The Real Problem With Internet Comments Isn't Anonymity

from the confusing-the-issues dept

Venom-filled anonymous internet comments are often a favorite target for politicians, writers and plenty of other folks who use them to represent everything that’s wrong with the internet. Many sites have a love-hate relationship with comments, including news sites, which often want to encourage “participation” but don’t get much out of the comments, including ad revenue, since many advertisers don’t want their ads alongside them. Now, many of these news sites are rethinking their commenting systems, with a view towards cutting down in the bile that’s often spewed by commenters on their site. Typically, these efforts amount to little more than switching comments off or forcing people to use their real names, with many publishers (and pundits) believing that the real problem is anonymity. But anonymity isn’t the issue; the quality and tone of comments is. So if that’s the real problem, why not seek to change it, instead of taking aim at a completely separate issue? As we’ve noted before, Techdirt gets a lot of comments, including the occasional unfriendly one from a jerk. Sometimes this jerk is anonymous — but if they’re a jerk, it doesn’t much matter if they’re anonymous or using their real name. With that in mind, it’s nice to see that some of the sites in the NYT article above are actually looking at ways to tackle the real issue, and not just anonymity — though there are plenty that still seem to think everybody will be nice if they use their real name.

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Comments on “The Real Problem With Internet Comments Isn't Anonymity”

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82 Comments
David T says:

Filtering would be nice sometimes...

There is a “reputation” system that some of the larger discussion groups use. Basically, other users give reputation to people who make useful contributions. In combination with number of posts, one can make a reasonable judgment about the source.

One could use a similar system in combination with user-defined filtering system where comments would be “hidden” that didn’t meet certain criteria. That way the community could police itself.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Filtering would be nice sometimes...

There is a “reputation” system that some of the larger discussion groups use. Basically, other users give reputation to people who make useful contributions.

The problem with those systems is that they can be gamed, either by individuals or even groups. The way it works is that individuals or groups register multiple accounts and then begin to vote up each other’s banal comments. Ever see some of those highly rated but stupid comments on Slashdot and wonder how they got so highly rated? It’s called account farming. They plant the accounts, nurture their votes, grow them to a suitable maturity, and then harvest them. The harvesting is done by selling the accounts off on auction sites or the underground market. All it takes is money and you too can buy your very own high “reputation”. And after you use it up, you can go buy another one. Or maybe you’re an account farmer yourself looking to make a little extra scratch.

In combination with number of posts, one can make a reasonable judgment about the source.

Um, not really. Read what I just wrote.

One could use a similar system in combination with user-defined filtering system where comments would be “hidden” that didn’t meet certain criteria. That way the community could police itself.

Yeah, but maybe not with the results you think.

Seumas Hyslop (profile) says:

Re: Re: Filtering would be nice sometimes...

That Slashdot is not courteous doesn’t makes a rating/ranking system bad – it needs to be compared to what would happen if there wasn’t the ranking/rating system. And the ranking system on Slashdot takes the commenting system from “not worth reading” to “barely tolerable”. That’s a plus.

Other sites like Engadget also employ successful ranking system, and it’s pleasing to see that the ranking by the users doesn’t always match the side which the Engadget content writers take. It works reasonably well.

Anonymous Coward says:

OK, so give us some examples of where Anon comments have been us as:

” favorite target for politicians, writers and plenty of other folks who use them to represent everything that’s wrong with the internet.

Gee, and I thought it was cyberbullying, credit card and identity theft, porn, kiddy porn, weak surity portals, spam, malware and so on that is usually listed as “all things bad about the internet”.

SO you get all riled up, because people comment (on you’re venom and biases) in response to you’re statements.

And ofcourse, everyone who does not agree with you is evil or a jerk!!

Sounds like the trolls at BoycottNovell, who think if you dont follow their line of illogic and conspiracy then you are labelled a “shill” or “troll”. With little of no understanding of those terms. And a distinct lack of willingness to enter any form of debate on the subject.

After all it’s much easier to call someone a “jerk” rather than address the real issues.

