Teaching while female »« The palimpsest of popular culture

New commenting rules

What are they?

The ongoing meltdown in Thunderdome and the departure of Chris tell me we’ve got something that needs to be fixed. I don’t quite know how to fix everything, so let’s crowdsource it — you people leave comments here telling me what rules you think might work to get the knifey-bitey-smashy atmosphere to lighten up a little. Just a little.

Comments

  1. says

    I don’t know what rules would help out, I have not really had to run anything that was this heated before. I do think that the three post rule and reset rules get completely forgotten on a fairly regular basis.

  2. koncorde says

    Rules don’t change personalities.

    This blog typically has 2 to 3 new articles per day, usually on something heavy and involved with nuanced arguments – and then you get strong opinions (and to a lesser extent baiting, trolling etc). You also, as an outsider here, see a change in the general commenting population with certain articles dominated by certain individuals repeatedly.

    None of which is a bad thing, it’s just what happens when people of strong opinion don’t necessarily agree with each other all of the time.

    The only thing I would consider adding is as a “rule” is: Assume good faith. Just because something was said in a way that was not sensitive to your own sensibilities does not invalidate what was said, or devalue the person.

  3. Menyambal --- flinging the squaler says

    I’d like to see something that says if you are arguing about a comment, you are no longer talking about the real-world subject allegedly under discussion. So you get three tries to clarify, then move on, or something. I don’t think it can be done, I just want to say to stick to the topic.

  4. Owlmirror says

    Are you looking for options for yourself to implement, as an admin, like Scalzi’s methods of throttling trolling by deleting both troll derails and responses to troll derails?

    Or for self-imposed rules, like the old “three strikes” rule, which was, IIRC, usually quickly forgotten, especially by those already in a bad temper?

  5. Great American Satan says

    It’s hard to say. Really.

    I think some people hand out “Fuck off you fucking idiot” too easily, but sometimes that’s an appropriate reaction. Sometimes the SJ warriors might come down on someone like a ton of bricks for something they would have quickly recanted or adjusted to if the reproach had been less brutal, but 95% of the time the brutality is justified and the offender is a willfully ignorant shit.

    I have just no advice for how to effect a change with rules, but maybe people could have some ideas for how to change things in a less formal way.

  6. says

    I only stepped into the Thunderdome once. Never have paid attention to it, never felt a reason for it.

    My impression (which may be wrong) is that it was intended to serve as a release valve, where you can tell people who can’t get over how important their thought on one topic or detail is enough to stop derailing a thread.

    If that’s correct, are you sure it functions as a release valve, or does it serve more as a reason for those who need to talk AT people to stick around when they otherwise wouldn’t bother?

    (I have no idea what the meltdown is, and have no interest in going into the thread to find out.)

    I CAN tell you that as someone who used to spend their time exclusively on Pharyngula, I now comment more often on other FTB blogs… for whatever reason, I dunno.

  7. Ray, rude-ass yankee says

    I don’t frequent Thunderdome because I personally don’t enjoy the unmoderated aspect of it, so I don’t know what’s going on there lately, but it does seem like having it to banish trolls to and as a place where you can be as rough and tumble as you like is a useful outlet. I hope there is a way to keep some part of that feature. You can easily avoid the melee if/when desired by staying out of that thread (as I mostly do).

    Just my $.02

  8. see_the_galaxy says

    I take almost the dimmest imaginable view of the comments sections of blogs. Extreme moderation would be a plus. I don’t think there should ever be name calling, and I think everyone should be required to be able to state the opposing position in a way their opponent would endorse. People should be willing to say what kind of information would change their minds, and what it would take to show their own position is wrong. And should be able to state a good thing about their opponent.

  9. gertrud says

    Bringing fights that have did not start in the comments section of this blog and that are likely to trigger readers or participants should be against the rules.

    Relatedly, it should also be against the rules to post information that people have posted on outside social media profiles.

    I can’t suggest what measures should be taken.

  10. Matthew Howery says

    Is there any way to implement a 1 hour waiting period between posts by the same user? That would seem to prevent a lot of the runaway craziness.

  11. says

    I think it’s less about the need for rules and more about the need for a more robust commenting system. The most common “fix” I’ve seen would be a karma-based + / – system to rate comments. Build that into the user logins and then track the number of good comments (thus bypassing some moderation) and bad comments (thus forcing additional hoops to get your stuff to show up).

    Put in that some ways to actually flag the comments (and unrelated but also needed, to edit your own comments) for things like spam, trolling, harassment… and let the crowd fix itself.

    That being said, it’s not a trivial thing to put into place, but it can lead to better discussions when the troll-ish comments get hidden by default, and the better stuff floated up.

  12. Charles Insandiego says

    As an invertebrate lurker, I must express my surprise and indignation at the suggestion that the Thunderdome is under-moderated.

    –As an inveterate thinker, I must call attention to my lack of a backbone.

    psha-ha.

  13. A. R says

    I think the current rules need to be enforced strictly, and regular commenters or irregular ones who display a consistent pattern of bullying should be warned, and perhaps placed in moderation. I agree that fights should not be carried over from other platforms. Also, the three strikes rule needs to be enforced on penalty of moderation or Thunderdome confinement.

  14. says

    As Great American Satan said at #6, it really feels like some people here descend to rudeness and profanity a little too quickly. And, as also stated, it’s usually (semi-)justified. I understand why, when someone comes in and gives one of the standard bad behavior performances which we’ve now all seen far too often, “fuck off” makes sense. We all know, now, that arguing with a rape apologist (for example, since we’ve had a couple pop up in other non-Thunderdome threads recently) doesn’t work, and that — to the experienced reader — jumping straight to “fuck off” is just a shortcut to the rudeness which will eventually show up before the offender is banned. But there’s no need to leave so many of those rude replies around. Perhaps the moderators/monitors/whatever could come in and clean out the knee-jerk rude replies, except the first one in each case, after the fact, with the understanding that it’s for our own mental health? It would make the discussions seem a lot less edgy to those arriving late. Of course, this still wouldn’t get the offenders to read the runup to where they made their comments, because “it’s just so rude I couldn’t be bothered” is merely an excuse, but it might help the rest of us stay a little calmer too if we didn’t have to wade through as much of it.

  15. chigau (違う) says

    To be negative:
    a hearty No Way to both comment rating and self-editing already posted comments.
    To be positive:
    the old new rules are pretty good but they need to be more prominently displayed or linked.

  16. gertrud says

    Is there a way to permit comment editing while maintaining the old comment as well, like the current Facebook system? It would leave a record of what was said, but permit the person to clarify if they felt the need, and I think that both of those things are important and may help to prevent enormous comment-dumps where the same person posts a lot of times on the same thread in a short time.

  17. says

    One thing that is seriously bothering me is the idea that a single comment by someone is effectively silencing a host of others. Specifically talking about the Stunned Silence thread. I do think that Mattir was wrong to bring up an outside argument into her comment, that was wholly unnecessary – and I sincerely apologize to those affected by that. However, just because there was a desire to see that argument central did not descend on that thread did not stop anyone from relating their relevant experiences in that thread, all that was needed was to keep the outside argument out of it.*

    All that said, I do agree with Gertrud that bringing outside fights into a comment thread is wrong, absolutely. This is already covered by the rules in place, though. I don’t know how the hell to enforce it. I’m going to do my best to be much more thoughtful from now on, and try to see things outside of my own point of view. I know I will continue to fuck up, but I will try very hard not to fuck up often.

    One other thing: As Chris noted in thunderdome recently, the concept of intent is not magic is not equally applied here. When something would happen which was upsetting to Chris, there tended to be a lot of people piling on, defending whatever or whoever upset Chris. I think we all need to slow down a bit, and that most certainly includes myself.

    That’s all I have.

    *Please, don’t go for arguing me to death over this, I won’t participate, I don’t have the bloody spoons. The short form is this: people had their stories of rape, not-rape, assault, etc., long before the big, huge fight. Those stories can still be related, if there was desire to relate them.

  18. Owlmirror says

    My impression (which may be wrong) is that [Thunderdome] was intended to serve as a release valve, where you can tell people who can’t get over how important their thought on one topic or detail is enough to stop derailing a thread.

    It’s also a thread where creationist/religious bigots/superstitionists/other quasitrolls can post and be argued with, and where arguments can be had between regulars on idiosyncratic topics that would probably be boring or unpleasant in the Lounge.

    ======

    Is there any way to implement a 1 hour waiting period between posts by the same user? That would seem to prevent a lot of the runaway craziness.

    I recall that Jason Rosenhouse once requested that some individuals who had enormous acrimony between them only post once a day. One of those individuals was the hugely annoying Anthony McCarthy — but he did abide by Rosenhouse’s request.

  19. says

    Chigau:

    To be negative:

    a hearty No Way to both comment rating and self-editing already posted comments.

    To be positive:

    the old new rules are pretty good but they need to be more prominently displayed or linked.

    Seconded. Echoing absolute NO to rating and editing.

  20. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I think there needs to be a thread where anybody can say anything, and that is the Thunderdome. I’ve avoided even looking there for a couple of days. Frankly, the argument appears to be little too esoteric for my tastes, but let the partisans go at it.

  21. says

    I would suggest penalizing disproportionate/preemptive hostility and/or penalizing jumping to conclusions about a persons character or motivation on insufficient data.

  22. says

    I don’t really think thunderdome should be moderated all that much, I mean, it is what it is, but I do hope the acrimony does not spill over into other threads.

  23. wtfwhatever says

    Institute a one month cooling off period in everyone including those banned in the past are welcomed back and every commenter is only allowed 1 comment per post.

    You can’t do that PZ, because though effective, it would dry up your clicks and your income, and you can’t do that because you would hate having to listen or read from people that disagree with you that you have othered as non-people.

  24. A. R says

    Chigau:

    To be negative:

    a hearty No Way to both comment rating and self-editing already posted comments.

    To be positive:

    the old new rules are pretty good but they need to be more prominently displayed or linked.

    Seconded. Echoing absolute NO to rating and editing.

    Thirded. (If that’s not a word, I’m just going pretend that it is.)

  25. says

    Maybe enforce the current rules better for a start. I don’t read many comment threads, and even then, I’ve seen several people I didn’t know berated for obvious and completely on-topic, innocuous jokes lately by regulars who freely admit they are too frustrated to give anyone the benefit of the doubt anymore, but can’t be bothered to hold their tongue for three comments.

  26. says

    Well I’m kind of glad that for once I don’t know what a Pharyngula meltdown is about. Is it maybe time to rethink the idea of an entirely unmoderated thread?

    I find it hard to imagine how would go about policing “rudeness and profanity”, because that exists pretty much in the eye of the beholder, and some people are offended when someone disagrees with them.

    Agree that the new rules should be displayed more prominently.

  27. A. R says

    wtfwhatever:

    No, PZ won’t do that because the people who are banned are trolling arseholes or MRA jackarses, or fucking rape apologists.

  28. Portia says

    Subjective terms like

    consistent pattern of bullying

    should be defined as explicitly as possible.

    No to comment rating, but I know you’ve already said that you will not ever do that.

  29. ekwhite says

    I would suggest the ability to flag posts for the moderators, and limits on the number of posts per hour or per day on a given thread as ways to cool things down. I also like the idea of being able to edit comments, as long as the edits were clear – editing for clarity is one thing, editing to hide something vile that you said is another.

    Also, John Scalzi’s idea of deleting both the troll’s posts and the responses to said posts is not a bad one either, at least in some circumstances.

  30. says

    Also, John Scalzi’s idea of deleting both the troll’s posts and the responses to said posts is not a bad one either, at least in some circumstances.

    Just a bit harder to do on Pharyngula, especially if PZ wants to have a life every now and then.

  31. ekwhite says

    BTW – I don’t know what the argument over at Thunderdome was about – I don’t use Facebook – but I think that shutting the thread down for the night was the right thing to do.

  32. Dennis N says

    A few years ago, I was a rather frequent poster. Honestly, I only transitioned to lurker because the number and speed of comments became too much, and I didn’t have the time to engage, not for any reasons of tone.

    I do often read though, and my humble opinion though is that I very frequently see potentially open-minded minded new to the site who wade into the comment section with an ignorant (I mean uninformed, but not intentionally) question get blasted and turned away. I’ve seen them immediately sworn at and told to shut up. Yes, people need to be educated. No, the burden to educate them is not on you, obviously it’s on the person who is ignorant. But remember, ignorant people may not know they’re ignorant. And if they’re asking a question, they are actually looking for knowledge, even if their question has many unpacked assumptions.

    I’m not saying it’s the commentariat’s job to provide everyone with helpful links and a tutorial for every uninformed newb, but you could try ignoring instead of blasting.

    I guess I’m just saying: assume good faith and enforce the three posts rule.

  33. says

    Whatever happened to the wait-three-comments-before-triggering-flamethrowers rule?

    It got swamped by JAQoffs and their sockpuppets. As for the well-intentioned ignoramus, bluntly, if someone can’t be bothered to inform themselves at a basic level before horning into a conversation, I can’t be bothered to talk to them, because I have no reason to believe that they have anything to contribute to the discussion. This is especially true in long running comment threads where all that’s needed to achieve that basic level of education is to read the fucking thread. If someone’s not willing to show me that basic level of courtesy, why the hell should I show them any? If I put my foot in it, I fully expect that people will jump on me, and they’re fully justified, on my view. I try to learn enough to not do that before I open my big yap, though.

  34. says

    @wtfwhatever:

    Ending substantive discussion and freeing the comments up for trolls to mosey in and drop their turds without fear of being challenged certainly would change the tone of the blog, but not for the better, as you so promptly demonstrated yourself.

  35. trinioler says

    Some examples of bullying:
    -Won’t leave you alone if you ask them to do so
    -Makes insulting comments about you, out of nowhere
    -Sends you harassing or abusive private messages/emails
    -Extreme hostility out of nowhere for commenting
    -Attacks other people who are friends of the person’s target for often illogical or incoherent reasons
    -Lies about you to other people
    -Throws out accusations or gaslighting often 100% opposite of someone’s demonstrated character(ie, someone who is well-known for honesty being accused of being dishonest, someone who is a very caring but verbose writer accused of bullying, etc. These accusations will have a pattern of going after someone’s emotional weak points.)

    Does that help?

  36. says

    My only suggestion will be that whatever rules anyone’s proposing, take a moment and look at them as though you wanted nothing more than to make PZ’s life difficult. Think of how you could use them in “legitimate” but irritating ways.

    Because the folks who hate this place aren’t stupid. Self-centred, solipsistic even, narcissists frequently, but rarely stupid. Any rule put in place will be abused by them to the best of their abilities.

    So, up/down-rating? You’re wanting people who hate us to have the opportunity to do to our commenters what the Horde does to stupid internet polls?

    Editing? Welcome to Gaslight City.

    Three strikes before opposition? A flood of people making two obnoxious comments, then running off to knit sockpuppets for the next bombing run.

    It’s not like the Horde bite ignorant newbs’ heads off for a laugh; it’s that it is impossible, with so many people acting so often in bad faith, to tell the ignorant but well-meaning newb from the bad-faith assholes. So we end up having to take a lot of shots from assholes, shitting all over the thread, before being able to take them out behind the woodshed?

    I’m not saying it’s impossible, but remember there’s only one mod here now, and he has a life.

    If I have any positive suggestion to make, PZ, it would be to select a half-dozen people you trust to be cool heads, and make them actual mods. Let them crack down when it’s needed, and you can pitch in as possible. If you pick the right crew, and they can cover the various times of day between them, then we’ll end up with a lot less need to gang-tackle the ignorami.

  37. A. R says

    How about adding: Decides to create double standards of behaviour, especially when related to sensitive subjects like triggers, rape apologia, etc.

  38. karmakin says

    I generally don’t post in these types of communities as they’re far too toxic. But, I saw this, and what the hell, I’ll give my two cents. Maybe it’ll save some people some very real pain.

    The problem is objectification, and it’s a big problem for progressive culture-war communities. It’s why you have such toxic dysfunctional communities, things such as the Slacktiverse, or SRS, and this community. A leads to B. When people stop being individuals with their own ideas, opinions and experiences and start becoming political objects, it becomes a whole lot easier to mistreat them. That’s the problem.

    Unfortunately, as I said it’s a big problem for progressive-focused communities, be it online or even off-line, although it’s more difficult off-line, to be sure. It’s a big reason why even though I’m a very strong progressive, I don’t feel comfortable in most progressive communities these days, and I feel much more comfortable in non-ideological communities.

    However, I don’t see THAT being changed. So my suggestion is really that you probably can’t/won’t change a thing. Just understand what you’re doing and maybe that will dull some of the harm in the short-term.

    For what it’s worth, I would say that the exact same problem exists in Conservative communities as well.

  39. abewoelk says

    I’m new here. I’m an atheist with an interest in biology and was attracted for those reasons. However, my politics are to the right of almost everyone here (some libertarian tendencies though some communitarian tendencies as well). I’m not convinced that evolutionary psychology is bullshit, though I don’t know enough about it to have a firm opinion. I’m not convinced that gender or racial differences may not have a biological component. But it’s impossible to have a calm, dispassioned discussion about any of those things because even the suggestion that they may not be settled issues will generate about a hundred “fuck off, fuckwit” and about another hundred “go away, douchbag”. Sorry, but I always thought science was about evidence, not flaming. If I’m wrong on the evidence, then show me the evidence, but calling people names never persuaded anyone.

    Also, I have the same opinion about rape as everyone else here. I think it should be a crime and I think people who do it should serve long sentences. That hardly makes me a rape apologist. But you’d never know it from all the accusations of being a rape apologist that were flung at me for suggesting that people need to be sure of their facts before making accusations.

    So PZ, here’s what I think is the answer to your question. You need to decide what kind of a blog you want. If you want a blog in which the only people who are welcome are the ones who agree with your leftist politics, then don’t do anything. The flamers will see to it that that is precisely what happens. (And by the way, it’s a free country with a free internet, and it’s your blog, so if that’s what you want, then that’s what you should have.) On the other hand, if you want calm, reasoned discourse in which there is actually discussion of both sides of an issue, then you’re going to have to do something about the flamers, even if you agree with them. So, let us know what you decide to do; I’ll govern myself accordingly.

  40. wtfwhatever says

    @Naked Bunny with a Whip

    It means for a period of one month, to help people cool off and re-consider, you will be given an opportunity to make one comment to add to the group’s dialogue, the group’s substantive debate.

    You can make use of that opportunity, or squander it with name calling, bullying, ad hom, other forms of ignorance displays.

    The group dialogue will progress, what will be constrained is personal dialogue (along with name calling, bullying, ad hom, etc.)

    On top of all that I would recommend PZ flat out ban all the older user names. Make everyone get new user names, one per IP, no socks, no alts.

  41. says

    @Dalillama, Schmott Guy:

    if someone can’t be bothered to inform themselves at a basic level before horning into a conversation, I can’t be bothered to talk to them

    I understand how that feels. It’s why I avoid the longer threads (or at least saying anything). Not talking to them doesn’t violate the three-comment rule.

  42. cfieldb says

    Could you institute some members as full-fledged moderators, as opposed to just trusted eyes and ears like you have now? I don’t know if the system allows for that, but it would make everything much less volatile, since bad situations could be defused more quickly.

    I miss the dynamic on the old SciBlogs Pharyngula, even though I never commented. Things were always heated, but there was a sense of fun that is missing now. These days I still keep tabs on the blog, but I only very infrequently read the comments because I just find it exhausting, and I’m only a spectator. I know that part of the change is due to The Situation, but still. I wish people would just pause and try visualizing an actual person in front of them before hitting post. It’s a good acid test.

  43. A. R says

    Oh, and trinoler, this one is just for you (and yes, everyone else, I’ll stop posting annoying one-liners now): Maintaining records of past comments for punitive purposes.

  44. Portia says

    See, I have trouble. Because I like Thunderdome as an unmoderated place where people can just have it out, and if people want to avoid the conflict or have a pleasant conversation, then there’s the Lounge. Of course, when a troll starts making nasty, misogynist comments in my direction, I don’t mind the moderation. Yeah, I’m a hypocrite I guess.

  45. Subtract Hominem says

    Rather than deleting entire derails as proposed by a few people above, would it be possible to move them to Thunderdome or give them their own posts/threads and let both the derail and the original thread carry on without detracting or distracting from each other? Even if it is possible, would this be worth doing very often? I know you’ve tried to do this preëmptively a few times e.g. with FGM/circumcision threads.

  46. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    Suggestion:
    If someone wades in to a non-Lounge thread and they’re new, and they are imperfect but stop short of being a blithering idiot or troll, gentle-but-firm correction might be better suited than “fuck you!” While I understand that people have been raw lately (the trolls have been bad), I think we’ve been a mite too harsh on some of the new people.

    As for the Lounge, it is a social thread, and it is great, but it can be hard to jump into for a new person. Maybe the “Introductions” thread should be resurrected? As a place for new people to go to, say hello, ask 101 questions, etc.

    I think the Thunderdome serves a purpose – I’d hate to see the tension spilled there in the past 3 days be elsewhere on Pharyngula!

    I second the suggestion against bringing in fights from elsewhere (I’d make an exception if said “elsewhere” is a truly public place – maybe) and against posting comments (in text or in screengrabs) posted in private fora here.

  47. John Morales says

    [meta]

    For those who suggest heavy and ubiquitous moderation, please note there exists only one: PZ* (now that Chris Clarke has left); what there are is a number of commenters who have been appointed monitors by him and consider the implication.

    From the rules:

    ENFORCEMENT

    Here’s something new: I’m appointing certain people to be monitors. They don’t get any special powers or privileges, except that I’ve created a special email filter so that if they write to me with a message that contains the word “alert” in the subject line, I’ll be much, much more likely to notice their complaint and will check out the problem. If you’re not a monitor and you see someone running amok on the threads, just make a comment that asks a monitor to send up a signal flare — this will improve the chances that it will come to my attention. If a monitor sends me a message, they should also leave a comment that I will be on my way as soon as possible.

    * Frankly, though I know this place is more than a hobby for him, I am impressed at how well he does at managing it, bearing in mind he works a full-time job and engages in a lot of outreach.

  48. A. R says

    wtfwhatever: Most of the people here have used the same ‘nym for a very long time, and strongly associate their identity with it. That ‘nym is just as important to them as their own name.

  49. melody says

    I consider PZ a friend and I am friends/friendly with some of the commenters here. However, I rarely comment here. I have a few times in the past and it’s been an unpleasant experience. Looking back, I may have been a bit naive at times, but the discourse was way too hostile for me. I would feel much more comfortable commenting on Ophelia’s blog for example. Jamie Kilstein, the comedian and friend of PZ, has called Pharyngula’s comment section the Seventh Circle of Hell. I don’t know what that’s worth. I don’t have any concrete suggestions. Just my two cents.

  50. DresdenFilesRocks says

    Seconding @28 (Naked Bunny With a Whip) and @35 (DennisN). The flaming in some threads, particularly of clueless newbies, can drive them away, which doesn’t benefit anyone. We should get back to the 3-strikes rule and other such policies designed to give newcomers the assumption of good faith/benefit of the doubt.

    @37 (Dalilama): There’s a difference, though, between not wanting to talk to someone and talking to them with a diatribe about how terrible they are and that they should go back to AVfM/Stormfront/SkepticInk, and it’s the latter kind of post that is the problem and is occurring more and more frequently here.

    Yes to a short edit window; five minutes is usually long enough to catch typos but is likely not long enough to trick someone into responding to a provocative post and then erasing it to try to make them look bad. No to comment rating; that can easily get swarmed by trolls. Flagging would be nice but I fear it would consume PZ’s entire life.

  51. kitty says

    On the editing thing: I think a system where editing is limited to, say, two minutes of initial posting would be okay. That way typos can be fixed if they’re noticed and people won’t post corrections (thus making the threads a little less messy). However, it should be clear that a post has been edited and access to the first version would also be nice (for instance, a line saying “This post was edited at x:xx on Month Day, Year. The unedited post can be found here.”)

    /2cents

  52. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    Old nyms are not the issue. Some people here have had the same nym for years. A consistently used nym is perfectly fine for the sake of consistency and establishing bona fides.

    Re: empowering more mods, while I get why PZ hasn’t wanted to do that – and I wish it weren’t necessary – I think there is merit to the idea.

  53. Al Dente says

    wtfwhatever @26

    Institute a one month cooling off period in everyone including those banned in the past are welcomed back

    While a few worthwhile commentators have been banned (Ace of Sevens comes to mind), most of the bannees earned their bannings. Rape apologists and misogynists would love to make this safe place unsafe for their intended victims.

    and every commenter is only allowed 1 comment per post.

    You need to define comment and post.

    You can’t do that PZ, because though effective, it would dry up your clicks and your income,

    You have to remember that PZ has an outside, full-time job. He won’t be begging on the streets if Pharyngula goes away.

    and you can’t do that because you would hate having to listen or read from people that disagree with you that you have othered as non-people.

    Are you a slymepitter?

  54. wtfwhatever says

    @ A.R.

    “wtfwhatever: Most of the people here have used the same ‘nym for a very long time, and strongly associate their identity with it. That ‘nym is just as important to them as their own name.”

    I understand that, and agree that many people derive a lot of value from the reputation of their nym. But it’s part of the problem.

    If PZ wants to change the environment, he needs to change it. Set everyone back to Day 0. Let people consider arguments for their content. Disrupt alliances and cliques and teams and wingmen and backups.

  55. A. R says

    Naked Bunny: I could always fly out to Morris and inject PZ with some MPF and see what happens.

  56. A. R says

    wtfwhatever: Most of the people around here can recognize each other by their writing style. It’s why I recognized trinoler immediately even though that’s not the name I know them by.

  57. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    The difficulty with that, wtfwhatever, is that the people here – the regulars, that is – don’t consider ourselves “a collection of people that read and comment on Pharyngula,” we consider ourselves a community.

    If PZ were to do as you suggest, I guarantee that within 10 minutes there would be comments saying, “Hi! I’m [new nym] and I used to comment as [old nym]!” and things would continue exactly as before.

  58. says

    @Al Dente: It really is impossible to read wtfwhatever’s suggestions as anything but an attempt to destroy community and open the place up to trolls. That bizarre little rant at the end only demonstrates their motive for doing so.

  59. Goodbye Enemy Janine says

    Disrupt alliances and cliques and teams and wingmen and backups.

    And in the mean time, destroy the sense of community that some of the people feel about this place.

    Great plan.

  60. wtfwhatever says

    “wtfwhatever: Most of the people around here can recognize each other by their writing style. It’s why I recognized trinoler immediately even though that’s not the name I know them by.”

    I think that’s probably true.

    “If PZ were to do as you suggest, I guarantee that within 10 minutes there would be comments saying, “Hi! I’m [new nym] and I used to comment as [old nym]!” and things would continue exactly as before.”

    Well that would have to be discouraged.

    Anyway, I’ve said my say, I’m out.

  61. says

    I could always fly out to Morris and inject PZ with some MPF and see what happens.

    Injecting sciencey stuff into people works in the movies!

    Oh wait. No. It always goes horribly wrong in the movies.

    Still….

  62. says

    I’m reasonably certain this can’t be solved without special in vs. outgroup rules. I’m not saying that can’t be an option, but I doubt it’s one people would like hearing.

  63. Al Dente says

    Naked Bunny with a Whip @66

    You’re right. A little shit-stirring, some silly suggestions, and a big turd left on the carpet.

  64. DresdenFilesRocks says

    @42 (Karmakin): Slacktiverse is exactly right. I followed the site since before Fred Clark went to patheos and turned it over to some of the long-time posters. While the comments probably weren’t what killed the site (biased moderation and the repeated atheist-bashing in a community that, under Fred’s term, had been very supportive of atheists; Ophelia talked about it ), they didn’t help. There was a thread on Fred’s new site from people who had left the slacktiverse talking about why they did so, and one of the common reasons was that they couldn’t stand the comments anymore because there were a few people who would lambast them mercilessly, the mods would back them up, and it wasn’t worth it. And these were long-term commenters too, many of the ones who had made the site under Clark so vibrant and enjoyable. Without them, there wasn’t enough left to sustain things.

  65. Goodbye Enemy Janine says

    Anyway, I’ve said my say, I’m out.

    If you do come back, follow your advice and use a different moniker. You would not want any of us to recognize you.

  66. says

    No comment editing. No comment ranking. Those are off the table.

    If you’re recommending empowering more moderators, consider this: any moderators would have access to your real email address and IP.

  67. Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion says

    I don’t understand the idea that not knowing who someone is is a good idea. If someone’s established a personality and views on certain subjects, why is that a bad thing?
    Why are lots of “anonymous” comments better than a few from people who have known views?

    Do people like going into rooms full of unknown people and spouting off their views without knowing what the consequences will be?

  68. Portia says

    It got swamped by JAQoffs and their sockpuppets. As for the well-intentioned ignoramus, bluntly, if someone can’t be bothered to inform themselves at a basic level before horning into a conversation, I can’t be bothered to talk to them, because I have no reason to believe that they have anything to contribute to the discussion.

    QFT. Do we have to have the talk about JAQing again? Seriously?

    trinioler:

    Does that help?

    Genuinely, it does. Thank you.

    cfieldb:

    a sense of fun that is missing now.

    Join us in the lounge, we’ll do our best to renew your sense of fun. :)

    Esteleth:

    While I understand that people have been raw lately (the trolls have been bad), I think we’ve been a mite too harsh on some of the new people.

    I think the emphasis you placed on “some” is accurate. I have seen where a new person says something jerkish, is called on it, says “Oh man, I was a jerk, sorry” and is totally forgiven. The capacity for that exists and is often displayed. I don’t think the community gets enough credit for that.

    Maybe the “Introductions” thread should be resurrected? As a place for new people to go to, say hello, ask 101 questions, etc.

    Some form of it, yeah, good idea.

    chigau:

    What happens in Facebook stays in Facebook

    Absofuckinglutely.

    I feel like a newb to be commenting on commenting, but these are my thoughts. I may be in the minority, or maybe I’m just too chickenshit to have ever said much that elicits confrontation. …but I like it here.

  69. DresdenFilesRocks says

    @76 (Sophia): I’m personally not in favor of the ‘get rid of everyone’s history’ either. I don’t think it would work (some people have distinctive styles) and I don’t think it’s desirable anyway.

    Granted, yes, comment-tracking can be derailing. If Person X says something stupid or offensive, and then a year passes and they’ve learned better and they want to talk about an unrelated issue, it can derail discussions to have people say, “Well, wait, a year ago you said something bad. You’re obviously terrible, why should we listen to you now?” But I think the solution is to go after those kind of posts, rather than just erasing everyone’s pasts.

  70. littlebear says

    I’ve been reading the threads a lot, though I think I’ve commented a total of 1 time. With that said I think the three strikes rule should be enforced more strongly.

    I very strongly disagree with people who are saying that the language should be toned down or that people’s comments (after three strikes) shouldn’t be torn apart viciously.

    So that’s my two cents.

  71. Pierce R. Butler says

    After skimming the latest (mercifully-KO’d) Thunderdome thread, and trying to peruse the Stunned Silence thread frequently referenced there (no matter what tricks I try, comments 1-500 don’t show up for me), the thought won’t go away that the Pharyngula commenting policy can’t escape its own contradictions.

    From the beginning, this blog has featured both blunt and razor-sharp criticism, with PZ winning his reputation by combining precise dissections backed by science and wit with uncompromising slams (e.g., “demented fuckwits” as a description for the original Crackergate howling mob).

    Now, with feminist issues coming to the fore, priorities here include respect for individuals’ pains and triggers, with the blasters aimed at violators of personal rights and dignities. The arena now includes intimate personal experiences, not just scientific and religious/epistemological issues; the old tools don’t suit the new job.

    Years ago, I quit reading Shakesville because it had gotten so touchy-feely, but that says more about me than SV: McEwan & Co.’s strict rules against abrasiveness work well for what they try to do there. What it is that we (PZM & the Horde) are trying to do here needs clarification: battling the baddies – however defined – and providing a “safe and welcoming home” under the same umbrella seems, at best, mission creep into total confusion.

    I can’t offer any solutions at present, but feel quite sure that changes to “Commenting Rules” won’t suffice for what needs fixing.

  72. Anthony K says

    The only solution I see is to moderate the space, PZ. CaitieCat detailed exactly why at #40.

  73. says

    The Panda’s Thumb, albeit a smaller village than teeming Hordeopolis, has the following:

    – Strong moderation on all posted articles with trolls (usually creationists) and troll-chasers moved to an endless thread known as “The Bathroom Wall.” There, a small team of locals chase some regular, incurable creo-trolls around an endless mulberry bush; it’s like a perpetual Thunderdome with almost no moderation (it’s great fun watching the creationists gets schooled – it actually makes me miss pre-MRA-troll Pharyungula!).

    – Its own forum, where OT conversations and debates and tete-a-tetes can continue into eternity.

    Running a forum’s a bit of a job, I realise, but there might be enough of a critical mass in the Horde to (a) justify its existence in the first place and (b) provide a pool of willing applicants to be mods/admins. PT is certainly a far smaller community than the Horde but nonetheless the forum seems quite active.

    I just think that with some ‘domes and other threads running into the thousands of comments very quickly and being really intense, a forum might provide a little more accountability WRT who says what and the opportunity for said mods/admins to enforce any set rules closely. Forums also provide private message functionality; sometimes it’s hard to clarify something in the midst of a heated blog thread and comments can easily get lost in the noise and being able to go one-on-one might be a healthier avenue for some conversations.

    The other thing forums provide better than blogs is visibility of rules and the ability to post stickies: FAQs, glossaries, comment policies, rough list of bannable offences, “n00bs read this before posting plz” threads and the like. For instance, someone rolls up to a thread, or posts a new thread, and immediately starts JAQ’ing off? Refer them to the FAQ/glossary/n00b threads so they can, if they’re honest about just asking questions, participate without running the risk of being one of the few who’s innocently ignorant but gets shredded anyway. Also stickable to the front page: resources of valuable and pertinent links, such as the ones the mighty Caine often posts to educate visitors.

    Also, sub-forums could be dedicated to various topics (creationism, evo-devo, other sciences, “share your cephalopod stories”, political topics); the hottest blog posts could have dedicated forum threads set up, say, after a pre-set number of comments.

    I know forums are all a bit 2002 but a Pharyngula forum might just take some of the heat off the comment threads here – in terms of both sheer volume and intensity. I wouldn’t be concerned about the forum robbing PZ of clicks, either – I imagine its purpose would be to discuss issues raised by PZ’s posts (or continue debates/conversations) in a slightly more accountable environment (e.g.. have people sign up before they can post and demand email verification, at the least, before your account’s activated; username change only possible via direct request to a Mod, etc).

