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[P]
Truth, Trolls, and Big Lies

By iGrrrl in Op-Ed
Wed May 16, 2001 at 01:36:32 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

"Truth prevails where opinions are free."
Tom Paine
I've been trained as a biomedical scientist, I participate in some internet forums, and I'm a voting member of the US political system. In only one of these situations do I ever feel able to relax and trust the people with whom I must interact by remote means.


In science, reputation is important, and it rests in large part on integrity. The currency of integrity is made up of truthfulness in the reporting of experiments and in intellectual honesty in interpreting the results of the experiments. Although exceptions can always be found, science tends to be a business based on trust. If I want to found my work on Professor Z's results, I have to be able to trust that the lab did what they said they did in the published work. If not, it will usually become apparent. If it does come out that a paper misrepresents the results, I will curse Professor Z, complain bitterly to my colleagues, and possibly publish my findings. Thus are reputations sullied, and if it happens often enough Professor Z's work becomes untrusted.

One also trusts fellow scientists to say what they mean, and to argue points they believe. It is a large part of our culture to look for the legitimate holes in each other's theories, and to evaluate the data critically -- sometimes harshly so. However, the criticisms tend to be based on experimental, testable data, or on points which would be subject to experiment. The idea of testability is crucial. If Dr. A's critique of Dr. B's work is based on a disproven hypothesis, Dr. B has every right to politely and respectfully tell her colleague to go jump in a lake, in large part by pointing to the data which show Dr. B to be wrong. If Dr. B insists in the face of evidence, Dr. B's reputation suffers because he looks stupid. If, however, Dr. B claims to have made the critique knowing perfectly well that the evidence was against him, Dr. B suffers similar damage to his reputation.

Why? Because we don't have time for this. Our intellectual life is spent in working out hard problems, and such game-playing might be construed as a waste of Dr. A's time and effort for Dr. B's entertainment. If Dr. B had framed the discussion from the beginning as a matter of testing assumptions -- always an important practice -- Dr. A would probably have engaged in a critical review of the data in the same spirit. Had Dr. B questioned a student, one can argue that he was engaging in a useful teaching strategy by forcing the student to learn to defend his ideas appropriately. To treat a colleague the same way, however, shows rudeness and arrogance. What damages Dr. B's reputation in the example above is the presentation of the contrary (and disproven) opinion as if it were his own opinion, and forcing Dr. A to answer seriously, as if Dr. A were Dr. B's student. If he continues in such behavior, none of his colleagues and peers will know when he actually means anything he says, and his critiques will become untrusted.

Some readers may recognize my description of Dr. B's behavior as similar to trolling. Because I live primarily in culture where one's words and ideas are the currency of reputation, I do not immediately understand the appeal of trolling. I have heard the practice defended as more than entertainment at the knee-jerk responses, and that a good troll forces opposing viewpoints to state themselves articulately. By this thinking, the more earnest responses to trolls serve to cogently defend positions which might otherwise merely be held by inertia or herd behavior.

I grant that such things may be true, particularly outside the scientific milieu, where criticism is a constant. Still, it always troubles me when a person who expresses opinions contrary to what they really think does not frame them in that way. First, I have a personal dislike of the arrogance of the troller who sets themselves in a superior, teacher's role ("I'm just trying to get people to think!"). They have chosen to place themselves in that role toward people who have not chosen the student's role. Second, few people like to discover they've succumbed to manipulation.

As I write this, I can think of many situations where a "teacher" role might be a good thing. Certainly my own posts to K5 often follow the path of the didactic lecturer. In large part, however, those posts are in response to trolls full of misinformation. My purpose in such responses lies in trying to correct the record in public rather than in using rhetoric to manipulate other people. Quite often I resent the time it takes, and yet I feel the need not to let the most egregious misinformation stand. I fear that people will take the articulate misrepresentations of the skillful troll as truth.

The writers of good trolls seem to be very smart, and very arrogant. If people are dumb enough to believe their slick presentations, it proves the troll's superiority. The idea of the divide between the 1337 (elite) and the lusers runs deep in internet culture. Trolls generally get recognized as such by other 1337s, and anyone with a clue knows to place little trust in net posts. But what happens outside the net?

Let me propose the following thought-experiment. US Vice President Dick Cheney recently stated that conservation of resources had no place in long-term US energy policy. What would have happened if, several weeks previous, some randomusername posted an article to K5 or Slashdot based on the same idea? The shouts of "Troll!" would have been heard (in either admiring or annoyed tones) far and wide. But Cheney wasn't trolling when he made that statement. Instead he was propagating a Big Lie.

Big Lie is the name I use for an untruth so big that it stuns even those who disagree to momentary silence. The difference between a big lie and a mere troll lies in the intent and in the power base of the speaker. What was Cheney's intent with that statement? Was it actually a troll not meant to provoke discussion but to gauge outcry? And without outcry, was it his way of ensuring his oil industry buddies of robust profits over the next decade?

I don't know what Cheney's purpose was, but I doubt he can honestly say he believes that statement. Or perhaps he's been a politician for so long that he has no concern for any objective measure of truth, and only cares for political expediency. I do not limit that criticism to any side of any politcal divide. Most propaganda consists of big lies packaged with rhetorical efficiency, repeated often enough that the lie becomes accepted as truth.

Internet trolls don't have the power base or publishing budget to have their distortions taken as truth. It isn't their intent, either. The big liers want their targets to merely accept the lie, where the trollers want their targets to jump at the bait. Both of these situations reflect power games and the desire to control other people's behavior. Scientists are not a perfect breed, and individual scientists certainly have their power games, but the opinions we express tend to be those we honestly hold.

If, as Paine said, truth does prevail where opinions are free, I suppose those both honestly and dishonestly expressed can have similar value in the dialectics of discussion. Part of Jesuit training is to learn how to argue any side of a point, to play the Devil's Advocate. There is certainly value in the intellectual flexibility and the rigour of research that the practice requires. In playing Devil's Advocate with myself, I can see point of view of the troller, and the expediency of the big liers, but I don't have to like either one. And I don't.

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Truth, Trolls, and Big Lies | 137 comments (133 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
Three comments (4.00 / 5) (#4)
by DesiredUsername on Wed May 16, 2001 at 10:32:01 AM EST

1) Very good!

2) But the "Big Lie" stuff seemed a little...tacked on.

3) I agree that it seems arrogant to have someone place himself in a "teacher" role. But sometimes the arrogance, while itself unnecessary, is well-founded. For instance, there *really are* a lot of idiotic postings on Slashdot. These people *really would* be better off knowing "the truth". Teaching these people the truth is therefore a kindness and not everyone knows they are in need of teaching. While I don't think it's necessary to cop a supercilious attitude (like some of the trolls around here do), neither do I think a person needs to prepend "Correct me if I'm wrong..." before expecting to receive criticism.

Play 囲碁
Thanks DU (3.50 / 2) (#52)
by jayfoo2 on Wed May 16, 2001 at 02:33:28 PM EST

Doing my usual thourough read in order to avoid posting a 'metoo' and I find that DU has said just about what I wanted to. give him(her) a 5 and a cookie

But because I need to contemplate my navel at least daily I'll ask a question, which could in fact be considered a troll (tho its not by intent).

I think the role that iGirrl doesn't consider is that of devil's advocate, which I think is different from either the 'teacher' or 'asshole' role that she cites.

In a good discussion someone often needs to take the role of devil's advocate, especially in a culture based on respect and mutual admiration. Why? Because in a group like that you tend to have a lot of people who have similar backgrounds and worldviews.

If I want to test out an idea it's not a good idea for me to ask a bunch of my friends, we all agree that baseball is the best sport and that coke is better than pepsi.

I think it's a question of intent, if you're just being a smartypants, and trying to fence, you're a troll, good on ya. If you're actually trying to provoke thought, you're not a troll, allso good on ya.

foo


[ Parent ]
Scientistic bullshit (4.31 / 19) (#5)
by streetlawyer on Wed May 16, 2001 at 10:34:08 AM EST

The idea of the divide between the 1337 (elite) and the lusers runs deep in internet culture.

Thank heavens that professional scientists are so far above this tawdry divided, and live in the Platonic realm of ideas, where all-comers are welcomed on the basis of the merit of the case. What are we to call these demigods? Perhaps, to distinguish them from the "losers" of internet culture, we should term them "the elite".

(that's sarcasm, btw)

Or indeed, they might apparently post windy, tendentious articles on kuro5hin claiming such elite status for themselves.

Science is one thing. The sociology of science is another. Being good at one doesn't give you *any* insight into the other. And this is an article about the sociology of the science profession, not about science. Which means that we shouldn't be surprised if it's wrong.

There is no such "objective verification" at work in the vast majority of power struggles between scientists. Such disagreements are settled in the scientific workplace in exactly the same way as in any other workplace -- by a mixture of the merits of the case, the *perceived* merits of the case in the eyes of the consensus, political power, status in hierarchies, personal popularity, the dominance of the status quo, and all the other factors which surrounded the last technical decision which was taken by your team. Any number of studies in the sociology of the professions have revealed, time and time again, that the high level of education in certain professions (including science) and the oft-professed commitment to certain values, have little or no practical impact on the dispute resolution methods used.

Concrete examples:

  • The debate over whether homosexuals could be converted into heterosexuals which took place in the American Psychiatric Association in the 1970s
  • The vilification of Dr Pustzai for finding that certain kinds of genetically modified food seemed to cause cancer in rats.
  • The debate on race and IQ
  • The question of the causes of global warming
  • The question of quantum indeterminacy in the 1940s -- whether God played dice.
  • The question of gradualism versus saltation in evolutionary theory
Whatever the scientific merits of either side in any of these cases, any examination of the actual behaviour of scientists demonstrates that they do *not* in fact follow anything like their "normal" scientific methods. They couch their condemnation in scientific *language* of course -- in the Pustzai case, a few minor methodological simplifications, normal for an exploratory study, were talked up into "blatant disregard", "junk science" and so on. But the actual behaviour is coalition-forming, mobbing and other behaviour easily recognisable from anything in Pavlov or Tinbergen.

I find the rest of the essay waffly and self-righteous, but others can discuss that. I just want to take issue with the idea that professional scientists are anything other than human beings of the professional class, and to suggest that if the author "feels comfortable" in that group, that this is because everyone feels comfortable in their own group with their own prejudices. This is unscientific extrapolation from biased personal anecdote, not any evidence of eliteness, however spelt.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever

I'm not surprised you hate it... (3.50 / 4) (#9)
by DesiredUsername on Wed May 16, 2001 at 10:45:49 AM EST

...since it's poking you directly in the eye.

As for your specific problems: "But the actual behaviour is coalition-forming, mobbing and other behaviour easily recognisable from anything in Pavlov or Tinbergen."

The trouble with a Kuhnian view is that it neglects the fact that scientists really are making progress. Human life expectancy is longer. We can fly. We've gone into outer space. Our crops are several times more efficient. Communication is virtually instantaneous. All of this is thanks to scientists.

Your only saving grace is: "...by a mixture of the merits of the case, the *perceived* merits of the case in the eyes of the consensus, political power, status in hierarchies, personal popularity, the dominance of the status quo, and all the other factors which surrounded the last technical decision which was taken by your team."

You admit that merits enter into it. And that is what differentiates science from K5. On K5, a discussion based on the merits is rare. Especially when the discussion is well-attended by trolls.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
read again, slowly for comprehension (2.00 / 7) (#10)
by streetlawyer on Wed May 16, 2001 at 10:51:27 AM EST

What do you mean, a Kuhnian view, progress, blah blah blah? I am talking about the sociology of science, not science.

And the only thing that's poking me in the eye right now is the fact that some rat bastard trusted user has seen fit to abuse the moderation system in order to hide my rather amusing "streetlawyer summary service" post, which rather shows who can take a joke and who can't in this place.

btw, everything I've said to you, I still mean; grow up.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

It wasn't me (3.50 / 4) (#11)
by DesiredUsername on Wed May 16, 2001 at 10:57:33 AM EST

"I am talking about the sociology of science, not science."

The process by which theories win over other theories IS science. Call it "sociology" if you wish, but insofar as actual progress is made it is ALSO science.

As for the moderation: I gave you a 1. If you actually care about your score, I'd be happy to look at the moderation and see who gave you a zero.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Read again, once more (2.57 / 7) (#14)
by streetlawyer on Wed May 16, 2001 at 11:00:01 AM EST

The sociology of science is the study of how *scientists* interact with other scientists; it is the study not of theories, but of their proponents. This article and my response to it are both squarely placed in the sociology of science.

I don't really very much care who zeroed the post; they can presumably deal with their own conscience. But I thought it was a rather good joke.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Bruce Sterling and Objectivity [SOT] (4.50 / 4) (#13)
by kostya on Wed May 16, 2001 at 10:59:01 AM EST

[Slightly Off Topic ;-)]

I'd recommend reading some of Bruce Sterling's short fiction for an interesting, if not shocking perspective, on objectivity and ethics when it comes to science.

His one collection, Globalhead, has at least two stories where scientists and their claims of being objective are villified: "Neural Chenryobol" and "The Moral Bullet".

The basics of the argument are simple: we are all human; to claim otherwise is self-delusion or criminal at its worst. In "Neural Chenrybol", the scientists of the future look back on the scientists of the 20th century as emotionally disturbed and ethically stunted. They consider the claims of "remaining objective" as brainwashing that removed any ethical restraints and led to greater and greater harm. To conduct experiments "just because" was regarded as ethical bankrupt behavior. Ironically, they saw scientists as rejected and emotional distraught people who needed to be socialized better. Granted, they didn't view all 20th century scientists that way, but they saw the scientific culture of the time leading to it.

Again, it's fiction, but it is interesting in its speculation. While the story was not arguing the abolishing of an empirical approach to research and the scientific method, it did argue that to claim personal objectivity was a sham. In these speculated futures, scientists were open about their subjective opinions and slants, and in being open, harnassed the power of these non-rational motivations. Instead of resisting ethical or moral claims, they embraced it. Several stories painted futures where Islamic nations surpass the West in scientific discovery; many reasons, but in each the devoted faith of the Muslims is seen as a strength, not a weakness. A strength which aided and furthered scientific disciovery.

Anyways, it was interesting ;-)



----
Veritas otium parit. --Terence
[ Parent ]
Oh dear, I'm biting. (4.75 / 8) (#15)
by iGrrrl on Wed May 16, 2001 at 11:00:25 AM EST

Or indeed, they might apparently post windy, tendentious articles on kuro5hin claiming such elite status for themselves.

