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On the subject of feeding the trolls


mooeypoo
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Wooh I didn't mean that it will, or that it might... I am just putting forth my opinion on the matter, and - btw - I really don't mean to get ppl on the defensive, so please don't read what I'm saying as if I'm accusing the management here of bad judgment. I care about the forums, that's all. We always have room for improvement....

 

~moo

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Wooh I didn't mean that it will, or that it might... I am just putting forth my opinion on the matter, and - btw - I really don't mean to get ppl on the defensive, so please don't read what I'm saying as if I'm accusing the management here of bad judgment. I care about the forums, that's all. We always have room for improvement....

 

~moo

 

I, for one, think that this thread highlights some very good points and feeding trolls is certainly something we should all try to avoid doing. I don't think anybody is accusing anybody else of bad judgement.

 

This problem has been around ever since I joined SFN about a million years ago, and it's very difficult to deal with in a fair way. We've tried a lot of different approaches to tackle the problem, but right now I think there's a fairly good balance between getting rid of the trolls and allowing legitimate users to post what appear to be trolling questions.

 

That is no longer trolling, it's ridiculous silliness.

 

Yup. When it becomes clear that someone is clearly not interested in taking constructive criticism, SFNers need to stop responding and the mods need to step in and take care of it.

 

I'm not talking about the 'behind the scenes' actions, though, I'm talking about the actions that are SEEN by the n00bs. I think that we - the regular users - know by experience and by our time here - that the mods are keeping order, but the new users, who are here for their own preaching-havoc, might not.

 

This is a tough one. The flip side of the coin is that if we highlight the moderation action more, we come over as being heavy-handed and it puts people off posting in the first place. We've always been a bit secretive about the moderation of the forum, mostly because generally people shouldn't have to put up with the trolling and also because it's pretty dull at the end of the day.

 

Our general process begins with a user highlighting the problem via the reported post button, or a resident expert/moderator starting a thread about it. Once it's clear they're causing trouble, the staff discuss it and reach some kind of consensus on what the best approach is. I've always felt we should always give benefit of doubt about these things, even if it means a little inconvenience in the interim period. Some users have really split the staff on what to do (one such user managed to illicit well over 100 posts between about 6 staff members). Ultimately for the trolls, it'll end in a ban or suspension.

 

Clearly the users aren't really going to see a lot of the process. I've always taken the view that we should hide as much of this as possible as it distracts from the real reason that people are here: to talk about science. We've changed a few things (the thread in announcements forum for banned users, for instance) but if we need to be a bit more transparent then we'll have to change.

 

Seriously, if anybody else has threads such as these or suggestions they want to make then go ahead, because we're perfectly happy discussing them and they can only make things better.

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This problem has been around ever since I joined SFN about a million years ago, and it's very difficult to deal with in a fair way.

I actively participate in two other fora. One of those other fora embraces and cherishes crackpots. At one point when things got quite bad, one poster said "Things really aren't that bad here. Just take a look at the silliness at this site" and proceeded to give several examples. Hence my introduction to Science Forums. The other forum I participate in squashes crackpots like bugs, but in the process also cuts off some legitimate discussion with the "confused/ignorant innocent".

 

The policy at Science Forums obviously moves around a bit. At times it has been overly tolerant and very infrequently has been overly strict. Maintaining a balance is obviously a difficult task. That said, Science Forums IMHO tends more toward being overly tolerant (i.e., foolish) than overly strict. I think we have tilted back to the overly tolerant as of late.

 

On the issue of clarity of governance: this goes all over the map on various fora. Some are very open, some are completely closed. I have yet to see any fora that makes the moderator's subforum openly visible to all. I have heard of fora that attempted to make moderation a completely democratic process. Those fora no longer exist.

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And we did help some, it's not like EVERYTHING in there is trollish. We just need to make sure we HANDLE the trolls, and not let them take over.
These two sentences from mooeypoo's post highlight my stance on the matter. The reason why we started Speculations is because we wanted a place for those who are speculating on an idea they had (and hopefully did some work on before they posted a thread). If they present their idea well and use good scientific method and logic in their arguments, their idea will either get refuted or pass a somewhat rigorous though informal review. Either way, we will have approached the idea honestly and with integrity.

 

It would be the best thing EVER if someone could pose a speculation, have it reviewed until no one could spot any flaws, and then have the thread moved into an appropriate science category, possibly gaining some notice from the rest of the scientific community. THE. BEST. THING. EVER.

