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February 2, 2008

Digression removed from a moderator’s comment
Posted by Teresa at 12:31 PM *

(Digression)

In my opinion, a perfect user interface would automatically register the use of words and phrases like:

so-called “[whatever]” or “[verbs]” so-called [whatever].
you people
groupthink
I know this will be an unpopular opinion, but I call ‘em as I see ‘em
I just felt like I had to say it.
LOL *ssh*l*s LOL!
I’m just saying what everyone really thinks
I came here expecting a civil and thoughtful exchange …
gee, did I hit a nerve?
I have better things to do with my time, so I will make this my last post.
It would also flag the combined use of the words censorship, hypocrite/hypocrisy, and ad hominem in a single comment.

When this feature is triggered, a dialogue box pops up that says “Warning! There’s a good chance that you’re about to say something stupid. Please reconsider your remarks before posting them.”

(End of digression.)

It’s morning at Social Graph Foo Camp. I’m sitting across a table from Christy Canida of Instructables as we both do our morning moderation runs. She’s having a less irritating time of it than I am.
Comments on Digression removed from a moderator's comment:
#1 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 01:06 PM:

I think the problem with that sort of interface is that it only stops the wrong people. The soul-searchers, the worriers, will pause. But they are generally not the trolls.

The troublesome commenters are the ones who don't believe that they could possibly be trolling. Any accusation that they are doing such a thing is simply a mask for the moderator's fear of their rightness and righteousness, or perhaps mere jealousy of their brilliance. This kind of a warning is just another piece of the vast conspiracy to hide their dangerous opinions.

So what you need is something that flashes that warning and starts an internal timer, hidden to the reader. If s/he clicks No, really, post this too quickly, flag it for moderation before displaying.

#2 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 01:11 PM:

Time spent composing might also be a good sign. When I have something a bit tendentious to say, I agonize over every word and preview the results three or four times. (And then, post-posting, I find that somebody else already said it better). I don't think trolls craft their remarks quite so carefully, somehow.

#3 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 01:14 PM:

Shouldn't the flag go up when the post includes "let me get this straight"?

#4 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 01:16 PM:

TexAnne @2:

It's hard to determine time spent composing programmatically.

Also, after one too many browser crashes, I have tended to compose my most careful posts in a text editor, then cut and paste it into the window and hit the button.

This is, if anything, faster than the typical "fire and forget" flame warrior.

#5 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 01:17 PM:

Serge, the linked Flamer Bingo thread has examples of flaggable text by the dozens and hundreds.

#6 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 01:19 PM:

abi, 4: Dang. Another perfectly good idea shot down by reality.

#7 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 01:21 PM:

TexAnne @6:

I'm a tester. Edge cases generated while you wait. Awkwardness a specialty.

#8 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 01:29 PM:

Xopher @ 5... Oops. I didn't notice that was a link. I blame my body's decaffeinated state.

#9 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 01:29 PM:

abi (#4): I have been finding that I have to hit reload at pandagon (and sometimes in typepress blogs, like majikthise I have to fill in a catchpa) when I take too long to write a response. They have a timer which kicks in as soon as the page loads (really annoying when the typepress blogs do it, as I have to sign in before I can comment; so what point the veification?).

So I read my way to the bottom, write my comment, fill out the cathpa, and then be told it didn't take and maybe I took too long.

Which seems to be counter to the idea we are talking about.

I know that pandagon has live view of the comment (very handy when one is using html in comments), perhaps the timer could be linked to when that starts to get used.

TexAnne: I vary. Lots of my posts, where the topic is tender, have lots of time. Things, however, which really piss me off (there was one in a torture thread awhile back) tend to get ripped out in a white hot heat of cold anger.

They may take awhile to craft, but there isn't much which I am going over to see how it's going to play/be recieved, because at that point, I usually don't care about the feelings of the other person.

No, that's not true. I just don't care much if those feelings get hurt.

#10 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 01:44 PM:

We're still talking apples and oranges here. A timeline:

(Start to comment) --1-> (Hit Preview) --2-> (Get warning*) --3-> (Hit Post)

* proposed

Terry and TexAnne were both thinking about gap 1; a long delay there could be interesting for many reasons. But it can be problematic to measure, and may vary for reasons not involved with hotheadedness.

Gap 2 is when the computer checks the content against its filters. The user can't control this. Neener.

Gap 3 is what interests me. When a commenter is told that his/her post may be trolling, does it make them stop and think? Or are they so sure of their own rightness that they click through automatically?

The requirement to preview one's post here already works that way to a certain extent, but only to the already mindful.

Note that too little think-time in step 3 shouldn't mean a ban or an auto-delete. It would just be a useful way to prioritize the moderator's workload.

#11 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 01:49 PM:

Aaaaand Abi falls into the his/her vs their trap*.

* Yes, I could correct it; I have the power. But that would be cheating.

#12 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 01:50 PM:

Hmmm. Users have different writing speeds and degrees of distractability.

#13 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 01:51 PM:

Ah... Pronoun trouble.

Now it makes more sense. You're positing a pebcak error.

I confess to being not prone to enough re-reading of my comments at preview. I don't know that being told I was at risk of trolling as a result should change that. I am certain that it won't for trolls.

I am, after all, not thinking; mostly, of content (though to be honest, it's rewriting a clumsy passage, not catching typos and grammos which I use the preview to correct, so perhaps I'm wrong in thinking about how I use it) because I said what I wanted to (though often not as well as I might like).

#14 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 01:54 PM:

Digression from a digression: "grammo"! I love that!

#15 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 01:57 PM:

abi: You don't like their as the indefinite second person?

I find myself of mixed mind on it, and had to go back and reread the post to spot it.

#16 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 01:58 PM:

Terry @13:
You're positing a pebcak error.

My mother, who used to do all of our car work, called that sort of thing a fault in "the nut that holds the steering wheel."

#17 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 01:59 PM:

I'd add "these people"/"those people" to the flagged list as well. They're a pretty good indicator that the person speaking or writing is getting ready to paint some group or other with a very broad and not particularly discriminating brush.

The assumption behind the phrase, so far as I can tell, is that the persons in question are not in the (virtual) room to take offense, and therefore may be spoken of freely; but the internet being what it is, one never knows who may be lurking, or for that matter who among the non-lurkers might have connections, however begrudged, to the group in question.

#18 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 01:59 PM:

One way that ML already has a are-you-sure-you-want-to-say-this is that we can't write our post and immediately submit it. The preview step may be annoying at times, but it has probably saved me some embarassment on many occasions. (Yes, there are the other occasions.)

#19 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 02:06 PM:

Terry @15:
I am ambivalent on the issue.

On the one hand, it rings my bells as a marker of less careful prose. I'm a grammatical snob at heart, after all, and there are Standards To Maintain.

On the other hand, it is a neat way out of a grammatical mess, now that the masculine gender no longer subsumes the feminine (and hooray for that).

On the gripping hand, even Jane Austen used it, so it can't be all bad.

I am torn.

#20 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 02:18 PM:

Abi, I'm convinced it's a pointless standard. "Their" works fine, at least in the uncontroversial cases like that one. It's when you're talking about a specific individual of undisclosed gender things start getting hairy...

As for whether checking the delay between warning and posting, I think you're right this would make a useful metric in many cases, as long as the trolls were generally unaware of how the system worked. Otherwise, it would only catch genuinely angry people. There are also obvious cases where trolls would get through anyway (e.g. when they are browsing multiple sites at once and switching between windows instead of waiting for refreshes). But it would be generally useful, I think.

#21 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 02:19 PM:

Serge #3: Let me get this straight, you're proposing an automatic filter on how many phrases?

#22 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 02:24 PM:

(Responding to myself)

Although, I'm not sure the pause that a reasonable person will take on seeing such a warning is large enough to be measured effectively across the Internet, as page load/resubmit times will probably vary more.

You could time on the client site, but this would be inherently untrustable (i.e., a determined troll could easily subvert it). I'm not sure if this is a fatal flaw or not.

#23 ::: Sundre ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 02:27 PM:

I work in a call center (inbound!), and you people puts me on guard like nothing else. It isn't a universal indicator, but it's definitely a warning sign.

#24 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 02:29 PM:

abi: Ah yes, as in "the cause of most road accidents is the nut behind the steering wheel." Heard that from my mom too, I suspect some comedian of the day had come up with it.

#25 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 02:35 PM:

I was thinking a client-side timer, but a basic one that simply sends two timestamps back to the server. One is the system clock time that the warning was posted to the user's browser; the other is the system clock time when the user clicked the Post button.

The server can test the returned clock times against itself, for when it sent the preview and warning and for when it received the confirmation to post. That's a minor reasonableness test that checks against the crudest of hacks. Sophisticated hackers of such a system should consider simply being less predictable.

The outcome of the test would be simply to flag the comment as of potential interest to a human moderator*. Mind you, a comment that gets the warning should probably get reviewed at some point anyway, even if the user thinks long and hard before posting it. Too many of them are the sign of an edgy thread.

</handwavey attempt at interaction design on a Saturday evening>

-----
* Or, possibly, to put it in a pending queue rather than post it

#26 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 02:40 PM:

abi: I'm less torn (though I undertand the mixed feelings). I am a bit of (despite the painful errors which come of almost all my internet work being first draft) of a grammar snob too, and it's not a perfect solution, but I think it quite workable.

I think, actually, what I want (re grammar) to see is clarity, elegance and; whenever possible, brilliantly spare prose. It's why I like Latin (though I am far from fluent and have to do more deciphering than I like; and why the Latin translation of WCW thrilled me so, but I digress).

But their works. It doesn't interrupt the flow of language, doesn't confuse the reader (and the moreso, it doesn't interrupt the flow of speech).

I think that last is important. I think I moved it from speech to writing.

That Austen used it is nice, but only insofar as it helps to stifle those who rail against it as a modern degradation of the language.

I am certainly one willing to man barricades against what I think is ugly language, but the newness of it isn't what I dislike, it's the ugly.

#27 ::: Michael Phillips ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 02:45 PM:

It has been a while since I've used desktop based email, but I think that Thunderbird does something like that for your outgoing email. It rates emails with a series of peppers based on perceived incendiary content. (again, I think this happens, but it has been a long while, and even then I was using it as an intermediary to transfer files from one email account to another. This took 2 days, so I didn't really get much use of it even then.)

#28 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 02:46 PM:

ITSM that we've got 2 different processes that could be implemented, both useful, and neither redundant nor contradictory, so why not use both? We can aid the posters in moderating themselves*, and we can aid the moderators in spotting problematic posts quickly, before they fuel the fire.

1. Require Preview before Post, as ML does, run a rough, fast filter over the text submitted for preview, and put up a warning if the filter gets a sufficient score. Confirmed flamers will automatically ignore this warning anyway, but people who aren't flamers by temperament but who are in the grip of passion or have had their peeves prodded might take heed and lower the scovilles.

2. On Post, record the time since the last Preview was hit (and subtract for multiple Preview hits, since this indicates some care on the part of poster). Then run the final post through a filter based on learning techniques**, assign it a total score, and bin it based on score. The bins might be

    Low score - immediate post.
Medium score - auto delay for some period to allow the poster and recipients to cool down.
High score - hold for moderation, highlighting wording that contributed to the score.
Super high score - auto diemvowel and post.

Of course, keep logs of scores that exceed the initial threshold, and keep statistics so the moderator can assess how well the system is working. The moderator could choose to keep a total score (or an average per post) to decide when to eject flamers.

* Is that better, abi?
** On the moderator side, whatever we do should make the job easier, not add tasks without making others easier. We still really don't know how moderation scales with the size of a community, and the more we assist in the scaling, the longer it will be before we find out the hard way. So having a filter that learns, based on moderator feedback about how specific posts were binned, would be a Good Thing®. The Bingo Card is a good start, but we all know how common phrases change over time and use.

#29 ::: Karen Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 02:47 PM:

If you're going to have "ad hominem", you need "ad hominum" for people who can't spell.

#30 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 02:48 PM:

Fragano @ 21...

I’m just saying what everyone really thinks.

#31 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:04 PM:

Bruce C STM @28:
The two problems I see are:


  1. Holding some comments and posting others messes with the flow of the conversation. For an example of how these things already occur, look at this comment. This would make that kind of lack of synchronization worse. Internet conversations already require some pretty sophisticated caching in the wetware; this would add materially to the effect.

  2. I am uncomfortable about the auto-disemvoweling option. Human judgement is still the best option for reading and judging social nuance and determining appropriate punishments. I'm loathe to replace that. (And I am a notorious softie, and want to see disemvoweling used sparingly and with care when possible.)


I kinda like the idea of just slowing down the preview & post cycle, either manually or using the sort filtering we're discussing.

(And the grammar is better. Easier on the eye.)

#32 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:05 PM:

Howzabout a point-based system, where you accumulate points over time based on how many trollish tropes? The more points you get, the closer your posts' text color gets to the background color.

#33 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:07 PM:

Terry @26:
why the Latin translation of WCW thrilled me so

WCW?

#34 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:09 PM:

Avram @32:

Only if it were on an "average points per comment" basis, because even the nicest of us sometimes use phrases like "so-called". So eventually we'd all just fade away into the background...

#35 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:15 PM:

Serge #30: So you are!

#36 ::: Brenda von Ahsen ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:19 PM:

I wish boingboing had a functional preview. The one they have now is crappy I think. As far as trolls go I like the solution we have at Sadly,No! where we relentlessly ridicule trolls. That and a good greasemonkey script are about all you need.

I don't like heavily moderated sites on the far left like Pandagon. I feel they are far too repressive, but rightwing sites are still worse. They simply ban you the moment they decide you're liberal.

The best moderation, in my opinion, is where you have a self moderating community. That should not be under estimated.

#37 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:21 PM:

Fragano @ 35... You're putting words in my mouth.

#38 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:24 PM:

One problem with a point-based system is what if the poster disagrees with the moderator's rating of this or that trope. And what if we're spoofing those tropes?

#39 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:24 PM:

William Carlos Williams, abi.

#40 ::: Fungi From Yuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:25 PM:

I'm a big advocate of 'their'. It's a gender-neutral pronoun that feels like part of the language, and I don't find it uglier than a lot of English. I am married to a staunch anti-verbing advocate, though.

The gaming company White Wolf used to alternate genders in their examples, which doesn't work well when there's only one singular entity of indefinite gender. Of course, some people say that singular entity is really David Bow, but I digress.

