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July 3, 2011

Shame on you, Google
Posted by Patrick at 08:57 PM *

This is incredibly shitty of you. Fix it now, please.

At the very least, give Abi and Martin the chance to retrieve their kid’s email archive before you delete it. There’s no excuse—legal or moral—for failing to do that.

I’m not someone who engages in elaborate displays of sarcastic incredulity whenever Google does something less than perfect. It always seemed to me obvious that “don’t be evil” was an aspirational sentiment, not a guarantee of perfection. But this isn’t just failing to live up to one’s ideals. This is evil. Fix it.

Comments on Shame on you, Google:
#1 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2011, 09:30 PM:

Yarrr. Forwarding.

#2 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2011, 10:16 PM:

I should note that Google+ *insists* you enter a date of birth, and a gender, or it won't let you on. I've seen other people on Twitter mention the ensuing lockdown when they've entered a date that Google didn't like.

I don't like the exact-birth-date requirement in principle. It betrays a nosiness that does not make me confident that Google will respect privacy in the long run any better than Facebook has. (And it's worth remembering that Facebook's betrayal of privacy happened a little bit at a time.) Google might argue it needs to know if you're over 13, or 18, for certain legal purposes, but they don't need an exact birth-date for that (especially if it's all self-reported.)

The main thing recording an exact birth-date is good for is for tracking. Birthdate, gender, and zipcode-level habitual location (which Google can get from your IP addresses) is sufficient to uniquely identify most people, as EFF, the Census Bureau, and others have reported. This effectively personally identifying information is commonly passed along to partners such as ad brokers (Pandora does this, for instance.)

And once this information is being passed around routinely, all kinds of people can use it in ways you might not like. In one notorious case in the 1980s, kids who signed up for a birthday club at a local ice cream parlor, with their birthdate and gender, got draft registration notices from Selective Service once they turned 18.

Social software worthy of the name respects social norms. People I meet socially don't insist on knowing my exact birth date before they'll talk to me. Neither do the social sites I use the most, like Twitter and WordPress. Google's insistence on this demographic data makes me very wary about trusting them.

#3 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2011, 10:20 PM:

The other thing about date of birth is that it seems to be used as identification on some systems, though this has become less common.

#4 ::: zzatz ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2011, 10:47 PM:

Completely brain-dead move by Google. Sure, COPA may force age requirements on Google. But the correct way to handle situations like this is to reject attempts by underage users to register for G+, not lock the account for all Google services.

Next issue - do NOT depend on anyone else to keep your data, unless you have a contract with them with specific terms and penalties. Then keep your own copy anyway. This issue comes up over and over again, for email, web sites, music, and e-books. Keep a local copy, burn it to DVD, leave a copy with family or friends.

Gmail offers free POP and IMAP downloads. Every message to my important Gmail account is downloaded to a computer I own, and archived to DVD periodically.

There's no excuse for Google's actions here, but you can protect yourself from similar events. One more time - you can NOT count on accessing anything on a computer controlled by someone else.

#5 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2011, 10:59 PM:

"Next issue - do NOT depend on anyone else to keep your data, unless you have a contract with them with specific terms and penalties."

Next issue: I would be very grateful if this thread did not turn into a series of posts in which people deploy lots of CAPITAL LETTERS in order to EMPHASIZE all the ways in which a ten-year-old ought to have behaved if only he would just WISE UP like all of us SMART COOKIES.

Because if it does, I will be much more vivid than I am being right now. So just knock it the foo off.

(I know, you;'re just trying to explain how to be smarter and savvier and more of a well-defended wise guy in a wicked old world. Stipulated. Guess what: Not the thing to be doing right now.)

#6 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2011, 11:03 PM:

(PS: I don't use Gmail at all any more--mail to my old Gmail address forwards to pnh@panix.com, and I pick it up locally with Mail.app--and I back up Teresa's Gmail via IMAP every few days. I know this stuff. Abi and Martin know this stuff too. This thread is not your cue for displaying what a savvy geek you are. This thread is about hoping someone at Google will act like a fucking human being before 29 days elapse.)

#7 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2011, 11:06 PM:

I have a gmail account that I've never used. I may go and shut it off just because.

#8 ::: Camilla ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2011, 11:20 PM:

I'm horrified, and I do hope you can focus enough attention to make it right.

I'm not an absolutist in terms of lies - like getting into cars with strangers, telling protective lies is an adult skill, and one that should be taught to children when they are old enough. I think this is a place for the parent to tell a lie, once they get google's ear - "my 13yo son mistyped his birthday by accident." It's a last resort, but letting huge injustice stand is a worse sin.

(This is not a "he should have lied already" merely pragmatism when it comes to fixing it.)

#9 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2011, 11:26 PM:

Zzatz, I divine that you have experienced frustration in trying to get this concept across to someone? Maybe more than once?

I will not name the tech blog in question, or the outfit I was working for that acted as a matchmaker between high-end blogs and companies that wanted to advertise on them. Suffice it to say that this prominent tech blog's hosting site didn't understand DMCA takedown notices, so the first time they got one, they shut the whole site down and locked its owners out of their account. That was dumb but fixable. What shocked me was discovering that the tech blog had never taken a single site backup in all the years they'd been in operation.

I expect we all know stories like that.

#10 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 12:05 AM:

Deepest sympathies.

Beyond that, I don't have any practical suggestions.

#11 ::: zzatz ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 12:38 AM:

Teresa @9 - Got it in one. I've heard this story before, too many times, but I won't go on derailing the thread from the important part: shaming Google into restoring the account.

Calling Google out on sites like this seems to be the key to solving problems. With most companies, it's not hard to contact someone, but they either can't or won't fix the problem, and often don't care. People at Google care, and will fix the problem, but they are very difficult to contact. I hope this gets their attention.

I apologize for any offense I have given.

#12 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 01:08 AM:

Let us disambiguate between the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) which was struck down in court and the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which is law. It's awfully confusing to have the two so close in name.

#13 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 01:16 AM:

I note that there is at least one ML semi-regular who works for Google. I've gone so far as to also email him to let him know about this.

#14 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 01:25 AM:

Very bad behavior on Google's part. They should absolutely have a parent-approval option. Poor kid.

It is ridiculous that they ask for a full birthdate. That is a situation where I always lie online. Birthdate is far too much of a personal identifier.

#15 ::: coffeesquid ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 01:28 AM:

I once, through my own abject stupidity, allowed a largely unused and un-backed-up webmail account to lapse, and the emails in it were duly deleted after 30 days with no login. I was horrified, as the mail on the account included some of my last letters from a friend who'd passed away.

I managed to get a friend of a friend who worked at the company to retrieve the emails--inaccessible from my account but not yet purged from the company's backup servers--and send them to me. If Google proves obstinate through official channels, perhaps that sort of approach would work?

#16 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 03:17 AM:

I liked the comment over at the original post (Martin's blog?) about how this was a chance to teach your kids that "there are rules and consequences for breaking them."

You should be especially careful to teach them foreign laws, and to make sure your kids know that if they do something that is legal where they do it, it might be illegal somewhere else and then some company might suddenly decide to enforce a foreign law upon them for no reason.

That's a good life lesson, right? I'd follow it up with "Good people die for no reason, AND YOU WILL TOO!"

Personally, I think it's a great time to teach your kids that there are rules and you should never be afraid to break them... But then, I would. (And there's reasons I don't have kids, my parenting advice being therefore suspect.)

#17 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 03:33 AM:

Sympathies for Abi, Martin and particularly Alex. Frustration. Here's hoping that someone, somewhere, will have a heart and allow e-mail retrieval, at least.

#18 ::: Martin Sutherland ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 04:01 AM:

Parent of child in question here.

I'm uncomfortable with the word "evil" to describe Google's behaviour in this instance, because I don't think there is any kind of malicious intent. But the impact of their actions has led to harm. I don't think this is going to scar Alex for life, but an entity he trusted implicitly shocked him to tears, and I don't think that should be taken lightly.

By not asking for your age when you sign up for a Gmail account, Google is basically operating a "dont ask, don't tell" policy with regard to children. They know that children use the service. In fact, the quality of Google's spam filtering is one of the reasons I deliberately chose Gmail for Alex in the first place. There's a load of crap out there that I don't want Alex to have to deal with, and I trust Gmail to keep 99.9% of it away from him.

But DADT breaks down when there is information leakage from other services in the same organisation. With the concept of "circles" in G+, Google acknowledges that people don't always have a single online "identity", and want to expose different aspects of themselves in different contexts. But internally, Google wants to stitch the separate pieces of your online life together into a single coherent whole. These two impulses are entirely reasonable separately, but are at odds when you bring them together, and this is the sort of thing that will happen.

Alex was using a wonderful service that empowered him. The service provider then asked him if he wanted to use their new tools. I can understand if, after looking at his application, they say, "I'm sorry, but you don't actually qualify for this new thing yet." But instead they turned around, and in the harshest possible manner revoked his access to the original service. Because he told the truth on his application form.

There are many potential analogies here, few of them pleasant.

#19 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 04:07 AM:

Janet, #14: "They should absolutely have a parent-approval option."

Janet, I suspect they're worried about prosecution over falsified approvals. Given some of the crazy prosecutions in some of the crazy corners of the USA, they have a real concern.

All of which doesn't alter the reality that Alex has been hurt very badly. I would prefer, as you would, that his parents be offered a chance to consent or at least a chance to retrieve his archives.

For those of you who would have Google flout this law, do you really want another giant corporation violating the law with impunity?

It seems we are all cypherpunks now.

#20 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 04:45 AM:

As I just posted to Abi's blog, the key factor in all this, whatever is done to restore Alex's access to email, is that he may lose a chunk of his past. Several comments there are, essentially, about how easy it is to get email access, which seems to be missing the point somewhat.

I don't have an answer. It would be difficult, at this stage, for Abi and Martin to establish a connection to Alex which would satisfy a lawyer on the far side of the world.

Also, I have had, in the last year, a few experiences of California-based corporations playing fast and loose with personal data (as defined in the EU), and being rather lethargic in their handling of the problems. I find myself reluctant to recommend any US-based alternative.

#21 ::: Another Damned Medievalist ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 05:46 AM:

I have to say, I'm surprised that the commenters at Abi's aren't getting the whole "he just wants his email back" thing.

I'm also surprised that Google hasn't simply implemented a "get your parents to verify it's ok" policy.

And I'm now going to look into ways of downloading my email to my computer -- as soon as I have one of my own that is as usable as my work computer.

#22 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 07:49 AM:

"Janet, I suspect they're worried about prosecution over falsified approvals. Given some of the crazy prosecutions in some of the crazy corners of the USA, they have a real concern."

I don't see why they would. The COPPA regulations give a number of specific approval methods (see item 32 in the linked document) that should be sufficient under the law. I don't see why implementing any of those would put them at any more risk than their current practice of relying on self-reported ages.

#23 ::: Karen ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 08:21 AM:

Are people usually truthful online when asked about birthdate/gender? If I think I might need to verify it someday, I'll enter my brother's birthday. But I might just put a random one in too.

#24 ::: Dichroic ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 08:39 AM:

Dave Bell @20 wrote: "It would be difficult, at this stage, for Abi and Martin to establish a connection to Alex which would satisfy a lawyer on the far side of the world."

Actually that is slightly easier than you'd think (I know, I was shocked too.) The procedure is that you get a Dutch notaris to notarize the form, then they send it to the district for for an apostille (my notarissen actually did this part for me, whichis what made it so easy.) Then that notarization is valid in the US.

I mention this here just in case it turns out that for some reason it is necessary to prove a relationship to get the email back. Unlikely, but possible.

#25 ::: Kurt Montandon ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 08:49 AM:

So I guess I'm the only person bothered by how obsessively and pathologically this kid seems to live through the computer ... at ten years old. And has for *years.*

Yeah, that's totally not a problem.

#26 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 09:05 AM:

Another Damned Medievalist @21: Exactly. Not even necessarily being allowed to keep using the e-mail address he's been using (nice though that would be), but just to get back the e-mails he's written to others and those they have written to him. Of course a ten-year-old is going to be upset at losing them. And it's a rotten thing to happen. I sure hope Alex isn't reading the comments over there. Or if he is, that his parents are right with him able to explain that yes, unfortunately there are people who are adult in age but small-minded, lacking in empathy and totally inconsiderate of the feelings of others.

#27 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 09:25 AM:
It always seemed to me obvious that “don’t be evil” was an aspirational sentiment, not a guarantee of perfection.

Funny. It always sounded like cynical corporate PR to me.

#28 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 09:29 AM:

Exactly what sort of irony is it that I posted a link to the original story on Facebook?

#29 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 09:32 AM:

Kurt @25: Yes, as it happens, I suspect you are. Do tin-foil hats work against evil hardware or are they only any good against dental fillings?

#30 ::: Jenna Moran ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 09:34 AM:

Kurt Montadon @ #25,

Sometimes a thing seems obsessive and pathological because of one's own perceptions of how things ought to be rather than because of how things are. Not every child is or even should be mature enough, at 10, to understand that abandoning their attachments to their grandparents and forming new in-person connections with whatever elderly people are handy is the only rational course when living in faraway lands.

Best wishes,

Jenna

#31 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 09:38 AM:

I've sent the url to this thread to two people I know who work for Google, one of whom visits here pretty often.

Kurt Montandon at 25, may I suggest that you not make judgments about the psychological health and behavior of a person you've never met and don't know? You know nothing of Alex's life except what has been described in a single blog post, and here you are throwing around emotionally explosive terms like "obsessively" and "pathologically". I'm not Alex's parent, and your implications surely raised my hackles immediately -- I hate to think what they did to Abi and Martin's.

#32 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 10:00 AM:

John A Arkansawyer at # 27: The way I look at it is that "Don't be evil" was aspirational before the Google IPO and cynical corporate PR afterwards.

#33 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 10:25 AM:

I just sent this and Martin's article to a friend who works at Google.

#34 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 11:02 AM:

Martin @ 18... I'm uncomfortable with the word "evil" to describe Google's behaviour in this instance

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

#35 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 11:34 AM:

I am, frankly, appalled by the number of comments I've seen on Abi's blog that amounted to 'here's a neat life lesson for the kid' or 'it's the stupid parents' fault'.

I am just as appalled at Kurt Montandon's post (#25) making a medical diagnosis. I would love to see his qualifications for so doing.

#36 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 11:38 AM:

When I was a moderator (one of many) for a tiny forum attached to a small game company, part of the account registration process included a checkbox for "I'm under the age of 13", which would put the new account in limbo until some forms were filled out. We never saw any reason to turn that off, despite being a very small company, because it was already conveniently built-in to the forum software and a fairly easy thing to deal with. (It also didn't come up very much; I think maybe once, in the whole time I was there?)

So I strongly doubt that Google is incapable of handling basic COPPA get-parental-approval issues for their services because of liability issues, or because it's some huge hassle. It really isn't! But if they're going to build in the "check for age" aspect, it's exceedingly foolish of them not to have also built in the "...and if it runs into this, redirect to a handy and well-explained page about how to get parental approval" part that should have followed.

#37 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 11:44 AM:

What's astonishing me is all the trolls and internet tough guys in the comments on Martin's original post. And we're getting some internet tough-guy-ism leaking in here, too, though Patrick's warning shot appears to be helping.

To me, this is a story about a kid with a problem, backed by a larger moral having to do with megacorps and personal data security. It's a subset of the "Flickr ate my photos ... again" genre.

That people might form opinions from the story about Abi and Martin's child-rearing practices, I can reluctantly understand. That they feel so free to share them? Baffles me.

Ugly internet comment threads are, I suppose, more common than civilized ones such as we typically get here. I shouldn't be surprised by them. But I am.

There's an *astonishing* number of people who seem to enjoy going around the internet typing variations on "Neener neener, you screwed up, the bad thing that happened to you is entirely your fault, also funny! Next time be smarter like me..." So common is this, I figure there must be some sort of common psychological profile that makes utterances like this emotionally satisfying for the speaker.

#38 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 11:51 AM:

Ooops, upon rereading my #37 in context with #25 and the discussion surrounding it, I should hasten to say that I regret using the phrase "kid with a problem" as shorthand for what I really meant, something like: "kid who has been harshly affected by the actions of his internet service provider".

Writing is tough! "Kid with a problem" conveyed my meaning well enough in a vacuum, but not in a thread where the kid has been (IMO baselessly and quite crassly) accused of having an entirely different sort of problem.

#39 ::: Sid ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 12:33 PM:

My sympathies to Martin. That is, indeed a tremendously awful thing to have happen, and, Abi, I hope you find some way to get the account back, if only long enough to get his email out of it.

I'm seeing a lot of speculation in the comments about Google's motivations here and the nature of COPPA, which I'd like to address. I don't mean to excuse what Google did, but to contextualize it. I am a web developer who, until recently laid off, worked for a non-profit which developed edutainment websites for children under 13, and who had to become familiar with COPPA, which is law of the land here in the US.

COPPA has a lot of "common sense" provisions which no doubt sounded great from the point of view of legislators and parents, but which are pretty appalling from the point of view of the operator of a Web 2.0 service. They're burdensome enough, that, to my knowledge, only sites intended specifically and exclusively for children trouble to implement them. That is, no Web2.0 websites operating in the US permit users under the age of 13, except for specialty children's sites. Not Google, not Facebook, not MySpace, not Livejournal, not Twitter, not Flickr or Picassa or Photobucket, not any web service here in the US.

Why? Well, you know how when you have a problem with your Gmail, you can pick up your phone and call Google's tech support line? Ah ha ha ha. Right: no such thing. Well, one of the provisions of COPPA is that there has to be a phone number through which parents can call the service, as well as an email address at which they can email the service. Google doesn't particularly want to have to pay operators to be standing by. No Web2.0 startup wants to be staffing a phone number open to the general public.

Google also doesn't particularly want to figure out how to fulfill the provision of writing a statement as to what "information it collects" from (minor) users, since it allows users to type absolutely anything they want into those email bodies. Among sites for children, the open-ended TEXTAREA form field, like the one I'm typing this comment into, are seen as threats; highly structured or brief forms of input -- pulldown menus and short text fields -- are seen as safer. That prohibits most interesting Web2.0 applications.

That's just two of the provisions. There are other gotchas.

So parental permission is a necessary but not even vaguely sufficient condition of a service like Google being COPPA compliant. In fact, there's nothing that a parent can do to make Google or any other US-based Web2.0 service OK with an under-13-year-old using their service, as COPPA stands. Google would have to build an enormous and expensive infrastructure, and staff it, to be legal to offer Martin his email.

I hope we can all agree that COPPA really sucks.

In light of this, the most promising approach I can think of is for Abi to insist the account is hers and demand that they "give it back" to her. Indeed, lots of people rubbing Google's email servers' noses in the fact that the account belongs to a 10yo child may make it much harder for Google to play dumb -- since it increasingly robs them of plausible deniability -- and give Abi access to her son's Gmail account.

#40 ::: Larry ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 12:34 PM:

This is all about COPPA, which is the most idiotic law around. Google not allowing parental consent is lazy, not evil. What galls me more is that they had no problem showing that ad with the guy opening an account for his infant daughter to send email to.

#41 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 01:07 PM:

Since this blog doesn't have a "like" button, I'll just say: "What Sid Said." This especially appalls me:

Among sites for children, the open-ended TEXTAREA form field, like the one I'm typing this comment into, are seen as threats; highly structured or brief forms of input -- pulldown menus and short text fields -- are seen as safer. That prohibits most interesting Web2.0 applications.

I hope Alex's e-mails can be retrieved, at least, though I suppose his correspondents may also have copies.

As to the broader issues of Google's evilness or not, I've been calling them the not-so-evil empire for some years now. They aren't saints, but they are honest businesspeople, and honest businesspeople are not so common among large corporations.

#42 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 01:09 PM:

Add me to the list of appalled MLers regarding the number of posters over there showing a complete lack of empathy or sympathy for Alex, Abi and Martin. One of them did have the grace to apologise.

#43 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 01:16 PM:

COPPA is nowhere near "the most idiotic law around." It's not in the running. Stupid, short-sighted, and other adjectives definitely apply, but superlatives don't. COPA, for example, was much worse, and that's just in the same general area (and not enforceable).

#44 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 01:20 PM:

dcb @ 42: The one who said "man up" and "read some Robert Heinlein novels" summarized for me what is Wrong On The Internet.

#45 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 02:18 PM:

So I guess I'm not the only person bothered by how obsessively and pathologically Kurt Montandon seems to judge other people through the computer ... with no context at all. In *seconds.*

Yeah, that's totally not a problem.

#46 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 02:22 PM:

Daniel Boone, #37: "There's an *astonishing* number of people who seem to enjoy going around the internet typing variations on 'Neener neener, you screwed up, the bad thing that happened to you is entirely your fault, also funny! Next time be smarter like me...'"

I just looked at the thread on Martin's blog. (Which several people in this thread have been referring to as "Abi's blog.") Your description applies to an appallingly large number of the comments there.

#47 ::: Q. Pheevr ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 02:27 PM:

I can sort of understand why Google feels constrained by COPPA, but if they really think they have to close someone's e-mail account, they should at least have the decency to provide a grace period so that the user has a chance to save their mail locally before it becomes inaccessible.

#48 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 02:32 PM:

pnh @ 46: On one hand, if I were Martin, I might be closing the comments and deleting people (a pleasant thought) right and left.

On the other hand, there's a lot to be said for allowing people to speak for themselves

#49 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 02:33 PM:

Patrick, there's an astounding amount of that kind of ass-hattery about. (As you know, Bob. As you know ... )

It's almost like there's a justification for folks who want to legislate to protect under-14s from coming into contact with ass-hats on the internets. Who knew?

Kurt @25: So I guess I'm the only person bothered by how obsessively and pathologically this kid seems to live through the computer ... at ten years old.

These days most parents might be bothered by the way that, aged 10, I used to make my way to and from a school six miles from where I lived, across a busy city centre on foot and by public transport, on my own. But again: kids those days used to be trusted to get to and from school on their own.

Times change. Kids these days start on computers nearly before they can walk. You didn't? That's your problem.

Before you start blaming other people for your own hang-ups, you might want to spend some time introspecting. You never know: you might eventually develop a clue.

#50 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 02:33 PM:

Sid: thanks for your information.

I'm aware of sites for children than do allow open-ended text communication; Club Penguin, for one. (Parents have an option of creating accounts with either template-based communication or open-text; we went with the latter for our kids.) They do have people monitoring the site to watch for inappropriate language or solicitation of personal information. (I don't believe they're actually required by law to do all that; they do it to preserve the site's kid-friendly reputation.)

Based on what you say, it sounds like there would be more overhead for Google to provide under-13 Gmail than I originally thought, but that it wouldn't be infeasible if they really wanted to. (There might well be enough people willing to pay them for hassle-free youth email service, if Google didn't want to absorb the costs themselves.)

But even if they didn't want to do this, they could be handling the current situation a lot better than they are:

1. Making it much clearer what the age limits are, for one. (I *still* can't find a clear "13-or-older" statement in the Gmail terms of service; and their ads featuring a parent creating an account for a newborn don't help.)
2. Suggesting alternatives for people who don't meet their requirements. (Hey, they might even do a good business in referral or advertising fees for them, if they wanted.)
3. And last but definitely not least, allowing graceful transitions for people who don't meet their more strictly enforced age requirements. (I see no good reason for them not to make it easy for people they no longer want as users to retrieve their previously stored emails.)

#51 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 02:39 PM:

I had a gmail account; I suppose I still have, but I never use it any more because, as Sid said, there is no tech support. So if you have a problem, the most you can get is a referral to a discussion group where the vibe is pretty much "fuck you, you pathetic non-computer-geek".

My position on that is that I'm already several kinds of geek and I don't see why I should have to become a computer geek as well (especially at my age) just to use my e-mail.

#52 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 02:41 PM:

John @50: Making it much clearer what the age limits are, for one. (I *still* can't find a clear "13-or-older" statement in the Gmail terms of service; and their ads featuring a parent creating an account for a newborn don't help.)

Where is this add featured -- is it a TV ad in the US, or a web ad?

I'd like to know -- because if it's a web ad visible in the UK, and google have a ToS that forbids under 13s globally, then they've probably breached Advertising Standards Authority guidelines in the UK (cause: misleading advertising) and may be liable for a fine.

#53 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 02:48 PM:

I read the Sidelight about the word that Patrick posted a while back, but I still think the sorts of people making comments in Martin's blog like "Google is blameless; it's you who could be ashamed" are the sorts of people that I'm quite comfortable calling "fanboys".

(And yes, in my experience they're almost always male, when a gender is apparent.)

#54 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 03:00 PM:

Comments on Martin's blog closed.

#55 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 03:02 PM:

Charlie @ 52: I'm thinking of the "Dear Sophie Lee" ad. I don't know what markets or media it ran on, but you can view it online here. (That link goes to a third party site that also has some relevant and pointed commentary on Google's business model.)

#56 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 03:07 PM:

John Mark Ockerbloom @ 55: I followed that link and read the article and all I can say is WHY DO THEY HATE AMERICA?

#57 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 03:16 PM:

John A Arkansawyer @44: Yes, and the one a while before saying "You need to teach your poor excuse for a son not to cry when something goes wrong on the computer." As Martin wrote, Alex is ten years old . I'm more than 30 years older and I think I'd cry if something like that happened to me*. But then, no number of such events are ever going to make a man of me!**

* Yes, I do back up my e-mail - at least when the Outlook system allows me to (had various problems recently)

**my wonderful stepmother, who went to medical school as a mature student, listened to one of the consultants, who was pontificating on how 1-in-2 and 1-in-3 night time rotas were good, saying proudly that the system "made a man of me" and replied simply "but it's never going to make a man of me."

#58 ::: Mike McHugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 03:53 PM:

Charlie @52: it's a TV ad in the UK too. I'm sure I've read complaints saying that what the ads depict is not actually allowed, but can't remember where.

#59 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 04:26 PM:

Older, #51: I also have a Gmail account, but (1) I don't use it for much (mostly if someone wants to send me a large data file, photo, or mp3) and (2) it auto-forwards to my primary e-mail at Earthlink, and from there onto my computer's hard drive.

OTOH, I have to confess that I'm guilty of letting Flickr store all my photos, and not keeping them on a hard drive here. Well, except for the ones from our Western vacation tour last year.

#60 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 04:33 PM:

For the record, neither Martin nor I is personally bothered by any of the comments we have read on the matter: not here, not on Martin's blog, and not on news combinator. I think some of them make appalling conversation, and show the people making them in a very poor light indeed.

I think there are people who owe it to their own honor to apologize and rethink. But I cannot control their actions.

We've closed comments on Martin's thread, because it was not productive. I've posted one thing, just to sum up.

It's probably clear to any reasonably perceptive or experienced reader that we have not detailed the full range of ways that we have educated Alex on the ways of the internet, any more than we have given a complete picture of any of our lessons in social relations. I'm sure that it's fairly obvious why we would not be going into this in public, even in less inflammatory circumstances.
Given that we haven't provided enough information to evaluate our parenting skills, I can only only assure our visitors here that I will take their conclusions on that quantity of evidence with all of the seriousness that they deserve.
Likewise, the parenting advice from people with whom we do not have the honor of an acquaintance, but who still feel free to offer criticisms, will be given all of the consideration that it is due.
I am more appreciative of the technical suggestions. I am grateful for people whose first impulse on seeing a problem is to suggest a solution, though not all of them are quite suitable for the specific nature of the matter at hand.

Martin's reaction was that I was reading too much Patrick O'Brian, which is probably true and not necessarily a bad thing. But that's is also how I talk at times like this.

#61 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 04:35 PM:

50
I think the problem here isn't Gmail itself, but Google+, which is, if I understood the initial stories this week, their version of a social network (and thus not something I have any desire to sign up for).

#62 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 04:38 PM:

Abi and Martin -- I sincerely hope your son gets his personal messages back. And the troll-fest is a sight to behold. If there's a bright side to any of that -- perhaps if Martin's blog is a big enough megaphone to attract attention from *that* many Internet Tough Guys, it's also big enough to attract attention from Google Customer Service? Here's hoping.

#63 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 04:49 PM:

janetl @14: It is ridiculous that they ask for a full birthdate. That is a situation where I always lie online. Birthdate is far too much of a personal identifier.

I've taken to using a consistent, wrong birthdate for my online interactions. I've heard that if they have your name, social, and b-day, that's enough for identity theft. (Lately I've heard you don't even need the second of those.)

I've been withholding my social for about thirty years, now. I'm starting to get really reticent about sharing my birthday.

On the concrete-help front, I know one person who works at Google, but not well enough to feel comfortable contacting them about this.

abi & martin hope this resolves satisfactorily for all concerned. I will bet that Alex will be really paranoid about back-ups going forward. This is probably, in the long-run, a good thing. In the meantime, I'm sure you're giving him lots of hugs, sympathy, and support, but please give him a little extra on my behalf.

#64 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 05:13 PM:

John A Arkansawyer @48: On the other hand, there's a lot to be said for allowing people to speak for themselves.

Heh. I'm reminded of when, a few years ago, some high-profile right-wing wack-job passed away. The following Friday, on his Journal, Bill Moyers said, "My mother always told me not to speak ill of the dead. So let's let him speak for himself..." and then ran a clip of one of the deceased nastier speaches.

#65 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 05:20 PM:

Evan @62

This blog is not entirely unsignificant.

#66 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 05:32 PM:

Wow, what a lot of assholes commenting over there! A few people are trying to be helpful, and an even smaller number aren't totally clueless, but most of them seem to be complete trolls.

I hope this can all be resolved to your, and your son's, satisfaction, abi.

#67 ::: Martin Sutherland ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 05:59 PM:

Hey ho. Commenting here because I feel chased out of my own blog. I'm trying to figure out if I want to write a follow-up blog post, and if so, what I would write in it. More importantly, who would I be writing it for? There may be some catharsis for me in writing a response, but it would also involve me stewing in asshat soup for even longer while I composed it.