[supressing grin] It actually wasn't my intent to claim such status. The essay grew out of trying to explain to myself the source of my strong dislike of the troll. Near as I can tell it comes down to (in less windy form) I don't work in a culture (not superior, just different) that engages in trolling.

Science is one thing. The sociology of science is another. Being good at one doesn't give you *any* insight into the other. And this is an article about the sociology of the science profession, not about science. Which means that we shouldn't be surprised if it's wrong.

(I should probably interject that the scientists with whom I'm most familiar are hard-core experimentalists and reductionists.)

I did maybe spend too much time explaining the sociology. And it may be "wrong". Scientists are certainly human and engage in most of the primate politics one could ask for. The only exception I've found is that rarely do they argue a point they don't believe. You were correct in that many of the arguments surrounding your examples had little to do with the objective experimental results. However, I don't think Einstein was merely trolling in his concerns about quantum mechanics. I think he said what he actually thought at the time. That's what's different. Not superior, just different

I just want to take issue with the idea that professional scientists are anything other than human beings of the professional class, and to suggest that if the author "feels comfortable" in that group, that this is because everyone feels comfortable in their own group with their own prejudices. This is unscientific extrapolation from biased personal anecdote, not any evidence of eliteness, however spelt.

Much of this was, actually, my point. These are my opinions, which is why this is Op/Ed.

--
You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.
[ Parent ]

Scientists and trolls (2.00 / 6) (#17)
by streetlawyer on Wed May 16, 2001 at 11:05:47 AM EST

Near as I can tell it comes down to (in less windy form) I don't work in a culture (not superior, just different) that engages in trolling.

What do you call Dawkins' attacks on Gould and Lewontin, then?

Furthermore, you presume a category of "what people really think", which doesn't marry up at all well with my experience. People choose their beliefs, they don't find them. And that applies to scientists choosing theories as much as anyone else. Ambitious young scientists choose theories which will be controversial and help to make them a reputation. Often, they do this in advance of any experimentation which would justify the conclusion, hoping to fill the gaps in later. This behaviour does *not* cost them their reputations; it significantly augments them, particularly if they are pushy and male.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Something for you to try (3.20 / 5) (#21)
by DesiredUsername on Wed May 16, 2001 at 11:42:12 AM EST

First, define trolling. Then, give a quote (with a citation) from Dawkins that fits your definition.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
something for you to try (1.57 / 7) (#71)
by streetlawyer on Thu May 17, 2001 at 02:06:38 AM EST

grow up, grow some balls and engage with the argument rather than making pissy little requests for other people to do research, in roughly that order.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Sokal trolled (4.00 / 4) (#35)
by georgeha on Wed May 16, 2001 at 12:54:32 PM EST

Start here

And he gives some motivation here.

Selected excerpts from the above link.

Like the genre it is meant to satirize -- myriad exemplars of which can be found in my reference list -- my article is a mélange of truths, half-truths, quarter-truths, falsehoods, non sequiturs, and syntactically correct sentences that have no meaning whatsoever. (Sadly, there are only a handful of the latter: I tried hard to produce them, but I found that, save for rare bursts of inspiration, I just didn't have the knack.) I also employed some other strategies that are well-established (albeit sometimes inadvertently) in the genre: appeals to authority in lieu of logic; speculative theories passed off as established science; strained and even absurd analogies; rhetoric that sounds good but whose meaning is ambiguous; and confusion between the technical and everyday senses of English words.2 (N.B. All works cited in my article are real, and all quotations are rigorously accurate; none are invented.)

Sweet, a veritable troll howto.

But my main concern isn't to defend science from the barbarian hordes of lit crit (we'll survive just fine, thank you). Rather, my concern is explicitly political: to combat a currently fashionable postmodernist/poststructuralist/social-constructivist discourse -- and more generally a penchant for subjectivism -- which is, I believe, inimical to the values and future of the Left.

So, if you want to take the point that scientists only troll non-scientists, and such behavior is acceptable, you're on solid ground. Otherwise, your thesis is shaky.

George

[ Parent ]

Cool (none / 0) (#102)
by ubu on Thu May 17, 2001 at 07:55:18 PM EST

I always liked this syllogism for its provision of such interesting misuse of language and logic:

Nothing is better than steak.
Breadcrumbs are better than nothing.
Therefore, breadcrumbs are better than steak.

Global warming? Global cooling? It really depends on what your sponsors are trying to regulate.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Chopping Heads (3.66 / 3) (#19)
by Mad Hughagi on Wed May 16, 2001 at 11:15:04 AM EST

Wow. Time to play some hard ball.

I agree that this article does have a self-righteous character to it. There is one key line I would like to make very transparent though in your response:

There is no such "objective verification" at work in the vast majority of power struggles between scientists

The power struggle would not exist if the objective verification was readily available. It's only when people don't know the answer that they side with an "opinion". A good scientist won't argue his "opinion" until she realizes that it should be objectively correct. My quantum prof told me something that I don't think I will ever forget - "never marry yourself to an idea". I think that sums it up.

Do you consider a priest or a rabbi to be a professional? You seem to imply the that scientists are simply scientists because that is what they are good at and that they are just doing it for the social status (like everyone else in the professional sphere). Then again you refer to "professional scientists" in the last line - are you making a professional scientists a subset of scientists whole? Do you see any other kind of scientist subset?


HUGHAGI INDUSTRIES

We don't make the products you like, we make you like the products we make.
[ Parent ]

Trolls (3.00 / 10) (#7)
by decoy on Wed May 16, 2001 at 10:40:20 AM EST

Trolls are larval politicians. Trolls troll for fun, but politicians troll for fun and profit.

Nice writeup (1.75 / 4) (#8)
by Da Unicorn on Wed May 16, 2001 at 10:41:11 AM EST

Very nice writeup. I got a tad confused with the A / B thing but knew what you meant. I liked it a lot.

Thank You.

Da

A challenge (3.15 / 13) (#12)
by streetlawyer on Wed May 16, 2001 at 10:57:57 AM EST

Here's a challenge, for anyone who wants to take it up (although it would be rather cowardly of the author of the piece to dodge it).

As one of the more prominent trolls on this site, I'd like to challenge anyone to find a post signed by me which contains a straightforward false factual claim, which I maintained after being corrected. Please note that statements of opinion are not straightforward factual claims; nor are philosophical statements except in so far as they depend on empirical or mathematical premises.

There's an old proverb where I come from: put up or shut up. I have no real hope of the second, but am at least asking for the first.

Let the games begin ....

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever

Exquisite! (4.00 / 5) (#20)
by DesiredUsername on Wed May 16, 2001 at 11:37:08 AM EST

"I'd like to challenge anyone to find a post signed by me which contains a straightforward false factual claim, which I maintained after being corrected."

A perfet example of pointless trolling, thank you. The way you deflect attention away from the "supercilious attitudes" and "deliberate jabbing" towards the irrelevant "false information" is just beautiful. I congratulate you. Now here's the door...

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Grow up (2.00 / 7) (#23)
by streetlawyer on Wed May 16, 2001 at 11:54:30 AM EST

The substantive charge of the article is that trolls post false information. That charge is wrong. The article could claim that scientists do not have supercilious attitudes, or that scientists do not needlessly court controversy, but it (wisely) does not.

Now grow up. You appear to be on a quest to score points off me; this will not work.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Read it again, for comprehension (3.40 / 5) (#25)
by DesiredUsername on Wed May 16, 2001 at 12:03:56 PM EST

"The substantive charge of the article is that trolls post false information."

No, the charge is that trolls post opinions/information that they do not personally believe for the purpose of getting a rise out of people (or "educating" them, or whatever).

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
He does have a point.. (4.00 / 4) (#30)
by ignatiusst on Wed May 16, 2001 at 12:22:45 PM EST

Although I am generally opposed to streetlaywer's attitude (I have given him a good number of 0/1 in the past), He does have a point here.

I don't think that the substantive nature of this article is to establish Trolls as liars, but it does try to establish that point (whether or not the author intended that effect):

Let me propose the following thought-experiment. US Vice President Dick Cheney recently stated that conservation of resources had no place in long-term US energy policy. What would have happened if, several weeks previous, some randomusername posted an article to K5 or Slashdot based on the same idea? The shouts of "Troll!" would have been heard (in either admiring or annoyed tones) far and wide. But Cheney wasn't trolling when he made that statement. Instead he was propagating a Big Lie.
This is a very hard article to argue against because to come out against it is to argue for Trolls.. I am not able to determine, though, if that is a result of the author's writing style or if it is a result inherent in the topic.

When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him. -- Jonathan Swift
[ Parent ]

Ego (4.42 / 7) (#29)
by ucblockhead on Wed May 16, 2001 at 12:21:56 PM EST

...although it would be rather cowardly of the author of the piece to dodge it...
Why, do you think she was talking about you?
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
challenge (4.50 / 4) (#47)
by alprazolam on Wed May 16, 2001 at 02:15:36 PM EST

I'd like to challenge anyone to find a post signed by me which contains a straightforward false factual claim, which I maintained after being corrected.

Heh. Who was saying there's no humour on this site? That's the funniest post I've read in a while. Like anybody gives the half a shit that would be required to do this.

[ Parent ]

You aren't a troll in the classical sense .... (4.00 / 2) (#89)
by rawthorne on Thu May 17, 2001 at 11:21:52 AM EST

... you have an argumentative, irritating personality, which is a totally different kettle of shrimp. Kind of like your countryman eLuddite.

You shouldn't take accusations of being a troll too literally: the word is also used in a perjorative sense.

You're more a troll in the time-honored Usenet tradition of butting into technical discussions with political flamebait (witness your .sig). (Newbie on comp.linux - "How do I get my soundcard to work"? Troll on comp.linux - "Install Windows").

There really aren't that many good full-time trolls on k5. One of the better candidates ( trhurler) trolls sometimes, but he's also apt to get a little too emotionally caught up in the melee that ensues. A really good troll should stir only the waters that lie close to home - if you are a right-winger at heart it is best you troll the right-wing. Trolling the left wing can leave you taking the ensuing debate a little too seriously.



[ Parent ]

people rush to hug me when i walk in public (none / 0) (#110)
by eLuddite on Thu May 17, 2001 at 11:59:27 PM EST

(Furry animals rush to smell my crotch, which is rather friendlier, dont you think?)

I am universally loved and the only irritating thing about streetlawyer is his unfailing ability to puncture skin made thin for its smugness with the bon mot instead of the soulless syllogism that too many people around here confuse with truth.

A really good troll should stir only the waters that lie close to home

I shall disprove that statement of abject rhetoric by appealing to the scientific theory of gravitation: water collects shit uphill before flowing "close to home."

Q.E.D.

H.U.G.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

unfactual claim (5.00 / 1) (#90)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu May 17, 2001 at 11:58:00 AM EST

How about when you put words in my mouth?

I don't know if you still maintain I said what you said I said, but neither have you admitted that I didn't say what you said I said.

[ Parent ]

that was an honest mistake (none / 0) (#113)
by streetlawyer on Fri May 18, 2001 at 04:14:14 AM EST

And I would have admitted it if I'd seen your post. The only outright lie I can recall telling is when communista asked me if I was behind the "tired_of_communista" userid and I said I wasn't.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Nice critique but... (3.57 / 7) (#16)
by nobbystyles on Wed May 16, 2001 at 11:01:01 AM EST

K5 is primarily an entertainment and community site rather than a serious scientific journal (well at least I think so!).

So trolling has its place as means of entertainment and some of the trolls are very entertaining...

If you want informed, consensus based debates on weighty matters then you've come to the wrong place...Some nuggets of useful info appear here but a lot of time its hot air, trolls and preaching to the converted...

Two things (3.90 / 10) (#18)
by trhurler on Wed May 16, 2001 at 11:08:16 AM EST

First, if you honestly think that the majority of scientists aren't petty and aren't subject to political concerns, then perhaps you aren't as clever and objectively detached as you believe. One of the reasons I despise academia in general is this persistent and totally baseless assumption that academic degrees magically alter the personalities of those upon whom they are conferred. Academics in general, and scientists in particular, are fond of believing themselves above the fray, but then, so is everyone else.

Second, what in the name of all that is trhurler makes you think Dick Cheney said conservation has no place in US policy? He did say conservation is not sufficient by itself. That much is true. Of course, the problem with this, from your perspective, is that far from being a big lie, it is the Big Truth[tm] that politicians have been pretending not to see for about 20 years now. I did not and will not vote for Bush/Cheney, but if you're going to criticize them, at least criticize what they actually said or did! (They did teach the distinction between necessary and sufficient when you were an undergrad, right?)

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

A small analysis of trolls (4.20 / 5) (#22)
by slaytanic killer on Wed May 16, 2001 at 11:46:56 AM EST

I don't think this topic on trolls should be approached from "Trolls are against the scientific process, so they're bad." Rather, the question is what trolling can offer the process.

Many information-gathering processes depend on clear signal. It is as if everyone wants to immediately create a group mind and knowledge history. Unfortunately, they do not start from the assumption that the signal that enters the system should sometimes be "dirty." For them, any dirtiness is an anomaly. There can be errors, but not pure dirt.

But an individual's mind doesn't work that way. We use a very complex and changing set of heuristics to view the world, and while we are often wrong, we can also be brilliant. Not all of us are wrong at any one time, and not all us are brilliant either. The two overlap, and a good system allows the best to rise to the top. The alternative is just a safe system for incremental improvements, with little real inspiration and assumption checking.

