[moderator action] Eugine_Nier is now banned for mass downvote harassment

post by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-07-03T12:04:26.087Z · score: 107 (126 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 368 comments

Contents

   Harrassment of individual users. 
None
368 comments

As previously discussed, on June 6th I received a message from jackk, a Trike Admin. He reported that the user Jiro had asked Trike to carry out an investigation to the retributive downvoting that Jiro had been subjected to. The investigation revealed that the user Eugine_Nier had downvoted over half of Jiro's comments, amounting to hundreds of downvotes.

I asked the community's guidance on dealing with the issue, and while the matter was being discussed, I also reviewed previous discussions about mass downvoting and looked for other people who mentioned being the victims of it. I asked Jack to compile reports on several other users who mentioned having been mass-downvoted, and it turned out that Eugine was also overwhelmingly the biggest downvoter of users David_Gerard, daenarys, falenas108, ialdabaoth, shminux, and Tenoke. As this discussion was going on, it turned out that user Ander had also been targeted by Eugine.

I sent two messages to Eugine, requesting an explanation. I received a response today. Eugine admitted his guilt, expressing the opinion that LW's karma system was failing to carry out its purpose of keeping out weak material and that he was engaged in a "weeding" of users who he did not think displayed sufficient rationality.

Needless to say, it is not the place of individual users to unilaterally decide that someone else should be "weeded" out of the community. The Less Wrong content deletion policy contains this clause:

Harrassment of individual users.

If we determine that you're e.g. following a particular user around and leaving insulting comments to them, we reserve the right to delete those comments. (This has happened extremely rarely.)

Although the wording does not explicitly mention downvoting, harassment by downvoting is still harassment. Several users have indicated that they have experienced considerable emotional anguish from the harassment, and have in some cases been discouraged from using Less Wrong at all. This is not a desirable state of affairs, to say the least.

I was originally given my moderator powers on a rather ad-hoc basis, with someone awarding mod privileges to the ten users with the highest karma at the time. The original purpose for that appointment was just to delete spam. Nonetheless, since retributive downvoting has been a clear problem for the community, I asked the community for guidance on dealing with the issue. The rough consensus of the responses seemed to authorize me to deal with the problem as I deemed appropriate.

The fact that Eugine remained quiet about his guilt until directly confronted with the evidence, despite several public discussions of the issue, is indicative of him realizing that he was breaking prevailing social norms. Eugine's actions have worsened the atmosphere of this site, and that atmosphere will remain troubled for as long as he is allowed to remain here.

Therefore, I now announce that Eugine_Nier is permanently banned from posting on LessWrong. This decision is final and will not be changed in response to possible follow-up objections.

Unfortunately, it looks like while a ban prevents posting, it does not actually block a user from casting votes. I have asked jackk to look into the matter and find a way to actually stop the downvoting. Jack indicated earlier on that it would be technically straightforward to apply a negative karma modifier to Eugine's account, and wiping out Eugine's karma balance would prevent him from casting future downvotes. Whatever the easiest solution is, it will be applied as soon as possible.

EDIT 24 July 2014: Banned users are now prohibited from voting.

368 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Error · 2014-07-03T14:05:13.916Z · score: 45 (53 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted because moderation is hard and I get the impression it's more responsibility than you thought you were signing up for.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-07-03T16:20:58.171Z · score: 45 (47 votes) · LW · GW

Especially since I never actually even signed up for it - I was just told one day that "hey, you're a mod now". :-)

comment by Error · 2014-07-03T23:19:20.447Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Ouch. Well, I'm not sure you can say that anymore. I don't envy you your new position as Garden Keeper.

comment by orthonormal · 2014-07-20T22:47:39.016Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

moderator : Garden Keeper :: Confessor : kiritsugu?

comment by chaosmage · 2014-07-04T10:59:16.462Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

That increases my trust in you.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2014-07-03T12:42:41.105Z · score: 41 (45 votes) · LW · GW

Huh. So I WASN'T paranoid.

That's actually a good feeling.

comment by hairyfigment · 2014-07-03T18:35:16.069Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I don't feel even a little surprised - the one contrary hypothesis that seemed worth considering was someone personally close to, or weirdly obsessed with, Eugine Nier. But yes, this is good news.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2014-07-03T18:37:40.046Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Well, the last time I brought it up, there was quite a bit of controversy about whether I was imagining things... so I somehow feel vindicated. (But not TOO vindicated - it's important to note let those probabilities peg to 0 or 1)

comment by Error · 2014-07-03T22:47:57.195Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't really approve of this when you posted it, but for what it's worth I just upvoted it as a correct prediction.

comment by solipsist · 2014-07-03T12:45:26.125Z · score: 30 (34 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you, Kaj_Sotala, for taking decisive action in the face of social awkwardness.

