Your opinions on the "Alternative History and Future Speculation" section wanted

What do you think of the 'Alternative History and Future Speculation' forum section?

  • It's my favorite section.

    Votes: 7 6.6%
  • It's fine. Keep it!

    Votes: 53 50.0%
  • I don't really care either way

    Votes: 10 9.4%
  • It's not my thing, but I can ignore it

    Votes: 16 15.1%
  • It's off-topic for the forum, on balance I'd rather limit or ditch it

    Votes: 13 12.3%
  • Nuke it from orbit (it's the only way to be sure)

    Votes: 7 6.6%

  • Total voters
    106

Avimimus

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So... sometimes one wants to ask 'what if this was actually built - which of its horrible flaws would've been the first to doom it'... those questions come up... and without having some forum for it - it will pollute the other forums.

I'd personally rather have a more focused section for discussing the pros and cons of technologies (e.g. traversing torpedo tubes on the Surcouf and other prewar submarines)... a kind of military science / analysis forum... but I'll take the alternative history forum if it is the only option :)
 

Volkodav

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My two cents

Politics rather than technical or even economic (many economic issues are down played or blown out of proportion to suit political agendas) factors are key in why some projects progress and why others are cancelled.

I have personally worked on a number of development, build and sustainment projects where the public perception of the project is very different from the reality. I have literally held design submissions in my hand for what would have been the perfect solution to a defence capability requirement, lower risk, tighter schedule, lower cost than the decision actually made, this particular case there was pork barreling involved as well as sexing up a particular company for sale.

I have detailed knowledge of the selection process for an important capability that was deliberately designed to ensure the solution was no where near as capable and effective as the original concept. I was also there when extreme measures were being considered to increase capability in the exact areas that capability was deliberately limited. Then same project I was there as the selected platform was literally falling apart because of the known design issues. The platform is now end of life but despite the whole thing being a monumental screw up that failed in almost every way the official line is it was a resounding success and a new generation (with most of the same issues) has now been ordered.

Where I stand on the Alt history and future speculation is coloured by experience on the projects I have worked on, my knowledge that the selected option may not be the best, that the official story often isn't the real story. Basically I often wonder what I don't know about other projects that seem a little off, were there better options, did political interference derail the better options, did the decision makers ignore advice that was subsequently proven correct, were vested interests able to hobble projects to free up money for their preferred capabilities?

I see this section as a good place to ask these questions, why didn't this or that happen? Was the problem political or technical? Has the official story been tailored to fit an agenda etc? My favourite, logically this or that should have been proposed, does anyone know if it was?
 

Archibald

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I have a strong and vivid imagination but this doesn't prevents me from learning things and doing serious research. It is a matter of mental balance between the two.
As long as one doesn't blur the boundary between real world facts and fiction, no problem.

The pleasure of research and discovery is my driving force. In fact sometimes some real world past events are better than fiction.

Case in point 1 "Reiner gamma anomaly" is a very real feature on the Moon... which purely coincidentals but rather astonishing parallels with Clarke AMT-1

Case in point 2 "Edward Teller" No fiction writer could have invented a similar fictional character. It goes far beyond the Dr. Strangelove used caricature; at times, there are touches of Bond Supervillain in that man, mixed with the "crazy scientist" trope, cranked well past 11.
Also that man and his geoengineering schemes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_Christofilos
 

steelpillow

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Only just noticed this thread. The thing to bear in mind is that it has been started because there is a practical problem of site admin and moderation that needs to be resolved. With things just left to run, a monster is growing. Something needs to be done.

I do think that pure fiction/fantasy ideas should be kept off the forum. This place is essentially for reporting and clarifying stuff, not for inventing stories. Its mix of professional and amateur discourse is highly productive and nigh-on unique. But there is a large and growing amount of uninformed fancruft which has no real place in that. It is Paul's choice, but I'd rather see our unique status maintained and the experts not driven away.

Having said that, there are some clear places for forking off speculative threads, where they outgrow a regular thread.

1. Reporting on and discussing significant speculations from the past. For example in HG Wells' The War in the Air, how feasible is Butteridge's rotor aeroplane, which was derived from the work of pioneer JW Dunne?

