The trolls feed on your contempt

We had some discussion here a few years ago about implementing some scoring method for comments — there were some proponents who thought it would be a useful way to get community input. I’ve always been dead-set against it. It turns out I have scholarly justification now.

Abi Sutherland discusses a psychology paper at Making Light, which examined the effect of up- and down-voting on large user communities at CNN, IGN, Breitbart (oops, there’s a dollop of poison in the database), and allkpop, a Korean entertainment site. Cheng, Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, and Leskovec proposed to test a prediction of the operant conditioning model, that peer feedback would lead to a gradual improvement in the quality of posts. That’s not what they saw.

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Christina Hoff Sommers…autotuned!

Christina Hoff Sommers came out with a video a short while ago about the oppression of those poor boys who play video games — the feminists are out to get them, don’t you know? — and it was pretty bad. Right away she asserts that people who play games that aren’t violent and sexist aren’t really “gamers”, so she defines away everyone who might disagree with her. Par for the course for that anti-feminist — she’s absurdly illogical.

I couldn’t get through the whole video, but Jonathan Mann did it — by autotuning everything and singing a musical counterpoint. It’s hilarious. Listen, especially if you already hate autotuning.

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Call the police or GTFO

I noticed that Ophelia referenced a paper on “institutional betrayal”. I sat up at something else: it’s from the University of Oregon, my ol’ grad school! And then…it’s out of the department of psychology, where my wife got her degree! Even before I read it, I was curious…and I discovered that it was an amazing act of prophecy, or, I guess, insight into human behavior.

Isn’t that what psychologists do?

Read the traits of institutions that feel like betrayals to their members. You’ll feel a familiar sense of deja vu.

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Is naturalism a good hill to die on?

Stephen Law has a very good list of general humanist traits. I can go with this:

1. Secular humanists place particular emphasis on the role of science and reason.

2. Humanists are atheists. They do not sign up to belief in a god or gods.

3. Humanists suppose that this is very probably the only life we have.

4. Humanists usually believe in the existence and importance of moral value.

5. Humanists emphasize our individual moral autonomy and responsibility.

6. Humanists are secularists in the sense that they favour an open, democratic society and believe the State should take neutral stance on religion.

7. Humanists believe that we can enjoy significant, meaningful lives even if there is no is a God, and whether or not we happen to be religious.

But then he raises an objection I wouldn’t have even considered:

Now some readers may be thinking, ‘But hang on, you haven’t mentioned naturalism. Surely secular humanists also sign up to naturalism, right? They reject belief in the supernatural. So why no mention of naturalism here?

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What will it take to change our culture?

This is my university, as it was about 130 years ago. UMM was only established as a university in the 1960s, and before that it was an agricultural school, and before that, it was a Catholic school for Indians — one of those places dedicated to ‘helping’ the poor backwards people of the continent to assimilate into superior white culture by taking their children away and raising them the White Man’s Way. For the past week, students have been busily chalking the outlines of the old buildings around campus, as part of a project to remind us all of our history as an Indian boarding school. I am glad to see that we don’t whitewash this shameful part of our past, and that my university tries to make amends by offering free tuition to Indian students — but nowadays we don’t force them to attend, it’s entirely voluntary, and the curriculum isn’t about telling them how bad their culture is.


Jennifer Raff writes about another side of America’s history with indigenous people.

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