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January 27, 2005

Virtual panel participation
Posted by Teresa at 05:25 PM *

Patrick and I were delighted to have Jay Allen invite us to be panel participants at this year’s South-by-Southwest conference, but there’s no way we can make it to the convention. Here’s a little bit of what I would have said on Liz Lawley’s panel on “Spammers, Trolls and Stalkers: The Pandora’s Box of Community.” The text I’m responding to is taken from Jay Allen’s letter.

“Spam, Trolls, Stalkers: The Pandora’s Box of community” The ease with which people from all over the world can come together and create a virtual community is one of the most powerful gifts of the internet. Sites which facilitate community—from Slashdot and Metafilter to the single-author blog with comments enabled—do so first by making communication easy. Unfortunately, this also opens the gates to undesirable parasites who, at best, don’t care about your creation or, at worst, want to destroy it.
Yup. All points touch within the internet, and getting online just gets easier and easier. It’s an inescapable truth that for some people, the most interesting way to participate in online discourse is to kick holes in the conversation. Others—many of them young, but some, alas, old enough to know better—have a sense of entitlement that leads them to believe that their having an opinion means the rest of us are obliged to listen to it. Still others plainly get off on verbally abusing others, and seek out conversations that will offer them opportunities to do so. And so on and so forth: the whole online bestiary.
Must all good things come to an end due to the network effect and the shadow of anonymity? In this panel, we’ll discuss all of the things that exposure and user-submitted content might bring and how to mitigate its effect on your site’s health and growth.
Some things I know about moderating conversations in virtual space:

1. There can be no ongoing discourse without some degree of moderation, if only to kill off the hardcore trolls. It takes rather more moderation than that to create a complex, nuanced, civil discourse. If you want that to happen, you have to give of yourself. Providing the space but not tending the conversation is like expecting that your front yard will automatically turn itself into a garden.

2. Once you have a well-established online conversation space, with enough regulars to explain the local mores to newcomers, they’ll do a lot of the policing themselves.

3. You own the space. You host the conversation. You don’t own the community. Respect their needs. For instance, if you’re going away for a while, don’t shut down your comment area. Give them an open thread to play with, so they’ll still be there when you get back.

4. Message persistence rewards people who write good comments.

5. Over-specific rules are an invitation to people who get off on gaming the system.

6. Civil speech and impassioned speech are not opposed and mutually exclusive sets. Being interesting trumps any amount of conventional politeness.

7. Things to cherish: Your regulars. A sense of community. Real expertise. Genuine engagement with the subject under discussion. Outstanding performances. Helping others. Cooperation in maintenance of a good conversation. Taking the time to teach newbies the ropes.

All these things should be rewarded with your attention and praise. And if you get a particularly good comment, consider adding it to the original post.

8. Grant more lenience to participants who are only part-time jerks, as long as they’re valuable the rest of the time.

9. If you judge that a post is offensive, upsetting, or just plain unpleasant, it’s important to get rid of it, or at least make it hard to read. Do it as quickly as possible. There’s no more useless advice than to tell people to just ignore such things. We can’t. We automatically read what falls under our eyes.

10. Another important rule: You can let one jeering, unpleasant jerk hang around for a while, but the minute you get two or more of them egging each other on, they both have to go, and all their recent messages with them. There are others like them prowling the net, looking for just that kind of situation. More of them will turn up, and they’ll encourage each other to behave more and more outrageously. Kill them quickly and have no regrets.

11. You can’t automate intelligence. In theory, systems like Slashdot’s ought to work better than they do. Maintaining a conversation is a task for human beings.

12. Disemvowelling works. Consider it.

13. If someone you’ve disemvowelled comes back and behaves, forgive and forget their earlier gaffes. You’re acting in the service of civility, not abstract justice.
Let me know ASAP as this panel is a bit last minute (for program printing) and I need to move quickly to find the right people.
How’s that for fast, Jay? The panel hasn’t even started yet.
Comments on Virtual panel participation:
#1 ::: Allen J Baum ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 05:56 PM:

I think that is fast. I think it will scare off other potential panellists....well, maybe not. They can try to argue.

Too bad you can't get to SxSW personally. It seems to be a way fun 'conference'

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 06:02 PM:

Wish I could, Allen. Is it a faux pas to call it a convention? Because it sounds just like ...

#3 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 06:55 PM:

Grant more lenience to participants who are only part-time jerks

Vielen dank, Teresa.

#4 ::: Philip F Ripper ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 07:19 PM:

Re: 7, I think praise is the most underused tool in online communities. At least, in those communities which have already surpased the learning-how-to-ban phase. The standard praise being a responce from the host. In larger communities this is impossible, but a surrogate works almost as well.

Why attempt being a member of a community, after all, unless you expect reaction. People who post instead of simply lurking want to participate, which is obvious. From those seeking earnest rapport or enlightenment, to trolls seeking pesky fun, all desire responce.

Online communities are the only things with which I am expert. Which reminds me, I think the cliche 'Jack of all trades, master of none' should be updated to 'Jack of all trades, master of only the internet'.

A Newish Reader,
Philip

#5 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 07:29 PM:

Wow. You make me realize that this is a job-- a rather demanding job-- you have voluntarily taken on.

Allow me to offer thanks to you for providing this forum (and to Patrick for providing his). I don't think I've properly expressed my appreciation for it.

7. Things to cherish: Your regulars. A sense of community. Real expertise. Genuine engagement with the subject under discussion. Outstanding performances. Helping others. Cooperation in maintenance of a good conversation. Taking the time to teach newbies the ropes.

I know I have provided some of these from time to time, but I am somewhat dissatisfied with my online persona. He drew praise in the early Nineties, but he's slacked off in recent years. Quick with a joke, sometimes quite funny, to be sure, but providing the expertise, help for newbies, etc., etc. far less often than he used to. In his younger days, back when you were still confined to GEnie, he cut quite a figure.

That missionary urgency to tell everyone what a great thing the Internet is, well, that's gone, too. No need for it these days.

Offline, I'm a bit less of a wiseacre and a bit more companionable.

(I hear AOL is discontinuing Usenet newsgroups. End of an era, I guess.)

#6 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 07:45 PM:

Bill: I've heard it as expressed as "after 4165 days, September is over."

(See here for explanation if required.)

#7 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 08:01 PM:

Paul writes:

Bill: I've heard it as expressed as "after 4165 days, September is over."

Worth a chuckle, but there's not much truth in it.

Computer networks were sort of useful when Compuserve had one, and AOL had one, and GEnie had one, and the university-government-technoculture had the Arpanet/Internet.

They became a whole lot more useful when they were connected together, and AOL users could send e-mail to the rest of us, and it stopped mattering so much whom you bought your dialup service from.

Yeah, AOL may have poured a lot of clueless users into Usenet, but it also speeded up easy access to cyberspace for a whole lot of people who got a whole lot of benefits from it. Many humans were potentially in touch with many more humans. On the whole, that was a good thing.

It bothers me that they're yanking easy Usenet access for jillions of customers. I suppose that if one were an "Endless September" sort of cynic, one would probably have given up on the value of Usenet a long time ago. I haven't.

#8 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 08:31 PM:

"8. Grant more lenience to participants who are only part-time jerks, as long as they’re valuable the rest of the time."

I think *blush* I've got to support that one in particular.

The underlying problem, still not solved to everyone's satisfaction, is: "to what extent is an online 'community' a genuine community?"

In a seminar I did on this (with 50 senior citizens who'd only met online until they arrived at a hotel in San Diego, and the result filmed), the test community told me: "there must be a shared adversity overcome by the community."

That makes sense to me. In thst context, Teresa's "Some things I know about moderating conversations in virtual space" makes sense in that it axiomatizes the universe in which the boundaries between the community and its adversity are fuzzy and change with time. Brilliant analysis, Teresa!

We have me the enemy, and they are hard to tell from us sometimes, and are us sometimes, and may even be guided into being us.

#9 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 08:35 PM:

4. Message persistence rewards people who write good comments.

Teresa, I'm afraid I can't unpack this.

#10 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 08:56 PM:

Kate: I would take it to mean that the longer a message is available to view, the more appropriate responses it will get -- positive comment and more good discussion for cogent and intellectually provocative posts, and . . . uh . . . bricks for bats.

Teresa may, of course, have had something entirely other in mind.

And maybe Lenny Bailes will correct me on this, but couldn't Jay Allen just run up to Brooklyn with the questions, get the responses from P&T, and dash back to deliver them?

#11 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 09:00 PM:

4. Message persistence rewards people who write good comments.

Teresa, I'm afraid I can't unpack this.

I'm no Teresa (I'm working on it, ok?) but I think she means that if you know your comments are part of Your Permanent Record, you're more apt to make them good ones.

If that's the correct interpretation, I'm not sure I agree, because it supposes a thoughtful person to begin with. Thoughtful people don't need incentives to make good comments because they do that already.

#12 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 09:02 PM:

I see Mike Ford has beat me to it, and with a more reasonable interpretation.

Oh well.

#13 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 09:05 PM:

Kate, I parsed that as:
If you keep postings up for a long time, people will be more thoughtful about what they right.

To which I'd add that attribution is all-important too - making people realise that their words will be connected with them is key to a sense of responsibility.

#14 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 09:12 PM:

Bill Higgins wrote:

It bothers me that they're yanking easy Usenet access for jillions of customers. I suppose that if one were an "Endless September" sort of cynic, one would probably have given up on the value of Usenet a long time ago. I haven't.

Much as I hate to say it, Usenet ain't what it used to be. I can understand why AOL would drop support for Usenet. It's an app that requires a substantial amount of care and tending, and is very hard to keep it from being covered in spam et al.

Andy Perrin commented:

If that's the correct interpretation, I'm not sure I agree, because it supposes a thoughtful person to begin with. Thoughtful people don't need incentives to make good comments because they do that already.

I'm reminded of a recent incident where a young man posted to a high distribution/recognition technical mailing list in a way that might be excusable from somebody with a long standing reputation in the field - but was very clearly his ego writing checks he couldn't cash. It's a shame - my first reaction (and that of many of my peers) was "No way I'd ever hire him"... and the 'wonderful' comments that prompted that reaction are now in easy retrieval of anybody with a search engine.

It's back to the unfortunate confusion of "easy to do" with "no lasting record" - but going down that path ends up with clear cutting and resource exhaustion, and any number of contentious opinions.

#15 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 09:16 PM:

I agree completely with most of your points, Teresa, but #1 doesn't get your list off to a good start. There are plenty of unmoderated Usenet newsgroups that have had ongoing discourse for years. You've even posted to some of the ones I read, though not by any means recently. It may be true that web-based forums require some sort of active moderation (as opposed to peer pressure). I can't speak to that. But official moderation is, clearly, not a requirement for ongoing discourse in some parts of the net.

I have some rather significant issues with #3 too, but they are philosophical problems relating to the value of "owned" spaces like blogs versus common spaces like newsgroups where everyone is equal. I suppose that isn't a disagreement so much as an expression of regret on my part relating to the general move towards "owned" spaces.

Still... a very good list which generally corresponds to my experiences online.

#16 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 09:25 PM:

I'm obviously behind the times -- what is "disemvowelling" ?

#17 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 09:42 PM:

Tony, that's Teresa's custom for dealing with the aggressively clueless, the drunks, and the uncivil. She removes the vowels from their comments.

#18 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 10:22 PM:

um, AOL AOL?

Lots of good points here--thanks Teresa; I really appreciate all the work you've put in here and am delighted to see you share some of your knowlege.

