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April 17, 2007

Moderation isn’t rocket science
Posted by Teresa at 10:42 AM *

A lame article in the New York Times reports that Tim O’Reilly and Jimmy Wales have proposed a lame Blogger Code of Conduct:

Correction Appended

Is it too late to bring civility to the Web?

The conversational free-for-all on the Internet known as the blogosphere can be a prickly and unpleasant place. Now, a few high-profile figures in high-tech are proposing a blogger code of conduct to clean up the quality of online discourse.

Last week, Tim O’Reilly, a conference promoter and book publisher who is credited with coining the term Web 2.0, began working with Jimmy Wales, creator of the communal online encyclopedia Wikipedia, to create a set of guidelines to shape online discussion and debate.

Uh-huh. And I’m busy constructing a bamboo-and-wicker water gate that will hereafter govern the flow of the Mississippi River.
Chief among the recommendations is that bloggers consider banning anonymous comments left by visitors to their pages and be able to delete threatening or libelous comments without facing cries of censorship.
See me in open-mouthed incomprehension. Bloggers can ban anonymous comments or not, as they please. The problem isn’t commenter anonymity; it’s abusive behavior by anonymous or semi-anonymous commenters. Furthermore, the kind of jerks who post comments that need to be deleted will infallibly cry “censorship!” when it happens, no matter what O’Reilly and Wales say.

Anyone who’s read ML for more than a couple of months has watched this happen. Commenters who are smacked down for behaving like jerks are incapable of understanding (or refuse to admit) that it happened because they were rude, not because the rest of us can’t cope with their dazzlingly original opinions. It’s a standard piece of online behavior. How can O’Reilly and Wales not know that?

John Scalzi had an even-more-incisive-than-usual post on the subject:

Indeed, the reason that we’re now at a point where some self-appointed guardians of the discourse have decided it’s necessary to tell the rest of us slobs how to talk to each other is that people apparently forgot they have the right on their own sites to tell obnoxious dickheads to shut the hell up. Honestly, I don’t know what to say to that, other than I’m sorry that other people’s muddled-headed conception of what “free speech” is has allowed obnoxious dickheads to run free in blogs, and allowed busybodies to wring their hands in the New York Times about how mean the blogosphere is. It’s idiotic.

What the blog world needs is not a universal “Code of Conduct”; what it needs is for people to remind themselves that deleting comments from obnoxious dickheads is a good thing. It’s simple: if someone’s an obnoxious dickhead, then pop! goes their comment. You don’t even have to explain why, although it is always fun to do so. The commenter will either learn to abide by your rules, or they will go away. Either way, your problem is solved. You don’t need community policing or a code of conduct to make it happen. You just do it.

You can’t have a good online discussion without moderation. Every weblog out there that has good comment threads has a policy of moderating the discussion and kicking out the fuggheads. I swear, Cory Doctorow was right when he said I ought to write a book about moderation. I keep thinking it isn’t rocket science, and that anyone who’s hung out on the net for a while should know the basics. (If you want a short version of what I consider the basics, I posted it here.) Then something like this comes along, and I realize it’s not as self-evident as I thought.

O’Reilly and Wales were apparently moved to promulgate this code of conduct by a recent and extremely unpleasant event in the blogosphere:

Mr. Wales and Mr. O’Reilly were inspired to act after a firestorm erupted late last month in the insular community of dedicated technology bloggers. In an online shouting match that was widely reported, Kathy Sierra, a high-tech book author from Boulder County, Colo., and a friend of Mr. O’Reilly, reported getting death threats that stemmed in part from a dispute over whether it was acceptable to delete the impolitic comments left by visitors to someone’s personal Web site.

Distraught over the threats and manipulated photos of her that were posted on other critical sites — including one that depicted her head next to a noose — Ms. Sierra canceled a speaking appearance at a trade show and asked the local police for help in finding the source of the threats. She also said that she was considering giving up blogging altogether.

In an interview, she dismissed the argument that cyberbullying is so common that she should overlook it. “I can’t believe how many people are saying to me, ‘Get a life, this is the Internet,’ ” she said. “If that’s the case, how will we ever recognize a real threat?”

That really was a nasty episode, and I don’t blame Kathy Sierra for reacting the way she did. However, what caused it wasn’t some sort of generalized inchoate blogger rudeness, and Wales and O’Reilly’s proposed code of conduct wouldn’t address the problem. Here’s what happened, as described on Kathy Sierra’s website:
At about the same time, a group of bloggers including Listics’ Frank Paynter, prominent marketing blogger Jeneane Sessum, and Raving Lunacy Allen Herrel (aka Head Lemur) began participating on a (recently pulled) blog called meankids.org. At first, it was the usual stuff—lots of slamming of people like Tara Hunt, Hugh MacLeod, Maryam Scoble, and myself. Nothing new. No big deal. Nothing they hadn’t done on their own blogs many times before.

But when it was my turn, somebody crossed a line. They posted a photo of a noose next to my head, and one of their members (posting as “Joey”) commented “the only thing Kathy has to offer me is that noose in her neck size.”

My first reaction—and probably yours—is to think, “Of course he doesn’t actually mean it.” But the “funny” thing about crossing the line from criticism to suggestion of death is that your mind starts to wander:

* The guy who wrote this is anonymous (to me… I’m sure the people behind the site know exactly who made that comment and who posted the photo). I have no way of knowing just how disturbed he might be.

* Normally sane adults don’t cross that line, especially when they know they’re breaking federal law.

* The (apparently) same person made several sexual comments about me as well… for example, analyzing my “Canyon of Pain” graphic and turning it into a metaphor for what I want sexually (you can imagine).

Noose. Sex. Hatred. Misogyny. Willing to commit a federal crime. Anonymity.
If you think she’s overreacting, go to her site and look at the bit of screenshot she posted from meankids.org. It’s every bit as ugly and disturbing as she says.
I started to slide down a very bad path (and I’m showing you only a snippet of what was actually posted and sent to me), but held it together until two days ago, March 24.

On that day, the meankids site was down and a new “replacement” appeared, unclebobism.wordpress.com. The “Bob’s Yer Uncle” site was supposedly started by Cluetrain co-author Chris Locke (who, along with Jeaneane Sessum, also authors the Kat Herding Media site) and included most of the same members as meankids.

What good does it do to ban anonymous comments, when the abusive behavior is coming from one of the bloggers who run the site?

I think what (rightly) disturbed Kathy Sierra was that none of the participants at meankids.org, or its successor site, unclebobism.wordpress.com, identified the author of that extremely upsetting material. Real people, not nithing online trolls, were implicitly condoning and enabling the behavior that had Sierra too frightened to go to a conference. She was right to hold all of the site owners responsible. They’re all complicit in protecting whoever it was that posted that filth.

That’s enough to make anyone angry. What makes it frightening is their betrayal of the social contract. They’re all implicitly saying that they’re willing to have Kathy Sierra continue to be terrorized and hurt, and that they won’t lift a finger to stop it. If I’d just been the victim of frightening and abusive behavior, and I were getting that message from the people around me, I’d be afraid to go out too.

The nastiness at meankids.org is the kind of online behavior I was addressing in item #10 of my own set of the basic rules:

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.
Never doubt that it occurs. It’s why BoingBoing no longer has comment threads. None of BoingBoing’s bloggers wanted to have to act as moderator (it is a lot of work), and the hyenas took over the school cafeteria.

A lot of the filth that got posted as comments at BoingBoing was aimed at Xeni Jardin. Notice also that Kathy Sierra takes it for granted that anonymous crap will get thrown at her on a regular basis. So do other women who are prominent in technical (i.e. “male”) fields. There’s a strong component of misogyny in this behavior.

I can delete this kind of crap in my own comment threads. Individually, I can’t do much to suppress it in other venues. What I can do is refuse to respect bloggers and other site administrators who let it flourish on their own sites, or who provide cover for the anonymous vandals who post it. For instance, Frank Paynter. He apparently apologized to Kathy Sierra, and tried to publicly distance himself from the group that was running the two sites; but as far as I know, he’s never outed the author of the material that put Kathy Sierra in fear of her life. I say he’s a wuss until he does.

Anonymous nastiness is easy to write, and will always find an appreciative audience. I don’t care. It’s not a manifestation of the free and open discourse of the internet; it’s a thing that destroys that discourse. To be specific, it’s the same old trashmouthed bullying we all know from junior high and high school. Putting it on the net doesn’t cause it to develop any novel complexities or interesting emergent behaviors. It’s just the same old sh*t.

If you have a weblog or live journal, or you administer a website that has comment threads, stand up for yourself and your readers. The jerks are never going to like you, or praise you, or admit that you’re doing the right thing. And if you’re waiting for someone to give you permission to suppress and thereafter ignore malfeasants, you have it right now. If you want, I’ll make up a certificate. Go forth and civilize.

Addendum: Here’s the certificate.

Comments on Moderation isn't rocket science:
#1 ::: Andrhia ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 12:31 PM:

I wonder if there's something we can do to encourage a cultural shift in attitudes toward online communication. If we connect trollishness to a greater social stigma, perhaps the prevalence of it would decrease. I'm thinking of the kinds of PSA campaigns that have made drinking and driving socially unacceptable (or not fastening your seat belt, or smoking, or etc.) How would you go about crafting such a social campaign?

Or would it not even work and I'm just too much of an optimist?

#2 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 12:42 PM:

You've laid this all out so clearly -- and yet it must be *some* kind of rocket science, just based on the empirical evidence. Making Light is one of the only blogs in the entire English-speaking Internets where the posts routinely exceed 100 comments, and the comments are still well-worth reading. Usually the community completely falls apart well before that level of traffic.

There must be some "X" factor here that keeps people from being ruthless enough about protecting their community, but I don't know what it is.

#3 ::: Christopher Turkel ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 12:44 PM:

Okay, let me get this straight: This Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales we're talking about here, right? This guy is the poster child for anonymity gone horribly wrong in the form of Wikipedia. At first, he wanted it totally open to anyone. Then when every idiot and his brother started ruining his vision of a encyclo-utopia, he encouraged people to log in as to better monitor them. Then he added more strap on rules as he went along: admins with total power, unquestioned and god-kings who could wipe clean anything from Wikipedia without a trace.

This guy has no shame. When it was suggested to him to rid of anonymous logins as a way to tamp down on vandalism he refused, saying "it would ruin the mission of Wikipedia". What??

He needs to practice what he preaches before he opens his mouth.

#4 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 12:48 PM:

I think that places like Making Light do a good job of regulating themselves, anonymity not withstanding, and without the moderators having to step in all that frequently. That's my impression anyway. Jejeune elements wouldn't last long here.

#5 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:00 PM:

One reason (among many) that Making Light's comments work so well: People here know each other. I've never met TNH or PNH, but I know a few of the other commenters here personally.

I suspect this is true for a lot of the other folks who comment here. The community vibe is a lot stronger here than anywhere else I've seen. (Sci.physics.research used to come close.)

#6 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:02 PM:

Serge, re #4:

Well, this is the thing. When you have a well-run site, the trolls and freaks become less interested because they don't see the spoor of other of their kind. It also draws in people who want good conversation. Both of which make moderating easier.

#7 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:03 PM:

Serge (4), moderation always takes work, no matter who's doing it. If people value and feel they have a stake in an online forum, they'll help maintain it. It's one of signs of a healthy community.

How to do it wrong: I've seen online forums where long-term regulars were smacked down for explaining the local rules to newbies. The administrators there called it "back-seat moderation". Any feedback or comments the administrators got in the wake of an intervention was labeled "backchat" or "backtalk", and similarly penalized.

And yet it's a friendly forum! How do we know? Because rule #1 of their long and minatory set of rules says, "this is a friendly forum."

Hoo boy.

#8 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:05 PM:

A.J., some people here already knew each other from other contexts, but quite a few of them got acquainted here.

#9 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:08 PM:

It's always struck me, at least here, that the basic rule is "Would I do this if I was at a gathering in the blog-owners' home?"; if the answer I got was "No,", then I knew it was something that I shouldn't do in this virtual living room.
Conversely, if you, the owners, wouldn't stand for it in your house, then you have a right not to put up with it here. Among the obligations a host owes to their guests is the freedom from abuse by the other gusts--and all the guests should be able to either accept that limit on their hosts' hospitality, or find another party.

There is, however, a tendency I've seen in a lot of places, to feel that saying "No, you can't do that here," is a form of rudeness, perhaps because you're not giving people what they want. Too many people have lost both the ability to disagree politely (however intensely they may do so) and the ability to speak up against bad behavior (however much they may privately deplore the bad behavior). Expressing either disagreement or disapproval are both seen as negative acts--and goodness knows we must never be negative! It's every bit as bad as not being "nice"* is to a Southern woman!

Either that or passive-aggressive behaviors are the new national epidemic.

*These values of "nice" can easily be confused with passive-aggresive behaviors by those who are unaware that failure to be "nice" is the equivalent of social suicide to those who think this way.

#10 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:10 PM:

The other site I visit that routine runs long thread is Firedoglake.

It has mods, but they're behind the scenes. People will report trolls, though ('may we have cleanup on aisle [post number]?') and the (generally unwritten) rules will be explained, sometimes several times to the same person. The trolls learn to behave, or they go someplace where it's more fun.

#11 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:15 PM:

One of the reasons I love this site is the level of discourse. Folks may get intemperate on occasion, but they're almost never offensive.

Mind you, even if they were, I'd still come for the poetry.

#12 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:18 PM:

You know, the issue of web civility came up a couple of months ago on Charlie Stross' blog. Someone complained bitterly about the lack of politeness and the downright meaness of people these days as evidenced by the flaming and insults that pass for discourse. I replied that I've been watching this happen for more than two decades, and in those online communities that survived and flourished, the members of the community were outraged when the first such acts occurred, and as a community, immediately took steps to chastise or exclude the offender and design mechanisms to prevent further abuses.

Oddly enough a couple of days later, on that same thread, the complainer got into a slanging match with someone*. When I got tired of it**, I compared them both to little children on the playground, and they both shut up.

Now that's Charlie's site, not mine, but Charlie didn't say anything to me about the incident, so I don't think I offended him by commenting. Which shows that community norms can maintained in many cases even if the moderator is busy and/or not yet annoyed enough to swat someone.

* He was badly provoked, I think. But better for all of us, himself included, if he'd kept his temper and his dignity.

** I admit I was admiring the invective for awhile there, and I think others were as well. But there comes a point where artistry has to take a back seat to civility. Maybe I'm more thin-skinned than others, and I reacted earlier than need be, but I don't apologize for it. If you think I'm wrong to do something like that, tell me. That's what community is about.

#13 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:18 PM:

Teresa @ 7... I hope I didn't come across as saying that ML's moderators didn't put in a lot of time. Nothing could be further from my mind. In fact, I wonder how you all manage that and everything else in your lives, in spite of the fact that, as John Scalzi pointed out, people hang around here because they want good conversations, even when it's about Bugs Bunny and cross-dressing.

