One of the things I try to do with the site is maintain a high level of discourse between myself and the readers. As the traffic to the site has ramped up, we have attracted more political wankers, trolls, asshats than is conducive to intelligent conversation.

This post is a reminder as to how I deal with these folks, excerpted from our lovingly constructed Disclosures & Terms of Use.

~~~

First off, I attempt to read every comment that goes up. I read all email, but make no promises about responding.

All email addresses on comments are not published, but I do see them. Comments with real office email addresses (GS.com, etc.) get priority. Hotmail is frowned upon, as it has become a garbage address and refuge for spammers. Cowardly “anons” barely get glanced at. If I am unable to respond to you privately due to a bogus email address (“John@Yahoo.com”) don’t be surprised if you get a snarky answer in your own comment.

When posting your first ever Big Picture comment, I suggest you make it informative, interesting, on topic, and of of moderate length — a paragraph or two. Lazy one sentence or one word comments typically get deleted. (First! gets you banned). Rambling 1000 word comments also get edited or deleted (*GYOFBM!).  Comments on much older posts are also suspect.

I post comments in my own name. Anytime I edit anyone else’s posts, I clearly mark it as such

~~~
BR: like this.

On occasion I will post someone else’s email (or telephone call) as a comment in their first name (“Bob”) or initials (“JB”) — because they can’t. My circle of colleagues and friends includes many people who due to their employers compliance policies risk their jobs by posting comments.

I only on rare occasions will delete reader comments after the fact on their own request (Its been done less 5 times). If you post something that years from now is embarrassing, well, that’s just too bad. Think twice before ranting like a jackass.

URLs in Comments: I encourage people to link back to other sources and sites in comments. However, keep it on topic. Hijacking posts with irrelevant links to unrelated subjects is the fast track to deletion and banning.

Feel free to put your own blog/site in the URL space when entering comments.

However, URLs in the body of comments that are merely self-promotional (i.e., do not add to the content) may be deleted, and their authors branded linkwhores. If I suspect you are merely posting short comments in order to enhance your Google score, I may leave the comment but delete your URL.

Want some of my Google Juice? Play by my rules.

Trackbacks: I encourage Trackbacks from non-commercial sites discussing the issues we chew over here. However, since trackbacks and comments can also be a way to raise your Google score, trackbacks that appear to be grabs for Google score will also be deleted. Commercial trackbacks will be invoiced as advertising.

Assignments: There are few things that I find more annoying than disingenuous rhetoric. “Why are you ignoring X? You must post on this NOW.”

No, no I mustn’t. I do not, and will not, under any circumstances, accept your homework assignments. They will be deleted, and your troll potential score will skyrocket. Instead, you fat lazy bastard, do some homework yourself. Then, post a clever observation and URL. Perhaps you will stimulate a conversation. (Of course, you could always write your own blog, ‘cepting your constant masturbation makes typing exceedingly slow).

Worse still are the emails asking for my opinion on this, or would you comment on that. In 90% of the cases, I have already covered the subject extensively (if only the emailer bothered to look). See the Google search box up top?

My apologies to the remaining 10%, but that’s how it goes: Like so many things, a small group has ruined it for everyone else.

Trolls and Asshats: This may be a free country, but The Big Picture is my personal fiefdom. I rule over all as benevolent dictator. I will ban anyone whom I choose from posting comments — usually, for a damned good reason, but on rare occasions, for the exact same reason God created the platypus: because I feel like it.

I encourage a broad range of perspectives, philosophies, market positions, sexual orientations. Dissent is good. I want to see a debate of views, a battle in the market place of ideas ala Thomas Jefferson. You can post on nearly anything, so long as it is at least tangentially related to the topic at hand.

On occasion, I will “unpublish” a comment if I feel it is too impolite, harsh, ad hominem, inappropriate, or off-topic. Off-topic posts have been rising, and I have taken to unpublishing them en masse. Publish too many comments on a given post (3 or 4 relevant comments out of 30 are fine, 10 out of 30 is excessive). It takes me ~10 seconds to un-publish 10 comments. If you find yourself publishing way too many comments, consider this: This humble blog is my forum for expressing my ideas. Get your own damned blog.