David, over the years Usenet went from being a kind of international office water cooler space to a giant public square in some poorly-governed city, with people covering every available surface with handbills and large numbers of people standing on soapboxes, some with megaphones. I was going to write more about this, but I am wryly amused to note that I said most of it on rassf, five years ago, almost to the day. So here's a "reprint", with a cite:

Fifteen years ago, I thought that Usenet would first have a problem with net abuse, and then face the possibility of co-optation. Back then, I tried to persuade other people to add enough formality to the operations of Usenet to forestall the possibility...and I couldn't persuade anyone. And now it has come to pass. I lost most of my anarchist and libertarian sympathies through the experience of this slow, painful change. It seems to me that an unwillingness to organize--to *govern*--has prevented the 'net community from responding in a meaningful way, and as a result I draw the conclusion that the pure-feedback systems so beloved of our systemic political thinkers are not capable of defending themselves against determined, intelligent assault.

The life of the Internet, it seems to me, is going back to mailing lists. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, of course, net abuse and co-optation. Then, too, it seems to me that Usenet, though it has survived the technical challenge of a vast scale-up, has not been growing in other ways. We could have ways to integrate graphics into our postings, we could better ways of helping people to deal with the vast amount of traffic, we could manage the spam better...but this has not been done, though I have some hope that W3 may eventually make a difference. [Instead blogs were developed.]

Finally, a perhaps hopeful thought. Part of why this is going badly is that this is an unprecedented situation; we have no social patterns that cope well with co-operation on the vast scale of the internet and we are in the process of developing them. I am hopeful we will develop liberating patterns in time. However, the past decade has not been kind to the old Usenet anarchist collective.--2000.01.28 midnight

A year-and-a-half later, I added:

Well, [Usenet] was built by and for a particular community which it has now far outgrown. It was much more governed in the early years; most abuses that have become common would, in the early times, have lead to discipline or outright banning of abusers. And, finally, there are not people willing to spend the time and effort to make substantive improvements to it and it would be very difficult to get the large ISPs to adopt such improvements. Which is a shame. --2001.07.15 1:11pm
I did have some thoughts on reviving Usenet, back when. I find the way the blogosphere has responded to these issues interesting.
  • Improved authentication & better control of abuse. As it is, a single crank can seriously impair the functionality of Usenet; a concerted, well-funded attack would no doubt shut it down, perhaps permanently. [Largely resolved in the blogosphere.]
  • Carrying both visually richer text (italics!) and modestly-sized graphics. [Richer text availabe in the blogosphere, graphics still require considerable effort.]
  • Integrated archival facilities; I appreciate Google groups, but it is, after all, a private service and could shut down tomorrow, or suddenly chose to censor the archives. [Told you! Problem is even worse in the blogosphere, however--as far as I know, long-term archiving is not systematically addressed.]
  • Experimentation with volume control, with the intention of developing areas in Usenet which are accessible to people willing to spend only modest amounts of time. [Largely resolved by blogs.]
  • Use of multi-cast distribution; so far as I know the basic protocols are still point-to-point, despite fairly extensive multi-cast internet service. [Problem is even worse with blogs.]
  • Client improvements that would make Usenet accessible to joe user, rather than just us expents. [Largely resolved by blogs.]
--2001.07.16 1:10am

This has gotten rather long. I do hope it forms a useful technical addition to the original comments on the moderation process.

#19 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 10:38 PM:

Bill Higgins writes, re: AOL and newsgroups:

"It bothers me that they're yanking easy Usenet access for jillions of customers."

Ha! Clearly you've never tried to use AOL's newsreader. It was awful ten years ago, when they built it -- and they never upgraded it. Hell, I used to work at AOL, and the first thing I did to my computer in the office was configure a threaded newsreader so I could get a newsgroup feed from another service provider (I didn't *advertise* that I had done this, of course).

AOL is pointing newsgroup readers to Google Groups, which makes good sense for AOL to do: Google Groups is accessible via AOL's browser, and the GG UI is vastly better than what AOL has/had (and I'm sure Google doesn't mind the influx of AOL users).

The only drawback for AOL members is now they won't be able to download stuff off the binary newsgroups, since GG doesn't carry those. But inasmuch as any binaries hound these days is likely to have a broadband connection, they can probably get a newsgroup feed from their broadband provider. In all, anyone on AOL who wants to access newsgroup won't have any problem doing it.

#20 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 10:43 PM:

Randolph, you are perhaps unsurprised to learn that I agree with most of what you say but feel that the "everyone is equal" hierarchy of Usenet (as opposed to the benevolent dictator model of most blogs) is worth preserving at almost any cost, even if it means that readers have to expend significantly more effort to find the good conversation. But that's a complete conversation in and of itself and this is likely not the thread^H^H^H post for it. Thank you for the thoughtful reply.

#22 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 11:02 PM:

Or, no. Foolish me, for doubting the wisdom of John Ford.

#23 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 11:20 PM:

Lenny, I promise I didn't have that drawn for precisely this purpose. I'd just crossed Jay and Barry under the influence of uncontrolled coffee products.

Which, in the polyclastichrometaverse of comics crossovers, seems a rather mild sort of whatever it is.

#24 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2005, 11:42 PM:

Randolph wrote:

Use of multi-cast distribution; so far as I know the basic protocols are still point-to-point, despite fairly extensive multi-cast internet service. [Problem is even worse with blogs.]

Without intending to disparage, I'd appreciate it if you'd elaborate on the definition of 'multi-cast' that you're using here...

#25 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 03:25 AM:

The problem with interactive blogging is that ACTIVE part for the moderator/owner. It's why I chose to make my own journal (at www.janeyolen.com) a one way system. If someone wants to comment, they email me and I exerpt and talk about what they have said.

Otherwise, as you excellent bloggers know full well, it can take up all your available oxygen. And writing time. And sleep.

Jane

#26 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 05:27 AM:

After spending some time in an online community, then leaving it, I've put a lot of thought into this issue. I can see Teresa has too, and I'm pleased that the things I have been thinking line up so well with her more expert opinion. I particularly like rule 3, though I know some others here don't.

3. You own the space. You host the conversation. You don’t own the community. Respect their needs...

The "gods" in my old community didn't grasp that distinction, and felt that, owning the space, they did own the community. Once, they even rewrote the code in the comment area to automatically change certain soppy words into swear words, then were surprised that community members reacted badly.

The rest of the community didn't think about how the structures they operated in gave the gods all the rights and controls. They thought they were citizens, but really they were subjects. And when the dictatorship was not universally benevolent (everyone has off days, or weeks, or months), the shock was all the greater because they didn't expect to be so controlled. They thought they had rights, when all they had were priveledges.

In many ways, blogs dodge that confusion by being out-and-out private space. But some of them create communities anyway, communities which will only thrive if they are allowed to have a life independent of the owner. The members of those communities should have no doubt that they are in the blog owner's world -- which is not the real world -- and that they are not citzens there. They often miss that nuance, particularly regarding the First Amendment.

But, conversely, the blog owner must step back from absolute dominion if the commenters are to form a community. Which is why I particularly appreciate rule 3.

#27 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 05:31 AM:

...and I thought I could spell. priviledges. That'll teach me to write in the company of small children.

#28 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 05:34 AM:

Message persistence is when your messages stay around and continue to be readable for a long time. One of the things I noticed about the Well and the GEnie SFRT, way back when, was that if you wanted to, you could read way back along the message thread. I noticed along with it that both tended to elicit spectacular solo performances and intense conversations.

I probably should have added that IMO, having messages displayed in a long string is vastly better than having to read each one separately; and it's likewise better to have to read everyone's contribution to the thread, rather than picking and choosing. Granted, it makes it harder to ignore seriously objectionable posters; but that's what moderation is for.

Claude, any chance you think you've ever qualified for that label? Because if you have, I sure can't remember it.

Philip, I don't understand that one either. If you're an honestly appreciative audience, people are much likelier to do wonderful things, and all you have to do is admit that they've amused or impressed or delighted you. I can't see the downside.

It's one of the secrets of being an editor, you know. Admitting to what you yourself like is a much more reliable guide to what others will like than trying to figure out what you and they ought to like. I once got to hear a longish rant from a Mythopoeic Society member and sometimes critic about how awful it was that many people who liked Tolkien's writing did so for the wrong reasons. I decided she was insane.

Bill, it is a job, but it's hardly a thankless or unrewarding one, and most parts of it come naturally to me. Patrick suffers from guilt when he has to suppress undesirable behavior in the comment threads, whereas it never occurs to me that my own imperfections have any relevance at such moments. Besides, I was born to praise God and creation. My last words will probably be "Oooh, look!" Why else have a weblog?

I'm startled to hear that you're dissatisfied with your online persona. There's only one of you. Do you remember when we were all getting spam with spoofed "from" lines lifted from the names in my comment threads? The one that really bugged me came with your name on it. It was just wrong. I was surprised at how indignant it made me.

The news about AOL and Usenet is distressing. I know Usenet's gotten spam-dense, but we ought not give up on it.

I've been hanging out on some boards where very few of the regulars have logged any Usenet time. They faint at the sight of virtual blood, and don't recognize any of the standard species of troll. Usenet was a superb place to learn all the common varieties of online misbehavior.

JVP, I refuse to discuss the question of whether online communities are real communities when we don't have a good definition of community. It certainly looks to me like the nets are full of communities.

(My hamster, a veritable Errol Flynn among cavies, has leaped up and grabbed his cage door with all four paws, and is shaking it like mad. Good thing I've got it fastened with a metal manuscript clip. He believes 11:00 is Hamster Fun Time, and he wants to be let out to have adventures in his hamster ball. ... And so he has. He's getting good at circumnavigating the dining table without hitting anything. The other night he did 720 degrees around it without any collisions.)

Mike, you unpacked it right. The trouble with Jay Allen's gathering is that it's halfway across the country, and it's priced for his industry, not mine.

Andy, I am desolate to find myself obliged to contradict you, but "Thoughtful people don't need incentives to make good comments because they do that already" is not a reliable principle. Thoughtful people have the capacity to make good comments, but they won't put nearly as much work into doing it if they don't trust the venue into which they're posting it.

Kevin's right about attribution. That's another observable effect. For instance, quite a few rude, self-important posters will fold up their tents and depart if you hit them with an infodump of all the information about them that's available online.

Xeger, I've repeatedly found myself pointing out to scam agents, bontoids, vanity publishers, and other sorts of baddies, that when they rush in and attack people who are discussing them, they're guaranteeing that they're going to be discussed in much greater detail, every bit of which will probably be search-accessible for the rest of their lives.

David Bilek, I've loved some spaces that grew up on their own, and reached the point where they developed an immune system, but I'm not sure it would be as easy for them to get going today. I suppose you could have a community take shape if their venue were obscure enough to not attract a lot of casual foot traffic. What I do know is that all of the weblogs I'm familiar with that have really good comment sections also have firm-handed moderation.

#29 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 06:01 AM:

I find it much easier to remain a regular on a Usenet newsgroup than to join one, since as a regular I know to utterly ignore certain posters or threads. Acquiring that knowledge and the habit of using it takes some effort in a new group.

Teresa's desire to have long contiguous comment threads would make that kind of ruthless selectivity very difficult, so her no-nonsense moderation is very much needed here.

That doesn't mean unmoderated forums are doomed, just that they require that regulars do their own filtering, whether using kill-files or score-files or just the Mk I eyeball.

#30 ::: Philip F Ripper ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 06:22 AM:

Teresa, you've done an excellent job with your personal community here. I've read months of posts and comments in the past few weeks. Not only is the atmosphere friendly, the level of expertise bouncing around is entertaining.

I think people withold praise mostly as a combination of self deception and fear. It's easier to accept the lack of praise you recieve if you convince yourself, by your actions, that such a lack is standard. Fear because praise is still a form of putting your opinion on the line where it can be judged for all posterity. This is pure late night supposition, of course.

The secret to editing seems like a valuable one. It reminded me of learning that, in terms of DNA, the difference between average members of two ethnicities is smaller than the greatest difference between two members of the same ethnicity.

I also agree with your comments-as-one-list thought. It promotes participation.

