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@blamer You have a point. The blog comment forum as a tool for debate has serious limitations. However, if people are going to cry "unfair treatment", it'd be nice if they acknowledged the limitations of the forum.
Intent isn't magic. People can only go on what they read. It's a difficult problem... a lot of self-education is required before engaging in any online forum. I mean, really, just look at the comments on any major newspaper article and despair for humanity. :)
2 years ago on Being Right Doesn’t Guarantee That You’re Not Wrong – By Jacques Rousseau
Your opinion and my opinion on whether he WAS a troll are sort of beside the point. His behavior fit a classic pattern that people have dealt with on a number of occasions. Personally, I think he was a troll. I might be wrong, but I think I fairly clearly laid out WHY he was perceived as a troll.
There is indeed a "siege mentality" at some blogs, to steal a phrase from elsewhere in this thread. If people really want to engage in substantive engagement, it would behoove them to remember that, and to really LISTEN when people tell them they're coming off as a troll.
Whatever his actual troll status, Timon completely failed to do that, despite multiple opportunities.
@br0kenmech Actually, I would argue it's extremely relevant. The sequence of the thread is:
- debate about content of this thread (i.e. ideal format of commenting sections, with Timon engaged and arguments presented). This went for ~ 70 comments
- comments warning Timon for Tea that he was acting in ways that some people found reminiscent of trolling (see #72). Commenter stressed "Not saying that's what you're intending to say, of course".
- Tim for Tea continues to argue "NOBODY should be allowed to call names or be abusive". (#75)
- Pteryxx provides extremely detailed response (#76) with many links.
- Things start to go offtopic with a discussion of reporting of rape and whether reports of rape are treated with same respect as reports of car theft. (#85-90). Tim asserts "psychological harm cannot be caused by statements. The kind of verbalisations that can cause such harm ( threats, abuse, assault etc) are policed by the law." People disagree.
- Timon now attempts to veer into a discussion of whether the State should be allowed to police thought as a result of this discussion. "IN PRINCIPLE" of course. (#99)
- Timon (responding to request) claims nobody has provided evidence that harmful statements impact rape victims (#108), ignoring several previous comments.
- Responses specifically indicate the examples Timon is ignoring and ask Timon to address them. (#100, #106, #108).
- Timon doubles down at #111, "Stephanie, you didn't give an example". Redoubles at #114. Finally opines that he really wish the conversation hadn't derailed at #119. Actually says "I realise that for most of you rape is just an interesting theoretical subject", despite multiple people asserting direct experience with sexual abuse. Accuses his main interlocutor (Stephanie) of trolling.
At which point, people give up and Timon disappears.
Recap: Tone and moderation policies -> reporting rape vs. reporting car -> thought control by the state -> ignoring repeated requests to address the points made -> completely dismissing the rape survivors ON THAT THREAD -> huffing off muttering about tone trolling.
So yeah, he made what appeared to be a genuine effort and people engaged him. Then he began derailing, people observed he was derailing, he ignored their requests to return to topic, wandered completely off topic, then whined about tone. Yet you claim that he was treated badly? And he did it without being "uncivil", but he did completely derail a thread.
And you think he was treated unfairly? Wow.
That's all I'm going to say here, since I'm sure Martin Pribble has better things to read, and I have no wish to derail this thread further than has happened already.
@ Martin S. Pribble:
While I greatly enjoyed your post and agree with many of your points, it seems like your focus is more on the responsibility of the blogs/websites than on the commenters. There are two sides in this "apparent civil war", and unfortunately it seems like only one has been called out with regards to maintaining a hospitable forum.
I'm sure many people might disagree with me, but the "flow of trolls" really seems to be unidirectional.
It's illustrative that on Ophelia Benson's commentary on your piece (<a href="http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/08/remembering-that-we-can-be-wrong/">here</a>), the comments section immediately devolved into a classic example of JAQ-ing off (Just Asking Questions). It went straight to your comment:
"Yet, we have to make distinctions between well-meaning interlocutors and trolls, and we all want to keep our websites and blogs free of trollish pestilence. So patience cannot be infinite. But when the current tensions started escalating to the point of an apparent civil war, it started to appear as if – increasingly – some members of this community started making judgements before hearing any arguments."
