Live Until August 31st, Oil Drum Successors Discussion, and User Profiles

We have been overwhelmed by the many positive stories over the last number of days from the great community here following the announcement to turn the website into an archive. A large thank you for sharing all types of kind personal remarks and stories, on the importance The Oil Drum and its community has played in your energy thinking, ideas, and decisions.

Given the lively thoughts here, the board of ISEOF (The Institute for Energy and Our Future that facilitates The Oil Drum), Euan, SuperG, JoulesBurn, and myself, would like to encourage the community here to take the next step to keep the conversation moving forward. We trust with optimism that people among the community will step up (and indeed some have) and spawn a one or more successors, building on some of the experiences at The Oil Drum over the last eight years. Many have commented on the large part that the TOD website itself played in TOD's success, and it is true that factors such as usability, a clean design, and more were key, but we cannot claim to have a magic formula. We will not endorse any particular successor, but would like to facilitate this development. Therefore, we invite further discussion in the comments below on what makes for a good forum on energy-related topics, as well as specific proposals (or plugs) for sites to be built (or already online).

Finally, a clarification of the near-term progression (recession?) of the website: the original announcement of "The End of The Oil Drum" specified a July 31 date. However, there was some internal confusion about this, and given that many voices here wish to have some final words - plus the desire to further enable grass roots organization to take place over an appropriate time frame, the initial conversion of the website to a static archive will be postponed until the August 31. To this date the website will continue to function as before (including drumbeats). Moreover, a special article series will be published in the coming weeks by present and past contributors with the aim to capture some of the latest and greatest thoughts and insights on various energy topics.

After August 31, the user account policy will be as follows:

  • Users with accounts will be able to log in.
  • Users with accounts will be able to edit their profiles.
  • Users with accounts will be able to view other users' profiles.
  • Users will not be able to create an account.
  • Users will not be able to post comments after September 7 (7 days after 8/31).

This policy will be in effect indefinitely.

Thanks to all.

I was wondering if it would be possible for some of the admins/moderators here to share what kind of moderation goes on behind the scenes in order to foster the typically high level discussion here? If people want to try to replicate TOD then it would help to know about the things which made this place special in the first place.

I tried, but for some reason the place just wasn't TOD. I didn't really appreciate just how good this place was until I tried to find someplace else. I will probably move on with other activities once this site goes down. I thought that having no dedicated forum, time limited discussion and only a single page for comments was a flaw until I tried other sites. People who post here condense their messages quite succinctly, and therefore I can afford to spend time here because effort/reward ratio is high.


We have had a number of different "management models" over the years. Since I wasn't involved in the early years of the website I can't comment on that period.

In the middle period of the website there was a model where usually one person would manage the flow of articles (with a steady series like drumbeat, campfire, and tech-talks) with a group of 1+ contributors/steady flow of articles from these + internal discussion mainly from a bottom-up perspective to launch a new initiative (hurricane posts, World Energy Outlook post series etc.), and relatively low publication boundaries. In more recent years this role has been replaced by a rotating queue managing role of four people, supported with an editorial assistant, a post review system by a group of editors (+- 10), and tighter focus of topics/content with voting criteria and content comments. In a sense a "light" form of peer-review. Next to this we have had one person (SuperG) in charge of all technical aspects of the website (platform, coding, database management, hosting contact) and its evolution. As well as community moderation to remove abusive comments/spam and steer on-topic by two people (Leanan and Kate). In the background of this there is an internal mailing list to keep up to date on various topics and for purposes of management communication.

So in total about 10 to 20 people were involved varying per time period in various roles behind the scenes.

Hope that helps a bit on the details front?

Thanks! I guess that puts a perspective to it in that it doesn't sound like anything less than a group of people could pull off what you did here. Anyone trying to remake TOD would run into a lot of the same problems: content, direction and moderation. In the end you couldn't really remake this place because the site was in large part defined by having a stable and mature user-base; whereas a new site by definition would be the opposite.

I wonder if Leanan or Kate could comment on the moderation that they do? It seems that the largest part of the day-to-day operations of this site are done by the moderators who police the comments.

I have to say that my interest/involvement in energy related issues will probably die with TOD. I don't believe that TOD can be replaced, and I am not really convinced that any of the replacements will be 'better'. TOD simply taught different lessons to different people, so getting agreement on such nuanced topics was always going to be extremely difficult. I for one tend towards a more optimistic view than most around who comment here, but this is probably because I am considerably younger than most (web stats point to the audience being 50+).

I'm probably the best qualified to answer that, being the one with the longest time in the trenches, so to speak.

One size does not fit all when it comes to moderation. In the early years, this site needed little to no moderation. The number of people participating was small, and very like-minded - mostly interested in crunching numbers. With growth came a larger and more diverse group of commenters, and more problems.

You might find this thread of interest:

From the Editor's Desk: Peak Oil, Heretical Thought, Complexity, and the Future of The Oil Drum

It's a long and interesting discussion of what do to about moderation.

Some context: the thread was posted after a particularly contentious day. Someone released a Firefox extension that allowed you to block users - that is, you would see the threads as if the blocked user IDs did not exist.

I tried it out, blocking the three most obnoxious posters, and a 300-comment thread went down to 150 comments. Basically, 150 comments were from trolls. That was when we decided we had to do something. As I recall, I was asked to disable comments on the next day's Drumbeat. It was read-only, at least for a few hours. Then those three trolls were banned, and comments were opened again.

Anyway, you can see from that thread that we were considering a wide variety of options - from disabling comments completely to requiring people to pay to comment. I found Chrisale's comment to be particularly useful.

We did try community moderation. In fact, it is still in effect. The "flag" button allows you to flag a comment as inappropriate. If enough people agree with you, the comment is hidden. Though there was much fear and consternation that this would result in people silencing unpopular views, that didn't happen. In fact, it really didn't work at all, because people were overly reluctant to flag comments. It did work okay for spam, at least until the recent deluge. (Can't really blame people for not having the patience to flag 800 comments.)

In any case, my view now is that community moderation works for massive sites like Slashdot and dKos - and is the only thing that works for them, really. It's not well suited to smaller sites like ours.

I also think what is doing is a mistake. They have a huge passel of mods, and an elaborate system of rules (what's allowed, what isn't, escalating penalties for infractions, etc.). This means they have to keep records, so all the mods know who did what and when, and what discipline should be meted out for which infraction. Kinda reminds me of Tainter's declining marginal returns. ;-) Unless you want to spend your days arguing with wanna-be Internet lawyers, don't go that route. It's just not worth the time and energy.

For a small or medium sized site, I think this policy from The Big Picture is the best way to do things.

This may be a free country, but The Big Picture is my personal fiefdom. I rule over all as benevolent dictator/philospher king/utility infielder. Fear my wrath, mortals!

I will ban anyone whom I choose from posting comments -- usually, for a damned good reason, but on rare occasions, for the exact same reason God created the platypus: because I feel like it.

I read/post on 3 different sites:: TOD, and I would have say that this site has the best quality of commentators AND the best moderation because the signal/noise ratio often approaches 100%; however there are no right answers, only choices and consequences (a quote I just invented). If someone wants to try to repeat the same kind of success of TOD then replicating (or hiring) you would probably be a significant step in that process, so thanks for taking the time to explain your point of view.

I would like to add that we've probably reached 'peak' peak-oil. So my 2 cents to anyone trying to replicate TOD is simply 'don't'. TOD has reached a natural conclusion, and remaking it does not change the conclusion.

I would have say that this site has the best quality of commentators AND the best moderation

Those two are not unrelated. Nate likes to invoke "Gresham's Law" - bad drives out good. The way you moderate the site will directly and indirectly affect the type of commenters you get. Allowing low-quality comments will not only drive away existing members, it will attract other low-quality commenters, creating a sort of snowball of suck.

And low-quality comments are not just trolls, nuts, spam, and flamewars. Off-topic, silly, and trivial comments will also reduce the quality of the discussion. It can be even harder to deal with these, because the people posting them may mean well and just be very friendly, social sorts. But if you don't lay down the law, they'll fill up the thread with photos of their cats or silly one-liners, and attract other people who do the same.

I would like to add that we've probably reached 'peak' peak-oil. So my 2 cents to anyone trying to replicate TOD is simply 'don't'. TOD has reached a natural conclusion, and remaking it does not change the conclusion.

Perhaps. It may be that it will be several different sites that end up taking over for TOD - and that may not be a bad thing.

"Off-topic, silly, and trivial comments will also reduce the quality of the discussion".

This is true, but this also afflicted this site in the last few years. I've been a lurker for over 6 years.
Some threads were filled with comments all about the merits of one kind of light bulb vs the other.

I think you even at one point wrote about this, but nothing much happened really.
A lot of the people who did these things have been on this place for years. There's a social network, so to speak, that relies on these people.
If they leave, a lot of "social commentors" may leave too.

The amount of comments would go down, but perhaps the quality would have gone up.

"Off-topic, silly, and trivial comments will also reduce the quality of the discussion".

This is true, but this also afflicted this site in the last few years.

I would agree with this. This made my job much harder, and I think a big reason was that the topic of peak oil became less compelling. Before, this site, even the Drumbeats, had a natural center of gravity that tended to pull discussions back to the topic even when they got sidetracked. The past few years, that didn't happen.

Some threads were filled with comments all about the merits of one kind of light bulb vs the other.

I actually don't have any problem with that. It's on-topic, and many find it useful information. We've always discussed light bulbs here, from the early days of the site. If it seemed light bulbs took over, it's because there was less interest in other things, not more interest in light bulbs.

No, I was talking about really off-topic or trivial stuff. As an example, for years Christmas and Thanksgiving went by with little or no notice. I used to put a brief holiday greeting at the end of the Drumbeat on those days, and that was about it. But the past few years, I stopped doing it, because threads were filling up with holiday greetings, ramblings about how much people loved their beautiful wife and dog and children, encouragements to "post what you're thankful for!" etc. May seem grinchy, but really = 50 or 100 comments like that gets old fast. Nobody ever did stuff like that here until the last 2-3 years. Again, I think it's because people are bored and don't have anything else to talk about.

A lot of the people who did these things have been on this place for years. There's a social network, so to speak, that relies on these people.
If they leave, a lot of "social commentors" may leave too.

The amount of comments would go down, but perhaps the quality would have gone up.

That's an issue, too. I think that's kind of what Nate was referring to with his Clown Fest post. A lot of people would probably be surprised to know that many of the most popular posters here are also the most complained about.

The entire fabric of "our reality", one might say, is clownish, and we all seem to be covered in a thin film of it.

You've got talking heads on Russia Today talking about Egypt-- 'Where is democracy going to come from?'; 'We are back to square one.', etc....

A trip down memory lane some weeks before Nate's clown post:

(Interestingly, as a side-note, people such as Colin Campbell, Robert L. Hirsch, Jan Lundberg, Matt Simmons, and even Derrick Jensen all seem to have or have had some roles to play in the aforementioned industries-- along with those on The Oil Drum. Who do/did you work for? Who do/did you pay your taxes to? Whose side are you on?
"The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us... You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth... That you are a slave... Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.")

