Media

Anonymous / Pseudonymous Commentary and Journalistic Traditions

By Ryan McGreal
Published February 15, 2011

With all the recent discussion over anonymous commenting going on, I was starting to feel left out. Hey, I like meta as much as anyone else! Warning: what follows is a personal, self-indulgent reflection on recent events and the insights they have presented to me. YMMV.

Anonymous Commenting on RTH

Raise the Hammer has always allowed anonymous commenting. In the early days of the site when our readership was much smaller, we decided that obscurity was a far bigger bigger threat to discussion than abuse (to borrow an expression from Tim O'Reilly).

Anonymous commenting lowered the barrier to participation and increased the share of RTH readers who joined the discussion. At the same time, we have tried to encourage repeat visitors to register accounts by sweetening the deal with added functionality.

On balance, online and anonymous commentary has definitely been a net contribution to the sum of accessible, public knowledge on an issue, particularly when the commentary system is designed to be more or less self-regulating by its participants.

In terms of the comments themselves, our approach has been to evaluate each comment on its merits, on the perhaps-idealistic notion that troll is more a verb than a noun, a choice of action that can change.

The RTH community moderation system reflects this: each comment is voted appropriate or offensive on a case-by-case basis. It's not perfect, but it generally does a good job of correctly identifying trolls (the trolls hotly contest this, of course).

If you look at the lowest voted comments, it's clear that this space is exclusively reserved for obnoxious, repugnant dispatches. They're insults, personal attacks, inane twaddle, shameless apologetics - all trolls by any reasonable definition.

On the other hand, while users who post frequent trolls tend to acquire reputations that can take time to shake off, I've also seen clear evidence of contrarians who have chosen to frame their arguments in more respectful language in response to comment voting, and whose subsequent comments have earned respect even from people who disagree with them.

Trolling

Nevertheless, as the site has grown more popular, the incidence of trolling - by which I mean posting comments that undermine and disrupt respectful dialogue by being offensive, disingenuous or needlessly provocative - has tended to increase over time, despite our ongoing efforts to mitigate and discourage it.

Last month, I decided to revisit the issue of anonymous commenting to see if it still makes sense. I analyzed the 1,000 most recent comments and determined that, by a number of measures, the average comment quality (according to votes) was significantly higher for comments from registered commenters than comments from anonymous visitors.

I put the question to the RTH community: Should RTH disallow anonymous commenting and require all commenters to register before posting comments?

The discussion that followed was insightful and led to a few changes to the site, including changing the labels on the comment votes to "Good Comment" and "Offensive Comment", the introduction of comment nesting, and a new policy to delete what I'm calling "insult spam", comments posted anonymously that contain nothing but insults and have no other content or redeeming qualities.

However, there was no consensus on disallowing anonymous commenting. Several commenters pointed out that:

As a result, RTH still allows anonymous commenting, and uses community moderation to evaluate each comment on its merits.

Identity

Personally, I use my full name when I register user accounts on other sites. The reason I do this is simply that I behave better when I'm accountable for what I do. Being accountable allows me to get a bit closer to being the kind of person I'd like to think I am.

Also, my role with RTH means I have something of a public profile. I think it's only responsible that I should take responsibility for my comments on public matters. To do otherwise would create an appearance of a conflict of interest (even though I don't have an interest, i.e. a financial stake, in the issues about which I tend to comment).

At the same time, I don't have a problem with people posting comments anonymously or, as the case more often turns out to be, pseudonymously. As one regular RTH commenter adroitly put it, "Welcome to the internet."

One thing has become abundantly clear to me after a decade of participating in online forums and six years of administering a forum: as Dorothy L. Sayers observed in an essay on writing, "The truth about the writer's personality will out, in spite of itself".

I "know" several people on RTH through their pseudonyms, the registered usernames under which they post comments. I have come to understand the people behind the pseudonyms through their writing.

On those occasions when I have actually met and developed relationships with some RTH users in the offline, i.e. "real" world, I have consistently found that their online personae pretty closely reflect their offline personalities.

Similarly, on the one occasion I was moved to ban a registered user from the site, it was quickly evident a couple of months later when the same person crept back and started posting comments anonymously. The truth about the writer's personality will out.

Mainstream Media

This whole kerfuffle started when the Spectator ran an article that quoted anonymous comments on a previous article. Unfortunately, you can no longer read the original article, as it was overwritten by the follow-up. However, the original comments are still attached to the rewritten article.

Not everyone agreed with the Spec decision to use anonymous comments in an article. Hamilton News editor Mark Cripps wrote: "I believe the use of online comments as part of a news story constitutes a shift in the traditional rules of accountability and journalistic integrity."

Coming at this from a different background than traditional mainstream journalism, I was excited to see the Spec formally acknowledge the fact that it was commenters on the original story - a story that merely reported the donation - who raised the questions about its appropriateness.

This struck me as a strongly positive development in the Spec's steady transition from a traditional print media organization in a typographic environment into an online multimedia organization in a hyperlinked environment.

The idea that readers can - or should - be partners in the process of journalism is disruptive to the traditional idea of journalists as professional enablers and gatekeepers of knowledge; but as Spec editor-in-chief Paul Berton pointed out, the decision to incorporate this commentary into the process "shows how inclusive and interactive the process of news-gathering, even by mainstream media, is becoming."

Convergence

One realization I keep having these days is that as the internet matures, a kind of organic convergence is taking place: the traditional media gradually become more social and collaborative, while the community media gradually become more journalistic.

In the past year, and particularly throughout the Pan Am Stadium debate, I have found myself doing things that feel more like journalism than civic engagement per se: analyzing reports and documents, interviewing public figures, even breaking news on a few occasions.

I've also noticed that as readership (and criticism) of RTH has steadily increased, my writing has become somewhat more circumspect. I find myself less inclined to toss opinions around casually and more inclined to lay out the evidence and leave conclusions to the discretion of the reader.

This came to a head during the recent incident in which Mayor Bratina accused me of publishing defamatory material. My investigation of that claim seems to have pushed me across some kind of emotional threshold with respect to my role in RTH: suddenly it feels like Serious Business.

Partly in response to this incident, RTH contributor Mark Richardson recently prepared a guide to citizen journalism that does a great job of introducing aspiring contributors to the opportunities and challenges of writing in a medium with a much lower barrier to entry than traditional print publications.

I expect this will continue as the new media mature: adopting, relearning, and in some cases updating the principles that have informed professional journalism since the early 20th century.

At the same time, I believe the new media have also established new mechanisms of transparency and accountability - including the real-time peer review of a community of engaged readers - that give back as much as they take from traditional professional standards.

The willingness of traditional media like the Spec to incorporate community engagement parallels the willingness of new media to incorporate professional standards of evidence. Together, we'll figure this thing out.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Several of his essays have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. Ryan also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on twitter.

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By kevins (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 16:55:33

What does YMMV mean?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 15, 2011 at 17:16:17 in reply to Comment 59811

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 15, 2011 at 17:18:24

...the average comment quality (according to votes)...

Are you saying that higher-voted comments = higher quality comments?

If you are, then this quip is my nominee for Best Spit-take Causer of 2011 so far.

Because I don't agree at all that upvoting automatically = quality. On RTH, more often than not, upvoting = "I agree with you!' or "I like where you're coming from!" or "I feel comfortable with what you're saying, it makes me feel good!"

Whereas downvoting can = "I disagree with you", but more often than not is either 'You're a douche!" or "You may be right, but I am NOT going to admit you are. Besides, you make me feel uncomfortable...and I don't reward people for not playing nice!"

On the other hand, if you're saying something else entirely with that snipped reference... sigh

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 15, 2011 at 17:22:56 in reply to Comment 59813

Take a look at the highest-voted and the lowest-voted comments and try to tell me there isn't a correlation between a comment's score and its quality. It's by no means a perfect correlation, of course, but as they say, it's close enough for government work.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2011-02-15 17:23:07

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By ImproveTheHammer (registered) | Posted February 18, 2011 at 22:33:03 in reply to Comment 59814

There might be a correlation (especially at the extremes), but it's not a good one. Here are two counter exmaples.

This post is of low quality: http://raisethehammer.org/article/1301/#... It has a score of 14, with zero down votes.

This post is of higher quality: http://raisethehammer.org/article/1301/#... It has a score of zero.

I didn't need to cherry pick these. There are countless examples of this. There is a lot of truth to people voting FOR comments they agree with and AGAINST comments they disagree with.

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By MattJelly (registered) - website | Posted February 17, 2011 at 17:33:27 in reply to Comment 59814

Hey, I finally won something!

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By say what (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 19:50:43 in reply to Comment 59814

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By bob lee (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 18:36:11 in reply to Comment 59814

it's not even close to perfect. You are right that it serves one function of graying out trollery. But I think that function operates as a sideshow to that other *more troubling* function which is basically censorship of a warm kind, where me and my pals agree that we don't really like that guy telling us things that we don't really want to hear. And in my opinion the damage done by censorship wildly overshadows the damage done by vicious comments.

Here's another way to look at it. Given that your stated purpose for comment voting is to gray out trolls and keep commentary on a sophisticated level, and your default setting is 5 for graying out to become total (right?) Then almost no one should get more than 5 downvotes, because that would be the threshold for them to disappear. A minus 30 then doesn't mean your system is working effectively, it indicates that 25 registered users have set their default setting to be that they see all the troll comments. That is they do exactly the opposite of what you intend. And when just about the highest possible score is in the 30s, that means almost nobody is following your scheme. Unless a number of registered users are out there neither downvoting or upvoting but taking advantage of your default setting, which I seriously doubt.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 15, 2011 at 20:49:56 in reply to Comment 59816

basically censorship of a warm kind

Except that it's not censorship of any kind. Censorship means I can control or limit what you are able to see. That simply does not take place here, with the exception that we delete obvious spam and obvious insult-spam.

your default setting is 5 for graying out to become total (right?)