I'm sad to see Eugine_Nier go, but it sounds like a win overall.

comment by shminux · 2014-07-03T18:00:39.681Z · score: 27 (47 votes) · LW · GW

I seem to be the lone dissenter here, but I am unhappy about the ban. Not that it is unjustified, it definitely is. However, it does not address the main issue (until jackk fiddles with karma): preventing Eugine from mass downvoting. So this is mainly retribution, rather than remediation, which seems anti-rational to me, if emotionally satisfying, as one of the victims.

Imagine for a moment that Eugine did not engage in mass downvoting. He would be a valuable regular on this site. I recall dozens of insightful comments he made (and dozens of poor ones, of course, but who am I to point fingers), and I only stopped engaging him in the comments after his mass-downvoting habits were brought to light for the first time. So, I would rather see him exposed and dekarmified, but allowed to participate.

TL;DR: banning is a wrong decision, should have been exposed and stripped of the ability of downvote instead. Optionally, all his votes ever could have been reversed, unless it's hard.

EDIT: apparently not the lone dissenter, just the first to speak up.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-07-03T19:39:46.425Z · score: 15 (17 votes) · LW · GW

This should be considered as a possibly better solution. People who can't be trusted with algorithmic control of visibility of others' posts may still have worthwhile posts of their own to contribute.

That said, I'm not sure I can wholeheartedly endorse it. Well-kept gardens die by pacifism. A person who has demonstrated active hostility toward others in the community perhaps shouldn't be regarded as a good-faith contributor. Kaj has construed this as a harassment problem rather than a bad data problem — it's not that Eugine was feeding erroneous data into a ranking algorithm whose output we care about; it's that he was (admittedly) trying to drive people off the site whom he didn't approve of.

comment by shminux · 2014-07-03T20:17:43.900Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Kaj has construed this as a harassment problem

Right. And it seems like a non-central application of the harassment clause. As a result, he applied the measures standard for a harassment, which are not the best ones in this situation.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-07-03T22:11:01.311Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Part of the problem is that the cited policy is phrased as a nonbinding "deletion policy" (a discussion of cases when moderators might delete posts or comments) and not a "conduct policy" (discussing acceptable use of the site in general). The closest we seem to have to the latter is the "Site Etiquette and Social Norms" section of the FAQ, which does discuss some unacceptable uses of the voting mechanism but does not contemplate that someone might go so far as to use it to intentionally drive users off the site. That may not be a failure of imagination — it may be an avoidance of the "Don't stuff beans up your nose!" problem. Spelling out lots of ways to abuse the system provides a malicious or mischievous user with a list of things to do.

In any event, it's a bad idea to cooperate with a defectbot.

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2014-07-03T20:28:38.990Z · score: 11 (17 votes) · LW · GW

I'm glad this was done, if only to send a signal to the community that something is being done, but you have a point that this is not an ideal solution and I hope a better one is implemented soon.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-03T18:52:35.032Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

So this is mainly retribution, rather than remediation, which seems anti-rational to me

Retribution can serve as deterrence.

comment by Emile · 2014-07-03T19:18:56.574Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Yep, suboptimal in many cases but often better than nothing.

comment by shminux · 2014-07-03T20:22:16.840Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Wrong comparison. I was not proposing doing nothing. Making the culprit's name public should have been the first step.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2014-07-04T14:05:54.981Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In this case, many people had already expressed strong confidence that Eugine was a major source of mass downvoting- some we're quite certain of that and said so publicly. So it doesn't look like that matters.

comment by VAuroch · 2014-07-04T21:57:23.078Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It was public, several times over.

comment by shminux · 2014-07-04T22:03:23.871Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The suspicion was public, sure. There was no official confirmation and no indication that Eugene is the only one.

comment by EGarrett · 2016-01-31T12:16:29.995Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

He didn't just mass downvote. He purposefully attempted to remove other contributing members from the community. He also did not confess to it indicating both dishonesty and that he was aware that his actions were unacceptable. He also multi-accounted and still does and posts absolutely disgusting and logic-free racial comments and trolling (referring to black scientists to "dancing bears." You're welcome to demonstrate what's rational or constructive about that).

You don't just undo those actions, you punish the person who takes part in them in order to deter the action occurring in the future. So that there can be civil discourse going forward. This is rational and a standard part of human social requirements.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2016-01-31T17:12:26.214Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

He purposefully attempted to remove other contributing members from the community. He also did not confess to it

Never publicly, but I believe that (when he was posting as "Eugine Nier") a moderator did question him privately about it and he said that was his intention.

comment by EGarrett · 2016-02-01T00:08:37.053Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, he confessed to it when confronted. My understanding was that there were posts about mass downvoting and people asking who was doing it and if it was happening and he never admitted it or posted in them to confirm it, whereas if he thought it was okay there was no reason for him not to.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2014-07-03T20:50:10.953Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I'm also unhappy with him being banned from commenting but not downvoting. While I frequently found his comments obnoxious and annoying in their connotations, they definitely served a net positive on the site.

