Greedy Goblin

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Blog "liveliness" be damned, trolls are not welcome

I contemplated if it's a good idea to aggressively moderate troll comments, or would it be better to engage them and try to convince them. I got my answer, because Wilhelm doesn't weed out trolls. Since his blog comment section is not my problem, I was free to engage the trolls. OK, maybe I'm unfair here, as SynCaine is probably the most obnoxious troll after Anonymous, banned from several blogs for a good reason. Anyway, the point isn't that he was doing nothing but ad hominems. The point is that when I repeatedly asked him to contribute about the question in the post, he just stopped posting. So I "won", I guess, as internet debates are won when the other party stops posting.

Accepting the ad hominems and saying "yes, you're right, I'm a retarded, homosexual, Jewish Nazi, but you still didn't answer the question" work wonders on trolls, because they are simply unprepared to someone not being mad or defensive at their insults. However me "winning" that debate won me nothing. Even worse, it won nothing to anyone reading the comments besides wasted half an hour of life. I couldn't trick him into contributing to the debate with any relevant idea (the only thing that he said on topic was Falcon did what he did for lulz, thanks, that's valuable). He didn't even try to disprove my claim, merely kept repeating that I'm a horrible person. Probably because he never cared about the question, just looked for a way to insult and humiliate someone to feel better.

The reason why we have to aggressively moderate is that those who cannot form an argument without insults, swear words or l33tspeak are usually unable to form any reasonable argument, either because they are too dumb to form it (morons) or doesn't care to do any research and thinking, just jump on for some flaming fun (slackers).

PS: please do not comment about the argument we had (feel free to comment on Wilhelm's blog), comment only about the content of this post: shall we tolerate offtopic and ad hominem trolls on blogs in the name of "lively discussion" or "free speech"?


Smokeman said...


"..either because they are too dumb to form it (morons) or doesn't care to do any research and thinking, just jump on for some flaming fun (slackers)."

There is a fourth group. People that are fully cogent of the argument you are trying to make, know that they are totally wrong, and still want to influence the fence sitters in the audience by presenting a bullshit argument as if it's reasonable. Call these people the "Machiavellians."

Feel free to moderate the crap out of these guys.

Phelps said...

I think the signal-to-noise ratio around here is pretty good in the comments. I don't see how adding noise helps.

I think the revealing thing is that the best method for putting down trolls is to shut them up, not keep them talking. That says that there was never anything to gain from them commenting in the first place.

Wilhelm Arcturus said...

I actually felt in a post where I was clearly trolling, to the point that I tagged the post as such, that it would be a bit hypocritical to step in and stop you and SynCaine from going at each other. (Though when you put more than one URL in a comment, it does go into moderation, but I have have cleared all your comments as soon as I saw them.)

Clearly, there is trolling and there is trolling. I put that post up to provoke a response from you (and Dinsdale) in part because I clearly see the world from... a different perspective. The price of being provocative. SynCaine just wants to annoy you. Sorry, but then you do keep feeding him, so there is that.

For the record, I have actually banned two people from commenting on my blog, so two trolls down, but for the most part I don't want to be somebody who moderates comments heavily. Of course, I don't write a blog where that is generally a problem either.

Provi Miner said...

the other thing is when communication is broken. You are asking question X or posting about how to E-Z a game, and the person hears question Y or how E-Z a game is. This happens a lot with different cultures but still a concern. Some that you might think are toll's are people who just don't understand what you are saying clearly.

Alessandro said...

Comments full of ad-hominins, swears, etc... most be moderated out.

Certain discussion forums have a Code of Conduct and any behavior out of line is moderated.

But I think "Stupid", but not offensive, comments should be allowed. For example, a money strategy that you know that's really bad and does not work but the commenter honestly believes it's efficient.

Esteban said...

It's the dark side of the ultra-competitive mentality. When you post something critical of a game or guild/alliance they identify with, there will always be a subset of people who react as if you spat on their mother, anxious to defeat you both in the realm of ideas and personally. It's an order of magnitude worse with actual real life stuff, which is why Western social media becomes so irretrievably toxic during periods of high political engagement.

Syncaine's posts on his blog about your LoL efforts were genuinely entertaining not because his critique was particularly devastating (his good points, and there were a solid handful, got buried among the usual excess of hyperbolic crowing on flimsy premises) but because of how obsessive he got about demonstrating your own obsessiveness - to the point of spending time analysing your replays, and arguing his corner with a passion dwarfing anything he's written for months.

Anyway, as a commenter far to the left of most others here who only got moderated once on some insignificant matter, I think your track record on tolerating contrary views is pretty decent. I do, however, expect better of you than to cave to your ape-subroutines and react emotionally to a bit of random taunting from someone who (unlike a dev) has no influence on your fortunes. If the man who's been preaching and practicing hyperrationality for decades gets a bee in his bonnet over some classic tear-harvesting, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Anonymous said...

This post actually sent me down the interesting line of thought.

Are you familiar with Paul Graham's hierarchy of disagreement? Technically, every comment is more or less classifiable by this hierarchy, so what if we take that classification and actually use it in discussions to mark every comment as to where on hierarchy it belongs?

Trolls want to engage each other on name calling and ad hominem levels? Let them. Everyone else can just set their own par on the hierarchy at which comments start to show up. Effectively this turns moderation into classification by this hierarchy, and letting people decide by themselves as to how low they want to go on it.

