Back to previous post: All Singing

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Graphing the Novel

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

August 5, 2008

Scenes From The Lives Of The Great Moderators
Posted by Patrick at 09:28 PM * 126 comments

You really have to read the first seventy or so comments to this innocuous Boing Boing post, tiresome though many of those comments are, in order to grasp in full what follows. At #72 TNH is still trying to talk sense to the insensate. At #80 she’s inventing a whole new universe of discourse instead. Flee, puny Earthlings.

Comments on Scenes From The Lives Of The Great Moderators:
#1 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2008, 10:25 PM:

Vowels may be gone,
The music's lost as well,
But verse and interplay
Unring the mod's bright bell.

#2 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2008, 10:44 PM:

This is just to say
I have purchased
the watch
that came with
a pustule

and which
you were probably
cursing
for bad taste

Forgive me
it was ostentatious
and I wanted
the world

#3 ::: Montana Writer ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2008, 10:45 PM:

Moderation is the realm of mediocrity.

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2008, 10:47 PM:

I'm not sure it's a whole new universe of discourse. I can think of a lot of times when Making Light has exploded into more elaborate games.

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2008, 10:50 PM:

#3: That's what you get for not being thorough about sterilizing the outside of your spaceship before you make planetfall.

#6 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2008, 11:00 PM:

I dreamt of a great timepiece
Grand of scale and vision
And massive upon my wrist

More than a tool
to mark the passing of time
It's mass and weight
Would serve to remind me
When surfing had taken me
Beyond the realm of time,
Leading me to phases
where I should not let me go

Alas, I did not comprehend
The portent of the pustule:
Instead of serving as a minder
The pustule burst and, lo
All my time was gone.

#7 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2008, 11:01 PM:

What I'd like to know is whether or not the "€3,21" typo that was confusing to people is going to be fixed.

In other (perhaps more encouraging) news, over on Fark, people have started to fight back against the trolls with poetry.

#8 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2008, 11:07 PM:

Earl Cooley III @ 7:

Hmmm..

Y'mean like:

Gnarly, gnarly troll
Taunt me not a second time
Go, be done, begone!

?

#9 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2008, 11:59 PM:

What some people seem to continually forget, is the concept of "our blog, our rules"

#10 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 12:05 AM:

I am getting sooo much better at reading the disemvoweled comments there. Then again, a lot of them are pretty similar.

#11 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 12:19 AM:

Sorry, I can't see the trolling. Teresa's response was astonishing and hilarious even by her typically high standards, but... that doesn't change the fact that disemvowelling HuronBob was wrong. Yes, he has a stupid handle, and yes, perhaps he was only saying something that perhaps everyone already knew (watches costing half a million dollars are *ridiculous* status symbols, and anyone who'd buy them is necessarily going to be a complete oik at best: after all, you can't benefit from that unless everyone *knows* how very much your watch cost)... but plenty of other people on that thread said things which everyone already knew and which were much duller, and didn't get disemvowelled.

So, sorry, I can't see the standard here.

(FWIW I read the Making Light comment threads obsessively and am firmly of the belief that ML has one of the best comment communities ever on the entire Internet. The BoingBoing comment threads are a toxic swamp by comparison, largely because of the sheer ridiculous *degree* of comment disemvowelment and deletion. It's not a discourse anymore, it's the tattered shreds of one. Discourses have a certain unity which is lost when too many comments are deleted and too many people are responding to things that are no longer visible: it's as if you're listening to a population which goes around replying to the empty air, apropos of nothing, all the time.

Also, for me at least, there's a certain mental jolt when I encounter a disemvowelled lump of text, just as there is when the language of the text changes, even if I don't try to read the disemvowelled text. When that happens dozens of times per thread, the whole thing becomes simply too damn tiring to read. Maybe if the disemvowelled text were coloured differently it would be easier to isolate and skip it... but for me, right now, BoingBoing is an example of overmoderation unto unreadability, much as many Usenet newsgroups are an example of undermoderation into unreadability.

I wish this were not so. Still, BoingBoing itself, absent the comment threads, remains readable.)

#12 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 12:21 AM:

(Anyone responding `the standard is that it's their blog so they can do whatever they want' is missing my point completely.)

#13 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 12:49 AM:

The earlier comments bring to mind the reply by "Cecil Adams" to a reader that was burning to drag a "Straight Dope" article into a partially-related tangent: "When we are talking about the price of mangoes in Sumatra, I am not interested in having you drag in your opinions on the temperature of spit in Wichita.

#14 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 02:48 AM:

Pustule of time turns.
You should not be serious:
no vowels were harmed.

#15 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 03:03 AM:

Sigh, Nix said what I was going to say. I don't find BoingBoing's comment sections entirely unreadable, but neither do I really get why HuronBob's first comment was disemvowelled.

*shrugs*

However, the poetry is pretty fabulous, and the watch amazing (if, indeed, ostentatious). I love the idea that it's really a trans-dimensional portal control device! :D

#16 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 03:06 AM:

I find I have to agree with Nix, that the disemvoweled comments on that thread really didn't reach a level calling for disemvowelment.

The first disemvoweled comment, by GonzoMultiverse, called the watch ridiculous and asked who would buy it when children were starving.

I took a look at GonzoMultiverse's profile, which shows all his earlier comments. He generally makes short, one or two sentence comments, one of which is generally "smartass". His comment on the watch was in the same vein... and that was apparently the first time he's ever been disemvoweled.

I may be reading between the lines here, but my impression is that one of the BB moderators read that comment as a personal slam against Cory Doctorow... which I don't think was a fair reading... and reacted too emotionally and too swiftly.

If a post about that watch had appeared here on MAKING LIGHT, and GonzoMultiverse had come along and posted the same comment... I don't think it would have been disemvoweled here. Smartass remarks (and thread drift, too) happen pretty often here. (Would I be right to guess that it was one of the other moderators, rather than Teresa, who did the actual disemvoweling?)

Let's save disemvoweling for personal attacks, or vile language, or something equally deserving or exceptional.

Oh, wait! I should make this comment in poetry form for this thread, shouldn't I?


Making Light comments
Vowels are mostly retained
Boing Boing: Poof!

#17 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 03:28 AM:

The troika should I think be (getting two whole words of Latin in):

Ad hominem,
Vile language,
Trolling and egotistical derailment.

which is pretty much what Teresa's criteria seem to me to be, because they ruin comment threads as the posters get too het up or focused on ME ME ME to the detriment of any more interesting topic. "I disagree with you and here's why" is not deserving of disemvowelment IMHO (not least because if you remove that sort of thing you get a really boring comment thread). Worse is what you get on boingboing, where "I disagree with you and here's why" is seemingly zapped *unless* the poster is a member of a small clique of long-standing regulars.

I agree that the problem is almost certainly non-TNH moderators working on a hyperfine hair trigger, which is a simply wonderful way to auto-derail any comment thread and turn it from a mass of happy poetry and deservingly-derisory laughter at ridiculous-by-design watches and turn it into a mass of metacommentary on over-harsh moderation.

Er. Oops. (Sorry.)

(anvil strikes head)

#18 ::: G D Townshende ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 03:48 AM:

If my great-uncle had left me his pocket-watch collection when he died, I would've had more than enough money to have bought myself that watch. I doubt, however, that the royalties from his books — Encyclopedia of Dollar Watches and Almost Everything You Wanted to Know About American Pocket Watches and Didn't Know Who to Ask — would've covered it.

But...

Ding dong! That watch is strong!
And someone's rung my bell.
Its gong, it heralds the dawn,
It makes my heart to swell.

Ding dong! I love its song!
I know its notes so well.
Is't wrong, that my wealth I'll pawn,
So I may hear its bell?

But...