    I don’t know if a Horde forum is feasible or even desirable by the locals, but if mods/admins were carefully chosen and threads moderated judiciously it could provide a decent venue for rough n’ tumble and gentle discussion alike – sort of an overflow for the blog proper. And who knows – with the forum as an extension of the blog and the blog becoming, shall we say, “nicer”, you may get more people de-lurking to participate – possibly in both venues – instead of remaining silent for fear of inadvertently incurring a bit o’ tentacled wrath.

  74. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    Maybe what we need are not two open threads (i.e. Lounge and Thunderdome) but three: Lounge (for chitchat), Thunderdome (for fighting) and, um, Cuddly Bunnies (for newbies and 101-level discussion)?

  75. Eric says

    Like some of the others, I don’t know what the meltdown was about, so I’m just spitballing here. Borrow a page from BoingBoing’s new policy: comments auto-close after five days (or shorter if need be).

    You can even go so far as to prune comments from blog posts over, say, two weeks old; leave articles in place for archiving, but purge the comments.

  76. Fern says

    I don’t comment much, but I’ve read here for years. This isn’t really a suggestion for a commenting rule. It’s more of an observation and a suggestion for commenters.

    My impression is that the recent influx of trolls and clueless dumbasses has produced some collective exhaustion for a lot of regular commenters who, for good reason, care about tackling the shit that trolls and dumbasses fling around. But, aside from taking a toll on people’s emotional wellbeing, I think that exhaustion is leading to a decrease in the quality of responses to the trolls and dumbasses. I love a good smackdown, but more importantly, I love for that smackdown to be on target for maximum effect. Sometimes, I think that the short, exasperated responses that people post when they’ve been dealing with a lot of fuckwittery don’t actually hit the mark – even though the person they’re responding to fully deserves criticism.

    If you’ve been commenting a lot, and you’re getting tired and fed up, maybe it’s better to step away for a while. Other people, whose teeth are sharp and sniny, will step up to spell you in taking care of the trolls and dumbasses, and then when they’re feeling burnt out, you can step back in.

  77. Portia says

    Cuddly Bunnies (for newbies and 101-level discussion)?

    Yeah, and instead of being sent to the Place With A Scary Name, they’re sent somewhere where regulars only go when they’re in an educating mood. But…what about trolls?

  78. Mera says

    @Esteleth: I have been thinking along the same line. Maybe the monitors need the de-facto power to banish arguments to the Thunderdome or “Cuddly Bunnies” at their disgression . (Repeatedly) ignoring their request, even when only replying to the initial posting, would be grounds for a ban. This won’t salvage the Thunderdome, but for better or worse I think that undertaking would be hopeless anyways.

  79. DresdenFilesRocks says

    I don’t think shutting down threads after X-days is likely to work. That tends to just have people spilling over the discussion into more recent threads when someone they disagreed with in the closed thread replies there. And while that can be moderated out, the sheer amount of cleanup needed can be a lot of work for the moderators.

  80. eigenperson says

    People are willing to share their very personal stories in the comments here (see: “Stunned silence”, and the grenade thread) because they believe the discussion in that thread will be along lines that allows them to feel safe, and that anyone who crosses those lines will be banned. Yet at the same time, because people are so focused on saying “This is an acceptable form of discussion that makes people feel safe, and that is not, and we won’t stand for that,” which is the thing that makes those threads safe, you get furious arguments between people who both feel that the other has crossed the line.

    I think the main thing that’s missing is the assumption of good faith, when it’s warranted.

    Good faith means when you say something hurtful and get called on it, you apologize and try not to do it again. Bad faith means you don’t, because you wanted to be hurtful or you didn’t care.

    Good faith means that when you say something, you read all the responses before posting again, because someone might have pointed out that what you said was dumb, and if they did, you think carefully about whether it was in fact dumb. (And while you’re thinking, you stop posting about it.) Bad faith means you only engage with the responses that agree with you, or only the ones that you feel you can rebut successfully, because you don’t actually care whether what you said was right or not.

    Good faith means asking a question because you want to find the answer, and so you’ll accept what people tell you, because that’s the whole point of asking. Bad faith means asking a question to try to get people to argue with you about the answer.

    Good faith means putting your entire argument on the table at once, so that people can see what you’re trying to say and address it (positively or negatively). Bad faith means asking leading questions and revealing only part of your argument at once, because you know your argument won’t stand up if people get to see the whole thing at a time.

    When people are arguing in bad faith (as is often clearly the case with “drive-by comments” and slimepitters), the sniny fangs can come out. At this point moderation probably needs to happen. But at other times, the fangs should probably be put away. That means that even if someone does something so astonishingly rude that you can’t imagine how it would be possible to do that in good faith, pretend for one moment that it is possible. And, if it isn’t possible, let them prove that by their subsequent actions, since if they have bad faith, they certainly will.

    And I realize that most people do understand this, but it’s easy to forget in the heat of the moment.

  81. says

    @91, DresdenFilesRocks:

    My off-the-top-of-my-head right-this-minute idea would be something along the lines of auto-closing any thread after, say ten days or 2000 comments (whichever came first) and referring visitors straight to the Pharyngula forum. Of course, that’s provided a forum exists.

  82. cfieldb says

    The thing is I do understand why it’s difficult to maintain a certain level of discourse around here. This is an extremely prominent blog with a ton of exposure and a very large commentariat. Even Scalzi’s blog- I mean, it’s popular as far as it goes, but I’d wager his stats are dwarfed by PZ’s. This place is a real aberration in that way, so close moderation (Scalzi) or approving each comment individually (Benson, I think, as well as some others) just won’t work here. The sort-of-unpleasant fact is that communication on the Internet lends itself to aggressiveness and hyperbole- even among well-meaning people.

    So I’m trying to think of a way to proactively change the atmosphere, and I honestly can’t think of anything except a small crew of trusted mods. Either that, or just accept that Pharyngula’s comments section will always be very harsh, and maybe make that clear in the comments policy or sidebar or something.

    But of course this is all just the opinion of an occasional lurker, so there may be more specific context I’m missing.

  83. Portia says

    eigenperson:
    I was totally on board with you until this:

    And, if it isn’t possible, let them prove that by their subsequent actions, since if they have bad faith, they certainly will.

    You’ve reduced your recommendation basically to: “If good faith is the slightest possibility, assume good faith. If it’s not the slightest possibility, assume it anyway, because…well because the baddies will reveal themselves.” That’s just not true, and that recommendation allows for a lot of exhausting the good people who fight the baddies.

    I don’t think that’s a workable recommendation, is what I’m saying.

  84. says

    I can’t make anyone else full moderators here because of wordpress limitations. They would get access to all your information.

    I could set up volunteer moderators like we have now with maybe some changes: they get their name and email in the sidebar so people can contact them directly — they’d be a kind of filter between me and the howling masses. I’d be the only one to have the ability to take direct action, but they could handle talking people down off the precipice of fury.

    I might also propose that they have fixed terms and that we periodically rotate them. They could also be elected by the horde.

    Rules placed in a more prominent place? It’d be good to have them (or a link) right down below the comment field. That would take tweaking the code, though.

    What do people think of the idea of autoblocking those disposable email sites? Who uses those besides drive-by trolls?

    I already have an autoclose option — comments are automatically closed after 90 days. It’s more of a spam protection mechanism, though. Most comment threads die out in a day or three, so it’s not particularly useful for regulating comments.

    The lounge and thunderdome have announcements in each article that state the level of moderation. We could broaden that and make it more standard for various articles: the “stunned silence” thread might have used a “supportive comments only” flag, or something like that, so moderation could vary from thread to thread. Or “No MRAs”. What kinds of moderation levels would people want?

    We could have designated newbie threads. Ask questions, get 101 answers in feminism or evolution or whatever.

  85. chigau (違う) says

    (no matter what tricks I try, comments 1-500 don’t show up for me)

    Have you tried clicking the “Previous” link?

  86. says

    To clarify: I’m not suggesting a Pharyngulorum be used for following up every thread or every Thunderdome; just the ones that get very large or very intense. As I said upthread my vision would be as overflow for the blog proper – a space where the Horde, lurkers, semi-regulars and debaters can gather to discuss the blog (or anything else not strictly pertaining to it).

    Of course, now I’m wondering how feasible a general-purpose FtB forum would be – but then we’re talking about way more mods and way more work, etc. I guess Ed n PZ and the rest would have to think hard about that!

  87. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    I used to have strong feelings about this, but while I’m not entirely sure of who spilled cruelty-for-cruelty’s sake in my compassion and solidarity, I’ve been able to avoid most of at least the triggering flavor of it by staying the fuck out of Thunderdome. (Also, the tiny minority of the overlap of regular commenters and people I’ve clashed with who seem to simply be genuinely bad human beings appear to have taken the hint and stayed out of the Lounge. Even Knigtht Templar has standards, I guess).

    Aside from the memorable time it got twisted into a club to use on me with spurious pretext (by someone it might as well have been tailor-made for and probably was to an extent), PZ’s order last time to not keep bringing up grudges seemed pretty useful. In that spirit, I’d add “Don’t intentionally misrepresent people’s arguments because it’s funnier that way or it gives you an excuse to stomp on them rather than engaging them. A person who is wrong is wrong in the way they’re actually wrong. If you can’t show they’re wrong and have to have The Argument You Want To Have With Platonic Ideal Opponent Archetype XYZ at (not with) them instead, either let someone else show how they’re wrong or concede.”

    I have no idea how much better that has or hasn’t gotten, but it made enough of an impression on me back in the day I practically experienced work hardening.

    The only thing I would consider adding is as a “rule” is: Assume good faith. Just because something was said in a way that was not sensitive to your own sensibilities does not invalidate what was said, or devalue the person.

    Or “at minimum, entertain at least briefly the possibility of good faith.”

    Gonna read through now and see if anything else jumps out at me.

  88. says

    For good or ill, the no-holds (and no-personal-abuse) -barred approach has characterized Pharyngula for so long that I think efforts at moderation would be ignored by-passed–or people accustomed to this robust verbal venting might feel stifled and go elsewhere.

    I’m sympathetic to abevoelk at 43, though I’m sure my politics are far to the left of his (hers?). But the brute fact of the matter is this: blogs are not arenas for completely open discussion. They are places where like-minded people congregate and seek reinforcement of their views–and in this respect Pharynguloids are no different from the mouth-breathers at Free Republic. Any departure from a blog’s consensus is going to be regarded with a range of responses from polite skepticism to furious abuse–and furious abuse is how many have tended to roll here.

    In short, I expect nothing to change.

  89. says

    @100, Naked Bunny:

    Disposable email sites like mailinator dot com allow you to instantly set up an address with no checks or any other signup. Lots people use it (and places like it) to avoid dealing with spam after a purchase, to have account activation emails sent after doing a mandatory registration or things like that. They also enable trolls to, well, troll.

  90. Portia says

    We could broaden that and make it more standard for various articles: the “stunned silence” thread might have used a “supportive comments only” flag, or something like that, so moderation could vary from thread to thread. Or “No MRAs”. What kinds of moderation levels would people want?

    I think that’s a quality idea. Of course…MRA often masquerades as JAQing, so do you just post a link to what ever 101 thread you’ve established and say “If you have basic questions, go there, don’t ask them in this thread”

    Also…disposable email sites? Hope you don’t mean the google one, that would ban me, ha.

  91. vaiyt says

    Institute a one month cooling off period in everyone including those banned in the past are welcomed back and every commenter is only allowed 1 comment per post.

    You can’t do that PZ, because though effective, it would dry up your clicks and your income, and you can’t do that because you would hate having to listen or read from people that disagree with you that you have othered as non-people.

    Or maybe he won’t do that because he knows nearly every one of those people will immediately resume doing what got them banned in the first place.

  92. says

    Sounds like this place needs an FAQ of topics and arguments like the Talk Origins site has.

    You could call it the “Dead Horse FAQ” then point to it at the beginning of the comment box saying “Please read the Dead Horse FAQ before commenting so we can stop beating dead horses…”

  93. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Some examples of bullying:
    -Won’t leave you alone if you ask them to do so
    -Makes insulting comments about you, out of nowhere
    -Sends you harassing or abusive private messages/emails
    -Extreme hostility out of nowhere for commenting
    -Attacks other people who are friends of the person’s target for often illogical or incoherent reasons
    -Lies about you to other people
    -Throws out accusations or gaslighting often 100% opposite of someone’s demonstrated character(ie, someone who is well-known for honesty being accused of being dishonest, someone who is a very caring but verbose writer accused of bullying, etc. These accusations will have a pattern of going after someone’s emotional weak points.)

    Heartily endorsed….

    Also, PZ, I would suggest discouraging, but not firmly enforcing, immediate-follow-up comments to correct typographical errors that don’t actually in any way obscure the meaning of the previous comment.

    I wonder if there’s any way to implement an automatic “preview” step before posting, perhaps with a 5-10 second timer where the whole comment is on the screen, before you can post? That might cut down on typo-corrections (even non-cosmetic ones) and “let me rephrase that”s that otherwise can clutter threads.

  94. John Morales says

    PZ,

    The lounge and thunderdome have announcements in each article that state the level of moderation. We could broaden that and make it more standard for various articles: the “stunned silence” thread might have used a “supportive comments only” flag, or something like that, so moderation could vary from thread to thread. Or “No MRAs”. What kinds of moderation levels would people want?

    Best suggestion I’ve read so far.

    I think an extra level would be helpful:

    0. Thunderdome: No moderation*.

    1. Regular thread: Minimal moderation.

    2. Topical/single issue/controversial thread: Moderate moderation.

    3. Lounge/Triggering thread: Heavy moderation.

    * I regret to note I don’t believe it’s currently unmoderated, as claimed.

  95. leni says

    FWIW, I don’t mind having moderators have access to my “real” email and IP. There would need to be rules, though. And maybe a statement somewhere just to for clarity.

    You can have a new comment from a new name automatically put into moderation, then get some mods to deal with that in a timely manner. Maybe sockpuppet checking can occur in some automated way?

  96. says

    @Hankstar [Mandrellian] – Vanilla Ilk-Shake:

    Ahh, I was afraid he meant Hotmail or Gmail. Plenty of people use those for regular mailboxes. (Though I don’t know how many commenting here, do, of course. PZ would.)

    It’s unfortunate that some of the better suggestions are hampered by the platform itself.

  97. ryancunningham says

    I don’t post a lot, but I read the comments and generally learn a lot from them. The thing I find the most off-putting about comments around here is the occasional drift into interpersonal drama. When things get personal and people carry grudges between comment threads, it’s just generates pointless ugliness and distracts from good conversation.

    Bringing the hammer down on that kind of behavior would really help.

  98. says

    Remember that any automated function can generally be finagled to make it extremely irritating to the mod(s): flagging posts to known mods can be abused in the same way that trolls could Pharyngulate the up/down-rating systems. Yes, the mods would be able to easily recognize the situation, but there’s no easy way to prevent it being abused so much as to be effectively useless.

    I’m not meaning to be Devil’s Advocate or anything here, and if that’s how I’m coming across, please say so and I’ll drop it. But personally, as much as making sure the place is workable for the Horde and newbs, I want to make sure the system is workable for PZ and/or any mods he might trust enough to choose. Part of building a security system – for that’s what we’re discussing – is that someone has to try and test it, be a “bad guy”, and see how they can break it. Like white-hat hackers, kinda.

    I have no problem with a set of mods chosen by the community or PZ, or some of each, having my e-mail address and/or IP. PZ and every other contributor at FTB already has that info anyway. I can be quite confident that this isn’t so for everyone, though, and not for just trolls. There are lots of reasons why someone would be very careful about that info.

    As to ‘nyms, this one’s been mine for ten years online, and it’s been consistently so across a shed-load of different places I visit and/or comment. I’d be very reluctant to change it in any way that made it not recognizably mine; I have no reason to want to dissociate myself from the history associated with it. Again, not for everyone, though.

  99. emburii says

    ‘Good faith’ seems to be the stumbling block. In the thread where Chris Clarke left, it felt as if his opinion on depression was being treated as invalid even though Chris himself mentioned he suffered from the issue. Pharyngula’s culture accepts anger and there’s a place for it in social change as a whole, but it seems as if some commentators forget good faith in their rush to indulge their feelings and it can be very intimidating.

    It kind of comes down to why people are commenting; are they doing so to have a discussion, or to assert their own narrative and issues or vent their frustrations? There’s nothing wrong with either, but the two objectives in the same thread make for a very uneasy coexistence.

  100. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    If someone wades in to a non-Lounge thread and they’re new, and they are imperfect but stop short of being a blithering idiot or troll, gentle-but-firm correction might be better suited than “fuck you!” While I understand that people have been raw lately (the trolls have been bad), I think we’ve been a mite too harsh on some of the new people.

    You don’t even have to be particularly gentle, just focus on A) why the behavior is problematic without sneeringly and explicitly attributing malicious/perfidious INTENTIONS (which aren’t magic, except when they are) or going on long tangents about the person’s presumed character and B) what the person actually said, not the entire laundry list of tropes it reminds you of.

    I’m reasonably certain this can’t be solved without special in vs. outgroup rules.

    I don’t know; I can think of worse things than explicitly acknowledging them.

    The lounge and thunderdome have announcements in each article that state the level of moderation. We could broaden that and make it more standard for various articles: the “stunned silence” thread might have used a “supportive comments only” flag, or something like that, so moderation could vary from thread to thread. Or “No MRAs”. What kinds of moderation levels would people want?

    We could have designated newbie threads. Ask questions, get 101 answers in feminism or evolution or whatever.

    Sounds like this place needs an FAQ of topics and arguments like the Talk Origins site has.

    You could call it the “Dead Horse FAQ” then point to it at the beginning of the comment box saying “Please read the Dead Horse FAQ before commenting so we can stop beating dead horses…”

    I like all these suggestions.

  101. eigenperson says

    #95 Portia:

    That wasn’t what I meant to say. But reading it again, I realize that it is what I said. Sorry.

    What I wanted to say was:

    If there’s a regular commenter who has a history of good-faith behavior, then this new thing is probably good faith, even if it looks awful at first glance.

    On the other hand, if there’s a new commenter, then it’s reasonable to assume that what looks like bad faith probably is. But if you’re not sure, treating it like good faith is a good idea since there will always be time to reverse course. And if, like me most of the time, you don’t have the stomach to treat someone who might or might not be a slimeball (but hasn’t proved it) as though they were arguing in good faith, it’s probably best to leave that one post alone, since the Horde is large enough that someone will handle it.

  102. Pierce R. Butler says

    chigau @ # 97: Have you tried clicking the “Previous” link?

    Oops. *turns bright red* Thanks!

    Gotta remember – don’t skip the fine print!

  103. Portia says

    Azkyroth:
    I agree with you on most of your post. This part,

    B) what the person actually said, not the entire laundry list of tropes it reminds you of.

    gives me pause. Because I think that your proscription would disallow discussion of important subtexts to people’s comments.

    eigenperson:

    Thanks for the clarification, I’m going to think more about what you’ve said. One thing I will say is that I see a lot of regulars giving other regulars a lot of rope for what they might mean. A lot of “Please tell me you didn’t mean X. If you did mean X, here’s my response. Please tell me there’s another explanation for what you said.”

  104. carlie says

    One thing I’ve wanted for a long time is a filled-in form to reply to comments that are rehashing the same thing over and over again. Perhaps one page that is “common arguments” that has a handy copy-paste link html, and when someone barges into a new thread anyone can just copy and paste to the answer. That requires everyone else NOT ENGAGING, though, and I don’t know how well that would work.

    There could also be stricter moderation with regard to reading the thread before commenting. A comment that is obviously someone who hasn’t read it yet could cause a warning, and if that person makes an uninformed comment again, they get so many strikes and then banned. Don’t address the questions asked of you and gish gallop around? Banned. There could be several things like that that require someone to be arguing in good faith, but again that takes heavier moderation.

  105. says

    Let me state the current problem as I understand it: there are two groups of regulars, who both see themselves as good feminists, social justice atheists, small-s skeptics and all round decent people. They had a fight on facebook in a private group, and now they apparently hate each other. Rules addressing trolls, MRAs, rape apologists, Slymers and such will not deal with this issue, because neither side is any of those things.

    Note: I am a member of that private group. I missed the origin of the original meltdown, but I have since personally chosen a side based on the parties’ subsequent behaviour. I have tried not to let that out here and I do not want to discuss any details here.

  106. eigenperson says

    #114 CaitieCat:

    Remember that any automated function can generally be finagled to make it extremely irritating to the mod(s): flagging posts to known mods can be abused in the same way that trolls could Pharyngulate the up/down-rating systems. Yes, the mods would be able to easily recognize the situation, but there’s no easy way to prevent it being abused so much as to be effectively useless.

    I guess the ideal flagging system would look something like this:

    1. You only get to flag posts if you have a bunch of posts.
    2. You only get one flag at a time. If you use your flag, and the post is then dealt with by a mod, you get your flag back. If the flagging is spurious, you don’t get your flag back [for a time].
    3. Users probably don’t need to know whether or not they have a flag, or even anything about the details of the system.

  107. says

    @ryancunningham:

    When things get personal and people carry grudges between comment threads

    I thought there was a rule about doing that, too. Unfortunately, I’m having trouble finding the rules, so yeah to chigau’s suggestion in #18.

    While this sort of grudge is completely understandable (I do it), it can be baffling to more casual* readers who don’t know the context. It also makes it harder for me to give someone the benefit of the doubt, since I can’t be sure if someone who makes an innocuous comment is being flamed for something they did on another thread.

    *Or, in my case, very slow.

  108. Pteryxx says

    just pointing out that the Stunned Silence thread has in fact stayed very supportive throughout, with only a couple of problematic comments out of more than five hundred, without any special moderation flag at all. I think that speaks well for the commentariat, and for the Thunderdome serving its intended purpose.

  109. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    PZ:

    The lounge and thunderdome have announcements in each article that state the level of moderation. We could broaden that and make it more standard for various articles: the “stunned silence” thread might have used a “supportive comments only” flag, or something like that, so moderation could vary from thread to thread. Or “No MRAs”. What kinds of moderation levels would people want?

    Maybe, on threads about rape, the OP could end with “before you comment, go read [list of relevant posts/articles]“? And similar for other contentious topics? Such lists have been assembled by commenters.

  110. John Morales says

    Naked Bunny, the rules are linked on the sidebar immediately below the profile.

    I think that the link would be more visible on the top bar of the page.

  111. says

    1. You only get to flag posts if you have a bunch of posts.
    2. You only get one flag at a time. If you use your flag, and the post is then dealt with by a mod, you get your flag back. If the flagging is spurious, you don’t get your flag back [for a time].
    3. Users probably don’t need to know whether or not they have a flag, or even anything about the details of the system.

    |eigenperson @121: that’s a good addition. Administration might be a bit heavy initially, until good procedures were set up, but it’s not a bad idea at all.

    Is it possible, do we know, for a given thread to be set to “default sent to moderation for newbies”? I’m thinking it’s not likely, but if so, it might be useful for the kinds of thread that are likely to draw assholes.

  112. Pteryxx says

    Maybe, on threads about rape, the OP could end with “before you comment, go read [list of relevant posts/articles]“? And similar for other contentious topics?

    Many of those are in the Pharynguwiki linked in the sidebar, but that collection dates back to the Harassment Policy Wars of 2012. Most of the rape-specific resources from this round haven’t been put there yet.

  113. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Azkyroth:
    I agree with you on most of your post. This part,

    B) what the person actually said, not the entire laundry list of tropes it reminds you of.

    gives me pause. Because I think that your proscription would disallow discussion of important subtexts to people’s comments.

    It’s informed by vivid, painful and in some cases traumatic memories of having (extremely hostile and personal) arguments against views I did not hold and had not expressed, but which I had vaguely reminded someone of, directed at me. The effect on me, with my issues and history, was basically a form of gaslighting. I wouldn’t say subtexts shouldn’t be discussed, but at least making some attempt to distinguish between what was actually said and what is being inferred doesn’t seem like much to ask. :/

  114. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    One thing I’ve wanted for a long time is a filled-in form to reply to comments that are rehashing the same thing over and over again. Perhaps one page that is “common arguments” that has a handy copy-paste link html, and when someone barges into a new thread anyone can just copy and paste to the answer. That requires everyone else NOT ENGAGING, though, and I don’t know how well that would work.

    My suggestion:

    Cultivate the community standard that time we get JAQing off or ignorant questions that are addressed in the FAQ, the appropriate response is to blockquote the relevant text from the offending comment, and reply with “Not This Shit Again” as an HTML link to the relevant section of the FAQ. We’d need to have an HTML tutorial somewhere for that, maybe…

  115. gertrud says

    The point that I would make is that the supportiveness of the Stunned Silence thread is in spite of what went down, not because of it. I was actually triggered by the false accusations that were leveled at me–as were other rape victims–and we took our complaints to Thunderdome solely for the purpose of maintaining that supportive environment. We weren’t trolls to be banished. We had been effectively told we weren’t welcome either to participate or to read because, in order to get there, we had to get through comments tagging us as the bad mean rape victims who silenced others.

    I don’t want to reignite that discussion here and haven’t brought it up because, although it’s what sparked this, it is not specifically germane, but I’m tired of seeing it cited as Thunderdome working when it’s really Thunderdome working to make sure that people who were triggered by being lied about in a forum for survivors shut it up to there. That is not a properly working model, in my book.

    A.R, I kept from making it personal here. I do not support the comment at 39 that you were replying to in this context, and I do not appreciate your engaging and dragging further personal business–correctly or incorrectly assessed–in at 41. I did not attack you. I would appreciate the same courtesy.

  116. eigenperson says

    Azkyroth:

    I wouldn’t say subtexts shouldn’t be discussed, but at least making some attempt to distinguish between what was actually said and what is being inferred doesn’t seem like much to ask.

    I agree, and disagree.

    It’s very confusing to newbies when they post something they think is totally reasonable and their post is then described as, for example, a rape apology. First of all, they don’t know the right definition of “apology.” But more than that, they don’t understand that it’s not the literal meaning of their words that is being attacked, but rather the subtext.

    Even though I say it’s confusing to them, that’s not a defense. Such a post is, in fact, a rape apology. It might help if we explained how.

    But when you say it “doesn’t seem like much to ask,” I’m not so sure. Comments with vile subtexts create a large amount of anger. It’s not reasonable to ask people (e.g. Bria Crutchfield) to set that aside, and people who are angry naturally want to say angry things. I think it’s a lot to ask.

  117. Infophile says

    First, close down the Thunderdome. While common wisdom says that allowing people to vent their anger will help, research shows otherwise. In your skeptic’s required reading packet, you should hopefully find a copy of Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me), which explains this quite well. Acting on your anger reinforces it, particularly when it comes to lashing out at someone or something – the human mind feels a need to see itself as rational, so it rationalizes any expressions of anger as being justified. Thus, the Thunderdome may be leading to a positive-feedback loop of anger.

    However, the converse is also true: Expressing praise of someone will reinforce positive attitudes toward them. If you want to be really out there with rules, make a rule that before criticizing someone, you have to praise them somehow (on whatever you can think of to do so). This is probably too much to be enforceable in general, but it may be a good way to get tempers to cool down when needed. For instance, a third party (a user who’s been registered for a period of time and active at least X time ago) can call for a cooldown in an argument if they feel anger is getting to people and they’re talking past each other. Then those arguing can choose to disengage completely or make a post in which they praise the other commenter somehow and focus on the arguments alone for any criticism. PZ can of course be the ultimate arbiter in whether someone is abusing requests for a cooldown, or what to do if someone refuses to respect it.

    Yeah, out there, I know. Criticize away, this idea isn’t perfect by any means. (Just be warned that I may not be able to resist the urge to quote Yoda much longer.)

  118. gertrud says

    And I would like to throw in with the people saying that this is not a situation where we have a troll infestation we have to deal with. This is a situation where a lot of people who have long been involved with this community–as lurkers and as posters, recent and long-gone–are hurting, on multiple sides of an issue. It can’t be treated like an infestation. It’s an in-group, out-group problem that could be easily solved by very studiously enforcing the rule about not dragging in outside business, and particularly not business from Facebook.

  119. Portia says

    Acting on your anger reinforces it, particularly when it comes to lashing out at someone or something

    This is patently untrue…and anger is not only destructive. It can be constructive.

  120. A. R says

    gertrud: Of course you wouldn’t support a policy that prohibits bullying, because that’s your rhetorical strategy when you can’t make a strong argument on the facts. And I wasn’t aiming that comment solely at you, bullying is a problem we’ve had here on an off for years.

  121. Rob says

    PZ. When I first started reading here there was a lot I did not know. As a result I kept my mouth shut a read/listened. During some of the discussions I found myself being sympathetic with people who seemed calm and rational, when others were abusing them. It took me a long time persisting with reading/listening to get attuned to the JAQing and arguing in bad faith that goes on. I now have little if any patience for it. As a result I tend not to comment in those threads except in rare cases. I understand why some of the regulars develop a short fuse for certain types of behaviour, but that does mean there is the odd example of splash or collateral damage.

    How to fix this? I think the lounge as a heavily moderated safe space is great. I pop in and out of there. I think Thunderdome as an almost unmoderated space is ok as a safety valve. After all no-one has to go there, you know what it could be like. I read from time to time, but never comment. The tricky bit is the in between threads.

    I don’t like the idea of a 101 thread, not because people don’t need a place to ask questions safely, but rather because it is open to abuse (i.e. will be abused) and will sap the will/patience of those attempting to answer a question for the gazillionth time. Provide a FAQ. There must be a huge amount of material in the OP’s and comments here to create such a thing.

    For the remainder, I think a firm moderation hand, with your tags/reminder etc idea at the top of the thread.

    I value the sense of community here and am open to having ideas challenged. That needs to occur in good faith. I believe the onus of demonstrating good faith falls on the person putting forward the idea, not the person receiving the idea. Limited ability to flag posts to assist moderators might be helpful.

    As an alternative to editing a post, what about the ability for the original poster to add an addendum to the post. that way if there is a typo, missed word, forgotten point this can be added without cluttering up the thread. However, anything that has been submitted should stay visible.

    I’m sure I’ve left out one or two things, but this will do from me.

  122. Portia says

    A. R:
    First, I don’t see where gertrud said they supported bullying. Second, your comment demonstrates what several commenters in this thread have pointed to as a problem. I can’t say “take it to the ‘Dome” so…just…I dunno. Whatever.

    I’m going to stop joining in the OT-ness.

  123. A. R says

    Sorry Portia, gertrud and I have a history away from Pharyngula, and I’m going to drop the whole thing for the sake of the thread.

  124. says

    cfieldb:

    I miss the dynamic on the old SciBlogs Pharyngula, even though I never commented. Things were always heated, but there was a sense of fun that is missing now.

    Yeah. This.

    I’ve not been commenting nearly as much as I used to, partly because of this. Some of that is due to the change in focus of Pharyngula, where very important social issues have slowly edged out creationism and religion in general as the target. This is good, I think, but I don’t feel nearly as qualified, and I’m not nearly as eloquent on this subject, as many of the other regulars.

    But also, this issues raise emotions on both sides. With creationism and religion and all the bullshit that comes with it, it’s easy to remain emotionally balanced while tearing into stupidity with a two-handed scalpel of truth. With the new-ish focus on social issues, there is no emotional detachment. These are emotionally-charged issues.

    So there’s no way these issues can be fun.

    Damned important, yes. Vital to the growth of any kind of rationality-based humanistic movement, yes. But fun? No fucking way.

    And they shouldn’t be fun. I suspect if you’re having fun in any of these arguments, you’re a troll.

    (This is NOT to say that every comment has to be serious, and pointed, and emotionally-charged. Sometimes humor is the only way to make these threads bearable. I’m just saying, on the whole, the emotional nature of the discussion is bound to keep the fun rather limited.)

    I think the most vitriolic threads tend to be of this sort: where everyone is emotionally charged, with differing levels of clarity, involvement, and understanding. Those seem to result in the greatest acrimony, and the fiercest feuds.

    This is all simply part of the change of focus of Pharyngula over the last couple-three years.

    This doesn’t have much to do with commenting rules, I guess. It’s just my understanding of the root changes that brought us here.

    And I’d really rather have anger and acrimony and feuds among the regulars with Pharyngula’s new direction, than happy bunny butterfly love land with the old.

  125. gertrud says

    A. R: Save it for Thunderdome, and that includes the passive-aggressive swipes providing misconstrued, specific examples of generalized behaviour that could be just as easily referenced without making it personal. I have not attacked you here. I refuse to attack you here. Pay me the same courtesy. I’m not addressing you again here, but I want to point out that, if any of his examples seem oddly specific, that’s because he is passive-aggressively swiping at me. I don’t support that on a thread that is supposed to be about generalized rules that can address generalized problems.

  126. says

    Infophile:

    First, close down the Thunderdome. While common wisdom says that allowing people to vent their anger will help, research shows otherwise.

    That’s not the purpose of Thunderdome. Thunderdome was started because these arguments were poisoning the Lounge. It’s original purpose wasn’t to help people work through their anger. It was to keep the street fights away from a place that was meant to be a relatively safe social area.

  127. A. R says

    As a bit of an aisde, I’ve always loved reading PZs science posts, they’re always helpful in terms of learning how to present complex scientific concepts to the public. Oh, and I wonder if PZ would be able to throw up a weekly creobot bait post? It might be fun to slash away at them for a few hours instead of dealing with MRAs etc.

  128. John Morales says

    Infophile:

    If you want to be really out there with rules, make a rule that before criticizing someone, you have to praise them somehow (on whatever you can think of to do so).

    Because you write impeccably and cogently, it surprises me you make such an easily-subverted proposal.

    (Also, I think such an obvious CBT technique would irritate such as I to the degree that reactance would occur)

  129. bad Jim says

    This is a strong community. Everybody’s on the same side, and the vigilante tendency that makes it uncomfortable at times could be harnessed to make it a better place. Some of the best people here, the most prolific and perceptive commenters, too often exhibit short tempers on hair triggers, even though they’re as gentle and loving as people can be. We all want to do the right thing.

    Perhaps we need a better idea of what our discourse ought to be. We may have gone overboard on policing already; new commenters are right to complain of the stop-and-frisk policy. Maybe we need a fucking mission statement (Our goal is to foster high-minded open-ended discussions which will delight its participants and produce at least one Molly every two weeks)

    Or perhaps just more frequent comments on the quality of discussion here, daily even. Worse! Better! The point is that we’re on the same side and we want to do better, we want to be able to approve of each other and we want others to approve of us, and with practice we can.

  130. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Comments with vile subtexts create a large amount of anger. It’s not reasonable to ask people (e.g. Bria Crutchfield) to set that aside

    I never said people shouldn’t make angry comments, I’m asking them to add a little intellectually honest bookkeeping on top of it.

  131. Portia says

    Absolute prohibition on invitations to self-harm and offers to assault others.

    This is in place, very strongly, as a self-policing rule. We don’t tolerate it among ourselves.

  132. nothingventured says

    First time commenter here. I’ve been reading your various blogs for maybe 10 years. I commented in the early 2000s, under a different name, but haven’t done so in many years.

