Back to previous post: Yet Another Reason Why Torture Doesn’t Work

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Vial of Life

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

November 19, 2007

“It’s the apocalypse.” “Again?”
Posted by Patrick at 11:53 AM *

Teresa over on Boing Boing, with some observations about online behavior, forum moderation, and so forth. I liked this:

I’ve done my time and then some on Usenet. If learning to moderate online forums is like studying trolls and demons, then hanging out on Usenet is like living in Sunnydale: if you survive long enough, you’ll eventually come up against one of every kind of monster—and after a while, your reaction will change to “Bored now.”
Comments on "It's the apocalypse." "Again?":
#1 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 12:24 PM:

But higher level trolls and sock puppets can be fun and informative Especially if they work for the State Dept.

Or the Pentagon.

OK, so the articles indicate that they identify themselves. But still. It's mighty suspicious.

#2 ::: Zeynep ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 12:25 PM:

That is a beautiful analogy---perfect match.

I still do run across the problem of explaining such behavior to newcomers, though. The newcomer might be my younger sister, or someone who has not spent that much time online---and I've found the (relatively basic) concept of a troll to be somewhat difficult to explain. Perhaps because I cannot emphatize enough with the troll to try to get across its motivation to a third party.

There are probably a few good webpages (and I do remember one very nicely illustrated one about USENET stereotypes, but sadly not well enough to search for the link) that one can point newcomers to... Right?

#3 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 12:52 PM:

Iirc, "Bored Now" is the comment of the Evil Willow, not the one between My Stepmother is an Alien and How I Met Your Mother (or, as they should be combined, How I Met Your Alien Stepmother).

#4 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 01:04 PM:

Zeynep, you probably mean Flame Warriors.

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 01:26 PM:

Ken, Vamp Willow says it several times. Real Willow says it right before she synlf Jneera.

#6 ::: SKapusniak ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 01:33 PM:

Zeynep @ 2

Perhaps because I cannot emphatize enough with the troll to try to get across its motivation to a third party

The motivation is this startling discovery that you too have the power to, via a few well chosen words dropped casually into a discussion, instantly turn what seemd a previously sane environment into an angry trainwreck of a screaming shitstorm of madness hundreds and hundreds of posts long. Reliably, repeatedly. Preditably. Time after time after time. It's just like magic! Or at least just like dropping alkalai group metals into containers of water.

Okay so it's probably wouldn't be most people's first choice of superpower even for the wannabe supervillains among us, but unlike the the really cool stuff such as teleportation, mindreading, shapeshifting, laser-beam eyes, or waving your magic wand around and having reality bend interesting ways, it actually works reliably in the real world.

Which is a really quite amazingly cool thing for an otherwise imaginary evil superpower.

*cue villainous laughter and twirling of mustachios*

#7 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 01:42 PM:

"Bored now" should go on the Flamer Bingo card list. It can be very effective. There was a similar, more wordy entry in the Flamer Bingo thread, but this is great shorthand.

#8 ::: Tim ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 01:55 PM:

Back in my moderator days, I always gave a virtual tip of the hat (often combined with other, less complimentary, gestures) to any troll who could actually get *around* my "bored now" response. Like all jaded moderators, after a while it really took some doing.

#9 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 02:08 PM:

A concise explanation of trolls: "You know how some people are happy only when they're making other people unhappy? Well, there are people like that online too."

#10 ::: Mark Gritter ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 02:18 PM:

Evidently Slate's Fraywatch columnist hasn't yet got to the "bored" state:

...many posts are so toxic that just reading them gives one the urge to rinse the eyes with soapy water. In my darker moods, well-meaning optimists reassure me that the internet is a distorted lens for viewing the human condition—that people sheltering behind anonymity express very different views than they'd profess in the public sphere. But, if this argument is true, then one has to wonder about that lynchpin of modern democratic governance—the secret ballot. After all, in their secrecy and insulation from personal accountability the ballot box and the internet are very much alike. If voters are as nasty in the polls as posters can be on the boards, then democratic theory might need a re-think.

Of course, for a dour Calvinist such as myself, message-board nastiness is merely another confirmation of the doctrine of total depravity.

#11 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 02:33 PM:

"...after a while, your reaction will change to 'Bored now.'"

Except for when it's "Damn, he's triggered another suicide attempt." And, "Wow, people still think he's pretty cool, even so." Unfortunately, "bored now" doesn't keep me from hurting when that happens. Hannah Arendt's phrase "banality of evil" comes to mind.

#12 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 02:46 PM:

I tend to do my troll-watching on the Wikipedia Administrator's Notice Board/Incidents.

You don't so much get single drive-by behaviors (which I find unsatisfying, like popcorn, crunch and then they're gone), but there are some interesting long-running patterns. They're working through some of the secondary and tertiary effects of wanting to encourage anonymity and discourage sockpuppetry at the same time, and the results are not always very pretty.

It's very educational. And it's like a soap opera. Twofer!

#13 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 02:53 PM:

And, as if on cue, the Slashdot story of the moment!

#14 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 02:55 PM:

I like the Sunndydale reference. Just like they had an endless supply of vamps, the boards have an endless supply of trolls and energy creatures.

Sometimes, there just aren't enough wooden stakes.

#15 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 04:02 PM:

#9 Lexica: ... "and online, they can get around a lot faster".

#16 ::: makomk ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 04:34 PM:

Hmmm... there's an interesting reminder on AN/I that careless troll-fighting can do more damage than the trolls themselves.

Basically, an admin banned a well-known editor with a good reputation and refused to say why, but insisted she had a good reason that she couldn't reveal. She claimed that half a dozen admins have seen the evidence, but wouldn't say who they were, and they didn't have time to get involved.

Then she realised the whole thing was a mistake and got the entire discussion courtesy blanked to protect the blocked editor. (He didn't ask for this, though he doesn't appear to object either.) Cue further controversy - and, as far as I can tell, the whole thing was done with good intentions.

#17 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 04:52 PM:

(Good Willow, temporarily and controllably Evil Willow, recently said "Bored now" in the comic, in case anyone is keeping a list.)

#18 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 04:55 PM:

makomk @16:
Yes, I've been following that one. Reminds me of the Bush administration's approach to trials of terrorists.

Short form: "The evidence reveals too much about our investigation methods to be heard in public, but trust us, it's good."

It may be good, but the secrecy is getting under some people's skin.

#19 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 05:11 PM:

ethan @ 17... Good Willow, temporarily and controllably Evil Willow

I thought that Willow was neither Good nor Evil, but it did suck the big one, aside from Val Kilmer as Mad Martigan.
("Not THAT Willow, Serge.")
Oops.

#20 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 05:20 PM:

Serge @ #19 -

Ron Howard did that one. Howard can be an excellent director (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind), but he has helmed his share of stinkers - The Da Vinci Code comes to mind.

#21 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 05:27 PM:

Steve C... In this case though, he was less than inspired, I think. It had some nifty spiky costume designs by Achilleos, if I remember correctly. Anyway. It was long ago, and the film is dead.

#22 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 05:32 PM:

Josh @ 1: But higher level trolls and sock puppets can be fun and informative Especially if they work for the State Dept.

A Government-built sockpuppet made up of bits from several bloggers... Adam lives!

#23 ::: pb ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 05:39 PM:

For the other three of you who, like me, didn't get the original post, Sunnydale is, apparently, the setting for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, though I still can't tell if moderating an online forum is better or worse than being on Usenet.

I've never felt as far from the zeitgeist as I do this moment.

#24 ::: lighthill ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 05:59 PM:

Am I the only one who misses the cream of the crop of the old-time happy-go-lucky trolls?

You know what I mean if you were on usenet before 97 or so. These folks would start by saying "I love hitler and by the way I'm made of custard" or something, but they'd do so in such a way as to provoke the smartest people in the whole community to have a long, heated, insightful exchange with them. In the end, they'd cotton to the whole business, like any other good-intentioned prankster. If you went back and read the whole discussion, you'd realize that the smart people had made all of their best points, and the troll's posts were all a brilliant parody of the position they seemed to be espousing. It wasn't sabotage so much as performance art.

Surely, I'm not the only one who remembers this happening.

Where are the trolls of yesteryear?

#25 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 06:05 PM:

I'm afraid I just say knock them on the head and kick them into the magma pits. Does that sound agressive?

#26 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 06:13 PM:

abi, makomk, I find myself hoping that somewhere, somehow, an applied anthropology grad student is following the sausage-making at Wikipedia and will soon write an incisive dissertation on power and decission-making in the Wikipedia Zone.

#27 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 06:45 PM:

Yes, JESR, thats a good point- have anthropology and other social sciences been applied properly to the internet yet? There is surely enough to get several hundred PhD's.

#28 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 06:49 PM:

abi @ 18:

All complicated by the fact that Wikipedia's sockpuppetry policy doesn't wholly forbid multiple identities. I think that's a mistake. It limits what may be done with them, though, but it's so tempting to cross over the line. A bright-line "No sockpuppetry" policy would be easier to keep.

#29 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 06:54 PM:

I agree with Zeynep @ #2 (no surprise, as I'm sure we're both thinking of the same Usenet groups) about the beauty of the analogy.

And Z, you're only through what, almost-three seasons of Buffy? *grin*

#30 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 07:17 PM:

lighthill... What did the community of yore have against custard?

#31 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 07:37 PM:

#24: Where are the trolls of yesteryear?

Wikipedia?

#32 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 07:41 PM:

#24: Where are the trolls of yesteryear?

Jon@31: Wikipedia?

He shoots. He scores!

;)

#33 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 07:47 PM:

#24: Where are the trolls of yesteryear?

Ted Frank's at the American Enterprise Institute, trolling the real world, isn't he?