The apparent civil war has been going on for some time. It's incumbent on both website/blogs AND people visiting them to contribute to a troll-free zone. At this point, well-meaning interlocutors really can't plead ignorance of the environment they're entering into. The map clearly indicates "Here be Trolls", after all.
P.S. I deleted and reposted this comment as I used someone else's words without permission. While I attributed it in the original post, I felt uncomfortable enough to remove the direct quote.
@suninabox I should clarify that my specific focus on Pharyngula was as a specific example. Obviously the major points are true beyond just that; I found it easier to focus on a specific case.
@vjack At this point, the siege has been ongoing for some time. Newcomers would be well-advised to recognize that some of the blogs on FTB have been under siege for a good long time now. My response to suninabox above was long enough, so I'll just direct you there for my summary of how engaging at, say, Pharyngula (or B&W, or for that matter a non-FTB blog) is a two way street.
But I have to add, the #FtBullies thing is just straight up dishonest. Not calling you dishonest, just observing that the people who engendered that meme did so either out of complete ignorance or bad faith. It's a network of independent blogs, most of which are completely peripheral to this debate.
@suninabox A couple comments on that:
First, Twitter is probably the least effective form of communication ever invented by humankind. I can't find this example compelling, because it may very well have spun out of a different forum. Twitter doesn't provide a great place to see this. If Josh and Justin have interacted before (I know Josh in the sense that I've interacted with him in forums, but I'm not familiar with Justin Vacula, at least by that name), it might go a long way toward explaining the vitriol in that exchange.
In short, a single Twitter exchange between two people is a really bad example from which to base generalizations.
Second, with that said, from my experiences at Pharyngula, I feel it necessary to really emphasize some points:
Pharyngula has a 3 post rule. Regular commenters are asked to restrain themselves (and restrain others, even!) by assuming a newcomer is NOT a troll for 3 of their posts. If, at the end of that, they give every indication of being a troll, the claws are encouraged.
Pharyngula gets a LOT of trolls. A lot. And not the "can't tell" kind, but the "unreconstructed" kind mentioned in the original post.
Due to the format of a blog commenting section, it is quite possible to come and see some truly vitriolic language directed at these trolls, often in the context of a multi-page thread with comments numbering in the hundreds. This should not be confused with the general tone. It is a specific response to individuals who are attempting to derail and rouse anger for teh lulz.
Tone trolling is a classic derailing move by these dishonest actors. They disregard actual polite comments and zero in on the ones made by people that contain any heat or "objectionable" language. It's extremely frustrating to deal with, and as Ophelia said in another comment here, it's very difficult to have a system for determining "troll" from "well-meaning but engaging in troll-like behavior" without a lot of false positives.
Finally, there's a weariness that sets in when people come in and ask very basic questions that have been addressed again, and again, and again, and again. Pharyngula has a Feminism 101 wiki that people are routinely directed to, as it answers the questions a lot of newcomers raise. If people ignore it, they're not going to be treated well, as most people at Pharyngula have zero interest in rehashing arguments that have been dealt with (from their/our perspective) many times over many years. Again, this is a behavior often used by bona fide trolls, in that they ask very basic questions, are referred to a reference, and ignore it so they can later complain about how they were treated.
I'm fairly new to the Pharyngula community (only started commenting regularly about a month ago). I've put my foot in my mouth and been thoroughly chewed out. However, once I recognize how I've put my foot wrong, I've acknowledged it and people have been quite gracious. Note that this does NOT mean I necessarily "folded and agreed", it means that I made a public effort to understand the terms of the debate and the conventions of the forum I was commenting in. That was well received!
So the TL;DR of this all is:
If you're concerned about being seen as a troll, make that clear up front. Realize you're entering a space that has been subjected to repeated attack by dishonest actors. Recognize that people may jump aggressively on things they perceive as being symptomatic of such. Engage the arguments in a forum on the terms of the community there.
People are trying to preserve their safe spaces on the internet, and if they're unduly aggressive, remember they have reason and engage accordingly.