Just Say No To Trolls

Lots of conversations naturally stray off of the original topic. We have a problem when people intentionally try to disrupt conversations, incite flame wars, or generally aggravate readers. These people are trolls. Personally, I try to ignore posts if they're not on-topic or at least interesting. I encourage others to do the same. This is the best way to fight trolls.

In my continuing effort to improve the quality of discourse at this site, I am experimenting with a system to test the addresses of people who post comments. If the address given is fake, the post will be removed. Your addresses will not be used for any other purpose, in fact they will not even be stored anywhere.

We will also continue the current policy of removing posts are potentially hurtful or appear to have no connection to the topic at hand. If the trolling problem persists, we will happily implement a reward system (like that at www.trolls4dean.com) to encourage readers to give donations (to the IFC, for example) for each post.


a geeky moment:

http://www.slashcode.com/ slashcode is free. free-er than movable type which does not give you the code. MT is free as in beer. slashcode is free as in freedom (and free as in beer too).

slashcode does allow anonymous and pseudononyous postings. at http://slashdot.org you'll see many anonynous cowards posting good posts and several named posters identified as trolls.

Does anyone here know how many hours daily Ruby spends working on this blog?

Any guesses?

Trolling a.k.a. harassment, affects everyone differently. I don't believe its effects are any less than that of someone calling you and hanging up on you many times daily. It can be seriously disturbing.

Also please don't forget what happened to Erin Carter last year. Our fine local Chapel hill Police posed as FBI officers and tried to harass a high school student because THEY READ HER BLOG. She called their bluff and one chapel hill police officer was FIRED.

All kinds of silly people read stuff on the Internet and make assumptions based on the content.

There are reports of the FBI putting investigating people who are seen with the Farmers Almanac. Weird.

The FBI has been reading my diary


So we should all run and hide?

Since when is being anonymous about running and hiding? The warnings provided above is about comon sense not fear mongering.

I sincerely believe that the greatest impediment to true freedom of all people is apathy and the misguided idea that privacy is only for people who have something to hide.

Complete naive openness is key to snoopers success. If you leave it out their someone will read it and make assumptions. If your identity is attached to the content then the assumers will attach their assumptions to you.

Unfortunately movable type which is i think the software that this blog is using is really designed for a single author and for most of the activity to come from the author. slashcode for sites like slashdot.org have ratings and trust systems builtin favoring registered known posters, but allowing 'anonymous cowards' to post and even to receive high trust ratings. one big upside is that you can choose to read only those postings that have a rating of say 4 or above but can change your mind and even read those with ratings of -1.

What is being attempted with the Orange Politics blog and others, such as the Dean campaign blog, is to use blogging for multiple purposes--building community (social purposes) and disseminating information (communications function). Ruby may not have planned for those multiple, and sometimes competing purposes, but after having read through the threads those are the purposes I see. In terms of building community, trust is needed. Software engineers have been working on strategies to build trust-systems such as Paul describes. I don't know for sure, but I assume there is a monetary cost as well as a higher level of technical expertise required to use those more sophisticated systems. If you would like to know more about this Clay Shirky has a good article on social software at http://www.shirky.com/writings/group_politics.html.

The upside to Movable Type is that it is free and can be customized by someone with medium-level technical skills. The downside is that the site can't be restricted to only those who are defined by the group as trustworthy.

Personally, I prefer the openness of this site. I want to hear what others think about local issues. After all, we live in the same community; our neighborhoods are not organized by political ideology; and our children learn from teachers who may not always be in line with our political views. There may be some opinions I don't agree with, but I do learn from them. I may prefer that people simply state their beliefs rather than putting down those who have different beliefs, but I have my own soapboxes too (like this one). I may prefer that people take ownership of their ideas and not hide behind anonymity--but....democracy makes room for conflicting views, and if some don't feel safe, then let them have their anonymity. As for those folks who intentionally try to disrupt the flow of the conversation--ignore them. If they don't get the response they want, they'll go away.


I don't object to differing opinions...I object to inane comments along the "damion/dimion" lines--so will continue to ignore such.


In Ruby's defense, the technology won't allow her to do what you are asking. She already requires an email address, but there is no way to verify the email address is valid without the follow up message option that she has been testing. Same holds true for a URL.

Oh. Bummer. Thanks for clearing that up Terri. Guess we should just ignore random rants...