So I believe a more robust system expects dirty noise. It is all information, no matter how validly the information maps out to the "real world," and not being able to handle dirty information is definitely a flaw.
Our intellectual life is spent in working out hard problems, and such game-playing might be construed as a waste of Dr. A's time and effort for Dr. B's entertainment.
There is a flaw which lurks within this argument. If Dr. A relies too much on Dr. B's results, there is the possibility he will lose touch from reality, and will be doing science against an abstracted world of information which is not the real world. The problems of trolls show themselves immediately in many cases; the insidious problems of leaning too much on someone else's web of information don't. Engineers like systems which crash quickly, rather than those with insidious defects.
I don't know what Cheney's purpose was, but I doubt he can honestly say he believes that statement.
Within the framework I just mentioned (a good system is measured in terms of how rigor and brilliance floats to the top), a person like Cheney wouldn't be able to manipulate the system so strongly. People could "opt-out" of his universe. Difficult? Certainly. The system which has been set up for centuries propagates the notion that "Lies don't live long in a democracy." Unfortunately, the US is not a democracy but a republic.
Why? Because we don't have time for this.
Quite true, and impatience is a starting-point of building a good system. There has to be trusted communication at some point, if just for speed. That is what email is for, as well as closed specialty websites. Each individual of the system should understand that they should build up or find trusted systems if speed is important. I believe it is a much better idea than relying on a publication's reputation as a filter, since editors and management often change.

assumption (2.00 / 4) (#27)
by streetlawyer on Wed May 16, 2001 at 12:09:00 PM EST

you assume that the trolls are providing noise and the regular posters are providing signal, which is certainly never true on slashdot, and not usually true on kuro5hin.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
What does noise mean? (3.20 / 5) (#31)
by slaytanic killer on Wed May 16, 2001 at 12:23:05 PM EST

I am using arbitrary words, which reflect iGrrl's presentation of the issue. The reason I have a visceral disagreement with iGrrl is because I've learned quite a bit reading trolls.

Learning about trolls... Maybe I've looked like an idiot at times, running around for a day with a hammer looking for nails, but when the day's done, I'll be pretty good with that hammer... ;)

[ Parent ]
Trollish motivations (4.21 / 14) (#24)
by spiralx on Wed May 16, 2001 at 12:00:11 PM EST

The writers of good trolls seem to be very smart, and very arrogant. If people are dumb enough to believe their slick presentations, it proves the troll's superiority. The idea of the divide between the 1337 (elite) and the lusers runs deep in internet culture. Trolls generally get recognized as such by other 1337s, and anyone with a clue knows to place little trust in net posts. But what happens outside the net?

Well I troll, although not so much nowadays.

And while I appreciate the smart compliment, I'd like to say otherwise about the arrogant one. It's not about arrogance. I don't do it to prove I'm better than anyone else. I can't really speak for the motivations of other trolls, but I do it for the challenge of doing it, and because of attitudes like yours where people are 1337 or lusers.

Just look at /. for an example of a place where people consider themselves to be intellectually superior. They're smug about how much better they are, and it's all a round of backslapping and groupthink rather than any real consideration. Presenting them with positions that are outside what they let themselves be exposed to is if anything, good for them, because at least it might force them to think for once!

Quite frankly, trolls are good for ensuring that places don't stagnate and end up smelling bad. Whilst k5 isn't quite like that yet, there are worrying signs emerging that it could do. And because it's a social phenomenon, there needs to be a social solution.

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey

Interesting but incorrect. (3.16 / 6) (#32)
by OriginalGTT on Wed May 16, 2001 at 12:34:16 PM EST

Because you see, I am better than everyone else.

In all seriousness, much of the hoopla about trolls on this site in particular is unneeded. People enjoy screaming and shouting. If they really wanted us gone you just disable the troll accounts. But what about trhurler? Is he a troll? What about Lee? He's gotta be one. Then here's your slippery slope. Suddenly the only people who are allowed to post are Rusty and Inoshiro.

So you are left with this conundrum. But I offer this. Noone on this site /really/ could spot a troll even if it was labeled with BLINK tags. Why?

Dunno. I ain't gots no big truths. I only gots da little ones.

But I believe everything I post. And yet I'm still a troll. Another wonderful definition thrown to the dogs.

[ Parent ]

Me and Inoshiro? (3.50 / 4) (#39)
by rusty on Wed May 16, 2001 at 01:21:03 PM EST

Suddenly the only people who are allowed to post are Rusty and Inoshiro.

Who says we're not trolls too? :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Bah (2.50 / 2) (#40)
by OriginalGTT on Wed May 16, 2001 at 01:31:23 PM EST

Allow me to offer a quote.

So tell me what you want what you really really want.

;)

[ Parent ]

I don't. (4.27 / 11) (#33)
by Kiss the Blade on Wed May 16, 2001 at 12:35:33 PM EST

On the rare occasions that I troll, I do so to demonstrate my inherent superiority and wallow in my ego. I crush others with my intellect and enjoy being supercillious and arrogant.

I also preach the virtues of trolling all the time - how it stops stagnation, provides people to argue against for the bots, and enlivens the site with entertainment. I do my best to spread misinformation through the use of multiple accounts and personas.

I make sweeping generalisations about how trolls are the High Priests of any site, setting the agenda, behind every drama and scandal, dominating the front page of k5 and acting as beta testers for ideas (apologies to georgeha), being the final arbiters of right and wrong, and forcing these stupid 'lusers' to think about the assumptions behind their silly ravings. I expect everyone to get down on their knees and thank me for my good deeds, for keeping crummy sites like this alive.

I also eat babies.

KTB:Lover, Poet, Artiste, Aesthete, Programmer.
There is no contradiction.
[ Parent ]

Oppression of trolls on k5 (1.18 / 16) (#48)
by gisano on Wed May 16, 2001 at 02:23:14 PM EST

There are oppressioning of trolls on k5. The trolls are being oppressed here. The oppression is happening to the trolls.

I try to entertain and be funny. I am anoying and make mistakes because I am the character of a young boy from Ulzamastan who is opressed. I troll because it make me laugh and I have fun with people. I try to bring other view to site where all people are like enani say, 'masa baku poopyhead'. I want to end stupidity on the site by showing how stupid people are. I give bad humor in hope of people laughing and recognize good humor. I try to look at stories and posts then make joke like submission of slashdot as MLP for people to laugh because many complain "this is not slashdot!" to much. Sometimes I post a story that is contrary so I can get people to think even if they get mad and vote it down. If my story gets post, good, if it gets dump, good, as long as I make someone laugh and someone think I am happy. If I annoy people, it is their own fault for making k5 the cesspool of poopoo that has become many people on this site. I just want to help laugh for everyone.

And I try to make laugh the people that make this site. Today, rustry tried to rape my butt.
HELP! I AM BEING OPPRESSED!
[ Parent ]
The problem with trolls... (4.00 / 2) (#53)
by SvnLyrBrto on Wed May 16, 2001 at 02:45:53 PM EST

It's like the boy who cried wolf...

>Presenting them with positions that are outside what they let themselves be
>exposed to is if anything, good for them, because at least it might force them
>to think for once!

So when a contrary opinion pops up, just HOW do you tell if it's a real person, who honestly DOES have a contrary opinion, vs. a fictional troll character, who has NO opinion, and is thrown out by someone, bored at work, or whatever, just to stir up conflict?

Sure, there are accounts that are known to be trolls.

But who says that the person who ownes these characters HAVE to use them? Or that they don't have backups? Or entirely new creations?

Karma and the like are pretty much worthless. On slashdot, if you can get to the article and post a summary, or even a few more relevant links; you're pretty much guaranteed a +5 informative if you get in before comment 50 or so. +5 insightful is equally easy to garner. So forget about checking the account's scores.

You could watch geekizoid, or look for the illicit sid's to get some idea of which accounts are illegitimate. But all the SMART people who own troll accounts don't expose their characters in that manner anymore. And that's too much effort, usually, for a merely casual reader/poster.

So how DO you tell if that contrary opinion comes from a real person, or a figment of someone's imagination? How DO you know if it's worth debating, or just downmodding and ignoreing???


john

Imagine all the people...
[ Parent ]

Your attitude is very old media (3.25 / 4) (#54)
by georgeha on Wed May 16, 2001 at 02:59:08 PM EST

in that you're saying that only opinions from certain people matter.

Contrary opinions only matter if they're from people who sincerely believe them, and not from trolls.

And if you don't like a contrary opinion, you can rationalize that it belongs to an undiscovered troll and ignore it.

I believe that while a person's intent behind an opinion matters, the opinion itself has weight too. Melville only intended Moby Dick to be a whaling yarn, is it less useful a metaphor of struggling with the unconsciousness because of this?

[ Parent ]

One thing I don't understand (3.63 / 11) (#26)
by Wonko The Sane on Wed May 16, 2001 at 12:06:57 PM EST

There's one thing which is very cruicial to the article which I don't understand: Why does the personal point of view of a person expressing an opinion affect the merit of the expressed opinion?!
To clarify, let's take the archtypal troll, whom we'll call, oh, I don't know, Signal 11. (No personal offence intended.) Signal 11 posts something which he does not believe in. However, it is almost always true that there are some members of the k5 readership who do believe in it, but chose not to post, for various reasons. Signal's post is immediately labeled a troll (Which carries a negative connotation - not as a word that defines something posted in which the poster does not believe. The latter usage would be acceptable.), and as such not worthy of a reply. Then Signal 11 gets flamed for trolling, while the content of his comment is ignored.

It is true that the `troll` comment might've been posted purely to provoke an emotional response. But that does not make the opinion expressed in the comment any less worthy. A claim to the contrary is in fact an ad hominem attack, since it judges an opinion by an external factor related to the person who expressed it.

Now, it is true that some troll posts should indeed be ignored. But not because they are trolls, but because it is well-known that discussions along the lines the poster would like us to pursue either lead nowhere, or to a predetermined and well-known outcome. This is the concept I believe Godwin's law to be based on. And it applies just as well to any post of the said kind.
However, ignoring posts that express genuinely valuable opinions on the grounds of `not feeding the trolls` is questionable behaviour at best.

This is an EX-PARROT!
Because it's fencing with a shadow (4.14 / 7) (#28)
by DesiredUsername on Wed May 16, 2001 at 12:19:42 PM EST

If your arguments do not proceed from your beliefs, what exactly is the benefit and/or purpose of my arguing with you? It can't be to convince you you are wrong, because you don't genuinely believe it. It can't be to convince me to come to your side, because that isn't your side.

If you genuinely have a different opinions, just post it. Don't adopt a pseudo-position--that just confuses the matter.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Hmm... (3.50 / 8) (#36)
by OriginalGTT on Wed May 16, 2001 at 12:56:24 PM EST

what exactly is the benefit and/or purpose of my arguing with you?

What is the point of arguing on a weblog at all? Let's be honest here, people's minds don't change when they have an opinion of something. Especially not because "DragonLore2K1" told me I'm wrong. One can barely trust tech advice, as you will get many different answers.

No, in reality, people argue on these sites for a variety of reasons. Allow me to summarize some.

1. For the sake of it AKA boredom.
2. Psychological They are not taken serious at home/work/school, so they argue somewhere their opinions "matter".
3. Trolls You enjoy watching someone (metaphorically) jump up and down in anger, and find humour in people trying to refute points that you may or may not have made up 4 minutes earlier.
4. Practice Hey let's face it, some guys like Lee and Streetlawyer and Eluddite require you to be sharp to keep up with them. So it's good intellectual practice.

For the majority of K5, #2 applies. A few are #1 and 4.

What's my point? My point is that all of us are actually wasting time here. Whatever are reasons. So whether you are arguing with someone who believes or not, is meaningless. The outcome is the same. Let me sum up with a Koan.

Just as the whole is more than the sum of parts, the Forest more than the tree and Birds, Such is man greater than the wanking of it's youth on Kuro5hin.org.

HTH

[ Parent ]

Ummm... (none / 0) (#106)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Thu May 17, 2001 at 09:55:50 PM EST

I can honestly say that I have changed my ideas on several issues and topics because of what I have read here and on other discussion sites. Just because you may not take the opinions and arguments that you read seriously, don't insult us all by attributing us this attitude. Some of us actually try to live up to some intellectual standards (though as humans, we often fail).

I realize that you were just trying to add a touch of reality to the discussion (or maybe you were trolling and I bit :) ). However, just because it is dismal, bleak, uninspiring, or otherwise more negative than the higher ideals, doesn't necessarily mean it is any more real.



[ Parent ]

Seems a bit Messianic to me. (3.25 / 4) (#37)
by Kiss the Blade on Wed May 16, 2001 at 01:00:31 PM EST

If your arguments do not proceed from your beliefs, what exactly is the benefit and/or purpose of my arguing with you?

This presupposes that the point of arguing with someone is to convince your opponent of your viewpoint. Personally, I couldn't give a toss what the other person believes, I am interested in the argument for what I can learn from it, and for the sheer fun of it on it's own terms. I am rather suspicious of people who think that arguing is all about spreading one's worldview around. I can't understand the motivations. In old people it might be a desire for immortality, and of course amongst all people of this stripe there would appear to be a hint of the egomaniac, even megalomaniac. Convincing other people of my ideas is useful in some situations, if the argument is serious, such as the arena of politics. However, on a weblog this sort of motivation shouldn't be around at all.

Why should beliefs matter on a weblog? They don't, not one whit.

KTB:Lover, Poet, Artiste, Aesthete, Programmer.
There is no contradiction.
[ Parent ]

how about _boxing_ with a shadow? (3.50 / 4) (#38)
by ODiV on Wed May 16, 2001 at 01:03:18 PM EST

If you can fend off attackers to your viewpoint (regardless of whether or not these attackers are genuine), then your ability to do so in the future heightens. If you cannot, then you need to re-evaluate your stance on said viewpoint.

Do you honestly post here in order to convert people to your "side"? I think you're simplifying the issue here. I might take up a position contrary to your argument, whether or not I agree with your conclusions, simply because I see problems with it.

That's my take on it anyway.

In the case of people knowledgably posting lies in order to stir things up, I don't really know if that has much value... but it's definately different than what I mentionned above.


--
[ odiv.net ]
[ Parent ]
Devils Advocacy (3.00 / 1) (#83)
by darthaggie on Thu May 17, 2001 at 10:02:57 AM EST

If your arguments do not proceed from your beliefs, what exactly is the benefit and/or purpose of my arguing with you?

Well, there are several...we get to see how you think, you get an opportunity to express yourself, we get a chance to see if you can express yourself in a coherent fashion, others may jump in and express the concept in a better manner and you gain an opportunity to learn.

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

Because credibility matters (4.66 / 6) (#41)
by 0xdeadbeef on Wed May 16, 2001 at 01:32:43 PM EST

The rating of this rambling article demonstates that clearly.

The trolls like to pretend otherwise, that ideas exist as some platonic essense independant of who speaks them or their motivation for doing so. As one of their own has already expressed in a similar context, that is bullshit.

With any statement of opinion there is an entire model of the world behind it that exists in the speaker's mind. When you argue with someone, you're not fitting words together to see which ones are internally consistent like proving some theorem, you're pitting world-views against each together to see which is more congruent with the real world.