2. Examining the consequences of options that were dropped. For example how would deploying operational XB-70 Valkyries have affected the aerodrome infrastructure? How might a twin-fuselage Pacific Spitfire have shaped up if Supermarine had not been so busy they refused to study it?

3. Exposing hoaxes and debunking the more widespread uninformed fancruft. For example how did the Boeing blended-body airliner hoax come about and what impact did it have?

All these things can help throw light on real projects and set them and the decisions made about them in their technological and historical context. But should such threads go in the regular sections or a dedicated fairytale one? Most people will start looking in the appropriate regular section; you have to know a story is fictional before you go looking in the fiction section, and many of their readers will be coming here to find that out in the first place. And we get a lot of surprises. Who would have predicted that the B&V MGRP-type rocket reconstructions displayed in several museums are all wild fantasies, while their Ae206 moustached delta jet was genuine? Better to have it all in one place in the open than constantly shuffled from one hiding place to another.

I enjoy a good piece of fiction, and I have contributed to alternate history discussions with the best of them. But I have never felt comfortable doing it here. And you are not in a position to moderate it. Its fan base is growing here and will continue to do so as long as it can. You will need to find a dedicated F&SF moderator and suddenly you will have two distinct sites mixed up together and constantly infecting each other. I think it best consigned to a read-only archive ASAP, before it gets any more out of hand. If its enthusiasts want to move it all across to their own dedicated forum, that's fine, but they will have to take on the responsibility of finding admins and moderators.

One other thing I would do is to put up a list of recommended sites on related topics such as alternative histories, what-if modelling, F&SF and suchlike, so that those disappointed by our strict focus have a useful resource to find what they want elsewhere.
 
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Hood

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dan_inbox

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In the same idea of proper resource husbanding, all the twits' threads about minute-by-minute following of current events may not be the best investment:
Those posts about "the test is scheduled for tomorrow morning", "Ooohh, it's been rescheduled from 10am to 2pm", "Oohh now to 4pm", those posts add precious little to SPF's purpose IMO. Especially when they are merely reposts of Twitter feeds or such. You know who you are.
At minimum, those posts should be purged after a week or so. If that can't be automated, then maybe such posts should be banned.

After all, there are places for serious documentation worth keeping, and there are places for transient throwaway stuff. Unless resources are no object, then SPF may want to choose its side.
 

Hood

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Guys can we keep calm for just five minutes?

Sure the AH section has its fair share of issues, but I think its also an easy target - there have been far worse arguments and personal trolling on threads in the Aviation & Space thread recently (Rafale and KF-21 spring to mind). The Aircraft Project sections seem to be a dumping ground recently for Putnam scans and every aircraft project image ever created on the internet. There is frequent posting of articles from that well-known engineering journal TASS which seems to be simmering West Vs Russia tensions in several threads and USA Vs China sniping on an almost daily basis. Weirdly obsessive discussions on RCS topics that always lead to tears also spring to mind. Oddly, almost all of this worrying behaviour is frequently absent from the AH section (though the Communist Italy thread was getting near the knuckle) and the V-Bomber thread there has been a mine of useful information.
Inevitably with archives shut and reliance on online sources and fewer new books being published the scope for new discoveries has diminished for the moment.

Saying all that, there have been some really nice nuggets lately of discoveries and some really interesting discussions. We need to stay calm, keep an open mind and post responsibly and keep up the long-standing courtesy that this site has.
 

Volkodav

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I get the feeling that some of what is going on is people looking to be offended, peaking through peoples windows, watching them getting dressed and then complaining that they are wearing Avengers boxer shorts instead of good Christian white y fronts. It wasn't being paraded in anyone's face, if they didn't go looking they wouldn't know, but they did look and now they are offended and want the wearing of comic book themed underwear banned.
 

zen

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Deleted a ramble.
Appropriate then to point out tight definitions in the focus of this forum seem appropriate.....well I would say that wouldn't I ;)

While loose ill-defined focus more resolving around political aspects. Seems less appropriate.

