Sunday, November 18, 2012

Permanent Lockdown on Commenting / Repost from Multiply



In a note added to the end of my last post, I said that I had decided that the disabling of comments on my site here on Multiply, which I had begun as a temporary response to the absence of a comment moderation option, had become permanent, and that I would explain why that was, later. It is later, now, and I'd really like to get this piece of administrative tedium over with, so that I can move on to more interesting subjects.

My original thought was that this lack of functionality was something that Multiply could be persuaded to work on. Service  (Customer Support at Multiply) had sounded favorably inclined toward the idea when I wrote to them about this, but the prolonged lack of movement suggested that this item was so low on their priority list that they might very well never get to it. Perhaps if I wrote to my fellow users and got their support, Multiply would see some virtue in making this more of a priority, and we might finally get comment moderation as an option?

So I wrote to a prominent user group, which shall remain nameless here, and the idea did, indeed, see a large amount of support from the membership. The moderator, who was not to be numbered among those supporters, responded to this turn of events by trying to game the system. Citing a rule which had not been posted in the group in question, but on another group entirely, one which I had never even heard of up until that point, she told me to take the discussion to that other group, then deleting my post and all comments so quickly, that I did not have a chance to save the HTML for the discussion. All that I could do, in order to save that discussion for later viewing, was take a series of screenshots of the whole discussion, which was up in one of my windows at the time of deletion. I was careful to overlap the screenshots, so that there could be no reasonable question as to whether or not I had left out anything. This was, after all, done for the purpose of documenting a discussion that had taken place, for later reposting.

I had already reposted my post in the suggested new group, where it had already seen a reply so ungrammatically written as to be almost entirely unreadable, aside from a brief passage in which the respondant implied that I had deleted the original discussion in order to sidestep her brilliantly incoherent question. Gently avoiding commentary on her writing, which was by far the worst I had ever seen, most of it barely recognizable as even being English, I told the reader that the previous discussion had been deleted by somebody other than myself (not feeling the need to name that somebody else at the time), then providing screenshots of the old discussion.

The participants in the old discussion, who one would assume were left with a reasonable belief that the time and effort they had put into writing their earlier replies had gone to waste, seemed understandably reluctant to take the time to start the same discussion all over again. Of course, the people the moderator and a few of her friends had rounded up, having had little or none of their time wasted in this manner, were ready to go. The moderator's procedural gameplaying had produced an uneven playing field without the unevenness being readily visible to those new to the discussion. She had abused her authority, and worse was to come. 

I had made an effort to ensure that those who had posted on the old thread would see that their work was not lost, and their effort had not been wasted, a thought that might leave them less discouraged as they decided whether or not to continue. The first thing I noticed was that doing this stretched the page out far enough that much of it went off the screen, which was bad, and trying a few different widths, I found that solving that problem created a new one - the text on the screenshots became illegible. I solved the problem by creating a new group for the posting of screenshots, where the first problem would become a nonissue, allowing for the screenshots to be displayed at their full width, and then moved the screenshots over there, editing the post on the user group so that the screenshots were replaced with a link to a group blog page on which they could be seen. Looking at my files, and adding up the image sizes, I could see that would be a very good thing for anybody using dialup. The first problem had been solved, but the second was about to begin.

The moderator, whose has the job of maintaining some semblence of order in her group, seized on my solution of the first problem as an opportunity to manufacture some drama. She manufactured a short flame in which she ranted about my reposting of the material she had deleted, reposting that same flame over and over with very slight changes in wording, just enough to throw off a spambot, but with no change in meaning. Very clearly, that was abusive posting, the very sort of thing that a moderator is supposed to be there to keep in check. What does the fourth copy of the same remark say that the first does not? Is that an effort to communicate, or an effort to create a disruption that gets in the way of communication? As bad as that should sound to any reasonable person reading this, the full reality was worse. The moderator had include brief snippets of text as illustrations, sticking them in each copy, giving the reader nothing close to enough information to reconstruct the old discussion, but puffing the size of her posts far beyond that which would have resulted from the small amount of text she had written, giving her stack of repeated comments far more of a page filling length. I deleted the duplicates, and discovered that this woman who had deleted the entirety of the original discussion, actually had the nerve to protest this act of supposed censorship on my part!