That's the default for anonymous readers who are not logged into RTH user accounts. If you register an account, you can set the default to whatever you want, or disable it entirely.

That is they do exactly the opposite of what you intend.

No, what I intend is for people to be able to register their disapproval of inappropriate comments.

And when just about the highest possible score is in the 30s, that means almost nobody is following your scheme.

It is entirely normal in online systems for participation by a variety of measures to follow a Zipf distribution. I'm not surprised to discover that RTH is no exception to this general rule.

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By Jeff Reid (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2011 at 09:29:16 in reply to Comment 59827

what I intend is for people to be able to register their disapproval of inappropriate comments.

Unfortunately... I want to reply to this (been a forum Mod since the 90's), but must expect to be voted down for even the appearance of disagreeing with you. I like and respect you, but don't always think you are right. Some clearly do, so the environment is hostile for a dialogue.

This thread itself shows how votes are pretty lock-step here. I don't see the -7's in this thread as offensive. It looks like some people are trying to have a conversation, and people not speaking are booing and hissing from a peanut gallery.

I don't know why we need to put every remark to a public tribunal, when the reason to vote down might be I'm offended, perhaps I don't agree in point of fact, or maybe just "we hate that guy".

I think you should consider removing voting on oneself and an Editor's posts-- Not only is everything you write is voted up by supporters (thus your detractors can say "followers"), but I think it leads to a wave of down votes that mutes real debate.

IMHO...

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 09:57:14 in reply to Comment 59843

Oh come on.. mystoneycreek's comment disagrees and is even sarcastic and it has 1 up and 1 down vote, bob lee's comment whines about "censorship", the other down voted comments add nothing and are by well known trolls who constantly whine about being voted down when their insulting. by the way I up voted your comment even though you up vote baited it ("must expect to be voted down for even the appearance of disagreeing with you") because it added something to the conversation and wasn't rude.

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By bob lee (anonymous) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 11:00:58 in reply to Comment 59844

I didn't 'whine' about censorship. I believe the functionality of this site that causes comments to disappear is censorship. Ryan says it isn't because no single individual is controlling what people see. Yet that's exactly what it does, for anonymous users.

My second point is that this censorship function may have a reasonable argument for it in limiting, basically, hate speech. Yet this is not how people use it.

People use this site like Z Jones below. They consider it 'their website'. That may be what it is. Yet I think this website could be, ideally, a public forum rather than a circle of friends.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 09:23:49 in reply to Comment 59848

No, this is silly. RTH is giving people a forum to express their views, and nothing is deleted. Everything is open to public view. That cannot possibly be interpreted as censorship.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 11:52:20 in reply to Comment 59848

but it ISN"T censorship, you can read any comment even if its hidden, just click on it to see it. the trolls just don't like it that it's gotten easier for people to ignore them, well boo hoo, I'm glad it's easier to ignore people like "hammy" and "told you so" aka allan taylor who spout almost nothing but garbage. maybe your not a troll but your argument makes it easier for the trolls to whine about being ignored.

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By Jeff Reid (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2011 at 10:40:26 in reply to Comment 59844

I meant to refer to replies to the article in general as the thread, not this specific threaded-reply.

And I wasn't baiting anything-- My point is that it shouldn't be a popularity contest.

I find I don't want to contribute to discussions when it will require a public beat-down just to speak up.

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By PseudonymousCoward (registered) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 12:38:54 in reply to Comment 59847

I struggle to apprehend your rejoinder. Nobrainer showed that the votes on comments under this article are by no means a "popularity contest" and that they reflect the incidence of trolling, with whom anyone who frequents this site will be all too familiar. Your original comment itself has precisely one vote, an up-vote, which again frustrates your assertion that mere disagreement entails a "public beat-down".

Thou doth protest too much, methinks.

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By Jeff Reid (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2011 at 13:08:04 in reply to Comment 59855

I was about to write yet another frustrated response, but why..? It will just be another fight, just for trying to contribute.

Struggle to apprehend this; you win.

Offering an opinion here to Ryan on what he said-- one professional to another, friendly or not-- was the mistake; it makes me a "protester".

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By z jones (registered) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 21:12:51 in reply to Comment 59827

It's more basic than that, Trolls think they have some kind of right to post their insults and crap all over someone else's website. Censorship would be if you could somehow stop them from running there OWN WEBSITE to post whatever gets them off. Of course that would be too much work, it's easier to just free ride and whine about being persecuted.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 12:46:43 in reply to Comment 59832

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 13:15:04 in reply to Comment 59856

A Smith,

No mater how hard you try there is no way you will convince anyone that your comment has anything to do with with the article posted. You will try to tie it into z-jones' comment in some contrived, oblique manner... but it won't work for anyone but you.

Please stick to the material in the article.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 13:43:14 in reply to Comment 59860

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 09:26:56 in reply to Comment 59864

You are unwilling to show the slightest of basic respects to the community here; don't think your mooing, young man, is a model for anyone or anything.

We are laughing at you. Every time you are challenged in a discussion, you turtle.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 09:39:17 in reply to Comment 59901

Tybalt >> Every time you are challenged in a discussion, you turtle.

Give me an example.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted February 18, 2011 at 20:04:44 in reply to Comment 59905

Look at the federal building piece, when I schooled you on the tax consequences of holding property, you went off on some irrelevant meander about residential property tax rates instead. You are incapable of reading s sentence and responding coherently to it... nothing makes it through, you just rant and rant and rant and rant about completely irrelevant nonsense like how we should all be jumping into the brewery or property development business or whatever your latest wild fantasy is.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2011 at 20:31:38 in reply to Comment 59996

Tybalt, this is what I said...

"perhaps, it has to do with government policies that tax property investment at high rates"

this is what you said...

"Property investments aren't taxed at high rates. They are taxed at low rates. Particularly given that capital appreciation is only half taxed, and then is deferred until disposition."

Just to be clear, I was talking about PROPERTY TAXES, not capital gains taxes. Didn't you notice I compared downtown Hamilton to other local areas. Why would I have done that if I was talking about capital gains tax, which is uniform across the province?

My point was that Hamilton's high PROPERTY TAX rates reduce after tax equity gains on property investments. Thus if the goal is to increase property investment, we might want to lower the tax rate and increase the after tax gain.

Understand?

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By Kevin (registered) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 17:53:35

Thanks, Ryan. Given we're talking trolls, I thought it might mean You Make Me Vexed.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 18:56:55

I am very interested that the use pseudonyms is becoming a discussion point locally. This is a good thing.

I regard my handle here, mrjanitor, and anyone else's handle that posts regularly as a brand. When perusing the shelf of comments after an article I scan for brands that I like, that I'm not so fussy about and that are totally new. Some brands I trust, some I know for value and some for quality... and some brands I prefer to stay away from.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 19:05:20

An interesting day, mystoneycreek and myself may agree on something!

I stand by my past comments that the voting system on RTH serves primarily as a consensus meter. I took some heat for that (DOWNVOTES!!), but it's what I see here. That does not mean the voting system is bad or needs to be removed, it's part of the fun. I just can't agree at all that the voting system acts as a quality meter in anything more than a tertiary manner.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 19:16:41

About pseudonyms, this is from Internet Law expert Michael Geist in the Citizen Journalism article:

RTH: What about the comments section after an article. If 'Awesome Dude' makes libellous statements about 'Hot Roddr' (all made up) is he in legal hot water? Do the rules change if real names are used instead of pseudonyms? What about commenting false or made up information, is the commenter held accountable for their writing or the web master? Do the same rules apply if you published the statement instead of writing it in a comments thread? MG: Defamation rules apply equally online and offline as well as for anonymous speech.

Comment edited by mrjanitor on 2011-02-15 19:17:07

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By Ezaki Glico (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 19:39:39

Interesting timing...

http://blogs.state.gov/index.php/site/entry/internet_rights_and_wrongs

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By say what (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 19:45:52

Here we go again attacking those you disagree with calling them trolls when nothing could be further from the truth. In fact RTH regulars are the ones that exhibit trollish behavior most often if you discount Hammy in saying he's not part of the community even tho he's registered. Thats the biggest problem with taking much of what is written here seriously in terms of honest discussion. Most here don't want honest discussion they want to have validation

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By Troll Monitor (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 20:51:02 in reply to Comment 59823

*Troll-B-Gone detector explodes*

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By hammy (registered) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 20:35:38

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 08:00:11 in reply to Comment 59826

It's not your disagreement that's a problem, it's the fact that you never offer any significant facts to back up your assertions.

"You lost, you suck, you guys are idiots" isn't a reasonable argument by any standard.

I agree that too many points are downvoted due to disagreement with them as opposed to their merits, but your posts earn their downvotes.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2011 at 08:34:21 in reply to Comment 59838

I agree that too many points are downvoted due to disagreement with them as opposed to their merits

One of the many problems with rampant trolling is that it sensitizes people who are trying to have a real discussion. This actually serves the trolls' purpose, because it helps provide a cover for their vandalism.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 15, 2011 at 20:54:00 in reply to Comment 59826

It's not your disagreement that bothers people; it's your insistence on being rude about it.

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By say what (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 21:01:35

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 21:09:46 in reply to Comment 59830

Troll objects to being labelled a troll, film at eleven.

