Flutterby™! : Community

Next unread comment / Catchup all unread comments User Account Info | Logout | XML/Pilot/etc versions | Long version (with comments) | Weblog archives | Site Map | | Browse Topics


2002-04-05 20:08:49+00 by Dan Lyke 17 comments

In several forums that I sort-of host, here, mailing lists, and so forth, I take extreme pains to not censor anyone who wants to be a part of the community. I think the furthest extent to which I've gone so far is closing off posting to a list to non-subscribers, to keep the spam out. But none of these are huge enterprises. So am I completely off-base when I say that, as a host, replying to questions about your operating mode with "shut the fuck up" would logically lead to having to freeze your discussion servers because the quality deteriorated? Is this a matter of scale? Is it just that my attitude doesn't scale?

[ related topics: Spam Free Speech Community ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-04-06 00:45:23+00 by: Dori

Is this a matter of scale? Is it just that my attitude doesn't scale?

Both, and the fact that Chris's main audience (unlike yours) tends more towards the newbie.

Here's an example: over the last few years, you've posted a number of comments about your opinions on scotches. Let's say that you got slashdotted for some reason and you found that you had to pay serious hosting bucks. You decide to collate all those scotch tips into an eBook, and anyone who wants to buy it, can, to help defray the costs.

IMO, if people don't want to buy it, they don't have to. But it's inappropriate for people to tell you--on your discussion group, on your hosting dollar (thereby exacerbating the problem)--that you don't have the right to attempt to sell stuff, just because it's available for free to anyone who wants to spend their time looking through every post you've made on Flutterby.

We're looking at moving over to MovableType, partly because we want to add comments to our blog. But there'll be a fairly nasty "no assholes" TOS that will go with posting. Flutterby is one of the few sites I still post on any more; the assholes have driven me away from most of the others.

One of the nice things about the Internet is that everyone can have a soapbox to preach from. But nothing about free speech says that I'm required to loan my soapbox to anyone else.

See also this post.

#Comment made: 2002-04-06 01:57:12+00 by: Jerry Kindall

When you open your forums to the public, you have to be prepared for the diarrhea that spews forth. In the Mac world I go to sites like MacCentral, MacNN, and VersionTracker every day or so, and their forums are virtually worthless. Once an online community reaches a certain size, some form of moderation becomes essential. Certainly there is hardly ever any excuse for letting someone post without knowing exactly who they are first. As a forum's traffic grows, anonymous posters will (not can, but WILL) quickly destroy it.

My own site gets almost no traffic (250 visits or so a day), and I allow more or less anonymous posting because I don't expect the site to get much bigger, but even I recently had to add an IP ban list to the comment system. It doesn't actually ban people from posting, it just e-mails me the post instead of posting it instantly, and if it's worth posting I can still put it up myself. First IP range I put into the banlist was, of course, AOL's proxy servers.

Strictly speaking, Chris is completely in the right here. There's no reason he should pay to let people insult him. Nevertheless, this could turn out to be a negative public relations move. As Dale Carnegie says in "How to Win Friends and Influence People," winning the argument often costs you the sale.

#Comment made: 2002-04-06 12:38:10+00 by: ebradway

Dori: I doubt Dan would have a problem with being Slashdot'd. In fact, the folks at Highertech Services, Inc. would probably relish the chance to deal with that kind of usage surge (especially if it's not there machine that's being hit!). But that's not the point, is it?

Dan's community is fairly 'elite' and not really inviting to the kind of trolls who are openenly abusive. Many of us regulars have been called 'asshole' at times and even acted like it online. But all of us know that if we act like an asshole here it's going to be thrown right back in our face in the form of a very erudite explanation of how we are wrong with a smidgen of sarcasm to really make you feel small for being an asshole.

But none of us are the flame and run type either. And I sure as heck don't talk about Flutterby in mixed company ;)

When I used to participate on the WELL (around 1992), the community was very similar to Flutterby. But because of the volume of traffic, you would frequently get nasty posts. These posts were generally ignored. Most assholes hate being ignored and will go elsewhere to find an audience. I think the same would happen here.

And Dori, if the assholes become a problem here please bear it out. We all enjoy your input!

#Comment made: 2002-04-06 23:50:59+00 by: meuon

If they assholes become a problem here, I think they will be dealt with well. I was even asked once if the 'Dan guy that ran Flutterby was a revengeful sort', because he was afraid of the apparent technical prowess embodied here. He wanted to take the other side about something here. I told him to state his position well and his views would be respected, probably discussed.

Back to the original question: Yes, when a forum reaches a certain size, it tends to degrade as those with no life suck the one from the community.