Sure, there are alot of jerks and idiots who are so biased and one eyed that nothing can be said in comments to change their minds. But most of these people run their own blogs, they (you) want to make comments, but cant handle any responses that infringe on you’re narrow world mindset..

Technopolitical (profile) says:

moderators are Censorship !

~~ Moderators are censors. Peer rankings by other commentators could squeeze out unpopular but reasonable posts.

“Anonymous Coward” posters could at least register at the site. Yes, sometimes interests may be served in an anonymous posts — whistle blowers primarily, but 99.99% of the time on 99.99% of the post-able sites , Anonymous comments tend to be frivolous dribble most of the time. (Remember you can prove anything with statistics :))

out_of_the_blue says:

A purely mechanical solution would be effective.

Make comments more “precious” by LIMITING them in two simple ways:

First: most important: time limit *between* postings.

2nd: a *minimum* length of comment; dump all one-liners.

3rd: NO exceptions, not even for registered users.

Frankly, you above who’ve violated those rules engage in utterly trivial banter that’s far more annoying than most trolling. You’re not on topic, not helping the site to be entertaining, you’re just the usual bunch of regulars (so I guess, can’t really follow since you don’t bother with handles) chatting and sniping back and forth. What you mistake for wit, or at best, friendly banter, isn’t worth reading.

My simple system rightly lumps you in with trolls, and has the advantage that it can be done mechanically, which by itself proves the similarity.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: A purely mechanical solution would be effective.

it can be done mechanically, which by itself proves the similarity.

I think that’s circular reasoning. You’re starting with the assertion that one-liners are worthless, then pointing out that they can be found algorithmically, and then claiming that this proves they’re worthless. All you’re really doing is stating your value judgment about short comments. That’s fine, but don’t claim you’ve proven anything.

Trails (profile) says:

Biggest problem with newspaper comments...

…and it’s something Mike does well, is to engage in discussion. Rarely do I see discussions where the reporter/staff chimes in. Often, regardless of the stories, the comments simply degenerate into “Obama is Stalin incarnate” “Sarah Palin is dumb” back and forth.

The people who wrote the stories should engage in the discussion, responding to meaningful comments, and ignoring (or deleting) off topic comments. Instead, news organizations continuously allow comments to degenerate into name calling competitions, which drives away any would-be-commenters who have something relevant to say, before they eventually lock commenting on the story.

known coward says:

Re: Biggest problem with newspaper comments...

I think the problem with newspaper editing comments is that if they do they lose their safe harbor provisions and can be found liable for things posted on their boards.

Although i agree writers engaging in the discussion would raise the level of discourse and help focus the conversations in general, thereby making the comments more valuable to the general readership at large.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

” “the Internet is growing up, the trend is away from anonymity.” “

The trend on big news sites is to force people to reveal their identities, to not allow any real sort of discussion, to prevent anyone who goes against the news sources agenda from commenting, to prevent people from pointing out errors, and to not allow people to point out where the article is wrong or biased. Try getting a link on any of these large papers that points at the ACTA text.

What world does this guy live in? On the rest of the internet the trend is to allow all of these things. A perfect example of that is TechDirt.

Anonymous Coward says:

Techdirt's Walled Garden

Or you can just do like Techdirt does: setup filters to filter out comments that you don’t like (held for “review”) and then just delete them. Then just tell everyone that you don’t delete comments. I.e., lie about it.

Of course, you’ve got to let a few of the weaker ones through so that it isn’t obvious what you’re doing (also, the weaker ones make for nice straw men that you can gallantly defeat), but the better ones that might embarrass you can just be banished.

And don’t let anyone tell you that Techdirt doesn’t do this, because they absolutely do. If you want to read really good arguments against some of Mike’s positions, you’ll have to go elsewhere, because they may not make it here in Techdirt’s very own little walled garden.

vivaelamor (profile) says:

Re: Techdirt's Walled Garden

“And don’t let anyone tell you that Techdirt doesn’t do this, because they absolutely do. If you want to read really good arguments against some of Mike’s positions, you’ll have to go elsewhere, because they may not make it here in Techdirt’s very own little walled garden.”