The main thing I would want to clarify is that the technical problems are not actually the heart of the matter for me. Being responsible parents, we set Alex's email up in such a way that we get copies of all his incoming messages. We can probably reconstruct large chunks of his correspondence to date. I'm not even sure if Alex thinks of email as a long-term thing, though. He archives messages, but I don't know if he considers them anything other than ephemeral.

Secondly, we can set him up with a new email account somewhere else. No problem. Offline, IMAP, webmail, whatever. That's easy. (Although I would very much prefer not to have to run my own email server, in the same way that I prefer not to fix the engine of my own car.) Alternatively, we can just do what everyone else does, and simply lie. It wouldn't be the first time, and it won't be the last. (#include relevant discussions of "legal" vs. "moral".)

What really made me angry was the emotional harm. I don't like using that phrase, because for me it brings to mind stereotypical unreasonable lawsuits, but that's what it is. An authority figure in Alex's life turned round and damn near bit his hand off, when Alex thought he was following that figure's instructions. It feels like a violation of trust. No matter whether we get his old email back, the original violation remains. Hence the title of my post: Google made my son cry. When you hurt my kid, I get angry.

I completely understand that Google's hands are tied because of COPPA. As soon as they knew that Alex was younger than 13, they had to act, and they can't "un-know" that information. My instinct says that this is an unintended consequence, though. I find it hard to imagine that "weeding out underage Gmail users" was listed as a goal on the G+ rollout plan.

What would make me happy, as a parent (first of all) and as an interaction designer (because I find it hard to leave the professional side behind)? What would make this right?

* If 13 is the hard age limit for using Gmail, Google should ask for your age when you sign up for a Gmail account. That way, you know in advance you're going to have to lie, rather than having the truth come up and bite you in the ass two years later.

* Instead of the harsh, default TOS violation message, a sympathetic and apologetic error message tuned for the specific circumstance of discovering that you are too young to use the service. Think about it. In this specific case, what do you know about the user? You know that they're a child. Design for this. Error messages are bad enough for grown-ups; they're double-bad for kids.

* The option to retrieve Alex's old email, instead of just discarding it.

* The option for us to give parental consent for Alex to have a Gmail account. I love Gmail. I would much rather Alex had a Gmail account than that we have to arse about with Thunderbird and our own IMAP server.

* Even if there is nothing they can do, an apology would be nice. Just because they're legally in the right, doesn't mean that they feel good about it. Show this.

#68 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 06:02 PM:

I picked an easy-to-remember historical date that is not my birthday (wrong day and year, but within ten years of the actual date), which I gave Facebook and may start giving everyone who I don't think has a good reason to know the real one. (That's mostly online things, I think: I'm sort of stuck with the social security administration, for example, and changing my date of birth at my pharmacy would probably cause a hopeless tangle.) I'm fairly sure it's also not the date of birth of the other person I know with my name, but for all I know she independently picked the same false answer to give people like Facebook.

#69 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 06:14 PM:

Martin, I feel angry when you say you feel chased out of your own blog. Not at you, I hasten to add, but at the parade of assholes who commented there. While I think abi did a good job of telling them where to put it and how to twist it, this clearly hasn't satisfied you.

What if you were to post a What I Want From Google post, containing the bullet points in 67? (I would, of course, ban the people who wrote the most assholish comments first. This would keep you from hearing from these howling losers, and have other good effects too.)

#70 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 06:20 PM:

Martin @ 67... Design for this.

What an incredible concept.

#71 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 06:21 PM:

It strikes me that this isn't a unique event. There must be hundreds or thousands of other young people who had the same experience. Any way to get in touch with them?

#72 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 06:32 PM:

I am quite exercised at the people who seem to think that the best thing to say when something pointlessly awful happens is "yes; didn't you see it coming?" The message they are spreading is the malign opposite of the anarchist cri de coeur PNH articulated in a thread a while back: ANOTHER WORLD ISN'T POSSIBLE. The sky is evil, don't look up. We live in a world of shit, and the first and best and only thing you can do is learn to breathe its fetid air. If you don't, if you hope for something better, then you are some rich combination of naive and stupid and every hurt you feel is your own fault.

I hate that argument. I hate its resigned self-congratulation and its learned helplessness.

#73 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 06:43 PM:

heresiarch 72: I have a favorite quote on that topic:

Now, there's this about cynicism, Sergeant. It's the universe's most supine moral position. Real comfortable. If nothing can be done, then you're not some kind of shit for not doing it, and you can lie there and stink to yourself in perfect peace.

#74 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 07:04 PM:

Dave Bell @ 65 -- well, yes. :)

#75 ::: Carl ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 07:06 PM:

Martin,

When I was setting up family email I decided not to get free gmail accounts for members of my family after reading the Goggle TOS (my son was COPPA challenged - as Alex is now). Instead, I purchased Goggle Apps accounts (using a credit card). Perhaps you can salvage Alex's account by converting to a paid account?

-Carl

#76 ::: Simon W ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 07:43 PM:

The story seems to have travelled widely - I first read the blog post via a friend's tweet, pausing only to think ' "sunpig", isn't that Abi from Making Light's corner of the internet?'

#77 ::: Rita S ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 07:44 PM:

Martin - it has been said several times in the comments over on your own blog, but just in case it got lost in the noise... YOU DO have the ability to approve your child's usage of Google, YOU DO have the ability to restore their account, and all their email, completely intact. Just follow the instructions on the Google site.

It takes you through a process where you verify that you are an adult (either by letting them charge 20p to your credit card, or by making a phone call, or by other means) and you can put everything right. It's simple and quick and easy to do.

Is there any reason why you cannot do this? It solves all your problems in an instant and gives you everything you want. This is how it works. Smiles all around, surely?

#78 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 09:02 PM:

77
Couldn't they put that in as an option at the time the tell you they're going to cut off the account, or else allow access for the 30 days before the cutoff? (I really hope there are people at Google who have this problem in their household, so they can experience it for themselves. Preferably people with some power in customer service.)

Those are both reasonable options. Stopping access cold while the account is still theoretically open and accessible is just WRONG.

#79 ::: Gkpm ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 10:07 PM:

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Ggl dsn't trgt ds t ndr-13, s thy cn't gt pd fr hs srvc. Ggl my tll y t's fr bt tht dsk spc, ntrnt ccss nd lctrcty csts thm mny.

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#80 ::: K ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 10:13 PM:

I'm not understanding why you felt chased out of your own blog - you complained about something Google must do when faced with minors, and from what I saw the majority of people told you how to circumvent this rule. If I go into math class and say 2+2=4 because the teacher is a horrible, stinky person and people took a few moments to explain the logic behind numbers - even if I didn't like it I would not say I was "chased out". You were not "chased out" - y fld n th fc f lgc tht dd nt jv t yr btchry.

Your son is a minor - an internet-savvy minor, but a minor. You need to take responsibility for him. COPPA exists BECAUSE people are not taking responsibility for their children - "oh, my child's so smart, knows more about the internet than me, will never get in trouble!"

I was just like your son a long while ago when the internet came out. My parents came to me for computer help, I was involved in online-gaming, messaging, etc - but my first online account was my mother's - I would have to log in under her (Prodigy) screenname; she would leave me the password, but she could log in later and see what I'd done. Later, in high school, I got my own (AOL) screenname, but still under my father's account - he could delete it if he wanted.

When I turned 18 I bought my own screenname. It is not a big deal. It may feel like a stifling of your son's freedom, but good. Unless you allow your child to go to the nearest metro city and roam around unsupervised I have NO IDEA why you think it's GOOGLE'S fault for preventing you from allowing him to do the same thing online.

I agree with the commentor who said to verify the account under your name. Tell your son it's officially yours but he can use it.

Your son may be precocious but he is NOT an adult.

#81 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 10:19 PM:

hm, so are the "you should have expected this" commenters an example of hleping or of maladvice?

#82 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 10:31 PM:

Also, you know what Google? You know how you label everything "beta" for years and years?

Start acting like a beta.

If you're granting access to a beta service, there should be no possible way for that beta to hose the rest of your account.

#83 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 10:38 PM:

I've seen a few people make a reference to an account recovery procedure involving a small credit card transaction (30 cents or 20p), but none of the mentions I've seen so far have pointed to any official documentation.

The only thing I (as a non-Gmail-user) have been able to find involving an actual Google representative was this exchange on their Help forums, where a Google employee says

"You can only recover an account using the credit card transaction if you have attempted to log into a Google product using the disabled account. Once you attempt to log-in, you will be shown a page which affords the opportunity to begin the account recovery process. By following this process, you can make the credit card transaction. This transaction, if successful, will unlock the account that you had attempted to log into."

So it looks like it can be done, though I don't know from this exactly what's involved. Martin, have you pursued this, and if so, did you encounter any issues in the process? (I do note that one person responding the Google representative said they were still waiting for action after having entered their credit card info "more than a day" ago.)

#84 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 10:39 PM:

My last comment, pointing to a possibly helpful bit on Google's help forum, has been held up in moderation; not clear to me why. I'd appreciate someone freeing it up, though. Thanks!

#85 ::: Bartholomew Klick ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 10:44 PM:

This is beyond evil, and qualifies as emotional torture. I am spreading this on my Facebook. Is there a way to petition Google? I have a feeling that this is the result of a mid-level manager with a power complex, rather than Google as a unit deciding to move against Ali. Which should mean that appealing to higher authorities within the corporation will help.

-BK

#86 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 11:00 PM:

re 23: As a general rule I don't put my correct birthdate that for anyone who doesn't have a specific need to know that date. This would definitely count as lacking a need to know.

#87 ::: Kurt Montandon ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 11:09 PM:

I'd like to apologize for my insulting tone and uninformed judgment of the situation. While I do have honest concerns about children living their lives through their cell-phones or the Internet (based on experience with kids I've known a long time), I've obviously read way too much into this, and drawn the wrong - and offensive - conclusion.


#88 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 11:16 PM:

Thank you, Kurt.

#89 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 11:22 PM:

@77, 79, & 80: I'm torn between sighing, "They're heeeeeeeere..." and reaching for the popcorn.

#90 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 11:28 PM:

Bartholomew Klick @84: I have a feeling that this is the result of a mid-level manager with a power complex

Actually, my bet is that there was no human intervention at all. I'd be willing to bet that the login process registered the age, searched for other associated Google accounts, went >ding!<, and invoked the "freeze the account" subroutine. Some poor soul (or souls) is going to go into the office tomorrow morning (remember, today is a US* holiday, so tech elves are probably thin on the ground today), look at their email and RSS, and go "Oh crap."

Whether or not anything useful happens after that will be interesting to see.

* Google is headquartered somewhere in California, no?

#91 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2011, 11:46 PM:

89
In Mountain View, last I heard.

#92 ::: Jenna Moran ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 12:28 AM:

shadowsong @#81:

I think there's an underlying cultural bog of helpy notions that both well-meaning and malicious parties are drawing on there. In fairness, I've also noticed that there *is* a place for "celebrate the learning experience" and "hey, now you know" in dealing with bad things; it's just that that place is after the speaker has put in the effort to empathize and after the person who they're talking to has recognized that empathy as valid and is also unrelatedly starting to move on anyway.

#93 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 01:01 AM:

Y'know what'd be a handy Movable Type feature? A flag we could set on certain posts that arranged for any first-time commenter to go into Pending Comments, or maybe Moderated. Once one comment gets cleared out of Pending, they're no longer first-timers, but till then their words don't become public till a moderator decides they're worthwhile.

#94 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 01:03 AM:

K @80:

Assuming you drive by here again, see PNH @5. If there is a point you'd like to make, feel free to prune the self-aggrandizement and make it in a slightly more conversational fashion.

One tip for so doing: Imagine you're talking to a real human being.

#95 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 01:04 AM:

(Thanks, Avram.)

#96 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 02:00 AM:

In this particular situation, the credit card transaction method could fall foul of several problems. (I'm watching discussion on another blog, dealing with another age verification issue.) The particular problem is that the name on the Google Account is not the name on the credit card.

Though this may help with any parental permission process, since the cardholder address should match.

In that discussion, the main argument is whether the TOS applied to the merchant allow then to use credit cards for age validation.

Sunpig is number six on the Google search I just made. Most of the pages returned are about inheriting OS permissions from parent folders.

Abi and Martin are smart enough to do what I've done. If there is a way of fixing this problem, I'm not finding it, and several of the web pages I found are saying Google doesn't allow for parental permission for under-13s.

Incidentally, those who expect somebody at Google to have a bad morning today look to be right. Using "Google Made My Son Cry" as a search string gets around 3500 results. Martin's blog has been picked up in a lot of places. Though, going by the google-quotes, some of the places look rather ugly.

#97 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 02:28 AM:

Over the years, I've developed the usual range of pattern-matches for "comments I don't need to care about on the internet".

This incident has clarified that one of them is any comment starting "I don't understand the problem" is not worth reading. As the commenter already has admitted, they don't have a clue.

The remaining content is usually made up of self-praise and evidence of a failure to read the original post and ancillary material.

#98 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 02:34 AM:

It had to happen, considering the date...

Question asked: do minors have an inalienable right to search and use email?

It's not a bad question, though, in the context I saw it, it could be a dangerous one. But if we're talking human rights, it's the European Convention which applies, not the political statement of a bunch of rebels, a couple of centuries ago.

Looking at Article 8 which covers privacy, family life, and correspondence, something like COPPA could be OK in Europe. But there's a clear potential for Abi and Martin's rights to have been infringed, under the Family Life provision. Google's apparent choices would be the issue, since the law does permit parental permission to be given.

Of course, the ECHR doesn't apply to a US-based company. Doesn't it?

#99 ::: Martin Sutherland ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 03:33 AM:

For reference, Google's "birthday correction" process for account recovery is here: http://www.google.com/support/accounts/bin/answer.py?hlrm=en&answer=1333913&rd=1

Google is explicit that there is no way for a parent to take responsibility for a child under 13. If we are willing to lie, and say "oops, Alex entered the wrong date of birth; he's actually 13 already", then Google will allow us (the parents) to reactivate the account by making a token credit card payment on his behalf, to demonstrate that at least someone in the household is over 18.

As a practical matter, it's not a big deal for us to accept that Alex has a "real age" (10) and an "internet age" (13) so that he can gain access to services that he wouldn't otherwise be allowed to use. He already has a "cinema age" (12) to circumvent over-zealous ushers.

But every now and then I resent having to lie just to get by. This just happened to be my breaking point.

#100 ::: p3po ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 04:09 AM:

I have not read all the comments on your post and am just responding to your original post.
I'm sure you have received both good and bad feedback, some helpful and others just with ill intent. I hope mine is not one of those.
I, myself, would not take the termination of my email account lightly. But I think saying Google is cutting your son off from family is a bit dramatic, as is most of your post. You should know there are alternatives ways to communicate, even on the Internet, even via email, even via Gmail.
There are certain laws governing what we do and Google seems to be adhering to that. As you well know, there are many unwelcomed things that one can receive in their email that is shocking. A legal notice from google, while not exactly pleasant, is at least rated G.
I am not saying you are a bad parent. It just seems like your reaction as stated on your post was immediate and a little immature in perspective.
I'm sure you will figure out a reasonable way for you and your son to continue living.
Regards,

#101 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 04:31 AM:

I have not read all the comments on your post

Life too short, is it?

I hope mine is not one of those.

I think it's one of the "I don't understand the problem" ones, lightly seasoned with the usual unwelcome condescension.

#102 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 04:38 AM:

shadowsong: hm, so are the "you should have expected this" commenters an example of hleping or of maladvice?

Well, I was groping for a polite phrase for "joyful spreaders of screaming mental rectal itch" myself, but from the alternatives you give I'd say they're split between maladvice/swallow a slug and Schadenfreude/moral superiority towards a ten-year-old. Which is pretty much inexcusable, and brings up the whole "And who pissed in your Wheaties/Cheerios?" question again.

(I was getting fired up enough to congratulate Kurt Montandon over his lightning fast commitment of a swallow a slug in the coveted "clearly I'm a better parent to your kid than you are" sweepstakes, but he managed a graceful and apparently heartfelt plea for forgiveness before I could compose a cheap shot, so I can't really grouse at him.)

Part of the difficulty is that if COPPA requires a telephone contact it's not going to happen from Google in the near future, and I speak as someone who used to work in the call center for the Google Nexus One before it went away, which, as the only telephone number attached to Google, meant that I fielded lots and lots of calls from folks that were having problems with their gMail accounts and who called us because they couldn't figure out any other alternative to contact gMail help. Those calls were rough, because there wasn't any escalation process outside of e-mail. (Good call centers--and we were--aren't cheap. I imagine they decided that the number of under-13 year olds needing e-mail or support is even lower than the folks that had problems with the Nexus One.)

#103 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 04:57 AM:

p3po: I have not read all the comments on your post and am just responding to your original post.

"Because I am a grunting, sententious ass, and since the law is the law and should be worshipped above all, I will take this time to suggest you eat the Banana Slugs of inappropriate, irrational, and immature response; of poor parenthood because you clearly don't care about your child being exposed to vileness--which since I can clearly see this grave threat means that I am a better parent to your son even though I'm almost certainly not even in the same country and have no urge to spend the financial or emotional capital required to correctly judge what's going on; and of insufficient intelligence to understand and calmly accept the total lack of importance your child's upset deserves. Bon Appetite!"

#104 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 06:06 AM:

Unless you allow your child to go to the nearest metro city and roam around unsupervised I have NO IDEA why you think it's GOOGLE'S fault for preventing you from allowing him to do the same thing online.

K: when I was Alex's age I was living in a city (I am not sure whether it was "metro" or not, I guess it wasn't, men didn't really moisturise in 1980s Edinburgh) and I was allowed to roam around unsupervised.

#105 ::: Gkpm ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 06:27 AM:

h ww thgh hd sn t ll bt sms n ths frm n cn't dsagr wth sm f y mrns nd w gt th pst trnd nt sm srt f txt rbbsh (pst 79)

Wll n m yrs f xprnc f ppl cn't hndl trthfl fdbck thn thy'r jst mssv dts.

N wndr y dslk Ggl's plcs, yrs r vn wrs.

#106 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 06:39 AM:

I'm told I'm not supposed to have popcorn, but it's so tempting...

#107 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 06:41 AM:

Martin @ 99... Alex has a "real age" (10) and an "internet age" (13)

...and a science age of...? This weekend, when I told a Los Alamos scientist of Alex's determination to prove the non-existence of the Tooth Fairy by booby-trapping his tooth, his reaction was "Get outta here!"

#108 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 06:44 AM:

Martin @99: You're right; it's stupid.*

The lack of joined-up thinking, the lack of simple thought/consideration (how hard can it be to word an error message which is specifically going to go to kids in a manner that lets a child down gently?) and the lack of enlightened self-interest (today's 10-year-old is next decade's credit-card-owning customer who might spend money with you - or not, if s/he remembers how unpleasant you were before) in Google's attitude is stupid and regrettable.

I also find it incredibly sad that, for so many people, this turned into a "let's score points off the misfortunes of a child and his honest, caring parents" opportunity. One does wonder whether they have a life other than trolling the internet looking for opportunities to make nasty comments about other people's misfortunes.

Re. cinema - yes, I remember when my parents chose to do that to take me to a film.

#109 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 06:47 AM:

Gkpm: There is a difference between "truthful feedback" and being pointlessly rude.

It's not all that small either.

I note that you didn't see any reason to add anything more constructive to the conversation; amusing yourself with petty insults.

Next time, you might even venture to some, "truthful feedback". Good luck with keeping your vowels. It's not easy to lose them, but I suspect you have talents.

Lest I cross the line I referred to above I shall stop with that observation.

#110 ::: Gkpm ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 07:08 AM:

@Trr (pst 109)

ws nt rd n my frst pst. Jst pntd t tht snc Gml s n d-spprtd srvc nd Ggl dsn't trgt ds t ndr-13, t's nt gd bsnss fr thm t prvd sch srvc.

Ds tht nt mk sns?

Srry fr th typs n th thr pst ws rshd nd nt hppy tht my rgnl pst ws crrptd n sch wy. 'v bn n th nt fr vr 15 yrs nd nvr hs nn dn smthng lk tht. t's jst nblvbl rd.

#111 ::: Narmitaj ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 07:14 AM:

Charlie @ 52 "Where is this add featured -- is it a TV ad in the US, or a web ad?"

I have seen this ad on the telly in the UK - in a UK version with the kid called Hollie - and it struck me as being a bit creepy. It's on youTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5NKYKE6U2c

I suppose the question whether, by promoting the setting-up of an email account addressed to the name of an under-13 (in this case, a newborn baby), Google is encouraging the contravention of its own EULA is possibly ambiguous. The lines at the end of the email from the Dad to Hollie say "I've been emailing you all your life. One day we'll look back at these together", and might imply that the kid, while still under-age, is not supposed to have an idea that all these communications exist, let alone read them or write back, and will only find out on her 13th birthday (meanwhile, Google will know all about what she likes to wear, where she goes to primary school, etc etc).

That may be Google's intention, but it certainly isn't explicitly stated - unaware of this 13-yo barrier, I got the impression this kid was reading her emails and looking at videos from the time she could read, at the very latest sometime after the age of seven (there are seven candles on her cake, the last age-specific thing we see). I don't see any age limit mentioned. (Mind you, the ad doesn't suggest she ever write anything herself, and implies when she does look at stuff her dad will be with her.)

#112 ::: Gkpm ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 07:22 AM:

n th tpc f L, my dd tht ths st hs nn, ncldng n cprght ssgnmnt clss.

f pst cmmnt hr stll kp th cpyrght n t (ccrdng t svrl xprts, ncldng FF) s cnsrng t by rmvng vwls nd trnng t nt gbbrsh s nt nly rd, t's dwnrght llgl.

mpld cprght trnsfr n blg psts s nly fr th prps f dsplng, nt crrptng thm.

S gt yr wn ct tgthr.

#113 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 07:23 AM:

Gkpm @110:

You did not "just point something out". (I love that use of just; it's such a clear marker of someone pretending they didn't misbehave. Even the ten year old under discussion knows better than to use it.)

You pointed something out in a rude and obnoxious tone, designed more to set yourself apart from the common herd of fools than to contribute constructively to the conversation. Now you are complaining because your comment has been disemvoweled (look it up; it's on Wikipedia.) Brace yourself -- comment 105 is going to suffer the same fate.

Had you taken the time to understand the community before which you are displaying all of your least charming conversational tactics, you would have realized that we use this method to make pointlessly rude and inflammatory comments more difficult to read. They are still comprehensible; they just take more effort to read.

Note that another game we play here is troll bingo, and you're getting an unreasonable number of squares for someone who is trying to be listened to.

All things considered, I doubt you're going to find that your special and unique views are going to be attended to with anything like the careful attention that you feel that they deserve. Were I you, I would abandon this group of people as hopeless and find a more receptive audience for your next outpouring of wisdom.

#114 ::: Gkpm ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 07:37 AM:

@b

Wll 'm trrbly srr md y fl tht wy, bt t m t's ptntl bvs why Ggl hs ths plc. f 'm glty f nythng s bng prgmtc bt why cmpns hv crtn plcs.

nly pstd n ths st bcs th rgnl pst n snpg.cm hs blckd frthr cmmnts.

Tht pst hs bn mkng th rnds ('m n Hng Kng, wld y blv t), n dbt d t th ttl "Ggl md my sn cr" - whch s wldly xggrtd nd mks fr nc lnkbt.

flt ndd t dd my wn pnn t ths str, bt s t's nt wlcm nd y prfr t lv n yr shltrd nd cnsrd crcl.

#115 ::: Gkpm ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 07:40 AM:

@b

M dd (snc thr's n dt fclt) tht y'r ls rdng t mch nt m nglsh. t's nt m frst lngg, s "Jst" s jst tht nt smthng 'd s t cvr msbhvng.

#116 ::: Rob ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 08:07 AM:

wldn't sll pst n frms nrltd t m ctvt - nd plgz n dvnc f m stppng n n ts - bt ls fnd th rgnl rtcl nd ttl t b dsgnd t shck rthr thn b nfrmtv nd ld t rtnl dscssn.

s th rtcl ws wrttn b smn wh rns Wb cnsltnc cmpn, t thnk ths ws nt th plnnd ntnt wld b ssmng th thr ws ncrdbl nv.

Th th thr pstd n hs twttr fd "H Ggl? f y hppn t b wrkng n "Ggl Jnr" prjct, cll m. Srsl. Wld lv t wrk wth y n tht."

'm srr f ths ffnds smn, bt t m t pprs s f th rgnl thr s jst bnkng n hs scnds f ntrnt fm t gt hs ft n Ggl's dr.

#117 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 08:09 AM:

That post has been making the rounds (I'm in Hong Kong, would you believe it), no doubt due to the title "Google made my son cry" - which is wildly exaggerated and makes for nice linkbait.

What's "wildly exaggerated" about the notion of a ten-year-old crying because he's lost access to his emails?

I'm sorry if this offends someone, but to me it appears as if the original author is just banking on his 3 seconds of Internet fame to get his foot in Google's door.

This may be getting out of hand.

#118 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 08:17 AM:

Gkpm @144 "the title "Google made my son cry" - which is wildly exaggerated". What's exaggerated about a statement of fact? Google did this, the ten-year-old child involved cried. Where's the exaggeration?

Rob @116: Well, some people have seen it as a father's response to his young son's distress and have expressed their sympathies for the child and his parents, and some people have made constructive suggestions for possible solutions and/or to stop something similar happening in the future. And some people have seen it as an opportunity for one-upmanship and displayed a total lack of empathy.

#119 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 08:18 AM:

Gkpm @114:

Interestingly enough, sunpig.com closed off commenting because of precisely the sort of comment that you have deposited here. We've seen enough of them to take whatever value is worth taking from such perspectives.

You might do a close reading of Martin @67, a comment which predates yours, which explains the matter in a way that makes your perspective entirely pointless and your comments misdirected.

We have many commenters here who do not speak English natively. Interestingly enough, very few of them are such winners at troll bingo. Of course, very few of them are also officiously sticking their noses in a situation whose genuine problems and challenges they clearly do not understand.

#120 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 08:26 AM:

Rob @116:

The author is personally known both of the owners of this blog, and married to one of the other front-page posters (me). He is also reading this thread.

I assure you categorically that this is not an attempt to drum up business for his web consultancy work. It's not "naive" for him to post about an upsetting thing that occurred on his blog; he's posted about plenty of good and bad family occurrences in the past.

Our friends Patrick and Teresa have boosted this because they have visibility, and Google's own resolution procedures are opaque at best. If Google is doing work on a kids' project, I hope they take events like this into consideration, but this is not, and is not intended as, a bid for that kind of work. Nor are we seeking internet fame; we've already turned down one offer to have that essay reprinted somewhere with even more eyeballs.

Either call us liars directly or take my word for it. I leave it to your honor whether you mention elsewhere that you asked the question and have been answered.

#121 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 08:29 AM:

Sheesh. Honestly.

Anyone want to accuse us of stealth-advertising Minecraft and PowerPoint? That seems to be the only piece of slime left to throw.

Screw it. If you can't beat em...

Parlor Game:
Explain how this is a deep and sinister plot on our part. Please include as many science-fictional and fantastic elements as possible. Submissions in verse and pastiches are especially welcome.

#122 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 08:34 AM:

Interestingly, Gkpm's concern for his copyright @112 in regard to disemvowelment is not followed to its logical conclusion with a similar concern for the copyright of the young man's emails to and from his family. Can't have one without the other; if disemvowelment is a violation of his (not entirely correct) conception of copyright, how much more so is deleting entire email threads?

#123 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 08:35 AM:

Dave Bell, 96: Though this may help with any parental permission process, since the cardholder address should match.

Non-custodial parents. Especially if the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent disagree on child-rearing.

#124 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 08:37 AM:

This Is Just To Say

I have broken
the emails
that were in
the account

and which
you were probably
saving
for your own purposes

Forgive me
I was uncaring
so unsweet
and so cold

#125 ::: Gkpm ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 08:50 AM:

ls dn't ndrstnd wh th blg ws clsd nd th dscssn mvd hr. Why s ths srt f cmmnt nt wlcm, srl n dbt thr wld b spc fr ll pnns (nlss thy wr llgl r dststfl f crs)

'v rd Mr Sthrlnd's cmmnt nd stll cn't s hw t mks my prspctv ntrl pntlss nd my cmmnts msdrctd. t dsn't chng my prspctv t ll. Cn y b clrr pls?

s tht tht phrs s prly msldng thr rdrs nd tryng t dflct thm frm my cmmnt. Ths s wll knwn tctc, ntrstngl sd by chldrn s wll.

ls pls cn y kp th trll rbbr stmpng dwn pls, t's gttng bt ld lrdy. Srl y knw wht trll s?

'm bt t s m prgmtsm gn, s pls d wr stbl prtctn bfr rdng t:

- Gt yr chld prpr -ml ccnt, nt n n n d-rddn srvc. Srly yr hsbnd bng wb cnsltnt knws hw t crt n.

- Tch yr chld th wndrs f bckng p hs cmptr (ncldng -mls)

Bth f ths pcs f dvc wll tk hm frthr n lf thn crng bt Ggl.

Prgmtsm vr. Y cn rmv yr ggls nw.

#126 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 08:53 AM:

It's unsurprising that some of the people newly arrived here have not realised the sense of community which permeates this little fragment of the web. They're not the ones whose cat died, or who were laying in a hospital bed, with a fractured spine, sharing medieval drinking songs with fellow patients. They're not the ones who write sonnets, villanelles, sestinas, or pastiches of a note left on a fridge door.

They're not of the tribe.

Abi, Martin, and Alex are of the tribe, and there is a certain tribalism in the response. It happens. But we give strangers a chance. That is one of our customs.

Today, dear stranger, it seems that we must ask this: does your mother know you are out?