As for the survival of unmoderated communities, in my experience they will find some level of self moderation. The downside is that this filter is usually enforced by the trolls, whose unadulterated presence is a de facto ban on those too weary to bear them. This leads to the trolls losing their purpose and leaving themselves, only for the process to repeat itself. This keeps the community membership on soft ground.

I have less experience with out of the way internet hidey-holes, though.

#31 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 06:57 AM:

It looks as if Teresa's now being solicited to write another book. May I suggest The Oppressively Real Guide to Online Moderation as a title?

After all, why just write a book when you can create a brand.

#32 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 09:59 AM:

Randolph, I have a few questions (and one outright disagreement):

Carrying both visually richer text (italics!) and modestly-sized graphics. [Richer text availabe in the blogosphere, graphics still require considerable effort.]

No. No "visually richer" text, absolutely no graphics. HTML mail is still the spawn of the devil, and you want it to become part of Usenet? In the nicest possible way, are you insane?

Integrated archival facilities; I appreciate Google groups, but it is, after all, a private service and could shut down tomorrow, or suddenly chose to censor the archives.

Integrated with what, and how? It's all very well to say, but given the nature of Usenet I can't even imagine what kind of solution you're actually proposing.

[Told you! Problem is even worse in the blogosphere, however--as far as I know, long-term archiving is not systematically addressed.]

See the Wayback Machine.

Use of multi-cast distribution; so far as I know the basic protocols are still point-to-point, despite fairly extensive multi-cast internet service.

Explain.

Client improvements that would make Usenet accessible to joe user, rather than just us expents.

You can already get extremely friendly Usenet clients.

#33 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 10:12 AM:

I don't have much experience with virtual communities but yours is a joy, Teresa (right down to its "cast of characters"). When I tell other people to check out something in "Making Light", they thank me for the suggestion -- more shared delight. And that list of rules is spot-on.

#34 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 10:18 AM:

It seems somehow apropos to point to this blog entry about neologisms.

Multicast is an annoyingly overloaded term, which is why I'm hoping that Randolph can expand on which sense he was using.

#35 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 10:57 AM:

Andy, I am desolate to find myself obliged to contradict you, but "Thoughtful people don't need incentives to make good comments because they do that already" is not a reliable principle. Thoughtful people have the capacity to make good comments, but they won't put nearly as much work into doing it if they don't trust the venue into which they're posting it.

Oh don't be desolate, Teresa. The light would turn all purplish (like this prose) and all the chipmunks and petit squirrels would stare at me as I crash sobbing through the forest. I haven't participated in enough online communities[1] to argue the point. I know you've been on rasff and Genie and here and you probably used carrier pigeons at some point, so I cede.

[1] Just this one, in fact. *cough*

#36 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 11:39 AM:

I wish there was a way to just see new messages, other than remembering where I was last time, or what the date was last time, in long threads.

This is ignoring my technical problems, which are nothing but my technical problems.

I like Making Light. I like livejournal. But there's nothing like usenet for actual *conversation*.

#37 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 12:06 PM:

In 1971-72 when I was first using the ARPANET, before it became the DARPANET, then the ARPANET agan, and finally the Internet, the issue of community was explicit.

The net was designed for two explicit reasons:
(1) proof-of-concept of reliable redundant packet-switched communications that would be useful to the Pentagon if World War III reached the homeland;
(2) interconnection of scientists at major government research facilities and universitie4s, to exchange scientific data and ancillary information.

Hence there was a military community in mind, and the community of scientists.

Very quickly, however, non-military non-scientific information began to be exchanged. Jokes. Discussions of pop culture. Chess games.

I knew people who worked for Bolt Beranek & Newman (which helped created the Net) who were indignant. They insisted that this was not the use that they, or the government grantor, had intended. Gradually they came to realize that the Gods had created an environment in which other communities and modes of discourse flourished. And It Was Good.

There were viruses, but they lived on mainframes, for legitimate experimental purposes. Brunner described worms, and they found their way onto the net. Then spam was invented, by a law firm as I recall, and it's been Less Good.

Hence my praise for your axiomatization, Teresa, is partly based on my very long experience online (not denying that Benford and Pournelle were there earlier) and my perception that you have a deep combination of expertise on both the editorial side as such and the awareness of what communities are. You're right: there's no need to debate what makes a community. History has determined that, by a kind of online social Darwinism.

#38 ::: Captaintripps ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 12:37 PM:

I reposted these in our Moderator forum where I moderate. Most of us have been long-term moderators or administrators for these forums (c. 7 years for some).

A lot of the points really clicked with me, as one of my favourite forums on the site has downticked in quality of late. I was even forced to put up a pinned note on self-policing. I think a lot of this post above applies to our situation.

The moderator response, within the first few minutes has been appreciative. Especially the disemvowelling, which none of us had ever heard of before. We don't frequently get trolls, maybe twice a year (I suppose we're luckier than most), but I'll try it out the next time we find one. Our biggest problem is spambots.

I enjoy your thoughts and I'm definitely going to keep reading in the future.

#39 ::: sea bass ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 02:33 PM:

You can let one jeering, unpleasant jerk hang around for a while, but the minute you get two or more of them egging each other on, they both have to go, and all their recent messages with them. There are others like them prowling the net, looking for just that kind of situation. More of them will turn up, and they’ll encourage each other to behave more and more outrageously. Kill them quickly and have no regrets.

I would have to call this the most important rule for long-term survival. The failure to effectively quash the jerks is what's made Metafilter so painfully unreadable in the past couple of years. But any sufficiently large community, left unpoliced, will fall to trolls sooner or later. (The tipping point size is left as an exercise for the reader.)

#40 ::: Allen Baum ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 03:26 PM:

"The trouble with Jay Allen's gathering is that it's halfway across the country, and it's priced for his industry, not mine."

I take it that they don't comp panellists in his industry?

"Multicast is an annoyingly overloaded term, which is why I'm hoping that Randolph can expand on which sense he was using."

It's one that I use in my day-to-day job, as a fairly precise technical term, all the time. My definition is separate messages with identical content that are sent to multiple recipients.

This is in contrast to broadcast a single message sent to multiple recipients (or even an unknown number of recipients) or something that isn't quite in this class, a post, which is sent to a single "recipient", and which real recipients can "receive" by actively asking for it, or looking at it.

Spam is multicast. I can't think of any good examples of true broadcast on the internet, though there are some invisible optimizations that might qualify (e.g. if the recipient list includes multiple recipients on the same server, maybe the message is sent once to that server, and that sserver will multicast within its domain)

Sorry for being geeky here - I happen to be dealing with these issues a lot lately.

#41 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 03:40 PM:

A link to this site came across a mailing list I'm on, this morning. I just saw it, came here, and lost control laughing for a minute at the perfection of the universe's timing, once again.

While I'm at it, I want to thank Teresa for showing, not just telling (and telling, too) how to build and maintain a (mostly) polite, intelligent, and interesting community. For whatever definition you may want to use for "community"; I'm not about to get into that quagmire -- all I know is that I can tell you that in this case, I know it when I see it.

#42 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 03:43 PM:

Jo Walton said: I wish there was a way to just see new messages, other than remembering where I was last time, or what the date was last time, in long threads.

I have a fix for that. Use to the "[See last 400 comments]" page.

When you read the last message in a thread, click on the time stamp for that comment (the January 28, 2005, 11:39 AM: part) Then you can use the back button to go back to the list. The last message in the thread should now have changed color in the "Last 400 Comments" page.

Now, to find the next comment in the thread, just click on the next unread comment.

In my browser, read comments are brownish, unread comments are greenish.

The only problem I have with this system is that it doesn't work when I use multiple computers throughout a day or week. But that's a personal problem.

#43 ::: Craig Calef ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 04:58 PM:

I can't tell if you mean disemBoweling, or if you really meant removing vowels.

#44 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 05:06 PM:

Sh rll mnt rmvng vwls.

#45 ::: L.N. Hammer ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 05:32 PM:

I still miss the days when I moderated the Duelling Modems topic in the GEnie SFRT. Ridicule is a nicely effective damper for certain kinds of flamage and trollage, and so much fun to dispense.

---L.

#46 ::: Trent Goulding ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 05:54 PM:

I second Jo Walton's wish for a way to find only the "new" messages--I eventually stop following a post's comments for mostly this reason--and appreciate Michelle's suggested work-around, which I may start trying out.

I also second Jo in that, nice as a well-moderated forum such as this can be, I still think nothing can beat Usenet for pure conversation, as long as one has a decent reader and a half-way decent kill/score file.

#47 ::: Dean in Des Moines ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 05:55 PM:

Thanks for the great article! I'm new to the conversation and site, but this is enough to convince me to return, probably via RSS.

I've put much of this into practice in my offline life, but never thought about much of it in my modding. You can bet I'll start that just as soon as I can figure it out with Yahoo Groups (spits).

I love the discussion that has followed here. Everyone is polite, gramatically precise and meaningful--a reflection of both the participants and the moderators.

Oh! And internet broadcast... DNS. Couldn't leave without saying it.

#48 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 07:32 PM:

There's a Firefox extension called RPXP, designed specifically for Daily Kos, which allows you to color-code the names of posters you like and dislike, to make their messages stand out in crowded message threads. I think it tweaks the CSS on the fly after the page has rendered, or something of the sort. I wonder if it might be possible to create a similar extension for MT systems, which would allow you to track previously read messages and the like?

#49 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 08:47 PM:

Allen Baum wrote about multicast:
It's one that I use in my day-to-day job, as a fairly precise technical term, all the time. My definition is separate messages with identical content that are sent to multiple recipients.

Interesting. I also use the term 'multicast' in my day-to-day job as a quite precise technical term - but our terms don't quite match.

I'd say that multicast allows multiple people to 'subscribe' to hearing traffic from a given source, so information is sent once, and received by many.

By your definition, a mailing list would be considered to be multicast, as it sends separate messages with identical content to multiple recipients.

This is in contrast to broadcast a single message sent to multiple recipients (or even an unknown number of recipients) or something that isn't quite in this class, a post, which is sent to a single "recipient", and which real recipients can "receive" by actively asking for it, or looking at it.

Heh. Where I'd say:

Broadcast: Everybody in range hears whatever it is, whether they want to or not.

Spam is multicast. I can't think of any good examples of true broadcast on the internet, though there are some invisible optimizations that might qualify (e.g. if the recipient list includes multiple recipients on the same server, maybe the message is sent once to that server, and that server will multicast within its domain)

There's a great deal of true broadcast on the Internet, but not at the layer that I believe you're considering. In fact, I suspect that we're thinking at radically different layers. Spam really isn't multicast in any way that I'm accustomed to using that term.

Just to be complete, I should probably summarize:

Unicast: one to one
Broadcast: one to everybody
Multicast: one to anybody that asks to hear it*

[*which is actually non-trivial, to put it mildly]

#50 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 09:51 PM:

T (or anyone else, since she's said she'll have access problems): "bontoid"?

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one having problems with the last-comments page; somehow, for me all of the comment is posted as read unless I've ignored it for several days. Patrick posted something on this many months ago, but I've misplaced it.

I wonder how much the utility of Usenet for conversation depends one's patience and on the group. (i.e., I've been told only sub-subsets of the original groups have a signal-to-noise ratio high enough to be worthwhile.) I went cold-turkey on Usenet twice, the last time almost 20 years ago, because of the time it was taking vs what I was getting out of it -- although net.soc (?) and net.women (?) might have been past the usability threshold even then.

#51 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 11:18 PM:

I meant IP multicast, where the net delivers the same packet to multiple destinations. As Cisco writes it: "Internet Protocol (IP) multicast is a bandwidth-conserving technology that reduces traffic by simultaneously delivering a single stream of information to thousands of corporate recipients and homes. Applications that take advantage of multicast include videoconferencing, corporate communications, distance learning, and distribution of software, stock quotes, and news."