I assume you have tried to post links to these bastions of insight but were blocked from doing so.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Techdirt's Walled Garden

“I assume you have tried to post links to these bastions of insight but were blocked from doing so.”

Heh, you assume wrong. No, Techdirt sometimes deletes comments expressing opinions that they just don’t like, no links involved at all. Especially if such comments are well founded with strong arguments.

I’ve carefully crafted this comment to fly under their filter radar. Let’s see if it makes it through. (the first one didn’t)

BearGriz72 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Techdirt's Walled Garden

Bullshit! Even before I registered my posts would show intermediately without filtering. The only filtering I have seen evidence of is to prevent spam (advertising) posts, and obviously that is not a comprehensive filter because some still get through.

As far as Techdirt deleting comments expressing opposing opinions or opinions they don’t like. Bullshit^2 There are opposing opinions in the comments all the time, Just look at RJR or TAM to name a couple. As far as those “really good arguments against some of Mike’s positions” let’s hear some, or give us a link to some, or are the nothing but hot air like yourself?

Again {{Citation Needed}}

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Techdirt's Walled Garden

“Bullshit! Even before I registered my posts would show intermediately without filtering.”

Of course not, as a fan boi, you don’t fit the criteria. Try getting on Mike’s hit list and then see what happens. I’ve seen it dozens of times. Why do you think Techdirt’s pages are so infested with various tracking devices? They’ve got tracking cookies, at least three different web bugs (single pixel tracking images), and various script-based locally-stored-objects (javascript trackers) on their pages, to name a few. You think those are all for YOUR benefit? Ha!

“The only filtering I have seen evidence of blah blah blah…”

Well you wouldn’t, would you? That’s kind of like me claiming “Bullshit! There’s no such thing as cancer because I’ve never experienced it myself.” Way to go.

“As far as Techdirt deleting comments expressing opposing opinions or opinions they don’t like. Bullshit^2 There are opposing opinions in the comments all the time,”

But not some of the best ones. Sure, a few easily debunked clowns are let through as straw men. Question: You know how to tell that Mike doesn’t feel threatened by your arguments? Answer: Your posts don’t get filtered.

“Just look at RJR or TAM to name a couple.”

Case in point to what I just said. And that point was already covered in the original comment in this thread. Can’t you read, or is cognitive dissonance hampering you?

“As far as those “really good arguments against some of Mike’s positions” let’s hear some, or give us a link to some, or are the nothing but hot air like yourself?”

Oh, little fan boi, so naive. Sorry, but those aren’t allowed here. I’d try, but they’d just be filtered out. Again. In fact, I expect Mike to kick me out of this thread pretty soon anyway. So if I quit replying, you know why.

BearGriz72 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Techdirt's Walled Garden

LOL of course Wikipedia removes information without any evidentiary support or basis in fact. That is the whole point of Wikipedia and the reason for the ‘Citation Needed’ Template I Referenced. Yet again you have said that you can not provide evidence to support your accusations because the evidence would be removed. Circular logic is never the right answer. If you are afraid to post a link because of the great Techdirt conspiracy then how about keywords for a Google search, the name of a website, any evidence that you are not just suffering from paranoid personality disorder.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Techdirt's Walled Garden

LOL of course Wikipedia removes information without any evidentiary support or basis in fact.

Well at least you don’t believe that the Earth is completely flat. And if you don’t think that Techdirt deletes stuff too, why don’t you ask Mike and see what he says?

If you are afraid to post a link because of the great Techdirt conspiracy then how about keywords for a Google search, the name of a website, any evidence..

Already tried. It got deleted.

any evidence that you are not just suffering from paranoid personality disorder.

Hey, I know what I’ve plainly seen. You, on the other hand, are plainly suffering from fan-boi-itis induced cognitive dissonance. I mean, seriously, anyone who would actually pay to join Techdirt’s “insider” club probably fits the definition of a fan boi. Sorry if you just can’t accept reality. Who would expect such a person to be objective? It’s like criticizing a sports nut’s favorite team.

out_of_the_blue says:

Amazing how many of you bit on #39.

And in comments on a piece about trolling. Guess it shows that 1st level trolls don’t even suspect that they’re being played.