    There’s some amount of hand-wringing here about “preserving the community”, and I appreciate that, and if that’s what you want to preserve, then I think you’re kinda stuck with what you’ve got: because the tone of the community you have here is toxic, hurtful, and frankly vile.

    Let me be clear about what I mean here: I don’t care how well-intentioned you are, if you cultivate a forum where “fuck off, fuckwit” is not only considered acceptable but applauded, then you’re going to attract the sorts of people who like calling other people fuckwits.

    Look, P.Z. The whole aggressively insult stupid people thing is your thing. It’s part of the way you communicate. And that’s OK because it’s your blog and if people don’t want to read that sort of thing they can just not read you. But you seem to have attracted this hideous cloud of wonderful, great people who are very socially conscious and who, I’m sure, really are good people but whose communications skills are a complete pile of shit. You cannot have a room full of people shouting curses and insults at each other which will be a warm, accepting place. It. Cannot. Be. Done. The Thunderdome thread in particular is such a stunningly bad idea that it beggars the imagination. When a fire is burning your house down, the solution is not to create an area in which to dump gasoline.

    So, if it was me, if it was my blog, I’d keep writing exactly the way that I write, but tell the commenters that they’re not allowed to do as I do. And that they are not to use hurtful language of any sort (including the sort of language I’m using in this post!) and if they don’t like it, you’re very sorry, but they can fuck off and be banned, whether they’re newbies or people who have posted here for years. Your blog is not succeeding because of your community. Your blog is succeeding in spite of it.

    I recognize that I’m not a member of your community, except as a reader, so I’ll understand if you don’t agree with my assessment. But you said you wanted “newbie” voices, so now you have mine.

  133. Lofty says

    PZ I gather there is no one on the entire planet you can trust to act exactly in the way you would like. Unless you give full control to another person, preferably in another time zone, you will always have to come back and clean up the mess. Way it goes
    Personally as I have no outside contact with anyone here my pain levels are relatively low when a ding dong argument starts up. I can tune out if it gets ugly. I think you’re doing just fine, if you make the place too dull I’ll have to find somewhere else to inform myself. I like watching troll bashing. And chipping in occasionally too.
    Cheers

  134. A. R says

    I’ll also issue a reminder that invitations to self harm can cause splash damage and trigger people who are not targets.

  135. Portia says

    You cannot have a room full of people shouting curses and insults at each other which will be a warm, accepting place.

    No one said that was the goal, outside the Lounge. Your blog is not succeeding because of your community. Your blog is succeeding in spite of it.What is success? Is success a nearly 600 comment thread where rape survivors are safe to tell their stories and achieve liberty and catharsis they have never known? Is it education of many many people who say that this place (and its commenters) has opened their eyes? Is it the 150+ rape survivors who have told their stories here?

  136. says

    I definitely like the idea of Required Reading links, and 101-level threads. I like the idea of having several 101-level threads, refreshed rather like the Lounge and Thunderdome, on a few different subjects, like Pharyngula (which could double as a safe introduction thread), sexism, rape culture, evolution, creationism, and general atheism. These could even be in a Suggested Reading list (separate from the Required Reading).

    Also, I think the various moderation rules for different topics is a stellar idea. It won’t do anything to reduce the tensions inherent in the topic, but maybe it can keep the splash damage down to a minimum.

  137. Andy Groves says

    I would simply ban anyone who you (or your team of monitors) feel is causing trouble. The ban could be permanent for the reasons you have used in the past, and temporary (say, a week) for the people who you feel are normally good members of your commentariat who have gone off the rails a bit. If they don’t like that, they can bugger off and read another blog.

    As with the folks you have banned in the past, I would make the banned person’s comments disappear from the relevant thread. That would also serve to take the heat out of some of the more contentious threads. I would apply this policy to all threads, including the supposedly unmoderated ones.

  138. nothingventured says

    “Success”, in the context of a personal blog, is whatever the owner of said blog thinks it is. I think the very existence of this thread is prima facie evidence that PZ doesn’t think the comments sections here are successful.

  139. Kale says

    I second the tiered levels of moderation/patience.

    I’m somewhat new here. I followed PZ religiously (haha) when I was a evo/eco student in college, back when he was exclusively on ScienceBlog. I was heavily embroiled with the ID controversy personally and was discovering my own atheism (think 2005ish), so PZ was definitely a type of mentor-from-afar.

    All that said, I’m less familiar w/ FtB’s Pharyngula and don’t want to step on any toes or be redundant. I’m not 100% clear on the history of all that’s been tried or gone down, so my apologies if this isn’t useful.

    I’m highly of the mind that people who have had certain experiences or who fall in to certain categories of oppression are totally entitled to their anger, regardless of the form it takes. I’ve certainly had my moments where I was pushed to such an extreme by people-not-getting-it (probably willfully) that I ceased being able to engage in any way other than “fuck you”. I would never suggest that a survivor, or a woman, or an LBGT person or a person of color (etc. etc.) has an obligation to contain their rage when confronted with rape apologia, misogyny, homo/transphobia, racism, and on.

    ALL THAT SAID, once upon a time, I’d be willing to bet most of us were people who didn’t get it either. We needed some sort of educational catalyst, often in the form of another person telling us what was up in a clear manner we could understand at that juncture. No, it’s not the job of the members of the oppressed class to education the members of the privileged class. No, intent is not magic. But people are ignorant, the ignorant often don’t know they’re ignorant, and people have an overwhelming tendency to react defensively when they perceive themselves being attacked (as opposed to going and educating themselves). If the end game is to reach good, rational but currently ignorant people, the slash/burn strategy when they ask a dumb ass but not intentionally troll-y/offensive question is not going to work on most of them.

    I fully support having safe spaces, but I think we could have both safe spaces AND educational ones where ignorance is given a little more tolerance with an eye toward bringing the good lost souls over to the good side. So, have varying levels of moderation/varying levels of tolerance based on the context of the post and have each type of post clearly marked – so if someone is feeling especially raw any given day, they have the option of avoiding posts where people may be engaging in triggering conversations.

    Outright trolling/bullying should never be tolerated, and I admit that it’s somewhat subjective as to who is an MRA troll POS and who is just a misguided but willing-to-learn product of their environment. I think it’s still worthwhile to try though.

  140. eigenperson says

    I never said people shouldn’t make angry comments, I’m asking them to add a little intellectually honest bookkeeping on top of it.

    Sure. I just don’t think that’s so easy for them. I can pull it off… sometimes, but it costs effort, and that’s partly why I don’t comment too much.

  141. left0ver1under says

    My three thoughts have been said before by others, but I’ll say them to agree with them:

    (1) Volunteer moderators. I’m sure there are regulars who can be trusted not be hypocrites or heavy handed.

    (2) Post limits by people. Most of the time, it’s badly needed (e.g. if a topic mentions Israel and there are 100 posts, about half will by by slc1, a/k/a colnago80). Unfortunately, there are rare times when someone might need to respond to several posts. It’s probably best to combine responses into one post to save your others.

    (3) A flagging or rating system. Some sites (yahoo, youtube) have up/down voting, and those with low enough scores are hidden from view. They’re usually not deleted, though some are.

  142. says

    I’m seeing many suggestions for “101” threads, FAQs etc. to help new visitors understand terminology and common questions. This are great ideas.

    The problem with having such things on a blog is that you can’t keep them on the front page of a blog for very long, especially if you post multiple times a day like PZ. To plug the forum idea again, having such threads stickified onto the front page where they’re both easier to locate and harder to ignore (and easier for others to refer you to – simply saying “go to the Main Menu and read the stickies then come back” seems simpler than posting large slabs of text or links to other posts) seems, to me at least, to make loads of sense.

    Applying different levels of moderation (from “0” at the Thunderdome to “please tread lightly” in threads where survivors and supporters are sharing experiences – another good idea – would also be easy in a forum setting (though possibly not significantly easier than at a blog).

    Anyway, who knows – a Pharyngulorum might just create a parallel and overlapping community which could end up enriching both venues. I guess perhaps I’m getting nostalgic for the days between 2000 – 2005 where I was a forum junkie and had some super fun moderating a couple!

  143. cubist says

    IMAO, the stumbling block isn’t rules —it’s enforcing those rules. The “three post” rule is a great idea, but it’s honored more in the breach than the observance, isn’t it? And nothing happens to someone who sets their phaser to Utterly, Totally Annihilate after a newbie’s first post. The point being, why friggin’ bother to have a rule, if the consequences of violating said rule are indistinguishable from the consequences of abiding by it?

    Also: As has been noted before, and as is worth noting again, our ‘friends’ from the slymepit will do their damnedest to game whatever system PZ puts in place. So we would be well-advised to Design Defensively.

    Here’s my 2¢ worth on the topic of What, Ideally, Should Be Done, under the assumption that PZ will be the only person with access to IPs and stuff, and with the intent of ‘outsourcing’ from PZ as much of the machinery of banhammering/discipling/enforcement as possible: Every comment has an extra button/link, a button/link that’s only visible on the screens of monitors or blog admins. This button is labeled “Red Flag”. When a monitor (or blog admin) clicks on this button/link, they leave a note about why they’re RFing this comment, and then Mysterious Back-End Machinery™ thunders to life and stores the RFed comment, including the “why I done it” note and all identifying characteristics (IP, email address, etc etc), in a back-end database. This database can automagically generate RF stats for all commenters whose comments have been RFed; number of RFs, (number of RFs)/(number of comments), and so on and so forth. And PZ can, as and when he sees fit, check the Red Flag database to see who (if anyone) is making an ass of themselves, at which point he can unlimber the banhammer if he feels like it.
    In addition, it may or may not be appropriate for this database to send out “hey, you’re being a bit douchey lately, could you please dial it back a little?” email messages to Deserving Souls™. I dunno.

    I have no idea how easy it would be to implement the above protocol, but even if WordPress makes it technically impractical, perhaps some functionally-identical protocol might be doable.

    An unrelated idea: Weighted upvoting/downvoting, with a vote having weight proportional to the voter’s total number of comments on Pharyngula, or the length of the voter’s ‘tenure’ in the Horde. PZ has already said “no” to upvoting/downvoting, so I would be vastly surprised if he goes for this idea, but I’m putting it out there in case it might spark a useful idea in someone else’s mind.

  144. Angela Freeman says

    Thought I’d chime in, though I rarely do.
    Like many others, I too lurk. I rarely comment. The reason I don’t is because even if I have a genuine question that isn’t already answered in the thread or OP, I know that I’ll be accused of JAQing off, or being an asshole and so on and so forth.

    I don’t always agree with PZ, and that’s okay, that’s what comments are for – to ask questions, to have conversations, even spirited debate from time to time. I think there is not enough moderation, and the horde is too eager to pounce on the lurkin’ types.

    Just because we don’t comment a lot doesn’t mean that we don’t count.

  145. says

    I don’t feel that I comment enough here to make specific suggestions, though I will say a community that can produce the “Stunned Silence” thread has to have much worth preserving intact.

    Mostly, I’m commenting to note that wtfwhatever has been banned here at least under the name Oliver Crangle. Probably also as Jacques Cuze and jay. He is a slime pitter and has, ironically given his suggestions, used probably a dozen different IP and email addresses on my blog.

  146. D says

    I support having relevant 101 links at the beginning or end (or both) of social justice posts. Then not have the 3 comment rule under such posts. Just have stock reply “Read the links” and then ignore any further disruptive posts from an individual until they can be banned. Or if a 101 continuous thread is started they could be pointed to that.

    In general, having the current rules enforced would probably improve things. Perhaps amend that people with personal grudges must ignore each other (except in TDome) if they can’t engage w/o bringing up that baggage.

    I think the monitors should be anonymous and under rotation. Even if they are just messengers, that status holds weight and intentionally or not can intimidate.

  147. Cyranothe2nd, ladyporn afficianado says

    1. The 3-post rule needs to be enforced, perhaps by mods that can ban those that don’t follow it.

    2. Temp bans, as well as permabans. So when a regular gets too heated, they can be banned for 48 hours.

    3. I second (3rd, 4th?) the idea of a “flag this post” icon.

    4. Is there a way to nest replies without it looking completely gross? I’d really like to be able to reply to a specific post, or buzz past replies to a specific post if I want to (I really like how Skepchick’s commenting system nests).

  148. Muz says

    I generally question the ability to detect a good faith JAQoff from a bad faith one a lot of the time, even though many are convinced they can do it (and they may well be right). And yes there are people who think that’s a perfectly honest form of discourse and know no better. Plenty of people come here through Pharyngula, where as the ‘residents’ are bringing context from a dozen other blogs and all kinds of things. Even regulars who know most of the major incidents have little of the context necessary to evade tripping on some exposed nerve.
    I’m not going to posit conscious organisation or groupthink like some, but a group of separate repliers circling some stranger, dissecting their words in search of some inappropriate connotation or interpretation, even with the best of intentions, doesn’t look good.
    Some people have a sophomoric grasp of academic language and of logic, they didn’t do law, they didn’t even do debate club. They will get caught out (And if they get angry or defensive, well… Who would do that who was not already guilty in their heart m’lud?)

    The vigilant flushing of MRAs from under the beds has a price that everyone pays to some degree. If even a solid few are constantly on the look out for spies and fifth columnists a few innocents are going to get beaten in the metaphorical streets. And I dare say they have been. Not often, but occasionally.
    It doesn’t seem like such a high price to pay for some peace I’m sure, relative to the worst of the fighting that goes on. But when it happens (or when I see it at least), I can’t help thinking the terrorists have won.

    Much is said about Pharyngula’s ‘culture’ of robust and spirited debate, free with language. But it’s really not like it used to be in my estimation. There was a spirited righteous confidence and jockularity to it, surfing a wave of atheist cultural change. Now it’s much more dour and angry. That’s no surprise I suppose. The topics these fights break out over are serious and the subject matter often very grim, the sides entrenched and a civil war is the hardest kind (not that’s Ive been in one). People’s feelings are often entirely appropriate.
    So I don’t know the answer really. Rules seems like it won’t make a difference (and you just end up arguing about them instead). But at the same time Pharyngula and FTB does believe it stands for something. It has a message to impart and, willingly or otherwise, the commentariat and the tenor of discussion are a part of that. How do you get people to hang up a some bruised arms, I wonder.

    I think maybe something quite simple is likely to help a lot. Say you see some person you are convinced is an asshole MRA JAQoff and race to the reply box. Maybe pause and consider if six other people aren’t doing the exact same thing right now.

  149. Jacob Schmidt says

    First, close down the Thunderdome. While common wisdom says that allowing people to vent their anger will help, research shows otherwise.

    No, the thunderdome worked perfectly in this case. A private fight got dragged into the open and rather than silence those who were hurt, they were given a space to defend themselves while maintaining the safe space for sexual assault and rape survivors.

    Comments with vile subtexts create a large amount of anger. It’s not reasonable to ask people (e.g. Bria Crutchfield) to set that aside

    I never said people shouldn’t make angry comments, I’m asking them to add a little intellectually honest bookkeeping on top of it.

    If your problem is subtext coming from a newb, point out that your problem is subtext. Point out the cultural problems. Taking the subtext as their absolute intended message just encourages them to whine “strawman” and “ad hominem” (in some cases they’re right about the former; the latter is just annoying and I wish people would stop with it). Be a little less spiky with the newbs, but no less firm. If firm but mostly civil discourse leaves them still trolling, fire away.

    If you don’t feel the energy to respond politely, I’d suggest waiting an hour before you do. There’s a lot of us; chances are someone will be along.

  150. says

    Lots of potentially useful strategies have been articulated here, some of which may be easy to implement, others which may require lots of technical noodling or extra effort on the part of our host.

    And, the problem with rules is that people get pretty good at rule lawyering.

    It probably does little good on the enforcement-from-on-high front, but my hunch is that what’s needed is for members of the community to recommit themselves to keeping it functional — whether that means putting a pin in personal disputes from different spaces or times, operating on the assumption of good faith for a few more posts from the n00b than one’s Spidey sense might dictate, trying to use “I” statements a little more, or doing a gut-check on whether stepping away for a spell is the best call for oneself and for the community.

    We’re committed to the idea that we can be good without God. Recognizing this means maybe we can stretch ourselves to be better here even without too many more rules.

  151. eigenperson says

    On the 3-post rule:

    That rule probably works well for creationists and other theist subspecies. A creationist who fails the 3-post test is likely to be poorly educated, too indoctrinated to convince, and maybe just not very smart. They won’t do any serious harm. Very few people would be turned away from reading a thread because there was creationist nonsense in it.

    It does not work so well for misogynists (or racists, or…). A misogynist who fails the 3-post test is likely to be a nasty person, and this is sometimes on display as early as the first post. Their hateful bullshit pollutes the thread and drives good people away, especially if not answered forcefully.

  152. DresdenFilesRocks says

    @165(CyranoThe2nd), 161 (Cubist)

    Agree that the three-strikes rule should have teeth. If it’s to have meaning, then it should be enforced.

    Also agree that temp-bans would help in the enforcement of this.

  153. Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion says

    It may sound odd, but the no-holds-barred thrashing of mysoginist, ableist and racist ideas is the thing that makes this a safe space for me. In my normal interactions with people, I can’t call out racist remarks or tell people they’re reinforcing sexist stereotypes or rape culture – my anxiety levels are far too high. Here, I can take baby steps and try to engage with opposing views without fear that I know the other people personally and they can actually make my life hell for speaking up.

    If the three-strikes rule is enforced, so be it, but I’m unconvinced that the level of discourse is actually harmful. I’m a very vulnerable and anxious person, and I feel safe because I know that toxic ideas will be shown for what they actually are.

    I’m of the mind that as long as ideas and not people are attacked, and new commenters are given a chance to see why any possible horrible ideas they’re spouting might be harmful (the 101 reading links, perhaps), things can basically stay as they are. This is, as advertised, a rude blog. If people want their hand caressed softly whilst being spoon-fed sexism 101 they can go elsewhere.

    Just my opinion, of course, but it’s why I come here.

  154. Ruby says

    Pierce R. Butler @83

    From the beginning, this blog has featured both blunt and razor-sharp criticism, with PZ winning his reputation by combining precise dissections backed by science and wit with uncompromising slams (e.g., “demented fuckwits” as a description for the original Crackergate howling mob).

    Now, with feminist issues coming to the fore, priorities here include respect for individuals’ pains and triggers, with the blasters aimed at violators of personal rights and dignities. The arena now includes intimate personal experiences, not just scientific and religious/epistemological issues; the old tools don’t suit the new job.

    How so?!

    Before – Creationist: *says something ignorant about evolution to defend stupid superstations* PZ: aggressively calls them on their stupidity*

    Now – Sexist: *says something ignorant about women’s intelligence relative to men’s to defend sexist hiring practices* PZ: aggressively calls them on their stupidity*

    At most, there is now a different type of post added to the mix, in which addresses the human victims of sexism, in kind, respectful terms. This didn’t happen so much in the past, when, more or less, the only thing he was defending was science.


    In general:

    More moderators would definitely help, as would the introduction/101 thread other’s have suggested. Along with the “answers to really common questions/responses to really common arguments” page.

    Also, I’d suggest working with regulars to create a warning/guideline post (prominently linked to on the front page somewhere) warning new commenters about what kind of things will get them a less than pleasant reception. (i.e. What concern-trolling is and what’s most likely going to happen if you do it here). You’ll still have problems with noobs not reading it and getting their asses flamed, of course, but that’ll more clearly be their own fault.

  155. says

    Cyranothe2nd:

    3. I second (3rd, 4th?) the idea of a “flag this post” icon.

    That is such an incredibly bad idea, I don’t know why anyone would bring it up. That is so fucking open to abuse, it’s just not funny.

  156. Ze Madmax says

    From my point of view as someone who comments here sporadically, I feel the issue that arose here can be addressed by rules already in place, specifically the ban against dragging issues from outside a comment thread into it (which was, as far as I understood it, the trigger issue in the Stunned Silence/Thunderdome threads).

    And while I agree that the three-post rule is seldom ignored, the issue is dealing with threads such as the Grenade one, in which 4k+ comments involved a metric ton of people asking the same questions, which is understandably frustrating (and let’s face it: a lot of people who asked already-answered questions were less than interested in honest discussion). But I don’t know how to fix that.

  157. praxis.makes.perfect (Just call me Prax. It's easier to type) says

    I don’t think anything should change in regards to the commenting rules.

    I simply think the existing rules should be enforced more often and without any favoritism.

    For every person who makes a drive-by comment full of hand-wringing and pearl-clutching over “a toxic environment” there are countless people who appreciate the culture of the comments section here. Many people have said they feel that they can share their stories and experiences here that they otherwise would not have felt able to precisely because of the community and culture that exists here.

  158. Great American Satan says

    SZ@163 – Holy hell. Now his suggestion makes perfect sense! He lines up multiple nyms with multiple IPs and reps himself as a swarm of likeminded assholes, while people honoring the system have their apparent numbers diminished relative to clever sock artists.

    That is the slimiest shit I’ve seen since the last time I had food poisoning.

  159. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    We should all work a bit harder on respecting the three post rule. I’ve known times I’ve completely ignored it, and more often than not, it turned out the troll really was there just for our annoyance’s sake, but it wouldn’t be such a drain to keep a deep breath and try to hold one’s tongue for a short while anyway. For the sake of those other cases.

    More moderators. I don’t mind if two more people knew my ip address. But then again, I’m not one of those people who are have reason to be worried about their safety in meatspace, and their meatspace identities getting known. So I don’t really know what to do about that. Maybe just, as was suggested, keep the wall of monitors between PZ and us, but make it more known so that in cases of emergency (someone’s meatspace data leaked or something like that), people know to whom to send email without asking around?

  160. ekwhite says

    Caine @173. Yes, flagging can be open to abuse, but I don’t agree it is necessarily a bad idea. It could be limited to the volunteer monitors, for example, or PZ could ban people who abuse the flag. If flagging is just used to alert PZ of abusive posts, it could be useful.

  161. praxis.makes.perfect (Just call me Prax. It's easier to type) says

    …and one more thing:

    The three comment rule should not really apply when a commenter has made it more than obvious that they either have not bothered to read the comment thread prior to posting, or is simply JAQing off for the sake of being an ass.

    It’s also not fair to decent human beings to be in a position where they must tolerate misogynistic, sexist, racist, ableist, or any other “ist” commenters for three posts.

    I asked, quite politely, for the comment thread to be read in quite a few of the horribly long and drawn out threads. It was obvious that the people I was asking to do so were not interested in seeing the answers to their questions, but were only interested in triggering or otherwise upsetting people with blatant posterior haberdashery. (That’s “asshattery”, btw.) Was it wrong for me to tell those people to fuck off? Did those commenters really deserve the benefit of the doubt? Should I really have spoonfed them the same explanations that had been made over and over and over and over again simply because these jerks have so little respect for the people actually trying to have a discussion that they can’t be bothered to read the thread? The regulars read the thread before commenting. So did I. The regulars, when they took a break, caught up with new comments before jumping in. So did I. Why shouldn’t everyone else be held to the same standard?

  162. shawn says

    I’m a regular reader of a lot of FTBloggers, occasional commenter but certainly not a regular commenter. I don’t really have the time or patience to read through all the complex discussions that happen on Pharyngula though I wish I did. That being said, from what I do see there isn’t a whole lot I personally would want changed. As it was mentioned the community that allows for what happened in the “Stunned Silence” thread must be doing something right (not referring to the meltdown that went into the thunderdome which I still can’t parse what happened there).

    I do think a FAQ/101 would be helpful. Since intent isn’t magic, if we could point the “innocent” questioners to the 101 before we tear into them when and if they don’t learn their lesson maybe we could save some hurt on both sides and especially keep the temperatures cooler for the justifiably angry so they can keep their focus off of dealing with the trolls and naive questions. I know that this isn’t perfect. People will still feel “dismissed” but maybe a little less “dismissed” than if told to “fuck off” the instant they post. I say this as someone who wishes they would “fuck off”.

    I’m not sure what else. Anything too complicated will lead to rules lawyering but too many moderators with too vague of purpose could let personal biases (both concious and unconscious) and apparent and unapparent infighting rule the discourse. Maybe some increased moderation with some solid equally enforced dispassionate rules with simple consequences? For example, if you derail with personal arguments that no one besides directly involved parties would understand then insta-temporary banning for a couple of days.

    I think a big problem lot of people who attempt to post here run into an unexpected issue of not understanding that the comments here basically work as an ongoing conversation as opposed to shouting into a void or speaking directly to PZ themselves like it’s “letters to the editor”. They drop in, say their uninformed piece thinking they are saying novel blissfully unaware of the context until the shit hits the fan. If this currently unspoken context could be made clearer before one comments I think it would help improve the climate.

    That’s all that I’ve got…

  163. says

    PZ:

    I can’t make anyone else full moderators here because of wordpress limitations. They would get access to all your information.

    I know you don’t want to hand the keys out to people, I understand that. Is there any way to grant some people a limited power, say to be able to place certain comments into a special moderation file until you’re able to oversee them?

    I could set up volunteer moderators like we have now with maybe some changes: they get their name and email in the sidebar so people can contact them directly — they’d be a kind of filter between me and the howling masses. I’d be the only one to have the ability to take direct action, but they could handle talking people down off the precipice of fury.

    I’d be willing to do that.

  164. John Morales says

    ekwhite @178, if it were just for monitors, it would be otiose (the entire point of monitors is that they have the attention of PZ when they email him, which is all your proposal would achieve), and if it were otherwise, it would be as abused as Caine indicated.

    So: not a good idea.

  165. praxis.makes.perfect (Just call me Prax. It's easier to type) says

    …and the last thing I have to say before going to bed:

    I am not comfortable with certain trusted regulars here having access to either my email address or to the IP addresses I may post from. I have seen too many nasty incidents of infighting and “making things personal” among the regulars to think that that kind of information should be in the hands of anyone but the blog administrators.

    If that were to happen, I think I’d rather just not comment here at all.

  166. bad Jim says

    It might help if there was a consensus as to whether the besetting problem is

    A. Overly enthusiastic regulars verging into vigilante viciousness, or

    B. Visiting malefactors

    Without a doubt there’s some of both, but as a community we can only control A.

    Elsewhere the rule is “Do Not Feed The Trolls”. Here the tradition has been to chew them up and spit them out, but we might usefully decide to designate a month as Ramadan, abstain until sunset, and see how that goes instead.

    I’ll also endorse what docfreeride said at 168.

  167. piegasm says

    I really like the idea of there being 101 level threads that people get directed to when they evince a lack of knowledge on a topic. There is rather a lot of jargon around here that masquerades as commonly used words like “privilege”, and all the -isms off the top of my head which can make entire posts read entirely differently than they’re meant to someone unfamiliar with how those terms are used in this context.

    So maybe, for example, a feminism 101 post which would contain, for example, the link dump posts that Caine has been doing and the CCC thing. The A+ forums did a glossary of terms some time back that I bet they wouldn’t mind being lifted for use here. There was also a good faith guide that was assembled to be a heads up for newcomers re: certain behaviors that would be read as troll-ish by the regulars. When we get a clueless newb, link them to the 101 post and just don’t engage further.

    Which brings me to another idea. PZ suggested expanding the coding of posts in terms of how they’re moderated…what if there was a tag for how advanced the topic is? “101 discussion allowed”, “Advanced discussion only”, etc.? In advanced only topics maybe include a link to the 101 thread in the OP? Just a thought that occurred to me just now.

    I think a huge part of the frustration comes from people who’ve been doing this for years and want to have conversations that go beyond explaining ‘privilege’ for the eleventy-gillionth time and it often becomes nearly impossible because of all the JAQing off. And I don’t really think it’s acceptable to just not engage at all with that stuff on sort of “the standard you walk past” grounds.

  168. Cyranothe2nd, ladyporn afficianado says

    Caine @ 173,

    It depends on how it functions. I don’t think that people should be banned based on how many flags they get de facto. However, perhaps a certain number of flags sends an alert to a mod, who reads the post and then decides what should be done. Also, flagging should not work for people who aren’t logged in, so PZ could see who was flagging and whether some are abusing it.

    It’s not a perfect system, but it would take some of the burden off of PZ…

    Sophia @ 171,

    It may sound odd, but the no-holds-barred thrashing of mysoginist, ableist and racist ideas is the thing that makes this a safe space for me. [...]If the three-strikes rule is enforced, so be it, but I’m unconvinced that the level of discourse is actually harmful.

    I think the original idea of the 3-post rule was that we shouldn’t all pile on people that made problematic statements, but instead give them the benefit of the doubt, ask them to clarify and/or point out kindly how they may be misinterpreted. If they can’t explain themselves in 3 posts (or their explanation is “I’m a vile misogynist who can’t think”) then the teeth come out.

    I agree that trashing gross ideas makes this a safe place. But sometimes (maaaaaaybe) some people are asking questions or making problematically-phrased statements in good faith and would walk them back or explain themselves if they weren’t jumped on? IDK really, but I think it’s worth a try.

  169. says

    ekwhite:

    Caine @173. Yes, flagging can be open to abuse, but I don’t agree it is necessarily a bad idea. It could be limited to the volunteer monitors, for example, or PZ could ban people who abuse the flag. If flagging is just used to alert PZ of abusive posts, it could be useful.

    The only way I see that it wouldn’t be abused is if the ability to flag was strictly for monitors only. There are simply too many instances where one person will be upset by a comment when the majority of people are not, and it’s not as if PZ doesn’t already have a nightmare flood of emails to deal with.

    Right now, I don’t see the value in a flag button, because the monitors themselves are acting as flag buttons. We keep an eye on things, and usually wait until it’s really necessary to send an alert to PZ. Given that we already have this system, I fail to see how tossing a flag button onto every comment will help in any way.

    Every day here, I see dozens of posts I don’t like, or I find them offensive, or stupid, or what have you. What I don’t do is send an alert in any of those instances. That’s just me, you see. When alerts are sent, it’s on the behalf of everyone, for specific breaches of behaviour. I’ve been on forums which use ‘flag this comment’ buttons. It’s a fuckin’ nightmare. Everyone wants to play sheriff with a shiny tin badge.

  170. Cyranothe2nd, ladyporn afficianado says

    I don’t like the idea of 101 threads because 1. there are a billion other places on the internet one could find that information, 2. because the onus should be on commenters to inform themselves before they comment and 3. because I like the “senior-level” atmosphere here.

    We have the wiki to link to, if people need brushing up. But I really do not want to participate in endless threads about “Are Women REALLY Oppressed???” Because that’s basically what a 101-level thread is going to turn into–a place for hyperskeptics to drive and dominate the conversation, while whining that they are not being spoon-fed the plethora of evidence it would take to convince them. No thanks.

  171. says

    Praxis:

    I am not comfortable with certain trusted regulars here having access to either my email address or to the IP addresses I may post from. I have seen too many nasty incidents of infighting and “making things personal” among the regulars to think that that kind of information should be in the hands of anyone but the blog administrators.

    There are people here I would trust with moderator status, such as Carlie, Chigau, and Nick. (Along with others.) There are also people here I would not trust with moderator status. That said, I don’t even know who all the monitors are right now, because the list disappeared with the dungeon. Fuck, I don’t even know if I’m still supposed to be a monitor.

    Pharyngula is teeming with people who do have trust issues, though, so I think if there were ever going to be actual moderators, as opposed to monitors, the question of who moderators would be would have to be opened up to the Horde. I also think monitor appointments should be open to the Horde, too, as to who they feel is both trustworthy and reliable.

  172. Cyranothe2nd, ladyporn afficianado says

    Oh–one other thing. Is it possible to add a badge or something to a monitor’s nym, so we know who has monitor status? I have no idea who has this power and who doesn’t (except Caine, and only because ze has been willing to share it.) It would be cool to know who to go to if I have a problem (other than PZ.)

  173. says

    Cyranothe2nd:

    But I really do not want to participate in endless threads about “Are Women REALLY Oppressed???”

    Who says you have to participate? I like the idea of 101 threads, because they would help on the re-hash issue, and quite honestly, the Horde wouldn’t be the Horde, and Pharyngula wouldn’t be Pharyngula without a wealth of chew toys. Bring ‘em on.

    Seriously taming the comments here would, I think, result in a lot less people commenting.

  174. roxie says

    I have a radical idea. How about the regular commentariat just be a little kinder to people instead of telling newbs and people they disagree with to “fuck off”, or “go fuck yourself”.

    Stop taking yourselves so seriously and see things from the other person’s point of view, at least initially.

  175. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    If your problem is subtext coming from a newb, point out that your problem is subtext. Point out the cultural problems. Taking the subtext as their absolute intended message just encourages them to whine “strawman” and “ad hominem” (in some cases they’re right about the former; the latter is just annoying and I wish people would stop with it). Be a little less spiky with the newbs, but no less firm. If firm but mostly civil discourse leaves them still trolling, fire away.

    This.

    Hell, be spiky. Spikes are precise.

  176. Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion says

    Cyranothe2nd @187

    Yes. It’s so tricky though, as people have said before when creationists rub up against the commenters here the problem is usually cluelessness. The current crop is more of the bigoted sociopath variety, intent more on doing as much damage to already-hurt people as possible rather than actually discuss the issues.

    Sure, there are a few clueless people, and they should have the opportunity to learn. I like the 101 links for that, but there are very few people who are actually going to respond to “go read X”. You see it all the time, someone comes in spouting horrible stuff and claims to be clueless, just asking questions and disagreeing. As soon as they’re given links they refuse to read them, saying they want to discuss, not read. It goes downhill from there, even if people do give them the time of day.
    If this behaviour were the minority instead of the vast majority, I’d say enforcing a three-strikes rule and temp-banning and such would be a great solution. Sadly, it’s not a minority. In fact, it’s usually the same people masquerading as clueless newbies.

    How to fix it? No idea. I’m suggesting rather that the problem isn’t necessarily from this end, so trying to fix it from this end isn’t going to be hugely effective. You can’t fix people’s nasty attitudes by telling the people they’re abusing to talk to them differently.

    That doesn’t count the genuinely clueless, of course, who shouldn’t have to be smashed against the proverbial rocks. We have a choice between already vulnerable people enduring a lot of crap to determine whether or not yet another hurtful, bigoted statement comes from a place of ignorance or malice. Does it matter though? Is intent suddenly magic?
    I vote for the 101 links, and if people aren’t willing to read relevant material and engage on a level we’re already at whilst simultaneously doing splash damage… well. I’m unconvinced those people should be accomodated. The three strikes rule is problematic, but probably the best temporary measure to ensure the weeding out of the genuinely misinformed. If it’s abused by sockpuppets or tone trolling polite-bigots, it’ll have to be reviewed.

  177. A. R says

    I think it’s important to remember that some trolls who make it past the three comment rule can turn into positive contributors. It’s pretty damn rare, but I’m an example, and so is Walton.

