Interesting Links, February 27, 2013

Here are links I found interesting on February 27, 2013:

  • Why I’m quitting Facebook – Takeaway quote from this one: "Facebook does not exist to help us make friends, but to turn our network of connections, brand preferences and activities over time — our 'social graphs' — into money for others." Truth, that. Hat tip to @gerd_meissner on Twitter for sharing the link.
  • Redefining the Troll – The truth about trolls and one way to fight back. Personally, I think they're best fought with strict moderation of forums and blog comments. One thing is for certain: you should never, ever feed trolls.
  • Birthday! – Tim Bray's comments on the 10th anniversary of the starting of his blog. Like me, he blogs about things in his life. Takeaway quote: "And most important of all, ignore everything social-media hacks say about building your audience. It's not that they're wrong, but as soon as your goal is 'building your audience' it's over; You're corrupted and you’ve lost." Related: my blog will also be 10 years old this year.
  • Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us – After at least a dozen if my Twitter and Facebook friends linked to this article, I finally read it. Now I know why it is so popular. Read it.
  • 28 Words to Use Instead of "Awesome" – Agreed: "awesome" is overused.

Interesting Links, February 14, 2013

Here are links I found interesting on February 14, 2013:

  • Commenting threads: good, bad, or not at all. – "If commenters think your commenting thread is a public space where they can do whatever they want because nobody’s watching, they will do whatever they want. And that is not pretty. And then the potentially constructive comments never get posted, because normal people do not want to waste their time thinking and writing comments that will just get flamed."

Dealing with Trolls

A few comments from experience.

I just finished writing a pretty lengthy article about blog comment moderation for Maria’s Guides, the site where I’m putting most of my tech content these days. The piece, which will appear tomorrow, has a lot of tips and advice for bloggers.

But it also touches on the topic of Internet trolls — you know, those people who use the veil of anonymity to disrupt forums and blog comment threads with offensive, controversial, or off-topic commentary, mostly to get a rise out of other commenters.

Trolls aren’t new. In the old days, we referred to them as flamers and the exchanges that resulted from their behavior were flame wars.

I’ve dealt with trolls and people who just don’t have any courtesy at all on this site and elsewhere. I have since learned and confirmed that the only way to deal with trolls and other offensive commenters is to (1) prevent them from having a voice on my blog, (2) ignoring them on other blogs/forums, and (3) in extreme cases, avoiding blogs/forums where they comment.

In other words, ignore them and they will go away.

June 30, 2014 Update
I’ve finally gotten around to writing up the site comment policy on a regular page (rather than post) on this site. You can find it here: Comment Policy.

You would not believe some of the crap people attempt to post on this blog. “Offensive” is putting it mildly sometimes. But I have a strict comment policy — thanks to the abuse I put up with in the past — and I stick to it. Post a comment that violates the site comment policy and your comment will never be seen by anyone on this site.

What does this do? Well, the casual troll who doesn’t come back to reel in his victims doesn’t even notice that his comment has been deleted. And since the offensive comment never appeared, no one replies in kind or in defense of what was said. No more trolling, no flame war.

The hard-core trolls — those folks who actually use their offensive comments to get under people’s skin and then feed upon the responses — they do notice that their comments didn’t appear. Sometimes they try again. Other times they complain in a comment or in email. Sometimes they get even more offensive. Guess what? I delete that crap, too. And after a while — after they have wasted minutes or even hours and days of their pitiful lives trying to cause trouble here — they give up and go away.

Yes: Ignore them and they’ll go away.

After all, there’s always other more fertile ground for their efforts: blogs and forums that aren’t moderated by people who care.

Result: there are no trolls here. This blog remains a civil discourse zone.

Now, apparently there are a handful of bloggers who doubt the “ignore them and they’ll go away” concept. These people have evidently spent too much time on blogs where trolls are allowed — or perhaps even encouraged — and have likely been victimized. Some of these people have also been contacted by email and offended there. These people have begun speaking up, whining and complaining on their blogs and elsewhere. They seem to think that we somehow need to fight back against trolls — perhaps by stooping to their level and getting just as offensive in our responses.

Each time these people post one of their whining complaints against trolling they are feeding the trolls. That’s right. They’re just letting the trolls know that their offensive comments are hitting their marks and giving them plenty of ammunition to keep up the trolling.

I maintain that the best way to fight back against trolls is to…well, I already said it above. Do I really need to repeat it here?

Get a grip, folks. This isn’t high school. Stop acting like it is.

Comments? Let ‘em rip. Just remember the Site Comment Policy. I take it seriously here.

Update: @Beeclef on Twitter shared this link. Very funny.

Internet Trolls Impress NOBODY

Sound familiar?

I think the second and fourth panels on this excellent comic strip by Scott Meyer can easily be applied to Internet trolls — you know, the dickwads who always have something nasty to say in online forums and in comment threads. Do read the whole thing to get the full message.

How to Impress NOBODY

Image embedded with the author’s permission.

Battling Comment Spam

An interesting — but unfortunate — statistic from this site.

One of the biggest challenges to bloggers who allow comments on their blogs — other than dealing with immature, know-it-all asses who can’t write a civil sentence — is comment spam. It generally comes from three sources:

  • Automated spambots that are programmed to post comments on blogs. This accounts for more than 90% of the comment spam out there.
  • Real people who manually post comments that promote their products, services, or websites.
  • Pingbacks from blogs built by scraping content from other blogs, primarily to attract hits to other links on their pages.

I wrote about comment spam extensively on my Maria’s Guides site when I was regularly providing fresh content about WordPress. If you’re a blogger, you might find the following posts there interesting:

Spam vs. Ham on An Eclectic MindWordPress’s anti-spam tool, Akismet, does an excellent job of catching and filtering out spam so I don’t really need to see it at all. It also provides statistics about comments. This morning, while looking at these stats, I discovered that a full 98% of all comments posted on this blog are spam — or about 4,000 to 10,000 spam comments a month — leaving only 2% as legitimate comments (or “ham,” a term used by Akismet).

If this percentage is about the same on all blogs, it’s easy to see why so many bloggers elect to either turn the commenting feature off or require registration for commenting. (Note that registration doesn’t always help; some spambots can also register an account and then manual intervention is required to identify and delete those accounts.)

Comments are moderated here for two reasons:

  • Aksimet doesn’t catch all spam. It misses, on average, about 10 spam comments a month.
  • Akismet can’t identify abusive comments.

I have a zero tolerance approach to spam and abusive commenters and don’t want to see any of it on this blog. So I manually review all the comments that Akismet approves before allowing them to appear on this blog.

June 30, 2014 Update
I’ve finally gotten around to writing up the site comment policy on a regular page (rather than post) on this site. You can find it here: Comment Policy.

(If you believe that deleting comments is censorship or somehow violates your freedom of speech, read this and this.)

Personally, I’d like to see a higher percentage (and number) of legitimate comments on this blog. I like when good conversations get going among readers. I can think of two posts offhand where reader comments have added real value to what I’ve written: “The Helicopter Job Market” and “Why Groupon is Bad for Business…and Consumers.” I write from experience and my experiences are limited. When readers share their own thoughts based on their experiences, they provide more information for other readers to draw upon. They help round out a discussion. And as long as they don’t get rude or abusive to me or other commenters — or are obviously commenting to promote their own product or service (i.e., spamming) — I don’t care if they disagree. Intelligent, civil debate based on facts is encouraged.

But while comment spam is obviously a serious problem for all bloggers that allow comments on their blogs, I have it well under control here.