#34 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 07:49 PM:

Mathew@28: All complicated by the fact that Wikipedia's sockpuppetry policy doesn't wholly forbid multiple identities. I think that's a mistake.

yeah, the biggest thing is it prevents a public monitoring of POV pushing.

Say Alice has a particular POV regarding topic T. Topic T spreads out into about a dozen different articles on wikipedia. Were Alice simply to go to each one of those articles as Alice and edit them, then it would be abundantly clear to any ijiot, that she's POV pushing.

So,

Alice creates multiple sock puppets. These are completely legal according to wikipedia. She then has each sock puppet work on different articles. Wikipedia policy says you can't use sockpuppets to stuff ballots on votes and such, so it isn't automatically illegal.

Certainly, POV pushing is against the rules, but how do you catch someone POV pushing other than by looking at all their edits in total and then making a subjective call.

Of course, if someone who's been at wikipedia a long time and is an admin, they'll skirt any questions about who their multiple accounts are and play coy, and say it's allowed by policy.

Of course POV pushing isn't allowed by policy, but it is impossible to catch POV pushing if you distribute your edits about a topic among numerous different sock puppets.

The admins will generally chime in and say they could check for abuse with a checkuser request, but then you'll have an admin checkuser another admin, give them a pass, keep all the data private, and tell all the other users "trust us".

Which not only encourages POV pushing via sockpuppets, but encourages and rewards alliance building.

Sockpuppets should be the first thing wikipedia policy forbids. No excuse.

#35 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 07:51 PM:

lighthill @ 24

I am indeed old enough to remember the somewhat good old days, when 'troll' was a verb, and trolling wasn't always totally malicious. Sometimes it was clever teasing of acquaintances rather than small minded harrasment of stranger. Sometimes I think about it and shed a virtual tear.

But you try and tell that to kids these days...

#36 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 07:59 PM:

#24: Well, I think I was one of them, at least occasionally, though I won't lay claim to the "brilliant" tag. IIRC, Andrew Plotkin was an a.r.k. regular which virtually required one to do the humorously loony performance art sort of trolling, and he also shows up here occasionally. (Apologies to Andrew if I'm maligning him.)

I imagine that if there were any romantic wanna-be black magicians in Sunnyvale, and if they survived a while, their attitudes might also have changed to something like "No. Just no. Not funny any more."

Part of my attitude may come from having seen one valuable online community pretty much shattered. * That's probably the subject for another long post, someday.

[*] Not so much by trolls as by its own immune reaction to them. (And not just on Usenet, but in some of the private/offline forums it had spawned.)

#37 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 08:05 PM:

#23 ::: pb winced:
For the other three of you who, like me, didn't get the original post, Sunnydale is, apparently, the setting for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, though I still can't tell if moderating an online forum is better or worse than being on Usenet.

I think I've finally gotten over explaining that I mean -Sunnyvale- not -Sunnydale- while providing addresses. It is worth noting, however, that -Sunnyvale- had an odd ability to prevent rain in a ragged circle about itself.

#38 ::: tavella ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 08:26 PM:

One of the fascinating things about being a veteran of various discussion forums is that you can figure out who is a crank and who is a troll and who is for real even if you don't understand the subject. I was reading a blog discussion of Garrett Lisi's paper (the one that went around as "surfer dude invents TOE", when it was more like "Physicist who likes to surf posts interesting paper on unification".) And it was like reading the blog meta post; the math was so entirely beyond me that it was all but noise, but I could still see the form!

#39 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 08:32 PM:

xeger @ 37... I mean -Sunnyvale- not -Sunnydale

Drat. I was just about to ask Kathryn from Sunnyvale about her neighborhood.

#40 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 09:30 PM:

Greg London at 34 says "yeah, the biggest thing is it prevents a public monitoring of POV pushing."

My observation of the dynamics of sockpuppetry on Wikipedia is that the ambiguity of the policy and the known existence of semilegitimate socks gives sock hunters a lever by which they can exert social control over people with whom they have disagreements. It can be used for POV pushing by the puppeteer, but lately the POV push has been from those detecting and exposing sockpuppets (or what they say are sockpuppets).


#41 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 09:30 PM:

guthrie #27: have anthropology and other social sciences been applied properly to the internet yet?

They have, at least, to online gaming communities.

#42 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 09:58 PM:

Online gaming has a damn good reason to pay attention to this stuff - it's how we make our money. (Any discussion about online trolling/moderation can be applied with very few substitutions to some game mechanic or other, in some MMO. For example, Player vs Player gameplay is basically trolling, with axes. )

#43 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 10:08 PM:

As Steve Taylor and Clifton Royston said, "trolling" used to mean something generally more benign, though that usage is long gone on the wider net.

As far as I know, the term actually originated on alt.folklore.urban as part of the phrase "trolling for newbies". There were certain topics that were so beaten to death that only a rank newbie would pipe up if you mentioned them, so people would occasionally do that just to watch them all chime in ("Didn't Monty Python make a three-sided record once?" was a favorite). It was all gentle and in-group, and disrupting the community wasn't the purpose. A.r.k and other groups generalized it to include the wacky crossposted performance art, but eventually it just became a synonym for flamebaiting or generally being a jerk.

#44 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 10:40 PM:

re 12: What's so terribly depressing is that I took a peek at AN/I and discovered that one of the people being blocked was a major participant in the whole "attack sites" mess, and in fact one of the more reasonable interested bystander types. Well, it turns out that he had two accounts (and was very open about it): one for editing and one for policy discussion. This is not exactly a no-no except that he had opposed the attack sites faction, which meant (supposedly) that his policy-only account existed to be disruptive. I suspect the real reason for two accounts was to protect the editing account from being blocked in retribution, a strategy which they've essentially proven to be correct. Meanwhile MONGO has set everything on its ear again by ignoring the outcome of the oversized and overwrought case on the attack sites not-ever-a-policy case and sticking it back in again anyway. Everyone else who was keeping an eye out for this is now in trouble for noticing and objecting. I think I've finally reached the point of being rid of the whole thing, except for finishing putting articles in for Virginia lighthouses, where I have a set of standard decent sources and can expect them to be undisturbed by cranks.

re 28: The "bright line" has proven to be a problem because their sockpuppetry detection methods are a mixture of "I know it when I see it" and IP tracing, which produces false positives in a lot of contexts. It gives the admins a lot of power to shut critics up (at least within the wiki-omphalos). Wikipedia's administration level is such a paradoxical mix of overall anarchy and local tyranny that it's very hard to say exactly how much or even when abuses are occurring; but it's hard to imagine that they aren't occurring.

A big drama source is the fact that the policies aren't fixed. This leads to constant gaming. The attempt to bend WP:NPA to lock out the critics of The Cabal pales in comparison the to the ongoing weirdness at "No Original Research" and "Reliable Sources". Really the only sane thing to do is ignore all this stuff and do what's right anyway.

#45 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 10:54 PM:

As a method for winning arguments on Wikipedia over the long term, slyly changing policy documents so that they support your position is old enough to have grey hairs. Of course, it doesn't work against anyone who's been there long enough to know that the current wording of them doesn't really matter - because of the fact that they could say anything at any given point. Allied to that is the general belief among such users that technicalities do not count.

C. Wingate @ 44: I don't think it's as clear cut as all that. The person that was blocked is a chronic user of serial and parallel identities, and has used half a dozen or so. None of which have a long history or a good reputation to keep; the vast majority of which have spent a lot of their time nosing into areas of controversy. It certainly can be fairly argued that someone whose major activity on Wikipedia is being drawn into any controversy they can find is not really being all that helpful.

Using a second account to keep controversy away from the first has also been forbidden for a long time (c.f. "Good Hand, Bad Hand accounts").

Of course, a good part of what trolls love to play at is to cause levels of paranoia such that innocent victims get hurt, and I think this has been happening a bit of late.

Despite all the histrionics, the policy on the ground as to "attack sites" is pretty much settled. No linking to off-site stuff to cause trouble. No removing sources or useful external links because someone could in theory find something attacking or libellous somewhere in there. However, some people (on both sides) have gotten addicted to the drama and/or are having trouble backing down gracefully from extreme positions.

#46 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 11:56 PM:

#27 ::: guthrie wondered:
have anthropology and other social sciences been applied properly to the internet yet? There is surely enough to get several hundred PhD's.

Yes, with great exuberance, for at least the past 15 years.

#47 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 12:09 AM:

"Trolling for rough trade on the shuttle deck" -- Sweet Savage Star Trek

#48 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 12:31 AM:

Speaking of trolls, we had an exchange on my LiveJoournal that started with my saying that I liked Beowulf. The Krull Syndrome was then brought up and, next thing you know, we were wondering whether or not Sauron's orcs used latrines when on the campaign trail.

#49 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 01:25 AM:

There are some forums that react to trolls and sockpuppets with caricature, parody, ridicule, versification,lampooning... which can inflict a certain amount of derailment and debasing and disempowerment and disenfranchising of the person and organization(s) ridiculed/parodied/lampoons.

There have been some major blossomings of creativity on Making Light, instigated by over-the-top trolls and sockpuppets being taking to ridicule by various, or even significant numbers, of the contributors here....

#50 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 02:22 AM:

Paula Lieberman @ 49:

There are some forums that react to trolls and sockpuppets with caricature, parody, ridicule, versification,lampooning... which can inflict a certain amount of derailment and debasing and disempowerment and disenfranchising of the person and organization(s) ridiculed/parodied/lampoons.
And you left out disemvow....

Oh.   Right.   Trolling for newbies.   Never mind.

#51 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 03:15 AM:

Speaking of Wikipedia, you know it's become an established part of the world when University Challenge does a round of questions on it!

