Will email (and authentication) help keep things more civil? March 19, 2001 12:35 PM   Subscribe

Couldn't find the earlier mention of this, so I'll pick up on it here.

A new user user (RightWinger) just posted a fairly feeble defense of Dubya and was almost immediately called a troll for his pains. I think this is basically because he didn't have an email address. Rogers has mentioned lately, rightly I think, how many potential conflicts can be defused that way, and now I think people are starting to see the lack of email as prima facie evidence of bad faith, and responding accordingly. His post wasn't really that inflammatory, but I think the level of trust is really low for people who can't be contacted offline. Total anonymity and community membership just may not mesh very well.

Matt has floated the idea of making everyone email-authenticable (word?). I think it's a good idea: people will trust more when they see a "real" identity, more offline diplomacy can happen, and I think people will be more responsible if they have a little bit of accountability built in. If it's *that* important to them to be anonymous, why are they posting to MetaFilter?
posted by rodii to MetaFilter-Related at 12:35 PM (63 comments total)

It's trivial to get a free e-mail address at Yahoo, Hotmail, or wherever and authenticate with that, and nobody will still know who you are. I would suggest e-mail authentication be optional and be indicated by some visual indication on each person's posts (e.g. a different color or an envelope icon next to their name or what have you).

I would be more in favor of having the names of people who have posted less than a certain number of times, or who have been a member of MeFi for less than say a month, appear with some visual distinction. Anyone who opens a new account is going to stick out like a sore thumb that way and will be under more scrutiny for trollish behavior.
posted by kindall at 12:50 PM on March 19, 2001


I would be more in favor of having the names of people ... who have been a member of MeFi for less than say a month, appear with some visual distinction.

Sounds good at first.

Sure, that works fine for MeFi regulars and long-time users, but does it help the newbie who may (or may not) be a troll? Does it help them find their voice, learn not communicate troll-fashion? Assuming, of course, that we want to help.

I'm leaning more towards email authentication, or something similar -- after reading rcade's comments and now your comments kindall about evidence of bad faith, it prompted a change my user profile (to email listed, not that I've posted anything lately). Maybe "no list" shouldn't even be an option.

That's all I can really think of. That and "stronger language about community and standards at account creation time", but that "strongly worded letter to follow" stuff rarely works in real life.
posted by dcehr at 1:15 PM on March 19, 2001


Rightwinger is a troll. (s)He also posted responses on another thread that make that pretty clear.
posted by norm at 1:17 PM on March 19, 2001


I suspect that kindall is right: email accounts are just too easy to dork up if someone really wants to. The color-coding idea is an interesting one, and to respond to dcehr, no it doesn't help anyone find their voice are teach them non-trolling things. And no, I for one am not interested in helping. I skulked around MeFi for months before registering in order to get a feel for the rules of conduct; anyone who doesn't bother to at least accustom themselves to those rules and try to adhere to them (noting of course that none of us are perfect), in my mind, doesn't deserve the benefits of being a member. Just one guy's opinion.

And norm is correct. RightWinger plainly is a troll. But rodii revives a good topic for discussion.
posted by Skot at 1:34 PM on March 19, 2001


I bet five rupees that RightWinger is PrivateParts. See here and here.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:02 PM on March 19, 2001


It's trivial to get a free e-mail address at Yahoo, Hotmail, or wherever and authenticate with that, and nobody will still know who you are.

OTOH, if there's an email listed and the person is genuinely not a troll (as I think was the case with the_0ne), it gives people an opportunity to take criticism off MeFi.

(Plus, it's dandy for technical and followup questions that one assumes wouldn't be interesting for MeFillistines in general.)
posted by snarkout at 2:39 PM on March 19, 2001


After carefully analyzing each of RightWinger's posts I conclude that he is either:

1. a troll
2. an idiot

posted by lagado at 2:44 PM on March 19, 2001


Well, please don't think I'm defending RightWinger (or PrivateParts -- good spotting, sonof); he's not really contributing much. Of course the same could be said of yours truly.