#14 ::: Michael R. Bernstein ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:22 PM:

I would buy a book by you on moderation. Heck, I would buy it as an e-book (ala 37signals 'Getting Real').

Note the prior art in this area:

'Community Building on the Web' by Amy Jo Kim

'Online Communities - Designing Usability, Supporting Sociability' by Jenny Preece

'Design for Community' by Derek Powazek

All of these cover moderation to some extent, but none focus on it exclusively.

While I'm making requests for book length works, I would really love to read one on 'Lost Fandoms' ( http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/001424.html ) that also explicitly makes the connection to recurring patterns of human behavior in the current 'blogosphere', as well as older incarnations such as The Well and RASFF.

Insert 'History, Tragedy, Farce' quote here.

#15 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:24 PM:

Teresa: Wordy McWord. Your post is super, and the comment about mods going wrong when they slap "backchatting" users likewise.

fidelio: "would you say this in someone's living room"... I think that's not necessarily the best way to look at it. I've seen a lot of people saying stuff like "why are you mad that X said women shouldn't be a part of this because they smell so good it's distracting! His blog is his living room and you're just guests!" But it's really not. Anyone can wander into a blog on the internet: not the case with a living room.

An online discussion site is more like a cafeteria in a hospital, or a roving con party... Someone's responsible for it, and it generally only attacts people interested in it, but it's still a public thing. A better rule might be "would you say this in the lunchroom at someone's business."

#16 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:27 PM:

Fidelio, #9: amen, sister! Though I would have said "Southern lady" instead of "Southern woman," precisely because I'm a Southern woman but not a traditional Southern lady. (Alys Vorpatril, now, she kind of reminds me of my grandmother. They can both eviscerate someone with a perfectly timed smile.)

#17 ::: David Klecha ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:31 PM:

Anecdotally, I know Scalzi is absolutely correct in #6. F'rex, the comment threads at Fark.com can devolve quickly into trollish flamefests, though some of the most egregious can be lifted by moderators, especially since Fark uses a login system for commenting. Some of the comment threads can be very good, and they tend to stay good (and relatively low volume). Longer and more controversial threads almost always run long and get filled with "troll sign" quickly as commenters snap back and forth at one another in flurries.

#18 ::: Old Jarhead ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:32 PM:

As has been mentioned in comments on this and similar situations, the general coarsening of the public discourse has been a trend for a long time. When a person can stand on a soapbox in the town square and shout "F*** You!" repetitively without sanction unless they block traffic we have lost the reins.

This is the death of a thousand cuts as the courts and the influence peddlers ask of each individual act "what is the harm", but taken together unrestricted self-expression stands over civility, respect, and compassion and places its foot on their throat.

On the major media reasoned and respectful political discourse is virtually gone and in the "blogosphere" flame is the coin of the realm. Unless the people who believe that courtesy and respect are part and parcel of any useful dialogue act in a way to defend it we will be huddled down behind our keyboards with the delete key worn down to a nub.

#19 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:32 PM:

Well said! I've been following this controversy closely since it began, and I've been agape at the cluelessness the whole shitstorm has engendered.

You're my shero, Teresa.

#20 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:37 PM:

Yes. Well said. One would think it's self-evident that a site owner should moderate the comments. But clearly, this is not so. It is a mystery.

#21 ::: Jenett ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:37 PM:

One of my basic principles is that you can only be reasonable with reasonable people. If the other side isn't going to be reasonable, don't rely on their better nature. Do what you need to do.

The most powerful piece of online-management advice I got was after an issue that ended up having to be handled by a moderator-equivalent due to emotional messiness. When I apologised for making his life harder, he pointed out that if he hadn't been willing to do some difficult conversations and moderation, then he shouldn't have taken on the responsibility. End result: if you're not willing to civilise your space, don't put it up/make it open/whatever.

All of this said, I notice that none of the stuff I've seen on this (though maybe I've missed it) really addresses what Teresa brings up: that the real jerks will get kicked off place A, and go to place B, repeating as needed.

Refusing to associate with people who do that (or don't argue against it), is a good start. But how do you best make it clear online whether you're ignoring someone, as opposed to being unaware they exist, or too busy right now to read or comment on their stuff?

#22 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:39 PM:

Tim O'Reilly has been thinking this through since he talked to that reporter.

#23 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:39 PM:

fidelio @ 9... "Would I do this if I was at a gathering in the blog-owners' home?"

That's one good way of putting it. I also wouldn't post about something I wasn't willing to talk about at that Tibetan restaurant last week when I met abi, Kathryn from Sunnyvale, David Goldfarb and others. (Of course, I felt comfortable enough to talk about advertising for videos called 'Girls Gone Mild' and I wish I could have heard all of abi's goofy response to that.)

#24 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:41 PM:

Teresa,

I really liked the linked thread about moderation, and I especially found Randolph Fitz' comments interesting.

Persistence is a big deal. A new participant can come in with a pseudonym, and will be judged, over time, by the quality of his ideas and comments. This requires an investment in that pseudonym, which acts as a kind of brake on bad behavior and shoddy arguments. "I don't want to make that lame argument here, these guys will see how lame it is and think less of me."

These moderation techniques don't block subtle paid shills, or subtle attackers engaged to destroy a community after infiltrating it for weeks or months. But it stops the common bad behavior, in much the same way that the local police in a small town may not be up to keeping the Mafia out, but can keep regular people from routinely getting into shootouts and fistfights.

This is important. If there are a thousand, or a hundred thousand, well-run communities like this, then disrupting many of them with subtle coordinated attackers looks too expensive to be worth it. The existence of many well-run blog comment threads makes them all harder to attack.

I've watched this go well and badly in other fora. The eventual meltdown of the cypherpunks list was probably the saddest one I watched, but there have been others. And quite a few other blogs (Gene Expression, Marginal Revolution, Dar Kush) have pretty active comment threads without being taken over by hyenas, but I can't think of one that's as wide-ranging and interesting as Making Light.

#25 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:43 PM:

Well said, one of the many reasons I delurk here and at Scalzi's and comment. The conservation stands head and shoulders above the rest.

#26 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:43 PM:

Looks like Locke fell off the cluetrain.

#27 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:44 PM:

A.J. @ 5

People here know each other. I've never met TNH or PNH, but I know a few of the other commenters here personally.

Not only do we know each other, but we're all embedded in a web of mutual friends and acquaintances. FREX, I've only just gotten active here in the last month or so, but I've been within one other person of Patrick and Teresa for more than 10 years (probably longer, I'm not sure how long my friends have known them). Oddly, I only discovered that after I started posting on ML.

Those shared acquaintances are embedded further in a larger community that has fairly strong norms and expectations, because it consists of some very bright, very individualistic, very tough-minded people who've had to learn to get along with each other or not be in a community. So the members of the community are self-selected, and those who don't accept the norms select themselves out. When Darwin works, he really does the job.

#28 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:45 PM:

Backseat moderating? I think I've called two, possibly three, of the moderators on this blog on civility issues. Teresa still doesn't have any of my vowels under her desk.

Why not? Because none of the moderators on this blog have the kind of intellectual insecurity issues that cause them to over-moderate. They can accept disagreement, and even admit when they're wrong.

It sets a good example for the rest of us, which also contributes to the quality of dialogue here. Scalzi has the same trick, I find.

#29 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:46 PM:

What makes it frightening is their betrayal of the social contract. They’re all implicitly saying that they’re willing to have Kathy Sierra continue to be terrorized and hurt, and that they won’t lift a finger to stop it. If I’d just been the victim of frightening and abusive behavior, and I were getting that message from the people around me, I’d be afraid to go out too.

It took me a while to realize why, every time I read about Sierra, I remember Kitty Genovese.

#30 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:46 PM:

Serge @ 13

Bugs Bunny and cross-dressing.

Damn, Bugs has finally been outed!

#31 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:47 PM:

Serge @23
You didn't want to hear the rest of that. Please trust me on this matter.

#32 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:51 PM:

#18:

Reasoned discourse is supported by functioning online communities which are effectively policed, in the same way that stores with glass windows and doors are supported by functioning physical communities that are effectively policed.

Such communities exist, and reasoned discourse continues at various levels of formality. The existence of Crossfire doesn't destroy C-Span's morning call-in/discussion shows, and the existence of blogs filled with nasty personal attacks and general meanness doesn't prevent the existence of good blogs and comment threads.

We probably can't make everyone be nice, and an attempt to use the law to try would probably end up being hijacked and used to suppress unpopular ideas and opinions. But individuals and small groups can and do build working communities. That's worthwhile even if we can't make everyplace on the net such a working community.

#33 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:53 PM:

abi @ 23... You sure? Drat.

#34 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:53 PM:

Teresa, please make the certificate! I can think of at least one moderator at Absolute Write who would proudly hang it above her computer. Heck, if it helps motivate you, I'll dontate money to the SFWA emergency fund for it.

I always try to use a common sense approach to moderating at AW - thinking about the audience, weighing the responses on a thread (we welcome the long time posters who help the newbies understand the culture)and when in doubt, I ask more seasoned moderators for input. Watching how it works here has been a valuable education.

#35 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:54 PM:

Moderation is very much *not* rocket science. It's a human skill, not an engineering skill, and takes very different approaches and attitudes to make work well.

#36 ::: Mel ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:54 PM:

Thank you!

I already started to worry where all the common sense had vanished to since that more than stupid proposal.

How is it that all of a sudden simple housekeeping tasks on your blog cause cries of censorship and we need a Justification!*zomg* and a Code of Conduct and stupid little badges when we want to kill off trolls.

I mean, come on! No one blinks when you kill off roaches and other nasty bugs that invade your home, so why the hubbub about quashing internet trolls?

In other words: a wonderful post!

#37 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 01:55 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 30... What? You never saw the "Barber of Seville" cartoon that ends with Elmer Fudd in drag then getting proposed by Bugs?

#39 ::: bbrugger ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 02:00 PM:

Some blogs are like room parties. It might get a little rowdy, depending on the host's tolerance and the subjects under discussion, but I have a basic sense of general good will. If I disagree with someone we might wrangle but it's not going to come to threats (or worse).

Some blogs- okay, I am about to get a little hand-wavey and vague here. Some blogs feel very much like when I used to go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. There was an impersonal feel to the noise and fun. And there was always a not-insignifigant number of folks who were there to do and say things they'd never dream of doing where anyone they knew back home would see them.

There's an advertising slogan "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." That kind of nudge-nudge wink-wink, go ahead, nobody's looking thing that happens when people compartmentalize their actions based on accountablity can lead to some pretty unpleasant interactions.

And some blogs have comment threads that remind me of sketchy bars full of scary people. I keep quiet, I don't draw attention to myself, and I leave. It's not about the topics under discussion or where the blog falls on the political spectrum as far as I can tell. I don't trust the commenters to be civil and I don't trust the blog owner/s to do anything about it.

Active moderation and a community commitment to communication go a long way.

#40 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 02:08 PM:

I was speculating over on rasff after someone noted (not for the first time) that a chronic anklebiter there was said to be quite pleasant in real life. It seems to me that this is a case where Dr. Jekyll is simply an enabler for Mr. Hyde. Perhaps X is afraid of confrontation, but in the safety of the computer desk in the den, X feels free to become insulting and abusive of anybody who doesn't toe the party line. As far as I'm concerned, the virtual community is a location in real life, and behavior there is real.

Furthermore, Dr. Jekyll wasn't an innocent victim. He was a guilty bastard, looking for an alias to mask his own vile impulses and let him give way to them.

#41 ::: jamiehall ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 02:12 PM:

As to why ML has wso many comments and yet the comments are mostly worth reading, I can only offer my own experience here as an explanation. The posts and the comments here are often so literate, complex and well-thought-out that I've felt a bit shamed to put my two cents down, unless I felt that I really had something unique to add the the discussion.

On other blogs, I feel less self-conscious about plopping down a mindless "Me too!" type of comment. But, here, I feel like I'm dragging down the discourse unless I've got something important to add. And I feel like there must be many lurkers who feel the same way, perhaps even to the extent of not posting at all.

#42 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 02:16 PM:

jamiehall@ #41: me too!

#43 ::: Elayne Riggs ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 02:26 PM:

All this just makes me even happier that my blog seems to fly under most people's radar.

#44 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 02:36 PM:

#15 Madeline F--I think the room party analogy may be better than the cafeteria--there's a sense of the choice to offer hospitality on the part of our hosts that I don't think is there in a public facility. They choose to have this space open to us, and the obligations of hospitality run both ways--the guests have their own duties in that relationship.

#16 txanne--I know plenty of Southern women who wouldn't claim the designation of "lady" that still can't bring themselves not to be "nice"--however much they may resent the perceived obligation. We're all in recovery, really.

#39 bbrugger--That's good.

#45 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 02:52 PM:

fidelio@44: in a thread here a year or so ago someone compared the comment threads here - I guess especially the open threads - to a gathering on the front porch. It's still someone's space, even if Teresa and Patrick aren't always heavily involved in the discussion; people passing might come to get involved without needing an invite; but in the end, you respect what the owners want or you get thrown out. This is how I try to manage my behaviour here - which is only to say, this is the analogy that works for me.

I'm quite convinced, though, that literate and urbane as the posters here all are, what makes ML so attractive is the attitude to moderation. I do think Teresa should write that book. Even on other smart and literate blogs, comment threads like these don't just happen by themselves.

All of which is just a long-winded way of saying: me too!

#46 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 02:55 PM:

Fidelio, 44: We're all in recovery, really.

That is a true statement, and worthy of all people to be received.

FWIW, here's the Blue Moon blog. It requires registration, and they still find it necessary to delete comments. I don't read the comments there, so I don't know how negative they got. (The ratio of intelligent remarks to "me too" doesn't make it worth my while, frankly. You people have spoiled me.)

#47 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 02:56 PM:

And hey, that Lost Fandoms post really *is* great - it dates from before my time here, so I hadn't seen it before. How come it garnered only 16 comments? Has the ML community grown that much?

#48 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 03:08 PM:

Yes.

#49 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 03:12 PM:

Madeleine Robins @ 29

It took me a while to realize why, every time I read about Sierra, I remember Kitty Genovese.

Ouch! I hadn't made that comparison, but it is way too apt for comfort.

One other thing I've noticed here that's not common anywhere in society today, especially on the web. When people inadvertently give offense, they apologize, and they do so sincerely.

#50 ::: Betty ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 03:14 PM:

I mod at a message-board with 800 members, which is smallish as message boards go, but bigger than we ever really expected. I think one of the things that's really worked is to have a consensus on what we'll tolerate and what we won't. It helps that all my co-mods are awesome, but writing down: "the following are NOT OKAY," has been one of our best moves.

@anyone with experience at modding:

One of the things I haven't figured out how to deal with is the person who is well intentioned but so stupid that every comment they make throws a veil of confusion and idiocy over the thread. Are there ways to encourage them to lurk more?