#127 ::: Gkpm ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 08:54 AM:

@Jnt pst 122

Th dffrnc s Ggl ds ncld tht n thr trms f srvc, whch y ccpt whn jnng n.

". Ggl rsrvs th rght (bt shll hv n blgtn) t pr-scrn, rvw, flg, fltr, mdf, rfs r rmv n r ll Cntnt frm n Srvc"

#128 ::: Throwmearope ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 09:09 AM:

I have had the entertaining experience on more than one occasion of a (potentially) well-meaning stranger giving me advice on how to rear my children. The two times my children overheard the advice and responded to it were great. By the time my kids got done telling the strangers just how they would sabotage his or her attempts to correct my kids' behavior, both strangers were patting my hand, and telling me what a strong woman I must be. My kids are fantastic. Difficult, but fantastic.

@GKPM. If it looks like a troll and it smells like a troll and everybody thinks it's a troll, it's time for the troll to leave before you lose any more vowels.

I state with pride that Theresa disemvoweled me once and she is scary enough that I mostly only lurk here.

#129 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 09:22 AM:

Gkpm @135: Surely you know what a troll is?

Yes, and you bear a surprisingly close resemblance to one.

Purely superficial, as I'm sure you'll demonstrate by abandoning the "tough but realistic" appeals to pragmatism and fair-mindedness and recognize that while this might be a thought experiment to you, somewhere there's a hurt ten year old.

(Here's a hint: on the internet, the only way anyone ever gets to know that you're not a dick is if you display some basic human empathy.)

#130 ::: kelley ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 09:32 AM:

Bad break - Looks like you will be kissing the baby on this one. :>/ Now to just figure out the work around. Don't the Grandparents have copies of all the emails?

#131 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 09:40 AM:

abi and Martin: My sincere condolences to your son on this upsetting turn of events, and my thanks for posting on this -- my son also has a gmail account, and I'll be able to watch out for this issue.

I could not explain the deepest darkest conspiracy, so I did the next best:

"Google Made My Son Cry"

Once upon an online forum
While my son began in decorum
To ponder a quaint volume of historic lore,
As I waited, wise and firmly,
In the midst of mining calmly
There came a flaming missive of trollishness born.
Greatly it violated the Three Laws
of Idiotics with its ichor-dripping claws,
Clearly demonstrating the OPs Apgar Score.
With Sturgeon's Law in disarray
It was Cod's Law that held in sway
The lurkers supporting Trolls in email and more.
Not even an Astronomical Female
Of Dermis Quite Green could avail
Against the collected Hordes that came to the fore.
So, donning my Armour of +15,
With Spells of Might, Quite Obscene,
I scribed my own missive with details galore.
Twas too little, too late,
It became more Troll bait,
And the Dark Forces besieged the nightly shore.
"Only an Aragorn can
Save us!" I ran
For the exit only to be stopped at the door.
"You shall not pass!"
- I released the Nebula Gas
-The Evil Empire was forced to cry "Nevermore!"

#132 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 09:44 AM:

I have no sympathy. This is a free service that is provided based on terms of service. I'm a mother of two who bracket this kid in age, and it's not a thought experiment to me. I'm sorry these parents are too ridiculously naive to realize that this could happen. While I don't read all the terms of service (with as frequently as iTunes updates, I wouldn't have time for anything else), when it comes to the kids signing up for anything, I read those carefully and make them adhere to age policies. Yes, it's sad, but think if the shoe was on the other foot and this was some creepy stalker situation. There's liability all around and pleading ignorance seems really weak.

#133 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 09:46 AM:

Gkpm @135:
I also don't understand why the blog was closed and the discussion moved here. Why is this sort of comment not welcome, surely in debate there would be space for all opinions (unless they were illegal or distasteful of course)

Comment on sunpig was closed because we are two people, and the internet is legion; because it was not an invitation to a debate; because many people who mistook it for an invitation to debate wanted to debate inappropriate things*; because our son will read that thread one day and see what shits many people on the internet are.

The usual phrase for that is this is why we can't have nice things. Don't like it? Stop being insensitive on the internet; stop tolerating others' insensitivity on the internet; defend minorities against the mob.

I've read Mr Sutherland's comment and still can't see how it makes my perspective entirely pointless and my comments misdirected. It doesn't change my perspective at all. Can you be clearer please?

1. You assume that we should have expected that Google would cut off our son's internet access without recourse and with a rude message and taken steps to prepare for it. Maybe; the world is things one should prepare for, far too many to manage. I presume, on that topic, that you're prepared for the natural disasters endemic in your area (earthquakes and tsunami, I think), check the sell-by date on your milk, and reconcile your bank accounts regularly to guard against identity theft.

2. You assume our son has only one account, or that ads are the issue. In fact, one of the real advantages of using gmail as a forward for his real email address is that it filters spam extremely well. This is not an invitation to detail other solutions to the spam problem; it's an explanation of why we made the technical choice we did.

This is tiresome and pointless. You are never going to be convinced of the fact that you are not suggesting anything that hasn't already been suggested and considered to the extent that it's useful. And I have better things to do than educate you.

You may make one more comment here before I block you from further posting on this blog. Make it good; it's your legacy.

-----
* Particularly, we are disinclined to debate about whether we are good people or bad ones; whether our son is too much of a geek; whether we good parents or bad ones; whether we are trying to cash in on this matter; whether we/he are as smart as the commenters fancy themselves with their 20/20 hindsight.

#134 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 09:46 AM:

Gkpm @125 -
I also don't understand why..

The most charitable suggestion I can make is that you stop commenting for awhile, hang around, read, get to know this community, listen and think. Less charitably, I might suggest posting your opinions on your -own- space.

#135 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 09:52 AM:

Don't the Grandparents have copies of all the emails?

This, on the other hand, is some good advice from a first-time commenter.
While he won't be able to recover every email he ever sent or received, at least an exploration of other people's sentmail folders and inboxes should allow him to recover some of them and import them to whatever new email account he sets up.

#136 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 09:54 AM:

Chris @132:

Thank you for your no doubt well-considered and carefully composed opinion on this matter. I am sure that you have researched it, thinking long and hard on the best way to come up with a helpful and useful contribution to a conversation with your fellow parents and human beings. Therefore, I will give it all of the attentive consideration which it is due.

#137 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 10:02 AM:

Thank you, abi, for your extremely civil comment. I'm sure I'm only reading it as sarcastic because I'm a hasty and terrible person. I simply believe that overall, Google giving up email in this case puts them in a bad position. Should we ask for sympathy for a widow asking for her late husband's email? What about a small business asking for a former employee's email because it is an important archive?

#138 ::: Sebastian ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 10:02 AM:

Offhand, is there a term for the general form of that which "mansplaining" is an instance in the domain of gender politics?

#139 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 10:10 AM:

Chris @137:

The entirety of my response is of equal truth; if I may rely on the premise, then you may most certainly rely on the conclusion.

You ask interesting questions. I suspect that in the former case, the answer is yes, unless the husband's will distributes his intellectual property elsewhere. In the latter, I suspect that it would be governed by the terms of the employment contract; it's one reason that many employers have rules about personal email use.

#140 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 10:16 AM:

I'm much more comfortable with the notion that no information provider gives up anything to a third party without a subpoena. I'm more in favor of privacy then sentiment, though.

#141 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 10:16 AM:

Explain how this is a deep and sinister plot on our part. Please include as many science-fictional and fantastic elements as possible.

Well, there is the abiveld, and please feel free to turn it aginst some of the site's recent arrivals. Nothing must stop your plans for World Domination. No, not the videogame that Sean Connery and Klaus Maria Brandauer used against each other in "Never Say Never Again". :-)

#142 ::: Jenna Moran ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 10:24 AM:

Parlor Game Offering:

If your dream, my friends, is to ruin modern music
e.g., to undermine the tuning
Separating groans from crooning
And to institute much using
Of vuvuzula and bugle
Where today their use is frugal
And to revive the band Menudo
You’ll have to start by slamming google!

If your dream, my friends, is a commie revolution
“We should seize means of production”
Is too bourgeois a deduction!
Why, that plan would never function
But with vuvuzelas and bugles
And with some using of your noodle
You could vuvuze to a solution —
You'll have to start by slamming google!

Hush, dear child: thus is life
You can’t bring the revolution
And have email archives

If you dream, my friends, of sending humans into space
e.g., to feed the hungry sapients
Who love food with human faces
Like canned “Yahoo!(tm) Human Race”

And

You need a commie revolution
As a can-opening solution
Or you won’t sell to Betelgeusans
And you’ve had the revelation
You don't have enough vuvuzelas
So your revolution’s sloogling
You’d have to start by slamming google!
Just write a blog post slamming google!

Google should have known that it would happen. I would have. I wouldn't have let a major company play around with the Internet unless it understood that feeding humanity to the hungry anthropophages of Betelgeuse was a likely consequence; but, well, at least the lesson, she is learned.

#143 ::: Jenna Moran ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 10:30 AM:

I keep thinking of a dear friend's child, who is 3 and quite skilled at finding videos of planets (a current obsession) on youtube and drawing the solar system in Paint, and who presumably will have an email account well before age 10 if not already. And who is getting joy from the net. I hope that you get the email archives back.

#144 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 10:50 AM:

Chris, 140: How fortunate you are to have no one in your life whom you would miss, if you lost all their emails with no warning. Going through life untrammeled by love for one's grandfather must be very freeing.

#145 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 10:55 AM:

I'm not sure how respecting someone's right to privacy means I cannot love them. I certainly love my husband, to whom I have been married for quite some time, but I would not expect to get his email for any reason without his express permission. This is true even as his sole beneficiary.

#146 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 10:57 AM:

TexAnne... You said 'untrammeled'. I love places where people can say 'untrammeled'.

#147 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 11:00 AM:

In a probably futile attempt at a purposeful comment:

It's this kind of stunt that has made me wary of the drive back to a server-based computing paradigm. I really prefer to have my data in something that I can pick up and carry around in my own hands, exactly as if it were a book or some other personal possession. As long as there is a EULA waiting to jump in between me and my data, it isn't entirely my data.

#148 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 11:06 AM:

Chris, 145: So you wouldn't mind losing the emails that your husband sent to you, expecting that you would read them? Remember what we're talking about: a child lost the emails his loved ones sent to him. It's not a question of the sender's privacy, but of the recipient's property rights. (And no, I'm not interested in a debate about the cloud and backing up one's data.)

#149 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 11:09 AM:

But the contract with Google was null and void. I'm not sure what rights anyone holds here.

#150 ::: Chris L ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 11:41 AM:

I don't think it's hard to sympathize with Alex's desire to access his emails, even if Google has a legal reason to deny him such access. Similarly, I would certainly sympathize with a widow's desire to access her deceased spouse's email, even if she has no legal right to do so. Our compassion for someone else's distress shouldn't follow the dictates of contract law, after all...

#151 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 11:45 AM:

Chris @149: as a company who espouse the motto "don't be evil", Google appears to have shat the bed in this particular case by not working out in advance what the failure modes of their signup system might entail.

Note that Abi's son is a single instance of this problem with Google+ -- there will be others, and given the scale of Gmail, I suspect there will be literally millions of them.

#152 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 11:45 AM:

Chris, 149: But the ten-year-old didn't know that it was null and void because Google didn't tell him until it was too late.

(also, the custom at Making Light is to reply to a person with the comment number; it's easier to follow a multipart conversation that way.)

#153 ::: JohnInCambridgeUK ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 11:51 AM:

Dear Chris

I'm going to point out something you seem to have missed: Abi and Martin are angry.

This blog is like a continuous yard party, where friends and neighbours drop by to chat and, sometimes, to get support and sympathy about things that are going wrong.

You're in the position of a passerby who's come to see what all the fuss is about, and who has walked up to an angry person and told them that it's all their own fault and they have nothing to complain about. Would you do that in real life?

(Me, I'm one of those people who lurks on the fringe enjoying the conversation without having anything to add - until someone comes along and abuses the hospitality of my hosts)

Thought is free; you can think what you like about Google and children. Speech, on the other hand, should pay some attention to place and context.

#154 ::: Gkpm ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 11:55 AM:

You may make one more comment here before I block you from further posting on this blog. Make it good; it's your legacy.

s th lnk frm th rgnl pst t hr hs nw bn rmvd, s m rl hr s dn. Fr mst prpss nd ntnts ths thrd n lngr xsts fr nyn t s, jst s w ll wnt t.

S g n blck m, y knw y wnt t.

#155 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 12:07 PM:

What Alex really needs is a small robotic cat, with a brain that already has a google equivalent data center loaded in it.

#156 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 12:09 PM:

Gkpm @154:
I see the link from the original post to here has now been removed, so my role here is done. For most purposes and intents this thread no longer exists for anyone to see, just as we all want it.

Thank you for this all too revealing comment about your true intentions. Troll indeed.

All your vowels are now mine, except when I want to leave your charming character exposed. And your IP address, 206.217.221.32, is blocked. Be grateful I don't reveal your email address.

#157 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 12:16 PM:

Abi @ 156.. All your vowels are now mine

Abi hoards vowels the way Smaug amasses gold.

#158 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 12:16 PM:

Charming company you keep, Chris: the people who like to stand around and sneer at strangers on the internet. Aren't there any puppies in your neighborhood you could kick instead?

Or would that be too personally mean?

You've made your point, and we've had a chance to evaluate its value and your character. Now either join the conversation as a human being talking to other human beings, or go away.

#159 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 12:20 PM:

abi @ 113: "Note that another game we play here is troll bingo, and you're getting an unreasonable number of squares for someone who is trying to be listened to."

I don't know; I think something like "I've been on the net for over 15 years and never has anyone done something like that. It's just unbelievably rude." in the context of being "pragmatic" towards someone else's upset is instant bingo.

#160 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 12:22 PM:

Kids should be taught early on that the world is filled with rotten people and organizations that will grind them down, and... What is that smell?... I guess my sarcasm subroutine overheated.

#161 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 12:39 PM:

Gpkm: Of course you don't think you were rude. You were just speaking, "home truths", with the intent of what? Really, what? You think the people here aren't aware of some great, and transcendent fact of the universe and they need to so badly you can deliver it with a sneer?

I know what I saw at Sunpig... I saw a lot of people saying, things about how Alex (the real person here, a 10 year old boy, therefore a person of feelings, feelings whch can be easily hurt), is lucky that his emails were taken, and his sense of trust violated. I saw people saying his parents were six kinds of stupid for using Gmail. That they (and he) got what they deserved. I saw someone telling him to, "man up" and not care that his data are gone.

I saw sententious lectures on the need to have one's own e-mail server, and to tell lies.

And you say you saw it all too. You saw it all, and the response to it, and decided that your two-cents on the matter were so trenchant, so on point, so much better than all the rest that you had to do the same sort of thing here.

And you don't think that's rude? You don't think that when someone has explained (as abi did) why they were closing comments, and that they were also present here, that common decency and a sense of politesse might want a response which wasn't coming the moral prig, and hard-nosed realist.

That's what was rude.

As to your "pragmatism" it does nothing to address the problem... that's a set of reccomendations for the future, and purely about managing information. It's not about the issues at hand.

And... the last comment you made gives the lie to your claim of merely wanting to give out those home truths: I see the link from the original post to here has now been removed, so my role here is done. For most purposes and intents this thread no longer exists for anyone to see, just as we all want it.

So you had an agenda, you didn't like that Martin's post was being linked to someplace else. Since you have managed to (willfully) cross the line to being banned, I can't really ask you why you decided to ride that particular hobby horse, only note that you were, and you knew it, and your pretensions otherwise were as dishonest as the "just' abi pointed out indicated.

And I see she too has pointed this out.

The pains that patient merit of the unworthy takes, indeed.

#162 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 12:52 PM:

While we're here, does anyone have any recommendations for good youth email services? I'd be interested in ones that have good filtering of spam and other annoyances, aren't locked down to a ridiculous extent, and are reasonable in pricing and in policy.

#163 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 12:58 PM:

John Mark Ockerbloom @162 -- We're currently using Mail.app's parental filters (for a 7 yr old) with a private email server, but there are issues. Some emails don't get through for us to approve, and I haven't gotten to the point to figure out if it's the server or the client that's having the problem.

(and, in a mark against private email servers, the local isp managed to do something to their dns that ran afoul of our spam killing, so we were bouncing their mail for a while. This local isp serves probably half of our local contacts.)

I've run an email server for going on 15 years now, and I'm getting tired of dealing with it. But, at least I trust the guy running it.

#164 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 01:10 PM:

A helpful comment requires knowledge, research, or both. A snarky "you had it coming, you should have known better" requires none of those. Neither does an expression of sympathy.

I'm not sure what drives the ratio of those two, though. I mean, I understand why most people won't have any useful information to impart or worthwhile comment to make--how much do most of us know about the inner-workings of Gmail, the contents of its EULA, etc.? Finding out enough to be useful would take some work. But having decided I'm unable or unwilling to be helpful, what makes me decide to be an asshole instead of being sympathetic, at least in the more-or-less empty, conventional sense that I might say "gee, how terrible" when I hear about some stranger getting mugged or slipping on ice and breaking his leg?

#165 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 01:11 PM:

I note, speaking as a former COPPA officer, and as someone who helps run a large forum--Google doesn't seem to have a COPPA statement that meets federal guidelines, which include a specific contact person or dedicated email. Moreover, the 13 age limit usually has, as I'm sure Abi and Martin are aware, a proviso for parental consent.

Google is very much reaching out to K-12 educators and wanting entire schools to sign on to Google Apps, including email--yet even their K-12 materials don't seem to have a COPPA statement that meets federal guidelines.

Surely someone at Google is listening? This seems to be an opportunity to earn enormous goodwill from a lot of people.

#166 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 01:17 PM:

Gkpm @154 For most purposes and intents this thread no longer exists for anyone to see, just as we all want it.

HA!!HAHAHA!!

Because, you know, no one reads Making Light except if it's linked from Sunpig*.

Stop! Stop! You're killing me!

*no offence to Sunpig

#167 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 01:20 PM:

Terry @161:

Yes, Gprw was definitely trying to shut people up. I wonder how many of the poo-flinging howler monkeys on the internet are.

I think he has a very weak idea of the sort of Googlejuice that Making Light has. ML linking to sunpig is much more of a big deal than sunpig linking here.

#168 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 01:21 PM:

And I see Cheryl @166 has beaten me to it. Much more amusingly, too.

#169 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 01:22 PM:

C Wingate:

Yeah, I'd say there are two related issues there:

a. Cloud services, especially free ones, have this property that they can spontaneous go away or radically change, depending on the decisions of the provider of the service. Sometimes, the provider goes broke, or is bought by someone unethical, or simply changes direction.

b. A lot of internet services basically allow us to be members of communities of faraway people. The community is the thing of value--not livejournal or facebook or gmail or whatever. But our access to it, our ability to connect with those people, and the continuity of our connections, and their memory, all depend on some organization providing the service. And that organization has its own existence, probably a profit motive, a corporate culture that can change over time, etc. And so even though the value is provided mainly from the interaction with the community of friends and family members and colleagues and such, if facebook or gmail or whatever service changes its behavior in radical enough ways, it can wreck or cut us off from those communities.

#170 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 01:24 PM:

For a goodly proportion of the world (and this includes adults) the words "Type your credit card number here" mean "Not for you."

#171 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 01:30 PM:

abi:

Re: your son's programming in Python: Have you guys played around with the turtle module? I started teaching my older son a bit about programming in Python awhile back, but both the 6 and the 10 absolutely love playing around with turtle graphics. Neither is programming independently yet, but I've got both thinking through the steps of what they want and how to get there and debugging their first attempts.

The other night, my 6 year old spent some time drawing what he wanted to make on paper first, then I helped him work out how to write a program to do it. This is the kind of thing I imagined parenting being like. (Unfortunately, it seems like an awful lot of parenting is much less interesting stuff like trying to get the kids to clean their room or go to bed at a reasonable hour....)

I've been thinking about letting my 10 year old have an email account of some kind, to keep touch with family. I'll be very interested to see how this all works out for you guys, in terms of deciding which landmines we want to avoid or accept with eyes open.

#172 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 01:35 PM:

Lisa @165 : Yeah, they are pushing into schools. Our school district is doing gmail for all the kids starting in the fall, and as the parents of an under 13, we had to sign something allowing it. I think the younger kids also have to option to only allow 'within the district' emails, and I'm guessing the cutoff on that is approximately the 13yr level.

#173 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 02:26 PM:

C. Wingate @147: Yes, that's why I'm wary of going to cloud for backup. I recognise the potential advantages - my data available wherever I am in the world - but the potential disadvantages (not available if the internet connection crashes etc.) outweigh those, for me. I'll keep to my "on two hard drives, preferably three, or two-plus CDROM/DVD" policy.

James D. Macdonald @170: Good point. Rather like not having a *driving licence as ID, in the USA - I remember discovering that without one, I couldn't do something as simple as rent a DVD - that was the only accepted ID.

*Had to be US licence, to go in the computer.

#174 ::: TrashedMyCookies ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 02:53 PM:

With apologies in advance for abuses of rhyme and meter:

There once was a kid from East Mookwit
Who kept all his mail in a bucket.
While hatching a plan,
He ran afoul of The Man,
And as for the bucket, the man took it.

#175 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 03:03 PM:

I've used gmail for several years, downloading into Mail on a Mac. Lately, I'd been getting more prone to using email in the browser, and downloading less often. This is a good wakeup call for me.

#176 ::: Douglas Henke ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 03:49 PM:

I see in the comment thread symptoms of a particular problem in geek/non-geek (or geek/different-kind-of-geek) social interaction:

Person X says: Thing Y sucks!

Person X means: I am angry about thing Y and need to vent.

Person Z hears: How do I remediate the suckage? How might I have avoided the suckage in the first place? How do I prevent future suckage? Engineer a solution to the problem of Thing Y sucking, and describe and/or implement it. This is an action item for you. The emotion in my tone is meant to convey that it is urgent for you to take said action.

Basically, it is a problem of Person Z (e.g., me) responding as an engineer to someone who wanted a (sympathetic and confirming) response from a fellow human. "Show me some empathy" as opposed to "fix this." "Please express agreement" versus "do something about it, now."

This is something I personally have never really grokked at any fundamental instinctive level, though I can fake it (albeit poorly, and only when not under stress).[1]

And, of course, guessing wrong is pretty much guaranteed to make the original angry person even angrier, to a degree unsurpassed by practically anything except saying "Hey, don't get upset!"

(Stipulated: telling someone in a difficult situation something reducible to "you should have seen it coming" or "I told you so" is simply being a dick for being-a-dick's sake. Those are not the comments I'm talking about.)

[1]-- Thanks in advance to everyone who will give me yet another Internet diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. No prize, but thanks for playing.

#177 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 03:59 PM:

Gkpm (various).

A self-admitted troll. Trolls do not intend honest discourse, are unable to appreciate it, and do not understand it.

ll yr vwl r blng t s.

#178 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 04:04 PM:

Jim @177:

Yes, interesting, isn't it? He quite openly admits that he was doing this to shut us up, or at least get this thread de-linked from sunpig. The degree of cluelessness that reveals is bemusing.

I wish I thought his behavior was pathological, in the sense that there was a physical or psychological defect to explain it. But I can't say that I do. I think he chose to do this, rather than being driven to it.

This experience has certainly given me food for thought on the nature of the mass of humanity.

#179 ::: Antonia T. Tiger ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 04:07 PM:

There's lots of different sorts of people in the world, and knowing that some adults are certainly "not nice" is a useful lesson. It might even be a good thing to learn that you can't trust a corporation. But the whole point of schools and education and good parenting and all that is that the kids learn the lessons without being broken.

The experiences that made me the way I am included a few teachers who seemed more interested in power than in being a good teacher. There were sneering professional bastards, supposed to know about teaching, who delighted in asking the unanswerable question, and abusing the child who was struggling to find the words.

They expected you to react as an adult, when their whole profession was built around the idea that children are not adults. One of them, supervising a mixed-age table of children at dinner, tried to initiate a contrived "game", involving survival on the desert island.

I refused to play.

I was badgered.

"In this situation, I shall be dead within six hours." (I was exaggerating a bit.) This was before D&D. The only imaginable option was to be yourself. "Besides how many of us know anything useful anyway? What are ya aiming for, a harem?"

I was old enough to know what a harem was, and I didn't like the idea.

#180 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 04:53 PM:

abi @ 178:

This experience has certainly given me food for thought on the nature of the mass of humanity.

Think, not the mass, but the mess, which shall always be with us as long as there are living waters for things to float to the top of.

abi, Martin, I am really sorry you've had to wade through all these cow-cakes, and they nearly make me ashamed by association to be a mammal. This is an awful lot of effort to go to, to be obnoxious where one is plainly unwelcome. I think of it as a monkey shriek for attention in the Great Silence, which neglects the possibility that previous monkey actions may have had something to do with the coldness of the quiet.

albatross @ 164:

A helpful comment requires knowledge, research, or both. A snarky "you had it coming, you should have known better" requires none of those. Neither does an expression of sympathy.

To my shame I didn't chip in on the last, because I had assumed a mighty torrent of them, and a trivial trickle of the second. I had neglected to consider the addictively obsessive nature of righteous malice, or the acceleration of typing possible if one does not care about the person on the other end of it. There are several really nasty positive feedback loops in there.

But now it is past time for yet another ape to chip in with the obvious - that Google were neglectfully and callously hurtful under the best interpretation - and to say what ought to be needless to say: yeah. That really sucked. Sympathies. I would be thirteen kinds of wild, in the all too plausible case that the same happened to one of my young cousins or nieces.

On the positive side, Google still clearly have quite a reputation left. With any more notoriously evil company, this level of stalky stranger crap would surely be drawing much suspicion of astroturf by now.

- Hear me, O Google? You may not be too far down the primrose path after all. Think on, you're not yet one of those Co.'s with nothing left to do after a fool move but double down!

In your place, I'd want to take advantage of that.

#181 ::: Larry ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 04:53 PM:

Some of the comments almost remind me of the explosion that occurred over Rebecca Watson talking about some clueless dude who hit on her in an elevator in an extremely poor way. The internets took it and ran it to the insane edge.

dcb@173: That's why you use the cloud as a backup to locally stored data. A way to move the data around but not as the only source.

You can see the different philosophy in the Google apps - The cloud is the app versus the Apple take - The cloud distributes to the app, but is not the app. I prefer #2.

#182 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 05:06 PM:

Gray Woodland @180 has said well what I would wish to say.

#183 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 05:26 PM:

Douglas Henke @176: Ah, but your post indicates that when told that the person really wants sympathy, you can accept that (even if not grok it). Also, I have yet to meet anyone who objects to being given the sympathy and then the hopefully-helpful suggestions (couched in a sympathetic way): "to avoid this happening again, you could try X." rather than "of, course, if you'd just done X you wouldn't be in this mess, so it's all your fault."

#184 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 05:27 PM:

Abi #178:

I meditate on Original Sin.

#185 ::: gabvt ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 05:30 PM:

@abi (not a specific post)

This is a really sad story, I have a 9 year old who loves his e-mail, movies and apps I've helped him setup on his iPad. I cannot imagine how disappointed he would be if he lost any of those. As a parent I would also be fuming.

I'm still incredulous what little regard Google has for such matters, but I believe it completely because they showed the same disregard for a friend who had his account compromised with serious consequences.

I tried to help him then, but all roads in Google just led nowhere. He lost access to his account, the scammer impersonated him and e-mailed all his friends asking for help in several things. Google just sat and did nothing throughout the whole story. We tried emailing, even calling some numbers, nothing.

It was all automated nonsense that never worked, like asking which month/year he started using Gmail, which of course he couldn't remember.

I know it's little help at this point, but one thing I think I did right was going with Apple's service for my home email, they're really supportive and I had no problem having a child account in my Family pack. Yes it costs money, but unfortunately what I have found is when things are free one usually ends up paying for them somehow.

Really hope someone listens and offers to solve your problem, but of course the ideal outcome would be a full solution for everyone, or at least a warning to others. Trolls aside (it seems no one can criticise the mighty Google) I think you did very well in reporting the problem. Have you considered approaching the media?

This being related to the launch of Google's social network you could probably find much media interest here - and maybe a real solution that way. I have some journalist friends who could be interested. Let me know if this is something you would like to explore.

#186 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 05:35 PM:

Jim @184:

My initial draft mentioned that, but I didn't want to be the one to bring overt religion into an already flame-y environment.

#187 ::: MacAllister ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 05:39 PM:

You know, I've always sort of thought that the kind of people who offer disapproving and supercilious unsolicited parenting advice in meatspace are just rude, but I see it happen fairly frequently. So I suppose I should be less startled than I am at the willingness of a handful of idiots on the internet to act the same way, but it's still appalling and I find myself sort of embarrassed for 'em.

I also keep thinking of my profoundly deaf nephew, who has very much lived on his computer since he taught himself to read, somewhere between four and five years old. He's sixteen, now -- so beyond the COPPA redtape and pitfalls -- but I know full well how profound his sense of isolation would have been (and would still be) without his keyboard and computer, and especially without the internet and the connections he's made and maintained over the last ten years or so.

All of this is, I suppose, my circuitous way of reaching my point: Martin, Abi, Alex - I'm sorry this happened with Alex's Gmail account and Google+, I hope it doesn't spoil the loveliness and sheer shininess of digital communication and discourse for Alex, and please don't let a handful of jerks get you down.

#188 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 05:50 PM:

Abi, Martin, Alex, you have my sympathies and my regrets that I have nothing more useful than that to offer.

#189 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 05:53 PM:

abi @121: Parlor Game: Explain how this is a deep and sinister plot on our part.

It's sinister because clearly, eeVILE Techno-Anarchists that you are, you want everyone to set their Google birthdays to THE SAME DATE and BRING THE DATAVERSE CRASHING DOWN MWAH-HA-HA-HAH!!!* **

* All-caps specially for Patrick. Ya like 'em? They're mint-flavored!