Digressing further, I believe it was Teresa who lamented that we've regressed from Usenet-era threading technology. To me, better threading and thread tagging ('knitting', 'puns', 'troll pinata with low quality-candy') would probably help a lot.

Web browsers are really not a great tool for discussions, but they seem to be the tool we're stuck with. I wonder how long until someone reimplements Usenet in Flash, if they haven't already...

#41 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:32 PM:

I don't know that there's a filter that would catch all trolls (btw, was that Mrk Yrk the other day, or was I just seeing things?). I think that the best filter is the one that exists now, forcing a pause between preview and post, which gives a chance both for revision and for reflection.

It is true that there are some phrases -- and the 'Flamer Bingo' thread brought up a lot of them -- that are indicative of a troll, but they aren't sure and certain signs.

#42 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:34 PM:

Serge #37: You liberals all operate from the same script anyway.

#43 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:37 PM:

abi: WCW = William Carlos Williams.

I concurr, that auto-disemvowelling is a bad idea.

I, for one, am not fond of automated corrections for content. Moderation is hard, because it's a task which requires human action. Look at the e-mails, and the like, which gets spamboxed because of poor filtering, which catches words which have internal sections which match other words (I forget which, much longer word had sperm in it, and so triggered the locking up of something).

Flagging, for attention is a good idea. I know that Majikthise sends copies of all comments to the author of the post, and I've used that to catch comment spam. I've also used it to damp the flames of an incipient conflagration.

I don't think the flaming could have been caught with a filter. It wasn't large enough to trigger any system reasonable enough to all for a really free flow of ideas.

The trick (in general) seems to be paying attention to signs, hints of trouble, and then seeing to it (by careful warnings, or parallel comments) that the heat is converted to light.

Lots of that, of course, is requisate on the idea that posters are part of a community. The drawback... a sense of community can be a hurdle for the quiet posters to jump to get into the action.

I was thinking about it this morning. I know that I felt invisble, or perhaps not quite one of the crowd, for a long time after I probably was such a member.

Being the sort of crank I am, I didn't worry about it, but for someone who isn't as carefree in commenting as I am, well that probably hinders joining.

On the upside, if the group makes them welcome (or at least doesn't discourage them) then they will post, and they will come to feel they are members.

They might start with the feeling they are second class; or not quite part of the inner circle; which will seem to exist which has both a moderate number of people, and any history.

As I digress into a different, ableit related, topic altogether; healthy groups don't support trolls.

#44 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:38 PM:

Fragano @41:
The poster the other day was probably not Mrk Yrk - he tends to stay around snarling and whining, not come in yapping once and then vanish in the distance.

#45 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:47 PM:

I agree with Fungi & Teresa that we need to resurrect the better threading technology, with kill lists and even a bit of moderator intervention. LiveJournal has a good threading system, even if their 18+ warning system is idiotic.

That said, automatic "flame filters" make for a nice fantasy... but that's all they are, because you can't automate judgement. What you can do, is leverage the judgement of the "people you trust", however you choose to define that. Flagging messages for the moderator can help, if the moderator is working in real-time.

As far as moderation's scalability, I still say that moderation is ultimately an issue of leadership, with the same basic strengths (making the group mind work for you) and liabilities (failure from the top, insurrection, provocateurs).

#46 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:49 PM:

abi/Fragano: No, I don't think it was York, if I'm thinking of the same person. One, he/she had other posts, in other threads.

Maybe it's me (and an inflated sense of how well I deal with such things) but I took him at face value, until I decided he wasn't actually engaging in the same conversation I was, told him I wasn't going to deal with those bits, and then game up on the game as pointless.

We, as a group, can be quick to pull the trigger on calling someone a troll. When we do, we can be heartless, which isn't to our credit when it's just someone who doesn't know our norms.

On the plus side; trolls don't last long. I don't know how to weigh the worry that some non-trollish people might be driven off.

I know that there are non-trolls who push my buttons (because I've had severe disagreements with people who have stuck around, and turned out to just have different visions of some things, but weren't trolls), and I worry that those who push our, collective, buttons get swamped, and so decide to hang out elsewhere.

#47 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:51 PM:

Fragano @ 41... the best filter is the one that exists now, forcing a pause between preview and post

... and, if necessary, why not add a third button that says "Yes, I mean it" and then your post goes up?

#48 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:58 PM:

Unrelated, but related - Squee!! My friend/acquaintance Kirsten is at the same FOO event as TNH. I haven't exchanged emails with her in years! I had an old email address for her, and now I've got her blog and current email. Hurrah!!

Ok, not I'll go back to reading this thread, thinking about how to identify trolls, and being more conscientious with my grammar usage.

I will say that the preview feature prevents me from posting, prevents in a good way.

#49 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 04:05 PM:

Terry @46:

Not the same person, I think.

This charmer was the one Fragano was referring to. I disemvoweled him with a clean heart. Maybe he was not serious in what he said, but he certainly wasn't contributing to the conversation, and could have sparked off some unpleasant reactions.

In other words, he wanted the discussion to be all about him.

Troll.

#50 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 04:06 PM:

Tania @ 48... being more conscientious with my grammar usage

Is our children learning?

#51 ::: David Wald ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 04:08 PM:

Too many short replies to post separately. (And, speaking of posting delays, while I was writing this several of my comments were posted by other people, shortening this post significantly. That reminds me of a lesson learned in Quaker business meetings: if you actually get people to listen to each other, sometimes they notice when they're being redundant and stop. And then, sometimes they don't.)

Abi@31: There are ways of dealing with the lack of synchronization if it gets too confusing; Fungi@40 already mentioned threads. Of course, threading is problematic for posts like this one, and I sometimes find heavily nested threading difficult to format readably.

Fungi@40: "I wonder how long until someone reimplements Usenet in Flash, if they haven't already..."

How would that be different from the various Usenet interfaces that already exist?

TexAnne@14: "grammo"

When I worked in speech recognition we used to refer to transcription errors as "speakos". It's one of those neologisms that, in context at least, tell you exactly what they mean even if you've never heard them before.

Abi@7: "I'm a tester. Edge cases generated while you wait. Awkwardness a specialty."

My one successful bit of career advice was to a friend who complained that every piece of software she used seemed to crash in new and obscure ways. I was able to suggest a job where this was considered a talent.

#52 ::: Brenda von Ahsen ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 04:21 PM:

#46 Terry Karney

"We, as a group, can be quick to pull the trigger on calling someone a troll. When we do, we can be heartless, which isn't to our credit when it's just someone who doesn't know our norms."

Online groups develop cliques just like in real life. That has pluses and minuses just like anything else. Groups can have taboo subjects and those who enforce adherence to the social norms. Again, some of that is needed and some counter productive. I don't think there is a solution much better than personal judgment.

A mandatory preview before you post helps a lot. Mods should not identify too closely with the ingroup. The user should also feel like they have some amount of control.

#53 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 04:21 PM:

David Wald @51:
There are ways of dealing with the lack of synchronization if it gets too confusing; Fungi@40 already mentioned threads.

That works fine until two comments are posted on the same thread in different orders because one was held for moderation. The fact that commenter A's post was written before - and without sight of - commenter B's, but shows after it, can be a mess.

One requirement of any system is that it defaults to showing comments. Newbies that aren't yet on anyone's watchlist need a chance to make themselves at home.

I was able to suggest a job where this was considered a talent.

My colleagues and I joke about "the Abi field" (het Abiveld - I work in Amsterdam). I can break even the solidest code in ways that make the developers swear. It often happens when I'm not even trying.

It's a gift, mostly because no one would pay to be the possessor of this level of bad luck. They do pay me just fine to wield it on their behalf. It's rather like some kind of cursed sword.

#54 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 04:30 PM:

abi #44: You're probably right. BTW, what is the rule on the capitalisation of your name?

#55 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 04:30 PM:

Abi @ 53... Mind you, the Abi Field is not to be confused with the Abi Poesy Field.

#56 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 04:31 PM:

Serge #47: That's an interesting idea. How would it best be implemented?

#57 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 04:34 PM:

abi #53: 'Gift' in the Dutch meaning of that word?

#58 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 04:36 PM:

Fragano @54:
BTW, what is the rule on the capitalisation of your name?

Calvinball rules. Just don't call me late for dinner.

Seriously ... when I first posted on Making Light, the autocomplete filled the user name in with the capitalization that my husband put on our Movable Type blog login. Being temporarily distracted by the actual content of my comment*, I neither changed the capitilization nor replaced it with my usual net ID (evilrooster).

I've not seen any reason to worry about it since.

-----
* Not that it was much to shout about.

#59 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 04:42 PM:

Fragano @57:
'Gift' in the Dutch meaning of that word?

I see...I didn't know about that. I just mentioned that I hadn't known the word had two meanings in Dutch and the Hub's face was a picture.

(I see that [*] over there. "gift", or "gif" means "poison" in Dutch. "gift" as "present" is an archaic usage at best.)

#60 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 04:50 PM:

abi: Oh. that. I blanked it out. Read the thing (because I'm silly that way) and then promptly forgot about it, as useless drivel.

I must say, one of the things I like about disemvowelment is the pain reduction. It's rare that someone aims that sort of invective at me (well, here, at least) but when it happens (even if I'm just in the pool of targets), I'm less hurt then I am when the barbs of immediate impact are able to take effect (I don't know about the rest of the flourosphere, but written words are transparent to me, the things they represent appear to me before I really parse out the words themselves... maybe that's why I like spare prose, and don't write it).

I think, actually, that's part of what angers those who are more prone to having it inflicted on them (and why those of us who aren't so prone are careful to avoid it. It tells us we were being hurtful, or rude, or in some other way unsocial).

They want to hurt people's feelings, and that is being taken away from them. In that regard, they are being censored.

#61 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 04:54 PM:

I just ran across one in a group I moderate on Flickr. From the first moment, I knew it was going to be trouble. Pretty much got the whole troll bingo in the first couple days. (We're slow to ban, and have a rep as being decent mods, and not mods on a rampage. I'm still pushing for disemvowelling).

The thing that threw me was how friendly he was after getting a thread closed, posts deleted, etc. And now, he's left, started a confusingly similar group (except for the 1/1000th the activity) and inviting everyone over.

People annoy me sometimes.

#62 ::: Jonathan Birge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 04:55 PM:

I've noticed that people who build a significant portion of their social lives around blogs tend to be very sensitive people. Unfortunately, the same removed, partial anonomity that attracts them to socializing online also creates an atmosphere that enables the less sensitive to push their buttons. If you want polite conversation, meet people in real life. Otherwise, I think the only answer to the problem of trolling is to grow a thicker skin and just learn to ignore people. I'm being hypocritical by saying it (fair to use that against yourself, right?), as I've violated every element of the preceding on both sides, but I think it's true.

Finally, would the admonishment to avoid phrases like "those people" apply to the case where "those people" refers to Republicans? That might blow the servers.

I think the answer, at least for me, is probably more humility, not more sanctimony. To paraphrase Tolstoy: everybody wants to change the Internet, but nobody wants to change themselves.

#63 ::: skzb ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:00 PM:

#3 Serge: 'Shouldn't the flag go up when the post includes "let me get this straight"?'

Ouch.

#64 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:00 PM:

I find his/her is too clunky for speech and having a grammatical hold in spoken language gives "their" a leg up for written language. Then again, Baltimore English has a new gender neutral third person pronoun.

#65 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:01 PM:

Which is mightier, the poison pen or the cursed sword?

On topic --
There are clinical diagnostic programs that are supposedly more accurate than human diagnosticians (can't give specifics, sorry), and while it's nice to imagine a kindly physician proffering a dx after due consideration, the computer model may actually be a healthier choice. But when it comes to recreational online discussion, too much automation in moderaton is probably counter-productive. I agree with those that said that judgment can't be automated, and that a healthy community helps police itself constructively.

It took me a long time to work up the gumption to start commenting, but I really like it here. People get worked up, but they stay civilized, and I think there's a positive feedback loop between (among?) participants and moderation methods.

#66 ::: Joe Mansfield ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:05 PM:

Randall Munroe (XKCD) is experimenting with an IRC automated moderator that targets lack of originality and uses that as a proxy for weeding out noise (and stupidity). IRC lends itself to this more readily but the principle might be usefully modified to provide such an interactive warning for comments or for feeding a "to be moderated" queue.

#67 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:09 PM:

abi 53: I was in QA for years. It got so software broke when I was just trying to use it. I found new bugs in Word just trying to write up my reports!

#68 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:10 PM:

skzb @ 63...

(Must... not... pun back!)

#69 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:15 PM:

Jonathan Birge @62:

Your entire comment reads like a "you people" assertion (you people are oversensitive). I'm sure it's unintentional, but it's there. A couple of specific reactions:

I've noticed that people who build a significant portion of their social lives around blogs tend to be very sensitive people.

I'm not sure I agree with that statement. But then, I can't tell who "builds a significant portion of their social lives around blogs" - I don't know what even the most prolific posters here do with the rest of their time. For my part, I find that the people I meet online run the gamut from frail flowers to autodirected flamethrowers.

Maybe the more thick-skinned people I know virtually are actually very socially active in person as well. How would I know?

I do strongly disagree with your premise that "If you want polite conversation, [you should] meet people in real life." I think that you can have a fine polite conversation online, even about the most contentious of subjects. I've seen it many times here. It does require moderation, and it helps if the commenters are willing "to change themselves" - they have to see the people onscreen as real people, worth treating with respect and care.

(On rereading, it strikes me that that last comment sounds like I think you haven't done so. That's not the case; it's a generality.)

#70 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:20 PM:

Debbie @65:

I'm glad you've started commenting. I've enjoyed your contributions to the banter around the place.

#71 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:24 PM:

Xopher @67:

When I'm tired and stressed, het Abiveld gets out of control. Then I break operating systems, infrastructure, hardware, networks, building security systems, my own body, furniture, and colleagues. (I can think of at least one specific incident for each of the above categories.)

I can even break brokenness. I've had bugs that developers were proud to have found vanish as soon as I lean on their desks.

#72 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:32 PM:

abi @ 71

Would you by any chance be related to the physicist Wolfgang von Pauli? He was reputed to be able to destroy lab equipment simply by waiting to change trains in the railroad station of the town where the lab was sited.

#73 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:34 PM:

Abi @ 70... Does the Abi Field also work with mainframes? My group's system has some COBOL programs, all of which I wrote 13 years ago, and they never broke. Come to think of it, they're the only part of our system that never breaks.

