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A possible solution to the trolling problem on this news group



 
 
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  #1  
Old May 8th 09, 12:52 PM posted to uk.rec.cycling
Rudi[_2_]
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Posts: 3
Default A possible solution to the trolling problem on this news group

Hi! (and sorry for the long post)

I've been giving quite a bit of thought to what has been going on
in urc. I have noticed that over the last few years many regular
posters have largely dropped out (whatever happened to Waffly Cat
amongst others for example) and the group has largely been taken over
by motoring/anti-cycling trolls and responses to them, and the amount
of discussion about cycling now forms quite a small part of what goes
on here. Furthermore discussion from the trolls is astonishingly full
of really vile personal abuse of other posters. Additionally a cycling
newsgroup is somewhere posters should be allowed (despite what the non-
cycling trolls say) to let off steam about the phenomenon (motorists
and other motorised road traffic) that most affects the pleasurabilty/
safety of their chosen activity. They should also be able to discuss
measures that they think would improve their lives. Yet every time
they do, they get met by a torrent of abuse/its or some counter
argument about why they should just either stop cycling or just put up
with the situation. Imagine if people did the same to people who have
been burgled/mugged. No wonder people have dropped out.

Some posters advocate the use of kill-files. The main drawback of this
is that it doesn't really solve the problem in general. Although you
may not see the posts you don't want to see, it doesn't stop the group
being overwhelmed with irrelevant/nasty postings so other people can
be put off the group. Additionally not everyone uses a news reader
with a kill-file facility, or they don't have the technical expertise,
or willingness to keep updating it to keep up with new trolls/nym-
shifts etc. Additionally it is very hard for non-troll (i.e. pro-
cycling) users of this newsgroup not to get drawn into troll-wresting/
winding up even though on the whole we know it is pointless and
probably only makes the problem worse. I myself have been guilty of
this recently.

So what can be done?

A) One response would be to moderate urc. Although this would probably
sort the problem for the majority there are disadvantages to this:

1) not every one wants urc to be moderated
2) some people actually enjoy engaging with the trolls (actually it
can be quite fun winding them up, but it does damage the news group)
3) in addition to the people who donít like moderation on principle,
there are possibly so many motoring trolls (and Iím sure the ones
there are could call on others from certain transport related groups,
and/or adopt multiple identities) that Iím not sure it would be easy
to get a moderation call through

B) An alternative response is to just start up an alternative
moderated news-group. This however runs the risk of splitting the
cycling community into those on one group and those on another

So is there some way of leaving urc unmoderated while still somehow
enabling people who want to to essentially see a moderated version?

I think it would be not too hard to write a program that would run on
an appropriate server that did the following:

1) read in all messages posted to urc
2) run these through a filter which passed some, kill-filed others,
and passed some through to human moderator (note this does not affect
anyone's view of urc itself)
3) sent the messages passed either by the filter or the human
moderator through to another new news group
4) Anything posted directly to this new group would also go through
the same filtering/moderation process
5) Anything that gets through this moderation/filtering process would
also be sent automatically to urc, unless it originated there (since
it would already be there!)

In other words the new news group would provide a filtered version of
urc. Those who donít want any moderation, or donít like the way the
moderator(s) do their job could just stay on urc as now - they would
see everything posted to urc just as now, and urc would function just
as now. Other people can switch back and forth between the groups as
they see fit. Even posts to the new group would be seen on urc.
However those who preferred to see a more cycling related newsgroup
would just read the alternative group, knowing that actually anyone on
urc would still see their posts.

Possibly a scheme of multiple moderators could lessen the burden on
the moderator, although an automated "robo-moderator" would help.
Multiple moderators would also lessen concerns about who was in
charge, although as stated above anyone unhappy with this can just
switch back to urc and not miss anything (just gain lots of trolling!)


My hope would be that this could satisfy everyone (except people whose
only real aim in life is to disrupt urc as a cycling newsgroup).
Before investing any time in trying to set something like this up I
would be interested in other peopleís views.

Rudi

PS On a technical note I believe there are Python libraries that make
dealing with NNTP protocols easy, and there are automated moderator
systems like this one

http://www.algebra.com/~ichudov/stump/

which should make all this possible reasonably easily.