#52 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 07:26 AM:

Serge@48: and, next thing you know, we were wondering whether or not Sauron's orcs used latrines when on the campaign trail.

Yeah, that comes up a lot.

#53 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 08:18 AM:

Greg London @ 52... that comes up a lot

...or down, if you happen to be a troll below the flight path of one of those flying things the Nazgûl use to go around.

#54 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 08:23 AM:

Paula Lieberman @ 49... There have been some major blossomings of creativity on Making Light, instigated by over-the-top trolls and sockpuppets being taking to ridicule by various, or even significant numbers, of the contributors here....

Has that really ever worked? It seems that even making fun of a troll is a way of feeding it, and it usually doesn't go away until the Disemvoweller strikes. I think.

Speaking of Ridicule, my wife has put it on our NetFlix wish list.

#55 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 09:27 AM:

lighthill #24: 'Where are the trolls of yesteryear?'

Anent that, whatever happened to Ted Kaldis?

#56 ::: Paula Liebeman ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 10:04 AM:

Serge #54

In real life, there ARE trolls who've slunk away in embarrassment when received with quite different reactions than they were aiming for. In particular, would-be rabble rousers who get laughed at tend to get more and more upset and finally Go Away.

For that matter, I did something of a similar nature to whatever-his-name-was with his display of self-published books at the San Antonio Worldcon. His strident insistence on me to look at his book put me into micro-critical inspection mode.

"See," he said, "I have all these people praising my book with [page after page of them] in the front of the book. Other books don't have this."

"They're called 'quote whores,' I replied.

He deflated a bit, then rallied again, urging me onward to read his wonderful book.

I opened it to a random page and started doing structural analysis on his prose and content and characterization, tearing it all into shreds critically.

He backed off with the feeble exit line, "It's not for everyone."

#57 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 10:16 AM:

Paula Lieberman @ 56... True, that does work out that way in the real world. I telecommute. I have this co-worker who seldom lets a chance pass to undermine me in front of everybody, but for some reason he acts differently when I'm in San Francisco and not 1100 miles away.

#58 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 10:21 AM:

I don't think the troll ridicule and attendant creativity is necessarily to discourage the trolls-- it's to make it fun for the rest of us.

#59 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 11:07 AM:

re #45: The way that the "Good Hand/Bad Hand" subpolicy is being invoked encapsulates a fundamental defect in this. What it prohibits, at least of this minute, is maintaining a separate account "for the purpose of disruption or stirring up controversy." At least as far as the BADSITES war is concerned, it doesn't seem to me to apply to AL's contributions, which have been temperate and have not initiated the conflicts, no matter whether you think the initiators are those who keeping bringing up the issue or those who keep objecting to it when it is resurrected. The AL identity was penalized for backing the wrong horse, or maybe even just for participating in the discussion at all.

The whole "sockpuppet" idea on Wikipedia has gotten out of hand, seeing as how it is largely used to shut down people trying to evade blocking/banning. I have never seen a case of the classical phenomenon of someone appearing as multiple identities in a single discussion. There is a problem across the board in Wikipedia policy that any notion of the slightest subtlety expands through overgeneralization to fill invective space. "Sockpuppetry" dissolves into a synonym for multiple identities over both time and namespace; "troll" means "anyone I find disagreeable"; "No original research" is degraded to "no primary sources". Now as far as multiple identities are concerned, it seems obvious that the easiest approach is to take the reasonable ones at face value and to suppress those that aren't, and never mind who the real person is behind them. What has developed instead is a penal mindset bent on making sure that no one escapes any punishment meted out.

#60 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 11:10 AM:

what should the theme song be:

To troll the impossible troll!

or

I will Troll every forum!


I could go with either one.

Also, Remember all those ancient Geek plays where the protagonist announces they can no longer be trolled? It's called H.U.B.R.I.S!

#61 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 11:17 AM:

re #56: You got lucky and hit someone who was less Asperger-ish than the persona you adopted.

(BTW, did you know you've lost an r?)

#62 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 11:31 AM:

Paula @56: In case you haven't come across it before... PENITENTIARY PACIFIC!.

#63 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 11:37 AM:

C. Wingate # 61

I merely let my inner nitpicker out for a spin...

(My current career incarnation is software test engineering/quality assurance. I am a professional nitpicker! )

#64 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 12:03 PM:

Fragano (#55): Ah, Tire Iron Ted. That brings back some memories, indeed.

#65 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 01:02 PM:

Jules @ 62: My first reaction was "doesn't this person know that Atlanta Nights has already been done?"

And then I realized it wasn't a parody. Ow.

#66 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 01:03 PM:

Christopher Davis #64: Indeed!

#67 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 01:11 PM:

Paula Lieberman @ 63... My current career incarnation is software test engineering/quality assurance.

Oh, you're one of them. Me, I write the programs. Does that make a software engineer? Maybe a software mechanic.

#68 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 01:24 PM:

C. Wingate @ 59:

Ah, I was thinking you were meaning the OTHER similar issue, PrivateMusings et al., not A L. Scratch everything I wrote about that one, then. I'm not as informed about that other case.

Sockpuppetry in the classical sense certainly does occur on Wikipedia, and quite frequently. I suspect that the reason you aren't seeing much mention of it is that when it is detected, there is no controversy inherent in stopping it. If you read Administrator's noticeboard/Incidents (I hate the abbreviations, btw ...) you're seeing the controversial cases, not the general run-of-the-mill ones.

I do agree that the word is being over-stretched. Serial identities are not the same as parallel identities, and 'sockpuppet' should apply only to the latter.

I do think too much attention is being given to banning *people*, rather than *behavior*. This is partly, I think, due to the stagnation of policy (and thus the difficulty of instituting policies on new ways of being a pain in the ass) - instead, we wait for someone to go too far and get banned, and then try and apply that to new creations (since it will take too long for them to in turn do something too far).

Some people do deserve to be banned as solidly as they can be; one particular individual who makes it a habit of very creepily stalking female users who attract his attention, for instance, or people like the Overstock.com nuts, who are paid attack dogs.

#69 ::: makomk ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 06:43 PM:

Note to C. Wingate @ 44.

There were recently some interesting proposed changes to the Wikipedia sockpuppetry guidelines. The initial proposal was that secondary accounts should only be allowed to edit articles, and not take part in any of the meta stuff like policy discussions, reporting trolls and vandals, replying to ArbCom cases against themselves etc. It was by SlimVirgin, who IIRC was more than a little involved in the whole attack sites mess.

Shortly afterwards, the person I mentioned who incorrectly banned someone on evidence she couldn't reveal (I think that was a sockpuppet case too) suggested it should be possible to ban accounts because they look like a sockpuppet, even if there's no clues as to whose sockpuppet they could be. New account and show too much knowledge about Wikipedia procedures? Banned forever, unless you can show exactly what account you got your knowledge under to the satisfaction of the admins. Same if you take part in controversial areas with a new account. This is not a strawman argument - it's what they'd actually ban people on the basis of.

Of course, if you create another account that's ban evasion using sockpuppets - so that account gets banned forever too. And, for those of you who aren't Wikipedians, suspected sockpuppet accounts are banned forever - otherwise, banning someone indefinitely is close to impossible and will certainly get a lot of scrutiny. Sockpuppet bans are so commonplace that no-one bothers looking into them.

#70 ::: makomk ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 06:48 PM:

Also, as evidence to my previous post, I present the fact that the person proposing the new rules immediately accuses the first person to object of being a sockpuppet on the basis that their first edit to Wikipedia was too good and they spend too much of their time on AN/I. This was withdrawn after some private communication.

#71 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 07:54 PM:

makomk, what is disturbing to me is that the nameless person you are referring to is running for Arbitration Committee.

#72 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 08:38 PM:

Serge@53: ...or down, if you happen to be a troll below the flight path of one of those flying things the Nazgûl use to go around.

I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that a fell beast is like a seagull in that arena. A gift from them in that manner should be considered good luck.

Probably because it means you now stink too much for them to bother eating you.


#73 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 08:41 PM:

JESR@71: what is disturbing to me is that the nameless person you are referring to is running for Arbitration Committee.

If they've demonstrated a skill with system gaming, then they've probably accumulated enough admin alliances to win the vote, too.

#74 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 08:44 PM:

Greg London @ 72... it means you now stink too much for them to bother eating you

"Man! You smell terrible."
"Why, thank you, Bob."

#75 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 08:52 PM:

Greg, I fear you are correct.

None of this would matter if it weren't for the fact that Wikipedia has sufficient mass to distort space and time; I've heard it quoted on legal and environmental issues too often, lately, after watching the sausage machine at work, and would like sane and ethical people to be in positions of power there as in all significant institutions.

#76 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 09:34 PM:

re 69: The "you know too much to be a newbie so you must be evil" reason is used a lot. So is the "you agree with [banned person] so you must really be them" poor excuse.

re 68: Actually, I don't think the stagnation of policy is the problem, but rather, exactly the opposite. The fact that any schmuck can walk up and change (albeit temporarily) the rules would seem to be an irresistible temptation. And the temptation isn't so much to game the system as it is to believe that problems can all be solved by changing the rules. That's obviously not true when people are not following the ones that are there already, and indeed what has happened over in the battle for "No Original Research" is that a nonsensical guideline about sources is being produced by the clueless.

#77 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 11:34 PM:

Yeah, it's the "no original research" rule that is going to prevent me from ever writing a historical article for Wikipedia about the SMOF-BBS. About the only sourced proof I have that it ever even existed was because it was mentioned in Bruce Sterling's "The Hacker Crackdown".