Boundary zone....
Bob favours politics A, and thus pushes more for system Z than Tom who favouring politics B argues for system Y.
Seems appropriate since the politics is accepted as the driver, but the main focus is on the systems that this forum has as it's focus.

Strategic matters might be appropriate. But it's a fuzzy boundary zone. Clearly the focus of this forum should define what is one or other side of that boundary.
 

uk 75

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A strict interpretation of the subject of this site would limit its contents to technical details and material about "unbuilt" secret projects by type:

Air

Sea

Land

Space

an additional section would be headed Research and Reference
This would include books, artwork, models, patents and so on

this would exclude:

political and economic background

speculation about the project's service had it happened

projects that entered service

projects underway now or in the future (these seem to just be news items and political opinions)

This "austere" version of the site would be easier to maintain and moderate.
 

steelpillow

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Perhaps this is a good moment to reiterate my concern that too much in the way of bad language and insults is tolerated on this form. On one fairly recent occasion I deliberately posted an invidiously-composed challenge to the moderators to delete the post, and invited others to report it. Nothing happened. Now we are seeing the consequences; two sides bashing each other over the head over who is the more insulting, each painting themselves further and further into their own corner. It is not edifying, nor is it family-friendly.

True, this kind of idiocy is typical of many walks of academia, but (with a few exceptions) it is edited, moderated and/or peer-reviewed out of any published discussion. We should do the same, or the issues aired here will only get worse.

And it is true that some of our most obnoxious contributors also make useful posts. But in the end, those discoveries will be re-made and re-posted. Better to redact the mess and have patience than to trawl through garbage looking for the hidden nugget.

Then again, once we all know we can't get away with it and the incorrigible bullies are banned, the moderators will have more leisure for curating speculative posts and the practicalities may shift a little more towards acceptance.

So I am repeating my suggestion to tighten the rules on swearing and abuse. How about it, moderators?
 
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Jemiba

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Maybe the problem here just is wording. Cursing and swearing certainly cannot be regarded as civil, so
leading to reports, leading to actions by the moderators. The principle answer to this problem could be,
what is mentioned in the forum rules as "If other users are not as civil as you would like them to be, be
more civil, not less in response
. " Irony and sarcasm, of course, may be regarded as a way to circumvent
this, but are often felt as offensive nevertheless.
I think, the rule should be, to answer to the theme, not to the poster. And there's absolutely no need to participate
in a section, or a thread, just to show, that I'm not interested in it, and think, the whole theme is nonsewnse,
while others are interested in it I think.
We have a problem of accepting different opinions here, I think. And that often poses problems, that could be
solved by more tolerance, but at least here as well by just ignoring such opinions.
Remember point two of the General Conduct section in the rules :
ALWAYS be polite and civil !

I've tried to clean up this thread from posts, that still may be felt as offending, or arrogant.
If there still are others, please tell me !

And, please, remember the above mentioned points:
- be more civil, not less in response
- ALWAYS be polite and civil !


... or just ignore those users and their posts ! Everybody is free to think, whatever he wants, as nobody will
ever know. But posting those thoughts not necessarily is a good idea ...
 

steelpillow

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I think, the rule should be, to answer to the theme, not to the poster.
If I may say so, one cannot make rules about human nature. When someone trolls a thread, others will be stung into biting. Allowing trolls to keep trolling and instead wagging fingers at those who bite is not going to solve anything.

Remember point two of the General Conduct section in the rules :
ALWAYS be polite and civil !
Well, that was the bit I deliberately flouted and invited the moderators to redact. It didn't happen. Nor were the sweary insults which prompted it dealt with, even after I reported them. So what are others supposed to think, coming along and seeing such an abusive argument still up two years later? "Why, that's okay, the moderators allow it. Let me show folks how it is really done!" Merely writing a rule does not enforce it. You have to jump on miscreants and jump on them quick. I have worked inside organisations large and small, and this is one of the very first things a professional moderator learns.

I've tried to clean up this thread from posts, that still may be felt as offending, or arrogant.
If there still are others, please tell me !
Looking back I can still see a couple. I'll deal with them in a moment.