Ding dong! Something's wrong!
And someone's rung my bell.
It's wrong! Why such a throng?
It can't've cast such a spell.

Ding dong! My face is long,
To see such crowds that swell.
It's wrong! Why such a throng?
I fear I shan't hear its bell.

And now...

Ding dong, th' watch is gone,
And someone's rung my bell.
It's wrong that now comes th' dawn,
And on it my thoughts doth dwell.

Swan song, th' watch's now gone,
My heartbreak's hard to quell (sigh).
It's wrong, th' watch's long gone,
And now my heart sounds its knell.

#19 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 04:08 AM:

Comparing BoingBoing to Making Light is comparing apples to howler monkeys. For instance, Making Light has never given up—for years—on having comments because the trolls took over.

I am not privy to what goes on behind the scenes at BoingBoing, but my guess is that it's under siege. It's big, it's visible, and it looks vulnerable. Every concession to trollery, such as closing comments in Little Brother threads, represents the victory of someone who knows that they closed comments once, and maybe they can be driven to do it again. What a feather in the cap of a troll, to be the one who took BB down again.

But to even acknowledge their existence is to grant them some legitimacy, so if they exist, the Boingers don't discuss it. Which means the other side of the net sees only the tip of the iceberg and says they're overreacting.

I suspect that the filth that passes over Teresa's screens each day would probably drive me to distraction and despair. She is made of far stronger stuff than I am, but I hope she is holding up. Because it's a big internet, and not everyone is using their company manners.

#20 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 04:36 AM:

I still think 'moderator' is completely the wrong word for that kind of epic (or is it lyrical?) conversational catalysis. I finally wrote up my call for a new word (after TNH already supplied me with tummler).

#21 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 05:14 AM:

abi, I imagine it's pretty damn bad (and moderating it is not a job I'd take for any sum), but I can't imagine that it's worse than, say, rec.arts.sf.written on a bad day, or, in extremis, alt.religion.scientology (axiom: nothing can be worse than a.r.s). Yet as far as I can see we're not getting a few persistent trolls and morphs zapped: *lots* of *different* people are getting stuff canned, and many of these people are not persistent trolls. (This is a guess based on their variable writing styles: only a mod with access to IP address info can tell for sure-ish.)

If true, this says to me that this degree of moderation is trapping people who aren't actually out to spoil the discourse: and every such trap is a false positive that harms rather than helping.


But I haven't slept in 48 hours and haven't eaten in a week so perhaps I'm not entirely rational right now and am casting at shadows.

#22 ::: Pete Darby ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 05:19 AM:

Well, I was with Teresa: that first comment was essentially saying "anyone interested in this article is a crass materialist. Won't someone think of the starving children?". Without any irony whatsoever.

Which is a fine thing to post on your own blog with a link to the BB post, but in place at BB flags you up as the gatecrasher shouting at the partygoers. It's of a piece with the "boring" pose decried in the mod guidelines.

PS Yes, I think that watch belongs in a museum of "Things that folks in the 21st Century should have recognized as harbringers of their downfall". Along with the electric-powered paper towel dipsenser and the civilian hummer.

PPS

This watch is overpriced and crass,
Won't someone think of the children?
I saw and I thought I'll pass,
Won't someone think of the children?
It's a bulky, chunky, ugly mass,
Just fit for the bourgeois class,
And this comment makes me look an ass,
Won't someone think of the children?

and...

What have you done for the Africans
Who are starving and needy and such?
Today I told some Americans
This ugly watch costs too much.

#23 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 05:39 AM:

I think that a portable orrery would be best produced as a necklace. Probably I don't mean a necklace. Is there a separate word for those things with multiple concentric loops of, say, beads or semiprecious stones worn round the neck? Little planets moving along each loop. Either that or a spectacularly impractical hat. It might work at Ascot, as worn by the wife of a member of the British Rocket Group. ("How nice to see you, Lady Quatermass.")

I was duly impressed that this watch is a repeater - as featured in numerous Regency novels and Golden Age whodunnits.

#24 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 05:41 AM:

My grandfather's watch cost much more than a house
So he lived all his life in a tent.
He would say, "I sleep dry, so there's no call to grouse.
I just think what I'm saving on rent."
And he wore it to bed on the night that he was wed,
And when Gran left with Auntie and Dad.
When the watch broke, he barely even spoke.
It was all he had.

Ninety years was he struggling
Scritch, scratch, scritch, scratch,
All the bills he was juggling
Scritch, scratch, scritch, scratch.
When the watch broke, he barely even spoke.
It was all he had.

#25 ::: Tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 06:49 AM:

In close-up it looks, somehow, cheap. That date thing. Not good enough. And no GPS? For that kind of money I'd expect it to double as a sex-toy at least. Even in Euros. Whatever they are.

#26 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 06:50 AM:

I am Colosso, Hysek Watch of Watches,
Look on my works Boing-boingers, and say:
"Oooh, shiny!"

#27 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 06:51 AM:

abi @ 19... Comparing BoingBoing to Making Light is comparing apples to howler monkeys... Or gourds to gorillas? Or chips to chimpanzees? Or oranges to orang-outangs? Or maraschino cherries to macaques?

#28 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 07:33 AM:

Montana Writer @ #3 Moderation is the realm of mediocrity.

Why, exactly, do people keep using the word "mediocrity" with such an implied sneer? Could someone tell me what's supposed to be wrong with mediocrity?

#29 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 07:37 AM:

25: ...Even in Euros. Whatever they are.

A euro is a nocturnal marsupial of the kangaroo family, just over a metre long and weighing up to 35 kg (80lb). It is highly adapted to desert living and requires little food or water to survive. It makes a loud hissing noise.

Yes, it is. Really.

#30 ::: Pete Darby ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 07:59 AM:

#3 : Moderation is the realm of mediocrity.

Much moderation is the manipulation of mostly mundane mulch to a median of mediocrity.

And affronted alliteration with ambitions to aphorism is the apex of assholery, AFAICS.

Such seemingly snobbish sneering would be more seemly if such submissions as were subject to sanction were superior to the sea of scum from with they slipped, as opposed to being outcrops of officious off-topic outrage outside of the on-subject offerings.

#31 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 08:08 AM:

Nix, #11: The BoingBoing comment threads are a toxic swamp by comparison, largely because of the sheer ridiculous *degree* of comment disemvowelment and deletion.

I think you may have cause and effect reversed.

Personally, I think Boing Boing's moderation is sometimes too gentle. I also think the disemvowelled comments that kicked off the argument deserved the honor. If seeing something like that watch really, genuinely raises conflicted feelings in somebody, that's fine; they should feel free to say so. But they also should be able to find ways to talk about it that don't make them sound like humorless, sneering 19th-century headmasters trying to dampen some student's unseemly display of enthusiasm. It's not like these guys were kicking back against some serious evil. Cory wasn't promoting bullying, bigotry, torture, or injustice of either the social or economic varieties. He just thought an overpriced watch--and he pointed out himself, in the headline, even, that it was ridiculously expensive--was neat.

#32 ::: Matt ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 08:45 AM:

Nix, et al.

I think you are missing the point of disemvowelling HuronBob. I don't think he was trolling, or making a personal attack, I think he was just way off topic.

Thread topic: Hey! Cool watch!

HuronBob: Lets discuss the work of Thorstein Veblen.

Thread: Did he have a cool watch?

HuronBob: Children are starving in Africa!

Some people at BB didn't seem to understand the difference between topics. However much the watch may or may not fit in a discussion of Veblen, in a discussion of cool watches, Veblen and starving children are off topic.