A troll is a hollow shell. There is nothing behind his opinions. He assembles some catchy words together, words that have been demonstrated to provoke certain kinds of people, and unleashes them in a new form to see if it will provide the same result. When you argue with a troll, you're arguing with nothing more than a stereotype. You're providing pr0n for his intellectual masturbation.

True, it might still cause someone to question their assumptions, but so would reading the original material from which the troll derives his work. An honest opinion, backed by facts and well-reasoned conlcusions, means a hell of a lot more than the empty rhetoric of a troll. An honest opinion can be followed up on, it can be explained in greater detail, and even modified to fit new data.

How does a troll do that? He either supports his "argument", or allows others to do so for him. These others will make all kinds of assumptions about the intention of the troll and include information not in the original statement, thus creating a new, legitimate argument. But when an argument is baseless, and consists primarily of emotional triggers for knee-jerkers, what the hell is there to defend? No one learns anything, but everyone is pissed off. Wow, a real truimph for the free exchange of ideas.

BTW, this is ad hominem: You are a scoundrel, so your opninion must be wrong!
This is not ad hominem: You are a troll, so your opinion is not worth listening to.

[ Parent ]
Credibility matters with facts, not opinions. (4.50 / 2) (#58)
by Wonko The Sane on Wed May 16, 2001 at 03:49:23 PM EST

Ideas do exist separately of their speaker, if they are self contained. And since it's usually not too hard to extrapolate a consistent self-contained view from a good `troll` post. So, it's not arguing with an empty shell, it's arguing with an idea - although it is represented `dishonestly`.
Also, the honesty of the person expressing the idea has nothing to do with whether it is backed by facts and well-reasoned conlcusions. An opinion backed by facts is worth more than one not backed by them, whether or not it's honest or not.
Besides, don't forget, in a frontpage or Op-Ed story, there is a good chance of a at least a dozen of people reading that argument, at least one of them supporting the troll. So it's not that no one learns anything, but everyone is pissed off.

BTW, this is ad hominem: You are a scoundrel, so your opninion must be wrong!
This is not ad hominem: You are a troll, so your opinion is not worth listening to.

I fail to see the difference

This is an EX-PARROT!
[ Parent ]
You forget one thing (5.00 / 1) (#63)
by 0xdeadbeef on Wed May 16, 2001 at 06:18:14 PM EST

Not many trolls are backed by facts or have well reasoned conclusions. It sort of goes against the very definition of "troll". Even those that provide some sort of factual evidence usually do so to gain an air of credibility, and not to support their vacuous argument. Anne Marie's stories are probably the pinnacle example in this regard.

I fail to see the difference
In the latter case, the potential truth of the opinion is irrelevant, because you are judging it on the probability that it will be too vague or nonsensical to merit evaluation. Perhaps that is an error, but you can hardly fault someone for lacking infinite attention and patience.

[ Parent ]
some counterpoints (none / 0) (#104)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Thu May 17, 2001 at 09:33:58 PM EST

"And since it's usually not too hard to extrapolate a consistent self-contained view from a good `troll` post."

Ahh, but one of the pieces of advice in trolling-how-to's (like this one) is contradiction.

Quoting the how-to to which I linked: "Never be afraid to contradict yourself, even in the space of a single sentence. The phrases 'I am a top programmer who codes in VB' or 'I am a supporter of open source who uses NT at work and 95 at home' will be sure to get a response from some weenie smugly pointing out the contradiction. Confuse the issue more by engaging in contradiction when you are feeding - this will confuse /.ers who will then make even more stupid replies, leaving them even more wide open for response."

Thus, we can see that trollers are not out to form and defend positions in logical space. That is called playing Devil's Advocate. 'Troll' != 'Devil's Advocate'. We mean something quite different when using these two terms. Trolls are out to, once again in the words of the linked-to piece, "elicit the maximum amount of responses from unthinking /.ers."

I don't mean to imply that trolls don't have some utility. Like devil's advocates, they have a role to play in the grand scheme of interpersonal communication/cogitation. Well done trolling could be used, as a tool, in exposing groupthink, but that is only ever a secondary intention (and a rather rare one it would seem). The primary intention is getting a rise out of people.

Furthermore, when someone is trying to connect with other people (find out their opinions, desires, hopes, fears, ideals, and so forth) trolling is counterproductive... as is playing devil's advocate.

With this post, I'm talking to you, as an individual with certain opinions (the fact that we let everyone on k5 listen in and add to the exchange is the extra spark to the process). You can reply, clarify, etc., and, in the process, we can both benefit from the exchange (for instance one or both of us might change our opinions a bit). The troll (disregarding those few with the aforementioned secondary goal) makes a mockery of those people with genuine opinions similar (in form or reality) to the one the troll pretends to espouse. The troll makes a mockery of those who respond by using their feelings and opinions as a plaything. And furthermore, the troll degrades the whole process of exchanging opinions for mutual potiential benefit and understanding, by being a defector in the process, adding to the noise. The troll cannot change their opinion from one they do not hold. Rare is the troll that puts forth their pretend opinion in a way that truly tries to convince others. The interpersonal exchange has been turned into a game for one participant's amusement.

The troll is doing exactly what my older brother enjoyed doing to me when he had me a disadvantage (which might explain the tone of my rant), taking advantage of the situation for short term humor at the expense of long term trust (which was one of the points of iGrrrl's piece).

BTW: I don't really care all that much if people troll. The best defense (like in the case of my brother) is to laugh at them, pretending to laugh with them. And to cultivate a sense of apathy mixed with sympathy. How sad, the trolls that don't know how to really connect. Or something, black hole.



[ Parent ]

Hmm. Not what I meant. (4.00 / 2) (#44)
by iGrrrl on Wed May 16, 2001 at 01:55:55 PM EST

There's one thing which is very cruicial to the article which I don't understand: Why does the personal point of view of a person expressing an opinion affect the merit of the expressed opinion?!

In the piece I allow that such expressed opinions probably have value. What I don't care for, and don't find in my professional life (which I admit takes place in an ivory tower furnished with constant (honest) criticism), is to engage in a discussion with someone playing devil's advocate when they do not make it clear that's what they're doing. It's a personal preference.

However, ignoring posts that express genuinely valuable opinions on the grounds of `not feeding the trolls` is questionable behaviour at best.

As I said, I often do respond. When I have time and inclination. There are many other things which all of us have to do outside this confine. K5 time is playtime for me, and I don't always have time to play. Nor do I like to "waste" the time on the kind of troll you describe. Again, personal preference.

--
You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.
[ Parent ]

Personal preferences (2.00 / 3) (#56)
by Wonko The Sane on Wed May 16, 2001 at 03:35:28 PM EST

Personal preferences go in the diary. :)
If you felt strongly enough about this to post it as Op-Ed instead of Diary, then it's not just a matter of personal preference. Or are you `trolling`?

This is an EX-PARROT!
[ Parent ]
Scientists troll, and for fun, too! (4.50 / 8) (#34)
by georgeha on Wed May 16, 2001 at 12:42:22 PM EST

For they apparently consider non-scientists fair game for these antics.

cf. Sokal and Social Text.

Your assignment today, comapre and contrast trolling at k5 with Sokal's publication of "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," and explain why the former is bad, and the latter is good.

Sokal wasn't exactly trolling (4.33 / 3) (#42)
by DesiredUsername on Wed May 16, 2001 at 01:41:27 PM EST

He was performing a control experiment. "Social Text" found meaning in text Sokal found meaningless. So he submitted a known-meaningless text and they also found meaning there. Proving that "what Social Text finds meaningful" is a useless set.

That's a little different from trolling, IMHO. However, I will agree that if someone (or worse, several someones) did the same thing, over and over and over, it would be annoying and probably worthless. I mean, it's one thing to confirm to yourself (and anyone else who cares to watch) that a forum is engaged in intellectual masturbation. It's another thing entirely to join in on a regular basis "just for academic purposes, doncha know".

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
So the intent matters? Or the frequency? (3.40 / 5) (#43)
by georgeha on Wed May 16, 2001 at 01:55:33 PM EST

If I were to post controversial posts on k5 and /. for no other reason than to pass the time, I would be trolling, but if I were gaining data on the subconscious stereotypes of the typical /bot or k5 reader for a sociology thesis, it would not be trolling?

If I were to post a single controversial post on a weblog, that's not trolling?

I'm sorry, judging the acceptability of an activity based on someone's alleged intention is a little skeevy, as is giving someone a one time pass.

[ Parent ]

What is "trolling"? (4.00 / 4) (#45)
by DesiredUsername on Wed May 16, 2001 at 02:06:19 PM EST

First, let me be clear: What Sokal did was probably unethical--he performed a psychological experiment upon unwitting subjects. But I'm not sure I'd use the word "trolling" to describe it.

What about other psychology experiments, like this one: Man stands on a street corner looking skyward. An assistant records how many passers-by also look up. Are they trolling? If you think they are, then fine, Sokal was "trolling". But I think there is a difference between that and what someone like "Jon Erikson" (of /. fame) does.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Trolling, polling, selling (3.33 / 3) (#46)
by georgeha on Wed May 16, 2001 at 02:13:24 PM EST

let's take Jon Erikson as an example. What's the difference between his posts on /. attempting to emotionally manipulate a core audience into responding, and a Madison Avenue adman attempting to emotionally manipulate a core audience into buying?

What's the difference between a troll using loaded qords to evoke a responce, and a telephone pollster using loaded questions to skew a poll?

[ Parent ]

Nothing (4.00 / 5) (#49)
by Luke Francl on Wed May 16, 2001 at 02:27:03 PM EST

What's the difference between a troll using loaded qords [sic] to evoke a responce, and a telephone pollster using loaded questions to skew a poll?
Nothing. They are both scum, and they are both wasting my time. That's my biggest problem with trolls: you are wasting my time.

[ Parent ]
your valuable K5 time (2.70 / 10) (#55)
by anonymous cowerd on Wed May 16, 2001 at 03:00:40 PM EST

Nothing. They are both scum, and they are both wasting my time. That's my biggest problem with trolls: you are wasting my time.

Rather than tutoring underprivileged children, or building new woodframe houses for "Habitat for Humanity," or visiting old grandmas at the local nursing home, or dynamiting power towers to hasten the maximalist revolution, or something else similarly useful and meritorious, here you're sitting around reading K5, and you're complaining about someone "wasting your time"?

Besides that admittedly ad hominem rebuttal (hey, you deserve that, calling my buds "scum"), let me ask you, is going to the art museum a waste of your time? Because, beside the fact that some of these trolls you despise happen to be among the most incisive thinkers to be found in these parts, unselfishly sharing their wisdom with us readers zen-style, by way of repeated kicks in the rear (laughter = enlightenment!) they are also some of the best word artists you can find in either place. Stepping up from our little ephemeral K5 to the big world of classic literature, I'd judge Swift's A Modest Proposal as every bit as artistically fine, as intellectually stimulating, as instructive and persuasive, maybe more so, than, say, this strictly non-facetious text of Schopenhauer's.

Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

breathe deep, breathe high, breathe life, don't breathe a lie
[ Parent ]

My time is mine (4.66 / 6) (#57)
by Luke Francl on Wed May 16, 2001 at 03:36:53 PM EST

Rather than tutoring underprivileged children, or building new woodframe houses for "Habitat for Humanity," or visiting old grandmas at the local nursing home, or dynamiting power towers to hasten the maximalist revolution, or something else similarly useful and meritorious, here you're sitting around reading K5, and you're complaining about someone "wasting your time"?
My time is mine. You can't get me to do something "more worthwhile" with it any more than I can get you to stop trolling.

I come to K5 to read discussion. Trolls get in the way of discussion. They increase the amount of noise here, either through their own posts, or by the posts of those taken in by their troll.

Furthermore, most trolls are exactly the type of people I do not like: arrogant and self-righteous. I don't care if it's just a character they're playing. I want to associate with people who are open to other points of view. This is where the hypocrisy of the troll apologists galls me. On one hand, trolls are standing up for a intellectual honesty and the time-honored tradition of "devil's advocate". But on the other hand, trolls are just charactures of real ideas. They are sophists, and they don't change. People can change, but if a troll sees reason in one of his opponent's arguments, he can't concede the point, or his troll will cease to be effective.

Do you think most trolls would do their thing if there was any accountability? I don't. I post under my real name here so that it will remind me to not say anything stupid. You can count on my posts to contain my real opinion, backed up by facts where applicable, or clearly stating that I am playing the devil's advocate.

Stepping up from our little ephemeral K5 to the big world of classic literature, I'd judge Swift's A Modest Proposal as every bit as artistically fine, as intellectually stimulating, as instructive and persuasive, maybe more so, than, say, this strictly non-facetious text of Schopenhauer's.
True. The trolls of K5 do their thing well. I said they were smart! But don't compare them to Swift. Swift's essay is funny for everyone. It doesn't make anyone feel stupid. No one could ever consider it his truthful opinion. A sucessful troll is only successful precisely because someone has been lured in. And the troller does this repeatedly. This is unproductive, contributes to the poor signal-to-noise ratio, and therefore wastes my time.

[ Parent ]
The "Moon": A Ridiculous Liberal Myth (4.00 / 2) (#59)
by georgeha on Wed May 16, 2001 at 03:51:29 PM EST

is a famous troll that I consider just as funny and satirical as A Modest Proposal.

And I'm sure you could find some people of Irish extraction that would be offended by Swift, as well as Roman Catholics.

[ Parent ]

I almost mentioned that... (3.50 / 2) (#60)
by Luke Francl on Wed May 16, 2001 at 04:15:41 PM EST

I almost mentioned that post, but I didn't want to dig up a link to it. You're right, that is in the tradition of Swift. But it's clearly nonsense. I believe it got moderated up to 5 on slashdot (I didn't see it at the time, however). But why? Because it's funny! It's funny because, like Swift, it reveals a deeper truth.

I would not consider this a troll.

And I'm sure you could find some people of Irish extraction that would be offended by Swift, as well as Roman Catholics.
You're probably right -- I shouldn't have used an absolute. I think my point still stands, though: nearly everyone would not be fooled by a "Modest Proposal" troll. For the typical troll, success comes from fooling moderators (getting the coveted "5 insightful") and casual posters, thus distinguishing the typical troll from Swift.