 

The reason why we also put Pseudoscience in the same sub-forum is because too often the ideas resort to lazy or fallacious methods, lacking the necessary rigor to meet the informal review we give it. No math, misunderstanding of established scientific principles or hurdles spanning too many logical fallacies are the norm for most of these. The burden is on the thread starter to take criticism on board instead of just leaping to the conclusion that his detractors are too hidebound or unimaginative to grasp the concept.

 

It's understandable that someone with a great idea would want to defend it in almost any way possible. It's illogical when that defense continues after several knowledgeable members point out flaws that are ignored. It's absurd when the defense calls into question the whole community of scientists who ascribe to an established theory because it's the best explanation available.

 

Trolls are absurd.

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These two sentences from mooeypoo's post highlight my stance on the matter. The reason why we started Speculations is because we wanted a place for those who are speculating on an idea they had (and hopefully did some work on before they posted a thread).

 

I agree that there definitely is a place here for speculative posts. Perhaps a sticky that warns the "confused/ignorant innocent" that "The posts in the Speculation thread are speculative by nature and might well be wrong. If you want to learn science this is not a good place to start. On the other hand, if you want to advance science, this just might be the place for you."

 

The reason why we also put Pseudoscience in the same sub-forum is because too often the ideas resort to lazy or fallacious methods, lacking the necessary rigor to meet the informal review we give it. No math, misunderstanding of established scientific principles or hurdles spanning too many logical fallacies are the norm for most of these. The burden is on the thread starter to take criticism on board instead of just leaping to the conclusion that his detractors are too hidebound or unimaginative to grasp the concept.

I suggest making Pseudoscience a separate sub-forum. Make an "Alternate Explanations" group, with Speculations and Pseudoscience as sub-fora of this group. Reasonable threads (whatever than means) start their life in Speculations but move to Pseudoscience if the OP cannot justify the speculation somehow. Less reasonable threads start their life in Pseudoscience and move to Speculations if there is some hope that some legitimate science lies within.

 

An utterly debunked speculation / pseudoscience thread has no hope of rescue. Falsification is a start toward annihilation, and is often all that is needed. (Some falsified conjectures can be rescued; so falsification alone might not annihilate a speculation.) IMHO, totally debunked speculations and pseudoscience threads should be deleted. Some of the extant junk in the Speculations and Pseudoscience subforum is an embarrassment to this forum.

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I don’t understand why you don’t just post that say moderators basically call bs on something, post or cite the reason why its bs rather then just a individual post alone. I was posting about microbiology recently and when a mod entered the thread I basically just let the guy run with it because he seemed he wanted to help. So in that regard just solid mod behavior that can answer questions and defeat say people who more or less do not give accurate representations for an answer.

 

Plus what is a troll really, are we looking for an anarchist, a zealot or some casually interested and mildly bored reader? I think repeated warming violations would be enough for action of some kind, as long as the warnings are issued in public and require say more then one, I don’t see how this site could be ranked as practicing eugenics or authoritarian barbarism of any kind.

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I suggest making Pseudoscience a separate sub-forum. Make an "Alternate Explanations" group, with Speculations and Pseudoscience as sub-fora of this group. Reasonable threads (whatever than means) start their life in Speculations but move to Pseudoscience if the OP cannot justify the speculation somehow. Less reasonable threads start their life in Pseudoscience and move to Speculations if there is some hope that some legitimate science lies within.

While I see the logic in that, I also think it would end up being redundant.

First, how do you separate the two? There are a few pseudoscientific areas that are not completely "out there" but are enough to be 'pseudoscience' -- how do you decide which is which? not that obvious..

 

Also, I'm sure we'll end up just throwing away most of the post into pseudosscience anyways... so now it just saves us the trouble :P

 

I kinda miss the "Philosophy" forum. It used to be philosophy and religion, and the religion part got it kicked out, but I think philosophy - if done right, and with no crappy insistences that it's empirical science - can be very interesting.

 

But nothing stops us from posting phylosophical hypotheses in the pseudoscience/speculation forum.. no?

 

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First, how do you separate the two? There are a few pseudoscientific areas that are not completely "out there" but are enough to be 'pseudoscience' -- how do you decide which is which? not that obvious..

Suppose someone posted "I have an idea how to further modify MOND and give it deeper meaning at the same time ..." and in the process outlined some potentially fruitful but not well-elaborated ideas. I would call that speculation, not pseudoscience -- at least initially.

 

On the other hand, if someone merely reposted the basics of MOND, ignoring that MOND has been falsified by observations of the bullet cluster (and other things), I would call that post pseudoscience, not speculation -- at least initially.

 

Finally, if someone posts some pure unadulterated junk about, say, anomalistic redshifts, that has thoroughly and repeatedly debunked, I would not even call that pseudoscience.