#51 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 03:14 PM:

Bruce 49: I do that everywhere, and I suspect so do other members of the fluorosphere. OTOH, when I do it elsewhere, people think it's strange.

#52 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 03:16 PM:

A.J., I had a casual acquaintance with TNH and a few other regulars here from lurking on the GEnie SFRT years back, when my then wife had an account. Not coincidentally, the SFRT had a very similar moderation policy and attitude. Other than that, I knew only 2 people who post here from other contexts, and both of those were online too.

Rebecca Ore has made some good observations on what makes online communities work or fail, especially in resilience to anonymous attackers, but I don't know if any of them are anywhere they can be linked to.

#53 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 03:18 PM:

I must admit, the notion of what happens at Making Light as a host/guest relationship was reinforced by this remark by Teresa, which should up on her post about the sort of people, new to this blog, who begin a post with "You people". If Teresa sees herself as a hostess, them my role is clearly that of guest. (The thread includes a disemvowelling, for those who have not yet seen one.)

#54 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 03:28 PM:

Teresa, I just ran "scribblers' compacts" through Google, just to see what turned up.

Top two hits: Patrick (in Time magazine) and the post on 19th century fandom. The rest are references thereto, it appears.

#55 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 03:32 PM:

Serge @ 37

Yes, I've seen it. I've also seen the Valkyrie bit. It's just, well, there's a difference between public performance and being outed as a transvestite. I mean look at Robin Williams: he can do The Bird Cage and no one thinks he's really gay*, or Mork and Mindy, and no one thinks he's really an alien**.

So I've been assuming for a long time that Bugs had that sort of fig leaf to hide behind. It's just a bit of a shock when the truth finally comes out.

* Although they inevitably compare him to Nathan Lane. How there can be two such people in one universe strains credulity. Imagine if Zero Mostel were still alive. The bonds of reality would be seriously strained.

** I do wonder sometimes ...

#56 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 03:32 PM:

What I noticed was that in every iteration of the Sierra story, more and more of the references to misogyny were replaced by references to "incivility." O'Reilly's latest "code of conduct" seems entirely gender neutral, and threats to individuals are given the same weight as copyright violations.

Apparently, noticing misogyny makes you "sexist" just like noticing racism makes you "racist." And all of it is as bad as downloading music without permission.

I don't think this is a matter of cluelessness. I think it is a matter of agenda.

#57 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 03:33 PM:

So many people fail to understand the deep meaning of A. J. Liebling's epigram, "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one." It's my blog on my server; people get to comment at my suffrance. I get to silence whomever I choose.

If it is such a terrible thing to delete comments, why is comment spam deleted so freely? The line between comment spam and regular commenting is not a bright one, no matter how obviously spam-like the obvious spam may be.

#58 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 03:35 PM:

Do O'Reilly and Wales make a distinction between those who post anonymously, and those who use a nom de plume for various reasons? After all, a google search by a poster's enemies might get him/her in trouble at the office if his/her real name were used. Or one's true identity might warp how people address him/her in these parts. For example, if I were really Hugh Jackman, how would TexAnne address me?

#59 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 03:37 PM:

What they all said, plus -- I think the willingness to post IP addresses of gross offenders, and the demonstrated ability of the inhabitants to track back from IP addresses, discourages certain sorts of uncivil behaviour. It removes the security of anonymity. And as this does not happen until after someone has repeatedly engaged in offensive behaviour, it's clear to outsiders that it's not just a question of picking on people.

A lot of this is about self-perpetuating cultures. As Teresa and Scalzi have said, trolls breed. If they're tolerated, they attract more trolls. ML as a culture has a low tolerance for ongoing rude behaviour, and many people will act to discourage it, in ways that don't reward trollish behaviour with the type of attention trolls are usually seeking.

#60 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 03:38 PM:

Lost Fandoms seems like it could benefit from something like the Dead Media Project site-- when you come across evidence of another Lost Fandom, document it on the site.

Numbered thoughts:

1. The Amateur Journalism movement might be a Lost Fandom, as well as an ancestor of science fiction fandom.

2. Factsheet Five, which attempted to review and catalogue fanzines, traced expansions of the zine-publishing tradition into many subcultures.

3. Efforts to reconstruct, from backup tapes scattered across the world, early pre-Web traffic on Usenet newsgroups and ARPANET mailing lists have made ancestral communities visible to many of us who joined the Net later.

4. Somewhere in the closets of history, there must be many examples of round-robin correspondence. But I don't know anything about them.

#61 ::: David Klecha ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 03:50 PM:

Kip W @ #40

I've always liked Penny Arcade's take on the subject. (NSFW language, as usual with them.)

#62 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 03:51 PM:

Serge, 58: If I knew you to be Hugh Jackman, I would still address you as "Serge." It's only polite.

I'm a living, typing example of the difference between anonymity and pseudonymity. You all know who I am, even if you don't know my last name. I'm just being cautious because of my tenuous job situation.

#63 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 04:00 PM:

TexAnne @ 62... Of course. If I knew for a fact that you really are Claudia Black, I wouldn't blow your cover. (Huh... Poor choice of words?) If someone wants to use a pseudonym, then they have reasons for that which one should respect. I do wonder though who "Faren's computer" really is.

#64 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 04:02 PM:

Clifton @ 52:

I think Bruce Cohen StM @ 27 said better what I was aiming at. ML functions in part as a watering hole for a larger community. (I get in by bribing the doorman. :) That larger community, and the way we are enmeshed in it to various degrees, makes it that much harder to violate the norms our hosts have fostered.

On a tangent: I rather like the idea of Making Light as a neighborhood bar. Low roof, wood paneling, lots of plants, steady babble of conversation and laughter. You can tell who the regulars are, but they seem friendly enough.

The only peculiar thing is that -- perhaps it's the comment headers -- I'm imagining everyone wearing name-tags.


#65 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 04:09 PM:

I've met Serge, and if he's Hugh Jackman, he has one hell of an accent coach.

#66 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 04:14 PM:

Actually, abi, you met someone who told you he was 'Serge'. How do you know I am not Hugh Jackman who hired that General-Zod lookalike to protect his Secret Identity. And how do I know that you are abi?

#67 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 04:19 PM:

Serge @66
What is this? You think you met me? How can that be? I live in Scotland, and you live in New Mexico.

#68 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 04:19 PM:

This bit drove me right up the wall:

Mr. O’Reilly said the guidelines were not about censorship. “That is one of the mistakes a lot of people make — believing that uncensored speech is the most free, when in fact, managed civil dialogue is actually the freer speech,” he said.

Censorship is freedom! War is peace! etc.

#69 ::: Elizabeth ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 04:22 PM:

Hi. I lurk here occasionally. Love the blog. Love reading the comments thread. I always learn something.

So...bloggers can tell who's leaving comments? Really? Even on blogs that don't require you to enter your email address? (Trying to recall every comment I've ever left. Statistically unlikely that I would want to claim all of them.)

#70 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 04:30 PM:

abi @ 66... Or so you say anyway. What is Truth?

(I 'fess up, I really am the guy with the funny accent that you met last week in Berkeley. I'll assume you are the person I met.)

#71 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 04:34 PM:

Truth is a bouquet of pretty flowers that smell bad.

Oh, wait, that's logic.

#72 ::: Muneraven ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 04:35 PM:

Hi Teresa,

Thanks for saying this. I'm all for letting people have their say and tolerating disagreement, but I do not understand why many otherwise perfectly reasonable people allow trolls to come in and disrupt newsgroups and blogs with their weird, hateful posts. It's heartening to hear you and Scalzi advocating the reasonable smackdown approach.

Also, I was too shy to tell you in person, lol, but I very much enjoyed your contributions to Minicon a couple weeks back. Thanks so much for coming.

#73 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 04:43 PM:

Now we know to get Serge a 30 piece silver set for his birthday.

#74 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 04:51 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 73... No need to. Just keeping ML the place it is, that's plenty of birthday gift to me.

#75 ::: the angry black woman ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 05:01 PM:

Excellent Post. Thank you for saying this. You already know my policy on moderation. I have no problem shutting down jerks, even when they allude that I'm censoring and oppressing them. Good times.

#76 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 05:02 PM:

Elizabeth @69: Blogging software often, though not always, records the IP address from which a post came. That can be spoofed by someone who knows what they're doing, but the lower levels of troll don't bother, and often don't know how. Blog admins can see that IP address. From the IP address it's possible to trace at least the ISP the person uses, and often their geographical location. It may be possible to trace much more information than that, as ML has occasionally demonstrated when collectively sufficiently annoyed.

#77 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 05:03 PM:

Any sensible person knows there is a line you don't cross. Exactly where that line is drawn is, of course, a matter of debate and I'm happy to accept our hosts' judgement on that. This is a very civilised and civilising place to be.

Two things. The behaviour Kathy Sierra has been subjected to is... well, start with outrageous and work your way south. It is abuse. The clown with the noose needs some serious attitude adjustment before he decides that posting on the net just doesn't get him to come in his khakis any more and he's got to try the real thing. With rights come responsibilities, always. And sexism is wrong, always.

How come we're still having to say that?

Then we have a Code of Conduct (capital 'C's) Apart from being accompanied by the deafening sound of stable doors slamming in the wind, perhaps they can explain how their - US - law applies to me in the UK, let alone however many millions of bloggers there are in the PRC (of course, they have their very own government code of conduct, and does anyone think that's a good idea?)

To Teresa and Patrick, my continuing thanks for making the world a better place than it would be without ML.

#78 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 05:03 PM:

TNH: What I can do is refuse to respect bloggers and other site administrators who let it flourish on their own sites, or who provide cover for the anonymous vandals who post it.

Even more disturbing are sites where the administrators who would take the heads off anonymous trolls for saying something let it pass when one of their regulars or one of their moderators says it. I witnessed a situation where a moderator said that women receiving sexually harrassing messages weren't actually being hurt by that because they weren't being physically harmed. The statement passed without comment by the site administrators, despite heated debate about issues of that sort when brought up by other members. A variation on IOIFYAR, I suppose.

The Rumor Mill was--and still is, I think--peer-moderated, which is a concept difficult to get across to newbies. If members judge you to be incivil and disrespectful, they tag your post with negative points. Enough of those, and your post disappears unless someone wants to log in and click on it to see what you said. Ill-mannered newbies would object and demand to know what the moderator was going to do about this censorship. Explaining that the moderators had already taken action brought many interesting responses.

#79 ::: deCadmus ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 05:06 PM:

Scalzi notes:

Well, this is the thing. When you have a well-run site, the trolls and freaks become less interested because they don't see the spoor of other of their kind.

Much like the fixing broken windows view on urban decay and crime. Somebody sees a broken window, they break more. Somebody sees graffiti on the train, they break out their own spray can. Somebody sees nasty, worthless comments, they pile on with their own.

Just like repairing those broken panes of glass, effective moderation catches problem comments before they get out of hand.

#80 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 05:20 PM:

You know what's funny? Another example of good moderation I can think of is Fandom_Wank. The regulars instruct the n00bs in how to behave and what can and cannot be talked about, the anonymice generally behave, and the mods rarely bring out the banhammer (except for the fun of it). For a community devoted to pointing and laughing at the stupidity of others, it's remarkably civilized. The few times a troll does get in, they are either argued or cat macro'ed to death.

Fandom_Wank: The best behaved sht-flngng cnts you'll ever find.

#81 ::: Elizabeth ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 05:32 PM:

Julia Jones @76: Thank you for the thourough, patient lesson.

#82 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 05:48 PM:

I was going to post links to Tim O'Reilly's responses to all this, which I think are worth reviewing by anyone thinking about piling on, but I see that adamsj already did in #22.

#83 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 05:51 PM:

#77 Martyn:

There's probably no way to stop creeps posting nasty things on the internet, and the ability to stop it would inevitably be misused. (What would the Bush administration do with that power?) But decent people who participate on the net have the ability to clearly label that kind of stuff as unacceptable.

It's especially important to do that when the unacceptable behavior is from someone on your own side, or attacking people you dislike, and that doesn't seem to have happened here (though I haven't followed this case very closely, so maybe I'm missing something).

I think there's a real tendency on the net, inherited from the hippie/anarchist/libertarian roots from which much of net culture springs, to think that we should not call people on a lot unacceptable behavior. This springs from the same root as the idea that deleting trolls' posts is censorship, or that condemning female circumcision or slavery is culturally insensitive.


#84 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 07:03 PM:

albatross @ 83

I think there's a real tendency on the net, inherited from the hippie/anarchist/libertarian roots from which much of net culture springs, to think that we should not call people on a lot unacceptable behavior.

The real hippie/anarchist/libertarian tradition is not get a police force to do what the community can do for itself. At least once upon a time, hippies and such dealt with our own when necessary, and many of us, at least, didn't shirk from the duty. I think that tradition became watered down by people who came in later, with a set of attitudes that came from outside the counterculture.

That's why there are many examples of communities that formed in the 70s and 80s that had that notion of dealing with rather than tolerating antisocial activities. Consider how a lot of the frequenters of mailing lists on the ARPANET were appalled at the lack of civility and general cluelessness of some of the usenet groups.

I guess what I'm saying is that these two opposing views of how to make a community are not new, that there have been reasonable people around all along. Maybe not many, certainly not enough, but some.


#85 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 07:23 PM:

This is a subject that must concern all of us, it seems, if there is any part of our lives spent online.

I post frequently about the history of slavery, the institution, and the various components of the slave trade, particularly focused on that of the African - Atlantic slave trade. I also write about the vast interstate slave trade that grew with Thomas Jefferson's protectionism in tandem with the acquisition of the Louisiana Territory -- the Civil War and slavery -- all these related subjects.

When I post such a subject the LJ gets hit with vile racist comments, accusations of being a racist who hates white people, and much worse. Which is strange since my Ljay doesn't generate that much traffic. But these subjects always brings these comments. Always anonymous. They go automatically to my screening e-mail account, and I delete them.

On Deep Genre, though, good manners and mutual courtesy are all the atmosphere. That is partly due to the quality of the posters, and because so many of them would perhaps rather slit their wrists than offend Kit Kerr, they love her work so much. But all of us who can post topics have moderation and banning capacity, just in case.

Constance

#86 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 07:26 PM:

albatross @ 83: But decent people who participate on the net have the ability to clearly label that kind of stuff as unacceptable. [...] It's especially important to do that when the unacceptable behavior is from someone on your own side, or attacking people you dislike, [...]

Yes. As much as it hurts to tell people you like, "You're out of line," you've got to do it. Healthy communities foster that health by making it safe to dissent.

Communites with no mechanisms to indicate "You can say something we don't like to hear, and we may disagree, but you will not be punished for it"--and actually follow through on that--quickly become communities of group-think where people either twist their thoughts to make what Person A did justifiable, or disagree but are too intimidated to speak up. Every idea is a brilliant idea, because no one disagrees. And everybody shifts more and more out of touch with what's acceptable in absolute terms, because all they're hearing is what's acceptable in their group.