  178. gillyc says

    More mods – no point having rules if there’s no-one around to enforce them. And I’m absolutely fine with the idea that the mods can see my email address, as I trust PZ to select them carefully. (Though maybe when PZ has someone in mind, it could be put to a vote, in case anyone else is worried.)

  179. chigau (違う) says

    Thank you, Caine.
    but sometimes I would not trust myself to be a fair moderator (with actual power).
    like now ( see #193)

  180. piegasm says

    @193 roxie

    Because not everything is just a matter of opinion and there’s no reason to think that the 1349487540987th person to saunter in and say “well they should have gone straight to the police” or similar is operating under different motivations than the last 1349487540986 were.

    @189 Cyrano

    It’s all good and well to say that they should have gone to any one of a billion resources that exist outside Pharyngula but the fact is they came here. Those that honestly mean well will just say “Ok I’ll do that, thanks” when directed to a 101 thread and the trolls will (hopefully) out themselves by coming over all indignant at the suggestion that they don’t already know everything about everything. At which point maybe an alert gets sent but at the very least, the others know not to engage.

  181. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    And while I agree that the three-post rule is seldom ignored, the issue is dealing with threads such as the Grenade one, in which 4k+ comments involved a metric ton of people asking the same questions, which is understandably frustrating (and let’s face it: a lot of people who asked already-answered questions were less than interested in honest discussion). But I don’t know how to fix that.

    Perhaps “extend the benefit of the doubt to a total of three substantially similar posts within the same thread/on the same page of the thread, irrespective of how many commenters they originate from?” Combined with a “READ OTHER COMMENTS BEFORE POSTING” warning up front (I know I don’t always remember this one. x.x)

  182. says

    I rarely comment here, reading the comments alone is unpleasant enough sometimes. It’s not inviting to me, it hasn’t been for a very long time, so it seems to me that PZ is asking the problem to provide it’s own solution. That being said, I’ll drop in my two cents… for whatever it may be worth (Canadian currency).

    There has to be a balance somewhere in the comment system. The thunderdome free-for-all doesn’t work, I have difficulty seeing how an intelligent person thought that it might. Locking the comments down near completely of course would be equally foolhardy because the system would stagnate rather than explode.

    The way I’m seeing things, the problem is trust. The commentariat at pharyngula can’t be trusted to be civil. (I know that civility isn’t a requirement for good discourse, but I think it does have an important advantage of being manageable, inviting, and not overtly threatening. In an environment like a popular blog, that must be incredibly important)Individuals may be completely capable, but as a whole, it really doesn’t look promising. People are talking about the various tools of blog runners and weighing in on whether or not they’re good ideas. Moderation is definitely important, and with the size of this blog there should be a fair number of them. Yes, that means that there are more people who can access your IP address and Email, but that’s an inherent risk in partaking in any online social group. You don’t get to whine about it. Personally, I think that would be the most helpful tool. Aggerssive, consistent moderation, and even application of the rules.

    Flagging has it’s place too, it’s been brought up that this is prone to abuse. I agree with that, but to us as commenters it’s really none of our concern if it gets abused. What’s relevant is whether or not the effort of maintaining that tool is worthwhile. I presume that this type of tool would only really be useful if the system here wasn’t already broken, and the majority of commenters could be trusted to click responsibly; but that’s not where we are.

    Along with all of this is the reaction a blog will get when changing it’s moderation tactics. Too severe and people may stop coming; not severe enough and nothing changes. It’s already been established, I believe, that PZ doesn’t rely on this blog to feed his family. It’d be sad if people stopped visiting; but I’d rather lose %30 of the unrestrained assholery and gain the ability to talk comfortably here, than continue just reading the article and ignoring what a bunch of other intelligent people think about the subject.

  183. says

    PZ: “Newb comments are especially useful, since the regulars are jaded. Fresh eyes are useful.”

    I post at FTB every now and then, but on Pharyngula about once every four months. Invariably I’m told my opinions don’t count for much because I’m not a regular.

    My suggestion: ban the term ‘tone trolling’. It’s used to shut down debate in the same way Conservatives will accuse you of ‘political correctness’. You point out someone is being rude, you’re told you’re ‘tone trolling’, and also ‘PZ wants us to use this language, so fuck off’.

  184. OptimalCynic says

    Personally I’d comment a lot more if people replied to the actual comment, rather than what they thought it said or what they think they’ve read between the lines. Feel free to see that as a feature rather than a bug.

  185. says

    Chigau:

    Thank you, Caine.
    but sometimes I would not trust myself to be a fair moderator (with actual power).
    like now ( see #193)

    I think we’re in sync. My first thought was “didn’t we recently have a ‘roxy’ sockpuppet? There’s a bell ringing somewhere. Still, neither of us sent an alert, right? So, I’d still trust you.

  186. says

    andrewryan:

    My suggestion: ban the term ‘tone trolling’. It’s used to shut down debate in the same way Conservatives will accuse you of ‘political correctness’. You point out someone is being rude, you’re told you’re ‘tone trolling’, and also ‘PZ wants us to use this language, so fuck off’.

    If people would stop tone trolling, it wouldn’t be necessary to bring it up. When someone refuses to respond to a post which contains no naughty words in favour of continually yelling about any posts which do contain naughty words, they’ve proven they have no interest in the substance of any comment, regardless of naughty words.

  187. piegasm says

    My suggestion: ban the term ‘tone trolling’. It’s used to shut down debate in the same way Conservatives will accuse you of ‘political correctness’. You point out someone is being rude, you’re told you’re ‘tone trolling’, and also ‘PZ wants us to use this language, so fuck off’.

    Absolutely not. That’s giving trolls license to ignore everything that’s said to them which isn’t couched in pleasantries. If you’re telling people they’re rude instead of engaging with the substance of their arguments, you are, in fact, tone trolling and there’s no reason whatsoever for anyone not to tell you so.

  188. eigenperson says

    My suggestion: ban the term ‘tone trolling’. It’s used to shut down debate in the same way Conservatives will accuse you of ‘political correctness’. You point out someone is being rude, you’re told you’re ‘tone trolling’, and also ‘PZ wants us to use this language, so fuck off’.

    The thing is, people here know they’re being rude. Why would you bother posting that people are being rude? What could that possibly add to the discussion?

  189. roxie says

    @ 200 piegasm: What is the problem with someone having a different opinion anyway? Despite what you say, someone who has a different view on a subject has that opinion. If many people are having an opinion that is different to yours, then maybe you need to reconsider your own opinion.

    @203 andrewryan: I agree, this concept of tone trolling is a toxic one, used by regulars as an excuse to be vicious to other commenters who they don’t agree with. It should be dispensed with imo.

  190. bad Jim says

    Be kind. Every one you meet is fighting a hard battle.

    (Distracted by a lawn-green insect alighting on a tissue box, about 2cm, looking for all the world like a grass clipping)

    We’ve got too much friendly fire. The wounded include not only potential recruits, but veterans. This is avoidable. I do understand that fighting is fun; my father was an Irish drunk, straight out of a Sean O’Casey play, as well as being a gifted engineer and lots of other good things, and perhaps as a result I’m not immune to the appeal of a proper dust-up, but it’s an acquired taste.

    At a minimum, people commenting outside the Thunderdome shouldn’t be abused for trivial transgressions. Pharyngula shouldn’t be too much weirder than Pandagon, for instance. Obviously I’m expecting a level of discourse many magnitudes superior to that prevailing at Slate, and perhaps it’s only the ferocity I’m deprecating that keeps that sort of idiocy at bay. Having some experience with the people here, though, I’m pretty confident that we could continue to have vigorous contention with less vituperation.

  191. Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion says

    It’s a problem of perception.

    The harmful status quo has been upheld forever by people claiming high moral ground because they’re polite, whilst still espousing horrible, destructive ideas.

    People who come into a discussion that cuts through that veneer will almost invariably side with the polite people, because that’s what people are expected to do. That’s how the nasty stuff perpetuates itself.

    Unless you’ve either been through the kind of abuse that causes you to wake up to see the system as it really is or read/lurked enough to see how it affects other people (This goes for all issues, not just sexism WRT atheism), you’re not going to recognise an insidious comment/idea when you see it, and you’re going to be very indignant at the people who rush to expose it, usually with a lot of shouty swearing.

    It’s that attack mode that makes this a safe space, because the regulars here understand how the system works. This isn’t a 101 level space. Your hand doesn’t get held unless you show that you’re willing to argue in good faith or do some reading and ask non-loaded questions.

    I still think the 101 level links are a good idea, more moderation is entirely a good idea (if not only because it takes some of the onus off poor PZ) and the three-strikes rule is a flawed but possibly necessary solution.
    We need to remember the aim here – Do we want to accomodate supporters of a broken system, or do we want to avoid splash damage to the genuinely underinformed?
    If it’s the former, I don’t want to be here anymore. The latter I can support wholeheartedly.

  192. says

    My suggestion: ban the term ‘tone trolling’.

    Caine’s comment 206 summed up my own thoughts about tone-trolls: they are quite often prone to ignoring any “civil” comments that disagree with them in favour of continuing to rant about the “uncivil” comments levelled at them previously.

    Regardless of whether you use the specific term “tone-trolling”, the behaviour of focusing more on civility than actual content (especially when the content has in fact already been rephrased more civilly) is problematic (it’s a form of derail) and needs to be called out.

    Frankly, banning the term “tone-troll” looks itself very much like, well, tone-trolling.

  193. Ruby says

    One small thing that may help with the ‘piling on noobs thing’.

    Honestly, I think some of the dog-piling is unintentional. Basically, someone says something stupid that need to be responded to, someone comes along and responds…and then someone else comes along and doesn’t notice/look for another response and fires off one of their own. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Maybe a general guideline to look and see if something has ALREADY been dealt with before replying yourself, and then only doing so if your reply differs meaningfully from what was already said.

    One thing that may help with this if to heavily push people to ALWAYS use “@PostNumber” when replying. So anyone else looking for replies to that comment need only Ctrl-F the comment number to see what’s already been said.

  194. piegasm says

    @209 roxie

    Because no matter how many times you can horn the word ‘opinion’ into a sentence, some things are still actually not simply a matter of personal preference. Some statements are actually demonstrably false, regardless of how many times some shitwit turns up and says them. Funnily enough, false things don’t approach true-ness with repetition.

  195. roxie says

    I think another big part of this problem is that many of you seem to be trigger happy in labelling anyone who disagrees a ‘troll’, then having fun in piling on. It’s like a clique of bullies in a school playground, not a message board for discussing and debating. Why are you so upset with someone having a different view of things? This is what I don’t understand.

  196. Cyranothe2nd, ladyporn afficianado says

    John Morales @ 194,

    Thanks for posting that!

    Caine @ 192,

    Who says you have to participate? I like the idea of 101 threads, because they would help on the re-hash issue, and quite honestly, the Horde wouldn’t be the Horde, and Pharyngula wouldn’t be Pharyngula without a wealth of chew toys. Bring ‘em on.

    You’re quite right that, just because I don’t always have the spoons for it doesn’t mean that others won’t. I guess I’m more concerned that threads like that (if not heavily modded) would become trollbait pretty quickly. I don’t like the thought of Pharyngula becoming a place where those arguments (sexist, racist, -ist arguments) are allowed to be made in order for those people to be educated. I really think those arguments shouldn’t be entertained or treated like they are rational at all.

    eigenperson @ 208

    Why would you bother posting that people are being rude? What could that possibly add to the discussion?

    AGREED!

  197. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    *deep breath because tree comment rule*

    roxy,
    Everyone has opinions on pretty much everything. Opinions don’t deserve respect simply for existing. Damaging opinions can inform damaging actions, can hurt people emotionally when expressed. If not challenged, damaging opinions can get reinforcement by their owners taking silence as approval. Etc.

  198. says

    If many people are having an opinion that is different to yours, then maybe you need to reconsider your own opinion.

    Gee, it would be wonderful if people like you could apply this to themselves. That seldom happens, though. All you tend to get is “you hate me for disagreeing!” “I’ll get banned for disagreeing!” “I’m just disagreeing!” “What’s your problem, can’t handle someone disagreeing with you?!”, rather than something like “wow, 10/20/30/X people are disagreeing with me. Okay, maybe I need to consider this, anyone have some helpful reading?”

    That would constitute a miracle around here. No, ‘Roxie’, what you want is to be unchallenged whenever you say something obviously wrong or stupid. That sort of thing doesn’t fly here.

  199. cyan says

    I agree with nothingventured @ #150. It used to be that Pharyngula comment sections were interesting to read, and I’d come several times a day; but since crackergate, its seems like a rowdy private clubhouse, non-members unwelcome. Some of the comments on this thread illustrate the point.

  200. says

    Why are you so upset with someone having a different view of things?

    Just get to the fucking point. This thread is not all about Roxie, so spit out what this “different view of things” is, and we can deal with it and be done.

  201. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Another thing.
    F5 is your friend! Use it, or whichever way you prefer to refresh, often.

    (also, I can’t spell three, but I’m still against allowing people to edit their comments)

  202. Arawhon says

    As a very long term reader but only recent poster, I also think a FAQ and Newbie thread would be good. Other than that an enforcement of the reset rule and making it global, so that whatever happens outside isn’t brought in here except for known bad faith posters such as wtfwhatever. That alone would have stopped the meltdown in the Thunderdome and Stunned Silence threads. [ Hidden Text Here] so as not to muck up the thread-mouseover to read]

  203. hotshoe, now with more boltcutters says

    I think maybe something quite simple is likely to help a lot. Say you see some person you are convinced is an asshole MRA JAQoff and race to the reply box. Maybe pause and consider if six other people aren’t doing the exact same thing right now.

    I think there’s a way for the software to send you a message like “2 new comments have been added since you started typing your reply – press NO to submit your reply without reading” and then if you press YES, or however it’s set up, it displays the “unread” messages directly over the comment block. So it’s sorta an automatic “refresh page” device. I’ve seen it work but I don’t remember where. Maybe not a WordPress blog.

    Won’t help heated emotions – or feuds. Might help a few of us to not pile on confusion when those unread comments had already provided the answers.

  204. piegasm says

    @219 cyan

    Here’s a helpful tip: You want to feel welcome around here? Don’t say shit like:

    Some of the comments on this thread illustrate the point.

    Which ones and why? Don’t just make vague insinuations that what you’re claiming is self-evidently true. That will never be taken to kindly around here.

  205. Cyranothe2nd, ladyporn afficianado says

    cyan @ 219 wrote:

    It used to be that Pharyngula comment sections were interesting to read, and I’d come several times a day; but since crackergate, its seems like a rowdy private clubhouse, non-members unwelcome.

    See, I have the opposite experience. It is only after the blog moved the FtB and became more centered on social justice that I began reading the comments. I still don’t comment often–I usually lurk, and mostly in social justice threads only (rather than TDome or Lounge.) But I find the space safer now than I did 3 years ago.

  206. says

    @213, Ruby:

    Maybe a general guideline to look and see if something has ALREADY been dealt with before replying yourself, and then only doing so if your reply differs meaningfully from what was already said.

    I think this is worth taking on board; I’ve almost felt sorry on occasion for n00bs who get crushed – it’s little wonder they sometimes get instantly defensive and double-down on whatever silly thing they said (who knows what they might have said differently were they not instantly multi-slapped?). Can’t be easy to walk into a party, innocently say something insensitive (or flat stupid) and have half the guests put their mojitos down and start yelling at you. In fact, at an old forum I moderated we had a similar guidelines (not a rule per se): check for a response before adding your own. Not everyone’s been online as long as you and not everyone’s been into this topic as long as you, so sometimes it’s a good idea to let the first responder take the reins for a bit. Of course, if it becomes obvious they’re insincere or just a plain old douche, go ahead and release the dogs with bees in their mouths and when they bark they shoot bees at you.

    I don’t know how workable that would be, but it would be up to regulars to decide to abide by it. Again, probably not worth codifying as a Rule, but as guideline I think it’s a good one (and I say that as one who has, in the past, joined in the odd pile o’ dogs).

  207. triamacleod says

    The lounge and thunderdome have announcements in each article that state the level of moderation. We could broaden that and make it more standard for various articles: the “stunned silence” thread might have used a “supportive comments only” flag, or something like that, so moderation could vary from thread to thread. Or “No MRAs”. What kinds of moderation levels would people want?

    This along with a link to whatever 101 site would be most appropriate at the end of the post. (feminism, rape, gender, evolution) and a blocking of disposable email sites.

    Would it be possible to have ‘guest mods’ for only some threads? Threads that you know will have a lot of troll turn out? Maybe even enlist the trophy wife or unholy offspring from time to time?

    As for the in-fighting among regulars, perhaps a specific post or email to them or, that failing a name and shame? Worse case scenario, put them in moderation/limbo for a few days to allow everyone to calm down. I truly believe that a lot of the tempers and snapping are being caused by the high rate of trolls and MRAs that have been showing up over the past few weeks. Tempers are running short, emotions are running high and people’s nerves are raw. I think/hope this is a rare occurrence and that once people take a step back and a few deep breaths, cooler heads will prevail and we will see more charitable behavior from the regulars.

    And while I rarely comment myself, I do read the comment threads, even the 4k+ thread. I often get a better education from reading and watching how posters interact than I would from taking classes on the subject. That being said, I know better than to go to the thunderdome without preparing myself, it would be like strolling into /b/ and then whining about being offended. As long as threads are clearly marked a ‘reader beware’ style is fine.

  208. says

    triamacleod:

    I truly believe that a lot of the tempers and snapping are being caused by the high rate of trolls and MRAs that have been showing up over the past few weeks. Tempers are running short, emotions are running high and people’s nerves are raw. I think/hope this is a rare occurrence and that once people take a step back and a few deep breaths, cooler heads will prevail and we will see more charitable behavior from the regulars.

    Yes, it’s been a nerve stretching few weeks, difficult on everyone.

  209. Ruby says

    I really need to get to sleep, but…

    If there’s one thing years of work in customer service has taught me, it’s this: There far too many people in the world that don’t get nearly enough negative feedback for inappropriate actions.

    Look, when we (well, you guys, I just lurk) are having a serious conversation about rape, in which several survivors are participating, and some jackass wanders in and starts spouting off victim blaming bullshit, they NEED to be told to “shut the fuck up”. They just do.

    NOTHING is achieved by holding the hands of people that are, by all accounts, grown-ass adults spouting off shit that no adult has any business believing. They need to be called on it, and not in a nice way.

  210. bad Jim says

    (Got the cricket outside. Okay, that’s the important stuff.)

    It ought to be possible to go through Thunderdome threads and tally the ratio between provocations and responses. My impression is that it resembles the bear cam: lots of hungry bears waiting around and precious few salmon to chew.

    Here’s an off-the-wall rule: one troll, one response (DNFTT is arguably superior, but let’s be real). Given that people here wait all night for a provocation, there needs to be a way to determine whose turn it is, but there ought to be a one-whack rule; no piling on. (At Balloon Juice, I think, they serve trolls pancakes instead; a waffle? how awful!)

  211. roxie says

    @ 218 Caine: No, ‘Roxie’, what you want is to be unchallenged whenever you say something obviously wrong or stupid. That sort of thing doesn’t fly here.

    Dead wrong, You are welcome to your opinion. And I’m not gonna call you stupid or tell you to go fuck yourself. Why are you the arbiter of what is wrong or stupid anyway?

    @ 220 Caine: Just get to the fucking point. This thread is not all about Roxie, so spit out what this “different view of things” is, and we can deal with it and be done.

    This is a prime example of what is wrong with the commentariat here. You can’t express yourself in a civil or normal way, have to revert to childish taunting like this.

  212. piegasm says

    @232 bad Jim

    Nope. At least not in terms of raw number of responses per post. The fact that say 5 people all responded to the same post doesn’t mean that all 5 people made the same point. They may all be reacting to different things. Trying to moderate by numbers is a system begging to be gamed.

  213. cyan says

    @ piegasm
    No, I certainly do not want to feel welcomed in the comments section. I was responding to PZ, as per his post.

  214. piegasm says

    @233 roxie

    There are these things known as facts, roxie. They are the opposite of opinions.

    Also, conveniently, you’re doing exactly that thing Caine described when someone suggested to ban the term “tone trolling.” You’re now responding to the naughty words she’s using instead of the substance of her posts or the substance of others’ responses to you that fit your definition of ‘civil.’

    Stop it.

  215. Arawhon says

    As a social phobic with issues of socialization who rarely posts anywhere online, this place is one of the few places I feel comfortable to start posting at. I know that if I make a mistake I will get good strong criticism for any mistakes I make. I agree with Ruby, this place is awesome for the way it deals with inappropriate actions, most of the time.

  216. says

    I would also like to note, in the vein of several others here, that for a lot of those of us who have found a home here, the things that many people are complaining about (I’m looking at you,andrewryan, Roxieet al., with your bullshit complaints about being called out for tone trolling and the like) are the reason we’re here. If you want someplace that fetishizes ‘civility’, doesn’t like swearwords, and feels compelled to treat every JAQass with an attitude problem as though they have a valid opinion worth taking seriously, there’s a shitload of those places on the web already. Go to one of them, and stop trying to turn this place into it.

  217. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    If many people are having an opinion that is different to yours, then maybe you need to reconsider your own opinion.

    Pot, meet kettle.

  218. says

    bad Jim:

    Here’s an off-the-wall rule: one troll, one response (DNFTT is arguably superior, but let’s be real).

    Absolutely not. And Don’t Feed the Trolls is bad fucking science, and it has been debunked over and over and over again. Here’s a bit of reading: http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/02/28/dont-feed-the-trolls-is-bad-science/

    A couple more points: Over the years we’ve been doing this, we have had people show up specifically to thank us for opening their eyes on one issue or another. A lot of what we do isn’t just for the other regulars or people in the midst of a discussion. It’s for all those reading, who rarely post.

    Every single voice is different, and they are all needed. People have different approaches to problems, or ideas, some people have resources others don’t, and so on. The way one person makes a point may get through, where two dozen other people making the same point didn’t.

  219. roxie says

    @ 236 piegasm: There are these things known as facts, roxie. They are the opposite of opinions.

    The problem is in who is declaring their opinion a “fact”.

    “Stop it”

    Why do want to shut me down? Who gives you the right to tell me what to do?

  220. A. R says

    Caine: I’ve never particularly trusted you. But that doesn’t mean that I would question PZ’s decision to make you a monitor. That his decision, because this is his blog. And for the record, I’ve made it clear that I would not object to PZ deciding to de-monitor me. Also, please note that I sent the alert out on myself.

  221. Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion says

    @roxie

    Of course opinions aren’t facts, opinions based on observable reality and evidence are, however, factual. That’s what we’re talking about, not just random opinion VS opinion. We actively reject pitting unevidenced opinions against each other, we ask for evidence. In addition, we don’t tend to agree with the saying that everyone is entitled to their opinion. You’re entitled to what you can back up with good arguments and evidence.

    Nobody is shutting you down, we’re asking what you actually object to. If it’s just tone, then you will have problems here. This is a rude blog, because people with bigoted opinions hide behind civility in order to perpetuate their horrible ideas. They will not listen to polite conversation. We shout because we have to in order to be heard.

    If you disagree, that’s fine, but don’t expect the commentariat here to change. We’re not rude because we like it, we’re rude because it’s the only way for the discourse to be effective.

  222. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Roxie’s well past the 3 post rule and derailing pretty insistently. Monitors?

  223. piegasm says

    @241 roxie

    How awful and unfair of me to want someone to stop being a disingenuous shitwit all over the place.

    Speaking of childish taunting:

    Who gives you the right to tell me what to do?

    “You’re not the boss of me! Nyah!” Really?

  224. triamacleod says

    I’ve seen something in the last few posts. Is there any standing rule(s) regarding the “me, me, me” commentor? There seems to be one or two commentors who take everything that is said and insist that ‘they alone’ know the truth, everyone else is just trying to silence them and anyone who dares call them out is being a poopy head and isn’t worthy to bask in their brilliance. (hyperbole, but I hope it gets my point across) And I can see other posters increasingly becoming annoyed by this as the thread progresses.

    Would this fall under the fair commenting policy? Under the three post before you gnaw on their bones policy? Or is dog-pile fair game at this point? I am assuming they wouldn’t qualify for banning or moderation as they are annoying, but nothing more. I lurk here constantly and I am unsure of the rules for this behavior, so I am guessing that I am not alone in my confusion.

  225. Muz says

    Discussion of the very matters that tend to plague any discussion of comments around here can’t really be called derailing in a thread about commenting rules can it?

  226. roxie says

    @ 241 Caine: And Don’t Feed the Trolls is bad fucking science…

    The concept isn’t a scientific one in the first place, but the problem I see with it is the labelling of commenters who disagree as trolls, rather than as prople who have a different opinion and responding (or not responding even) accordingly.

  227. MadHatter says

    I’m mostly a lurker and I have been since Sciblogs. Honestly though I didn’t bother with the comments much until the social justice topics started coming up. And while I don’t comment (I gave up on that when I left forums ages ago) I have learned a lot by reading.

    I have particularly learned to catch those insincere arguments, JAQing off and MRA talking points that I had previously tried to argue with assuming they were in good faith (in meatspace). The fact that the commentariat here rips those apart, usually with very pointed and logical responses has been very valuable.

    I don’t read the -dome or the Lounge though. Not being a regular commenter I don’t feel like I can jump into the Lounge, and I’ve no interest in the free-for-all of the dome.

    I would agree that I see a dog-pile happen perhaps too often. When that happens I sometimes give up reading because the first person or three has taken apart the comment, and the rest provide nothing new. But I don’t see rules that could effectively handle that. Part of that is limits on the blog software.

    Last thoughts regarding moderators. I used to participate in a number of forums way back when, and I watched several go down in flames due to in-group/out-group wars that the moderators were involved in. Most also had some abuse, by the moderators, of the user information they had. On forums where moderators access is limited (typically) it was bad enough. I wouldn’t trust it here, where there are fewer limits once moderators have the keys.

  228. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Discussion of the very matters that tend to plague any discussion of comments around here can’t really be called derailing in a thread about commenting rules can it?

    Bad-faith attempts to prevent discussion while maintaining a thin veneer of plausible deniability must be.

  229. roxie says

    @ 244 Azkyroth Roxie’s well past the 3 post rule and derailing pretty insistently. Monitors?

    What?? I am totally on topic.

  230. A. R says

    roxie: Your pattern of behaviour is one we recognize as one used to derail the discussion of the development of new rules in this context. It has been seen before on far too many occasions from tone trolls.

  231. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    What?? I am totally on topic.

    I have a different opinion about that.

  232. Muz says

    Askyroth
    “Bad-faith attempts to prevent discussion while maintaining a thin veneer of plausible deniability must be.”

    I don’t see any evidence of this. I see a poor arguer flailing around. This requires the calling the cops?
    (as an aside, in the twitter/phone age three posts is never going to be enough the way people talk these days. What went into one now takes ten. Sad but true)

  233. bad Jim says

    Piegasm: you’re right, but it’s still 5 to 1, and most likely we’re already familiar with the issues. I still think we’d be better off taking turns. There are other things we could talk about in the meantime.

    When I check out Pharyngula and find that something has collected hundreds of comments I start at the bottom and work backwards, and it usually takes considerable work to find the proximate provocation. The volume of complaints suggests that a need is being filled and voices otherwise silent are being expressed.

    The entertainment appeal of an unvarying pitch is slight, of course: been there, done that. Of course, if you’re stuck in a plight you can’t very well vary your plaint because there’s one thing that needs to be fixed.

    Nevertheless, it’s pointless to preach to the congregation. Don’t be the tenth in line to fulminate against Satan.

  234. John Morales says

    [meta]

    roxie, Leaving aside that your few contentions about the commentariat are spurious (yes, there are false positives, and yes people get told to fuck off — but to intimate is the rule is ridiculous), I note that since your entire corpus here constitutes complaints about the nature of the commentariat rather than discussing commenting rules, you have yet to be on topic.

    The only way you’re advanced the discussion is to demonstrate the kind of commenter who merely adds noise.

  235. piegasm says

    Muz:

    I don’t see any evidence of this.

    Since roxie arrived here, they’ve repeatedly equivocated ‘opinion’ and ‘differing views, etc. with ‘demonstrable facts.’ “Everyone who disagrees is a labeled a troll” boo hoo frickety hoo as if there is absolutely nothing which is not simply a matter of personal preference and every opinion that gets spouted should be entertained and dealt with as if it’s viable no matter how many times it’s been refuted in the past. This is not poor argumentation; it’s bad faith argumentation.

  236. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Oh, and since the Horde is all about backing up opinions with facts:

    1) you’re repeating tired old complaints which have been substantially addressed, when raised by other posters and preemptively, in this very thread, at length, repeatedly, and have engaged with that addressing basically not at all.
    2) you’re repeating the trivially and egregiously false claim that people are branded trolls for “merely disagreeing.”

  237. Pen says

    Hold the ‘skeptical approach to anger management and expression, it’s benefits and pitfalls’ discussion. And do it more like Greta or even stricter. One comment per person, you express your opinion, you leave everyone else alone no matter how much you hate their view.

    I say this because I think you have a problem of atmosphere that can’t be fixed by rules. The community has to voluntarily evolve, just as it voluntarily evolved into this state.

    Reconsider whether it’s a good idea to let people use a blog’s comment thread as though it were a forum. Nothing is easier than to set up an actual forum. How it would work out under current conditions is another matter.

  238. Muz says

    piegasm @258

    Fallacious reasoning isn’t bad faith its just bad. Positing dishonesty or ill will here is a speculative stretch (unless we’re talking about things beyond this thread I know nothing of). People often use “tone troll” arguments because they actually believe them. Doesn’t make them valid of course.

    I submit that in a thread spurred by the departure of one blogger, in part because of the ‘tone’, there is more on the table than simply the rules. What spurred the discussion is more than rules. No law is applied or interpreted (well) without a look at why it came to be.

    We’re not seriously going to do the thing where a minorly annoying poster gets into a tangle with five or ten people, won’t back down and gets kicked off for essentially ‘disturbing the peace’ are we?
    They can be wrong and even mildly irritating and the joint doesn’t.doesn’t have to be reactionary.

  239. Gen, Uppity Ingrate. says

    I strongly agree with

    * Bringing fights that have did not start in the comments section of this blog … should be against the rules.

    * Relatedly, it should also be against the rules to post information that people have posted on outside social media profiles.

    * Carrying grudges across threads

    That is in our current situation what is most important, I think. If there’s a grudge, take it to the Thunderdome I’d say. If you even *want* to address it or have it be addressed in the first place.

    More genrally,

    (paraphrasing) Mods that have full admin rights (up to where you, PZ, of course are comfortable with obviously) to be elected and rotated as necessary

    I strongly feel that this is an important thing to consider seriously – but with this, it will make auto-disallowing disposable email sites less of a viable option IMO(1).

    Even if you can only give the mods a different colour text to post when they post modly things like “stop doing that” or “remember, 3 posts”, that will already be a huge step forward.

    (1)I personally do not have an issue with the mods having my IP/e-mail address, but I’m thinking that if there are people who do, having the option of making a disposable email account for this purpose would be helpful.

    Further, I also think the following are great ideas:

    * A Pharyngulorum! I’ve thought about suggesting one in the Stunned Silent thread, for Horde group therapy kind of purposes. Also, forums are just so much easier to navigate than blog threads.

    * Introduction/101-level thread to join the Lounge and the Thunderdome (as they currently exist) (or then stickied in the forum)

    * Variable moderation levels and flags for threads, which could be posted in the OP

    * A general “Dead Horse Arguments, think of the pretty horsies please” page to link to when someone starts what looks like JAQing off, with a reminder on what’s expected to be controversial threads to read the Dead Horse page *before* commenting.

    * An option to flag comments for moderators to review with one flag being usable at a time as suggested in 121 by eigenperson – and then the comment can no longer be flagged, so that the same comment isn’t flagged by All the Horde.

    * Three-post rule to become the expected norm enforced by the whole community on each other – in threads that are not marked as heavily moderated/triggering threads.

    For those threads that are not so explosive, people who seem like vile apologists of whatever gist from their first post, you can always first refer them to the dead horse thread, and after their second response again refer them plus warn what’s about to happen, and then from after their third post you can tear apart all their posts, from first to last, viciously.

    I agree that it’s the no-holds barred thrashing of bigots that make this place safe.

    *Time-outs instead of outright bans for some (familiar) commenters who are not absolute jackasses or vile (thinking of Ace of Sevens)

    Please NO, thank you to the following (besides rating and editing, which you’ve said are off the table:
    * Purging of comments after a time interval – please, please, please don’t do that.

    * Changing nyms / whatever wtfwhatever was on about exactly about peole’s ‘nyms. I’ve built an identity I can be proud of around this ‘nym, as have many others

    * The tone trolling suggestions I see in this thread i.e.: don’t be so ruuuuuude, don’t swear so muuuuuuch,

    * Nesting. Nesting is what birds do. And the devil.

    *****

    On a side note: A. R. from where I’m sitting, having followed all of this past week’s posts and meltdowns, you are dragging another thread’s beef into this one and I’d appreciate it if you could wait until the Thunderdome is opened again to discuss it there.

  240. piegasm says

    @261 Muz

    Repeatedly deploying the same fallacy after it’s been pointed out to you multiple times is not just bad; it’s bad faith.

  241. John Morales says

    Muz:

    I submit that in a thread spurred by the departure of one blogger, in part because of the ‘tone’, there is more on the table than simply the rules.

    Perhaps, but the OP is rather explicit: “I don’t quite know how to fix everything, so let’s crowdsource it — you people leave comments here telling me what rules you think might work to get the knifey-bitey-smashy atmosphere to lighten up a little.”

    We’re not seriously going to do the thing where a minorly annoying poster gets into a tangle with five or ten people, won’t back down and gets kicked off for essentially ‘disturbing the peace’ are we?

    Given PZ is the only one who can ban, you’re effectively suggesting those five or ten people should tolerate such an annoying poster rather than tangle with them and so disturb the peace.

    (I think your treatment would worse than the malady)

  242. bad Jim says

    Caine, trolls aren’t little kids, and your link was beside the point. Harrumph.

    Back before the glorious invasion of Iraq I lost entire nights quarreling with trolls. I’ve forgotten the taxonomies of the trolls we had then.

    However, back then, I didn’t pick fights with anyone who was within hailing distance of my side. Do we, now, have the luxury of choosing our allies? We ought to be recruiting. It should be our job to be attractive.

    (I’m not suggesting excusing predatory behavior, or sexism of any variety, and in criticizing the predatory behavior of the Horde I’m not unmindful of the hateful nature of the provocation to which it’s subjected.)

    Let’s consider the sort of place we’d all like the best, and see what we can do to bring it about. So long as no one considers the current state of affairs optimal, there’s progress to be made.

  243. Gen, Uppity Ingrate. says

    A.R., I apologize unreservedly. I didn’t see your 139. I’m reading the thread on the iPad so I can smoke while reading outside, and then come in to the PC to post so I missed it. Please to disregard what I said, then.