#33 ::: David Keck ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 09:32 AM:

(Regarding the word "Mediocrity" at #28

Mediocrity has a pretty negative load in common parlance, I think. (Bad connotations; maybe even bad denotations). Mediocrity is the state of being mediocre -- not moderate. Most English speakers would take offense at having their efforts termed "mediocre." Your random dictionary will typically support this definition.)

#34 ::: strasmangelo jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 10:22 AM:

Thread topic: Hey! Cool watch!
HuronBob: Lets discuss the work of Thorstein Veblen.
Thread: Did he have a cool watch?
HuronBob: Children are starving in Africa!

This does not seem an especially fair summation of the linked thread.

Guy links to half-a-million-dollar watch. Is the only acceptable response to this half-million-dollar watch to say "Cool!"? Are we not allowed to marvel in disgust, even for a moment, at the culture that would produce such a monument to excess?

And really, "starving kids in Africa" isn't some kind of non sequitur here. There are, in fact, lots of people who are starving in Africa, to say nothing of those dying of preventable diseases. Half a million dollars isn't nothing to those people. Hell, a hundred dollars can buy a lot of food and mosquito netting. That there's a market for a tacky half-million-dollar wristwatch at a time of mass food shortages throughout the third world is grotesque, and the existence of extreme poverty isn't unrelated or "off-topic" at all to products marketed to the super-rich.

#35 ::: Matt ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 10:51 AM:

@34 I wasn't really aiming for complete accuracy and fairness, more for humor.

And something doesn't have to be a non sequitur to be off topic. You could go from watches to something like latidtude and longitude without making a non sequitur, but you've still moved off the topic of watches. Talking about extreme poverty is also off the topic of watches, even if they are related subjects.

And since discussions of extreme poverty can bring out very strong emotions in people, I can understand a moderator zapping a few posts to steer the conversation back to the original topic of watches. In fact, I'd understand a moderator zapping a post that was on topic, but worded in a way that provokes off topic replies.

#36 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 11:24 AM:

stras #34:

Why wouldn't this sort of comment be equally appropriate for every topic not focused on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc? I see the point you're raising here, it is sometimes reasonable to go meta in a discussion and say "Say, I'm not so sure we need to be debating the color of the uniforms in our Iranian occupation force, so much as whether the invasion is really a good idea." But it's also pretty easy to turn this kind of comment into an all-purpose threadjack.

For example, I'm really excited about the upcoming Watchmen movie. But how dare I be excited about such a monumental expense going to frivolous entertainment when there are kids starving in the Sudan, kids grieving over their tortured-to-death uncle in Iraq, kids spiking fevers during a losing battle with malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, kids being neglected by their crackhead parents in the US, etc?

I've been thinking a lot about how to apply crypto primitives to solve some practical computer security problems. But how dare I be excited about such a silly intellectual exercise when there are kids starving in the Sudan, kids grieving over their tortured-to-death uncle in Iraq, kids spiking fevers during a losing battle with malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, kids being neglected by their crackhead parents in the US, etc?

I was watching old DS9 episodes the other day, thinking about why the writers did that goofy mystical plotline at the end with Sisko's character. But how dare I waste my time on such frivolities when there are kids starving in the Sudan, kids grieving over their tortured-to-death uncle in Iraq, kids spiking fevers during a losing battle with malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, kids being neglected by their crackhead parents in the US, etc?

There is a legitimate point in there somewhere. Kids dying and being mistreated sucks, and we ought to care about that, even when they're far away and out of sight. But that doesn't mean every form of art, science, literature, sports, hobby, or just goofing off that draws resources away from making things better for those kids is evil. Or maybe you want to argue that it is evil to do anything but deal with the most urgent global needs. That would make a fine discussion in some appropriate thread, but it would still be pretty rude to try to hijack every other thread to demand that all the participants stop talking about Buffy and start talking about how to get more mosquito nets to Africa.

#37 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 11:33 AM:

ajay @29 -- that makes "What has it got in its pocketses?" a very interesting question indeed.

#38 ::: strasmangelo jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 11:34 AM:

@35: But it's not off-topic. And the watch isn't just a watch; it's a watch that costs more than most people's houses, a watch whose cost could go towards feeding many, many people for a very long time. It is relevant, indeed "on-topic," that such a display of conspicuous consumption comes at the grotesque cost of opting not to help many, many people much less fortunate than those who can afford to spend half a million dollars on a watch.

If the post had been about a Hummer stretch limo, it would've been on-topic to mention peak oil or global warming. You don't spend half a million dollars on a wristwatch in isolation from the rest of the world.

#39 ::: strasmangelo jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 11:35 AM:

Why wouldn't this sort of comment be equally appropriate for every topic not focused on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc?

Because not every other topic is about someone spending half a million dollars on a watch?

#40 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 11:41 AM:

#23 ajay

I haven't seen a portable orrery. But I have seen (and coveted) the sundial necklace

#41 ::: Mo ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 11:42 AM:

I don't know about that watch, but I do want this very cool necklace that doubles as cable needles. Via Twist Collective

#42 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 11:44 AM:

Pete Darby (#30): I killed the poetry thread with a bit of alliteration -- good to see it thriving here!

#43 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 11:56 AM:

With all due respect:

I don't envy anyone the task of dealing with the comments at BB, but deleting someone's comment because they made a remark about the perceived immorality of spending $500k on a watch seems unnecessary. To go on to mock the poster personally even more so. The latter can be fun and funny, but I think it's best not to be the moderator of the forum when you do it. The target will naturally and accurately perceive that the difference in power means that he has no real ability to respond in kind.

Sure, it's BB's website, they can do whatever they want, and since I don't read the comments there what do I care? I don't, really, and I like ML & its proprietors very much. But I do wonder if the rather arbitrary & personal moderation style that seems to have become established at BB is contributing to the fever swamp atmosphere. What was the criterion for deletion that the original comment failed? What's wrong with having a conversation about the moral dimensions of (hypothetically) spending $500k on a watch in a thread that's about a $500k watch? I don't think the subject is obviously stupid or inflammatory, and so far as I can tell there were no personal insults involved in the original question.

#44 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 11:59 AM:

40: would that actually work? Don't sundials have to be aligned by compass, and also held flat, to tell the right time? You could incorporate a tiny bubble spirit level, I suppose. If you knew that the ring was only going to be used in one place, and at one time of year, that would be enough - effectively you'd be telling the time by reverse sextant, just measuring the angle of the sun above the horizon (though it would give the same reading for 10 am as 2 pm). For better performance than that you'd need a compass or something.

#45 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 12:08 PM:

There seems to be an amazing amount of not-getting-it running through this thread, as well as the one at BB. Most of the moderated comments over there were from regular users complaining about moderation, a topic which has been explicitly and repeatedly redirected to the Moderation Policy thread; doing so is necessary, as otherwise, over these past few months, every comment thread would have turned into a wrangle about moderation.

Boing-Boing is not Making Light; apples and howler monkeys indeed. There is a pressure there to stay on-topic; here, topic drift is expected, welcomed, even cultivated. I could never post over there (all though I lurk vigorously), being congenitally unable to stay on-topic (except when I hyperfocus and can't be knocked off track by a speeding stretch Humvee). That part of the comment-thread culture over there is amply obvious; why people feel the need to whine about it is a mystery.

#46 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 12:27 PM:

JESR @45: Thank you for for beating me to the punch in a much nicer, far less snarky manner than I was about to compose.

#47 ::: strasmangelo jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 12:52 PM:

Boing-Boing is not Making Light; apples and howler monkeys indeed. There is a pressure there to stay on-topic; here, topic drift is expected, welcomed, even cultivated.

Again, the problem here is that the commenters in question did not actually go off-topic. The thread was about a half-million dollar watch; the disemvoweled comments were about the possible immorality of spending half a million dollars on a watch. How is that unrelated to the topic at hand?