... or just ignore those users and their posts ! Everybody is free to think, whatever he wants, as nobody will ever know. But posting those thoughts not necessarily is a good idea ...
This is another example of the human nature problem. People do not ignore posts, they get stung and they defend themselves. Many do not stop and think to report a post - especially when moderation is as lax and haphazard as it is here. A responsible moderator absolutely must draw the sting ASAP, or idiocies like the current off-topic diversion will continue to flare up.
 
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Wyvern

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especially when reaction is as lax and haphazard as it is here. A responsible moderator absolutely must draw the sting ASAP, or idiocies like the current off-topic diversion will continue to flare up.
Not wanting to get involved in the argument here, but as our kind and patient Overscan has mentioned in Reply #39, the moderators have lives outside of this forum, and maybe involved in areas regarding work, family, etc. and may not be able to view the forum 24/7. I do not think it should be expected that the moderators are constantly online, making sure that all is well as they have other matters to attend to outside of this forum, matters which may be of greater importance.

Wyvern
 

steelpillow

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especially when reaction is as lax and haphazard as it is here. A responsible moderator absolutely must draw the sting ASAP, or idiocies like the current off-topic diversion will continue to flare up.
Not wanting to get involved in the argument here, but as our kind and patient Overscan has mentioned in Reply #39, the moderators have lives outside of this forum, and maybe involved in areas regarding work, family, etc. and may not be able to view the forum 24/7. I do not think it should be expected that the moderators are constantly online, making sure that all is well as they have other matters to attend to outside of this forum, matters which may be of greater importance.

Wyvern

Indeed. But ASAP does not imply 24/7 callout - moderators are human too. When a post is reported, ASAP means acting at the next convenient opportunity. So I think we are in agreement here.
 

Archibald

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Ok I've checked back the two threads. I understand and accept 80% of my controversial posts have been deleted for obvious reasons.
At the same time what triggered my anger in the first place has also been deleted, I thus salute the BALANCED attitude of the moderators here - they have done a very honest job.

50-50 I would say.

I apologize to you Steelpillow for the awful swearing that hurted your eyes and sensitivity.

I certainly have a short temper with next to zero patience. Some attitudes truly infuriates me and I charge ahead like a enraged bull. This is not a convenient excuse for anything, rather an acknowledgment of my personal failings.
 
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Jemiba

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Indeed. But ASAP does not imply 24/7 callout - moderators are human too. When a post is reported, ASAP means acting at the next convenient opportunity. So I think we are in agreement here.

I actually overlooked a post, I should have deleted earlier, I apologize for that.
But please keep in mind, that the fact, that a post is reported, not necessarily means, that it will be deleted.
In most cases, there's a consideration, if there really is enough reason to delete it. Otherwise, the delete-button
could be made available to every member, opening the door for erasing not only allegedly offending posts,
but unwanted opinions, too.
But, as mentioned above, we all are humans, and to err is human.
 

Archibald

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As for being "obnoxious" (no, I don't it take it personally....) there are certainly many different ways for many different people (including on this forum) to be obnoxious to other people. I have my own black list I certainly won't detail for fear of starting a major civil war dwarfing the Avengers one. Suffice to say that rotten politics, some way of posting, swearing, and some personal attitudes are four major ways (among a load of others !) of being a pain to other people (look ! I put myself into that grab bag !)
 

Antonio

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Ending into a Civil War would be a sad ending because that’s the opposite of the forum’s spirit.

The forum’s analogue in the real world is the academy, a place for calm conversation about documents. A place you visit for find knowledge and share your findings. A meeting point for researchers. So, people should enter here in a friendly mood.

Since that time, the forum has been deviating from academy/library into pub/playground to cover demands for more socialization and fun. In this mutation, confrontation finds its way because posts on that sections now contain personal opinions instead of data.

So, that’s what we have now.

A solution to be considered in the future should be to split the forum’s core out of the playground area?

I hope we could manage the situation in a satisfactory way and avoid a Civil War. There are reasons to be optimistic because we make an excellent comunity here despite puntual conflicts.