Since the #39 troll’s cycle time is about 90 minutes, I’d suggest TWICE that be a minimum time limit for my rule #1, *here*, but I now lean toward 1 (one) comment per day (per IP, but that’s adequate obstacle).

out_of_the_blue says:

Two more proposed rules.

4: Enforce a fixed handle; no more “Anonymous Coward” filled in automatically. As is facilitates trolling since trolls can (invisibly to other posters) promote / argue with themselves, or otherwise pretend to be multiple persons.

5: Questions aren’t comments and should to some degree be suppressed. Key feature of trolls are a need for attention and a lack of substance. This is less easy to do mechanically, but I think the presence of three question marks should automatically delete a post.

out_of_the_blue says:

A later last word.

Because I’m still thinking on this subject — can’t really avoid it if one at all values comments — while still evaluating Techdirt. My initial enthusiasm is wearing thin.

The regulars here are a perfect example of a large part of the “real problem”: bickering among themselves over tiny points until no one else stands a chance in the irrelevant din. It’s simply a stamina contest among trolls. And while I don’t care how they waste *their* time, the volume of drivel does cut into *my* time, besides any potential pleasure that I have in visiting the site. Sure, I can and do skip over recognized names, but others seem to repeatedly just use “Anonymous Coward”, and wading through those is time-consuming.

So I’m now even more sure of the rules I propose as a mechanical way to improve this or any site, simply by making *each* comment more likely to be valuable.

Also, specifically for this site, the “reply to” button creates a mess by over-use. I’d prefer each post be forced to have a title typed in, which would be another way to cause delay in posting.

Note: the post numbers here apparently CHANGE: 39 is now 40. I didn’t want to at all quote the troll, but the post I meant to refer to above is “Techdirt’s Walled Garden”.

out_of_the_blue says:

My own blog.

Another rule has occurred to me.
6) Outlaw analogies; they’re all lousy, diverting, and waste time. Mechanically implementing would be like rounding up wild mustangs by building corrals and expecting the horses to run in and shut the gate behind themselves… er.. Anyhoo, think that a slight amount of review could reduce this, simply insert a “red flag” saying “No analogies, please.” Or at least put it into some sort of posting guidelines.

For an only too typical instance, see http://techdirt.com/articles/20100524/0056149544.shtml
Where a horse and buggy analogy ran its course to someone asking “wouldn’t you rather have a car?”

Cindi Burkey (user link) says:

problem with internet comments is not anonymity

I was actually googling this issue becuase I wondered if anyone had done any studies of internet communication and whether the practice of commenting has injected rudeness into casual conversations with strangers offline.

The thing is, prospective employers will google your name. They will see everything you’ve written that your name is on. Most people won’t comment in their own names saying “stfu” or “retard” or “looser” (my favorite mis-spelling). Why didn’t the author back up the article with anything? She/he states that the tone of the comments is the problem, not anonymity–without explaining why the two are not related.

They are related, because people generally know now that using their real names means —anyone can look them up, and their words might come back to haunt.

Social accountability, which is absent from anonymous commenting, is the only solution with any real teeth. Leave out the social context –that is be anonymous– and you can get away with everything. But use your name, and you *will* have to answer to people in the real world, outside of this 4th dimension we call the Internet which is everywhere and nowhere all at once, but more importantly, everywhere.

Cindi Burkey says:

Internet Comments

On the other hand—reading the comments on the NYT article is eye-opening. Someone posts:

“I often get more out of the comments, sorry reporter, than I do out of the original article. It would be great to be able to sort through the noise to get to the best comments, but I don’t think the best comments are necessarily associated with readers who provide their full name.

“As many a high school or college student has learned, the web is one’s permanent records. Does it make sense to have comments regarding current events or political issues associated with one’s name for the rest of your life? I think not and I’ll continue to post under just my first name or I’ll not post at all.”

Another person states that because of fear of retaliation, some people cannot post under their real names because the threat to them from angry strangers might be very real. Especially if one is commenting on something contentious–who knows if the angry guy on the other side of the debate won’t come find you? And what if he’s really as nuts as he sounds?