We've seen the extremes of where that kind of thing leads.

Being a good citizen means speaking up when your country and its leaders do bad things. It's an act of love to do that, and to do the same for communities you care about that are going off the deep end. One you're likely to get kicked in the teeth for, but c'est la vie.*

*Speaking--sort of--of interventions, thank you, ethan, for forcibly removing me from the TMNT movie line. I had associated it with Buffy and...well, I got a little confused for a while.

#87 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 07:30 PM:

Problem here, as I see it, is that the Sierra affair went beyond invective to threats. I don't see how this could ever be considered even remotely acceptable. This is beyond "complain to the site owner" and into "call the cops" territory.

Near as I can tell, there are three types of people who throw around threats like this:

  1. The clueless. Their own lives are so nonviolent that they simply cannot imagine violence in connection with themselves. A threat is just another kind of joke.
  2. The sociopaths. They know darn well the effect that these kinds of threats produce, and do it on purpose. They're not violent; they just like to scare people.
  3. The psychos. They really mean it.

How to tell them apart? You can't, really. Add in the fact that a lot of people freak at the thought of violence and you get a very strong reaction.

#88 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 07:36 PM:

Now, now, Aconite (#86), there's no need to make up things that didn't happen. That was entirely my confusion.

Speaking of my confusion, I can say from personal experience that it's possible here for mistakes to happen, things to be amplified, ruckuses to happen, and then for everyone to be like, whoops, and move on. And I'm sure glad of it. Hooray, here!

#89 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 07:43 PM:

ethan @ 88: Now, now, Aconite (#86), there's no need to make up things that didn't happen. That was entirely my confusion.

Oh, now, no need to blush like that. Such modesty! All, "Aw, shucks, ma'am, 'tweren't nuthin'." Saving me from that movie was a mitzvah, I tell you, a mitzvah.

#90 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 08:20 PM:

This reminds me of the closing of Billmon's blog, Whiskey Bar, a few years ago. He had comment boards, and would set up free comment threads when he went away (to an economics conference) or was too busy to post.

The free threads attracted hundreds of commenters. The quality of comment was not vulgar or abusive by Fark standards, but it confirmed the negative stereotype of "wacko liberals." The commenters were further to the left than Billmon himself seemed (which, given Billmon's view of the Bush administration and the war, is saying something), and not always relevant.

Billmon compared the threads to a house-party at which hundreds of uninvited guests show up and trash the house. He shut down the blog for some time. He has posted again on important events, but without comment boards. Other liberal blogs debated whether this was arrogant. Ideally he would have moderated his own boards, but he has a professional day job.

#91 ::: Fred Kiesche ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 08:37 PM:

Gee, I wish those two wunderkind would speak to the gentleman who decided I was his "friend" and who went through the trouble of tracking down my telephone number, my address, and the fact that I have a wife and daughter. Should I mention the weapons that were taken from his home (not that he can't get more)? How about the fact that he ought to see doctors and take medication, except they are part of the "big conspiracy"? Changed my phone number, changed my e-mail, deleted a blog of nearly 9,000 postings, all because of one person. Good thing I didn't "moderate" his comments! That would have been evil of me! Heh.

#92 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 08:54 PM:

Teresa,

You know I think highly of your abilities as a moderator, and think you ought to write that book--in fact, sign me up for a copy--but aren't you giving in to the libertarian flavor of despair here?

#93 ::: Chuck ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 09:01 PM:

Extremely well said. You could condense the whole post down to this one insightful paragraph:

Anonymous nastiness is easy to write, and will always find an appreciative audience. I don’t care. It’s not a manifestation of the free and open discourse of the internet; it’s a thing that destroys that discourse. To be specific, it’s the same old trashmouthed bullying we all know from junior high and high school. Putting it on the net doesn’t cause it to develop any novel complexities or interesting emergent behaviors. It’s just the same old sh*t.

I don't and probably never will understand why people are so insistent on defending anonymous, cowardly, bottom-feeding garbage. And often not just defending it, but elevating it to the status of the most cherished thing on the internet.

I wonder if Norman Rockwell tried painting the "Four Freedoms" today, he'd have to add another one with some guy hunched over a computer keyboard spewing profanity.

#94 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 09:27 PM:

adamsj, #91: Can you expand on that? Because maybe it's just that I flew back from London today and my soul hasn't caught up yet, but I don't get what you're suggesting.

#95 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 09:30 PM:

By the way, if any post in this thread is going to be inscribed on the sky in letters of fire, it should be number 56.

#96 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 09:51 PM:

I swear, Cory Doctorow was right when he said I ought to write a book about moderation. I keep thinking it isn’t rocket science, and that anyone who’s hung out on the net for a while should know the basics... Then something like this comes along, and I realize it’s not as self-evident as I thought.

Cory Doctorow is right. (Feels almost redundant when I say it like that.) A book like that would be a Service to Humankind. So I second (tenth... thousandth... whatever we're at) the idea. Please do!

#97 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 09:58 PM:

PNH 95, praising James 56: How did I miss that the first time around? Thanks to both of you.

Which reminds me. Two blogs have lost my eyeballs permanently: Daily Kos, where Kos said that Ms. Sierra was just a hysterical woman, and TalkLeft, where Big Tent Democrat said that people who were horrified at Kos' casual misogyny needed to shut up because the blogger code of conduct was a stupid idea.

So I've switched my bookmarks to Shakesville and Firedoglake with a Twisty chaser.

#98 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 10:05 PM:

A book, and start doing Moderation Consulting for big firms that run messageboards.

#99 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 10:11 PM:

The thing that struck me about this is that the people who were involved in setting up the site that caused all the trouble have spent the interim time simultaneously arguing that a) this stuff is SOP, happens all the time, and she's overreacting and should suck it up, and b) she has terribly injured them by linking their names and reputations to what happened and should be ashamed of herself, because they didn't deserve to be publicly associated with this sort of thing, and c) she's trying to ride to glory on the coattails of their enormous fame.

Honestly, it's like someone finally told their moms about all the other peoples' lunch money they've been supplementing their income with.

#100 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 10:19 PM:

TexAnne, I think I've got a pretty good idea what kind of pole holds up that Big Tent.

#101 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 10:36 PM:

In "Big Tent Democrat"'s defense, he seems to have his head screwed on straight about the central role played by plain-old-woman-hating.

#102 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 10:46 PM:

True enough, but I have a hard time resisting a straight line.

#103 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 10:47 PM:

Patrick: Ah. That was posted after I swore off the site. I find it less objectionable than Kos' pathetic little response, but I'm still not going back there. I don't think either Kos or Half-a-Tent Democrat really understand why people were angered by their attitudes.

#104 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 11:00 PM:

First off, Patrick, let me echo your praise of number 56. It's a thought I should've had, and maybe even approached, but never quite articulated.

Next, let me note that I'm mildy disappointed in both Teresa and John Scalzi for talking only about and linking only to the NYT article and apparently not following the link in that article to where Tim's actual proposals could be found. I won't say the article gets it wrong, but it doesn't do full justice to the proposals, especially after he listened to critics and changed his mind a bit.

Anyway, what my wife said to me was that Tim O'Reilly's proposal was guidance to the people for whom moderation is rocket science. Not everyone has that clue--in fact, Tim's naivete (a good thing, I think, in context) in making the proposal surprised me a bit--and so having someone say these things explicitly is worthwhile. I think she's right, so far as she goes.

I go further, and say his other intention was to move toward setting norms about discourse. I don't think norms are simply emergent behavior. They sometimes occur because of the concerted labor of millions of people. The idea that rape should be addressed openly and taken seriously didn't come from spontaneous generation. People made it happen, consciously, deliberately, effortfully.

If you go through Tim's three postings, you'll see that his ideas (and his wording) clarified over the days.

If you then go through the comments on those postings, you'll see some of the most typical and childish idiocy imaginable, mostly boiling down to "Wah!" "Fuck you!" and "Make me!" (There's also some pretty intelligent disagreement with what Tim has to say, much of which he engages.) What disturbs me the most (after the misogeny), though, is the can't-do-ism--the libertarian despair.

There's a real sense in many of the comments there that nothing can be done. Not that it shouldn't be done--that sound is the internet infants crying and the virtual rapists drooling--but it can't be done. This is just how free and unfettered communication works. It's no different from any attempt to moderate the mechanisms of the market. You can't legislate morality. All that jazz.

Sure, you could take this back to at least the stoics--Marcus Aurelius said, "You may break your heart, but men will not change"--but in modern times, it's Heinlein and Hayek that push it.

So when Teresa says, "Uh-huh. And I’m busy constructing a bamboo-and-wicker water gate that will hereafter govern the flow of the Mississippi River," I get that same vibe. Maybe I'm wrong.

The point is, things can be done.

Lawrence Lessig doesn't trump Marcus Aurelius--that takes Michael Swanwick--but he doesn't have to. Men may not change themselves, but they can change the world they live in. When we change the world, we may not change ourselves, but we do change the constraints and conditions under which we interact.

In my book, that's just as good as changing ourselves--better, in fact, because it's doable.

For instance, there are mechanisms--like in this thread--for reducing the ability of assholes to disrupt and spew. There are also norms which can be set. God knows, that won't end bad behavior, but it can mitigate it. It ain't perfect, but it's better than nothing.

#105 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 11:10 PM:

adamsj, #91: Can you expand on that?

I'd be interested in seeing that, too, because I've pretty much been laboring for at least the last twelve years with some sort of despair over the collapse of the utility of Usenet. I'm pretty sure it's not the libertarian flavor, though I could be wrong.

Developing some kind of federated and distributed moderation system for the blogosphere— the lack of which is really what allowed the Kathy Sierra episode to go so badly non-linear— is a problem that I suspect can't be meaningfully addressed by just throwing battalions of moonlighting professional editors at it. Whether it can be addressed by alternative mechanisms is an interesting question to me, and I've not seen either of the Nielsen Haydens offer up any reasons to think the question is settled and the answer is no.

I'm not ready to condemn Tim O'Reilly and Jimmy Wales for, at least, trying to think openly about the problem.

#106 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 11:37 PM:

A question for Teresa - or anyone really, but especially Teresa -

One of the few sins that affects even a well run forum like Making Light is the Great Internet Dogpile:

- someone says something mildly dumb or mean or stupid. It's bad, but not end of the world bad.
- other posters start calling them on this
- despite the fact that a dozen people have already adressed the topic, everybody else has a go
- the original poster either explodes with anger, or curls up into the fetal position and never speaks again

The tragic thing about the dogpile is that it can happen when every single person involved is (almost) reasonable - just a symptom of the odd discontinuous nature of conversation over the net.

How would/could/should you handle this?

#107 ::: Gary ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2007, 11:37 PM:

My own blogs have a very small audience. Just about all of my readers are friends I made at FictionAddiction (some of whom I've since met in person), plus my girlfriend. Despite this small audience, I have had my share of comment spammers and others (some even went through the pains of manually navigating their way through Blogger's word verificaton to post their rot), and I've felt absolutely no remorse over deleting their crap.

#108 ::: Bacchus ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 12:01 AM:

Cheering this post.

I discovered early that it's impossible to run an adult (sex, porn) blog with an open comment system. I have to moderate ruthlessly to keep the comments from degenerating into adolescent misogyny.

I do find that putting all comments from first-time posters into automatic moderation substantially reduces the moderating burden.

#109 ::: Dave H ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 01:48 AM:

I've learnt a new word - minatory. I believe I shall use it when reviewing the next project specification I receive.

#110 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 02:07 AM:

Teresa, you desperately need to write that book, and perhaps even to make it available online (killing two birds with one stone!). I've been link-surfing thru various levels of discussion about the topic elsewhere, and the one trope that comes up over and over again is, "It can't be done, there's no possible way to do it."

And yet... here you are, doing it. And there are several other blogs (most of them, I would note, run by women or by a heavily-female group) which also manage to keep a generally civil level of discourse without suppressing disagreement and vigorous discussion. Don't any of these guys ever look at any of them?

I think perhaps what they're trying to say is, "It can't be done automatically and painlessly," and they'd be right about that. As you note, it takes a lot of hard work, and some helpers among the regular commenters, and it has to be done on an individual-blog basis.

Which in turn makes me start to wonder if there's not a secondary agenda under all that "libertarian despair" -- fabulous term! -- namely, that it's just not worth the effort if they PERSONALLY are going to have to do it. Particularly since it's just a women's issue that started all the fuss.

#111 ::: dichroic ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 03:15 AM:

In a decade or so moderating email discussion lists, what I've found is that a moderator who requires civility is making his or her job a lot easier. I'm sure there is a lot of work in moderating comments on this site because of its high traffic, but I'm also sure there's a hell of a lot *less* work in it, than there would be if the site owners hadn't weeded out the jerks and promoted a level of discourse that then becomes self-sustaining. Not entirely so, of course, because with this big a party there are always idiots trying to crash it, but the regulars and semi-regulars know what will fly and what won't and value what's here enough to apply a lot of peer pressure to conform to those standards.

#112 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 04:34 AM:

Steve Taylor @106
How would/could/should you handle this[the Great Internet Dogpile]?

I don't think that's quite the right question. To come over all JFK, the question is how we would/could/should handle this.

And the answer, nicely illustrated by Bruce Baugh, is here. Step up and call it when you see it happening. Step back before you join in.

#113 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 04:58 AM:

adamsj, I don't see how you are getting libertarian despair from Teresa's post. You seem to think that she believes O'Reilly and Wales are wasting their time proposing a web-wide scheme for moderation because things are already irreparably bad, but the title should tell you otherwise: Moderation isn't rocket science.

A web-wide scheme to moderate the blogosphere is a stupid idea not just because it's impossible, but because it's unnecessary. Look here at this site: no death threats, no schoolyard misogyny, ephemeral spam, not even a bit of full-on flaming.

#114 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 06:45 AM:

abi at #112 wrote:

> I don't think that's quite the right question. To come over all JFK, the question is how we would/could/should handle this.

And you're certainly right there - I've both resisted temptation and given in to temptation there. I actually can't recall if I've asked people to back off as well, but it would be appropriate.

Still - I'm interested in the original form of my question too, as the thread is all about how moderation can keep things under control, and I'd like to hear Teresa's take on how much or little a moderator should do.

Of course, I know that part of her answer to how to have a happy blog (or other forum) is to have regulars who are willing to work to keep things civilised - which brings us straight back to your answer.

#115 ::: Martin McCallion ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 06:46 AM:

Aconite @78: IOIFYAR? I can't find it on acronymfinder.com, and there are nearly no other references to it out there.

#116 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 07:08 AM:

Martin McCallion @115: IOIFYAR?

It's Okay IF You Are Republican (I believe that's the construction).

Things that had been intolerable in a Democratic administration, are somehow forgiveable, ignorable, insignificant, when done by Republicans.

#117 ::: Martin McCallion ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 07:15 AM:

Rob, thanks for that.