That said, his moderation practices clearly served a larger net negative, so if there are technical reasons why it's difficult to undo his moderation and ban him from moderating in the future, I suppose this is the best we can get.

comment by tsathoggua · 2014-07-04T02:52:46.844Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think the end goal is to stop him from down-voting as well as commenting as mentioned in the last sentence of the post.

comment by Cyan · 2014-07-04T01:33:45.933Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

EDIT: apparently not the lone dissenter, just the first to speak up.

Yup, I endorse this. (Pretty sure I've been one of Eugine Nier's targets at one time or another.) I am wary of silencing those who don't share my politics (even if they stink up the joint with links to Vox Day).

So, I would rather see him exposed and dekarmified, but allowed to participate.

If it were technically feasible, I'd say let him keep the karma score, just throttle or cut off his downvote button.

That said, I also endorse this:

Thanks, Kaj, you are a hero!!!

And this:

So far I think Kaj has handled this well, whether or not I agree with the specific punishment handed down. He's acted with both weight and care.

comment by solipsist · 2014-07-03T19:29:24.439Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

The ban made me uncomfortable, and the talk of Eugine as being "guilty" makes me even more uncomfortable. My take:

Perfect is the enemy of the good. If we expect massive downvoting to be a recurring problem, then maybe it would have been worth waiting until the development of non-voting accounts or dekarmification mechanisms. As an ad hoc solution to the problem du jour, banning a user is fine.

comment by tsathoggua · 2014-07-04T02:51:14.202Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I guess the question is whether someone who took action by themselves to mass down vote for the express purpose of removing other users from the site would stop simply because his primary method was removed.

If I were doing the down-voting, and was then de-karmified, it would be the next logical step to find another way around the system such that I could continue my actions without the use of karma.

comment by CCC · 2014-07-04T08:45:20.419Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hopefully, preventing him from commenting will mean that he begins to be less personally invested in the comment threads on the site, and thus more likely to spend his time doing other stuff instead of downvoting comments.

comment by mwengler · 2014-07-03T19:42:19.805Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I seem to be the lone dissenter here, but I am unhappy about the ban.

I am also a lone dissenter who is unhappy about the ban.

Why not just ban him from further karma voting? Why ban him from posting? His posts and comments were good enough to get him plenty of karma which was required for him to even mass downvote other people in the first place.

comment by drethelin · 2014-07-03T19:48:39.539Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As the topic seems to imply: they don't actually seem to have a way to keep him from using his karma.

comment by Salemicus · 2014-07-03T20:35:13.131Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

They are quite capable of removing all his karma, or even setting it very negative, which would remove his ability to downvote. To the extent there are technical problems, they could give him a temporary ban while these are worked out.

Perma-ban is a deliberate choice by the moderator(s), not something they were forced into.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-07-04T07:32:22.202Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

By the way, what are the consequences of low karma? Not being able to downvote, not being able to post articles... anything else?

comment by Emile · 2014-07-04T16:09:13.210Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Below some negative karma threshold, there is a forced delay between comments (after posting a comment you have to wait a few minutes before you can post again).

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2016-01-31T14:53:49.838Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Hi. I don't care about karma very much (and thus about downvoting). I am ok with my comments standing on merits not on numbers, and people using my name rather than a number as a quality shortcut if they really want one.

I am perfectly happy to see that dude "not here," just based on the type of dude he is (not even based on his ideas). These types of dudes will ruin a community in a hurry, both by attracting more like themselves, and encouraging the more reasonable to leave. This is why I kept saying he needs to find another place on the internet to debate his politics.

I have zero (0) problems with virtue ethical banning.

comment by someonewrongonthenet · 2014-07-04T18:40:20.783Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

He would be a valuable regular on this site. I recall dozens of insightful comments he made

As long as we're giving opinions on that: While many of his comments were interesting in an idiosyncratic, contrarian sort of way, I can't claim I've ever actually gained any insight from any of his comments.

I agree that the ban won't help, though - what has happened is just a natural consequence of people upvoting "interesting" instead of "rationality-improving" (which, paradoxically seems to have created userbase shifts which cause things to ultimately be less interesting)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-07-04T18:47:29.985Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I've wondered about what those who liked about Nier's contributions liked about them. Was he doing decent work on the technical topics I don't follow?

comment by Dentin · 2014-07-05T00:55:39.568Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

A decent fraction of his posts hard hitting and solid, usually saying something in a way that clearly and effectively got the point across. However, a much larger fraction of his posts were one-liner quips and thinly disguised political screeds. I ended up downvoting more than upvoting, but I did upvote.

comment by someonewrongonthenet · 2014-07-14T02:41:36.536Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

To be honest, I think people enjoyed his style more than his substance.

The core lesswrong community (at least, back when I was more active) don't downvote to disagree. They upvote when something is thought provoking (as contrarian politics tends to be), they upvote novelty (again, contrarian politics) and they are more tolerant of critical tones than other parts of the net.