I wrestle with this a lot myself, do I use my real name or no? I have reason to believe a prospective employer passed me over because of my internet activity. I have believed strongly in using my real name, because I feel like it’s a civic duty to observe and comment on the world and current events. I worked in public radio for a very long time and I know my opinions are informed and my writing is articulate. I have as much right to post my opinion as the next guy. But what if that employer disagreed with my views? Well, then, we wouldn’t have been a good match anyway, I tell myself. But then I wonder if it’s better to be invisible. As a matter of fact I often contemplate getting rid of my web sites completely and staying off the internet. I can’t quite do it. I want to know what’s going on.

Doing away with anonymous commenting could be harmful and discourage people from saying what they really mean. Moderation really seems like the only solution. Costly maybe–but a responsibility for any site wishing to be credible. Someone needs to deal with Huffington Post because it’s really terrible, for example.

out_of_the_blue says:

Proposed Rule #7: simply bar the word "troll".

It’s inflammatory in itself. Drama queens like to use it — and overuse it — as a simple means to dismiss any argument that they don’t agree with, or can’t answer. It’s similar to the way “terrorist” cuts off all debate about pesky civil rights and gov’t actions. Since that particular arrangement of characters are now so perniciously mis-used, simply filter them out mechanically (or perhaps replace with “trite epithet” or some minor other stab at the one using them). At least require them to consult a thesaurus.

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Jeff Carson says:

Anonymous

Anonymity is the main problem with the internet. In the old days you never said or did anything without being personally responsible for your actions. With that said you always thought before you spoke or acted. Now you can go on the internet and rant or complain in a fake name. Think about what anonymity actually does. Think about millions of people acting without worry of consequence. This is why we have viruses flooding the internet. Its why we have so many children doing immoral things online under aliases. Its why politicians and terrorists can create so many problems without consequence. The internet has become an evil tool at anyone’s disposal. It is nieve to say “Well it depends on who’s using it.” The internet is one big temptation. Its more powerful than many people realize. So powerful that most people aren’t capable of getting into the driver’s seat without taking others on a terror ride. I don’t like the idea of regulating the internet. But I do support a law that creates locks on every single website that requires an identity key that is directly tied to the actual government verified identity of the person using it. That way everyone can have that level of fear that they might get caught if they are up to know good. Right now, websites like Topix.com thrive on anonymity and that’s why its a huge mess and a breeding ground for hatred. The longer we exercise these emotions, the more narrowminded and idiot our culture becomes. We are effectively annihilating ourselves a little at a time. The internet reduces us to nothing at the present time. And it isn’t suitable for children PERIOD. Yet, millions of children are allowed to get on there. Even if their parents don’t approve, they go to a friend’s house where that kid’s parent approves. Its a mess. And it has to change. If the people don’t get busy fixing this problem, its a matter of time until the internet will become regulated and the fun will go right out of it. No more free information.

Abraham says:

Reponse from Mani on my nationalization comment

What makes you tick anyway Mani?
Oops! Mani, It seems like my English grammar offended someone here, you could be right that my grammar was not impressive on my previous comment about Nationalization, but I only wrote my comment in passing and did not contemplate on the likelihood of having my compilation assessed word by word as I was only trying to have my critique submitted.
Thanks for your disparagement which has made me a better man, BUT for your information, my English results at school were not bad at all, we have white people who can hardly speak English and people like you would just deem it normal I reckon, should a black person miss the right word, the character is at stake.
Someone would allow me to accentuate that we really need to recuperate from the inheritance of apartheid and stop prejudicing other people based on their casual staging, on a grim note as well, it is not because things are difficult that people like you do not dare about the socio-economic transformation amongst blacks, it is only because they do not dare that they are difficult.
I do not want to have my wording misconstrued and labelled a racist, I only want to help blindfolded individuals like you that truly apartheid is still not uprooted within our social order, white people are still very reluctant to accepting changes in South Africa, we are not going to bid about the bush with this aspect because of people like you jumping into classing other blacks when issues have been raised.
I also want you to know that I am from a coloured community from my mommy suggesting that my DNA is between black and white, consequently neither this nature nor my personal achievement will they stop me from raising issues
Lastly, just visit http://www.mathebesbooks.com and read more about my newly published book on mining nationalization, you can also learn more about me on Google search should you still pursue analysing my English. Take note that I only managed to publish my book in UK as no publishing company in South Africa could have given me the opportunity to raise my view through this mode; white people in South Africa still determine which news should be accommodated in the media. And my father taught me how imperative it is to respect people irrespective of their giving.
People like you dominated by indigenous thoughts of who speaks better English, obviously have never travelled outside, My cousin who has a master?s degree was raised by a French father and can hardly speak English as he attended his s