I did much the same as you Skot, skulked for a long bit (too long to get a coveted sub-1000 user number, unfortunately) to get the feel of things. It'd be nice if everybody would.

In the spirit of a self-policing community, though, I have to think that it's possible and likely that someone could start off wrong, or start off causing a ruckus, but evenually become a positive contributor. (Of course, the meaning of "positive" is a whole other can of worms). As an example, one may recall Den Beste's self-link to the "female persons" essay. Nutty stuff, and some of the comments became ugly. Now, though, his links seem well-considered and it seems like lots of MeFites find them entertaining or informative to read.

anyone who doesn't bother to at least accustom themselves to those rules and try to adhere to them (noting of course that none of us are perfect), in my mind, doesn't deserve the benefits of being a member

Agreed, but "one strike and you're out"?

posted by dcehr at 3:06 PM on March 19, 2001


He's up to about 8 strikes, and I think he probably is the dear departed Pvt. Parts, or possibly my old favorite, ojsbuddy, who went completely wacko after receiving an e-mail. You make a great point about the potential for someone to evolve into a valuable member, though.
posted by gimli at 3:32 PM on March 19, 2001


dcehr, that post came out a lot crankier than I would have liked--Monday morning syndrome. I guess I just remain cynical that someone so hotheaded to come in a forum swinging is ever going to come around to contribute usefully and cogently. But you are correct to suggest that "one strike and you're out" is probably a bit draconian.
posted by Skot at 3:33 PM on March 19, 2001


I knew something about RightWinger would be in MetaTalk if I looked.

He's just someone who created an account to waste our time reading his fake extremist-rightwinged posts.
posted by Mark at 3:41 PM on March 19, 2001


Gimli: After reading the essay on Themestream by ojsbuddy, in which he reveals that he has the power to kill through prayer and questions the official date of the death of George Burns, I have to say I'm a little disappointed he wasn't posting more often here.
posted by rcade at 4:29 PM on March 19, 2001


I didn't intend this to be about RightWinger, but about the benefits of having members have an email address (and I posted it before I read his "bedwetting darkies" post, ugh). I realize that it's easy to get an email address, but I don't see how that's any worse than having no email at all, and at least with some email, there's the possibility of getting in contact.
posted by rodii at 4:44 PM on March 19, 2001


I'm going to do email authentication for new members, for sure. Both privateparts and rightwinger had non-sensical email addresses in their profile and I don't doubt they were the same person, though the IP addresses they posted from were different.

I'm still working on the code, but it'll be basically that you sign up with your own username and password, but can't post anything until they reply to an email I send with a special string. That email will then go into a new db table with their userID, so I always know what working email they used to sign up.

I can easily make it so *hotmail.com, *yahoo.com, etc. accounts can't be used for signup (yeah, I know there will always be more free servers someone can hide from, I just want to make it as difficult as possible for people that want to mess things up).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:24 PM on March 19, 2001


The traditional method of identifying the Troll and then everyone ignoring that person works without any need to code.

Once the Troll is verified a fun thing would be to have a qute troll pic next to their name on their posts.

Of course, if it's too cute then people might troll just to get one.
posted by john at 5:39 PM on March 19, 2001


As Rightwinger and Private parts i would like to respond to these posts. First of all how ironic Metafilter's logo is "we're all in this together" when we are clearly not. I was denied access to the site by the webmaster Matt who chose to CENSOR me for my views because they are not politically correct. How ironic I was censored by Matt on the same day there are 78 posts debating the censorship regarding the Marilyn manson t-shirt. The censorship on metafilter makes the Chinese government look like the ACLU. if you same something politically incorrect on metafilter you are labeled a "troll" and banned by Fuehrer Matt. If you post something Matt doesnt like, he will not only stop you from submitting comments to the site, but he will stop you from viewing the site by blocking your ISP (i'm using a friend's tonight) Not only will matt stop. Metafilter would like to think of itself that is an open forum for "all" but it is only a forum for "some." It is simply censorship from the left and betrays the free speech it so loftly claims to support. as far as my e-mail address, anyone can email me anytime, you can reach Private Parts or RightWinger at PastorB104@Hotmail.com, and unlike Matt, I will not censor or block anyone from having access to me. In fact Ill be happy to pass everyone's letters to me to everyone that writes. thats more than what metafilter will do. in fact. Matt will probably erase this post as soon as he finds it. Long live free speech.
posted by FreeSpeech at 7:43 PM on March 19, 2001