#48 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 01:10 PM:

The thread was about a half-million dollar watch; the disemvoweled comments were about the possible immorality of spending half a million dollars on a watch.

The thread was not about the morality of buying the watch, though, so trying to make it so is as much threadjacking (or maybe trolling) as trying to make 'Time Notices Comments' here about copyright.

#49 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 01:14 PM:

strasmangelo jones @34,38,39,47: You've only gotten one person to fall for your concern trolling in four posts. If you really must persist, can you at least try a little harder? You haven't even earned a doggerel in reply yet, much less a limerick. When you troll here you must aspire to sonnets!

#50 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 01:26 PM:

Without commenting specifically on the particulars of the disemvowelling in question, I found it hilarious to see Takuan and Antinious lecturing other people about manners and axe grinding. I'm not sure they saw the irony, though.

#51 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 01:37 PM:

David Bilek @50:
I found it hilarious to see Takuan and Antinious lecturing other people about manners and axe grinding

Yes, you sound very joyful. Indeed, the tone of your comment is a light and a delight to this conversation.

I begin to wonder, in general, if you could restrain the ebullient delight at the BoingBoing moderation that you have been expressing in an almost unbroken gush since you first started commenting here (with this email address, anyway)? It's embarrassing to have someone spend so much time and energy on this site discussing almost nothing else but how much he loves another website.

#52 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 01:38 PM:

I think I know what's missing here. The reason why comments get zapped so rapidly for being off-topic on boingboing is because *we don't have a decent threading system*, but just a single linear, er, line of comments. If instead the comments formed a web of replies (as they do with decent Usenet newsreaders), zapping off-topic stuff would be much less important, because the off-topic responses wouldn't be randomly interspersed with the on-topic stuff, but a coherent entity rooted at a single off-topic post. That's so easy to skip that you'd rarely need to demote/downrate the off-topic post, and it'd always be easy to catch all the replies too.

The user interface of blogs is, to be blunt, bloody awful, and this is just a symptom of that.

(Yay! I've reduced it to a technical problem! I'm happy :) )

#53 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 01:51 PM:

I begin to wonder, in general, if you could restrain the ebullient delight at the BoingBoing moderation that you have been expressing in an almost unbroken gush since you first started commenting here

Your characterization is inaccurate as anyone who reads the previous thread can see.

Secondly, the topic of this thread is about a boing boing thread. If commenting about a boing boing thread is a problem, why the hell have it in the first place?

Thirdly, yes "with this email address" would be accurate given that it's a new email address. I've been commenting here off an on for, oh, as long as it's been around. But thanks for asking.

#54 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 01:54 PM:

Oh, I really disagree. Threading is worse than useless in most discussion software, it just leads to endless repetition of the same points, as people respond to early comments without reading to the end of the comments. But you can have an entirely workable multi-threaded conversation in a linear structure. In fact I'd say we're doing so right here and now. I wouldn't mind threading if it was rare and actually divided conversations into two linear streams, but what usually happens is just deep nesting and great confusion.

Accusations of concern trolling, whining, and "not getting it" seem a bit unfair in response to what seems like good faith disagreement.

#55 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 01:59 PM:


All that is wrong is not nonsense.
Not all who quibble are trolls;
Guarding the thread with too-high fence,
will undermine all of our goals.


Disagreement can make understanding
Some light so the flamefest can end.
We need trust, though it be damned demanding,
that the noob might become a new friend.

#56 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 02:00 PM:

I thought the BB post was about a technologically cool gizmo, with more bells and whistles than one might think could be contained in a mantle clock, let alone a watch. It's silly and shiny and gloriously excessive and bloody expensive, and why shouldn't it be? It's not exactly mass-produced.

In the sense that there's a timekeeping mechanism in there, and it's meant to be worn on one's wrist, it's a 'watch'. But I suspect that thinking of it in the same vein as the Timex things one can get at Sears for ten bucks is obscuring the cool. It's not practical, it's not understated, it's not really something to wear to a party where it is not the guest of honour. It's sure neato-keen, though.

#57 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 02:23 PM:

David,

You're right; I didn't scroll past the first sixty or so comments on your View All By to see that, before May, you were more varied in your comments. I apologize for the over-generalization.

I do note that since then, you have had exactly three comments that were not on this subject. It's always topical, of course, but it's also getting a little predictable. That's why I was glad to see you branching out again on the Open Thread.

But what crossed the line here was that you brought a quarrel into this thread about two people who are not here. Criticize them to their faces, in their own forum, if you please. Don't go stabbing them in the back on another site.

#58 ::: Flippanter ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 02:35 PM:

I am inclined to support Strasmangelo. "That's not what we're talking about" is a traditional response to points that the chair would prefer not to recognize, particularly comments about morality, but somebody used to say something about the worth of the unexamined something.

#59 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 02:43 PM:

It's a piece of art that happens to be shaped like a watch - it's an artist's (designer's) showpiece. If they can swing that kind of money for their work, then good for them; and if they get more commissions as a result, then that's not only a good business model, it'll increase the number of beautiful objects in the world.

Also, Boing Boing is a primary school classroom that happens to be shaped like a blog.

#60 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 02:46 PM:

one problem of comment systems is that there are two strange default assumptions baked into them.
1. everyone should see the same set of comments, and by deafult all of them
2. order of posting is paramount

For a small number of comments, these assumptions are fine, but for longer flows these fail repeatedly.

One reason Twitter is fascinating is that everyone sees something different in it, as what you see depends on who you subscribe to. Yet somehow conversation abounds.

#61 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 03:24 PM:

Jacob Davies @54:Accusations of concern trolling, whining, and "not getting it" seem a bit unfair in response to what seems like good faith disagreement.

I just don't think we're going to get to common ground on this point, but can we at least stipulate that there is room to make a judgement either way? In my view if that's the case, the level of heat being generated in response to a borderline call seems pretty disproportionate, and those folks want to pick a fight rather than provide appropriate feedback over this particular mod-call are indeed trolling.

Flippanter @58: Based on your posting history here, I wonder how supportive you'd be if the topic didn't somehow involve Cory Doctorow & BB?

#62 ::: squelchything ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 03:31 PM:

The thought of orrery necklaces is reminding me of the planet jewellery in Komarr.

</obsf>

#63 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 04:00 PM:

Sam Kelley@#59: It's a piece of art that happens to be shaped like a watch - it's an artist's (designer's) showpiece.

Just so. A price tag that would be outrageous for a wristwatch is not outside the realm of acceptability for a piece of artwork. It's entirely possible that the purchase price of that particular piece of art-that-ticks went to, say, things like the watchmaker's kids' college tuition fund, or the watchmaker's mortgage payments, or even the watchmaker's medical bills.

Artists and craftsmen need to eat and drink and keep themselves housed and healthy as much here as in any other part of the world, and the way that they do it is by making clever and/or beautiful things that other people are willing to pay money for.

#64 ::: Flippanter ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 04:07 PM:

61: Something tells me we'll never know.

#65 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 04:08 PM:

I think the level of heat in here is extremely low. Haven't all the dissents been very politely and carefully worded? And I don't read any of the comments as aiming to pick a fight.

As for new people showing up and only having commented on this one thing, or people whose recent history includes a lot of comments on just one subject, two points to make against reflexively dismissing such comments:

1. That's what happens when one blog comments about another; people who have an opinion about the second blog come to the first and chime in. That's perfectly natural and desirable.

2. A regular reader who generally agrees with what's posted on a blog and who doesn't tend to make chatty/social comments may find themselves only driven to write a comment when they have a viewpoint they don't feel is represented in the existing comments, or when the subject is one particularly close to their interests or expertise. As such their comment history is going to contain a lot of contrarian comments. But that doesn't always mean they're a concern troll, or only around to cause trouble on particular topics.

