Help out FtB – Donate!

I rather liked Richard Carrier. Then, when confronted with accusations of sexual misconduct, he turned tail and threatened to sue a helluva lot of people. Amy Frank, Skepticon, and bloggers from the Orbit and FtB are just some of the names on the list. Apparently he thinks that he can clear his name by suing a lot of poor bloggers?

Whatever the case, you can donate to nearly everyone’s defense fund by clicking this link and slapping down your credit card. I say “nearly everyone” because Skepticon’s non-profit status means they can’t jump in this pool; all the details are behind the link.

So, go donate! Or spread the word! Or both!

Welcome to The Community

I’m a long-time lurker. I prefer to sit back and skim through comment sections, passively absorbing, and over the years I’ve seen a fair number. After a while, you start to get a feel for their dynamics. Typically, a blog post plays out something like this:

  1. Blog author posts something.
  2. Long-time commenters pop by with their two cents.
  3. Their chatter starts to wander off topic.
  4. Someone pops by with a strong opinion that’s vaguely off-topic.
  5. This kicks up an argument, which gets ugly and spirals away from what the original post discussed.

There are exceptions, of course; endless threads have no topic to wander off of, and if the thread is obscure and the topic well-defined the comments can stay topical indefinitely. The comment community plays a large role in this, too. A small band of thoughtful regulars are a blogger’s dream, while a large number of over-opinionated randos can (and often do) ruin any thread. If acrimony starts to trump argument, even a small community can turn dysfunctional.

It doesn’t help that our tools are few, blunt and prone to breaking. Voting systems can be gamed, while banning users or keywords is an all-or-nothing affair that barely works. Allowing comments for a limited window sounds great, but it doesn’t allow the regulars to build up much of a conversation. Banning all comments kills off the local community.

Aaaaand that’s about the extent of it. Maybe someday I’ll create a browser plugin that provides a personal ranking system, which automatically mutes or even hides users based on how you’ve rated their prior comments, but that’s low in my queue.

How am I going to encourage that small, thoughtful community to form? Here’s my current plan:

  • Regular blog posts don’t allow comments, unless justified by the contents. This prevents comment threads from spiraling away.
  • The “Community” post is an endless thread. Only one of them is active at a time.
  • To provide a little structure, links to the regular blog posts will get dropped into the Community post as they go public. These can be ignored.
  • The Community post will be linked somewhere along the side menu, but it won’t otherwise be advertised. This should keep the randos to a minimum, but without throwing out regulars too.
  • The top of the Community post will outline the moderation rules in play. Those rules stay consistent over the lifetime of the Community post. If I want a significant change, the current Community post is locked and a new one is created. The new will link to the old, and vice-versa.

The first Community post is the one you’re reading right now.

The initial mod rules are fairly ill-defined and flexible, to keep the rules lawyers at bay. My guiding principle is to maximize information; it takes time and energy to read a comment, so you should try to convey as much as possible, as clearly as possible, in the least space. Critiques beat opinions, evidence wins over assertion. Strict enforcement of that doesn’t work with endless threads, but it’s still the ideal you should keep in the back of your mind.

The corollary is another matter, though: quit it with the oppressive language. If you lack the creativity to think up an alternative to “crazy,” you shouldn’t be posting here. Violence in any form is a no-no, and both stalking and harassment are low-grade forms of violence.

Speaking of which, I’d like to swipe an idea from football. They have a carding system to handle misconduct, which I think works in this context too. If you’re handed a yellow card, that’s a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct. A red card gets you banned from this thread, though not the entire blog. A black card is a permanent ban.

Got it? Then game on!

main = print(“Hello World”)

I’ve been wanting to blog here for years, but I always wound up being crushed by schoolwork or distracted by personal life. Eventually I got sick of perpetually putting it off, and forced myself to apply. I’d figure out a way to make it work.

And, as you can see, I’m now blogging here!

And up to my eyeballs in schoolwork.

And with more demands on my free time than ever before.

But! I have a plan.

See, the nice thing about being a slightly-paranoid Computer Scientist is that you tend to keep a low profile. My previous blogging isn’t well known, and the rest of my back catalog ranges from “seen by five people” to “never been shared publicly.” I can easily pad this space with old material until I can come up for air. This is especially perfect, because while my contemporary writing is all about the replication crisis and angrily shouting at fools, my older work was more about atheist apologetics. I have a decently-sized book that I gave up on writing, all about the subject, and it led me to a set of arguments that I haven’t seen anyone else develop. That is book-worthy, but there’s no harm in workshopping it until I can properly put fingers to keyboard.

In the meantime, I should also get cracking at a comment policy. Years of lurking in comment threads have left me with… opinions on the matter. That’s for a future post, though.

I suppose some of you are wondering about the name. Funny, despite the whole “wanting to blog” thing I’ve never been able to decide on a proper blog name. I’ve held on to a catchy subtitle for years (“/dev/random, unless I make a hash of it”), but a title? No clue, no idea, nothing ever came to mind. Forced to come up with one at long last, I did what came naturally.

> while :; do echo `egrep 'te$' /usr/share/dict/words | perl -e 'rand($.)<1 and ($line=$_)while<>;print$line'` \
     `perl -e 'rand($.)<1 and ($line=$_)while<>;print$line' /usr/share/dict/words` ; done | less

xanthosiderite koa
Brooklynite lull
adeste reclamatory
bipunctate abevacuation
disrelate seewee
Epirote Cobden
hemisaprophyte parcel-guilty
camote danda
catastate Westphalian
ingurgitate ephelis
sommite soilures
inseminate rabies
pianoforte stabbed
preconstitute tanistry
Bonaparte intermodification
decapitate philohellenian
Marette Sharona
swinecote prefictional
miaskite Egbert
subprofessorate eosphorite
protectorate soogan
portmanmote morosities
indicolite saiyids
Marguerite hoidening
repromulgate pandemoniacal
barytocelestite alloxy
umbraculate Post-devonian
desecate white-rumped
landgate twice-canvassed
killinite pyrogallate
cycadophyte Englishable
lautarite buffoons
bipunctate tar
merocerite pencels
echelette Borak
odorate overcultivated
Parbate Perrins
amphodelite lethalize
hesperidate Lemosi
zonociliate implosively
Jacquette reimbushment
tricussate Reisinger
alunite high-hatty
archeocyte unimpatiently
montroydite roband
orcanette panstereorama
julienite unorchestrated
fulminurate pro-Sweden
Bathinette Piraeus
cassate unfeigning
lowigite dolos
lyddite intersomnial
delate hepatised
alienigenate perscribe
emporte zoroastra
hemimorphite off-put
hypoantimonate ambrosia
nonconfederate hotfoot
exonerate nonfuturition
reprobate spreadsheet

The algorithm hath spoken!