#118 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 07:48 AM:

Bill Higgins #60:

Can Any Mother Help Me? by Jenna Bailey - http://www.faber.co.uk/book_detail.html?bid=38897&clid=3 - was released in the UK recently, and got good reviews (I haven't read it yet). It's about the Cooperative Correspondence Club, a round-robin club that lasted from 1935 until 1990. In this case, some of the founder members were still alive when the author discovered the correspondence in an archive, which allowed her to trace the whole history of this lost fandom.

#119 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 08:16 AM:

Re: #115-116: Yes, that's it. I mistyped and stuck the "F" in. Sorry for the confusion.

#120 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 08:34 AM:

j h, Patrick,

I hope that long (and long-winded) post clarifies what I was thinking.

Niall,

Like I said, maybe I'm wrong.

I don't think every time that (for instance) the law of unintended consequences is invoked, the intended consequence is just to discourage action, but I'm damn sure that sometimes is the intention.

I asked because I was curious to hear Teresa's answer, and to put the point out for discussion. I also wanted to spur engagement with Tim's proposal as it stands, not with the NYT article.

Okay, and because I'm a meddling busybody.

#121 ::: Chuck ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 08:50 AM:

There's one bit from the "panel discussion"/forum guidelines that didn't seem that important to me when I first read it, but now I'm wondering if it's crucial: the idea of rewarding commenters.

I was just reading a different weblog -- The Comics Curmudgeon -- and noticed that like "Making Light" it also has an active community with dozens if not hundreds of replies to each post. And the conversation is entertaining more often than not, and civil always. It's a pretty different audience than this blog's, but one thing they do have in common is that the commenters are acknowledged as being crucial to the site, and they're rewarded for "good" comments. Each week there's a "comment of the week" the site maintainer chooses and posts at the top of the main page.

I just thought it was worth pointing out that there are now two data points proving that positive reinforcement actually increases the civility and intelligence of a forum. It wasn't obvious to me, anyway -- I always assumed that as a moderator, you just let people's comments stand on their own, only replying if you disagree or have something new to add. And just saying "good comment!" or "thanks for replying" always sounded patronizing. But now I see it's crucial for building a community and keeping readers involved.

#122 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 09:38 AM:

adamsj (#104), Niall's #113 is pretty much the answer I would give. Teresa isn't retailing the passive-aggressive idea that People Are Just Like That and there's nothing to be done. She's saying that there are particular kinds of bad behavior to which humans are known to be prone, and we also know how to forestall and discourage that behavior. By rewarding better behavior. By making our comment sections "places," hospitable destinations rather than anonymous walls. By paying attention.

#123 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 09:43 AM:

j h woodyatt, #105: I'm sorry, but you lose me entirely when you advocate "developing some kind of federated and distributed moderation system for the blogosphere."

No. This is our living room. We try to run a pleasant and civilized living room. We don't need a "federated and distributed system" to do this for us and we would refuse to participate in one if someone tried to build it.

I have a lot of respect for Tim O'Reilly, but the existence of a problem does not ennoble every proposal to address it. It does not make lead into gold or foolishness admirable and smart.

#124 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 09:47 AM:

julia @ 99

Honestly, it's like someone finally told their moms about all the other peoples' lunch money they've been supplementing their income with.

It may sound like a joke, but I think you've gotten to the nub of the problem right here: what's in really short supply and desparately needed on the web is adult supervision. Too many people have their emotional and moral sensibilities frozen sometime in early adolescence, when they still haven't found the balance between the self and the pack that primates all have to develop to be working (as opposed to broken) adults.

Because of the pack relationship, most people will maintain decent standards if they see examples of good behavior around them, and also see that bad behavior isn't acceptable to their pack. It's when those relationships break down, because there's no one to provide the models they need to follow that the trouble starts.

I don't think this means that Patrick and Teresa are parent surrogates, though there are probably a lot of groups that function because of people in those roles*. For more mature audiences, what's needed are leaders, people who are willing to behave correctly on their own hook, without prodding by others, and who encourage that trait in others. If the leaders are smart and caring, as Patrick and Teresa are, they'll attract similar people, and you can have a place like Making Light that works. If they are willing to work hard at keeping the place clean, in good condition, and free of junior high jinks, you can have an exceptional place to be, as we do.

* My experience with communes has been that most of them end up with group dynamics modelled on small families, no matter what their size. There is usually a parent or three, and discipline is maintained in ways immediately recognizable to any parent of a six year old or teacher of grade school.

#125 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 09:58 AM:

adamsj contends, in #104, that TNH and John Scalzi were unfair to Wales and O'Reilly, insofar as they based their posts entirely on news reports of Wales and O'Reilly's proposals. In particularl, adamsj feels that Teresa should have noted Tim O'Reilly's subsequent refinements on his initial comments.

I've now read all three of those later O'Reilly posts, and I don't see anything in them that makes his ideas more sensible. He still appears to be trying to build what our own j h woodyatt describes as a "federated and distributed moderation system" for weblogs, which seems to me about as sensible as trying to reduce the incidence of mugging in your neighborhood by calling for the creation of a UN World Anti-Mugging Secretariat.

I totally agree with O'Reilly that civility is important, and that culture is something that can be, by means of intelligent discussion, changed. But I think he's going about it in a bizarrely schematic and, really, unworldly way.

#126 ::: Michael Bloom ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 10:19 AM:

Late to the party, as usual. (Day jobs are the curse of the posting class.)

My observation, unqualified though it may be, is that there is a subtle carrot/stick going on in Making Light that may not be replicable in other fora.

Everyone who's read this for any length of time knows about disemvowelling, which truly is so effective as to border on the marvellous.

The reward is even more subtle. It's when you post something that somebody else finds useful and interesting enough to reply to, and engages you. This is, of course, one of the motivations for trollish behavior, although they corrupt it by conflating *any* response with one that actually evaluates and expands upon their text. But, way junior member of this community that I hope I can claim to belong to, I was very happy the day I posted something that got a reasoned response.

And I don't (think I) know any of you in real life, although I'd love to.

Now I fear I've just become a meta-troll by implicitly begging for an attaboy in this post!

Off topic, something SpeakerToManagers posted set off an idea in my head. I've been obsessing lately over Rudy Giuliani's sudden acceptability among the wingers. Now I see how he does it. He's channelling Bugs Bunny!

#127 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 10:22 AM:

Another vote for T writing the book....

To me, it seems that the most basic issue is responsibility, as per #21. Several people have been saying variations of "not if you wouldn't say it in [someone's home/bar/etc]", but that's not really the point -- how many of you haven't seen a real-world party get out of hand?

When that happens, it's because there was nobody taking responsibility for keeping it in line. That responsibility includes prompt and firm squelching of misbehavior, up to and including kicking someone out of the party, or calling the police on them. Sometimes it can mean putting somebody at the door to chase off obvious troublemakers. Same deal online....

"Leadership" is another level above that, where the leader provides an active model, ideally of integrity and goodwill. Proper leadership can inspire collective responsibility, where all the regulars know the rules and will stand up for them even before the leader says anything. That's part of what makes for a strong community, online or in RL.

Of course, well-run forums are much more attractive to genuine participants, while neglected, troll-infested ones tend to be abandoned. The point being that if you aren't part of the solution, you're liable to be part of the precipitate, ;-)

#128 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 10:22 AM:

I think the discussion that started with 83 and 84 about the hippie/libertarian tradition leave out a significant part of the "we can't have censorship, it's wrong" stupidity, namely the belief on the part of some trolls (and it tends to be gender-role-linked) that they're doing good and important work by disrupting fora where civil conversations are conducted. The whole "pushing the limits"/epater les bourgeois thing.

(Of course, I learned much of my etiquette in newsgroups, which were something more like public property, so that there was a colorable argument for free speech even in moderated groups. For blogs it seems much more obvious that "Because you're disrupting the conversation" is sufficient.)

#129 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 10:29 AM:

I would also like to join the chorus of praise for #56. I have been itching to write something about this for my own blog under the headline "It's the Misogyny, Stupid", but I haven't had the spare hour to compose all my thoughts on this subject.

I don't think this is a matter of cluelessness. I think it is a matter of agenda.

I think it's somewhere in between; not so much "cluelessness" as "multi-drug clue-resistance". There is a widespread attitude among men in the IT world that of course there is no sexism in our industry, we're a pure meritocracy, la di dah, and sure there aren't more women in high-tech jobs but maybe that's because they're biologically predisposed to different kinds of work and isn't it great that we all have the freedom to choose whatever occupation suits our particular skills, la di dah. Among people wearing these kinds of blinders, people who practice more blatant forms of sexism can get away with a lot.

#130 ::: Stephen Granade ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 10:32 AM:

Bruce @ 124:

It may sound like a joke, but I think you've gotten to the nub of the problem right here: what's in really short supply and desparately needed on the web is adult supervision. Too many people have their emotional and moral sensibilities frozen sometime in early adolescence, when they still haven't found the balance between the self and the pack that primates all have to develop to be working (as opposed to broken) adults.

I think you also have one of the geek social fallacies in play, namely "ostracizers are evil". The laudable desire not to leave people out can be conflated with a nebulous and incorrect concept of free speech, leaving people with a "no moderation, ever!" approach to online communities. Given the techie origins of the Internet and the moderation approaches fostered by early adopters, I'm not surprised that many sites on the internet look like Usenet circa any September prior to 1993.

#131 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 10:44 AM:

Adamsj @ #104:

"Next, let me note that I'm mildy disappointed in both Teresa and John Scalzi for talking only about and linking only to the NYT article and apparently not following the link in that article to where Tim's actual proposals could be found."

You are mistakenly assuming that by only linking to the one article I did not read the proposal (or the subsequent emendations). Suffice to say I'm not obliged to present every single link -- my readers understand the Web well enough to follow links on their own.

As PNH notes, even at this late stage O'Reilly seems to be engaging in magical thinking that is more about how he feels the online world ought to be than the way it actually is.

Or to put it another way: Both this site and my site are widely regarded as having some of the most active, interesting and (overall) polite and considered comment threads around. If we think the O'Reilly/Wales moderation concept is horribly flawed, and refuse to participate in it on philosophical and personal grounds, what do you think the people who actually let dickheads run free on their comment threads are going to say about it?

#132 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 11:24 AM:

Seth #129:

This case involves mysogyny, but there is plenty of other abusive crap that plays out in newsgroups and blog discussions, which has nothing to do with mysogyny. And mysogyny can be independent of abuse, at least as some people use the term.

IMO, it's not unacceptable ideas (women don't belong in high tech, women are yucky and not allowed in our he-mans-women-haters-club, etc.) that is the problem. It's scary death threats and personal nastiness.

#133 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 11:42 AM:

There really are two issues here: what moderators do and what is to be done in the wider world of the 'net. As to the first, I think Teresa has the right of it. As to the second, I really wish we'd get some real net.cops; if a small-town newspaper ran a letter containing an anonymous death-threat, wouldn't the local DA look into the matter? This seems to me little different.

"I swear, Cory Doctorow was right when he said I ought to write a book about moderation. I keep thinking it isn’t rocket science, and that anyone who’s hung out on the net for a while should know the basics. (If you want a short version of what I consider the basics, I posted it here.) Then something like this comes along, and I realize it’s not as self-evident as I thought."

I wish you would; you're better at it than anyone else I know. As important is not the how but the why of what you do. You have very good intuition in this, and so it seems easy to you; the blogosphere is witness that this is not universally the case.

Bruce Cohen, #84; j h woodyatt, #105: "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, [...]" (But then goes on to finesse the question of consent, oh well.) Usenet: proof that naive anarchism still doesn't work.

Finally, told ya. Over a decade ago, too. In reviewing that, I'd have been a lot angrier and much less self-deprecatory if I were writing it with my current understanding; what occurred in that newsgroup was a moral outrage.

#134 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 11:52 AM:

John, Patrick,

Oddly enough, I meant exactly what I said. I've certainly seen Patrick complain about the mainstream media getting things wrong. I believe I've seen John and Teresa do the same. For this reason, I find John and Teresa not bothering to make the link directly to the proposal in question, and linking instead only to a story about the proposal, to be mildly disappointing.

Patrick, j h,

A "federated and distributed moderation system for weblogs" is a very interesting idea, but it's not what's being proposed. What is being proposed is a voluntary standard for discourse. That's not all that dissimilar from Teresa writing and distributing a guide to moderating on-line forums. If she did that, I predict it would fairly quickly become the standard reference on the subject.

#135 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 11:56 AM:

Serge (#63): I do wonder though who "Faren's computer" really is. Now might be the time for it to sweep up its moldy black cape and go "Bwah ha ha!", but it's currently mellow from special treatment -- I had a local computer whiz get me the new AVG that refused to download properly (and for a reasonable fee, since he stayed for quite a while to make sure that everything went OK). Nice machine, when it's being pampered! Sort of like my cat.

#136 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 12:17 PM:

#106, #112: I don't know if you intended this meaning or not, but it seems to me that that is exactly what happened to Kos. He said something moderately stupid (or if you prefer a less blame-like description, something easily misinterpreted as stupid) and got, well, a great internet dogpile.

And my observation of similar phenomena tends to indicate that on the Internet as a whole, once that kind of avalanche has already started, it is too late for the pebbles to vote; on any particular site the site owner can still step in and say "That's enough", but it won't have much impact on the overall dogpile.

And, of course, the fact that the unfortunate person at the bottom of the dogpile may have *deserved* a moderate amount of criticism is used as a rhetorical club against anyone who suggests that he/she doesn't deserve a great internet dogpile. Proportionality is important, but easy to lose sight of in that kind of opinion stampede. (Friggin' herd animals...)


Ultimately, IMO, a code of conduct won't matter much because good moderators will moderate well without one, while bad moderators will moderate poorly even with one. It doesn't and can't provide enough of a guideline to stop neglect, petty tyranny, dissent-squelching or hypocritical favoritism if the person or people trying to implement it are susceptible to those sorts of behaviors. And that's even if it manages to be universally agreed on and adopted, which in reality, it won't be.

#137 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 12:18 PM:

Adding to what Patrick said at #123 and #125, the very idea of a universal moderation system makes me a little nervous. Trying to put the entire web under one rule seems not only doomed but also undesirable: I think the internet's eclecticism of opinions and standards is one of its greatest strengths.

An internet in which saying something ban-worthy at one site would result in some sort of universal ban seems rather, well, limiting. Being able to reinvent yourself at every turn is one of the great freedoms unique to the internet. Certainly that freedom has been greatly abused by some, but I'm not sure why that should ruin it for the rest of us. I like the way the internet offers infinite opportunities to leave your past mistakes behind.

Besides, different sites are going to have substantially different standards for what is considered appropriate. For example, I'd consider most of what appears at LGF to be ban-worthy, and they'd no doubt think the same of, say, Pandagon. What common standard can you ever come up with? The fact that some people will disrupt other people's conversations can be dealt with, but the fact that some people want to have conversations that others find odious and/or pointless is unavoidable. Letting people self-segregate in different communities, and decide on those communities' rules themselves seems sensible.