There's a HOWTO at http://www.tldp.org/HOWTO/Multicast-HOWTO.html and some stuff from Cisco (one of the technology's chief proponents) at http://www.cisco.com/univercd/cc/td/doc/cisintwk/ito_doc/ipmulti.htm

As it is, Usenet traffic is largely point-to-point, and each node in Usenet forwards multiple copies of messages repeatedly; this is wasteful and rather slow. Blogs make the problem worse by usually requiring all clients to rely on a single server, which can easily overload.

I hesitate to discuss Usenet further in this thread; I am much more interested in Teresa's original points. One idea I think interesting; her points may have some applicability to democratic governance.

#52 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2005, 03:02 AM:

TNH said of newer online communities:
"...few of the regulars have logged any Usenet time. They faint at the sight of virtual blood, and don't recognize any of the standard species of troll."

Oh god. That describes me, perfectly. I'm getting better about the bloodshed, but I persist in believing that trolls can be reasoned with, and ultimately converted to valuable community members.

I've absolutely no evidence to support that belief, as yet.

Randolph said:
"...her points may have some applicability to democratic governance."

Insofar as the idea of community translates from one space to another--fairly intact--I suspect you're right.

#53 ::: Bruce N H ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2005, 04:10 AM:

Hi,

I was pointed this way by a fellow admin and am enjoying the conversation. I'll come back often. A couple of thoughts/questions:

To me it seems that there are some inherent advantages to having a handful of moderators rather than just one. This increases the likelihood that someone will catch a troll right away rather than have it sit on the forums for several hours. Also, this gives the opportunity to elevate a regular into a moderator position, recognizing their contributions. Also if the forum is subdivided into more specific areas, the various mods can speciallize. Mods can also hold eachother accountable if someone gets too snippy (hey, it happens to all of us) or overmoderates or whatever.

Real names vs. nicknames? The accountability of a real name can help prevent flamefests, but there are times I wish that I hadn't used my real name all over Usenet in the past. Not that there's anything I'm really ashamed of, but I kind of wish that when people in my profession did a Google on my name, they'd hit my professional site rather than some theory about the plot developments on Babylon 5 that I posted 8 years ago. :)

It seems to me that the subject matter significantly impacts the need for moderation. I've been on some lists/groups/forums that were almost free of problems (I mean, c'mon, what troll is going to infest rec.food.cooking?), whereas other (especially political or religious) forums could become total jungles without moderation.

I'm much less familiar with the blog world, having spent most of my on-line time in newsgroups, mailing lists, and message boards, but it seems to me that the tone of the initial post will have a great impact on the tone of the responses. Or perhaps that is my inexperience with this corner of the web showing through.

Bruce

#54 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2005, 04:14 AM:

The discussions touched on some long time pet peeves of mine [not, that is not a soap box, it's a blithering tower of soap boxes.... [self-sarcasm] ]

1. I was annoyed for years that I who was actually -in- the military, had no Internet accessed, but that high school students and lots of other people who had nothing to do with either R&D in universities or the militeary, did...

2. The Internet was what later would come to be called a "rapid prototype" or proof of concept lab-type experiment that went -totally- out of control. Unix is another example...

3. The Internet was never designed to be a "produton" or "commercial" software system, and didn't include any real provisions for real world resistance to crackers, idiots, etc. or for commercially billing, commercial robustness and continuity of operations... the military comm systems designed for actual employment in adverse conditions, that I deal with, that were modern technology, had all sorts of encoding and encryption on them to for protection again spoofing, jamming, nuclear effects, packet loss, etc. and would happily keep working through a "disturbed environment" and jamming including self-jamming from too many people trying to yammer at the same time....,

The ARPAnet lacked such "production system" design-in, it was an experiment that got out of control and went commercial by turning into the amoeboid scunge of the telecommunications world. One day the general public began noticing it was there and decided to use it for reaching out and spewing messages like other people they'd heard of were doing.

There also wasn't a commercial interest or quasi-commercial or governmental or NGO overseeing the growth and employment and exploitation. There weren't safeguard put in for commercial reliability, or protocols with e.g. forward error correction which in true robust communications systems mean that a lost or damaged packet doesn't cause dropouts in streaming media delivery or holdups waiting for a file to download while TCP/IP tries requesting retranmissions, etc.

The Internet just -grew- and used protocols cira 1969 vintage that were never designed to deal with incompetent or malicious users and hundreds of millions of user and huge numbers of nodes. It's like building a city and suburbs without zoning laws and using Boston's roads for highways without rebuilding/widening anything or replacing cobblestones with concrete and tarmac. The Internet makes Boston's mythical cow look like the architecture of a city full of wide, straight, perfectly paved rectilinear high capacity roads....

==========

Having spewed out all that....

The limitations of the original experiments design--again, it was NOT built as a prototype for commercial messaging networks spread over the entire planet accessible to as many residents of the world as the funding and comm lines and access points could be made available to--determined the way that people looked at and employed the growing amoeboid scunge Internet. It didn't have privacy and encryption built into its protocols--those could be added by encryption on the content of messages, but the equipment at each node had to be able to deal with each packet coming through and direct it forward... there are things called "Virtual Private Networks" today which create a virtual connection which looks to both ends of the connection like a dedicate line, but isn't really a dedicated line, it just acts like one for the users....

The authentication and authorization issues also are things that are more complex and less dependable and harder to implement competently that they would be if the Internet had been designed as a prototype for a commercial system wherein customers want a high level of confidence of identity and security and privacy.

Since there are all those anonymous slime spammers and other malicemail promulgators and trolls, clueless wonders arrantly averse to collecting clues, deranged sorts, etc., around and with net access and no reasonable ways to play pin the tailtag on the donkey and have it -stay- there to filter the donkey out and block them from where they are yelling fire in crowded theaters or otherwise being disruptive and Excessively Annoying where in brick and mortary facilities they would be physically removed from the premises and banned from returning, there are major problems with spammers, horrendous signal ro noise ratios, ... to use SF convention terminology, the Internet is overrun with aan every-increasing infestation of parasites and ghosts and assorted other vermin related to them destroying the facilities and communities, that there aren't effective vermin suppression technologies and procedures for.

=========

Regarding troll persistence... there is an I-am-not-sure-what-one-should-call-the-person who has been in forums that I am in for more that a decade. The person got booted off the Amiga Fido Net Echo for excessively annoying behavior. To this day the person uses non-standard quoting techniques and response line notations, stating lines with a comma, and using entirely lower case and bad grammar and bad punctuation and spelling. Occasionally the person makes a comment that has non-negative value/some anity to it, as opposed to message after message of utterly dispensible trivial handful of words comments. The person constantly changed handles to return to forums after being booted. The claim the person made as to why he was on the Amiga Echo in the first place was because he heard of me and didn't believe that I were either a real person or female. SNORT

The person stuck around for YEARS on the Amiga Fido Net Echo and later on a mailing list evolving out of it and comp.sys.amiga or whatever the designation was trying to so hard to troll me into responding that I took great pleasure in never once writing a direct reponse to any message from the person. I would respond only if someone else responded and respond to the responder's post, never to a posting from the person who was so obnoxious that I categorically refused to in the forums acknowledge directly the person's existence -- yes, unbelievable as it might sound, me, hot reactor and not-the-most-equanimical person in the world, looked at the spew coming out of someone who had made it his personal goal to be flambeed by me in an on-line forum, and for more that a DECADE I uncategorically resisted the urge to directly acknowledge his existence, much less react in flame mode.... I forget what it was that finally led to me breaking my silence/non-response. I basically broke it long enough to say something of the ilk that I didn't consider him worth the effort of bothering to respond to generally, said whatever it that had incited me to break the silence and a few other things in a few other posts within a short period of time, and then returned to non-acknowledgement. He announced that he had only shown up in the forums to bait me, and that he had achieved his goal and would go away now. Of course, he still has NOT gone away... most people kill-filed him long long long ago. I almost never kill file people. It can be a struggle to not respond to some people, but there are several others I refuse to engage with in on-line conversation directly in front of other people, and usually also if they happen to send email. Except for the example above, I don't normally disengage without having first engaged and decided that there was negative merit in continuing to engage directly.

But, my experience is that a lot of trolls will not go away--the one discussed above stuck around more than decade, literally, trying to provoke a direct response out of me, and succeeding for just a very brief period of time acceding to respond directly after a decade of non-acknowledgement. He had been trying MUCH too hard, so hard that I decided I was NOT going to directly respond to anything posted by the noxious trolling twerp, and held to that for more than a decade. And after I did respond, despite all prior claims he was going to Go Away, he stuck around anyway.

#55 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2005, 04:41 AM:

multicast vs other...


The main multicast mode I remember working with at InfoLibria involved distribution of content over a satellite with specified recipients authorized to receive the content "pushed" to specific facilities.

Traditionally a broadcast is something that has wide area coverage for its communications "footprint" and is simplex -- remember simplex from an earlier thread somewhere else on Making Light? That is, simplex is a unidirectional communications signal output, like a TV signal from a broadcaster. There isn't a "back channel" involved from the receiving TVs back to the broadcaster.

Multicast does have a backchannel involved, to provide acknowledgements of receipt of packets (oh, TCP/IP and geo satellites do NOT like one another, the round trip communicatins time is something like a quarter of a second and there are issues with "latency" involved....) if nothing else...

Multicast can also involve something going out to masses of end users such as a "live" streaming event, that lots and lots and lots of people are watching as it happens on thir computer, or other scheduled presentation sent out -- as opposed to an end user {"client"] doing "on-demand" playback of a stored presentation. That's a unicast, the client has to request the content and the content is only being sent tot that particular client at that time with that start time for playing the presentation.

There are bandwidth/capacity considerations--a server can send out X number of 300 kilobit per second digitial video streams at the same time, where the capacity it limited by the carrying capacity of the communications link out of the server, that capacity of the switch for dealing with data -- there is a "pipe" from the switch out to the Internet "cloud" and a pipe capacity--a T-1 was something over a megabit. There's 10 megabit persond second and 100 megabit per second ethernet. There is gigabit ethernet that is 1,000,000,000 bits per second roughly. If a server has a gigabit ethernet cable out of it, and the switch handles a dozen servers, it need to have a data handling capacity for the communcations load those servers are going to put on it...

Multicasting there are tricks to play, ganging servers such that one server sends out say 300 streams, and each of those streams goes to anothr server that replicates the stream and send out 300 streams of what came into it... this cuts massively down on the demands for the first server and the distribution capacity of the system -- the closer the server is to the client, the less stress there is on the entire communications system to deliver data to end users.

An asymmetric connection allows someone say to download files at a megabit a second, but the uplink might be much lower capacity, for sending files in the other direction. That "DSL" is usually ADSL, with th A standing for "asymmetric.

#56 ::: nick sweeney ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2005, 04:42 AM:

A friend of mine wrote the Trollers' FAQ back in the days when it was a usenet phenomenon. Remembering usenet flamewars and trolling makes me appreciate why older keyboards such as the IBM PS/2 were built so solidly.

Rule-of-thumb 10 seems to me one of the most crucial. While a site can just about survive (or subsist) with a pet troll, its presence draws others, and once another joins in wholeheartedly, failure to act can acutely -- or terminally -- ruin participation.

#57 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2005, 04:45 AM:

Oh, bah, left something out of that.. some satellites have the ability to use directionality in their footprints, that is, variably pick areas to send signals out to. That gets into stuff like "beamforming" and I forget at the moment what the terms are, but the beams in effect are like having a flashligh that you can selectively light up differnent areas with instead of having the beam spreading out in cirular wavefront from the reflector in the flashlight.

#58 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2005, 04:49 AM:

A pet troll...

"Here we have our token trog, that sleeps under a bridge and gets fed meat and bites off haunches of unwary posters...."