#74 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:34 PM:

abi #58: I just wondered. I shall probably be inconsistent.

#59: I thought you might be making a subtle pun. (I slipped the phrase 'least poisoned gift' past my Dutch dissertation advisor years back, when my Dutch was better than it is now, having just been to Surinam).

#75 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:40 PM:

Fragano @74:

Just tried the gift pun on a Dutch friend.

It fell entirely flat.

Sigh.

#76 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:40 PM:

Hmm. Might be worthwhile to rig up a simple Bayesian filter to see if it could detect trolls. They work rather well for spam, after all.

Problem I have with comment threads (and Usenet, for that matter), is that I don't treat it like an Instant Messaging system, and an awful lot of folks do. I'll post something and, instead of sitting there hitting "refresh", go on and do something else for a while. By the time I get back, the thread has drifted or just run down.

#77 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:47 PM:

Serge @73:
Does the Abi Field also work with mainframes?

Yes, though it takes more effort. But have twice crashed a mainframe. Once was even intentional.

The intentional crash included an error message that started, "NOW IS THE TIME FOR ALL GOOD MEN TO KNOW THAT USER:SUTHEAA HAS" followed by the set of kernel violations I managed to commit.

It was under very unusual circumstances. Not repeatable.

#78 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:47 PM:

Working hypothesis: discussion group trolls are after attention -- eyeballs, arguments, any sign that they're getting people irritated with them.

Corollary: if you ban them, they will go away and irritate some other poor chat room.

Conclusion: what is needed is not a simple ban, but a mechanism that deprives trolls of attention while not being obvious to them, so they keep whacking on the pinata, unaware that they're not annoying anybody.

I'd do this, hypothetically, on an IP-address basis. Give the human moderators a "ban" button for each poster. If they hit the "ban" button for a suspected troll called Fred, thereafter whenever the static HTML page for the discussion is updated (by a posting) Fred gets a page of his own, with his comments visible -- everybody else gets a different page, with Fred's effusions filtered out. Incoming connections from Fred's browser are then served Fred's ego-page in place of the ordinary discussion page.

The conversation seems to be going on, and Fred can post normally, but for some reason everybody is ignoring him. (Meanwhile, as far as everybody else is concerned, Fred has dropped off the map.)

Thoughts?

#79 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:59 PM:

Abi @ 77...

"Gaze into the eye of the SUTHEAA and despair!"
(That sounds better if you think of Nicol Williamson speaking the words.)

#80 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 06:03 PM:

Abi (69), it strikes me the same way. Also, the last time he was here he was posting as "Jonathan," and many of his messages lost some fraction of their vowels.

#81 ::: Jonathan Birge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 06:17 PM:

abi:

"Your entire comment reads like a "you people" assertion (you people are oversensitive). I'm sure it's unintentional, but it's there."

Hi, abi. I see your point. I think much of it was. Some of that was sloppy use of words, but I think some of that was also in my intention, though I didn't make the connection to being a "you people" type post in the pejorative sense.

For one, I should've said "the most sensitive people I know tend towards online socializing." I think that's pretty defensible, even if it is a generalization masked by an observation.

About our major disagreement: I didn't mean to say you can't have a polite conversion online. This blog is a good example of that most of the time. Again, I was imprecise in my words. I should've said "If you never want to encounter rude people, your best bet is to avoid the internet."

I'm still unresolved about the "you people" type posts, however. It's unavoidable to generalize. The human brain is basically a generalization machine. We could never carry on a conversation composed entirely of specifics. I think whether or not a generalization is fair is a matter of degrees. I took Terese's comment about "you people" to mean avoiding divisive over-generalizations. I don't know how to define it well, but it's one of those things that fits the "you know it when you see it" paradigm, like the famous Justice Steward quote about pornography. When people say "The Left" or "The Right" (and I have) I think it's pointless and something that we'd do well to avoid. But saying something like "people who do X often like Y" seems reasonable (apart from the issue of veracity) unless you think the entire field of psychology is a waste. (But then that would be a valid "you people" statement, so either way I win:-)

By the way, did I just invent the parenthetical smiling comment? I doubt it.

#82 ::: Jonathan Birge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 06:23 PM:

Teresa (80): Did I get retroactively disemvoweled in the discussion on guns? I only remember being disemvoweled a long time ago.

Anyway, maybe I misunderstood what you meant by "you people" comments? Did you mean generalizations of any sort? I'd be interested in your comments on my reply to abi.

#83 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 06:28 PM:

Charlie @78. A BB my husband moderates has a system something like that. When someone is being a pain, but they don't want to outright ban him, there's a setting they can turn on for his username which leads to him having a huge amount of trouble getting the page to load without errors, or it will load, but they're unable to post. They've had troublesome posters stuck in purgatory like that and eventually just go away. Oh, and its existence is a secret to non-mods, which makes it much more effective. And kind of evil. :)

#84 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 06:39 PM:

abi @70 -- thanks much!

#85 ::: Brenda von Ahsen ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 06:40 PM:

#81 ::: Jonathan Birge
For one, I should've said "the most sensitive people I know tend towards online socializing." I think that's pretty defensible, even if it is a generalization masked by an observation.

Sorry Jonathan, sweeping generalizations are not in fact defensible, even if you think they are.

--

abi is clearly worth her weight in gold. I'm crossing my fingers and so far my browser has not crashed by her presence here.

#86 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 06:48 PM:

I think the only answer to the problem of trolling is to grow a thicker skin and just learn to ignore people.

That is the authentic voice of a long-time troll and flamer. Beyond redemption.

#87 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 07:08 PM:

Jonathan @ 81: "If you never want to encounter rude people, your best bet is to avoid the Internet" is somewhere between incomplete and badly misleading. The accurate advice--which I personally would advise anyone against taking--is closer to "If you never want to encounter rude people, your best bet is to avoid human interaction." The reason I would advise against doing that is that most humans who avoid human interaction long-term either are already weird in less-than-helpful ways, or become so from the lack of human interaction. We are a social species.

Books can help, if you need to be that alone (for whatever reasons), because books let you at least hear from other people, even if they don't hear your responses.

The reason I would call the original assertion "badly misleading" is that it implies, if not actually stating, that avoiding the Internet significantly reduces your chances of running into rudeness. Selecting your locations, online and elsewhere, is more effective. There is no real-life equivalent of a killfile such that I would not have to deal with the next door neighbors who used to have loud fights with the windows open, nor yet with people whose idea of human interaction is to get on a train and claim, loudly, that civilization is doomed because it tolerates people like me. I can shut my browser down at any moment; on the subway, I may be stuck at least until the train finishes going under the East River.

#88 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 07:14 PM:

abi #75: Ah well, what can I say. Some people have a gift for it. Some don't.

#89 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 07:19 PM:

Fragano @ 41: ... the best filter is the one that exists now, forcing a pause between preview and post

Serge @ 47: ... and, if necessary, why not add a third button that says "Yes, I mean it" and then your post goes up?

A while ago I asked if it was plausible that hitting the 'Post' button could be followed by 'Are you sure? (Y/N)'. My notion was this could prevent accidentally posting when you intended to hit preview; I've done it, and I've seen other people complain of doing it. I was told that re-designing the interface to support this would probably be a complicated big deal, with the possibility of breaking things.

It occurs to me, would it be a big deal to separate the 'Preview' and 'Post' buttons (say, move the 'Post' button down or over a substantial distance on the page) so that hitting it accidentally would be unlikely?

#90 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 07:53 PM:

Jonathan @81:
There are many ways to be rude on the internet; some of them overlap with real life ways to be rude and some do not. "You people" comments happen to overlap with many of the more offensive in-person behaviors. They are, in short, telling your audience that they are part of a general class of person, then insulting that class of person.

"You liberals are a bunch of commies."
"You Americans are all warmongers."
"You bloggers are oversensitive."

This is different than a generality which excludes the addressee. That may be rude too, but it's rude in a different way. (The trick, of course, is that you don't know who the addressee is on the internet!)

Your comments seem edgy to me. I suspect you're dancing around a feeling, or a grudge, that you hold from your last appearance here. If this is the case, stop with the generalities and strawmen about psychology and just say what you're gonna say.

Or, alternatively, let go of the tension, stop trying to start an intensive argument about definitions (the dullest type of argument, really), and join the chat.

Broken any mainframes lately?

#91 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 07:59 PM:

A more general comment, if anyone is in any doubt:

It is the belief of the moderators of this blog that even the opinions of the thin-skinned are worth listening to. Frequently -- in my experience, at least -- they are actually more interesting than those of the excessively thick-skinned, who approach every conversation as a potential battle.

The result of this belief is that the community conducts its conversations in a way that allows the (relatively) thin-skinned the freedom to express themselves. This does not include encouraging them to toughen themselves up; rather, it includes encouraging the thicker-skinned not to make a virtue of that trait, or a necessity.

#92 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 08:02 PM:

The result of this belief is that the community conducts its conversations in a way that allows the (relatively) thin-skinned the freedom to express themselves. This does not include encouraging them to toughen themselves up; rather, it includes encouraging the thicker-skinned not to make a virtue of that trait, or a necessity.

This is just a lovely way of addressing a problem that's bothered me tremendously since I first used the internets. Thank you.

#93 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 08:19 PM:

Charlie@78: Trouble with IP-addresses is that many people have work and home ones, and I've seen trolls who know how to spoof them to get past bans. The idea of trying to help the general web ecology by getting them to hang around unlistened to somewhere is probably too ambitious - most of them will wander off if not interacted with. You could of course try to code up some kind of Eliza-bot, but it'd have to be pretty good to keep their attention for long.

#94 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 08:23 PM:
I don't like heavily moderated sites on the far left like Pandagon.

Unless Pandagon has changed markedly in the months since I left, "heavily moderated" is not a phrase I would use to describe it. Hell, slanderous and threatening remarks aimed at co-bloggers weren't always enough to get someone banned.

I suppose I did tend toward a heavy hand with the bunny videos for a bit there.

More on topic, I'd think some sort of retroactive metric for "why is my last comment in moderation?" would be helpful, perhaps adding a record to the cms_user_wanker_permanentrecord table for future reference.

#95 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 08:24 PM:

julia @92:

I can't take credit for anything but the precise wording. It's a distillation of, or a musing on, this post from Creek Running North.

Reading that was the tipping point for me, when I realised that the ones who cry "censorship" are often themselves the censors, drowning out and driving out people who don't like being argued with all the time. People who care what the others in the conversation have to say, and are open to being changed by it. People who are not trolls.

I know whom I would rather have a conversation with, too.

#96 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 08:26 PM:

Aaaand the man himself posts just above me. How cool is that?

#97 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 08:31 PM:

abi @ 95: well, Chris is a very rational and civilized fellow (don't tell him I said so)

Also I've spent many a downtime happily arguing with his trollbot.

#98 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 08:46 PM:

julia, you take that back.

#99 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 08:57 PM:

neener.

Oh, hell, I'll save some time: nnr.

:p

#100 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 09:05 PM:

abi, #34: even the nicest of us sometimes use phrases like "so-called"

I don't!

*beat*

I use soi-disant. With italics if they're readily available; if not, I enclose it in asterisks. That's because I'm a snob about my trollery; when I descend to that level, I want there to be no doubt about it whatsoever.

And at #59: IIRC, "gift" also means poison in German. It can lead to some... interesting... misconceptions between native speakers of German and English!

Terry, #60: They want to hurt people's feelings, and that is being taken away from them.

That's key, I think. It's like stealing their candy, and they react at the same level of emotional maturity as an infant.

Jonathan, #62: No matter how many times I re-read your comment, I can't shake the feeling of, "Shorter Jonathan: You people are all too sensitive. You need to get out more."

OTOH, it also occurs to me that if you were attempting, for the sake of the discussion, to provide an example of flat-out trolling that would pass any moderator without difficulty, you've done an outstanding job.

And at #81: I should've said "If you never want to encounter rude people, your best bet is to avoid the internet."

Hooboy, am I going to take issue with that! I've encountered people in the grocery store who were as rude as... well, not as rude as the worst of online trolls, but definitely as rude as the garden-variety ones. Customer service people (such as clerks and stockers) see this all the time.

#101 ::: Brenda von Ahsen ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 09:06 PM:

#94 ::: Chris Clarke
"Unless Pandagon has changed markedly in the months since I left, "heavily moderated" is not a phrase I would use to describe it. Hell, slanderous and threatening remarks aimed at co-bloggers weren't always enough to get someone banned."

My experience is my experience. Somewhat like ali I seem to have a talent for finding someone's Achilles heel and then grabbing it. I'm doing better though. I'm one of those who know what you are feeling before you do.

A long time ago I used to meet with some friends on IRC and I would at times wander off to another channel and watch bored sys admins pretend that they were lawyers and philosophers. "Oh, is that right? Well, let me. touch you. right. ::here::" And then they'd fall apart. This happened more than once. However I have decided to only use my powers for good.

;)

#102 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 09:13 PM:

Abi @ 90... Broken any mainframes lately?

Are you sure that the Abi Field isn't something like Magneto's? That'd be in keeping with your daughter being known as Electrogirl.

#103 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 09:20 PM:

The rudest people I've ever met were in person. I think that's a function of the inernet being at a remove.

The most recent example was on my flight home from Germany last Dec. A young woman (about 22-25) had been sitting by the window, an aisle up, and across the aisle from me. It turns out it wasn't her seat.

She hadn't waited at all. I know because I was one of the first on the plane. She just looked about, as though for her seat, and sat.

30 minutes later (it was a long boarding, almost 45 minutes from when I sat, to when we were all aboard, and another 15 before we pushed back), the owner of the seat came aboard, looked at the seat, and got the attendant; who very politely informed the woman (and her companion) they were in the wrong seats.

As she gathered her things she left the row, into the aisle and said, with venomous force, "Bitch".

I was shocked.

I also couldn't help wondering if she was the one who stole my marzipan; since she didn't remove her things from the overhead until she got off the plane.

I was very tempted to tell her, as she was getting off the plane, just what I thougt of her, but I didn't.

#104 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 09:33 PM:

Teresa/Abi:

You people[1] might want to distinguish between two goals:

a. Someone who is intentionally trolling, or at least stirring up sh-t for fun.

b. Someone who is unintentionally pouring gasoline on smoldering embers.

