BA Int’l Bus. & Econ, magna cum laude”.

    I guess you may have missed this but it does make me wonder why you made the original accusation without any real evidence… I guess you forgot about Observation (3).

    Dave Salt

  6. Guys, I am truly glad to know that now a BA is equal to a PhD and the scholarly, professional, peer, and global accomplishments of someone such as Dr. Hertzfeld. If in fact you guys are right, no wonder the Chinese and Indians are beating our asses off in higher education, engineers and other science and technolgy arenas. I cannot believe what I am reading on this and other blogs. Is it because you guys did not go further with your education, therefore you must equate what you have to the best and the brightest? Or do you equate a BA to the PhD level because you really and honestly feel that a BA education equals that of a doctoral degree. I really think some of you need to take some deep breaths, a few steps back and pause and think about what you are really saying before you post it. But in the end, fortunately there are blogs including this one where everyone is welcome to post what they want, to pontificate all they want and to do so without being accountable or getting a grade or evaluation. So I guess its all for the good. Probably minimizes the need to take medication or visit doctors. Thank god for the free press and the growing use of blogs. It is helping to save us all on medical expenses and insurance.

    Post everyone. Pontificate to your hearts desire. You are changing the world, step by step and we are all getting close to being space-faring because of your wisdom and intelligence and critical thinking.

    And finally, if any you suspect some sarcasm in this post, good for you. You get a gold star for the day. One last point. Yes, I absolutely know there are geniuses that never went to college or had a formal education. I absolutely know that you do not need a PhD to be a success and the brightest in your field and given the many PhDs I know, many should never have gotten the degree in the first place. However, Henry H. is not one of these people. And, me thinks you guys would all do well to further your organized education. I don’t think it would hurt any of you. In fact, come to the UND Space Studies program, do it by distance learning so you don’t have to winter over in Grand Forks, and enroll in my business, econ, ethics and management classes. I would welcome you as students in my classes and I think you would find your new master’s degree to be extremely beneficial for you.

    Professor L
    David Livingston

  7. Hi again,

    I am posting the identical message on http://selenianboondocks.blogspot.com/ and its a special invitation for those of you posting on both blogs, especially on Boondocks message of Jan. 13, 2007 titled “Direct Update.” As host of The Space Show, I’ve decided to create a new program series which I will title “Space Advocate Sound off” until a better name is suggested. I invite those of you posting on the two blogs to come on this special two hour show as I will do a four person panel and afford you the opportunity to sound off on The Space Show as you do on these blog posts. As with all Space Show guests, you will be treated with the utmost of respect, the program always takes the highroad, there will not be any disrespect or put downs or anything like that. You will have the opportunity to let us all know your space ideas, why you think your market ideas are more accurate or better than say those of Dr. H, why you think your BA equals a PhD or your able to discuss economics on the level of PhD economist, etc. All topics will be fair game and you will get email, chat and possibly phone calls from Space Show listeners. The program will be archived and it will be podcast and the life of Space Show programs is in the years so you might continue to get feedback for a long time. As with all Space Show guests, you will get a CD of the show and you will get a special guest only Space Show t-shirt. You need to be available using a land line corded telephone for audio clarity. No cells, no VoIP, no cordless, headsets, speaker phones, etc. You will be introduced using the bio of your choice. You agree to provide an email address on the show so listeners can contact you with further questions and comments. I would like to set this two hour special panel show up for a February date so if you are interested in being one of the panel members, please email me at drspace@thespaceshow.com. The first four of you will be on the first panel. I hope this program can be repeated with different panel members at least once per quarter.

    No strings attached to this invitation. This is your chance to pontificate and show us all your expertise and your space ideas. Again, as with all Space Show guests, you will be afforded every courtesy and level of respect.


    Dr. David Livingston, Host
    The Space Show

  8. Dr Livingston,

    Please “read” what I posted.

    Dr Jurist branded someone as an “engineer with no particular expertise in economics” without any factual evidence. Moreover, as a latter posting proved him wrong, I found it somewhat ironic as this was exactly the sort of thing his original comment was complaining about – nothing more, nothing less.

    To suggest, even as a joke, that I implied a BA is somehow equal to a PhD is rather tacky and without foundation.

    Nevertheless, let me say that I do listen to your show and have the greatest respect for your efforts to educate and enable debate. I have some comments on Dr Hertzfeld’s paper but will forward them to you directly, rather than continue things here.

    Dave Salt

  9. Dave, I am not interested in the discussion with Dr. Jurist, etc. I invite you to be on the program and part of the Space Advocate Sound Off Panel. Look, advocates, myself included, sound off on blogs from time to time, more for others than me. Some blogs are real popular, Cynics is on the low side of popularity, but The Space Show has a global audience, is listened to by NASA guys, the big academics, people in Russia, Iran, the Ivory Coast, Japan, etc. I think giving advocates or as I say on air “spacers” the air time to make their case, put forth their ideas, pontificate, blow it out, whatever, is a good idea and I wish I had thought of it earlier. You post on these blogs, be a panel memeber and contact me. If you do it, we need 1-3 more. A panel can be up to four guests and then its too many for a 2 hour show but four is fine. Come share the wealth with the Space Show global audience.