#59 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2005, 04:50 AM:

One thing moderators have to be careful about, in regards to points 9 and 10 in TNH's list: offensive, jeering, and unpleasant are sometimes very hard for even good-hearted and intelligent people to differentiate from "disagrees strenuously with me on something I care deeply about". The temptation to remove posts that aren't vulgar or insulting but present a fundamentally opposed viewpoint can be very strong.

I've found that many moderators... not necessarily here... tend to step (in my opinion) over the line in that regard. But I've already established myself as rather anti-moderation, so maybe it is just me.

#60 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2005, 05:42 AM:
T (or anyone else, since she's said she'll have access problems): "bontoid"?

Unless I miss my guess, this is what she was talking about.

#61 ::: jbrandt ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2005, 01:11 PM:

Wish I'd had guidelines like this five or six years ago when gweepnet was falling apart. We acted best we thought we could, and failed to keep our local newsgroups alive. Now there are a few posts a week, where once it was dozens a day, and most of the regulars have migrated to other forums.

In many of your guidelines here, I can see a failure of my own.

#62 ::: JackM ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2005, 02:59 PM:

Besides, I was born to praise God and creation. My last words will probably be "Oooh, look!" Why else have a weblog?

That's lovely. Thanks!

#63 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2005, 04:58 PM:

Bruce N. H. wrote:
Real names vs. nicknames? The accountability of a real name can help prevent flamefests, but there are times I wish that I hadn't used my real name all over Usenet in the past. Not that there's anything I'm really ashamed of, but I kind of wish that when people in my profession did a Google on my name, they'd hit my professional site rather than some theory about the plot developments on Babylon 5 that I posted 8 years ago. :)

I'm very firmly of the opinion that real name is totally irrelevant. What -is- relevant is a firmly established identity[0] that the owner has a vested interest in protecting and promoting.

The technical community that I'm associated with has many members that haven't used "real names" in years - but who are respected and contributing members of the community - and an equal number of annoying twits that use their "real names".

No - it's not the use of "real" vs "nym" as much as how much the owner of said name or nym cares about their reputation (about which I will have much more to post in a week-or-two).

[0] Ugh. I almost feel like I'm wandering off into trademarks.

#64 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2005, 05:02 PM:

Randolph: I'm not convinced IP multicast would actually save bandwidth in the case of Usenet. Usenet is an odd mixture of hierarchy and spider's web. But we can drop this.

Paula: I don't think the net would be remotely the size it is now if everything was built with commercial interests in mind. For example, they'd mandate some form of control on the underlying protocols (like he copyright bit on S/PDIF). The best growths and new uses come from areas where people are free to play as they wish, which is exactly what TCP/IP provides.

UDP doesn't cause streams to drop out for retransmissions. Does mean you need better compensation in the applications on top, but that's the trade-off.

#65 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2005, 05:03 PM:

Forgot about real names and stuff; for the Babylon 5 plot developments, that's what X-No-Archive is for. ;-)

#66 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2005, 05:14 PM:

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I'm a big supporter of using real names, or at least pseudonyms easily matched to real names. Being able to link online identity to the real offline identity of a poster is key. Anonymity breeds obnoxious and even offensive behavior... people are much less likely to be complete assholes if their name and phone number is public knowledge.

#67 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2005, 08:09 PM:

David: for non-famous people, you can't match online names to offline names. I don't know if you're David Bilek or Russ Meyer. I know what the name field *says*, but that's all.

(I'm including people like [TP]NH, Cory Doctorow, Bruce Schneier etc. in the definition of famous for these purposes.)

#68 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2005, 08:54 PM:

I'm not sure about the `real names' thing. I don't think that there's often relevance in offline identities, nor that `real names' help.

I mean, how many people named `David Bilek' are there in the world? It's a fairly unusual name, but still it's hardly a unique identifier. Thus, on a global network, it's *exactly as useful as a pseudonym*.

What matters, I think, is that your online identifier (whatever it is) is used for long enough that it gets some sort of reputation (or that you consider it does).

I mean, this isn't *my* real name, although it's similar to it: it's a name a friend of mine invented for a cartoon character when I was half my present age. But I've been using it continuously for nearly twelve years, so I'm certainly not going to `take advantage of anonymity' to start screaming out spam about how Teresa is at the centre of the dog gift conspiracy or something stupid like that. Online, this *is* my name, in every way that matters.

I think the real problem is that short-term identifiers, with no reputation, can be used to cause damage... and the problem there is that for exactly the same reason that they're platforms for scum to cause damage, they're also crucial to avoiding entities like repressive governments, potential employers who Google their employees so they can punish them for things they do in their own time, and that sort of thing... (but most of the things you can do with short-term names you can also do with a long-term identifier that isn't tied to real-world identity.)

#69 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2005, 09:35 PM:

David, as someone who has an offline name that is as close to a pseud as someone might wish (my husband's name is John Smith - he can really speak to that issue), I don't think that using my offline name or renaming myself makes that big a difference in how obnoxious I become.

I can only speak for myself and my own experience, but I know I have many "pseud" online friends who express themselves with tact, intelligence, and consideration. I have also seen many who haven't expressed themselves with any of those admirable attributes who attached their offline names (at least as far as I could tell) to their noxious output.

For that matter, there are plenty of syndicated columnists, authors, etc. who pump out bile that is firmly attached to their name. It doesn't seem to hamper them any.

#70 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 12:00 AM:

RE: moderating conversations in virtual space

I don't know him personally, but what I've read about Linus Torvalds is that he is a master at this sort of thing.


#71 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 04:41 AM:

Am I right in thinking that I would have more recourse against someone pretending to be me if they were using my real name?

(That's not why I use my real name; in fact, it just occurred to me.)

#72 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 08:11 AM:

Greg: correct. It's not always (often?) recognised, but Linus's skills as a co-ordinator/moderator are, I would say, at least as important as his technical ones. His "vision", to use an often abused term.

On the opposite end of the spectrum you have Richard Stallman, who as someone said can polarise a room into two warring factions just by walking past. Yet they're equally as vital. We need people like RMS as kind of a bedrock.

I may have had a point, but I think it's run off and hid.

#73 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 03:00 PM:

Greg, Paul, et al.,

Neil Armstrong was the virtual moderator who mediated behind the scenes between the Presidential Commission on the Challenger disaster and Richard Feynman, resulting in the compromise position of a majority report and a separate Feynman appendix report (which connected to his on-air demonstration of O-ring material, clamp-pliers, and glass of icewater). This is as Feynman and Buzz Aldrin both reported to me. Apology for name-dropping; it was necessary to take this parallel to the Linus story beyond the urban myth horizon.

#74 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 07:43 PM:

JVP wrote:
Neil Armstrong was the virtual moderator who mediated behind the scenes between the Presidential Commission on the Challenger disaster and Richard Feynman

He wasn't so much a moderator between the commission members and Feynman, as between the commission members as a group. Several of the individuals on the commission were not known for playing well with others.

#75 ::: Desert Orchid ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 03:36 PM:

10. Another important rule: You can let one jeering, unpleasant jerk hang around for a while, but the minute you get two or more of them egging each other on, they both have to go, and all their recent messages with them. There are others like them prowling the net, looking for just that kind of situation. More of them will turn up, and they’ll encourage each other to behave more and more outrageously. Kill them quickly and have no regrets.

I know one message board that used to be a pleasant place to post, till the teenagers came in and started cussing up a storm, then the 20-somethings started discussing stuff like unexpected pregnancies and the [graphically discussed] consequences, and it was open season for anyone to say anything. Then came the flamming of anyone who spoke out against the trolls ...
It's completely out of control now and the Mods either don't care ("it's a free country"), or just don't know how to deal with the situation. Several people have been harassed off the board because of the nastiness that's there now ...

#76 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 03:58 PM:

Regarding using real names, I agree with Bruce NH's comment upthread. I have an almost unique last name, and would prefer that people find my website if they search for my last name, rather posts I've made elsewhere.

But I use a real e-mail address, and provide a link to my website, so I'm not hiding by not using my last name, I just want any possible distant relatives searching for the name to find me. (As has happened already.)

#77 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 08:07 AM:

Slightly off topic to Paul, on the subject of fame (but I guess it does connect to the concept of reputation management, which is an undercurrent in the "persistence of posts" thread!) --

A few years ago I came up with a definition of fame that I like.

Fame is when more people know you than you know.

This allows for both local (TNH here) and global (Sherlock Holmes as the absurd case; GWBush as a reality-based case) forms of fame. It allows me to recognize that I'm famous in SF fandom (and more extremely so in the OTO), but completely obscure in almost all other places. I find it a useful personal model.

#78 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 10:00 AM:

Paul and Tom Whitmore:

Tom raises the fascinating issue of anonymous fame and famous anonymity. Since most people don't know Tom's definition of fame, they assume that one is either famous or not, period. Hence the phenomenon that anyone who wins a Nobel Prize is presumed to be an expert in absolutely everything, and other anomalies. One can be famous and reject celebrity, as with J. D. Salinger, which The Press plays as "reclusive." One can be well-known to a set of famous people, but almost unknown outside that group. That leads to evaluating "Fame is when more people know you than you know" by assigning a 1st-order fame to each person equal to how many people know that person, and a second-order fame based on the sum of the the fames of the people who know you, etcetera...

On another subthread, when one's "handle" or pseudonym becomes more famous than one's real name, one can legally change one's name to the handle/pseudonym. Examples abound, but I've taken too much space already.

#79 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 01:42 PM:

Tom Whitmore: Fame is when more people know you than you know.

By that standard, then I'm famous too.

Recently, some blogs discussed the concept of micro-celebrity, people who have a very very small following: local bands, poets, guys who edit Internet comic strips. The Internet has been a fertile breeding ground for micro-celebrities. I venture everyone reading this message has heard of Cory Doctorow, and knows a little something about him—at least as much as they know about, say, Paris Hilton—and yet I expect he is unknown outside the cyberculture/sf communities.

Me, I'm a pico-celebrity. I'm largely a private person, with a relatively small circle of friends and family compared with the average American. And yet I know that, regularly, people I don't know are holding meetings to discuss me and how to influence my opinions.

That last sentence sounds marvelously paranoid, doesn't it? The truth behind it is perfectly mundane, and not as interesting as what you think I think. So I'll just let the sentence stand.

#80 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 02:34 PM:

I have an extremely large following, and apparently a great deal of influence, in the international finance community. Of course, the community is all in Lagos.

Or was that what you meant?

#81 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 03:19 PM:

Tom Whitmore: what is OTO?

(I have one guess, but it's kind of a silly one.)

#82 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 04:55 PM:

John M. Ford: I have an extremely large following, and apparently a great deal of influence, in the international finance community. Of course, the community is all in Lagos.

Or was that what you meant?

Nope, not what I meant at all. I meant it literally: people I don't know sit around in meetings and attempt to figure out how to influence my thoughts. You might even say they're trying to do mind-control on me. And my wearing a tinfoil hat won't help.

I'm quite willing to explain if anyone is interested in this riddle. Like I said earlier: (1) I'm not saying this because I'm crazy, I'm saying it because it's true, (2) the reason is very mundane and (3) the reason is a lot less interesting than what you probably think it is.

Although my pico-celebritiness is so very minuscule that I wouldn't be at all surprised if nobody's interested in the answer.

Probably a good half of the people who participate in this blog are micro-celebrities or pico-celebrities, with one or two actual minor celebrities thrown into the mix. (I use the word "minor" only to describe their degree of celebritiness, not their intelligence, talent, or value as human beings.)

#83 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 11:16 PM:
Tom Whitmore: what is OTO?

Ordo Templi Orientis, Aleister Crowley's organization.

I blogged about this just last Tuesday, with numerous links, including Tom's original recounting of the events.

I just want to say, by the way, that I just wish Antiques Roadshow had been around at the time; I can just imagine the on-camera reaction of the appropriate expert.

#84 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2005, 12:20 AM:

I can just imagine the on-camera reaction of the appropriate expert.

