Trolls and Forum Quality
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13-03-2014, 01:01 PM
RE: Trolls and Forum Quality
(13-03-2014 12:16 PM)Reltzik Wrote:  
(13-03-2014 11:38 AM)Dark Phoenix Wrote:  The recent cascade of Miss Meng related threads have really frustrated me. I get annoyed from time to time on the forum, but not like this. This has made me genuinely angry.

When I signed up for this forum, I was really impressed with some of the posters here. Many of them contributed to my deconversion, the biggest and most wonderful life change I have ever made. I have a passion for well written posts and comments, because I hope to do for someone else what was done for me. I have a deep passion for what we talk about here, and I believe that is has real world consequences for those who show up to read what we have written.

It seems more and more often when I open the "Atheism and Theism" category, I have to wade through troll after troll just to get to a decent thread. We are plagued by a small but incessant group of religious trolls who spam their sermon feces and quotations of scripture like its a drive by shooting. They don't even pretend to promote discussion. They don't read what we write out of interest, but rather to spam responses of similar quality to their threads. They are either aware that they cannot win an argument with an Atheist, are afraid to try, or they post out of a need to feel that they have done all they can for the souls of us ungodly heathens. They are not contributing to this community, they are shitting all over it.

I can't possibly be the only person who feels that their experience here has lost some of its quality because these posters are allowed to continue. I do not know if anything can be done via moderators about this, but I believe there is something we can all do to improve the situation. For this to work, people would have to decide voluntarily to get on board.

1. I think everyone should utterly ignore troll posts. If it looks like a troll, leave it blank. Let't cast our vote for what kind of discussion we want to have here, and lets do it by leaving every single troll post fucking blank as a sheet of printer paper.

2. I think we should replace these waste of space threads with intelligent, well written, topical threads of our own. We can busy ourselves by promoting debate, discussion, research, questioning, and essentially learning. Honestly, I don't care if we go over the same issues multiple times. I would prefer a thousand well written repeats than a single troll post.

Is there anyone else who feels that this is a problem that needs to be addressed? Are my solutions worth a try? What do you think we should do?

I agree something needs to be done about the trolls, if possible, without the cure being worse than the disease, but I'm distrustful of your proposed methodology. Here are my problems with it.

1: Who gets to make the determination of trollitude? Will there be one or two designated troll-detectors, and if so, who and why? Will it be that everyone makes the call for themselves, in which case some people keep feeding the troll not thinking it's a troll?

2: What are the chances of a false positive? That is, how easy is it for us to look at a genuine poster, perhaps coming from a religious viewpoint and not as "hip" to things as we are, and mistakenly identify him/her as a troll? Or a Poe? If anything, I'd say that's almost as big of a problem here on this forum as the frequency of the trolls themselves, except they're linked. I can think of a few examples where what seemed to me to be genuinely questioning theists with genuine questions were attacked and driven off by our more rabid membership, operating almost on a broken clock "at least I'll be right two times a day" mentality. Is it that there are more trolls, or fewer non-trolls? Animals typically migrate to where there's good feeding and fewer competitors, after all, and trolls are no exception.

3: You say promoting reasonable discussion, debate, and research. Admirable goal, I'm with you on that. How do we promote those things?

For myself, I think the big fix won't be ignoring the trolls. That just lets them post crap unanswered, and also invites false positives. If anything, I think the solution is to not ask whether they're trolls. If they post a halfway-logical argument, break it down on its merits and show its flaws. Do that whether they're a troll or not. If a thread devolves into ad-hominem insults rather than a discussion of ideas, we should call the offenders on that. Call them on that whether they're trolls or not. Whether they're atheists or theists... and yes, there are quite a few atheists to call that on. (Banter might get a pass, though... KC and Chas sniping at each other can be fun.) If these are directed our way, we just need a stop and redirect, rather than a rise and counterattack.

But doesn't that feed the trolls? Well, feeding them can produce something of value. Let's say a troll posts a variant on the presuppositionalist argument to get a rise. We respond with a breakdown of the argument's flaws, either original or linked. Have we fed the troll? Yes. But we've also produced something of value. And in balance, I think doing both is better than doing neither... in part, because a measured, cool response is a pretty slim diet for a troll. (Of course, responding with attacks instead is a wonderful troll diet and produces absolutely nothing of value, so yeah, I agree, blank that out.)