    David L.

  10. Hi guys! I think I’m part of the “engineer with no particular economic experience” deal y’all are talking about. For the record:

    1) I am not an engineer. I am a corporate banker. I have the degree noted, plus experience in the financial field dating back to about 1990. Real world experience in global finance, such as being the investment bank credit analyst at Banque Nationale de Paris in NYC back in the late 1990s, or perhaps the internship at the Shearson Lehman Brothers office in Paris back in 1991. I’ve been a bank teller, a file clerk, a financial analyst, a credit analyst, a portfolio administrator, an investment analyst, and an underwriter (my last profile was a $450Mn commitment that I took to the BoD of the bank), though it looks like I will be transitioning again in the near future, and may get some solid real estate experience this next go-round.

    2) I was not on that particular The Space Show (but I was on 05/08/05). Jon Goff was. I made some comments over at the Selenian Boondocks, where Jon is nice enough to let me guest blog. When challenged, I actually sat down and looked through the particular report referenced. My conclusion was that Dr. Hertzfeld’s arguments were essentially correct within their context, but saw no particular reason to see why the results would have to be applicable outside of the big industrial contractors building big rockets for big government segment.

    3) I did not decline to debate Dr. Hertzfeld, I merely replied that I didn’t see where we would have much to disagree about regarding his paper.

    So if we’re flinging pedigrees around, ;-), being equated with a PhD is a smart guy with a solid international education with decent honors (both AS & BA) followed by a decade and a half of international financial experience, which involves constant doses of economics best compared to trying to drink from a fire hydrant.

    The reason that I do not automatically defer or subordinate to a PhD is that I also have a Master of Space Studies from ISU, cum laude, which is a rigorous program so I know a fair amount about the space field. Not enough to be good, perhaps, but certainly enough to be dangerous. I’ll back that up with one on-line Lunar Library, of which I hold the physical contents and have actually read a sizeable chunk.

    I do intend to get a doctorate, but that’s not until my 50s (if I make it that far). Law degree is up next in my 40s. I’m trying to figure out how to tie international commercial law with space law, not necessarily just in a telecomm context.

    I do, however, get peeved when I see public news outlets asking guys like IR astronomers about the potential commercial viability of a Moon base. It’s no wonder that the public has no clue.


  11. I put FFO back up a while ago, but in these more modern days where everyone has a blog, it can’t really compete.

    I suspect some bloggers will tire of the snipers waiting in the comments and be willing to participate in a posting community again, but I don’t think the time is coming soon. At FFO I am willing to provide the police force necessary to enforce a social contract, but the trade off is that the community decides whether you have a full or partial posting voice. Bloggers are used to full freedom on the front end, so the costs on the back are going to have to grow before a conversion is worth it.

  12. Hi All,

    Getting a PhD is not a panacea or a trip anywhere in particular. As always, it depends on the person, nothing more, nothing less. Muprhydyne, in the time it took to you post your note and probably a few others on Boondocks, you could have written an informed challenge to Henry per his paper and your understanding and context, and all that. All I am saying is that if we limited time on our hands and I suspect we all do, all of us would benefit by the direct exchange with the paper’s author than all the comments about the paper by others who don’t ever talk to the author. That’s all. So again, if you have the time to post, you have the time to write a note and have a quality exchange with Henry. He has answered several letters and challenges from listeners who heard his show and read his paper. He is a great guest and professor. Go for it over just regular blog posts. All of us would win if you did that. Post your letter to him here, I will copy it and email it to Henry and then post his reply to you here. Fair enough?


  13. Cool! How about:

    Dear Dr. Hertzfeld,

    I enjoyed your paper on the relative inelasticity existing in the provision of big rockets to big government programs. While I would tend to agree that this likely holds true in the circumstances you describe, given many of the reasons you cite, I do not necessarily subscribe to the idea that this would hold true for all attempts to build a launch system.

    At the 2007 International Space Development Conference over the Memorial Day weekend we will be devoting three days of content in a large room to transportation issues. I invite you to submit an abstract for a presentation in that track, and we’ll try to squeeze you in. I believe that Dr. Livingston would probably like to get us on a panel, but as co-chair of the conference I’ll likely not have much opportunity to do so. Besides, I’ve already laid claim to a couple of the Moon sessions.

    I respectfully hope that you will consider participating at the 2007 ISDC, where transportation issues are getting priority treatment, and likely get a lot of good questions. Details can be found at our website at http://www.isdc2007.org, or you can visit the Call for Papers that I posted at the Selenian Boondocks which links directly into the paper database.

    Thank you in advance for your consideration,

    Ken Murphy
    Co-chair, 2007 ISDC
    VP – NSS of North Texas

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