#78 ::: platedlizard ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 11:41 PM:

#72 If they're like a seagull there might not be that much of a smell to it. Bird poop is high in uric acid (that's what makes it white) and uric acid is a natural disinfectant. That's why New World vultures poop on their legs, to disinfect them. As a result, the bacteria that causes the bad poop smell we would normally expect isn't present.

Trufax

#79 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 12:03 AM:

plated lizard, so, you haven't ever been in a gull roosting area, then?

#80 ::: platedlizard ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 12:21 AM:

# 79 That's not so much the poop, as it is the, uh, stuff they bring back with them. Or maybe my idea of what stinks has been altered by being pooped on by more birds then I care the think about. (The worst? Geese. They rely on fermentation to digest their food, unlike many other birds, and have lots of bacteria in their poops. The best was lorikeets. Their's smells like fruit or flowers due to the high sugar content of their food.)

#81 ::: platedlizard ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 12:27 AM:

Oops! A slight correction.

"Or maybe my idea of what stinks has been altered by being pooped on by more birds then I care the think about."

Meant to say more animals then I care to think about. Especially if I forget to scoop my iguana's bedding on a daily basis.

I still geese are by far the worst IME. Although I'm told tiger/lion poop takes the cake.

#82 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 12:36 AM:

"No Original Research" is on the one hand a sensible precaution and on the other a miserably worded euphemism. What it really means is "do not afflict us with your crackpot theory"; at least, that is why it was devised. It was then extended slightly to mean "just tell us the state of the art." But cranks, by their nature, are immune to the instructions these rules give. So for some reason this mutated into a theory about proper sources. Competent people ignore the whole thing and hope that some wikilawyer doesn't come along and try to enforce the wrongheaded guideline.

re 75: That's the rub. About the only stuff that's worth working on is material that is only a notch or so above trivia, because it's likely to remain undisturbed. And even then you can never tell. I have to stand over top of one article on railroading because there's this fellow who has his own pet theory and who every few months bends that article to fit his theory. A savvy person can tell from the tone of what he writes that his theory is bullocks, but someone else might not. Therefore when I finally give up defending the article, it's going to get trashed and stay trashed unless it is fortunate enough to attract a new defender.

#83 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 02:11 AM:

C. Wingate @ 82:

'No original research' did indeed start as a 'this isn't a place to publish your crackpot physics theories' policy.

However, although it can be extended too far, I do think it's correct to say "Wikipedia is not supposed to be a site of first publication". Encyclopedias aren't where new stuff is written down for the very first time. If you've researched the history of your town and know things that aren't in any of the printed histories, Wikipedia is not the place to correct it; you should publish it elsewhere.

To take that further, Wikipedia is not supposed to be a place where you correct things. A large portion of the people who don't do well there are those who have an issue to push, a Truth to tell, a cause to promote. Wikipedia should indeed cover the established wisdom, in most cases. This includes covering significant alternative theories and ideas if they have a following, of course.

And you're right - a big problem is the belief among some that if they try hard enough they can make an ironclad, logical set of rules which will utterly prevent the cranks from trying to insert stupid stuff. The fact that it's impossible doesn't seem to penetrate, and the fact that it throws a huge number of babies out with the bathwater is also rather disturbing to me and yet seems like a small price to them.

A proportion of the problems are the no-social-skills Aspie types for whom this really does work, though; they seem to be unable to comprehend anything that requires nuance, but they are capable of understanding a set of logical rules.

By the way, could you let me know which railroading article seems to always get screwed up by this person? I know enough about the subject to get it right, I hope, and another person with it on watch might help.

@ 76: User conduct policies are stagnant, though. It's hard to get any change to stick, because there's always going to be a core of users who want to continue getting away with what should be forbidden.

JESR @ 75:

I hope I'm at least somewhat sane and ethical; I'd say that the vast majority of the others on the en.wikipedia arbitration committee are too. Sure, there are disagreements, agendas, tempers, etc etc. but a lot of the problem Wikipedia has is that almost all the sausage-making is out in the open. The average nonprofit, for instance, has much more insanity on its board than Wikipedia does among those who run stuff, from what I've seen.

#84 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 09:21 AM:

For me what it's come to is this: if the top Google search hit is to a Wikipedia article I click on the second hit.

#85 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 09:27 AM:

re 84: I don't think Wikipedia is quite that bad, but I don't expect to get more out of it that a rough notion about something I've never heard of before. Besides, the second link these days is usually something along the lines of "Find best prices for ....." The number one service Google could perform for us is to add a switch to distinguish between pages trying to sell us something and pages trying to tell us something.

#86 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 09:32 AM:

platedlizard @ 81... I'm told tiger/lion poop takes the cake.

My cat's coprolith can be rather odoriferous. As for taking the cake, we have to put his litter box out of reach of our dogs, who seem to think that his merde is candy.

#87 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 09:52 AM:

Serge@86: who seem to think that his merde is candy.

Likes to smoke the "kitty cigars", eh?

;)

#88 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 09:55 AM:

Augghhh... there goes breakfast.

#89 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 09:56 AM:

Mathew@83: there's always going to be a core of users who want to continue getting away with what should be forbidden.

And that would include the arbiters, a good many of the administrators, and probably anyone who actually works for the foundation.

At least with a situation like Shrub, we can wait till he's out of the white house and hope it improves. The way the old timers at wikipedia operate, they've set themselves up as kings with a parliment of plebes whom they tolerate.

#90 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 10:07 AM:

Serge @ 86

I once spent two hours in the primate research building at the UC Davis Veterinary School, trying to repair the rat-eaten cables on a piece of instrumentation. The place was not well-maintained, and the smell of rat urine and feces mixed most vilely with that of the rhesus monkeys in the cage on the other side of the room, a mother and her infant, who, I think, had some sort of intestinal virus. To make it a multi-sensory experience, the mother had taken it into her head that I was a danger to her child, and spent the entire time screeching at me. Sometimes it's more about the surroundings and the size of the enclosing volume than the absolute level of the stink.

Oh, and I have to tell my favorite animal story from that job. The male tiger at the Sacramento zoo had developed a painful tooth ache, and was brought to the vet school for treatment. He was quite safely tucked away in a barred room, but was still conscious, in pain, and very vocal about it. The school had a small herd of 8 or 10 goat kids*. Hearing the tiger roar, they panicked and lit out for parts unknown. Since I happened to be at the site that day, I was pressed into helping round them up. I can state with authority that two humans cannot create a cordon with their own bodies that will allow the capture of even one terrified juvenile goat unless they have specialized equipment such as a net or a lasso. Waving your arms wildly at them does not help.

* I have no idea why they kept them, except possibly for the words of wisdom I once got from a graduate physiology student: researchers choose an animal species based on the use of the animal after the experiment's over. He used sheep, and was an accomplished tanner and he wife a spinner and knitter. Another student used pheasants, so she always had a supply of eggs.

#91 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 10:21 AM:

Sorry about that, Earl. Kitty cigars, Greg? I've never heard them called that.

#92 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 10:23 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 90... researchers choose an animal species based on the use of the animal after the experiment's over. He used sheep

That reminds me of the Far Side cartoon that showed a little bonetted girl having dinner, with the caption "Mary had a little lamb, and some potatoes."

#93 ::: John Aspinall ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 10:33 AM:

Matthew Brown @ 83:

One of the ironies of No Original Research being originally intended as 'this isn't a place to publish your crackpot physics theories', is that it is now used to protect crackpot physics theories from detailed debunking analysis.

Let us postulate that a crackpot theory has got its Wikipedia page by hook or by crook. I will concede that J. Random Reader may be better off hearing about this theory, but I will insist that J. Random Reader also be informed that "here's where this alternate theory parts ways with the science that built the modern world that you enjoy".

But no-one has published such analysis. In fact, such analysis is not publishable in the very same academic, peer reviewed, sources that Wikipedia would normally consider as the gold standard for physics references.

I think the crackpots snuck a big one past the gatekeepers here. (And, yes, I've got a specific case in mind, but I won't belabor the details.)

#94 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 10:36 AM:

re 89: I think this comes under the heading of "never attribute to malice..." Dan Tobias and I go through phases of referring to the MONGO/SlimVirgin/Jayjg/etc. crowd as "The Cabal", but only ironically. There's no need for them to conspire, and I doubt that they do. "Faction" more accurately describes how they function: a long period of working in parallel on similar issues, plus the natural tendency for abuse of power, have turned them into a like-minded group of people who instinctively scratch each other's backs as needed and who have gotten excessively defensive.

One thing about the whole mess that I find ironic is that Jombo's supposed admiration for Ayn Rand has somehow translated into an organization that works almost exactly opposite of the way that the "good" people work in her books. James "Galt" Wales would rule Walesipedia Inc. with an iron hand and no tolerance for idiots, and he would heave admins who tolerated/encouraged idiots. And frankly Wikipedia would be better for it if he did.

#95 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 10:45 AM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) #90: For the rounding up of goats what's necessary is to chivvy them into a large enough enclosed space that they won't spook, but small enough that they can't run far, then close the gate. Then, 3-4 human beings (my father, my two brothers, and myself for example) can catch them and tie them up one by one. Or two humans can use netting to tangle them up one by one. And then tie them.

Once they are all tied, you then, at your leisure, slaughter and skin them. My father used to cure the hides and then use them as rugs.

#96 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 10:52 AM:

C@94, holy crap, those guys are still there? It's good to be king, I suppose.

Earl@88, sorry.

Serge@91, yeah, we've got dogs, we've got cats, and we've got "humidors" lined with cat litter.

#97 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 11:06 AM:

Earl Cooley @ 77: Yeah, it's the "no original research" rule that is going to prevent me from ever writing a historical article for Wikipedia about the SMOF-BBS.