Lately, I have been doing more than unpublishing nonsense posts — I simply en masse mark them as spam, and kiss that IP address good bye.

I also have been reviewing the IP addresses of posters, and looking at all of their comments. If they either publish under multiple names  (I love a comment and then a subsequent comment agreeing with themselves)  or simply post alot of jacked up nonsense, they get the same treatment. They won’t be missed.

Penalty Box: If you are consistently pushing comments that are off topic, flame baiting, or are inappropriate, but do not quite rise to the level of a full Troll, well we have a solution for you as well: The Penalty Box.

Do you engage in false rhetoric? Consistently make straw man arguments, ignore logic, don’t use sources or post junk sources?  Your comments will be posted — eventually — typically on a 24 hour delay. You can have your say, but you won’t influence the debate, as it will have moved on without you.

Getting Banned for Life:  A few things that will get you permanently banned from commenting at The Big Picture. The fastest way to lose posting privileges is to misrepresent your host’s complex and nuanced views in some inane bumper sticker comment.

Other fast tracks to getting banned:

- Knowingly posting false or malicious material;
- multiple postings under different names;
- generally engaging in troll-like behavior;
- misquoting your host/overlord;
- being impolite in the extreme;
- ad hominem attacks;
- being an asshole.

Right now, someone is reading this and saying to themselves “What does he mean, being an asshole?” If you wondered that to yourself, well the odds strongly favor that you yourself have sphincter-like qualities. Thus, you should consider it likely that you will be banned as a rectoid from posting comments sometime in the near future.

______________

*GYOFB  stands for Get Your Own Fucking Blog

Category: Weblogs

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

28 Responses to “Comments, Trolls, Asshats”

  1. Sam Jacob says:

    barry,
    you are a good man. I’ve learned a lot of financial lessons from your site. i’m not a rich person or who earns a lot of money. But i want to financially take care of myself and do my own investments.I’ve been a reader of your blog for a long time.It’s a shame that some people want to destroy this fine veneue of financial wisdom.
    thanks
    -Sam Jacob

  2. Peter says:

    Hey Barry,

    Care to comment on the complex and nuanced difference between an asshat and an asshole?

  3. Peter says:

    Just kidding! Love the blog. Great work.

  4. tazistanjen says:

    I’m a big fan of disemvoweling borderline trolls, myself. For one thing it is funny. Invented by Teresa Nielsen Hayden of Making light.

    http://www.nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/

  5. Steven says:

    If comments are starting to be a hassle, you might want to check out disqus dot com. It centralizes users, comments and whether they are respected out on the internets.

  6. T

    I briefly considered it — but its more work than necessary.

    The caveat is if anyone who is legitimately a regular poster, you may get accidently caught up in the deleting.

    Please email me privately to fix . . .

  7. Barry:

    Interestingly, I have noticed that on several sights as they grow, there is a tendency for the comments sections to become more like message boards.

    I had a conversation with a site I write for after I found that the anon and negative comments were growing at an alarming rate, especially whet talking I write about anything on the short side.

    I have been getting swarms of bogus trackbacks lately as this seems to be the new blog spam. This is a real problem, bt maybe your community can be a help here…

    Have you looked at Discus and Intensedebate? I believe they both work on your platform..

    ~~~

    BR: I’ve been looking at Disqus, but its a bit problematic with an advanced (custom) template.

    I heard it works well with WordPress tho, and in the next TBP version, I expect to use something like it . . .

  8. Jason G. says:

    I know what GYOFB means, what about GYOFBM? I’m pretty sure the “M” stands for m-typo.

    ~~~

    BR: Its from a buddy in Australia — the M stands for Mate — as in G’day, Mate.

  9. Mich(^IXIC1881) says:

    “I rule over all as benevolent dictator”

    It works for now and might work for another while, but if you have hundreds rather than tens of comments how will you keep up?