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By say what (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 21:59:41 in reply to Comment 59831

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 22:29:09

I, for one, think any post that starts with "Well its all over now WH fuckers" is quality content deserving of the highest number of upvotes. Gentlemen.

Comment edited by MattM on 2011-02-15 22:30:39

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By Alonzo (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 22:46:54

Hammy works in the mayor's office.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 10:07:02 in reply to Comment 59835

Head of pencil supplies?

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 13:21:39 in reply to Comment 59846

How does this post deserve 2 upvotes?
It is snarky and insulting. Is that not exactly what should be downvoted?

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 13:56:35 in reply to Comment 59862

Oy vey. It was a lighthearted reference to the pencil-throwing incident. I upvoted it because things having been getting a little dreary around here lately. The self-pitying trolling of late, has had the effect of making much of the discussion here all too earnest. I miss the days when you could toss off a remark like Matt's without fear of the voting police reaching for their smelling salts.

Let's hope the bitter after taste of the stadium debate melts away with blackened slush, and we can all come back out of our foxholes and engage in a little community-building banter once again.

I held back from posting a cartoon to the Citizen Journalism thread yesterday because I feared it wasn't 'serious' enough. Screw that. I'm heading over there right now.

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By Happy (anonymous) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 14:22:49 in reply to Comment 59866

highwater >> I miss the days when you could toss off a remark like Matt's without fear of the voting police reaching for their smelling salts.

I miss the days when pretty women wore cute dresses instead of black pants.

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted February 26, 2011 at 00:45:03 in reply to Comment 59873


Quoting Happy:"I miss the days when pretty women wore cute dresses instead of black pants."

You mean you miss Summer days-?

(I miss the days when Brendon Fraser didn't wear Spanx.)

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 14:06:29 in reply to Comment 59866

Go Git 'em highwater! Git 'em boy!!

^_^

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 14:10:00 in reply to Comment 59869

If you think this is too serious have a read of the comments here

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By TC (anonymous) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 11:04:00

Ryan,
Thanks for your thoughtful post, it prompted me to register and post for the first time. I do visit the RTH site regularly and while I sometimes disagree with the submissions, I find on balance that they are thoughtful, hopeful about Hamilton and civil. Thanks for the important contribution that you make to civic engagement in our community. I look forward to participating from time to time. Cheers.

Terry

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By TerryCooke (registered) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 11:11:35

sorry, actually didn't mean to post anonymously..

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 12:50:36 in reply to Comment 59850

Welcome Terry!

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 13:15:53

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 13:41:38

It's a shame that the main point of this excellent article, which is how mainstream media is being forced to adjust it's past practices in response to the realities of the internet age, has been warped into another discussion on comment voting.

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By say what (anonymous) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 17:47:49 in reply to Comment 59863

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 13:53:57

A Smith,

z-jones really touched that troll nerve hidden in the deep, dark place inside you that you keep denying. Hard to look at yourself as you really are isn't it?

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 14:08:43 in reply to Comment 59865

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2011 at 18:05:27 in reply to Comment 59870

Smith, you can't honestly expect anybody to take you seriously when you're piling on the vitriol like that. I think that's the meanest, dumbest, and most out of date thing I've ever read from you.

I mean Bob Rae? Really? What is this, 1993? Your comments of late have been a little over the top. You lecture others endlessly about property rights, and "freedom of speech", but all you've been doing is coming up with absurd requirements for people to even state their opinions. No, I'm not going to cut up my health card, and I'm not going to raise an eight-figure sum to buy a development (Stelco, Federal Building, LRT, etc) before I can comment on it.

For somebody so obsessed with private property, you seem to be having a lot of trouble with the notion of "Ryan's site". I wonder how this kind of behavior would be taken in your home, business or establishment...

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 23:03:08 in reply to Comment 59882

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 17, 2011 at 00:41:52 in reply to Comment 59888

First off - unless Ryan's psychically collecting data that I don't know about, I really don't see how anybody could really know WHY somebody votes the way they did, to say nothing of who even voted.

Can none of those being constantly downvoted really think of any other reason why this would be happening? Why people might think these posts are "off topic" or "inappropriate" for reasons other than the ideology of the author?

As for the "open forum" issue - what, exactly, does that mean? How far does that extend? Can people post fictitious storm warnings? Insert random HTML code? Must we post every opposing viewpoint, no matter how crass, insulting or pointless? Every self-righteous accusation that somebody is being "discriminated against" because people disapprove of their grammar, tone or "logic"?

RTH is a community, and while it's very open, members of the community will respond when they feel that it is being threatened. When certain people constantly spew vitriol against this site and its community, it's only natural to start seeing people react. We're human, and we don't like being called names.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 01:38:15 in reply to Comment 59892

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 17, 2011 at 12:24:17 in reply to Comment 59896

Still so sure that you're being "faded from view" because we disagree with your position, and not because you're calling us "chickenshit".

People's perspectives on posts differ, and that's why we don't all vote the same way. Not everyone agrees on what is trolling and what is not. Some may be able to overlook a snarkey tone, others are simply tired of in-depth conversations getting derailed because one individual isn't familiar with any of the background and decides they need to challenge all the basic principles before we move forward.

Perhaps people on here would be more willing to accept dissenting opinions if it didn't feel quite so much like we were being beaten over the head with them. If you want your opinions to be welcomed, have you considered not being so condescending? Or perhaps using on-topic facts and logic that work, instead of just inserting seemingly random factoids and then stating with total certainty that you won the argument, and then accusing everyone who doesn't agree of bias.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 13:04:13 in reply to Comment 59915

Undustrial, where in RTH's mission statement does it say that comments that the "community" doesn't like, for ANY reason, including calling a censorship a chickenshit tactic, will be faded from view?

Can you show me where it says that?

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 14:11:08 in reply to Comment 59918

Perhaps it's just a general awareness that the commentator in question (who shall remain nameless to protect your innocence) often sidetracks the discussion with issues that aren't terribly relevant or realistic.

Constantly ascribing to a totally anarchistic/libertarian point of view is admirable in some ways but completely irrelevant to the way things are actually run. You could (and frequently do!) make the argument that the leftist approach taken by many of the commentators on the site is equally irrelevant, but the difference is that we honestly believe that our policies will improve things overall whereas yours will result in nothing being done.

As an example, investment in LRT has been shown to provide significant returns for the cities that have invested in it, you respond that private industry should invest in it if it's so profitable. We both know that's not going to happen, but if the government does it the benefits will accrue to the city as a whole, increasing the tax base and perhaps providing the opportunity to lower individual taxes.

Pipe dreams? Maybe, but the point is that we KNOW you disagree with them due to their very nature and that, philosophically, we're going to disagree with the thrust, if not necessarily the specific content, of your posts.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 15:30:57 in reply to Comment 59921

Brandon >> we honestly believe that our policies will improve things overall whereas yours will result in nothing being done.

I believe you. But just because we disagree, does that give you the right to fade my comments from view? Has God come down from heaven and blessed your leftie opinion for all to see?

Has the Supreme Court of Canada declared my views unconstitutional?

If not, then why is it proper to fade minority comments from view? Is it possible that the majority opinion is wrong on certain issues?

If it's possible that the majority is even sometimes wrong, then RTH censorship by majority is keeping people from the truth. Isn't that a really bad idea?

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 21:53:19 in reply to Comment 59927

I don't tend to mark your comments down unless I truly think you're taking things to the ridiculous extreme.

You have the right to express your views and the readers of this site have the right to downvote them, there's nothing wrong with that. If you want to express your views in a forum where you can't be voted down, start your own blog. ;) I, for one, love arguing with those on the right.

It all depends on your idea of what the truth is. You seem to think it's all about the free market. I happen to think that there's truly no such thing and that government has a significant role to play in our lives by doing things that we, as individuals, are unable or unwilling to do.

Like provide LRT service, collect our garbage, maintain our roads, etc....

I'm also a huge believer in health care and low cost education as well. I view people as an investment. Keep them healthy and educate them and you'll get a much more productive society, which results in a broader tax base.

YMMV (and I know it does!)

For the record I've been self-employed for 13 years now, hired someone and made him a partner about 5 years ago and just hired someone again yesterday, so I know all about working without a safety net.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 22:24:17 in reply to Comment 59943

Brandon >> readers of this site have the right to downvote them, there's nothing wrong with that.

You're right. Readers have the choice to replace debate with chickenshit censorship. If they feel good knowing they are Ryan's tools, more power to them.

Thanks for your willingness to debate and limit your downvotes to crazy talk.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 12:59:09 in reply to Comment 59915

Or perhaps using on-topic facts and logic that work, instead of just inserting seemingly random factoids and then stating with total certainty that you won the argument, and then accusing everyone who doesn't agree of bias.

Beat me to it Undustrial, sums it up completely for me, thanks!

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2011 at 15:31:22 in reply to Comment 59870

Bottom line, us critics could make you smarter and your ideas more refined, but you have to see what we are writing to benefit.

OK-- that's it. There's a flying pencil coming at you for mixing up the objective and the subjective case.

(Can you tell I was convent-schooled?)

Comment edited by Michelle Martin on 2011-02-16 15:36:55

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 23:08:49 in reply to Comment 59875

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted February 17, 2011 at 07:47:24 in reply to Comment 59889

Thanks for missing the irony.

You're very welcome.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2011 at 16:53:30

please do teach subjective versus objective to they and I ;-)

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2011 at 17:08:01 in reply to Comment 59878

I will teach it to you and me, right after I re-teach myself about forming plurals:

There's a flying pencil coming at you for mixing up the objective and the subjective case.

(Wipes egg from face)

I really did remember, Sister Mary Patrick! It was just a momentary slip!