** Sorry, can't do poetry. Poetry not Zathras skill.

#190 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 05:59 PM:

Jacque #189:

The way you use those caps, it's poetry for sure.

#191 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 06:17 PM:

C. Wingate @ 147: "It's this kind of stunt that has made me wary of the drive back to a server-based computing paradigm."

Yes. Possession is still the bulk of the law, and if we're going to get in the habit of storing our data on other people's hardware, we need to understand what that means for our rights to ownership. Especially when EULAs are constantly mutating around us.

I'm increasingly feeling the need for an inalienable Right to Data.

Chris @ 149: "But the contract with Google was null and void. I'm not sure what rights anyone holds here."

I can see two views on this. The first is that, having violated the terms of the license, Google is under no obligation to provide anything at all. But the other side is that under the EULA the rights to the data still belong to the user, and I'm not sure that Google has the right to deny them its return. If I violate my lease, that doesn't grant my landlord ownership of all my furniture and personal possessions: they can terminate the contract and deny me access to the property, but they can't take my stuff. In that view, refusing to return the data is theft.

albatross @ 164: "But having decided I'm unable or unwilling to be helpful, what makes me decide to be an asshole instead of being sympathetic, at least in the more-or-less empty, conventional sense that I might say "gee, how terrible" when I hear about some stranger getting mugged or slipping on ice and breaking his leg?"

I think it breaks down like this: incumbent to sympathy is an admission that it could happen to anyone, and that there's nothing that can be done to prevent it. Being an ass, in turn, implies that no, this couldn't happen to me, I'm too smart and prepared. One of those makes you feel vulnerable and precarious, the other makes you feel safe and superior.

#192 ::: Jon R ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 06:20 PM:

I work at Google, though not in the Gmail or Google+ departments. I think I can safely confirm there is a thread internally discussing this matter. The timing is very unfortunate; this is a holiday weekend in the US, which means most people have been out of the office since the 2nd. I am not a lawyer or a policymaker, but my understanding is they try to avoid making snap judgments, especially where children's privacy law is concerned.

I also admit it's unfortunate that it takes the effort of two highly trafficked blogs and people emailing their Google-employed friends to get a problem like this noticed. I can't think of any scalable solution, though; from what I've seen, any human-based support Google tries to offer is quickly saturated, usually with stuff that is absolutely inane.

#193 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 06:31 PM:

Vagrant thought: do you suppose...? It's just conceivable that this whole thing is a result of a bug. Exceedingly unlikely, I'll grant you. But I've seen cases where the developers flip the switch on a great new service, stand back to admire their work, and then...::sniff:: ::sniff::

"Hey, Joe? You smell smoke?"

Sometimes, the really obvious things are the hardest to see. (Like the time we got the first boxes of the the four-color glossy Annual Report back from the printer and pulled out the first copy—only to finally notice the glaring typo in the title on the cover.)

#194 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 06:57 PM:

joann @190: Waww! Thank you! <*sparkle*>

heresiarch @191: I think it breaks down like this: incumbent to sympathy is an admission that it could happen to anyone, and that there's nothing that can be done to prevent it. Being an ass, in turn, implies that no, this couldn't happen to me, I'm too smart and prepared. One of those makes you feel vulnerable and precarious, the other makes you feel safe and superior.

THANK you. I was trying to formulate this, and kept getting tangled up. You lay it out very succinctly, and I think this is exactly what is going on. On a much more basic level, sympathy and compassion require more strength. If you don't feel strong, you try to drive away the weak and vulnerable because your monkey-brain is convinced they'll attract predators.

::wave:: ::wave:: Hi, Jon R! any human-based support Google tries to offer is quickly saturated, usually with stuff that is absolutely inane.

Victims of your own success, eh? I work in customer service; I can only (dimly) imagine.

#195 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 07:12 PM:

#191 ::: heresiarch

I'm not convinced that trolls actually believe the Just World Hypothesis. It's possible that they just say things they hope will hurt.

#196 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 07:27 PM:

It seems to me that unlike customer service in other things, customer service in internet stuff is with a product that is untouched and unseen by humans other than the customer; it is possible that no human at Google knew anything about this email account until now; it just got automatically created and served.

#197 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 07:37 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz #195: I'm not convinced that trolls actually believe the Just World Hypothesis. It's possible that they just say things they hope will hurt.

Agreed. they're like chickens trying to peck an injured flockmate to death.

#198 ::: Tangurena ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 07:38 PM:

albatross @169:
To your list of cloud risks, 2 more risks have come up that also threaten everyone making, hosting or depending on cloud based services: politics and law enforcement.

Amazon shut down wikileaks when Senator Lieberman started making noises. No legal actions were taken against them, just vague threats, and thus Amazon disabled their hosting. No questions asked, no savings throw. Basically, any politician in the world is a threat to your business.

And the FBI has a habit of raiding data centers and grabbing all the computers that are stupid enough to be located anywhere near the targets. 2009 and 2011 incidents as examples.

#199 ::: Martin Sutherland ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 08:00 PM:

I've just spent a chunk of time writing a follow-up post. It's kind of a more long-winded version of what I said back in comment #67, but I wanted to say it on my own site. I know that most people who read the original article will never come back and read the follow-up, but I wanted to get it out there anyway.

Thanks for all the support, and the good discussion happening here.

#200 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 08:17 PM:

re various: Really what needs to happen is that the legal/provider/user conglomeration needs to work out a standard agreement for this sort of repository situation, put it in a bottle, and have everyone use it. Of course in the USA the way this is done is through a bunch of crises/disasters which force the legal/political systems to Deal With Things.

At the very least, though, there needs to a be statutory requirement that a change of EULA in a situation like this sets off an automatic "you have to give me my data back" if I refuse the change. As H. says that's what ethical behavior dictates, but without some easily accessible legal teeth behind it, providers tend to drift into Evil. This whole business of search-and-seizure also needs to be straightened out. (The courts need to grow some backbone on S&S issues anyway.)

One more general comment: I've always been fascinated by one of the paradoxes of the internet: a great deal of material is terribly ephemeral, and yet there is a lot of material that doggedly resists elimination.

#201 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 08:29 PM:

Martin, you might consider putting the link to this thread back at Sunpig, to deny our little troll his petty victory.

I can employ the Wrath of Yog if he or any of his chums return.

#202 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 08:37 PM:

Jon R@192: I can't think of any scalable solution, though; from what I've seen, any human-based support Google tries to offer is quickly saturated, usually with stuff that is absolutely inane.

I thought a fairly fundamental part of Google's philosophy was to minimise human-based support at all times. Be interesting to see how that works out with social networking.

Lisa@165: Google is very much reaching out to K-12 educators and wanting entire schools to sign on to Google Apps, including email--yet even their K-12 materials don't seem to have a COPPA statement that meets federal guidelines.

Ted Geisel tried to warn us:

"On a mountain halfway between Reno and Rome,
We have a machine in a plexiglass dome
Which listens and looks into everyone's home."

But did we listen? Did we?

#203 ::: Springtime for Spacers ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 08:37 PM:

You know it's not so much that the concept of this as a valuable life lesson for a ten year old is wrong as that they are ignoring the corrolary: that when things go wrong and hurt you, even if it was partly or even wholly your own fault, there are people who will help you out and try to put things right (and if you are 10 your parents are likely to be your first port of call).

I say this as someone with a scalded foot, that is one hundred per cent my own doing, who was definitely old enough to know better, and who has benefitted to the tune of shopping done by a friend and antibiotics issued by the NHS.

#204 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 08:44 PM:

Count me as another who's immediate response is #176 Douglas Henke's "engineer". And I understand it hurts from the other side (although I don't grok it at all - I'm not wired that way).

But when people say, right off (like I've learned to tell people to tell me, after I screw up with *them*), "I'm not looking for answers here" - and, given the phrasing "I'm not looking for 'what to do next time' answers here", that was done, here and at Sunpig, right off the top - I'm good enough to Get The Hint.

Argh, humans.

I, too, wish for the best result possible here. I, too, know that birthdays online are hurdles to jump over and not questions that deserve an honest answer. I, too, know that saying that last shouldn't be, but because lawyers and lawmakers are lawyers and lawmakers, it is.

But that does not equate to "we caught you speeding, so we're going to take away your car." That's, as people are saying, evil, shameful - or at least "sufficiently advanced stupidity [to be] indistinguishable from malice".

#205 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 08:52 PM:

Jon R@92: I can't think of any scalable solution

You need a herd of volunteer gatekeepers to filter stuff for you - Google should be able to find ways to motivate such folks. What could possibly go wrong with that? Apart from ending up like Wikipedia, I mean. Nothing a bit of dexterous Python couldn't sort out. Probably.

#206 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 08:55 PM:

The key is getting human feeling right:
not only understanding of the fact
and answer blending suavity and tact

but proper sensing of the victim's plight
with sentiments concrete and not abstract.
The key is getting human feeling right

then sitting with the injured through the night
binding their wounds when they had been attacked
ensuring they had the one thing they lacked;
the key is getting human feeling right.

#207 ::: Martin Sutherland ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 08:56 PM:

Jim @201 - link restored. Traffic to the article seems to be slowing down now, so with a bit of luck there will be less overspill now.

#208 ::: sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 08:56 PM:

Martin, Abi - My sympathies, both for Alex's frustration and loss of email and records, and for your frustration and having to deal with pigs on the internet. I wish I could help, but from what has been said upthread, it looks like what can be done, has been done or is in-process.

This is just to say

I have raided
your inbox
closed it

the emails
which you
archived
are mine now

I will
use them
to take
over the world

#209 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 09:31 PM:

132
Thanks for your non-existent empathy. Did you bother to read the entire thread before you posted?

#210 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 09:46 PM:

I was just looking at the terms-and-conditions of my primary email provider (which does want money, but not in unreasonable amounts). They require parental consent for 13-to-18s, and don't allow under-13s (at least not knowingly).
Their terms-and-conditions are also written mostly in English, not in lawyer.

#211 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 10:02 PM:

What a mighty pinata Gkpm was! The candy is almost as thick on the floor as the vowels. The new Chris was also amusing, by which I mean it was fun to watch Abi and TexAnne dance en pointe on her head. K, on the other hand, was mostly just stupid.

Before we go any further, I want to pause for a salute to comment #112. Gkpm believes wonderful things: That there’s an “implied transfer of copyright” when you post a comment to a weblog. That removing the comment’s vowels amounts to censoring it and “turning it into gibberish,” and that this is a violation of the implicit agreement under which copyright was transferred. Also -- and this is my favorite -- that the EFF agrees with his interpretation.

So few people understand that disemvowelling has a merciful aspect as well as a fearsome one.

Gkpm was almost certainly a troll. Most of the rest of the malfeasants were Internet Tough Guys, a species I got to know at Boing Boing, where they were an endemic plague. I can't improve on Heresiarch's summary description of them @191:

...incumbent to sympathy is an admission that it could happen to anyone, and that there's nothing that can be done to prevent it. Being an ass, in turn, implies that no, this couldn't happen to me, I'm too smart and prepared. One of those makes you feel vulnerable and precarious, the other makes you feel safe and superior.
All I can add is that the more pathological specimens have two weird quirks. One is that when they hear about a semi-random bad thing happening to someone who didn't deserve it, they feel a rush of anxiety, which they experience as something the victim is doing to them, rather than something they're doing to themselves.

Their other quirk is that without being aware that they're doing it, they add completely unwarranted details and circumstances to the narrative in order to give it the desired coloration: that it was entirely the victim's fault for being stupid or thoughtless or unrealistic or [fill in the story here]. If you challenge them on their additions, they either clam up, or they hotly insist that they didn't make it up -- that was the way it had to be. They're weirdly blind to their own narrative inventions.

If you initially tolerate them, you just get dozens more showing up, like a pile-on or a troll-mobbing. As with pile-ons, if you get enough of them you can see cases where two or three or four of them have written nearly identical comments without being aware of it.

I suspect they're closely related to the Mommy Drive-By, but I'm not sure how.

Kurt Montandon came through splendidly, which was a great relief, because he's been posting her for some while. Thank you again, Kurt.

Avram @93: I've wanted that for a long time. I know Scalzi does it.

Some very prominent (i.e, I respect them) forum moderators think well of requiring registration in order to comment, then imposing the waiting period of your choice before new users get their confirmations. The logic there is that trolls, ITGs, and other riffraff have short, adrenaline-driven attention spans. They'll post all sorts of nonsense if they can do so immediately, but if you make them wait they'll move on to something else.

Abi @120, you left out the other reason Patrick and I didn't hesitate to do this: we like Alex. He's a smart, well-behaved, likeable kid, and if you need a picture of an alien fighting a robot he's your go-to guy.

No kid should have this happen to them -- but this is Alex, who's not the least bit theoretical.

Gkpm @135:

I've read Mr Sutherland's comment and still can't see how it makes my perspective entirely pointless and my comments misdirected. It doesn't change my perspective at all. Can you be clearer please?
Translation: Because making sense of interpersonal communication is obviously and by definition Someone Else's Job.

I don't have to lift a finger. That attitude is its own punishment.

Jenna Moran @142, good rhymes.

(I'm crashing. My comments are getting shorter.)

Heresiarch @159, that's a gem. (Note to self: wikia.)

And Albatross @169.

Gray Woodland is being insightful again.

Jon R @192:

"Any human-based support Google tries to offer is quickly saturated, usually with stuff that is absolutely inane."
I've wondered why it's impossible to get a message through to Google. That explanation makes it make sense.

Nancy Lebovitz @195: You're right. Some of them just want to say things that will hurt.

Must strike tent. Goodnight, all.

#212 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 10:11 PM:

IJWTS that the opening paragraph of TNH's #211 is one of the great moments in the history of Making Light.

Seriously, I just want to savor it for a moment.

#213 ::: Carrie S ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 10:18 PM:

Their other quirk is that without being aware that they're doing it, they add completely unwarranted details and circumstances to the narrative in order to give it the desired coloration: that it was entirely the victim's fault for being stupid or thoughtless or unrealistic or [fill in the story here]. If you challenge them on their additions, they either clam up, or they hotly insist that they didn't make it up -- that was the way it had to be. They're weirdly blind to their own narrative inventions.

If you've ever had the misfortune of getting into a wrangle over "The Cold Equations", this paragraph has a poignancy that's hard to explain.

#214 ::: Douglas Henke ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 10:21 PM:

Fragano @#206: The key is getting human feeling right

First, that was very well said.

I understand the concept. Unfortunately, I seem to be missing a critical bit of circuitry in my head that lets me reliably do it. Having the desire and the will to "get human feeling right" is necessary, but not always sufficient. File it somewhere in the land between "meatware bug" and "incompatible communication protocol versions".

While getting human feeling right is a skill which it's possible to learn and practice -- and I make and effort to do that -- the folks who can do it instinctively tend to have trouble conceiving of someone being bad at it, thus assume that mis-steps are the deliberate acts of a malicious provocateur. (In all fairness, I have no trouble accepting the proposition that assumption is true more often than not. Also stipulated: there are comments upthread which are obvious-even-to-me troll-spew.)

In the words of Mycroft @#204, I'm not looking for solutions. Nor empathy, really. Just making conversation.

#215 ::: edward oleander ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 10:46 PM:

Parlor Game entry:

Once upon a time, there were two planets that had, in true StarTrekian fashion, evolved exactly the same way, right down to the people who lived there. On both planets lived a young boy. On one planet, called Earth, the boy always told the truth. One day, when telling the truth to a large, automated, and uncaring corporation, telling the truth had unforeseen consequences that the young boy was not yet prepared to deal with, and the loss he suffered brought him to tears. His friends and family came to his aid, and he grew strong with their support and guidance. He learned that telling the truth, often with compassion and gentleness, gave him great inner satisfaction and self-confidence. Despite the occasional problems it caused him, the boy continued to tell the truth as he grew up. Eventually, his truthfulness won him many friends and great respect, even from those who disagreed with him. He was admitted to a fine school and went on to a profession he loved. He found the partner of his dreams, raised a couple fine children, and they all lived happily ever after.

The other little boy, on the other planet Earth, also ran afoul of the same faceless and soulless giant, and suffered the same loss as his cosmic twin. After his friends and family helped and guided him through the difficult time, he realized that sometimes it was not only preferable, but almost necessary, to tell very minor lies (like faking a birthday) in order to live in a large and complex society. He learned that it could be done without causing harm to others, and could accomplish great good. He learned when it was, and was not, appropriate to tell these “white lies,” and continued to do so as he grew up. Eventually, his ability to foster communication and happiness won him many friends and great respect, even from those who disagreed with him. He was admitted to a fine school and went on to a profession he loved. He found the partner of his dreams, raised a couple fine children, and they all lived happily ever after.

The end.

#216 ::: David Ferrington ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 11:03 PM:

PNH@212

I have to agree.

I've been lurking here for quite a long time. I have de-lurked once or twice.

This thread is one of the main reasons I spend too much time at work reading ML. This is what community and family is all about. Things like, sympathy and empathy flowing freely where needed, naturally coming to the defense of one of your own, or expelling the overly obnoxious invaders when needed.

I take a particular sick enjoyment from the disemvowelling. I am torn between wanting to see more of it and fearing that ML would have the need. I am amazed that is is necessary so very rarely.

The above sentiment is one of the reasons I haven't tried very hard to take part. All of you can be a bit intimidating, in a good way*. I'm afraid that my normally grumpy, speak before thinking personality will make me look like a stupid jerk like it does too often in RL. I definitely don't want to upset this applecart, it's too nice a place in a world with a severe shortage of such places.

The only advice I can think of that might be at all helpful for the cause of this thread is, give him a hug. A good hug can make just about anything feel a little bit better. (I have no doubt that that has been taken care of though :) )

*In a "I wish I could be like them but I don't think it will ever happen." kinda way. I think I'm missing that critical bit of circuitry Douglas Henke mentioned.


#217 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 11:11 PM:

David and the other lurkers who are nervous about posting: I was too! The first time TNH said "Just so" to me was a red-letter day. Now I count many of the regulars as friends. Even when I said (haha, did I just use the past tense there?) dumb things, people liked me anyway. I assure you that the Fluorosphere has only gotten better in the years I've been hanging out here. Dip your toes in the water; we promise not to bite them off.

#218 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 11:17 PM:

TNH #211 As with pile-ons, if you get enough of them you can see cases where two or three or four of them have written nearly identical comments without being aware of it.

Or quite aware of it, because they're the same person posting under different names.

As we've seen in this very thread.

#219 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 12:07 AM:

heresiarch @191 & Teresa Nielsen Hayden @211: Dang. You people ... does it hurt your brains, being so smart?

I mean, I have these thoughts, and I think they're pretty smart.

And then the pros come along and put them into words—I mean, real words, like with coherence and clarity and insight.

And I sit here and gape in awe and realize: I am only an egg.

Making Light is so exceedingly, occasionally frighteningly, cool. Ya know?

#220 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 12:20 AM:

David Ferrington @216: "I wish I could be like them but I don't think it will ever happen." kinda way.

A laudable ambition, and one which I share. I submit, further, that it is worth striving for.

On several occassions, lately, I find myself being more thoughtful, more compassionate, and more stand-up than has historically been my wont, and I'm kind of startled to realize that this is in large part a direct result of my reading here.

It's easy to fall into thinking of reading this blog as light entertainment (for those of us who like a little fibre in our mental diet, maybe?). But, to carry on the mixed metaphor, ML contains vitamins and minerals that sort of sneak into one's system, and add strength and flexibility in surprising ways and at surprising times.

I'm pretty confident that I am entirely unqualified to really play with the big kids around here, but sappy as it may sound, the effort of doing so has, I truly believe, made me a better human being.

#221 ::: Jo MacQueen ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 12:28 AM:

Jacque @ 219: You're doing better, and have been braver in posting more often, than I have. I salute you, and also our hosts and moderators.

#222 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 12:57 AM:

There is a fine balance between knowing when to post and when not to. I frequently just don't. Other people will or have said what I'd say better.

Once in a while, that isn't true. But it comes from practice. So -- please post, take lumps and even an occasional disemvowelment; and please keep trying. It gets better. Nobody here started out perfect. Or is now. If you're wanting to learn, this is a good place for it (IME, and not speaking as a host here).

#223 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 01:10 AM:

I was also tickled by the troll's statement about the EFF. So tickled, I went straight away to check whether the EFF had anything to say about disemvoweling at all. Turns out, they do!

#224 ::: pborenstein ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 01:30 AM:

Crap. I got all the way to the end of the thread without finding the post I was expecting:

"We heard from Google. They're sending a zip file, and want to have a chat with Alex."

I'm hoping I just missed it.

#225 ::: Jenna Moran ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 01:47 AM:

TNH@#211:

> when they hear about a semi-random
> bad thing happening to someone
> who didn't deserve it, they feel
> a rush of anxiety, which they
> experience as something the
> victim is doing to them, rather
> than something they're doing to
> themselves.

Thank you; I was looking for that insight and not finding it.

#226 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 01:57 AM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden @ 211: "One is that when they hear about a semi-random bad thing happening to someone who didn't deserve it, they feel a rush of anxiety, which they experience as something the victim is doing to them, rather than something they're doing to themselves."

Yes, that's it exactly--you illuminate the aspect of personal discomfort much better than I did. It's either the terror that it might happen to them or perhaps the unexpected phenomenon of empathy, but it is unpleasant and they want it to end. That's why they must not only deny that it could happen to them, but do it loudly and often until it goes away.

I think you're right that it's related to the Mommy Drive-By; I think it's also implicated in a lot of post-rape slut-shaming. That sort of thing only happens to people who are stupid enough to let it happen. I'm still safe.

#227 ::: jon R ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 01:59 AM:

pborenstein @ 224: Please remember that this has been a holiday weekend in the US; Google employees have the 4th and the 5th off.

#228 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 02:36 AM:

David Ferrington: I understand how you feel. It may be hard to believe, but I still feel that way. It has been made plain to me that I am well regarded here (lousy typing and idiosyncratic punctuation notwithstanding).

But I look at who does what, and the clarity of some people's thoughts, or the depth of ideas and I am in croggled awe.

Join the party. It may never be that you are consistently brilliant, few of us are (and most, no matter how brilliantly they shine, never feel that way) but you will have moments. some good, some bad (I was part of a gang-disemvowelment. It changed small aspects of the culture here). On occasion, you will rise to greatness.

Unless you try, you are not likely to upset the applecart. That you worry about it speaks volumes to your basic nature. In any case, whether you speak out more often, or just listen in, thanks for being here.

#229 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 04:25 AM:

The Parlor Game


Are you kidding me? You mean you haven't worked it out yet?

Just look at the target: Google. That three-three split isn't perfect but it's better than Microsoft or Apple. Mark my words, Yahoo will be next.

Can you not see Abi's nefarious plan? Her own name gives the game away: using them without being wasteful, showing us her priorities. She lives in the Low Countries, where not even J's are safe. This is a trap, her most successful one yet. She brings the trolls to the forums, knowing we will not defend them, and allows them just enough rope ... until they are spilling their words all over the posts and she can have her wicked way with them.

She is farming vowels.

One day, you'll see that I was right. But by then it will be too late and the vowels will all be gone and we'll be stuck with gbbrsh.

#230 ::: Gkpm ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 05:35 AM:

Hll, ys t's yr mght pnt gn.

Nt t's nt bcs th lnk s p gn, y msndrstd tht cmpltl, thr r n wnnrs r lsrs n tht gm.

thght ths ws ltrr sct, hwvr THN @ msrd m pst n cpyrght. S ths tm 'll gv Ltn tr - myb sm wll n dbt ndrstnd t bttr.

(nt: hv t plgs tht ths s Ggl-Ltn, bt crrctns r wlcm.)

Numquam fuit dictum "implied transfer of copyright in forums". Dixi contrarium.

Qd ccss, qd, qnd psm nn lrm t tm?

s fr th whl sttn, n t's nt "lk chckns tryng t pck n njrd flckmt t dth" (Dvd Hrmn @ ). 'll s qt frm n f m fvrt thrs t xpln t:


"M frml fr grtnss n hmn bng s mr ft: tht n wnts nthng t b dffrnt, nt frwrd, nt bckwrd, nt n ll trnt. Nt mrl br wht s ncssr, stll lss cncl tll dlsm s mndcsnss n th fc f wht s ncssrbt lv t. (Ntzsch, cc Hm: Hw n Bcms Wht n s, p. )
Bt s prvsl sttd, hv sd ll wntd hr lrd. Fl fr t ntrprt t s y wsh, wll nt dd mr t th dscssn. jst sk tht ppl dn't - dlbrtl r nt - stt tht wrt thngs ddn't. spcll snc thr's n w t chck, gvn m psts hv bn cnsrd.

IP
75.125.220.173

#231 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 05:40 AM:

Open season. Be interesting.

#232 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 06:05 AM:

Especially since there's no way to check, given my posts have been censored.

They haven't, actually, they've just been rendered more difficult to read, although it may be harder still if English isn't your first language.

I'll use a quote from one of my favorite authors to explain it:

Nietzsche knew a lot about trolling, I suspect.

#233 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 06:11 AM:

Gkpm, what do you mean there's no way to check? Your posts are all up there -- I've read them all. (And yes, I mean after the vowels were removed.)

#234 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 06:27 AM:

The thing about zombie pinatas is that the candy is so damn -stale-.

#235 ::: edward oleander ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 06:27 AM:

At this time of the morning, an original yet worthy thought is difficult. Fortunately we, like Gkbxpmtysfslpvmwq, can also use quotes to express ourselves.

"You are in more dire need of a blowjob than any white man in history." ~Robin Williams, as Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam~

#236 ::: Gkpm ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 06:30 AM:

h s s ths gm nw? Wll tht chngs vrythng. Th hntd cn pl th hntr t, y knw? ftr ll d y rll knw wht y r hntng n th ntrnt? Cld b trll, dg, r smthng ls.

s nthr f m fvrt qts pts t "Th nl wnnng mv s nt t pl" (Wrgms, ). Bt 'll tk n bt, jst fr xtr llz (prdn m Frnch)


Ppl rll hv t mch tm n ths frm. nw ndrstnd wh thr flng cmpns hv t sll dt cptrd b dvcs ppl prchsd n cnfdnc, btryng th trst f thr srs.

Myb srs shld hv rd ths T&Cs t.

Smthng bt glss rfs nd thrwng stns cms t mnd.

"Wldn't y prfr nc gm f chss?"

IP
75.125.220.173

#237 ::: Dave Crisp ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 06:36 AM:

That which is said in Latin is only highly thought of if your audience actually understands what you're saying.

While I have no trouble believing that the proportion of Latinates amongst ML readers is higher than in the general population, using it to express a thought that could just have easily been said in English just makes you look pretentious.

Especially since you admitted you had to go to Google translate.

Quo usque tandem abutere, Gkpm, patentia nostra?

#238 ::: Gkpm ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 06:51 AM:

t rspndndm st, vsm ltns n cmp.

Wht cn s, dn't dl wll wth pssv-ggrssv ttcks f bng dsnvwld. T m "fr s" s nt fr mdfctn, nt t mntn th frdm sd f t.

ndrstnd tht pssv-ggrssv tctc ws brn n ths vr frm, nd nw t's bcmng clr wh.

IP
75.125.220.173

#239 ::: Gkpm ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 07:07 AM:

Wll t's nc t b n prt fr whl, nd thnks ll fr mkng m wr f thngs lk dsnvwllng, mng thrs.

Knwldg s gd, bt t's tm fr ths slr t lv t mr wlcmng shrs.

Rgrdlss f wht y thnk f m, wsh y ll wll. mght drp b Mrtn's blg, t s f Ggl cvd r nt, hpfll th wll.

Mrc pr vtr hn, bntt.

IP
75.125.220.173

#240 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 07:25 AM:

Ca c'est pas du haine.

#241 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 07:26 AM:

"de la", that is.

#242 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 07:43 AM:

Google Translate interprets "veni, vidi, vici" as "Come, I saw, I gained" now. Still not great, though it's better than it used to be-- when I tried this a few months back, it came up with something about goats, I think.

They certainly aren't teaching the machine Latin the way teachers used to in high school.

#243 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 07:44 AM:

Once a troll, always a troll.

AMF

#245 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 09:32 AM:

David Ferrington #216: Hey, one of the things I learned at Harvard was to notice when I'm not the smartest person in the room. And that's why I hang out here....

Teresa #211 the more pathological specimens have two weird quirks.

And... one of the thing that impresses me about you, Teresa, is how you regularly toss off insights that would make excellent papers for an academic psychologist or sociologist! Both of these points are significant and useful.

#246 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 10:06 AM:

Whoah, the troll has accused the forum of having too much time on its hands. That's something you don't see every day.

Also -- as a technical writer, I'm intrigued by this theory that the right way to re-emphasize a point is to transform it into a random language using Google Translate. I know all kinds of techniques for calling out information, ranging from layout & font tricks on up, but this is a new one. I think I will try Icelandic at work and see how it goes.

#247 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 10:10 AM:

VARÚÐ: the - afl möguleika geta leitt til spillingu gagna.

Hmmm.

#248 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 10:14 AM:

Klaatu barada nikto!

#249 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 10:19 AM:

They certainly aren't teaching the machine Latin the way teachers used to in high school.

The Britons, however, who of course still used the old pronunciation, understanding him to have called them ‘Weeny, Weedy and Weaky’, lost heart and gave up the struggle, thinking that he had already divided them All into Three Parts.

I think I will try Icelandic at work and see how it goes.

This reminds me slightly of the Discworld novel in which a newly-recruited dwarf Watchman delivers his incident report in the style of someone who grew up with the saga tradition...

#250 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 10:21 AM:

Teresa, would it be too much to ask for you to classify whitespace as vowels when dealing with particularly repetitive trolls?