    Further, yes it may be your “fiefdom” but I for one see you as more of a facilitator and/or discussion-starter rather than a wisdom-dispenser, so it is more important to leverage people than try to manage all by yourself. By that I mean, in your new website you should allow for a council to have some administrative powers…For example, you can allow a select list of contributors to be able keep the site clean (read: delete comments). I can see Winston, Ross, downsouth, John B., Estragon kind of calm-natured, quality-commenting people belonging to that council where they vote on the quality of a comment whose writer will either one day be accepted to the council or on the other end be banned from adding more garbage.

    This will hopefully also increase their loyalty and dedication to TBP allowing many others to continue reading what they have to say.

    This requires that the new site has some kind of user registration requirement of course…which brings me to my next point….when is the new site coming?!

  10. j-daddy says:

    Barry,
    While I agree in spirit with your regulations, I would like to point out that the comments section depends in a way on the right kind of asshats. In order to have a lively back-and-forth on topics relating to the economy and the markets, which themselves are plagued with inexactitude and subjectivity masquerading as science, we need people that are so cocksure of themselves that they’ll defend shaky ground to the death.
    I’m usually at work, so I can rarely post until well after most of the regulars go to bed (or hang upside down in their closets). This site is always at its most entertaining and educational when there’s a big disagreement and several of the smartypantses start going toe-to-toe. Their behavior may often get asshatty, but it’s their particular brand of asshattiness that makes this site so much fun.
    You’ve done a great job thus far of striking the right balance, and for that I commend you.

  11. odograph says:

    You’re just (still) wrong about anons. As I said before, Benjamin Franklin did it.

    Personally I like the freedom to say “only and idiot would flip property in this environment” and then meet the old friend caught in a flip, who mentioned that he’d tried googling me.

    Some of us like to be honest online, and understated or commiserating in person.

    Now, do anons go around the bend? Of course, but so do real namers (even more foolishly).

  12. ben says:

    Disemvoweling also has a reasonably detailed Wikipedia entry, though it may not be a practical solution in light of this blog’s platform (present and future) and audience.

    If I was being asked for advice, it would be to obliterate trolling as if it had never existed, and holding onto the traffic data… because one op’s troll may be another’s harasser, and traffic data can go a long way toward proving patterns of behavior.

    One of the commandments of Internet community participation has been Thou Shalt Not Feed Trolls.

    The word I cannot get out of my head refers to that which issues from the aft end of a certain species of fowl.

  13. JasRas says:

    Barry,

    God bless you for being a benevolent dictator! Give an inch, lose a mile on the web. You’ve kept this site a meaningful part of my day/week for several years by occasionally reminding the masses of the terms and conditions of TheBigPicture.

    I generally leave my home address rather than work b/c our company is just as serious about participating in free thought about financial markets and the economy. Simply a function of the world we live in, regrettably.

    Anyhow, thanks for keeping this a useful and viable site

  14. John says:

    Agreed, Barry. you have every right to require that your blog not be abused. However, a few have made points about a certain sort of asshole adding to the discussion, and this has some validity, I believe, particularly in a financal blog. So I guess it’s going to be a bit of a balancing act for you, while the readership will need to know when to have a bit of a thicker skin.

    Obviously, the willingness to tolerate asshattery probably needs to be directly proportional to the degree that the ‘hat adds value to the proceedings.

  15. Asshat says:

    There are 37 definitions for asshat, pick a number from 1 to 37.

  16. BR, if you’re going to ban all these people then can you get rid of the verification screen? If you added up all the comments on your blog and multiply it by 15 seconds to a minute (a minute for when i can’t even read the damn verification words and have to reenter it 2-3 times) that amounts to alot of wasted time.

  17. alexd says:

    Ok I will get another email account!

    I have never understood why trolls and other do what they do, it is boring and annoying. I suppose I best study pathological behavior.

  18. bluestatedon says:

    Barry’s done a great job in navigating the treacherous seas between a stifling sameness of comments and the anarchy of unregulated assholism. Some other blogs I visit could benefit from a bit more benevolent regulation.