(P.S. You know what is a truly brilliant moderating tool? Forced previewing. Countless are the stupid comments I've deleted during preview. Let's work on evangelizing that.)

#138 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 12:33 PM:

adamsj #104 - Marcus Aurelius's blog din't have comments though, which is the same cop-out as me. Maintaining civil comments does take time and effort, as I wrote in The Tragedy of the Comments. That said, the Akismet system of distributed spam removal does work well, but I don't think that can possibly work for trolling and bullying, and it was another blog that fostered the mysogynistic attacks on Sierra, which undermiens my thesis there.

Teresa, you shoud write that book. If you want a collaborator, consider Tom Coates, whose blog of a few years back Everything in Moderation (read the archive links) was very good on the topic.

#139 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 12:34 PM:

Faren @ 135... Nice machine, when it's being pampered! Sort of like my cat.

Does it shed?

#140 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 12:38 PM:

Chris, #136: since you mentioned internet dogpiles, it seems worth repeating some things I first noticed over 10 years ago on Usenet.

1. Posts are written one by one and then read all at once. So there are synergies; two posts have profoundly more impact than two conversations. 20 posts are dramatic or, perhaps, melo-dramatic, and the person who reads 20 posts gets the entire emotional impact, all in one jolt. The emotional state of participants can rise quickly to a fever pitch and stay there, sometimes for a very long time, as participants drop out and are replaced by others.

2. The second part of what I wrote about at that time was how some people deliberately provoke this reaction to abuse a target. This is a very powerful way of silencing the target; the emotional impact of that much abuse is pretty horrifying, and it brings the scary nutjobs out of the closet, like the one who threatened Kathy Sierra.

#141 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 12:48 PM:

adamsj, @ 134:

I don't doubt you mean what you say; what I'm saying to you is I don't particularly care whether you're disappointed or not, nor do I care why you feel I ought to link to what you think I ought to link to. I trust my own judgment regarding links more than the judgment random people online. And of course, this is a fine microcosm of why any system, voluntary or otherwise, to moderate the Web won't actually work: lots of people, like me (and TNH, it seems) who have an utter lack of concern as to whether what they choose to do on their own site meets the standards of anyone who is not them.

#142 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 12:58 PM:

John,

If you really felt that way, and guided your writing by those feelings, you wouldn't be readable. But you aren't unreadable--quite the opposite--so I doubt the depth of those feelings.

I still don't see where you and others are coming up with the idea that encouraging more moderate on-line behavior is the same as moderating the Web. I just went back to the actual postings and don't see it.

#143 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 12:58 PM:

Randolph #140: 1. Posts are written one by one and then read all at once. So there are synergies; two posts have profoundly more impact than two conversations. 20 posts are dramatic or, perhaps, melo-dramatic, and the person who reads 20 posts gets the entire emotional impact, all in one jolt.

The other thing about posts (comments) being written one by one is that replies are also made one by one. IOW, we (mea culpa!) don't always read the entire rest of the thread before replying. It more than frequently happens that [more than one] somebody else will have said something similar in the interval. This can add mightily to a feeling of dogpile when there actually was no such intent.

#144 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 01:03 PM:

> we (mea culpa!) don't always read the entire rest of the thread before replying

Sometimes we do, and then find other people have said exactly the same thing while we were writing our reply.

#145 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 01:27 PM:

143, 144: AKA "net-lag", and a very real issue. This was an even larger problem on Usenet, where posts would show up on different people's computers at wildly-varying times. I eventually learned that on some topics, I was well-advised not to reply for a few hours, and then to see what had been said in the interim first. By then, a lot of times all I needed to do was add a couple of fine shadings.

#146 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 01:37 PM:

Faren Miller #135: Nice machine, when it's being pampered! Sort of like my cat.

You have a machine cat?!

#147 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 01:38 PM:

And man, look at that Code of Conduct grow!

Here's O'Reilly's original draft, posted on April 4th.

Here's what it had metastasized into by the 15th.

By now, it's so big that the bullet points have budded off to separate pages.

And what's that stuff about copyright and trademark and confidentiality doing in there?

#148 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 01:39 PM:

albatross #132
IMO, it's not unacceptable ideas (women don't belong in high tech, women are yucky and not allowed in our he-mans-women-haters-club, etc.) that is the problem. It's scary death threats and personal nastiness.

Except that the unacceptable ideas slop over so easily into a blame-the-victim mentality ("if they insist on coming in here where they aren't wanted and don't belong, they have no right to complain about how they are treated")

Also, scary death threats and personal nastiness are clearly out of line (or would, in some hypothetical reasonable world, be seen by everyone to be clearly out of line) but the cumulative effect of repeated drips of "your kind don't belong here" shouldn't be discounted.

#149 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 01:48 PM:

Avram,

The jumping-off point for the proposed code of conduct was the BlogHer Community Guidelines, which address copyright and confidentiality, and references the Electronic Frontier Foundation Legal Guide "for a a clear definition of proper attribtution and fair use".

#150 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 01:51 PM:

adamsj @ 142:

"If you really felt that way, and guided your writing by those feelings, you wouldn't be readable."

No. I like to be clear and accessible in my writing and a light hand on my moderating; I'm also entirely unconcerned if what I'm writing or doing on my site is not to the liking of anyone else. Indeed, I wrote about this very subject at length yesterday on my site, when someone was saying I should write more about what he wants me to write about; my response, in so many words, was that he doesn't get a vote. To use an analogy, just because you open a restaurant doesn't mean people who come in off the street get a say in how you run the kitchen.

"I still don't see where you and others are coming up with the idea that encouraging more moderate on-line behavior is the same as moderating the Web."

I'll remember you said that when someone who has signed on to this Code of Conduct sends me an e-mail saying they feel obliged to inform me that I'm being uncivil on my own site, as signatories are encouraged to do. At which point they'll discover how uncivil I can be.

#151 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 02:12 PM:

Hmmm; T-shirt?

#152 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 02:27 PM:

ethan @ 146:
"You have a machine cat?!"


see Brad Foster's The Purr Mechanism

#153 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 02:42 PM:

Heh, the BCC page on the wiki referenced up above has a link to a much saner code at the end:

http://blogging.wikia.com/wiki/Alternate_Code_of_Conduct

#154 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 02:46 PM:

Holy cow, I've poked around that wiki a little more:
After a week's discussion, we have decided to split this code into modules. Bloggers can choose the specific modules they want to apply to their new blog.

Object-oriented conduct coding! Yee haw!

#155 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 02:55 PM:

Adamsj @149, that explains where it came from, but not why it's in there.

O'Reilly likens his Code of Conduct to Lawrence Lessig's Creative Commons series of licenses, yet he's following a Jim Wales Wikipedia-like development process. That means that instead of getting clear, concise results like Creative Commons, he's going to wind up with a bloated, self-contradictory mess like a popular, contentious Wikipedia article.

#156 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 03:53 PM:

paul @ 128

(Of course, I learned much of my etiquette in newsgroups, which were something more like public property, so that there was a colorable argument for free speech even in moderated groups. For blogs it seems much more obvious that "Because you're disrupting the conversation" is sufficient.)

But a laissez-faire attitude towards public property usually results in the Tragedy of the Commons. At the very least, there has to be some societal norm that encourages people to keep up the neighborhood, or you end up with Detroit, which for awhile there was getting burned down once a year.

#157 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 04:44 PM:

OtterB @148
Agreed.

IRL, I am pretty intolerant of sexist jokes, even from people that I know are kidding. They create an atmosphere where the trolls and jerks feel comfortable, and when they start telling those jokes, saying those things, they mean it.

Likewise, on the Web, expressing those opinions creates a doorway for the next layer of a'hole, complete with death threats and sexual menace.

There's always someone saying "just suck it up", and of course, I do that a lot (what woman doesn't? You can't fight 24/7.) But sometimes it really does get me down, both in its own right and because I have to be braced for whatever comes next.

#158 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 05:52 PM:

"I've now read all three of those later O'Reilly posts, and I don't see anything in them that makes his ideas more sensible. He still appears to be trying to build what our own j h woodyatt describes as a "federated and distributed moderation system" for weblogs, which seems to me about as sensible as trying to reduce the incidence of mugging in your neighborhood by calling for the creation of a UN World Anti-Mugging Secretariat."

I'm not sure I see where anybody is calling in virtual air support from the UN Black Helicopters, but okay— I get that I should be deeply ashamed for ever entertaining the idea that, maybe— just maybe— something better than naïve anarchism is available for moderating global-scale, self-organizing, group communication systems. Silly me. I'm sorry for wasting my time giving serious consideration to obviously insensible thoughts. I'll stop now.

So, yes. Let's roundly mock the Web 2.0 people for being pie-in-the-sky idealists. Don't they know that technology can never really make lasting improvements in our world? What are they smoking over there?

#159 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 06:16 PM:

adamsj writes: "A "federated and distributed moderation system for weblogs" is a very interesting idea, but it's not what's being proposed. "

Not yet, at any rate. I see the hints of federation in Tim O'Reilly's call for "modularity" and a "badging" system, which he says is inspired by the badging in the Creative Commons realm. The hints of distribution are underneath the references to the Slashdot moderation system. At least, that's how I read them. I could easily be reading more into Mr. O'Reilly's intent than I should.

#160 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 07:02 PM:

j h woodyatt @ #158:

I think you're missing the point. Some of us believe that blogs are an online analog of our living rooms and backyards. Trying to impose a global standard of good behavior is paternalistic on the one hand, and impractical on the other.

#161 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 08:00 PM:

Lee, #145: I don't think you were around in Usenet's pre-internet days, when we used UUCP mail; lag was even worse then; both in e-mail and news. Usenet postings and e-mail could both take days to arrive and Usenet postings would sometimes bounce around the world twice. But Usenet and the blogosphere have new problems: speed, volume, and being part of the public sphere. The old Usenet had some built-in moderation, by virtue of its academic and research character; there were limits, though they were fairly liberal. Now net.crime is a major problem, and the blogosphere partakes of the immoderation of the general culture as well; moderation is now a necessity, just as Teresa says. Volume, of course, makes it necessary to be a bit exclusive, though not out of bigotry; there is no way for 50,000 people to have a discussion if all talk at once. And everything goes that much faster, so that the time demands of moderation are much greater. It is a strange world we have arrived in. I wonder what changes the next 20 years will bring.

#162 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 09:45 PM:

"Some of us believe that blogs are an online analog of our living rooms and backyards."

I wonder how many of us believe that meankids.org was the online analog of someone's living room or backyard.

I don't mean to be snarky. My point is, with all due respect to our hosts, that I think there are limits to the appropriateness of the living room or backyard analogy. I have a tough time reading the output of this Google News query without wanting to know if a better way to deal with this class of problems can be found.

But apparently, that makes me paternalistic and impractical. <sigh/>

#163 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 10:37 PM:

j h woodyatt @ #162:

I have a tough time reading the output of this Google News query without wanting to know if a better way to deal with this class of problems can be found.

I don't think most would take issue with that; in fact, I like Teresa's suggestions and think they would go a long way to improve matters, if people chose to adopt them.

It's the particular proposal that O'Reilly makes, and your own proposal of "a federated and distributed moderation system" that I and some others dislike.

But apparently, that makes me paternalistic and impractical.

I don't believe that's what I said, but I suppose you could choose to read it that way. Just to clarify, I'm saying that O'Reilly's proposed code, or any proposal similar to it, is impractical and paternalistic. I said nothing at all about you.


#164 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 11:01 PM:

Albatross, #24: blush. (This is my own example of not reading carefully enough before jumping in with comments.)

"Living room", various comments. More like a front porch or a salon, I think--a semi-public space which is nonetheless part of private property. The metaphor of a bar is not a bad one, either.

j h woodyatt, #162: the main reason I ended up studying this problem was cyber-bullying; there was one person who I believe triggered four suicide attempts. Broadly, I think there's a real need to teach children awareness of boundaries. This is old news, of course, but it is a new area in which to teach.

#165 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2007, 11:05 PM:

j h woodyatt writes @158: Let's roundly mock the Web 2.0 people

Actually, from where I sit, "Web 2.0" hasn't been mocked enough.

#166 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2007, 01:03 AM:

j h woodyatt, #162:
I wonder how many of us believe that meankids.org was the online analog of someone's living room or backyard.

Very easily, in places like rural Texas or Mississippi. "Snake-mean" is the corresponding phrase.

#167 ::: Mickle ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2007, 04:56 AM:

Chris

(apologies if this is off-topic)

I'll grant you the piling on, but Markos didn't just "say something moderately stupid."

Markos' only argument was that what happened to Sierra wasn't that serious. Or rather, that Sierra overreacted because cyberthreats in general are almost never a serious problem. He also argued this without ever mentioning the sexual nature of the threats....despite the fact that the article he linked to for background info made a big ol' stink about how women are much more likely to be harassed online than men.

At best that's mind-numbingly negligent writing. At worst, he was going for meta-commentary on just how stupid he thinks such claims are.

Markos is welcome to stick his head in the sand if he wants to, he just can't do so as the head honcho of a huge blog that's supposedly all about giving the people a voice....and not expect to get called on it. Plus, I have very little sympathy for people who get piled on because they refuse to see when other people are getting piled on.

#168 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2007, 08:05 AM:

Faren Miller @135: Glad to hear that got sorted out. I occasionally think of Larry Niven's 'psionic' machines, such as the mass indicator that only worked when the pilot paid attention to it; how is this different than all the other machines we use?

#169 ::: steve muhlberger ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2007, 09:31 AM:

Late in the thread and possibly irrelevant, but if I had a great big blog like Billmon's or this one, I'd have no hesitation about shaping the discussion by eliminating irrelevant posts. I wouldn't wait for offensive. Of course that might kill the flow.

#170 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2007, 10:40 AM:

Re the various responses to my "pampered cat" analogy:

Serge (#139): Horton sheds enough to discourage any competition. Ethan (#146): machine cats might not shed, but (thanks for link, Bruce Arthurs #146) the real thing has a pretty amazing purr mechanism -- and a 20-pound cat making bread atop your leg in the middle of the night can feel like a robotic lump of steel! Rob Rusick (#168): Yes, it's a great relief to have that update working.

#171 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2007, 10:48 AM:

Faren @ 170... My other interpretation of your computer/feline metaphor was that, like a cat, your computer likes climbing on its own keyboard while you're trying to type.

#172 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2007, 11:23 AM:

Mickle, I fear you have neglected the second and third prong of Kos's argument:
#2: Look, if you blog, and blog about controversial shit, you'll get idiotic emails. Kathy Sierra is, of course, a tech blogger.
#3: Most of the time, said "death threats" don't even exist -- evidenced by the fact that the crying bloggers and journalists always fail to produce said "death threats". - translation, "She's lying"

Several of the pile-uponers were distressed that Kos would return from a posting break to weigh in on this topic without doing basic research, and with a large chunk of a small post being critical of Kathy Sierra.