I'm worried by the idea of the "appropriate expert." Never mind his incantation. Reaction.

#85 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2005, 01:11 AM:

Okay, Mitch, I'll bite. You are a judge and/or quality inspector of some kind?

#86 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2005, 01:48 AM:

Fame is when more people know you than you know.

That's WAY easy,

1. Just have a bad people memory. They remember you, you don't remember them.

2. Go to school/be in a business where your gender or skin color or hair color or height or style of dressing puts you in the minority. Doesn't matter what you do or don't do, you get noticed/attenton for being Different.

#87 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2005, 03:05 AM:

Well, Mitch at least used to be an IT industry journalist, if my memory serves me correctly. Perhaps he is talking about PR flacks who are trying to get positive ocverage for their products.

#88 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2005, 08:27 AM:

Yeah, it would have been great to have a video camera there catching the various reactions. Too bad I can't download the visual memories!

Paula, I consider the latter a genuine form of fame. But that's just my metric -- an easy one for individuals to use. The thing is -- fame (or microcelebrity, a nice term) IS way easy. You have more of it than I think you know.

And thank you Ray for mentioning that here -- this is the only blog I look at with anything more than cursory attention, and I'd have missed knowing about it.

#89 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2005, 10:14 AM:

Ray Radlein let me know that Tom was referring to Ordo Templi Orientis - thanks!

That's what I thought, but not knowing much about the modern organization, I assumed people don't (necessarily) use real names there.

So, is "Tom Whitmore" famous in the OTO or not?

#90 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2005, 10:23 AM:

Re: fame...

The late Sir Fred Hoyle used to say: "If to be to totally known and totally loved is 100, and to be totally unknown and totally unloved is 0, then I figure to be totally known and totally unloved is worth at least 50."

He had one of his fictional characters say that, and then admitted in an interview that it was autobiographical.

Note that my formula for 1st-order fame, 2nd-order-fame, etc., definitely converges. This is related to the ranking of sports before the season is even done: each team is given, as first-order, the number of games it's won. Then each team is given, 2nd-order, the normalized sum of the first-order rankings of the teams it's beaten. Lather, rinse, repeat. This converges to the eigenvalues of the won-lost matrix, whoops, there I go again with Math... But Go, Patriots!

#91 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2005, 11:35 AM:

whoops, there I go again with Math... But Go, Patriots!

Come Super Bowl Sunday, I'll most likely have my nose in a book. I stopped following the NFL actively around 1995--- few teams are fun to watch anymore. ( And don't get me started on stadium renovations, and what they did to Soldier Field )...

#92 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2005, 11:59 AM:

Ray Radlein: Well, Mitch at least used to be an IT industry journalist, if my memory serves me correctly. Perhaps he is talking about PR flacks who are trying to get positive ocverage for their products.

Used to be, and still is. And Ray is pretty much right. It's not just products, it's companies in general. They sit around in meetings and discuss me (along with a couple of dozen other IT press). There's big fat directories that sell for a lot of money containing profiles of me. The profiles are mostly inaccurate.

#93 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2005, 12:25 PM:

Mitch Wagner, Ray Radlein, et al.

A number of years ago, I saw repeated reference to the notion that an average American has (due to redundancy, lack of fact checking, errors, and Kafkaesque snoopology) somewhere in the neighborhood of a Terabyte (Million Megabytes) of data about him/her in databases, mostly of corporations, fewer (but deeper) in The Gummint.

Sweden has an enlightened law that there be NO secret databases on citizens. If you've got someone in their database, you MUST inform that person with an opt-out free offer to correct any and all data. Need I say that the USA is accelerating away from that position at nearly the speed of light? Which inspires me:

The Speed of Darkness
which travels faster than Light --
arrives first, alright?

#94 ::: dzd ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 02:15 AM:

Conspiracy theorizing gets you nowhere. Do you understand how much data a terabyte is? The entirety of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is about eight megabytes. But hey, it's always a good time to make up bullshit about America.

#95 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 03:55 AM:

Do you understand how much data a terabyte is? With a bit more effort, I could own a terrabyte of data about Mia Hamm. As it is, I probably only own a hundred gigabytes or so of data about her. I suppose I should have tried a little harder. But hey, it's always a good time to fly in and insult people at the drop of a hat.

#96 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 05:52 AM:

JvP: are you sure you mean terabyte (1024*1024 megabytes), and not gigabyte (1024 megabytes)?

#97 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 08:05 AM:

JVP: Need I say that the USA is accelerating away from that position at nearly the speed of light?

For anyone else, I'd probably let this slide, but speed and acceleration are different quantities. "Accelerating at the speed of X" is gibberish.

Several Nobel Prize winners have told me this.

#98 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 09:03 AM:

Perhaps the Feds have an average of eight hours of uncompressed HDTV surveillance footage on an American?

#99 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 09:11 AM:

Remember: "This call may be recorded for quality control purposes."

(Just exactly whose qualities are they controlling?)

#100 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 09:44 AM:

For what it's worth, I would guess that a terabyte is, indeed, a bit excessive; I just don't think that it's so self-evidently absurd as to warrant drive-by derision.

#101 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 10:50 AM:

In an article on Wal-Mart's massive data collection, The New York Times notes that Wal-Mart has 3,600 stores, 100 million customers weekly and 460 terabytes of customer data stored on the company mainframes.
Wal-Mart's data store is 460 TB

Any store (Sears, Target, supermarket...) where you have a store credit card or customer discount card tracks every purchase that you ever make, and studies at least statistical results on what people of what age and sex buy what items at what time of year. In principle, there's nothing to stop your health insurance carrier to raise your rates because you eat too much cheese or buy too many cigarettes. Walmart has tested the ability to automatically generate and send "personal" letters saying "last Christmas you boght this book, this music CD, and this perfume. Based on our understanding of your tastes, this Christmas you might like this new book, this new music CD, and this new perfume. If you call this 800 number, they will be waiting for you at your nearest store..."

30 million cars contain black boxes [op cit]

52 federal agencies routinely mine personal data
[op cit]

9-10 billion bills paid via paper checks in 2003 [op cit]

IT contributed $872 billion to US GDP in 2003 [op cit]

Berkeley: 5 exabytes of info in 2002 [op cit]

But of course, you're right about the Speed of Light. I mean that the USA is accelerating away from privacy at somewhere between 0.01 and 0.1 G and is fairly close to the speed of light. Several pink-slipped writers at Star Trek: Enterprise told me so. Activate Photon Torpedoes -- Attorney General Gonzales sighted!

#102 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 03:48 PM:

JvP: your cite gets me a 404 haiku (and using the offered engine on "wal-mart data store" got me only the ugly story about the bullied 12-year-old who hanged himself), but the numbers as you quote them don't add up unless "Berkeley" refers to only a fraction of the total; 5 exabytes over ca. 300 million in the U.S. is a mere 1/60 terabyte per person.

For that matter, can anybody who hasn't licensed Google's software actually \use/ 460 terabytes? I wonder whether Wal-Mart was persuaded to drop something like a megabuck down a rathole.

#103 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 07:55 PM:

CHip: Try the Taipei Times. They were kind enough to archive the syndicated NYT article.

"We didn't know in the past that strawberry Pop-Tarts increase in sales, like seven times their normal sales rate, ahead of a hurricane," Dillman said in a recent interview. "And the pre-hurricane top-selling item was beer."

Thanks to those insights, trucks filled with toaster pastries and six-packs were soon speeding down Interstate 95 toward Wal-Marts in the path of Frances. Most of the products that were stocked for the storm sold quickly, the company said.
[...]

With 3,600 stores in the US and roughly 100 million customers walking through the doors each week, Wal-Mart has access to information about a broad slice of America -- from individual Social Security and driver's license numbers to geographic proclivities for Mallomars, or lipsticks or jugs of antifreeze. The data are gathered item by item at the checkout aisle, then recorded, mapped and updated by store, by state, by region.

By its own count, Wal-Mart has 460 terabytes of data stored on Teradata mainframes, made by NCR, at its Bentonville headquarters. To put that in perspective, the Internet has less than half as much data, according to experts.

#104 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 09:08 PM:

CHip:

You're right, twice. (1) I actually cut & pasted from a Google cache of the site in question.
(2) 1/60 terabyte per person sounds about right.

Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey:

Thanks for digging deeper. So I stand (in this instance) innocent of urban mythology/conspiracy theory, and plead guilt to the lesser charge of exaggeration. Which suggests that I run for office again, and maybe use Fuzzy Math to prove Social Security's bankruptcy and then again to miraculously cure it without putting any new money in. Or something.

Of course, once all those proliferating public video cameras feed into web archives, we may get up to a terabyte per American pretty fast. Enough microphones would do it, too. Excuse me while I put my aluminum foil hat on -- not to block telepathy beams, but to glare into the optics of spy satellites...

Now how can I post some comments on Walmart's NCR system, maybe some haiku, or equations, or name-dropping?

#105 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 10:38 PM:

JVP wrote:
Excuse me while I put my aluminum foil hat on -- not to block telepathy beams, but to glare into the optics of spy satellites...

Pointspread functions aside, that's going to take a lot more tinfoil than you probably have access to, if you're seriously aiming to throw a glare into any optics system that would interfere with imaging.

Heck, even my thrift-store telescope/webcam combination would do a decent job of combating any glare directed into the business end of the optics, given appropriate signal processing on the back end.

#106 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 10:40 PM:

Ding-ding-ding! [bell ringing noise--or telephone, Alexander Graham c/r/a/c/k/e/r/s or X dB of isolation, or....]

Congratulations, Jonathon!

You just caused me to think of the term "probability density" for the first time in years, since probably before the start of this decade! And, the inspiration for the re-elicitation of the term/construction out of my neural net's storage division, was, "I wonder what the probability density look like regarding Jonathan getting bounced from by TNH year is?, inspired by "Now how can I post some comments on Walmart's NCR system, maybe some haiku, or equations, or name-dropping?"

#107 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2005, 01:53 AM:

Paula Lieberman:

I'm glad to provoke remembrance of math past, but not by the worst-case scenario you suggest. I was trying, in humorous terms, to show self-awareness, lessons-learned and irony. If it came out otherwise, it is some combination of poor communication on my part and the same emotion-obtuse aspect of email that provoked emoticons.

As to lessons-learned, I try to stay on-topic, and respond to requests for information. I try to avoid things that are important to me, but may be less so to others. Numb3ers, for instance (3rd episode airing as I type this), had good ratings, hit-level good. But I did not post them. Teresa could have, if she cared, as they were in the New York Times, but she didn't, so I erred on the side of caution. For that matter, I've applied to two different colleges this week for tenure-track Math faculty positions, but haven't been going into details. Right for my blog, wrong here.

Bill Blum:

Actually, my wife and I started saying about 15 years ago, at science fiction conventions, that when spy satellite resolution is better/cheaper and more widely used to watch and track many people at once, that some folks will wear mirrors at their waists and wear makeup, the better to look nice from overhead optics. Others will try to be harder to track, by use of underground connections and evasive maneuvers. Boy, does that sound paranoid!

#108 ::: Chloe ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2005, 03:43 AM:

Almost everything written in this post was stuff that I already had known, someone had told me, or I had figured out on my own.
But this was something new:

"Over-specific rules are an invitation to people who get off on gaming the system."

That never before occurred to me. But it is so true.
Though I think it's more often that people like to find loopholes to defend themselves and justify their behaviour, after they've made an obvious faux pas.

Re: #10: "You can let one jeering, unpleasant jerk hang around for a while, but the minute you get two or more of them egging each other on..."

In my experience, if there's even one "unpleasant jerk"... That one unpleasant jerk can actually turn other people, who are ordinarily polite, civil, people, into unpleasant jerks themselves, without them even realizing what's happening.