I was denied access to the site by the webmaster Matt who chose to CENSOR me for my views because they are not politically correct

No you were not. You were CENSORED because you weren't acting in a civil fashion. I don't care what your views are, but if you're going to come into a forum, post a lot of threads that are labeled as "trolling" by the masses, then you're being a problem, you're adding nothing but noise, and you're doing it deliberately.

Why do people feel they have a right to come into a new community, bust up the place with dozens of stupid posts then wonder why they were booted after the fact?

If you were mad PrivateParts/RightWinger/whatever your name is, why didn't you email me and ask me to explain (because I couldn't email you with your bogus addresses anyway)? Was it because you knew you did something wrong?

As for being an open forum, it is, as long as people act nicely towards each other. There are plenty of conservative posters that regularly engage in civil conversations on the site, and they've never been booted before, no matter how much I may oppose their views.

It is simply censorship from the left and betrays the free speech it so loftly claims to support.

You can think whatever you want to think happened, because I know why I banned you.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:03 PM on March 19, 2001


Here's a gem from ealier today.

This is a website, my website, and I have never made any promises that all and any speech posted here was acceptable and would stay forever. This is a privately run website done by one person. Me. And if you want to be disruptive, add nothing but pointless, utterly pointless noise to otherwise intelligent discussions, then I feel no regret or remorse in banning you from the site.

Please take your mindless hateful speech elsewhere.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:12 PM on March 19, 2001


You, PrivateParts et al, are a sad, sad resemblance of a human being. The only reason that MeFi has remained the civil community that it is is because things like yourself are tossed off. There is plenty of room for debate here amongst folks with different viewpoints, but debate doesn't include such inananities as the tripe that you continue even now to spew. If you were a person of a different ideological/political bent who called conservatives "fascists" at every turn, or spewed endless profanity just because "it's my right, man", then you would have been summarily tossed out for that very reason.

I don't wish you any harm. I also hope that you will come to grow up and realize that freedom of expression necessitates an openness to different viewpoints and a willingness to debate topics rather than make ad hominem attacks.

What am I saying? You've received more attention than you deserve.
posted by Avogadro at 8:46 PM on March 19, 2001


Go Matt!

Seriously, there's nothing worse than people who make noise because they can make noise, and then try to hide behind something like the constitution. Free speech was never meant to be an absolute right in the first place. Try yelling "BOMB!" in a movie theater and pulling out your pocket-bill-of-rights when the police show up.

I'm a person who jumps around from view to view, voicing what I think is right rather than following the strict opinion pattern of a liberal or a right-winger. I've posted plenty of conservative thoughts to MeFi discussions and never once been banned or had a post erased, because I do try to do so in a sensible and intelligent fashion.

If you still don't get it Rightwinger, read that again. If you still fail to grasp the concept of what this community is, or cannot restrain yourself from acting like a 6 year old, for the love of God, turn off your computer and go outside for a bit.
posted by tomorama at 9:00 PM on March 19, 2001


...and then try to hide behind something like the constitution.

regardless of that, metafilter is a privately-owned site. freedom of speech doesn't apply.
posted by pnevares at 9:17 PM on March 19, 2001


Damn, I had RightWinger figured as high satire (a tirade mentioning the evils of short-haired women? really?).. but he's actually serious. And a troll. Buh bye.
posted by jess at 10:30 PM on March 19, 2001


i'm with jess. i'm still not convinced that our little friend isn't putting on satirical airs. The "short-haired women" and "lazy mexican" gem was just too conviniently clever.

