Sunday, July 24, 2005

Free Advice

The following is my personal view and not an official statement of LANL or UC in any capacity.
There is a need for open, candid, responsible discussion of issues at LANL. That is one mechanism for identifying problems and correcting them. I have tremendous respect for the value of getting many perspectives on important issues. There also is a great need for institutional loyalty and support for decisions that are made, unless there is a huge organizational disfunction that benefits everyone to get involved in the solution. This has to be rare. When everyone weighs in with nitpick-level criticisms of day-to-day management issues, the organization degenerates into chaos and no one is well served.
A properly moderated open forum in the News Bulletin or on the Lab yellow-network website and a trusted Ombudsman office ought to exist to serve that function. (Note that most organizations are vulnerable to negative publicity and are sensitive to how they manage this kind of function. In fairness to LANL and its community relations organization, given LANL’s extreme vulnerability, many enemies, and critics, bridging the gap between openness and responsible institutional self-protection has to be difficult. I like and respect C. Paul Robinson, but wonder whether his tolerance of your blog might be slightly influenced by its apparent anti-UC bias and potential to enhance the LM/UT chance of winning the contract. )
I am glad you are thinking about eliminating anonymous postings on your blog. I believe that you have operated under an incorrect assumption that ‘because there are things at LANL that need corrected and because there is not and effective open forum for discussing those things, then an open, PUBLIC, forum based primarily on news media stories and posted rants with anonymous commentary is the right solution.’ In fact, while your LANL:TRS blog has provided news reports and discussion and opportunity for angry people to vent, it has done unfair, immeasurable, and largely irreparable damage to LANL, to a number of people, and lab organizations. It airs both real and unsubstantiated problems in public while we are in the middle of a highly-politicized and potentially injurious debate over the future of LANL. I count it as aid and comfort to the enemy.
You could have hosted open discussion without opening the door to the malicious and imbalanced and public attacks that have appeared here. However, instead of being a moderator to a balanced and responsible forum, you appear to encourage a negative polarization and mob-think. Some have said that anonymity is necessary to enable people to be open. My experience at LANL is that most people are extremely willing to share candid views with each other and with management. Free-flowing candor is frequent in open meetings as well. I think that the justification you claim is minimal.
While I would prefer LANL:TRS did not exist, if you continue it, you can make it better by requiring attribution. Comments ought to be signed. If there is some comment that is legitimate but really would put a person’s job at risk, you should decide if YOU want to front for that person by providing them with a pseudonym. You assume an important responsibility, not unlike that of a reporter quoting an anonymous source. Is the source reliable? Is the comment appropriate? This will eliminate trolls, ringers and imbalanced weighting by a few in the discussion.
While you have posted rules for engagement, they are often breached in favor of your bias. You should be balanced in administering the rules.
Gary Stradling


I get lots of free advice on how to run this blog. Gary, at least, has the courage to sign his.

I think one of the things I look forward to most when LM/UT takes over is that we won't have to hear any more from this little sycophant.

As with respect, loyalty is earned and UC has done nothing to engender such loyalty. If they had any concern for us they would have removed Nanos as soon as it became evident that this loose cannon had jumped its mount.

LANL has earned the criticism it has received. But don't worry, I'm sure someone as ethically challenged as Foley will gladly use UC funds to hire you to swab his decks or clean his head. You are obviously as clueless as your idol, Nanos.
Stradling said:

..."your LANL:TRS blog has provided news reports and discussion and opportunity for angry people to vent, it has done unfair, immeasurable, and largely irreparable damage to LANL, to a number of people, and lab organizations."

How about the unfair, immeasurable, and completely irreparable damage LANL did to its employees in DX? Especially Horne and Kauppila. As the previous poster said, "LANL has earned the criticism it has received."
08:08 is an example of a comment that does not reveal any compelling institutional problem that might put the poster's job at risk, is mean spirited, and would likely not ever be made if attribution were required. No one would miss it and the tenor of your blog would be raised by its absence.

To 08:08-and other ad-hominem attackers: come by my office or meet me elsewhere and make your statement to my face, if you have the capacity. I do not have the authority to fire you, and am willing to discuss your concerns.