out_of_the_blue says:

Rule #8, one that shouldn't be necessary to make.

But perhaps most importantly: DON’T TROLL YOUR OWN SITE! (I here define troll as any comments that aren’t necessary, especially the mere contradiction and personal attacks that I’ve already ruled out above.) The blogger sets the tone — it’s one of the more significant social cues on any site. If you deign to respond to posters, and can’t be unfailingly polite, at least avoid vulgarisms. The use of common pejoratives simply encourages those of low wit — and reveals you as a witling who can’t see this obvious fact. Arguing with those whom you state are idiots simply points out that you don’t trust readers to draw that conclusion, and aren’t confident in either your writing skills or your case. When combined with the blogger using vulgarisms — while claiming a college degree that should have provided more and better words — it can only diminish the case.

And the better class of readers, particularly of the business class, who might use those words privately, are still displeased to see them in PUBLIC print; it’s an easy way to judge web-site, blogger, and readers.

Besides, the use of vulgarisms gives snarky readers a chance to point out that the blogger is less than an urbane sophisticate.

Catch phrase: Don’t get down in the mud with pigs: you’ll get dirty, and the pigs like it.

Abraham says:

Julius Malema

As a concerned citizen and political leader, I find it very much insulting for a person to refer to other political supporters as uneducated for the fact that they are not intending to feed the bill of those who utter such naive remarks due to their different political incline.
On the 29 of July, as I was coming from work, I accidentally bought Pretoria news as I was eager to check on the developments of the appointment of a chief judge of SA. Since this news paper decided to pick on our political leaders for character assassination, I just lost an interest on it.
As a matter of fact, Russell Hosking from Elarduspark commented on Malema?s media accusations and decided to label Malema and his followers as uneducated clowns.
Though I do not understand what type of education this person referred to, supposedly he was referring to college and university education, to start with, Julius Malema is currently studying with UNISA for your info. Secondly, should you accidentally attend seminars that are addressed by Julius Malema; you will notice that within his followers, we have Doctors, Advocates, lecturers, teachers, accountants etc.
Let me assist Russell on how to identify people who are not educated;
1.A person who is not will to accept democratic changes in a democratic society
2.A person who is not willing to accept that they have indeed previously robbed Peter and Pay Paul, knowing it is exactly the case fearing for equal rights which will order them out of their comfort zone and work hard like everyone else.
3.A person who killed Hector Peterson young as he was, falls among the uneducated
4.A person who found you minding your own business in your own household and decides to take everything you have, when you later at least request for a certain potion from what has been stolen from you, a thief decides to feel agitated by your humble request, that person is uneducated.
5.When a person confuses another human being with a dog and decides to grab a gun and shoot, that individual is uneducated
6.When supposedly a human being dislikes my political head and decides to shoot at me for they are repulsive with my president, other political leaders, and news papers suddenly have businesses elsewhere as though they did not know about the incident, surely those people are not educated , the list goes on Russell, there isn?t much time.
7.Visagie [ secretary of AWB] who did not know how to conduct himself during a television interview is also a good example of uneducated people
8.Four boys who have been given a maximum sentence on killing of a farmer and his entire family have been added on the list of the uneducated as well.

Now Russell knows very well on how to identify an uneducated person, I have just given you a free educational orientation.

out_of_the_blue says:

Proposed mostly mechanical rules gathered for one post:

Some exposition included.

Make comments more “precious” by LIMITING them in two simple ways:

First: most important: time limit *between* postings.

2nd: a *minimum* length of comment; dump all one-liners.