either way, mr. rightwinger, you're going to have to learn to behave. if you'd rather avoid interactive conversation and just rant and insult people, you might set up your own free weblog at Diaryland or Blogspot.com. i'll check out your site regularly. no one will be able to CENSOR you there.

but if you're interested in actually exchanging ideas, we're all ears. first day here, and there's a MetaTalk thread devoted to YOU.
posted by sixfoot6 at 10:49 PM on March 19, 2001


Wow, so it turned he was 1. a troll and 2. an idiot.
posted by lagado at 10:54 PM on March 19, 2001


He was such an over-the-top caricature of a right-winger I thought for sure he was engaging in satire. I guess the reason the caricature exists to begin with is that there really are some people like that...
posted by kindall at 11:02 PM on March 19, 2001


I was having fun imagining him played by Chris Cooper, or perhaps Sterling Hayden.
posted by dhartung at 12:05 AM on March 20, 2001


A comment in favor of anonymity: just because someone is on here anonymously doesn't mean they're less honest about their views. Perhaps it can enable some people to be more honest.
Imagine a gay teenager from a conservative family living in a small town. If Mefi can provide that kid a forum to express his views and real personality anonymously and that kid finds support here, how can that be bad?
I'm on here anonymously myself, at least for now. Mostly because I'm a private person and I don't want everyone who knows me in 'real life' to have easy access to all the thoughts, opinions and feelings I post. To me, in 'real life', a person gains that kind of access as trust is built up over time.
I'm not sure how to keep trolls away, but I don't think banning anonymity is the answer. Requiring an email address would be fine, but I would just sign up for a hotmail or yahoo for this purpose, so please don't ban those too!
(My 2 cents)
posted by u.n. owen at 1:34 AM on March 20, 2001


It's been mentioned that email accounts from yahoo, Hotmail, etc, could be banned from the authentication process. I'm not entirely sure whether this is fair - I know a few friends who, for one reason or another, regularly use Yahoo or Hotmail email accounts.

To be honest, I don't think there is much of a solution to getting rid of repeat trollers. If they're really determined to rejoin Metafilter then they'll figure out (as mathowie says). Perhaps creating some kind of kill list might work? That's what they use in the WELL, anyway.
posted by adrianhon at 3:07 AM on March 20, 2001


I'm all in favour of enforcing email accounts for authentication.

I do wonder in the light of earlier posts whether it is unfair to ban hotmail-type accounts. Theoretically they do allow back communication and authentication without that loss of anonymity.

They do of course allow trolls in but maybe the hassle of continuously creating hotmail accounts compared with the ease of kicking them off should wear out the enthusiasm of most of them.

Also a lot of people connect to Metafilter from work (slackers!) and use hotmail-type accounts to avoid getting mail in their work accounts (which may be monitored).

Finally, I was wondering if anyone has ever been accidentally locked out of Metafilter for using the same ISP as a booted off troll? I guess that's something we'll never know!

posted by lagado at 3:57 AM on March 20, 2001


Matt is rightly justified in his actions. MeFi is a great community with good open debate and discussion. This is a rarity on the web, particularly with this many members. Keeping MeFi open and honest is worthy and noble.

Regarding e-mail addresses, I like the e-mail verification idea. But blocking based on free e-mail hosts like Yahoo or USA.net is not a great option, if the e-mail addresses are displayed on the web. The bot pick these suckers up and then my clean e-mail accounts get gooey with spam. Hence, I use my free accounts for all my Web postings. If a blind e-mail address system is used, like the SXSW contact Web mail, I would use my prized e-mail address.

