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Dealing with jerks

As a sort of thought experiment, I recently contemplated what I would do if this blog approached the size of Rachel Lucas’. This is actually a rather salient comparison, because I believe that I would like for this space to most strongly imitate hers. While the frequent and frenetic posts of, say, Instapundit make for interesting reading, I am not a robot and can’t compete with Professor Reynolds there. Nor do I have the dedication and temerity to write vast tracts a few times a month, a la Steven Den Beste or Bill Whittle.

No, I like the butter zone somewhere in between: relatively posts that are short, frequent, and still opinionated and (hopefully) insightful. But the actual focus of this particular flight of fancy was contemplating the audience that she has attracted, and how I would deal with them. Now, I’m not just referring to the people who completely miss the point of a post, but those who drill down so far into the point, bringing their own assumptions of the author’s intentions, that they find a treasure trove of concepts and philosophies that they so strongly oppose, that they take the time to write out a strongly-worded rebuttal of any statements that conflict with their own, be these statements real or imagined.

It seems to me that such actions require gradient of reactions that begins with “Thanks for your comments, but I still disagree” and end with banning them from your site. Rachel has always been rather courteous, although of late she’s begun to make her displeasure with these people clear, and yet they just don’t get the message. For some reason, these people believe that it is their job, their righteous calling, to sit at a computer and type out thousand-word essays on why she should join the Christian Faith. And then as soon as she uses an obliquely religious maxim, a group of similarly enthusiastic atheists chastise her in a similar manner.

However, what I think these people fail to realize is that this is the internet and you can never take it too seriously. And yes, taking it upon yourself to spend hours upon hours to convert one single stalwart who has resisted decades of attempted conversions is “taking it too seriously.”

I was actually recently discussing the need for non-seriousness with a fellow moderator over at ThinkingWithPortals, a forum and community centered around creating content for the video game Portal. See, TWP has developed a very low tolerance for idiots and noobs mostly under the direction (and ban hammer) of its owner and proprieter, who goes by the handle msleeper.

Ever since I began hanging around there, I found his policies rather more restrictive and harsh than other forums: strict limits on signature sizes, little patience for stupid questions spread over multiple threads, and so on. I’ve also found myself thinking that I would probably not go so far in my reaction to a certain user action that msleeper has. However, I think that’s probably because I have no experience with masterminding such a community, where he has learned from experience that rules bring order to the chaotic internet.

And the results are hard to argue with. By specifically ruling out certain idiotic behaviors and, essentially, hazing those who engage in unregulated idiocy, the community has become rather refined. It’s small, to be sure, but the people who are there know the rules and will usually warn transgressors before a moderator can even take any action. We still get an occasional idiot every now and then (“My map doesn’t work. Why not?”) but the system has grown up to handle such things.

The only prospect that actually alarms me is that msleeper, in his time among other projects and communities, has found that Scandinavia is apparently five hours ahead of us in real time, and ten months behind in internet time. He bases this on the fact that ten months is approximately how long it takes from the launch of some project until a deluge of Swedes, Finns, and Norwegians arrive, eager to work and hesitant to use the Queen’s English. TWP is about 8 months old, so that is still ahead.

But at least this blog has made it through an entire year with nary an indecipherable comment in a foreign language. May many more be ahead.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. patberry
    June 13, 2008 at 2:31 am

    wa’ Hol mu’mey puS je neH ghaj qo’ Hoch. “Kedem”vo’ ghoSDI’ “Shinar” wo’Daq/puHDaq ngech lutu’pu’ ‘ej pa’ yIn. ‘ej ja’chuq <>.

    ‘ej ja’chuq <>

    ‘ej veng’e’ qach’a”e’ je chenmoHpu’bogh loDpu’ leghmeH jotlh’egh joH’a’. ‘ej ja’ joH’a’ <>

    ‘ej pa’vo’ qo’ HochDaq ghomHa’moH joH’a’; ‘ej veng luchenmoH ‘e’ lumev. Dochvammo’ pong Daqvetlh ‘oH “Babel”‘e’, Hol qo’ Hoch mISmoHmo’ joH’a’, ‘ej pa’vo’ qo’ HochDaq ghomHa’moH joH’a’.

  2. August 2, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    I agreed with you

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