So even though there wasn't much true insight and most people disagree with most of his opinions, it was interesting enough to read. I know I really enjoyed the influx of reactionaries for the first few months because it was a new and exciting thing...but then it kind of got tiresome - especially when reactionary voices started dominating completely unrelated conversations and influencing votes completely out of proportion to the number of members who actually held those views. Somehow, the reactionary users we had were also among the most active users, and naturally, they liked talking about politics.

(Please note: While I did not explicitly say it, the above implies by connotation that Nier and his unethical practices are reflective of reactionaries in general. This is unintentional. What I AM saying is that the reason Neir was upvoted is the same reason that reactionaries were upvoted, and the things I disliked about Nier's writings is the same thing that I dislike about many but certainly not all of the reactionary user's writings - in short, compelling style and novelty but failure to use parsimony and substance, too much confidence in opinions reached via long chains of mostly inference - even when they wrote on non-political topics. What I'm NOT saying is that all reactionary users are behaving unethically in the manner of Neir.)

comment by Nornagest · 2014-07-05T00:38:59.595Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

His stuff was occasionally interestingly contrarian. I think it's useful to have a few people around with political/social opinions outside the usual LW space of lukewarm leftist to libertarian to technocrat, if only to help avoid groupthink.

On the other hand, while it's nice to have someone to point out that the emperor is naked, it usually needs to be done in a way that's relatively hard to dismiss as a hateful diatribe.

comment by falenas108 · 2014-07-03T23:37:48.196Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed. Though, getting any change to this site (minor or major) has proven to be extremely difficult.

I approve of this step over nothing, though I do hope dekarmification does happen.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-07-03T13:25:19.904Z · score: 22 (28 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks, Kaj, you are a hero!!!

Sorry for the pressure; I have already removed my post. Some clarifications: (1) It was not aimed only towards you personally. I know you hate some aspects of this job; and perhaps that is a good thing. But if you would hate it too much, then the logical solution would be that the Powers would appoint additional moderator, less averse against this kind of dirty work. (2) I was afraid that the actual result would be something less than ban and disclosure. A quiet solution behind the scenes would leave too many open questions, e.g. did we have only one mass downvoter, or more of them? The victims deserved an answer. Leaving the decision to community could lead to a popularity contest between political factions. (3) I believe than banning a user from logging in to LW should be very easy: just go to the database and change their password, that's all. If there is a chance to regenerate the lost password by e-mail, then remove their e-mail too. Or just change their password to "xyz", log in under their username, go to preferences, and click "Delete".

I hope this will lead to better trust and relationships among the LW users.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-07-03T14:06:51.367Z · score: 17 (21 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you!

Though the biggest part of the credit belongs to jackk, for doing the technical work that allowed us to actually establish Eugine's guilt and for helping with the technical process of banning him.

comment by tut · 2014-07-03T14:28:26.558Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

... did we have only one mass downvoter, or more of them?

We still don't know. But now there is a precedent for what to do about them, which might act as a deterrent.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-07-05T22:24:31.387Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, there were at least two. [Cite.]

But that individual only targeted me, so I suppose every other mass-downvoter could have been Eugine.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2014-07-04T00:47:56.824Z · score: 20 (22 votes) · LW · GW

I'd like to just add a quick note that I think is worth emphasizing for people reading this thread: there's an obvious temptation to read Eugine's actions as reflecting his political and philosophical viewpoints here, and it wouldn't even be that hard to think of post-hoc hypotheses connecting them. Please don't do this. I caught myself starting to do it, and it really isn't helpful. Events like this say more about individuals than their belief systems.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-07-04T23:10:42.194Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Connecting a specific political view point to this behavior is a post-hoc hypothesis.

But perhaps it was possible to predict in advance that if this happens, it will more likely be done by a person with strong political opinions (of any kind).

However, that lesson is already included in understanding that "politics is the mindkiller".

comment by VAuroch · 2014-07-04T21:50:30.576Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

His downvotes were certainly largely politically/philosophically motivated; I and several other people (off the top of my head the only other name I remember was daenerys) noted the downvote floods beginning specifically after debating "Culture War"-type topics; LGBT issues, feminism, racism, etc.

I don't think that's what you intended to say, but it's an easy misreading, so clearing that up.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2014-07-05T02:09:34.324Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Oh sure, (I was potentially downvoted for the same reason). The point isn't that they weren't politically motivated but rather that one shouldn't think the inclination to defect in this fashion is somehow more connected to a specific political viewpoint. Someone on the end opposite Eugine on these issues could easily be motivated to do the same thing.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-07-03T14:01:25.421Z · score: 18 (22 votes) · LW · GW

For the sake of completeness:

other users whose downvoters I asked Jack to look at were brazil84, Desrtopa, NancyLebovitz, and JoshuaZ. A couple of them might have been the targets of mass downvoting (by other users) as well, but I did not feel that the pattern of downvote totals was sufficient to establish this beyond a reasonable doubt. They're encouraged to contact the moderators in case they seem to be targeted in the future, however.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-07-03T15:03:35.775Z · score: 13 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough. The period when I was suspecting that I was being mass down-voted was relatively short-- possibly less than a year. I could have been wrong, or your methods might have been suited for detecting longer term patterns.