The problem is the free-riders, so to speak, the people who want to enjoy this forum without working to make it better. Or the ones who just enjoy being combative for its own sake, and prefer that to producing something of value. I have no idea what to about them.

You are over-thinking it.

It is rare that there is ever a false-positive. Trolls eventually become obvious.

If you think banning someone is serious, you are taking things far too seriously. It ain't a firing squad, and it's not a free speech issue.

There is absolutely no valid reason to not ban trolls and troublemakers.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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13-03-2014, 01:05 PM
RE: Trolls and Forum Quality
(13-03-2014 12:35 PM)nach_in Wrote:  I'm all for letting the trolls have their space, I think some of their shit is a necessary evil so we can keep the whole "free speech" thing working.
However, there are cases in which I feel the forum mods are too lenient, borderline negligent, with trolls. Meng is a clear case, when a user spams the forum, is clear after several pages that doesn't want to engage in any form of meaningful conversation, and even starts to claim to be the webmaster and supervisor of the site, it's time to swing the ban hammer with all its power.

Some trolls are harder to spot I&I threaded that line really well and he hide behind the benefit of the doubt, and that's fine. But when obvious troll is obvious, then not banning them hurts the forum in general for no legitimate reason

Free speech does not apply - this is not the public marketplace of ideas.

What is useful is a free exchange of ideas, free expression of opinion. But when they start spray-painting the walls and pissing on the carpet, they should get the heave-ho.

"Free speech" is a means, not an end. It's not fucking holy writ.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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13-03-2014, 01:06 PM
RE: Trolls and Forum Quality
(13-03-2014 12:51 PM)Lion IRC Wrote:  Why not just make it forum policy that no theists are allowed unless they publically and regularly confess their inner doubts about the existence of God and affirm that they are here to learn stuff from the wisest human beings on the planet - atheists.

Seriously, Drich, you embarrass yourself every time you post.

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13-03-2014, 01:10 PM
RE: Trolls and Forum Quality
I say we put Chas in charge of the Troll Poll. Whenever someone's troll radar goes off, Chas starts a poll and we vote. Is Miss Meng a troll? If she gets (arbitrary number) votes then she's banned. Or something like that.

For the record, I don't think alpha male is a troll, he's just difficult.

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13-03-2014, 01:10 PM
RE: Trolls and Forum Quality
(13-03-2014 01:05 PM)Chas Wrote:  "Free speech" is a means, not an end. It's not fucking holy writ.

But Chas. Free speech.

Anything more restrictive than 4chan is the slippery slope to Hitlerism.

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13-03-2014, 01:13 PM
RE: Trolls and Forum Quality
(13-03-2014 01:05 PM)Chas Wrote:  . But when they start spray-painting the walls and pissing on the carpet, they should get the heave-ho.

"Free speech" is a means, not an end. It's not fucking holy writ.

Yes yes yes yes yes THIS ^^^^^ Bowing

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13-03-2014, 01:14 PM (This post was last modified: 13-03-2014 01:19 PM by Reltzik.)
RE: Trolls and Forum Quality
(13-03-2014 01:01 PM)Chas Wrote:  
(13-03-2014 12:16 PM)Reltzik Wrote:  I agree something needs to be done about the trolls, if possible, without the cure being worse than the disease, but I'm distrustful of your proposed methodology. Here are my problems with it.

1: Who gets to make the determination of trollitude? Will there be one or two designated troll-detectors, and if so, who and why? Will it be that everyone makes the call for themselves, in which case some people keep feeding the troll not thinking it's a troll?

2: What are the chances of a false positive? That is, how easy is it for us to look at a genuine poster, perhaps coming from a religious viewpoint and not as "hip" to things as we are, and mistakenly identify him/her as a troll? Or a Poe? If anything, I'd say that's almost as big of a problem here on this forum as the frequency of the trolls themselves, except they're linked. I can think of a few examples where what seemed to me to be genuinely questioning theists with genuine questions were attacked and driven off by our more rabid membership, operating almost on a broken clock "at least I'll be right two times a day" mentality. Is it that there are more trolls, or fewer non-trolls? Animals typically migrate to where there's good feeding and fewer competitors, after all, and trolls are no exception.

3: You say promoting reasonable discussion, debate, and research. Admirable goal, I'm with you on that. How do we promote those things?