Yeah, you'll have to get it published somewhere else first instead.

#98 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 11:15 AM:

Fragano Ledgister @ 95

Thanks for the suggestions; I'll bear them in mind next time I have to deal with spooked goats. It's nice to know that there isn't some easy way to deal with them that we could have used at the time; two of us without ropes or nets and no enclosed space to work with were just hopelessly outclassed. Humbling, that.

#99 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 11:17 AM:

Fragano @ 95... For the rounding up of goats what's necessary is to chivvy them into a large enough enclosed space that they won't spook, but small enough that they can't run far, then close the gate. Then, 3-4 human beings

"You've really got my goat this morning."

#100 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 12:51 PM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) #98: They're nimbler than we are.

#101 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 12:53 PM:

Serge #99: Oh??????

#102 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 12:59 PM:

Matthew Brown @ 83, that line might convinve the young 'uns over at Wikipedia, but my baseline for sausage making is the Washington State Legislature, and even by that very high standard, there's some very bad meat going into policy discussion at Wikipedia.

#103 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 01:02 PM:

Fragano @ 101... Just (Dare I say it?) kidding.

#104 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 01:14 PM:

re Wikipedia, Has Jimbo in fact arranged the licensing such that others are not allowed to copy the Wikipedia entire and fix it up with a "clean" batch of users?

Because from the sound of it, "start over" is the only way you're going to fix that mess. Unless, of course, somebody finally manages to LART Jimbo.

#105 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 01:25 PM:

C. Wingate, #85: The number one service Google could perform for us is to add a switch to distinguish between pages trying to sell us something and pages trying to tell us something.

Nicely put!

Serge, #92: Or "...with fava beans and a nice Chianti."

Richard, #97: That runs straight into the question of, "Where is he going to GET something like that published?" It's not of sufficient general interest that even a university press would take it, and I can readily imagine the Wikigamers' response to a reference to something published thru Lulu... and then, he'd still be up against "you can't reference your own materials" and "Wikipedia is not a commercial site." This is a no-win situation.

#106 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 01:39 PM:

Lee @ 105... Serge, #92: Or "...with fava beans and a nice Chianti."

Next, Shari Lewis practices sewing on Lambchop.

#107 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 02:15 PM:

David@104: re Wikipedia, Has Jimbo in fact arranged the licensing such that others are not allowed to copy the Wikipedia entire and fix it up with a "clean" batch of users?

I think its just a straight GNU-GPL license, which means you can fork anytime you want.

The question is whether you're willing to pay the server costs and whether you're willing to have a legal team to deal with the lawsuits from all the people complaining about their biographies.

If I ever hit the lottery, forking wikipedia would probably be one of my first projects.

And I'd use this method for handing out admin privileges.

#108 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 02:23 PM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) #90, #98 & Fragano Ledgister #95

"what's necessary is to chivvy them into a large enough enclosed space that they won't spook, but small enough that they can't run far"

You've simplified this somewhat. You're pre-supposing an ability to herd the goats. Herding animals is something that cannot really be taught, only learned by experience. The experienced herder knows when to step forward to encourage the animals to move, when to step back in order to stop the animal spooking and running past, when raising an arm or wiggling your fingers will make all the (psycholigical) difference to whether or not the animal goes where you want it to.

Tip for novices: if you need to get past the animal to herd it back in the direction you've just come from, don't look at it while you're passing it. Preferably, physically turn your back on it - animals know whether or not the predator (you) is looking at them.

#109 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 02:42 PM:

dcb and Fragano Ledgister, on herding ungulates: you wouldn't happen to be available next Friday, say about 10am PST, to help wean calves, would you?

How about the 15th of December?

Bring knee boots!

#110 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 02:45 PM:

Serge back #91: We always called them "Doggie Almond Roca", since a bit of kitty litter sticks to the outside. And we did our darndest to keep the dog out of the litter box.

#111 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 02:49 PM:

Tania... Almond Roca sounds like a fancy flavor of ice cream.

#112 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 02:52 PM:

About JESR's offer... Calves-at Emptor!

#113 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 03:43 PM:

JESR @ 109

I'd be happy to help - but I'm in London (UK).

Word of warning for the wise. Never ask a sheepdog to herd Soay sheep. Not unless you really hate the dog and want to give it a nervous breakdown (they don't herd - they scatter).

#114 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 03:51 PM:

That should have been: "they don't flock, they scatter."

#115 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 03:56 PM:

dcb, I've only known Suffolks, myself; the last one we had (as a bramble control measure) was instrumental in chasing a bull back into the field, one dark and stormy night.

#116 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 04:06 PM:

Plated Lizard: I don't find goose to be so bad (we have four). Bats, prety pungeunt. Horse, kind of nice. Swine, really foul. Chickens, so-so. Fermented mouse crap, foul. Fermented Guinea Pig droppings, pleasant.

Worst I've ever had to be around... Sea lion.

#117 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 04:14 PM:

Serge #103: I know, otherwise I might have had to ram ewe.

#118 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 04:20 PM:

JESR #109: I regret to say that I have a previously-scheduled appointment with a pile of essays. Besides, I'm not as spry as I was in the 1970s.

#119 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 04:24 PM:

Fragano @ 118... I regret to say that I have a previously-scheduled appointment with a pile of essays.

Wouldn't you rather have an appointment with a pile of manure?

#120 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 04:25 PM:

Terry Karney @ 116... Sea lions are worse than a pigsty? Holy you-know-what.

#121 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 04:27 PM:

plated lizard

Penguin poop is much worse than goose poop. Particularly when there are lots (thousands) of penguins, in a confined space. 10 tonnes of digested fish per day - mmm!

#122 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 04:28 PM:

Greg Longon @#107: True, but if that's so, all that's really needed is for somebody rich to get fed up with the mess, and decide to fix it.

Is anybody else noticing a certain parallel between the Wikipedia and goat-herding threads here? ;-)

#123 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 04:42 PM:

David@122: if that's so, all that's really needed is for somebody rich to get fed up with the mess, and decide to fix it.

Being first gave wikipedia some advantages. Something about a singing dog. You don't focus on the fact that it sings so poorly, you're just amazed that it sings at all. Now that wikipedia has established it's singing ability, the next dog that sings won't fly. It will have to be better. And it will have to inherit all the GPL licenses, which means wikipedia can simply roll any of your modifications back into its version without violating a license, and without actually improving its rules for conflict resolution and whatnot.

So, not only will this new encyclopedia have to be better, it will have to be really better. Which, unfortunately, raises the bar to entry just a tad.

I have no idea how much storage or bandwidth wikipedia uses. Does anyone have this information somewhere? Does wikipedia post it? I'd be curious just to see how much it would cost to host wikipedia at some third party company.

#124 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 04:45 PM:

Serge: Yeah. It's a tough call, but the tipping point was concentration. It didn't take the localised amount of sea-lion crap to make the locale someplace one wanted to move along from.

The foulness of pigs came from them not being able to spread the depostion out/insufficient cleaning. The idea of 1/4 the concentration of sea-lion effluvia, and even with a fresh breeze, I'd be off that island in a New York Minute.

It was bad. Reeked of fermented fish and I don't know what all.

#125 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 04:53 PM:

Terry Karney @ 124... "The horror! The horror!"

#126 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 04:55 PM:

Fragano -- Goats are more nimble and they can leap with astounding agility -- not to mention climb too. But you know that.

Goat skins are very pretty on floors and beds and walls, though their real function is to become drum heads.

Love, C.

#127 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 04:58 PM:

re 124: Given Wikipedia's current structure, there's no hope that it could take advantage of some similar project's text in the areas where Wikipedia has severe problems now. After all, the only way that Betterpedia's material could get into Wikipedia, given the latter's operating methods, is for someone to carry it from one to the other. Once carried it would be subjected to all the same destructive forces that already ruin Wikipedia's material. After all, most bad Wikipedia articles do not want for decent source material; they are deliberately broken, out of ignorance, incompetence, or malice.

#128 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 05:02 PM:

Greg @123: the next dog that sings won't fly

Now, a flying, singing dog would be something to see.

#129 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 05:05 PM:

Constance Ash #126: We just used them as rugs. They do make excellent drumheads.

#130 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 05:11 PM:

NelC @ 128... a flying, singing dog would be something to see.

Well, Olive the little dog aka the Other Reindeer did sing and fly.

#131 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 05:13 PM:

Constance, Fragano,

You're both wrong. I cite here the inimitable Fletcher Battershall*, in Bookbinding for Bibliophiles.

"The goat himself has few virtues; all ages have condemned him. In Attic groves he was ever a terror to the tender nymph, a follower of wine-bibbers, and of general ill repute. Yearly he wandered in the desert, bearing the sins of a whole people on his horny pate. At some future day we know he is to be divided from the sheep. Always he is typical of evil. But this merit, if no other, he has above other beasts; his hide is tough. Properly tanned in sumach he is transmuted to a thing of beauty, suffers a "sea-change" into something fair, and is honored above the very clay of Caesar.

And then to thy once shaggy breast,
Now purified, shalt thou enfold
Frail Manon and fair Juliet

So sings some forgotten bibliomaniac. We despised him living, but we prize him dead. Such injustice is common to us."**

-----
* I am not making this up.
** vide supra

#132 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 05:28 PM:

abi @ 131... thy once shaggy breast

I wonder if we can tie that in to the earlier comment that mice produce more milk if their back is shaved.

#133 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 06:10 PM:

If Wikipedia's got your goat, the Wikimedia Foundation is a non-profit so their 2006 Form 990 is available for download, and they have some information on the 2007 budget available.

There's a considerable difference in scale between the two documents (~1.5M in FY'05 to ~4.5M in FY'07) that may be growth over time or something else.