Guess I found something to think about for the next few days worth of commute...

Gevlon said...

@Smokeman: it would require me to look into their heads and see what they really think. Without that I can't tell them apart from normal "has different opinion" people.

@Wilhelm: I kept feeding him because of this post and because I was curious if he has ANY idea besides the usual "Gevlon is a horrible person".

@Alessandro: my point is that "respectful stupid" is barely existing. The stupid is usually also offensive and logically self-contradicting.

@Esteban: You read his blog? What's wrong with you?!
Where did I react emotionally to a random taunter (who wasn't a dev)? Link please!

@Anon: and who classifies comments into the hierarchy? Trolls would surely claim that their posts are on the level of Plato.

Anonymous said...

I think, that, given the language you use in your blog at times, (House slaves, comparisons to Nazis) feigning surprise that you have upset people or get angry comments is a bit rich.

Sure, those who do out and out attacks, block them, but, people who use language you are more than happy to use against others? What is your reason for blocking them?

maxim said...

People who do forums for a living usually find a way to exploit trolls as sources of information on general forum dweller sentiment. It is not the ad hominem that counts, but rather it's direction, topic, tone and intensity. You treat it not as a branch of intelligent discussion, but rather its own phenomenon with its own causes and effects.
The time it takes for an ad hominem user to eventually give up is actually one of the more useful metrics.

I'll grant you that this is the linquistic equivalent of (apologies for an anatomic metaphors from here on out) shifting through piles of excrement in hopes of finding something useful within.
Usually it is a supremely unprofitable excersice, unless you either:
a) have a multi-hundred-million dollar corporation with an expensive linguistic equivalent of chemical factory attached to it in order to be able to make meaningful use out of reprocessing linquistic fecalia
b) have some very good reason to believe that this specific source of excrement has somehow swallowed something incredibly valuable in the past and is about to excrete it

souldrinker said...

The less garbage in the comments, the better for all. Human rights of one person end exactly in the spot where they compromise human rights of another person.

Anonymous said...

> and who classifies comments into the hierarchy? Trolls would surely claim that their posts are on the level of Plato.

Like I said, that's still a question of moderation, so, you do it, which you do anyway, considering that you have only premoderated comments. From your perspective, that's upgrading from delete-or-leave decision to grading decision.

Remember, we have no idea whatsoever (I mean, really generic ones aside) about amount and content of troll comments you receive. Moderating comments is an experience limited to somewhat popular bloggers and public board moderators, which are, technically, a minority. I'm basically not aware about the scale of a problem here.

Anonymous said...

War in social media. Choose your weapons. Just as there are fair methods to fight, there are unfair debate tactics. Best defense is a good offense. Thats the reason to use offensive language and troll opponents - to force them on defense role. There are effective countermeasures what more or less force unfair debate tactic users to fight with itself. Silencing opponent is defensive measure, but it wont make your argument much better. Like R.R Martin wrote "When you tear out a man's tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you're only telling the world that you fear what he might say". Its easy to see how moderating is silencing options, its mostly even useful, because trolling rarely gives new insights to topic. If you look unfair methods to resolve same thing, then there are cherrypicking what media uses. Its same way to show one sided information without touching freedom to speech, while in the roots its censorship of opponents. Trolls try to avoid censorship, so they make their post important. Sadly facts and logical explaining are boring. Being funny, absurd or simply extraordinary gives more chances to get the ultimate reward : response.

Phelps said...

Anon @ 8:37 & 15:07 proving that anons NEVER have anything useful to say.

Just shutting off anon posting would raise the s/n ratio and make things easier on you to boot. I've never seen anons on blogger add to the comments, only muddy and bleat.

Lorelei Ierendi said...

"please do not comment about the argument we had (feel free to comment on Wilhelm's blog), comment only about the content of this post: shall we tolerate offtopic and ad hominem trolls on blogs in the name of "lively discussion" or "free speech"? "

About the contents of this post: Stop talking about Falcon/EVE!

Tithian said...

Obviously moderate. I don't think I could tolerate a comment section where 'kill yourself fgt' would be the norm, and knowing the err... 'fanbase' you have acquired, you know they'll be coming.

About SynCain, he is a special case of troll. He was always sarcastic and poking 'fun' at everything. But specifically when it comes to you I don't think he can tolerate the fact that someone as 'socially irrelevant and inept' as you joined 'his game', and then went on not to become more space-famous, but also more successful while blogging about it.

I don't generally mind trollish behaviour, as I was an avid reader of his in the past and actually welcomed the attitude, but he has devolved into a sort of 'stalker ex' mentality when it comes to you, which tends to poison his entire blog. Pity.

Smokeman said...

Gevlon says:
@Smokeman: it would require me to look into their heads and see what they really think. Without that I can't tell them apart from normal "has different opinion" people.

Sorry, I was making two completely separate points... One was the fourth type of troll that needs to be moderated (And as you say, they can be hard to spot.)

But the other, and I quote: "Feel free to moderate the crap out of these guys." was directed at ALL the people that you think need moderation. It's YOUR BLOG. You should be able to moderate the hell out of anyone you want, including me.

Anonymous said...

If you do not moderate morons and slacker your are going to drive away commenters who are not.

I'm not interested to argue with this kind of person - and I won't.