The alternative may be to have a seven day waiting period to post, with verifications at the beginning and end of the seven days, for those with free e-mail accounts. A simple chron script could make this painless for Matt.
posted by vanderwal at 5:18 AM on March 20, 2001


As for "Fuehrer Matt", MetaFilter is acting as proof of Godwin's Law. Maybe RightWinger really believes that he's offering valid comments and not just being a troll, but he should consider the venue. MetaFilter users seem to be strongly liberal - nothing wrong with it, I certainly agree - and a comment that would probably be taken as racist even within a more conservative community is obviously not going to go over well here.
posted by jed at 5:22 AM on March 20, 2001


Here's another take on using (insert_freeserver).com email addresses:

I have two email addresses. One very clearly identifies me as a an employee of (GlobeDominatingCorp., Inc.); one uses my very real first and last name. The first is for business communications and because of my position is one that I am prohibited from using in any public discourse like MetaFilter, the second is for personal communications with family and friends. At the second address, I already receive literally hundred of unsolicited emails a week, sometimes more when I slip up and use that address to post a query to a newsgroup. I created a Yahoo! Mail account specifically to participate in MetaFilter after reading here for several weeks because it seemed just too simple to harvest these addresses. My Yahoo! mail account is just as "real" - for the purposes of MetaFilter - as any other line of communication, it just happens to be free and hosted by Yahoo! - I check it every day and respond to the messages I receive there, just as I do with my other accounts. While I am sure that those freeservers are used by people like our friend RightWinger/PvtParts as a blind for screwing around here, please bear in mind that some of us are using them for what we think are legitimate purposes before they get banned unilaterally.
posted by m.polo at 5:23 AM on March 20, 2001


I switched to a yahoo e-mail account recently after receiving disturbing messages (referring to my MeFi posts) at my main address, which uses my real name. As long as Matt only requires the "less anonymous" address for member authentication it should be fine, imo.
posted by gimli at 6:18 AM on March 20, 2001


I don't have a problem with using a non-yahoo/hotmail, etc. account to sign up for MF. But I wouldn't want to give it out on my profile page. Mostly because of what m.polo said. I get so much noise in my isp email account, that I don't bother checking it most of the time.

I'm still having trouble wrapping my mind around RightWinger being for real. I figured he was satirizing the far right with his extremism. But I guess I was wrong. And, what's more, from his email address, he appears to be a member of the clergy.

I'm scared, God.

posted by anapestic at 6:29 AM on March 20, 2001


i'm not thoroughly conservative, but some of my friends are. besides, conservatives are people, too. my point is: rightwinger/privateparts/pastorbwhatever gives otherwise civil and sane conservatives (and Christians?) a bad name.

sorry for the crap you've had to deal with, Matt. thanks for caring and sysopping the community
posted by Sean Meade at 7:29 AM on March 20, 2001


I switched to a yahoo e-mail account recently after receiving disturbing messages (referring to my MeFi posts) at my main address, which uses my real name.

Crazy. I obviously haven't paid too much attention to what you've said, Gimli, but your posts never seem too inflammatory to me. I've said some stuff pretty out there, and I don't get kooks writing me. Well, maybe just one. (insert emoticon du jour here)
posted by norm at 7:46 AM on March 20, 2001


C'mon, guys. He's just trolling you here, too.
By taking the side of "Free Speech" he puts you on the defensive.
He's undoubtedly laughing his ass off at those that think he's being honest here.
Just because he hands you an email does not mean he's being forthright. We were just discussing how easy it is to get hotmail addresses, right?
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:53 AM on March 20, 2001


Matt -- Post guidelines for proper use in MeFi (i.e. what will get you or a comment bounced from MeFi). This will save hassles in the long run. This is largely your (Matt) community and the rest of us need to live by what you deem proper.

(This comes from a few years experience of running a online legal community in the past).
posted by vanderwal at 8:19 AM on March 20, 2001


I'm not so sure, sonofsamiam. I used to tell people that there were two types of irony: irony of tone, and irony of content. In one case, another person can tell by your inflection. In the other case, you expect people to assume you're being ironic simply because what you said is so outlandish that you couldn't be serious. I used to be really good at the latter: I could say anything in a total deadpan. The problem was that most people didn't get it.