#251 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 11:36 AM:

Charlie @250 -- I believe there's a precedent, where a particularly odious troll had their vowels and spaces removed, then the remaining letters sorted.

It had a burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp vibe about it.

#252 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 11:49 AM:

abi @ 178: This experience has certainly given me food for thought on the nature of the mass of humanity.

Hi, sorry to butt in, but I just want to say that one of the things I like about Making Light--aside from the general intelligence and perceptiveness of its authors--is the typically warm and humane nature apparent in the posts.

I hope I'm missing something or reading too much into your comment--to me it implies a dimming of your view of humanity, and I think that would be a real loss.

I'm sorry you had a number of Gray Woodland's shrieking monkeys howling their impotent rage in your face, but I think it would make the situation that much worse if they managed to move you closer to their addled view of the world.

#253 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 12:12 PM:

Evan Goer: Whoah, the troll has accused the forum of having too much time on its hands. That's something you don't see every day. I don't see it every day, I see about once a month. It's a fairly common defensive attack, meant to imply that they are possessed of, "real lives" and the poor fools who inhabit whatever den of dark ignorance the troll is trying to illuminate need to get out more, instead of "wasting time" responding to the troll.

At one level it's sort of pathetic. The troll is usually feeling overwhelmed because they stirred a hornets' nest with a large stick of ignorance. It usually happens in fora with a sense of community (I've been spending time at Man Boobz which has really good sense of community, and get a lot more trolls. Trolls with agendas. Trolls who aren't used to people having the energy to disassemble them, point by point, error by error, logcial fallacy by logical fallacy.

So, while they can derail the thread, it's hard for them do more than mess up the mud-room. And it frustrates them. Look at Gpkm. Not only has he managed to out himself as a troll, but he's being used as the butt of jokes he doesn't understand. He's come up against community. One with in-jokes, and shared understandings of the world.

Instead of furor he got analysis of his manner, not reaction to his message, because being rude is a social non-starter here (not verboten, but it can't be rude for the sake of rude). Now he's the object of the worst sort of ridicule for a troll. He's not being laughed at, so much as laughed past.

#254 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 01:04 PM:

Evan Goer @ 246: "Whoah, the troll has accused the forum of having too much time on its hands. That's something you don't see every day."

Hmm, that reminds me of the folk who appear on sites critiquing pop culture to tell people that it's just a tv show GEEZ, it's not worth spending time on! It's the same hypocrisy: if it's not worth it for us to spend time discussing it, then how is it worth your time to tell us to stop discussing it? I think that's also driven by the same desire to quiet an inner anxiety--as long as someone is critiquing, say Avatar for its blatant (ab)use of What these people need is a Honky, then they are scared their enjoyment of it might suddenly be turned against them.

(Also, "Th hntd cn pl th hntr t, y knw? ftr ll d y rll knw wht y r hntng n th ntrnt?" - adorably feerth, like a kitten going after your shoe laces seconds after vomiting on your couch.)

#255 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 01:14 PM:

Quo usque tandem abutere, Gpkm, patientia nostra? quam diu etiam furor iste tuus nos eludet? quem ad finem sese effrenata iactabit audacia?

#256 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 01:36 PM:

Way back at #41, Randolph wrote:

...and honest businesspeople are not so common among large corporations.

Randolph, is this really what you meant to say?

I hope not. But if so, see #73.

#257 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 01:54 PM:

Carrie @ #213:

If you've ever had the misfortune of getting into a wrangle over "The Cold Equations", this paragraph has a poignancy that's hard to explain.
That's the sfnal paradigm, innit?

#258 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 02:23 PM:

Theophylact: I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at. But I love the tag question "innit?", so I'm going to agree with you. :)

#259 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 02:32 PM:

heresiarch @254: adorably feerth, like a kitten going after your shoe laces

oblolcat

#260 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 02:36 PM:

::hunts around under couch::

Awwww! Troll went away!! I wanted a swipe.

I feel like the cat whose laser dot disappeared into a shoe.

#261 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 03:49 PM:

Jacque @ 260... Troll went away!! I wanted a swipe.

That sounds like a scene froma Bert I Gordon movi...
"Run! Its the Amazing Colossal Jacque!!!"

#262 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 03:57 PM:

STOMP STOMP STOMP

#263 ::: sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 04:36 PM:

Carrie @ 213 - that story had such a profound effect on me when I read it in my 5th grade lit book that I avoided sf for a while after. I had been so excited, there was something space-based in my lit book! And then I had nightmares. I can still remember details.

Re: Trolls
What are trolls? Are trolls like orcs, and the darker side of some other humanoid race? Are they the other side of dwarves, as orcs are of elvenkin? Or are they separate entirely, humanoid forms of the reptiles they resemble, spitting poison and biting anything in range? How old are those reptiles, this race of creatures? Could we count some acts displayed above, those of similar posting and sockpuppetry, as examples of dinosaur sodomy?

#264 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 05:30 PM:

Gpkm, unde ista ira tua? Nam sine furore homines pacata fila non molestant. Qui pavidus aut maestus est hic consolationem communitatis invenire potest; qui gaudens aut hilarus ludicratur. Sine vera causa hic venisti ut nobis inrites. Tales troglodyta nominamus.

Et Googiliam Latinam tuam temno. Si veram Latinam scribere non potest, non tempti. Inepte.

#265 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 05:41 PM:

The Invisible Insanity (Google Translate) version:

Gpkm, whence this thy wrath? For, without the thread does not burden the fury of men being reduced. Sad, or fearful of the community here who can find consolation; ludicratur-HEARTED, or who joyfully. Without genuine reason, you have come here to let us have stringent but ineffectual. Such call troglodytes.

And your SLIGHT Googiliam Latin. If you can not write true Latin, not the time. Ineptly.

#266 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 05:42 PM:

Romanes eunt domus.

#267 ::: Dave Crisp ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 05:53 PM:

@266: People called Romanes, they go the 'ouse?

(had to be done, sorry)

#268 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 06:04 PM:

Brevior abi: Hic stat Gpkm.

#269 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 06:30 PM:

Did he really go away? Or did abi just squish 'im?

#270 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 06:44 PM:

I'm still boggling over "My work here is done" (or words to that effect). My reply, pre-processed for the convenience of all concerned: Your 'work'? Wht pthtc ptfl lttl pssnt y r.

#271 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 07:00 PM:

"My work here is done"

He's the Lone Ranger?

#272 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 07:07 PM:

This thread fills my tiny classics major heart with joy. Also, it reminds me that I'm supposed to be translating ancient things instead of reading delightful modern things online.

#273 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 07:46 PM:

Serge @ 271: See #154 for details. The gist of it was:

s m rl hr s dn

It doesn't lose much in the translation.

#274 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 09:04 PM:

Damn, my computer is in the shop for less than a day, and I miss a game of Troll Bingo, at least two piñatas, and a Flounce-and-Return. Damn.

Well, now I've read the entire thread (well, I didn't struggle through ALL the disemvoweled responses). I very much doubt that Gpkm's intention in coming here was as he* claimed. That sounds more like a typical trollish response to an imminent threat of banning to me: "Hah, go ahead and ban me, I've done what I came to do!"

Y'see, they don't take losing well, and one of their favorite responses to it is to simply declare themselves to have won.

*Not guaranteed but the way to bet

#275 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 09:17 PM:

Dave Crisp @ 237 (Theophylact etiam) dixunt Quo usque tandem abutere, Gkpm, patentia nostra?

I died of chortling. Never was the sentence better applied.

#276 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 09:31 PM:

sisuile #263 ISTR that in LoTR, trolls corresponded to Ents.

#277 ::: Gkpm ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 09:53 PM:

b @ Tht pst ws smpl btfl ( cn rd Ltn jst nt wrt crrctl, th trnsltn n ws rll pr ) nd t md m rthnk t ll. Myb Ltn ds hv t's spcl flr - fr th rcrd m nt bng srcstc. 'm stll fgrng t hw ths dscssn drld s qckl, k s wsn't spprtv n m frst pst, smthng nd t wrk n, bt th mssg ws smpl. Dd t rll wrrnt sch mmdt prsnl ttck nd th brrg tht fllwd? f th rpl ws smthng clsr t wld hv ndrstd t wll. N dsmvwlng ndd. nyw gss ths wll b n mr ld f vwls fr yr cllctn, nd wldn't vn hv bthrd t pst gn f nt fr tht nw pst tht dd tch m. gr sqtr crdr.

IP
75.125.220.173

#278 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 10:05 PM:

Gkpm @277: Yes, you had it coming. You really were that bad. Your excuses are feeble and unconvincing. And you're a very slow learner.

#279 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 10:15 PM:

Gkpm @277:

Agere sequitur credere.
Apprenti-dictateur à la noix de coco! Sous-produit d'ectoplasme! Chouette mal empaillée! Vercingétorix de carnaval! Neener-neener!

#280 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 10:24 PM:

Gkpm, I think you may have worn out your welcome here entirely, but if I'm wrong the best thing you can do is offer a sincere and abject apology for your earlier behavior. It certainly couldn't HURT.

#281 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 10:29 PM:

279
ROFLMAO....

(We've seen better flounces than that one, including some with returns. 4.2, I think. On a scale of 10.)

#282 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 10:34 PM:

I would point out that 277, while not exactly the sort of comment we like here, has not (at this writing) been disemvoweled. Note, Gkpm, how even now you are extended courtesies undeserved.

#283 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 10:44 PM:

Teresa @ 279... Can we fit in one 'zouave' or two? Maybe some 'bachi-bouzouk'?

#284 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 10:50 PM:

Saltimbanque de carnaval!

#285 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 10:52 PM:

I'm uncomfortable with being smug about how much more evolved one is than trolls, seeing as smugness (eg about being more net-savvy than a ten-year-old) seems to be one of their defining characteristics. I'm worried I might just be slotting myself into a Spectrum of Trollishness, my only saving grace being that I manage to restrain myself from lurking under bridges or descending on random fora to crimp one off.

I think (some) trolls want to be gadflies, to goad/provoke/stimulate the complacent, the pompous, the ideological and of course the smug...but they lack the skills...

Perhaps I should set up a training program.

#286 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 10:52 PM:

Amiral de bateau-lavoir!

#287 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 11:03 PM:

Bachi-bouzouk de tonnerre de Brest! Zouave interplanétaire!

#288 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 11:33 PM:

286
Your admiral has a rubber ducky?

#289 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 11:41 PM:

A boat that also serves as a washtub.

#290 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 11:41 PM:

Honi soit qui mal y pense. (Rough translation: He who smelt it, dealt it.)

#291 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2011, 11:54 PM:

Au bon pain. (Rough translation: It hurts so good.)

#292 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 12:25 AM:

Gah. This happened on the 4th? Belated sympathies extending to abi, Martin, and Alex. Though I'm happy to see that some good great polyglot hilarity has had occasion to bloom in the time since. And out of the crap that all those cynical, empathyless smarmers left at sunpig and here, no less! Composting with manure does work.

#208 ::: sisuile - this is beauty in a very small frame. It made me chortle and gasp all at once.

Teresa @211 - Several people have already commented on this very passage, but it's the bit I'm bolding here...

when they hear about a semi-random bad thing happening to someone who didn't deserve it, they feel a rush of anxiety, which they experience as something the victim is doing to them, rather than something they're doing to themselves.
...that took my breath away. I understood the various permutations of the Just World Fallacy (nearly typed "Fantasy" there, which might have been just as accurate), but never the viciousness with which its adherents tend to apply its terrible conclusions to those victims that they're re-victiming.

Some threads ago I alluded to a painful email correspondence; my correspondent opened her line of questioning, seemingly out of the blue, after overhearing a conversation go sour between me and a mutual acquaintance. The group's talk had turned to Facebook and its tendency to "reunite you with long-lost friends while separating you from those friends close-at-hand", and I tossed into the ring that "it also apparently reunites those who have been stalked with their stalkers," which of course required an review of Facebook's "what? creating new channels by which to share our members' personal data should be an opt-in procedure? but that's too logical and respectful!" fiasco.

The conversation went sour because one person in it just had to opine that "you can't feel too sorry for them [stalking victims made freshly re-availalbe to their stalkers]; I mean, what did they expect?"

Well, it went sour mainly because I tried to respond with tact and failed, I guess. In any case, my tactless response included a sentiment along the lines of "you're blaming the victims for the crime of being less cynical than you," which my aforementioned email correspondent honed in on and sprang from ("Speaking of victim blaming, don't you think in some cases the victim had some responsibility...?"), and again, I fail at tact when I sense a stunning lack of human decency being displayed for my benefit -- and I get stunned in that arena pretty easily because I haven't got the hang of this world-weary jaded cynicism that passes for "wisdom" amongst some -- so those emails went pretty damn sour too.

Which is a very rambly way of coming around to "There's always someone pulling the 'I got no sympathy; you were stupid and that's why life sucks for you; I on the other hand am SMRT and thus life doesn't suck for me (if I say that last bit loud enough it will be true!).' It's depressingly frequent in that it seems to be the common denominator between a lot of bad occurrences recently to plague me and mine."

And I never thought that the viciously smarm and lack of empathy -- no, pointed denial of empathy -- might sometimes be, in the mind of the smarmer, a defense response to what they perceive as an attack: that someone out there had the ruthless temerity -- so ruthless, in fact, as to be unafraid to fall on the sword of the demonstration! -- to demonstrate for them the specter of Bad Things Happening To Good People.

Took my breath away, your pointing that out.

This has gotten stupid long. Last thing: I am astounded and just pinkly giggling beyond amused that the EFF has a specific FAQ about disemvowelling and copyright. We're talking about "Having a bad day? Re-read this!" amusement. I'm absurdly happy to know about it.

#293 ::: sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 12:35 AM:

Nicole @ 292
*blush* it was merely taking taking the comment about making in-jokes to it's logical Fluorospheran conclusion.

#294 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 12:47 AM:

Adrian @285, demi-trolls seldom worry about such things, and true trolls never do.

I think (some) trolls want to be gadflies, to goad/provoke/stimulate the complacent, the pompous, the ideological and of course the smug...but they lack the skills...
What you said. Trolls want to have potent wizardly skills in interactions -- to win debates in a few paragraphs, or goad and provoke the irritatingly static with a single sentence. Trouble is, they can't make it work they way they imagine it.

I more and more believe that true trolls, the impervious ones who are made out of dwarf star material, adopt each of their oddly assorted secondhand opinions because they once saw someone use it to good effect in an argument.

If so, this would help explain several bits of distinctive troll weirdness. For example, they're very defensive about their opinions, and they see them as possessing innate strength independent of the context in which they're used. You've seen this faith in action. When this species of troll misbehaves and gets into trouble, he's always certain the real reason he's being picked on is because the rest of us can't cope with the vast force and magnificence of his opinions. And yet -- this is weird -- while hardcore troll opinions may be offensive, they're never distinctive or original. The content is always someone else's formulation. Even the phrasing is tired.

Another oddity is that they can't alter or extend their opinions. If they've adopted (say) "government doesn't provide any necessary services, and we'd be better off without it," or "good public schools won't make me any safer, but a gun sure will," you can't coax them to spread out from that basic statement, or build a bridge to link two of their opinions. Operationally, their set of opinions functions less like a belief system than a collection of prized bowling balls.

There's more than one kind of troll, and more than one kind of trollish behavior. No one's ever studied them systematically. I wish someone would.

#295 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 12:53 AM:

TNH, 294: Cargo-cult argumentation? Much becomes clear.

#296 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 01:02 AM:

Teresa @ 294:

No one's ever studied them systematically. I wish someone would.

I wonder if Sherry Turkle at MIT would be interested. Anyone here have a low-number Bacon count to her?

#297 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 01:16 AM:

abi,

I missed the first few days of this thread by being mostly off the net, and I'm sorry that I did for two reasons. The first is that wish I'd been able to say to you and Martin much earlier than this, that:

  • While I've never met either you or your children, I have admired the way you've brought them up, as shown in your blogging.

  • Your distress at what Google did to Alex is quite understandable; I agree that some action on their part to restore his email is necessary.

  • I think that bringing the situation up for discussion here on Making Light was a good deed on Patrick's part. The couple of times I've had trouble with Google's administration of my data, the problem was only resolved because people who were affected made a public ruckus and forced Google to publicly acknowledge the problem and proved a solution.

The second reason is that I clearly missed a lot of fun with the piñata. And yet another prime example of why I like hanging out here.

#298 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 01:23 AM:

From what I've seen of Abi, I expect her secret plan is to carefully save each garnered vowel, put it in a care package, and ship it to a charitable foundation in Eastern Europe where many people, places, and things have barely a vowel to their name.

#299 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 01:58 AM:

Gkpm @277:

Panitet me, sed nullum temporem vimque tuo degere volo. Post hanc molestia non te tantum digno.

Tace. Haec filam stude. Cogite. Calceos aliorum gere ut aliquantusper ambules. Plus cogite. Responsa hic iam sunt.

Vale, et melior alibi age.

#300 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 02:12 AM:

Margaret Organ-Kean @ #298, that's wonderful. Wales might be an alternate destination if the pile of vowels keeps growing. Not so much because Wales has so few, but because the ones it has are spread so thinly among its place names.

#301 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 02:15 AM:

Margaret Organ-Kean @298:

You've smoked me out. My current mission to Poland (I'm in Łódź) is not, in fact, to work with far-flung colleagues, but actually to deliver my current consignment of vowels for transshipment east.

Ah, nuts, did I put that in the clear?

#302 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 02:22 AM:

Latin and joking aside, I very much appreciate the support of the community in this matter, both here and elsewhere. As I said to our current infrapont, this is a place where the grieved and the frightened can find comfort, and the joyful and the silly play.

I was certainly the first of these for a time, and this community really helped to pull me back.

I think that's one thing that the infinite-argument web misses: we come to our keyboards and our screens not as intellects, but as whole people, mind and heart together. The idea that we can coolly debate matters is an illusion, that we can do it on the internet doubly so. Human factors intervene. One caters for them or is eaten up.

(Indeed, that's the lesson of the incident in question.)

Thank you.

#303 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 02:46 AM:

Hm. And here I was sure that your sob story about your allegéd "children" was a memetic trojan allowing you root access to the limbic system of anyone foolish enough to read it with an open, unprotected mind. Quite elegant, really: not only does it provoke a basal urge to cluster mindlessly together against an inhuman threat, carefully aimed at your chosen target, it also exhibits self-replicative capability. As it iterates itself over ever wider expanses of the population, the only ones capable of resisting it are those who, in an act of self-sacrifice both literal and epic, have surgically removed their ability to feel compassion. It's the only way.

#304 ::: Martin Sutherland ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 03:02 AM:

Teresa in #294 and TexAnne in #295 - this is a stunningly clear insight; I could practically hear the click in my head as it fell into place. Trolls think that they can pick up the cast-off arguments and techniques of debating Wizards and use them to the same effect, oblivious that the magic lies not in the tool, but in the wielding.

I'm in awe.

#305 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 04:10 AM:

Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) @296: "No one's ever studied them systematically. I wish someone would." I wonder if Sherry Turkle at MIT would be interested. Anyone here have a low-number Bacon count to her?

I have 3rd degree connection with her via five of my LinkedIn contacts (three of whom are fans).

#306 ::: J. Random Scribbler ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 05:38 AM:

abi and Martin--

I know I'm coming in a bit late to all this, yet here I am anyway. I can't help but be reminded of some of my own early Net experiences, when my college didn't have Net access yet. Sometimes I could finagle some way to get access, and when I went home on breaks there was the local university-- but there would always come a time when I'd have to sign off knowing that it would probably be months before I could get on again.

That was an awful feeling, but it must be only a pale shadow of what your son felt; he grew up taking access for granted, and was trying to play by the rules, and all at once he pretty much lost everything. That must've felt a little like going blind, or breaking a leg. All of a sudden the world is smaller and stuff you never thought about before is hard or downright impossible. I'm glad you were there for him, and I hope Google does the right thing and at least returns the data.

I wish the Net was a kinder place, too. Hopefully my words will offset some small bit of the nastiness you've had to deal with.

Also, hopefully I've not inadvertently offended in some way; I'm not the most socially ept person ever, but I felt encouraged by some of the comments above to speak up anyway. This really feels like the cool kids table here, but it's better than that because you encourage people to speak up.

Anyway, I'm sleep-depped and not thinking too clearly, so I need to leave. I can't resist a few last things though:

Fragano @206: yet again I am in awe.

edward oleander @215: the ending caught me by surprise but left me with a long-lasting smile. May it be so.

David Henke and Mycroft @various: Thanks for your perspective. My first impulse is always the 'engineer' response too. I don't think I'm quite in the same boat as you; I'm probably not actually missing any circuitry, it's just that it's infrequently used because other paths seem quicker. It's just so much simpler and more tempting for me to stay in the problem/solution channel because the emotional channel is so murky and mysterious and fraught with invisible tripwires (or at least the fear of them.) I'm trying to learn, though. (And please don't take this as any kind of judgement on anyone; I'm also just trying to make conversation.)

David @216: I hear you. Thanks for speaking up, it encouraged me to do it too.

TexAnne, Jacque, Tom Whitmore, and others who expressed support: I thank you, even though your words weren't particularly directed at me.

Terry Karney @228: Funny, I remember you as being one of the "cool kids" here for, I don't know, years, maybe? You're right, it is sort of hard to believe that you're unsure of yourself here... though of course we're all human. Thanks for your eloquent encouragement.

Wow, OK, I didn't mean to ramble on quite this long. My wife will be wondering why I haven't come home yet. I'll close with a general shout-out to all who post here with good will -- regulars, serial de-lurkers like me and everybody in between -- you make this place one of the greatest on the Net. Thanks yet again.

#307 ::: J. Random Scribbler ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 05:45 AM:

Wow, so much more coolness just while I was writing that wall'o'text! No fair! ;-} Really must leave though.

#308 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 05:58 AM:

Teresa @ 294:

No one's ever studied them systematically. I wish someone would.

I don't know if it's possible to study the motivations of active trolls-- they're so guarded.

I've seen a piece by an ex-troll who said that they eventually realized that any claims they made for benevolent motivations were false-- they were doing it for their own pleasure.

(Sorry for ambiguity-- I'm talking about one person, and doing the courtesy of obfuscating their gender.)

#309 ::: Jasper Janssen ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 06:29 AM:

My birthdate, as far as anyone on the internet needs to know, can be 1-1-1970 0:00 (0 in the epoch) as easily as the decade or so later it actually was, or 1-1-1900 even. I do get the occasional automated happy birthday email around new year's, though.

#310 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 06:36 AM:

No one's ever studied them systematically. I wish someone would

On tonight's episode of "MythBusters", a troll tries to argue with Jamie.

#311 ::: Richard Robinson ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 07:07 AM:

#294, #295 Cargo-cult. Yes.

Hello. I'm a long-time lurker, driven to decloak by the need to thank you all for that.

I've tended to see "troll" as defined by the need for all attention to be on them[1]. So I'm struck by the way that this Gkp person(a) ends up occupying (in his[2] own reasoning) the same space as the original subject. By which I mean, anybody with any wit could have known to see a disemvowellment coming ...

[1] And not really caring what they say in order to get there, so long as it works. In that respect this differs from the classic cargo-cult - it does get the desired result. In terms of needing attention, shoddy reasoning is not a bug, it's a feature,; pointing it out feeds them just as well as anything else.

[2] Somebody said it already - best guess.

#312 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 07:41 AM:

Richard Robinson @ 311... Well said. And welcome.

#313 ::: pensnest ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 07:45 AM:

Sebastian @138

I've seen 'condesplaining', which fits the bill rather well.

#314 ::: Doug Burbidge ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 08:12 AM:

Ths s jst t sy
  hv rmvd
th vwls
tht wr n
yr pst

nd whch y wr prbbly
kpng
fr lgblty

Frgv m
thy wr clls
s crl
nd s cld

(I just wanted to see what it looked like with the vowels removed. I think "callous" is the only word that came out hard to read. And perhaps (ironically) "legibility".)

#315 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 08:19 AM:

Doug, 314: Brilliant! FWIW, I didn't have any trouble with any of it. Context is a wonderful thing.

#316 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 08:22 AM:

What TexAnne said.

#317 ::: Gkpm ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 08:36 AM:


Chf. mst dmt hs cmpltl nv bt ML nd vn TNH (prt frm knwng sm f hr bks) ntl cm hr, fllwng th lnk frm th Snpg blg. Hwvr hvng rd sm mr n th sbjct nw ndrstnd th mchncs bt bttr, ncldng TNH fms mds prnd nd hr thr ctvts rnd th wb. ws BngBng rdr frm whn t ws t n ppr frm, nd bg fn f Mrk Frnfldr, hvng mt hm prsnll fw tms bt jst ddn't kp p wth chngs thr - nr d rd n f Gwkr Md's sts, whch t m r lk Th Sn r Dl Ml f th ntrnt. S dsnvwlng m frst pst ws qt rd wknng t ll ths. Hvng sd tht s hw ppl hr r drvn t b tn bt bsssd wth trlls nd mrkng ppl s sch whn thr s n nd. n m vw (whch t ths pnt m b rrlvnt t y ll) ths nl gnrts ngr nd ys ld t, trll-lk rctns. Hv y cnsdrd lwrng tht prsnl frwll lttl nd t lst gv sm chnc t rcvr? Bt n t m mn mtv f ths pst: Rchrd @ Lt m b clr. d nt wnt ttntn. wld rthr m rgnl pst hd bn gnrd r smpl rpld t wth "W dn't nd yr "ths hppnd bcs s nd s", w nd yr sympth nd spprt n wht y cn". Wth tht y wldn't hv hrd mr frm m r wld hv plgsd n th scnd cs. n th thr hnd tk ss wth prsnl ttcks nd rrl lv ths nnswrd. Thr hs bn clr tntng thrdd thrght sm thr's psts nd f crs th whl dsnvwlng thng whs mr dscssn nw ndrstnd s ff-lmts t ths frm s 'll lv t t tht. wll nt rspnd t n mr tntng, bt dn't lt m stp y f tht flts yr bt.

IP
204.152.215.146

#318 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 08:40 AM:

::applauds Doug @314::

I've just been struck by a thought: is this, perhaps, the long-lost recipe for Schadenfreud Pi?

#319 ::: David Ferrington ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 08:43 AM:

Thank you for all the kind welcomes.

I'll try to overcome some shyness and post a little more often. I said I was a grumpy sort, but I can say I doubt I'll ever get disemvowelled. :p

If someone points out my rudeness, I'm usually pretty willing to apologize. I'm not a very confrontational type.

As to trolls, one thing I've noticed, many trolls often have an audience that they are performing for. Especially when they show up in packs, it becomes more a point scoring game than anything else.


#320 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 08:55 AM:

Gkpm, what I know, and what you know, but the rest of the good people here don't know, is that you also posted (as sockpuppet "Rob") the personal attack on Martin up at #116.

Don't play all innocent and aggrieved and misunderstood. It won't wash.

Not hearing more from you would be a wonderful choice. I suggest you make it.

#321 ::: Richard Robinson ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 08:56 AM:

#317

Perhaps I was over-short ? Being new here, I'm anxious not to be over-long ... "attention for your way of looking at it", perhaps ? A hint of a suggestion that it's more valid than the modes that prevail here ?

#322 ::: Gkpm ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 09:16 AM:

Jms @ dd s tk ss wth prsnl ttcks, nd d hv svrl wys f rspndng t sch ttcks, ncldng wht wrt n tht pst (whch b th w ws th nl n dd hr). Tht pst cld hv bn vdd f th ss hdn't qckl mvd t prsnl ttcks bfr t. 'm ls nt clld Gkpm s dn't s tht t mttrs ndr whch ncknm pst? n ths d nd g f PR stnts nd smr cmpgns t smd vld qstn t sk gvn th crcmstncs. Wht y y ddn't s ws m prssng frthr nt tht tpc.

IP
204.152.215.146

#323 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 09:23 AM:

This conversation is over, Gkpm.

Once a troll, always a troll, and all posts by a troll are troll posts.

#324 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 09:25 AM:

"Go back to the shadow. You shall not pass!"
- Gandalf

#325 ::: Gdby ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 09:36 AM:

t's ll bt th trlls hr sn't t? Shm. Wll t lst th ntrnt stll hs plcs whr n cn dscss pnl wtht cnsrshp r rdcl.

IP
75.125.220.173

#326 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 09:45 AM:

I'd give that flounce about a 2.3

I've seen better ones from elementary school children sent to their rooms.

#327 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 10:12 AM:

A further trollish tale:

Many years ago, before the web was invented, I hung out on a large, popular, and very talkative bulletin board. We had our better and worse participants, and our people who were problems under this or that circumstance; but we also had a talented moderator and community manager who rode herd on things, so behavior stayed within tolerable ranges.

One day the word went round that one of our new members was a well-known flame warrior from the wilds of Usenet. We were a little apprehensive. The guy started participating in a bunch of threads, and three things quickly became apparent. One was that he saw himself as a crusading force for good. Another was that he took a polarized and adversarial view of disagreements. The third was that any conversation he joined would, within a few days, explode into arguments; and the chief topic of debate would be him. A lot of good conversations got trashed that way.

Right about then I quit smoking. It was hard, as in weeks of off-and-on hallucinations, delirium, and full-body pain. Nicotine gets tangled up in narcoleptics' defective relationship with dopamines. When you subtract it, it takes a while to restore equilibrium. And while all this was going on, I went to Boskone. For more than a year after that, I was hearing stories about things I couldn't remember doing at the convention. Biting two authors was the least of it.

It was only a month or two after Boskone that I ran into someone I knew from both conventions and that bulletin board. "I did that thing you suggested with [our Usenet flamer], and it worked really well!" he said cheerfully. "I passed it on, just like you told me to."

Intense apprehension; ditto curiosity. "What did I tell you to do?"