[ Parent ]
A modest proposal (3.00 / 1) (#85)
by kirghiz on Thu May 17, 2001 at 10:25:01 AM EST

Not really, he was Irish himself, Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, and much loved by the people of the city.

Oh wait... you said people of Irish extraction? That is different, after all, it was the Irish Americans that managed to get the Irish Famine seen as a war crime...

[ Parent ]

Actually (3.00 / 1) (#87)
by Bob Abooey on Thu May 17, 2001 at 10:35:23 AM EST

I don't believe that "The Moon: A Ridiculous Liberal Myth" is a troll. It's surely satire and very entertaining, but it's not a real troll.


-------
Comments on politics from a man whose life seems to revolve around his lunch menu just do not hold weight. - Casioitan
[ Parent ]
I'm confused (2.00 / 2) (#61)
by Jack Wagner on Wed May 16, 2001 at 05:31:12 PM EST

most trolls are exactly the type of people I do not like: arrogant and self-righteous

You seem to be cuting a pretty broad path with this one. I suggest that perhaps you find people who make statements which you find distasteful as arrogant and self rightous and thusly label them as trolls. It's a self fullfilling prophecy at that point. "Well, that one's a troll, I don't like him anyways" In fact when you make broad, almost all inclusive statements like that you are most certainly trolling yourself. A good troll will take something which has a shred of truth in it and blow it out of proportion, or perhaps twist it sideways to attempt to stir the pot. You, however, are not quite as creative in your attempts and are simply making silly statemenets which border on racism.

It's been noted by all well known scientists that we dislike in others what we dislike in ourselves. Is this not the real root issue here? It's well known that a major factor in human psychosis is the denial of what is true.

Wagner LLC Consulting - Getting it right the first time
[ Parent ]
Mea culpa (3.00 / 2) (#62)
by Luke Francl on Wed May 16, 2001 at 05:55:37 PM EST

Your logic is impeccable. I am a troll.

[ Parent ]
Schopenhauer, Job, Guatama, Frankl (4.00 / 1) (#68)
by johnny on Wed May 16, 2001 at 09:14:52 PM EST

Oh Schopenhauer is easy to make fun of, and he deserves what he gets. But he's not completely off the mark.

For it's pretty apparent that suffering is a primary compenent of life, if not THE component of life, for many many people. What are we to make of this datum?

Call me a fuggain Puritain, but I would rather prefer the company of Schopenhauer, I think, to the company of the average able-(hard?)-bodied, good-looking, money-in-the-bank, isn't-my-car-lovely, stereotypical Southern Callifornia hedonist. Fucking hell.

Futhermore I think a great deal of the evils in the world today come from a misguided and, (relative to our parent post), empirically disprovable proposition that suffering can be avoided or prevented by the purchase of consumer goods from the high-capitalist economy.

On this topic may I recommend "Man's Search For Meaning" by Victor Frankl. Frankl's prayer was, "may I be worthy of my suffering."

Before you go tossing this off as more Shopenhauerian bullshit, I think you should at least conduct the thought experiment of imagining Frankl's five years in Auschwitz.

Aside: thus it particularly bothers me, as a citizen of the USA republic, to see so much of my country's political will bent, and so many of my own liberties and rights curtailed, towards the bullshit proposition that high capitalism will indeed prevent me, and you, and you, and you, from having to endure suffering. This is the chief BIG LIE of American political discourse: *more stuff* will solve all our problems. Ergo, we elect Dick Cheney president.

Job, of course, gives the classic Western (OK, Jewish, or Lord forgive me, Judeo-Christian) take on suffering. And Guatama, AKA The Buddha, is know for his "Four Truths", the primary of which is, "life is suffering."



yr frn,
jrs
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

schopenhauer (3.00 / 2) (#77)
by streetlawyer on Thu May 17, 2001 at 06:33:00 AM EST

I can't believe that Schopenhauer's fantastic piece of vituperative trolling "On the Professors of Philosophy" is, according to google, not on the net anywhere!

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Nah (2.50 / 2) (#73)
by pallex on Thu May 17, 2001 at 05:05:02 AM EST

If someones stupid enough to fall for them.
Anyway, what i want to know is what the name is for someoneo who falls for a troll. Is there a word? These people are far more stupid than the trolls, surely.
A prize for the best answer, perhaps!


[ Parent ]
They're biters (3.00 / 1) (#74)
by spiralx on Thu May 17, 2001 at 05:28:55 AM EST

In general, they're just called biters. I don't think there's any more offensive term :)

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

Neither? (3.00 / 5) (#51)
by interiot on Wed May 16, 2001 at 02:31:15 PM EST

If an experiment teaches us something new -- anything new -- then it's of at least marginal value.

If the same experiment is done again, it's pointless, and should be considered trolling (save for verifying that the original experiment is reproducable).

[ Parent ]

Sokal is one of my heroes (4.00 / 4) (#50)
by iGrrrl on Wed May 16, 2001 at 02:27:28 PM EST

And yes, I can understand why one might count his experiment as a troll. So why did I cheer when I read about what he did?

I'm tempted to pass my apparent dichotomy of position off by paraphrasing the "consistancy is the hobgoblin of small minds" bit, but that would be dishonest. While I can see his actions as sheer elitist, "make those silly post-modernists look stupid" trolling, he made a point that plays into the article.

In post-modern discussions, everything is framed in terms of its frame and the point of view of the writer. Thus are statements born such as, "Newton's Laws of Motion are so entrenched in male phallocentric patriarchy that they might as well be called Newton's Rape Manual."

Sometimes I wish I could do that sort of "making it up" and get published. But I can't. I have to do actual experiments with controls. Coming up with hypotheses is a form of making things up, but a good hypothesis is based on data and designed to be testable.

A point on the side of the post-modernists though has to do with the following experiment: An image was presented to scientists from different fields (cell biology, astronomy, etc.), and asked them what they thought the data were, and how they'd interpret it. They all came up with something reasonably plausible within their own field. I guess we all do project a bit.

--
You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.
[ Parent ]

Sokal's scholarship (3.00 / 5) (#76)
by streetlawyer on Thu May 17, 2001 at 06:22:06 AM EST

Reviewed, here. But of course, he gets a free ride, because he's a /scientist/.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Sokal (4.00 / 1) (#97)
by Simon Kinahan on Thu May 17, 2001 at 03:25:04 PM EST

Sokal overstates his case, but at the heart of it all he made a good point: the social study of science, postmodern literary studies in general, and the journal Social Text in particular urgently need to review their standards as to what they consider acceptable academic work. Anyone who could accept Sokal's essay, and not only defend the decision, but actually claim Sokal was originally in earnest but had got cold feet is at the very least putting politics before academic integrity.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Their rebuttal (none / 0) (#122)
by stimuli on Mon May 21, 2001 at 05:21:56 PM EST

Sokal and Bricmont provide a rebuttal to this criticism (along with a few others) here.

-- Jeffrey Straszheim
[ Parent ]
spin doctoring 101 (4.16 / 6) (#64)
by eLuddite on Wed May 16, 2001 at 06:22:08 PM EST

Big Lie is the name I use for an untruth so big that it stuns even those who disagree to momentary silence. The difference between a big lie and a mere troll lies in the intent and in the power base of the speaker. What was Cheney's intent with that statement?

The purpose of the Big Officious Lie is to stun the audience into a debate. Reasonable people defend themselves in a debate. The very action of debate lends the Lie a form of credence and imparts a sense of respectability. In phase II, "experts" are trotted out to make statistics out of rhetoric. Assorted fallacies will be spun in order to split the audience into reasonable people versus emotional, reactionary, intolerant baddies. Shortly thereafter, the Big Officious Lie becomes the Conventional Wisdom or the acceptable Necessary Evil.

The baddies become the trolls.

The difference between trolling and the Big Officious Lie is, respectively, intention to promulgate a lie versus intention to reveal it as not true.

---
God hates human rights.

rational versus irrational (4.00 / 1) (#66)
by Luke Francl on Wed May 16, 2001 at 07:12:06 PM EST

Assorted fallacies will be spun in order to split the audience into reasonable people versus emotional, reactionary, intolerant baddies.
This idea was well-illustrated in last week's This Modern World: "FTAA Perspectives".

[ Parent ]
*sigh* <== Notice original subject line. (3.00 / 2) (#67)
by eLuddite on Wed May 16, 2001 at 08:31:46 PM EST

The difference between trolling and the Big Officious Lie is, respectively, intention to promulgate a lie versus intention to reveal it as not true.

That should be:

The difference between the Big Officious Lie and trolling is, respectively, intention to promulgate a lie versus intention to reveal it as not true.

Ever since my W2K boot disk died on me, I've been forced to use Mozilla 0.8 on FreeBSD, a combination so numbingly slow that the preview button has taken on the meaning of luxury. It's a PII 350, fercryingoutloud, a veritable supercomputer compared to the IBM/370 I learnt fortran on. G*d damn. At this point I'd rather spill a deck of punch cards on the floor than post to a thread.

Long live trolls!

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

This is bad... (2.00 / 1) (#84)
by darthaggie on Thu May 17, 2001 at 10:09:44 AM EST

IBM/370 I learnt fortran on.

Someone else here learned fortran on a 370??!! And I thought I was the only one here...

At this point I'd rather spill a deck of punch cards on the floor than post to a thread.

That's bad. Really bad.

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

This is one of the best trols I've ever read. (3.16 / 6) (#65)
by bkirkby on Wed May 16, 2001 at 06:39:31 PM EST

Very clever and articulate iGrrrl.

You spend several paragraphs discussing the motives of the troller and those who respond, then you offer a "thought experiment" that is baed on an unfound premise.

You were successful in getting me to waste time in searching several news sources to find Cheney's statement. I had heard the statements where he said that conservation cannot be the ONLY solution, but I assumed I has missed the statement where he said that conservation had "no place" in long-term energy plans. I couldn't find this statement (or anything like it, actually found several statements to the contrary).

When I couldn't find the source, you were also successful in getting me to respond with a challenge to cite your source (i.e. please show us the link) or claim you were mistaken.

I'm guessing that your thought experiment actually involved myself (or any random K5er) as the "public record editor" and yourself as the troller. I think we both played our parts quite nicely.

Your description of what motivates a "troll responder" fits me to a T in this situation. I would also agree that part of your description of the troller (i.e. smart) fits you to a T. I'll reserve judgement on the "arrogance" label however.



Cheney and conservation (3.00 / 3) (#70)
by sigwinch on Thu May 17, 2001 at 12:01:27 AM EST

I looked at this page you linked to, and it backs up iGrrrl. For example, take this Cheney quote:
What's happened in California, I would argue is, they've taken the route of saying, 'Well, we can conserve our way out of the problem. All we have to do is conserve; we don't have to produce any more power,'
This is an aboslute lie, and Cheney knows it. California has a single problem: they have set up a system where producers can create an artificial shortage. Distributors are forbidden by law from making long-term purchases; everything must be purchased as it is needed. Without the possibility of long-term contracts, it becomes essentially impossible for competitors to enter the market. The problem is compounded by the fascist price fixing that has allowed the production companies to liquidate the distributors, which now have to be bailed out by the government.

And he blames this on the failure of conservation.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Did you read the next paragraph? (none / 0) (#93)
by weirdling on Thu May 17, 2001 at 12:55:35 PM EST

He says pretty much what you say in the very next paragraph, or did you mean to troll?

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
In the next paragraph... (3.00 / 2) (#96)
by sigwinch on Thu May 17, 2001 at 02:23:24 PM EST

the Cheney lies continue:
Cheney says "So they haven't built any electric power plants in the last 10 years in California, and today they've got rolling blackouts, because they don't have enough electricity. They've got rising prices; they've got a whole complex of problems that are caused by relying only on conservation and not doing anything about the supply side of the equation,...
California *DID* do something about the supply side of the equation: they gave producers a strong and legally guaranteed incentive to artificially restrict production. And now that they've liquidated PG&E and the other distributors, they're restricting supply just enough to cause blackouts, which guarantees political bailout of the distributors *and* guaranteed rate hikes.

No amount of Alaskan oil or new generators or (to use Chaney's words) "so-called renewables" are gonna fucking help. As long as they have Soviet-style energy regulations, the problems will continue.

Cheney says "Now, we don't have a lot of new financial incentives in here to go out and produce more oil and gas, for example, so, we believe in conservation, we believe in renewables, we believe in wind and solar and all of those other technologies."
No financial incentives for oil and gas? Of course not. Giving petro companies a strong discount for petro fuels on public lands isn't a financial incentive. There's no money involved.
Conservationists hoping for action next week on improving fuel efficiency in the nation's vehicles will be disappointed, since Cheney said the report contains no recommendations for revising the miles-per-gallon standards.
Oh no, the problem couldn't possibly be all those SUVs with shitty engines and shitty aerodynamics. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

To give Cheney credit, he isn't actively supressing conservation and renewables (actually a big step up from previous administrations), but no amount of professed support matters when he thinks that conservation is not effective.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

I agree, mostly (5.00 / 1) (#100)
by weirdling on Thu May 17, 2001 at 07:05:03 PM EST

I don't even understand why this is a federal matter, other than the feds seem intent on taking as much of the limelight as they can and Governor Davis has asked the feds to force other states to sell electricity more cheaply.
However, I do agree that no amount of cheap energy anywhere else will fix what is in California and inherent political problem. They made the mess; I don't really see how its my problem.
As to the SUVs, I agree in part. First of all, they do have lower overall fuel mileage than comparable vehicles. However, this isn't necessarily due to aerodynamics. It's due to weight. That weight is a byproduct of two things: size and capability. The size of the vehicle is one of the selling points right now. People want such large vehicles because of the comfort they entail. The capability, the other half, includes such things as all-wheel drive, the amazing array of servos and controllers in the modern vehicle, and the size of the wheels, engine, and drivetrain. Once again, people want the capability, primarily due, imho, to the crumbling road system in the US.
Don't get me wrong; aerodynamics makes a big difference on fuel mileage on the highway. However, most vehicles in the US are used primarily as commuters, with speeds closer to 35 MPH than 70 and certainly no constant-speed cruising.
The problem with aerodynamics is that it differs from vehicle to vehicle. A larger hole through the air is a problem, but the frontal area that aerodynamicists refer to is not the entire frontal area of the vehicle. In other words, a properly designed front end on a vehicle can significantly reduce frontal area, even though the vehicle's size does not actually change. Then, proper attention to the back can reduce drag there. Here, the shape matters more than the size, as your average jumbo jet has less parasite drag than your average car. However, it has to; as the speed increases, so does the effect of aerodynamics. Most vehicles hit the first aerodynamic wall at around 55MPH, hence the old double-nickel. My Camaro hits this value at about 87MPH. This values is the point at which going much faster results in very significant losses due to drag. Some vehicles, such as the Corvette fastback, have a number higher than 100MPH. It should be noted that a lot of factors make for the exact number, such as gearing and the horsepower/torque/efficiency curve of the engine.
Essentially the point of this tangential statement is that SUVs don't necessarily have to be less efficient than cars. The reasons they are less efficient are precisely the reasons they are being bought, which explains why these people don't own cars.
As to oil reserves, I agree with you, but for a different reason: we should use the rest of the world's oil while they'll let us, and then we'll be the only ones with oil...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
SUV comfort and capability (2.00 / 2) (#105)
by sigwinch on Thu May 17, 2001 at 09:50:04 PM EST

People want such large vehicles because of the comfort they entail.
Too bad so many of them are built on truck frames. Truck frames with *leaf springs* for god's sake. And I don't think climbing up into a vehicle is any easier than stepping down into a subcompact.
The capability, the other half, includes such things as all-wheel drive, the amazing array of servos and controllers in the modern vehicle, and the size of the wheels, engine, and drivetrain.
IMNSHO, the gadgets are not worth the price premium of an SUV. You get things like heated mirrors and thermometers, and pay $10-20k extra. That much money could pay for a stereo, TV, computer, microwave, yadda yadda yadda, and no SUV has nearly that many gadgets.