What careers are best?

I wonder if this is a bit of a question spawned from a bit of a m!ndfü¢k.

I have another question: What is a career and why do we need one?

If you choose to devote a significant portion of your waking hours to something, what happens to you and your world around you as a result?
For example, where do you get your food, home, clothes?
Or what happens to your environment given someone else's career in mining or tract housing or automotive engineering?

What if you don't want to work or want a career? What if you just want to, say, hike, swim, chat, hang out, and maybe do some planting, maintenance and foraging of/in your gardens and the occasional maintenance work to your natural/local-materials home? Teach your kids at home. Teach them about stuff like what you do?

Again, when we get careers, what happens?

In our lives that we only live once, what do we want in and of them? Be honest.

While Nate, in the clown article, invokes the ~150-max relationship thing, an internet relationship doesn't precisely qualify as a real one, and is part of that distancing/remote effect of technology thing.

In a manner of speaking, our capacity for systems complexity is cloning clowns of us all.

This site by far has had the best S/N ratio on the entire internet as far as I'm concerned. Most trolls are ignored and that has been the best way to deal with them since the heyday of Usenet 20 years ago. Unfortunately, most commenters on most sites are unable to restrain themselves and the trolls win. That has never been the case here for the most part. Most people here posess an above-average "internet IQ" for some reason. Civil discourse has always been the order of the day... again, for the most part: the S/N ratio here has been phenomenal overall. I don't know if it's people with technical backgounds in math, science and engineering or what (because not everyone here has those educational backgrounds), but the willingness of people to consider opposing points of view, when backed up with sound references and sources of information has been nothing short of astonishing, as it were.

I'm sure many have seen that made-for-tv movie about the whales stuck under the ice in Alaska (maybe it was Canada) with the bartender from Cheers as a USN officer. I forget the name, and the movie wasn't all that great, but in one scene the young environmentalist and Ted Danson have a brief encounter and she tells him, "You're not the monster I always thought you'd be," and he replies, "Neither are you". I've always felt that way about most people here, even the ones I disagree with.

It fracking sucks that this place is closing up shop. I don't know if another community like it will ever exist again. Thank you, again, to everyone who made it possible and contributed along the way.

I disagree with you on the praise of a quasi-dictatorship.'s major problem isn't the moderation.

It's just that the site suffers from bloat. I don't visit Peak Oil sites to get their thoughts on the latest IMF economic projections or the merits of Bernanke's monetary policy, or how inflation should be counted. Yet these are all topics for their frontpage.

If you try to be everything, you'll end up pleasing nobody. That's one of the things why Oil Drum was such a good site; they/you had a focus that many others missed.

This was true for other places like Energy Bulletin, too(which doesn't exist anymore in the same shape as it used to). Instead of focusing on the topic of oil/energy, a lot of them have become sites for the green movement. I understand that people want to talk how to "prepare" etc, or green politics, but you inevitably get drift, and also, lack of focus.

Finally, The Oil Drum also had great contributors. There was a decline in the quality of these posts these past 2 years or so, but I learnt a ton from the Oil Drum in the first 3 years from 2007-2010 that I was here. It also influenced me into learning more about the natural sciences and I picked up a lot of statistics as I dug deeper into the methodology from various studies. I liked, generally speaking, that the site tried hard against trying to dumb things down.

If there is to be a spiritual successor to the Oil Drum then these three things are, at least for me(but I suspect for others too) are crucial:

1. Focus. Oil/energy, primarily. Not inflation, IMF forecasts or whatnot.
2. Good, original content. Not just reposting from other places.
3. Keep a high level on the discussion and be unabashed about it.

Some sites have elements of these three, but nobody has the all three to such an extent that The Oil Drum had it's peak.

It's strange that on the one hand you say learned a great deal from 2007-2010 and then on the other hand talk about how tightly the site must be focused on energy, because it was the decision at the end of 2010 to focus tightly on energy that has resulted in the death of the site. Read this post and see how prescient some of the commentators were:

Moving Forward - Towards A Kinder Gentler (Smaller) Oil Drum

PS. I believe this post or a successor post should be kept near the top of the front page and open for comments until the site closes (unlike the An End to Eight Years of The Oil Drum post which you have already closed for comments).

I would like to hear comments from the regular, serious commentators here as to their plans for the future in terms of which venues they plan to switch to.

The threads close to comments automatically, after one week (I think). This is an anti-spam measure. Usually, there's no one still posting on threads that old, anyway (except spammers, who try to post on older threads so it won't be noticed - by humans, anyway).

We can re-open old threads if there's still discussion going on, but there's kind of no point after there's more than 500 comments. That "breaks" the new flags, making it very difficult to follow the discussion.

While reading Chrisale's comment from long ago I was struck by these words:

"People who troll are rarely interested in the topic at hand. All they are interested in is seeing their "handiwork" and the responses it gets... and then going back and re-reading their trolls... "

I don't actually agree with the opinion, and I doubt that there have been serious observational studies of troll behavior, but I have a suggestion towards discovering troll attitudes and motivations:
I know that there is a certain violation of trust in what I'm about to suggest but for anyone hoping to extend the life of TOD or to preserve its spirit in a future venues consider this: For a poster who the moderator decides is a troll, the moderator has to option of creating a special private view of the web site that is only viewed by the troll, in addition to the normal public view. On this special view, the troll's comments are placed just as they would be for any other poster. But on the main view of the site, the troll's comments are missing. The troll sees that his comments are there, but nobody is responding. And nobody outside the little world created especially for the troll is provoked by them. Will the troll escalate his provacative words, or will he get bored and move on to a different web site where he can provoke controversy and consternation? It would be interesting to find out which. But ... is it ethical to perform this experiment on another human being without informed consent? I think the mollom privacy statement could be revised to include a form of informed consent that would take care of any legal liability, but I'm not a lawyer, and the legality is not the question.

While I appreciate your input, my intuition tells me that this is flirting with worse, if not worse, behavior than trolling.

Also, I feel that it is important to distinguish, and not to confuse, the behavior with the person. This fits in a little with the idea behind focusing on the argument rather than (attacking) the person (ad hom).

Our culture, awash with ad-homs and 'snarl words', seems fundamentally anti-community/anti-nature and designed to divide and conquer.

I'm tempted to agree with what is perceived as Leanan's 'platypus' take-- which is above board and seems to offer a clearer learning-response experience, rather than mucking about in the shadows with the system/people like that.

I think Chrisale is 100% correct. I don't know if there have been studies of troll behavior, but in my view, trolls have the same motivation as vandals. They get off on "destroying" web sites the same way vandals get off on destroying bus shelters, spray painting graffiti on bridges, etc.

And it's been shown that the best way to dissuade vandals is to remove their work as quickly as possible. They like going back and looking at what they did, and they don't like having all their work go for naught.

And IME, it's the same trolls. It's the only way to get rid of them, actually. If you keep removing their posts, they give up and go away. Nothing else works.

Totally look forward to the announcement of potential other communities.

It would be useful if the archives are made available as a download, a large zip perhaps put on a public archive / sharing network like torrent. This may also be a wise move before (the highly clueful) readers of TOD start crawling and doing other unorganized ways of 'saving' their precious stuff from TOD (I sure intend to do it something - if push comes to shove: I will crawl and make off-line browse'able archives of HTML files and put it as a zip on a torrent network and will try to seed it whenever I can).

You do know the archive will be big. Like, really big.

I would be very interested in an offline archive. Especially with this concern of possibly difficult/expensive internet access some way past peak, I would feel better knowing all this conversation is safely stored offline. If no-one else with some useful experience does it I can try to wget as much as I can, and if good enough seed it too.

agreed. preferably a drush export so i can add it to TPB and have it searchable offline.

I've been here about 7 and a half years. In that time, I've learned a tremendous amount about our energy situation and to put it into perspective as life goes forward. In a way, I am saddened to see the site go into hibernation but I rejoice in seeing your hard work and that of your contributors and commenters here counteract the thoughtless parroting of self interest statements, and the oil at any cost mentality we see all around us. This is a top notch site and I'm glad to have found you these many years ago.

Dear editors and readers,

Thank you again for the 7 years I have been reading the oil drum. The articles and discussions here directed my career away from pure academia (theoretical physics) towards energy and renewables. Its influence also spread beyond me with advice and policy in some of the organizations I worked for.

I've been coding away since the anouncement to setup a forum for those wishing to keep the discussion alive. There's a prototype here:

and I'm open for suggestions, criticism or collaboration. Feel free to leave your comments in the first post

Your site won't let me on because I still use Windows XP. This is even though I have the latest browser available for XP. (I have no problem with access on this site).

I don't have any problem and I'm still running XP. I don't like it being tied to a Google or Yahoo account, though.

Augjohnson and Quixotic,

Thank you for the feedback. The site gives the option to use google or yahoo but it's just a choice. You are free to create an account on the spot (just a username and an email). [where it says: don't have an account, create one now].

Add me to the list.
Thanks for all the info and insight over the years.
It's been a daily read for five or six years for me, and very valuable.

thats terrible offense meant but its just bad.
i have a tod forum setup if you want to use it as your site by subdomaining and use the RSS for your front page.

hi Zurk,

Would you care to elaborate? What is terrible? The forum? the lack of support for old browsers? The content?
[if you're curious the platform is a stack of ruby on rails + redis + ember.js ... originally designed by the stackovervlow team and open source too].

Constructive criticism would be very welcome.

layout, content flow, resizing etc. the yellow fades arent great either.
switch over to drupal 7 or drupal 8 for a better layout with less hassle. i use drupal 7 to run TPB, drupal 5 or 6 runs TOD.

Hi Massagran, Zurk posted one of his sites further down in the discussion and I took a look at it after reading his criticism up here, and I must say I wasn't impressed. Your site looks like it flows better and has more potential. There's content all over the page on his site while yours is straight to the point. Not trying to start a fight here, just giving my feedback. I will most likely join in the future. If it doesn't work out, at least you have a great domain name!

Got to say, I prefer his layout to your cloning of the existing TOD structure. Neither really hits what I had in mind, but yours is the straight linear timeline that we see here (which is one of the problems, IMHO) Agree that the graphics could do with improvement though.

And your 1st stab wasn't hot out of the shoot either. Much better now and technology wise close to being a copy.

The automated drumbeats and lack of hands on loving/massage strikes me as why the planet beat won't be TOD 2.0, but at least you, Massagran and others are trying to create a replacement home.

yup. main reason for lack of hands on is the least amount of hands on work for ensuring the site stays up longest . I simply dont have the time to work on this site full time or even part time. i dont have the time to read or compose drumbeats. i barely have enough time to read anything energy related. but i *do* have the CPU horsepower, hardware and software to throw at the problem though. will a loving massage from a machine be better for the long term survival of the site ? will the users accept it ? i dont know. but what it allows is that the site can stay up longer.

I personally prefer Massagran's new site, seems much more powerful to continue what the TOD team has built. I can't really imagine how a forum can replace/continue TOD...