08:22- How does your point relate to this discussion? Are you proposing the distruction of or serious injury to LANL because of the impact on DX during the shut down? Help me with the math.

pucker up, Gary... you'll have new asses to kiss next spring.
True, Gary. 8:08 said some not-nice things about you. On the other hand, he also made a valid point: "LANL has earned the criticism it has received.".

Would you have me delete his post because he disagreed with what you said, or how he worded his disagreement? I don't delete posts that attack me, if I feel there is a valid point of discussion being aired, albeit unpleasantly.

Help me do the math here: where should the censorship start?
Gary- 8:08 may not have had an institutionally critical point to make but 8:22 most certainly did.
UC and LANL engaged in some very egregious behaviors during the time of the shut down. They targeted and ruined several hardworking innocent Americans in an attempt to avoid the admission that they were in error about the missing media. Their actions were at the very least unethical and quite possibly illegal. If you can't see how that point relates to this discussion then you have a problem. Government agencies and their contractors should not be allowed to target innocent people for convenience sake. If that leads to the destruction of the UC contract the only people to blame are the perptrators in UC and LANL.
LANL will not be destroyed, it will continue to exist under (hopefully) more competent management.
If you are enforcing your rules and delete ad-hominem type attacks (with or without scatological references), that is not censorship but standards enforcement. It does not relate to the message—in those few cases where there is a message—but to the delivery. If the point of the poster is lost in the process, he may choose to convey his points in a civil way. Where is the loss? The gain is that the level of discussion is raised.
Hey Gary, if you can't stand the heat why don't you keep your free advice to yourself.
I think anonymity has an important place in the blogosphere.

Mr. Stradling, though you may not know it, your criticism of anonymity is very similar to many mainstream critiques of blogs along the lines of, "if anybody can go in and say anything, that's bad, things must be regulated and controlled or they will get out of hand."

That may or may not be true. But as far as blogging goes, the genie is out of the bottle. Given that, more than likely the only way to proceed is to keep putting your own two cents in.

I'd recommend reading the blog of Robert Scoble. Scoble works for Microsoft, a company that many people regard with dislike and suspicion. He blogs every day about things that he's interested in, and he reads and responds to critiques of the company in a patient, evenhanded manner -- correcting misapprehensions and also admitting where the company has made mistakes.

Here's an article which surveys blog policies from many different blogs. Bloggers differ dramatically in how they operate their blogs, particularly in the area of regulating comments. May provide some useful stuff.
I appreciate your comment, but think that the cases you mention do not apply to LANL:TRS for the reasons I listed above. I am not against anonymity in all blogs. However, many comments here claim special knowledge or standing, or diversity of view, which cannot be validated. These comments have been given disproportionate weight in government and among the lab's critics.
" These comments have been given disproportionate weight in government and among the lab's critics."

According to whose judgement, Gary? Yours? I would love to see proof of this. Perhaps you could provide it.


Does Blogger provide a way to see the daily hit rate as well as the time-integrated hit count? A falling hit rate indicates that people are losing interest in the blog, with a steeper fall indicating a whirlwind fall into irrelevance.

I check the blog less than I once did. Many of my co-workers do as well, and the vitriol and vituperation spewed by the bravely anonymous is the reason. Yes, there are good and sound reasons to post anonymously. Calling Gary Stradling a sycophant is not a good and sound reason, nor is mocking Kuke's neckties or the latest policy from SUP designed to shift time-consuming activities off SUP's shoulders and onto TSMs'.

The fraction of anonymous posts containing sensitive information that might result in official retaliation is dwarfed by the fraction which merely spew insults or assert some personal knowledge of Deep Evil Afoot. They lower the tone of the dialogue here and lend ever-growing credence to those who dismiss the blog as a haven for passed-over malcontents and socially-stunted geeks.