As to powertrain, they're mostly underpowered. If it's the extra engine I'm paying for, I'd better be getting a Hemi. With a blower. A dinky little V6, or even a lame low-power V8 just doesn't cut it.

As to load capacity, most of them are lame, lame, lame. Four big adults can overload an Explorer! No cargo, no trailer, just people is enough to overload it.

As to aerodynamics, here in the midwestern U.S., commutes tend to be long high-speed affairs and aerodynamics counts.

About the only good think about most SUVs is the 4WD or AWD capability, which is very nice when roads get icy. Of course, this is not a justification in SoCal.

The reasons they are less efficient are precisely the reasons they are being bought, which explains why these people don't own cars.
I disagree. I think they are less efficient because the auto companies would rather take $10-30k profit per unit than spend a dime making them more efficient. People buy them because they're wanking for the SUV image. A classic minivan or station wagon has as much seating capacity, as much capacity for unwieldy cargo, is easier to get into, and typically has decent fuel efficiency, but it doesn't have the urban assault vehicle mystique.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Your type of thinking... (none / 0) (#120)
by acronos on Sun May 20, 2001 at 06:02:54 PM EST

Exactly exactly your type of thinking caused the problem in California.

The reason that there is just enough supply the keep things going but not enough to prevent rolling blackouts is because in order to just keep things going the electric companies are going massively in the hole. They don't want to buy any more power from high priced external sources than they absolutely have too. So they buy just barely enough.

California *DID* do something about the supply side of the equation: they gave producers a strong and legally guaranteed incentive to artificially restrict production. And now that they've liquidated PG&E and the other distributors, they're restricting supply just enough to cause blackouts, which guarantees political bailout of the distributors *and* guaranteed rate hikes.

You are implying that the power companies are robbing the state. Follow the money trail and see who is robbing who. The power companies are going under. It is the state that is robbing the power companies. They should be able to raise their rates so that they can cover their costs.

This is the very reason there is not enough supply in California. The government regulations guarantee that the companies are going to be operating at a loss. Why would any entrepreneur want to build a plant in California just to loose money. The environmental regulations are so strict that the only cost effective method of power generation is gas. This makes the California power grid very vulnerable to the price of gas. The price of gas here in Georgia has skyrocketed. What do you think is obviously going to happen in California.

All of California's problems were perfectly predictable to anyone with half a brain for economics. Environmentalist are spoiled children. They want to have their cake and eat it to. They want to have cheep power for their house but they don't want to do what is necessary to generate that power cheaply. There is an obvious reason why the power companies have not gone with renewable and environmentally friendly power sources. That reason is that renewable and environmentally friendly power sources are more expensive. They are not more expensive because of some corporate conspiracy. They are more expensive because they require more resources to produce. If you want to be environmentally friendly, they you are going to have to pay more for everything. This is because it takes power to make everything and get it to market.

The price of being environmentally friendly is in dollars. You are paying that price now in California whether you pay it in your power bill or in taxes or in rolling blackouts. The law of supply and demand cannot be circumvented by government politics. No matter how many liars, with their own agenda, continuously tell you otherwise.

Some politicians with foresight in California saw the shortage coming and realized that the government setting the price is a political problem not a logical problem. This causes power problems. Politicians are loath to raise rates because they loose votes. Deregulation was the correct answer. It was badly handled as anyone can see. They were far too late. The supply problems caused by the regulations were already a time bomb waiting to happen. And they would have happened with or without deregulation. Had the timing been a little different then it would have been more obvious to everyone that the problems were caused by regulation not deregulation.

Here in Georgia we have deregulated the power. Our rates did not go up at the time of deregulation. My gas bill has really gone up but it was NOT because of deregulation. It was because of supply problems. The high gas prices caused the people who usually fill huge reserves of gas to resell during the winter for a profit to be unwilling to take the risk. If gas prices had come down then they would have taken a loss. So when winter hit the price of gas skyrocketed because there was much more demand than supply. There is no conspiracy here. These are very simple rules. It is too bad that politics is in denial.

[ Parent ]

I appologize. (none / 0) (#123)
by acronos on Mon May 21, 2001 at 07:06:20 PM EST

I just went back and reread my previous reply. I had no idea I was being so offensive. When I reread your response I found we agree on much more than I thought we did. Hope you can accept my appology.

[ Parent ]
No offense taken (none / 0) (#124)
by sigwinch on Mon May 21, 2001 at 11:38:01 PM EST

I know what it's like when you get going on a good rant. ;-) And yes, I'd say we pretty much agree on the topic.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

There are other statements in the piece... (none / 0) (#95)
by bkirkby on Thu May 17, 2001 at 01:16:22 PM EST

You could have quoted the news link in other places:

"Well, you'll find that most of the financial incentives that we recommend in the report go for conservation or renewables, for increased efficiencies," Cheney said.

Now, we don't have a lot of new financial incentives in here to go out and produce more oil and gas, for example, so, we believe in conservation, we believe in renewables, we believe in wind and solar and all of those other technologies."

You can say that the link "backs up" iGrrrl only if you ignore what iGrrrl actually said and interpret her words to mean something other than they mean. Understanding that she is a scientist (who have the tendency to be very literal), I have to believe that her usage of the words "no place" constitute a troll as a literal reading of those words actually go against the evidence before us.

If she had said "Cheney verbally diminished the role of conservation in the U.S.'s long term energy plans" we would not be having this conversation. Even if she had used a perjorative (i.e. "Cheney greatly diminished the role of conservation in the U.S.'s long term energy plans.") or claimed she didn't believe Cheney's "lip service" to conservation, it wouldn't have been considered a troll. What makes it a troll, is that she made a statement that was obviously opposite of what actually happened and I have to think that she knew that.



[ Parent ]
Easy to spot (3.00 / 1) (#80)
by Trollificus on Thu May 17, 2001 at 07:57:38 AM EST

I don't know. I thought this troll was a dead giveaway. I don't know why others didn't see it quite as easily. I'll give her credit though, it was still more convincing than most of the trolls I've seen lately.

"The separation of church and state is a fiction. The nation is the kingdom of God, period."
--Bishop Harold Calvin Ray of West Palm Beach, FL
[ Parent ]

Trolls, Big Lies, and Power (4.53 / 15) (#69)
by johnny on Wed May 16, 2001 at 10:18:09 PM EST

First, a meta-comment. I've read all the posts on this thread, and it's a fascinating discussion, and I thank you all, especially our troll-or-not parent iGrrrl.

I come down on the side of those who believe that the intent of the poster, or troller, does matter. I want to have honest conversations with people. I'm too old to play with trolls. Like Lucas, below, I post under my own name. I'm John Sundman. So you can have a conversation with me as an honest person or as a troll. But if you play with me as a troll, remember the lessons of Axelrod's iterated Prisoner's Dilemma simulation:> : Tit for tat is the best long run strategy. That is to say, for starters I grant you good faith. I assume you're not a troll. But fuck with me once and bets are off. I'm a trusted user.

I believe that skilled, professional trollers are dangerous people.

What do I mean by professional troller? Rush Limbaugh, for example. This is a person whose wealth and power come from his ability to get people riled up. I have (for whatever reason) spent many hours listening to this guy. And it's very clear, to me, at least, that he is a cynical manipulative troll. I don't believe that he has a true conviction about anything, other than power is fun and alchohol feels good. He has a right wing schtick that pays his bills, but he could switch tomorrow to a left-wing schtick if the paycheck were better. His only purpose, as a troll, a demogogue, is to separate the world into "US"-the "dittoheads" who agree with him about everything, and "Them." Give a listen sometime and see if you agree.

I have also listned to Pat Buchanan, and I do not believe that he is a troll--even though much of what he says is consistent with the baseline Limbaugh schtick. Pace a poster below in this thread, Buchanan is willing to listen, learn, revise an opinion. I've heard him do it. By contrast, the only time I've heard Limbaugh revise an opinion was in order to make a more outrageous proposition.

Now many say, so what? Limbaugh and his ilk are radio personalities. They get paid to rile people up. It's entertainment, like WWF wrestling.

Only problem is, We're mammals. We're chimpanzees. We're human. We're sinners. Getting people all riled up about "us" versus "them" is bad, dangerous stuff. It leads to Cincinattis, to Bosnias, to Rwandas, to Auschwitz. It's dangerous shit and we shouldn't touch it.

That's where power comes into the equation, that's why the "idea" does not exist on its own merits. Say you're a prisoner in a dungeon, unjustly held by sadistic tyrants. You troll to provoke your captors. Well, I say more power to you. You're maintaining a little bit of power, a little bit of human dignity.

But let's say on the other hand you're Adolf Hitler speaking to 100,000 at Neuremburg, trollling because it amuses you. I say, may you rot in hell.

Time to run, please forgive the less-than-perfectly made arguments.



yr frn,
jrs
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.

one quibble (3.40 / 5) (#75)
by streetlawyer on Thu May 17, 2001 at 06:19:18 AM EST

Though I think you stretch the whimsical concept of the troll further than it will go, I agree with most of the points made. But the strategy you mention ("fuck with me once and all bets are off") is not tit-for-tat. It's a trigger strategy.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Tit for tat (3.00 / 1) (#91)
by ucblockhead on Thu May 17, 2001 at 12:06:35 PM EST

Yes, the whole point of tit for tat was that it isn't just quick to attack after bad faith, but that it is also quick to forgive after good faith.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Trusted User (3.00 / 5) (#78)
by delmoi on Thu May 17, 2001 at 07:18:24 AM EST

I'm a trusted user

Almost everyone is a trusted user.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
clarification (4.20 / 5) (#79)
by johnny on Thu May 17, 2001 at 07:42:38 AM EST

Oh I didn't mean "watch out for me, small fry, I'm the Big Cheese" (although it does kind of sound that way, I guess.) What I meant was, the community has percieved me as a person of good faith, and this gives me at least some descretionary power to deal with people who act in bad faith. And I will use that power to mod down trolls.

The iterated prisoner's dilemma simulation is very cool, and though its implications seem almost trivial at first, I think they're pretty profound. Axelrod's book on the subject is called "The Evolution of Cooperation," which is what we're talking about here (I think?).

I myself have enjoyed learning the k5 culture in the short while (2.5 weeks?) that I've been here. I came in looking for a market for my book. My frist action here was to post 2 stories about, basically, me. I came to take without giving; that is, I wanted advice and ultimately money, from the k5 players, and I had given nary a thought to what I might have to offer in return for same.

But several people, including yourself, pointed out that I was behaving boorishly and offered some tips on how to not be a jerk. And it wasn't really hard to learn how to offer something valued by the k5 community. I turned off the "all johnny, all the time" channel. And I started having a little fun. I wish more trolls would do likewise.



yr frn,
jrs
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

Well - OT (3.25 / 4) (#86)
by Bob Abooey on Thu May 17, 2001 at 10:29:01 AM EST

I sent you a check for your book yesterday after reading the first chapter online. I'm a sucker for the whole drug dealer hook - give them a bit for free them reel em in...

Anyways, I'm looking forward to reading it all in dead tree form.. it better not suck :)


-------
Comments on politics from a man whose life seems to revolve around his lunch menu just do not hold weight. - Casioitan
[ Parent ]
To quote Garth Algar (2.50 / 2) (#103)
by johnny on Thu May 17, 2001 at 09:04:10 PM EST

in Wayne's World (one, of course): "I just hope you don't think it sucks." Let me know in either case.



yr frn,
jrs
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

Trusted user (2.50 / 2) (#116)
by delmoi on Fri May 18, 2001 at 07:07:09 PM EST

Well, I guess getting trusted user in 2.5 weeks is pretty good. But it isn't really 'the users' who decide it, it's the software. I don't really think the quality of a user's posts necessarily indicates how fair someone is going to be, etc. I think it's worked out this far because most of the people on k5 really are good posters, and fair people. At least when it comes to rating posts and stuff...

Getting trusted user status really only indicates what people think of your posts - not your trustworthiness -- the software makes administrative choices based on that. There are a lot of theoretical problems with this, but in practice it works OK.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
No, no you aren't... (3.50 / 4) (#82)
by darthaggie on Thu May 17, 2001 at 09:52:07 AM EST

I post under my own name. I'm John Sundman...I'm a trusted user.

So you say. But I say: so what? who cares who you are? for all we know, you pulled down a phonebook and picked a name at random. That's nice, here's a gold star.

What's important is what one writes. That should be the measuring stick: is it well written, thought out, internally AND externally consistent?