#134 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 06:47 PM:

Hm, it says "bandwidth, hardware, and *salaries*" is a total of 2.5 million samolians. nice that they lump their personal salaries into the mix with bandwidth and storage.

Ah well.

#135 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 06:50 PM:

I've never herded goats. But hogs is a different matter entirely. Them hogs were always conspiring. You could see it in their eyes.

#136 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 06:55 PM:

Serge #119: I've spent many an afternoon shovelling manure*, and can say with authority that while quite a few of these essays stink they do not do so in quite the same way.

*Mostly goat. Our goats lived in some dilapidated buildings (which made it easy to catch one or two for slaughter -- the corralling scenario described above occurred once and was the result of an unexpected augmentation of the herd which my father decide to take fullest advantage of).

#137 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 06:57 PM:

abi #131: And here I thought it was the calf that was the best source of book leather.

#138 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 07:00 PM:

Greg London #135: Our swine had to be conspiring, since we castrated most of the males. There wasn't much else they could do for recreation.

#139 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 07:18 PM:

Greg London, my brother-in-laws feeder pigs got out last spring, a couple of dozen of them, and he and my sister considered them lost to the coyotes or the BNSF mainline, scattered as they were on a cpouple of hundred acres of pasture and woodland. Then they looked up and saw all of the pigs (a couple dozen at most) being chased by all of the cows and their calves (a bit more than a hundred), the pigs running as fast as their stumpy legs could carry them, squealing at the top of their lungs, the cattle rumbling on, heads down, in ominous silence.

Pigs being quite smart, they made it back to their barn in good time to squeeze back in the loose board where they made their escape, and huddled trembling in the corner while repairs were made.

Pigs, by the way, do smell quite a lot worse than anything except calves on milk replacer, and vid Serge, sea lions.

#140 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 07:21 PM:

JESR... For a moment, I thought you'd written I smelled worse than a pig. Heheheh.. That being said, the scene you described feels like something out of Green Acres.

#141 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 07:24 PM:

Er, much of the localised amount.

A little goes a long way.

#142 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 07:28 PM:

JESR: I think that was vid me, vis a vis the reek of sea lion scat.

#143 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 07:29 PM:

Sorry, Serge, I seem to keep tripping over subclauses today.

#144 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 07:32 PM:

#123, #127: I'm with C. Wingate on this one: WP can take the better articles, but they can't keep them intact -- which is their problem to begin with!

It might be better to work piecemeal -- set up a central organization with a big index and search engine, linking together a lot of little projects cover various topic ranges (SF & fandom, science, history, pop-culture, etc.).

The kicker is that all the member sites need to be vetted on joining and observed over time to make sure they can deal with vandals and cranks. A strict version would require all the member sites to sign on to a central set of operating rules. A looser version would just have "CorePedia" review their rulesets to make sure they're dealing with the known structural issues.

Either way, the member sites would have some representation at the Core, (ultimately chosen by their various owners) but they wouldn't be allowed to flood the rulemaking process with their partisans. And of course, if the reps misbehave, it reflects on their site!

#145 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 07:39 PM:

JESR @ 143... Curse those subclauses!

#146 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 08:10 PM:

Terry Karney: I can find no statistics on deaths in cricket. They occur very occasionally. I recall one, of a schoolboy in New South Wales, a few years back. My recollection was that he was struck by the ball while fielding close to the bat, but this may be wrong. Naturally, the game's own administrators are very coy on the subject. There are statistics on injury rates in Australia only at http://www.injuryupdate.com.au/images/research/SHcricketreport2006.pdf

I suspect that one or maybe two deaths per annum, worldwide, occur because of some event on a cricket field. I would think that the incidence of death or serious injury is declining. I have no idea how this compares with baseball.

#147 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 08:18 PM:

In baseball, there has been one pitching related death. It's why the batters wear helmets.

#148 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 09:42 PM:

Serge @19: You mean the film about a Hobbit named Willow Skywalker?

#149 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 10:04 PM:

Ajjan Beatty @ 148.. Yup. That's the one.

#150 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 10:27 PM:

Terry Karney @ 147: That must be for Major League Baseball. Deaths for all of baseball average four per year; and while that document doesn't break out pitching-related deaths, it does say:

Of these, 43% were from direct-ball impact with the chest (commotio cordis); 24% were from direct-ball contact with the head; 15% were from impacts from bats; 10% were from direct contact with a ball impacting the neck, ears, or throat; and in 8%, the mechanism of injury was unknown.

Some of those direct-ball impact deaths must be from line drives, but I would expect most of them to be from pitches.

#151 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 11:32 PM:

I consulted my partner, Eva, on the question of how to capture goats, and her answer was "call Goatbusters".

#152 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 11:37 PM:

#146, #147, #150 and previous: Considering the number of participants, how do those death rates compare to background deaths, say from "accident or misadventure"?

#153 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 11:52 PM:

Fragano@138, we had sows and raised pigs from litters all the way to full weight. Once every few months, we'd spend a day in the hoghouse with scalpels and iodine.

JESR@139, hm, I can't remember ever having a pig-steer gang war while I was growing up.

warriors, come out and plaaaayyy.

#154 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2007, 12:30 AM:

David Harmon #152: No clue. You'd have to know the raw number of deaths and the number of person-hours spent practising the two sports, worldwide. I can't even find the first of these for cricket. Absent those facts, (and I would be grateful if anyone whose google-fu is greater than mine could find them, or a reasonable estimate thereof) I would only be guessing about the relative safety of the two sports overall, and even more so about the relative lethality of being struck by the ball in either.

#155 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2007, 09:43 AM:

re 83: So why are you ratcheting up the drama level in the MONGO case?

#156 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2007, 10:20 AM:

I've worked a bit in chicken houses. They don't smell too bad, kept dry. When the litter gets wet, the ammonia smell is bad.

Terry @ 147: Long, long ago (I mean, it was, like, the eighties, dude!), I hosted a book signing for The Pitch That Killed's Mike Sowell.

If you want death, it's football you want. I don't think a year goes by in Arkansas that at least one kid doesn't die during training.

#157 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2007, 10:28 AM:

Football may be more dangerous than baseball, because people forget how much momentum a moving softish object (like a player) has.

Baseball has very hard moving objects as well as moving softish objects. You never forget what the bat or the ball can do to you if it gets loose.

#158 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2007, 12:14 PM:

Serge #67

That depends on what your "process" is for coding and what if any methodologies do you use, do you document your code and how, what your conventions are for naming variables, stuctures, do you put in error and exception handling (nabbed a coworker with a math doctorate from MIT or Berkeley once who was griping that his program was breaking trying to do matrix inversion--"Have you checked to make sure it's invertible?" I asked him (non-invertible matrixes involve essentially the same thing as trying take something that has a value of zero and divide by it--it doesn't work....) Guess what, he hadn't put in code to check before trying to invert, and the problem was that he was trying to invert matrices that weren't invertible. Oops....), etc.

(When I was doing contract work at The Virtual Corporation, the people writing software there had an informal competition going for finding the most appalling content of Gandalf (which had made some network equipment systems) code.

(Note, Gandalf went bankrupt and so much later did The Virtual Corporation. The latter was dissolved in a combination of business and personal bankrupty on the part of the owners, who were a couple who as part at of the proceeding were in a divorce-financial stress being probably the major cause, on top of, as I commented (not at the same time) to both members of the former couple, "Every real and imagined grievance in 25 years of marriage." Gandalf's failure and its failure to pay The Virtual Corporation was one of the biggest dominoes in the collapse of The Virtual Corporation. Since all the organizations mentioned are extinct and dissolved....)

The winner was, "I am not going to repeat the fucking specification." Yes, that actually was a comment in the source code! And it clearly is something that a programmer/CODER wrote, and not not a software engineer--comments like that are NOT "professional." The code that it went with wasn't professional-grade, either... there were reasons why some of the features/functionality weren't robust, it's because the programming was lacking in software engineering discipline and good coding practices....

#159 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2007, 12:38 PM:

Paula,

You just brought back a memory of the guy who fired me from my first job in computing, way back in '81, on his first week as my manager. He later lost his job when, during an audit of a reporting system for affirmative action tracking, it was found that he'd inserted comments like "number of niggers employed" and so on. I lost track of him after that, although someone in town with his (not uncommon) name went to prison for a tax shelter scam. I still don't believe in karma, though.

#160 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2007, 01:45 PM:

A few years ago, while working at Nike, I got into an argument with programmer* about my coding style during a code review. He insisted there was too much error-handling (this was server-side Java code). He got very upset when I pointed out that the people who invented the Java language estimated that 50% of all their code was, and should be, error-handling. He also didn't believe in comments, in documentation, or in formal design techniques.**

After we released that revision, he went on to be project leader of another piece of software, and I stayed to do the next rev. When we went into formal QA on the next revision, our testers found that he had ignored a part of the spec because he didn't want to be bothered doing it that way, and hadn't bothered to document the fact, or let anyone know. This resulted in a major design change to fix the problem while in QA, when design change is supposed to be verboten.

Yes, Virginia, there really is such a thing as software engineering. It's not just job title inflation. And there seem to be fewer of us all the time.

* No, most definitely not a software engineer.
** He paid lip service to Design Patterns because management had heard of them and thought they were cool, but the he jammed the Visitor pattern into the design in a big way. Now, even the guys who wrote the Design Patterns book weren't thrilled with the Visitor Pattern,

#161 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2007, 01:59 PM:

re 156: IIRC most of those training camp deaths are from heat exhaustion/stroke.

#162 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2007, 02:34 PM:

#160: Onward and upward to senior management he is destined to go.