 

My take on life, the universe, and everything:

 

Science > Speculation > Pseudoscience > Pyschoceramics > Utterly destroyed garbage

 

Things in the last two categories are against the purposes of Science Forums and should not be a part of the Science Forums thread hierarchy. The boundaries are a bit fuzzy, which is why we should give people some amount of rope. Because there are things far worse than pseudoscience, we still need rules for what constitutes valid pseudoscience. Once a concept has been falsified, the OP must either address this falsification or face the imminent movement of their threads from pseudoscience to the psychoceramics/utterly destroyed garbage subforum, aka the trash bin.

Edited by D H
Very minor grammar correction
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I don’t understand why you don’t just post that say moderators basically call bs on something, post or cite the reason why its bs rather then just a individual post alone. I was posting about microbiology recently and when a mod entered the thread I basically just let the guy run with it because he seemed he wanted to help. So in that regard just solid mod behavior that can answer questions and defeat say people who more or less do not give accurate representations for an answer.

I agree, sometimes the mere presence of a moderator is enough to bring back control.

 

Plus what is a troll really, are we looking for an anarchist, a zealot or some casually interested and mildly bored reader? I think repeated warming violations would be enough for action of some kind, as long as the warnings are issued in public and require say more then one, I don’t see how this site could be ranked as practicing eugenics or authoritarian barbarism of any kind.

 

Look at New Science and MotorDaddy's threads, their insistence on ignoring people's posts and keep posting over and over and over again the exact same (or, in 'better' cases - with a different phrasing) claim.

 

That should be reprimanded.

 

Suppose someone posted "I have an idea how to further modify MOND and give it deeper meaning at the same time ..." and in the process outlined some potentially fruitful but not well-elaborated ideas, I would call that speculation, not pseudoscience -- at least initially.

 

On the other hand, if someone merely reposted the basics of MOND, ignoring that MOND has been falsified by observations of the bullet cluster (and other things), I would call that post pseudoscience, not speculation -- at least initially.

That's a difference in attitudes, though, and if it merely is a difference in attitude, then regardless of the contents, the latter is just plainly impolite and unscientific, even if eventually we might find out it has some sort of merit.

 

If someone ignores others, he's not being nice and he's not following the scientific method that calls for PEER REVIEW. That's wrong in a science forums, whether you have it in speculations or in a 'normal' scientific forum or in the pseudoscience forums.

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That's a difference in attitudes, though, and if it merely is a difference in attitude, then regardless of the contents, the latter is just plainly impolite and unscientific, even if eventually we might find out it has some sort of merit.

I intentionally picked a point near the borderline between speculation and pseudoscience. In the first example, the poster acknowledges the problems with MOND but has some ideas regarding fixing the two biggies. Who knows? Maybe this DMOND (doubly modified Newtonian dynamics) will eventually stand side-by-side with 42. It's worth a look.

 

In the second example, the poster is simply rehashing a previously falisified idea that suffers from two big gaping holes. This poster most likely has seen something about those holes; its rather hard to miss. He is giving all of the appearances of being a psychoceramicist, to whom contrary evidence is one of those teensy distractions that is best jusr ignored.

 

In distinguishing speculation from pseudoscience we will have to look at appearance, attitude, and intent. There is nothing per se wrong with such a rule. For example, the most popular sport in the world has several rules in which the referee must account for intent. One such rule is "handling the ball". Accidental and unintentional contact of the ball with the hand (which extends from the shoulder to the tip of the fingers in this sport) is not a foul. The act becomes a foul only if the contact was made with intent.

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May I recommend a new idea? A partially locked thread. A mod puts a message specifying which criticisms the original poster must address, and then partially locks the thread. Only the OP and mods can post to that thread, until the OP addresses the criticisms appropriately. This would have the advantage of not "silencing" the pooooor, persecuted Galileos, not allowing innocent bystanders to feed the troll, and breaking the circle of perpetually dodged criticisms.

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You're talking about moderation. But it has a down side, in that you have to wait for posts to be approved.
And I'm not sure a queue like that could be set up on a general forum. We'd have to have a Threads in Mediation sub-forum so every thread in it would go through moderation. That might work, if you could get rid of the Star Chamber stigma this usually engenders.
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Well, it would be similar to a moderated thread, but it would not allow others to waste their time replying until the OP does his homework. And the OP could post freely so he can't claim he's being silenced (of course the thread won't be reopened until he replies to criticisms).

 

I could see how not having code for that would complicate things. Moving the thread to a moderated "holding cell" forum would be pretty close, so long as people know not to try to respond until it gets moved out of there.