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

You think Rush is a troll (4.33 / 3) (#92)
by weirdling on Thu May 17, 2001 at 12:50:12 PM EST

I don't personally agree with Rush all that often; he's a Republican and I'm Libertarian, but I wouldn't consider him a troll. Egotistical, perhaps, but I fully believe he believes what he says. There's a disturbing tendency to call someone a troll simply because they express what they believe sensationalistically. This does not make them a troll. A troll does not care; he merely wants to create mayhem. Mr. Limbaugh very much does care; examine how he lives his life...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Nice Troll (2.50 / 10) (#72)
by Signal seven 11 on Thu May 17, 2001 at 02:09:38 AM EST

Made the front page and everything.

US Vice President Dick Cheney recently stated that conservation of resources had no place in long-term US energy policy.
And you believe this is wrong? What, we're going to need all that energy sitting in the ground in a few million years when Sun engulfs the Earth? Nice.

But Cheney wasn't trolling when he made that statement. Instead he was propagating a Big Lie . . .
I don't know what Cheney's purpose was, but I doubt he can honestly say he believes that statement.

Ummm, this pretty much settles that you're trolling. Do I really need to comment further? But I will! You have no earthly idea what is going on in the mind of Dick Cheney, but are inclined to comment on his mental processes. He makes a statement that doesn't compute in your happy little liberal mind, so he must be lying?

the desire to control other people's behavior.
I guess you have plenty of first-hand experience here.

Ooops! little mistake (2.50 / 2) (#88)
by doubleR on Thu May 17, 2001 at 10:53:17 AM EST

Luckily the Sun will engulf the Earth in a few billion years!
"Conservation of resources" will be needed badly in some time, I guess.

[ Parent ]
long-term (none / 0) (#118)
by Nat Lanza on Sun May 20, 2001 at 01:07:50 PM EST

Sure, if you define "long-term" to be "millions or billions of years", then lots of things don't make sense long-term.

That's why "millions or billions of years" is a stupid definition here, and I honestly don't think Cheney meant anything even close to that. I imagine he meant more on the order of decades.

[ Parent ]

Dealing with existence of trolls (3.50 / 2) (#81)
by slaytanic killer on Thu May 17, 2001 at 09:07:45 AM EST

I've refined my thinking about trolls. (My thinking here will be more moderate than earlier.) Part of it is that this question is more complex than the article makes it seem. For example, I think people must understand the damn concept of "feeding the trolls," and not to do it. When people feel that hot emotion rising in them, compelling them to respond, they must take that as information that something is wrong.

Our ability to handle trolls is a direct measure of our intelligence. Trolls can be muted, if we act coolly rational, with enough maturity to handle the fact that some may never "get it"; but many of us don't. We have this strange need to convince people of our convictions, instead of dispassionately passing along information.

Do you see someone trolling? Mod him down to 1 or 2. There are no easy ways for the "system" to handle these things, unless we use the tools.

And if these people are arrogant and hurtful, what are you doing, just impassively watching as a troll beats down on some newbie? It actually takes some effort to maintain an open, self-sustaining system. There are assholes everywhere, and if there were no trolls, there still would be some meta or front page article about some other breed of asshole. Don't call them "trolls." Use the word "assholes," because if they weren't, they wouldn't be malignant. By calling them trolls, you make it much harder to argue against them, whereas if you were against assholes, the argument is more succinct.

Response to a troll (4.00 / 8) (#94)
by weirdling on Thu May 17, 2001 at 01:09:10 PM EST

1) Cheney didn't say that.
2) He has consistently underscored conservation but not so it takes away the current economic freedom.
3) Plenty of people agree with him.
4) Just because 'big oil' stands to gain from this doesn't mean he's doing it for them. A cornerpiece of Cheney's strategy actually moves much of our carbon-based fuel usage into coal.
5) People who think conservation *can* solve our energy problems aren't good with numbers.

See, short and sweet. Normally I'd now proceed to ask exactly how you arrived at your idea that Cheney did this because of money given him from oil, and further, why this particular statement would be a troll, if he had said it. Seems people often believe those who merely disagree to be trolling or lying because it obviously can't be so that someone would believe that. It's a bit of a stretch to proceed to accuse him of lying.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
Groupthink (3.50 / 2) (#98)
by ubu on Thu May 17, 2001 at 05:00:02 PM EST

The "conservation is paramount" thinking is deeply-entrenched; as a result, most of its proponents assume that it's obvious. When "everybody" agrees with you, it must be true.

Scientists know this phenomenon better than anyone else. Even apart from the Scientific "Everything is a Theory" Method, the research community understands that almost all of its work is based on best-estimate theories and simplifications that facilitate further hypothesis. This kind of thinking is pretty much mandatory and certainly beneficial; even computer programmers simplify circumstances regularly to create adequate solutions in their software.

But humans will be humans, and when prevailing theory is challenged the primary response is defensiveness. It's probably attribution theory at work: "if you're right you've invalidated the last X years of my work". Who wants to accept that on its face? Throw in the fact that funding could be jeopardized, and its a recipe for serious backlash. In the policy world, wonks who campaigned for a pet issue for decades could see their reputations devastated.

Old patterns aside, though, this article really takes the cake. To argue that opposition to prevailing opinion is categorically "trolling" goes beyond any defensive behavior I've ever seen so far. Yelling "troll" at unpopular opinions is idiotic enough on USENET, but to suggest that it's suitable for public policymaking discourse is incredibly stupid.

It would be one thing if the "troll" admitted to playing the devil's advocate, but to offhandedly dismiss minority opinions as automatically invalid... whew, I hope iGrrrl isn't getting any of my (copious) tax money for her work.

I suppose I should settle down. After all, Dembski and Duesberg get this kind of treatment all the time. I mean, it's not really new...

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Sheesh. (none / 0) (#117)
by Nat Lanza on Sun May 20, 2001 at 01:05:29 PM EST

It would be one thing if the "troll" admitted to playing the devil's advocate, but to offhandedly dismiss minority opinions as automatically invalid... whew, I hope iGrrrl isn't getting any of my (copious) tax money for her work.

If you think that's what she's saying, then you didn't read the article very carefully.

Also, why do you think that the insulting comment about funding her work is even remotely appopriate?

[ Parent ]

Eh? (none / 0) (#125)
by ubu on Tue May 22, 2001 at 07:09:44 AM EST

Also, why do you think that the insulting comment about funding her work is even remotely appopriate?

The comment was insulting? It's insulting to take state and federal funding? It happens, of course. You're the one who made it "insulting". Which can stand on its own merits, I suppose.

Why did it upset you? Is it because of your current residence at a school that receives huge blocks of state and federal money?

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Not even close. (none / 0) (#127)
by Nat Lanza on Wed May 23, 2001 at 01:24:36 AM EST

Why did it upset you? Is it because of your current residence at a school that receives huge blocks of state and federal money?

Bad assumption. I have a CMU SCS account graciously provided by my former employers that I use for personal things. That does not mean that I work at CMU or that I'm a student there. You might consider being a little more careful before you jump to conclusions like that; email addresses aren't always a very good way of figuring out what someone does for a living.

Also, I obviously didn't mean that taking funding is insulting. What was insulting was the implication that her work isn't worth funding because of her article. Unless, of course, you meant something else by "whew, I hope iGrrrl isn't getting any of my (copious) tax money for her work".

Please, enlighten me.

[ Parent ]

Eh (none / 0) (#129)
by ubu on Wed May 23, 2001 at 01:54:47 PM EST

Also, I obviously didn't mean that taking funding is insulting. What was insulting was the implication that her work isn't worth funding because of her article. Unless, of course, you meant something else by "whew, I hope iGrrrl isn't getting any of my (copious) tax money for her work".

Of course I didn't mean something else: in my opinion, her work isn't worth funding with my money. Since the welfare state gives me no choice in the matter, either way, the most I can practically do is to hope that my money has not been spent on this.

If I do not have the right to spend my money as I please, do I at least have the right to hold an opinion on how it is spent, one way or the other? Please, oh please, may I? Keep in mind that I would never dream of insulting a steward of State-confiscated resources.

Nor would I dream of insulting a pseudo-sophisticate Outer Party Socialist like yourself. Wanker.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
okay. (none / 0) (#130)
by iGrrrl on Wed May 23, 2001 at 05:33:44 PM EST

in my opinion, her work isn't worth funding with my money.
Well, I did write the piece on my own time, and did not think of it (or treat it!) as the same as a peer-reviewed reportage of laboratory results. If you want to judge my lab work based on something done and presented outside the lab, go right ahead. The NIH budget is a small fraction of your tax dollars, and I am a tiny, tiny cog in that overall machine. I've cost you less than the penny you didn't stoop to pick up on the sidewalk.

--
You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.
[ Parent ]

Re: Eh (none / 0) (#131)
by Nat Lanza on Wed May 23, 2001 at 10:58:06 PM EST

"pseudo-sophisticate Outer Party Socialist"?

What are you smoking?

You don't know me. You've never met me. You don't know what I think. You don't know what I believe. All you know is that I objected to your hasty misreading of an article and your inappropriate attack on the author. Everything else you made up completely on your own.

Where did you get the idea that I don't want you to have an opinion? You have an opinion; that's wonderful. I have one too -- I think that you're completely wrong, and that you're a moron. Now everybody has their opinion and we're all happy. Great!

The "waahhhh, I don't like it when people disagree so I'm going to whine and cry about how people won't let me have an opinion" tactic is idiotic and childish.

Grow the fuck up.

[ Parent ]

huh (none / 0) (#132)
by ubu on Thu May 24, 2001 at 08:07:27 AM EST

The "waahhhh, I don't like it when people disagree so I'm going to whine and cry about how people won't let me have an opinion" tactic is idiotic and childish.

It's a toss up, actually. It could be the ad hominem nature of everything you wrote that's most childish so far. Personally, I think that the most idiotic and childish tactic is the "waahhhh, I don't like it when people disagree so I'm going to whine and cry that they're being insulting".

Which is, of course, irrelevant to the topic-specific point -- regarding my misreading of the article -- that you never made. Pot, meet kettle.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
You still don't get it. (none / 0) (#134)
by Nat Lanza on Thu May 24, 2001 at 01:32:58 PM EST

Look, trollboy, it has nothing to do with you disagreeing. I don't care if you disagree. That's your right. I simply object to the fact that you mischaracterized her argument and made a rather inappropriate attack on her. If you're going to disagree, do it honestly and fairly. That's it. I've said this a couple of times now, so I'm going to give up on trying to pound it through your thick skull. If you want to keep on feeling oppressed, go right ahead.

[ Parent ]
last laugh (none / 0) (#135)
by ubu on Thu May 24, 2001 at 03:40:27 PM EST

Heh, no, obviously you didn't get it. By calling me a troll in exactly the manner prescribed by iGrrrl, you have proven that it is, after all, about whether or not you brook disagreement. Congratulations, you are the poster-boy of everything despicable about the article in the first place.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
I think you misunderstand me (4.00 / 1) (#99)
by iGrrrl on Thu May 17, 2001 at 05:45:16 PM EST

To argue that opposition to prevailing opinion is categorically "trolling" goes beyond any defensive behavior I've ever seen so far.

I have no problem with honestly held unpopular opinions. I'm familiar with Deusberg's work, and there are many people who disagree with his conclusions, yet still respect him as a scientist. He honestly feels his data support his position.

What I do not care for is the practice of trotting out an unpopular (or entirely left-field-generated) opinion as if it is one's actual opinion, merely for the sake of watching the audience snap at the bait. Which I guess is the piece in short form.

It's my opinion, which is why it's in Op/Ed.

--
You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.

What's to misunderstand? (none / 0) (#101)
by ubu on Thu May 17, 2001 at 07:50:00 PM EST

What you have failed to explain are:

  • Why you have misquoted Dick Cheney
  • Why you would doubt the sincerity of Cheney's position, whatever it may be

I have seen a lot of posts which raise these questions, and frankly, the only reason I'm reading this thread is to find out if you're going to answer them.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
A point of definition (4.25 / 4) (#107)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Thu May 17, 2001 at 10:24:47 PM EST

A lot of people, in many separate threads, have brought up the "trolls are defending possible positions to make people think" defense/position, ie. playing Devil's Advocate.

I would like to hear some actual tries at defending this position since I think it is total crap.

My thinking: Trolls are not out to play devil's advocate.

One bit of evidence: Trolls advocate the use of contradictions and fallacies (see this faq).

Another bit of evidence: Their stated purposes. From above link, "... to elicit the maximum amount of responses from unthinking /.ers." From here, "Trolls are for fun. The object of recreational trolling is to sit back and laugh at all those gullible idiots that will believe *anything*," which also says, "There are three reasons why people troll newsgroups: People post such messages to get attention, to disrupt newsgroups, and simply to make trouble. Career trollers tend for the latter two...".



Poor Thinking (5.00 / 1) (#108)
by Signal seven 11 on Thu May 17, 2001 at 10:41:53 PM EST

A lot of people, in many separate threads, have brought up the "trolls are defending possible positions to make people think" defense/position, ie. playing Devil's Advocate.

My thinking: Trolls are not out to play devil's advocate.

One bit of evidence: Trolls advocate the use of contradictions and fallacies (see this faq).

And where's the contradiction there? Crazy as it may seem, people often (nay, usually) hold fallacious and contradictory beliefs.

Moreover, you're confounding two seperate arguments:
a)Trolls play devil's advocate.
b)Trolls troll in order to play devil's advocate.
The first argument is extremely defensible; the second somewhat less so.

[ Parent ]

good points... (none / 0) (#109)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Thu May 17, 2001 at 11:23:37 PM EST

"And where's the contradiction there? Crazy as it may seem, people often (nay, usually) hold fallacious and contradictory beliefs."

Right, people do. However, isn't there an important difference between [championing the less accepted cause for the sake of argument and then finding that it contains contradictions, which renders it untenable] and [being sure to include some contradiction in a position to encourage rebuttals ala the faq's "...will be sure to get a response from some weenie smugly pointing out the contradiction"]? Somewhere in that difference lies the distinction between playing devil's advocate and trolling.

"The first argument is extremely defensible; the second somewhat less so."

Ah, there might have been a bit of ambiguity between those two in my original post, let me look... Umm, no, sorry. I was quite clearly talking about the second. ("My thinking: Trolls are not out to play devil's advocate.")

Given that the stated purposes have nothing to do with championing the less accepted cause for the sake of argument (m-w) and everything to do with provoking response, I wouldn't say that "b" is just "somewhat less" than defensable. I would say it is quite unfounded.

To speak to "a": It seems like something we, the non-trolling readers, can do: read the role of devil's advocate into what the troller does... always looking on the bright side of life, as it were. This is admirable on our part, not on the part of the troll who intends no such thing.