I think filters to slow down/stop (a) will not be all that useful, because you're in an adversarial situation--the trolls have an incentive to learn how to get past the filters. It seems unlikely to take long for determined trolls to learn how to get past the filters, in the same way that you can insult someone to the point of justifiable homicide, without ever raising your voice or using any bad language.

There's some value in doing something like this to help (b). There, the gasoline-pourer[2] will benefit from getting a hint that maybe they should rethink their words.

One thing I've really appreciated about ML is that, over time, I've found myself being more polite in other online discussions. I was pretty experienced in online discussions before, and wasn't going around looking for flamewars, but being here has made me pay a lot more attention to the impact of my words, to the possibility of taking people who have p-ssed me off royally and finding common ground or agreement with them, even seeing them become part of my community.


[1] Sorry, I couldn't resist. After all, the silent lurkers all support me.

[2] Yes, I've been that guy.

#105 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 09:45 PM:

Terry @ 103:

Oh, man, ride the train during rush hour some time (and I take one of the most civilized lines). People get on fuming after whatever psychic violence they've encountered, or think they've encountered, during the day, and they proceed to take it out on the people around them in the most provocative possible way, as if they're quite sure that everyone around them is terrifically impressed by how right they are and how much we're all just dying to join with them in beating up the oppressor.

The oppressor is generally someone who bumped into them while they were shoving their way into the car like a fullback.

A plague on all their houses, but particularly on the house of anyone who demands that I participate.

#106 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 09:52 PM:

Rereading abi's first comment, I think at least one of those people had thought about the distinction I was pointing out.

#107 ::: Jonathan Birge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 10:25 PM:

abi, et al:

Ok, enjoy the irony of this (c.f. the last line of Teresa's original post) but I think I should just bow out. I don't really know how this went so badly, as I was coming back because I enjoyed and appreciated the previous debate I got into, even if I didn't handle myself as well as I'd like. I really don't think I was trying to troll, though maybe you are right that I have latent issues from last time, abi.

This whole environment seems to put me in a very unhealthy mood and I get a bit obsessive and come across quite badly. I agree there was an edge to what I said, but I didn't mean it to be insulting, or noninclusive of myself. I was, after all, here and doing the exact same thing.

I think I'd get along with most or all of you in person, even James. I don't know what the hell goes wrong in this format, but it would be best for me to just avoid it.

I know people usually make posts like this as a manipulative tactic, but you'll have to take my word that I'm saying it because I felt a bit of attachment to some of the people here and didn't want to just go with my gut instinct of just deleting the link from my browser and acting like it wasn't real people on the other end of the wire. For what it's worth, I'm sorry. I'm really a better person than this in "real life."

#108 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 10:44 PM:

Jonathon@107: Dude, for what it's worth (I have no status here) I think most people would reckon you could adapt if you gave yourself a chance and lost the chip on the shoulder. I mean, "I've noticed that people who build a significant portion of their social lives around blogs tend to be very sensitive people" on a blog which is clearly quite important to a lot of the regulars...come *on*. Scattergun or what? Target selection is key. I myself have a tendency to troll, but I troll *one person at a time* - which isn't really trolling, unless they have friends. And not here. Well, maybe once.

#109 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 10:49 PM:

Johnathan Birge: Wait, don't go.

Speaking for myself, yes, I think you were on the edge of a poor trope, one that can be used by trolls.

I don't think you were trolling. I don't recall the last time you were here (not my job... I just hang out here). So this is as a blank slate. I think you were trying to do what the rest of us are doing, i.e. trying to figure out how/why trolling can be ameliorated.

It may be the methods you advocate aren't the sort this crowd likes (I, for one, am not fond of the, "grimace and bear it" school of dealing with rude people, so that aspect of it isn't my idea of a good system, no matter that I have a thick skin, and few people can find the buttons which really hurt me; though pissing me off/frustrating can be done with moderate ease), but (so long as you are arguing in good faith) that doesn't mean you aren't welcome.

I don't know how to make you feel less put upon, but perhaps you might want to find a topic you don't have anything invested in, and try to join in that discussion.

Then, when you've got a better internal feel for the rules of the game here, you might try getting into things like this one, where you have some investment.

#110 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 10:52 PM:

julia: But that train is in NYC, yes? And we all know the people who live there are rude as a normal state of being.

:)

Seriously, I was ever amazed at the people who were rude when I was riding crowded busses, it made no sense to me.

#111 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 11:08 PM:

Terry @ 110:

@#%$%

#112 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 11:11 PM:

Terry @ 110: Wow, it's a municipality-wide application of the K.A.D.!

#113 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 11:26 PM:

Chris Clarke: New York is special.

Seriously, again, I know all New Yorkers (in fact probably not most) aren't rude, but that's the stereotype, and there are a lot who cultivate it (oops, there I go, actually using a flavor of, "those people").

It's the only city I know which has what I can only describe as ex-pats.

#114 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 11:30 PM:

I've been spit on while having a seizure, in real life. I don't think the net can compare.

My response now to the "people should get thicker skinned" argument starts with "Why?" If someone's going to be required to make an accommodation, why not make it start on the other end?

#115 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 11:57 PM:

Eh. We're overcrowded and stressed and cranky.

We like that about us.

We're capable of great things if they're called for.

Terry and Chris, I'm surprised if you haven't met. I've been going back and forth with both of you for years.

I think you'll enjoy each other.

#116 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 11:58 PM:

This place is rubbing off on me. I just composed a simple, intellectual query in the service of Truth, and when I clicked Preview, the %$#! browser crashed. Firefox, no less!

As I attempted to say, just out of curiosity and with no intention of starting a flame war or worming company-confidential information out of the minds of our Gentle Moderators: Teresa, Abi, and anyone else who occasionally sits in, what percentage of ML comments do you touch as a moderator?

#117 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 12:09 AM:

Jonathan at 107: possibly my troll detector's settings are way off tonight, but I didn't think you were trolling; and unless our esteemed moderators Who Must Be Obeyed insist that you leave, I'd like to add my voice to Terry's -- stick around for a while. Have a cookie. I made 'em myself...


#118 ::: lisa spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 12:09 AM:

It would be pretty easy to write that as a Perl module for MT Teresa . . .

#119 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 12:22 AM:

Lizzy L @ 117... our esteemed moderators Who Must Be Obeyed

Mrs.Rumpole is an ML moderator?

#120 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 01:09 AM:

Chris, @112: I used to run into that all the time on Usenet. There were a few people in the groups where I hung out who were just total flaming assholes, and NO ONE EVER CALLED THEM ON IT. And when I pointed out once, in utter frustration, that if I said something half as nasty about men as a class that this particular one kept saying about women as a class, the group would be all over my ass, and rightfully so... I actually got the "That's because we expect better out of you" defense, as though I should be COMPLIMENTED by the fact that there was a double standard! And that's exactly what I said in response. Not that it did any good; they just kept letting the assholes be assholes, without anyone indicating in any way that their behavior was unacceptable.

Of course, these were unmoderated groups, so there was no way to keep the assholes from posting; and eventually all of the groups -- communities I had enjoyed for years -- were destroyed, between the assholes and the spam. I don't even have a Usenet client any more.

Wow, where'd that soapbox come from?

#121 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 01:19 AM:

Lee @ 120... Does this kind of behavior still occur elsewhere?

#122 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 01:23 AM:

Julia: I don't know if he's aware of me, I've been aware of him.

Though you remind me I ought to be posting more, lately I've been not much inspired.

#123 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 01:43 AM:

Serge: You remind me, I need to get a copy of "The Penge Bungaow Murders".

#124 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 02:01 AM:

Terry Karney @ 123... Glad I could be of service.

#125 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 02:08 AM:

I wonder... Do friendships that were first formed on the internet (including emails) last much longer than those that began in the physical world? I think so too, the exceptions being cases where both people are of the kind who like writing.

#126 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 02:38 AM:

Serge: I think the answer is, sort of.

I just finished reading A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy and some of it relates.

The baseline of the relationship is easier to maintain, so there is less which can, casually, disrupt it.

That said, I have friends whom I don't get to see much. I was worried that might have some effect on our relationship. I was wrong.

But those were solid relationships, built over years, and not dependant on things like work, or school to bind them. So couple of years between actually seeing each other turns out to be not much of a problem.

#127 ::: mk ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 03:48 AM:

Serge @ 125, my experiences so far have worked out so the longevity is about the same. The internet has certainly made it easier for me to stay in touch with friends made offline, though, so ymmv.

#128 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 04:03 AM:

Seems to me that all internet fighting comes from the desire to be better than someone else. Trolling is a really simple example: come in, pick on something that people there like, feel smug that you can get a rise out of them because clearly you're so much cooler.

I get more annoyed about the subtler examples of "I'm better than you", when they're hiding in the core of arguments ostensibly about something else. "I'm sure once you've studied more, you'll understand that thermodynamics are key to most of the real sciences." Flame wars. The point is not "thermodynamics: a waste of time?", it's "how stupid can I make you look in front of a crowd." It emotionally charges an argument, sides crystalize, no one gets convinced, people get stabbed deniably. Arguments where you no longer care about the other person as anything other than a place to score points off of.

I'd think that most people running those sorts of arguments would admit to themselves eventually that they were being jerks, but at the time they might well deny it, for the whole point is to stab from behind the cover of thermodynamics or whatever. A flamer bingo filter might get rid of the nastiest stabbiest bits of sneering, though.

The whole "what can you do about assholes" thing is best answered with "get a community to call them on their shit", I'd say... "Hey, whatever, dude, you don't have to like thermodynamics to be a smart scientist, stop being such a jerk." Community necessary because the person under attack has a hard time picking out the most chill response to the underlying ickyness and not looking like a counterattack.

I dunno about recent ML trends... Seems like there were more flamewars a couple years ago, and maybe people miss those days and so leap on anything that wriggles a bit?

Our Cousin Vito has a bit up on her blog today about getting trolled in real life for looking queer and wearing a "Fools! I will destroy you all! (Ask me how!)" shirt... Real life trolling happens all the time.

#129 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 04:21 AM:

Could I have better things to do with my time, so I will make this my last post skip straight to banning the poster in case their resolve weakens?
Or maybe just the third time it's used in the same thread (which I have seen, though not on Making Light).

#130 ::: Christian Severin ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 04:54 AM:

OK, het Abiveld stuck with me.
Abi, do you have offspring? If so: does the gift get passed on? Maybe increased in effectiveness?

Just asking...

I had this vision of highly trained High-Yield Technology Disruptors sneaking close to the enemy HQ (they abandoned paradrops after a few unfortunate accidents), just laying low at the camps perimeter, watching as trucks stop, generators stutter, ammo and fuel dumps go up, communications go down...

Of course, in peacetime, they'd have to be stationed out in the wilderness, far from civilization, with supplies carried in in backpacks.
Until they manage to breed in a little more control into these walking anti-technology bombs, that is.

Is anyone else reminded of a truck driver rain god?

Abi, did you ever get offered money not to use some system or lean on a desk?

#131 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 05:19 AM:

Terry, people can see your comment before you post it at Pandagon? That explains my (one and only) experience (at least that I can remember) commenting there. I had composed a really heated reply to something, but before I posted it had taken several deep breaths, re-rewritten what I said, and generally tried to keep the conversation constructive rather than flaming. What I got in response was a total flame -- based on the comment I did not actually post.

I haven't commented there -- or read much there, either -- since.

I was going to ask what you meant by "ex-pat," and then thought of my New Yorker friend who lives in Atlanta who would correct locals on their pronunciation of a particular local street name, and realized I think I know the sort of behavior you are talking about.

Oh, and Alan, #129? I've seen "This is my last post on the subject" used by the same poster three times in the same comment thread here on ML, although only once or twice. I seem to recall the Harry Potter Spoiler thread over the summer caused someone to say that, or words to that effect, several times, but it's late and I'm being too lazy to actually look it up.

#132 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 06:35 AM:

[/de-lurk]

Madeline @ 128: Seems to me that all internet fighting comes from the desire to be better than someone else.

My personal theory of internet trolling is that it's a lack of attention. People who can't get positive attention start seeking negative attention. If you can get someone screaming at you, so the logic would seem to go, then you're building a connection. So, according to my theory, trolling is probably a symptom of deep loneliness. Being shown better than someone else is a way of getting attention, too, though, so maybe both our theories are right.

Personally, I think a very important part of moderation and troll-reduction is making the rules explicit and clear. If people know in advance that (for example) group attacks will not be tolerated, they'll be less likely to engage in them. (Less likely, but not absolutely so.) And if the mods can say, after the fact, "You've broken rule XYZ", and others see them doing that, it further reduces the tendency to troll. Many people won't read the rules, of course, but if the general populace is familiar with the rules, possible trolls will soon be alerted to the fact that they're treading on thin ice by other members of the board.

As a corollary, though, an important part of making the rules clear is making it clear how much leeway the moderators allow themselves in interpreting the rules. If the rules are followed only to the letter of law, so trolls can craft posts so they manage not to get punished, the rules are useless.

#133 ::: Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 06:41 AM:

My internal BS indicator that responds to phrases like the ones you list is also triggered by "Commentary and analysis too dangerous for corporate media."

#134 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 06:59 AM:

Lee @ #100

If Swedish, it means both "poison" and "married", amke of that what you will.

#135 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 07:09 AM:

Serge #125- Maybe. Being only 30, I don't necessarily have enough data, but friendships online have the advantage of being mainainted wherever you move to. I've basically lost friendships because I've had to move elsewhere, and it gets too much hassle to keep them up long distance when one of the reasons for the freindship was the common activities. But online, distance doesn't matter.

At the moment, I'm still in contact with people I've known for 8 years, online. Met half of them in real life as well, and they turned out to be real people! We have a private bulletin board to post on, it works quite well that way.

#136 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 07:29 AM:

Christian Severin @130: I had this vision of highly trained High-Yield Technology Disruptors sneaking close to the enemy HQ [..]

Cordwainer Smith's story Golden the Ship Was-Oh! Oh! Oh! had something similar. The legendary Golden Fleet was brought out against an enemy with much fanfare, while the actual damage was done by a covert strike team. One member of that team created 'negative luck'; accidents which would not have happened were nudged into reality planet-wide. That, and the biological warfare agents released by the team, brought down the opponents. An interesting dark fantasy written by the guy who headed the American Psychological Warfare department during the Korean war.