For myself, I think the big fix won't be ignoring the trolls. That just lets them post crap unanswered, and also invites false positives. If anything, I think the solution is to not ask whether they're trolls. If they post a halfway-logical argument, break it down on its merits and show its flaws. Do that whether they're a troll or not. If a thread devolves into ad-hominem insults rather than a discussion of ideas, we should call the offenders on that. Call them on that whether they're trolls or not. Whether they're atheists or theists... and yes, there are quite a few atheists to call that on. (Banter might get a pass, though... KC and Chas sniping at each other can be fun.) If these are directed our way, we just need a stop and redirect, rather than a rise and counterattack.

But doesn't that feed the trolls? Well, feeding them can produce something of value. Let's say a troll posts a variant on the presuppositionalist argument to get a rise. We respond with a breakdown of the argument's flaws, either original or linked. Have we fed the troll? Yes. But we've also produced something of value. And in balance, I think doing both is better than doing neither... in part, because a measured, cool response is a pretty slim diet for a troll. (Of course, responding with attacks instead is a wonderful troll diet and produces absolutely nothing of value, so yeah, I agree, blank that out.)

The problem is the free-riders, so to speak, the people who want to enjoy this forum without working to make it better. Or the ones who just enjoy being combative for its own sake, and prefer that to producing something of value. I have no idea what to about them.

You are over-thinking it.

It is rare that there is ever a false-positive. Trolls eventually become obvious.

If you think banning someone is serious, you are taking things far too seriously. It ain't a firing squad, and it's not a free speech issue.

There is absolutely no valid reason to not ban trolls and troublemakers.

Trolls do eventually become obvious, yes. (EDIT: Or, at least, if they don't become obvious, then they're not that big a problem.) And I have little trouble with a banhammer in those cases. (Though the idea of a "taken outside" subforum of the coliseum, where troll threads get shunted, is interesting. Let the people who make a sport of countertrolling have some fun too. EDIT: Probably too much work for the mods, though.)

No, my problem is people who shout "TROLL!" at the drop of a hat before it becomes obvious, and sometimes where there's no good reason to think it's a troll at all. Taq is a good example. My impression is that Taq's had several false positives, and his subsequent attacks have probably driven off some decent non-trollish questioners.

To be clear, it's not the mods and their policies that I'm questioning. Maybe there's grounds to question them, maybe not. Different topic. It's the general attitude and reception put forward by the membership.
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13-03-2014, 01:21 PM
RE: Trolls and Forum Quality
Quote:(Though the idea of a "taken outside" subforum of the colliseuem, where troll threads get shunted, is interesting. Let the people who make a sport of countertrolling have some fun too.)
That idea sounds fun. It would also be a good place to practice on "test dummies" as it were, for debate, spotting logical fallacies (a troll will no doubt be an amazing source of these) and the like. Also, if there was a false positive, it's not like the person was entirely deleted, as their thread will still be readable and available for responses, even though it's been "taken outside." This way, they could possibly redeem themselves (for lack of a better term). Maybe ban suspected trolls from posting in the normal forum sections and keep them in that outside place?

In gaming forums, there is sometimes a similar concept used. Perfect World Entertainment has a section called "The Lower Depths" for "truly spamtacular" posts.
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13-03-2014, 01:25 PM
RE: Trolls and Forum Quality
You know what really drives me nuts? Not just when people engage the trolls, but when people actually give them positive rep points and say things like, "I don't know why people don't like you, you seem cool to me".

I mean I realize we all have different personalities, and like different things, but with some of these trolls I just can't figure out what the hell other forum me members, whose opinions I respect, are thinking. And will actually support and encourage them to keep posting.

...
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13-03-2014, 01:26 PM
RE: Trolls and Forum Quality
(13-03-2014 12:51 PM)Lion IRC Wrote:  Why not just make it forum policy that no theists are allowed unless they publically and regularly confess their inner doubts about the existence of God and affirm that they are here to learn stuff from the wisest human beings on the planet - atheists.

I'm sure that would appeal to some members of the community. But not me. Imposing that sort of echo chamber would not create rational discussion. I'd rather have a standard based on method of reasoning or courteous behavior than predetermined conclusion. Banhammer the atheist trolls as much as the theist trolls, if you ask me. Except the motives filter who is where. Troll atheists tend to go to theist sites, and troll theists tend to go to atheist sites, non-troll atheists tend to stay at atheist sites, and non-troll theists tend to stay at theists sites. That's why we have so few non-troll theists here.
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