That said, however, there are people with views as extreme as RightWinger, and some of those people do get off on having a forum where they can vent those views without serious repercussions. A minister couldn't say that crap in even the most fundamentalist church without getting into trouble.

But does it really matter whether he's insane or trolling? Either way, Matt (who is way, way more tolerant than I would be) was right to kick him off.

It strikes me as very sad that anyone would get pleasure out of trolling. I think some people must think that it proves how intelligent they are that they can fool other people into reacting. To me, it just says that they have nothing to contribute to the discussion.
posted by anapestic at 8:20 AM on March 20, 2001


Matt, I think u.n. owen had a good point several posts back. It might be best to continue to allow anonymous users, validated via email, even if it is a Hotmail or Yahoo addy.

There must be some other way the community can police itself without having to call in Mr. Haughey to boot Trolls. Moderation and karma isn't exactly appropriate or compatible with MeFi. It might be possible to set up a system where each user has one "mute vote" per day (a la kvetch) that he or she can use at anytime to flag a disruptive user. And if enough people within a 24 hour period vote to mute me, I lose my ability to post links and comments for, say, 48 hours. If the mute vote critical mass was set at 100 votes or so (higher, perhaps), then I would only get muted when a significant percentage of the community wanted to send me a slap on the wrists and get me to shut up.

Or, require an observation period of several days before a new user can even post comments. That would cut down on, among other things, instant trollers who are surfing through.

I'm just brainstorming here.

Perhaps the best thing we could do for now would be to spread the word to simply ignore posts and users that seem to be intentionally disruptive. Sometimes ignored people go away.
posted by sixfoot6 at 9:05 AM on March 20, 2001


I know that Matt has mentioned a delay before new users are allowed to post to the front page. Bravo. If systemic trolling becomes an issue would it be possible to set a delay where new accounts are limited to, say, 3 posts a day for the first week? Do the rest of the people on this thread think that sounds appropriate? You can troll all you want in your brand spanky new account for three posts a day; Matt will then boot you, and you'll create a new account which is also limited to 3 posts a day. This should prevent people bouncing back again and again like that Star Wars crank from about six months ago (no link, as I think Matt nuked all the threads).

And Matt, I'd prefer lemon cake over chocolate. (Is there anything we can do as users to help, other than ignore them and hope they go away? Is starting a MeTa thread better or worse than just sending you a quick note?)
posted by snarkout at 9:38 AM on March 20, 2001


if this site was a project of Monster Mega Bandwidth And Unlimited Resources Corp. Inc, I would suggest metafilter email aliases, perhaps that are set up only to work when used from feedback forms on each person's profile pages, so that people can be contacted even if they don't wish their actual email addresses to be posted. Or internal messaging of some kind. "There have been 4 links, 38 comments, and 2 private messages since your last visit." But I think such a thing is impractical for a labor-of-love project like MetaFilter, unfortunately, especially given its ever-growing size. (where's my pony?? i want my pony!!!)

Given that all this *is* pretty much the product of the goodness of our fearless leader's heart, I would not be against a little benevolent fascism to keep the gears turning smoothly. Verified email addresses, yes---though I'm uncomfortable with making it so they're always displayed in one's profile. A short waiting period for new users to post, yes. And unrepentant booting of people who are here for the sole and explicit purpose of making trouble, hells yes. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.
posted by Sapphireblue at 10:20 AM on March 20, 2001


Norm, I thought I was being pretty restrained in my posts, and had avoided hot-button threads for the most part. That's why it sort of creeped me out when I received the e-mails. I thought, damn, what if I ever want to really speak my mind on an issue.
As for conservative voices here on MeFi, I'm all for the intelligent exchange of ideas. Sometimes it feels like I'm just preaching to the choir, and I would like to know how someone with a vastly different perspective feels about a given issue. Idiotic trolls just undermine the sense of good will that must exist if we're going to listen to each other.
posted by gimli at 2:43 PM on March 20, 2001


Slashdot, I think, uses a different email for signing up to the one that get displayed publicly.
posted by lagado at 3:50 PM on March 20, 2001


It lets you customize your publically dispayed email address however you want.