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It would be so cool to have the ability to mark a member as "Moderation Only", meaning that their posts would have to be approved by a Mod before it shows up in any thread. That way if they weren't answering questions, committed repeated fallacies, made the same refuted argument ad infinauseum or otherwise were being a waste, we could delete the response and ask them to try again until they have something worthwhile and regular members wouldn't have to deal with responding to crap.

 

Oh, Cap'n, my Cap'n? Oh, Caaaaaaaaaaaap'n? >:D

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couple ideas:

 

would take a bit of moderator work, but how about a second thread where only the relevent stuff goes, which is locked and manually has posts copied over from the main (crap) thread?

 

to use mooey's example:

 

MotorDaddy asks a vaguely strawmanish question. COPIED TO THREAD 2

SFNers answer. COPIED TO THREAD 2

MotorDaddy straw-mans the answer to fit his imaginative view of physics.

SFNers correct him and point out the strawman.

MotorDaddy claims his first question wasn't answered.

SFNers take more time and effort to bring forth multiple accounts of citations. COPIED TO THREAD 2

MotorDaddy claims everything is wrong, all publications, all scientists, all methods of science, all methods of physics -- other than his own, uncited, imaginative version of physics.

SFNers argue he is wrong and supply the answer.

MotorDaddy ignores the answer and asks the same first question under a different phrasing, pretending it was never addressed.

 

And the cycle continues, more or less the same, for 58 posts. (ANY THAT CONTAIN UNIQUE POINTS COPIED TO THREAD 2)

 

so, thread 2 should consist of, say:

 

MotorDaddy asks a vaguely strawmanish question.

SFNers answer.

SFNers take more time and effort to bring forth multiple accounts of citations.

 

thus forcing MD to actually use unique, non-repetitive and valid points in order to get them included in the 'main' post.

 

then the original thread gets put into a forum called 'crap' or simply deleted?

 

maybe?

 

idea 2:

 

declare a 'high-mod' mode, where a thread gets mercilessly moderated and any and all repetition, logical fallicies, etc get stripped out, along with any replies to said repetition/etc, thus keeping the amount of crap down? just to be used for the percistant crackpots?

 

btw, we could totally do with something like this for certain discussions on GW, if someone wants a 'follow-the-rules' conversation.

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declare a 'high-mod' mode, where a thread gets mercilessly moderated and any and all repetition, logical fallicies, etc get stripped out, along with any replies to said repetition/etc, thus keeping the amount of crap down? just to be used for the percistant crackpots?

 

btw, we could totally do with something like this for certain discussions on GW, if someone wants a 'follow-the-rules' conversation.

 

I like this idea better. I think once its been established that the OP in question is a crackpot/troll and will not argue properly, then you should start hitting the delete button, or the lock button. Or both if you would prefer.

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I'm a bit late in this discussion, but I would like to note that a welcoming atmosphere as SFN does seem to have is definitely something worth fostering. I'm on a Star Trek/sci-fi forum where old, established members basically rule the roost and get away with extensive flaming and trolling and off topic blather while new members are ruthlessly culled. They don't get many trolls there (and they used to have a big problem with Star Wars fans coming and making stupid "the Deathstar could beat the Enterprise" topics), but then they don't get many new members either.

 

Just something to put out there.

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If all my posts we subject to the moderators' eye before it was able to be viewed by everyone I think it would put me off posting at all. Or is that the point?

 

So far the atmosphere is quite friendly and open in here, I would like to see it remain that way.

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I'm a bit late in this discussion, but I would like to note that a welcoming atmosphere as SFN does seem to have is definitely something worth fostering. I'm on a Star Trek/sci-fi forum where old, established members basically rule the roost and get away with extensive flaming and trolling and off topic blather while new members are ruthlessly culled. They don't get many trolls there (and they used to have a big problem with Star Wars fans coming and making stupid "the Deathstar could beat the Enterprise" topics), but then they don't get many new members either.

 

That's not so bad. I once joined a Star Wars/sci-fi forum where they were so paranoid that they decided not to allow new members who used aol/yahoo/gmail based emails! Needless to say, the atmosphere was very hostile and I decided not to post there anymore after a few hours.

 

I'll bet the Death Star couldn't beat a Borg Cube or two :D

 

I'll bet it can ;). But that's off topic

 

Thanks for the input, guys. I'll read through this thread again carefully and we'll try to put in action some of your ideas.

 

No problem. I think one of the main problems is that even when it is clear that the OP is a troll, or someone who clearly won't listen, they are still allowed to post the same trash. Hopefully, these ideas will "encourage" the crackpots, retards, and trolls among us to correct their ways :D.

 

 

===============================

 

Dude! Mike C just got pwned. Good job SFN, two thumbs up for the mods!

Edited by Reaper
multiple post merged
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