Next time I will set up an anonymous log-in with which to point out grammar mistakes, to avoid such embarrassment.

Comment edited by Michelle Martin on 2011-02-16 17:16:07

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By z jones (registered) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 20:41:03

My God there is so much BS on this thread I don't know where to start.

@say what aka turbo aka Allan Taylor weren't you banned from this site? Yet here you are, still being an asshole but hiding behind an anonymous user name. You aren't fooling anyone Allan.

@bob lee You can believe that not stopping people from reading comments is censorship, and the rest of us will go on believing that no one has the right to be an asshole on someone else's property without getting called on it. By the way, no it's not MY site and I never said it is, go back and read my comment.

@A Smith you're free riding because RTH is actually good enough to have a sizeable following that you get to harass and insult from the sidelines instead of pitching in with something useful. If you tried to create your own website flogging the third rate libertardian bullshit you try to peddle here, no one would waste their time reading it. But keep pretending you're being "censored" because people here choose to ignore your bullshit if that makes you feel better about yourself. Just don't expect anyone to care.

@Jeff Reid allow me to introduce you to hammy, say what and A Smith, these are the assholes you're propping up when you complain about down-voting, because these are the assholes who are getting down-voted.

OK, now please feel free to vote this comment down. I realize it's rude and insulting and deserves to be voted down, I promise to not piss and moan about it either, because I know it's only fair.

I just needed to vent. I can't take all this bullshit any more, Hamilton is crawling with these trolls who just spew all over anything anyone tries to do instead of trying to do anything themselves and I'm sick to death of all the negativity.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 00:23:19 in reply to Comment 59884

z jones >> A Smith you're free riding because RTH is actually good enough to have a sizeable following that you get to harass and insult from the sidelines instead of pitching in with something useful.

How do you know how "good" RTH is? Where are the numbers that tell you that this is the case? Here are the Alexa numbers for RTH...

http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/raisethehammer.org

If you look at all the numbers, it would appear RTH is going down, not up. I hope I'm wrong, but you should really ask Ryan what the true facts are.

>> keep pretending you're being "censored" because people here choose to ignore your bullshit

How can people both ignore my comments and read them at the same time? Unless of course people are downvoting them without reading them. Is that what you do?

According to Ryan's comment voting guidelines, people should NOT "Vote based on who wrote a comment. Try to judge each comment on its own merit."



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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 00:42:27 in reply to Comment 59891

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By bob lee (anonymous) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 22:42:33 in reply to Comment 59884

"It's more basic than that, Trolls think they have some kind of right to post their insults and crap all over someone else's website. Censorship would be if you could somehow stop them from running there OWN WEBSITE to post whatever gets them off. Of course that would be too much work, it's easier to just free ride and whine about being persecuted."

And now you're describing it as "someone else's property". And you say "the rest of us will go on believing". A pattern here.

So whose website is it? I assumed you meant it is 'ours' but I was wrong I guess. Is it Ryan MacGreal's? Ryan, is this your website, and do you want people to think of it as such? I'm interested to know the answer.


As to your rant, I think this is about the longest post of yours I've ever read, so it's a bit mysterious what you mean by people 'trying to do anything'. Your comments are invariably jabs and honestly I don't think I've ever read anything from you that's contributed to a discussion. If you prove me wrong - how about respond with 5 comments where you've added something that wasn't a jab or an empty accolade - I'll apologize and take this back.

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By Kevin (registered) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 21:26:25

zjones, if we ever meet, I'm buying you a beer. Don't argue.

Comment edited by Kevin on 2011-02-16 22:21:36

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By PeterF (registered) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 00:07:21

I am fascinated how posters, trolls or not complain about the voting and claim it to be censorship. If you feel that way, don't post. The majority of the posts on this site are civil whether a poster is agreeing or disagreeing. It seems to get derailed when someone posts a valid point but then slams a previous poster or the whole site with an idiotic personal attack. This will get voted down and when it does then we go into the whole censorship BS. For me personally the site is great, I may not agree with everything, I may not have an opinion on everything, or I may choose to just read the posts and submissions. Many of the submissions and posts are thought provoking and engaging.

I had to look up trolls, because for the life of me I cannot understand why someone would do it? What does it do for the person? Check out some of the definitions, I now understand some of the reasons now. I know I have been sucked in a few times!!!

http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Interne...

http://www.flayme.com/troll/

Comment edited by PeterF on 2011-02-17 00:07:46

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 09:32:30 in reply to Comment 59890

Great links PeterF, thank you. I hope everyone takes the time to read them.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 17, 2011 at 09:07:34

Well.

If anyone had any lingering uncertainty over either a) the intentions of trolls or b) the utility of engaging trolls in any kind of debate, I hope this fustercluck of commentary lays those doubts to rest once and for all.

Z jones' impassioned rant (I just couldn't bring myself to vote it down - for all the language, it's nothing if not sincere), plays right into the trolls' hands. Outraged? Great! That's exactly what the trolls are looking for.

Likewise, Undustrial's calm rebuttal, however mature and reasonable, also serves merely to give the trolls more grist to grind. Arguments means debating points, and trolls love to debate.

The problem is that they have no intention of debating in good faith. They aren't interested in getting to the heart of an issue: they are only interested in mischief, and an interminable debate that drifts steadily farther and farther off topic is as mischievious as an outpouring of outrage - moreso, in fact, because it takes people longer to realize they've been had.

Debating is Futile

In a real discussion among authentic participants, it makes sense to address claims with arguments and evidence. Reasonable people can arrive at some kind of consensus by comimg to an agreement not only on the facts of the matter but also on the underlying norms of discourse, including a respect for the truth and enough empathy to recognize and value the humanity of the other participants.

Of course, we're all sensitive and insecure and dogmatic in various ways, but we persist because we presume that through respectful dialogue, it becomes possible to work through these issues and get to the heart of the matter.

That presumption breaks down when dealing with trolls.

Trolls don't care what the facts are. Facts are merely argumentative MacGuffins to be cited or invented as necessary to keep the lulz going.

As Harry Frankfurt explained in his wonderful philosophical essay On Bullshit, lying at least respects the truth enough to try and contradict it, whereas bullshit is indifferent to the truth. Trolling is concerned with truthiness, not truthfulness. (There's a great interview with Frankfurt that's definitely worth watching.)

Likewise, trolls don't care about norms of reasoning and well-formed argumentation. Go ahead and identify the ad hominem, straw man, red herring and other fallacies in the troll's arguments - it makes no difference to the troll because trolls don't actually care whether they make sense or not. Trying to squash a troll's argumentative fallacies is at best a game of Whac-a-Mole.

In the same way, it's futile to try and "prove" to a troll that he or she is a troll. Proofs only matter among people who value the process of becoming progressively less wrong through the honest exchange of ideas and information.

Trolls are perfectly happy to debate whether they are trolls - it takes the argument an order of abstraction away from the subject at hand, so it's a win for them.

You can no more "change" a troll into an honest participant than the victim of an abusive relationship can "change" the abuser by making ethical or normative appeals to a relationship value system that the abuser does not or cannot share.

Supernormal Stimuli

In a previous essay, I described trolling as an example of supernormal stimuli: a supernormal stimulus is an artificial stimulus that is more compelling than the natural stimulus it imitates.

In the mid-20th century, Nikolaas Tinbergen conducted a series of fascinating ethological studies in which he identified the stimuli for instinctive animal behaviours by systematically introducing artificial stimuli until he provoked a reaction.

In one of his more famous experiments, he studied songbirds that lay pale blue, speckled eggs to determine what triggered the mothers to sit on the eggs. He discovered that it was the blueness and speckledness of the eggs that triggered the reacion: the birds would pass real eggs to sit on big, bright blue, artificial eggs with black spots instead.

This and other related experiments led him to the general concept of supernormal stimuli, which turns up all over the place. In another experiment, Tinbergen established that herring gulls babies peck at their mothers' beaks because they are attracted to the long, thin shape with a high-contrast spot near the tip. Chicks would ignore their mothers' beaks and frantically peck a long stick with red and white stripes on the end instead.

A recent and fascinating book of the same title by Harvard psychologist Dierdre Barrett explores the ramifications of a human culture in which we have surrounded ourselves with supernormal stimuli - like junk food - that co-opt our instincts and pre-empt our desires.

Trolling as Supernormal Stimuli

I propose that trolling is another example of a supernormal stimulus: an artificial stimulus that is more compelling than the real thing it imitates.

The essence of sophisticated trolling is the ability to produce phony, bogus discussion that, like junk food, pre-empts real discussion.

Trolls post statements that are more provocative than normal statements. They reply with a persistence that goes far beyond normal back-and-forth. They shift arguments and evidence with amazing fluidity so that there are always more points to address. They press emotional buttons that weaken the rationality of their opponents. They feign reasonableness without ever settling on reasonable conclusions.

Good health requires us to find ways to choose healthy food instead of junk, and healthy communication requires us to find ways to choose to respond to authentic comments instead of trolls.

I know the saying usually runs, "Don't feed the troll", but along the lines of the junk food analogy, I'd like to propose an inverse:

  • Don't feed yourself junk communication by debating trolls. Choose healthy discussion instead.

Just don't engage the trolls at all - not in outrage, not in argument, not even in mockery and counter-trolling. As long as you're debating the troll instead of debating a real issue, the trolls win.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2011-02-17 10:03:22

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 17, 2011 at 14:38:56 in reply to Comment 59899

Ryan, everything you just wrote is wrong. As is everthing you and the rest of your WH lefty wackos have been saying about one-way-streets.