You always have the power to submit a relevant post on behalf of someone who wishes with good reason to remain anonymous. I recommend that you disable general anonymous posting and use your moderator's hat to sift the wheat from the chaff.
Free advice to Gary;
Why don't you actually engage the problem? Go talk to the Newsbulletin folks and ask them why they take our letters and toss them in the circular file, without following their own policies? Perhaps they would listen to you; or perhaps you would learn something?
A major, and continuing, need for the Blog is that LANL stifles communication, with the NB one sterling example of same. In addition to allowing more open access to the Reader's Forum, the NB should allow Forum feedback on their "News" pieces, which are mostly fluff and PR. An essential part of the "Letters to the Editor" featured in most papers is feedback on their news coverage. The NB doesn't even allow such feedback. Go talk to them Gary.
The way to eliminate the Blog is eliminate the need for the Blog. A good place to begin is the NB; which is currently an unmitigated "piece of s**t".
Good luck Gary. Report back and let us know how it went. Eliminate the need for the Blog. Until then, can it..
Mr. Stradling: You may be right -- although I tend to fall on the right of individuals to speak without fear of retaliation over the right of groups to regulate speech for the good of the group (where "good" is decided by some subset of the group).

All goods that are shared by a group (like a blog) have "free rider" problems. For example, if you build a road, people will speed on it.

But that's not a reason to tear up the road. The question is, does the good provide a net benefit to all users?

It seems that your answer to that question as it regards this blog, is No.

One problem: it's no longer possible to stamp out anonymous free speech -- the technology is ubiquitous now. There's even ways to blog anonymously that are very difficult to crack Once one of these communities gets started, even if you think some of the things said are unfair, trying to stamp out or regulate it usually makes things worse for you -- it's like trying to defeat a hornet's nest by whacking it with a bat.

At this point, if you don't the direction that the community is going in, it's likely that the only effective strategy is: engaging the community, even when you think their judgement is unfair, starting your own blog to get your own point of view out, and keep plugging away at it.

Expect to be at it indefinitely...but it also has its own rewards. Saying your piece gets to be addictive.

To test the idea that a blog that was not anonymous would be subjectively better, or objectively more simple. Anyone can start a weblog that requires people to identify themselves, and see if it thrives and becomes successful. Starting a blog on Blogger is free and takes less than five minutes.
Listening and responding to Gary is not worth the bandwidth, people. The
worst insult you could make to him is to simply ignore him. He is a man
of absolutely no consequence. Don't even give him the favor of the time
of day. Regardless of what he may say, he feeds off getting noticed. He
is a nobody. When he feels the need to be a somebody, every few months or
so, he begins posting. Next time he does, I would love to see "Comments: 0"
remain under his front page post.
Great idea 11:21.
Yeah 11:21 That sure beats tryig to come up with logical reasons why he and those others are so full of it! Just telling them what jerks they are for not being just like us doesn't seem to shut them up. And we are mad, and our feelings are really justified.
Hi Lisa-
Your points are well made. Your point is that some blogs do better business in the dark. That is unquestionable so. But should Doug be doing his business that way?

There is little reason for anonymity where the conversation is civil, respectful and constructive, but plenty of reason if the participants abandon the rules of civility that govern other’s respect for them. Some people will do under a blanket what they would shrink from doing in broad daylight in other’s view. Some will give into their worst inclinations when they will not be held accountable. So some disreputable establishments keep the lights low, build high fences, and protect the identity of customers to encourage business. The excuse that this approach is best for business does not, in my mind, excuse the proprietor from conducting a shameful business.

The conversation here is about whether Doug, who claims to be running a moral and legitimate business for the good of LANL and its community, ought to turn on the lights, raze the fence and raise the curtains. If so much good is being done, why not? If the business dries up in the daylight, maybe he should choose another line of business.
Doug- There was no offense intended in the above comment. The example is intended to be illustrative, like taking an apparently indeterminate term to the limits of a relevant parameter to see its true nature.
To 10:00 [Free advice to Gary;
Why don't you actually engage the problem? ... LANL stifles communication]
I have had conversations with some people but none that were conclusive. As you know, I agree that managing the communication within LANL is really important and I hope that management could be more effective. But you could be more effective too.

One of the complaints of dysfunctional couples is that their communication is broken. In fact, usually couples communicate extremely well, verbally and non-verbally. The trouble is that dysfunctional couples are communicating things to each other that erode trust and build resentment. The solution is not a “let it all hang out” conversation airing all grievances. That has been tried and often results in a trip to the divorce court.

The current blog is accusatory, pointing out deficiencies of an imperfect partner and may have been matched with distrustful retaliatory actions by some managers. Look at the blog front page: Running list of wasteful activities at LANL, Fear and Loathing at Los Alamos; Petition to remove Director Nanos, etc.

