It’s a shame that the discussion has become so polarized. People on both sides do clearly feel quite strongly about this issue, but we should not let that get in the way of finding common agreement and compromise.
I think it is important to consider the distinction between accidental vs intentional timeouts.
Those in favor of the current rule have a valid argument in that accidental serial timeouts should not be too harshly punished. A string of accidental timeouts are probably often a mix of winning and losing positions, and marking them all as losses could distort the ranking system.
Those in opposition to the rule also have a valid argument in that intentional serial timeouts could be abused by cheaters to escape from losing positions. By selectively avoiding losses, these cheaters could also distort the ranking system. Further, the potential to abuse this rule might actually encourage more timeouts to happen.
I hope that a common point of agreement is that we do not wish to see serial timeouts (either accidental or intentional) distort the ranking system. However, the difficulty is that each case needs to be handled differently.
I think the heated argument over this issue has created an impression of a false dilemma: that the only thing we could do is change nothing or fully repeal the rule. Each would come at the cost of the other concern.
I think an ideal system would be one that annuls all accidental correspondence timeouts but does not annul any intentional timeouts. Of course, it is impossible to determine with absolute certainty in all cases whether a correspondence timeout was accidental or intentional. However, some situations are more clear. For example, if a player is still logging into the site (and maybe even playing moves in other games), but ignoring some correspondence games until they timeout, then I think those timeouts should be assumed to be intentional. Ultimately, I think an intentional timeout should be handled no differently than a resign.
Earlier in this thread, I mentioned a compromise proposal (first suggested even earlier in another thread by someone else) that may help distinguish between many cases of intentional and accidental timeouts:
- Clear the timeout flag as soon as someone logs back into the site.
This would prevent abusers from continuing to use the site and play other games while selectively timing out their losing positions. This change also would not affect the situation for accidental serial timeouts where the player has simply disappeared.
Another related change to reduce the risk of accidental serial timeouts is to automatically activate vacation time when a correspondence timeout is imminent.