My preference is to focus on raw knowledge and avoid offtopic.
 

zen

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Take a breath folks.
Step back.
My advice, try not to react immediately.
Easy to say, not so easy to do.
Sometimes it's not worth reacting at all.

As to Alternative History and Future Speculation or Theoretical and Speculative projects.
....
Obviously I'm going to say keep it;)

It is frankly inevitable in the subject of things that didn't make it into service that people will want to speculate on how things could've gone.
Close that off and obviously you'll loose contributors. Others like myself, will sadly scale back to the small contributions we can make and ask the questions which often cannot easily be answered.

But you cannot excise speculative musings on theories of what X or Y might be.
Frankly sometimes that's the mechanism to figure out what new questions we ought to ask and what can be found out.

In fact why ask the questions of how many of X machines were required by Y military, when it didn't come about?
You cannot learn from this knowledge without exploring it's consequences.
 

dannydale

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I certainly have a short temper with next to zero patience. Some attitudes truly infuriates me and I charge ahead like a enraged bull. This is not a convenient excuse for anything, rather an acknowledgment of my personal failings.
Sounds like me. If an attitude about something or a policy being advocated comes across to me as a 'cruelty is the point' excuse to bully people or create a permanent underclass, I quickly go hypergolic. My growing up in the American South as an lgbtq may or may not be entirely responsible for the resulting severe anti-authoritarian allergic response.

Otherwise I'm fine with anything else. We should all treat each other better as a rule anyway. Anywhos that's my stump speech, Yall Be Blessed!
 

Archibald

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I certainly have a short temper with next to zero patience. Some attitudes truly infuriates me and I charge ahead like a enraged bull. This is not a convenient excuse for anything, rather an acknowledgment of my personal failings.
Sounds like me. If an attitude about something or a policy being advocated comes across to me as a 'cruelty is the point' excuse to bully people or create a permanent underclass, I quickly go
hypergolic.

My growing up in the American South as an lgbtq may or may not be entirely responsible for the resulting severe anti-authoritarian allergic response.

Otherwise I'm fine with anything else. We should all treat each other better as a rule anyway. Anywhos that's my stump speech, Yall Be Blessed!

Interesting. Also raised ( in France) own deep south, not lgbt but bullied at school - a catholic one with that, so much for charity. Made me an atheist, talk about a counter-productive result !!!!
Probably doesn't help enduring any sort of arrogance or agression in a peaceful and reasonned way.

You say hypergolic, I say "going ballistic". Space program, how we like you.
 

martinbayer

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I feel that splitting this very special resource might only lead to and/or encourage further schisms down the road and reduce the potential for (more or less) productive intellectual exchanges. My view of this particular corner of the internet is more that of a classical forum or agora, leaving room for critical discussion and the exchange of creative ideas, rather than merely serving as a uncritical clearinghouse of information. In case of doubt, I'd rather have too many potential sections to look at than too few. The way I look at it, this site is not only an archive, but also a potential incubator and intellectual testing ground for new ideas. My mental model is that of the original RAND architecture in Santa Monica, which was "designed (based on a memorandum written by a RAND mathematician) as a redundant matrix of corridors to maximize chance interactions among researchers and promote creative thinking", see https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/mic...rback/product-1kvqg24w.html?page=1&pageSize=4.

Hope this may help,

Martin
 

Archibald

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I feel that splitting this very special resource might only lead to and/or encourage further schisms down the road and reduce the potential for (more or less) productive intellectual exchanges. My view of this particular corner of the internet is more that of a classical forum or agora, leaving room for critical discussion and the exchange of creative ideas, rather than merely serving as a uncritical clearinghouse of information. In case of doubt, I'd rather have too many potential sections to look at than too few. The way I look at it, this site is not only an archive, but also a potential incubator and intellectual testing ground for new ideas. My mental model is that of the original RAND architecture in Santa Monica, which was "designed (based on a memorandum written by a RAND mathematician) as a redundant matrix of corridors to maximize chance interactions among researchers and promote creative thinking", see https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/mic...rback/product-1kvqg24w.html?page=1&pageSize=4.