It's not easy to leave TOD, but we also have to move on. I really hope that this initiative (and others different also) will be followed by the community !

I would welcome comments on the possibility of having the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas USA (ASPO-USA) serve as a home for the TOD community. This would be facilitated through either our existing website,, or a new online information hub we are calling "The Energy Xchange."

In a previous comment, I indicated that The Energy Xchange had already been in the works before TOD's hiatus was anticipated and it was conceived primarily as a vehicle for engaging new audiences more than serving the existing peak oil community. It will maintain a focus on technical oil and gas issues, but will focus in particular on the the nexus of energy/oil and the economy, with additional content on energy-related security and environmental issues. It will feature original content from ASPO-USA affiliated folks, but would also include "best of" content from other sources, with an eye toward juxtaposing contrasting perspectives. A mock-up can be viewed at

At the same time, we have been planning and implementing changes to the main ASPO-USA website, Our intent is to make this site a place to organize and present the best introductory information on peak oil and the history of scholarship and work on the issue. A distillation and synthesis of the vast information in the TOD archives would be part of that effort.

Forum discussion elements are being developed for both sites. For The Energy Xchange, the primary intent was to develop an "expert forum" somewhat akin to what (with whom we are collaborating) is doing but with a more concentrated topical focus. A more "free-flowing" community forum could be created as well.

A community forum within the main ASPO-USA website may make the most sense as a new home for TOD if the goal is continuation and enhancement of a "peak oil" community. I should also mention that the ASPO-USA website will have the capability to reproduce the function that the Drumbeat has been serving in terms of sharing news articles and comments. This will essentially be a substantial technical and format upgrade to the way we have been doing Peak Oil News and Peak Oil Review.

I have seen comments about how the format of the TOD website was helpful, so let me address a couple of technical and interface issues. I believe the TOD website is Drupal-based. Both ASPO-USA websites are Wordpress-based (as is fyi) and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. We would manage discussions through the standard article-comment approach (e.g. TOD, and/or through a forum board--we are planning on using SimplePress (see for example. Note, the precise layout of the forum will be further refined to reduce excessive white space and enhance readability and free flow of discussion).

A forum using MyBB or phpBB (what uses) was also explored but we decided SimplePress would work best for us.

Using a separate forum can be helpful in distinguishing and organizing different topics of discussion. We recognize that is can be difficult and undesirable to separate issues too much, but we also believe it is important to help people find and comment on the discussions they are most interested in. We think we can strike a proper balance. There will be features to search, sort, and subscribe via email to forums and threads of your choice which will help enhance and streamline the individual reader's experience.

Overall, we think ASPO-USA makes sense as an organizational home for the The Oil Drum community though we recognize that TOD has been its own thing and we want to be careful about raising expectations about keeping everything the same as it was. It won't be and it shouldn't be.

At the same time, the help and participation of many of the same people will be essential to make this work. If we were to go forward, we plan to reach out to the most prominent TOD contributors and get their input and we hope involvement.

Our goal is to bring the value of these discussions to a wider audience. We think certain changes will help make our joint endeavors as inviting and inclusive to new readers as possible. Keeping the existing community intact is also important of course. I hope ASPO-USA can be helpful in doing both.


Jan Lars Mueller
Executive Director, ASPO-USA

Thanks, Jan. Looks quite promissing, though I have an initial observation when opening the front page: Seems busy,, too corporate somehow. Pulls me in too many directions at once.

Maybe it's just me, but I remember opening TOD early on with a sigh of relief, with its simple structure; the 'meat' down the center of the plate with the 'potatoes' off to the side, so to speak. More common formats these days make it hard to focus on any one thing/message. It's a bit like an interstate exchange with too many exits, or (using the food metaphor again) like one of those all-you-can-eat, buffet style, self-serve eating establishments.

Also, animated or slideshow graphics tend to be a distraction; gimicky, IMO. Perhaps these things are expected by a wider audience these days, though I think resisting these trendy changes has been part of the TOD attraction. Then, again, I hate it when retail stores rearrange the shelves in order to try and get me to buy things I didn't come for. God forbid they ever figure out how to get the shelves to rearrange themselves, like some of these websites do. Imagine this week's special crawling across the shelf begging to be put in your cart ;-)

But I digress. Hopefully some others will have some input on the subject. Keep it simple. Keep it clean. The subject matter is complex enough.

That feedback is much appreciated. FYI, regarding the TOD community, I imagine we would create a special section and landing page, so readers would not necessarily be coming through the main homepage.

More generally, I fully concur with goal of simplicity. The only qualification is that The Energy Xchange will have some segmentation of content and different types of intended users. Our goal is to allow people to find what they are particularly interested in quickly--which may have resulted in too many options. Sliders and such help first time visitors but we can turn on and off as desired.

Thanks, Jan

i am setting up a TOD clone with drupal forums here :
let me know if ASPO would be interested in using a branded version of that instead of your forum software.

Thanks. I think we would be. Let's discuss further offline. Cheers, Jan

zurktech AT gmail dot COM

Maybe it's just me, but I remember opening TOD early on with a sigh of relief, with its simple structure; the 'meat' down the center of the plate with the 'potatoes' off to the side, so to speak. More common formats these days make it hard to focus on any one thing/message.

It's not just you, Ghung. TOD's comments section is a model of usability. It uses very simple techniques to tell us where we are, when things start and end, what's clickable, what's a title, etc., using only two typefaces and two colours (three if you count the blue "(new)" identifiers.)

Each comment is enclosed by a box; this, and the prominence of the commenter's name, makes the pages easily scannable. The separation from other comments is reinforced by the grey ID block with the commenter's name being in a different font, bolded, and in colour. Putting the name, date, new, and action links on one line saves space and reading time. Comments also have a definite end - the reply links - which are also in a different font and colour. The background is definitely a background; all text exists in separate blocks. Small details like padding are handled well.

The insetting for threaded comments is perfect. Notice what happens when you use the "collapse" button (the square with a "+" in it.) The title block now has the first line of the comment on a white background beside the commenter's name. Everything is done to make it easier to follow discussions.

The ease with which we can use HTML tags (and site conventions on their use) allows us to format our material in ways that are easily legible.

The actual Drumbeat articles section is equally well designed: "Drumbeat" and the date in large, bold black san-serif, the article titles in red serif font, and the articles themselves in black serif in a grey inset box (the inset allowing you to scan titles more easily.) Once again, you can see the beginnings and ends of things, and identify the most salient elements (the title, in this case.)

Finally, the Drumbeat is a single forum. I can see every comment from every person from a given day with a single click followed by scrolling. I don't have to mouse over and click things open and closed; I can place my cursor on the scroll bar and click through, or use the scroll wheel.

More importantly, we all read what everybody else writes (or at least scan their first lines.) This is, in my opinion, the most important factor in making us a community.

I don't know if this page layout is unique to the Oil Drum; I've never seen it anyplace else. If it is, Super G (or whoever worked with him on it) has my highest admiration.


This page layout is actually pretty old. Maybe not fashionable any more?

I think we originally used Scoop, which was the platform political blog Daily Kos used. Eventually we switched to Drupal, but kept the format as similar as possible.

DailyKos and its cousin, SB Nation, still use a format very similar to this. They've gotten a lot fancier over the years, but the basic functionality is the same. All comments on one page, threaded, so you can collapse subthreads if you wish.

This page layout is actually pretty old. Maybe not fashionable any more?

If it ain't broke, don't fix it! >;-)

There's a reason I drive an old stick shift with things like manual roll up windows...


That was going to be my exact comment, but you beat me to it! It may be old, but it seems to work well. In any new "son-of-TOD" I would stick with what seems to work well for most of us.

SB Nation is horrible now since they changed their format and site layout last year. It borders on unreadable since they decided to pander to the mobile crowd.

Who wants fashionable? Is fashion not a waste of resources?

I agree with others that this format is the best yet found on the net.

Yeah, it's Super G's baby, and his little genius is not currently up for adoption, though I'm certain he has plans for it.

i doubt it. his design is very old. ive cleaned it up and posted a more modern version of it for TPB. same collapsing comments, more modern style + updated for drupal 7.

Cover band...

ive cleaned it up and posted a more modern version of it for TPB.

No, you haven't.

TOD is not meant to be looked at - it's meant to be read.

There's a reason for every font, bolding and colour choice in Super G's design.

Yours is harder to read for any number of reasons. Here are a few:

1. In the title box of each comment, you use a fade rather than an outline. The fade makes it unclear when the title box ends and the comment box begins.

2. You place the date stamp before the commenter's name. The commenter's name should come before the time stamp. A comment stream is a time line. The relative position tells you where it comes in the conversation; the time stamp is a secondary detail. A time stamp is cognitively difficult to parse when compared with a person's name or handle; we look at it and want to see what's different from the previous one (especially so for this group.) We have to scan the whole thing before we get to the commenter's name; because the date stamps contain different content and are different lengths, they are difficult to skip over while scanning- the names will be at different positions on the page. So you have a redundant piece of difficult-to-comprehend information in a position that makes it difficult to scan for the information you really want- the commenter's name. The time to scan across the date stamp of all the comments in a 500 comment thread is not trivial. Before you tell me you use different colours to differentiate, see point 4. Finally, TOD uses the "new" identifiers- in a third, exclusive colour, to identify new comments for registered users. The "new" takes priority over the name, and comes at the beginning of the title block. This is because when you return to the page, that is the most critical information. We don't care when it came in- only that we haven't already seen it. Not sure how you handle this- I'm just pointing out that G has considered it as part of the whole picture.

3. The use of a light grey line for the outline de-emphasizes it, when the whole point is to be emphatic. TOD's light grey page background, with the comments and content on white with a black outline, separates content from chrome(interface features) and metadata.

4. The lines that indicate depth of threading are easier to comprehend than different levels of indentation without connecting lines.

5. Using grey, blue, and black text in the same font and size, particularly at light weights (which you use almost exclusively)makes it hard to distinguish between the three, especially for older users- of whom there are many on TOD. Note the red and black text in the title box of this comment. The difference between the date and the command links is very obvious. Normally, I would not condone a non-standard colour for links; the fact that red works so well here makes me question why we use blue for links in the first place. Your choice not to use bolding and different font styles makes it harder to distinguish metadata like name and time from content.

I could go on. Your choice to "modernize" the design is about putting your stamp on it without really understanding why those choices were made-all style and no substance.

TOD is a racecar. There are rollbars and harnesses and the entire interior has been stripped of anything that doesn't have a purpose.

Yours is an econobox with a wing bolted on the back.


And it doesn't present properly on a Mac. The datestamp/name line doesn't line up with the grey fade.