3rd: NO exceptions, not even for registered users.

Frankly, you above who’ve violated those rules engage in utterly trivial banter that’s far more annoying than most trolling. You’re not on topic, not helping the site to be entertaining, you’re just the usual bunch of regulars (so I guess, can’t really follow since you don’t bother with handles) chatting and sniping back and forth. What you mistake for wit, or at best, friendly banter, isn’t worth reading.

My simple system rightly lumps you in with trolls, and has the advantage that it can be done mechanically, which by itself proves the similarity.

4: Enforce a fixed handle; no more “Anonymous Coward” filled in automatically. As is facilitates trolling since trolls can (invisibly to other posters) promote / argue with themselves, or otherwise pretend to be multiple persons.

5: Questions aren’t comments and should to some degree be suppressed. Key feature of trolls are a need for attention and a lack of substance. This is less easy to do mechanically, but I think the presence of three question marks should automatically delete a post.

Because I’m still thinking on this subject — can’t really avoid it if one at all values comments — while still evaluating Techdirt. My initial enthusiasm is wearing thin.

The regulars here are a perfect example of a large part of the “real problem”: bickering among themselves over tiny points until no one else stands a chance in the irrelevant din. It’s simply a stamina contest among trolls. And while I don’t care how they waste *their* time, the volume of drivel does cut into *my* time, besides any potential pleasure that I have in visiting the site. Sure, I can and do skip over recognized names, but others seem to repeatedly just use “Anonymous Coward”, and wading through those is time-consuming.

So I’m now even more sure of the rules I propose as a mechanical way to improve this or any site, simply by making *each* comment more likely to be valuable.

Also, specifically for this site, the “reply to” button creates a mess by over-use. I’d prefer each post be forced to have a title typed in, which would be another way to cause delay in posting.

7: simply bar the word “troll”.
It’s inflammatory in itself. Drama queens like to use it — and overuse it — as a simple means to dismiss any argument that they don’t agree with, or can’t answer. It’s similar to the way “terrorist” cuts off all debate about pesky civil rights and gov’t actions. Since that particular arrangement of characters are now so perniciously mis-used, simply filter them out mechanically (or perhaps replace with “trite epithet” or some minor other stab at the one using them). At least require them to consult a thesaurus.

8: that shouldn’t be necessary to make.
But perhaps most importantly: DON’T TROLL YOUR OWN SITE! (I here define troll as any comments that aren’t necessary, especially the mere contradiction and personal attacks that I’ve already ruled out above.) The blogger sets the tone — it’s one of the more significant social cues on any site. If you deign to respond to posters, and can’t be unfailingly polite, at least avoid vulgarisms. The use of common pejoratives simply encourages those of low wit — and reveals you as a witling who can’t see this obvious fact. Arguing with those whom you state are idiots simply points out that you don’t trust readers to draw that conclusion, and aren’t confident in either your writing skills or your case. When combined with the blogger using vulgarisms — while claiming a college degree that should have provided more and better words — it can only diminish the case.

And the better class of readers, particularly of the business class, who might use those words privately, are still displeased to see them in PUBLIC print; it’s an easy way to judge web-site, blogger, and readers.

Besides, the use of vulgarisms gives snarky readers a chance to point out that the blogger is less than an urbane sophisticate.

Catch phrase: Don’t get down in the mud with pigs: you’ll get dirty, and the pigs like it.

Just Another Anonymous Troll says:

A purely mechanical solution would be effective.

1. What if I want to respond to multiple posts after reading the entire comments section, to make sure I don’t say the same thing everyone else did?
2. But one-liners can be funny. Besides, what makes a one-line comment less useful than a two-line comment?
3. We don’t need this rule because the others shouldn’t exist anyway, and it’s someone frivolous, which ironically is what you despise.
4. Actually, the site sets the same anon picture for you for each independent posting you make on an article. So if you were to use a different handle and agree with yourself, we can see that.
5. Questions are an important part of the discussion.
6. Why not? It takes seconds to read and doesn’t even take up a kilobyte of space.
7. Of course you would want to ban the word troll, seeing as you are one.

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