#66 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 04:26 PM:

Generally:

My primary concern is that this blog not be treated as BoingBoing's moderation thread. I've already disemvowelled someone for doing just that in a previous discussion. I don't do that kind of thing lightly, suddenly or easily, but I will if it's required.

This is a personal blog, not a second court of appeal if discussions on BB have not been resolved to anyone's satisfaction. And there's a limit to how much Teresa can discuss her professional actions in her personal space. In addition, I happen to know that she is traveling today, and will then be at Worldcon. The chances that she's going to read any of the comments here this week are minuscule. So comments intended for her attention are, at best, wasted.

Want to discuss the matter at hand? Great. Continue to be civil. I've addressed the only comment that has crossed my line*.

-----
* Though, as noted, I let my irritation get the better of my facts at first. And I do, again, apologize for that.

#67 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 04:57 PM:

Kevin #60:

I've never done anything with Twitter, but it seems like involved discussions really require that everyone see pretty much the same comments in pretty much the same order. If we assume out-of-order delivery, dropped packetsmessages, and maybe possible duplicates, and if we assume that all the participants may be getting different versions of the conversation with pieces missing and out of order, I don't see how we'd be able to have those kinds of discussions.

#68 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 05:04 PM:

I think this is a "tone of type" issue.

GonzoMultiverse originally posted, on BB:
[reemvoweled] "It's ugly, ridiculous, and impractical. Someone's gonna buy it when there are starving children in the world?"

I think different people are reading different "tones" into those words.

1) The tone I read into that comment is that the "starving children" line has a strong element of tongue-in-cheekiness to it. "Starving children" is a cliche'. I thought it was meant as an ironic statement. I thought it was intended to emphasize the "ridiculous" in the first line of the comment. I thought it was meant as a (somewhat lame) attempt at humor.

2) I think some people read a tone into it of: "My god, people, how can you aspire to conspicuous consumption when there are serious matters afoot in this world? Let's all put on sackcloth and ashes and discuss world poverty."

3) And I think there were a few poeple who read the tone of that comment as: "CORY DOCTOROW, YOU'RE A BAD, BAD, BAD, BAD, BAD, VERY VERY VERY BAD PERSON TO EVEN THINK OF WANTING THIS!!!!" And I think this last "tone" is what got the comment disemvoweled.

Having looked at GonzoMultiverse's past BB comments, and at his blog... it seems pretty clear to me that GonzoMultiverse is trying to make amusing, funny, ironic comments. (As noted, sometimes in a lame manner.)

(I'm not sure if there's anything that can be done about readers bringing different tones of type to written comments, other than trying to be aware of the potential problem, both in others and in oneself.)

The real irony here: The word "Ridiculous" was first used by Cory Doctorow in the very title of the BB post. So GonzoMultiverse got disemvoweled for agreeing with Cory Doctorow....

= = = = =

A modest proposal:

Moderators who disemvowel comments should sign their work.

Say Teresa disemvowels a commment. I think at the end she should post something like [dmv by TNH] at the end of the disemvoweled comment. Similar "signatures" for other moderators, particularly in group-moderated blogs.

This would make clear what "style" a moderator follows in disemvowelments, and whether the moderator group has a "style-sheet" in common, or individual standards.

= = = = =

And I may just be overthinking the whole matter. Not the first time I've done so. (See "Truth, Alchemy and Rules of Thumb" in MAKING BOOK.)

#69 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 05:10 PM:

Jacob #65:

Yeah, I think we're a bit too quick to label someone a troll when they're strangers who are disagreeing with us too loudly. ML is a great place, but that looks to me like one of its great weaknesses. I'll admit, however, that I may be oversensitive on this topic somehow.

Is there some way we could make this work better? A common assumption anyplace you find comment threads is that you, as a relative newcomer, can make comments on any topic you like without being assumed to be some kind of troll or whatnot. In a place with pretty vigorous disagreements from time to time, the natural assumption is that you can vigorously disagree without being called a troll. And yet, the internet is full of drive-by posters who don't want to take part in a discussion, and zillions of relatively bright people hung up on one or two pet issues, who, mostly with the best will in the world, will turn any discussion to those issues if they're allowed to.

Anyway, I don't know how to fix it, but it's an annoying feature of ML.

#70 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 05:16 PM:

albatross #67
well, that is exactly the issue -we're modelling the Oxford Union or Addison's Spectator, rather than the multifaceted overlapping conversations that happen in the real world, where we don't have to listen to any passing nutter, but can choose to concentrate on the opinions of those we already know.

#71 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 05:20 PM:

Another thing that would help would be an unambiguous statement as to just why a particular comment receives moderation, perhaps even as a series of simple icon graphics with clickable links to various paragraphs of the terms of service. Multiple causes could get more than one icon. A fist as a glyph of ad hominem attack, a bolt of lightning glyph for moderator fiat. Hmmm, I'm trying now to think of an icon graphic for "off topic post". Something that invokes the idea of thread jacking (a ball of thread and a jackhammer?)

#72 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 05:23 PM:

Earl @71:
How long before people start trying to get the maximum number of glyphs per comment?

I give it about three hours.

#73 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 05:23 PM:

Add some kind of text-tag to indicate that you aren't serious. Easy and readable. Fewer misunderstandings.

#74 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 05:33 PM:

abi #72:

No, we need the trolls' posts to remain random. Otherwise, our bingo cards won't be filled in randomly.

#75 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 05:34 PM:

TNH posting,
mightily changing
the course of self-pity
in online venues.

#76 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 05:37 PM:

Another thing that would help would be an unambiguous statement as to just why a particular comment receives moderation, perhaps even as a series of simple icon graphics with clickable links to various paragraphs of the terms of service.

Takes too much moderator time and effort -- more time and effort than the trolls use, and multiplied when there are multiple trolls.

Yog presses the button. Easier all around that way. One mouse-click and the problem is solved.

#77 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 05:56 PM:

Jacob Davies @65: I think the level of heat in here is extremely low. Haven't all the dissents been very politely and carefully worded? And I don't read any of the comments as aiming to pick a fight.

Sorry, I should have clearly indicated the heat on BB, not the spillover here.

If your follow-on points were addressed to me, I don't think my question in #61 was out of bounds - a touch snarky perhaps, but not out of bounds given the indications of issue bias.

#78 ::: Flippanter ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 05:58 PM:

One mouse-click and the problem is solved.

"Solved" seems a bit of an overstatement, given the length and tone of these complaining-about-moderation discussions.

#79 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 07:10 PM:

I am raising my hand to indicate that I like the notion of treating it as a technical problem. Something along the lines of different views of a thread depending on one's level of involvement (languagehat and I got into a flamewar last month for the express purpose of educating me in thalamic engagement!)

Threaded fora never work well, which is why they have largely vanished. Yes, there are large, well-established communities like /. to disprove my point, but it's looking like /. and Scoop and the like aren't working to produce automoderation. Why not?

I've never even looked at Twitter, but I suspect that any conversation there takes place in spite of, rather than because of, its model. There are no threads at all, except for people's memory of the moment -- no history (please correct me if I'm wrong, but Twitter ... uh ... what's the unit of Twitter discourse? The twit? Anyway, one twit doesn't have an explicit reference to another twit, right?)

And yet ... and yet. Intuitively, I feel there must be a solution lurking there just under the surface.

#80 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 07:46 PM:

lets just admit it -- someone who declaims "what about the starving children" as a response to an article that is *REALLY* making fun of conspicuous consumption is a concern troll trying to hijack the comment stream..

And their comments deserve to be disenvoweled.