Slashdot's a good comparison to bring in. Is letting non-authenticated users post sort of like allowing Anonymous Coward posts? I think that does no end of damage there.

u.n., I totally sympathize with the need for anonymity in the "public" interface. Nobody wants the boss/John Ashcroft/the Rev. Wildmon breathing down anyone's neck for what they say here. At the same time, there should be some kind of accountability built in to the private infrastructure, and email would allow this. If this means people have to construct a "persona" via Hotmail in order to participate, that seems like a fairly minor cost. I know it doesn't eliminate the anonymous troll problem, but some of Matt's ideas do help there.

So I guess what I'm suggesting goes beyond what Matt is proposing. If I understand Matt correctly, he's proposing that there has to be a real contact email, even if it's not publically disclosed. I'm suggesting that there should be a public email contact address for every user, as a gesture of good faith--but it can be one that doesn't compromise the user's identity.
posted by rodii at 4:22 PM on March 20, 2001


If Matt weren't hosting MeFi off his DSL line, I'd suggest he just give all registered members a metafilter.com mailbox.
posted by kindall at 4:51 PM on March 20, 2001


"a metafilter.com mailbox"

Well, how about this? An internal memo system? So next to my alias I'd have a "private comment" link. People could enter their comment and when I next came to the site it would say "You have 3 messages".

Something like that.
posted by y6y6y6 at 5:16 PM on March 20, 2001


That'd be just as much bandwidth (or more), really and probably even more of a burden on server resources.
posted by kindall at 5:25 PM on March 20, 2001


The two cents of a "newbie" - I think I signed up anonymously, not from any desire to troll or remain non-accountable, but because like many others who have posted here, I receive somewhere between 10-20 spam messages daily, as well as creepy e-mails from readers of newsgroups from before I got web-savvy. It's just too easy to harvest e-mail addresses, and I've had the same one for over 8 years.

I read MeFi daily but have only posted twice, for many of the same reasons listed earlier in this thread. But I don't want to feel that I can't post if I have something interesting or funny to say, or that I should read for months before speaking. As long as people post with respect, I don't think "newbie" status should be a determining factor.

It's a lesser of two evils situation; either you allow people to sign up anonymously and post immediately and risk trollers, or assume a "guilty until proven innocent" attitude to try to avoid it. Since this site is run by an individual, whatever Mr. Haughey finally decides is fine by me.

Just my two cents. What a pain that it came to this.
posted by jennaratrix at 6:58 PM on March 20, 2001


Just so you know, I've never had a problem with spam-bots hitting my MeFi e-mail, though I did get one strange e-mail from a crank (no, not any of you who are still active. sheesh).

And I think that most folks would agree that "newbie" status should not be a factor. However, folks who have been around awhile usually get more slack when "troll-like" comments are made because they are already known for more than that one comment, and it is easier to say, "oh, heffalump must be having a bad day." I think that this is a good quality to have in a community.

Anyways, welcome aboard.
posted by Avogadro at 5:14 AM on March 21, 2001


I see the word "troll" all over the place, and I know it's derogatory, but would someone please do me the service of defining it? Forgive the ignorance.
posted by goto11 at 10:50 AM on March 21, 2001


A "troll" is someone who posts inflammatory, obscene or insulting remarks, often not relating to the original topic, which they may or may not actually believe, in an attempt tick people off and start a pointless thread. Or at least, that's my understanding of it.
posted by jennaratrix at 10:57 AM on March 21, 2001


The origin of "troll" is in fishing, in the sense of dangling bait over the side of the bait to get the dumber fish to snap at it. Of course it doesn't hurt that a second definition of the word involves being a squat, ugly under-bridge dweller, as it gives you a nice mental image when the verb "to troll" inevitably becomes a noun ("he's a troll" rather than "he's trolling").
posted by kindall at 11:07 AM on March 21, 2001


jennaratrix and kindall are both absolutely correct, but I feel that it's important to point out another aspect of trolling.