In other words, I think,yes, there are some people who are just jerks (or "trolls" or whatever you want to call them)... But I think most people who "misbehave" in conversations on-line, are simply reacting or adapting to a situation in which they find themselves.
It is so easy to forget the wisdom of "It takes an idiot to start a fight, and a fool to carry one on", given the right (or wrong) topic or set of circumstances. We are human, and we have flaws. It's not always easy to invariably walk away from verbal abuse, as often verbal abuse isn't so obvious, and often masquerades as communication.

Thus the importance of #8: "Grant more lenience to participants who are only part-time jerks..."

Because almost anyone is a potential "part-time jerk".

And furthermore, this is related to... I don't believe that all "trolls" do what they do to deliberately get off by spoiling things for others. I think a lot of those people don't even realize what they're doing. It's mostly unconscious on their part... perhaps because in their general life, their behaviour wouldn't be considered "abnormal"... Almost like a cultural thing.

For example, recently a few people told me that what I would consider, and what psychological experts consider "verbal abuse" is actually the norm, and accepted by superiors, on many construction jobs - whereas if the same behaviour and verbal attacks took place in most corporate offices, the participants would be out of their jobs.

I do not for a moment consider this an excuse though!!! After all, when in Rome...

I'm just trying to say that I think a lot of those people aren't trying to be jerks... They just don't understand why 'Rome' has different customs. And as is typical of humans - they think their way is "the right way", because it's what they know.

For example, it would be just as foolish for someone to go to a conversation forum of any type, where "verbal abuse" and that sort of thing is acceptable, and then complain about it on their turf.
But just as many people do that, you better believe it.

#109 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2005, 02:51 PM:

Chloe wrote,

"Over-specific rules are an invitation to people who get off on gaming the system."

That never before occurred to me. But it is so true.
Though I think it's more often that people like to find loopholes to defend themselves and justify their behaviour, after they've made an obvious faux pas.

Try attending a Worldcon Business Meeting, where some parliamenty procedures occur simply because it's possible to do them. There is "Robert's Rules of Order" fandom....

#110 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2005, 05:10 PM:

Paula Lieberman wrote:
There is "Robert's Rules of Order" fandom....

bill@home% more beverage | /dev/nose >> /dev/keyboard

#111 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2005, 06:49 PM:

Chloe: In other words, I think,yes, there are some people who are just jerks (or "trolls" or whatever you want to call them)... But I think most people who "misbehave" in conversations on-line, are simply reacting or adapting to a situation in which they find themselves.

I think most people who misbehave in online conversations have the following motivations:

1) "Everybody thinks these things, I'm just the only one courageous enough to say them." This is also often a defense of radio shock jocks and shock comedians. My response: Yes, I do occasionally have those thoughts, but I suppress them. Not because they are cowardly, but because they are indecent.

2) "Let's you and him fight." They enjoy stirring up trouble.

And let's not forget the most simple explanation of all:

3) Anger. Their posts are angry because they're angry.

I've been that guy now and then.

The troll's mirror image is Miss Nice, who can't abide hostility. She's proud to accept "constructive" criticism, but is aghast at "destructive" criticism. She also believes that it's wrong to criticize unless you have a better idea. My response: Your suggestion that we should light a match so we can look in the gas tank and see how much gas we have left is a really, really bad idea. No, I don't have a better idea. I'm sorry if that makes my criticism "destructive."

Over on Whatever, Scalzi recently did another one of his rants against the Confederacy. The first response came from a woman who said that he should find a way to respond to white supremacists without being hateful. My response: Why avoid being hateful when you hate white supremacists?

#112 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2005, 06:55 PM:

Lots of replies condensed into one...

Alex: someone here has told me this means you're legally allowed to record the call as well, after that statement. I can't comment on the accuracy of that.

Ray: can't speak for anyone else, but I wasn't being derisive, just checking. Easy to get them mixed up. :)

CHip: I think that to duplicate Google's capabilities would cost *significantly* more than a megabuck... (Incidentally, why CHip rather than Chip?)

I'm not convinced that the Internet has half as much data as Walmart, though. It might be true that there's half as much *indexed* data, but even then I'd question it. Not from any scientific basis, though, just gut feeling. They hav been known to be wrong. ;-)

JVP: use the Lovecraft approach, and change the names to X or ____. :-)

Regarding the overheard satellites - a "small" megawatt laser would do the trick. If (big if) you know precisely where to aim it.

Bill: in a news network I'm on, that's known as C|N>K for shorthand. Or possibly C>N|K, actually. I think I blame the beer.

#113 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2005, 10:05 PM:
Ray: can't speak for anyone else, but I wasn't being derisive, just checking. Easy to get them mixed up. :)

Oh, goodness. I wasn't talking about you there; I should have made that more clear. Sorry. I was referring to the original poster, who came out of nowhere to observe that entire Roman Empires were documented in a mere 8 megabytes, &c.

#114 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 12:00 AM:

Mitch said,
Why avoid being hateful when you hate white supremacists?

Different cultural background is involved there, I think. Someone raised with a Christian upbringing focusing on being polite and respectful to everyone the inculcation is to not -hate- anyone and to "love the sinner, hate the sin." Jewish backgrounds where the foci included "survival under adverse circumstances" [consider Kol Nidre...] and "We will never forgive, we will never forget" [get that gregger out and heckler's veto the hated name "Haman", that's what, 2500 or so years of kids making an approved of racket frequently and loudly and with the rest of the community egging them on?] being gracious and polite to the reviled isn't necessarily a part of the culture.

#115 ::: Gigi Rose ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 01:23 AM:

(AKA Gypsy1969, AKA Geneva) ….It’s a Small World After All….

I too would like to thank you for the time you take with this community. My pleasure in reading ML is evident by the fact that I keep coming back for more and that I get excited, LOL, and learn a lot when I read it. Your links on the sidebar are lots of fun too!

I started reading the blog of Ron Collins about 5 years ago because I attended a SF con where he spoke on an Internet writing panel. (Besides that Ron was on the chess team with my little brother in high school.) Eventually I fell out of the habit as I got involved with other things. Then suddenly it seemed that many of my friends and relatives were writing blogs on Live Journal so I joined the site. (Hi, Beam Jockey!) Through links from there I started reading Will Shetterly’s blog as well as your wonderful site. The knitting and the presence of friends were definite hooks. I’m amazed at the quantity of material that is out there, but I think these two sites are most valuable for me as they cater to my geeky interests. While I doubt that I’ll ever be published in anything other than a fanzine, I do enjoy writing once in a while. The candor and helpfulness shown here is very refreshing.

And BTW Jonathan, if ”Any store (Sears, Target, supermarket...) where you have a store credit card or customer discount card tracks every purchase that you ever make” then why can’t Kroger figure out after 3 years of vegetarian shopping not to send meat coupons to my family?

#116 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 01:40 AM:

Gigi Rose:

"They could if they wanted to" is not a fully satisfactory answer. Where I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, there were hams and turkeys distributed on certain holidays by two organizations: the local chapter of the Democratic Party and Joey Gallo's "Family." They tried not to give the hams to the Jewish constituencies, and did quite well, thank you, a few decades before computer databases were commercialized.

As I estimate, Classical Greek culture is somewhere between 1 and 10 Gigabytes of text, and far more than that in 2-D images and 3-D sculptures. Egyptians had similar-sized databases of tax records and real estate boundary data, and the like, plus that Li'l ol' Library of Alexandria, which was multiple Gigabytes -- many. Timbuctoo had a library on the samer scale, and China had the Imperial Encyclopedia of 10,000 volumes -- how does that compare to Wikipedia?

Paul:

"JVP: use the Lovecraft approach, and change the names to X." The eerie eldrich halls of X___, named after a bizarre genus of local fruit not exactly from the Garden of Eden, had classrooms with PC's built into desks, screens under ichor-transparent desktops, running Mathematica 4.1 while the teacher (who blows Jazz saxophone off hours) had the same for her digital projector. The uncanny 9th floor of the Administration HQ of North Y__ County Community College District told applicants with sealed Letters of Recommendation to go down to the 2nd floor and use the hideously color-out-of-space photocopier, then hand in the blurry copies, behind the scrim of which grey smears lurked hints of multidimensional maps of regions beyond Erebus, which has a State University hit by 30% budget cuts plus an unknown imaginary fluctuation when the moon was full. I also had letters from Math Chairs that a M.S. in Theoretical Computer Science was the Equivalent of an M.S. in Mathematics, whatever the Gnomes of Gray Davis-Dungeons of Sacramento sayeth.

#117 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 02:25 AM:
As I estimate, Classical Greek culture is somewhere between 1 and 10 Gigabytes of text, and far more than that in 2-D images and 3-D sculptures. Egyptians had similar-sized databases of tax records and real estate boundary data, and the like, plus that Li'l ol' Library of Alexandria, which was multiple Gigabytes -- many. Timbuctoo had a library on the samer scale, and China had the Imperial Encyclopedia of 10,000 volumes -- how does that compare to Wikipedia?

Well, the English language version of Wikipedia is closing on 500,000 articles (many of which are short stubs, but many of which are fairly long); I don't know for sure about the other languages' Wikipedias.

The Hittite imperial archives at Boğazköy (née Hattusas) contained something between 30,000 and 40,000 surviving clay tablets; throw in the additional archives found at places like Shapinuwa and Tabigga, and I wonder how much data the Hittites account for?

#118 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 02:51 AM:

And BTW Jonathan, if ”Any store (Sears, Target, supermarket...) where you have a store credit card or customer discount card tracks every purchase that you ever make” then why can’t Kroger figure out after 3 years of vegetarian shopping not to send meat coupons to my family?

That's easy, possibilities include:

1. Databases that don't talk to one another,

2. Stupid programs,

3 Stupid programmer,

4. Stupid business models and requirements (not bothering with such things,

5. Lowest common denominator frog sperm/spam distribution models--spew coupons in all directions, it takes extra time and processing to do custom print and distribution of coupons for specific items and not for others,

6. Cost -- extra time and effort and processing cost more. The object is to haul the customer or prospective customer into the store, once inside force them to walk around and buy more stuff than they intended to.... the layout of Macy's stores, the last time I was in one [not buying, there is a deep and abiding detestation of Macy's among various New Englanders, for exterminating the brand name "Jordan Marsh" and imposing Noo Yawk Chauvinism renaming them all "Macy's" stores] forces one to walk through section after section of store to get to the section one wants to go to to look at somethng... Coupons get printed in mass in huge volumes, if there is -one- coupon in dozens of mailed out promo materials that persuades someone to come into the story and buy items not on sale, that sale has paid for the mailings to many more people, and a profit, for the store. If printing coupons in huge volume, it's fastest and least expensive and lowest in cost for all the collections of coupons to be identical in their contents and packaging, what's different is the postal code and address sprayed on by high speed inkjet printers for a fraction of a cent per mailer [inkjet ink in quarts for high speed inkjet printers is a LOT less expensive... HP and Canon and Epson and Lexmark etc get fat profits for "consumables."]

7. Human error--a friend works for a large store chain. The friend mentions that there are lots of errors involved in coupons, that the production involved people generate coupons for the wrong products and that costs the company money, the budget was for a promotion on a different product....

#119 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 11:30 AM:

JVP: That actually came out fairly well, I think. Although ghost-writing for HP Lovecraft would take on a whole new meaning to normal.

#120 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 01:28 PM:

Ms. Lieberman said "[not buying, there is a deep and abiding detestation of Macy's among various New Englanders, for exterminating the brand name "Jordan Marsh" and imposing Noo Yawk Chauvinism renaming them all "Macy's" stores]"

Oh, lady! Same thing out here in Hawai'i! They bought out Liberty House, which was a 100-year-old brand with about 8 stores. Due to relatively limited choices, we don't boycott, but we miss the old stores and their ambiance very much.

#121 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 05:49 PM:

Minneapolis has a curiously twisted version of the "where the hell is my department store?" tale.