And to say that a reminder of "their blog, their rules" is "missing the point" is itself missing the point -- if you are unhappy with the moderation practices,you need to remind yourself why you are reading in the first place - and is you still don't like the practice, you can always choose not to read the comments, the articles or the entire board.

#81 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 07:58 PM:

lets just admit it -- someone who declaims "what about the starving children" as a response to an article that is *REALLY* making fun of conspicuous consumption is a concern troll trying to hijack the comment stream..

And their comments deserve to be disenvoweled.

And to say that a reminder of "their blog, their rules" is "missing the point" is itself missing the point -- if you are unhappy with the moderation practices,you need to remind yourself why you are reading in the first place - and is you still don't like the practice, you can always choose not to read the comments, the articles or the entire board.

#82 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 08:11 PM:

How I might try to solve the problem technically:

First, implement a simple comment raiting mechanism ala ./, digg, reddit, etc. I would use the following:
++ Very Good Contribution
+ Good Contribution
- Poor Contribution
-- Very Poor Contribution
Of course a lot of sites do this and then let you threshold on aggregated scores, but they don't do anything sophisticated with this wonderful data.

We could then:
1) Personalize the score you see for a particular comment based on filters. For example: "Ignore all Manic/Depressives (people who only score ++/--'s)", "Ignore anyone with less than 20 ratings", "Ignore anyone who hasn't been a member for six months"

2) Every time rate a comment we dump the entire text into your Bayesian rating profile buckets. By building a profile based on your participation we can start to generate clusters and estimate your affinity to other members, posts, topics, etc.

3) Everytime you post a comment we dump the entire text into your Bayesian posting profile buckets, along with attendant scores. This lets us start to take guesses at who is most likely to be a good contributor on new topics/threads as well as flag potential spam/trolls and hold them for moderation.

There's my five minute design. I'm sure it has a lot of holes, but I think the general idea has some merit.

#83 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 08:13 PM:

Oh, Ghods -- for some reason Vista sent thed comment twice.

Ghu, but I really do *not* like Vista.

(But it's what came loaded on the laptop, and I don't have the money to buy a version of XP to replace it, and all my *other* software (like the stuff I use at work) is all MS-centric so Linux/etc are out of bounds, thank you very much for asking)

#84 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 09:12 PM:

That watch is fabulous and I wish I had it. I'd wear it. Great jewelry. Can't afford it. Foo.

Love, C.

#85 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 09:40 PM:

Craig R., if it's Vista Business or Ultimate, you can legally downgrade it to XP without buying an XP license. Of course, you'd still have to have media.

#86 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 10:00 PM:

albatross #67 and Michael Roberts #79

I'm gently amused by your dismissal of Twitters model based on your non-experience of it. It is actually very simple. You say (short) things. You decide whose things to listen to. Conversation happens. Trolling doesn't.

#87 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 10:14 PM:

Kevin Marks @ 86: I've had, if not coversations, on Twitter, at least actual back and forth discussion, both with friends and acquaintances. I find the 140 character limitation focusing if sometimes limiting.

#88 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 11:12 PM:

Kevin #86:

Fair enough. I'm guilty of the common net-ism of "Well, I've never been to Mauritania, or read anything about it, or met anyone who's been there. But here's my opinion on what you should see if you go visit...."

Craig R #80 (and his Vista box, #81):

I think the problem with their blog, their rules is that it works under the assumption that the owner of the blog also owns the main reasons why people read it. That's true for many blogs--for example, I don't really read Brad Delong's blog (or Effect Measure, or Respectful Insolence, or....) for the comments, but for the posts.

But the best blogs, at least to me, are the ones that build up communities of regular commenters. Making Light, Marginal Revolution, Overcoming Bias, Dar Kush, and Gene Expression all have, to some greater or lesser extent, pretty interesting communities of people who hang around and comment. Even when I disagree with a bunch of the commenters, those communities over time make the blogs much better, much more interesting. There are shared references, shared context and history, even known and mapped-out zones of disagreement or agreeing-to-disagree. People know and often rather like each other, even when they disagree.

Now, the moderators of those blogs own the blogs. Tyler and Alex can decide to start banning anyone from Marginal Revolution who is insufficiently libertarian, or Steve Barnes can silently delete posts that suggest that his approach to self-help or his take on race relations are wrong. But if they do, they will damage the communities that have grown up around their blogs. Do too much of that, and their blogs' value will drop to only what their writing provides. Overly arbitrary moderation can destroy a community, as surely as insufficient moderation can keep it from ever growing.

There's a rough analogy here with police and communities--police who won't deal with crime or who bust heads and ask questions later can both tear the hell out of a community. But the analogy breaks down at some point, because people are usually much more anchored into a community than they are into a blog. Drive away your readers/commenters, and they are liable to disappear rather quickly, because there's no "friction" to leaving--they don't have to go find a new job, sell their house, get their kids into a decent school, etc. They just stop showing up.

All that's a long-winded way of pointing out that a comment-heavy blog is like a coffeeshop or a bar, in that the drinks and ambience are important, but it's the folks who come in and drink who provide most of the value of going there. The owner has the power to do all sorts of things that will drive away all his customers, but he probably doesn't want to, which puts some limits on his ability to impose whatever rules he likes.

#89 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 11:44 PM:

And as to the starving children in Africa, how the heck do we get the money to where it feeds them? The places where children are starving are almost all places of conflict. So far, money and food have been hijacked by the ruling side. Are we going to invade a country to feed their children? Make them our well-fed chattel?

#90 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2008, 11:49 PM:

Kevin Marks @86: I agree with your observation that ordered, unfiltered comment systems fall short of representing a 'real' conversational ecosystem, but Twitter falls just as short of the mark in its own ways. The conversational content, number of meaningful two-way connections and community building norms will never exceed those of Twitter's most commonly referenced real world analogy, the water cooler.

#91 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2008, 12:41 AM:

Sam Kelly @ 59. Yes, it's art. It's a one of a kind object. It's cool, neat, montrous (in a good way), and ridiculous too. (Much art is.) And while I wouldn't want one myself, it reminds that my own collecting of kaleidoscopes could be seen that way.

#92 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2008, 01:21 AM:

abi #57:

Thanks for looking back. Yes, recently I've been posting a lot in the threads here that reference moderation policies. But that's mainly because there have been several of them recently and they're kind of interesting and something I've been involved with in the past. Mentioning specific names in the referenced thread was probably ill-advised as you say.

Bruce Arthurs #68:

I actually rather like the idea of moderators "signing" their work in some way. I suspect it's a non-starter. It would be seen as risking individual moderators being singled out as too heavy handed or bearing personal grudges. But I like it for that very reason. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Also, I just saw the WATCHMEN trailer again. Yay.

#93 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2008, 03:03 AM:

Craig R @ #80:
"Let's just admit it"

Um, you do realize using that phrase fills in a square on a lot of Flamer Bingo cards?

And your comment as a whole is a good example of what I was talking about in #68, about readers applying a "tone of type" to comments that may not have intended that tone at all.

#94 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2008, 03:15 AM:

John #87 that is s splendid use of twitter. MJ originally twittered entirely in haiku, which is a form that works very well there; limericks can be attempted...
Lance #90 I don't agree - a massively parallel interleaved global water cooler is something different. Ideas propagate across twitter as they do across blogs, only faster and pithier.
Laura Fitton, @pistachio on twitter, managed to arrange to meet with a huge number of SF people on her brief visit form Boston, all of whom she'd only known from twitter.

I assume you all saw the Onion on commenters

#95 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2008, 05:44 AM:

Sam Kelly @ 59: "It's a piece of art that happens to be shaped like a watch - it's an artist's (designer's) showpiece."