I can prove it with this extensive survey of cat breeder salaries in major American cities.

http://www.salaryexpert.com/index.cfm?fu...

I offered a dissenting opinion and facts. That's gotta be healthy discussion, right? Suppose I'll be downvoted for it by all you chickenshit downvoters. Gotta warn you, though, if even one of you WH kooks hits that "down" button, I'll spam this topic into oblivion.

(/sarcasm)

Apologies, I'm allergic to illogic. And I really miss what this site was like before the stadium debate.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 11:27:15 in reply to Comment 59899

tldr.

I kid, I kid!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 17, 2011 at 11:36:16 in reply to Comment 59909

Give me some credit. The tldr is in bold at the bottom of the post. :)

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 10:28:12 in reply to Comment 59899

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By PseudonymousCoward (registered) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 09:47:34 in reply to Comment 59899

Thank you for this. I nominate your comment to be published as a proper article so more people can see it.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 17, 2011 at 10:57:41

Just don't engage the trolls at all - not in outrage, not in argument, not even in mockery and counter-trolling. As long as you're debating the troll instead of debating a real issue, the trolls win.

Of course, this includes...downvoting.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 17, 2011 at 11:35:18 in reply to Comment 59908

Before a community can agree to ignore a troll, it first needs a way to establish shared awareness that the troll is a troll. In the absence of that shared awareness, people will still feel compelled to debunk or refute the troll's comments, lest they be construed as legitimate or representative.

In that light, I see downvoting as a form of communication not with the troll but with the rest of the community.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 12:45:17 in reply to Comment 59910

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By Jenn Aniston (anonymous) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 13:32:18

According to Alexa - "Jennifer Aniston Hair" is in the top ten searches for the Spec - we would all agree that this is high level discourse for the community!

Ryan, might I suggest you blow past the comment above and forget the fading issue and think much bigger. Word for word, this site far exceeds the quality of the spec. I think it's time to take RTH to the next level and expand coverage and content to provide a more expanse and immersive community experience.

While there a great many people who do quite well, and are sufficiently served by, the current mainstream media mix in this city, I know a significant group are not. My circle of friends represents a great variety of interests, but they don't bother with local media because the product simply isn't good from their standpoint and doesn't really provide value for the time it takes to actually read or listen to it.

A well rounded RTH (by well-rounded I mean adding more "what to do" entertainment, perhaps sports, etc.) would create a portal to the issues, activities, and debates that are of interest to me as a Hamiltonian. Most importantly, such a source is a necessary component to remind folks that the this city is much more than the bullshit that is spun-out on a daily basis by the meatheads (and their trolls) in the regular press. That's what I like about RTH - not that I agree with everyone here, but it is obvious that the people here are interesting, intelligent, and engaged citizens who are inspiring. Quite simply, I read debate on this site (some of the more recent stuff notwithstanding :)) and I like my city more! I read the spec and it's a giant, long-winded, and depressing case for the status quo and those who profit quite nicely off it. More so, the Spec (and CHML) scream out mediocrity and almost suggest that we should settle for less as a city on a number of issues (just like trolls come to think of it!)

Dealing with trolls is a waste of time - Trolls are a symptom of are larger problem, not the problem in an of themselves.

Take this whole outfit to the next level and let's get on with living and building a better city!

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By Jay&Arr (anonymous) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 14:29:26

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 14:42:31 in reply to Comment 59922

Mahesh, is that you?

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By Mahesh (anonymous) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 16:18:59 in reply to Comment 59925

No, sorry "nobrainer"!! -- Mahesh P. Butani


PS: I am presuming here that you are not a troll too, and that I am not biting the bait by replying to you!

Given the broad reluctance of most commenter here to stay focused on the article itself - I think we all come across as trolls here.

Do you think the key to a successful conversation is the ability to moderate the discussion with savvy - which takes lot more energy and mental bandwidth, than merely countering opinions with more opinions to justify the original position?

Maybe in the end nobody is wrong and everyone is searching for answers, and our teachers have just let us out into the world with poor communication skills which do not permit divergent thoughts to co-exist in the same space :)

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 17:10:51

I'd like to bring up a concern that I have regarding trolls. Obviously I agree that trolls are a waste of time and should be down voted accordingly. What worries me though is that some (not all) people are being mislabeled as trolls. I know this first hand.

I have been branded as a troll by Ryan (and others) on more than one occasion. I know it makes no difference to Ryan and the others who have concluded that I'm a troll because according to their definition it doesn't matter what I say now, because even if a troll says they're not a troll, it doesn't make a difference. I took the time to write a well intentioned, polite email to Ryan to let him know that he had the wrong impression of me. He later went on to call me a troll in the future and has yet to take it back or apologize.

For those who are not so quick to come to their own (wrong) conclusions, I can assure you that I'm not a troll and what I want most for RTH is for it to succeed in bringing citizens of Hamilton together to talk about and help to change Hamilton for the better. We will not always agree on what change for the better is, but it's important not to label people as trolls when they are not.

It's interesting that in one of the links provided earlier, they make note that "The term (troll) is frequently abused to slander opponents in heated debates". I think that happens here a lot, and it's a real shame.

Comment edited by SpaceMonkey on 2011-02-17 17:12:22

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 17, 2011 at 18:53:25 in reply to Comment 59930

SpaceMonkey, this is what I wrote in my email reply to you:

Thanks for your email. I can understand your frustration, but I think you need to give people a chance. You've posted some pretty snarky comments and people start to form an opinion that follows your username to subsequent comments.

If I've read several comments from someone that seem trollish and then read a comment that doesn't seem trollish, I'm going to assume the person is just laying a trap until I've seen considerable evidence in the form of a number of consecutive reasonable comments, and even acknowledgment that previous comments were inappropriate, before I start to let my guard down. I expect I'm not alone in feeling this way.

Just on the weekend, you posted a comment accusing me of "ulterior motives" in supporting two-way street conversion. That doesn't do much to reassure me that you're not trolling, even when you write, "I'm not trolling" in the same comment.

If you're serious about debating in good faith, just keep at it and give people some time. From years observing discussion on RTH, my experience is that most people, most of the time, respect a reasonably-argued, politely-worded comment even if it runs against the prevailing opinion.

In the interest of fairness, I will happily acknowledge that your more recent comments, while frequently remaining contrarian, have in general been much more respectfully written.

I'm also happy to report that your comment scores have reflected this, showing a pronounced upward trend over the past four months when I graphed them (yeah, I'm a data geek).

This is evidence in support of the idea that the RTH community is generally quite tolerant of dissenting opinions but relatively intolerant of dissenting opinions delivered with sarcasm and insults. (Again, in fairness I should point out that consensus arguments delivered with sarcasm tend to be more well received.)

I'd say there's a distinction between what we might call incidental trolling - behaving in a trollish manner under certain conditions - and the kind of perennial trolling that is so corrosive to basic civility. I'd go so far as to hypothesize that anyone can troll under the right circumstances.

The difference between incidental and perennial trolling is that the former is a) localized and b) amenable to reason, whereas the latter is incorrigible.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 20:18:14 in reply to Comment 59933

Ryan, I'm unable to access posts far back enough. Thanks for posting the email that you sent to me. Could you also please include the post where you called me a troll after writing me that email? Thanks

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 17, 2011 at 20:41:16 in reply to Comment 59936

Could you also please include the post where you called me a troll after writing me that email?

I expect you mean this comment, in which I wrote:

At this point, given his insistence on personal attacks and questioning motives, it's pretty clear that SpaceMonkey is more interested in trolling than advancing the discussion productively, notwithstanding his protestations to the contrary.

Please note that I was calling out the same behaviour that I identified in my email to you of a few days previous.

As I acknowledged above, when your behaviour changed, my assessment of you changed as well.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 21:04:20 in reply to Comment 59938

My point is that my behaviour hasn't changed. I continue to post in the same way as I did back then. The only difference is that recently my opinion has been more 'on side' with the majority of RTH-ers than had my opinion on earlier topics.

That said, thank you for also posting that comment. There is a now a fair and transparent representation of what transpired. I'm thankful for and respectful of that.

As should be clear now, i am NOT interested in trolling and I try to advance discussion on a regular basis, in a productive manner. I protested those accusations for very good reason. This spells out the danger in, not only labeling someone a troll but then accusing them of having ulterior motives. Speaking of ulterior motives... As I noted in the other thread Ryan, I never accused you having ulterior motives. What I did say was that because of the way the article was written, I couldn't help but think that maybe there were ulterior motives. I didn't mean that suggestively, it was just a fact about the thoughts that went through my mind. I don't want to be accused of trollish behaviour. Hopefully we don't need to discuss this further, but if so, you have my email.

Comment edited by SpaceMonkey on 2011-02-17 21:23:26

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By say what (anonymous) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 19:50:13

"Just don't engage the trolls at all - not in outrage, not in argument, not even in mockery and counter-trolling. As long as you're debating the troll instead of debating a real issue, the trolls win." Ryan

Isn't that exactly what you've been doing this entire string of comments originating with your article itself???? You lament that its gone viral but aren't you the cause itself. Were it not for your musings would this exchange even be taking place. In short I believe that RTH brings this upon itself starting with the owner of the site and filtering down from there every time one of these anti troll articles pops up

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 21:14:50 in reply to Comment 59934

I think you're wrong to blame an anti troll article for bringing trolling upon it's self. I don't see anything wrong with discussing trolls and trollish behaviour. I don't think it's fair to blame someone for talking about trolls for trollish behaviour. However, I think within Say What's post, there is something worth considering.