It's possible to be a funny troll, and someone like kibo (caution, bad graphics ahead :-) can basically turn it into an art.

Trolling's also a pretty good way to get someone who's a pain in the ass for whatever reason - high and mighty attitude, cross-posting (if on usenet), being off-topic - to feel like a complete and utter ass, and hopefully never return, all without ever having to say "Fuck off, dickweed."

Trolling is, basically, posting something meant to make respondants look like fools. It's morphed to mean posting inflamatory, off-topic comments because that's the most common instance of it, but someone who considers him- or herself a "classic" troll almost never wants to actually offend another person, just make them look silly.

It's possible to be trolled and laugh along is what I'm trying to say. Certainly not in this incident however.
posted by cCranium at 2:26 PM on March 21, 2001


Certainly *not*.
posted by rodii at 6:57 PM on March 21, 2001


I'm really happy with Matt's stance on this. I don't think there are any free community-moderated forums out there that really work. Too often, a very strident minority make life for all (i.e. "all" meaning those people who's main aim in life is not just make someone else's day as bad as their own, or to totally hijack certain topics or threads)

I appreciate the opportunity to whinge and whine at metatalk, I appreciate the time Matt gives us here. But ultimately, I don't want him to do what we want necessarily (an impossible job, with so many and varied requests) but to exercise his good sense and judgement.

Which is exactly what he has been doing.

I think it's ironic that people like "FreeSpeech" go on and on about.....Um...."Free speech"

I think their presence here is antithetical any reasonable person's understanding of "free speech." They make much of it's merits, but do nothing to promote an atmosphere where it is likely to occur, quite the opposite.
posted by lucien at 12:44 PM on March 22, 2001


I won't go on too much, because the jerk has already gotten too much press here. Thanks, Matt, for doing the right thing.
posted by jpoulos at 3:28 PM on March 22, 2001


I have been using the net for a long time now and always thought "troll" meant someone who never posted, but the collective here seems to be using "troll" in a way I have never seen before. Anyone want to provide a metafilterian definition?
posted by internal at 6:23 AM on March 23, 2001


Internal, you're probably thinking of a "lurker," one who belongs to a community but only, well, "lurks."
posted by luke at 7:34 AM on March 23, 2001


Is it more along the lines of flame-bait, or more appropriately a flame-baiter?
posted by internal at 7:38 AM on March 23, 2001


Yep. Scroll up a little, internal; this has already been answered.
posted by webmutant at 11:05 AM on March 25, 2001


This is a website, my website, and I have never made any promises that all and any speech posted here was acceptable and would stay forever.

Amen, Matt. As a former newspaper publisher, let me help you put it in even simpler perspective: Freedom of the Press belongs to the man that owns the press.
posted by darren at 6:20 AM on March 29, 2001


As someone who ran a Citadel board around 1992-1993 back in the 2400 days (anyone here remember those lovely paeans to communication? :) ), I can certainly appreciate Matt's efforts (which is probably one of the reasons I'm addicted to Metafilter). The BBS in question was driven in very much the same style as Metafilter. I wanted absolute free speech and yet I was plagued by civil unrest, odious remarks and nasty ad hominen tactics. My original policy was not to intervene. But when the board was suffering with this dreck, I changed my policy and began removing messages that violated the idea behind the board.

While most users appreciated this move, there were the two or three assholes who pleaded the free speech defense. After offensive material, they were quickly banned from the board.

The moral of the story here is that you cannot have complete and unbridled free speech if you expect to keep up a thoughtful tone. Anyone who's deluding themselves into believing this cleary doesn't understand the more atavistic aspects of the human condition.

Keep up the great work, Matt. And don't let assholes like this Right Winger guy get in the way of your work, which I might remind deluded souls such as Right Winger is done entirely on Matt's spare time.


posted by ed at 8:01 PM on April 2, 2001


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