The Sciences

Open Thread, 8/4/2013

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanAug 4, 2013 10:00 PM

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I thought it might be useful for new readers to understand a bit about my comments policy and how I've come this stance. Let me give you an example of one individual who occasionally left comments on my blog, often combative, though just on the legitimate side of the trolling boundary. One of the major tactics of argument of this individual was to impute upon me particular life experiences which he thought I must have had, and so shaped my opinions. Though I do not share much about my personal life online, I do go by my "real name," and over 11+ years of writing on the internet one can construct a rough narrative from stray anecdotes. The key is though that this picture is rough. After one exchange where my interlocutor made an inference based on his own perception of various likelihoods about me, I tired of the one sided game (he was anonymous), and looked him upon on Facebook. I left a quick comment to that effect, and asserted now the scales were somewhat balanced.

He never left a comment after that incident.

This brought home to me the reality that many commenters have a very different set of motivations than I do. Once I could inverse my commenter's tendency to make personal insinuations he fled the scene, because he was not invested in fair play in the first place. And why should he have been? I could have banned or deleted his comments at any moment, so it was natural that he operated differently. Many bloggers let comment threads to develop organically. This often results in the proliferation of "weeds." I take proactive and aggressive measure to make sure that weeds do not take root. It is easy to ban and remove obvious trolls, but it takes more information to identify and prune self-important blowhards. But it isn't as if I don't give warning, if I state that you are leaving 'low quality' comments that is a good clue that you are liable to be banned at some point in the future if my warnings persist. There is a difference between marginal quality comments, and low quality. The former are short missives which do not perturb the ecosystem. The latter are longer ruminations which tend to bog down the discussion in their turgid obliviousness.

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