Where did this binary opposition between [piece of art] and [toy for the obscenely rich] come from? I humbly submit that the two categories overlap more than just a little. Calling it art in no way disqualifies it from also being an obscene incarnation of wealth and privilege.

Which is why it's a good thing that it doesn't matter whether it’s a justifiably expensive piece of art or a rich man’s elaborate fuck-you to the poor. Either way, it’s still a neat thing worth going ooh! aah! over. A very good-looking serial killer is still a serial killer, and still very good-looking. The two qualities don’t need to be averaged together to reach a Aesthetic Sum. They don't cancel each other out. Children starving in Africa don’t make Jaguars any less fast, and rich people's sociopathy doesn’t make their toys any less neat.

Bruce Arthurs @ 68: "I think this is a "tone of type" issue."

I agree, though I disagree about what GonzoMultiverse was trying for. To me, it seems like a fairly typical "gotcha" insult: wait for someone to admit to a somewhat uncommon or uncool preference, then mock them mercilessly for leaving themselves open. Not for having the opinion--no no, GM probably doesn't give a damn about starving children--but for admitting to a weakness. Reading GM's BB comments, GM seems to be a congenital sneerer: he'll happily sneer with you at the sheep all around, but he'll just as soon sneer at you if you show the slightest sign of weakness. What I get from his comment is "There is no redeeming quality to this watch, and you're immoral to boot." He's climbing onto the moral high-ground, using Cory's face as a step. That's not clever. Clever would have been:

"It's ugly, ridiculous, and impractical. I love it!"
I think your number three is the closest. Now whether sneering is a disemvowelment-worthy offense, I'm not so sure. But then, I have the good luck to be living on this side of the moderation queue. I'm not the one who has to clean up the messes when the moderators fail to stop the trolling in time, so I can afford to be a bit more generous than they.

#96 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2008, 07:29 AM:

It's a bargain compared to the $300,000 watch that doesn't tell time.

As for the portable sundial, it doesn't just need a level, it needs a computer/GPS to tell you how to orient it.

#97 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2008, 09:00 AM:

Actually, I have one of those sundial necklaces (well, the "Saturn" type, but same idea). I know the time more often than I know which way is South, so I use it as a compass. Works pretty well.

#98 ::: Montana Writer ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2008, 09:12 AM:

"That's what you get for not being thorough about sterilizing the outside of your spaceship before you make planetfall."

The friction takes care of that.

#99 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2008, 10:03 AM:

97: effectively it's a sun compass, which has the advantage that you could use it in a vehicle - which you can't with a magnetic compass because the metal will throw it off. So it's actually *better* than a real compass as well as decorative.

#100 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2008, 12:03 PM:

Heresiarch at 95: I didn't intend a binary opposition, so I'm sorry if I gave that impression! The thing about toys for the obscenely rich is, they're obscenely rich. They can toy with whatever they like. We're just all lucky that someone's got wealth and taste.

#101 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2008, 12:09 PM:

We're just all lucky that someone's got wealth and taste.

Please allow me to introduce myself...

#102 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2008, 12:24 PM:

For all that we moderns mostly find the Medicis and their ilk repugnant for the way they acquired and held on to their wealth and power, we don't (mostly) find the art they paid for less beautiful for it. That may be because of all the other power-hungry asshats who've come along since. But it seems to me that people tend to object to the source of an artwork in inverse proportion to the time since the objectionable patron lived.

And I agree with Marilee: the cause of most hunger in the world is not that there isn't enough food worldwide, it's just that portions of the food distribution system are broken, often by war, civil war, and other extensions of politics.

#103 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2008, 02:15 PM:

ACtually, the first thing I thought of when I skimmed this post and the boing boing thread was that this was something of a love note from PNH to TNH.

#104 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2008, 07:43 PM:

Bruce A. (# 93)

Bingo! (I don't think I usually get to such heights/depths of stereotype) :)

As for "tone of type," I guess I'm stuck in reading tone into articles from experience dating back to 300 baudy dial-ups, and going forward.

Having been a moderator (paid) on a couple of the old Big Networks (BIX and (Yes! Yes! I admit it! Victor vas my ---- Boyfriend!) [Excuse me, wrong movie] AOL [and AOL's predecessor, Quantum-Link])

The only tools available in those days were comment deletion and commenter-shunning.

And a concern troll still looks the same, to these tired old eyes.

#105 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2008, 03:34 AM:

Nix (11):

(FWIW I read the Making Light comment threads obsessively and am firmly of the belief that ML has one of the best comment communities ever on the entire Internet. The BoingBoing comment threads are a toxic swamp by comparison, largely because of the sheer ridiculous *degree* of comment disemvowelment and deletion. It's not a discourse anymore, it's the tattered shreds of one. Discourses have a certain unity which is lost when too many comments are deleted and too many people are responding to things that are no longer visible: it's as if you're listening to a population which goes around replying to the empty air, apropos of nothing, all the time.
Eloquently said, Nix. There's just one problem: it's not true.

Want to explain what you're trying to do here?

There's nothing like the wholesale deletions or disemvowellings you describe going on at Boing Boing. Many threads never lose a single comment. The commonest reason comments get unpublished is because they're out-and-out spam. It's quite unusual for a thread to lose a significant number of comments, and when it does happen, it's usually because there's been a pile-on or some other large-scale misbehavior.

Boing Boing has recently seen several rounds of trolls and other malfeasants lying about the amount of unpublishing and disemvowelling that goes on there. The point is that casual users can't immediately tell whether their story is true. This campaign appears to be the work of one or more users who are outraged at me for having curbed some of their past bad behavior.

Note: There aren't as many of them as there appear to be.

#106 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2008, 04:20 AM:

Drat, now that TNH is proven to be reading, I can't reply to guthrie by saying that I saw it that way too, and think it's very sweet.

Wait, yes I can anyway.

#107 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2008, 06:23 AM:

TNH, perhaps it's a cognitive illusion caused by threads which *have* been heavily moderated degenerating into eruptions of metamoderation fury and metamoderation commentary (inconsistently eliminated itself for being moderation commentary, only that again doesn't seem to apply to everyone) crossed with some quite odious self-satisfied chirping from some of the regulars (not you), often doing the very things (such as off-topic posting) which are damned in others.

That's *never* happened at ML, but I can't read more than a dozen BB comment threads of significant length without running into this :( although the last time I read one was a month or so ago: perhaps things have changed.

To be honest it feels less like a commenting community than one of those odious social groups where the only rule is Don't Annoy the Inner Circle, and where it's incredibly hard to figure out what might annoy the Inner Circle because they're so inconsistent and arbitrary. I hardly ever read the comments there anymore, and I'd not dare post there. (I don't much dare post on ML, either, but that's out of a feeling of insufficient erudition on my part, rather than because the moderators are too scary.)

(That's not to say you're not suitably scary when you want to be, of course. ;} )

... It occurs to me that one way to combat that cognitive illusion might be to add a couple of trivial counters, displayed, perhaps, under the post and above the comments: number of 'unpublished' comments and number of disemvowelled/edited-by-someone-other-than-the-commenter comments. It's hard for someone to claim PERSECUTION when the counters show that only two comments have been disemvowelled in the whole thread, for instance, although they might just claim the counters are lying.

The geek in me is now saying, ooh, histograms of individuals' disemvowellment over time! Histograms of individual moderators' moderation blitzes over time! an inference engine applied to disemvowelment statistics to allow the automation of moderators' jobs! '... borrowed masks, and lenses for a peering Eye...'

Hm. Perhaps not the best of ideas. Coming next: automated secret police and an electronic Pope.

#108 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2008, 11:33 AM:

Lance @ #49 said
loosely "aspire to sonnets".
Lacking appreciation, maybe
love-hating alliteration?