[ Parent ]

Trolling wrong? (none / 0) (#111)
by ubu on Fri May 18, 2001 at 12:43:34 AM EST

Given that the stated purposes have nothing to do with championing the less accepted cause for the sake of argument (m-w) and everything to do with provoking response, I wouldn't say that "b" is just "somewhat less" than defensable. I would say it is quite unfounded.

How does that follow? If the intent is to provoke a response that might justify long-held, entrenched views from first principles, trolling as devil's advocate to "provoke response" is both defensible and common. It may be annoying (there is little question of that) but there is nothing "indefensible" about it. Communities of like-minded people rarely argue about their commonly-held beliefs, and the occasional "troll", by "provoking response", forces a re-hash of the logic that leads to those beliefs. There's nothing complex about this, it's rather self-evident, I should think.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
miscommuniction? (none / 0) (#112)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Fri May 18, 2001 at 03:51:55 AM EST

"...trolling as devil's advocate to "provoke response" is both defensible and common. It may be annoying (there is little question of that) but there is nothing "indefensible" about it."

I think there may have been a bit of miscommunication. It looks like the antecedent of "It may be annoying" is "trolling as devil's advocate". I never said such trolling was indefensible. In fact, I see it as having a place among the various types of interpersonal cogitation. As you can see in this post, I see the devil's advocate and/or exposing groupthing use of trolling posts as having some utility. It is a nice secondary intention that can possibly be part of someone's motivation. However, this is not the primary, the stated, or a necessary intention when someone goes a'trolling.

Notice how you had to refer to it as 'trolling as devil's advocate'. Doesn't that mean that this is only a type of trolling? It is one of the many subsets in the set of all trolling. However, when I made my claim "Trolls are not out to play devils advocate" I did not qualify it to that subset. I was talking about the class as a whole, in general. You know, about what makes them trolls as opposed to rabbits or anything else. And that is not the property of "championing the less accepted cause for the sake of argument" which only some of them have.

Getting back to what I actually did say was "indefensible"... oh wait, I didn't say that about anything. I did say that one of the propositions that Signal seven 11 put forth is "unfounded." It was "b)Trolls troll in order to play devil's advocate." And I still don't see the basis for claiming that trolls, as a general catagory, make their posts for the purpose of playing devil's advocate.

Some might. They probably aren't the ones that I and others remember as trolls. We probably remember them as devil's advocates (can't read minds).



[ Parent ]

The /. trolling HOWTO (5.00 / 1) (#114)
by spiralx on Fri May 18, 2001 at 06:11:11 AM EST

Ah the memories of writing that. I've also started on a k5 trolling HOWTO as well I'm sure you'll be pleased to know. Why? Well it's part a guide to trolling, part a look at the behaviour of k5 readers.

My thinking: Trolls are not out to play devil's advocate.

Devil's advocate is certainly one way of trolling. It's not the end point I'd say, it's a method. Logical fallacy is another method. Offensiveness is a method, but a pretty crap one on its own.

Another bit of evidence: Their stated purposes. From above link, "... to elicit the maximum amount of responses from unthinking /.ers."

Yup, it's a pretty crap troll if it doesn't get any biters after all. That's kind of obvious really.

From here, "Trolls are for fun. The object of recreational trolling is to sit back and laugh at all those gullible idiots that will believe *anything*," which also says, "There are three reasons why people troll newsgroups: People post such messages to get attention, to disrupt newsgroups, and simply to make trouble. Career trollers tend for the latter two...".

Well I didn't write that one, so it doesn't represent my opinions. I don't troll to disrupt /. - if I did want to I'd crapflood and post ASCII goatse.cx pictures. I troll for a challenge, personal amusement and to shake things up. Not disrupt, but to get people thinking about things that are normally kept outside of their cozy little worldviews by groupthink.

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

The Socratic method? Or something more sinister? (4.00 / 2) (#115)
by cable on Fri May 18, 2001 at 01:44:14 PM EST

Are you speaking of the Socratic method that some teachers use by asking questions to see how a student thinks? I suppose that it could look rude to do the same thing to a coworker or an Internet poster. I find that some do this exactly, and it annoys the h*ll out of the readers. At least with me until I figured out what some posters were doing. I guess they were trying to teach me something?

I do not thing it is the Socratic method in this case. But in this case, someone is posting a "Big Lie" to get a reaction or to get people to think. Perhaps they posted something the opposite of the way they think, like "The computer language Pascal stinks!" when they love Pascal, own their own Pascal Compiler (Delphi, etc), and they want to see the reaction and get people to think. They may even make the "Troll" posting under an alias, and then reply with their real account later. Or maybe they really do think that way. If that is the case, then the Redneck, mouth breathing, idiots outnumber the rest of us and will always outvote us and outpost us. Do we need an IQ screening to keep these type of people out of forums and whatnot, or do the people with High IQs also suffer from this disorder? What do we need, a "Niceness Test"? How can we prevent this, or do we need better moderators?

------------------
Only you, can help prevent Neb Rage!

Some Of My Best Friends Are Trolls (3.50 / 2) (#119)
by fsh on Sun May 20, 2001 at 03:20:46 PM EST

First of all, I wanted to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the article (other than the bit about Cheney at the end which has been thoroughly discussed already). This is a topic I've been thinking about a lot lately, and it's good to see it on the front page.

I personally feel that the topic of trolling is very broad, much broader than the scope of this article. I feel that trolling, like drinking, is wonderful when done in moderation. I also believe that trolling is sometimes essential in order to have a good discussion, and that the 'actual' opinions of the poster shouldn't matter in the slightest. This is not to say that I always reply to trolls; I only reply to either well-thought out arguments, or arguments I feel are wrong. The reason for this is simple; many people read websites like this in order to learn. At least I do. And if I know something about a subject, something that no one else has talked about, I feel obligated to share that knowledge. Although I would suggest that 'teaching' might be too strong a word; it has an unpleasant authoritarian context that many people would take offense to. So in the spirit of the educational nature of sites such as this, I feel a duty to correct things I know to be factually innacurate, even if it means 'feeding the trolls'. This is so that someone who is unfamiliar with the subject under discussion won't be mislead by the troll; you can't spot a troll if you're unfamiliar with the subject matter. As for the well-thought out troll, I respond to them as well for similar reasons. So for me, it has nothing to do with the author of the post, but about the readers who want to learn something.

There is, however, one aspect of trolling that I think is very important, the Undecided Troll. For instance, in a recent article about globalisation, I argued very strongly from an anarchist's point of view, even though I just started reading about anarchy and socialism very recently. Technically, this means that my posts were trolls. In this particular case, however, I was taking the opinions from the books and websites I've been reading, and throwing them out to see how the readers of K5 would like them. In other words, I wanted to see how a critical person would take these ideas, and see if there were any fallacies in the arguments that I had missed. In many cases I've been able to solidify an opinion through the discussions that ensued. Such an exchange greatly increased my own knowledge of the matter, and hopefully others as well.

I also feel that some articles simply *require* trolls. I've seen it happen many times, where there's a great article, but since everyone agrees with it, there's no discussion. All it takes is one good troll to open the discussion floodgates, though. On this site, most of those sort of articles are computer or technology related (obviously). Or the reverse, such as the recent 'Programming is not Art' article, which many, many people said was a troll. For a troll, it generated some of the best and most insightful commentary I've seen on this site.


-fsh

The reading guinee pig (5.00 / 1) (#121)
by mami on Mon May 21, 2001 at 03:24:14 PM EST

Considering that you use a medium, which broadcasts potentially to millions of readers, of which the majority belongs in the category of "learners" (and just don't tell me that with the breadth of issues discussed here, the regular posters are all experts on all issues), I consider it K5's editorial responsibility (which is put on to us readers) to promote finding truth and accurate facts. It is much more important than the need to use any means to reach your personal goal of solidifying opinion.

In other words, I wanted to see how a critical person would take these ideas, and see if there were any fallacies in the arguments that I had missed. In many cases I've been able to solidify an opinion through the discussions that ensued. Such an exchange greatly increased my own knowledge of the matter, and hopefully others as well.

It would be very easy to get this knowledge, if you would state the to be tested arguments, but also indicate that those arguments are not necessarily your own. Most of the intelligent trolls are dangerous for the rethorical skills they apply and use to insult reader's feelings and intelligence. The positive effect of solidifying your opinion through the resulting discussion of a troll's comment, is counterbalanced by the loss of many reader's comments, who would have potentially participated in the discussion and conveyed specific knowledge, but decided to not do so.

The obvious hostility, arrogance and stupidity displayed in many trolling comments, does not result in getting more balanced answers, which would proportionally reflect the opinions of a wide readership. It just solidifies the loudest and most rethorical comment and the herd's mass reactions to it. Mass reactions usually display the desire to kill or worship the seducing ideas and its messengers, but very seldom the desire to think them trough critically.

-----
"I risk my life to prove your thesis right or wrong. How smart are you without me ?" the guinee pig asked the scientist, who was about to cut out his heart and brain.

[ Parent ]

Trolling vs. Abuse (4.00 / 1) (#126)
by fsh on Tue May 22, 2001 at 05:49:44 PM EST

Most of the intelligent trolls are dangerous for the rethorical skills they apply and use to insult reader's feelings and intelligence. The positive effect of solidifying your opinion through the resulting discussion of a troll's comment, is counterbalanced by the loss of many reader's comments, who would have potentially participated in the discussion and conveyed specific knowledge, but decided to not do so.

The obvious hostility, arrogance and stupidity displayed in many trolling comments, does not result in getting more balanced answers, which would proportionally reflect the opinions of a wide readership. It just solidifies the loudest and most rethorical comment and the herd's mass reactions to it. Mass reactions usually display the desire to kill or worship the seducing ideas and its messengers, but very seldom the desire to think them trough critically.

Well, it seems that you might be talking about two separate things, that is trolling vs. insulting people. A quick check on K5 shows that trollers have no monopoly on insulting the posters they reply to; some of the worst cases of this are editorial comments posted to a story in the queue. Also, while you probably have o way to know this, I would like to add that I find such behavior reprehensible, and would never attempt to insult a reader in any fashion. Instead, my version of trolling is simply that of not being sure if I fully believe in the opinion that I state, although I am sure that the stated opinion is a valid one to have. Since the discussion was on globalisation, I saw absolutely no reason to not present the opposite side, which is anarchy.

In other words, while I agree that being insulting and rude is a great way to kill a rational discussion or argument, I also want to say that insulting behavior is not innate to the act of trolling, certainly as trolling is presented in this article (not believing in what one writes).


-fsh
[ Parent ]

too easy (none / 0) (#133)
by mami on Thu May 24, 2001 at 11:45:42 AM EST

I commend you for your efforts to point out the differences between trolling and insulting or being rude. I agree mostly with them. Yet I do think the answer is too easy to convince me about the harmlessness of trolling.

I don't think it hits the point completely. You never know whom you are talking to and never can't know if the reader is able to understand what you perceive as being a friendly trolling comment. As soon as the trolling comment is recognized as such by a reader, who didn't perceive the trolling comment as friendly, it will result in an insult to that person.

The risk to be misunderstood and to cause someone going nuts over your comment his always present. I think one should avoid to cause people going nuts and going postal. It's that simple.

[ Parent ]
Guinea Pig Arguments Can Be Heartfelt (4.00 / 1) (#136)
by Shalom on Wed May 30, 2001 at 02:17:04 PM EST

When I am wading into completely new intellectual territory, especially emotionally charged ones, I can have heartfelt opinions that are not yet totally backed up with fact. Life is so strewn with these situations that you can't really avoid making opinions before you have all the facts. In the recent article about Kaycee Nicole a satirical essay was referenced where the writer essentially blasted this Debbie woman who she believed was making up the whole story. It turned out she was right, but at the time she didn't have the facts. So what she did was basically trolling.

Guinea Pig trolling can be done totally innocently, without realizing that you're basically trolling. It's just posting your opinion when you don't have the facts to back it up yet. I engaged in a good deal of it when I was first learning about Quantum Mechanics, and ended up learning a few things, especially that there is still fundamental disagreement among people as to how to interpret things.

The point is, it's not such a bad thing to post opinions before you have the facts. It does generate discussion and fills in the holes in knowledge. It is sort of a way to arrive at the truth by pointing your arrow in one direction and letting ever more precise arguments correct it until it settles in the right place.



[ Parent ]
Conservation and the "Big Lie" (5.00 / 1) (#128)
by beergut on Wed May 23, 2001 at 11:44:10 AM EST

Good article. Well-written, and well-thought-out.

Inaccurate, though, in the treatment of Cheney's statements in the point about the "Big Lie".

Cheney did not say that conservation had no role in easing our energy problems, and in providing us a long-term solution.

Cheney did say that it wasn't the whole enchilada, meaning that conservation alone would not solve the problems we face. He is correct. We have a supply/demand issue to face.

Demand first:

  • Our population is increasing, as is energy-intensive industry.
  • Therefore, consumption is on the rise.
  • Hence, demand is increasing.
Now supply:
  • We have not built adequate facilities for supplying that demand.
  • We have not sufficiently explored our energy resources.
  • We have not done our homework - research that would yield alternative power sources, or further polish those we have.
  • Therefore, supplies are short.
On balance:
  • Due to increases in demand, without corresponding increases in supply, energy prices are on the rise.
  • Without further exploration and exploitation of our energy resources, and research into alternative energy sources, we are at the mercy of others to supply our energy needs.
It is disingenuous to demand rigor from those with whom you deal professionally, then to wildly accuse those with whom you disagree politically of "lying", because you've chosen to misrepresent their words.

Red herring.

i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

-- indubitable

Nice sum. (none / 0) (#137)
by anonymoushero on Wed May 30, 2001 at 04:32:14 PM EST

Nice Summary.

But did Cheney actually say that? I don't get a chance to monitor politicans for a living, and there's no quote, so I can't see if Cheney's explaination meshed with the nice description you gave.

I'd stand for your summary, and wished you were in a decision making role - but I think the author is probably more correct in Cheney's intentions (or the end results which will occur from his statement)

And I'm beside myself as whether to give you a 3, 4,or 5...

A link to a quote would have been a 4 or 5 (but are you answering the story?), bleah, I want better guidelines than "pure gold"

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

[ Parent ]
Truth, Trolls, and Big Lies | 137 comments (133 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
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