Thanks for dealing with Eugene.

His comments showed a strong tendency to oppose empathy-- offhand, I can't think of anyone else at LW who went as far that direction. I'm proposing that anti-empathy attitudes might correlate with willingness to hurt people.

comment by Desrtopa · 2014-07-04T15:00:26.634Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I have mixed feelings about Eugine's banning, since he was a member with whom I experienced friction more than most, possibly any others outside a short time frame, and I often considered him to be aggressive or uncharitable in his general demeanor to other members, but on the other hand, I considered him to be an occasional source of valuable input.

Although it's probably an ignoble motivation, I think I'm also influenced by the fact that I still occasionally frequent other sites online where Eugine is likely to still frequent, and the prospect of hearing him, or more likely other reactionaries, complaining about how his banning is a symptom of Less Wrong shutting out reactionary voices, is liable to be obnoxious.

comment by brazil84 · 2014-07-04T14:11:24.511Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

but I did not feel that the pattern of downvote totals was sufficient to establish this beyond a reasonable doubt.

Thank you for letting me know about this.

Also, even if you are not sure beyond a reasonable doubt, would you mind undoing the mass downvote? I realize it's a bit immature and shameful for me to care about it, but if it's not too much trouble I would prefer to have my karmassassination undone. It seems to me that the standard for banning someone should not necessarily be the same as the standard for undoing a mass downvote.

It's not that big of a deal to me. (If it were, I would have set up a sock puppet account to boost my karma score.) But still, I care a little bit.

Also, in another exchange, another poster (I believe it was Jack - hopefully not the same Jack) seized upon my negative karma ratio as a justification for not answering a question I asked. I realize that this was just a rationalization, but it's still annoying.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-07-05T07:47:24.223Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think that I'd feel comfortable reversing someone's votes if I wasn't reasonably certain that they had actually been abusing the system.

comment by brazil84 · 2014-07-05T09:18:17.217Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think that I'd feel comfortable reversing someone's votes if I wasn't reasonably certain that they had actually been abusing the system.

Well what exactly is the source of your doubt? As I recall, somebody down-voted most or all of my posts in the space of a few hours. Do you agree that this happened?

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-07-05T11:42:22.342Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

So with several of the other users that Eugine had hit, the difference between his downvote total and that of the second-highest downvoter was quite drastic: in one case, there were 26 times as many downvotes from Eugine as from the second highest downvoter.

The pattern is different in your case: the top ten downvote balances against your account are 150, 74, 55, 36, 32, 31, 28, 20, 19, 17. (Eugine doesn't appear to have hit you, as he isn't included in this list.) It's plausible that the 150 person is a mass downvoter, and also that the 74 person is, given that the 74 person also had a suspiciously high downvote count towards another person. But at the same time, it also looks like there were a lot of people downvoting your comments. If I assume that most of the users in this list were "legitimate" downvoters, then I'm unsure of whether this data alone is sufficient to indicate exactly who the mass downvoter(s) was. The 150 person is the most likely culprit, but maybe it was several of the lower-ranking ones acting independently from each other, and the 150 one just happened to see a lot of your comments that he didn't naturally like? Whose downvotes should I have reversed, and whose should I let stand?

Then again, I don't know how large of a fraction 150 comments is of your total comment history: if it's a high percentage, then then it sounds more plausible that the person in question is indeed a mass-downvoter, since it would be much more unlikely for them to run into 150 of your comments that they just naturally disliked.

And now I have the feeling that the rational course of action would be to pick some percentage where I'd act as if this was a confirmed mass-downvoter, before hearing the answer to "what percentage of your comments is this"... but I don't have a very good clue of where I should set the burden of evidence in cases where the situation isn't blazingly obvious.

comment by jsteinhardt · 2014-07-05T20:14:28.990Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Just based on brazil84's karma total, the 150 number seems unlikely to be more than 50% of brazil84's posts. It seems very much within the margin of statistical error that there would be a number that high, especially given the other users with large numbers of downvotes against brazil84. I think reversing the votes on this amount of evidence would be a pretty big stretch, fwiw (despite being strongly in favor of the earlier ban as well as reversing all of Eugine's votes).

comment by brazil84 · 2014-09-15T08:47:38.860Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

When the mass downvoting took place, I had a lot fewer posts.

comment by brazil84 · 2014-07-05T13:08:56.977Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Does the system tell you when the downvotes were made?