As to "fewer of us": well, mentioning things like error-handling, design patterns, commenting, and code reviews during one's employment interview seems to be the best way to not get hired. All this designing and testing business - it's just added expenses detracting from corporate profit, after all.


#163 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2007, 02:38 PM:

C. Wingate @ 161 has caught me trying to palm a card:

re 156: IIRC most of those training camp deaths are from heat exhaustion/stroke.

True. But the macho toughtoughtoughtoughtough culture around football is what causes those eminently preventable deaths to occur. Also, as Mark Kleiman pointed out the other day:

...if high-school football were a drug, it would be in Schedule I. NIDA has spent approximately a gazillion dollars looking for evidence of lasting cognitive deficits from pot-smoking, and found nothing nearly as clear-cut as the risks associated with concussion, which is a fairly routine risk of playing football under current rules.

(He has a bit more to say on this and related subjects.)

#164 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2007, 02:53 PM:

John A. Arkansawyer, #163: and knee injuries, don't forget the knee injuries. I hate the way football destroys the bodies of players--it's a terrible involve top athletes to participate in.

#165 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2007, 03:03 PM:

Duh. Meant to say, "it's a terrible thing to encourage top athletes to participate in a sport so risky."

#166 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2007, 03:03 PM:

Randolph, you are right of course: knee injuries suck, as do broken collarbones, multiple shoulder separations, and all the other injuries that football players are routinely asked to play with. ("Just tape it.") But they won't kill you, mostly, or leave you cognitively impaired for the rest of your life. Concussions will. Unfortunately, the stupid-macho-shit thinking of sports culture and football culture in particular has minimized the dangers from concussions for years, even down into the high school level.

This doesn't only apply to football, of course...

#168 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2007, 03:22 PM:

Greg London #153: We used knives and salt.

#169 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2007, 03:40 PM:

Paula Lieberman @ 158... That depends on what your "process" is for coding and what if any methodologies do you use, do you document your code and how, what your conventions are for naming variables, stuctures, do you put in error and exception handling (nabbed a coworker with a math doctorate from MIT or Berkeley once who was griping that his program was breaking trying to do matrix inversion--"Have you checked to make sure it's invertible?" I asked him (non-invertible matrixes involve essentially the same thing as trying take something that has a value of zero and divide by it--it doesn't work....) Guess what, he hadn't put in code to check before trying to invert, and the problem was that he was trying to invert matrices that weren't invertible. Oops....), etc.

I couldn't answer some of those questions, which I guess means that I not a software engineer but a software artist. If there is such a thing. The way I program is based on my 30 years of experience. Lots of stuff that I've internalized (somethimes the hard way with a sledgehammer), and the result is that I can't separate in my mind the steps that I follow, or name the methodologies involved. Reading that, it sounds like a ghastly approach. But. But the bottom line is that my stuff never breaks. Never? Well, hardly ever.

#170 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2007, 03:53 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 160... I got into an argument with programmer* about my coding style during a code review. He insisted there was too much error-handling

That's one thing I'll never be accused of. As for specs from our users, we usually have a walkthru and I seldom have any questions. Not because I understood everything in the specs. I see them as a guideline and, once I start the design/coding (often simultaneously), that's when I'm really inside the machine, peering at the guts very closely. I find myself wondering then asking the user "Is that really what you mean?" and that gives them the chance to clarify things in their own minds and they'll wind up rewriting the specs for an area of the process after I've thru and beyond it. My approach usually is Murphy's Real Law. If someone could misuse this or that part of the logic, I put in a failsafe.

So whaty does that make me? A prgrammer? An engineer?

#171 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2007, 04:31 PM:

Veering back to Wikipedia for a moment, I managed to be peering at the right page when the evidence for a particularly contentious* user ban was visible†.

The admin in question seemed to feel that someone who didn't screw up the formatting of their first few edits was clearly not as much a newby as they first seemed, and therefore probably a sock puppet.

Since I tend to RTFM, and since my work runs a MediaWiki (to which I contribute a substantial amount of heavily formatted content), I would be able to do all of the things that user did right now, though I've only edited Wikipedia once‡.

Yet another reason not to get involved in Wikipedia. Good thing the bookbinding article is relatively OK without any input from me.

(I'm actually getting flashbacks to when my old community went metastic, with un-appealable bans on secret evidence and mass deletion of innocent content. I think that's why I need to rant here, because it brings it all back.)

----
* and incorrect - the person was blocked for being a sockpuppet - of whom it was not stated - based on secret evidence reviewed by nameless but presumptively authoritative people
† it was removed again shortly afterward, lest it reveal too much of the admin's investigative techniques**, but I still have the tab open
‡ a spelling correction, anonymously
** which were perfectly mundane and not really that convincing

#172 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2007, 04:43 PM:

Serge, Bruce: In recent years I've decided I'd prefer to call myself a "craftsman" when it comes to software. I've come to believe that personal skill, learned techniques of craft, and ones level of care about the details make a greater difference in the quality of ones software than adherence to vaguely defined "engineering principles". It sounds to me like you are a craftsman in software.

Re comments: I believe it's reasonable to be clear, polite, and when possible entertaining to those who may take the time or have the need to come through and read them later. (However there are certain situations where a certain amount of profanity may appear the only reasonable explanation of why the code must do what it does just here.)

#173 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2007, 05:20 PM:

Abi @170, I've been trying to keep track of the dancing fever on the Administrators Notice Board between loads of laundry (it's cold and bright today, conditions even a holiday will not bar me from taking advantage of) and preparation of festive foods, and it's morphed in shape and size, blinked in and out of existence, and otherwise exhibeted more variations on online bad behavior than ever I've witnessed anywhere.

#174 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2007, 05:50 PM:

Clifton @ 171... Craftsman? I like that. Come to think of it, I guess I've always thought of myself as a programmer (even though my official title is now 'application systems engineer)because that's what they used to call us when I started out, when people were still using jacquard looms... I mean, card punchers. From what Bruce Cohen said earlier, the term appears to have come to refer to code crunchers.

#175 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 02:15 AM:

Serge #174

"Programmer" !== crappy coder. Some programmers are writers of crappy code. Some programmers are writers of highly elegant code. Some programmers write code that in aesthetically ugly to behold but which is functional....

"coder" == someone who writes code. It may be good code, it may be bad code, it might be complete garbage, it might be brilliant in concept but completely dysfunctional as written, it may be full of bugs or the most elegant error-trapped etc. etc. ever, it might be code written by someone who is a "domain expert" to use the old term from the artificial intelligence world or it may be someone who can writer computer code but has to have someone else provide ALL the information about requirements and functionality and features in gory gory gory detail and provide all the math algorithms in gory gory gory detail and all the processing logic [once upon a time delineated in e.g. flow charts, sometimes done with truth tables, etc.]

software engineer = someone who designs software and when writing it implements it according to good practices for design and implementation. The insult about, "you're not a software engineer, you're a -coder-!" involves "you lack knowledge of engineering process/procedure discipline, or you know about it and can't be bothered to adhere to it, or you need someone else to design the functionality and features and requirements and program and what you're doing is "code monkey" work of taking someone else's design and translating it from "this is what the progrm is going to/supposed to do" into a working program.

Coder isn't necessarily an insult, as indicated earlier... it's an insult when applied to someone who's supposed to be more than a "code monkey"

code monkey--someone who writes codes usually getting told what to do but not necessarily why, sort of like someone hired to do data entry of information that has to be typed into a computer thought quite a bit more sophisticate--hmm, a better example would be a celebrity's coauthor whose task is to take the story that someone want to tell about a media personality or someone or something else famous, and write the words that describe the "requirements" that the commissoning agency or celebrity wants filled as the content of the book.

Most software writers don't even get as much visbility as ghost writers gets, and they rarely

#176 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 02:17 AM:

oops, missed finishing that last sentence.
It should end with, "get residuals."

#177 ::: Emil ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 10:06 AM:

Dave Luckett @154: Anything you want to know about cricket can be obtained from the Wisden Almanac. I think probably player deaths would be an unusual enough occurrence to make it into the annual "Index of Unusual Occurrences" at the back of the book. Just browsing through 2004's edition, we have such gems as "Fine leg arrives by parachute" and "Umpire stops play to take photograph", so they probably wouldn't strain at a fatal accident.

I'm surprised that baseball should account for so many deaths. In baseball the pitcher does his best to avoid striking the batter; in cricket, the bowler is positively encouraged to hit him in the head. I've seen plenty of players struck in the helmet and chest by 90mph fast bowlers and nobody has looked in life-threatening trouble so far.

I suppose there's a difference in the speed that baseballs and cricket balls reach the batsman; they're about the same weight and leave the hand at anything up to 100mps, but the cricket ball is supposed to pitch before it gets there. I can't imagine that makes things a lot safer, though, especially if the pitch is hard and uneven.

Oh dear I'm wittering on about cricket aren't I? Sorry.

#178 ::: Emil ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 10:08 AM:

Whoops, 100 miles per hour, is what I meant. 100 miles per second, well, that's going to be dangerous, yes.

#179 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 10:09 AM:

Emil #177: You may not be aware that Dave Luckett is Australian.

#180 ::: Emil ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 10:18 AM:

I wasn't aware, but I was half just wittering out loud anyway... <relurk>

#181 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 10:46 AM:

Emil: No please stay - I don't think any rebuke was meant at all; And anyone who can quote Wisden's is most definitely welcome.

At this point I'm sure abi would have me ask you: do you write poetry?

#182 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 11:01 AM:

I am again lost in admiration for the patience of our hosts. This started out as a thread about trolls on the internet - I think. They've already tolerated a subthread about, of all things, the dangers in being hit with a cricket ball. Now we're in danger of talking about cricket generally, which is the end of all civilised discourse.