Hope this may help,

Martin

let's take my (controversial) pet peeve of suborbital refueling.
Only HERE can I explore it
a) as an historical thing (few bits here and there)
b) as a theoretical idea (where I spared with some people here :p )
c) in fiction (my TL).

I do know that shifting from a) to b) to c) is a perilous mental exercise. I take special care drawing clear lines between the three. I have no problem balancing harsh tech / physics realities against daydreaming.
 

Hood

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I have loved aircraft for two-thirds of my life and projects in particular for about half of it and have been a member here for 15 years (far longer than I've even stuck most jobs!) and directly helped me to become an author and researcher into these topics (I always feature the forum in my acknowledgements).
For me the site is the perfect place to research, relax and muse on the topics that interest me.

The speculative section for me is somewhere to muse and look at things from different angles. History isn't some immutable fixed pre-ordained text for future history books.
For me its clear the project sections are for real research and the speculative and off-topic areas are for musing. The Aviation and Military threads are for contemporary relevant news (and with it all the dangers of contemporary politics and personal opinions that can be mitigated).

I have been a moderator on other forums and I feel the SP moderation team are doing a good job. They are treating the membership like the grown adults were all are, at some level you have to trust the membership. This isn't an online gaming forum full of teenagers, for example.
I think if the mods got too heavy handed the experience could be deadened and members driven away. Certainly they should act to preserve standards but if they had to prune one in every ten posts for example, that feels rather heavy handed.

As a final personal point, I never use the ignore button. I don't believe in muting by ignoring, its one of the worse artifacts of online culture creeping into everyday life.
 

sideshowbob9

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FWIW, I think the austere version in #59 is much too austere, scarily so. Without mention of the economic and political aspects of a project, you are telling only half the story or less. To be comprehensive, politics is an unfortunate must. That said, I'm all for a bit more moderator flow-control and that the politics be strictly relevant to the topic at hand and not too broad.

Specifically for the Alternative History and Future Speculation section, perhaps a rule that a project must be the subject? So for example: What if Italy pursued an aggressively anti-Soviet stance in the cold war? NO What if Italy continued to pursue a Polaris/Alfa based deterrent? OK ?

Reading through this thread, I'm given the impression this website could perhaps become pared down into essentially an image dump site with the occasional link, reference or stat. If that is the ultimate goal, then perhaps a wiki-type site would better achieve it. Users would PM the moderator team with content to be approved for posting. If there is to be be no or severely curtailed discussion, then why persist with the forum format at all? I really hope it doesn't come to that but ultimately this isn't my rodeo.
 

zen

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What if Italy pursued an aggressively anti-Soviet stance in the cold war? NO What if Italy continued to pursue a Polaris/Alfa based deterrent? OK ?
Personally I'd prefer that.

However it's a problem when we have the political aspects reach to the strategic dimension.
And something like a domestic Italian nuclear missile and warhead effort is just that!
With the usual suspects interjecting that state X doesn't need nukes, and can always rely on another state and the subtext being state X isn't worth it even for their own government.
Obviously that will provoke, how can it not?
Obviously it needs countering and cannot be just let through without contest.
And in turn a patriotic member of that state might point out allies can and do betray each other. Get quite upset and throw back various examples of such from their perspective on history.
Italy, home of Niccolo Macciavelli who would be spinning in his grave at the suggestion Italians don't need to provide for their own survival, has a very firm view in this. As any reading of The Prince would show.

But in the end it's upto the site owner.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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I've edited section descriptions and changed the name to better distinguish the differences between the sections. Hopefully this clarifies the intended purpose of them.

The forum was generated in the beginning as a place for my own personal interests, which is basically aviation, especially projects and Soviet stuff, a bit of tanks, avionics and jet engines. As more people arrived, they wanted to discuss other topics, and broadly these were accommodated with additional sections, some only vaguely interesting to me personally but of interest to other members and broadly in keeping with the theme of the forum. Alternate history is at least consistent with an interest in unbuilt projects and can be interesting to model builders looking to build models of unbuilt projects with plausible back stories. What changes to history might result in the USSR building the T-74 tank instead of the T-80, that kind of thing.
 

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