An effective approach for couples is to spend time communicating the things each partner values in their relationship with the other. They focus on communicating love, trust, and commitment and remembering why they initially came together. When that happens, the relationship improves. The love that initiated the relationship resumes and the shared vision is reestablished. Their differences do not disappear, but they find ways to deal with them, just as they were able to ignore problems in the early days of love and passion. When they talk about problems in a trusting discussion, each finds ways to understand the problems and to come up with ways to contribute to solutions. There are events of the past that can be forgiven.

So, Doug, if my real life analysis resonates with you, how about listing in the blog all of the things that are great about working at LANL? Also list all of those things that LANL management could appreciate about the staff here (I think some of them probably drop in to look occasionally).

If you are trying to obtain the respect and confidence of LANL management, you may want to step back from the current approach and think about it. If you want to foster open dialog, you may be going at it the wrong way. “Oh,” you say, “they started it.” Well, they always say that. The important question is, “Who is grown up enough and wise enough to break the cycle in the positive direction.”

I do not doubt that some here will not have any idea what all this means. If that is you, check your own relationship stats and if they are not admirable, maybe you should discuss this with someone who does understand.
Gary - Get over yourself and just shut up. No one really cares what you think.

The blog serves an important purose and should continue. That people check it less often than before is a sign that 1)Nothing major has happened in the last few months 2) Morale is improving, if only slightly.

Again, go away. Please.
Cute. Phrased like someone swimming in the Nile.

"Get over yourself and just shut up. "
You first.

is a sign that:
3. Everyone is off on vacation
4. Some people have a real life.
5. The general positive nature of most people has overcome the morbid curiosity of seeing what mud the bloggers are throwing today.

Be careful, you had some mis-spellings.
Gary - to answer #4, I guess you don't have a real life.
Sometimes it seems real- but I might be mistaken.
Gary- nobody is trying to gain the respect or trust of LANL management. We could care less about them because they destroyed the trust in this relationship. We want a divorce Gary! This relationship is over! Many of us are ready to jump into bed with lockmart. You can't have a great relationship if your partener is a lying whore like UC.
Gary - Leave the rest of us poor bloggers who do not have a life alone. You state that you have a life, but you spend a considerable amount of time concerned with the blog. Yet, you say those of us that read the blog often have no life. Hmmm. That seems like faulty logic (or the pot calling the kettle black). You must be a part of management (that would make sense) or you are just clueless. Which is it Gary?

Bye bye Gary, it is time for you to go.

I dislike his message, but I still support that he has a right to post. That is what the blog is about. Freedom of speech. This world would not be a great place if we all had to agree all of the time.

That said, Gary it is time for you to go. for the NB. They were told by Nanos not to print anything negative - hence the birth of the blog.
"We want a divorce Gary! "
You may get more than you bargained for.

I have heard that second marriages are better than first marriages, just shorter. I do not know. DO you have any data?

I wonder how much change at the staff level occurs with a change in management? Are there former EG&G-neBechtel employes or former Zia now KSL employees who can tell us what the difference was at the worker level? Did things change a lot at the worker level when Sandia went to LockMart?

Often it only a few people in the chain that are changed, but there can be real changes in some policy and organizational structures- perhaps the Letter policy in the News Bulliten.

But bear in mind that the most important aspect of how our work environment looks to us is our own attitude. That might also change with a new boss, but not always.

WRT the question am I in management or clueless, evidence points to the latter.

As you were so kind to point out, it is time for me to go. I have to get to another activity. Lets talk later.
Gary's response to Doug appears sincere and comes with a sense of direction, which cannot be said for most of the responses in the blog. It's amazing that people from one of the most world renowned national defense organizations are passing themselves off as anarchists and hide-behind-the-'Net bullies. The "freedom of speech" angle, while interesting, is nothing more than an excuse for saber rattling and political grandstanding. Grow up and do your jobs! It's clear you have way too much time on your hands. Your jobs aren't government entitlements and are subject to privatization like everybody else. Keep it up and that's exactly where you're headed.
"unfair, immeasurable, and largely irreparable a number of people.."