#137 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 07:34 AM:

(Damn diurnal cycle and time zones mean I'm several hours of out sync with most of the other folks on this thread ...)

One aspect of the troll problem is that the internet in general doesn't lend itself to reputation-based filtering. It's too fragmented, has too many different protocols (a bad rep on usenet means nothing on a web discussion board and vice versa), and anonymity is the default, not an optional extra.

What's left is education. But how do you teach a billion-plus people good manners? Especially when a percentage (probably in the range 2-10%) don't even bother being polite in real life, without the perceived distancing of online media?

#138 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 07:36 AM:

Ingvar M @134: Ambrose Bierce defined belladonna: "In Italian a beautiful lady; in English a deadly poison. A striking example of the essential identity of the two tongues."

#139 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 08:29 AM:

Terry Karney @ 126... mk @ 127... guthrie @ 135... Thanks. My own experience has been that none of my friendships begun in the real world lasted after the common activity was over. Once they moved to another dept at work, they lost interest, even if we were still on the same floor. There are very rare exceptions, because we had some tastes in common that could be nourished without a physical presence, things like a love for F/SF. Interestingly, the three exceptions I have in mind all are women. None of the male F/SF-based friends I had where I grew up showed any interest in keeping things alive, even when email became omnipresent. Not sure what that means.

#140 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 08:44 AM:

Charlie @78: the technique you suggest was tried for a while at groklaw, but attracted some negative comments on other forums when the deleted posts were discovered. I don't believe they're doing it any more. See here for the opinion of one poster who had their comments treated this way.

#141 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 10:11 AM:

Serge #139- there are other sources of friends. I don't know many people who are still friends with more than one or two of the people they hung about with at school, but it is a commonplace here in the UK (as far as I know anyway) that you keep friends made at university for years and years. I spent new year in Ireland at the house of a couple who met and married at university. Also there were 12 others in our circle of friends. Having gone to St Andrews, 4 of the couples had married peopel they met at uni, one is going out with a girl who went to the same uni but a couple of years earlier, and one is going out with a girl who never went to uni in the first place. THen theres me, perpetually single because I don't seem to meet anyone.

I think uni friends stay together more because of the shared experience of growing up together, and ideally we've reached a kind of maturity where we started with shared experiences etc, but we are old enough now to find lots of other things in common, e.g. now we all have cars, thats one thing. Or music. Or indeed playing silly party games. We can adapt and change but keep the friendships going, although we usuallys ee each other only a few times a year.

#142 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 10:31 AM:

guthrie @ 141... True. By then, people are more mature.

There's one woman with whom I was friend, a co-worker with whom I burned a lot of midnight oil on some programming projects. Then, when she left for another job, things pretty much faded away, following the usual pattern of loin des yeux, loin du coeur(*). So things went for nearly a decade. Then one day I googled her name and found a web site where she'd been, left my address with the site's owner. A few months later, what pops in my email account but something from my former co-worker. I think we're even closer friends than we were before, and we make it a point to meet every time I go to the Bay Area.

Sorry about the rambling and for taking things off topic. It's just that Jonathan's comments got me thinking about friendships started with and without the internet.

(*) meaning far form the eyes, far from the heart

#143 ::: Donald Delny ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 10:33 AM:

#132, Rachel,
My personal theory of internet trolling is that it's a lack of attention. People who can't get positive attention start seeking negative attention. If you can get someone screaming at you, so the logic would seem to go, then you're building a connection.

I'll agree with that, wholeheartedly. In my misspent youth I went through a brief period of spamming people in MUDs and deliberately misconstruing people's points of view in order to have an argument. I was lonely, and text on a screen is hard to understand as being human. I felt so helpless and isolated, like nothing I did or said was heard or understood, so what could I do but rage against the phosphors on that black screen?*

It didn't last too long, though, because I soon wanted to share personal stuff online, and I didn't want to deal with that kind of thing.

Trolling is about seeing other people as less than real. You can see how people make that mistake when they go online: they're still in their kitchen/dorm room/office, and all they see is text. Text didn't use to have feelings. In real life we know trolls are bullies, delusional**, or psychopaths, and can recognize the horror of a human who does not see that other humans are real. People who counterfeit humanity. I think troll is really close to the right word, though. I think of
the question James Nicoll asked.

*green, on a DEC type terminal.
**habitual liars who reshape the world to fit their internal script, for instance.

#144 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 10:40 AM:

Serge #119: It's possible it could be a reference to Rumpole of the Bailey, or it could be to Sir Henry Rider Haggard.

#145 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 10:46 AM:

Fragano @ 144... My understanding that Mrs. Rumpole's being known as She Who Must Be Obeyed was itself a homage to Haggard's novel She. I may be wrong, of course.

#146 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 10:51 AM:

Serge #145: I believe it was.

#147 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 10:54 AM:

Serge and Fragano- nice to see other people have read more Haggard than just "King Solomons mines". "She" was a good read at school.

#148 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 11:14 AM:

Christian Severin @ #130:

What I'm reminded of is an Isaac Asimov story about a rather undistinguished young man who wishes he might do something that will make his name live through posterity, and has his wish granted - in the form of a curse that causes any computer to crash if he so much as looks at it.

He is assured that in about twenty years' time, he'll become a world-famous hero by defeating a machine intelligence that attempts to enslave humanity; but until then, he can't go to the bank, he can't go near any other business that uses computers for vital daily operations, ...

#149 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 11:18 AM:

guthrie @ #147:

I've even read the first sequel, though I immediately wished I hadn't.

#150 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 11:19 AM:

I thought Ayesha was the only sequal?

#151 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 11:35 AM:

guthrie... Guess what the French title for She was. Same as in English. Not Elle. Go figure.

#152 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 11:42 AM:

On reflection, I believe you're technically correct; Wisdom's Daughter and She and Allan are prequels.

(Or I could do a Humpty Dumpty, and declare that by "sequel" I really meant "load of cobblers", in which case my sentence stands as written.)

#153 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 11:50 AM:

"Wisdom's daughter"? Not seen that one before. I have "She and Allan" somewhere though.

#154 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 11:58 AM:

Wisdom's Daughter is the story of how Ayesha ended up in her mountain in Darkest Africa in the first place. It broadly resembles the brief account given in She, but contradicts many of the details thereof, on account of continuing the trend begun in Ayesha of trying to turn She Who Must Be Obeyed into a sympathetic and heroic character.

#155 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 11:59 AM:

_Wisdom's daughter_ online:

http://www.gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200181.txt

All the She books (that I know of) online:

http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/book/browse?type=lcsubc&key=Ayesha%20%28Fictitious%20character%20%3a%20Haggard%29%20%2d%2d%20Fiction

#156 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 12:26 PM:

guthrie #150: Oh, no. There's even one with Allan Quatermaine.

#157 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 12:40 PM:

When threads get too contentious for my tender sensibilities (AKA general wimpiness), I just use the option of Click on By, till things get more civilized or silly again. Works every time.

Regarding email buddies, I'm in regular correspondence with two women: one has been a friend ever since Junior High, and we never lost touch (she even came from VA for my wedding in AZ); the other lives Down Under and we've never met, but we feel like long-lost sisters. As for my prolonged college days, I'm not in touch with anyone from back then.


#158 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 12:49 PM:

Pat Greene: I was unclear. So far as I know only you can see the comment as you type it. It's a real-time preview, below the text window, and shows you how it will look (formatting blockquotes, showing the unclosed tags, etc.).

I don't believe one's work is seen by others.

re ex-pats: There is also a strain of them who will tell you, at length, of the wonders that are New York, the superiority of the bagels (this is questionable, to me. I didn't grow up with NY Bagels, and when I finally get to try them, they may not meaure up) the delis, the baseball, etc. One wonders why they stay away.

I did, once, top such a one in argument. There's a deli, very New York in manner (started by some people from New York, about 40 years back, staffed by New Yorkers). A friend and I (this was probably 20 years ago) were eating, and our waitress was waxing rhapsodic about how you couldn't get good food in LA like you could in New York, the deli's, the chinese, the pizza was all second rate.

I said there was one food which was better here, mexican. She looked at me, and with a rueful chuckle and said, "Yeah, you're right, you can't get good mexican in New York; but the Puerto Rican."

Charlie Stross: I think reputation is, with some caveats, much the same as it is in the real world.

Persistent handles equal something one can check. I've used three, or four, handles in various online fora. One of them on a bbs, which now has a number of it's members on Lj. For a couple of reasons I was much more careful about never using any name other than the handle, and so when I find one of their Ljs, I sign my comments with that name.

I could choose to make an anon comment here, if I felt what I had to say was that important and that risky to myself. I'd have to work at it, because I suspect my idiosyncracies of tone, type and the like, are almost as good as fingerprints to those who've been reading me for the past five years.

But whatever expertise I am seen to have on various subjects, would be gone.

If I go someplace else (saw Boing-Boing) where the regulars don't know me, I have no; local reputation. But if I choose to have persitence of persona, they can google the name I use, and it will come back to here, or my blog (if I use pecunium) or some other venue in which I've been active.

So my "reputation" can still exist, independent of the forum.

Which is, sort of, how I think it works in the real world. If I go to a convention, some will know me, most wont. I have no reputation with them. If they want to know what I'm like they have to either interact with me, or find people who've done so in the past.

However, if I foul the waters on the web, I can get a new start. I am able to keep those who have been pissed off (or pleased) with me in the past from being sure it's me.

re trolling as a means to get attention: It's a case of, "self-rewarding behavior". The troll wants attention, any attention. For whatever reasons they've not been getting it from being nice, so they get mean. That gets a reaction. the meaner they get, the more reaction they get.

Disemvowelling, I think, breaks part of that loop for them. They've become innured to normal interactions (at some level) and taking the sting out of their words takes away the reaction they have trained themselves is the reward they seek.

(sidenote: clicker training a parakeet/parrot is a difficult thing. They will teach themselves the marker signal, and then re-inforce behaviors you never wanted them to practice. They will also defeat cue-training this way)

#159 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 01:04 PM:

Reputation is important, online and off. I post on a forum for re-enactors (I'm also a mod, I thought I'd see what it was like and I have a fairly thick skin, especially when I think the idiot insulting me is an idiot), and we don't see trollish behaviour very much, for several reasons.

The first is that your average professional troll would never find us in the first place. Secondly, although we do a lot of chatting and discussing online, at some point everyone will bump into everyone else, whether in the middle of a melee or in the beer tent. I think this helps keep a lid on the worst excesses of behaviour. Re-enacting in the UK is a small enough world that if word goes round that you are persona non grata due to bad behaviour you will notice a difference. We had to ban one person for being a nutter, and there is a second person pending, although I won't go into details.

#160 ::: Naomi Libicki ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 01:26 PM:

anaea #64:

I'm afraid I'm not seeing anything like that after a quick scan of the front page of your livejournal. Could you link to a specific entry, pretty please? I am always eager to keep abreast of new linguistic developments.

#161 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 02:03 PM:

Wow. 160 comments, and no poetry or lol!s yet?

you people groupthink
saying what everyone thinks
did I hit a nerve?

#162 ::: Brenda von Ahsen ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 02:16 PM:

#143 ::: Donald Delny
In real life we know trolls are bullies, delusional**, or psychopaths, and can recognize the horror of a human who does not see that other humans are real. People who counterfeit humanity.

Well, we are all imposter's aren't we? Some of us are just better at it than others. We all wear a mask of sanity but there is still a monster beneath us all. We sit in our Chinese Room and make the mistake of believing the symbols we see are ultimate reality.

#163 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 02:31 PM:

#162, Brenda:
We sit in our Chinese Room and make the mistake of believing the symbols we see are ultimate reality.

Except for those of us who know this and try and avoid it, with varying levels of success.

#164 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 02:31 PM:

Naomi Libicki: I think anaea is making reference to a recent paper which says the word, "yo" has become a gender neutral pronoun.

For me it doesn't work, but I am old, and set in my ways, or something.

#165 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 02:33 PM:

Serge, #121: Read the article Chris linked. It happens all the time in the offline world, at the very least. (Not "all the time" to me personally, but in a general sense; I can't think of anyone I know who hasn't talked about encountering it from time to time.)

Rachel, #132: People who can't get positive attention start seeking negative attention. If you can get someone screaming at you, so the logic would seem to go, then you're building a connection.

AKA the soggy-potato-chip theory. Obviously, most people prefer fresh, crisp potato chips. But if for some reason you can't get fresh ones, then at least soggy ones are something, and something is better than going hungry. Extending the metaphor, some people then go on to develop a taste for soggy potato chips, and will choose them even when fresh ones are available.

#166 ::: David Wald ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 03:02 PM:

Terry Karney@164: I think anaea is making reference to a recent paper which says the word, "yo" has become a gender neutral pronoun.

Thinking of a recent-ish Beowulf thread: wouldn't "Yo!" make a good alternate translation for "Hwæt!"?

#167 ::: David Wald ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 03:33 PM:

<extreme_embarrassment>I'm an idiot: I just looked up the thread in question and realized that "yo" was one of the first suggested translations.</extreme_embarrassment>

And I'm not too sure about that end tag.

#168 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 03:54 PM:

Lee @ 165... Oh my goodness. The situation you described is exactly the one I have with one of my co-workers. Each and every one of our users hates working with him. Same with my most of our fellow programmers. (Even my co-worker who's a brahmin!) The reason that our manager has taken no visible action is that the jerk is very smart and that he's planning to retire in two years, and it'd make the manager look bad if the jerk left early. Mind you, I've made it quite clear in front of everybody what I think of him without actually saying so.

End of rant.

#169 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 04:37 PM:

Rachel @132:
My personal theory of internet trolling is that it's a lack of attention.

I think there are many reasons to troll, and many classes of trolls. But I think that either a majority, or a sizeable minority, do if for the attention.

Personally, I think a very important part of moderation and troll-reduction is making the rules explicit and clear.

That's debatable. You'll note that there aren't any rules posted here, for instance, but there are endless oodles of them on Wikipedia. But which one is more restful to read?

There is a class of person who likes to game rules*, and cries censorship if the spirit rather than the letter is enforced. A rule-based community is a cleft stick, and you can impale yourself on either branch.

if the general populace is familiar with the rules, possible trolls will soon be alerted to the fact that they're treading on thin ice by other members of the board.

That can happen even without rules. It's the sign of a cohesive community, which is the best defense against trollery in either case.