This gets even better. That same moderator went on to lie, claiming that I had left out an allegedly "rude" remark I had made to another poster, then going on to take a passage out of context. Of course, I had done no such thing. The whole discussion was there, including the remark she had pretended that I had ommitted, along with something that she really did leave out, and would go on to leave out as she persisted in repeating herself - the remarks leading up to that remark, which would have given the reader the context the moderator chose to deny him. A short time later, one of her little supporters would post a slice out of a screenshot taken of the earlier discussion as it appears when one is logged out of Multiply - ie. unthreaded, recreating the quotation out of context as she claimed that this very selective piece of a screenshot proved that I was the liar, not the moderator (fairly close to the users original words). I rebutted each, deleting duplicate posts as appropriate. The moderator and her disingenuous supporter would later go on to delete their own post, after the moderator suggested that all users do so, in order to create the illusion that I was talking to myself, forgetting, apparently, that when one does so, the system leaves a note to that effect in place of one's original post.

The owner of the group I alluded to in my previous post, without naming it or him, the one who had gone ballistic because I had deleted two posts in which the authors had lied about what somebody else had written, trying to spin that as an attempt on my part to silence dissenting views as he conveniently overlooked the fact that a number of dissenting views were left in place in that discussion for all to see, followed me into this new group to continue the insane argument that I had walked away from in his group. In case the word is dancing on the tip of your tounge, but you can't quite recall it, that practice of following somebody from place to place online is known as cyberstalking, and it is a recognized form of net abuse. The word "argument", in this case, if anything would have been a euphemism for what I had left this individual's group in response to; ranting and raving about my supposed membership in the Gestapo, from somebody who already knew that I was Jewish, and then even more abusive flammage when I asked him to tone down the rhetoric. That's not an exchange of ideas, that's personal abuse. Without apology, I deleted both of his posts and told him that I would continue to do so if he continued trying to drag that old fight into this new discussion. That other moderator then persisted in posting a series of nearly content free taunts, some minutes apart, but a few a hour or two apart, if I recall correctly. I deleted them all, without feeding that troll with any additional remarks.  

So it continued until late in the night and into the wee hours of the morning, as users, encouraged by flaming and trollage, first contributed flaming troll posts of their own, and then after those were deleted, submit flaming rants about the fact that their earlier flames had been deleted. Then, in a moment of ultimate chutzpah, his side having shut down anything resembling reasonable discussion, the moderator mentioned in the last post claimed victory, asking what kind of discussion it was, in which most of the posts were deleted. "No kind of discussion at all" would be the honest answer, but not because I had stamped it down, but because it had never been allowed to occur in the new location in the first place. The closest any of the members of that online lynch mob had come to even feigning rationality as they ganged up on a lone individual came when said moderator (from the earlier post), in a preachy tone, announced that reason was wasted on those who didn't wish to listen to it, as if ranting and raving in an attempt to browbeat somebody else into submission could, in any sane sense, be referred to as "reason"; consider the "argument" offered by said individual that moderating comments makes one a member of the Gestapo because one is trying to annihilate the individual by removing his remarks. This was the most coherent thing the man had to say, and what we see in it is emotionalism run out of control to such an extent that in real life, almost anywhere outside of a coffeehouse, a college campus or the Internet, medication and psychiatric treatment would be suggested, with few listeners disagreeing. It is utter lunacy.