What usedta be Dayton-Hudson owned Dayton's, the store as emblematic of downtown Minne as, say, Marshall Field's in Chicago. They also ran Target Stores. A number of years ago, Dayton's bought out Field's, but they preserved the name in the existing locations (particularly Chicago); the only difference locally was that some Field's signature products, like Frango Mints, were now available at Dayton's.

Then, a couple of years back, they decided that the Field's name was more marketable than Dayton's, and changed the Dayton's store names. (A similar thing happened with my bank, when Norwest Bankcorp, having acquired Wells Fargo, decided to operate under that name.) Okay, we said, it's pretty much the same store.

And then, last year, the company sold Marshall Field, lock, stock, and Frangos, to the May Company; it continues to run Target, while May, of course, hangs on to the venerable old name.

Made in the People's Republic of China (label printed in USA).

#122 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 08:32 PM:

why can’t Kroger figure out after 3 years of vegetarian shopping not to send meat coupons to my family?

They may simply not track (for analysis) individual customer buying patterns. As in, individual data may only be used to verify that a purchase has happened, as opposed to a product being returned, stolen, spoiled, etc. Once verified as bought, the purchaser's info is no longer needed to do the kind of analysis the store managers use to make stocking decisions, and would in that case be discarded.

#123 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 09:31 PM:

Paul: CHip: I think that to duplicate Google's capabilities would cost *significantly* more than a megabuck...

I was estimating only the storage cost -- somebody saying "Let's gather all the info and figure what to do about it later!" and buying several thousand disks at wholesale prices.

(Incidentally, why CHip rather than Chip?)

It's been my .sig for a long time (my last name is Hitchcock); the capitalization makes it more of an identifier, rather than just the familiar of way too many formal names (William, Christopher, Charles, ...).

#124 ::: Chloe ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 11:31 PM:

Paula Lieberman:
I'm sure there are those prankster types that get a rush out of "beating a system" through loopholes. But I still think the "average person" who looks for a loophole, is just trying to defend their behaviour, no matter how out of line.

Mitch Wagner:
When I said "I think most people who "misbehave" in conversations on-line, are simply reacting or adapting to a situation in which they find themselves."...
What I meant was, that an ordinarily polite person can easily come off with cheeky remarks when viciously verbally attacked in a conversation. That it's often difficult, even for "nice" people, to walk away after they've been mistreated, there's a human tendency to want to defend oneself, even if it's futile.
Sorry if I wasn't clearly articulate on that one.
Also, your "Miss Nice" sounds an awful lot like the "Nice Guys" described on the "Heartless Bitches" web site:
"But why are "nice guys" misogynists? In the book "The Gift of Fear," Gavin DeBecker defines "niceness" as a "strategy of social interaction" and not evidence of innate goodness. So what he is saying is that being "nice" merely means your behavior is not offensive but does not mean your motives are automatically pure or good. Being a "nice guy" has been discussed elsewhere so there is no need to go into great detail here, but the bottom line is that trying to "be nice" or to use one’s social charm to achieve one’s social or sexual objectives is just as manipulative as anything else."
hehe.
For my part, I'll say that I'm a firm believer that morality is based mostly on self-interest. But I know not everyone agrees with that. And I do think that often "nice guys" are really control freak jerks in a flimsy disguise, and that "Miss Nice" might often be a pretentious defensive control freak "herself".
But I don't think you have to be any of those things in order to be civil...
Re: hateful reactions... Well, there are civil ways to deal with people, even if you hate them. After all, our laws are designed to expect law enforcement agents & prison guards, to treat mass murderers humanely. Know what I mean? Of course this often doesn't happen, but there's a reason why people consider it an important ideal to strive toward. And I don't think you have to condone murder, to treat a murderer humanely.

#125 ::: Link ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 12:08 AM:

Great post. Thanks.

#126 ::: Laurel ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2005, 01:12 AM:

As this query is on the topic of moderation, I hope it might fit on this thread. On two large related Yahoogroups lists to which I belong (over 1000 membeers) the listowner recently gave the collected email addresses of the subscribers to an online startup of which he approved, which promptly began spamming them. He admitted this to the lists but said that as he approved of the online startup and did not charge them anything for the addresses, he saw nothing wrong in this, and several people on the lists have agreed with him. Am I wrong in thinking that this is still email harvesting and was not polite of the listowner to do? If so, is there any online "etiquette for listowners" that I could cite in claiming this?

#127 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2005, 01:48 AM:

Laurel, spam is Bulk Unsolicited Email. The online startup is a spammer. The list owner who gave them the email addresses is a co-conspirator, or more simply also a spammer.

It really is just that simple.

And you can quote me.

Or you can report their spam to their upstream, spamcop, news.admin.net-abuse.sightings, etc. and see if you can get them disconnected.

Now, if he'd just posted an announcement about the startup to the Yahoo list, inviting people to visit their website or subscribe to their list, that would at worst have been offtopic.

(I don't know what Yahoo's attitude towards what he did is. I could possibly find out if you want.)

#128 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2005, 03:35 PM:

Catching waaaaaay up, back to the USENET/multicast bit:

It's been done.

About 10 years ago, I was running both a news server and one of the Mbone experimental multicast tunnel servers (among other things). As part of an experiment that some folks were doing (and which got written up for a USENIX conference), we received a newsfeed over multicast UDP (they limited the message size to 9K, even with fragmentation, and didn't use any backchannel).

It worked pretty well, since we were the site noted in the paper as being two hops from the transmitter. A fun experiment, that might have been of more use if native multicast had grown faster than the forces strangling USENET.

#129 ::: Laurel ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2005, 01:31 AM:

Thanks, Seth. It's good to know that I wasn't wrong in disapproving of this. I'll try to figure out where to report them.

#130 ::: Canadian Stud ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2005, 04:30 AM:

STOP DOING THIS YOU PRAT) the writing, educational side is now pretty much done. So basically I have worked myself out of a job. Bravo me. Looking for bondage pal. Male 34-44 good shape, master or slave.

#131 ::: Andy Perrin finds spam ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2005, 09:50 AM:

I detect a stud.

#132 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2005, 05:02 PM:

Is that spam from Jeff Gannon? Notice "worked myself out of a job..."

#133 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2005, 06:27 PM:

Ray Radlein wrote:

> There's a Firefox extension called RPXP, designed specifically for Daily Kos, which allows you to color-code the names of posters you like and dislike

Wow. It just struck me that I have no use for this plugin as there is not a single regular poster to Making Light who I want to killfile. Not a single one.

When I compare that to the state of rec.arts.sf.written before I finally gave up on it, that's downright bizarre.

#134 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2005, 04:41 AM:

I actually only use half of RPXP's feature set: I color code the people whose comments I really want to make sure I read.

The latest version implements one of my suggestions, by setting up a third color for my own posts, to make them easier to find, so that I can make sure I don't miss any replies.

#135 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2005, 12:03 PM:

Mary Dell:

"Is that spam from Jeff Gannon? Notice 'worked myself out of a job...'"

The phrase that comes to mind: "I blew it!"

#136 ::: CKB ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2005, 06:28 PM:

John M. Ford:

Trivia - Did you know that there is a town in Japan called USA, and a company made things from there so they could leaglly say on their tags "Made in USA." ?

I don't need a reply, thanks.

#137 ::: CKB ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2005, 06:37 PM:

for Pericat:

You asked why is "Kruger" still sending meat coupons to a vegetaarian eating family.

My guess is that they want you to eat meat, so they are trying to tempt you. The meat sellers that is.

To which my suggestion is to "resist the Kruger Coupons and in about three years they will flee from you."

No reply needed. Just bored today.

#138 ::: Xopher sees comment spam again ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2006, 01:31 PM:

...but never spam today? I wish!

#139 ::: Clifton Royston sees comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2006, 07:01 PM:

Holy heck, they're out in force today.

#141 ::: Fidelio cries Spam Ahoy! ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 12:15 PM:

Processed meat products.

#142 ::: P J Evans sees comment spam attack ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 12:16 PM:

on this thread and others:
Cassandra on "Follow the money"
Emery on "Virtual panel participation"
Guy on "Follow the money"
Randall on "Conventional unwisdom on publishing"
Archibald on "Virtual panel participation"
Oliver on "Absolute Write is gone"
Newton on "Folksongs Are Your Friends"
Blaise on "Fckng Ralph Nader, fckng Public Citizen"
Bertram on "Fckng Ralph Nader, fckng Public Citizen"
Archilai on "Conventional unwisdom on publishing"
Gillam on "Virtual panel participation"
Elias on "Virtual panel participation"
Grace on "John M. Ford, 1957-2006"
Melchior on "Follow the money"
Joshua on "John M. Ford, 1957-2006"
Wombell on "A brief note on linguistic markers"
Emmanuel on "ATTENTION US MILITARY PERSONNEL"
Anchor on "Folksongs Are Your Friends"
Georgette on "Namarie Sue"
Dudley on "Absolute Write is gone"
Elizabeth on "Namarie Sue"
Bennett on "Virtual panel participation"
Warham on "Follow the money"
Jane on "ATTENTION US MILITARY PERSONNEL"
George on "Conventional unwisdom on publishing"
Ebotte on "A brief note on linguistic markers"
Archibald on "Fckng Ralph Nader, fckng Public Citizen"
Cassandra on "What we did on our vacation"
Edi on "Absolute Write is gone"
Joos on "Absolute Write is gone"

#143 ::: Thank you, P J Evans. ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 12:54 PM:

I have the best frontline spam detection system in blogdom.

-t.

#144 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 12:56 PM:

Processed meat products.

It's made with people!!!

#146 ::: P J Evans sees the same spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 05:00 PM:

Same as jenny sees, I believe.

#147 ::: Jenny sees yet more spam on ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 05:00 PM:

and again...

#148 ::: Tania recognizes spam ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2007, 03:54 AM:

Genuine, in the can, spam.

#149 ::: fr richard ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2007, 12:17 PM:

Hello, all.

I'm not much of a 'poster'. In fact, digital is a second language to as a late-boomer (age 47). I'm an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Northern Indiana, and I've found this conversation by accident. (I was searching the web for material on theodicy). I'm also a huge critic of pretty much organized anything these days. Excuse my naivete and ignorance, but ... What are you all? Simply an online community? I heard reference made to a 'conference'; is this a real or virtual entity? I read teresa's entry from 2004 and was pulled in. I'd love nothing more than to go somewhere quiet (like an abbey) and spend a weekend talking about all these issues. Can I become a part of this conversation or community? Are you all out there?

Peace,

Fr. Richard
St. John of the Cross Episcopal Church
Bristol, Indiana

#150 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2007, 12:25 PM:

.We're here, but we're reading (and talking about) the current entries. Hit the Go to Making Light's front page link at the top left.

#151 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2007, 06:03 PM:

There is a 'Recent Comments' section on the left-hand side of the front page, which provides links into the threads as participants comment. You can track who is jumping into which threads, or whether anyone has had something new to say about an old one (this is how the friendly people here noticed your voice, Fr. Richard).

I point this feature out, because I would be embarrassed to admit how long I was reading this blog before I noticed it.

#152 ::: P J evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2007, 06:11 PM:

closing italics here

are we there yet?

#153 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2007, 06:12 PM:

No, it doesn't look like it. Try again...

#155 ::: Serge sees Insurance spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2007, 05:01 PM:

spam, and not even imaginative spam at that.

#156 ::: Individ-ewe-al sees comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2007, 05:02 PM:

The vile, despicable spammers are still at it, I'm afraid. And this is the first time I've been the one to spot their excrement.

#157 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2007, 05:06 PM:

Now why are our posts italicized? Curse those spammers!

#158 ::: Tania sees a new spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2007, 06:47 PM:

Spam spam, spammity spammity spam.

If they're trying to type in l337, they suck.

Choose:
Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

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