Admittedly, the poetry form
always brings Norse to mind.
Also works better with
Aesirs being referenced

No, sorry, I can't actually pull off three more verses, alliterating on "n", "c" and "e".

#109 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2008, 11:34 AM:

Nix, maybe you should engage in a simple reality check: spend some time going through every comment thread for a week (or more), and note for each the number of comments made and the number subject to moderator action. When the people doing the work are telling you that they're not doing what you think you see, the obvious next step is to check.Get data. Then form a reaction to it.

#110 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2008, 12:04 PM:

I'm with Nix::11; the post was much less off-topic than many of its eventual responses...qui moderat ipsos moderades?[?]. Sure, "their blog, their rules" is true, but it can be a euphemism for "their blog, their whims" but shouldn't be.

The watch was the topic, not a particular take on it, as far as I'm concerned...

If, for example, the discussion were about the current President, and every port were some variation of "he's stupid", I should feel compelled to say, "No, he's evil." At that point, having my comment disemvowelled would be a little capricious i.m.arrogant.o..

#111 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2008, 12:36 PM:

On sundial rings; a friend of mine saw some in Rome and lusted after them greatly. Over dinner we filled up a couple of pages of my notebook with diagrams and calculations and convinced ourselves you could make it work.

If you don't have a compass, you can use a wristwatch to determine North (or South), then orient your sundial ring to correctly tell the time :)

#112 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2008, 02:50 PM:

Abi wrote:

Generally:

My primary concern is that this blog not be treated as BoingBoing's moderation thread. I've already disemvowelled someone for doing just that in a previous discussion. I don't do that kind of thing lightly, suddenly or easily, but I will if it's required.

This is a personal blog, not a second court of appeal if discussions on BB have not been resolved to anyone's satisfaction. And there's a limit to how much Teresa can discuss her professional actions in her personal space. In addition, I happen to know that she is traveling today, and will then be at Worldcon. The chances that she's going to read any of the comments here this week are minuscule. So comments intended for her attention are, at best, wasted.

On a sort-of-meta note, if discussion of BB's moderation policy isn't wanted here, is it wise to have threads that are specfically about moderation at BB?

I realize that this thread (and others about TNH's moderation at BB) was started by PNH, not TNH, and that his point was to go "Look! Look! My favorite person in the whole world did something very clever over there!"

But, to someone who doesn't know the PNH/TNH dynamic, such as a reader/commenter at BB wandering over here, it looks as if TNH is having discussion of BB's moderation on her own blog.

I'm not sure how to resolve this - it's up to PNH and TNH. But it feels like a bit of a "gotcha" to readers who discover ML via BB. And perhaps a bit unrealistic to want to maintain a "wall" between BB's moderation policy and ML while specifically talking about BB's moderation at ML.

#113 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2008, 03:02 PM:

Ursula L. @111 -- thank you, you expressed what I've been struggling with in this whole thread.

#114 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2008, 10:38 PM:

Bruce @108: here's a very brief attempt at data.

Methodology: take a random recent archives link on BB (turned out to be the Goodnight Bush book), count disemvowellings and comments, work backwards through time until I quickly got bored. A few ambiguous cases got counted as disemvowellings.

Results: 874 messages in total. 13 disemvowelled (about 1.5%). 80% of threads had no disemvowellings.

Conclusion: data are consistent with TNHs claims. Not terribly surprising.

It would actually be interesting (for some other forum) to do this more systematically and get enough data for some proper modelling.

BTW: which one is the apple and which is the howler monkey?

#115 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2008, 02:56 AM:

Thank you, Thomas (113). I knew I was telling the truth, but it's nice to have a third party confirm it.

#116 ::: BuffySquirrel ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2008, 08:06 AM:

Great poetry. Ugly watch.

#117 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2008, 09:55 AM:

Strasmangelo Jones (@ 34, 38, 39)

One of the points which I think you may have missed: nobody in or around that comment thread was seriously talking about buying one of those watches. Or at least, not the version of the comment thread I read today. Yes, Cory Doctorow did say "want" in his headline. But the difference between "want" and "get" is one most people are aware of. Indeed, his statement about wanting it is, as far as I am aware, in the context of being a gadget geek. In the same vein, as an absolute book fanatic, I want a copy of everything which has ever been in print anywhere ever - and I know I'm not likely to get it, and even if I did, I wouldn't be able to read it all in my remaining lifetime.

Yes, the price being asked for the watch is ridiculous. Yes, if someone near and dear to me had that sort of money available to throw away on disposable technology, I would be making sustained and committed efforts to direct their attention toward my favourite charities. But in the context of a thread which is primarily triggered by a gadget geek neeping about what (to my eyes, anyway) is a fundamentally inelegant piece of technology, I'm more likely to just say I think the wretched thing looks ugly, clumsy and difficult to read.

The words of a much earlier thinker than myself, on the same sort of subject:

3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

4 Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him,

5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?

6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.

7 Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.

8 For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always. (John 12:3 - 8)

#118 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2008, 01:34 PM:

ajay: The style of jewelry you are thinking of (for the orrery) is known as a pectoral.

re portable sundials: I've used them, and it's not that hard. Accuracy is a bit less than a mechanical watch, but how precise does one need it to be?

Keep track of north (even in a general way) and know the time to within not less than 10 minutes of error (+/- five), without too much trouble.

Then again, I still insist on rounding off the time, even with digital watches. The nearest five minutes is just fine by me.

#119 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2008, 02:33 PM:

Ingvar M @ 108: Anyone who both uses my name as the basis for poetry and incorporates elements of Norse mythos is forever ensconced on my friend list :)

#120 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2008, 08:26 PM:

Re: sundials: "Some people can tell time by looking at the sun, but I've never been able to make out the numbers."*

* Some kid, as recorded by A. Linkletter.

#121 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2008, 10:13 PM:

Some people just know the time.

#122 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2008, 10:38 PM:

Marilee I find knowing the time is a use-intensive skill, and partly dependent on the level of granularity required.

I don't, actually, carry a watch all that often. When I spend a lot of time out of the house, I get back to reading the sun to about 20 minutes of accuracy.

When I am out of the habit it takes me a few days to get back to that level (and with feedback, it can get down to ten, but that's more a function of tracking what I've been doing than the location of the sun/shadows), and it's more in the 40 minute range; which is only sort of useful.

#123 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2008, 11:21 PM:

I'm usually within 10 minutes, which is okay for my kind of life these days. I found out it was a big deal back when I was consulting and my watch was in for cleaning. One of the clients asked the time and I told them and was right, and they were just amazed. So I stopped wearing my watch. Still have it, but I don't know if it'd run anymore.

#124 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2008, 01:41 AM:

I never wear a watch, and can usually tell time ±10 minutes, and can often set myself to wake up at a certain time in the morning ±15 minutes, as long as I'm not sleep-deprived. The two things are related: I had a job one summer in high school recording the number of customers in each checkout line of a supermarket, every 3 minutes. After the first few days I didn't need the watch; after the first two weeks, I hated it.

#125 ::: Cadbury Moose sights comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2010, 02:57 PM:

Post #127 links to what appears to be a spamblog.

I suspect the entire comment is boilerplate camouflage, and wonder how the spammer has any knowledge of "peace or goodwill"

FX: Sigh.

Moderator? A couple of belts of .50 BMG, individually engraved "UNSUBSCRIBE", if you would be so kind.

#126 ::: P J Evans sees probable spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2013, 07:51 PM:

At least, it doesn't fit the thread very well, and there's a link behind the name.

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Jim Macdonald, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

If you are a spammer, your fate is in the hands of Jim Macdonald, and your foot shall slide in due time.

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="http://www.url.com">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.















(You must preview before posting.)

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