I can already hear somebody saying, "Very well, Joseph, you ran into an abusive group of crazy people. It is a shame that the moderator was one of the ringleaders, but aside from that, as you say, this is the Internet, and one will find a few crazies on any site. Neither the provider nor its users can help that." True, that's a reality beyond almost anybody's control. What each of us does have, however, is freedom in choosing how we will respond to that reality. There are a few people who came over from the original discussion, took one look at the craziness in the new location, and posted notice that they were going to sit this one out. I don't blame them for doing so but I can't help but notice the reason why they saw fit to sit this one out; the reasonable expectation on their part that doing so would be pointless because of the way in which others would react. Much of this site (, not the Place of Refuge) seems stuck in the mid 90s, when the crazies ruled the virtual world, and everybody else was expected to lie low or pay homage to their madness. One doesn't have a choice as to whether or not the crazies will rant; they will, it's what they do. But one does have a choice as to whether or not one will let it work, whether one will be more positively impressed by the amount of heat shed by a remark than by the amount of light, and let's face it, these guys were not that subtle.

Consider, for example, the comment made by the moderator from the last post who, referring to the screenshots from the original discussion, demanded to know if I screenshotted everything I did, just to prove that I was telling the truth. What would that have to do with the subject at hand, and what if I did? Isn't the truth precisely what a reasonable discussion is trying to get at? Taking the self-righteous indignation out of the question, what is the substance of the complaint, other than a protest that I had made it harder for his side to lie effectively, and who but a liar wishes to see lying made easier and more effective? Yet nobody could be found who would call him on this. What some of those sitting this one out had learned to expect from the rank and file among the users at Multiply was cowardice and a lack of personal integrity, one of them explaining in a private message that he had opted out of participation in the forums, just to avoid the idiots, and that the moderator who had deleted the original discussion had a lengthy history of creating this kind of drama. Is this just another group? No, it is not. It is part of the cluster of groups Multiply uses for user feedback, all of them under the genuinely censorious moderator in question, so where would one go for a sensible discussion of this subject, and be heard by Service? How can such a discussion even begin?

In all likelihood it can't, and it certainly can't get anywhere without an extreme investment of time of the part of those trying to make it happen. This is only a website and as I have said before, I do have a life outside of the Internet which does and should take priority. I am not going to drop everything just to prevail in an online turf war. Would I like to win this one? Yes, but just how much do I want to win it? Enough to sacrifice personal relationships and abandon my studies as I devote myself, full time, to online politics? No, and that is what it takes to be part of the Cabal anywhere. That and a willingness to sell one's soul as one approaches what are supposed to be discussions as if they were wars, taking sides based, not on principle, but on strategic considerations as one builds alliances, as one seeks to win - what? I should like to think that my own soul could not be had so cheaply.

The most sensible course of action, then, would seem to be to take the path of least resistance and simply disable commenting altogether. Even if Multiply should get around to offering comment moderation, I won't change this setting. What I want at this point is what almost anybody who is left feeling that he has just taken a stroll through a bad Lewis Carroll story wants - closure. I want this to be over, and I don't want to think about this any more. I have only three contacts, and if they are interested, I can easily invite each of them to my front porch group individually and let that serve in lieu of a guestbook. As for the rest of the community, what this experience and others reported to me have shown is that most of it isn't worth much. If you were one of those leaving friendly messages on this site, yes, they were appreciated and as I look through those I might invite some of you to become contacts as well, but now that I know what to expect of most of those on Multiply that I haven't met, I doubt that they will be much of a loss.

My new outlook toward this site and its merits can be found in the settings I've chosen for my groups. They are partnered with sites on Yahoo and Google and set on "membership by invitation only, do not list in the directory of groups" - in other words, the new membership that arrives there will be coming from Yahoo and Google, aside from those visiting my own personal site. I'll be using Multiply's facilities, because they work well to the extent that Multiply has decided to work on them, and because I've found a way of sidestepping the moderation problem (let's just say that I've added an audition to the process of joining), but I am not, at this point, planning to try to be part of "the Multiply community"; I've decided to make my own community. If people want to join, that's great, if not, I do have that life outside of the Internet that I keep talking about so much, so that'll be great, too. I don't really need to volunteer my time that badly.


Any Questions? I guess I'll never know. Next subject. (Posted Jun 12, '08 at 11:25 AM)