Mr. Winston--the problem with just ignoring the "minor irritation" is that I think such foolishness helps shut down real debate. Some people jsut don't want to wade through the "garbage" to get tot the legitimate discussion. Other forums/sites have a moderator who weeds stuff like that out (after it's reported by users)but Ruby has a REAL job so she doesn't have time to '"babysit" this forum--which would allow her (as moderator) to eliminate random rantings.

We'll just have to do our best to ignore the trolls!


"I DON'T think people who are expressing their opinions in a reasonable, repectful way have anything to worry about as far as backlash"

Melanie, I wish you were correct. Sadly, you are mistaken. I am personally aware of two cases where children have suffered in the school system because of their parents "reasonable" and "respectful" disagreements with CHCCS policy. Even if the parents had been flaming jerks, why punish their children?

I also know of "named" posters at this site with good liberal credentials who have said things to me privately that they would not dare post here.

I have lived in three of the nation's major regions -- South, Midwest, and Northeast -- and in a broad range of communities including small towns, Ann Arbor, Michgian, and the NYC area. I must say that Chapel Hill is the least tolerant place I have ever lived. The political right might have invented McCarthyism, but based on things I have seen in this community, the right wingers lost their monopoly years ago.

Anonymity promotes candor. Enjoy the sunshine.


With respect, I believe anonymity promotes bluster, BS, and bullying a great deal more than candor.

And what in the world would someone with "good liberal credentials" say to you in private (that they would have any reason to post here) that they lacked the hutzpah to stand by? Can you give me an example?

OK Savant--so how would YOU deal with trolldom? And I have expressed more than one opinion not "in line" with the (supposed) liberal lockstep...on this very board. No repercussions yet!


"I believe anonymity promotes bluster, BS, and bullying a great deal more than candor" (B. Winston)

The comfort of being in an ideological majority that can stomp outsiders with impunity also promotes bluster, BS, and bullying. The crap that comes with the candor is one of the costs, sort of like the justice system that occasionally sets the guilty free for the sake of its own integrity.

"what in the world would someone with "good liberal credentials" say to you in private (that they would have any reason to post here) that they lacked the hutzpah to stand by" (B. Winston)

See my comments above regarding CHCCS. Liberals have school-aged children also. If they have an issue with the system and can't afford private school tuition, their "hutzpah" will be seriously reduced my friend.

"so how would YOU deal with trolldom" (Melanie S.)

1. First, there is relatively little compared to other sites I have seen.

2. Second, I assume some of these people seek to inflame and want a reaction. Don't react. (Maybe this thread is a reaction)

3. Third, consider the possibility that people you don't want to hear from express viewpoints that reflect majority opinion outside of Chapel Hill-Carrboro.


If trolls are merely a minor irritation, why worry about them? If they are really a major problem, can't you reduce their number to zero by abolishing anonymity?

Hear Hear Mr. Winston! Ruby--those of us who take this "seriously" would appreciate such a move--and I DON'T think people who are expressing their opinions in a reasonable, repectful way have anything to worry about as far as backlash--always a concern cited by the neoconservatives living in this Bastion of Liberal Mind Control. (I know you can't SEE the tounge planted in my cheek, but trust me, it's there.)



Posting an email address puts us all at risk of additional email spam as I'm sure you know. I personally do use my address because Earthlink has a good spam filtering system, and because the nature of this blog makes anonymity rather rupugnant to me (also MT requires something in that field!).

The challenge with any social network system such as this blog is to provide an environment in which people feel safe from outside spammers as well as intellectually, so I understand why you are concerned about all the anonymous posters. But I would encourage you to make this decision about a viable email address a discussion thread rather than imposing a policy that many will not understand the need for....especially since you and several of your authors don't use your email addresses either.


Terri, you raise a good point. One built-in safeguard is that if you provide an address in the "URL" field, your e-mail address will not be displayed on the web page. Also, this process is just in the "experiment" phase, so no-one's getting removed... yet.

Thnk you for demonstrating such a fine example of trolling, Dimion! Where is your website where I can come and anonymously publish my thoughts about you?

I don't have a website. I just learned how to use this computer thingy yesterday. God said that Bush is going to win the election and that computers are bad. I know the TRUTH and you don't so THAIR!

Somebody is mocking my twin brother!

does this mean we stop using the "removethis" part of our address?

Well, yeah. Hope that's OK!

Sounds like postmodernist Chapel Hill liberals can't handle fair & honest debate. I knew it wouldn't be long before censorship was implemented. As Jack Nicholsan said:



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