  244. Gen, Uppity Ingrate. says

    However, back then, I didn’t pick fights with anyone who was within hailing distance of my side. Do we, now, have the luxury of choosing our allies? We ought to be recruiting. It should be our job to be attractive.

    I don’t agree. Like I said earlier, and Sophia said in 171 already, I think that what makes the community safe is the ability to witness (or participate) in no-holds-barred evisceration of bigotry. I do think that we as a community should heed the 3-post rule more carefully, in threads that are not to be heavily moderated or triggery.

  245. says

    This is probably hopelessly naive in the sense that one can’t expect everyone to follow it, but wouldn’t many of the problems of drive-by trolls and the like be solved without affecting the atmosphere of comment threads in general by encouraging a culture of simply not responding?

  246. okstop says

    Hi, PZ –

    I’ve commented a few times here and there, though I’m hardly a regular. I love the blog. I try to read the comment threads sometimes, often in hopes of participating, because there are a lot of great people who come here and they say a lot of insightful, interesting, and even amusing things, and I want to get in there and enjoy some fellowship with those folks. But I also see the knifey-bitey-stabby thing a lot, too, and, like you, I’d like to see that change. Now, I’m hardly an expert, but since reasoned debate in person and in print is the beginning and end of the method in my field (philosophy), I hope that I’ll have something useful to say on the issue, which is, after all, just basically one of how to get the conversation back to being somewhat civil.

    So, first, let me make the following observation: in all this – and pardon me if I’ve missed it (see below on that issue) – what I haven’t seen is a discussion of the purpose of the comment threads. Now, this may seem a bit obtuse, but surely some explicit conversation about the purpose of the threads must take place before any discussion of rules can be usefully initiated? What are they there for? If we take the common name at face value, and they’re just there for people to “comment,” well that doesn’t imply that any useful discussion will necessarily take place except as a by-product of the primary activity – commenting.

    A “comment” can be almost anything, and I think the colloquial understanding of a comment is that it’s not something that is chock full of substantive content, but rather pitched more on an emotional level. A quip. A remark. A retort. A rejoiner. These are all kinds of “comments.” To be sure, a “comment” can be substantive, but I don’t think that is at all the dominant mode.

    I’m not doing an exegesis on the word “comment” as a sort of parody of moronic pseudo-philosophy such as Derrida’s work, but rather just to point out that something needs to be said about whether the threads are there for people to drop by and leave their reactions, responses, naive impressions, free associations, and whatnot, which may include substantive comments, even those directed at other comments, rather than the OP or if they are there for productive discussion of the topic raised in the original post and any cognate topics. The rules needed for each end will differ greatly.

    Analytic philosophy is dedicated to resolving difficult questions through rigorous analysis in the form of extended conversations, so I think some of the norms of my discipline will make for a useful model if the goal is to foster productive discussion. In analytic philosophy, there are certain rules one must adhere to when engaging with any interlocutor – departing from these will result in social censure (though since these rules are enforced by the group, and not one person, there’s always the sad fact that people of high status can often get away with flouting them to some degree). Three rules that seem especially salient here are these: (1) state your case precisely and without hyperbole, sarcasm, or vagaries such as “you know what I mean”; (2) assume the “least crazy” interpretation available of your interlocutor’s position (the principle of charity); and (3) state in detail the position you believe you are responding to, so that your interlocutor can object with a clarification if you have gotten some detail wrong. These are just the ones that need to be stated; obviously, stuff like death threats, cursing at people, ad hominem attacks, and so on are all completely beyond the pale, which hardly needs be mentioned. If the goal is to promote substantive, productive discussion of issues, then any violation of any of these three should result in a suspension, possibly leading to a permanent banning.

    Now, if that sounds draconian, that’s because it is. The kind of rules you need to get substantive, productive discussion of the very difficult and challenging issues raised on the blog is NOTHING AT ALL like the kind of “rules” that apply to social conversation. But social conversation is not going to yield substantive, productive analysis of tough issues, nor is absolute propriety guaranteed in such an endeavor. Now, there are “in-between” levels of rigor applied; consider a beery discussion of politics among friends, in which they feel free to hold each other to various points and locutions, but only so far, and certainly not to the standard set out in analytic philosophy. However, the various “in-between” levels of rigor applied to conversations about ideas and issues are usually only workable with groups of people who already know each other and understand the implicit boundaries of the conversation – when to pull back from a point, when not to press, when to throw up one’s hands, etc. Even once to take away the trolls, one of the biggest problems in many of the threads is that various people come into them with mismatched expectations about the goal of the thread (mere conversation v. productive analysis, for instance) and with mismatched ideas about the norms of conversation. It’s because of this that perfectly well-meaning people who all want to talk about an issue can produce, in short order, a mean-spirited cluster-fuck.

    Rules like “be polite” or “no trolling” or even the “three post” rule are in the right spirit but not well-formed for generating productive discussion. As someone whose job it is to ride herd on a bunch of eighteen year olds trying to debate the ethics of abortion, I can tell you that the rules have to be specific, simple, and rigidly enforced. But the really unfortunate part of this particular scenario is that even if you were to enforce such rules, which would take a great deal of moderator oversight, I can say, you still wouldn’t wind up with any kind of really productive discourse, for one simple reason: it’s just too big.

    A conversation with too many people becomes unwieldy. You just can’t have three hundred people discussing a serious issue at once – no one can keep up with what anyone is saying. This applies to comment threads, too; even dedicated individuals can have trouble catching up on a comment thread that has exploded to three hundred entries within an hour of the OP going up. And this can be deadly, as posting on some issue that someone (call this person X) has addressed already without having noticed X’s post (out of 300+, now!) can get someone flamed. To the extent that any useful conversation goes on in such huge threads, it’s between a relatively few people and within a relatively small timeframe (relative to the overall timeframe of the thread, whatever that is) – any reply that gets too far out of the “magic window” is likely to get lost.

    In other words, even if you imposed rules that would take a huge amount of moderator oversight to administer, I’m not sure you’d get substantive discussion, because the groups are just too big for it. If, on the other hand, you aren’t trying to foster substantive discussion, that only leaves (as near as I can see – I’m not claiming that there CAN BE only those two options) “commenting” as the purpose of the threads. But without a moderation policy that amounts essentially to “I’ll delete anything that doesn’t sit well with me,” a thread that is just for “commenting” can hardly be moderated usefully at all, as the concept of “the comment” is broad enough as to make developing a moderation rubric difficult.

    (Side note: I, for one, have enough faith in your judgment that if the policy WAS “delete whatever doesn’t sit right with PZ,” I’d be okay with that, but then, if your judgment turned sour, it’d be hard to detect, wouldn’t it?)

    I despair of comment threads ever being able to produce a very high level of discourse, except occasionally and by accident. I think perhaps the medium is just ill-suited to it. In any case, though, if there were one easy-to-implement rule that I think could be usefully implemented for any place other than specifically marked social forums (Thunderdome and the other one, the nice one – I forget the name), I would say “you can’t talk about anyone in the thread specifically, and if you talk about anyone at all, you can make on descriptive (and not evaluative) statements.” That is, I can’t discuss X himself. I can mention his name when I say I’ll be discussing his position, his arguments, whatever, but if I say anything specifically about X, I’m out. Likewise, if Y is not a commenter in the thread, but, say, someone talked about in the OP, I’m allowed to make descriptive statements about Y, but I am not allowed to make any evaluative statements about Y specifically. Good or bad, praise or condemnation, in jest or in earnest – no talking directly about other commenters. Period.

    That’s my suggestion.

  247. piegasm says

    @2265 bad Jim

    It should be our job to be attractive.

    I want you to take a moment and consider the implications of this sentence. The people to whom this place is unattractive are those who carry around a lot of bigoted, wrongheaded ideas about how the world works and dislike seeing people called down sharply for expressing those views. Some of those people mean well and are willing to learn, others are actively seeking to harm. The two are often indistinguishable. When you accommodate for the benefit of the former, you also make things easier for the latter. And that’s exactly the point. The regulars here know they’re going to get false positives re: who is a troll and that some well-meaning people will be driven away. However, the cost of erring in the other direction is that actual trolls are given far too much license to do real harm.

  248. says

    “The people to whom this place is unattractive are those who carry around a lot of bigoted, wrongheaded ideas about how the world works”

    I don’t agree. Or ‘That’s fucking bullshit’ to use the normal parlance of this blog. You genuinely think there are no non-bigoted people who just get turned off by the general atmosphere, the ‘It’s a witch, burn them!’ quickness to assume the worst of any newbie poster?

  249. Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion says

    @andrewryan
    Did you stop reading comment @270 after that sentence?

    Some of those people mean well and are willing to learn, others are actively seeking to harm. The two are often indistinguishable.

    The regulars here know they’re going to get false positives re: who is a troll and that some well-meaning people will be driven away. However, the cost of erring in the other direction is that actual trolls are given far too much license to do real harm.

  250. Olav says

    WordPress sucks for what you are trying to do. I mean it is a fine weblog/journal platform but it does not support managing discussions very well at all. You will always have problems as long as you try to shoehorn your hundreds (thousands?) of participants into the WordPress comment “system”.

    Frankly it’s ridiculous to limit yourself to using WordPress. The well known PHP-based forums offer more and better controls to assist in moderating and enforcing. They are not that hard to set up, but you would have to know what you are doing. You also (as a site owner) would have to learn how to use them and how to administer them effectively.

    Names to remember are PHPBB, vBulletin, SimpleMachines. Others may be worthwhile if you have the expertise. I do not have as much faith in WordPress plugin solutions, except to function as a bridge from weblog to forum. Get someone onboard who knows what they are doing before making a decision.

  251. roxie says

    @ 270 piegasm However, the cost of erring in the other direction is that actual trolls are given far too much license to do real harm.

    What would be an example of “real harm”? If someone is so prone to psychological or other damage from comments on a blog from someone they don’t know then maybe they shouldn’t be posting there. I’m curious.

  252. piegasm says

    @272 andrewryan

    You genuinely think there are no non-bigoted people who just get turned off by the general atmosphere, the ‘It’s a witch, burn them!’ quickness to assume the worst of any newbie poster?

    I would go so far as to dispute the notion that there is even such a thing as a non-bigoted person in our culture. Some people are willing to update their opinions as new information becomes available and some people are further along in that process than others but nobody can honestly claim to be not at all bigoted. So the short answer to your literal question is “yes, I genuinely think that.” The answer to the question I think you actually meant is answered in the post you apparently stopped reading after the line you quoted.

  253. davehooke says

    @149,

    Absolute prohibition on invitations to self-harm and offers to assault others.

    This is in place, very strongly, as a self-policing rule. We don’t tolerate it among ourselves.

    Yes, I know that eventually people started to speak out against such comments.

    Would you not want to see it as a commenting rule?

  254. piegasm says

    @275 roxie

    What would be an example of “real harm”? If someone is so prone to psychological or other damage from comments on a blog from someone they don’t know then maybe they shouldn’t be posting there. I’m curious.

    Real would include, but not be limited to, rape survivors being triggered by certain words, phrases and attitudes. Your suggestion that someone who is emotionally fragile ought to just cut themselves off from what may well be their only source of comfort and support just to spare fucking assholes like you the inconvenience of considering the feelings of people who aren’t them is completely fucking reprehensible.

  255. roxie says

    Gee, I actually agree with you to some degree piegasm, thank so much for informing the reprehensible fucking asshole that I apparently am of that.

  256. cubist says

    sez skimble: “This is probably hopelessly naive in the sense that one can’t expect everyone to follow it, but wouldn’t many of the problems of drive-by trolls and the like be solved without affecting the atmosphere of comment threads in general by encouraging a culture of simply not responding?”
    No,”a culture of not responding” would not be a solution to the problems you mention. Whether you recognize it or not, you’re pretty much suggesting that Do Not Feed The Trolls is the Right Way™ to respond to trolls—and it isn’t. It really, really isn’t. At ‘best’, a policy of DNFTT might let you achieve what the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. referred to as “a negative peace which is the absence of tension”; at worst, you’ll grant de facto control of your blog/forum/whatever to the trolls that you “aren’t feeding”. See this post for further explanation.
    Speaking of King, I think you might want to read his Letter From a Birmingham Jail, and reflect on the parallels between the situation King & co. were trying to address, and the situation PZ & co. are trying to address.

  257. says

    Piegasm, I think the real harm Roxie was referring to was that being caused by the actual trolls, not real harm being caused by fucking assholes like her not considering other people’s feelings.

    You said that it’s worth posters risking turning off well-meaning posters (the false-positive trolls) in order to ensure that genuine trolls are turned off, as there was a risk that the latter might cause harm.

    Roxie asked for an example of real harm, you replied with the example of a rape survivor. Roxie wasn’t suggesting she shouldn’t bother considering who SHE might be harming, she was asking who the trolls might be hurting.

    However, isn’t there a chance that one of those rape survivors might be one of your ‘false positives’, one of the people who are piled on, told they’re a fucking asshole etc? And telling someone to be aware they may be using “certain words, phrases and attitudes” that could trigger a rape survivor sounds quite similar to what gets called ‘tone trolling’ on this board.

  258. says

    CaitieCat #127: Is it possible, do we know, for a given thread to be set to “default sent to moderation for newbies”?

    WordPress has a default setting, of which I am a huge fan on all the blogs I moderate, whereby all new commentors on all/any threads are placed into the moderation queue until a moderator has approved at least one of their comments. After that they may comment freely. WordPress designates any change in nym, email, website or IP address as a new commentor, so it does occasionally catch old commentors whose ISP switches them to a new IP number, but that’s not entirely a bad thing. One thing I have noticed over the years is that a significant portion of new nyms are transparently sockpuppets or obvious banned nyms trying on morphs, and such comments can just be disapparated behind the scenes, and eventually that does discourage (nearly all of) them, which is nice.

    There is also a plugin which allows for particular threads to be placed into full moderation, which I most commonly use on Feministe to lock down threads where arsehats are being triggering, but I also sometimes use it on Aussie poliblog Larvatus Prodeo to cut down excessive stoush.

    Both these options are fairly scalable across a site with a database as huge as Pharyngula’s, which is another consideration for user performance. Some of the finickier tools suggested would be a nightmare in terms of required processing cycles before loading a thread, let alone for publishing a comment on one.

    * * *

    Various people have suggested some 101 linkfest and/or FAQ pages – these can be done as posts with distinct archive tags added to these posts (“101″, “FAQ”) and then links to those archive tags (e.g. freethoughtblogs.pharyngula/tag/faq) can be added to the sidebar (and/or in the top nav) to make it easier to find them.

    * * *

    An obscure yet distinctive phrase used as a bat-signal to the moderator(s) and to the commentariat at large that something hinky is going on has proven useful on some other blogs/journals e.g. “Miss Bennet disapproves”, “We need a giraffe here”. It has to be paired with a willingness to ban any commentor who tries to game it, but since that’s mostly just a time-saver, it seems like a feature rather than a bug.

  259. roxie says

    Are there any people though who view the comments section of Pharyngula as their “only source of comfort and support”? Surely there are safe space rape survivor forums for people who are in that situation. I thought this was an atheist blog, not a rape survivor blog.

  260. piegasm says

    @280 roxie

    Agree with what? That being triggered counts as “real harm?” Or that suggesting someone give up possibly their only means of support for the benefit of your convenience is reprehensible? If you agree that’s reprehensible, I’m not sure why you’d have a problem with being called an asshole for suggesting it.

  261. scimaths says

    Suggestions (some already made by others I know):

    1) A 101 section/links page to send those who are asking the same old questions … “but why don’t rape victims just go to the police” .. and similar. This will save the regulars a lot of stress and burnout. It will make the threads easier for everyone.

    2) A self care or “time out” section/links page. There are difficult things being discussed here. People need resources to deal with that.(could be anything from pages on basic emotional or anger or PTSD management strategies or links to support organisations or cute bunny videos)

    3) A much heavier moderation in threads where abuse victims are sharing their personal experiences. Zero tolerance for rape apologia. A recognition that the safe space for the abuse victims takes priority in those threads.

  262. roxie says

    Ok, I’m trying to understand what this tone troll concept is really about. Does it mean if I’m for instance called a “fucking asshole” by a commenter that disagrees with me, then I can reply in kind and that’s ok?

  263. Nick Gotts says

    John Morales@194,

    Your list of monitors has one error, because I’ve changed my nym (back) from KG to my meatspace name, Nick Gotts (for quite a long time I was “Nick Gotts (formerly KG)”, but there will be plenty of people who don’t know this). I agree that a list of monitors, prominently displayed, would be useful, or monitors could be asked to add (monitor) to their nym. I haven’t finished reading the thread yet, so I’ll just note a couple of personal points about monitoring here:
    1) I’ve very rarely sent an alert to PZ without at least one other person asking for an alert to be sent.
    2) The original idea was for monitors to be rotated, and I’d be quite happy to be rotated out, but OTOH, don’t mind continuing.
    3) I’d be happy for my name and email to be available in the sidebar.

  264. Maureen Brian says

    I would like two small rules.

    1. If you hurt someone inadvertently – could be unfamiliarity with a word, thinking in a different language, just clumsy phrasing – the only thing you need to do is apologise. Do it sincerely. Do it succinctly and then leave that detail alone. Walls of text in self-justification will identify you as a troll and you will be treated accordingly.

    2. Citizens of the United States of America are kindly reminded that there are another 200+ countries on the planet. The ability to distinguish between the parochial, the local and the universal when making (e.g. legal) statements is a skill to be cultivated on an international blog.

  265. says

    Pharyngula has always been, by PZ’s preference, a rude blog. Insults and obscenities merely emphasise the strength of disagreement (and contrary to common misunderstandings, insults alone do not constitute the ad hominem fallacy).

    Now, while plain insults are part of the zeitgeist here, marginalising slurs are *not* acceptable in this space. If you don’t know the difference between a marginalising slur and an obscene insult, then you probably don’t belong here until you’ve gone away and learned wht the distinctions are.

  266. piegasm says

    Roxie asked for an example of real harm, you replied with the example of a rape survivor. Roxie wasn’t suggesting she shouldn’t bother considering who SHE might be harming, she was asking who the trolls might be hurting.

    That is who the trolls might be hurting. Or anyone else victimized by whatever bigotry a troll might be advocating (even if unwittingly). Or the people who are convinced by superficially impressive arguments made by trolls who then spread that misinformation to people who act on it and cause harm. And so on.

    However, isn’t there a chance that one of those rape survivors might be one of your ‘false positives’, one of the people who are piled on, told they’re a fucking asshole etc?

    Yes I’ve seen that happen. I’ve seen situations where something that is helpful to one person is triggering to someone else. It’s a problem and I don’t know if anyone has a good answer for it.

    And telling someone to be aware they may be using “certain words, phrases and attitudes” that could trigger a rape survivor sounds quite similar to what gets called ‘tone trolling’ on this board.

    Then you don’t understand what tone trolling is. Tone trolling is ignoring the substance of an argument in favor of complaining about the particular words you use to make it. It’s fallacious and it’s a silencing tactic.

    @284 roxie

    Are there any people though who view the comments section of Pharyngula as their “only source of comfort and support”? Surely there are safe space rape survivor forums for people who are in that situation. I thought this was an atheist blog, not a rape survivor blog.

    I’ve seen quite a number of people say that they’ve shared things at Pharyngula that they’ve never dared talk about elsewhere. And you’re still suggesting that they should cut themselves off from this space to spare people like you the inconvenience of worrying about the effect of your words on them.

    Re: the purpose of this blog: I think PZ has made it quite clear that he wants this to be a safe space for rape survivors so I really have no shits to give about what you thought it was for.

  267. cubist says

    sez andrewryan: “Piegasm, I think the real harm Roxie was referring to was that being caused by the actual trolls, not real harm being caused by fucking assholes like her not considering other people’s feelings.”
    And I think the distinction you’re attempting to draw, here, is the very model of a ‘distinction without a difference’.
    What percentage of “actual trolls” do you believe to not be “fucking assholes”? And vice versa?
    What percentage of “actual trolls” do you believe to not exhibit the quality of “not considering other people’s feelings”? And vice versa?
    If you drew a Venn diagram of the set of “actual trolls” and the set of “fucking assholes [who don't] consider… other people’s feelings”, to what degree would that Venn diagram differ from a single circle?
    It is entirely possible that anti-troll measures may, indeed, also have negative consequences with respect to fucking assholes who don’t consider other people’s feelings. This is a problem? Personally, I have difficulty in seeing the downside to that particular side-effect of anti-troll measures, for values of ‘have difficulty in seeing’ which include ‘strongly doubt the existence of’.

  268. John Morales says

    [meta]

    roxie:

    If someone is so prone to psychological or other damage from comments on a blog from someone they don’t know then maybe they shouldn’t be posting there.

    And if someone cordially dislikes the tenor of comments on a blog from someone they don’t know, then maybe they shouldn’t be posting there.

    (You obviously like posting here, since you’ve made nine comments so far)

    [1] Are there any people though who view the comments section of Pharyngula as their “only source of comfort and support”? [2] Surely there are safe space rape survivor forums for people who are in that situation. I thought this was an atheist blog, not a rape survivor blog.

    1. Did you miss comment #171? What about #262?

    2. Leaving aside your false dichotomy, it’s PZ’s soapbox, not a dedicated topical blog.

    (Make that ten comments you’ve made)

    However, isn’t there a chance that one of those rape survivors might be one of your ‘false positives’, one of the people who are piled on, told they’re a fucking asshole etc?

    There’s always a chance, but “the proof is in the pudding” as a recent thread has demonstrated.

    Nick @288, I copy-pasted via WaybackMachine.

  269. piegasm says

    Ok, I’m trying to understand what this tone troll concept is really about. Does it mean if I’m for instance called a “fucking asshole” by a commenter that disagrees with me, then I can reply in kind and that’s ok?

    Assuming you’re not just calling someone a fucking asshole, yes. If you were to say something like: “I disagree with what you just said because [reasons], you fucking asshole” I’d be very surprised to see a regular fail to address the substance of your statement in favor of complaining about being called a fucking asshole.

  270. davehooke says

    @ Portia,

    Oh. I missed the August post. Just seen it. Threats of violence is now a rule. I misunderstood what you meant by “self-policing rule.”

  271. marinerachel says

    I feel like a very large contingent of the regular commentariat is on a hair-trigger and understandably so. The default position seems to be “Noobs are engaging in bad faith”. Maybe it’s accurate. I honestly don’t know. I’ve received disproportionately toxic responses to what regulars have THOUGHT I said based on their misunderstandings of my posts though. I’ve also received apologies when this is the case, which is terrific. It only goes so far after you engaged in good faith and were promptly shit on for something you didn’t do though. I think that’s where much of the “bad reputation” comes from.

    In addition to being on a hair-trigger, some posters are definitely accustomed to responding to bad behaviour, perceived or legit, without holding back whatsoever. This makes for the appearance the commentariat is far nastier than the noobs who leave plum stupid posts and get absolutely throttled from several different directions in response.

    There’s also a very visible “in group” who know and trust one another and are more generous and willing to give the benefit of the doubt to one another here than they are towards noobs. I think it puts noobs off trying to break through that wall and become part of this community. I don’t think this is an issue remotely unique to Pharyngula though. I think it’s an issue in almost every social setting where the membership meets up semi-regularly and the regulars get cozy.

    Don’t know what can be done about any of that. They’re just observations of mine. Pharyngula is faaaaaar from the bad end of commenting sections on the internet and nothing I see that’s wrong with this place isn’t also a challenge in other settings where there are somewhat high expectations of people who come to post. Lightening up an eensy weensy bit could do wonders though.

    Another thing – I’ve seen discussions over on manboobz about some of their postsers’ unwillingness to participate here. They’re a good crew but their atheist contingent seems largely unwilling to partake in Pharyngula for cultural reasons. I wonder what they could tell us.

  272. Gen, Uppity Ingrate. says

    Roxie, I view this commentariat as one of my only sources of support. I’m severely introverted to verging on anti-social, and mental health care just isn’t set up to deal with people so low on the gregariousness scale as I am and tend to then do more harm than good for someone like me.

    So yeah, now you do know someone who finds this place invaluable to the point of literally having saved my life a few times.

  273. playonwords says

    My idea for what it is worth.

    Panda’s Thumb style added message board with moderators and admin possibly linked to a comment limit per post in the blog itself. Advantages would include:
    an end to the dense, overlong comment lists on controversial subjects;
    a more rapid response to JAQs and trolls on the MB;
    constant access to debunking and facts to respond to those same JAQs and trolls.

    Some mechanisms:
    Logins to be constant across both blog and MB
    Permalinking to comments on both the blog and the MB;
    PZ’s posts becoming the lead OP on their own threads;
    Blog post comments shut within 2 weeks (or earlier for complex or over trolled threads) the with a link to the appropriate MB thread added.

    One of the possible disadvantages, it would drive down WordPress’s page hits …

  274. Gen, Uppity Ingrate. says

    I wonder what they could tell us.

    marinerachel I’d LOVE to hear from them. Is there some way we can make that happen?

  275. says

    piegasm: “Then you don’t understand what tone trolling is. Tone trolling is ignoring the substance of an argument in favor of complaining about the particular words you use to make it. It’s fallacious and it’s a silencing tactic.”

    So what’s the difference between calling someone out for using “certain words, phrases and attitudes” that could trigger a rape survivor, and “complaining about the particular words you use”? You can say that the crucial difference is in the rest of the latter sentence “… to make [your argument].” But I’ve seen the term ‘tone trolling’ used to describe people who aren’t ignoring an argument, or who are complaining about the way an argument is being put, but are rather complaining about the pointless extra ‘… and you’re a fucking asshole who shouldn’t bother crying to us if you don’t like how we talk here’ insults added in.

    As for ‘silencing tactic’, branding someone a ‘tone troll’ seems to be used precisely as a silencing tactic, and as I’ve already said, it’s used in exactly the same way that ‘you’re being politically correct’ is used by conservatives.

  276. says

    *Working through the comments*

    Maybe what we need are not two open threads (i.e. Lounge and Thunderdome) but three: Lounge (for chitchat), Thunderdome (for fighting) and, um, Cuddly Bunnies (for newbies and 101-level discussion)?

    I think that’s a good idea. It does nothing about mala fide trolls, but can help to seperate them from the clueless ones. Currently they simply get told to take it to Thunderdome where regulars like to sharpen their fangs on them…
    I also liked the idea of having different levels of moderation (in all meanings. Also meaning that there are spaces where you have to be moderate in your reply)

    Infophile
    Sorry, but that sounds like grade-school rules. Do you reallyexpect minorities who just had something vile and dehumanizing flung at them to praise their abuser?

    +++

    Absolute prohibition on invitations to self-harm and offers to assault others.

    Yes, please

    +++
    Kale

    ALL THAT SAID, once upon a time, I’d be willing to bet most of us were people who didn’t get it either.

    This is true, and different approaches work for different people. For me the “why are those nice people shoulting at me” approach was the right one.

    +++
    Hankstar

    The problem with having such things on a blog is that you can’t keep them on the front page of a blog for very long, especially if you post multiple times a day like PZ.

    Well, it can be linked in the sidebar just like the Lounge and TD. And you an send people there if they stumble into a discussion with their 101 questions. That would also be a nice litmus-test: Those actually arguing in good faith and willing to listen would go there. Those who insist on going on can then be dealt with à la fuckwit.
    ++++

    4. Is there a way to nest replies without it looking completely gross? I’d really like to be able to reply to a specific post, or buzz past replies to a specific post if I want to (I really like how Skepchick’s commenting system nests).

    Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
    I find them utterly unreadable

    ++++
    roxie

    Why are you so upset with someone having a different view of things? This is what I don’t understand.

    Well, it could have something to do with the actual views…

  277. Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion says

    The only way that being called out on tone trolling is a silencing tactic is if the tone troll in question has absolutely nothing to say other than complaining about the tone of language other people are using. Tip – if you don’t want to be called a tone troll, engage with the content of the argument, not the tone. No silencing involved!

    That’s literally it.

  278. mildlymagnificent says

    Okay. I’m committing one of the sins I dislike in other posters, I’ve skipped a few dozen comments.

    But ….
    1. I’m a moderator on another forum. I very much doubt that WP would support this, but we only have Like buttons. It gives people feedback when they’ve done a good job and prevents a whole lot of Thanks and Me, too posts from cluttering up the discussion. If someone disagrees with what’s said, they have no option but to give details of their position.

    2. 101 stuff. I’d like to see this as a very terse, checklist style of eternal thread.
    Topic, one line description – pretty blue writing. Next topic – different pretty blue writing.
    The instructions, though, would be different. You must read the post. Then you click on the links for the topics that brought you here. Ask any questions or raise discussion – no need to read the comment thread. That will be different people raising their own issues. PZ occasionally refreshes it like the other eternal threads. The queries will show up in the sidebar recent comments and people will respond to you from that prompt.

    3. Tone.
    a. Ferocity being off-putting. I don’t think so. That dedication to honest plain-speaking, protecting people when they need it, competence in scientific referencing are all reassuring to the lurkers.

    They can just read and enjoy. Or they can wait for their moment to put the toe in the water, maybe for years, and come into a single discussion or into the site as a whole. As Stephanie said, any group that can produce the Stunned silence thread is worthwhile. Even that can be tarnished, but not completely wrecked, by someone doing the wrong thing (no matter who you think the one in the wrong might be) – the discussion continues anyway.

    b. Tone trolling.
    Needs a Topic line with some pretty blue writing in a 101 thread.

    4. More moderators, more rules. All down to PZ – he’s the one who suffers the onslaught of emails and banned posters trying to return. There are probably several people who could be relied on to do a good job. But that’s more an issue for techies and how PZ wants things to continue. Personally I’d give a 3 month trial run of a diversion-to-101-thread or something similar before going to a lot of trouble with the operation or structure of the site itself.

  279. says

    @284 roxie

    Are there any people though who view the comments section of Pharyngula as their “only source of comfort and support”? Surely there are safe space rape survivor forums for people who are in that situation. I thought this was an atheist blog, not a rape survivor blog.

    This blog is whatever PZ (and the commentariat, to an extent) decide it to be. It’s an atheist blog, but that’s not all it is. It’s also a blog which in the last couple of years broadened its focus to social justice and feminism. Partly as a result of that, some of the regulars have formed a community wherein they feel safe talking about their experiences.

    If you object to this place being a safe space for rape survivors, feel free to not visit – or to restrict yourself to threads where rape is not discussed. Or to start your own blog.

    Was that fucking civil enough for you?

  280. DLC says

    Establish a penalty for breaking the rules besides outright banning. The “three posts” rule has been widely ignored of late. It was put there because it’s not always possible to discern someone who’s acting in good faith from someone who wants to passive-aggressively start a fight. There needs to be some penalty. Perhaps limits on the ability to post in times per day per thread ? (I do not know how much work that would be, so I don’t know. ) At worst, a temporary suspension of the ability to post — say, n! days, where n is the number of infractions. Or perhaps n^2 days if you’re feeling generous.
    Don’t promote people to moderators. that way lies madness.
    Does the current system of monitors help or hurt ? Of course that’s all invisible to me, so I can’t tell, but if PZ is comfortable with it then that’s good.
    Have you thought about a topics link cloud ? Some of the other FTB bloggers use them. It would allow people to see what sort of topics you post on here. I dunno if people would bother looking at it if you had one.
    I also agree with the idea of a “links to 101-level info” page. It would make it possible to re-direct some of the questionable questioner set, and to steer those who actually ask out of ignorance.

    Okay. I’ve spent 3 hours on this, and so enough. I probably will not return to this thread at least until sometime late Monday afternoon.

  281. says

    andrewryan #303:

    But I’ve seen the term ‘tone trolling’ used to describe people who aren’t ignoring an argument, or who are complaining about the way an argument is being put, but are rather complaining about the pointless extra ‘… and you’re a fucking asshole who shouldn’t bother crying to us if you don’t like how we talk here’ insults added in.

    Yes, and that would be complaining about the particular words another person is using to make their argument, because the insults are part of the words they are using, and when you’re complaining about the insults you are in fact ignoring the argument.

    Get over a few insults being slung around to let off steam. Argue the arguments rather than the insults might be embroidering them. Also learn the distinction between insults and slurs and where they do and don’t overlap and the difference in the degree of splash damage they create, because that’s the crucial distinction that matters here.

  282. Gen, Uppity Ingrate. says

    So what’s the difference between calling someone out for using “certain words, phrases and attitudes” that could trigger a rape survivor, and “complaining about the particular words you use”?

    andrewryan, Miri did an excellent post about this just a few days ago.

    These “trolls,” and everyone who complains about “political correctness,” are misunderstanding what we mean when we talk about hate speech. They think we’re trying to tell them that certain words are Just Bad, the way social conservatives think that premarital sex or masturbation are Just Bad. They think we’re operating from a framework of moral absolutism, in which anything that isn’t “politically correct” is Just Bad regardless of its consequences or the intentions behind it.

    They think that we believe that shouting the n-word in a forest where nobody hears it as just as bad as shouting the n-word in the lobby of the Black Student Union.

    What they’re missing is the fact that there are actual humans who feel hurt, excluded, marginalized, stereotyped, or even afraid for their safety when they encounter hate speech that targets them

    (Source: http://freethoughtblogs.com/brutereason/2013/09/01/the-oberlin-hate-crimes-are-not-just-trolling/)

    There’s a difference between an insult (“and you’re an asshole for saying that”) and words, phrases and stuff known to be triggering to a rape victim.

    That’s why when you say “But I’ve seen the term ‘tone trolling’ used to describe people who aren’t ignoring an argument, or who are complaining about the way an argument is being put, but are rather complaining about the pointless extra ‘… and you’re a fucking asshole who shouldn’t bother crying to us if you don’t like how we talk here’ insults added in.”, the objection to that is the insult makes no difference to that person’s life. Because this IS a place where bigoted arguments are eviscerated brutally (but never using slurs or hate speech or speech that causes splash damage), and that’s part of what makes it a space for a thread like the Silence thread to be able to exist.

  283. says

    I have occasionally read comment threads here — not Thunderdome or Lounge threads — where the general impression given is that it’s a contest to see who can take offense at each other first and huffiest, with points given for performing purity-test jujitsu flips (“aha – if you were truly concerned with ___ you wouldn’t be trying to prevent me from ____”). (And no, I’m not talking about rape survivors objecting to rape apologists.) It’s acts as a subtle form of self-derailment, and it’s definitely off-putting.

