Saturday, 3 December 2011

UK Detectorists: The way to Block Discussion

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Over on the UKRally forum, in the context of the recent Twinstead Theft case, metal detector user "Hammyman" writes about so-called "media misinformation". He reckons "I think you will find B******d is behind this.It's got him written all over it. Most definately, one day he will reap what he sows". if he's talking about the Daily Mail article, this Ba***rd pleads not guilty, never touch the paper myself. Hammyman claims he has at some undisclosed time had some kind of "argument about this with an online Blog artist, I think you know who I mean". Anyway he claims the upshot was that "after contacting the publisher they took it down and made an apology to RallyUK. since then not another thing has been published...". First I have heard of anything being taken down by a blog "publisher" about a rally (Wordpress? Blogspot? Google? or a dedicated server?). Why would any of these supporters of free speech "apologise" to metal detectorists trying to quash free speech? Sounds like a shaggy dog story to me... Hammyman further claims:
the country is now banned from our server so no more worries from there anymore [icon_thumright] Why don't the other forums do the same as us and ban Poland from access to their forums, it's real simple, that would stop him.. if anybody would like to know how to do this, it is a simple command [...]
for the benefit of would-be blockers of the artefact hunting ilk, this is followed by:
here is the Code [...], just copy and paste this into your ,htaccess file using a ftp program.
A whole country banned from accessing discussions of metal detecting in Britain? Wonderful. That really shows the devotion of British artefact hunters to honestly presenting what they do to the outside world.

Poland is a big country RIGHT in the centre of Europe, 38 million people. My Polish colleagues estimate there are 60 000 metal detectorists here (though they are wrong) and at the moment the Polish tekkies are engaged in some serious political wrangling, trying to get the law on metal detecting relaxed (got a whole pile of stuff on my desk on this). Interestingly, the (real) professional numismatists (academics, not shopkeepers pretending) in Poland are behind them. Letters are flying about from professional institutions for and against to the Ministry, and guess what? The situation in "Britain" and the sad old PAS argument is trotted out (how could it be otherwise?) in aid of the Polish tekkies. How remarkable then if the Men from the Ministry want to look into the British scene, they will find their access blocked by some code on a server which makes the forums inaccessible to those central Europeans who do not happen to be a step ahead of the "tekkies" and their "techies". If these blockers have their way, about the only resource on the web they and anyone else in Poland interested in the topic will will be able to use to look into what "benefits" the open British policies on artefact hunting have brought is this "Portable Antiquities and Heritage Issues" blog, which of course only presents one person's (considered) view. Obviously that's not very helpful in generating a picture of the British detecting scene, nor in generating trans-continental debate. But of course British metal detectorists could not give a monkey's about that, they can barely look beyond the hedge around the field with "their" "productive" site in it.

But anyway, UK tekkies, block away, show the world what a load of narrow-minded self-centred individuals you are, completely oblivious of any need for a wider social discussion of the way the archaeological heritage is being treated. That is NOT what you all should have learnt from thirteen million pounds' worth of PAS outreach (but they'll not protest, they do not like people looking over their shoulders either). This is a very visible symptom of the fact that the system is not working, that no "best practice" can be expected from a bunch of ten thousand greedy folk who cannot even honestly show what it actually is they do and talk about among themselves because it shows what an utter farce the pretend "partnership" actually is.

Of course it is quite symptomatic of the marasmus that engulfs Europe's archaeologists that for detectorists the way to prevent criticism of current policies on artefact hunting and collecting is to try to prevent ONE GUY from seeing what you are up to. Also it seems to have escaped the list owners' notice than almost every British metal detecting forum has several Polish members who they are going to block from using them.

Blocking access to uncomfortable candid information however is endemic in what the Daily Mail calls the "murky world of metal detecting". A few days ago, a detectorist here told me where I could follow a link to show what a decent bloke the organizer of the Twinstead rally was. The link led to a forum where you have to register to be able to read that thread. I could have registered as "Bazza1234" or "Beergutmax" or some other suitable screen name, but then, why hide? So I used "Paul Barford". Apparently the account needs site moderator approval to be activated before I can read anything there. That was three days ago and the email welcoming me to the site has yet to arrive, so I guess the moderator (I beliebve this is the one known as "Jammy Johnny" from South Lanarkshire) recognised the name and decided it belongs to the Great Satan and I'll never know from that forum thread what a sweet decent guy that "SkunkyPaul" really is. I'm not really sure that is my loss. I think I've seen him on You Tube anyway. I guess there are things on the new British Metal Detecting forum that the moderator does not want outsiders like me seeing and expressing an opinion about...