To try to pull this back on-topic - it interests me that despite the pile-on factor, the basic facts of the situation don't seem to be widely known. Is this because of the pile-on factor - are people just repeating each other, and drifting away from the actual situation in a game of flaming telephone?

#173 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2007, 11:50 AM:

Hmm. This comment was more relevant in the earlier section of this thread than it is now. Oh well.

There are two "board communities" on the net I feel an active part of. This is one of them, the other is a guild board for an online RPG, with over 3000 members. Here I feel like a student and a lurker; there I'm one of the elders, and sometimes I try to serve as the voice of reason.

Teresa's advice (especially the idea behind disemvoweling) has helped me a great deal. I like the idea of making a troll's post difficult to read without removing it... and I've found that posts made difficult to read by a moderator are less likely to get a response than posts that are untouched. It's also less likely to cause a "censorship!" stink than deletion. I prefer techniques that are a little more easily reversible than disemvoweling, but the principal is the same.

Of course a generalized community board has very different rules and discourse standards than a blog like this, especially when the majority of the participants are males between the ages of fourteen and twenty-eight. Better mods than I have been cut down by their discontent, but these little lessons have helped me to plan ahead to dull that outrage.

And while not rocket science, moderating is Politics and Advanced Interpersonal Skills 101. You might be surprised how many people don't have any concept of how to make a neutral statement or ask a neutral question. Many don't even realize that ad hominem attacks make for bad arguments. Now I'm starting to wonder if that skill can be taught.

#174 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2007, 02:21 PM:

Rob, #168, I think the point of Niven's mass indicator is that because it was psionic, it couldn't be operated by an autopilot. (The point of that was to drive Beowulf Shaeffer to distraction, I think, to produce some dramatic tension when Nessus the Puppeteer coerced him into continuing towards the galactic core.)

#175 ::: Andrew ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2007, 02:25 PM:

I'm of mixed feelings about this, based on my own experiences moderating a LiveJournal community. I've chosen to take a light hand with it; I will take it seriously when someone makes a post that is threatening or traumatizing, but will stay out of it when someone makes a post that is irritating or unpleasant. Yet a few vocal members occasionally demand that I ban a certain person, or publicly condemn his actions, or delete his posts. Some of them make threats or judgments when I don't. But I refuse to make one person a scapegoat for any unpleasantness on the community. I do moderate my own journal as I please, but because the community is not mine per se, I don't have a desire to control its direction.

Mostly, I think that moderators need to acknowledge that moderating action is always an option. Saying "Free speech, always" is foolish. But most of all, there needs to be a trusted leader who can make decisions. If a moderator decides that something should be deleted, it gets deleted. If a moderator decides that it stays, then it stays. You can't really put these things up for a vote--especially if there's no criterion for who is and is not a member.

#176 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2007, 02:30 PM:

Faren Miller #170: a 20-pound cat making bread atop your leg in the middle of the night can feel like a robotic lump of steel!

But just imagine if it actually was a robotic lump of steel, robotically single-minded, intent on literally making your leg into bread. (My friends with cats call it "making biscuits.")

#177 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2007, 02:31 PM:

What's you cat's name, Faren? ED-209?

#178 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2007, 03:53 PM:
#3: Most of the time, said "death threats" don't even exist -- evidenced by the fact that the crying bloggers and journalists always fail to produce said "death threats". - translation, "She's lying"
That's not a translation. That's making something up and shoving it into Kos's mouth (a behavior which constitutes a large fraction of the dogpile, and frequently, internet dogpiles in general).

There actually is a fearmongering campaign about Those Nasty Uncivil Bloggers, which Kos has been personally and professionally annoyed at for some time. Kos (I think; analysis of others' motives is always suspect) incorrectly assumed that the Sierra case was more of the same, and reacted accordingly. Thus, he shot his mouth off with inadequate knowledge of what was actually going on. I consider this kind of speaking from ignorance moderately stupid - but nowhere near being on a level with deliberately supporting/covering for the evil that was actually present, which is what much of the dogpile seems to be accusing him of.

It's clear - to me, at least - that Kos did not support what was actually going on, didn't even *know* what was actually going on, and would probably have reacted differently if he had known. Thoughtless jumping to conclusions, yes. Malice, no.

To try to pull this back on-topic - it interests me that despite the pile-on factor, the basic facts of the situation don't seem to be widely known. Is this because of the pile-on factor - are people just repeating each other, and drifting away from the actual situation in a game of flaming telephone?

Yeah, I think so. To the point that many of the pilers-on have apparently not even read the post they're joining in criticizing; they're criticizing it solely by reputation. Or they read it, but their interpretation of it is dominated by a previous piler-on's prior interpretation, even if it's one not supported by the text. Again, this seems to happen a lot in Internet discussions (and possibly non-Internet ones too), despite the relative ease of quoting/linking to the exact original text.

There seems to be something about the way some people (not intending to weasel, I just don't know how to specify precisely *which* people are likely to do this) read that makes them likely to think the text is saying what they believe in advance it's going to be saying, even when it's not saying that at all. (If that was in any way clear.) This tendency of the reader to see what he/she expects to see has a nasty tendency to make strawman interpretations self-confirming if the original text was at all ambiguous or unclear.


P.S. I don't know why disemvoweling caught on; it destroys information. Rot13 has all the advantages and none of the disadvantages.

#179 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2007, 04:26 PM:

Chris @ 178

P.S. I don't know why disemvoweling caught on; it destroys information. Rot13 has all the advantages and none of the disadvantages.

Why do you say that destruction of information is a bad thing when the purpose is to point out to the poster that the information is not acceptable in a venue? I think it caught on precisely because it effectively deletes a post in the most obvious possible manner, so the poster can't be misled into believing that the post was lost or misplaced, but was actively removed.

#180 ::: Mickle ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2007, 04:54 PM:
Thus, he shot his mouth off with inadequate knowledge of what was actually going on.

If he hadn't linked to an article that gave him more knowledge than he demonstrated having, I might agree with you about him just "shoot[ing] his mouth off with inadequate knowledge of what was actually going on."

At that point he crossed into willfull blindness - which, in my book is something else entirely. It's one thing to not realize that something is sexist, racist, etc. - or even disagree with that assessment - it's another to have it pointed out and ignore the fact that it was pointed out. At that point I consider the person themselves to be sexist, racist, etc. rather than just ignorant.

FungiFromYuggoth's interpretation of Markos' words is perfectly valid. The sentence FungiFromYuggoth quoted comes directly after Markos quoted the article about the death threats against Sierra, so there's no logical reason to think that he's not including her as one of the people who haven't really recieved death threats.

Normally, one would think that the easily researched fact that they do exist would meant that Markos was not trying to include Sierra in this sweeping accusation. And yet if this is so - 1) why only bring her up? and 2) why the juxtoposition? Again, this is stuff that might be chalked up to nothing more than laziness or bad writing if there wasn't so much evidence of deliberate ignorance.

If one assumes that Markos is trying to make sense, then he's not trying to say that Sierra was lying. If one assumes that Markos doesn't care too much about making sense, then it appeears as though he's trying to have it both ways and say first that Sierra - and everyone else is lying - and that these non-existent death threats aren't a real problem.

FungiFromYuggoth,

There are too many problems with Markos' post to count. I was limiting it to that point because I didn't want to take over the entire thread and because to me, it makes all the others even worse by showing that his mischaracterization of the problem was almost certainly deliberate. One could argue that Markos didn't simply bother to research what Sierra blogged about, but that argument carries less weight in light of the fact that Markos ignored a lot of what he did uncover through his limited research.

#181 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2007, 05:01 PM:

steve muhlberger @169:
...if I had a great big blog like Billmon's or this one, I'd have no hesitation about shaping the discussion by eliminating irrelevant posts.

Here at least, the irrelevant posts are half the fun. More than half.

#182 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2007, 05:03 PM:

Clearly (ha) disemvowelling caught on because (1) it's such a wonderful word and (2) it is just -- barely -- still readable if you *really* want to.

I never really thought too much about moderation, but that's because my experience has been threefold: two very low-traffic fora on my own site, the MMF Hall of Humiliation back in its second heyday, and here. Here there is no problem visible to me, so it flew under my radar. On my site, there isn't anybody that's a jerk, just spammers, and I deal with spammers with the Grim Thread Reaper, who isn't too good at despamming yet, but is learning.

And at the MMFHoH we *yearned* for good trolls. We ate them for breakfast. If somebody of the regulars brought home a good one, we high-fived each other. I swear, there's *nothing* like the smell of napalmed troll in the morning. We'd follow their trails back, complain to their ISPs, get the gummint onto'em, dissect their packets, and generally fry them with eggs. It was lovely. Needless to say, the flamewars were choice -- but that's definitely a special case. Man, I miss that.

The only sticky wicket, and this happened to me only once: during the period when it was my phone number on the WHOIS record, I got one threatening call. That one was odd ("Is this Michael?" "Yes, it is." "How's it feel *now* (click)") but gave me just enough of a frisson that I will never, ever belittle a Kathy Sierra.

See, I knew (or pretty well knew, and now it's been confirmed some years later) who it was, and I knew he was in New Jersey and I was in Indiana and there was no way he'd be driving cross-country to do anything to me. And, to be honest, we *had* been utter jerks with him -- that was our raison d'etre. OK, he'd violated the law with a scam, but still.

Ms. Sierra, on the other hand, has apparently evoked hatred just by being female, capable, and visible. It's the worst in ... America? Geekery? Alpha-primate genetics? I dunno, but I think I know how she must feel, and I agree with her fear. I'd feel the same way.

Now, granted, I grew up in Indiana and so I may be culturally warped. But the only thing I want to do when I see this kind of abuse is to find this guy and physically harrass him. If I can't find him because somebody is protecting his secret identity, then the same applies. This is because it's ape behavior, and it requires ape behavior to fix -- or at least a credible threat of same.

I think this guy thinks he's sitting in the pub going hur, hur, hur -- and doesn't care that he's in public instead. If it can be brought home to this type of jerk that it *does* matter what people think about him, the problem will go away.

Clearly, this doesn't apply to normal flamery. Kathy Sierra's fan is a special case -- but not that unusual a special case. There is a certain class of flamer who talks big about physical threats of violence -- I've been threatened myself a time or two. Come to think of it, once was *here*... In my experience, talking big back is enough. But then -- I'm male, and not particularly easy to find. So it doesn't apply to Ms. Sierra, unfortunately. In that case, somebody else has to do it for her (yes, yes, I know it's sexist -- but the frame of the abuser is what counts, the meaning *to him*.)

Well. Plenty to dispute in all that, but them's my two bits.

#183 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2007, 05:11 PM:

Bah, I'm going to dispute myself.

The reason it doesn't apply to Kathy Sierra is not because she's female, but because the response is not natural to her (or so it seems to me). It's not all that natural to me, either. But I know plenty of women who, if pointed in the right direction, could easily reduce this guy to a quivering mass of jelly. So obviously I'm still guilty of some sexism in thinking it's her gender that precludes her from fighting fire with fire.

#184 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2007, 07:55 PM:

About Kos being "moderately stupid:" the total stupidity of a statement is the product of its inate stupidity times the number of readers.

#185 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2007, 10:03 PM:

I think the dogpile phenomenon where people flame someone for something they, themselves, haven't bothered reading, happens for a couple reasons with roots way back into our evolutionary past:

a. It's fun, from a monkey perspective, piling onto someone else. It's bad for you, but like sugar and fat, it's so satisfying that it's hard to resist. It means you're one of the in group.

b. Sometimes, people want to be seen to agree with the outraged crowd. I think this is an instinctive reaction borne of the fear that the baying mob may turn on you next. "Yeah, let's string that bastard up!" is safer to say than "Wait a minute, how do you know this is the right guy?"

You can observe both these going on in any grade school playground, and also in opinion columns in the New York Times.

#186 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2007, 11:20 AM:

{Brief detour from the serious stuff to answer a question upthread} Serge (#177): What's you cat's name, Faren? ED-209? No, my bundle of fluff, fat, and muscle is the mighty Emperor Horton. (Combo of San Francisco's Emperor Norton and Dr. Seuss's elephant, befitting his mixture of the imperious and very silly ... and large.)

#187 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2007, 11:30 AM:

Emperor Horton, Faren? Has he been bamboozled by a flighty bird into taking care of her eggs, much to the embarassment of the neighborhood's other kitties?

#188 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2007, 12:44 PM:

#185: Well said; and yet, without people like von Spee we'd still be burning witches; without people like Murrow we'd still be asking people whether they are now or have ever been members of the Communist Party.

Standing up to the dogpilers *is* hard, and even unnatural. It's also sometimes really, really necessary.


#179: Wouldn't "This post deleted for [reason]" accomplish that better (and at the same time reduce concerns of over-moderation by providing some justification)? I thought the point of disemvowelling (as opposed to outright deletion) was to make the post still readable if someone really wanted to try, while at the same time warning people that they *probably* don't want to bother. Which rot13 is even better at.

Hiding the post is the whole point; destroying it makes it impossible to tell whether it was destroyed for a good reason, a bad reason or no reason at all.

Consider a template that produces
This post has been suppressed by [moderator] for [reason]. Click here to see it.
Anyone who wants to see it can, anyone who would prefer not to have their reading experience disturbed by it can just scroll to the next post, and the whole community can (potentially) hold the moderator responsible for improper use of that power. (If there is only one moderator it is unnecessary to identify which one, but otherwise it's better IMO to have personal accountability.)

Of course the community can also vote with their mice and go somewhere else if there's a bad moderator, but some ability to see and discuss moderating decisions might make some people better moderators than they would have been in an absolute despotism, and salvage the whole site.

#189 ::: Leva Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2007, 01:52 PM:

Some years ago, like in the 'net dawn ages, I agreed to host a forum for horsey folks that would be wholly unmoderated. I knew the group (they were losing their home on the web elsewhere), liked most of 'em, figured it would be a rather anarchic board but hey, all I had to do was administrata stuff. I installed the board, sat back, and watched.

I would guess there were about forty to fifty active participants. Several hundred posts a day. Many of the people knew each other IRL.

Turned out to be a very interesting social experiment in a Lord-of-the-Flies sense. Fannish folk have NOTHING on horsey people compared to that sheer level of stupidity and weirdness.

We had porn. We had profanity. We had flame wars. We had rampant paranoia. We had various and sundry entertaining threads on very strange topics, but all of the people were there willingly, so I figured that they were entertaining themselves and nobody was complaining.

Then they found my /stats/ folder, showing hits and various useful information about visitors. Note that I was running a fairly large amateur (now pro *grin*) web site on the same domain, set apart by subdomain -- I had given subdomains to a few different people. I was using the stats for perfectly legitimate reasons ... but the rumor spread that I was collecting information so I could hack their computers.

They reported me to my ISP, whose tech is both a friend and IS a hacker. He was amused. We had a good laugh about it.