I'm not saying this to provoke anyone or in a trollish manner. I'm saying it because I feel it will help to improve RTH. I know that when I was labeled a troll and was being treated, in my opinion, unfairly, it was very frustrating and very easy to react in a negative manner.

Once someone is labled a troll, concluded to be a troll, and treated as such, it is very hard for that person to be taken seriously. It seems not to matter what they say, people just dismiss it as trollish behaviour.

For that reason, I encourage everyone on RTH to give everyone a chance at first before definitively concluding whether or not someone is a troll. If you do decide to label someone as a troll, consider why you are doing it, and what good (is there any?) comes of it.

Comment edited by SpaceMonkey on 2011-02-17 21:28:46

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted February 18, 2011 at 21:30:55 in reply to Comment 59942

Thanks SpaceMonkey. I thought about what you said here and I'll take it to heart. When someone offers nothing but insults, it is hard to read with charity. But people aren't always offering nothing but insults, even when we think they are. It's important to have patience, you are right.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted February 18, 2011 at 08:16:40

The question becomes "When does debate turn into crazy talk?".

You may see something as a viable question, but the majority may see it simply as you throwing a red herring into the discussion. Throw enough herrings and everything you type seems a little fishy... ;)

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By MattM (registered) | Posted February 18, 2011 at 10:14:06

So now all the trolling on the site is somehow justfied and "brought upon itself"?

I get a bit annoyed with the insults and such in the hot button articles, but I recognize the fact that people have opninions and will get passionate about it. I can't accept it however when these same people start stalking around even the other articles on the site, dropping pointless insults and smart ass remarks.

The recent downtown update article was a pretty good example of this. We were all bubbly about the nice developments in the core, then some jerk comes in and starts shooting off pointless insults and inflammatory remarks. A few people ignore it for what it is but a few people pick up on it, then the trolls just go from there and soon what was once a constructive article about downtown revitalization is a pointless back-and-forth shit fest.

Comment edited by MattM on 2011-02-18 10:14:38

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted February 26, 2011 at 01:12:23 in reply to Comment 59964

The RTH board had a lot fewer trolls before the stadium debate. I think that RTH got a lot of notice, a lot of new members because of the stadium debate. During the stadium debate it proved to be a force to be reckoned with, & now RTH is paying the price.

Some people are Worried about this site. :D Yee-Ay!
It's time the Status Quo felt some shock waves.

If I wish to, I can read all the comments, gray or not. That's not censorship.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted February 18, 2011 at 13:36:23

What I find interesting about the comments and complaints from those who appear to be trolling and never debating, is they ALWAYS seem to refer to the number of downvotes they receive.

Yet, people who receive upvotes NEVER seem to mention the number of times they've been upvoted.

What to conclude?

Constantly counting the number of downvotes suggests to me issues of low self-esteem. The really odd part about this is that the low self-esteem leads to behaviours that simply reinforce the low sense of self-worth.

It’s like trying to hang out with a group of people who get together and have lively debates about current issues and the ONLY contribution you EVER make is to shout at them and call them all leftist, delusional jerks (and worse) and then wonder why they aren’t keen on having you attend the next get together. Then, spending a ton of time counting the number of times they get together and don’t invite you. And finally, based on the results of your depressing counting exercise, shouting at them from the sidewalk when they leave the debate to go home. The debate at which your commentary was not welcome.

There are plenty of people on RTH who offer opposing views and/or ask challenging questions to posts. Their posts are not only welcome, IMHO, but required to have a dialogue that isn’t just groupthink. These people never seem to count the number of times they are downvoted or upvoted.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted February 18, 2011 at 15:48:49 in reply to Comment 59973

I suppose I'm an exception. I don't think I have any self esteem issues and I provide thoughtful opposing views on some issues, yet I do count up/down votes.
As has been mentioned by many others, the voting system here needs improvement in my opinion. Actually.. now that I think about it.. perhaps it's not the system that needs improvement. Perhaps what needs to be improved is curtailing the consistent, blatant abuse of it (voting down comments that have absolutely no offensive, trollish or abusive content).

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2011 at 15:12:07 in reply to Comment 59973

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted February 18, 2011 at 21:32:25 in reply to Comment 59978

You really are a great one for asking people to do all sorts of insane work.

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By bob lee (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2011 at 14:06:21

I made some criticism of one aspect of your site. I made that criticism in a civil manner, with an argument and evidence to back it up. There was an opportunity to discuss 'what is censorship', ie whether making comments disappear for anonymous users is or is not, and a chance to discuss what are appropriate limits on speech, even to the nature of a private website purporting to be an open, public community.

I think this is a pretty serious issue. I think the environment you create through your site design influences how and what you talk about. I don't think you have it figured out yet, and I don't think your reasoning for this functionality stands up to how it works. I think I bring a different perspective on this issue, as an anonymous, occasional reader, rather than a regular.

The response from people here ranged from personal attack ('whining' and 'BS') to citing Zipf's theorum without an explanation, to a complete failure to acknowledge there could be a problem in what I think would objectively be viewed as a pretty controversial practice. And now to an exhortation, which presumably includes my and Jeff Reid's comments, that we are incapable of rational argument, and people should ignore us.

It's a neat argument, since it can be levied with impunity. Trolls are caught by the downvoting system, the only people who would dispute the system must be trolls. I hope it leaves a bad taste in some of your mouths.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted February 18, 2011 at 21:35:21 in reply to Comment 59974

"I hope it leaves a bad taste in some of your mouths."

It doesn't. The voting system doesn't do its job perfectly, but it usually does the job it's needed to do.

I just wish people would start talking about Hamilton and stop complaining about the damn comment voting system. We have a lot of people here who obviously dislike the site and most of the people on it, and they often make many, many, many repetitive comments and complaints about the commenting and voting system

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By bob lee (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2011 at 00:59:31 in reply to Comment 60002

I am talking about Hamilton. Discuss a badly designed official plan here and everyone goes ra ra ra. Suggest a design flaw on an important media fixture in Hamilton and you're invading sacred space.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 18, 2011 at 20:27:09 in reply to Comment 59974

In your comments, you insisted against any reasonable definition of "censorship" that a voting system that never denies any visitor the ability to read any comment somehow constitutes censorship.

Then, after deciding that downvoting equals censorship rather than censure, you determined that the voting system doesn't work because some comments attract more than the minimum number of comments required to hide a comment under the default settings, meaning that some people read the comment after it had already been downvoted.

Your conclusion is cute "gotcha" reasoning from faulty premises about both the intent and the effect of comment voting.

The purpose of comment voting is not to deny anyone the ability to read a comment; it is to allow the members of the RTH community to establish a shared awareness that a comment is inappropriate so people feel less obliged to reply to it.

In no way does it prevent anyone from reading any comment - and nor is that its intent. After all, it's pretty hard to establish shared awareness about a comment if people can't read it.

Of course, you're welcome to claim and to try and argue that not preventing people from reading comments somehow constitutes censorship. Likewise, others are welcome to argue that your claim doesn't make sense. And anyone who chooses to register an account is welcome to flag your respective comments as fair or inappropriate.

Now, after having made a claim about censorship to which several people responded specifically, you seem to be lamenting a lost opportunity to discuss the matter of censorship. A discussion is what you invited, and a discussion is exactly what you got - but you seem unwilling to acknowledge the fact, pointed out by several people, that the premise of your argument is faulty.

Instead of responding to this, you decided to post a passive-aggressive comment with a full paragraph dedicated to a personal attack against one of the people who replied to you. That, I suspect, is why your third comment was significantly downvoted when your first two were not.

Incidentally, being downvoted for a given comment does not mean you are being labelled a troll. It simply means some people thought that particular comment was inappropriate.

A troll is someone who persistently posts inappropriate and offensive comments and actively seeks to drag down the general level of civility and productiveness. The voting system applies case-by-case specifically so as not to write people off as trolls just because of a few inappropriate comments.

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By bob lee (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2011 at 00:53:59 in reply to Comment 59997

ok, well it seemed like your most recent screed was designed against any and all naysayers. Coming where it did, the insinuation I got from it was that way, but maybe I was wrong. And I guess by answering me you've lifted any ban, so that's nice.

I'm not concerned about downvoting, I'm concerned about the disappearing effect.

Censorship doesn't need to be absolute. You seem to think it's only when someone permanently erases information. I think the gradual graying out, and eventual cutting off of posts is also a type of censorship. It requires an act to see the post, and even when you see it you can barely read it. This has a chilling effect. The effect of being grayed out - I'm just guessing you've never experienced it - is that your comment is labelled as offensive. Your point is not reasoned against, it disappears, with the broadcasted message that you are unwilling to listen to reason. One way to response to this has been: man up. Don't cry. You can just unblock the comment.

But the thing is, the issue is not that I can unblock the comment, it's that this function exists and threatens that in any further disagreement you will be labelled a troll. It sets a tone for discussion. Also, it gets misused.

I've maintained that there are reasonable limits on speech, which are exactly your purpose for the system. Hate speech deserves to be erased. But you've put the policing power into the hands of the community, and once this is misused, even just occasionally, on legitimate positions, then I think it does more harm to you than good.

If turbo doesn’t care about the truth then that’s his problem. If people want to get into imbruglios with him then let them. But for me turbo gains credence by being made to disappear that he would never gain by words. I don’t want other people telling me what not to read. I suspect that’s why few registered users actually ignore trolls. I still don’t know how Zipf’s law relates, but if I’m right that the number of downvotes indicates that registered users are not using their power to censor/ disappear people, and in fact are changing the default status to remove the default settings, then the system simply doesn’t work as intended, and by that I mean, the disappearing function, not the community censure via downvote function.