After he'd explained, I checked with other friends, and a couple of them confirmed that I'd told them the same thing: 'The next time our unwanted champion explodes all over a conversation, don't engage with him. Pause a moment, then say "Is that all?" When he asks, tell him we'd heard there was some major-league Usenet flame warrior joining the board, and we'd been looking forward to seeing something really out of the ordinary, but ... Was that it? ... Then trail off in polite confusion.' I'd also told them to pass it on.

Well. That did explain why he'd left the board in a red-hot flounce about two weeks after Boskone, announcing as he did so that we were the biggest bunch of @sshls on the internet.

Anyway, that was weird.

I think what I saw about him was that he liked playing the role of the crusading white knight who saves us all from error. It was his favorite transaction, so he inappropriately forced it to happen over and over again. Because he saw himself as the good guy, he overlooked his habitual use of too much force, which in turn let him see himself as "winning" arguments, and winning them because he was right, when in reality the other participants were abandoning the argument because it had become chaotic and unpleasant.

The script I'd suggested broke his transaction. Instead of being about what he was (or wished to be), it was about what he did. Habitual flaming is just a performance; it proves nothing about essential nature; and he wasn't terribly good at it. His version of the transaction had been satisfactory, but ours was not, so he left.

===

You've probably heard a joke or shaggy dog story involving a large talking bear and a hunter who can't shoot straight. It ends with the furious bear holding the hunter up, nose to nose, and saying "Hey -- you're not here for the hunting, are you?" For me, that's a joke about moderation.

#328 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 10:23 AM:

#313 ::: pensnest :

Thanks for suggesting "condesplaining". It's like "mansplaining" without adding noise about gender.

#329 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 10:30 AM:

Teresa... Many years ago, before the web was invented...

Cue in Gabby Hayes.

#330 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 10:36 AM:

Gdby @ 325... This is turning into "The Long Goodbye"

#331 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 10:44 AM:

DNFTT

#332 ::: Richard Robinson ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 11:13 AM:

Serge #312, thank you.

Having come leaping in on a side-issue, it seems proper to revert to the original subject and (belatedly) express my sympathy with the lad for an experience the invitation didn't lead him to expect.

I'm not sure I'm finished chewing on "cargo cult", but it's late afternoon here in the UK and there are things I should be doing ...

#333 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 11:17 AM:

For more than a year after that, I was hearing stories about things I couldn't remember doing at the convention. Biting two authors was the least of it.

The phrase "Teresa Nielsen Durden" comes somehow to mind...

#334 ::: Sebastian ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 11:36 AM:

pensnest @ 313:

Yes, I think that'll do nicely. I have a tickle in the back of my mind that says there should be a whole taxonomy of backhanded, tonedeaf and condescending advice-giving. Is "hleping" (shadowsong@81) the generic term for this, or was that a typo?

#335 ::: Michael Adelstein ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 12:16 PM:

Disemvowellment just passed defenstration on my list of favorite demises. As a father of two (and a person who still misses his old netscape account that "technically" doesn't exist anymore):

Hr's t hpng Gggl+ crshs nd brns....

#336 ::: CLP ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 12:25 PM:

@246, @253, @254, the statement "You have too much time on your hands" is one of the most annoying statements commonly made on the Internet. It translates to "You choose to spend your leisure time in a different way that me, and I feel threatened when people have different preferences."

#337 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 12:32 PM:

CLP @336:

ISTM that "I feel threatened when people have different preferences." is a very common reaction in humans generally. It certainly seems to be a large part of religious and political intolerance, and much of social intolerance as well1. It's as if one person doing things a certain way invalidates the different way another person does things, and the only way to correct that is to persuade the other person or beat them into uniformity, either with words or jackboots.

1. Though I still believe that a lot of the homophobia in the US comes from other dark places.

#338 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 12:35 PM:

Wow. I hadn't had time to actually read this thread until today. I very much empathize with Alex; when I read what had happened, I felt that same all-my-innards-have-collapsed-into-a-black-hole feeling as when I'd accidentally lost my own email records, years ago (I did find them again; I'd somehow dragged them into a completely unrelated folder). And that was my own fault; I can just imagine what it was like for someone to not even do anything careless or knowingly wrong and suddenly have that happen.

The insights about troll behavior are very useful; especially the Cargo Cult Argument subspecies. That explains perfectly the behavior of a gentleman on a forum I moderate who uses the names of logical fallacies inappropriately, and then seems confused that we don't all applaud his contribution.

And as to our bridge-dweller deciding that "It's all about the trolls, here, isn't it" (revowellated by soaking in Hawaiian literature I save for just such occasions), I'm sure it's Just A Coincidence that I just went to three random recent threads and found no disemvowellment at all. All? Hardly. But he's sure trying to make it be.

#339 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 12:55 PM:

Cally, 338: Well, Gah-whoozis is the center of the universe; he's a troll; ergo, everything is all about the trolls.

More generally, I despise the way trolls distort the geometry of a thread. It's like they're super-dense objects, making a gravity well from which no thought can escape.

#340 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 01:02 PM:

Gpkm #317: "I do not want attention".

Carrying your own bridge around is a curious way of avoiding it.

#341 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 01:33 PM:

Coming soon on the Skiffy Channel!
An epic battle between Good and Evil!
"A Troll Bridge Too Far"

#342 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 01:54 PM:

Sebastian (334): 'Hleping' is one such term; 'helpy' is another. The toxic version is known locally as 'maladvice' or 'swallow a slug'. There's a fair bit of discussion of it recently on this thread (mixed in with everything else). (The link goes to the start of the intense discussion, #587 looks like the first reference to 'weasel help', but I don't offhand see Jacque's hilarious explanation of the term.)

#343 ::: sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 02:21 PM:

Mary Aileen @ 342

I read the initial comment as 'heping', which is what cats and toddlers do. I was not familiar with 'hleping.' Thank you for the illumination.

#344 ::: Dave DuPlantis ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 03:44 PM:

Re trolls: the typical RPG definition describes them as somewhat-to-considerably larger than orcs, more like ogres, perhaps, and usually with the ability to regenerate. Thinking about it, that may contribute to the origin of the word: the poster's remarkable ability to return again and again after verbal combat. (Oddly enough, flame wars do not seem to damage internet trolls even though RPG trolls are typically highly vulnerable to fire.)

I love the idea of Vowels for Charity. It would be good to be careful, though. People who have gone long periods of time without an adequate supply of vowels may not react well to a large quantity of them all at once: it might be better to introduce the vowels slowly, perhaps starting with only occasional Es and As, and working up from there until they can sometimes handle Y.

#345 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 03:58 PM:

Mary Aileen: thank you very much for saving me from an enormous amount of typing on this little Smartphone!

Sebastian: you're almost there, but not quite. Hlep/helpiness/helpyness is an ernest attempt to help with advice that will make things worse: no backhand or condescension involved. I've brought it up enough I should probably start a FAQ...

#346 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 04:10 PM:

I would just like to say that although much of this experience has been truly unpleasant for me, it is redeemed by the appearance of the (hopefully former) lurkers on this thread. It's sufficiently delightful to hear new voices in the community that even the sockpuppetry and personal attacks of our most recent infrapont is worth it for such a reward.

#348 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 05:16 PM:

Bruce E. Durocher II (345): You're welcome!

Jacque (347): Thanks! I had forgotten it was a link, not a comment in the thread. (By the way, Jacque, is your name one syllable or two?)

#349 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 05:25 PM:

"Kibitzing" is offering unwelcome advice, though it doesn't seem to involve sneering. Contrastingly, there's Douglas Adams' KENT (adj.) from TMOL:

Politely determined not to help despite a violent urge to the contrary. Kent expressions are seen on the faces of people who are good at something watching someone else who can't do it at all.

Bit difficult to manage in a text-only medium tho'.

#350 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 06:07 PM:

Dave DuPlantis@344: Re trolls: the typical RPG definition describes them as somewhat-to-considerably larger than orcs, more like ogres, perhaps, and usually with the ability to regenerate.

The line "Loathsome drolls have the ability to reiterate" (from either Dragon or White Dwarf magazine back in the mumbleties) comes back to me FSR.

#351 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 06:16 PM:

abi @ 346: The opposite of "the lurkers support me in e-mail", really. Here, the lurkers have been driven to unlurk to support you (and Martin and Alex) publically. A well-deserved compliment.

And yes, stick around, people.

#352 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 06:21 PM:

me@349:TMOL

On closer examination, NSFXopher. Sorry 'bout that.

#353 ::: Jo MacQueen ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 06:47 PM:

Abi @ 302: infrapont

Just wanted to admire this coinage. I'd ask to borrow it, but I suspect it would be an esprit d'escalier moment before I remembered it.

#354 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 07:15 PM:

There's an interesting character portrayal of a Usenet troll and saboteur in Rebecca Ore's SFnal Time's Child. If I recall correctly, it's modeled on a specific individual she got to know fairly well during some of the Cancel Wars, at least to the point of understanding and portraying how he perceived himself. I think seeing oneself as a huge heroic figure has to be part of the motivation for many of them.

#355 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 07:17 PM:

Doug @ 314:

Bravo! I read it with ease too, although I mistakenly got "clueless" (extra s) in place of "callous", but that worked equally well in context.

#356 ::: Roy G. Ovrebo ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 07:19 PM:

Dave DuPlantis @344: Thinking about it, that may contribute to the origin of the word [troll]: the poster's remarkable ability to return again and again after verbal combat.

AFAIK, it's actually from "trolling" - the verb that refers to dragging a baited line from your boat - on Usenet of old people would talk of "trollers". It's just a lucky coincidence that this verb can be nouned into a mythological creature that lives under bridges.

#357 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 07:40 PM:

Adrian Smith @ #349 re Kent: I call that "sitting on your hands", as in what you have to do in order to let your toddler tie her shoelaces All By Herself.

#358 ::: J Homes ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 08:40 PM:

Adrian Smith @349 '"Kibitzing" is offering unwelcome advice, though it doesn't seem to involve sneering.'

The only context in which I've encountered the word is card games, specifically bridge, where it means watching other people playing while being knowledgeable about the game oneself. Advice, welcome, unwelcome, or indifferent, is Not To Be Given (although likely to be silently formulated).

And belated best wishes to Alex, and hopes he recovers what is rightfully his.

J Homes.

#359 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 08:58 PM:

Eh, I'm sure I saw that in Rosten's Joys of Yiddish, have to dig it out of its box this evening. Sticking your oar in during a card game wouldn't go down well, certainly.

Ooo, I've been misusing "shlep" as well.

#360 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 09:03 PM:

Adrian Smith and J Homes: Adrian's right. Kibitzing means to offer unwanted advice. If people are just watching over people play cards and not saying anything, they're not kibitzing. Kibitzing isn't usually malicious, but it can be. It is, however, unasked for advice, generally offered after a period of observation.

#361 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 09:11 PM:

I've always heard 'kibitz' used in the sense of "giving unwanted advice," especially in card games.

#362 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 09:12 PM:

300
Which is amazing for a language with seven vowels. (It appears to have a lot of consonants because several of the consonants look like two letters.)

#363 ::: Richard Robinson ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 09:27 PM:

abi #346 - insofar as I'm part of that, I'm glad. dcb @ #351 has it right, that was the impulse. Nil Nisi Carborundum.

I have been lurking for years, held by the quality of the conversation, and of the moderation. I didn't jump in before because I was used to seeing usenet as the real conversation - it work(s|ed) better, pity it's dead - so it took a thread like this to make me focus on what they have in common. Humanity and trolls.

#364 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 10:32 PM:

ajay @333, the first rule of Disemvoweling Club is "Dn't tlk bt Dsmvwlng Clb!"

#365 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 10:59 PM:

In today's news, Google is asking businesses to avoid Google+ for now, and has announced they'll close any business accounts they find.

#366 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 12:11 AM:

Mary Aileen @348: is your name one syllable or two?

Normal people would spell it "Jackie." Usta was mine was a fairly rare spelling. Now I see it everywhere.

#367 ::: J Homes ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 12:37 AM:

Adrian Smith, Melissa Singer, Xopher,

Looks like I picked up on a variant/misuse then. I'll try to remember that; I can see potential for embarrassment. Thanks.

J Homes.

#368 ::: Laura Gillian ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 01:14 AM:

This seems to be the designated de-lurking thread, soooooo...

I would like to add my voice to the chorus and say how sorry I am--first, for Alex suddenly losing his email, which I think would be difficult for anybody; and second for the torrent of condescension, schadenfreude, and outright trolling Abi and Martin received in response to posting about it!

Not that you all can't handle a few trolls. It was rather fun to watch, in fact, but it's still unfortunate that they came crawling out of the woodwork.

As long as I'm here, may I say that I have seldom encountered any group with such fine taste in books? I have a policy that any book recommended on Making Light goes straight to my library holds list, no matter the genre or subject. I haven't yet encountered a dud. (Some aren't quite to my taste, but many have become new favorites, and all have been worth a look.)

Back on topic, I hope that Google makes this right, and that at the very least, Alex gets his archived mail back. It is a sad, sad thing to lose your correspondence.

Thanks for listening. Carry on.

#369 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 01:43 AM:

Laura Gillian @ #368: "any book recommended on Making Light goes straight to my library holds list"

I do that frequently. Regrettably, the State of Hawai'i has budget woes (as what state doesn't) and the library system's acquisition budget has always been a bit short of optimal. On the other hand, the older books seem to be findable on islands other than Oahu, which is fun in itself. "Wow, all the way from the Kihei branch on Maui!"

#370 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 02:44 AM:

J Homes is correct about the use of "kibitzing" in tournament bridge; everyone else is correct about its wider, more general use. (In chess, in particular, it means suggesting moves, and is greatly frowned upon.)

#371 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 05:22 AM:

Late to the party. My sympathy to Alex. Heard anything yet from Google?

#372 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 07:26 AM:

re: the kibitzing subthread

It has been said that anybody who spends time alone out in the wilds should include a deck of cards in their kit, for use as follows: If disaster strikes, requiring urgent assistance, and all your communications are bust, take out the deck of cards and start playing solitaire. Within five minutes, guaranteed, somebody will tap you on the shoulder and tell you to put the red nine on the black ten.

#373 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 07:31 AM:

re:kibitzing -- one of my great-aunts had a kibitzing chair in her kitchen. It was a normal wooden kitchen chair with an extension for leaning your elbow on, and maybe to set a drink on (a bit like those all-in-one schooldesks, but the 'desk' part wasn't so large). They played a lot of cards in the family, and the chair really was used for kibitzing.

#374 ::: kiirstin ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 07:58 AM:

Also quietly delurking to say that I truly appreciate this community, am happy to watch from the fringes, and feel priviliged that I am permitted to do so. There is so much grace and joy and intelligence here (not to mention the funny), and every time I stop by I end up feeling better about humanity. And also trying to work more poetry into my everyday life (I have been trying to work Prufrock into this somewhere, but will leave that to the experts. I do not dare.)

I also wish to express sympathy for Alex. There's not much else to say; as Martin said somewhere above, the bigger hurt isn't the admittedly painful loss of data, but the loss of trust and enjoyment, and I hope he's able to recover some of that too.

Thanks everyone.

#375 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 08:21 AM:

AKICITF: is "kibitz" etymologically related to "kibbutz"?

#376 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 08:29 AM:

Adrian Smith @359 et al "Kibitzing" is obviously evolving in useage. Officially it can also mean chatting (which I didn't know until I looked in a dictionary*), and I've certainly seen it used to mean hanging around/peering over someone's shoulder not in the context of card games - including the form "can I kibitz?" meaning "can I watch?"

Abi @346. "infrapont" - add me to the admirers of this construction.

*And it's not in the Compact Oxford (1979 micro version of the OED 1971)

#377 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 08:42 AM:

Lila @#375: I don't speak Hebrew, but it's possible the answer is "yes".

Having no clue how much you know about Semitic languages, forgive me if any of this is old news:

The Semitic languages have a system known as "triconsonontal roots" for forming words. What this means is that the 3 consonants in a word are what determine its basic meaning, and then you add vowels and affixes to pin stuff down. So, in Arabic, the 3C root for "writing" is KTB. "Kitaab" is "book"; "kataba" is "to write"; "miktaab" is "writing instrument". Similarly, say the 3C root for "speaking" was MND (which I don't know that it is, I'm just making it up). In that case, you'd have "minaad" for "speech", "manada" for "to speak", and "mimnaad" for "instrument of speaking".

Ancient Egyptian worked the same way, as did ancient Hebrew, and so does modern Hebrew. Thus, "kibitz" and "kibbutz" having the same consonants in the same order is highly suggestive. If I'm not mistaken "kibitz" is actually Yiddish, but there's no reason that root couldn't have made it into Yiddish from Hebrew at some point.

#378 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 09:43 AM:

Schlep, like kibitz, I only know from reading Mad magazine in the 'sixties.

#379 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 10:04 AM:

According to Rosten, Keibitz is German for some sort of lapwing, a reputedly noisy and inquisitive bird. He also lists "tease" and "flatter" among various alternative senses.

Kibbutz sounds like real Hebrew, as the plural is kibbutzim.

#380 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 10:08 AM:

Adrian Smith: Ah, that's too bad. Just a coincidence, then.

#381 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 10:24 AM:

"A schmuck is an idiot. So is a putz, but he's the one driving."
- Alan Arkin

#382 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 10:26 AM:

And welcome to all our ex-lurkers. Please spread out, make yourselves at home, and post poetry in assorted threads.

#383 ::: Jon Marcus ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 11:14 AM:

Count me as another usual lurker chiming in to support. Sorry I can't offer anything more substantial than my sympathy. Any response (other than the posts here) from Google that you can discuss?

And kibbutz literally means group (as in a group of people) or...team isn't quite right. Maybe "gathering of likeminded people"? Translating the flavor of a word is tough. Anyway kibitzing (in the sense of offering unasked for advice in place of cooperation or assistance) would definitely be frowned on in a kibbutz.

#384 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 11:34 AM:

Meanwhile, Google does other awkward stuff. They're getting a bit picky about the name you put in a profile. Should I be using "David" instead of "Dave"?

And if they're querying improbable names, will Barack Obama be able to use Google?

#385 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 12:08 PM:

Strikes me that nobody from the state of Utah will be able to sign up for this service.

#386 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 12:40 PM:

I may have a comment in moderation, or it may have vanished into the ether. Either way, it is not here.

#387 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 12:42 PM:

Melissa: It's aetherized. Nothing in the moderation queue. Your most recent post (before this one) is in Open Thread 160.

#388 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 01:17 PM:

Jim: no great loss, lol.

thx 4 checking.

#389 ::: E. Liddell ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 02:12 PM:

Another usually-lurker popping in to offer sympathies to Abi, Martin, and Alex. I hope the situation with Alex's email is resolved soon--I suspect the root cause is more institutional idiocy than malice, but that doesn't make it *right*.

(Totally unrelated note to self: Find a way to work a dinosaur into the novel about the trolls (mythological division) and sodomy. Assuming I ever finish it.)

#390 ::: joXn ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 02:37 PM:

The first two citations in the OED for "kibitz" in English are Ian Fleming, Moonraker, 1955, and Rex Stout, If Death Ever Slept, 1957. How odd -- can it really not have been in common usage before then?

#391 ::: jnh ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 02:38 PM:

The lurkers support us in email, but the ex-lurkers sustain us right here.

#392 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 02:39 PM:

Dave Harmon @245:

one of the things I learned at Harvard was to notice when I'm not the smartest person in the room. And that's why I hang out here....
Same here. I'm happy that I get to hang out with people who are smarter than I am in so many different ways. Nobody's good at every game. I play the ones I can, and watch and applaud during the others.
Teresa #211 the more pathological specimens have two weird quirks.
And... one of the thing that impresses me about you, Teresa, is how you regularly toss off insights that would make excellent papers for an academic psychologist or sociologist! Both of these points are significant and useful.
Thank you. It's a turn of mind. The kind of people I think of as moderators (it's possible we turn up in other lines of work, but I don't know what they are) all seem to track on and collect patterns of behavior. They're high-res objects for us, like plants are for botanists.

I had an interesting time at Social Graph Foo Camp. I'd never before interacted face-to-face in a context that had such a high incidence of people who have the moderator turn of mind. Conversations can run faster and go lots more places when there's so much you don't have to explain. It was like the time at Valiant Comics when I attended a weekend's worth of meetings and gatherings that had a high proportion of comic book professionals. It's interesting being in a milieu where almost everyone has a huge and instantly accessible mental database of visual images. I'm not one of those, but I'm far enough in that direction that I could tell what was going on. Like Foo Camp, there were moments where the physics of conversation were suddenly based on a different set of universal constants, and impossible speeds temporarily become possible. I'm pretty sure that when musicians find a shared groove and take off running, it feels that way for them. In any event, it's fun to watch.

I've come to believe that the reason there's so little writing about moderation as we understand it is because we can't figure out what needs to be explained. It feels like there's not a lot to say. But if you ask us what difference it makes if a forum's moderator is also part of its conversations and community, we can emit an entire short essay on the subject. So, I think we need to borrow one of those interlocutors from Greek phiosophy.

Nancy Lebovitz @308: Is the piece you read still accessible?

It's thoughtful of you to obfuscate the ex-troll's gender, but per has about a 95% chance of being male. I'm uncomfortable talking about the gender disparity in trolls, but it's undeniably real.

#393 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 02:39 PM:

E Liddell @ 389... Find a way to work a dinosaur into the novel about the trolls (mythological division

Clifford Dimak's "The Goblin Reservation" has goblins, trolls, Shakespeare, a ghost, a caveman snatched out of time and who calls himself Alley Oop, and space travel thru long-range teleportation.

#394 ::: ed g. ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 03:17 PM:

joXn @390: Kibitz has been in use among American chessplayers since at least the early 20th Century. A cursory search in Google Books for the words "kibitz" and "chess" from 1900 to 1954 turns up 20-odd citations in English.

#395 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 03:23 PM:

Thank you. It's a turn of mind. The kind of people I think of as moderators (it's possible we turn up in other lines of work, but I don't know what they are) all seem to track on and collect patterns of behavior.

12 or so years ago (ye Gods! can it be such a long time already?), a friend of mine who was running and moderating chowhound.com asked me to write a program which would filter his logs for a very specific pattern of page views which identified a particular troll who was chronically causing trouble on the site. I wrote it and it worked very well, trapping nearly every comment from this troll with few false positives. I was pretty well amazed that that kind of behavior tracking would work.

#396 ::: E. Liddell ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 03:27 PM:

Serge@393: Ah, but a caveman is not a dinosaur. And I'll bet there was no sodomy, either!

#397 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 03:27 PM:

joXn @390 wrote: The first two citations in the OED for "kibitz" in English are Ian Fleming, Moonraker, 1955, and Rex Stout, If Death Ever Slept, 1957. How odd -- can it really not have been in common usage before then?

Wouldn't surprise me. Remember, prior to WWII, many Jews lived in Europe and may have spoken English as a third or fourth language. Jews in England were often highly assimilated and spoke no Yiddish (or did not speak it around non-Jews, left they stir up anti-Semitism). Yiddish speakers in the US spoke Yiddish mostly to other Yiddish speakers, though even then, in cities with large Jewish populations (like New York) there was a general understanding of some Yiddish.

Post WWII, Jews actually became a lot more visible in western society (again, I'm speaking in broad generalizations here). And though Jews in the US and elsewhere were very assimilated, it became increasingly important to validate and preserve Jewish culture and identity. Yiddish was no longer a closet language, used only with one's fellows; it was used in front of others, almost as a marker: you think I'm like you, but I'm not.

I feel like this tracks with the rise of secular/cultural Judaism. People who didn't attend religious services or observe anything other than the High Holy Days, Passover, and (if they had children) Chanukah, could nonetheless preserve--and notify others of--a Jewish identity by the use of common Yiddish terms.

I also feel like there was less fear involved in being known to be Jewish. Therefore, it was okay to speak Yiddish, because it wasn't as likely that someone was going to come along and murder you because of it.

(and maybe the writers were showing off a little, as a way of saying they had Jewish friends?)

#398 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 03:33 PM:

Serge @ #393, in addition to all that, it's one of Simak's funniest books. And it's online!

#399 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 03:40 PM:

E Liddell @ 396... But, if they could extract a caveman from the Past, they probably also brought up a dinosaur, but just didn't show it. (Probably called it 'Gertie' too.)

#400 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 03:41 PM:

Linkmeister @ 398... Funny, and a very sweet scene near the end, involving Shakespeare and the Ghost.

#401 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 03:47 PM:

Linkmeister @ 398: I'm also seeing used copies on Bookfinder starting at under $5. Unfortunately, the online file linked appears to be a bootleg (but I'd be happy to be proved wrong).

#402 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 04:15 PM:

JMO @ #401, it may well be. I couldn't remember what the totem was that was so important, so I was pleased to find text enough to tell me.

Serge @ #400, ah yes, I'd forgotten that.

#403 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 04:21 PM:

I'd like to add my voice to those expressing gladness at all the delurkings. Please stick around and contribute to the conversations!

Carrie 377: What this means is that the 3 consonants in a word are what determine its basic meaning, and then you add vowels and affixes to pin stuff down.

The discontinuous morphemes (for example 'mi-aa-' for "instrument of") are single affixes, called interfixes. And the process by which they are united with the triconsonantal stem to form a word is called interfixation.

This is a favorite phenomenon for stratificational linguists (those who aren't in hiding since the purges), because stratificational linguistics handles it quite elegantly, while transformational/generative (*ptoo!*) linguistics resorts to truly ludicrous explanations to try to make it work. The first linguistics grad student I ever met when I went to university did his Master's thesis on "A Stratificational Analysis of Interfixation in Amharic" (Amharic being another Semitic language).

Teresa 392: I'm uncomfortable talking about the gender disparity in trolls, but it's undeniably real.

I'm not sure why you're uncomfortable. It seems obvious to me that trolls are coming from a place of privilege, which more males than females have/demand/assume in our society. I would bet more trolls are European-descended than of other racial groups, too.

I read a book some years ago that pointed out that white males over 65 have the highest suicide rate in society, while African-American females over 65 have the lowest. The theory was that after a lifetime of relatively high status and low hardship, the WM>65 suddenly have no status at all and have to deal with hardships that privilege and money can alleviate only partially; whereas the AAF>65 are (typically) used to dealing with hardships, so aging is just another one, and in African-American culture the status of women just keeps going up as they age.

My point is that the same mechanics of privilege that lead to suicidal behavior when they're over 65 lead to trollery when they're young.

Also, for many males (at least in our society; not claiming it's genetic) conversation is at least partially a competitive activity at all times; some men never have a conversation on any topic unless they're trying to demonstrate or enhance their own status (or belittle or lower the status of others), at least as a background task. So the kind of "ha! but that's what I intended all along, so I win!" flounce that we saw in this thread comes even more naturally to the male of the species.

#404 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 05:02 PM:

Xopher #403/ Teresa #392:

Something about that sequence of posts, where Teresa points out the gender disparity in trolls and you then come up with an acceptable-to-community-mores explanation for it, really disturbs me.

Trying to untangle what bugs me, I think it's this: you're producing an explanation of an observed phenomenon whose purpose is, as best I can see, social, not explanatory[1].

When factual claims are linked to moral rightness of the people asserting or describing them, I feel like we're in a perfect position to make ourselves act dumber than we really are.

As an imperfect analogy, suppose I start talking, in a conversation among Catholics, about some of the ways I think the Church has failed its members, and I express some discomfort about the topic--as a Catholic, it's an uncomfortable thing to discuss. And then someone else in the community comes up with an explanation that makes it okay to talk about the failings--like explaining that the problem is with the way the US' church hierarchy fell under the control of a small set of faithless and evil men. Now, this is a comforting notion--it lets me complain about my church without calling a lot of my beliefs and ideas and traditions into question. And yet, if (as is almost certainly true in this made-up example) the problem goes much deeper than a few bad apples rising to the top of the US Church hierarchy, having used that explanation to make the discussion palatable to even have, it will be almost impossible for me to question it.

I'm not expressing this well, and I want to be really clear that this isn't an attack on you at all--I'm not questioning your intent or your logic. What I'm noticing is the pattern of discussion, and how it affects future discussion on the topic.

[1] That's the role your explanation plays in the discussion right now, anyway. I assume this is really the best explanation you can think of for the observed phenomenon, but the reason offered for its value right now is that it makes the discussion more comfortable to have.

#405 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 05:25 PM:

Xopher@403: I'm not sure why you're uncomfortable.

This is just a stab in the dark, but another group which is 90% or so male is the Asperger's crowd, many of whom post here. Not hard to imagine there could be a link between the problems they have with theory of mind and what trolls get up to. Though apparently help may be at hand.

#406 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 05:37 PM:

I used to be a horrible troll, starting when I first became active on the net around 13 years ago.

I'm not sure I should even mention it, but I hold my breath and bite my lip and do mention it because I wanted to confirm what others were speculating.

Heresiarch @ 191, Teresa @ 211 and 294, Nicole @ 292 are all correct: at its core the motivation was insecurity, feeling vulnerable, and hating that feeling. I'd convinced myself that I had some piercing, unparalleled view into the truth, and took great pleasure in schadenfreude, so naturally I was a politically-minded troll eager to share the outrage du jour. At the time I rationalized it as sharing important knowledge and/or shocking people out of complacency. ("If only people could see! The world would be such a better place!" and other smug, obnoxious, sadly deluded, exasperating nonsense.)

In retrospect it's obvious I was doing it to witness that spark of outrage: it was nothing high-minded; it was petty and small and ugly; it was about was taking away joy and contentment.

I remember thinking more than once, while writing up some withering riposte, that they (the audience I was performing for, of course) needed to know I was someone not to be trifled with. Of course what I actually did was establish myself as someone not to be talked with.

I'm sorry for it. I'm at a loss as to how to make it better--I don't think it's entirely possible. Around 2001 I chased one person off Wikipedia, and I couldn't find many of my former coworkers, and one of the people I was briefly close to has since died.