0. i disagree. its meant to be looked at and read . The new generation can do the looking, the older folks from TOD can do the reading. TOD looks like crap and emphasizes reading which is a design choice but it drives away new contributors because it looks like crap. i prefer to stick with stock drupal so it makes upgrading easy even if it means sticking with drupal's theming choices. unless it comes in the way of reading then a few tweaks can be applied (reluctantly, because it makes upgrading a pain - which is why TOD hasnt been upgraded for half a decade at least - and upgrading fixes security holes which is a must for long term site health).
1. true but it looks good. blocks look old.
2. agree. changed. see? that was easy. :)
3. if i make it darker then half the title text will disappear. see the P.S. for why.
4. gotta think about this one. yes its easy but the trick to do it is not to make it look like crap. TOD looks like crap with solid line. maybe a little arrow with a number in the middle ?
5. red is glaring. dont like red. maybe amber ? FYI the light weights come from drupal's stock Ash theme not from me. i'm reluctant to fiddle TOO much with those because they do get overwritten in an upgrade. maybe a few tweaks are ok.
6. please do. i promise to implement any suggestions which [a] dont cause too many drupal changes [b] dont look like crap and [c] can be done in 5 minutes or less without scaring me (i.e. touching drupal core). econoboxes are maintenance free which is good. i drive en econoSUV and like it. thats good. it gets you from A to B. it costs nothing much to look after or run. i like. racecars like TOD require a team of people and a dedicated admin. too much money, too much time suck. they dont last long because too much human is required just to keep em running. i prefer robots. they work longer.
P.S. does it look like this ? because if it does its correct. the "modern" design puts the line halfway between grey fade and white space so it looks "cool", not inside the grey box (which is now "old" and not hip).

the "modern" design puts the line halfway between grey fade and white space so it looks "cool", not inside the grey box (which is now "old" and not hip).

And this is where we disagree. You see modern styling, I see a mistake. Note that no one in this thread or the previous one said "I want something new and trendy."

Leenan notes that search engine results drive a lot of the traffic here; legibility is going to be more important to this kind of user than looking cool.

Thank you for making clear that your concerns are with maintenance and time investment. I appreciate the effort you have made, and do understand the limitations you are under. I am also aware that my contribution to the proposed changeover has been to say "I don't like that." The difference is that I had 300 posts in before the end was announced, and you had two. There are dozens (hundreds?) like me, and if we stop writing, there is no site. You have to realize that the Drumbeat is a tool, and when you disable or limit it's functionality, you make our work harder.

Being trendy and stylish is not going to help if it drives away the current commenters.

We're old, we're engineers and technologists, we don't like change for the sake of change, and we keep old tools because we're used to them and they work. We'll only upgrade if we see a specific advantage (or the old tool is broken beyond repair.) We won't buy something just because it's been re-styled. (My apologies to any posters who fit a different stereotype.)

I am aware that TOD, like a race car, requires a team to run it. I come here because of that. It makes it easy to post, to follow posts, and to reply. The TOD layout is tailored to the way we use this site; when you spend as much time as I do tweaking what I have to say, it makes a difference. I am unlikely to keep following and posting to a site that is less than this just to keep up with the other contributors. Your site, or any proposed successor site, that is a lesser tool without the overriding vision will not be very appealing to me.

In summary, your site, as currently envisioned, is unlikely to fit my requirements. (Which is not really your fault, by the way.) If it can be merged with ASPO-USA and some kind of staffing-moderation worked out, and the cost of tweaking the template for usability factored in, I might change my mind.


wish I had read this one before posting my own.

+1&100 zeros

of course both of you can choose not to participate in internet discussions and keep your thoughts in your own heads. the choice right now is pretty simple - either participate in a forum which may not meet your exacting standards or go away. because TOD is going away. and that style of heavy forum which requires lots of people to run is going away as well, regardless if i run it or someone else does. human labor is expensive, machines are cheap. your input is welcomed where practical, but if you choose not to give your input its going to go ahead anyway and may not match your requirements ever.

I agree that the members and accessability of the site are critical. Just looked at TPB for the first time, and it's visually difficult to discern.

And btw, how does one view the # of posts they (or any user) has here on TOD?

Yeah, thanks, I knew how to view my comments. But I see others saying they had 856 posts or whatever, and I see no tally... Doesn't really matter, just curious. Quick math would say I have around 1000. Hard to believe.

clifman, unsure there's an automatic tally, but each page (save maybe for the last one) of one's comments is exactly 30 comments, so I think all you have to do is tally it up:

I have 30 pages, the last page of which has only 26 comments, so 29 pages multiplied by 30 comments plus 26 comments for the past page equals 896.

I just went over and took a look at your new site, for the TOD beat. If that is what you have in mind for the new site, forget about me ever coming by. The look of your layout is just more internet blog crap;;;;;;

>> "The insetting for threaded comments is perfect. Notice what happens when you use the "collapse" button (the square with a "+" in it.) The title block now has the first line of the comment on a white background beside the commenter's name. Everything is done to make it easier to follow discussions."

This is a great feature IMO.
The only improvement I would make is the ability to collapse the thread all the way back to the parent, so that if you are part way through a thread that starts going off topic you can collapse the rest of it.

The layout of the Drumbeat might seem "old fashioned" but it is high in usability and high in simplicity (lack of complexity).

IMO there is nothing worse than forums with:
- "signature" panels that take up half the page
- flashing animated avatars
- newsfeeds all over the place
- personal information such as "date joined", "member location", "member since" on every single post
- social media buttons on every single post
- too much information (not enough "whitespace")

I suspect that many people would be simply happy with "moving Drumbeat to a new domain name".

BTW: If you do visit other forums with all of that horrible stuff, there is a very handy extension for Firefox called "Element Hiding Helper" that works with "Adblock Plus" which lets you hide a lot of the stuff you dont like.

yup. the planet beat now has it too with a more modern layout.

And what is then? is the website of ASPO International. ASPO-USA is an affiliated but separate organization.

This is good news Jan. As a long time TOD lurker and a member of ASPO I have felt that an ideal transition would be for ASPO to take on the role of having a discussion forum relating to the energy "crisis" was are facing as we enter the second half of the age of oil.

I must say that I also share Ghung's concerns regarding the look and feel of To many "webmasters" today seem to think that providing plenty of pretty pictures on the home page is the way to go. I find such sites totally distracting. People seem to forget that the most visited site on the internet (Google) is all text! TOD people are looking for information - not entertainment. I would hope that if ASPO creates a "TOD type forum" that it be founded on text information scrolling down the page occasionally interrupted by useful and pertinent graphics. Not suggesting you eliminate the current look of, but there should be a way to quickly get to the forum - which I hope will be mostly text.

Having said that - I am excited that ASPO is working on this issue!

I think that there's a danger in trying to be all things to all people, though having too narrow an audience usually results in preaching to the choir. It's a tough balance to strike, and surely needs to evolve over time. Leanan's link (above) to Prof. Goose's post was quite informative, and, along with some other posts, enlightening as to how daunting a task creating a functional online community, based largely on trust, is; takes on a life of it's own, requires constant tending and nurturing, yet likely will still grow (or not) in unexpected ways. Reminds me of the rock garden near our front stoop. I was forced to prune back a fine Japanese Maple several years ago. Though I did a thoughtful, careful, and, IMO, expert job, it'll never be what it was, though I still marvel...

The days of simple online bulletin boards are long gone. Didn't Leanan mention Tainter somewhere above? The evolution of online forums in general, and TOD especially, aren't immune to complexity-creep. Seems there's no escaping it. Best hopes for salvaging some of the TOD soul, and that the graft will take somewhere, through a process of nature and nurture.

It's great to see that new seeds are being planted.

Complexity-creep can be resisted. It is usually a matter of decisions on part of the people in charge of the site. E.g., TOD avoided being bogged down by the current "social networking" fetish. Most other sites now load various bits into each page from a large number of third parties, slowing down the page load, causing error messages and failures, messing up the formatting, resulting in annoying pop-overs, etc. For example, this has happened to Energy Bulletin as it was first incorporated into Postcarbon, and more so as it morphed into Of course there is some pressure from parts of "the audience" to incorporate such misfeatures, but whoever "owns" the site can resist if they want to.

We didn't actually resist it. We used to have buttons for sharing on Reddit, Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, etc. I was even asked to run a TOD Twitter account. (I refused.)

In the end, when we decided we wanted quality over quantity and growing the site/outreach faded as a goal, we dumped the social media stuff.

Recent tweet from World Oil & Gas
World Oil & Gas ‏@worldoilngas 10 Jul
Top 10 Oil and Gas Twitter Accounts to Follow

"Complexity-creep can be resisted."

Resited, perhaps, but even the process of resistance begets complexity. The idea that all of our problems began as solutions, and all that. The inevitable arrival of paid trolls, and how to deal with that aspect of 'truth-telling', was unexpected by some. A comment by Nate, from the Prof. Goose post (2006, linked above):

"Seriously - this is the third time Ive seen this and perhaps Im ignorant....but who would PAY someone to troll TOD and for what purpose??" (Hard to believe Nate came out of the financial sector ;-)

Of course, the site has certainly had to deal with its share of trolls => more moderation, attempts at self-moderation, etc., and flag buttons. Spambots eventually led to the spam filter, and managing an ever-increasing number of member accounts and a growing data base; all complexity-creep. It's inherent in growth, excluding, perhaps, monocultures. It's a necessary process in a universe bent on simplifying things, breaking them back down into their basic components. Just some thoughts...

I do believe there are people paid to push certain viewpoints online, and we have had some such here. But they are not really a problem. They tend not to be all that persistent. People who are doing something because they are paid don't do it with much enthusiasm. (And I, personally, do not believe it was paid trolls who were causing the problems discussed in PG's thread.)

IME, the real problems are often people who have mental health issues. They can be dogged beyond belief. Warnings, suspensions, bans, nothing dissuades them. They keep creating new accounts and coming back, because they are so convinced that we need to know whatever it is they're obsessed with. They don't have the basic social awareness that most of us have - for example, understanding that posting 60 comments a day is hogging the conversation. They are often on disability and have no family responsibilities, so they can spend every waking moment posting.

I can't count the number of times I have sent someone a warning that they were getting out of line, and gotten back a response like, "Sorry, I'm bipolar and my new meds aren't working" or "My therapist wants to put me on thorazine, but I know I don't need it."

"Seriously - this is the third time Ive seen this and perhaps Im ignorant....but who would PAY someone to troll TOD and for what purpose??"

The WHO is not answered, but a rate is given:

$2 for 30 online forum and comment spam posts, according to Fortinet's report.

And elsewhere:

Thanks, Jan - Looks impressive, count me in. I think your site has the potential to cover the interdependencies of the Energy/Environment/Economy Nexus moving forward.

Ghung has a valid point re: simplicity. Web pages with >250-500k of images can be slow to load (especially if loading from off site e.g. "< img src = >". However, graphics can impart alot of information - and they usually determine how much time a person will spend in a given site.

I noticed the site had a presentation (ppt, video?) page. Could this also include a a place for whitepapers, reports, studies, etc. There are 100's of reports and studies out there but not a centralized place to find them all.

I have no technical knowledge in PO or energy in general. As a physician, I spent at least one hour every night reading your comments . I learned a lot from bright and smart experts here and appreciated the gravity of PO. Thanks all for your contributions. I will miss The oil drum.