Arthur D. Hlavaty @133:
My internal BS indicator that responds to phrases like the ones you list is also triggered by "Commentary and analysis too dangerous for corporate media."

It's not just you. The notion that anyone's ideas are "too dangerous" for popular consumption is usually a conceit. When I see that idea in a comment thread, I do tend to think "troll?"


Charlie Stross @137:
What's left is education. But how do you teach a billion-plus people good manners?

You don't, any more than you make it stop raining. What you do is build places where people are only welcome when they have learned good manners, like houses that keep the rain out.


Donald Delny @143:
Trolling is about seeing other people as less than real.

In that, it is a lot like politics. (It is a lot like politics in other ways as well, I think, but that's another matter.)


Faren Miller @157:
When threads get too contentious for my tender sensibilities (AKA general wimpiness), I just use the option of Click on By, till things get more civilized or silly again.

As do we all, from time to time. But people take their feelings with them from thread to thread, so one flaming thread ignites perfectly innocuous discussions elsewhere.

Don't get me wrong - sometimes these discussions have to happen. Sometimes people really do need to argue, and wrangle, and struggle. But that comes at a price, one not paid by the people in the debate. It's like digitalis - a small dose can be good, but a large one is fatal.


David Wald @166:

Movable Type autocloses any tags accidentally left open in a post. If your own close tag didn't work it will have put another one in when it posted the message.

-----
* As a tester, I have some of that myself, though that particular impish impulse was curbed by highly effective early instruction.

#170 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 04:48 PM:

In re Jonathan [Birge]:

TNH @80, Jim @86:
Jonathan's last visit here, in the last go-round we had on gun control, lost him no vowels. It was a very close thing at one point -- I was composing a message to tell him why his post was suddenly a lot shorter -- when he impressed the heck out of me.

He apologized. Gracefully, honorably, and publicly.

He gets a good deal of rope from me for that.

Jonathan @107:
I appreciate the level of discernment that you are showing in deciding not to post here. I'm sorry, however, that you've come to that decision.

I second Adrian's and Terry's comments. I think you should come here sometime when you're not stressed or annoyed, and hang out on one of the less political threads. Join one of the parlor games, read up on emergency medicine, talk about something that you aren't so wound up about.

Seriously. I think you could have some fun. I think we'd have fun having you around.

#171 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 04:59 PM:

Abi @ 170...

I do hope that Jonathan comes back. After all, what he said did cause a brief exchange about friendships.

And have you another parlor game in the game?

#172 ::: David Wald ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 05:06 PM:

abi @169: Movable Type autocloses any tags accidentally left open in a post. If your own close tag didn't work it will have put another one in when it posted the message.

Probably not the way I inserted those mock tags, but I appreciate the idea of the software automatically limiting my embarrassment to one post.

#173 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 05:08 PM:

Naomi @ 64

Woops, that should have linked here. I'm not entirely sure how the wrong URL wound up in there. This is probably what I get for trying to post while cooking.

To make up for it these blogs are also full of linguistics fun.

#174 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 05:16 PM:

David Wald @172:
I appreciate the idea of the software automatically limiting my embarrassment to one post.

That was what I meant.

#175 ::: Donald Delny ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 05:36 PM:

#162, Brenda von Ahsen, wrote:
Well, we are all imposter's aren't we? Some of us are just better at it than others. We all wear a mask of sanity but there is still a monster beneath us all. We sit in our Chinese Room and make the mistake of believing the symbols we see are ultimate reality

Agreed, but I had something more basic in mind when I wrote:

the horror of a human who does not see that other humans are real. People who counterfeit humanity.
I was thinking of those, who despite repeated, personal contact and interaction, and a lifetime of socialization, still do not (or choose not to) recognize the human-ness of others. This is the basic flavor of horror that underlies tales of dopplegangers, different than the basic flavor of horror that underlies zombies* or ogres**.

abi, 170, you wrote:
In that, it is a lot like politics. (It is a lot like politics in other ways as well, I think, but that's another matter.)
Which is what I think as well; not politics proper, but the demonization of the Other that diminishes our humanity by assenting to that demonization. It's such a common device in political speech. I think it not an accident that so many trolls carry such passionate hatred for others that is so easily triggered by political beliefs.

*dead things that move
**big things that want to eat you

#176 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 05:36 PM:

Abi @ 169: That's debatable. You'll note that there aren't any rules posted here, for instance, but there are endless oodles of them on Wikipedia. But which one is more restful to read?

Well, I guess that falls under "clear" for me. They are explicit, yes, but they're anything but clear. (Whose version of a given principle will be applied in a given situation? Anyone's guess.) Self-consistency might be another rule of thumb worth mentioning, but then again it might be a subset of clarity.

As a very occasional poster here, I have to note that I feel that tinge of excitement when people respond to my posts. I recognize that as a granule that can either grow into a pearl of interest and compassion -- and several other positive virtues -- or just some annoying grit that gets stuck in other people's teeth. (Hmm, weird metaphor. I guess that's about as good as I can do on this little sleep.)

#177 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 06:20 PM:

Rachel: I still get that frisson of glee when people respond.

It's not the same, because a lot of the time (now) people do respond. But when I want some response, I often find I've failed to generate the sorts of hooks which get people to actaully reply.

So, when one of those works, I am happy.

I find the same thing happens on my blog. I make posts, about things I'd love to discuss, and they sink like stones. I make a flippant comment about something which isn't that big a deal, and boom... I have dozens of replies.

I've only had a couple of threads go more than fifty replies, and those were hard, because people got heated, and some feelings were bruised. Happily the person who was most on the defensive didn't feel so abused that they never returned, but I was afraid of it.

Oddly, that changed, a bit, how I wrote about that topic in the future. Not so much because my sentiments have changed, but I didn't want to re-open old wounds, and just thrash out the same points.

My blog has only one real rule: Don't be rude to my guests. You can be rude to me, and what happens will depend on my mood. Be rude to the other people who stop by, and I will turn off your microphone.

That's still a subjective rule, I draw the line, and how I draw it depends on the circumstances.

I think that's a good way to do things. It cuts down on the rules lawyering (I get some of that.... "You are censoring me", well yes, I guess I am. So what?), and seems to make for some freewheeling exchanges, even when I don't like them.

#178 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 06:24 PM:

"But how do you teach a billion-plus people good manners?"

I think that's what avatars (in the orignial sense) are for.

#179 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 06:41 PM:

rRndolph Fritz @ 177... Not Avatar, the main character of Bakshi's Wizards? Drat.

#180 ::: Brenda von Ahsen ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 06:42 PM:

#175 ::: Donald Delny :::
"I was thinking of those, who despite repeated, personal contact and interaction, and a lifetime of socialization, still do not (or choose not to) recognize the human-ness of others."

You mean sociopaths? That's my point, what if "human-ness" is an illusion? As far as trolls go I think that some of them are attention seekers and others may be authoritarian personalities trying to exert control over others and you can't do that in blogs or on forums. Maybe trolls are necessary? Every ecology needs it's scavengers.

#181 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 07:00 PM:

Way upthread, somebody asked if it's possible to show a troll different content from what everybody else sees.

I've been on a forum which used that trick in a small way. Trolls were given a tag such as "Troll #34" -- this would be appended to all their posts. So you would have some idea of what you were dealing with. Supposedly the troll itself could not see this tag, but everybody else could.

I once saw an argument, which was obviously the creation of just one person, because all the posts were tagged "Troll #34." Amusing.

#182 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 07:01 PM:

Brenda #180- I am not an ecologist, but I can see a "use" for scavengers in dealing with dead things and leftovers and suchlike, picking up the little bits that don't quite fit the pattern. But trolls? I cannot see what sort of useful function they have. They don't eat up others leftovers. How about calling them parasites and infections?

#183 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 07:30 PM:

guthrie @ 182... How about calling them parasites and infections?

How about calling them life-sucking scum?

#184 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 07:42 PM:

Lee @165: AKA the soggy-potato-chip theory. Obviously, most people prefer fresh, crisp potato chips. But if for some reason you can't get fresh ones, then at least soggy ones are something, and something is better than going hungry. Extending the metaphor, some people then go on to develop a taste for soggy potato chips, and will choose them even when fresh ones are available.

I'd shorten the logical circuit even further than that-- if soggy potato chips are the only experience you've ever known, then it's very difficult to believe in the reality of anything you've ever heard about crunchy ones. You may dismiss reports of crunchiness as unrealistic propaganda that only stupid people would believe in. If personally presented with a crunchy chip, your first instinct would be to wonder what combination of ulterior motives and artificial trickery was behind it-- was it coated with a brittle toxin? Is it entirely made of some glassy, inedible mock-potato substance whose breakage will actually cause injury? Will the momentary crunching noise be exploited to cover the quieter sound of someone sneaking up behind you?

Despite the wacky metaphor, I am entirely serious about the level of bitter paranoia involved. Alas.

#185 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 08:11 PM:

Julie L @ 184... Soggy potato chips? What a revolting metaphor!

#186 ::: Brenda von Ahsen ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 09:14 PM:

ok, parasites it is.

#187 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 09:59 PM:

I'm weighing in way late, but this has been a working weekend, and every time I think I'm caught up and ready to respond, I hit 'refresh' and have lots to read again. Speaking as one who lurked fairly regularly here for several years, but who has only been posting oftener than quarterly for a few months, I can agree wholeheartedly with the feeling expressed by others of being on the outside, but not totally being without. My first several posts here (over a period of probably two years) were completely ignored, which was off-putting. Then the first couple that elicited responses were made with my usual dry wit (not always dry and understandable), and the responses were basically that I must be new to the internet or to Western culture. However, my experience in other places where informed and opinionated people post their ideas has been that well-thought-out posts earn respect, and I've seen that happen here many times, so I continued to post. Now, I know from responses from some of the regular posters that I'm at least recognized (and not as the village idiot), and although my work load forbids me to participate regularly, I know that I can do that when the mood strikes. As long as that atmosphere remains, and with the current moderation I see no sign that it won't, the fluorosphere will continue to be a welcoming place.

As for the original question, I think a third gap generated by unfavorable comparison to a list of questionable phrases might be helpful. Not only could it help quell the flames in some of our rhetoric, it could also help some of us to be aware of, and contain, our sweeping generalities or linguistic laziness, even in threads where a flame war is not imminent. I spent several years writing ad copy whose audience was realtors and their buyers, and such activity doesn't lend itself to learning a habit of making salient, specific points or backing them up well. And I'll admit that sort of writing has been a weak point of mine all along. (Hence, my reference to "some of us.")

I see a paradox where trolling behavior is concerned, particularly for blogs, boards, or groups where there's a decided leftward bias. On one hand, we've all seen and been in situations where noisy trolls have made participation completely intolerable for the more sensitive in attendance, and I don't believe that's acceptable in an environment where open expression of ideas and opinions is encouraged. On the other hand, we've seen the issues reframed, restated, and remade further and further to the right, strongly abetted by the outrageous behavior and barbaric debating practices of, first, media personalities, then commentators and editors, and, finally, bloggers and politicians themselves. Now, in some spheres, it seems that the rules themselves have been remade. If we moderate our discussions on our own turf to the degree that few participants hone their skills of "playing hard," or even learn how to hold their own with demagogues (not to mention those who play dirty), we run the risk of condemning ourselves to replay Kerry vs. the Swift Boat Veterans again and again and again.

I've certainly taken on trolls in other groups where I've participated, and I have enjoyed seeing a few of them taken to task for their statements here, even though I haven't participated in that. Apparently, from the comments, this makes some folks very uncomfortable, but I don't see them running away. Rather, because of the generally respectful atmosphere here, they feel free to "Click on By, till things get more civilized" (thanks, Faren). While I certainly don't believe adopting the general attitude, "the internet is a tough place, get over it," I do believe that over-moderation, in a place where social ideas are shared, can lead to the same sort of intellectual atrophy as heavy-handed, religiously-oriented home schooling.

#188 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 10:12 PM:

Serge @ #183:

guthrie @ 182 ... How about calling them parasites and infections?
How about calling them life-sucking scum?

I think a troll is more like a fungus. It attaches itself into a part of an existing, living body, injects all sorts of toxins, and permanently affects the behavior and growth of that part of the living body. If left to go unchecked, or to attack other parts, it may affect the body as a whole.

#189 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 10:44 PM:

These ecological metaphors are charming and illuminating, but I can't get past the little stumbling block of knowing that a species generally cannot evolve to fit a particular ecological niche if its members can never find willing mates.

#190 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 10:52 PM:

So maybe they're virii. Or amoebae.

#191 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 11:10 PM:

LMB MacAlister: I forget when it was that someone was told (by Xopher, I believe) that there were places one could go, and get away with being tired and make unsupported allegations of fact; coupled to weak argument, and get away with it, this isn't one of those places.

I cut my teeth in APAs, I moved to BBSs, and Usenet. I am not, nor; in print, have I ever been, a shrinking violet in such arguments. I try to be reasonable enough that I can persuade the silent audience.

I think, even with the level of local standards (where ad hominem is frowned upon, and plain rude is actively discouraged) that those who frequent ML are not going to lose the ability to stand up to trolls in other venues.

I know that the time spent here, where Xopher's pithines, Teresa's concision, abi's ability to oil the waters, Patrick's passion, Jim's expertise; and all the other rhetorical skills the denizens here have, are all on display, have made me more effective when I beard a lion in some other den.

It warms the cockles of my heart to have some asshat spew some nonsense, lose my temper, and go off on an ML style slagfest. Not for the slagging, but because the usual effect is to shut them down, often with the locals cackling with glee.

This is, in some ways, a workshop for rhetorical effect. It's a salon, where the bon mot (or, in the case of some of us, the punitive mal mot) is a trifle, devoutly to be wished.

Some of the best bits of squee, have been people taking a throw-away comment of mine, buried in some longer post, and lifted it out; as being worth of praise, in its own right, as a pretty piece of prose.

As a friend said, when I was teasing her about being Canadian, Q.E.D. she was nice. She said no, she was polite.

Polite goes a long way. It takes the claws out of the opposition. When they can't sheathe them, they look bad, which hurts them; to the silent audience. I am not trying to win the battle (though it may often look like that) I am aiming to win the war. I'm fighting for hearts and minds.

I think, in that regard, moderating our discussion, makes us more effective, because we will be less likely to make the same mistakes when we go other places.