  19. Thomas H. says:

    Barry, you have become a comment Nazi — “this is my blog, no more comments for you!”

    P.S. Bluestatedon, you have broken Comment Nazi Terms of Use — no double posts.

  20. CDizzle says:

    My two (or three) cents:

    I take Barry’s discourse as an implied commentary on the decline of (not so) common sense these days. I don’t post or read comments as much as I used to, so maybe the environment is changing for the worse and I’m unaware(s). I use a Hotmail email account because my other option is my employer-provided addy which I don’t provide online for multiple reasons.

    It comes to this: Barry posts on various topics/articles/data. Shouldn’t comments be related to what the source, Commentor and/or Barry himself has to say about it? Sure, a comment directed towards another poster is relevant, but is, IMHO, not directly related to Barry’s post.

    I cringed on the “ask my opinion for this” section as I’ve done that via email, at least implicitly. FWIW, every single time I’ve emailed Barry (~5), I’ve gotten a reply.

    Bottom line: if one posts on this site, one should have enough common sense to understand/comply with the ground rules. I mean, if I have, everyone else should. :)

    Sure is nice to have a forum like this to share and sponge good ideas off of, let’s all do our part…

  21. JWC says:

    Barry, one of the things I love about your blog is the fact that I can read the comments and not have to wade through the kind of stuff that you are talking about. It is your “house”, you certainly can make the rules. And in the process you make it nicer for you and great for those of us who usually just lurk and enjoy the good information. (I’m a 65 year old grandmother, I rarely comment, but I am here EVERY day my computer is on, which is every day that I am home.)

  22. mo says:

    My boyfriend knows I spend a lot of time reading blogs and will occasionally ask why I don’t start one. I tell him “it’s a LOT of work”.

    So you’re right to say gyofb.

    Thanks & good night.

  23. MarkD says:

    I agree with your rules but the no yahoo or gmail is kinda harsh, see cdizzle above

  24. Space Cowboy says:

    Senor Barry….

    Perhaps it’s a Right vs. Left coast thing concerning ideology, but I found that referring to someone as an asshole barely tips their radar. Some even consider the label as a benefit to their being.

    While designation of someone exhibiting
    “Cranial Rectal Inversion” behaviors provokes a response….

    As always, your mileage may vary…

    Senor Barry…..Thank You for this forum w/your thoughts & perceptions, and the esteemed group of individuals that respond!

    Space Cowboy….(from the flightdeck of the ‘Lifestyles of the Rich & Aimless’)

  25. Joe says:

    Well, it’s great that you don’t post email address, but they are probably archived. So our comments are getting a google score? Really? How does that work? I’m sort of working on my own site (not a blog), that I expect to want posters though. It seems like you can’t really fight a sophisticated attack though…

  26. donna says:

    Assholes are disgusting and annoying, but somewhat useful.

    Asshats are completely useless, since obviously nobody wears a hat on their ass, and if you did, it would fall off.

  27. Quiddity says:

    All hail the benevolent dictator!

    Seriously though, regarding internet email: gmail is being used more because of the free POP service. I own several domains and lately have forwarded my customers’ mail through gmail to filter spam (it’s virtually impossible for a small hosting service or client-side spam-catcher to keep up). And if you are going to do that, why not use gmail for all mail to begin with? (Or migrate to.) In the past, hotmail was a source of troll/spam traffic, but I get the impression that gmail is less likely to have such accounts.

  28. cinefoz says:

    You didn’t say anything about ass monkeys. I own several. Originally, they flew out of my ass, but I decided to keep them around to work as house servants. They are a little unstable unless you know how to handle them.

    Several wear t-shirts that say ‘I do what the voices in my head tell me to do’. This is a disclaimer as they mean it.

    On occasion, I have found the need to give them cans of Red Bull, then send them over to the home of an annoyance so they can crap in the yard. Don’t get near one while they are on a mission like this.

    Thus, you might want to ban ass monkeys from your site as well, as they can be unsavory at times. However, they make excellent house servants when you know how to handle them. Want me to send a few over?