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-07-06T04:16:32.800Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The report jackk gave me doesn't, at least. I don't know whether that information would be available aomewhere.

comment by brazil84 · 2014-07-11T07:36:11.472Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Followup: So will you take the actions I suggested? They seem pretty simple and easy and I can't think of why you wouldn't do them if your true reason is doubt.

Thank you :)

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-07-11T12:02:51.903Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The main reason is that digging up the information about the specific downvotes would be more work for jackk and I'm not sure how burdened he is with the work that he's already doing. (Also more work for me.) But I'll ask him once he gets done with the current stuff he's doing for this whole thing.

comment by brazil84 · 2014-09-06T15:24:05.615Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Have you asked him? It's been a couple months now. TIA.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-09-13T13:38:49.813Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

No, I'm sorry. You could ask Viliam_Bur to do it.

comment by brazil84 · 2014-09-15T08:41:28.573Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

No, I'm sorry. You could ask Viliam_Bur to do it.

I did, but why not? I have a hypothesis but it's not very flattering to you.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-09-15T18:54:00.112Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

General ughy feelings around doing anything related to downvote investigations and an unwillingness to do anything that would cause me to spend more time doing them. Possible reasons for those ughy feelings include an aversion to doing anything confrontational (including punishing mass downvoters), a high uncertainty of what should be considered unacceptable behavior and low confidence in my ability to accurately determine what counts as karmassassination, and an unwillingness to bother people (including jackk) unless absolutely necessary. Not all of those reasons necessarily applied in your case, but it was close enough to trigger the emotional association.

comment by brazil84 · 2014-09-16T08:48:23.385Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

General ughy feelings around doing anything related to downvote investigations and an unwillingness to do anything that would cause me to spend more time doing them. Possible reasons for those ughy feelings include an aversion to doing anything confrontational (including punishing mass downvoters), a high uncertainty of what should be considered unacceptable behavior and low confidence in my ability to accurately determine what counts as karmassassination, and an unwillingness to bother people (including jackk) unless absolutely necessary. Not all of those reasons necessarily applied in your case, but it was close enough to trigger the emotional association.

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the persons who downvoted me a lot have significantly more popular views than those of Eugine_Nier.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-09-16T16:34:36.572Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't actually remember who the people who downvoted you are. I'd have to look them up again.

comment by brazil84 · 2014-09-25T17:04:41.517Z · score: -4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I don't actually remember who the people who downvoted you are. I'd have to look them up again.

Having chosen a flattering explanation for your conduct, I am not surprised that you would have difficulty remembering facts which might support a less flattering explanation.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-09-26T13:48:06.468Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This conversation makes me even more happy that I don't need to deal with downvote moderation anymore.

comment by brazil84 · 2014-09-29T21:56:57.771Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This conversation makes me even more happy that I don't need to deal with downvote moderation anymore.

I concede it's not fun to be criticized and questioned.

comment by brazil84 · 2014-07-06T15:46:01.763Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The report jackk gave me doesn't, at least. I don't know whether that information would be available aomewhere.

Then what I would do is this: First, ask if there is a record of the time of the downvotes. If there were a large number over a short time period, you can be very confident that it's karmassassination.

If that information isn't available, then just look at my posts which were downvoted by Senor 150 and compare it to my actual chronological posting history. If there is a long string of chronologically uninterrupted downvotes, you can be very confident that it's karmassassination.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2014-07-03T12:32:17.216Z · score: 18 (20 votes) · LW · GW

What about the attack on MugaSofer from May 2013 (ticket on the issue tracker)?

I just logged back on after a brief absence from the site (a few days) to find I seem to have been genuinely karmassassinated. As far as I can tell, every comment I ever made has been downvoted, which was apparently enough to put me from 1200+ karma to -80

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-07-03T12:32:59.050Z · score: 18 (20 votes) · LW · GW

I missed that. I'll ask Jack to take a look.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-07-04T00:47:25.997Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

A couple other cases, if they're worth looking at —

http://lesswrong.com/lw/9l7/whats_going_on_here/ (RobertLumley, January 2012)

http://lesswrong.com/lw/ir4/open_thread_september_30_october_6_2013/9uv4 (me, October 2013 et seq.)

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-07-08T09:28:27.481Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You have 1579 downvotes from Eugine.

Robert looks to have a number of downvotes from several low-karma (20ish) users who, based on the style of their usernames and comments, look like they were all socks of a single person. Not sure what to do about that.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-07-05T07:20:09.983Z · score: 9 (13 votes) · LW · GW

MugaSofer does have a lot of downvotes from Eugine, but Eugine doesn't seem to be the main culprit; there's another user with a downvote balance of 1625 votes against MugaSofer.