#192 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 11:36 PM:

Terry Karney @ 177:I find the same thing happens on my blog. I make posts, about things I'd love to discuss, and they sink like stones. I make a flippant comment about something which isn't that big a deal, and boom... I have dozens of replies.

I've had the same experience many times posting threads to my favored web forum or my LJ that have sunk like stones, while others have suddenly become popular all out of proportion to their importance in my life.

I've observed many reasons why this happens. One big problem is that there are a million ways to disagree, but only a few ways to agree. And many people look down on those who post only to voice their agreement. I personally don't, because I think allowing people to voice agreement is one way to give people attention that they need. Getting modded "+5 Insightful" or whatever on Slashdot serves much the same purpose.

Another, strongly related, problem is that it's uncool to be positive. In the wider culture, being enthusiastic and positive about something without pointing out its flaws is one of the surest ways to be labeled a "tool" or something equally negative. I present as evidence almost every thread on Metafilter. In geek culture, it's cool to get your geek on about some topic, it is true; but even there, I find geeks are careful to always say something negative about even their most treasured topics. This can be a desire to be truthful, based on the assumption that the truth can never be purely good or purely bad; but I'm not sure what the planck unit for this sort of thing is, and I'm not convinced that every single person has to have at least some snark in with their enthusiasm at every single moment.

Because of the uncoolness of being positive and the difficulty of finding new ways to agree, people posting on threads will often tend to be either negative or silent. When it's a forum that's intensely personal, such as a single person's blog, then the tendency to simply be silent will be even greater.

For those reasons, I try (when I get the occasional chance) to encourage "me, too" posts that are positive, at least up to a point. I also try to encourage asking questions, which are a way to respond without being either positive or negative, and other, more nuanced responses. (But nuance takes time, which is another of the problems with online conversation.)

Another reason people tend not to respond to deep & meaningful posts is, I think, because well-reasoned and well-written posts will often encapsulate everything there is to say about a given topic, leaving nothing to be said. If I wrote the perfect book on, say, Chinese history, such that it left no fact excluded, no theory unexamined and no issues unresolved, I would expect it to get horrible reviews, if any. No one would be able to think of a way to respond to it.

It is, of course, nearly impossible to write such a work, and even more so in the limited medium of a blog or forum post. But still, the tendency is there; well-written, thorough essays may make people think, but they may also make people unable to think of anything to say. Ways to deal with this that I've noticed include making sure to have a meaty, nuanced question (which is to say, one without a clear or easy answer) at the heart of your post.

Yet another problem with getting responses to posts is that, I think, people are uncomfortable talking about deep issues. "Am I doing the wrong thing with my life?" If I asked that on my LJ, I'd expect very few responses, mostly just awkward foot-shuffling. Or maybe it's just the people I know, or the kinds of posts I make.

The last major factor I've noticed is how (what's the saying?) nothing makes fame like fame. People will notice big group discussions and want to take part in them. Mass psychology, in other words.

All of these factors can contribute to the evolution of trolls, I think. When people don't get responses, they may reach out in desperation to get reaction. So when I write posts, I try to write in ways that allow for responses (rather than reactions), and when I'm trying, I also try to make responses rather than reactions.

#193 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 11:41 PM:

Another possible semi-automated troll filter: Tagging for incorrect grammar and spelling. It seems like a lot of trolls aren't concerned with making themselves particularly understandable, just in getting a rise out of people, so they often seem to write poorly (in my experience). If there was a way to let other users tag a given post -- "Loose/lose problem", "Teh/the problem", "There/their problem", "Verb/noun agreement", etc. -- and there was a tool by which posters were educated about this (say, a link to a relevant explanatory article when their posts are tagged in such a way), then this could help identify many trolls. The people who get many posts tagged and continue to get them tagged are likely to be trolls. Of course, many trolls are very good writers, and many people with dyslexia or other language trouble have excellent ideas and no immediately useful way to change their writing abilities. But perhaps that's where the role of the moderator becomes needed again. It might be something to try, anyway.

#194 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 12:54 AM:

Terry, I couldn't agree more with what you've said. However, that special atmosphere that exists here (is it the fluorine?) seems to me to be a combination of general high standards that are set, and expectations that match those standards, as well as the moderation. A good part of what I was trying to say was that I think the moderation is juuuust right at the moment. It doesn't need to be increased. Of course, things continue to change in this and every other environment. Moderation needs will, as well.

#195 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 01:31 AM:

LMB MacAlister: I think the moderation here is about perfect. I also think the same standards/expectations, will help to keep the hands on the tiller at the right level of involvement.

I think part of that is because there are several moderators, and I get the impression they confer on edge cases.

#196 ::: Brenda von Ahsen ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 01:42 AM:

So maybe they're virii. Or amoebae.

No, they are people. They are somebody's father, son, mother, daughter. If their words are hateful then delete their words and ban their presence. I get uncomfortable reducing people to things.

Many (but not all) of those we call troll are a part of the culture wars. They are authoritarians who come into "our" space and say things we don't like. When we find that we can't force others to agree with us then we become enraged.

Of course there are vicious, hateful even evil people in the world, but they are just people. Don't give them power over you.

#197 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 03:45 AM:

Terry@177, Rachel@192: I've had that happen to me too; I've even had it happen face-to-face -- at Jo's first Farthing Party, I was on the "Issues in Farthing" panel, and I started off with a nice little bit I'd prepared about the deft way in which the book makes transitions among genres...which proceeded to sink without a trace. What can you do?

#198 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 04:11 AM:

Brenda @196:
No, they are people. They are somebody's father, son, mother, daughter. If their words are hateful then delete their words and ban their presence. I get uncomfortable reducing people to things.

Thank you for saying that. You took the words right off of my keyboard.

Many people who troll do so because they want attention, and because that is the way that they have gotten attention before. And some who are labeled as trolls are simply people who have spent time in trollish environments and simply do not know that there are other ways to conduct online discussions.

One important trait of people, unlike virii, amoebae, fungi and the like, is that they can be persuaded to change. Not all of them will be so persuaded, of course, free will being what it is.

But I don't see moderation as rewarding good people and discouraging bad ones. I see it as rewarding good behavior and discouraging bad manners.

#199 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 04:16 AM:

Rachel @192:
Well, that's a very authoritative history of China, but I don't like the typeface you chose for the subtitle.

IOW, good post.

#200 ::: Biddy ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 04:36 AM:

If Teresa is still taking nominations for phrases, I'd like to suggesting "playing that card" and variations thereon.

And 'They came for the Jews...' used in any non-genocidal context (eBay's feedback policies in our comments this week - ever so slightly inappropriate, I think).

#201 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 07:15 AM:

And then there are the times that a throwaway line at the tail end of a conversation doesn't sink like a stone. Unlike my subtle attempt in the baby thread to get people to be nice, which didn't do a damn bit of good. OTOH, this kind of thing reminds me to be nice when a regular poster says something I disagree with, so I don't dogpile them.

#202 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 08:06 AM:

TexAnne @201:

You can't control what other people post. It's that darned free will thing again. But I thought your comment was a good one anyway.

#203 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 09:54 AM:

Brenda @ 196; abi @ 198:

Ah, but you've hit on the reason I don't believe in jumping on the poster at the first hint of trolldom. The person could have learned very poor manners early on, or could think that only a big splash won't be ignored. The poster could be poorly-informed, or just a lousy writer who uses lots of cliches. After a few attempts at showing the person the error of their ways, however, I'll usually make a statement along the lines of, "you're trolling the board--you've stated x, y, & z, which have been refuted here, here, and here, and now you're using scurrilous debating method a, b, & c (with examples). Goodbye." (Or here, I'll let someone else do that.)

However, when the poster has made it painfully obvious that it doesn't plan to act human, but sees us as words on a screen, to be lied to, manipulated, and toyed with, it's a completely different thing. Ultimately, ignoring such an entity usually does the trick. But letting them know that their methods aren't getting them anywhere but deeper in their own muck doesn't seem to hurt.

And BTW, I tend to call someone who comes into a thread, makes a big noise, craps all over everything, and then leaves, a seagull. Far different from a troll. Seems like we've had a few of those who wandered in from Boing Boing (or some other parts) lately.

#204 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 10:20 AM:

LMB @ 203... I tend to call someone who comes into a thread, makes a big noise, craps all over everything, and then leaves, a seagull.

There goes Tippi Hedren's coiffure.

#205 ::: Naomi Libicki ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 10:21 AM:

anaea #173:

Thanks! I'd never heard that, and am probably not in a good position to catch it in the wild, unless it becomes much more broadly popular in the future.

It seems like most of the examples were of it being used as a subject pronoun, although there were one or two examples where it was an object pronoun. Interestingly enough, when it was paired with a possessive pronoun, it was "his," making the full declension (?) yo/yo/his. I wonder if this would apply even if the person being referred to was female?

#206 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 10:26 AM:

TexAnne: (#201) Ain't it the truth, on all counts.

#207 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 10:31 AM:

Abi, thanks.

#208 ::: Jack Kincaid ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 10:44 AM:

Should such a feature ever be implemented, I request that it also scan the poster's name and that you add mine to such a list. It would be wonderful.

#209 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 12:11 PM:

Yes, though it takes more effort. But have twice crashed a mainframe. Once was even intentional.

Knew a couple of guys once who crashed Andrew (Carnegie Mellon's system). They typed in a command that (they thought) would do something they needed to do, and Andrew immediately crashed for twenty minutes--fortunately, it was in the middle of the day on Sunday during the summer. Once the system came back up, they looked at each other and tried it again. When Andrew crashed again, they decided that, yes, it had been them, and resolved to find another way to accomplish their goal.

Oh, man, ride the train during rush hour some time... People get on fuming... and they proceed to take it out on the people around them...

I mind me of the guy who got on the bus the other day. As many transit systems do, Pittsburgh's includes a number of seats towards the front of the vehicle that are designated for riders who are impaired by physical infirmity, one cause of which is accounted to be age. People with no infirmity can sit there, but are expected to yield the seats if a "qualified" person so asks. So the man got on the bus and, despite the fact that there was an open seat, proceeded to announce, "Seniors! Seniors!" in a loud voice until the younger man on one side of the open seat got up. And then the rude man started a conversation with the other older man next to him about how "kids these days can't read"--while looking across the aisle at me, for no readily apparent reason since he had not even been looking at my side of the bus while making his pronouncement. At about the third go-round I gave in to temptation and asked him why he was so upset given that there had been an empty seat when he boarded, and was given a lesson in why not to give in to temptation when he commented about how women are so mouthy nowadays. *sigh* It was like real-life Troll Bingo.

#210 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 12:20 PM:

#203 LMB:

I can see two related dynamics that I've watched causing flamewars and apparently unintentional trolling: You and I come from two different communities, with different underlying assumptions about various ideas.

a. Different ideas are assumed to be true/false, as underlying premises which "everyone knows." Alice is talking to a reasonable-sounding moderate about the War on Terror, who then appears to go crazy by denying the obvious truth that Muslims mostly long for the destruction of the secular and Christian western world.

b. Ideas are linked to different moral or political or social groups/movements by people in different communities. Bob's having a nice discussion about peace in the middle east, till the other guy's comments about ending foreign aid for Israel and mistreatment of the Palestinians makes it clear he's some kind of anti-Semite.

As an aside, I found that I had to really think about my examples. Even examples of some disagreements of this kind seem likely to reignite flamewars. The ones above are a bit exagerated, but not too much--you can find plenty of people who would react the way I described.

#211 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 01:14 PM:

Albatross, that's a really good point about examples, and worth emphasizing - a whole lot of arguments come from those rather than people's actually intended points.

#212 ::: Brenda von Ahsen ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 01:22 PM:

#210 ::: albatross
Your examples are not exaggerated at all, they are very mild. The gulf is far wider and deeper than you seem to thin.

#213 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 10:52 PM:

Carrie S., #209, I don't know how your buses work, but many have the handicapped/senior seats with nothing in front of them because it's hard for many disabled/older people to move sideways accurately*. You should see me get out of an airplane seat.

*A recent study showed that one of the reasons older folk fall down more often than younger folk is because when they start to fall, they cross a foot over toward the fall direction and that makes them less stable. I've been practicing in my mind to put the other foot out to be stable.

#214 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 11:01 PM:

albatross @ 210: I see your point, but I also believe that civil discourse can be had where those differing assumptions are uncovered and themselves discussed. It's only when the lapse of manners occurs, and the "wait . . . you believe WHAT??? you JERK!!!!" is uttered that the problems begin. Despite the opinion of some that these are trolling words, it really is possible for folks to agree to disagree.

#215 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 11:20 PM:

albatross 210: I don't think those are exaggerated. I remember a very reasonable-seeming guy in another venue whose position on Israel was that it essentially WAS the Jewish people, and that therefore anyone who said anything against it was anti-Semitic. He also seemed to feel that since "the Palestinians" had killed so many Israelis, "the Palestinians" had no right to live in Israel or near Israel or pretty much anywhere.

Pointing out that "the Jews" assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Rabin cut no mustard with him. Every Jew is an individual, you see, and if they behave badly it's because they're bad individuals; Palestinians are an entirely different species, a sort of hive mind with innocent-seeming faces, even children, but the hive overall is dedicated to nothing less than the complete extermination of all Jews everywhere, and every "individual" is a unit ready to be activated at a moment's notice to kill the nearest Jew.

OK, I'm exaggerating his position a little (not much). But he was shocked and angered when we told him he was being racist. He quit the group, and AFAIK none of us has ever heard from him again. I'm sure he's now a happy participant in Li77le Gr33n F00tba11s.

#216 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2008, 08:49 AM:

I don't know how your buses work, but many have the handicapped/senior seats with nothing in front of them because it's hard for many disabled/older people to move sideways accurately

Indeed, the special seats are benches that face the center of the bus rather than individual seats that face the front. But I don't quite see what that has to do with anything, seeing as there wasn't anyone standing in front of the open space on the bench; he would not have had to move sideways to sit in it, and those of us sitting on the facing bench were not in any way impeding his progress.

As a person who was forced to deal with impaired mobility for a bit there (thankfully, I healed), I saw no reason for his behavior other than general cussedness and a sense of entitlement.

#217 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2008, 03:36 PM:

Briefly back on topic, another comment to flag has been most kindly suggested.

People are surely sensitive around here.

#218 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2008, 03:41 PM:

abi... People are surely sensitive around here.

What is that supposed to mean?