I may have gotten touchy following the us and you language and Z Jones’ rant, which was not a ‘reply’ to my comment but a personal attack with an insinuation I was one of these trolls Hamilton is crawling with, so that got me off track from my original point so there it is. I'll have to check with my psychiatrist about the low self esteem issue.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2011 at 20:59:25 in reply to Comment 59997

Ryan >> The purpose of comment voting is... to allow the members of the RTH community to establish a shared awareness that a comment is inappropriate so people feel less obliged to reply to it.

Why is it the right, or job of the community to decide what comments are appropriate? Either a comment is appropriate or it isn't. If it isn't, it should be deleted, but if it is, it should be fully visible for all to read.

To turn comments into a popularity contest turns RTH into a high school. If you really are interested in a variety of views and you really dislike inappropriate comments, comment voting should be replaced with deletion or no deletion. Black or white, not -2 or +5.



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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted February 18, 2011 at 17:12:22

@A Smith

Your independence is admirable.

The it to which I refer is the act of self-absorbed nonsense in which some people seem to revel. the constant questioning of why people don't support my views. What do these people do when they are with other people debating a topic and one of the group starts by saying, "I don't agree with the point you just made."? (perhaps the verbal equivalent of a downvote?) Do they start swearing at the other person? Do they call them names? Do they engage in uncivil behaviour? Some people on this site do essentially that, and they know who they are. Those who act this way have been labelled trolls. Others, avoid the nonsense of numbers and instead engage people with what you might call "independent, grown up behaviour".

If the numbers are so unsettling, stop looking at them. It's easy. Just focus on the words. They're so much more engaging than numbers anyway, although the numbers provide some people with the outlet to say, via an up or down vote, "I agree with your point, or, I don't agree with your point." A downvote on a lucid comment does not mean I think you're an idiot. A downvote on what is obviously a vulgar attack is people's way of saying, "Stop it."

As for an example of the kind of dialogue I think I still see on RTH, I need only look to the article I posted today.

Highwater raised some very good questions about my position and wrote a civil, lucid and direct post to which I responded. Not only did I not feel attacked, I felt engaged. Although I don't know Highwater, s/he and I often agree on many things, and we differ on some. The great thing is neither of us ever refer to votes/numbers, only to ideas.

Lawrence (Larry Pattison) is another good example. Many people on RTH did not agree with his stance on refurbishing IWS, but dialogue was the end result, not personal attacks, no matter which way the vote meter went. Larry is a gentleman. His passion was palpable. He was supported for both behaviours.

There you have it, some results.

Comment edited by H+H on 2011-02-18 18:51:21

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2011 at 19:32:25 in reply to Comment 59989

H&H >> Others, avoid the nonsense of numbers and instead engage people with what you might call "independent, grown up behaviour".

I am starting to see the merits of looking beyond the numbers myself.

>> The great thing is neither of us ever refer to votes/numbers, only to ideas.

Would that also extend to money (number of dollars in our bank account) and votes at the ballot box?

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted February 19, 2011 at 10:10:38 in reply to Comment 59993

A Smith

You said:

Would that also extend to money (number of dollars in our bank account) and votes at the ballot box?

I don't understand. Please say more.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2011 at 12:05:44 in reply to Comment 60019

H&H >> Although I don't know Highwater, s/he and I often agree on many things, and we differ on some. The great thing is neither of us ever refer to votes/numbers, only to ideas.

You seemed to take issue with my critique of RTH's comment popularity voting system. You then said that YOU focus on ideas and not numbers or votes. If that's true, how do you explain these comments...

By H+H (registered) - website
Posted July 11, 2010 at 09:35:35

Excellent summary Nicholas!... Michael Fenn.

One point of expansion/clarification Bob Young has offered up to $15 million for the stadium... revenues with his $3 million annual management contract.

using public money to build a $120+ million dollar facility... $3 million a year, ... 10-year fixed rate of return of 2.5%. At the end of 10 years,

...

By H+H (registered) - website
Posted September 29, 2010 at 14:03:38

Have a look ... what do you expect when we're only putting up $60 million of our own money (Hamilton taxpayers that is) as part our commitment to the Games?

...

By H+H (registered) - website
Posted January 12, 2011 at 10:46:13

@mystoneycreek

OK, I get the Devil's advocate caveat.

1. I agree, we need to seek
2. We have never had a signed agreement with... majority of Council that voted 7 times for the WH, not just Fred... for me to be objective, because I voted for him,

From your own words, it appears you DO like to talk about numbers (number of dollars) and voting.

Don't get me wrong, I think you may have something with NOT talking about numbers and votes. But in that scenario, that would have to include not talking about money or voting, which means not talking about politics or money.

That means we can talk about LRT, but not about funding. We can talk about two way streets, but not about wasting money on RHVP. We can talk about bike lanes, but not about gas prices or peak oil. We can talk about people, but not democracy. In other words, we can talk about ideas, but not the tools we think bring these ideas to life (money, political power).


You may be on to something.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted February 19, 2011 at 12:14:23 in reply to Comment 60029

A Smith

You seemed to take issue with my critique of RTH's comment popularity voting system. You then said that YOU focus on ideas and not numbers or votes. If that's true, how do you explain these comments...

Oh my, to think I believed you and I were having an intelligent dialogue. Am I red faced or what?

highwater was correct. But you already knew that, didn't you?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 19, 2011 at 21:28:15 in reply to Comment 60030

More times than I care to count, I've watched as others assume good faith and attempt to engage A Smith in a constructive discussion, only to give up in disgust when they finally figure out what they're dealing with.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2011-02-19 21:28:29

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2011 at 21:46:35 in reply to Comment 60041

That reminds me of this funny clip...

http://www.tbs.com/video/index/0,,41954||,00.html

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 18, 2011 at 18:12:14 in reply to Comment 59989

The great thing is neither of us ever refer to votes/numbers, only to ideas.

Where's that saying...it's around here somewhere...

'Pedestrian minds discuss people. More evolved ones discuss events. A final group discusses notions, concepts and ideas. Which one do you default to?'

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted February 19, 2011 at 09:40:09

comment voting should be replaced with deletion or no deletion. Black or white, not -2 or +5.

I find this binary type of thinking (on or off, yes or no, black or white, thumb up or thumb down, 1 or 0) very typical of of the conservative mind. More and more I am convinced that the far right conservative brain does not have the intelligence or ability to expend the mental energy needed to comprehend and process shadings of grey or even variation in colour when it comes to ideas, thoughts and opinions. It is an extremely lazy and trouble free way to live one's intellectual life. Instead processing all things from all angles then turning the dials of the mind to get the precise setting, the far right neo-cons have simply chosen to flick a switch on or off. As George W. Bush said, 'you're either with us or with them'.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2011 at 11:26:02 in reply to Comment 60017

mrjanitor >> I find this binary type of thinking (on or off, yes or no, black or white, thumb up or thumb down, 1 or 0) very typical of of the conservative mind.

I got the idea from the Huffington Post.

>> More and more I am convinced that the far right conservative brain does not have the intelligence or ability to expend the mental energy needed to comprehend and process shadings of grey

I got the idea from the Huffington Post.

>> It is an extremely lazy and trouble free way to live one's intellectual life.

I got the idea from the Huffington Post.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted February 19, 2011 at 10:03:33 in reply to Comment 60017

This post is offensive and non productive. It takes away from the discussion and promotes conflict in an inflammatory, completely unnecessary way. This, seems to me, is exactly what we are talking about trying to get rid of.

Comment edited by SpaceMonkey on 2011-02-19 10:16:39

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 19, 2011 at 10:33:15 in reply to Comment 60018

This, seems to me, is exactly what we are talking about trying to get rid of.

Who's 'we'? From all the howling we've had lately from posters complaining about being downvoted for making similar comments about 'lefties', 'the WH crowd', 'the RTH group', or whomever, I thought we were supposed to be open to any and all opinion.

Apparently it's only 'censorship' when we react to offensive, unproductive posts from contrarians.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted February 19, 2011 at 10:51:56 in reply to Comment 60022

We, as in the RTH community. A lot, not all, but a lot of the anti "WH crowd", "RTH group", etc posts have come from the trolls. The post above comes from someone who I hadn't previously thought of that way. If the "regulars" start behaving in the same way as the "trolls" do, then this website is going to be left with nothing but attacks directed at people and groups.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted February 19, 2011 at 10:28:53 in reply to Comment 60018

Yup, definitely nothing wrong with the way people are voting rolls eyes A hate filled post gets up voted. The post trying to stop the hatred gets down voted.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 19, 2011 at 10:42:28 in reply to Comment 60021

It wasn't 'hate-filled'. It was an unflattering observation about conservatives in general, that frankly is a widely held opinion that has been supported by sociological studies.

Also, there's some context here that you may not be aware of as you are relatively new to this site. A Smith is an epic troll who has left a path of destruction in his wake. It's because of him that the comment voting system was brought in in the first place.

mr. janitor's response was relatively civil and restrained under the circumstances.

BTW, I was the one who downvoted your post, and I didn't do it because you were trying to 'stop the hatred'. Stop being such a drama queen. I hesitated to downvote you because I knew that it would reinforce your perception, but in the end I decided that your criticisms were way too over the top to let stand.

Comment edited by highwater on 2011-02-19 10:48:55

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2011 at 12:13:35 in reply to Comment 60023

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2011 at 13:24:18 in reply to Comment 60063

IF- & this is a big IF...'A. Smith' is the same "A. Smith", that frequently comments as "A. Smith" on the Spec blogs, I have to draw the conclusion that the base & only reason for "A. Smith's" objections to a number of things, are his personal property taxes.