    The language here is pretty rude and ugly. So much so that it’s kind of a joke the way there’s a semi-formal ban on saying certain things. Commenter A can throw five paragraphs of profanity at Commenter B with no repercussions, but if Commenter B replies, in obvious jest, with something like “ah, go take a long walk off a short pier and get a massage from a squid”, there will be an almost instant slapping down against “telling someone to go kill themselves”. It doesn’t matter that Commenter A was definitely, even obviously, showing vastly more hatred and toxicity than Commenter B — Commenter B will be the one who gets slapped down. It even happens with commenters who are fairly well-established here. This really lends an air of ridiculousness to the discourse when it happens; in a way it’s a form of hypocrisy. Perhaps we could show just a smidgeon of disapproval towards verbal vitriol as well? I’ve learned a lot by lurking here, but as far as being motivated to stick with it and read a whole comments section, watching people go from zero to screaming-swearing-seething-hatred really is on a par for discouragement with things like the way rape apologists with the exact same arguments popped up every forty comments or so on the grenade thread. (For that matter, there might even be people who are triggered by verbal abuse. I can’t claim to be one, but I’d be willing to bet that they exist. If we’re trying to be welcoming to victims, they deserve a bit of consideration, too.)

    Even now, I guarantee you, if anyone has bothered to read this comment at all, which may well not be the case, there are people gearing up to tell me I’m a tone troll and a fucking idiot and they will fucking well say any fucking thing they want. Well, fine. Be that way. But this whole blog post only exists because PZ has detected that something about the comments sections here are toxic, and I don’t find it plausible that it’s all being caused by MRAs and Slymepit trolls. Reading hundreds and hundreds of comments where people are gratuitously rude with the excuse of you can’t control me is wearing whether it’s the white hats or the black hats doing it.

  284. piegasm says

    But I’ve seen the term ‘tone trolling’ used to describe people who aren’t ignoring an argument, or who are complaining about the way an argument is being put, but are rather complaining about the pointless extra ‘… and you’re a fucking asshole who shouldn’t bother crying to us if you don’t like how we talk here’ insults added in.

    Do you even read this shit before you submit it? You’re doing that ‘distinction without a difference’ thing again. What do you suppose is the difference between someone who is ignoring an argument and someone who is focusing on a “pointless extra” phrase? If they’re focusing on a pointless extra phrase, they are, in fact, ignoring the argument.

  285. Maureen Brian says

    So, roxie, your solution to all the world’s problems is that people are at any risk of “psychological … damage” should go somewhere else. Complete failure of logic there, I’m afraid.

    As far as I can see, you have just arrived here. You have arrived at a place where people can be open and honest about the effects of rape, racism, homophobia, transphobia and structural economic insecurity (aka poverty) and where they are judged not by the specifics of their language but by the quality of their argument. (There’s a timely historic reference there: do you get it?)

    It didn’t start that way but, roxie, this is that place to which you think such people should go. Many more join them because they are good company, they have done some hard thinking and they enjoy a friendly punch-up – one based on ideas and facts. We protect this space of ours, as a reasonable person would expect us to do.

    On the whole – not entirely – the people here do not believe in any supreme being so that by definition they cannot blaspheme. They have no need to uphold the taboo on mention of sexual organs or bodily functions because that taboo only exists, where it does, within a religious code.

    Many of us are also professionals who have to speak in grammatical sentences and guard our language for seven or eight hours a day. It’s great to come along here and use rude (sic) words for emphasis or to indicate emotion. My own favourite word for such moments is “bollocks” because it begins with that lovely plosive.

    So, lurk a little. Read a little. Work out whose house you are in before you start rearranging the furniture.

  286. Maureen Brian says

    Vicar, Vicar, please! Do you not see the futility of complaining about profanity to a group which does not acknowledge that that’s a valid concept.

  287. Nick Gotts says

    There are at least two distinct issues that are being addressed, under PZ’s general heading of “something that needs to be fixed”.
    1) Responses to newbies who present themselves as “just asking questions” or similar. Here, it’s clear that the three posts rule is not being observed; but I think it’s also clear that if it were observed, it would simply give space to the misogynist trolls and sockpuppets who repeatedly pop up in any thread that concerns rape, harassment or similar topics, and in some that do not – so I propose formally abandoning the rule. I strongly endorse the idea of a “feminism 101″ or similar FAQ, and accompanying brilliant list of online resources such as Caine and others have been compiling, and would like to see the very first post by someone who is clearly ignorant andor trolling responded to by directing them to these and telling them, firmly but if possible politely, to take their questions there and not come back until they have taken the time to peruse the contents reasonably thoroughly. If they won’t take that advice, then have at them, no holds barred other than threats, invitations to self-harm, and bigoted epithets or insults (we don’t need to make these exceptions formal commenting rules – they are dealt with by community self-policing). More than one commenter has said in this very thread that it’s precisely the strong and immediate response to JAQing trolls and similar that makes this a safe space for them, minimizing the threat they will be triggered; and the “stunned silence” thread (even taking into account gertrud’s complaint of silencing, see below) shows that this blog has something very worthwhile to protect, as well as some problems. Of course this approach won’t suit everyone of good will, or all survivors of rape or abuse: some will find the very presence of anger, or insults, or swearing, triggering or just not to their taste – but no one place could be a safe space, or a congenial blog, for everyone. To those who’ve been suggesting this blog completely change its tenor, banning insults and assuming good faith on the part of everyone – then assuming you are commenting in good faith, I simply say no, that’s not what most of us want, or why we read and comment here; there are plenty of blogs that follow those rules.

    I also endorse the idea of marking some threads in addition to the Lounge and Thunderdome as having special commenting rules, such as “supportive comments only”.

    2) Quarrels, and excessive harshness, between people who are (or at least, genuinely, and not absurdly, perceive themselves to be) in tune with the strong social justice and particularly feminist ethos of the blog. These are the issues PZ specifically singled out: Chris Clarke’s departure, and the “Stunned silence”/Thunderdome meltdown. I have my own views on the rights and wrongs of both, but as I didn’t follow the events leading up to Chris’s departure closely, and do not use Facebook, I could easily be wrong, so I’ll keep them to myself. I do think a general policy of assuming good faith on the part of commenters (or bloggers!) who have a record of showing it here would help, but I can’t think of a way to make this an enforceable rule – and the rule against carrying over grudges between threads has been both widely broken, and, in my view, misused. Even a rule of not bringing outside issues to Pharyngula is problematic: if a commenter has a record of outright misogyny or racism or [wtf] whatever elsewhere, even if they are not sockpuppeting, it would be absurd to say that should not be brought to general attention. Perhaps it would work to disallow anything outside Thunderdome other than a formula such as “Outside information about a commenter on this thread has just been posted in Thunderdome”. But I think bringing in quarrels from non-public fora such as a closed Facebook group, or posting private information gleaned from such fora, should be completely prohibited, and potentially banning offences.

  288. John Morales says

    The Vicar:

    The language here is pretty rude and ugly.

    It can be so, yes. That’s a good thing, in my estimation.

    So much so that it’s kind of a joke the way there’s a semi-formal ban on saying certain things. Commenter A can throw five paragraphs of profanity at Commenter B with no repercussions, but if Commenter B replies, in obvious jest, with something like “ah, go take a long walk off a short pier and get a massage from a squid”, there will be an almost instant slapping down against “telling someone to go kill themselves”.

    The reason you find it risible is because it’s not vulgar language (“profanity”) itself which goes against the blog norms, but its semantic content.

    Perhaps we could show just a smidgeon of disapproval towards verbal vitriol as well?

    Go ahead, no-one is stopping you from doing so.

    Even now, I guarantee you, if anyone has bothered to read this comment at all, which may well not be the case, there are people gearing up to tell me I’m a tone troll and a fucking idiot and they will fucking well say any fucking thing they want.

    As a long-time commenter here, I am more than familiar with this pre-emptive passive aggressive indignance — it’s an indicator that you know you’re going against the local norms.

    (I don’t see how you’re not tone-trolling, here)

    Well, fine. Be that way. But this whole blog post only exists because PZ has detected that something about the comments sections here are toxic, and I don’t find it plausible that it’s all being caused by MRAs and Slymepit trolls.

    Maybe so, but I don’t believe that the dispensation for vitriol and profanity is the toxic element — on the contrary, it’s one of the best things about this place.

    Reading hundreds and hundreds of comments where people are gratuitously rude with the excuse of you can’t control me is wearing whether it’s the white hats or the black hats doing it.

    You’re quite sure it’s gratuitous rudeness, and that it’s excused in that manner?

  289. says

    I often wish forum software had a way to flag the accounts of persistent assholes/trolls. The asshole/troll would see their posts in place, and the admins could see them if they chose, but they would be invisible to other readers.

    Sadly, I have no suggestions that are actually applicable.

  290. Gen, Uppity Ingrate. says

    Vicar

    Commenter A can throw five paragraphs of profanity at Commenter B with no repercussions, but if Commenter B replies, in obvious jest, with something like “ah, go take a long walk off a short pier and get a massage from a squid”, there will be an almost instant slapping down against “telling someone to go kill themselves”. It doesn’t matter that Commenter A was definitely, even obviously, showing vastly more hatred and toxicity than Commenter B — Commenter B will be the one who gets slapped down. It even happens with commenters who are fairly well-established here.

    Perhaps I could refer you, too, to the incredible post Miri made about this very topic? Or at least just what I said in 310?

    There’s a difference between profanity/insults and hate speech/splash damage/harm/slurs, and that difference is crucial.

  291. Gen, Uppity Ingrate. says

    Nick Gotts

    But I think bringing in quarrels from non-public fora such as a closed Facebook group, or posting private information gleaned from such fora, should be completely prohibited, and potentially banning offences

    Absolutely.

    I see what you are saying about the identification of known misogynists/racists/whatever, but I think the suggestion made is more in the line of fights and grudges that have nothing to do with Pharyngula being brought here for re-hashing/moar fight purposes?

  292. roxie says

    @ Maureen Brian, John Morales et al

    I don’t have a problem with “naughty words” or swearing. I’m a grownup and appreciate it as a way to let off steam or add colour to a narrative, but I don’t see the need to use vile insults and profanity as an unnecessary adjunct to debate, just because you don’t happen to agree.

    There seems to be a culture of viciousness here, where it’s seen as cool and wonderful here to call unsuspecting commenters assholes, rape apologists etc and to go fuck themselves etc. I would think most newbs commenting here wouldn’t be used to that sort of treatment, so that immediately puts them at a disadvantage.

  293. Nick Gotts says

    @319 Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk,

    The key distinction is between what is checkable by anyone because it’s on a public blog or whatever, and what’s not, because it’s from a closed group or email exchange. In the former case, even for a quarrel between regular commenters that doesn’t involve obvious bigotry, one could under my suggestion insert a comment such as “Outside information about a commenter on this thread has just been posted in Thunderdome”, and then hash it out in Thunderdome – or better, just link from Thunderdome to the place the quarrel originated. That way anyone who wants to can get unfiltered information about the quarrel, those who don’t need make no effort not to see that information, and the original thread is not (or minimally) disrupted.

  294. Pteryxx says

    I haven’t processed everything yet, but before I forget:

    If there’s going to be any edit window for comments at all (and it should be transparent and very narrow, IMHO) I suggest a quick function and prompt for “Add a trigger warning to my post”. Having it there above the posting window would help remind folks before they send their comment live, and it seems one of the most common and sorely needed reasons people want edits. Right now monitors have to send PZ a note to manually add trigger warnings when people forget to include them in the heat of emotional disclosure.

    and separately, I do NOT think monitors should be labeled as such on their (our) nyms. That has the effect of giving their voices unwarranted status and reinforcing their presence in every comment they make. It can only exacerbate the in-group dynamic, especially since monitors *don’t* have any actual moderation powers except to send an email to PZ that he’ll actually read.

    The monitor list, along with clear Rules and statements that monitors do not have mod powers, should be easily accessible in the sidebar and top bar so anyone can find out who the monitors are when they wish to.

  295. Nick Gotts says

    roxie,

    Do you agree:
    1) That there is a distinction between fact and opinion?
    2) That some opinions justify, indeed demand, an angry response? I’ll give you an example. Recently, I was in a group where one person gave as his opinion that: “Hitler had the right idea about gypsies.” Should I, in your opinion, have calmly said that, while I disagreed with his opinion, he was of course quite entitled to have such an opinion, and to express it?
    3) That it is a common tactic for bigots of various kinds to present themselves on blogs such as this as “Just asking questions”, when in fact they know perfectly well what answers would be given to those questions by those they are ostensibly asking, or could readily discover this information by reading the very thread they are commenting on? If so, how would you deal with constantly repeated instances of this?

  296. consciousness razor says

    PZ:

    A mix of good and bad ideas up there, and I don’t know what to think about some. Maybe this will only add to the confusion….

    One thing which hasn’t really been emphasized here is how you approached the situation with the “stunned silence” thread. It seems to me like you exacerbated the problem by leaving the initiating comment there but disemvowelling the comments criticizing it. (I don’t know most of what they said because of this, so it might well have been warranted, but it still looks awfully one-sided considering how little you must have known about the situation.) Then the discussion moved to the Thunderdome, which I think most agree was an appropriate place for it to continue. But nothing was done about the initiating comment, though I think nearly everyone would agree it’s also not appropriate in that kind of a thread. Whatever your views about the arguments themselves, if you have any, you should take that into consideration. You can’t be impartial or above the fray or maintain some distance from so it you don’t have to worry about who’s right or wrong, if you’re going to intervene.

    The thing is, this has happened several times before, noticeably when you’ve revised the rules and structure of the blog to “fix” these problems. I don’t recall any time something major has come because of how we deal with outsiders or trolls or newbs, only when there’s been some in-fighting. You’ll respond somehow or another, but sometimes without really knowing what you’re getting involved in or which “side” you’re giving an advantage, and without giving much of a reason why you’re doing it.

    I’d like it if you were a little more cautious when you took certain steps in enforcing whatever kinds of policies you come up with. Occasionally, it hasn’t been very fair to some people. Of course you can say (as you have before) that it’s your blog so you don’t have to be fair. I think that’s a shitty attitude to have, but I don’t think you really mean that, since you do want to find ways of resolving these issues.

    To be a little more specific, maybe think twice before taking some of the more extreme or irreversible options (e.g., disemvowelling, deleting, banning, closing threads, etc.), or before you listen to what some monitors are telling you without really knowing much else. I mean, as soon as you personally read some crap from the really vile or painfully boring trolls, I’m sure it’s pretty obvious to you why you want them banned (or moderated, etc.). But when it’s a much more marginal case, or when you don’t really know what’s causing the fuss, please look closely before you decide to do something fairly big. Maybe just start with a warning (which explains your understanding of the problem), so the people concerned will get the message and can try to work things out themselves in an appropriate fashion. I feel like these are fairly obvious things to say, but in this context it seems like they’re worth pointing out. And usually that’s about what happens anyway, or else it’s clear to everyone concerned that they’re in dire need of a banhammering. So take that for what it’s worth, I guess.

    ——

    Now to talk about tone, because as a composer that is obviously my specialty. Also, as a member of a civilization (one that counts!) I know lots and lots about civility, which mainly involves ensuring we have the exact same civilization we’ve always had (or always pretended to have).

    nothingventured, #156:

    I think the very existence of this thread is prima facie evidence that PZ doesn’t think the comments sections here are successful.

    Or he thinks his moderation of them hasn’t been successful. But supposing you’re right about that part, it wouldn’t follow that he agrees with you about this being such a vile pit of bad evilosity. You say you’ve read this blog for around ten years. Does that include the comments? Because you’re also saying “fuck you, fuckwit” is represenative of them, which isn’t even remotely accurate. Are you sure it wasn’t some other blog you were reading? Or is it that you don’t like it when certain people or ideas are insulted or mocked, even when that comes with more substantive criticism? Perhaps you didn’t notice the criticism, because you were so preoccupied counting the number of “fucks”? What would you say the most likely explanation is, for the discrepancy between our points of view? Do you consider it insulting (or at least unfair) to misrepresent thousands of different people’s comments, over the course of a decade? If not insulting to those people then, how about an insult to everyone’s intelligence now?

    I want to add that I love seeing how gloriously wrong people’s impressions of the Thunderdome are, when they clearly don’t read it. Or they even mention how they make a point not to read it because of the reputation they think it has or ought to have, as if the claim supported itself. I guess it’s a lot like some people’s impressions of Pharyngula in general.

    ——

    andrewryan, #272:

    I don’t agree. Or ‘That’s fucking bullshit’ to use the normal parlance of this blog.

    In the parlance of this blog, “bullshit” tends to be used as jargon, not as expressing disagreement. Perhaps you just don’t realize that. Or perhaps you twisting the meaning into mere disagreement is a form of bullshitting, since you don’t actually care about the truth regarding what people actually mean they’ve used it. Or you may not care whether, in whatever cases you have in mind, they were right to “disagree” or to point out the bullshit for what it was.

    You genuinely think there are no non-bigoted people who just get turned off by the general atmosphere, the ‘It’s a witch, burn them!’ quickness to assume the worst of any newbie poster?

    I genuinely don’t think there is an ‘It’s a witch, burn them!’ quickness to assume the worst of any newbie poster. Yes, it happens sometimes, unfortunately. I also do think some people are turned off by the atmosphere. Probably because they are witches. In the true spirit of this blog, we can test that hypothesis by seeing whether they sink or float: if they can respond appropriately to substantive criticism, they’ll be able to float along here well enough. If not, they’ll have to sort out why they care more about “tone” than the subject itself. The nice part is that no one actually needs to be drowned — not at first, anyway.

  297. Nick Gotts says

    For clarity, the group referred to in point 2 @324 was a meatspace group, in fact a group of badminton players drinking coffee after a session.

  298. katybe says

    OK, given comments from lurkers and newbies were specifically requested, I’ll chip in my bit, although haven’t read the thunderdome thread that sparked this. Lurked for years, and quite often read the comments, but have only recently started to join in myself, and that mostly on other FTB sites. I finally started to join in because of the social justice direction you were taking, and the feeling that this was a safe space and if I enjoyed reading it, I ought to try and help to keep it that way. So even if all I can say is “me too”, I ought to add my support when it’s needed.

    For what it’s worth, the thing I value about this site is the knowledge that fools won’t be suffered gladly, and that bigotry will be pointed out – from a lurking perspective, I’d like to ask the regulars not to change too much, because I’ve learnt so much. And for the record, the reason I don’t jump in to conversations in the Lounge or Thunderdome is because I rarely have time to read the previous threads I feel I ought to to get the context, and I feel without that, I’d be jumping in to a group of friends and demanding they pay attention to me! That’s not something I’m comfortable doing, and I know it wouldn’t really be like that, unless I was particularly careless in saying something, but I tend to need to steel myself to join in a conversation. That’s just me, and it has NOTHING to do with the tone of discussions putting me off.

    And in terms of suggestions, I really like the dead horse link idea. And with comment threads over 500 messages, I wonder if it’s possible to set it so that you automatically go to the first page of comments if you haven’t posted in the thread before, and have to at least scroll down through each page before you can get to the next page, and only have the comment form at the end of all the comments. It might increase the chances that people will read and notice if their point has already been answered. If you have posted, could you be taken to your last comment? I don’t know if it can be easily done technically, but it might be worth looking into.

  299. consciousness razor says

    Are there any people though who view the comments section of Pharyngula as their “only source of comfort and support”? Surely there are safe space rape survivor forums for people who are in that situation. I thought this was an atheist blog, not a rape survivor blog.

    Fuck, this pisses me off, and you’re well past the rule of three.

    I don’t care what fucking blog it is or what kind of space it is. If you don’t expect it be safe for rape survivors, it doesn’t matter where I am. Just get the fuck away from me.

  300. Pteryxx says

    another point about the monitors here, since people really seem to be assuming “monitor” is just another word for “moderator”. We’re actually not volunteers. Nobody stepped forward and asked PZ for special status. PZ created the monitor alert system – basically a filter in his email settings – and simply assigned a goodly handful of varied regulars to do the job. I don’t know if anyone privately refused, but the usual assumptions re “volunteer moderators” don’t apply here.

  301. FossilFishy(Anti-Vulcanist) says

    Please understand that I’m not using the following to be cute/funny/ironic etc. but wouldn’t a clearly defined harassment policy go a long way to mitigating some of the infighting that goes on around here? I know that’s a pretty simplistic take on a very complicated question, sorry.

  302. Pteryxx says

    Surely there are safe space rape survivor forums for people who are in that situation. I thought this was an atheist blog, not a rape survivor blog.

    Everywhere with more than a half dozen people is a rape survivor space. EVERYWHERE. It’s just not safe or encouraged to admit that fact, because of attitudes like yours.

    Answered in more depth here: link to discussion in Feb (see also comments #693 and 694 in that thread)

  303. carlie says

    I think a huge part of the frustration comes from people who’ve been doing this for years and want to have conversations that go beyond explaining ‘privilege’ for the eleventy-gillionth time and it often becomes nearly impossible because of all the JAQing off.

    That’s why a 101 answers list would be great, but only if it is used and adhered to. Despite the annoyance at JAQing, the questions usually always get answered just in case someone is lurking and reading along so they actually get the answer. This would solve that problem, because the answer would be embedded in, but would be a lot less effort and less disruptive. But ONLY if
    people actually didn’t engage past that point (except to say GO READ WHAT YOU WERE TOLD TO).
    There’s enough info already that it wouldn’t have to be a live thread; a couple of weeks of groupthink on all the questions we remember and good answers for them would cover just about all of the possibilities, and wouldn’t need rehashing. There are a lot of good resources like that out there already, but perhaps it would be more used if it was locally sourced.

    As soon as they’re given links they refuse to read them, saying they want to discuss, not read. It goes downhill from there, even if people do give them the time of day.

    Exactly – there would have to be group agreement NOT to indulge them in that behavior.

    Is it possible to add a badge or something to a monitor’s nym, so we know who has monitor status? I have no idea who has this power and who doesn’t (except Caine, and only because ze has been willing to share it.) It would be cool to know who to go to if I have a problem (other than PZ.)

    I understand the sentiment, but I wouldn’t like it in that form myself. I’d be happy to have my name and email listed somewhere on site as a monitor, but having something next to my name would make me feel like I’m swaggering in everywhere with the big guns every time I comment. I don’t want to
    have anyone think that they have to take all of my comments more seriously just because of that position, which is how I would feel if all of my comments had a big badge on them. I did like the idea presented upthread of having a monitor mode that we could engage, to change color/text size/add a badge just when needed for a warning. Going more into monitor dynamics, I’d like it if there were more formality to the monitoring system even if it stays at the level it is now – I feel awful when something happens and I wasn’t around to notice and alert to it, so if we had some kind of schedule where I knew specific days/times I was “on call” to specifically pay more attention that might help.

    The problem with forums is EXACTLY what we saw here in the last few days – the more there are Pharyngula spin-offs, the more likely it is that something will happen in one of them that then spills over into the site at large but without anyone who isn’t in the spin-off group knowing what the hell is happening. Forums aren’t just unwieldy, they create other communities where other things happen, and that’s what’s causing the in-group problems we’ve been seeing.

  304. says

    For the record, I do think the comments section here is a great success. My goal was to have a community of ferocious furious defenders of reason, and here you are. We’re just in the process of tweaking the guidelines to make it an even greater success.

    The suggestion about an affiliated forum: don’t like ‘em. Every forum I’ve invested time in has eventually melted down as the distributed leadership changes and has its own internal conflict, and as trolls move in and claim ownership (my own metric: every time I saw a forum struggling, I’d see Gurdur show up and deliver the coup de grace by dispensing ‘advice’, like clockwork. At least here I can guarantee that troll of doom will never appear).

    There’s also the problem of drift. It’s like the pharyngula wiki: I’ve got my hands full, I’m not going to work on maintaining another endeavor, and over time, the thing with my blog name on it becomes unrecognizable.

    I notice we had an interesting real-life example here overnight: Roxie. Total troll — a person who has never ever posted here before shows up in a community thread and starts flinging “advice”, which is actually nothing but using the thread as an excuse to criticize while offering no productive suggestions at all. Maybe people can take a look at the responses to Roxie here; were they measured and appropriate? Were they too harsh? Were people too quick to condemn? Were there substantive responses, even in harsh disagreement?

    Roxie is also banned. The trolling was way too obvious.

  305. Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion says

    I made sure to leave a polite comment to respond to Roxie. It was, as I mentioned in that very comment, ignored. Other polite replies were also ignored. Kinda goes to show…

  306. says

    By the way, let’s also have a reappraisal of the existing mods. Nominate yourself if you’d like to have the duty, nominate others if you think they’d be good at it. One of the ways we can shape the atmosphere is by having good examples.

    Mods should be willing to have their email address made public; at some point I’ll put them all in a list on the sidebar, and you’ll be able to just click on their name to send them an email. You can also send me an email directly, but I tend to be drowning in mail already.

  307. Nick Gotts says

    Oh, and roxie never got a chance to respond to my polite questions @324! What a shame, I’m sure xe would finally have managed to produce something other than tone trolling!

    /lowest form of wit

  308. Pteryxx says

    PZ:

    Mods should be willing to have their email address made public; at some point I’ll put them all in a list on the sidebar, and you’ll be able to just click on their name to send them an email.

    Yeah, thanks but no thanks. Emailing specific monitors won’t do any good if those monitors are offline anyway and different ones are on duty. Not to mention it opens individual monitors for favoritism or harassment. Monitor requests need to be central, and IMHO public; right now they tend to take the form of “Would a monitor look at X thread” posted in the Lounge or Thunderdome.

    Maybe there could be a dedicated monitor-request thread linked in the sidebar, and monitors (public or not) could subscribe to it for notification?

  309. says

    Might I suggest a monitors@pharyngula.com address (or something functionally equivalent) which is set up to forward to all the designated monitors during any one monitor roster period? It can also have an auto-reply to specify that there will be no direct email response, but if a monitor response has not shown on-thread after an hour, that it’s OK to send a second monitor alert?

  310. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    I’d just like to second consciousness razor’s analysis and suggestions to PZ about the shistorm that provoked this conversation.

  311. says

    PZ, it’s the standard mod/monitor team setup I use on several blogs now. Works a treat for ensuring the best timezone coverage possible too.

  312. David Marjanović says

    It’s all very easy: simply freeze the entire blog whenever I don’t have time to comment. *grumble* I was gone for a few days, and PET exploded, lots of people were triggered and many left; a bit later I was again gone for a few days, the magma under PET erupted again (complete with a banning), and Pharyngula exploded!

    *sigh* *grumble*

    I hate that.

    I’ll try to catch up with this thread tonight. Try not to blow it to fucking smithereens in the meantime – I’d get a messiah complex.

  313. carlie says

    I do like those ideas that bulk notify all of the monitors so it’s not just on one person’s shoulders if they’re checking right then.

    And maybe we could have more specific directives on what constitutes needing to email PZ about it – there could be an intermediate step wherein a monitor does step in and say something like “cool it, one more post like that from you and an alert will be sent” (with appropriate visual diffs from regular posts to make it noticeable) – that might knock down a lot of them without having to put more on PZ to check every single one, but still keeps all banning power with him. Just speaking of having been in the position of “do I bother PZ with an alert on this one yet or do I not?”, that would be a great thing to have as an inbetween.

    I’m fine with having monitoring status and would be happy to keep it, but I’d also maybe suggest that there also be a mechanism to allow for requesting someone be removed from said status; if I started really pissing people off somehow, they should be able to complain about that.

  314. says

    By the way, since I am home most of the day and awake odd hours*, I’m fine with having continued monitor status. In fact, this solution seems more useful than just us sending an alert in thread.

    *Babies, amIright?

  315. Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion says

    I love the idea of the non-public email notifications for the minions/mods, combined with the 101/dead horse/FAQ links section.

    I don’t agree with being prevented from engaging people who egregiously ignore requests to go read, or who continue to spout hurtful crap even after they’ve apparently done so. To do so would be to de-fang the commentariat and therefore de-safe the space.

    I do think that the buffer warnings are a good idea to weed out the genuine questioners. We see on a daily basis the kinds of commenters who end up getting banned are not interested in engaging in good faith at all, case in point Roxie and andrewryan here in this thread, off the top of my head. No content, just complaining and ignoring polite comments after complaining that comments aren’t polite enough. That’s just the tone trolls. The JAQ-ers use the same tactic but using a different array of fallacies and gaslighting. Same pattern, different colours.

    When a problematic comment is identified, the first course of action should probably be to ask that the commenter reads the relevant 101/faq section, politely of course. No head-biting.
    If this request is ignored or denied, further encouragement should be given to read the FAQ, or if the behaviour is particularly nasty, a message sent to the modnitor minions immediately.

    I’d say after one polite and one stern-but-not-bitey request, it’s out with the sniny fangs for the Chewing of Toys.
    To stop the modnitors from being overloaded, it’d be nice if the thread was notified when an alert was sent, even just “alert sent”.

  316. ekwhite says

    PZ – TigTog has made several excellent suggestions based on their experience. Might I suggest having a conversation with her about her suggestions that can be implemented in WordPress?

  317. says

    I’m tinkering.

    Using gmail to forward messages to monitors is a pain in the butt — I kept getting flagged as Doing Bad Things, which come to think of it, setting up an email account to automatically forward tons of stuff to a bunch of individuals is a little nefarious.

    But then I had a better idea. I’ve set up a Google Group, and enrolled all the existing monitors in it. There is a new email link in the sidebar: “Contact a Monitor”. Click on it, make a complaint in email, and it gets posted automatically in a moderator’s forum where everyone can get notified, discuss it, take action, etc.

    If you’re a moderator already, you should have just gotten some weird message about being enrolled in a group. I think it asks for your consent, and you know what we think about consent around these parts. Your choice.

  318. says

    I don’t count as a n00b as I’ve been reading Pharyngula for years, but I don’t post very often. For what it’s worth, my vote is to leave things as much the way they are as possible.

    I have all sorts of privilege that I’ve learned to (mostly) recognise, largely by following the oft-posted advice of “shut the fuck up and listen/read”. I think (or hope) that it’s made me a better person. So I’d like to thank PZ and the Horde.

    Thank you all.

  319. says

    ekwhite, I thank you for the compliment. I suspect I’ve left enough breadcrumbs for PZ (who has form on being v.clueful with blog tweaks) to figure out implementing any of my suggestions that appeal to him, but I’m very happy to discuss options directly in email if PZ prefers.

  320. Manu of Deche says

    As a long time lurker, I commit one of the cardinal sins of FTB and ignore 300+ comments, just because I’m pressed for time.

    My best friend’s brother has a habit: he is unwavering in his criticism if you are wrong. He is harsh. Really harsh. And very explicit.

    I was taken aback the first few times we argued about whatever (politics, economic, religion, whatever). But then I realized that he didn’t insult me, personally, but that he was bugged out by sloppy thinking, by not having all the necessary facts, by just not being on top of my game.

    So my suggestion is: Attack the argument, call it bullshit and whatever colourful expletives come to your mind. But hold back with personal attacks until the moment it becomes apparent that the person you are argueing with is dishonest, disingenuous, and/or a dipshit. After that, it’s no holds barred.

    It’s way easier to do in real life than online, but I think it is worth a try. Just my $0.02

  321. Bicarbonate says

    Hello everybody. One of the reasons I like the comments is that “fools are not suffered gladly” (as someone ^ there said). On the other hand when I first commented here I got “fuck off” almost immediately and at least one comment that is still stinging weeks later because it was so out of the blue, uncalled for and very intentionally hurtful.

  322. carlie says

    PZ – I think you have to have a gmail to be in a google group. I got the first email about forwarding, but not the next one about the group. I can set up a separate gmail if I need to for it.

  323. says

    carlie – unless they’ve recently changed it, this isn’t actually so. I’ve used g-groups for my soccer teams for years, and we’ve had people with all kinds of addies on them. If they’ve recently changed it, then I will be wrong about this.

  324. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    Okay, let me see if I can be coherent here.

    Suggestion 1: a handy-dandy “contact the monitors here” button that forwards a message to them. That means that as the monitor population shifts, the front page doesn’t need to.

    *on refresh* Hey, you did that! Neat!

    Suggestion 2: a 101/JAQ/Cuddly Bunnies For Newbies thread. This would require some pretty heavy modding to prevent it becoming Troll Central, but I think such a space would help immeasurably.

    Suggestion 3: If we’re going to abide by the concept of a 3-post rule (or similar), then us regulars are going to have to abide by it. Which means that we’re going to need to be called to task from time to time.

    Suggestion 4: On threads likely to be contentious (i.e. OP concerns rape), heavier modding than otherwise. A link to a roundup of useful things to read before asking questions. A note of “fuckwittery is really not tolerated here.”

    Suggestion 5: A “reply to this comment” button that kicks to the comment box with “Reply to [number] [text of comment]” pre-generated as a blockquote that you can edit. Perhaps coupled with a line of code that if someone replies to a comment, said original comment gets a tag that says, “[number] comment(s) responded to this! [hyperlink]”

    I’ll keep thinking.

  325. okstop says

    How large a block of time would someone have to devote to “being on shift” as a mod? I teach five classes this semester, but I would love to contribute to this community that’s given me so much, if possible. Mind you, I don’t know if I have enough “cred” to be a mod, but, as I said, I’m willing to offer whatever will be accepted in the way of under-labor to make this thing fly.

  326. says

    Nick is in, he doesn’t have a gmail address, so I think it’s OK. It looks like the groups thing automatically enrolls you without asking (sorry!) — so check your email for any messages from guardians-of-pharyngula at googlegroups.com.

    Anyone on the monitors list who wants out now, send me email and I’ll remove you.

  327. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    Oh! Automatic preview of comments. That would help with the typos and html fail and whatnot.

  328. kellyw. says

    Long time reader, lurker, infrequent poster. I use gmail to log in to comment. Gmail is a throwaway by default and it’s what I have to use. I don’t directly pay for internet, so all I have access to are throwaway email services. What do I and other similarly situated people do? Not everyone using throwaways is a troll–some of us are not financially well-off and free is all we can do.

  329. Nick Gotts says

    Manu of Deche,

    But hold back with personal attacks until the moment it becomes apparent that the person you are argueing with is dishonest, disingenuous, and/or a dipshit.

    But that moment is, very often, the first sentence of the first comment. Sometimes it’s just the nym.

    Just my $0.02

    In line with your suggestion, I’ll refrain from saying anything at all about you, and just say that this is one of the most stupid, pointless, annoying, passive-aggressive pieces of simpering smugitude that ever appears on this or any other blog. I’m sick to the back teeth of encountering it. Give your viewpoint, give any evidence or argument you have to support it, then stop.

  330. says

    PZ, from memory with googlegroups they don’t publish messages from non-members without approval from a designated administrator/moderator of the googlegroup. You might want to look into that setting if you haven’t done so already, and work out who else you want to give approval rights for those messages.

  331. says

    Yeah, by default it’s supposed to work that way. I had to tinker with the settings, and I had my wife test it. She is not enrolled as a monitor, she has no privileges at all, but she was able to send a ‘complaint’ to the monitors’ forum.

  332. says

    Gmail is not at risk — it’s what I use. There are special services that give you an email account with no verification at all, and often do nice things like mask your IP address as well — they’re very popular with trolls.