Given that I'm not aware of this other user having engaged in a systematic downvoting of anyone else, and given that MugaSofer expressed a preference for not having the mass downvoters banned, I will just issue that user a warning as well as let MugaSofer know who was downvoting him. MugaSofer may choose to make that information public or keep it between the two of them, as he wishes. I'll also ask if the downvotes of that person could be undone.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-07-05T21:04:50.877Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you, Kaj. I really do appreciate your handling of this, if I haven't said that already; I know these things can be difficult.

I will just issue that user a warning as well as let MugaSofer know who was downvoting him. MugaSofer may choose to make that information public or keep it between the two of them, as he wishes.

I got your message, and I've received an apology and explanation from the person in question. I think I'll keep their identity quiet, although - in the interests of lessening wrongness - anyone who cares, if such a person exists, should PM me and we can talk about it.

(I think Eugine's downvotes are just that: a whole lot of downvotes. We've disagreed a few times, I'm not too surprised. Still, it's a shame to see him go.)

comment by falenas108 · 2014-07-03T15:25:57.155Z · score: 14 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for doing this.

I was still posting on LW after the downvoting started, but I was definitely coming to the site less, reading less, and especially posting less. I'm not sure if was entirely due to the downvoting, as it started about when people were saying the quality of posts started to decrease. But for me, just going on to LW and seeing the decreased karma became a bit of an ugh field.

comment by EGarrett · 2014-07-03T12:43:37.626Z · score: 14 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Eugine_Nier was exactly who I was referring to in the other thread about mass downvoting when I said I had noticed certain members who had a long string of "-1" votes on comments they were replying to and with which they disagreed.

I think he was a perfect example of the flaw in the karma system, but to see him investigated and removed for this behavior is very encouraging.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2014-07-03T18:49:09.911Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I endorse this decision and think more mod action in general is good

comment by JoshuaZ · 2014-07-04T15:58:22.445Z · score: 12 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Question: Daenarys rarely posts now and by her description part of that was due to the systematic downvoting. Has someone contacted her ourside LW to let her know this has happened?

comment by Swimmer963 · 2014-07-04T16:04:51.275Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I believe that she is aware of it thanks to someone sharing the link to this post on Facebook.

comment by Stuart_Armstrong · 2014-07-04T16:11:44.504Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You want to check to be sure?

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-04T18:10:27.985Z · score: 8 (36 votes) · LW · GW

Hi Stuart! Swimmer is correct; ChrisHallquist posted a link to this on my facebook wall. Personally, I'm glad Eugine is gone, because even without the downvoting he was an asshole. And having anti-feminist or biorealist assholes running around is a great way to drive off women and minorities.

Anyways, I prefer the walled garden, and the conversational tone, and the positive emotional support that Facebook provides, so I doubt I'll come back to posting here.

I'm still extremely active in the meatspace community though, and I have a friend who will be posting some very exciting news here in a couple days about a new rationality non-profit! Also, I'm moving to NYC, and a group of us are starting up a new rationalist house there.

ETA: Another upside of posting on facebook is that it does a better job of raising the general sanity waterline than posting here. It exposes rationality ideas and conversations in a friendly/humanising way to people who would never have sought them out (all my non-rationality friends), and it allows them to participate and interact with those ideas in a much more supportive way. :)

comment by Pablo_Stafforini · 2014-07-05T12:30:17.706Z · score: 14 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Personally, I'm glad Eugine is gone, because even without the downvoting he was an asshole. And having anti-feminist or biorealist assholes running around is a great way to drive off women and minorities.

I applaud the decision to ban Eugine_Nier for abusing the karma system, but I'm a bit disturbed by the idea that espousing certain views could be a valid reason for banning a user. I agree with the goal of attracting more women and minorities, but I think there are good reasons to believe this is not best accomplished by thought policing.

(Upon reading your comment more carefully, it is now unclear to me whether you are saying that having anti-feminist and biorealist views could be a valid reason for banning someone. It seems you are kind of suggesting that, though I'm not sure.)

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-07T19:39:24.116Z · score: 9 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I'm currently driving cross country and typing this on my phone at a rest stop so I can't comment as much as I would like, but I DO want to clarify that my post meant what it said and nothing more. Eugine himself was an asshole. He ALSO was a biorealist and an anti feminist. When you combine those traits in a prolific user they're likely to drive away women and minorities.

Even if it's epistemically true, discussing those issues in an assholey way is instrumentally unhelpful (for people with goals at all similar to mine).

comment by Sophronius · 2014-07-05T15:48:37.320Z · score: 3 (21 votes) · LW · GW

Too much censorship is dangerous, but too little censorship is dangerous too. It's true that Less Wrong would die if every dissenting opinion were to be culled. However, if Less Wrong were to be overrun by irrational jerks without moderators taking some sort of action, Less Wrong would die too. Would you really oppose banning literal Nazis from posting their views on this forum? Because if so, I find your lack of censorship disturbing.

Asking "should we ban people for their views or should we have freedom of speech?" is a false dilemma. The correct question is: "how much censorship should we have relative to freedom of speech, and which views should we ban if any?"