If there is interest I will have a go, or if I find time is short I
may set it up as a possible inal year project for our undergradiates.
It would make a very good project! But that way it would take rather
longer to get going (about a year)


My hope would be that this could satisfy everyone (except people whose
only real aim in life is to disrupt urc as a cycling newsgroup).
Before investing any time in trying to set something like this up I
would be interested in other peopleís views.

Rudi

PS On a technical note I believe there are Python libraries that make
dealing with NNTP protocols easy, and there are automated moderator
systems like this one

http://www.algebra.com/~ichudov/stump/

which should make all this possible reasonably easily.

If there is interest I will have a go, or if I find time is short I
may set it up as a possible inal year project for our undergradiates.
It would make a very good project! But that way it would take rather
longer to get going (about a year)

Ads
  #2  
Old May 8th 09, 01:22 PM posted to uk.rec.cycling
Jackbike
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Posts: 33
Default A possible solution to the trolling problem on this news group

I, for one would like my cycling newsgroup back please. Count me as
interested.

J


  #3  
Old May 8th 09, 02:05 PM posted to uk.rec.cycling
[email protected]
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Posts: 42
Default A possible solution to the trolling problem on this news group

On 8 May, 13:22, "Jackbike" [email protected] wrote:
I, for one would like my cycling newsgroup back please. Count me as
interested.



Yea, it would be good to talk about bikes on a cycling newsgroup for
once!!
  #5  
Old May 8th 09, 02:44 PM posted to uk.rec.cycling
Doug[_3_]
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Posts: 5,927
Default A possible solution to the trolling problem on this news group

On 8 May, 14:05, wrote:
On 8 May, 13:22, "Jackbike" [email protected] wrote:

I, for one would like my cycling newsgroup back please. Count me as
interested.


Yea, it would be good to talk about bikes on a cycling newsgroup for
once!!

I don't want to be a wet blanket but my experience has been that
USENET, like the world at large, has become infested and dominated by
motorists who, now that they are under extreme pressure from the
environmental lobby, are having to try to justify their chosen mode of
transport. Part of their justification seems to be trying to rubbish
cleaner forms of transport such as cycling while embracing polluting
forms of transport such as flying.

So there can be no simple solution to your problem. Good luck though
with your cycling discussions.

--
Car Free Cities
http://www.carfree.com/
Carfree Cities proposes a delightful solution
to the vexing problem of urban automobiles.


  #6  
Old May 8th 09, 02:48 PM posted to uk.rec.cycling
David Damerell
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Posts: 1,863
Default A possible solution to the trolling problem on this news group

Quoting Rudi :
In other words the new news group would provide a filtered version of
urc.


You'd only get a lot of troll-feeding. I think you'd do better to RFD
urc.moderated.
--
David Damerell Oil is for sissies
Today is First Sunday, May - a weekend.
  #7  
Old May 8th 09, 02:58 PM posted to uk.rec.cycling
[email protected][_2_]
external usenet poster
 
Posts: 116
Default A possible solution to the trolling problem on this news group

The trolls, if that is what they are, don't really bother me. None of
them has been abusive and like you say, they can be amusing from time
to time. The only bad side is their attack on Guy Chapman, but even
then, he isn't bothered by them either. In time they will get fed up
of posting pointless messages in a dusty old part of the internet and
find something more constructive to do.

--
Simon Mason
  #8  
Old May 8th 09, 02:58 PM posted to uk.rec.cycling
Brimstone[_8_]
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Posts: 1,237
Default A possible solution to the trolling problem on this news group

Doug wrote:
On 8 May, 14:05, wrote:
On 8 May, 13:22, "Jackbike" [email protected] wrote:

I, for one would like my cycling newsgroup back please. Count me as
interested.


Yea, it would be good to talk about bikes on a cycling newsgroup for
once!!

I don't want to be a wet blanket but my experience has been that
USENET, like the world at large, has become infested and dominated by
motorists who, now that they are under extreme pressure from the
environmental lobby, are having to try to justify their chosen mode of
transport. Part of their justification seems to be trying to rubbish
cleaner forms of transport such as cycling while embracing polluting
forms of transport such as flying.

So there can be no simple solution to your problem. Good luck though
with your cycling discussions.


Doug, you are part of the problem since the vast majority of your posts are
about cars and motoring.