Your post speaks to both the quality and the importance of The Oil Drum.

Generally speaking, physicians don't have an hour to burn every night on unimportant things of low quality.


I also greatly cherished this site for intelligent discussion. Its hard to find intelligence anywhere on the web anymore - most of the stuff I read is nothing more than psychological warfare, attempting to get me to divert my resources into someone else's moneymaking scheme.

This site, according to Alexa :

Relative to the general internet population, people who went to graduate school are greatly over-represented at this site.

You will find this text if you hover over the graphics in the "Audience Demographics / How similar is this site's audience to the general internet population?" topic.

This site is where you could find the best in the field having candid technical discussions. Many of us were intelligent enough to realize what this site was and cherished it. A lot.

I will miss this site, as I do not believe a lot of other sites provide "raw" data, rather they provide data filtered through a lens attempting to lead me into their "religion". Lots of fear talk. No proof.

The Planet Beat (TPB) -

I also have an automated daily drumbeat -

The site is completely automated down to the drumbeat generation, moderation, spam blocking etc so it should be very little work to run it long term. I intend to keep it up a minimum of 2 years regardless even if it gets 0 users.

Comments (good or bad) welcome.

Looks interesting - I often have a "gut feeling" about sites. Sometimes it feels about right, and is then backed up by the content. Other times, the content makes me persevere despite the layout. (This has gone back all the way to different versions of DOS - 3.1 gave way to 3.2, then 3.3 as improvements; 4.01 didn't feel right - nothing I could my finger on - and I nearly went back to 3.3 until I got 5.0.)

Having first got into TOD back in Katrina days, it acted as a wake up call to stop living the "endless credit" lifestyle, if at all possible. After all the years since, I would be loath to return to the "business as usual" mindset.

But that's probably not the kind of comment you were meaning! But I think The Planet Beat might fill the gap.


Hi Zurk,

After using your site a bit the last week I have a few comments/suggestions:

Lose the blog section. If people want to post links to their own external blogs or write something original they already can in the forum section.

Focus the ability of users to post articles in the forum section only. This can be in a looser format with wide ranging discussions. The front page should be for drumbeat, submitted technical articles and guest posts.

Lose the automatically generating news sections on each side of the page. It's distracting and I generally try to ignore it. If I want news up to the minute news I already have news dedicated sites that I visit.

Overall I think you have made an excellent start, although you are trying to be too many things to too many people. At the moment though I think there are too many loose threads and the site needs more focus to drive discussion. I think the only areas people should be able to add content whether that's links or comments should be the forum and on what gets posted on the front page. Everything else is just unnecessary noise.

Good luck with everything.

The Oil Drum was a primary source of information that started me back to complete a PhD ... About a half year ago, I started up a facebook page "Energy Literacy" where I regularly re-post Oil Drum, Post Carbon Institute and ASPO articles.

I have been trying to re-post peer reviewed papers (non-paywalled), reports and news that can be used in an academic setting.

I mentioned this in a comment on another post, but those of you who use Facebook are welcome to join the Peak Oil group that I manage there.

There are maybe 3 types of "forums", examples are: TOD, LATOC &

TOD is basically a blog and news feed, the main draw is the authoritative articles. If one were to try and "replace" TOD the main ingredient required would of course be similar content. That seems to be where the committee is saying the replacement problem lies – sorta speak.

Sites like the LATOC forums are dependent on a guru, there are lots of these. is the 3rd kind, totally volunteer directed and member dependent for content. The community brings in the news of the day, ideas, forecasts, rants and the membership hashes it out. As the landscape and people's concerns shift, the site shifts too. Like Leanan said, we've a rule book because there is no guru or overlord so rules are as much for the staff as the members.

So if you like the give and take of the discussion and debate in addition to reading the thoughts of others, we might be a place to try.

That's my plug.

theres a fourth type now - A blog and news feed (like TOD) which is automated for the bulk of the content and replying on user dependent content and discussion for relevant stuff.
I dont know if it will work, but its a work in progress.
My automated parser isnt that great (strong AI/NP hard problem for finding, parsing and compiling interesting articles...) but its improving slowly.
As more people read and post articles it should improve much more with better data quality.

See the AIs blog in action :

Some here are planning to move over to Yahoo, which I'd consider a fourth type of forum, distinguished by its eye-poppingly gawdawful layout and attendant total lack of parsibility. Why anyone anywhere does anything with such an atrocity is beyond me, maybe these people have homepages with heaps of animated GIFs and like to wile away the hours watching their VHS tapes of Seinfeld and Friends...

See, I'm a bit more format oriented - I want to find the information I'm interested in as easily as possible. The main difference between the various peak oil or resource limits sites to my eye was how liberal they were to tolerating extreme viewpoints or sensibilities. TOD being a bit more heavy handed could bring in respected industry commentators like Art Berman or Jean Laherrère. Well, we respect them anyway, their work has a bit of rigor behind it. To the industry at large they're still quite outre.

Again, I've always preferred the threaded bulletin board sites like to sprawling layouts like TOD. You can ignore things a lot easier, find what you're looking for. Protip: Don't read anything in threads like "Obama's Birth Certifacate Pt 14" and you'll do fine.

As someone who writes articles/blog posts that have commonly ended up on I have been very disappointed with the level of discussion compared to TOD. One rather unfortunate post was picked up with a spelling error in the title (my mistake by being too eager to publish before a proper edit) and it ended up being a number of comments dismissing the entire article, as well as questioning my intelligence, my education etc etc.

I've been around internet forums too long to be personally affected by comments like that but it just appeared to be a massive waste of time. The beauty of TOD was that 95% of the comments were well though out and insightful even if you didn't particularly agree with their conclusions.

7 years. Thanks for the memories. Should have taken the blue pill.

Yes, I feel that way too. But everyone wants the red pill.

Maybe that is some of it as well. With general conditions improving for the time being economically, maybe too many just want the blue pill and to hope for the best. TOD doesn't offer the blue pill. Nor should it.

Thanks for the flexibility, simplicity, balance, fair strictness, and open minds, guys. Something I've come to expect of here...

The metaphor I've been ruminating on of is one of a stew:

Zurk, with regard to your fair and, granted, formative, attempt, to nevertheless use it as an example in its current state:

My concern is that if you have too many things/options all over the place-- books, world news, recent content, feed aggregator, who's new, report problems, world news, oil news, energy news, environment news, this and that person's onsite article/blog, and where anyone can post anything anywhere-- campfire, forums (renewable energy, scorched earth, theories and models, The Oil Drum, the core, politics and social, fireside chat, how to and technical, the barter shoppe, energy and our future, administrative and janitorial) news, blogs, etc....-- then you can risk just having a bunch of diced disparate veggie cubes talk essentially to themselves, with, if they're very good/lucky, a trickle of responses: A carrot cube remains a carrot cube; a celery cube, a celery cube. Generally boring and confusing at the same time. Darwinian is a veggie cube, too, but with their own site, which is clean, tasteful and simple, incidentally. The way I see it is if you are going to allow yourself to be turned into a veggie cube you might as well at least have your own site.

On the other hand, much of the aforementioned is unneeded, given a simple Drumbeat, say once every 3 days or so or whatever. 3 days may allow for some time for the comments to stew nicely but maybe not to ferment into more than one page. And remember, 'what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas'. ;)

Also, within the comments sections, people, like Seraph can post their own newsclips anyway, and comments from them follow from there as a subthread.
A Drumbeat comment section are in a sense, micro blogs and forums. From there, it is easy, too, to reference other's comments within the larger and current drumbeat thread. Like a stew! Perfect!

Like the Drumbeats, it's still the same structure and with the comments under it-- articles that might do well to be limited also like TOD to a not-everyone-and-their-dog selection process. Otherwise, their multiple page flow end up 'burying' things much faster: When I come back to TOD's frontpage the next day, it is nice to see the frontpage more or less looking the same or similar as it did the day before, and to feel less like the Drumbeat thread is already stale, being 3 already pages/clicks away.

I suspect that a large part of TOD's success is in keeping things simple, limited and putting all the veggies in one or only a few pots (The comment sections immediately below the articles/Drumbeats!). That comment pot/stew creates the circumstances for a 'greater than the sum of the parts' kind of thing and seems to help nurture thinking without getting stale. Ideas merge and mix and create different threaded flavours and textures... and then it is onto the next Drumbeat or article.

All or most of TOD's blogs are offsite at the blogroll on left margin, and to echo a response in this thread, the colors are neutral shades of gray/black/white with limited colors-- blue and orange-- for clarity.

Frankly, I think the most successful successor site to TOD will be one that copies it, at least initially, to the letter, and that evolves in the spirit of TOD. A literal strict rip, verbatim.

While I like the idea of ASPO's Xchange mockup, it does feel a little corporate, complete with sponsor space, and feels nothing like TOD.

i agree. I will reduce the drumbeats to once every 3 days (even though the machine can process it everyday in <1 minute).
maybe have a best of ranking where it generates 3 days worth of drumbeats and selects the best of those 3 days.
im thinking the forums are mainly for users to go off and chat on their own while the front page blogs/stories are for more in depth analysis. it seems to be shaking out that way with a few stories getting comments.
ive altered the flow so that stories with comments automatically get pushed up to the top.

experiment in progress i think - we will see how it shakes out and tweak as required.
ive already fixed a lot of bugs which i didnt know i had. also some tweaking to the drumbeat machine for better content scraping and summarizing.

FYI i did try to copy TOD but its impossible. the skin and code is simply too old and the new drupal wont take it. best i can do with the new drupal is what i have.

" thinking the forums are mainly for users to go off and chat on their own while the front page blogs/stories are for more in depth analysis." ~ zurk

I understand, but a potential effect might be the watering down of the "herding" of comments to only at/below the articles/drumbeats-- perhaps especially with the newcomers, so that less of a stewing happens. That was my main concern. Too much choice of where to go will likely confuse and/or water down the potential for discourse and a sense of where the best place to go/comment might be, if anywhere, since everyone might go everywhere.

I would probably want to rip out the Navigation, and with it, all its sublinks (and not put them anywhere else); put the User login on the other side, under some good quotes; get rid of the New forum topics, the Recent comments, and the Environnment/World/Energy news (cluttery and ostensibly redundant, what with other offsite news channels and especially perhaps with Drumbeat's own related and more relevant news items). Basically gut it (and maybe work stuff in as you go along and things are desired/requested by consensus).

Your thread/comment collapse arrow is difficult to see, and I have a concern with the hierarchy of the threads also being potentially difficult to follow. Here at TOD you have straight black vertical lines, with indentation to boot. There, just indentation as far as is noticed.
Also, with regard to your mention of modern; many modern designs seem to be going simple, crisp, easy-to-read and with neutral, contrasty and/or limited colors/gradients. But in any case, best would seem to be more about what works best, rather than what's 'fashionable'. In the same breath, bear in mind that people with eyesight challenges are generally less challenged by crisper definition/differentiation between graphic elements, like headers, comment boxes, comment hierarchies. That's what's cool about TOD: No muddy gradients, save for the header graphic (and it's a bold one anyway) and good element differentiation by both crisp/dotted/solid borders and background contrast shading.