#Comment made: 2002-04-07 03:35:00+00 by: Dori

IMO, it all comes back to the old "tragedy of the commons." When enough people become part of a community, there's bound to be someone (or several someones) who thinks that he (and it's almost always a he, in my experience) is due some credit for its success.

When these folks don't think that they're being given sufficient "respect" for their "contribution," things can get very, very ugly.

And Eric--thanks for the vote of confidence! Although I think that the culture here would have to change dramatically before assholes would be an issue, and if the culture was to change that dramatically, I'd be out of here anyway.

#Comment made: 2002-04-07 04:44:51+00 by: ebradway

Actually, assholes may become an issue - if we start discussing anal sex...

#Comment made: 2002-04-07 11:08:10+00 by: greon

"Once an online community reaches a certain size, some form of moderation becomes essential."

Is Usenet moderated? Well, some newsgroups have moderators, but most do not. Those that do not are, at most sites, subject to spam filtering, but that's it.

#Comment made: 2002-04-07 14:35:16+00 by: Mike Gunderloy

The alternative to moderation is tight gatekeeping. I know of some successful online communities (one in particular with hundreds of members) that do not yet suffer from the abusive poster problem simply because they do not let all and sundry in.

#Comment made: 2002-04-07 17:30:13+00 by: Shawn

greon; Most of those newsgroups that are not moderated have become pretty useless, for the same reasons that are being discussed here. Even the ones that are marginally useful are not nearly what they could be, as many of the best people have been driven off by the abusive.

#Comment made: 2002-04-07 22:32:20+00 by: greon

That is not my perception of the comp.* groups. comp.arch for example has just as high S/N ratio as it did when I first started reading it ten years ago. comp.lang.scheme and comp.lang.functional haven't changed in character, as far as I can tell, either. comp.lang.lisp is an interesting case, because a frequent poster, Erik Naggum, is very abusive. but he's been doing that for 10 years, or close to it, without the group becoming less informative. I will grant you that outside the comp.* hierarchy things seem to have gotten a lot worse last 10 years, though.

#Comment made: 2002-04-07 23:37:42+00 by: meuon

Unfortunately, we have not invented a technology that keeps the mundane twits from destroying things. A gatekeeper is required.

#Comment made: 2002-04-08 03:55:03+00 by: dws

Communities don't scale, either online or in reality. They become towns or cities. Moderations holds some of the effects in check, but even moderation suffers from scaling effects. One way out, though it isn't for everyone, is to limit "membership", and adopt some rules and policies to cover the need for ejecting people from the community, and for bringing new people in. Such communities often get tagged as elitist, though that term seems to carry less negative weight now than it did a decade a go.

#Comment made: 2002-04-08 05:08:24+00 by: Pete [edit history]

It's entirely possible I've the most contrarian posting record on Flutterby, and Dan had no idea who I was for months. I never felt shut down by Dan, nor was it ever my goal to push anyone out of a discussion (though I do not quail from supporting positions, either).

I think Dan's done a great job with Flutterby. Should Flutterby ever need new controls, I hope serious thought is given to the punctuated equilibrium approach to population growth used at MetaFilter. It has many advantages.

#Comment made: 2002-04-08 14:19:34+00 by: flushy

me too

sorry, couldn't resist

#Comment made: 2002-04-08 14:39:05+00 by: Pete

Dan, I wanted to correct my spelling error, but the only way to log-in and be shown the option was to post a new comment. ehp.

#Comment made: 2002-04-08 17:02:44+00 by: Dan Lyke

Re Usenet, one of my favorite Usenet groups is open to anyone who can figure out how to "wave the dead chicken", which requires a certain technical acumen, and the community has a strict prohibition against posting useful information. Those of you who know about this know which froup I'm talking about. That barrier to entry, which is social and technical, seems to work fairly well. If I ever put a moderation system in place in Flutterby I'd want it to work like that.

In general on Usenet I've found that once I get my spam filters in place the signal to noise ratio goes up, but I don't use my newsreader enough to keep spam filters updated well.

Pete, I've been looking for a place to comment on this for a while, but I like the discussion your contrarian views bring up here. I often disagree with you, but without your dissent the comments would be much less interesting.

On logins and editing, I need to redesign the front page so that this stuff is in the title bar, but going to Edit Info under User Accounts on the front page will force you to log in.

Damn, taxes this weekend. On the train ride on Friday I picked up an old design I was working on, decided I like it even though it's probably a little graphics heavier than I want, so I guess I've just got to muddle through putting it up here.

#Comment made: 2002-04-08 18:56:52+00 by: petej [edit history]

Turns out that, today, a Google search for "dead chicken" turns up, among other things, an ad for Free Recipes. Mmmmmmmm. Chicken.