Vignette: if UK tekkies know as little about geography as many of them do about English grammar, they'll need this map to work out where Poland is.





11 comments:

Karen Ayleward said...

Why do they have to make their forums members only? How annoying to click on a link and then find one cannot read it without having to first register, something I simply cannot be bothered to do.

other forums I visit are open to all so one is left to assume that they are not at all comfortable with the public seeing what really goes on in their so called 'hobby'.As for blocking a whole country, that has to be a first!

Paul Barford said...

Well, it's not, is it? The dictator Hosni Mubarak did it at the beginning of this year. For much the same reasons, to prevent people discussing what he was up to...

Karen Ayleward said...

A dictator doing what dictators do is one thing, a metal detecting forum is something else. They must have something to hide otherwise why do it? How do you access these forums?

Paul Barford said...

That's my secret... and some rather clever technical guys in a friendly university city...
:>)

Karen Ayleward said...

Good for you. Keep the information coming please.We appreciate it.

cmp10n said...

You had to register on RallyUK and you managed that - You plainly don't have a problem registering despite "techies" who you now seem to have a problem with too....

Quote: "But of course British metal detectorists could not give a monkey's about that, they can barely look beyond the hedge around the field with "their" "productive" site in it." Judgemental, broad-brush and inaccurate.

Quote: "...that no "best practice" can be expected from a bunch of ten thousand greedy folk who cannot even honestly show what it actually is they do". Judgemental, offensively broad-brush and inaccurate.

Quote: "A few days ago, a detectorist here told me where I could follow a link to show what a decent bloke the organizer of the Twinstead rally was."... FACT. I never said anything about how "decent" he was. I actually said I don't know him which I don't. I was merely pointing out that he actually was being very responsible in what he was advocating and it directly contradicted what you said at the time about "all" UK detectorists.

Quote: "A whole country banned from accessing discussions of metal detecting in Britain?" .... If so, how are you able to access RallyUK and other Metal Detecting sites? Dramatic.

Yet again. Venomous, judgemental, one-size-fits-all and I would point you to my original reply to you which you have to-date unsuccessfully defended except by attack.

By all means cherry pick certain comments and reply as is your right but broad-brushing is offensive.

Again, my point in my first reply.

You're adding nothing positive and constructive by attacking all the time.

cmp10n said...

Karen:

"How annoying to click on a link and then find one cannot read it without having to first register, something I simply cannot be bothered to do."

"How do you access these forums?"

Answer: "be bothered" to register which is free, anonymous and a means of preventing spam against any site that asks an end-user to register. It's a common-sense method of operation that millions of blogging site owners are asked to do.

Nothing sinister, otherwise Paul wouldn't have been able to register his Blogger site would he?

Paul Barford said...

No, actually if you want to READ about bonsai, you can look at the forums without registering. If you want to write something there, you have to register.

If you want to READ about "what is wrong with my cat, why does he...?", you can do that on dozens (hundreds probably - "the Internet is made of cats") of forums again without registering. If you want to write there, you have to register.

If you want to READ the comments under a Guardian news item, you can without registering, if you want to write one, you have to register and so on and so on.

It is not the "registering" which is the problem it is open access to 'read-only' information that I am talking about. Stamp collectors can do it, as can bottle collectors, cigarette card collectors, plastic toy soldier collectors and dinky car collectors, gosh, even Barbie doll collectors. Its the same with model train enthusiasts, mineral and fossil collectors, and US Morgan dollars.

But collectors of ancient coins and artefacts apparently cannot.

So, obviously there is a reason for that, and my experience is that when you DO get access to that inner sanctum (and they try VERY hard to keep certain people out), there are things discussed there which would not reflect too well on the image of the hobby (and also constant "walls have ears" reminders of that from other members - I highlighted one the other day). THAT is the problem.

Which is why I earnestly encourage my readers to register with a few and have a good poke around and make up their own minds about whether what goes on beneath the facade corresponds to the picture supporters paint of the hobby.