Unsure about the bumping up to the top of the page drumbeats and articles with new comments, either, since, logically, the article/drumbeat is about the article/drumbeat, rather than about some 'late-to-the-show' comment. So having a comment, and a late one at that, determine the vertical page hierarchy importance of an entire article/drumbeat seems unintuitive.

My understanding of code is that "anything is possible" and I would be very surprised if you could not tweak TPB (The Pirate Bay? The Powers that Be? ;) to the letter.

"...experiment in progress i think - we will see how it shakes out and tweak as required." ~ zurk

Absolutely, and thanks again.

the forums also serve another purpose -- new users are ONLY given forum access to post stuff. that way i can catch the spam bots and let them spam the forums (which are low traffic anyway) until they get nuked.

feeds allow content until some more gets on the site. i'll rip em out assuming we can get enough content (and users) to fill the void.

yeah, threads need more emphasis. gonna think about that one. maybe an arrow or something.

i wish everything were possible in code. lol. sadly no. i need to stick to stock drupal 7 as much as possible to allow easy security upgrades to prevent the forums from being broken into and reduce human maintenance requirements to nearly zero. that means i need to be really careful before making any changes. TOD has not been upgraded (and forced to use FreeBSD jails which are a huge pain) for that reason. it makes the admins life much harder than it should be (and i have very limited time compared to whoever runs TOD to chase down security issues).

At least, in my opinion, the main thing that makes a site is the members. Yes, there are things that can make things easier and less cluttered is better. However if having the appearance and flow of the site was all that important, nobody would have used the old dial-up BBS's, Compuserv, AOL, etc.

What I'm looking for is a place where quality members can exchange information, ideas, etc. That's the first requirement, as far as I'm concerned. The type of member is the most important, not the details of what the site looks like!


Yes, I was using dial-up BBS's, Compuserv and even USENET in the early 1980's!

My first exposure to what is now called peak oil was at McGill around 1957. Information about resources was hard to find during the 60's though there were reasonable government and academic sources. My first exposure to an energy blog was with Petr Beckmann's Fort Freedom - probably late 70's. Beckmann, was a pro-nuclear libertarian and tended to negate some of my more pessimistic views. My connection speed was 256 kbps which caused slow downloads. During the 90's I had fun with Prodigy aka, P* and learned to type with two fingers. Prodigy was continuously improved until impacted by real or imagined Y2K concerns. Energy was just one of many topics. Politics, economics, investing and O J Simpson were popular.
-- Fort Freedom is partially archived on the internet.

Tribe - Totally agree. The TOD/Drupal design has always seemed just about perfect in terms of accessibility, readability, and usability. It's so basic appearing that it's easy to overlook the deep and thorough thought that went into it. It's the definition of elegance. I wonder if ISEOF would consider licensing the TOD framework or whatever structurally makes this what it is to ASPO and/or other parties interested in trying to keep the ball rolling. Of course management, moderation, etc. is a whole other issue, but I really do like the way TOD structures and accommodates a discussion, as you so well described.

Yes, thanks, Walt BT, nice that you agree, as I'm inclined to do with you, such as with the license.
It also made me think, with regard to zurk or whoever else might wish to port over the code, if it might make sense/be possible to install an older version of Drupal if TOD can only run on it, and if TOD's code can indeed only be ported over to the same Drupal version.

With regard to moderation, while my comments have been relatively infrequently moderated, what have been I've usually agreed with in retrospect. When one "inadvertently" feeds a bit of a troll-comment, it is actually cool to see not only one's 'feed' disappear, but the troll-comment as well, the whole 'subthread', perhaps, as Leanan may have alluded to.

I would just like to say thank you to all the staff and commentators.This site has been an education,I've learned so much, But not been able to pass this on as it's been a subject that the majority of people don't want to know about.If they had only taught a tenth of this in schools and colleges what a better place the world could have been.

I don't have any particular problem with Drupal 6 as a base, but TOD has heavily modified Drupal modules, I think. Would it be possible to get those from TOD and host a similar forum elsewhere? At least for Drumbeats, the threaded forum seems a lot easier to read than trying to find updated posts in the PO forums.

I'm delighted there are so many offering to host a follow-on site on Yahoo, PO, FB, and all kinds of other places. I don't know about everyone else, but I'd rather see one site instead of several, so we aren't fractured into so many disjoint subgroups and conversations.

I suspect that some form of "automated" moderation will be necessary. Leanans don't grow on trees. Even the seemingly infinitely capable Leanan has her limits.

I doubt that penalizing posters will be effective. Most people don't get much satisfaction from penalizing others.

Therefore, rewards are likely to be more successful.

- new poster gets one post per day.
- if the poster attracts comments, over time the allowed number of posts per day is increased. The increase algorithm must somehow take into account a small group of people habitually responding to each others posts.

The indirect penalty imposed is that by responding to a troll you consume one post out of your daily allowance.

Any attempt at a flame war will be quickly extinguished because the participants will run over their posting limit.

The idea is to cause people to post responsibly by limiting the posting "resource" while allowing them to increase that resource by producing quality posts. You are able to enhance your standing - or not. The choice is entirely yours and yours alone.


That's a pretty neat idea there JP. I can see it creating high quality dialogue.

Generally a well thought out response can take a long time to craft so for me personally I would use more than three comments a day most of the time.

Is it possible to export the user/password list to designated successor blog ?

Read up top. There will not be a designated sucessor blog.

And it would be highly inappropriate to pass on usernames and passwords.

Really sad to see this site go in this direction, discussions in the drumbeats were very informative and I've learned more here than I ever did in school about a ton of stuff.

Well, sh...sugar.

I was a-hopin' you'd leave it open. Ah..well... damn.

I am a journalist, writer, author. I'm writing a book for the common man and woman about the issue of declining energy, the massive cultural shift this promises, and I will ask the question: what can you (they) do about it? What can't we change? What must we, should we, are we likely to?

Find me at my website (click on my ID here, or - click "oil collapse" for overview or directory). find me on FBI social network; please jump onto the FB Peak Oil page to continue to discuss. And somebody change their bleating minds and keep this sight open. Just... hand over the reins if you're tired.

I, for one, will continue the discussion, though I am a recent-comer to it. Thank you for your excellent, non-nonpareil work and for keeping the archive alive.

And - because this is easy enough to do - please consider a "best of" series, sell it on Kindle - it ain't hard to do.

Format as word doc. Not too challenging for the many bright minds who've done the work here. Keep it flowing, amigos. We needja!

Here is a comparison of Wordpress x Drupal @ Drupal

Paul Ellica Padilla • 2 months ago

You might want to look at WP again. It sounds like you haven't seen it for a year or more. It has the code hooks for custom code handled with Event Handler just like Drupal. I have been using Drupal for 2 years and had the same exact thoughts you did with WP...but just looked at it and it's caught up to Drupal and more. Their plugins are pretty robust and you can write your own. Although, the learning curve is equivalent to Drupal's

A new feature @ Economic Undertow as a run-up to the extinction of The Oil Drum:

The Oil Drum dies, will be buried at sea, August 31st

Given the lively thoughts here, the board of ISEOF (The Institute for Energy and Our Future that facilitates The Oil Drum), Euan, SuperG, JoulesBurn, and myself, would like to encourage the community here to take the next step to keep the conversation moving forward. We trust with optimism that people among the community will step up (and indeed some have) and spawn a one or more successors, building on some of the experiences at The Oil Drum over the last eight years.

I have a good community @ Undertow, many are commenters here. The placeholder name is 'Monday Mayhem' until it becomes settled then it will be re-christened as 'Drumbeetz' ... or something like that.

I might be able to figure out the php to have a more graduated commenting thread arrangement but the WP mechanics are understandable from a user perspective.

If I switch to the updated theme commenters will be able to use social networking logins such as their Twitter or Facebook sites.

Keep in mind, Mish has been blogging for years w/ a Blogspot site as was Automatic Earth for a long time. Mish's site is unmoderated. TAE has really moderated itself out of commission, IMO. Neither of these two sites has much in the way of a comment load. JM Greer has a Blogspot site and a large comment load (heavily moderated) as did JH Kunstler with a 'Brand X' platform (unmoderated). He has a new platform that looks good w/ a larger comment load but the trolls seem to have vanished.

Many sites are forums: Doomstead Diner (unmoderated), YesDetroit (unmoderated). ZeroHedge is threaded comments and a very large comment load (unmoderated until it broke, now it's moderated). NY Times is heavily moderated w/ paywall, Washington Post is unmoderated, a screamers' mess of political rants @ 2000 characters or less ... with a paywall.

Naked Capitalism (Yves Smith) has a large and intense readership with a large content throughput (multiple writers). Comments are previewed while being written, a nice feature.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard will draw 1000+ comments per article with no moderation but relative civility, many repeat commenters .. with a paywall. Surely, there is no one way to run a website.

How about - they have a forum that is pretty much unused. The editor over there says they will be bringing some life to it in the future - but it could be a good venue - good layout and very simple to navigate:
The content on the main part of the site is more focused on the financial and geopolitical side of the energy markets but they are always looking for new content and I know they are Oil Drum readers. Could be worth a look.

What about something like this?

Hire a coder to simply duplicate TOD's framework to somewhere.

One of the selections is, "Create a Drupal Template".

you cant because the APIs have changed so it will have to be a rewrite anyway.
and a rewrite will take forever and cost an arm and a leg. i have a scraped partial copy of TODs source code and its terrible. thats the other problem -- the old drupal was gutted and heavily customized for most TOD functionality. and running the old code is bad for security reasons which is why TODs servers are so heavily locked down.

also FYI i have implemented small arrows between posts to give more of the flow of TOD without adding multiple lines to the posts which are annoying and clunky.

Like so many others on this thread and the DB threads I too am sad to see TOD go dormant. It has been a valuable resource for me personally and I have steered many naive scholars to it for their education.

One of the themes expressed on DB has to do with the number of news articles that are using TOD's demise as some kind of "proof" that peak oil is a dead issue. Unfortunately, though that is nonsense as is obvious to all here, I'm afraid I have to say I do understand it.

For several years I and a handful of other commentators have tried to increase the visibility of a related phenomenon that is proving to be much more important vis-a-vis the economic conundrum the world faces, and that is the already declining net energy per capita. The peaking of oil extraction is understandably a clear target for interest. There is data to work with and graphs to be made. TOD has been a premier site for this activity. But peak oil (or bumpy plateau oil), while an important phenomenon, is simply a small part of the larger systems picture of net energy to society to do economic work. It is aggravating the problem with declining net energy per capita (and now with net energy aggregate) to be sure. But it is not the only factor causing the decline.

Declining EROI, especially with the extraction and conversion of kerogen and tight oil/gas, and the continuing rise in the population are key to understanding why we are a poorer world today. I have been modeling the net energy production for several years and under a wide array of assumptions the models show that total net energy derived from the aggregate of fossil fuels actually peaked in the 1970s. The population has continued to rise and the energy cost for getting the next increment of usable energy has rapidly increased. Wealth is the product of using net energy (and definitely has nothing to do with making a profit from speculation).