It's disheartening--but instructive--to know that I made the world a worse place.

#407 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 06:09 PM:

WRT "kibitz" etc:

Time letters column, 2 Nov. 1931:

Just read in TIME (Sept. 28) that "kibitzer'' is a "Yiddish colloquial term." Kibitz or Kiebitz is the German name for peewit or lapwing. This bird has the reputation of warning other birds at the approach of hunters. Hence its application to spectators who make nuisances of themselves at card games. . . . English-speaking Davenport skat players have used the terms to "kibitz," "kibitzing," and "kibitzer" to my knowledge for over 30 years just as they use other German technical terms necessary in playing skat.

Curiously, the Time archive also has several previous mentions (1929-1930) of "Kibitzer" as the title of a play and ensuing movie adaptation, but without explaining the word. (Their online archive only goes back to 1929, so it's possible that the word also appeared in the magazine sometime between 1923-1928.)

The oldest English-language cite of "kibitzer" I've spotted in Google Books is dated 1901, though sometimes their journal citations are wrongly indexed to the first issue rather than the relevant one.

"And don't forget that a Kibitzer, who only tells others how they should play, acquires neither skill nor popularity in any game."

Bulletin: Volume 33, Issue 23
New York University - 1901

#408 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 06:25 PM:

johnofjack @406: That's really interesting—it's also really interesting that you have evidently now come to a place past that, and can look back with sufficient insight and self-awareness that you can see what was going on.

(One of the gotchas about unenlightened reactions to anxiety is that the reaction is designed to specifically avoid experience/acknowledgement of the anxiety.)

What changed for you that you have come to the place where you are now, about that?

#409 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 06:30 PM:

Also, American skat: or, The game of skat defined - Page 52; J. Charles Eichhorn - 1898:

KIEBITZ. The very undesirable "onlooker," who has your best wishes, if he makes a journey to some other state, where he could not criticise your playing, or tell you he would have played a Grand with the hand held, or otherwise comment on your lack of judgement.

Photograms of the year: 1896 describes "A study, 'Kibitz' (139), of men playing cards, by Herr Hans Watzek" on p111; the photo itself is on p109.

#410 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 06:48 PM:

I am not at all surprised to find US citations of kibitz earlier than British ones.

My family's been here for more than 100 years and we were hardly the first.

And lord knows, we play a lot of cards! ;-)

Familiar from childhood: poker, gin rummy, cribbage, pinochle, bridge, casino, pisha-pasha, twenty-one, hearts, not to mention various children's card games and endless versions of solitaire, sometimes played competitively.

#411 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 07:03 PM:

Interestingly enough, the term kibitz used to be technically defined in bridge (we now use "Spectator"). The Laws (then the proprieties) required kibitzers to in effect, be spectators and not kibitzers, in the ugly meaning that is being discussed here - mostly because, of course, they had a habit of not doing so.

We still refer to them as "kibitzers", no matter what the Laws say, but they are definitely expected to be silent (as well as only watch one hand, and not give anything away by body language). Actual kibitzing is grounds for being removed from the table - although in more friendly games, the odd between hands comments are usually tolerated.

#412 ::: Ambar ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 07:38 PM:

TNH@392,

You remind me of the moderation style at one horse forum I frequent (where, after the previous moderator more or less spiraled into the earth and exploded, they now have 3 anonymous moderators whose mod identities are not linked to their community identities -- assuming they have any.) If you would care to enlarge on participating-moderators vs. anonymous-moderators, I for one would be thrilled. How does that matrix interact with the matrix of community-where-anonymity-is-accepted vs -where-frowned-on?

#413 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 08:00 PM:

Jacque @408

I was never quite a troll (I never did it on purpose) but I had, and still struggle with, a pretty bad style of debate. So count me among that number. I have to run, but I'll see if I can write a bit about that later. It fits with the delurking theme here, too. (The short version: I grew up.)

#414 ::: ThgfJmsD.Mcdnld ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 08:42 PM:

jhnfjck@:sdtb[...]trllsprdx.nctrll,lwystrll,ndllpstsbtrllrtrllpsts.Yrjstflngyrslffythnkthrws.Thscnvrstnsvr.

IP
77.247.181.163

#415 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 08:53 PM:

Ah, look, someone has left us a steaming pile of crap, right in the middle of the living room floor. How charming.

#416 ::: Xopher sees jackhole troll post ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 08:55 PM:

Honestly, go the fuck away, whoever you are. Stupid asshole.

#417 ::: Richard Robinson ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 08:56 PM:

Mischief at #414, I think ?

#418 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 09:13 PM:

376
It's in the supplement volume - first cited use is from 1927. (They're defining it as looking on, especially in an interfering way.)

#419 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 09:58 PM:

johnofjack:

The terrible and wonderful thing about the internet is that what you are is entirely defined by what you say and do. Here, now, you're not a troll--instead, you're a member of the community.


#420 ::: Cath ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 09:59 PM:

Another lurker here, who wishes to support you in public: Alex, Martin and Abi, my sympathies and best wishes.

David @216 and others, thank you for your example of courage.
Jim @382, appreciate the welcome, although I'm not much for poetry.

I'm just a shy gal from Alberta,
Whom few of you ever have heard-a.
I'll dip my cold toes
In the fluorosphere's prose,
For in rhyme I lack suitable words...uh...

#421 ::: JM ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 10:33 PM:

[giggles at Cath's limerick]

#422 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 10:52 PM:

*joins the giggling at Cath's limerick*

#423 ::: J. Random Scribbler ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 10:53 PM:

I love how, after reading my way down here and seeing that silly little dollop of "Look at me!" in 414, all I had to do was hit refresh to find it already dsmvwld. I have to say I do find "Once a troll, always a troll" to be an overgeneralization, though, especially since we have johnofjack's counterexample @406. I've been guilty of trollish behavior myself, though offline rather than on, and the mindset johnofjack described does ring true. For me it was religion rather than politics, though these days there seems little difference.

Teresa's cargo cult hypothesis @294 and Xopher's idea about privilege @403 are going to be food for thought for a while. Being in an environment without all those external cues could be unnerving to someone who unconsciously enjoys privilege in their offline life.

Anyway, thanks for the welcome and I will try to post more often (and don't worry, most of my posts aren't such huge walls of tl;dr as my first.)

Welcome to the other de-lurkers too! Cath, your limerick made me grin.

#424 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 11:11 PM:

speaking of kibitzing, has anyone seen kid bitzer recently?

#425 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2011, 11:21 PM:

shadowsong @424: anyone seen kid bitzer recently?

Not in a worryingly long while.

#426 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 07:30 AM:

albatross: thanks.

Jacque: It was a combination of things: being unable to make amends to a former friend, rereading some of our email after he died and feeling ashamed and repulsed by how I'd behaved, realizing that I was miserable in general and that a lot of my trolling was a performance--which might make sense on a forum or wiki but made no sense in email between two people, since there is no audience. So, following on from that, that I was inauthentic.

414: That was really hard to read. I had to go to the regex dictionary for help ... at http://www.visca.com/regexdict/ f(a|e|i|o|u|y){0,3}l(a|e|i|o|u|y){0,3}ng nets a number of suggestions, which--oddly--don't include "fooling."

#427 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 07:47 AM:

I am told that there are separate Yiddish names for different styles of kibitzers. One for the kibitzer who says, "You should have done this", one for the kibitzer who says "You shouldn't have done that", and one for the kibitzer who just sits there and goes "Tsk, tsk, tsk".

But I don't know what they are.

#428 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 08:22 AM:

johnofjack @436: Sometimes, with age comes wisdom, or at least an understanding that one was, in one's youth, a d**k. If we are lucky, it happens when we are able to make direct amends/apologies to those we have wronged, or feel we have wronged.

There have been times in my life when I did that. The reasons are not important here or now.

Sometimes we are not able to make amends directly. Then we have other choices.

One, clearly, is not to repeat the behavior--and that's important whether we can reach out to the people we hurt or not.

Another is, to use a cliche, to pay it forward. To try to see when other people we know might be falling into our errors and reach out to them, trying to prevent it.

Another is to share our experiences, good and bad--not necessarily as an apology, but as a way of showing people, in general, what happened, how you felt, how you feel now, etc. To connect with others.

If you'll permit a brief dip into religion: in Judaism, the High Holy Days are an opportunity for someone to make apologies and amends, to atone--and to close the books on bad things she or he has done.

Between Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, we are encouraged to reach out to people we have harmed or offended (usually in the previous year, but there's no statute of limitations) and also to reach out to God, especially if we cannot reach out to the living. I have done this both literally and figuratively--I've written letters, sent emails, and had difficult conversations during this week. I've also done tashlich, literally casting bread upon the waters, to throw away sins both remembered and forgotten (have I mentioned lately that I love these ancient rituals?). (Being forgiven by the people you are apologizing to is not essential. Sometimes people are too angry or injured to forgive you, or they are no longer with us. But this process is not about them, or about being forgiven. It's about making the apology, doing the atoning. It's about you, not them.)

Then, on Yom Kippur, God's books are closed and your soul is cleansed.

Without the spiritual component, what this means is that you do your best to make things right, and then there's a point at which you say, I've done my best, I can't live all of my life as if I'm still a miserable human being. The fact that I recognized what I did and tried to fix it means that I have worth, and I can't and shouldn't always define myself by what I did then. I have to be the best new person I can be, and move forward. And then you try your best to stop kicking yourself.

Obviously this is an imperfect process, and awareness of our flaws is part of what makes us human. And humane.

#429 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 08:35 AM:

And I belatedly find that I'd missed another of Teresa's insights at #294:

There's more than one kind of troll, and more than one kind of trollish behavior. No one's ever studied them systematically. I wish someone would.

How about starting with a monograph based on your own accumulated experiences, and perhaps interviews with ex-trolls?

The behavior you describe... I'm not sure it even qualifies as "cargo cult", it's even more basic than that, more like "monkey see, monkey do". It's characteristic of children, but all too common in a variety of adult contexts as well (especially as an initial response to an unexpected failure). Anyone can slip into that mode briefly, but folks who can't do anything else are a burden on the rest of us, and sometimes a menace.

#430 ::: Cath ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 08:58 AM:

JM, Xopher, Scribbler - thanks! [makes awkward bow]
This is the second time this week that I've made an overture to a community where I've shared interests, but been too diffident to wave and say "hi, can I play?" (The other was the Known World Dance Symposium last weekend.) In both cases I was welcomed, which made me happy. If, on the other hand, I had been brusquely ordered to get out, and then locked out, I would have cried too.

I don't expect I'll post often, as I can't always keep up with the threads, and often run out of extravert points. But I hope to join in an open thread or two.

#431 ::: sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 09:07 AM:

Cath @ 430 - Welcome, what a lovely limerick! Two things: 1) Your speaking up is going to cause *me* but no others endless numbers of double-takes. I've never met another who shortens their name that way.*grins* 2) KWDS? Good! are you Pennsic bound?

#432 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 10:24 AM:

sisuile (431): I have a friend who goes by Kath (part of the time, in some contexts).

#433 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 11:27 AM:

David Harmon @429 and Teresa @294 - trolls have been categorized for awhile --
http://themartialist.net/?page_id=1831

As for academic studies, there are some, but most seem fairly recent. I glanced around on Google Scholar and found some references:
This chapter discusses methodology, which is an interesting subject in itself. How -can- you study online behavior and be sure of making accurate observations and inferences?

Here's a case study (pdf) of a troll on an an internet forum
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.16.5307&rep=rep1&type=pdf

And here's a look at Wikipedia trolls (also pdf)
http://eprints.rclis.org/bitstream/10760/15530/1/wikipediatrolls.pdf


#434 ::: Phiala ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 12:50 PM:

TNH @392

They're high-res objects for us, like plants are for botanists.

Oh. OH! That is perfect. And useful.

I like to be one of the smart people in the room, but not the smartest one about everything. That would be dull. Much more exciting to learn and discuss, and if the room is full of smart people, so much the better.

#435 ::: Cath ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 03:14 PM:

I don't want to wander further off topic in this thread, and I note a conversation about shared names in Open Thread 160. Sisuile @431, meet you there?

#436 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 03:17 PM:

Cath @ 420... Welcome!

#437 ::: Henning Makholm ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 03:39 PM:

Re trolls and collective coping strategies: In many places on the net there seems to be a shared assumption that if a discussion thread ends up being dominated by talking to and about a troll, rather than its original subject, then by definition the troll has won (and, by extension, everyone else has lost). This can lead to some really strained reaction threads where everybody tries doggedly to ignore the elephant in the room while exhorting each other not to feed it.

Contrast here, where the site hosts and moderators take the lead in piling on the troll and a lot of regulars gleefully join in. This may or may not be more effective as a deterrence tactic in the long run, but it certainly does convert the trolling incident from a source of immediate tension into an unscheduled community-building opportunity. I like!

Re troll genders: If male trolls are more common than female ones, I would say it's because boys are more at risk of getting an upbringing where the only social ideal they get to internalize is based on one's ability to dominate a situation. Since nobody can possibly live up to this ideal all the time, they run a larger risk of developing a destructive reaction to failing at it. In contrast girls almost always learn a meeker community-oriented ideal -- though hopefuly together with more assertive and ambitious self-images. We can probably all agree that it's a tragedy and a waste if being a passive supporter-of-others is the only social ideal available to someone, but as one option among several it is a useful and valuable tool for approaching life.

#438 ::: Jonathan Adams ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 03:50 PM:

Abi, Martin, and Alex: My sympathies; what a terrible and unexpected shock.

I'm a frequent lurker, and this thread has so many of the wonderful gems that keep bringing me back to Making Light. The meditations on the nature of trolls are particularly chewy. =]

Yesterday, I accepted an invite to Google+, and it appears that the request for one's "birthdate" has been completely dropped: I wasn't asked for one, and I don't see a place to put one on the "edit profile" screen. It seems likely that this is part of their response to this incident, to prevent this kind of shock from happening again.

#439 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 03:52 PM:

Something I wonder about trolls: are most trolls habitually trollish, or is it that otherwise normal conversationalists troll out around certain topics or situations? And is the majority of trolling committed by sometimes trolls or by habitual trolls? My baseless hunch is that it's the old 80-20 rule: 80% of trolls are sometimes trolls, but that the habitual 20% are responsible for >80% of the trolling.

I wonder because "it was his favorite transaction, so he inappropriately forced[*] it to happen over and over again" seems to me both a spot-on description of trolling and a behavior that, in a less virulent form, is quite universal. People who habitually haunt tech forums to help out people with computer problems aren't inappropriately forcing their favorite transaction on others, but they are seeking out situations where it's likely to occur. So for that matter am I, here on ML.

It seems to me that trying to force the conversation into a pattern you're comfortable with/satisfied by is a conversational fail state that pops up in a number of non-trollish interactions. I know I've fallen into it more than once, and I feel like I've seen it happen to others as well. So how does trolling fit into this larger pattern?

* How does "non-consensual conversation" work as a definition of trolling?

#440 ::: Jay ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 06:00 PM:

Not keeping a local backup of a Gmail account is irresponsible. You've learned an important lesson hopefully.

Also, Google is evil. Don't let their pretty colors and newest services fool you. They're about selling ads and data mining.

Better off to leave them well alone.

#441 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 06:05 PM:

Oh, look! There's another one, come to give us Good Advice that we didn't ask for.

#442 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 06:13 PM:

Oh. Oh dear. It's almost like he didn't read any of the preceding 439 comments. But this one sounds far more like that nagging neighbor/relative who thinks that it's their job to police any children who happen to be in the vicinity, regardless of whether or not the parents are already present and supervising.

And what lesson have we learned from this experience, boys and girls?

#443 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 06:36 PM:

Google+ was quite definitely asking for birthdates late this afternoon UK time when I got my invite. (What it got in that field is not what's on my birth certificate, for ID theft reasons as detailed upthread.) Also asking for gender -- one plus point for having *something* available other than the standard binary, minus points for it being a required field, and millions of minus points for it being a field you cannot take private.

They seem to have learnt at least something from the Buzz privacy debacle, judging by the "selecting this option could lead to revealing your personal information" warning signs plastered over everything.

However, the circles are not a new concept, and to my mind not implemented as well as in Dreamwidth. That's probably partly because the LiveJournal access control list system, which Dreamwidth improved upon, is something I've been using for enough years that it feels right and natural and intuitive to me. I suspect that Google's implementation could bite me, especially with Google's enthusiasm for tying together Google accounts I have previously kept firmly separate.

#444 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 07:05 PM:

Debbie@433: trolls have been categorized for awhile --
http://themartialist.net/?page_id=1831

Not sure about that one - "concern troll" is missing, and I've found anyone who uses the term "hoplophobia" has a *bit* of an axe to grind - which would fit me into his "UK Eurotroll" category, though a lack of homoerotic comments might disappoint.

#445 ::: Michael Bloom ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 07:30 PM:

Um, I'm another mostly-lurker, coming out of the woodwork mostly to agree with mostly everybody else (especially in the matter of the lovely new word "infrapont"). But the real reason I keep coming back to this thread is that I keep hoping to see a post of the form "Google got in touch and is shipping a CD-R of Alex's mail by Fed-Ex overnight." I'm more than a little disturbed that that hasn't happened yet as of just about quitting time on Friday in California.

#446 ::: Jonathan Adams ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 07:38 PM:

Julia Jones #443: Hrm. Perhaps I'd just already set up my Google Profile long ago, and don't remember it? Regardless, I've looked around, and I still can't find a "birthday" setting anywhere in my Profile or "Google Dashboard".

#447 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 08:08 PM:

Jay @ 440... I could resort to my degree from the Sarek Scholl of Diplomacy, but instead I'll just suggest that you go fuck yourself.

#448 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 08:11 PM:

Just tried "Join Google+" again, in the US. It still demands birthdate and gender. (I suppose it might not if you already have this information elsewhere in your profile, but I don't.)

I have thus far opted not to join.

Someone who did want to join, but not want to be tracked by birthdate, would presumably want to go with a date that's not only not their real birthdate, but also one that's also used by many other people. Has anyone done any studies of the most common self-reported dates? (I'd imagine that few enough people are born on any given date that popular "notional" dates would outweigh any specific actual birthdate. My guesses for top 3 self-reported dates would be 1/1/1900, 1/1/1901, and 1/1/1970, but I haven't gathered any data about this myself. I'd imagine at least some market researchers have, in order to weed out chaff in their audience reports.)

#449 ::: Richard Robinson ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 08:37 PM:

Oh dear, this is frustrating. I'm finding the "troll" stuff fascinating, but I just don't have the attention to spare to do justice to it. But ...
heresiarch #439, that's very wide, is it not ? comes up all over the place - what's the difference between a troll and a just-plain-bore, for instance ? And, as you say, what else is it to come here and join in, except seeking out ... what we're comfortable with ? hmm. Depends how people like to be comfortable ?

And, I'm kind of conscious of being a usenet refugee, and suspecting there is a subtle difference between usenet trolls and web trolls. Either in them, or as a consequence of a difference in the nature of what goes on around them, or the way the word is used ? The difference between a moderator and a killfile ? Many of them, the defining feature (for me) seems to be the way the "conversation" can go on for ever and never get anywhere because they don't really care what they're saying ...

Oh, blah. The tests have finished running, it's time to bring the website up again and watch it do something new that I hadn't thought of and probably didn't want. Like I said, not enough attention for this. Sorry ...

#450 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 10:29 PM:

Debbie #433: That list is basically a first draft -- as noted above, it's hardly complete, and he's made little attempt to organize related types. Also, he's mixing styles and motivations for his "classification".

#451 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2011, 11:12 PM:

Adrian 444: Yeah, that guy has some pretty biased definitions there. I bet he wouldn't consider someone an AmeriTroll™ who went to a largely British, pro-gun-control blog and started mouthing off about how great it is that in AMERICA you can have guns. Having both 'UK Eurotroll' and 'Limey' as categories is suggestive also.

#452 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2011, 12:51 AM:

Cath: welcome. *joins in giggling*

Melissa Singer @ 428:

What you said (and you can say that again). I don't know if I'm any indication of the common experience, but I have some memories of things I did and said when I was much younger that make me squirm when I think of them. And all I can do about them is learn from them, and try to do better.

#453 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2011, 01:01 AM:

John Mark Ockerbloom @448: I've found 1/1/(actual birth year) a very useful date to use, because it doesn't look particularly unusual in age (unlike, say, 1901), and it's very easy for me to remember whenever I need to confirm I'm the person who gave that birthdate before on a site I didn't want to give such real information to.

#454 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2011, 03:22 AM:

For the record, we have heard nothing whatsoever from Google. Not a whisper, formally or informally.

#455 ::: Richard Robinson ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2011, 06:02 AM:

abi #454, That's a shame, on them. It seems simplest (to me) in an Occam's Razor sort of way, to imagine that the original situation was "only"[1] an Unintended Consequence, but a lack of self-corrective feedback stuff seems rather more largely wrong.

(Suddenly thinks of pertinent word : "pontificate").

[1] The quotes hope to suggest that I don't mean to belittle.

#456 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2011, 06:10 AM:

Another instance of being blocked by Google after signing up for Google Plus (in this case, she put in a false birthdate, using the date of her first flying lesson).

Immediately Google seized on this information and determined me underage. I haven't been flying for eighteen years, and apparently you have to be eighteen years old to author a blog. The screen said Google would delete my blog in twenty-nine days if I did not send them government-issued ID demonstrating that I am over eighteen. Unfortunately Aviatrix Anon does not have government-issued ID, so I knew that unless I had a friend at Google, that would be the end of my blog.

Cockpit Conversation: Last Post

#457 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2011, 06:12 AM:

That's disappointing, abi. They should have responded with something by now.

#458 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2011, 11:25 AM:

I admit to wondering how often the topic has come up in discussions at the Google+ site itself.

#459 ::: SarahM ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2011, 12:26 PM:

Abi, I'm really sorry to hear that. I've been coming back to this page over and over in the hopes of reading good news. (another lurker here.)

#460 ::: Martin Sutherland ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2011, 01:44 PM:

Bruce #458 - It's not an uncommon question. See, for example, http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/gmail/thread?tid=2a38cd961a7b860a&hl=en Many more like that if you have the heart to browse around.

#461 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2011, 03:34 PM:

Per Abi's 121:

Late to the party, but it was a busy week, so I hadn't had time to dash this off before now. Also, er, I'm afraid I have to beg for indulgence on the "but we're already totally living in a science fiction world" front, as the supernatural and extreme sci-fi elements were feeling a bit extraneous and tacked-on. If it helps, I'm pretty sure that story-Abi is a Vampire who has developed immunity to light through her continued and increasing exposure to the fluorosphere. Also, sorry Abi and Martin, I wouldn't normally, but you did ask...

----------------------

Abi skulked outside the brightly lit restaurant, trying not to be too conspicuous in her black trenchcoat and blacker mood. Her partner, Martin, was inside the building, conducting negotiations, while she played lookout.

Why couldn't he schedule these things at dark of blackest night, like any rational person? She scowled at a passing teenager. The girl ignored Abi, completely focused on her iphone.

Disemvowelling was too good for them. It was too good for all of them, in their sheltered, self-satsified little lives. But soon, soon, they would learn what it was to want.

She had started out small, on an obscure and unimportant corner of the internet. She scapegoated those who were inconvenient to her plans, labeling them trolls, while gathering large numbers of obedient minions, who were afraid to speak up for fear of ostracization, ridicule, and disemvowelment. Now, finally, she had established a broad international network of mindless intellectuals to do her bidding. Soon, she would implement her plan.

The door opened, the bells tied to the handle jingling cheerfully. Abi spotted Martin and scrambled up and away from the wall she had been unconsciously slouched against, trying to look as if she had been paying attention.

Martin strolled casually over to Abi and tipped his head in the direction of their car, subtly suggesting that they should leave. Once the car was safely in motion, he turned to look at her. His smile was filled with unpleasant things, and Abi focused carefully on the road ahead of her, attempting to disguise her sudden shiver of anticipation.

“They took the bait. It seems that Ggl's systems are so intertwined as to be inseparable. With the increasing curiosity about Ggl +, and the variety of applications that will allow it to access Fcbk, we can take advantage of their ubiquity to deprive people everywhere of their vowels.” He paused. “It was clever for you to think of using 'Alex' as a way to test how interconnected their services were.”

Abi smiled, her expression even darker and more malevolent than Martin's. “Yes. Once we have established control over Ggl's servers, we can selectively disemvowel those who would oppose us. Our academic army can implement similar requirements for their students, emvoweling and disemvoweling them according to their usefulness to our plans. Soon, the only people capable of speaking or writing legibly will be those who are loyal to us.” She couldn't suppress a small cackle, but Martin didn't seem to notice. He was too busy contemplating their future utopia. He wondered if “Divine King and President of Everyone” was too over the top, but Abi wasn't finished yet.

“I believe we should start publicly humiliating Ggl. You said they believed the 'Alex' story. We should post something sympathetic about 'Alex' on our blog. We can convince our army of mindless intellectuals to spread the word, increasing our visibility and gaining more converts to our cause. In the meantime, when 'Ggl' starts implementing our disemvowellment policies, no one will believe their innocence.”

She stopped at a red light, carefully looking both ways before proceeding. It seemed a perfect plan, if only they could remain undetected by anyone important until it was too late to oppose them. Martin nodded absently to himself, fingers twitching, already caught in the throes of composing his next blog post.

#462 ::: Laura Gillian ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2011, 05:56 PM:

Thanks to all for the nice welcome. I'm very pleased to make your acquaintance!

Linkmeister @ 369: I am fortunate enough to be able to use the King County Library System in Washington and I love it with a deep and abiding love that most people would consider quite unsuitable for a library. One can't expect them to carry everything, but their catalog is long, through (nearly) every passion ranging...

#463 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2011, 06:44 PM:

Laura Gillian @ #462:
...and to your humours changing, they no doubt tune their supple song.

#464 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2011, 06:47 PM:

Laura Gillian @462 -- and they can probably often get other items (like a catalog of an Italian artist I was looking for) through interlibrary loan, at no charge. I did that with the Seattle Public Library.

#465 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2011, 07:53 PM:

Another revolting development: I've just discovered that I can no longer log onto my Google account without being pushed to sign up for Blogger. No "ask me later", no option to skip it -- when I hit the login button, I'm sent to the Blogger signup page, from which I may not continue without entering the required information. It is not clear whether the login itself is going through beforehand.

#466 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2011, 11:47 PM:

David:

That doesn't make any sense at all. The vast majority of people with Google accounts won't want a blog. That sounds like either a bug or some kind of attack.

#467 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2011, 11:48 PM:

Gee, David, if that happens to me I won't be able to log onto my Google account at all. I've several times tried to log into my Blogger account with my Google ID (having changed the password and everything) and the login simply doesn't work.

Oh well. Fuck Google and the horse they rode in on. No more Google stuff for me...

...except I DO want to use my YouTube account. I'm concerned about that, but not enough to try it at this hour.

#468 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2011, 11:52 PM:

David, I just logged out and in again--not a single mention of Blogger here.

#469 ::: sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2011, 12:19 AM:

David @ 465 - Like TexAnne, I just tried it and have no sign of the blogger hangup. I even made sure it was the gmail without an associated blog. Sounds like you may have a bug or something.

#470 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2011, 12:21 AM:

albatross #466 Xopher #467, TexAnne #468:

I may have been alarmist in my surprise...

This was specifically when I was trying to respond to Bruce Arthur's post about his cat Gremlin, on his... Blogspot blog. (Hmm.) It was the attempt to use my Google account for comment authentication that led to the obnoxious Blogger signup. (Comment authentication is almost the only thing I use the account for.) Looking at the Google page itself, I see that I am in fact currently logged in there. (And I did get the comment through.)

#471 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2011, 04:04 AM:

#470: Now that's familiar. Just a few days ago I tried to leave a comment on a Blogspot blog, chose the option to authenticate via my Google account, and found myself in a maze of twisty Blogger signup screens. When I backtracked to the comment form, the text had helpfully vanished. On the next try, having learned my lesson, I picked a different authentication route.

#472 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2011, 06:59 AM:

I had the same problem trying to use my Gmail address to authenticate a comment at another Blogspot site. So David @465 isn't alone.

#473 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2011, 07:16 AM:

Dave Langford #471: Hmm. This Wikipedia article indicates that both Blogger and Blogspot are owned by Google, but they seem to be pushing Blogger hard lately. Still seriously obnoxious.

#474 ::: Martin Sutherland ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2011, 08:12 AM:

According to Mashable, Blogger and Picasa are both going to be rebranded as more obviously Google products real soon now: http://mashable.com/2011/07/05/google-blogger-picasa-rebranding/ They're probably mucking about with authentication to try and give everyone a single identity (profile) that works across all Google services.

Happy fun times along the way for everyone who gets caught in the slipstream.

#475 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2011, 10:09 AM:

Hmm, that's odd. My Blogspot account was superceded by my Google account, which confused me because the passwords were not the same. I now have to use the Google login combo in order to get to the Blogspot profile and it's the only option I have for commenting.

In other words, my recent experience has been exactly the opposite.

#476 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2011, 11:07 AM:

David Harmon's problem may have been a bit less specific, as well--yesterday I tried to *read* the comments on a blogspot site and it started mumbling about authentication. No problem today. So I think it was a more general blogspot thing.

#477 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2011, 11:30 PM:

John Mark Ockerbloom at # 448: My guesses for top 3 self-reported dates would be 1/1/1900, 1/1/1901, and 1/1/1970, but I haven't gathered any data about this myself. I'd imagine at least some market researchers have, in order to weed out chaff in their audience reports.

Market researcher at your service! Yes indeed, way too many people seem to be born on January 1. I don't recall if there was any unusual distribution in the years of birth; it would be interesting to check again. It's not just self-reported data; the worst birth dates I saw came from a credit bureau (this was back when it was legal for credit bureaus to rent the non-credit parts of the data for marketing purposes). I suspect they had a data entry app that did not let them skip the month and day of birth when only the year was known, and so they were filled in with 1's.