The point of shutting off open access is so the number of people who are aware of that can be controlled - like for example denying people access, as in the case I mentioned at the end of the post. Here it should be mentioned that I was trying to follow a link which cmp10 provided in an earlier comment with the sugestion I look at it.

It also means that there is generally not a Google cache of items which were censored (deleted because uncomfortable). And there is often quite a lot of that which goes on over on some of the tekkie forums. They try awfully hard to keep up appearances. If they were open to public view that would be extremely obvious.

What they are doing is manipulating the flow of information, keeping the main stakeholder (the general public whose heritage it is) in the dark as to what is really going on. Register on a few forums and see if what I say is true or untrue of what you see happening day after day there.

Ask the PAS to release the archives of their old forum and have a look at what the tekkies got up to on there to try and get their own way.

heritageaction said...

A couple of points - it is not one but a number of forums that have deleted discussions about Twinstead. Or warned people not to say things about it. Or suspended discussion. Or removed threads to “members only” areas. Most of them have the latter - one is called TBTDE (“the bit that doesn’t exist”). In my experience over ten years these forums are ALL about information management and it is preposterous to say they aren’t. The main one recently blatantly banned it’s Members from mentioning they sold finds on EBay - “UKDN does not allow any reference to any sales of coins or artefacts on EBay at all. This is a blanket ruling and no exceptions will be allowed“

As for criticising the “broad brush” approach .... PAS’s official statistics, not Paul Barford, broadly show most detectorists probably broadly don’t record their finds and broadly don’t bother about context. Indeed, so far as anyone knows, the Twinstead Rally was a broad cross section of detectorists, not a gathering of the worst, so what happened there can’t be dismissed as not representative of detectorists in general, can it? How are we to assume the members of the mob that took home all but 2 of £75,000-worth of sovereigns act away from the public eye? Are we to say they are unrepresentative and claim, against all evidence but the word of detectorists, that "most detectorists are heroes”? They clearly aren’t.

As for the Twinstead Rally itself – PAS themselves disapprove of rallies in general and this one in particular (like nearly all of them) was not even held in accordance with the official Guidelines for Rallies. So please, let’s hear no praise for the organiser or the event – both (and most others) are (broadly) a disgrace to heritage conservation.

Paul Barford said...

@cpm10:
Hmm, in fact I answered your first comment by pointing out what I had actually written, which you still persist in misunderstanding.

Yes, I am judgemental. I've been watching metal detectorists pretty closely for a long time now and have formed an opinion what I think about what is going on and I am summarising it here. You understand that a summary tends to be rather "broad brush" as you put it, but that does not mean that it is not based on a more nuanced understanding of the situation.

UK Detectorists (unlike, I must add their Polish counterparts in my experience - the ones they want to block) quite clearly from the attitudes one might see splashed across the forums on the whole do NOT see the wider context, and don't want to. They certainly do not want people to see the whole picture. On one forum, you probably saw it, they were deleting posts (and a thread as I recall) about the Twinstead theft, in case people saw it ("reflects badly on the hobby, sets us back twenty years"). well, that's just deceitful, isn't it? Telling it like it isn't. How can one justify that?

I am of course not going to explain how I access the UK forums and other places, and UK "tekkies" cannot do anything about it (except shut the forums down totally of course which is what they did to the PAS forum, isn't it?).

Neither are you "adding anything positive and constructive by attacking all the time".

The PAS is thirteen years' worth of a expensive (>thirteen million quid's worth) constructive approach. Yet the evidence the milieu takes pains to hide is that this has had very little effect on the attitudes deep in the milieu. A group of people ('the greys') which rides on the back of what is clearly a minority of more responsible fellows.

I fail to see why anyone should be "constructive" about that when the situation is so destructive to the archaeological record and the need to do something about this so urgent, and current "constructive" ("partnering") approaches are so clearly failing to have much effect when the situation as a whole is examined.

Hence me pointing out here why I think we do need to do something about it.

Paul Barford said...

@Heritage Action
thanks,

"the Twinstead Rally was a broad cross section of detectorists, not a gathering of the worst, so what happened there can’t be dismissed as not representative of detectorists in general, can it?"
Very good point.

 
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