I would like to urge the larger energy-concerned community to start considering a more holistic approach to energy than just the phenomenon of peak oil. Data on net energy is not as readily available as for gross extraction. This is very unfortunate. To date the best approaches to approximating net energy has been to factor in EROI as best we could. And as any of you who have attempted to analyze various energy systems from this perspective will know this is exceedingly difficult to do. Even so, the only number that ultimately matters to human life is net energy available per individual (distribution is another equally important issue but that has to do with equity).

The public can easily envision the claim of peak oil because it is fundamentally simple, extracting a finite resource (and I am not talking about the "running out of oil" meme). So it is equally easy for them to be swayed away from being concerned about it if they hear arguments such as the cornucopians are currently making. OTOH, net energy per person, as it relates to a person's ability to function, is another matter. It is more challenging than downloading monthly pumping or export data and making graphs. It would be wonderful to see some of the same, fine analytic minds who have contributed to this forum turn their attention to grasping and demonstrating the net energy peaking phenomenon. Much more needs to be said about the net energy returns from the Bakken, for example.

We are currently witnessing the phenomenon unfold in the cradle of civilization (e.g., MENA and Greece). After nearly ten thousand years of human exploitation of resources and now including the depletion of energy, that part of the world will serve as a model for what we can expect globally in the future.

Question Everything.


Thanks, George, Well said. I've always had an awareness that peak oil - peak energy would (and, as you mention has been) expose the cracks and vulnerabilities in humanity's overshoot condition. It's a bit like when loss of income widens the cracks in a marriage. It's much easier to plaster over and ignore systemic predicaments during periods of growth and perceived prosperity. I've always seen cheap energy and cheap credit in the same light; as long as we could borrow (or steal) from the future; consequences be damned; naysayers and Cassandras easily invalidated.

There are a few folks out there attempting to develop an over-arching systemic view of things, some dancing around the net energy core of what ails us as a species, but humans tend to compartmentalize these issues. Any 'grand unifying theories' tend to become philosophical rather than scientific. Anyway, it doesn't take a genius to notice that just about everything is pointing in the wrong direction. It just takes a somewhat fearless, honest attempt at clarity. As you say, "question everything",, though it's likely you won't like the answers that come back.

Easier to pray...

Any chance of getting U of W involved in hosting a peak energy site? Peak energy studies? A BA or BS in Overshoot? It's today's and tomorrow's students who are being screwed most. Perhaps the board here would be more receptive to bequeathing it's legacy to an academic institution. Lots of energy there ;-)

Any chance of getting U of W involved in hosting a peak energy site? Peak energy studies? A BA or BS in Overshoot?

Hi Ghung. Probably not a very good chance. I hate to say it but most of the "energy researchers" here are still thinking they can save the world with smart grid technology or algae-based biofuels. The notion of peak anything isn't on their minds. They are all trying to get grants and that isn't accomplished unless you somehow allude to your research contributing to BAU agendas.

OTOH, I am working hard to get a systems science curriculum going. I figure if people really learn to think in systems they will begin to connect the dots for themselves and figure out what peak anything (and everything) really means.

What about the sociology dept? "How to counter widespread delusional thinking in a world of linear thinkers" ;-)

I’m starting to see an amazing parallel here between something that’s been discussed here on TOD many times and the situation with TOD going away. I’m sure I’ll receive lots of nasty comments about this.

40-50 years ago “we” knew that BAU wasn’t sustainable, it would come to an end whether we wanted it to or not. Now “we” know that TOD is going to come to an end whether we want it to or not.

40-50 years ago, some knew that we needed to move to something different than BAU, some started working on ideas of how to do it. Not all the ideas were viable, but many were. But what happened, most people said “This is how we’ve always done it, why change?”, “That’ll never work!”, so we kept on with how we’d “always” done it (BAU).

Here, a few have come up with some alternatives, a few have actually started posting on the new sites. However most of the comments here are along the same lines “This is how it’s been done on TOD, that’s the only way that’ll work.”, “That site looks crappy, it’s not like TOD, I’ll never use it, it interferes with my writing.”, “TOD is the best way, I won’t change.”

Well, just like with today’s BAU, it hasn’t “always” been done that way. Before TOD there were other types of sites, many not anywhere as “flashy” as TOD. No indenting or borders or different colors. Just text on a green screen from a 300 baud dial-up modem BBS. Still there were many great conversations and much sharing of information. There can be the same on a site that has a “different” look or flow from TOD.

What I see coming is the bulk of the members here will stay with TOD up until the last second and then when it stops, the conversations will drop dead. We need to move elsewhere before TOD shuts down. Start posting on alternative sites now instead of criticizing them. I have. You’ve got an imaginary “perfect” in TOD, stop letting the “perfect” be the enemy of “good enough”. “We” can change. Otherwise we’ll do nothing.

im a bit of a skeptic but my prediction is that only 20-30% of TOD will follow on to or other alternative sites.
i'd be hugely surprised if most of the members continued to post elsewhere once TOD shuts down.
i think we only need 100 or so active members for viability anyhow. as of this morning 60 had signed up with TPB accounts. im hoping those 60 (and maybe 40 more) will stay active when TOD self destructs.

I am laying low. One of those sites are likely to gain the largest amount of the old users and then form a new kernel user group. And then, I'll join in. I guess a bunch of lazy butts like myself think like so.

Yeah, that's probably my plan as well. I've been an infrequent poster anyway.

I am just now learning of TOD going dark (whatever). Please accept my deep gratitude for your work over the last 8 years. I have been profoundly affected and learned a tremendous amount. The feature articles are almost always relevant and informative. The news aggregated in the Drumbeat is a window into the daily pulse of energy and related issues. Thanks!

I haven't posted much lately because frankly, I feel like there are many people in this community that are more informed than I, and have more to offer.

But the most important thing about the Oil Drum community to me is that it is accessible. I can contribute if I think I have something to offer, even if its just a quip. I recognize the regulars and know whose comments I want to read. I've seen many authors and contributors fade away and wonder if they're still alive - the tragedy of pseudonyms.

I know its been a labor of love for the editors and staff. I check in every couple of days and have for years. I'll miss you all.

Hmm. I have only been following this site occasionally and posting very rarely, and this is the first time I've heard of it ending. I will agree that in many ways it was exceptional and will be disappointed to see it go.

...Yeah, I felt like I had to say something but couldn't offer anything better than that. For me this was a way to see what other people had to say about subjects which I have limited knowledge and no expertise in (I tended to focus more on the resulting comments than the actual articles) and was one of the ways of helping to provide a broad-view context which to judge news from around the world. I'm not sure whether to find a replacement or use this as an excuse to cut down on my internet usage a little.

The Oil Drum has been such a dear old friend, guiding me through the quagmire of misinformation with incredible insight and perseverance. I truly admire and appreciate the level of dedication to insure a honest perspective exists and I believe that the effort put forth will always be measured at a higher degree of value to the world than what price of oil will ever be able to attain. Thank you all. Dpete

I hope the new site will have a combination of a front page with RSS feeds, etc., containing links to new articles, and comments sent to threads of a bulletin board.

I’ve been a huge fan of The Oil Drum for years and it’s a great shame the discussions will be stopping. The Drumbeat has been an incredible source of news for the energy sector and something I’ve followed religiously.

This thread was pointed out to me by a reader of ours who commented above that and our forum might be a good place for Oil Drum readers.

We are happy to help however we can to keep the conversation going – but the forum has been a little neglected of late.
I’m happy to have new sections created that focus on Peak Oil, and possibly one for The Oil Drum.

The thing is I’m not sure it will work for many here as we are a commercial site and I believe that may put people off visiting. All I can say to this is that the forum isn’t overrun with ads – there are no ads in the text – just one banner at the top of the site.

It’s very easy to navigate your way around the forum and comments are strictly moderated. We find there are a lot of spammers, scammers and general loons out there – so we work hard at keeping it a friendly and professional place to discuss energy issues.

Anyway if this is of interest to people I can have my tech guys put together whatever it is you are looking for.

I have never posted here before, but I have been reading the Oil Drum since 2005 (as far as I can recall). I am one of the rare female readers (or so a survey showed at some point). I am no scientist (involved in the arts), but I have found this site invaluable in explaining to me what is happening in the world and why: and that is important to ALL of us, not just scientists! Often I have a very hard time following the articles, and instead skip to the conclusions and/or comments to help myself make sense of it all, but it is worth it. I am so very sad that TOD is closing. Should world events seem to demand it, will you consider starting up again? I hope I can find another site that will be as helpful and informative as this one, but I tend to doubt that I will.

Regarding our proposal/invitation for the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas USA (ASPO-USA) to host a TOD successor:

I think there is general agreement it would be preferable to keep TOD contributors and readers together as a single online community and concentrated learning resource, rather than a litter of different spin-offs. The ideas and initial efforts that have been put forth have been very useful; I would like to focus on how to merge them in some way. People will ultimately vote with their fingers and eyes, but let's try to make a conscious, collective choice about what comes next.

The key issues that need to be addressed seem to be, in rough order or importance:

1. Content development and topical focus
2. Format and basic features
3. Moderation and related issues
4. Technology
5. Hosting, Naming

The overarching question for all these issues is about people who are interested and available to help make this happen As noted, the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas USA (ASPO-USA) proposes to host on our existing site or on our new site, but we would need the help of some capable volunteers to make it feasible and successful.

I would like to briefly share our perspective on these issues. ASPO-USA's goals in hosting the site are, I think, wholly aligned with the interests of the TOD community, but it will be helpful to be explicit about those goals so that we can discuss with clear understanding.

1. Content development, topical focus

A strong focus on technical oil and gas issues should be maintained. However, to be most useful and compelling to a wider audience, we need more robust understanding of the consequences of oil and gas issues--i.e. for our economy, national security, environment etc.--and a more rigorous and orderly discussion of action options.

In particular, we see a critical need and niche to focus on the nexus of energy and the economy. There is widespread appreciation of the issue within the TOD and peak oil community, but intellectual work on the issue needs a lot more development. Moreover, examination of action options needs to be grounded in a firmer grasp of economic and other impacts

ASPO-USA is organizing its work in six broad categories (e.g. see energy and the economy, oil and gas, demand-side innovation (to reduce oil use while sustaining the economy), investment (to build a nation equipped for an oil-constrained future), national security, and environment (including the nexus of peak oil and climate change). We would like to see such a breakdown of issues reflected somehow in a TOD successor site, and efforts to develop a balance of quality content across categories.

2. Format, basic features

It has been very useful to hear what people have appreciated about the simplicity and usability of the TOD site, and we will strive to maintain those characteristics. There are two main enhancements we would like to see, again to be as relevant and useful to a broad audience as possible.

One, per #1 above, people will come to the site with differing specific interests. They want to be able to find what they are looking for without wading through a lot of other content. It would be helpful, especially for new visitors, to make navigation by category a little more explicit and clear.