  333. carlie says

    Ha! My email sent the google groups info to spam. I daresay they may have a bit of a bias against google. Sorry for the disruption – I’d had problems adding someone to a google group at work recently and was told it was their email address, but it was also a closed environment so I didn’t realize the restriction was local to us and not a global google setting.

  334. says

    Agree with Nick @315,

    But I think bringing in quarrels from non-public fora such as a closed Facebook group, or posting private information gleaned from such fora, should be completely prohibited, and potentially banning offences.

    That’s just a complete no-no, you just don’t do that, whatever the circumstance.

    I still don’t like the 3-post rule pertaining to obvious bullshitters. It’s fine with newbs(as in, “wait, I don’t recognize that nym”) to a degree, but I think we’re all honed enough by now to be able to spot passive-aggressive, evasive or overtly trolling behavior when we see it.

    The other ideas like a FAQ, common answers to common questions etc, even a newbie/introduction thread potentially (that’s bordering on social work, but I guess if it benefits the odd person it’s worth it), are well worth trying.

    I think in the end it will come down to the regulars adapting their behavior, if it is indeed widely (or just by PZ) regarded as problematic. As long as the rules are out there and uniformly enforced.

  335. John Phillips, FCD says

    There are a few features I would like to see added, e.g. a 5 minute edit window where the post doesn’t appear to others until the five minutes is up. That prevents provocative posts being deleted after someone replies and allows plenty time for correcting typos or time for rethinking the post.

    But as to the tone of the blog, meh, apart perhaps from a better use of the three post rule toward obvious and possibly innocent/ignorant newbies, well apart for obvious JAQuers, I like things pretty much as they are. Though a 101 or FAQ page on the main subjects that bring in the trolls would help alleviate the need for stricter enforcement of the three post rule as their response to being pointed to them would quickly show if they were innocent or trolls.

  336. says

    For the record, I do think the comments section here is a great success. My goal was to have a community of ferocious furious defenders of reason, and here you are. We’re just in the process of tweaking the guidelines to make it an even greater success.

    Much of the negative comment here has expressed a lack of comfort with (or a distaste for) attacks on the person rather than on the argument. I share that discomfort, and for what it’s worth, I don’t think expressions of it are trone-trolling.

    I think the only way you could effectively address such attacks would be to give a warning first, and then ban repeat offenders.

    But if you did so, you’d risk losing some of that “ferocious furious defen[se] of reason” you’ve endorsed above. Who, in the fiercest of moods, can carefully insure that it never gets personal? I know I’ve never been able to. Faced with a no-personal-attack policy of the kind I’ve mentioned, large numbers of people (some of whom, at least, know how to combine substance with invective) would abandon the site.

    Which you already know, as your remarks above suggest. So, for good or ill, there will be only tweaking. If Chris Clarke doesn’t like that, he of course has other places he can post.

  337. says

    I’m just concerned about locking it down against the flying monkeys and their various efforts to flood signal with noise. I guess as time passes you’ll figure out the best ways to do that using the config that you’ve got.

    For instance, I’m pretty sure FTB has the Jetpack plugin enabled. It might be wiser to use a Jetpack contact-form-page for this stuff so that you can keep the monitor-alert address totally secret (which might mean rejigging with a new addy).

  338. says

    Hate mail sent to the forum will just give the monitors something to giggle over, and it’s also really easy to just delete noise. I’m kinda liking having a place where the monitors can actually have a convo over more complicated issues — the recent eruption in the stunned silence thread would have benefited greatly if a small group of people had had a chance to deliberate over the response, and then told me how best to handle it.

    So we’ll give it a trial run.

  339. says

    PZ, that totally makes sense :) I can easily see the appeal of a monitor-space for discussion off-blog, too (in fact that’s also something I tend to include in a basic blog-mod setup).

  340. A. R says

    Two things: I’ve not yet received the group invite. Also, I’m willing to continue as a monitor. I mostly lurk here, so the group is a good way for me to know when action needs to be taken.

  341. trinioler says

    I disagree with A.R being a monitor, given his use of someone else’s status from their locked down facebook profile, and his personal attacks in this thread here.

    PZ, please listen to this. He should not continue being a monitor.

  342. praxis.makes.perfect (Just call me Prax. It's easier to type) says

    Ummm… If what trinioler is saying is, in fact, true…

    Can AR just be kicked the heck out of here?

    That kind of behaviour makes this a VERY unsafe space for people. If they have access, ever, to my email address they can do the same to me. If they were to ever have access to my IP they would be able to find out where I work and make life very uncomfortable for me and possibly even cause me to lose my job.

    That’s not good. At all.

  343. Portia says

    Praxis:

    A. R did do that, and a few comments later apologized and sent an alert to PZ about their own behavior. Not that that makes it better, in my opinion it doesn’t. I don’t trust them to be a monitor based just on that incident. I don’t have a lot of experience with A. R in the past, others may have a different opinion.

  344. gertrud says

    PZ, it’s good to see that, if someone actually quotes another person’s private Facebook status because they are just feeling not-well today and, darn it, they get to do what they want when they are not happy, they will get to continue to be a monitor. It’s genuinely good to see that, because now I know exactly how much I value this space.

    Rape victims are safe here so long as they don’t cross the wrong people. If you cross the wrong people, then you can go fuck yourself because you aren’t worth as much. You don’t deserve benefit of the doubt if someone decides to drag in an unrelated conflict from elsewhere and thus make it impossible for you to read or participate in threads without having to get through being smeared first, and it’s a community benefit if you, the bad rape victim, stay down in Thunderdome with the riffraff. You don’t deserve to have what you post to your private Facebook profile stay private if someone is in the wrong state of mind. You deserve to be treated like dog shit and screamed at and have your private shit posted publicly because hey, you pissed off the wrong people, and so what if they’re lying about you? They’re the GOOD rape victims.

    So, don’t be the wrong rape victim on Pharyngula.

    Thanks, PZ.

  345. praxis.makes.perfect (Just call me Prax. It's easier to type) says

    @Portia:

    Oh. Oh shit. Yeah. I don’t think that’s a case of “Oops! I made a small mistake”. That’s beyond the pale. There’s no way I want to participate here if AR is a monitor. That should never have happened in the first place, no matter how high emotions were running.

    Ugh. I was really getting benefit from having a safe space here to talk about experiences and stuff (I won’t go into specifics about any of it, though, because frankly I don’t feel like I can do that anymore and stay anonymous if that’s the kind of thing that gets a free pass.) and now I wish I could just go back and delete all the comments I’ve made.

    Fuck.

    This is incredibly disappointing.

  346. Pteryxx says

    Praxis: for what it’s worth, monitors currently don’t have access to any private information at all. We see exactly the same comments and usernames as any other reader, logged in or not. Monitors haven’t even had any backchannel or way to contact each other until PZ set up that Google group just now, unless they personally exchanged emails. I hope that’s some degree of reassurance.

  347. Portia says

    Pteryxx is right.

    A. R only had access to that private information by virtue of a separate facebook connection that has nothing to do with their status as a monitor.

    Sorry for being unclear.

  348. Cyranothe2nd, ladyporn afficianado says

    Suggestion 4: On threads likely to be contentious (i.e. OP concerns rape), heavier modding than otherwise. A link to a roundup of useful things to read before asking questions. A note of “fuckwittery is really not tolerated here.”

    In addition, maybe certain threads should have more specific trigger warning attached to comments. I know this would have really helped me not be triggered last night when reading the Stunned Silence thread.

    I agree with trinioler @ 377– It is not okay for any commenter, and most especially a monitor, to copy/paste people’s locked-down FB statuses here. Even with names changed (as another commenter did in the TDome), it is not okay. Many of us rely on our anonymity because of jobs or family or safety concerns. I have friended a few people on Pharyngula to my otherwise VERY locked-down Facebook, and would feel violated as fuck if one of those people copy/pasted my status here. The expectation of privacy has to be respected, and there should be consequences when it’s not.

    I also agree with Beatrice @ 340 and consciousness raiser @ 325. I have absolutely no dog in that fight–hell, I didn’t even know we had a FB page until yesterday!–but leaving the one comment while disemvoweling the others made it look like there was a bias. (To be clear, I do not think that there was any actual bias. I think it was most likely just a hasty decision to quell a shitstorm. But the appearance is there.) I think it would have been better to delete the originating comment, the disemvoweled comments, and all comments responding to either (maybe editing some of them to take out the parts where they responded to the shitstorm and leaving other contributions.)

    I do like the idea of an “email monitors” button, rather than a badge or something. The point is just to make it easy to contact someone if you’re having a problem.

  349. A Surprise to Many (formerly Mattir) says

    I have asked, through multiple channels, and with increasing desperation, for all of my comments on this blog to be removed.

  350. praxis.makes.perfect (Just call me Prax. It's easier to type) says

    I just went and followed that little exchange in T-Dome.

    Thanks EVER SO MUCH, A.R., for making a safe space into somewhere I can’t feel safe. Good job on making this place feel like the Slymepit.

    P.Z., if you want to make the comment section better, you need to remove monitors who violate the privacy of commenters or think it’s fine to use meatspace issues to score points.

    I’m signing out now, and I don’t think I’ll be back for a bit because I’m sitting here shaking and feeling sick to my stomach that this kind of thing could happen here. It didn’t even happen to me and yet I feel as though everything I’ve said here, or in meatspace is no longer something I can consider to be private.

    Gertrud: I am so unbelievably sorry and incredibly angry that this happened, or was thought of as defensible by others here.

    Thanks a fucking bunch A.R. Your crowing about being on the monitor list makes me want to puke.

  351. gertrud says

    And, because I’m in the middle of that, no, it wasn’t him accessing that information as a monitor. We were Facebook friends through a separate connection and he got it there. While I’m intensely bothered at the train of thought that would lead to still permitting someone who would do that to have any oversight, no, it was not that oversight that let him do that. It was my own stupidity at thinking that he wouldn’t do something like that.

  352. Nick Gotts says

    A Surprise to Many@386,

    I assume you’ve emailed PZ directly? If so, there seems no point in me sending an alert as a monitor, but I will if you like.

  353. praxis.makes.perfect (Just call me Prax. It's easier to type) says

    @Pteryxx and Portia:

    Regardless of whether or not you see my IP, if I ever needed to email alert the mods they’d see my email address.

    I’m not comfortable with that AT ALL if people like AR are monitors.

    Nope.

    I’m out. Good luck, folks. I hope this crap can be fixed.

  354. says

    Hey ,

    long time lurker , posted only a few times over the years . One of my issues is that regulars are often given a free pass on behaviour that outsiders would be butchered for . There is a double standard. eg, How many of Nerd of Redhead’s posts are substantive and how many are just malicious content free bile? There is a difference between punctuating arguments with insults / profanity and dehumanizing , intimidating abuse . When you say “fuck off and die ” you have concluded that the person has no redeeming feature and can never learn or improve . You are not lending teeth to your argument , you are trying to deliver comeuppance. You are actively seeking out the slightest pretext to administer punishment and glorying in your ability to do so. Of course not everyone does this , but the ones that do are rarely called out. Everyone’s moral landscape is shaped by their individual environments , the opportunities they have to learn , the ideas they are exposed to. For instance I am from a third world country where patriarchy is very deeply ingrained into the social fabric. It is much harder for someone from this background to be socially progressive. Not recognizing this is a form of privilege. There is an element of circumstance to how rich you are , how smart you are , how morally evolved you are. Why is it then ,self aggrandizement is acceptable in context of moral outlook? If you are a “better” person , you have been afforded the opportunity to become one . People can be in an earlier stage in their journey of ideological self discovery ; when you abuse them for it , you are trying to maximize your sense of self worth . You are not focusing on making the world a better place , it is more about what’s personal than what’s important. Must all interpretations be calibrated for maximum outrage ? I miss older days when there were more people
    like Sastra commenting. The dialogue was more thoughtful , more intellectually honest in purpose and execution.

  355. praxis.makes.perfect (Just call me Prax. It's easier to type) says

    @Gertrud:

    I’m aware that it wasn’t monitor status that lead to that incident. It makes no difference. Regardless of how they got that information or whether or not you let them see that information it doesn’t change the fact that that was not information they had the right to share publicly without your express CONSENT.

    I see AR as someone who violates consent when it pleases them to do so.

    That’s not the way to have a safe space.

  356. Pteryxx says

    Praxis: I agree, and I wasn’t trying to exonerate A. R or make light of their actions. I just want to make clear that through all this discussion where people have come forward to share deeply personal stories, *nobody* has access to posters’ private information except PZ himself. Monitors cannot breach the privacy of other commenters here even if they wish to. (Except by means of outside knowledge, such as A. R displayed.)

    disclaimer: I am a monitor, and how PZ handles these incidents and the new rules will determine whether I remain one.

  357. ChasCPeterson says

    I’m kind of amazed that anybody thinks a “private facebook status” is actually ‘private’ in any meaningful way. Repeating a sentence actually posted elsewhere is nothing anywhere close to a true violation of privacy like revealing somebody’s real name, or address, or e-mail address. IMO. (But I avoid facebook like the fucking plague.)

    shit, back to that break…

  358. Pteryxx says

    Chas: go read “The Gift of Fear” for an explanation of the context in which “Hello dear” constitutes a threat.

  359. Portia says

    I’m kind of amazed that anybody thinks a “private facebook status” is actually ‘private’ in any meaningful way.

    It’s simple: a select group of people could see what gertrud said, and A. R decided it should be on a public website. That’s meaningful. You’re being obtuse. No one said that gertrud could be positively identified by that. That’s not the entire point. It’s an abuse of confidence.

  360. gertrud says

    It isn’t that it’s some deep, dark secret. It’s not even that I care particularly much about that sentence being posted (although his claim to know the context is wrong, since he wasn’t privy to the discussion I was referencing). It’s that he took information that I posted to a social media profile that was set to friends-only and I did not give him permission to share it elsewhere. It’s not the specific act; it’s the attitude towards privacy in general–and from someone who himself has a Facebook profile that he is scrupulous about keeping private, which I respect–that I find so bothersome.

  361. smhll says

    [ I'm threadrupt. ]

    On the rapid identification and dispatching of “trolls”.

    It occurs to me that most newcomers arrive here because they’ve followed a link. If they’ve followed a link that is negative about FtB, they could be people who (A) have read and swallowed and agreed with the common putdowns of this place (e.g. FftB) and they have come to swagger and poke people. But I think there may exist people of type (B) who have read criticisms of the Horde and want to see (open-mindedly) if the criticisms are true. Reacting to Bs as if they were As might be an unfortunate mistake. (A’s could sound and smell like B’s if they track in shitty and ill-reasoned arguments.)

  362. Cyranothe2nd, ladyporn afficianado says

    Chas,

    Can you not do the “well X is not as bad as Y, so why are you complaining?” X IS STILL FUCKING BAD.

    Rahulkedia @ 391,

    There is an element of circumstance to how rich you are , how smart you are , how morally evolved you are. Why is it then ,self aggrandizement is acceptable in context of moral outlook? If you are a “better” person , you have been afforded the opportunity to become one .

    QFT and additionally, wow–thanks for pointing this out. Its all too easy for me to forget this when angry and arguing with someone. j

  363. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    I have to say that I – while recognize that AR walked back that comment quickly (and sent the monitor email) – think that a major line was crossed. A monitor – even though monitors have no real power – is a position of trust. The faith this community has in itself and each other has been sorely tested of late, and trust is in short supply. For that reason, I don’t think AR should continue as monitor.

  364. praxis.makes.perfect (Just call me Prax. It's easier to type) says

    Chas @ 395:

    It’s an issue of consent. Don’t you think consent matters?

    Because what you’re saying sound a lot like:

    “Sure, having sex with someone who’s so blotto drunk they can’t form a sentence properly is bad… But it’s not NEARLY as bad as someone jumping out of the bushes and beating you into submission to rape you… so it’s no biggie!”

  365. gertrud says

    Eeeeesh, Praxis @402. It’s an accurate metaphor as far as the specific comparison of one type of nonconsent to another, but it’s really, really uncomfortable for me to compare the gesture of sharing information to rape. I totally get where you’re going, but that’s a very squicky place for me.

  366. says

    [I started commenting here more actively a couple of months ago, but I've since stopped, mostly because of the "fuck off, fuckwit" stuff].

    To me, it’s more about norms than rules. I can’t judge the people who jump quickly to “fuck off”, because I understand that my personal experience of day-in day-out douchebaggery is limited (although I do feel angry and frustrated when I see it). But I can decide that it’s not for me.

    I think the community, especially the core group of the most frequent commenters, has to want it to be different — to decide that the loss of someone like Chris (or even someone less valuable, like me) is not good for the community. It’s up to the core of the community to develop the norms.

    One helpful software feature might be a simple counter in the comment meta-info that shows the number of comments a particular commenter has made. It could help encourage medium-frequency commenters to jump in with, “Hey, I see you’re new — here is some stuff you might want to read before you get yourself in a mess”.

  367. praxis.makes.perfect (Just call me Prax. It's easier to type) says

    @Gertrud:

    I didn’t say any of that in defense of you, if it makes a difference. I said it that way because that’s how it feels to me, personally. Yes, the situation happened to you and I can’t know how you feel about it, but I sure-as-shit know how I’d feel if it happened to me. (And similar things have happened to me. It left me a complete mess to have my trust violated in that fashion. It felt a lot like other times I’d been a victim of having my consent violated. Maybe it’s just PTSD, maybe it’s the way I ended up with PTSD… either way, it was deeply, deeply disturbing, hurtful and damaging.)

    I said it that way because I’ve participated in some of the squickier threads here because of past experience and because I think consent is of the utmost importance and the circumstances of not respecting consent DO NOT MATTER. Chas was in those threads. Chas participated in those threads at length. The example I used is one I had previously seen used by others to dismiss the importance of consent, and I don’t think any violation of trust deserves to be dismissed. I want Chas to think about how dismissive they are being of the safety and privacy of others. I want Chas to realize that they are acting just like a rape apologist who thinks consent is a “grey area”. It isn’t. It should never be seen as such. NEVER.

  368. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Chas,

    No, private facebook status is not actually private, which is one of the reasons I too avoid Facebook like a plague. But I think it would be a good standard to set for this place that people respect the privacy of members of closed Facebook (or any other private) groups by not posting here private conversations from there unless all participants agree.

  369. says

    Oh, also – and I think this has been suggested previously – an easy way to look at commenting history. Not only does that provide a way to see if a person has a history of bad behavior, but it also gives people a chance to do some reflection (with real data) before responding.

  370. starfishrock says

    I’m one of the noobies who ended up here through the rape-related threads. My first post was one in which I 1) identified as a rape survivor and 2) voiced a minority opinion on a contentious issue. I was treated with immense kindness and substantive replies (for which I thank you all very much, and apologize for not following up- I didn’t have much gas in the emotional tank at the time).

    Anyways, I agree with everyone whose said it could be nice to try a “fluffy bunnies 101″ area to separate out the very few new posters who are good-faith ignorant and actually willing to learn but who are too thin-skinned to put up with the completely understandable (and awesome imo!) vitriol their ignorance provokes on main threads about contentious issues. I’m not sure it will work, but I think it’s worth trying if doable.

    I also think there are some pretty easy things posters can do to maximize their own chances of getting a polite response, if that is what they’re actually looking for. Those are 1) actually read the thread, comments and relevant links and then state in their first post that they’ve done so and make it obvious they actually have by addressing the substance of the argument they disagree with *from the point of view of the commenter/poster that they disagree with*. 2) Write from a first-person experiential point of view rather than using a theoretical omniscient writing voice. 3) each time someone makes an argument in reply, if you are going to reply in turn, step back, consider the argument for potential good points/areas of correctness, and acknowledge those politely and sincerely.

    All of these are pretty simple and will vastly improve the chances of polite replies, but I think unfortunately many people are never taught explicitly how to fight fair and don’t know it’s even possible. So maybe a link specifying these tips or some variation for people who say they want polite replies but are actually provoking “fuck off doucheweasel” replies could also be helpful. (To be clear though, the awesome non-polite replies for people who don’t deserve them are part of what makes this a safe space imo and no one should have to feel any pressure to keep their replies polite. A good “fuck off” goes a long way imo).

    And I also think if PZ is up for it, a brief statement about why people tend to be on a short fuse on some topics along with the “if I say the fucking earth orbits the fucking sun, my profanity doesn’t make it any less true” example at the end of potentially contentious threads might prevent some inadvertent tone trolling (although it will do nothing about intentional tone trolling unfortunately).

  371. praxis.makes.perfect (Just call me Prax. It's easier to type) says

    I think Asher Kay makes a very, very, very good point at #407.

    Being able to see someone’s commenting history as well as knowing your own history is easily viewable by everyone, at any time, might keep some of the more awful regulars from poisoning discussion threads with the same crap over and over as well as offering occasional commenters an ability to point to their history here without having to bookmark all the comments they’ve made.

  372. Pteryxx says

    re starfishrock:

    Anyways, I agree with everyone whose said it could be nice to try a “fluffy bunnies 101″ area to separate out the very few new posters who are good-faith ignorant and actually willing to learn but who are too thin-skinned to put up with the completely understandable (and awesome imo!) vitriol their ignorance provokes on main threads about contentious issues. I’m not sure it will work, but I think it’s worth trying if doable.

    I used to agree with that sentiment, until it was actually tried in practice. That was part of the original purpose of A+ forums, to have a 101 area for supposedly good-faith ignorant questions. It just got flooded with determined Just-Askers who competed to see how much triggering apologia they could slip under the radar while fooling mods into seeing good faith there.

    One possible demonstration of good faith would be if a determined “noob” takes their questioning to the Thunderdome when asked. Most of the trolls exploiting the good-faith loophole do NOT want substantive discussion to proceed without their personal attention.

  373. Pteryxx says

    praxis: Just consider that comment histories also make gleaning personal information easier, such as what timezones individual commenters are in, or what they’ve shared in other discussions. Right now some regulars (with better memories and archives than me) can recognize nyms or writing styles and just link back to relevant previous behavior, which then permits some degree of cherry-picking.

    I don’t have a good solution to this.

  374. praxis.makes.perfect (Just call me Prax. It's easier to type) says

    @Pteryxx:

    That’s a good point in favour of not doing it. I hadn’t considered that. Since I don’t have a “regular” schedule I didn’t think of the time-zone thing. Nor did I consider the fact that personal stories shared could be used to trigger people having disagreements on other issues. I didn’t think of it, I guess, because I wouldn’t consider doing such, but given some of what’s happened here, lately, I have got to keep it foremost in my thoughts that I can’t expect people to respect the dignity or “privacy” of others.

    Ugh.

    I hate thinking like this.

    Why do folks gotta be so icky?

  375. says

    To some degree, whenever you have discussions of social justice, you will get trolling because social justice topics critique the culture we all live in (to one degree or another, depending on where you are).

    Because I am an academic, I have zero problem with telling people who are typically asked to do some reading to fuck off until they do reading. If they can’t do the basic buy-in on a subject and pay attention to the source material, they rightly deserve to be dismissed. And if newbies get their feelings hurt by one person, I frequently see many other people trying to direct them to reading material or explain why there’s a problem. If a new person cannot concentrate on the five people trying to educate them for the one person who says something they think is mean, they shouldn’t be here anyway—they’ll perish of tone before they ever manage to get to the meat of whatever issue is on the table. Since the subjects are frequently controversial, they’d be completely unable to deal with the regular content.

    As for the fluffy bunnies thread, I’d show up and provide educational material or explanations on occasion, but all in all I think that making too many more concessions will only encourage trolling. It isn’t as if people like Caine and pteryxx don’t post links to help with the educational process.

    And since when are hurt feelings a reason to stop reading material?

  376. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    For reasons Pteryxx and others mention, fluffy bunnies thread would work only with heavy moderation. There’s one thing if someone needs education and to be handled with kid gloves, and another if someone is misusing other’s good will by JAQing off.

  377. cubist says

    I like Asher Kay’s suggestion that each comment be accompanied by the number of comments which have already been posted by its author. I do note that some commenters like to tweak their nyms with suffixed addenda that are not entirely constant… so it might be helpful if, under the hood, the ‘comment count’ function uses all the identifying characteristics which PZ exploits to identify previously-banned jerkwads, and the posted comment-count figure includes two numbers: [number of this person's comments under this specific nym]/[number of this person's comments under any and all of their nyms]
    For someone who never uses but the one nym/IP/etc, this would appear as X/X, where X is however-many comments they’ve made. For a banned jerkwad trying out a new sockpuppet, this would appear as 1/X on their shiny new ‘first’ comment—of course, it would also appear as 1/X for the ‘first’ comment by a long-time commenter who’s just tweaked their nym, Also of course, a nym-tweaking commenter is going to be consistent in their writing style and etc, and a banned jerkwad-with-sockpuppet will presumably present themselves as a Shiny New Commenter™, so in practice, I don’t expect that this change would lead to much confusion or erroneous Identify-Friend-or-Foe issues.
    Would this idea be easy to implement, or a royal pain in the ass? No idea.

    Possible idea: Give each comment a “Search for all previous comments by this person” button, which would look over the entire Pharyngula database and display a list. In this list, each comment has indicators of whether the nym is identical to the nym on the comment whose “search for all…” button was clicked; whether the IP is identical; whether the email address is identical. In each case, the actual data is hidden, and the only thing that’s exposed is whether or not that piece of data has changed.
    Searching the entire Pharyngula database is a trifle problematic, given its size, so on those grounds alone, it wouldn’t surprise me if PZ’s response to this idea is to laugh like a maniac and ignore it. And even if it’s technically feasible, this idea is an obvious source of ammunition for jerkwads. On the plus side, this idea would make it easier for people of good will to discover okay, that’s where [insert name here] is coming from, Am unsure if this benefit outweighs the obvious downside.

  378. burgundy says

    I’ve commented here and there, and read the comments pretty regularly for a year or two, so this is a mostly-newbie take on things: I think there’s a limit to how much can be accomplished with rules. This is a large community. Stuff happens with large groups of humans. There are cliques, and grudges, and different standards and reactions along in-goup/out-group lines. There are moods and cultural fluctuations and periods of crisis and periods of stability and (relative) peace. I don’t see how anything would change that without creating a comment system so regimented that it stopped being recognizable human interaction.

    My general feeling is that what’s important isn’t eliminating the byproducts of having a large group of humans – it’s trying to soften the consequences so the inevitable slip-ups aren’t irrevocable. A lot of people have suggested things that might help in this area: having a sliding scale of bans, so that people can have forced time-outs or opportunities to redeem themselves. Having different tiers of moderation and noting when comments are intended to serve a particular function. Sticking more closely to the three-strikes rule (although I think it’s fair to have exemptions for things like hate speech, and if a comment thread is marked as a sensitive subject and is more heavily moderated and has a FAQ/101 page linked to it, then people who come in and very obviously haven’t looked at any of that can more readily be presumed to be posting in bad faith.)

    The rest of it, I think, will just have to work itself out. Maybe things will calm down a bit after this incredibly stressful month. Maybe just having the conversation will cause people to think about their own personal commenting style and whether or not that’s something they wish to continue doing.

    Speaking to my own experience – I love Pharyngula for the comments as well as the posts. I love how so many of the people here are intelligent, knowledgeable, insightful, furious and righteous, and kind and supportive, as the occasion warrants. It does make me uncomfortable sometimes, to see people I generally like and admire fighting with each other, especially when, from my perspective, it’s a question of misunderstanding rather than malice. But that’s a thing that happens when people interact, because brains and communication methods are not infallible. I don’t think that’s fixable by any external mechanism. And yes, it can be a little intimidating to be a newbie commenter, because the righteous fury of the Horde can be terrible as well as beautiful, and most people wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end. But that’s generally avoidable by reading before posting, being mindful of one’s language, not getting immediately defensive, and being able to articulately explain one’s position (all of which are valuable life skills and not necessarily something we should be coddled out of.)

  379. says

    Moreover, the thing about social justice issues is that everyone thinks they’re an expert, and if one has to run off a bunch of pseudo-experts who know nothing about the subject but think that spamming a thread with their ignorance is their right, good!

    As far as internecine fighting, I’m with burgundy: I don’t think it’s possible for this many people not to agree, and they will do so at many levels (discussions of differences to outright fights). I have already seen a great deal of charity extruded toward persons as long as its clear they understand the problem.

    What I might note is that many of us have had serious, gut wrenching thread full o’ trolls after serious, gut wrenching thread full o’ trolls, so it’s entirely possible that what’s happening is less DEEEEP RIFTS and more exhaustion.

  380. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Rather than default moderation for Newbies, one thing that MIGHT be useful is to have a newbie flag/identifier that lasts for the first dozen or 25 or something posts.

    That rule that isn’t working about giving people 3 chances might not work any better when we have a newbie under fire…but it might. There is a culture here, and giving people time to learn it doesn’t suck.

  381. says

    Perhaps we could have some sort of filter for overused arguments that will redirect the user to the appropriate page where that argument was rebutted? Add a little test for reading comprehension at the bottom tied to a badge or something that would allow the user to post comments with that argument or word.

    Given the problems Pharyngula has with the same arguments and buzzwords over and over, like political correctness, what about teh menz and the like, surely a filter for commonly misused terms that would prevent the poster from posting those terms and tell them that they were filtered until they did the required reading would improve things, correct?

  382. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Caine,

    Yeah, I’ve read both Chris’ and Chas’ comments (and some others about regulars)… absorbing now and thinking that I can do better so I might as well go and bloody do it. I endorse it for others too. :)

  383. carlie says

    Rather than default moderation for Newbies, one thing that MIGHT be useful is to have a newbie flag/identifier that lasts for the first dozen or 25 or something posts.

    Oh, I do like that.

  384. davem says

    PZ : “might have used a “supportive comments only” flag”

    No, no no. That’s the main problem. Any view which differs from the standardised mob view is shouted down, usually without any real argument, and often accompanied with a ‘fuck off’ or two. . Daily, the comment section here becomes more like YouTube.

    Too often, someone comes here, and makes a comment with which a few disagree. Do we get a cogent argument addressing the issue from anyone here? No, we get ‘fuck off you troll’ 10 or 20 times. Then the ‘troll’ gets warned off., but the foul-mouthed responses are never addressed.. They need to be addressed.

    Oh, and please drop the feminism. Even if I agree with it, it’s become boring(the worst sin of all!), and just creates vitriol. There’s plenty of other places we can fill our boots with feminism,

  385. says

    davem: Actually, as someone who tends to participate in the feminism threads, there are often people who try to post links and otherwise actually engage the person, it’s just that the trolling commentor is too ‘over’ having to learn about things they feel compelled to post on that they don’t read or even pay attention to them.

    Ever so sorry for boring you, old sport. Well, except that I’m not.

  386. carlie says

    Too often, someone comes here, and makes a comment with which a few disagree. Do we get a cogent argument addressing the issue from anyone here? No, we get ‘fuck off you troll’ 10 or 20 times.

    And there’s a big part of the problem, that some people see it that way when, in reality, the comment isn’t something that “a few disagree” with, but something that has been answered a dozen times in the thread already, but that commenter didn’t bother to read. So several people say to fuck off and go read it, and others go ahead and answer… and get ignored by the commenter, who really isn’t here to discuss anything but rather to have a space to opine.

  387. says

    davem:

    Oh, and please drop the feminism. Even if I agree with it, it’s become boring(the worst sin of all!), and just creates vitriol. There’s plenty of other places we can fill our boots with feminism,

    Wow. That’s pretty arrogant. So, all that matters is whether or not you agree with it (I disagree with that, by the way) and you don’t want those dainty eyes being bored? Well, thanks so much for dismissing and erasing about half the commentariat, davem. I’m sure we wouldn’t be able to manage without that splendid bit of mansplaining.

  388. NightShadeQueen, resident nutcase says

    cubist

    I don’t switch my account when I acquire a new ‘nym – WordPress supports changing your display name without changing your account username.

  389. says

    carlie: See, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. It has been my experience repeatedly that I or others sit down, find studies and/or post a detailed explanation of the problem, and we are ignored by the person we’re trying to talk to, who goes on to claim that no one tried to engage them.

    Of course, they don’t have to engage, but the least they could do is be honest about why they aren’t engaging: it’s not that no one tried to engage them, it’s that what they really wanted was to barf on the thread for the purposes of self-righteousness and then pat themselves on the back for it.

  390. says

    Thanks, Beatrice!

    I kind of disagree with Chas about the “backchannel” idea. I was once a regular on a blog that had a whole separate blog specifically for regulars to discuss the goings-on at the main community. There were disagreements from time to time, but there was also a lot of healthy norm reinforcement, steam releasing, strategizing about how to deal with problems, and discussion of what we wanted the community to be.

  391. says

    mouthyb, Vagina McTits @ 434:

    It has been my experience repeatedly that I or others sit down, find studies and/or post a detailed explanation of the problem, and we are ignored by the person we’re trying to talk to, who goes on to claim that no one tried to engage them.

    I have noticed this too (repeated too many times for it to be a coincidence).

    And while I think it wouldn’t work to have an explicit rule along the lines of, “You must read/think about/seriously engage the substantive responses to your comment that others have gone to the trouble to post,” it seems reasonable to acknowledge that failing to do so is sloppy at best, veering into downright disrespectful.

    So maybe commenters doing that crap shouldn’t be banned … but they should feel bad.

  392. says

    docfreeride: The one time I really got listened to (for a value of someone actually responding to what I posted who disagrees with me) was when the fella I was talking to thought I was male (way back in the Elevator Gate days, and he literally said he thought I was male.) He stopped immediately when I told him I was female.

    Mostly what I get, when the person bothers to respond, is a very *selective* reading of what I posted.

    I feel like it should be flagged or there should be some sort of consequence when the person does what I’ve described. I’m all for banning the shit outta them, but at the very least, I’d like it to be acknowledged somehow, publicly.

  393. says

    mouthyb @437:

    The one time I really got listened to (for a value of someone actually responding to what I posted who disagrees with me) was when the fella I was talking to thought I was male

    Ayup. I got taken as a lot more authoritative in a whole lotta places in the blogosphere before my status as a woman was findable with a mere click of a link.

    Probably the most effective response to this behavior lies in community members stepping up and saying “Hey [Commenter Ignoring Question/Answer Directed to You], did you see that [Ignored Commenter] posted [Question/Answer Directed to You]? Could you please respond to that?” But if PZ were to institute more formal responses to such anti-social behavior, that would be fine, too.

  394. says

    docfreeride: Actually, that sounds good to me. Signal boosting those kinds of comments seems to me like an easy thing I could do to help put a little social pressure on people who persist in that kind of behavior.

  395. starfishrock says

    Pteryxx @411:

    I used to agree with that sentiment, until it was actually tried in practice…

    Sigh- I wasn’t aware about the history with A+, but yeah, I can see how that could happen.