#219 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2008, 02:08 AM:

Carrie S., #216, I'm sorry, when you said "an open seat," I assumed it was not on a handicapped/seniors bench. I was thinking your benches were two seats each, like ours, and now I'm thinking they're three.

#220 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2008, 08:38 AM:

Marilee, yes--two benches of three seats each, and the open seat was the center space of one of those benches. On the new buses, anyway; the older ones sometimes have no benches, and sometimes have different configurations.

#221 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2008, 09:00 AM:

#214 LMB:

True. The hard part of having those conversations is:

a. Realizing that something you'd taken as a given (the goodness of democracy, the badness of torture, the danger of overpopulation) is really up for discussion.

b. Figuring out how to argue/discuss that kind of issue, or at least how to coexist in a discussion with people who don't agree with you on that kind of issue.

Sometimes, (b) isn't worth the trouble--you know enough to be very confident of your side of the argument and you know by experience that it's pretty hard to move the other side toward any more reasonable position. An example of this is young-Earth creationism; there's no way to make it consistent with the facts of a hundred disciplines, and its adherents are mostly holding a position based on faith, and falling away from their beliefs on creationism is tied in their minds to falling away from their religious faith and identity. At some point, it just isn't interesting arguing against it anymore.

Other times, it's just hard to get past (a). I've seen otherwise apparently rational people more-or-less advocate genocide against the Muslims (or a large subset thereof) as a solution to the war on terror. I just flat can't get my brain around the idea that this could somehow be okay--mass murder on a scale that dwarfs the holocaust just isn't something I can square with any kind of moral code. Moral arguments are inherently hard to get anywhere with, because at some point, we end up just having different premises. The best you can do is to say "well, if you accept those premises in that part of your life, what would it look like to apply them to other parts?" And that's problematic, because war in general involves moral decisions you don't accept anywhere else. (Think of MAD.)

I'd like to think that being an SF reader makes it a little easier to accept that people can live by completely different ideas and principles than I do. Probably being a (more-or-less) libertarian in a world full of Democrats and Republicans helps more; I know what it's like to be working from rather different premises than the people around me. But being able to stay in an argument/discussion with people with sufficiently odd ideas is often just *hard*.

#222 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2008, 10:20 PM:

Bruce @ 114: My response now to the "people should get thicker skinned" argument starts with "Why?" If someone's going to be required to make an accommodation, why not make it start on the other end?

Thank you so much for this - and thank you all for this thread.

The other night, I went to the Boulder Municipal Airport for a seminar/refresher on the ever so exciting topic of weight and balance. Six people attended, including the organizer, and male versus female attendance was split right down the middle. Which is kind of neat.

Generally, women in aviation isn't really an issue in the Denver area, especially not in Boulder. I have to go out of town to hear sexist crap (like General Aviation News Magazine's jovial support last fall for the guy selling "why airplanes are better than women" T-shirt) or find people surprised to meet a female pilot (like the airport staff in Rock Springs who reportedly exclaimed "That's a gurl up there!" when I announced my approach).

So I was a bit surprised to hear that sort of crap at the seminar. Thankfully, it wasn't from the presenter. It was from the guy sitting behind me. The presenter had, upon seeing me taking notes on my laptop, told an anecdote concerning an uncooperative computer, a woman who argued that he wasn't using the computer right, and him insisting that it was the computer's fault. He didn't make a big deal about the tech being female. That's just how the character allocation panned out.

The guy behind me jumped on the opportunity to say, "Yeah, like this guy I know used to say, 'When it comes to women or computers, treat 'em as if they were...'" What did he say? "Haunted?" I guess. Prone to behave illogically and be out to get you.

I managed a withering look that went unnoticed. But when the presenter said, "We'll be here about 3 hours..." I took a deep breath and said, "And will we be treated to the unflattering comments about women the whole time?" The guy behind me said, "Hey, that was my comment, not his," and I said, "I know. You may have noticed women fly now. Aviation is no longer a boy's club."

The presenter kindly defused the situation by changing the subject and beginning the seminar, and I wasn't sure whether I did right. I mean, yay me for not just biting my tongue and fuming, but was this the right time? *sigh*

So after that I was really dreading the coffee break midway through the presentation. And indeed the guy with the comment was quick to corner me as I refilled my cup and tell me how in his family he let the women be the boss ("let?") and how they were all strong women who nevertheless didn't mind comments like that. You know. I respect women, therefore I'm allowed to make comments like that; and besides no other woman I've come across ever minded! You obviously have some growing up to do if my comment bothered you.

I told him, good for him, but when it comes to aviation, I make a point of voicing my disapproval of sexist speech, because the more it is tolerated, the more women will feel unwelcome in the general aviation community.

He says, not in his experience, he sees more women wanting to be pilots than men, so there.

I said, thinking of my favorite bloggity stomping grounds, "Have you ever heard the expression, 'Data is not the plural of anecdote'?"

"No."

"Well, now you have. You're fortunate that your anecdotes are positive ones. Many of us have had more negative experiences." Thinking again of ML, of this very thread, I went on: "And, you know, there's value to growing a thicker skin and not getting offended by every little thing, but if we're always supposed to just have a thicker skin and not get offended, that rather rewards the wrong behavior, doesn't it?"

He said, by way of ending the conversation, "I understand your point," and I said "thank you for understanding," and we went back to our seats and the seminar resumed.

And the reason I'm relating this anecdote here is to thank this community for 1) convincing me that it's important to speak up, and 2) providing me with talking points that make it easier for me to speak up without getting tongue-tied/frustrated to tears/run over by my "conversation" partner. I don't know whether he's going to take anything valuable away from the exchange or just blow it off as an encounter with just another humorless feminist, but I know I feel better.

So thank you.

#223 ::: Ralph Giles ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2008, 01:26 AM:

Nicole @ 222: Sounds like you did a lovely job.

Data is not the plural of anecdote is completely awesome. Or brilliant, as I'm informed we shall be saying this year.

#224 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2008, 01:53 AM:

Good for you, Nicole!

#225 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2008, 02:03 AM:

Nicole: Good on ya!

It's never the right time, and it's always a good thing.

I'm glad we were able to help.

Next time, it will probably be easier. As for the thicker skin, seems his isn't as lazarushian as he might have thought.

#226 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2008, 03:04 AM:

Go Nicole! Well done.

#227 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2008, 06:23 AM:

Nicole, it sounds like you handled it well to me. And aviation is still SO dominated by men, despite the fact that there are more women training. My husband was an helicopter instructor for over a year, and I can only remember him mentioning two women as students. Although, his sample might have been limited, as since he was the lightest instructor they had on staff, they tended to pair him up with the largest students.
Boulder seems as though it would be a beautiful place to fly. I know you've mentioned being from the New Orleans area, but I don't know if you disliked the weather as much as I did. For me, it was a HUGE relief to move to the Pacific Northwest. Everyone worried that I would complain about the rain, but the rain seemed like such a small price to pay for not having 8 months of sweltering, unable-to-breathe heat a year. Anyway, I hope Colorado agrees with you!

#228 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2008, 09:50 AM:

Nicole... Yay for you!

#229 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2008, 02:46 PM:

"The plural of anecdote is not data" is actually a misquote that reverses the original meaning.

It was apparently originally said by Raymond Wolfinger:

I said "The plural of anecdote is data" some time in the 1969-70 academic year while teaching a graduate seminar at Stanford. The occasion was a student's dismissal of a simple factual statement--by another student or me--as a mere anecdote. The quotation was my rejoinder. Since then I have missed few opportunities to quote myself.
This update brought to you by The Committee To Eradicate Oakland Signs That Say Only "There" (aka The King Canute Memorial Society).

#230 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2008, 04:20 PM:

Nicole 222: Whoo-Hoo!!!! That was just about perfect. You made your point clearly and strongly, without being at all rude (even though he was, at least in his initial comment). If he got nothing from that, it was his listening that was at fault.

And unpleasant as you found it that he cornered you, I would speculate (though I wasn't there and you were) that he at least cared what you thought of him. It sounds like he listened (or at least didn't try to stop you from talking, as men so often do). It's not so easy to admit you did something wrong, but he may have concluded that he did.

None of which excuses him, but I daresay you at least gave him food for thought.

Back in my young asshole days, I was occasionally on his side of that conversation, having offended someone by saying something offensive without intending offense, mostly because I tended to talk without intending much of anything. If I had behaved as he did, it would have been because I was prepared to listen, and while I might have been convinced I was right for several hours after the conversation, or even several days, eventually I would have realized I was wrong.

That's just an anecdote, but as a former piglet, let me tell you that some piglets DO learn!

#231 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2008, 05:01 PM:

Nicely done, Nicole.

The airplane doesn't give a damn what chromosomes the pilot is carrying around. Last weekend my wife and I went out for a little local area flight, and I listened as the female pilot in the 310 ahead of me got her IFR clearances. Being strictly a VFR kinda guy, I give props to anyone who deals competently with that.

#232 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2008, 06:45 PM:

1) Yay Nicole

2) re: original thread topic, see Gabriel Ortiz's Stupid Filter -- he just got name-checked by News Of The Weird (in print, but I can't find it online).

#233 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2008, 08:48 PM:

Nicole, right on! That sounds like better than I usually manage to do in comparable situations, honestly. :)

#234 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2008, 11:12 AM:

Bruce #233:

Agreed. And in that particular case I would have been totally unable not to inquire sweetly if the guy perhaps could tell me the name of the current commanding officer on the space station.

What I really admire about Nicole was that she was able to see what the real problem was, and deal from *there*.

#235 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2008, 09:20 PM:

Aw. Y'all are making me blush. When I posted, I certainly wasn't looking for pats on the back, but they do sure feel nice.

Terry Karney: "lazarushian" is now going into my permanent short-term vocabulary retrieval. It sounds Infernokrusher. I like it.

EClaire: Actually, living in Colorado has made me really miss the humidity of New Orleans. Yesterday a friend did a great henna doodle on my hand, and the dyed patches really bring the dry, scaly texture of abused skin into sharp relief. "Moisturize me, moisturize me!" However, learning to fly at a mile above sea level is very good for driving home the importance of understanding density altitude. (Yesterday I managed to shut off a Cessna 152 during run up while trying to adjust the mixture for peak performance. The usual procedure up here on the mountain is to slowly reduce mixture until you see the drop in RPMs, then you put it back to the where peak RPMs were, and then you give it 2 more full turns. When I got to the drop, it just dropped out. Oops. I imagine doing that in the air might have been kinda scary.) I recall taking a lesson at the New Orleans Lakefront Airport during a visit home and being astounded when the instructor told me to just shove the mixture to full rich and leave it there.

Ralph: I was quoting from memory a saying I see used here often. Or misquoting, as the case may be...

Lexica: I am amazed! I had no idea. So... maybe what I should get in the habit of saying is "one anecdote doesn't make a convincing case"?

Xopher: It was a blessing that he didn't keep talking over me - that's what makes me totally lose it. And I totally get what you're saying about how he must have cared at least about what I thought of him - maybe he'll take something away from *that* angle and there will be positive gain. "If I don't want women to think poorly of me, I shouldn't make funny jokes about women" isn't as good as "It's wrong to talk about women as though they were inferior and all alike," but if it's all that's offered I'll take it.

Bruce: It was better than *I* usually do in similar situations, which is why I'm so grateful to this thread. Whenever the topic of conversation at Making Light turns to moderation and troll behavior, it's like a pair of perfect prescription glasses through which so many hitherto complex, frustrating situations become clear. My toolbox acquires new equipment.

Some long time ago I followed a link Uncle Jim posted on AbsoluteWrite to the USEnet "R*ck*ids" saga, and from there I somehow ended up reading a discussion about how we are often blind to people who mean us harm in banal, everyday ways because we tend to assume everyone acts from good intentions. A post Teresa made in that discussion gave me brand new eyes concerning something going on in my life at the time. And there's the Making Light effect all over again.

#236 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2008, 09:24 PM:

David Hartmann: That StupidFilter project? Is made of pure win. Thank you.

It may need to be tempered with more subtlety in order to be more broadly useful, however, if their Randomized Stupidity link is any indication...

#237 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2008, 09:31 PM:

Missed one.

Steve C: I'm with you. VFR only myself, and every once in awhile I consider beginning IFR training. So far, that results in me saying "...not just yet," and then deciding to do something easy(er) like getting checked out in a new type of plane or taking a solo cross-country to an unfamiliar airport. I'm in awe of anyone who's braved and completed IFR.

Multi-engine, or IFR, first? Or would that question represent far too much of a thread hijack?

#238 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2008, 04:19 PM:

Nicole: re anecdata: What usually happens (and why, I think, that quotation has been reversed) is people extrapolating the singular experience related in a personal anecdote to the norm.

Of course, in fact, the plural of anecdote can be data, but they have to be collected.

Lazarushian is from the last verse of Gunga Din, and a great word, glad to help.

#239 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2009, 10:49 AM:

Cadbury Moose see drugs spam....

AlcormaProore needs nuking until they glow.

#240 ::: fidelio agrees it's spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2009, 10:54 AM:

The moose is right.

#241 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2009, 11:01 AM:

Splendid! Have a chocolate truffle...

(FX: passes box over)

Cadbury

#242 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2009, 11:34 AM:

nom, nom, nom...

#243 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2009, 12:17 PM:

Hey, if I'd known there would be chocolates... Are these Xopher's chocolate truffles, by any chance? Because I've heard such good things...

#244 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2009, 12:28 PM:

I like EClaire's too (too bad that's not as ambiguous as the punctuationally-challenged would have it).

But actually I'm sure it's chocolate moose.

#245 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2009, 12:33 PM:

I'm in one of the high-risk categories for influenza, "swine flu" and otherwise, and have been for decades

I don't have to pay. Three cheers for Nye Bevan! (And he didn't set things up to afflict Doctors with poverty.)

There's something damn strange about that post, but there's always something damn strange about the US health care systems.

You don't think it's all the references to Socialist Health Care which are confusing the crooks?

#246 ::: Pendrift sees spam, maybe ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 08:21 AM:

One other occurrence of the text online in an unrelated forum.

#247 ::: spam deleted ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2010, 12:53 AM:

[ spam from 205.200.78.138 ]

#248 ::: Paul Duncanson sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2010, 10:24 PM:

Spam spam spam spam...

#249 ::: Mary Aileen sees self-referential spam ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2011, 02:04 PM:

Spam comment asking how to block spam? The irony, it burns!

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