Not Your property taxes, or My property taxes, or even Our property taxes, ..just "A. Smith's" property taxes.

Property taxes concern me too, & probably I'm a lot closer to the $$$ tipping point than many of the "A. Smiths" of the GHA.

However, since I do read the Real Estate section of the Spec, I have seen house for sale...No let's make that McCastles for sale, that are on "Landscaped acreage, with outdoor pool, tennis court, hot tub inside & out, 6 bathrooms, ??? (many) bedrooms, indoor fireplace etc., etc., etc.," & these homes according to the Real Estate listing, seem to be paying less than $1000.00 more per year than older modest local homes with 1, 1 1/2 or 2 bathrooms, 3 bedrooms that are built on Much smaller lots.

That "A. Smith" of Spec blogs seems to have No problem with that. He/She seems to think it's o.k.. Maybe it's some kind of trickle down economic theory?

Ie: The less property taxes the very affluent pay, the more stainless steel fridges, BMW's,,gold plated widgets, they will buy?? :(

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted February 20, 2011 at 13:48:05 in reply to Comment 60063

Wow Smith! Beautiful ambush!! And now that you have exposed hypocrisy here and on the Web you have WON the internet!!!! Jerry, tell him what he's won!

"Sure Bob. He's won the home version of the Internet game by Milton-Bradley, and... A Brand New CAAARRRpet sweeper! Perfect for sweeping up pinkos, logic and civility and putting them where they belong... in the trash. Thanks for playing, we have some lovely parting gifts for you."

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted February 19, 2011 at 11:01:12 in reply to Comment 60023

I'd like to respond to your comment, but it would only take away from the discussion. I do however wonder if you see the irony in your post.

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By say what (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2011 at 12:37:14

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 19, 2011 at 12:47:22

Much of this, it seems, is revealing deeper philosophical and ideological divisions. A Smith's classical liberal viewpoint about such things seems a relatively absolutist view (to quote Mrjanitor, "black and white) of such matters. To him, as with several others, the end goal is "free speech" in which each is allowed to say their piece unobstructed.

For most of the rest of us, the end goal seems to be a sharing of ideas and collective articulation of them. In this far less individualistic, more community-minded approach, "speech" is seen as a holistic part of greater questions of freedom of expression, and building community and consensus, even if we don't all agree on everything.

For the record, IMHO, this is one of the biggest dangers of liberal thought, classical, "neo", lefty, righty, whichever. By still relying on rigid viewpoints about what liberty is and looks like, anything which diverges automatically gets labelled "unfree". It presupposes an enlightened conclusion and then sets about imposing it on others, in the name of liberty. Against such a backdrop, anything that contrasts with it is seen as a threat. At best it simply re-enforces the status quo and at worst it engineers a new one. By still relying on relatively authoritarian notions and unquestioned assumptions about the One True Way To Live(tm), it inherently rejects others. And by asserting one way to be "normal", it makes that set of rules invisible, while painstakingly critiquing the rules of 'others' whilst dismissing the context.

Voluntary associations, formed for the purposes of discussion, have the right to set ground rules for those discussions. We all choose to be here, to read, to post, and to participate. These discussions are publicly viewable, and the ability to join is open. This does not, however, mean that RTH is a "public institution". Nor does the fact that it is popular and influential. RTH is still the product of a group (dare I say community), which has spent countless hours adding content. It was never supposed to take the place of the be-all and end-all of media in Hamilton, nor should it. It is a forum for a very specific type of discussion about a very specific type of issues. We talk about things in a specific way - calm, respectful and thought-out. And the successes we've all seen so far are a result of doing our best to avoid flame wars, sectarian bickering and wanton hyperbole. The point is not to give everyone their soap box here - that is the job of the internet. The point is to be the best damn soap box we can be.

If people can't get together to say something, then what's the point of free speech?

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2011 at 21:29:13 in reply to Comment 60032

Undustrial >> It is a forum for a very specific type of discussion about a very specific type of issues.

This is from the about (RTH) page...

Raise the Hammer is a group of Hamilton, Ontario citizens who believe in our city's potential and are willing to get involved in making the city a more vibrant, livable, and attractive place to live and work.

We are non-partisan and our members come from diverse political backgrounds. Our common interest is revitalizing our city, a goal that benefits everyone.

About the Site

Raise the Hammer is dedicated to providing a variety of views and approaches to the goal of making Hamilton a great city. Towards that end, we encourage readers to contribute feedback, letters to the editor, and article submissions. Please feel free to contact us with your comments and ideas.

...

Could you tell me where it says that RTH is about very specific issues and very specific types of discussions? As far as I can tell, RTH is first and foremost about "making Hamilton a great city". How is that possible since RTH has moved to allow the majority to fade minority comments from view?

I would appreciate your thoughts on this.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 20, 2011 at 21:06:13 in reply to Comment 60042

Could you tell me where it says that RTH is about very specific issues and very specific types of discussions?

Right beside the "About" section - under "Principles".

As far as I can tell, RTH is first and foremost about "making Hamilton a great city". How is that possible since RTH has moved to allow the majority to fade minority comments from view?

Because "making Hamilton a great city" really doesn't mean anything devoid of context. Everyone wants to make Hamilton a "better city". But few agree on what that actually means. You and I, clearly, do not.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 21, 2011 at 01:11:35 in reply to Comment 60078

Undustrial >> Right beside the "About" section - under "Principles".

Are you suggesting that unless people agree with all of those 18 principles, they can't comment?


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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 21, 2011 at 18:54:20 in reply to Comment 60083

No, but that section might give you a better idea of what we're talking about, where we're coming from and why certain kinds of posts aren't terribly welcome by the people who choose to associate here.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted February 19, 2011 at 13:02:25 in reply to Comment 60032

Undustrial

It's this type of post that keeps me coming back to and enjoying RTH. It's thoughtful and well articulated. I don't always agree with all of Undustrial's posts, so this is not about groupthink, but rather about intelligent dialogue.

All those who have been accused of, and perhaps offended by, the troll label, please read and then re-read Undustrial's post. You don't need to agree, just to reflect on what has been said and then offer your own comments that go beyond simply the profane and the vitriolic.

Thanks Undustrial.

(And yes, I upvoted it as a way of showing my appreciation)

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 19, 2011 at 23:18:29 in reply to Comment 60035

Thanks Graham.

I have no problem admitting that my own views are no less "extreme" than those of A Smith. There are many things I don't agree with any number of people on here about, and that's ok. I don't come here to talk with people who think just like me - I come here to have an interesting conversation with those who don't. While I might not always agree with Shemp, MrJanitor or Graham but that doesn't mean I don't like y'all, or enjoy discussing things here. Without the ability to have a good-natured argument, this site would be mighty boring.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted February 20, 2011 at 03:33:00

So, coming back to the author's original piece way above on this page!

What struck Ryan as a strongly positive development in Spec's transition from a traditional media mindset to an online mindset--struck me as a belated attempt by a well informed news organization to bestow power to the crowds--after having managed to willfully snatch the very same power, from the very same people, less than a year ago.

How in the hell did all this turn into a battle for online votes, and user identity preferences, is anyone's guess!

In spite of Ryan's optimistic outlook towards the Spec story, this thread's far from happy ending, surely must have left Paul Berton scratching his head at the unpredictability of the online environment! Although he must have definitely heaved a sigh of relief knowing that the cynical outlook story did not get any traction at all on RTH :-)

A possible spin-off story idea for the Spec--from these two divergent views of their original story, could be: an in-depth investigation into how last years real world voting issue and this years virtual world voting issue may possibly have some correlation with identity preferences and the coming of age of free speech in Hamilton!

To end this thought on the subject of 'voting' on a happy note - here is a fun story of how up/down votes are used to fire up the passions for... the Arts:


"ArtPrize" -- A radically open art competition, giving away the world's largest art prize. Part arts festival, part social experiment - this international art contest is decided solely on a public vote. ArtPrize 2011 will take place from September 21 to October 9.

Up and Down Vote for the ArtPrize Explained:

"There are two vote tallies. One is a simple popular vote tally to determine the winner of ArtPrize. This tally has been, and continues to be, based on the artist that receives the most number of votes–the up votes. While it’s not tied to who will win ArtPrize, the concept of tallying down votes is extremely important to us. We will use the data collected from all votes daily (both up and down) to display which works are the most controversial and create the most discussion as a way for the public to enter into that dialogue, so it’s not lost."

"Imagine seeing a piece that was voted down and overlooked for one reason or another suddenly having a following defending why it should win. This is the conversation ArtPrize is all about."

And here is a very interesting comment in response to above, by Vanka:

"...You either love a piece of art or hate it…or maybe have no feelings about it at all…maybe you kinda’ like it or maybe it’s just not your taste. But actually walking around and seeing a piece you don’t like and then feeling some satisfaction or purpose in voting it down…odd…what can be gained about teaching kids this way of thinking? ... Pressing a button on your iphone saying “I hate this piece of art sooo much that I’m going to take time to vote it down” isn’t dialog…instead it’s pointless, mean spirited and frankly, completely ironic to a contest that is supposed to be celebrating art..."


Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2011-02-20 04:45:03

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted February 20, 2011 at 22:55:31

A Smith,

I didn't know you are so sensitive! I will try to never hold up a mirror in front of you ever again, hate to see you cry at your reflection. I'm very sorry that the truth hurts you so very much.

The only rebuttal I have for comments on YOUR right wing brain is this.

Which of course I am to be faulted for creating this

Glad to see that you're reading the Huffington Post, are you a missionary converting the Left Wing masses there to?

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