    For me personally, Thunderdome isn’t a good alternative, as I find it too chaotic and fast-flowing to really follow, but then again, I’m usually smart enough to shut up and read when people tell me to, so I’m unlikely to need to go there anyways. And for people who are so angry about something that they can’t shut up about it, maybe that fast pace is actually a positive.

    davem@427:

    Too often, someone comes here, and makes a comment with which a few disagree. Do we get a cogent argument addressing the issue from anyone here? No, we get ‘fuck off you troll’ 10 or 20 times. .

    Yep, yep. Leaving aside for a minute (because already addressed) the fact that generally there are people offering cogent arguments too, and that the “few” thing is questionable at best too, those 10 to 20 “fuck off”s are what makes this site such an awesomely refreshing place. I cannot even begin to tell you how wonderful it is to have a place where the day-in-day-out bullshit many of us are expected to put up with 24/7 finally gets consistently called out. Right away. By multiple people. That’s not a bug, dude; it’s a feature.

  396. says

    Seconding docfreeride in #438 – in fact I just wrote this in another thread:

    It would be a good thing if more people backed them up by simple responses to the trolls along the lines of “you still haven’t answered Caine” or “have you read Pteryx’s links yet?” instead of offering up yet another rebuttal in their own words. A smorgasbord of rebuttals only gives the malefactors more spaces to cherrypick between. Be more like pugilists and get scientific about aiming response after response at precisely the same spot every single time.

  397. Deoridhe says

    I have a couple of thoughts but nothing condensed into rule form, so I’m leaving them here where other people might find a use for them.

    One is a self-imposed “three comments and done” rule. I don’t mean three comments is all I can make, but if I’m interacting with someone else, and we get into a back and forth, I can only go three comments and then I make myself stop – by closing the window and leaving if I can’t control myself. I’ve noticed that after three exchanges, my discussions with other people often become more about their last exchange than the original topic, and that’s exacerbated each time.

    The other self-imposed rule I have is a “day break” rule. If I find myself feeling like i have to keep commenting, this is life-important, and I find myself skimming what other people wrote to find the flaws in it, I give myself a day break. Could be from the thread, often has been from the site all together.

    I have no idea how these could be ruled… but I also try to play by the “three person pile on” rule, too. Even if I feel like something has been missed, if I see three people responding to the same post, I don’t.

    I do a lot of threes, but it’s a fairly arbitrary number, I think, as long as it’s low.

  398. says

    Praxis @ 382:

    There’s no way I want to participate here if AR is a monitor. That should never have happened in the first place, no matter how high emotions were running.

    So you know, A.R is no longer a monitor.

  399. praxis.makes.perfect (Just call me Prax. It's easier to type) says

    Caine:

    Thank you for letting me know. I appreciate the update.

  400. yazikus says

    I’ve finally caught up reading this and the assignment thread, and wanted to chip in that the New Rules sound good. I’ll be happy to comply. Thanks to everyone whose thoughtful contributions will make this space even better to participate in. I appreciate it.

  401. says

    Praxis:

    Thank you for letting me know. I appreciate the update.

    You’re welcome. I hope that makes you feel a bit better, and a bit safer. Also, no moderator system has been implemented in any way. We’re sticking with the monitor system, so we have no info of any kind in regard to email addresses, IPs, anything like that. What we have done is try to make things easier for people to holler at us, when there is a need.

  402. Ruby says

    To flesh-out the “Feeding the Trolls thing more”.

    In addition to what some people have said, that not EVERYONE posting common troll arguments is actually a troll, they may just be clueless and in need of education, one other thing too many people forget is that commenting is not a one-on-one interaction, there is an audience. And that audience may need to be educated too.

    As a result, we end up with one of two scenarios:

    Troll Feeding:

    JAQer: But why doesn’t she just go to the police?

    Commentariat: *Responds, often with accidental dog-piling*

    JAQer: *may or may not back-down; may double-down instead, prolonging the argument, depends largely, but not exclusively, on whether or not they genuinely didn’t understand (and are now educated) or really were trolling* Either way…

    Audience: *educated*

    Thread: *derailed*

    No Troll Feeding:

    JAQer: But why doesn’t she just go to the police?

    Commentariat: *doesn’t respond to this*

    Audience (and JAQer, if they were genuinely confused): *now left with the impression that we don’t have a response to that, i.e. that it’s a valid question*

    I really shouldn’t have to explain why that scenario is hugely problematic.

    This why I think creating and linking to pre-written responses for common trolling is a good idea (along with the @Number and looking for replies before responding guidelines).

    New Scenario:

    *Pharyngula community creates pre-written posts addressing a variety of commonly used Creationist/Religionist/Apologist/MRA/whatever garbage, complete with references, links, ect.*

    In a thread:

    JAQer (In comment #666): But why doesn’t she just go to the police?

    Commenter: @666 Dumbass. *Link to pre-written page with the answer to that question*

    Other Commenters: *Ctrl-F for “@666″, see that it’s been dealt with, ignore it and move on*

    Thread: *continues on without further derailing*

    Audience: * educated*

    JAQer (genuinely confused): *is not only educated on the subject, but sees that it was so predicable there was a pre-written post for it; is alerted to their lack of knowledge on the subject and now has a collection of links/references/other posts to get them started on self-education*

    JAQer (trolling): *is shut down without further engagement or derailing*

    It’ll take a lot of work to compile pre-written responses, but if it’s done it could give us the middle ground needed between not allowing trolling to derail threads and not allowing the toxic ideas posted by trolls to stand without rebuttal.

  403. gertrud says

    In light of what I know now, I retract what I said at 380. I don’t know what would make me feel safe reading or posting here, but I don’t think it’s really possible regardless, and that isn’t anyone here’s problem.

    Thank you.

  404. says

    On a more general note re concerns about who gets to see whose email addresses – I have been recommending for years that anyone who’s active online should have a separate webmail address for blogs/social media etc, an address that is not tied to your wallet name unless you want it to be.

    Apart from anything else, it keeps your online interactions from intruding into your work/home life unless you’re logged into that webmail account, and it gives you an extra layer of privacy whether you think you need it or not, just because layering your privacy is a damn good idea anyway.

    The big 3 webmail providers are gmail.com, hotmail.com and yahoo.com – smaller webmail providers might be mistaken for throwaways even if they’re not meant to be, so my advice is to stick to the biggies.

  405. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    JAQer (genuinely confused): *is not only educated on the subject, but sees that it was so predicable there was a pre-written post for it; is alerted to their lack of knowledge on the subject and now has a collection of links/references/other posts to get them started on self-education*

    JAQer (trolling): *is shut down without further engagement or derailing*

    Actually, this won’t happen very often. I suspect: JAQer: I dismiss your “evidence”, continues JAQing from unevidenced opinion.

    A lot of those folks are liberturds. Nobody tells them anything, and their opinions override all evidence.

  406. Ruby says

    Roxie @287 I’ll give you an example, whether you meant to or not, in comment 275 you made a comment (“If someone is so prone to psychological or other damage from comments on a blog from someone they don’t know then maybe they shouldn’t be posting there”) that many people interpreted as you saying that people that could be harmed in some way by troll-comments, i.e. rape-survivors with PTSD that could be triggered by certain comments, shouldn’t comment here. This was in response to someone claiming that not jumping on possible trolls could be harmful to readers. Combined with your previous arguments about commenters here being too mean in their anti-troll-ness, it seemed as though you were arguing that people with certain issues, such as rape survivors with PTSD, shouldn’t post here so-as to not inconvenience trolls.

    Needless to say, that is an utterly vile and reprehensible argument. Piegasm @285 said as much. And also used bad words to do it.

    In your response to this, instead of explaining what the hell else you could have possibly meant by your comment, i.e. responding to the (quite valid!) substance of the comment directed at you, you instead zeroed in on the not-nice language of the comment, i.e. its tone, in an apparent attempt to derail the conversation into an argument about naughty words and mean names, instead of one about you advocating tossing Survivors under the bus for the sake of trolls. THAT is tone-trolling.

  407. Ruby says

    OK, so I searched for specific replies, but didn’t see PZ’s comment about banning Roxie until I’d posted 451.

    Still, as per my point in 447, in case any lurker needed a specific explanation of tone-trolling, there you go.

  408. Ruby says

    @450 Well, yeah, but at that point they can be safely ignored, since their BS has been dealt with. And if they keep at it TOO much, it’s proves they’re trolls and it’s banning time.

  409. Ruby says

    ….new suggestion, can the software be set up to auto-delete duplicate posts? I’m sure that would help with spamming and trolling to. As well as posting oops’. ^_^;

  410. Portia says

    Caine:

    The tab is sniny, but the blue text where it says “email the monitors” does nothing. In his posted draft, earlier, it said the email address in my address bar when I clicked it.

  411. says

    Portia:

    The tab is sniny, but the blue text where it says “email the monitors” does nothing. In his posted draft, earlier, it said the email address in my address bar when I clicked it.

    Hmmm. When I click the link to email the monitors, I get a ‘new mail’ blank with the email address in it from Thunderbird. I’ll bring this up to the other monitors and PZ. Thank you.

  412. Portia says

    Nightshadequeen: Not unless I right click “open in new tab”. And other sites work for me in that way, just this afternoon I used Craigslist’s reply function for that. I’m not too concerned about my own ability, so if it’s a “me” problem, I’ll happily drop it, I just want to troubleshoot if it’s helpful.

  413. NightShadeQueen, resident nutcase says

    Hum. a href mailtos are weird – they depend on your specific browser/email client setup a lot. But the HTML looks right to me.

  414. says

    Portia:

    It’s entirely possible that it’s operator error, so grain of salt and all that.

    I posted the potential problem to the monitor’s group, so people can check and it can be tinkered with, if necessary. No big deal, but it’s best if it works optimally.

  415. says

    Portia, I get the same problem because I don’t have a dedicated email agent configured on this computer – everything just goes through gmail, and the mailto link doesn’t generate a new posting window in gmail the way that it would if I were using a standalone email client like Outlook or Thunderbird.

    This is one of the reasons I suggested using a contact-page with an email form earlier: I’m sure I’m not the only person who just doesn’t bother with a separate email client any more.

  416. Funny Diva, naval gassing looser says

    1) Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden @420

    There is a culture here, and giving people time to learn it doesn’t suck.

    I agree with that in many ways,
    however, I don’t think it’s a reasonable expectation that “learning the culture” should always, or even primarily, take place, let alone begin, when someone actually _posts a comment_. Especially in a highly-charged thread like “grenade” or “stunned silence”.

    Do anthropologists just go out in the field and demand that their subjects “tell me all about your culture”?! I’m pretty sure they don’t.
    IOW and IMO, newbies have a responsibility to “learn the culture” through observation (aka lurking). And I’d say the newcomer has a much greater responsibility to do their homework than the community has to go out of its way to be welcoming (unless that’s already the community norm).

    Those that are unwilling to put in that basic level of work at fitting in to an established group really don’t have much grounds for complaining about their reception from the regulars, and certainly not to demand that everyone be nice to them and personally spoon-feed them the group norms.
    Not that I think that gives anyone else license to vent their spleen in displays of Newbie Stomping.

    This goes for established groups away-from-keyboard as well. Ever had a new committee member make their first meeting or two all about educating them in how the group runs? Without having read the previous minutes they’ve had access to for weeks? If you have, and you felt no annoyance, you’re a _much_ more patient person than I am!

    Or, as Maureen Brian said at #313

    Work out whose house you are in before you start rearranging the furniture.

    2) something I haven’t seen floated yet (as of comment #463)
    Might there be some way to have the monitors modify their thread participation when they’re “on duty”?
    Such that during the time they’re acting as monitor in a given thread their “participation” as far as engaging arguments in detail, chasing down links, etc. is kept to a minimum? And their primary focus is keeping the discussion running within acceptable parameters? Maybe they’d be the designated Rules Reminder Person, so that some of the duplicate “take it to thunderdome” and “read the post/comments” messages aren’t necessary?
    That would probably involve formalizing the structure a bit more. I would not ever want to lose Caine’s or Pteryx’s contributions to a discussion entirely (for–very incomplete–example), but perhaps for the block of time they’re keeping an eye on things that could be a monitor’s primary task?

    (I still occasionally read another blog where a similar arrangement is the norm. Though I don’t agree with their comment policies, and it’s _much_ more heavily moderated than Pharyngula.)

  417. Tony! The Immorally Inferior Queer Shoop! says

    davem:
    Your check is in the mail.
    You played the role of ‘commenter who expresses an opinion that I find so distasteful that my kneejerk response would usually be fuck you’.

    Davem stopped by to tell us xe is more concerned about being told to “fuck off” than the fundamental rights of a pretty damn big portion of the human race.
    Under roxie’s “argument”, the ‘fuck off’ that I feel davem is entitled to is wrong bc he “disagrees”.

     

    Yes people are entitled to your own opinion, but all opinions are not equal in value. Davem criticizes PZ for incorporating feminism into his blog topics.
    Davem finds a movement seeking social, political, and economic equality for all women. boring. I find his “opinion”, which merely “disagrees” with commenters here to, at the very least be one that supports the status quo which oppresses women. I find his disagreeable opinion unworthy of much more than “fuck you”.

     
    Some of the commenters who complain about harsh language fail to acknowledge context. I do not recall seeing davem before but the opinion xe holds is one held by a lot of people who dislike the infusion of social justice with atheist activism. The disdain he shows for womens rights reminds me of the same shit spouted by some of the unsavory members of the atheist community. So does couching ones argument on a buzzword like ‘disagreement’.

     

    “Guys don’t do that’ opened the floodgates. and the resulting backlash against those who incorporate feminism with atheism surprised me, at least in the beginning. The animosity and hatred directed to social justice atheist activists by so many of those who are ‘ just disagreeing’ has been draining. The cries of “I was just disagreeing and I was censored or banned” have been exposed as disingenuous. But I have found some small benefit to them. In lieu of actual arguments to support their views (where *is* that Defense of Misogyny novel) they hide behind yelps of “censorship”, “silencing”, “free speech” and other terms. Now, when I see a comment invoking any of those buzzwords, especially without a good faith attempt to justify their cries, red flag goes up. I do try to avoid immediately jumping onto someone with my invectives, even though so many turn out wholly deserving of such.

     

    I fully acknowledge that new commenters who are not slimy have been misidentified as assholes.
    How extensive is the problem? To hear some of PZs detractors, people are turned away in droves and PZ is losing his popularity (either of which they know…how?)
    Can we reduce this problem?
    How can we?

     

    Closely related to those questions:
    Can that goal be achieved while keeping the atmosphere that so many lurkers have expressed appreciation for?
    If you are a woman who was sexually harassed and had your claims dismissed out of hand
    As a trans*woman who was fired due to transphobia
    If ou are a PoC who was Stopped and Frisked.
    ..when you are part of a marginalized group who is accustomed to society NOT having their back
    Seeing transphobic assholes or sexist douchecannons verbally eviscerated can be incredibly helpful for marginalized people unaccustomed to much if any support. We have seen far too many people speak up to show their support for the handling of, say, rape apologists.
    Any argument in favor of civility or less harsh words bc some people are turned off by them ought to address how helpful such language has proven.

     

    __________
    For those who think civility and politeness are absolutely essential–why do you feel this way? Please note that people have been talking about the whole of Pharyngula, rather than certain types of threads. I think consideration should be made for threads that deal with rape, abortion, or racism (as examples).

    Group A: Harshly critical, invective laced comments should be banned bc some people are turned off by them, but otherwise are unaffected
    Group B: Harshly crtical, invective laced comments should remain bc they see a lack of support from society at large and the unyielding support is important to them

  418. says

    @Tony

    For many of the people who are “turned off” by the comment threads here, I don’t think it’s a matter of holding politeness and civility in high esteem or being upset by profanity. A lot of the people talking about this (Chas and Chris were mentioned above) don’t seem have an issue with either of those things.

    I don’t even think the extent is important. It’s about what sort of people you want to become and remain members of your community. If Chris Clarke is one of those kinds of people, there’s something wrong, because his stated reasons, though personal, are not just a quirk, applicable only to him. Do his reasons strike any kind of chord with you?

    And as I reflect on it, I don’t even know if results are all that important (although I’ve argued that previously). The reason why I don’t want to make the mistake of calling someone who is not an asshole an asshole is that it’s simply not right to do so. It’s not surprising that it happens, given the volume of assholes and the frustration and suspicion that it can cause, but it’s still something to be avoided if possible, for its own sake. The question is whether the core of the community sees it as a big enough problem to do something about (or as a problem at all).

    The benefits that you mentioned (to those used to being marginalized) are to me very obvious. The verbal evisceration of those who demonstrate themselves to be misogynistic, willfully ignorant, etc. is something I, for one, wouldn’t want to see go away.

    I don’t think the “misidentification” problem is really that hard to solve. Some regulars here seem to reflect and take a break when their level of frustration reaches a certain point, or when they see something in their own behavior that they don’t like. That’s one solution. Regulars calling out other regulars who are jumping the gun would be enough to modify the norms a little. And there are a few relatively simple technological aids already mentioned that would help remind people to be more certain that someone is an asshole before initiating verbal evisceration.

  419. Forelle says

    Very late to this. I’ve made an effort to read the whole thread, but I might be repeating something. If so, I’m sorry — with more time, I’d quote and paste, but I haven’t got it now. PZ has asked newbies — a lurker here then. These are my personal preferences, for what they’re worth.

    1) Another no to nesting and rating.

    2) I’d rather have guidelines than rules.

    3) I’d like to read PZ on thread contents — again, not necessarily ordering and ruling, but expressing some of his preferences. I’m a bit alarmed by references to “safe spaces” accompanied, not by the vigorous cursing that makes this space safe indeed for certain people, but by too many comments like “stop,” “this conversation can’t be had here,” and so on.

    Another problem with contents is what constitutes appropriate derailing. I’ve read some over the years that were opportune and seemed to bring a lot of robust, interesting conversation; after all, a post on biology was likely to bring some creationist, and the derailing was served, but everybody, including of course the creationist, seemed ok with it. Such deviations seem generally self-regulated, as well as natural and lively to me, but lately I’m reading opinions against them, and again, I’d like to know PZ’s (this is just a wish on my part, far far away from a demand).

    Both these questions seem to me a matter of degree and therefore difficult to rule over.

    4) About salty language. I’m okay with profanity targeted to really offensive people who have forgotten their humanity, not just uninformed idiots. I’m okay with totally gratuitous profanity, just for the sake of swearing; some people talk that way and can be very creative. I’m not okay with gratuitously offensive profanity. It’s the gratuitous offence that bothers me. For example: after reading for a while, it’s quite clear that there are some incompatible people in the horde; I don’t need to be reminded of it when it’s really unnecessary. If A dislikes B, could A please refrain from saying “B, we all know that you’re an asshole”? I wonder if this could sour the mood of the thread for some valuable people. So, be kind, maybe not to some hated member, but to the rest of the readers.

  420. jamessweet says

    Rule #1: Don’t read the comments on Pharyngula.

    I just don’t really know how to fix it. It’s cultural. Even if everybody is nominally polite, there is a level of “If I see the slightest flaw in what you say, I will burn you to the ground” that is just not very easy to take. It’s one thing to hold people to a high standard; what’s going on here is another altogether.

    I like reading Pharyngula. I like reading the comments in many places on FtB. The commentariat at Pharyngula may in fact have had a useful knock-on effect on the comments in other places around FtB, in the sense of raising people’s standards. But the actual comments on Pharyngula? Yeah, I’ll pass, thanks. (which means I won’t be seeing any responses to this either, you bastards :p )

  421. John Morales says

    [meta]

    jamessweet @472:

    But the actual comments on Pharyngula? Yeah, I’ll pass, thanks. (which means I won’t be seeing any responses to this either, you bastards :p )

    That’s a false claim; you evidently have not passed (doubly!) on the comments here, James. ;)

  422. davem says

    Caine @ 431
    Tony @ 468

    You both illustrate my point perfectly. Neither of you read and actually understood my comment, yet you attacked me for something I neither said nor meant. This is typical behaviour towards occasional commenters. They are generally made to feel unwelcome if they disagree even slightly with you.

    If they’re really trolls, do what you’re supposed to do with trolls; slap them down once, then ignore them.

    As to get feminism; I get it, and I agree with it; I just don’t want to read about it here day after day. Not because feminism is boring in itself,. It’s boring on this blog, because the comment sections are just unedifying cesspools. I skip them, as I do Thnderdome posts.. I am really sorry for having an opinion that isn’t the same as yours.

    I prefer the balance of posts that PZ had last year. I am merely suggesting to PZ that dropping the many posts may calm the place down.

  423. consciousness razor says

    As to get feminism; I get it, and I agree with it; I just don’t want to read about it here day after day.

    PZ, would you please stop forcing people to read about it here day after day?

    The non-trolls have been making these totally-reasonable requests for a long time. Get your tech guy to fix it or something.

    Not because feminism is boring in itself,. It’s boring on this blog, because the comment sections are just unedifying cesspools. I skip them, as I do Thnderdome posts.. I am really sorry for having an opinion that isn’t the same as yours.

    You know what’s even more boring? All those books I haven’t read. It’s not really what’s in the books themselves. It’s that after having not read them, I get bored for some reason. And those conversations I never had with lots of people who aren’t themselves boring? They were pretty boring conversations not to have had. Just my opinion, but I can’t say I’m sorry for having it, because that wouldn’t make any sense at all, unlike the rest of this comment.

  424. says

    PZ, would you please stop forcing people to read about it here day after day?

    No. As we speak, my crack team of cyber-ninjas are tracing davem’s (what is it with these guys and their lower case ‘nyms?) identity and are planning to hold him at cyber-sword-point and force him to read not only every pro-feminist post here, but also everything Melissa McEwan and Amanda Marcotte have written. They aren’t stopping until he’s a slavering fem-addict. And then they’re plopping down a pile of stuff written by black feminists — you know, the really hard core stuff — and leaving him to indulge himself to death.

    Sorry. It’s what I do.

  425. badgersdaughter says

    Sorry, folks, I’m at work and don’t have time to read the whole thread… if someone has suggested this, please count it as a “vote for”.

    Simply spin off the Thunderdome to its own (associated) site and appoint submoderators to that site only. Refer troublemakers from the blog proper to the Thunderdome discussion site, so even if you ban them from the blog they can still comment in the group-moderated forum. Group moderation is more lenient than single moderation when the moderators are mostly reasonable and accountable to each other.

  426. says

    How about a kind of symbol on each post to designate a level of self-restraint persons posting should have (with consequent moderation level?) Use the Lounge and the Thunderdome as the two extremes.

    Lounge-type threads will have heavy moderation, little to no argumentation, and certain types of statements will be call for moderation and warnings or bannings for people who don’t follow the rules. Something like:

    This thread is Fluffy-Bunny level. Supportive comments only. Anyone who makes disparaging comments will be warned and then banned for further violation of rules

    The Thunderdome-type threads will have less moderation, lots of debate, and as long as the comments don’t otherwise veer from the topic or rules of the blog there shouldn’t be much moderation at all:

    This thread is Rabid-Wolverine level. Engage in debate, back up your arguments, and no tone-trolling or civility arguments. Stick to the rules of the blog and you won’t get banned.

    Just a thought.

  427. says

    badgersdaughter:

    Simply spin off the Thunderdome to its own (associated) site and appoint submoderators to that site only. Refer troublemakers from the blog proper to the Thunderdome discussion site, so even if you ban them from the blog they can still comment in the group-moderated forum.

    I don’t think that’s a good idea. I don’t think any ‘associated’ type of forum would work, anyway. First, they become disassociated from the ‘parent’, then you end up with two distinct camps who, at the end of the day, have absolutely nothing in common. In my experience, forums always tend to implode under their own weight, eventually, which is why I avoid them these days.

    There was already a huge problem with the FB PET group, which landed here briefly. Half the people never heard of PET, the other half doesn’t have the slightest idea of what’s going on, everyone is yelling, yada, yada, yada. I think on-site problems must be resolved on-site. Trying to dump them “over there” just doesn’t work.

  428. says

    davem:

    As to get feminism; I get it, and I agree with it; I just don’t want to read about it here day after day. Not because feminism is boring in itself,. It’s boring on this blog, because the comment sections are just unedifying cesspools. I skip them, as I do Thnderdome posts.. I am really sorry for having an opinion that isn’t the same as yours.

    If you agreed with feminism and got it, as you say, you’d know there’s a fucktonne of work to be done yet.

    There are many people who would strongly disagree with you as to the comments on certain subjects being unedifying cesspools, they often de-lurk to say thank you for how much they’ve learned. You seem to think you’ve learned it all on certain subjects. Tsk.

    Now that we’ve established that Pharyngula is not all about davem, we get to the last point. This is not about you having a different opinion. That has become the standard whine of those who are very lazy, prefer uninvolvement in a whole score of matters, and feel that all things really should be tailored to them. If you have been unable to figure out by now that no one is waiting on your front step to force you into excruciating boredom by reading things you don’t wish to read, well…you’ve gone and taken a dip in the stupid pond.

    Again, this isn’t about you having a different opinion. It’s about you whining. “That bores me! I want a different story!” You aren’t a child, PZ isn’t your daddy, and the rest of us aren’t your nannies. If you want a different story, find one and read it.

  429. badgersdaughter says

    There was already a huge problem with the FB PET group, which landed here briefly. Half the people never heard of PET…

    PET?

    Point taken. Thanks. :)

  430. Physics or Stamp Collecting says

    I’ve been lurking off and on for the past couple of years. I delurked for the Stunned Silence thread because it was a space where I expected I would get unconditional and ferocious support, and I did, and appreciate that very much. I occasionally read around the time of the switch from SB but didn’t like what came off as smugness for being so very rational.

    Like others on this thread have said, it seems to me that there are two related problems here–how to deal with intracommunity conflict, and how to deal with trolls and JAQers. I don’t actually mind commenters telling apparently willfully clueless new commenters to fuck off–but then, I generally think it’s good manners to lurk for awhile so you learn a community’s norms before you put your foot in it. I do agree that it seems like regulars get a lot more latitude on whether their comment is constructive or not, that grudges are carried around, and that charity is often lacking (and of course, the trolls lower the average accuracy of assumptions of good faith, and there’s a nasty feedback loop).

    I feel like there’s a lot of anger here, and less and less joy as time goes on and more and more bad actions and attitudes come to light. Anger–unflinching, uncompromising anger–has its place, and I love that there is a place where it’s welcome and where I can learn to bring some of that willingness and ability to stand up for myself and others into my own life. I also think that a movement without joy–here, maybe, joy in treating each other well, joy in how damn cool the universe is, joy in the precision of a well-constructed argument for its own sake) is probably going to end up lashing out indiscriminately and eating its own. I don’t want to be in a revolution where we don’t dance.

  431. says

    @Cubist: I acknowledge that Don’t Feed The Trolls has problems because it can lead to fora (in the general sense) being filled with trolling. I was actually considering the age-old instruction to ignore bullies the other day as well and coming to the conclusion that it doesn’t work, either. Trolling is a sort of a mild form of cyber bullying, I would say.

    On the other hand, there are problems with NOT ignoring trolls, too. Lashing out against a troll just gives them what they wanted. Using a rational argument against them won’t have any really beneficial effects and the resulting argument derails the actual conversation that was ongoing.

    I have found ignoring trolls in live chats to be successful, because they can’t really troll in a vacuum of response, but that doesn’t apply so readily to an asynchronous communication medium.

    I’m beginning to think there’s no optimal way of dealing with trolls other than removing obvious troll posts and and deleting their comments, but that opens one up to false positives and claims of censorship or denial of free speech.

  432. says

    I’m beginning to think there’s no optimal way of dealing with trolls other than removing obvious troll posts and and deleting their comments, but that opens one up to false positives and claims of censorship or denial of free speech.

    Skimble – definitely, on the first part. Anyone claiming that a blog commentary/Horde shredding their foolishness or deleting their comments is taking away their free speech doesn’t know what “Freedom of Speech” means. Since PZ is not a government, nor an agent of the government, well, except of the Secret Socialist Atheist Islamofascist Homo-Agenda Government anyway, his deleting comments has nothing to do with Freedom of Speech. Those who claim this can be rudely invited to stake out their forty acres pretty much anywhere they like on the web that’ll have them, but there’s nothing they can point to that says PZ has to host their free speech for them.

    So that’s pretty much a damp squib as an argument any road.

  433. says

    I agree that private individuals are under no obligation to allow complete freedom of speech on fora they offer to the public, and in any case people are free to say what they wish as long as they abide by basic standards of decent human interaction. Freedom of speech doesn’t allow you to ignore other laws on human behaviour in the Real World (for example libel, slander, verbal assault etc. aren’t protected forms of free speech) and the same is doubly true of the Internet.

    On that basis I’d prefer to see trolls ignored, warned and then banned/deleted but I appreciate that PZ sometimes takes time to get to trollish posts. In the meantime does it add to the community to have vicious swear-laden evisceration of the trollish posts? I’m not yet convinced that DFTT is entirely ineffective.

  434. says

    Oh! I should also add that DFTT doesn’t necessarily equate to completely ignoring the trollish comment (yes, I know I phrased it as not responding, but what I was getting at was overtly hostile responses that give the troll something to feed off). One might say, “You’re trolling and I won’t respond to you.”

    Trolling also implies that people don’t even believe what they are saying, so I’m not sure MLK’s statement regarding negative peace which is the absence of tension applies. That’s good advice if people genuinely post inflammatory views because they believe them rather than because they are trolling, though.

    Anyway, I’m not sure trolls are the major problem here, it’s more the assumption of trolling and the violent responses thereto that contribute to a feeling of angry miasma floating over the comment threads, from what I can tell as a mostly outside observer.

  435. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    On that basis I’d prefer to see trolls ignored, warned and then banned/deleted but I appreciate that PZ sometimes takes time to get to trollish posts. In the meantime does it add to the community to have vicious swear-laden evisceration of the trollish posts? I’m not yet convinced that DFTT is entirely ineffective.

    This is Pharyngula. We feed trolls until the burst. If you don’t the unofficial policy, you can take it elsewhere. Your opinion won’t change ours, and you acknowledge you have no evidence to support your claim. So, why are you continuing about it?

  436. says

    Because PZ said he was interested in the views of relative newbies, as they are less likely to be jaded than the frequent commentariat.

    If we’re talking about lack of evidence, where is your evidence that feeding trolls works to maintain a more harmonious space?

    Also, I’m free to spout my opinion no matter how uselessly, as has already been established. That’s down to me and my time. If it’s a waste, it’s a waste, but then so much of what we do in life serves no constructive purpose why bother counting?

  437. says

    Who says “feeding trolls works to maintain a more harmonious space?”. I sure don’t. This is not a “harmonious space”.

    Ignoring, blocking, and banning trolls is necessary at times, when they’ve gone on long enough and exposed themselves enough. But then they just move on to harass someone else. We hammer on trolls enough here to make it clear that we won’t tolerate their assholery, and to show that we’re willing to fight back.

    I’m standing above all the comments, watching the general flow of the conversation, and I can tell you that Pharyngula is heavily trolled, intentionally and often out of raw stupidity. I see it over and over again; threads that suddenly blow up into great lengthy collections of comments invariably have some irritant at the center. I let people tear into that irritation for a while before smacking it out of existence.

    It’s nice that you feel free to spout useless opinions, and recognize that some of the things we do serve no constructive purpose. You do realize that that completely negates your complaint about how people spend their time here, right?

  438. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    If we’re talking about lack of evidence, where is your evidence that feeding trolls works to maintain a more harmonious space?

    Who is trying for a totally harmonious and boring space? You apparently. By tearing into and refuting the inanity presented by trolls, learning can happen with the lurkers. And educational moment.

  439. says

    This is Pharyngula. We feed trolls until the burst. If you don’t the unofficial policy, you can take it elsewhere. Your opinion won’t change ours

    It’s depressing that one member so casually speaks for the entire community.

  440. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It’s depressing that one member so casually speaks for the entire community.

    It’s depressing you haven’t been listening to most of the community.

  441. says

    Hi PZ. I realise that this is not a harmonious space, but I had the impression that the purpose of the exercise you are presently undertaking was to try and increase the level of harmony here. You acknowledged at the beginning of this thread that there is something that needs to be fixed, which does imply that the existing culture is not necessarily ideal.

    Encouraging people to vent at trolls seems like it has two main advantages: It’s an exercise in catharsis and might discourage trolling by letting them see the short thrift they receive if they try it.

    The only problem is that catharsis causes people become addicted to the feeling of catharsis and makes it more likely for them to express their anger in an ultimately negative way, so is discredited as a way of managing anger or improving mood (see http://www.psychologicalscience.org/media/myths/myth_30.cfm).

    I am not complaining about how people spend their time here, PZ. I was just doing as asked and providing my opinion on what rules or changes in culture might help to address the potential problem you highlighted in your initial post. If you’re happy with threads blowing up into great lengthy collections of comments surrounding an irritant at the centre (like a pearl made of snark and anger!) then that’s fine and nothing needs changing.

    As far as the best method for dealing with trolls and maintaining a useful comment culture that doesn’t drive desirable posters (like Chris) away, I think we’re all making best efforts guesses based primarily on anecdotal evidence, aren’t we? I haven’t seen anybody citing sources. It’s a pity there aren’t peer reviewed studies giving evidence-based results that might inform the subject. At least, as far as I am aware there aren’t.

    I wonder if it would be possible to set up different threads or other test beds with different rules and see which one(s) result in the type of culture you would like to see here?

    Finally I didn’t say my opinion was useless, though of course you are free to see it that way, It’s the expression of that opinion which I acknowledge might be useless, meaning that I don’t expect anyone to change how they act here based on my opinion or for you to change the rules in accordance with it.

  442. says

    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Who is trying for a totally harmonious and boring space? You apparently. By tearing into and refuting the inanity presented by trolls, learning can happen with the lurkers. And educational moment.

    “More harmonious” and “Totally harmonious” are not synonymous. I never claimed to be encouraging a culture of total harmony, as I don’t believe it’s achievable on an Internet forum or with any large group of people.

    I acknowledge that apart from catharsis and deterrence, viciously dissecting troll comments does also act as a teachable moment for any lurkers that genuinely hold the view espoused by the troll, and that this is an advantage I missed from my post above. Sorry for the oversight.

  443. says

    It’s depressing you haven’t been listening to most of the community.

    I took part in a discussion here about DNFTT in which I changed my mind about it based on what others were saying.

  444. Pteryxx says

    Hey Nerd, in this case I suggest backing off and letting Asher Kay and Skimble talk. They know the rationales, and whether the rudeness can be fine-tuned basically IS the topic. Besides, it might be an interesting meta-experiment.

    Skimble:

    I wonder if it would be possible to set up different threads or other test beds with different rules and see which one(s) result in the type of culture you would like to see here?

    There sort of are – the other blogs on FTB, which have more (or less) restrictive norms, may cover similar topics, and whose commentariats overlap to some extent with the Pharyngula regulars.