Two, more separation between the "expert" forum and community discussion. ASPO-USA's primary goal is to harness the knowledge and insights of an expert network and bring that expertise to an expanding target audience. Fostering and growing a community of readers is beneficial and important in many ways, but it is secondary. We understand that the line between the two is blurry, but some level of separation would be desirable.

3. Moderation and related issues

I do not want to "misunderestimate" the importance of good moderation and the time and effort it may require, but we would aim to keep it as simple as possible. The primary mechanism for encouraging high-quality contributions would be to have minimal identification and vetting of contributors--for both the expert and community forums (there may be people who have a reason not to make their identify public, but those would be exceptions). This would differ from the current TOD site and it may reduce the total number of contributors, but I hope it would not be significant, and would promote an image of a place where thoughtful, credible people gather.

4. Technology

The IT technology we choose to achieve the desired result is important of course, but from what I have gathered, there is adequate IT proficiency within the TOD community. I have talked offline with some of you about IT details and I am confident we can resolve those issues with a little attention and collective effort.

5. Hosting, naming

ASPO-USA would host a TOD successor as a dedicated section of or, but technically it could essentially be managed as a separate website.

On names, the main question is whether The Oil Drum name and derivatives like "Drumbeat" would continue in some way. The custodians of the current TOD site may have something to say about that, but I would be interested to know how important this is for the rest of the community.

In our efforts to engage a broader audience, ASPO-USA is trying to move beyond our historic identity as a bunch of oil experts and put our concerns in a broader context. We left "oil" out of the title of our new website for deliberate reasons, but it would work to name a subsection of the website The Oil Drum, Drumbeat, or something similar.

I hope that overview is helpful. I welcome any feedback you may have.


Jan Lars Mueller
Executive Director, ASPO-USA

Thanks for your great work on this Jan.

I think a split between a community forum and and front page with peer reviewed articles (like ToD now) would achieve the goals of separating "experts" from the wider community. However the last thing I want to see is an elite expert only club. Peak oil is a essentially a people problem and there can be plenty of insight from people who may not have a technical background.

I would also caution about using the label expert all together. I am by no means an expert on peak oil, I work in a completely unrelated field but I have also been published on ToD. I have enough of a science background and transferable skills that I was able to make a contribution to something I think is important even though I am not an expert.

Agreed. I put "expert" in quotations to reflect the broad and diverse brain power of TOD contributors. What I really mean is to separate more substantive discussion from comments that are more personal or social in nature. That may be difficult to do in practice, but it is worth considering.

As thoughtful and information-driven as TOD discussions can be, I sometimes get the feeling that I am dropping in on conversations among a like-minded social community. Again, building and maintaining community, and as you say a people-centered view of the issue, are important, but we are also endeavoring to create a site that is welcoming and inclusive to folks with diverse viewpoints who do not think or view themselves in terms of "peak oil".

The nestled, cascading sub-threads feature of the current site has been one effective way to organize different lines of discussion on the same topic, but one may still need to wade through a lot of comments to find information that one is most interested in. It would be helpful to address that issue in some way.

Thanks, Jan

Hi Jan, your/ASPO's involvement and comments are appreciated and encouraging.

The beauty/success of TOD, or any other good site/forum-- or anything else for that matter-- seems in large part, about balance, inclusivity, integration, community, simplicity, democracy, holism, collaboration, the multidisciplinary, and such similar/related concepts.

Of course "expert specialism" doesn't really exist in isolation, and thinking and acting myopically as though it does appears in large part why our systems don't often work or work very well and why we are where we are at this critical juncture in human history.

I think we would do best if we had, and nurtured, as much mixing and as little segregation/ghettoization as possible.

At the same time, the TOD staff and "experts" already have their platform in the form of their articles, and where the subsequent democratic participation/responses in the form of the ability of practically anyone, including other "experts/specialists", to make comments is immediately available. Can it be any more KISS than that?

would promote an image of a place where thoughtful, credible people gather.

The reporting about TOD as it exists already has it as such a place.

And at least 2 of the more commonly mentioned posters - Rockman and Darwinian have had posts moderated into non-existence based on their and others past mentioning of such. (My now Whiskey soaked memory says even AlanfromtheBigEasy had a few posted moderated away and had complained publicly of such, and yet is mentioned as a "missed voice") So if you are wanting to preserve TOD, you'll need to figure out how to moderate and still keep most of what the 'valuable' posters have had to say.

And the new Darwinian site doesn't have to deal with public complaints about the size of the graphics. To draw him in, do you choose to allow 'big' graphics?

"Drumbeat" ... how important this is for the rest of the community.

For some time (post the "lets use hazelnut oil") non-drumbeat post, I've only really been here for the Drumbeat.

The moderation here on TOD makes a difference. I am doubtful a newTOD will be able to pull that off without keeping the present TOD moderation crew.

I welcome any feedback you may have.

There ya are - feedback.

Thanks Eric. Please don't misunderstand my general goal. My emphasis is on separating or more easily navigating not limiting comments. I gather there have been issues with moderating content into "non-existence". We generally want to avoid such issues, we simply don't have the time or desire.

I am a little confused though. Are those issues long in the past and the current approach to moderation has been fine, or something else? We would welcome the involvement of current TOD moderators--that is being explored to the extent they are interested.

And yes, TOD has a strong record and reputation for thoughtful, evidence-driven discourse. That reputation has been earned over a long time with a certain audience. Our goal in engaging new audiences would be to communicate and reinforce that reputation as quickly and effectively as possible.

In reporting the announcement to archive TOD, John Kingston of Platts referred to TOD as "largely the intellectual hangout of the peak oil crowd". It's good to be described as intellectual, it's less helpful to be regarded as a hangout just for the peak oil crowd. Our goal is to achieve in fact and perception a place where people from diverse perspectives gather. That is what I meant by in my comment about "image". Thanks.

My emphasis is on separating or more easily navigating not limiting comments.

I think this is misguided (or if tackled in a way that doesn't interfere with current site navigation tropes, expensive.)

I once saw TOD referred to as an "online working group." One of the reasons you might think this is that we have topics picked out for us to chew on by Leanan, and we are free to add our own. The fact that the Drumbeat is a single forum means that my self-chosen topics get more attention than they would if someone had to look at my profile to see what I had last posted, or check a secondary navigation method (perhaps a list of that day's commenters.)

When I select a topic or article (which I should mention, is infrequent), it is incorporated into the current Drumbeat's timeline, where it is highly discoverable. I usually read to the end of the Drumbeat, as I suspect many readers do; we don't know when Ghung or Seraph may choose to post, or chose to reply to someone else's post, so we don't know where their posts will occur. This temporal element is one of the things that make the Drumbeat compelling. If you don't get there when it's fresh, no one will see your comments, and you may not be able to comment at all if you're days late. The single forum also promotes the back and forth that allows people to build credibility on the site. It engenders community.

It might be helpful to allow a way of tagging comments to the articles they refer to (perhaps when you post a reply, you were presented with a drop-down menu of the day's articles.) This would allow a secondary search procedure (perhaps each article's summary would have a link bringing up all the comments related to it.) Before I went to the trouble of programming this kind of functionality, though, I would go and examine a few Drumbeats. You will notice that not every story gets commented on. What catches our interest any given day is unpredictable, based on the news, who posts first, and who's on vacation. As for further tagging or other ways of adding searching and filtering metadata, my two concerns are that A) no one will do it, or B) people will tailor their comments to allow tagging to appeal to their perceived fan bases, as opposed to the free-for-all we have now.

Another thing to consider is what web analytics experts call "task completion". The Drumbeat requires only one thing for task completion: that you keep scrolling. Scrolling speed is determined by your scanning/reading speed. The user is her own editor. We can look for comments relating to stories we noted in the selected articles, we can look for favourite posters, we can look for stories posters have added. All at the same time. We don't have to click and interpret a new page for each of these queries- we just scroll and parse them for ourselves, while leaving ourselves open for new discoveries. There is intermittent reinforcement at work here- there is a treasure-hunt aspect to it. (And I just realized the Facebook-like element to all this.) In summary, things being not fun degrade task completion. Reading and parsing TOD is fun(at least for us regular posters; I remember Rockman once posting that he didn't know you could collapse threads, and that he generally scrolled the whole Drumbeat to see changes around his comments.) Any changes to the general format have to take into account that we like to use it the way it is.

In Science Fiction Fandom, someone who leaves the group is said to have "Gaffiated." The groups have tended to go on without the fallen members; however, the events I attended thirty years ago bear only cursory resemblance to the cons my son attends. I mention this because, in some ways, the alternatives that are being provided to us are like zoo cages. They are not our natural environment, and for the group to continue organically, we would need to feel that our contributions were being seen by like-minded souls, both old friends and new, and that the general purpose of the group had not changed. The Toronto Zoo has to tag the specimens in its Raccoon exhibit because wild raccoons are anxious to get in. The question should not be how can we fit the TOD community to your aims, but "Can we (and do we want to) make a site that appeals to this group, as it is currently composed?"

Finally, viewing comments outside of the day's Drumbeat decontextualizes them. We sometimes mention comments up and down the timeline; the opinions of other commenters are known to us, and are factored into our replies. I can understand why you would want to try and make the separate comments more easily discernible as individual bits of content; I just think that most of the content is degraded when presented outside the context of the Drumbeat.



There are points made in this post that you should note. Some of them, like the on-task bits are worth considering. Things that there are budding pHDs writing papers on.

I am a little confused though. Are those issues long in the past and the current approach to moderation has been fine, or something else?

I believe you've hit the concern right here:

we simply don't have the time or desire.

For many of the people still posting/reading the answer to 'is the moderation fine' would be 'yes'. But the answer really is yes*. With * being obviously a qualified yes as "beloved posters" have went off to other places before the announced shutdown.

Whomever decides to be the next TOD is going to have to figure out a way to handle moderation and deal with the security issues of a dynamic site with many attack surfaces. The tech aspects of security will be less of a problem than getting moderation correct.

Our goal is to achieve in fact and perception a place where people from diverse perspectives gather

The drumbeat allows for such, but how far long the 'energy and interaction with society' continuum does one go? Because the trail is beset with simple 'price spread is X' signposts to the things like "Mr. 5 percent" (Calouste Gulbenkian) and an alleged scheme to keep Iraqi oil in the ground, to even more "esoteric" topics - like the car data bus topic over in the current drumbeat (now an end to the tapdancing on the car "the placement of the engine defied expectations of a normal crash scenario. Police and reporters on the scene confirm there were NO skid marks," and some speculation like actual explosives. Theory about a conspiracy? A topic too far?) . Somehow one has to figure out what is too far afield or perhaps what should be directed to another place - like climate change over to, say, realclimate.

(A way for specialized social networks to cross-share experts would be an interesting outcome of the TOD shutdown, but that will be hard to accomplish and beyond the scope of most people's efforts)

Anyone looking for a UK perspective on peak oil and related issues might find the PowerSwitch forum interesting. It's been running for a similar eight years.