Simultaneous to this, I *had* to ban someone from the site for liability reasons. I don't want to go into details (a lawsuit was mentioned by the banned party) but suffice to say I personally believed I had cause, and the person banned may not have been the guilty party, but a nigh identical IP was involved in a chatroom incident elsewhere on the site. So I had no qualms in blocking that IP domain wide.

In reaction to my daring to "censor" someone, the *entire* forum picked up and moved, lock, stock, and barrel, to a forum someone else set up for them. I mean, one day I'm getting thousands of hits, the next ... nada. It was like a stampede or a mass migration or something. And the weirdest thing was that the guy I banned was very unpopular; he was and remains a vulgar little twit.

And ... I cheered.

To this day, I occasionally get mocking comments about that incident from participants of that bulletin board in horsey forums on the internet. Yeesh. Weird people.

#190 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2007, 02:16 PM:

Chris @ 188: The advantage to disemvoweling is that one can (with a little practice) spend a few seconds scanning the disemvoweled text, confirm for oneself that it's not worth reading, and move on. No additional mouseclicks or pageloads necessary.

The problem with using ROT13 is that, at least around here and at least to me, text in ROT13 signals "something interesting here, maybe a spoiler so be careful, but probably worth reading". It wouldn't make people less likely to read the troll's words, it'd make them more likely to do so.

#191 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2007, 05:34 PM:

Chris, #188: Not to mention that you're dealing here with a readership for many of whom "cleverness with words" is the ultimate art. No matter how many or how practical the reasons you argue for your case, the fact that "disemvowelling" is a clever and perfectly-appropriate pun is always going to trump. It just resonates too damn well for most of us.

#192 ::: paul a'barge ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2007, 09:21 PM:

will infallibly cry should be either will inevitably or will invariably.

Infallibly does not mean this.

#193 ::: Hank Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2007, 01:29 PM:

> living room, front porch ...

Advice often given to newcomers in San Francisco and Berkeley:

"Never argue with crazy people on the sidewalk. Passers-by can't tell which of you is crazy."

Same for your front porch.

Only the host can tell if it's a troll using someone else's name to stir trouble, or a sock puppet, or one intemperate writer getting wound up. Doesn't matter; such invites more trouble.

Those who take offense at being moderated, I think, haven't seen how bad it can get without best efforts, and think they're the worst thing the host has ever seen. Often they're just unknowing bait for the real troublesome people.

#194 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2007, 03:45 PM:

#188

On top of other reasons why ROT13 isn't appropriate, it's also worth noting that reading it is *too hard*, to the point where if you want to read it, you're going to do an automated decoding.

Disemvowelling doesn't really have an automated decoder available, so if you want to read it, you have to struggle through it. It requires effort, and that effort lowers the emotional effect of its meaning. You wouldn't get that lowering with ROT13.

#195 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2007, 03:53 PM:

Infallibly does not mean this.

Sudden pedantic moment: "infallibly" was being used in the post to mean "without fail", which is the first definition given in the OED (where "unerringly", which I suppose is what you think it must always mean, is the second definition); Teresa's use is backed up by citations from Izaak Walton and Jonathan Swift, and that's good enough for me.

Mind you, "invariably" may be less ambiguous. But there's nothing more tempting to a pedant than the chance to correct another pedant.

#196 ::: Michael R. Bernstein ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2007, 10:38 PM:

Lexica @190: "No additional mouseclicks or pageloads necessary."

It is possible (even relatively easy, as web-development tasks go) to make the de-obfuscation easier than that. For example, moving the mouse pointer over the obfuscated text could reveal the original, with no mouse-clicks or page loads required (moving the mouse elsewhere un-de-obfuscates it, of course).

In fact, you could make the method of obfuscation and the level of effort required for de-obfuscation configuration options for the administrator/moderator.

#197 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 03:58 AM:

On the subject of "dogpiles", last week's New Scientist has an interesting article I've only just got around to reading. The online version is subscriber only though.
Based on a new book by Philip Zimbardo.

#198 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 12:37 PM:

I've read some, not all, the comments in the thread....

Dogpile is something that people do in person. Get into an argument with someone and their spouse may come over and "defend" on what often seems to be a completely kneejerk reaction.

It's one of the big contributors to gang warfare I think--a dispute between two people, one in one gang and the other in a different gang, dogpiling defense and offense occur and escalate into a war. Driveby shootings may be a form of dogpiling--a dispute between persons A and B, and B and B's buddies come drive by armed with bullets and and shoot them at A.

It's bully/pack behavior, and can reinforce group identification, by making it an identification that "Y is not a member of the group, Y is outside the group and socially unacceptable, and we will show our group solidarity and disapproval of Y by virtually pissing all over Y in front of the other group members."

#199 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2007, 01:54 PM:

Aside about ROT13: the translater which was recommended made my geriatric-and-now-moribund iMac OS/browser combo collapse; I'm now on a much more robust, youthful, and less Mac-like G-5, so if the url could be posted I'd be amply grateful.

#200 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 02:25 AM:

IMO, it's not unacceptable ideas (women don't belong in high tech, women are yucky and not allowed in our he-mans-women-haters-club, etc.) that is the problem. It's scary death threats and personal nastiness.

You assume they are different things and have nothing to do with one another. The whole point of the Sierra incident was not that the Internet has crazies; it's that there is a very common, very ugly strain of shut-the-bitch-up misogyny in which many of the Internet crazies like to wallow.

Kos has a long history of "gee, ladies, quit your whining" of which his treatment of this issue is merely the latest episode; and any woman in IT is pretty aware of how nasty some of the boys get when their clubhouse stops being segregated.

Please note that nobody, to my knowledge, has though it would be funny to Photoshop a picture of Tim O'Reilly with a jockstrap on his head, or suggest he should be fitted with a noose. That's a good thing--but do you think Tina O'Reilly would have had the same treatment?

#201 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 07:49 AM:

JESR@199: You mean rot13.com? I can't imagine how anyone would have trouble with that one. Or do you mean the Javascript thing?

#202 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 08:26 AM:

mythago #200:

I've certainly seen people get threats, complaints to their employers, and horribly nasty comments made about them without any apparent concern for their gender. I'll admit I haven't done any kind of study , but the problem of abusive behavior on the net does not look to me like one that's primarily about mysogyny.

It also strikes me that this case is at an extreme end of the range of bad net behaviors. Most abusive net behavior needs to end up with the abusive person added to killfiles, banned from sites, flamed, and maybe with a complaint finding its way to his ISP. This is a case where the police needed to be involved.

#203 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 10:36 AM:

Re: dogpiles
Saying that dogpiles happen because of X is forgetting that different dogpiles happen for different reasons.

We've all seen fora where dogpiles are used (sometimes quite deliberately and consciously) as punishment for not following the prevailing group mentality. Somebody has stepped out of line, and the group, which has a high loyalty-to-group-standards value, goes for blood. Somebody must be taught a lesson. The lesson consist of having the sh*t kicked out of them. Targets come out of this emotionally damaged; that's the whole point. The group congratulates itself and feels bonded and euphoric.

Then there are the dogpiles that happen because somebody says something beyond the bounds of decency, and individuals express outrage. Lots of individuals, but not as a group per se--just individuals who happen to be thinking along the same lines, each contributing their posts on the topic. Those add up to a lot of posts, but unlike the first kind of dogpile, this kind of dogpile isn't coordinated. Again, the target may take emotional damage, but the people involved aren't out to do that; they're just expressing anger/disgust/exasperation/whatever.

There are dogpiles that happen when someone says something that is not outrageous, but which is unpopular or ignorant in a forum where many people think, feel, or know differently. Again, individuals respond, uncoordinated. They may be trying to educate the target, or hold a conversation, but the effect of being hit with so many responses is going to make the target feel like being hit with a 2 x 4. Anybody will feel defensive when that many people are talking to or at them at once. This kind of dogpile can stop or change character quickly and easily; maintaining civility can turn this from a dogpile to an interesting exchange of ideas and information fairly smoothly; getting rude makes the whole thing more unpleasant, but the dogpile often winds itself down without anyone bleeding much.

Re: mysogyny
I am really, really, really tired of men* telling women not to make such a big deal about harrassment on the Net (or elsewhere), because sh*t like that happens out in the real world, so just suck it up like an adult, you whiner. "I've had my feelings hurt, too--boo hoo hoo, you don't see me crying about it" usually comes up, in one form or another.

But, as several others here have pointed out in language more eloquent than mine, women are harrassed differently than men. They're harrassed more, more often, and in ways that relate directly to their sex and gender. The harrassment is targeted at them as women. A man in the same situation, being harrassed by the same people, would not be harrassed the same way, and I am really ()*^*&!!ing tired of people claiming it's not about mysogyny.

*In every situation I myself have personally seen, it has been a man instigating this response. I've seen women give a "me, too" response once it's been put out there, but I haven't seen them instigate it. I'm sure it happens--I certainly have no illusions about some universal sisterhood of women--I just haven't seen it myself.

#204 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2007, 04:43 PM:

Aconite @ 203

I believe that it's not just about misogyny. It's also about gay-bashing and every other sort of bigotry that consensus culture allows. There is a common factor behind dogpiles based on bigotry: the pilers-on are doing something nasty that they believe (usually with good reason) is acceptable. Even when the allowed limits are exceeded, and approval has to be removed, the level of disapproval is always less than it would be if there was a consensus that the nastiness was really not to be tolerated.

It's all about the power that members of a group feel when they can demonstrate the inferiority of another group by inflicting pain on them without consequence to themselves. That's one of the reasons that women are often the target: they have been an oppressed class in this culture for a very long time, bigoted treatment is considered at least partially acceptable, and many men believe that women don't have the ability or the courage to defend themselves against the onslaught.

Be clear: I am not saying that because more than one group suffers that everyone has to "suck it up" and not complain. On the contrary, complaint should be loud and vehement until it becomes unacceptable for ordinary citizens of our society to behave in such a shameful way. That's the minimum we must demand of ourselves and others; I would prefer that we somehow develop a society where it is a general principle that no one may treat another badly simply because of an imbalance of power, real or perceived.

#205 ::: joe wilmer ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 01:05 PM:

sns tht Whts r gttng trd f bng pshd arnd?

#206 ::: joann maybe sees driveby @205 ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 01:09 PM:

One-time poster, looks offensive.

#207 ::: abi wonders WTF ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 01:11 PM:

I can't conceive of any reason to post the above comment without some pretty distasteful underlying politics.

#208 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 01:26 PM:

Sorry, joann, not you.

#209 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 01:47 PM:

Given the occasional incursion of self-doubt, sometimes I wonder about my own comments. Not for abi to worry, though.

#210 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 02:54 PM:

joann @209:
I promise that if you start coming across like a white supremacist, I will mention it to you.

#211 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 03:02 PM:

abi, I'll hold you to that. You keep us all honest.

#212 ::: Stacy Raven ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2007, 05:33 AM:

I'm new to this site, just discovered it today. I frequent YouTube and see a lot of troll and hater comments on there (especially against bigger women). Though that site isn't a blog site I think a lot of the individuals who post Vlogs their would benefit a lot from the information you've outlined here. I’ve often encouraged people on that site to delete comments from individuals who are just out right abusive. Instead most vlog posters seem to just try to “reason” with them. You can’t reason with jerks who say stuff like “all fatties need to die for being disgusting tubs of garbage”. It’s almost like people are afraid to delete comments. I do it often on my videos. If someone is going to be just down right abusive I’m not going to give them the satisfaction of allowing their comments to remain. I'm going to have to show some vlog posters this site and perhaps this will give them that courage to get rid of the nasty comments.

#213 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2007, 04:44 PM:

Stacy, give them this as well:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/pnh/464975164/

It's a certificate giving them full permission and encouragement to oppress the ungodly and uphold civility on their own websites.

#214 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2007, 04:49 PM:

A random aside on the subject of youtube comments.

#215 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2007, 04:33 AM:

Godwin's Law for the 21st century: as threads on SF newsgroups and blogs get longer, the probability of someone posting an xkcd link approaches 1.

#216 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 08:09 PM:

David Golfarb writes in #215:

Godwin's Law for the 21st century: as threads on SF newsgroups and blogs get longer, the probability of someone posting an xkcd link approaches 1.

My gang used to believe that it was impossible to get through dinner before someone made a reference to The Simpsons.

#217 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 12:38 PM:

When I eat at my parents' house, it's impossible to get through dinner without one of us going to the reference books and looking something up.

#218 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 12:47 PM:

Some years ago we* barred leaving the table to look something up during dinner, and it's considered bad form to go until the washing up is finished.

* My Mum

#219 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 01:46 PM:

Neil 218:

In our last house we solved that problem by having the reference library in the dining room.

Can't do that in the current one, though.

#220 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 02:54 PM:

ethan 217: That sounds like it could be either wonderful or horrible, depending on whether it's done with good nature ("Ah, that's interesting! It's actually from a Siberian language!") or ill ("See! The Dictionary Proves I'm Right!").

#221 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 04:10 PM:

I neglected to mention that the reference books were mostly in the dining room.

And Xopher, it's usually the former, but we're all the type that, when it's the latter, go "Oh, wow, I didn't know that!" rather than "grumblegrumble I guess you're right grumble hmph."

#222 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 04:16 PM:

ethan 221: Then you all sound like the kind of people I'd like to have dinner with.

But my reference to "the dictionary proves I'm right" was in the context of my belief that the only thing you can prove by looking in the dictionary is what's in the dictionary. (Well, you can prove "ONE meaning of [word] is..." but that's about it.)

#223 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 04:19 PM:

Xopher: Ah yes, there's that, too. Like when my mother was unaware that the word "Oriental" has negative connotations, and pointed out that our dictionary didn't mention any.

Of course, this wouldn't prove anything under any circumstances, but especially doesn't considering that the dictionary she was using was published in the 1930s.

She came to her senses quickly.

#224 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 04:23 PM:

My family used to do the reference books at the dinner table thing, too. Usually after we had finished eating, although the topic at hand might well have come up earlier. It was definitely in the spirit of "what IS the airspeed of an unladen swallow, anyway?" And the reference books (two dictionaries, four ancient encyclopedia sets, and a desk encyclopedia) were in the same or the next room, depending on which table we were at.

#226 ::: Raphael sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2009, 07:53 AM:

Do they think that the start "Nice article you got here. It would be(...)" will make people too scared to delete it?

#227 ::: Tim Hall ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2009, 08:19 AM:

Raphael #230

Take a Made Tim Laugh Point for that one.

#228 ::: fidelio sees spam? ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2010, 04:08 PM:

OK, maybe it's spam, and maybe it's well-intentioned spam. And maybe it's just a link from a lurker with an agenda he cares about a lot.

#229 ::: Clifton Royston sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2010, 04:31 PM:

That's definitely blog spam of a common type: pasting boiler-plate text which could apply to any posting or topic whatsoever, with a link to the spammed URL.

#230 ::: Russ points out some spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 05:31 AM:

Although it's pretty durned obvious.

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