Needless to say, this does not represent the opinions of my employer, and this information is provided as-is.

#478 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2011, 12:49 AM:

Teresa, I don't know how to find that particular piece about being an ex-troll, but I could contact the blogger if you like.

On the pleasures of hostile ranting.

Xopher @ 403, one thing your privilege theory did was make claims about a large number of people you don't know, and unless you're a troll or an ex-troll, whose motivations you haven't experienced even a subset of.

Adrian Smith @ 405: I don't think there's a connection between trolling and the autism spectrum. From what I can gather, people on the spectrum are much less malicious than most-- I think it takes theory of mind to enjoy malice.

#479 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2011, 01:08 AM:

Martin Sutherland: thanks for the link! I don't know if it will help Abi, Martin, or Alex in time, but there was one line about Google+ that was interesting:

"And the 18+ rule isn't a rule. It is a short-term restriction during the limited trial, and will only last until full security and privacy safeguards are in place for younger users."

One can hope that if they're going to go to the trouble of making Google+ work for the under 18 crowd they'll work on gMail at the same time.

Then again, I got my gMail account so early that I remember when there was no delete button, because with so much room for your e-mail why would you delete any? Clearly the engineer who headed the project didn't get the e-mail solicitations of erection supporting drugs and underage teenager photos that I was plagued with for some years...

#480 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2011, 01:24 AM:

And the above post shows why I should never post after I've done a 45 minute walk at high speed--I can't think worth a damn until I cool down. I should have said "you folks" instead of "Abi, Martin, or Alex." Martin, I'm sorry.

#481 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2011, 02:07 AM:

Re: Google Account sign-in at Blogger comment pages and Blogger sign-up page

I've been getting that for weeks at every Blogspot blog I read. I've taken the Name/URL option instead because I have no need of a Blogger account (I still have one, I think, but I haven't used it in 7 or 8 years). That way my name and URL are used, but not any email, which leaves one less instance of that lying around for the scrapers.

#482 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2011, 02:12 AM:

Allan Beatty @ #477, About birthdates: I remember pre-Windows DOS, which had a default system date of (I think) 1/1/1980. I wonder if the date field that credit bureau used defaulted to system date if left blank.

#483 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2011, 03:07 AM:

It's been one of those weeks, what with Westercon happening and work being silly and a friend dying and travel impending and sleep only being adequate on alternate days, so almost a half thousand posts have gone by without me saying most of the things I should have to Abi et al.

Abi, I hope you can get Alex's mail back - it's really annoying of them to lose it so aggressively (and somebody commented that their messages are awfully rude to their target audience, who are kids.) Personally I've got very little mail that I care about that I trust to services like Google, so instead of them being able to lose it for me it gets lost when my hardware crashes and I haven't backed it up adequately, which has happened a few times over the years. But Google's one of the few services I'd expect not to lose stuff, even by accident, so this is especially egregious.

I no longer have a Hotmail account. My cat used her real age when she signed up, and when the no-users-under-13 rule was imposed, I wasn't going to let her use my credit card; she'd probably just start ordering tuna fish from Amazon or something.

My Facebook account now has a comment about the birthday I gave them not being real - I'd gotten a lot of birthday greetings on January 1st one year, and enough of them didn't comment on how I looked a lot younger than 99 years old or whatever year I'd put into Facebook that apparently some of them were assuming that people give Facebook their real birthdays. And I really don't need the LA Times showing my Facebook picture if I want to comment on their articles.

My niece and her friends have a practice of trashing their Facebook identities every year, so even though they're going to rebuild most of the friend connections, at least some data doesn't stay on their Permanent Record. My own online record's a bit older (including Usenet stuff from back in 1981 that became findable when Google bought DejaNews), and most of the privacy I have on the net is because my name's common enough that you get a few million hits if you Google for it, mostly for other people.

On trolls - they're really more of a Norwegian problem; the Icelanders have been having trouble with elves recently - try singing to them and they may go away. I don't know if poetry is enough to calm them down, or if they also insist on chords or tinwhistles or other accompaniment.

#484 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2011, 05:52 AM:

Allan Beaty #477, Linkmeister #482 re: Date of birth:

When I did data analysis for an insurance company, January 1 had twice the frequency of any other date, after we'd stripped out the default date data. We never found any good reason for this. Our hypotheses were:

1. Customers not telling correct dates of birth/staff filling in when they don't tell or can't remember.
2. Unknown or lost dates of birth being assigned to January 1.

Also from the data, Feb 29 had a quarter the average frequency; August through Octiber were aboout 10% above average with January through March being 10% below.

#485 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2011, 10:33 AM:

Neil W. @484: Thanks for confirming something I've long suspected, that August, September, and October tend to have higher birth rates in the US.

My personal theory, which will surprise no one, is that starting around Thanksgiving, people do a lot of celebrating, until into the New Year. This is helped along by the fact that at that time, it's often dark and cold.

My family has a big cluster of birthdays in September.

#486 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2011, 11:31 AM:

Melissa Singer #485 Thanks for confirming something I've long suspected, that August, September, and October tend to have higher birth rates in the US

Well this was in the UK, and a company specific database of car insurance customers aged 50 or over. So I would hesitate to state it so strongly, especially as I was being a professional statistician at the time. Your conclusions do match our thoughts at the time though.


#487 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2011, 11:52 AM:

Melissa Singer @ 485... August, September, and October tend to have higher birth rates in the US

I blame the Holidays's fruit cake.

#488 ::: Aviatrix ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2011, 12:41 PM:

@Neil #484: I believe people born in societies that don't track birthdates are typically assigned a birthdate of January 1st when they are inducted into the world of bureaucracies, e.g. obtain a passport. Could there have been enough refugees, war orphans or former street children in your database to make this a plausible explanation?

#489 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2011, 01:40 PM:

Serge Broom @487: I can see that yours is funny, but it does not make me laugh as it is not generally applicable.

#490 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2011, 02:09 PM:

Melissa Singer @ 489... No offense was intended, but, nonetheless, my apologies.

#491 ::: TrashedMyCookies ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2011, 02:17 PM:

Personally, I generally enter nonessential birthdates as 1st April. I can't be the only one who uses April Fool's Day as the fictional birthdate of choice.

#492 ::: sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2011, 02:35 PM:

Melissa Singer @ 485 My OB/GYN states that this is unequivocally true - in her practice, the bell-curve for birth tops in mid-September, and phone calls about new pregnancies the second week of the year.

When asked by officious programs for my birthday, I generally use my father's date with my year. That doesn't throw the same kind of flags as 1/1 and I know I remember it.

#493 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2011, 02:58 PM:

abi, Martin, and Alex--I've been mostly away from the Internet for the past week, so I missed most of this. I'm sorry Google has decided to be skunks, followed up by playing the "Clueless Automatic Response, Which Is Justified Because Whocoudanode" card.

I've been enveloped in the bosom of my family, which means that since I have a great-nephew a little younger than Alex, and he has siblings and cousins and friends his age and younger, all ready and willling to fool around with those computer things (and with widely-spread families, and friends who move away), it's very easy to see this happening in my own family circles. I imagine they'd be just as upset as Alex, and their parents just as blind-sided by Google's failure to either explain things like ALL the terms of service properly in advance or show some foresight into how the end-users will apply their product once it's released into the world.

The only really useful things I have to add (besides the general admiration for analyses, comments, poems, and de-cloaking of lurkers) is this depiction of a set of troll townhouses, as well as this nice catalog of trollish real estate, several examples of which look to be reasonably inaccessible to billy goats**.

Also--way back at 108, heresiarch noted that this was a really stupid way to deal with someone who was a likely Future Customer; I'd like to add to that "This is a really stupid way to deal with a possible future competitor." There have been other internet monoliths; many are now lying about like Ozymandias, and while Brin and Page are interested in other things besides just Google, this might be a concept they should keep in the forefront of their thoughts. Google can be replaced, just as the others have been. Giving those who could be their future competitors and replacements this kind of motivation should be avoided where possible***.

*If we do have a collective term for those relatives, suitable for mixed-gender use, please let me know. If not, I'm sticking to this one.

**I think this may be my way to react to trolls here and in other places; post a bridge picture and comment (favorably or otherwise) on their design choices, landscaping, and upkeep.

***As others have pointed out, Alex probably isn't the only young user of gmail who's been hit by this. One can imagine this as a bonding experience later on: "I don't care if we can find the readings for that class in GoogleBooks; I don't use Google if I can help it. There was the time they stole all my e-mails when I was a little kid..." "Hey, they did that to me, too!" and the next thing you know, they're working late nights on a Sekrit Project to take over the world and changing computing as we know it

#494 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2011, 03:07 PM:

Serge: no offense taken (though if it was November or December, I might be annoyed. It's just one of those "not everyone may have the same customs" kind of things, where I can see, intellectually, that there's s joke there, but it doesn't resonate for me.

#495 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2011, 05:03 PM:

fidelio #493: In a prior lifetime, I knew a fellow dubbed "jbvb" (his initials and "logname"). He once commented that Sun wouldn't hire him because he didn't have a master's degree... so he'd started a company that competed with their flagship product.

#496 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2011, 09:24 PM:

fidelio at 493, w.r.t. the first footnote.

My friend Ursula L. has coined "nebling" as the equivalent to sibling, but for nieces and/or nephews.

I am hoping the usage takes off.

#497 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2011, 11:02 PM:

Nancy C. Mittens @ 496: I learned "niblings" from a coworker about 12 years ago, and have been using it ever since.

#498 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2011, 07:34 AM:

Aviatrix @488 Could there have been enough refugees, war orphans or former street children in your database to make this a plausible explanation?

As everyone in it was 50 years old or over, many of them had been children in WWII. War orphans and destroyed records were amongst the explanations we put forward. We checked some records manually, but as they didn't seem to show anything unusual in any other way, and more importantly at the time didn't seem to be fraudulent, decided to get on with the claims analysis.

#499 ::: Matthew S. ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2011, 08:40 AM:

Just wanted to point out that

1. Windows Live Hotmail gives you the option for a parent to give legal consent; exactly what you're asking for.

2. When Hotmail learns you're underage, it asks for parental consent instead of just deleting their email.

I would reccommend you help get him started with Hotmail, the world's most used email service, at www.live.com. hey, if he really is as techy as you say, he might like how hotmail has unlimited email space :P

#500 ::: Matthew S. ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2011, 08:42 AM:

Just wanted to point out that

1. Windows Live Hotmail gives you the option for a parent to give legal consent; exactly what you're asking for. They accept either a valid credit card or you send a copy of your legaly commisionad ID to one of Microsoft's adresses.

2. When Hotmail learns you're underage, it asks for parental consent instead of just deleting their email.

I would reccommend you help get him started with Hotmail, the world's most used email service, at www.live.com. hey, if he really is as techy as you say, he might like how hotmail has unlimited email space :P

#501 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2011, 11:48 AM:

Matthew S.:

Just wanted to point out that:

1) You aren't actually being that helpful, though at least, thank goodness, you're not being too condescending in your hlep.

2) You would know this if you'd read the thread.

I would recommend you read the comments on a forum before posting what you think is useful advice. At best, it might save you repeating prior advice.

#502 ::: Jo MacQueen ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2011, 07:51 PM:

Lenora Rose @ 501, as well as what you said, I couldn't help wondering if it's spam disguised as great enthusiasm or great enthusiasm that just happens to resemble spam. (And I say this as a long-term Hotmail user, but without any insistent urges to recommend it to all and sundry, let alone as a solution to Alex's problem, which it isn't.)

#503 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2011, 07:52 PM:

Just wanted to point out that

1. We are all aware of other free email services.

2. Well targeted spam is still spam.

#504 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2011, 02:59 AM:

My vote on @500 is spam rather than over-enthusiastic fan. It feels like a corporate PR person taking advantage of Google's idiocy to shill on high Googlejuice blogs. Individually crafted and targeted shilling, but still shilling. (There's a specific phrase in there that's triggering that reaction.)

#505 ::: E. Liddell ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2011, 08:08 AM:

Second phrase in the last paragraph, you mean? That tripped my spammer radar as well--there's no way a real person would say something like that.

#506 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2011, 09:05 AM:

Fire to backfire in remarkably few comments. Nice one, Matthew; you did hotmail proud there.

(My experience of hotmail—before I gave up on it a few years ago—was that it was a putrid stew of spam. Unless it's changed, there is no way on earth I would consider letting a 10 year old within a mile of it.)

#507 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2011, 09:05 AM:

Making Light: where infraponts and spammers get critiqued!

#508 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2011, 09:17 AM:

dcb @507:
Making Light: where infraponts and spammers get *critiqued*!

obBujold:

If By was lying . . . Ivan didn't want to know. "You play games like that with the big boys, you'd better make damn sure you win, Miles says. Rule One. And there is no Rule Two."
Byerly sighed. "So he pointed out to me."
Ivan hesitated. "Miles talked to you about this?"
"Ten days ago. Has anyone ever explained the meaning of the term déjà vu to you, Ivan?"
"Reprimanded you, did he?"
"I have my own sources for mere reprimand. It was worse. He . . . he critiqued me." Byerly shuddered, delicately. "From a covert ops standpoint, don't you know. An experience I trust I may never repeat." He sipped his wine.

#509 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2011, 09:24 AM:

My experience of hotmail—before I gave up on it a few years ago—was that it was a putrid stew of spam. Unless it's changed, there is no way on earth I would consider letting a 10 year old within a mile of it.

I've had a hotmail account since I started college, and the spam control is massively better than it was. It's a little hard to compare to gmail, as my hotmail address is much more in circulation than my gmail address (I'm a lot more security and privacy conscious now than I was 15 year ago), but the spam filtering seems to be about equally effective.

#510 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2011, 10:07 AM:

I have heard about a further unhelpful G+ & kids interaction, though not as harmful as turning off email and having text that actively causes pain. A friend of mine has a 14 year old son who tried to sign up for G+ and was told that he wasn't old enough. The message didn't say what the minimum age *was*, mind you, which was was the unhelpful part.

#511 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2011, 10:21 AM:

And the gnomes say ... not a spammer!

A person with the same user-name and e-mail address (which, interestingly, is not @hotmail.com) has been around the 'net giving assorted tech advice for several years. My opinion: Well-meaning, but didn't read the thread.

#512 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2011, 11:26 AM:

abi @508: obBujold

Hm. ::drums fingers::

::smacks lips::

Hm. May be time to go back for a re-read. Hm....

#513 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2011, 01:29 PM:

abi @508. Oh yes!

Jacque @ 512: Well, I suppose it wouldn't do any harm to go and read just that chapter...

#514 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2011, 02:09 PM:

dcb (513): You can't read just one...

#515 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2011, 02:48 PM:

Mary Aileen @514: Yes, I know!

#516 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2011, 04:24 PM:

I wanted to come back to Teresa's comment, ... when they hear about a semi-random bad thing happening to someone who didn't deserve it, they feel a rush of anxiety, which they experience as something the victim is doing to them, rather than something they're doing to themselves.

I was passing the buskers downtown, and considering the recent attempts here to shove "panhandlers" away from the busier parts of downtown, and I wondered... could this, in a more general human form, be the basis for that all-too-common hostility towards the homeless and disabled?

#517 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2011, 05:10 PM:

David Harmon @516: could this, in a more general human form, be the basis for that all-too-common hostility towards the homeless and disabled?

Oh, I'd be pretty sure it is. "Ew! Don't get poverty cooties on me!"

As long as one maintains the delusion that it's a function of character and effort, one can sustain the fantasy that "It'll never be me!"

#518 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2011, 08:48 PM:

Following up to # 448 and 477.

obDisclaimer: This is not my employer's opinion and is presented here for whatever value you think it has.

From a database compiled from various marketing and public record sources, I compared years of birth for people born on January 1 to years of birth of people who reported other birthdays.

By far the largest excess was in the year 1960. I'm not sure what that represents; maybe boomers who want to be younger don't feel comfortable pushing their birth year any further forward than that?

There were also a disproportionately large number of people claiming January 1, 1901 as their date of birth. That's an obvious default value. (In this database we reject 1900 as a too obvious fake value and also it could be an automatic conversion of a default 0 by a careless Y2K patch.)

A peak in 1912 is people who say they are 99 years old.

A peak in 1982 is people claiming to be 29. (In the US at least that's a popular place to stop for people who pretend they're not getting any older.)

There are not enough children in this database to form any conclusions about the reliability of their birthdays or ages.

FWIW.

#519 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 01:18 AM:

Jaacque @ 517:

Similar to the common reaction to the mentally ill, I think: "OMG, it might be contagious!"

#520 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 01:43 AM:

If Matthew S (@499) had bothered to take some time to figure out the local culture, he'd've known to start off "This is just to point out".

#521 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 01:47 PM:

#519 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers):

I think there's another piece to the discomfort-- if one buys into the idea that poverty is a reflection of something wrong with one's society or species, then there's the uncomfortable feeling that one ought to be able to fix it combined with the awareness that one doesn't have the resources or (really) the desire.

Problems with perfectionism? Moi?

#522 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2011, 05:09 PM:

Nancy #521: On the flip side, it seems likely that the impulse to charity is driven by that same discomfort... which is ultimately based on human empathy.

#523 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2011, 11:44 PM:

Google is now pressing users to use the their real names on Google+. I don't know whose idea that policy was, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't a woman.

#524 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2011, 12:22 AM:

523
I wouldn't given them anything but initials, if I were even about to sign up.
They don't need to know, nor does the rest of the world. If they bar people from joining over that, then they're getting into the territory of 'evil'. (Yes, there are people who object to handles. All of them seem to confuse anonymity with pseudonymity.)

#525 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2011, 12:34 AM:

Randolph @ 523... Google is now pressing users to use the their real names on Google+

Drat. Good thing I didn't register as Clark Kent.

#526 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2011, 04:18 PM:

Randolph, PJ@523-524, on using True Names for social-networking services - Friendster, which may have been the first of its ilk, decided at one point that it needed to at least limit users to being real people. This not only kicked out some number of trolls, it also kicked out interesting "fake" members like "N-Judah", who was a streetcar line in San Francisco. N-Judah didn't have a lot to say on his/her own, but had a lot of friends who could talk to each other as friends-of-friends, and was a way to build community interactions that Friendster hadn't thought of themselves.

#527 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2011, 04:56 PM:

526
And then there's the whole thing with businesses joining 'social' networks....

#528 ::: TexAnne sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 12:23 AM:

Sigh.

#529 ::: Eric ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 04:58 PM:

Seriously? Your kid violates the ToS and you think Google should just ignore it and give in?

Welcome to the real world. Sorry it is so difficult for you.

#531 ::: TexAnne sees a troll ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 05:02 PM:

Or someone who read neither the post nor the thread, and doesn't seem to have an empathetic bone in his body.

#532 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 05:07 PM:

Maybe it's just a really desperate troll. Goats being thin on the bridge, and all.

#533 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 05:13 PM:

TexAnne, isn't that still a troll?

#534 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 05:23 PM:

Yep, looks like a troll, smells like a troll, tastes like a troll (blergh).

#535 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 05:35 PM:

It's a late-blooming troll, like the last butterfly of autumn. I'm sure he thinks he's so very clever, sitting there in 12.196.224.3 and feeling smug. Like he's done something clever, when all he's really done is poo like a badly housebroken puppy.

You know what? The next idiot troll who posts to this thread gets his email address published in the clear.

#536 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 06:20 PM:

Xopher, I think trolls do it on purpose. Assholes-because-clueless are slightly different. In this case, I don't think the difference is visible with the naked eye.

#537 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 06:27 PM:

I wonder if we've ruffled its righteous ire, yet?

#538 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 06:28 PM:

Where's Cthulhu when you need him? Trolls should be eaten.

#539 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 06:34 PM:

Reading-comprehension-challenged troll.

#540 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 07:09 PM:

abi @536 The next idiot troll who posts to this thread gets his email address published in the clear.

... and so it came to pass that the very best of trolldom sent forth it's champions; the twisters-of-words, the offence-finders, the casually intolerant, the dictionary-readers, the ground-shifters and the heavy-handed satirists - all came to the thread of shame to prove that they weren't idiot trolls, but trolls of a higher order. A great flowering of trollery took place as "What you people don't understand" duelled with "You should have read the small print" and corporate sock puppets fought tin-foil helmed paranoids, creating ever more elaborate insults and derailments.

The rest of us, meanwhile, moved on.

#541 ::: Debio ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 08:24 PM:

Neil W@541

Dude, that would make a totally awesome RPG.

I bet my 34th level tin-foil helmed paranoid can beat your Corporate sock puppet. He has a +37 defense. Beat that!


TexAnne@537 Yeah, I'm pretty sure trolls do it on purpose. I often fall into the asshole-because-clueless category. The key difference is what comes next. Is there a sincere apology on the way?

Troll -- Say mean stuff. Followed by, "Hey, I'm so cool, did you see what I said to those losers?"

Asshole-because-clueless -- Say mean stuff. Followed by, "Um, oops. I should have thought about that more before posting."

#542 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 10:23 PM:

Debio #542: That might be better as a card game (perhaps with board elements) than an RPG.

Well, to some degree trolldom is phenomenological. But yeah, sometimes you do need to wait a bit to find out whether someone's doing it as a sustained effort, or just from a temporary excess of bile/shortage of restraint.

#543 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 10:49 PM:

After seeing the movie Troll Hunter, I'm feeling that calling the obnoxious and persistent on the web "trolls" is really not fair to the trolls. Sure, they're slimy and dangerous if you pester them, but they don't seem malicious or petty, and they don't go out of their way to bother anyone.

A very fun movie, BTW, as is Super 8.

#544 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 05:29 AM:

I haven't managed it lately, but on usenet, I handled a few obnoxious-but-clueless folks by ignoring their insults and only replying to content. This eventually trained them to drop the insults, but it was hard work for me to keep passing the Turing test while replying to someone who was only partially passing it.

Trolls would be better named as some sort of parasite. Not only is it more insulting, it's more accurate. They suck the life out of meaningful and/or friendly discourse.

#545 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 07:00 AM:

re 541: I'm old enough in the on-line world to remember when most of those wouldn't have been called trolls. The word came out of fishing, not fairy tales: trolling meant specifically dropping comments into a discussion in order to incite a riot: in other words, baiting. People who stumble obliviously into a forum without an understanding of the history wouldn't have counted, nor would have one-note controversy warriors.

#546 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 08:58 AM:

C. Wingate #546: Indeed, several of the slang terms have mutated over the decades. I think you've got a couple of decades or so on me, but when I was in college (early 1980's), "hacking" was unambiguously a good thing, "flaming" hadn't quite settled on its current meaning of vicious hostility, and, yes, when "trolling" was something of an art form for the socially maladjusted. I'm sure there are others!

#547 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 11:42 AM:

Neil W @541: The rest of us, meanwhile, moved on.

...and/or had great fun at their expense.

#548 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 06:01 PM:

David Harmon@543 to Debio #542: That might be better as a card game (perhaps with board elements) than an RPG.

It's obviously yet another expansion set for Munchkin. Munchkin already has Internet Trolls, a +3 Really Impressive Title, Cthulhu, Goats, Zombies, a Gazebo, an Undead Horse, tin-foil headgear, and excess snark, so maybe all it takes is a little bonus card deck with a disemvoweler or two, rather than a new full deck. The Boots of Butt-Kicking already come in Abi's size.

#549 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 06:17 PM:

Bill Stewart @549: The Boots of Butt-Kicking already come in Abi's size.

I would have thought the Velvet Glove more appropriate. :)

#550 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2011, 10:49 AM:

C. Wingate @546 Noted. Perhaps something more like this, although I think it is not as good as my first riff on the topic:

On Trolls: They lay their bait and wait for those unweary souls who will take it. The bait itself is clearly unpleasant, so much so that the intended prey cannot help but take it, not so much for desire of it, but to dismantle it. Taking apart the lure in this way will usually give the troll more pieces to lay out, enticing more victims. Those caught by the troll, although annoyed, are rarely seriously harmed. For reasons unknown this process is called feeding the troll.

#551 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2011, 05:20 PM:

Abi, the original post on sunpig has just gotten picked up by Gawker - I'd expect to see a whole bunch of really weird traffic [we might well get overflow here].

#552 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2011, 12:48 PM:

Someone else has had their accounts disabled and is really mad about it.

#553 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2011, 02:11 PM:

eric #553: Given his tale, I don't blame him. In fact, in his place, I'd be suing for damages, regardless of click-wrap agreements.

#554 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2011, 03:55 PM:

Google Deletes Last 7 Years Of User's Digital Life, Shrugs

Something happened to Dylan's Google account, and it's been disabled. He doesn't know what happened to the account, and no one at Google with the power to help him is interested in acknowledging the problem or letting him back in to the cloud-based services where all of his correspondence and much of the digital trail from the last few years of his life is stored. Google doesn't own Twitter, though (yet), and he has taken to Twitter to try to draw attention to his problem and urge anyone who will listen not to trust Google with their digital lives.
#555 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2011, 05:01 AM:

Re: Consumerist

Wow. When will I ever learn *not* to read the comments on these types of articles.

#556 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2011, 10:32 AM:

Reading the comment threads anywhere that lacks strong moderation is a recipe for despairing of humanity.

#557 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2011, 08:41 PM:

Huh. Another google+ problem:

http://www.docpop.org/2011/07/trapped-in-the-googlehole/

#558 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2011, 10:41 PM:

An odd thing happened to me yesterday when I tried to find the recent thread in which Rango was discussed, so that I could drop in and add my praise for the movie: I couldn't find it using Google.

I still can't find it, either with Google or with Bing or with Yahoo!

Have the major search engines slowed down on indexing? Have our hosts done something?

In the immortal words of Marvin Gaye, "Let's Get It On."

Um, I mean, "What's Going On?"

#559 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2011, 10:45 PM:

More stories:

Violet Blue
Robert Scoble has a chat with a Google VP.
Lance Ulanoff at PCMag with a possible, if ugly, explanation... which does not at all justify their behavior after the shutdowns.

The picture that's emerging here is one of Google serving their "business interests" first and only, with absolutely no prior consideration of how their behavior might affect individual people. As far as I'm concerned, they've utterly failed at their supposed motto, because I consider "depraved indifference" to be equal to outright malice. Even if they do fix things PDQ, the people they've burned will never trust them again, and frankly, neither will I.

I was already faintly wary about them just on basic security principles (what my family used to call "paranoid", until I beat the rush on ShrubCo's abuses), and they have now confirmed my fears. Mere weeks ago, if I'd gone on a rant about "don't trust your data to the cloud", most folks would have dismissed me as paranoid. Now, I won't have to do that rant again, because I can just point at these cases. Also, actual security professionals will shortly be doing much better rants than I could manage!

Google has screwed up utterly and completely on this one, and this incident may well represent the beginning of their end.

#560 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2011, 11:01 PM:

Also, an ex-Google employee has started a clearinghouse site to gather information on the suspensions: Suspended Google+ Accounts.

#561 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2011, 07:21 PM:

John A Arkansawyer @559: What happens when you try the search string "nielsenhayden.com rango"?

#562 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2011, 09:10 PM:

Jacque@ 562: Today it shows up on Google, with or without site: prepended to nielsenhayden.com

#563 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2011, 08:01 AM:

It's now the end of a week that began with this disaster. Looking through forums, I hear that Google is promising changes over "the next few weeks"... but I still haven't heard any public apology from them. Nor am I hearing about the worst-smited (including Alex) getting their online lives back. Nor even a recognition from Google of the gap between their posted policies and the actual policies their software is enforcing. Given the scale of this situation and the effects of "Internet time", that's not just "slow response time", that's "response failure".

What I have found is this comment by Bradley Horowitz in the middle of a lengthy thread, which offers:

Horowitz added that in a "matter of weeks," Google+ will warn users and give them a chance to correct their names before they're suspended from the site. The site also will give users guidance on how they can change their names to meet the site's rules.

He also said Google is working on helping users come up with appropriate account names when they first sign up for Google+ to avoid any trouble down the road.

In other words, no hint of recognition that the policies themselves are grossly misguided, just "we'll give you some extra chances to comply with our rules".

#564 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2011, 08:10 AM:

PS: It occurs to me that their demands for "official ID" may well be violating privacy laws in a number of countries. Anyone want to speak up on that from Canada, Europe or other continents?

#565 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2011, 08:40 AM:

And just to endorse a point that has been made before: The mistakes that Google is making here are basic errors that might be expected from some startup -- one founded by folks born after the coalescence of the Internet, proclaiming their "new way" without awareness of what has gone before, too naive to recognize the implications of their policies and actions.

Google is no such thing, and they have no excuse.

#566 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2011, 06:12 PM:

It strikes me that Google's latest ad campaign at
http://www.emailintervention.com/
might make a great starting point for a campaign to get their attention about this issue.

There's a voicemail number posted where you can leave a message. Maybe enough messages left about "I would never want someone to switch to Gmail, if it means Google can permanently lock them out of all their personal email and then delete it all" might make their marketing people get involved.

#567 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2011, 04:48 PM:

So, did Google ever surrender the kid's e-mail archive?

#568 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2011, 05:28 PM:

Martin took ownership of the account, including changing the date of birth to his own. Not ideal.

Google never contacted us officially. There was one mention on G+, but that was it. It got drowned in the nymwars, and it became clear they were simply not going to be of any assistance at all.

The issue's not going away, though.

#569 ::: Carrie S. sees spamlike substance ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2011, 12:10 PM:

Perhaps this is someone using a nonstandard characterset?

#570 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2011, 06:24 PM:

abi #569: Well, it's something that you got the E-mail back, and even "plausible cover". But even in hindsight, the whole thing is still a major fustercluck on Google's part.

#571 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2011, 06:44 PM:

Hey, I stumbled over another article from back then, that mentioned your very case! Business Insider.

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