I am so glad Mr. Stradling brings up the subject of "irreparable damage" done to many LANL employees over the years. I assume he knows those who have been discrimminated against, sexually harassed, retaliated against, stalked, threatened, falsely accused, those who reputations have been tarnished by LANL and it's managers. Well, those folks finally have an avenue to tell their stories to the whole world. And no, there is not one damned thing you, Mr. Stradling, or those like you can do about it!
The gulags are gone Mr. Stradling.
Thanks to Doug Roberts and this Blog, the tide is turning!! Certain people are becoming very defensive.
7/26/2005 07:53:06 PM said:
"I am so glad Mr. Stradling brings up the subject of "irreparable damage" done to many LANL employees over the years. I assume he knows those who have been discrimminated against, sexually harassed, retaliated against, stalked, threatened, falsely accused, those who reputations have been tarnished by LANL and it's managers."

I hope the new administration will put an end to this sort of damage, but if it does not this blog will provide an avenue to publicize the problem.
Doug- you asked about proportionality.
(" These comments have been given disproportionate weight in government and among the lab's critics."

According to whose judgment, Gary? Yours? I would love to see proof of this. Perhaps you could provide it.)

I have discussed before the relative paucity of numbers present here. Out of the 10,000 workers at LANL, these few disgruntled bloggers are minuscule. But this blog has obtained high visibility with the assistance of our enemies, who want to discredit the lab. We had a very rough time in Congress with some extremely unfair and inappropriate condemnations leveled, based on these few blogger’s statement. Likewise the New York Times writer, Bill Broad, cast the general staff of LANL as mutinous based on this blog. These are disproportionate by any measure.

8:39 weighed in with: “many LANL employees who have been discriminated against, sexually harassed, retaliated against, stalked, threatened, falsely accused, those who reputations have been tarnished by LANL and it's managers.” I shrink from minimizing the pain and negative impact of any person who fits in the categories 8:39 brings up. None of those things should happen, especially at LANL. As I have said before, where this is found at LANL it should be fixed and never should be tolerated.

However, can you say that these events are disproportionate with respect of other institutions of the size and complexity of LANL? Compare with businesses and government in Los Alamos, Espanola, Albuquerque, or Santa Fe? How many bosses out there in the “real world” are tyrants, or retaliate against employees for criticizing business practices? How about in the university world ? (see How fairly is power is wielded within the halls of Congress? Have any of you worked in the UN? Maybe you could tell us about retaliation, harassment, and false accusations. Have you heard of any local civil government officials who trade official favors for sex?

I agree that an institution of the stature of LANL should meet a higher standard. But I wonder whether you guys have any sense of how good this place is, with respect to other real world places. We should not be focused on tearing it down, fouling our own nest, but finding positive ways to resolve problems. I appreciate your tolerance in reading a non-conforming opinion.
Gary said:
"I have discussed before the relative paucity of numbers present here. Out of the 10,000 workers at LANL, these few disgruntled bloggers are minuscule."

This is something I have wondered about since the beginning of the blog.
Since almost all of us use the Anonymous identity we will never know how many we are.

What if only 100 people care enough about the future of this Laboratory that they are disgruntled enough to contribute to the blog.

Maybe there are a few hundred people like me who are retired who are horrified by the events of the past year but want to try to do something to save the Lab.

Then there might be 1000 people who are look at the blog but are afraid to say anything for fear of retaliation.

We can't forget outsiders who let us know just what they think of us and the nuclear weapons program.

We all use the Anonymous identity for one reason or another. I sometimes use it because what I have to say is general in nature and my real name will not add anything to what I say.

Your statement that the number of bloggers who comment are miniscule carries no more weight than does my opinion.

Larry Creamer, Retired
The Detonator Group
1944 - 2004
Did Larry Creamer, Retired, of The Detonator Group, 1944 - 2004, actually work here for 60 years?
7/28/2005 06:47:19 PM said:
"Did Larry Creamer, Retired, of The Detonator Group, 1944 - 2004, actually work here for 60 years?"

I wondered if anyone would ask the question. The answer is no. I only worked there for 28 years. 1944 to 2004 is the life span of the Detonator Group which was killed a year ago this month.

Larry Creamer, Retired
The Detonator Group
1944 - 2004
Gary - You're still around? Get off of your soap box and go bug someone else. Bye now, and don't let the door hit you in the ass
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