All trolls are would-be fast bowlers, but they haven't got the balls.

#183 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 11:11 AM:

Paula Lieberman #175: I dunno, I've always thought of a "software engineer" as a programmer with a padded resume and an over-inflated sense of self-worth. I think of myself as a programmer, but, fond as I am of self-deprecation, I don't attach any particular negative traits to that term unless used in conjunction with the word "outsourced." An outsourced programmer is merely scab labor.

#184 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 11:21 AM:

Sockpuppets, on the other hand, would be in cover position, or possibly extra cover.

I just know that someone's going to make a silly point around now, though.

#185 ::: Emil ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 11:25 AM:

Hello Jakob! No offense taken I assure you. I have been known to knock pastiches together but have always been too in awe of ML's regulars to post anything...

The best cricket helmet story ever - stop me if you've heard this one - was at the 1996 world cup, in which the minnows of the United Arab Emirates were making up the numbers. Their captain was Sultan Zarawani, who'd played cricket at school in Pakistan but who wasn't a professional (or even a particularly good amateur, to tell the truth.) So it was somewhat surprising when he strolled to the crease against South Africa in a floppy sun hat. Now, Sir Viv Richards could get away with that, but the Sultan... Compounding the disbelief of the spectators was the fact that he had come in to face Allan "White Lightning" Donald, a man with a seriously nasty 95mph bouncer. It was a bit like he'd skated onto the rink in an NHL game wearing a costume from Blades of Glory.

Nine balls later he was on his way back to the pavilion - Donald's first ball cracked him unerringly on the skull. It was amazing that he hung around as long as he did.

#186 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 11:51 AM:

Sam #184: Well, we do have the odd slip round here...

#187 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 11:56 AM:

Dave Luckett #182: I'm tempted to say that all trolls would be underarm bowlers, save for that lack of balls.

#188 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 11:57 AM:

Sam @ 184... Isn't that a blanket statement?

#189 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 12:05 PM:

Serge at 188 - it is! And there I've made anuvver.

#190 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 01:34 PM:

Emil @#177: In baseball, it's not the speed of the throw that makes the ball deadly, it's the speed when it comes off the bat. Google "line drive killed" and you'll see a lot of sad stories. The first time I recall hearing about this was when pitcher took a line drive to the chest that stopped his heart.

I don't know what speeds a cricket ball gets up to, but I'm guessing it tends to stay lower to the ground than a baseball, so maybe head & chest hits are uncommon...

#191 ::: Emil ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 02:22 PM:

Mary @190: Ah, but then the fielding positions in baseball are much further away from the bat. In cricket there are a whole set of positions right up close to the bat which are prefixed 'silly' - silly mid-off, silly point - because you're liable to get hit. You're right, though, in that when you see fielders struck in those positions they tend to get hit in the shins etc.

#192 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 03:18 PM:

Mary Dell #190: A good pace bowler (Michael Holding, for example) delivering bouncers (balls that bounce off the pitch in front of the batsman) can do real damage to batsmen.

#193 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 03:39 PM:

Line drives... lessee... (goes off to find his copy of Adair's Physics of Baseball):

The Coefficient of Restitution on a Baseball is .565, at 58 mph (sudies on golf balls show the COR to fall off as impact speeds increase, this is probably true of baseballs as well). When pitched at 90 mph, it can come off a well swung bat at about 110 mph.

The nature of aluminum bats is such that they return more energy to the ball, and can be tailored to have much larger sweet-spots, and thinner handles (thus puttin more energy out where it has more effect on the ball).

The pitcher is 66 ft. from the plate, first, and third, base are 90 ft. to second is 127 feet. The second baseman, and shortstop will; typically, be s few feet closer to the plate, when the ball is hit.

The return time, to the pitcher, of a "come-backer' is about 1/3rd of a second.

I am almost certain that the deaths are because of struck balls hitting fielders, because the batter, and baserunners are wearing helmets. Runners are looking at the ball, so they can decide if/how to run so as to avoid increasing the odds of outs.

#194 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 03:52 PM:

Emil @185:
Welcome. It's good to see someone who can talk a bit of cricket on the site.

Jakob was right to ask about poetry, and I would encourage you not to be intimidated out of posing pastiches (and original works) here. Both are very, very welcome.

As I have said before, if you find anywhere where someone has been unkind about a poem posted here* up till now, I will eat my hat†.

And if anyone starts so doing, I will mock them back. Severely. In verse.

-----
* excluding self criticism
&dagger and post the video on YouTube

#195 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 03:55 PM:

Abi @ 195... if you find anywhere where someone has been unkind about a poem posted here* up till now, I will eat my hat

Heck, nobody has ever thrown any rotten egg at me for my dreadful rhyming, so I'd say your hat is safe, Abi.

#196 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 04:14 PM:

Emil @#191:

Makes sense. Almost everything I know about cricket comes from Hope and Glory or Inspector Morse.

Fragano @#192: But throwing it hard enough to kill a chap wouldn't be...cricket?

#197 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 04:26 PM:

Mary Dell #196: Throwing would not be cricket, balls have to be bowled! If you're sending a leather-and-composition ball down the pitch at 100 mph the batsman has, quite often, to beware of unintentional effects.

#198 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 04:53 PM:

Mary Dell @ 196

But throwing it hard enough to kill a chap wouldn't be...cricket?

Google for "Bodyline bowling". It got very controversial.

#199 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 06:43 PM:

Fragano: I wonder how much comes off the ball when it hits the pitch?

I haven't the math to compute the speed someone who clobbers one a Nolan Ryan style 100+ (at the plate) fastball is doing on the return flight.

#200 ::: Emil ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2007, 06:52 PM:

Terry: it typically loses around 10-15mph off the pitch (depending on how hard it is.)

#201 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2007, 12:08 PM:

Emil/Fragano:

So, when the bowler hits a batsman, does the batsman ever charge the mound? Or is that just in Baseball?

#202 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2007, 02:02 PM:

avi @ 194: It's good to see someone who can talk a bit of cricket on the site.

Sure it is.

#203 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2007, 03:09 PM:

albatross @ 201... the bowler hits a batsman

The Mystery Men versus the Justice League? This should be interesting.

#204 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2007, 03:55 PM:

albatross #201: That would not be cricket. The batsman has the option of retiring (which cedes the wicket) if injured.

#205 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2007, 03:59 PM:

Serge #203, that's batsman not batman.

#206 ::: Emil ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2007, 09:00 AM:

Fragano: pedantry, this, but actually a batsman who retires hurt has the option of returning to resume his innings at the fall of a later wicket. Colin Cowdrey had his arm broken batting at Lord's against the great West Indian quicks in 1963; he was the only man remaining in the dressing room when England were hanging on for a draw with two balls of the match remaining. The only way to save the match was for Cowdrey to resume his innings, so out he went with his arm in a sling, and England survived.

Albatross: no, because the batsman generally has no reason to be upset if he gets hit - it's a fair tactic. The only reason he'd be angry is if the ball failed to pitch: if it reaches the batsman without bouncing over waist height, that's an illegal delivery called a 'beamer'.

#207 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2007, 12:43 PM:

On the other hand, the only cricket "hit by pitch" I have to relate to is the one in Murder Must Advertise when being hit on the elbow makes Lord Peter Wimsey blow his cover as an advertising copywriter and barely adequate cricket player.


#208 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2007, 12:52 PM:

Fragano @ 205... I know that, but I couldn't let pass the chance of a joke, however lame it was. Heheheh

#209 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2007, 01:20 PM:

Emil #206: That's true. Facing aggressive bowling when injured takes a special kind of courage.

#210 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2007, 01:22 PM:

Serge #208: I know!

#211 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2007, 06:17 PM:

A bit of a tangent to the topic, but this piece just emphasized how you never get a shortage of crazy:

The life and death of Jesse James

Found on the Dan Simmons Forum.

#212 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2007, 08:24 PM:

I'd read bits about cricket for many years and never really understood it, but then I read a short story where a boatload of ?English folks turn up in a land on the edge (sounded like near Newfoundland or such), and the story is told so I understood cricket.

#213 ::: Greg M. ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2007, 10:57 PM:

Mary Dell @196

Oooh, another Inspector Morse fan! My favorite Morse novel is the diabolically clever "The Jewel That Was Ours" which works better on the page, but I can't say why due to spoilers. My favorite TV episode is "In the Best Families," which was actually directed by Danny Boyle of Trainspotting fame (Anthony Minghella was also involved, writing an episode.) I'm enough of a Morse geek that I have the haunting theme music on my computer.

Sadly, I missed the "Inspector Lewis" episode when it was on TV. :(

#214 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2007, 11:32 AM:

Greg M #213:

Never fear, Inspector Lewis is on DVD now. All of $15 from the usual online behemoth.

#215 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2007, 09:48 PM:

re 83: The problem article is on camelback locomotives.

#216 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2007, 11:13 AM:

Steve C @ 211:

Sacre bleu. Holy crap. Goshness. Wow.

#217 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 11:48 AM:

I think you guys should no...and the title is apt:

http://thinkprogress.org/2007/11/28/ashcroft-waterboarded/

Ashcroft is willing to be waterboarded to prove it's not torture.

There's a line forming.

I don't know how true it is but dang....

#218 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2012, 06:59 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 219: Charlie Stross's Rule 34, which I've just finished, would appear to be one such...

That said, I don't think it takes a pattern-matchin AI to wonder why threads with the word 'Apocalypse' in them are getting hit today.

#219 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2012, 07:02 AM:

I have some involving headphones chained to their ears that blare advertising whenever anyone tries to talk to them.

#220 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2012, 09:31 AM:

#217 looks real to me.

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

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.