  #9  
Old May 8th 09, 03:04 PM posted to uk.rec.cycling
TheMgt
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Posts: 80
Default A possible solution to the trolling problem on this news group

Rudi wrote:
[Snip troll slaying measures]

I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way
to be sure.

--
){:|:&};:
  #10  
Old May 8th 09, 03:14 PM posted to uk.rec.cycling
Ian Jackson
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Posts: 484
Default A possible solution to the trolling problem on this news group

In article ,
Rudi wrote:
I've been giving quite a bit of thought to what has been going on
in urc. [...]


I quite agree. My killfile is now taking out around 80% of the
messages. And I'm a hardened campaigning type.

I have long experience with USENET both on technical and political
level so I hope I can provide some useful information about the
various options.

B) An alternative response is to just start up an alternative
moderated news-group. This however runs the risk of splitting the
cycling community into those on one group and those on another


This is the conventional approach in this situation. I don't think
there would be too much difficulty getting people to move over to the
new group. We should have a regular FAQ posting inviting people to
the moderated group.

A) One response would be to moderate urc. Although this would probably
sort the problem for the majority there are disadvantages to this:


As well as the political problems you identify, which are severe,
changing an unmoderated group to a moderated one is also very
difficult for technical reasons. I think we should rule this out.

So is there some way of leaving urc unmoderated while still somehow
enabling people who want to to essentially see a moderated version?


I don't think this is worth the hassle. It's possible I think in
principle but there are going to be difficulties. I don't think
anyone has done anything like this before and it would be
controversial. One more conventional option would be to have the
moderation system always crosspost its output to the unmoderated
group, and to have it post _rejected_ articles only to the unmoderated
group. That would have much the same effect.

But really I think one of the things we want to avoid is the kind of
fragmentation of discussions that results from a filtering approach.


So in summary I think we should create uk.rec.cycling.moderated.

I think the real difficulty is the moderation policy. To avoid
endless and useless arguing about whether someone is or is not an
obnoxious and disruptive troll, and/or whether some article is or is
not new and useful, it is necessary to have a moderation policy which
is objective.

We don't want to exclude all messages which criticise someone's
cycling. Do we even want to exclude messages which mention h*lm*ts ?

Given the obsession that has been generated in some of the trolls we
can expect any policy we write which depends only on the content to be
subverted. Consider a piece of trollery starting like this:

From: Sock Puppet

I was cycling to work the other day when I thought I would try
not using the cycle track alongside the road, and instead use
the `primary position' in the road. I found that I held up
the traffic very much and although the drivers all kept their
distance I felt I was probably being inconsiderate. Why do
so many posters to this group advocate cycling in this way ?

(which I've made up; I'm sure there must be real examples and even if
there aren't now, there would be). How do we distinguish it from a
sensible and respectfully phrased question like this:

Subject: Passing cyclists two-up on narrow roads

I recently passed two cyclists riding two abreast on a B-road. I'm
interested in opinions on whether my approach to passing was okay from a
cyclist's perspective.

It was on a country road that's about wide enough for two cars doing around
40mph or so, going in opposite directions, to pass each other without
[...]

?


I think things we can clearly exclude include:

* Postings which are abusive or insulting.

* Postings which substantially repeat something which has already
been said in the thread, even if by someone else.

But I don't think that's sufficient.

Ideas, that seem to be perhaps unsatisfactory but are worth
brainstorming, include:

* Require posters (of some kinds of articles?) to give and use
their real name (eg, to avoid nym-shifting).

* More severe restrictions on articles about controversial topics.
(We could make a list of the subjects, or have the moderators
maintain a list.)

* Maintain a list of approved posters of some kind and impose
draconian restrictions even as to subject matter of un-approved
posters.

Eg:

* Prohibit postings about `road politics' from any previously-unknown
poster.

* Prohibit postings about `road poltiics' from pseudonymous posters.

* Reject postings which seem to miss or dodge the point of the
article they're following up to.

* Reject postings from posters who cherry-pick the articles to reply
to, to ones they have an answer for.

* Reject postings from posters who have frequently posted things
which can be objectively determined to be wrong.

PS On a technical note I believe there are Python libraries that make
dealing with NNTP protocols easy, and there are automated moderator
systems like this one


There is no technical difficulty with running a moderated group. I'd
be happy to host and run moderation software on my own colo machine.

--
Ian Jackson personal email:
These opinions are my own. http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~ijackson/
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