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-07-05T18:51:27.029Z · score: 9 (17 votes) · LW · GW

which views should we ban?

I nominate socialists. Socialist regimes killed more people than nazi regimes.

(Just joking. I mean, the numbers are correct, but I actually don't support censorship.)

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-06T16:21:49.329Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Socialist regimes killed more people than nazi regimes.

Per unit time per capita or totally?

Also, the ones the Nazis killed were better ;-)

comment by V_V · 2014-07-30T21:23:45.344Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Per unit time per capita or totally?

I think that the Khmer Rouge hold the per capita record, and the Soviets (*) the total one. Dunno about per unit time.

( * I'm not counting the Great Chinese Famine, since it was apparently caused by incompetence rather than deliberate malice.)

comment by Sophronius · 2014-07-05T18:59:26.532Z · score: -2 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Jokes aside, I actually think it's that kind of post that we should have a community norm against. Saying "Neo reactionaries are evil racists" or "Socialist regimes killed the most people!" is just as inflammatory as "black people are less intelligent than whites". And what use does it serve?

A single comment is no cause for a ban of course, but if someone will look for any excuse to say that neoreactionaries are evil or blacks are inferior or socialists suck, and they post about it in every thread they can, then don't you think they should be banned?

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-07-06T09:26:46.402Z · score: 18 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Let me explain my background. I grew up in a socialist country. Luckily, no one from my family or friends was a target of the regime, and it ended when I was 13. Only then I learned about what happened to other people. (You know, stuff like: secret police knocks on your door at midnight, they take your family member away, and you never seem them again. Later someone unofficially tells you they died during interrogation. They warn you that unless you shut up, you could be next. Also, you, your children, and your grandchildren will never be allowed to get to university or have a decent job, because you are relatives of a traitor, therefore politically unreliable. The regime hates you, but you are not allowed to leave the country, and will be killed if you try.) There was censorship to prevent me from learning sooner. I believed I was living in a happy paradise. Many people believe it today. (Many people also believe holocaust was a hoax, for similar psychological reasons.)

I remember a teacher at elementary school telling me: "Viliam, you think independently. You will have a lot of problems when you grow up." I didn't quite understand that, then. Now I do. So I guess I was lucky. Even my childhood experience with what you can and cannot say would be enough to predict that if someone in my country would write the Sequences, they would be inviting trouble. It's difficult to explain why exactly; my neural network understands the rules, but they were never made explicit. It's something like: merely saying "politics is the mind-killed" could be, under unlucky circumstances, be perceived as a criticism of the regime. You never say things that could be perceived as a criticism of the regime, because then you could have hard time explaining that you didn't mean it that way.

The way I see it, the main difference between nazis and socialists is this: Nazis lost the war; their leaders were killed or put in prisons, their crimes publicly exposed and shamed. Socialists won the war, they were allowed to rule for decades, to eliminate free speech and spread their propaganda. After they killed and intimidated everyone who opposed them, and their rule was secured, they calmed down, and life under their rule became more peaceful during the following decades. Who knows; maybe in the parallel universe where nazis won the war, the nazis of 1980s were also less violent than the nazis of 1840s. (Maybe neoreactionaries are the moderate post-nazis from the parallel universe, where some later Führer hired Steve Jobs as the CEO.)

Anyway... the thing is, censorship "triggers" me. Censorship is the meta-evil that other evils can safely hide behind. Speaking about whether we need more or less censorship sounds like speaking about whether we need more or less secret police knocking on people's doors at midnight. (Yeah, I can imagine a very exceptional situation, such as someone really constructing a nuclear bomb at their home... but that's far from the typical scenario.) Censoring the bourgeois pseudoscience? Uhm, I'd rather have scientific questions answered by scientific means.

I generally try not to write off-topic comments. I consider exposing crimes of socialists highly relevant to the topic of censorship, because censorship was a critically important part of their regime; without censorship, it would fall apart. So the best way to keep me quiet about this topic is to stop proposing censorship on LW. Do we have a deal?

comment by Sophronius · 2014-07-06T10:58:55.344Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for taking the time to write all that, it helps me see where you are coming from. You clearly have a large framework which you are basing your views on, but the thing you have to keep in mind is that I do, too. I have several partially-written posts about this which I hope to post on Less Wrong one day, but I’m very worried they’ll be misconstrued because it’s such a difficult subject. The last thing I want to do is defend the practices of oppressive regimes, believe me. I’m worried that people just read my posts thinking “oh he is defending censorship, censorship is evil, downvote” without thinking about what I’m actually saying. “Censorship” is just a word. All of my arguments work just as well for “having a community norm against” something as opposed to “censoring” it.

The problem is a framing issue, I think. People keep seeing something like censorship as a bad thing period, because it is something that’s used by oppressive regimes. However, killing people is also used by oppressive regimes, and yet I still wouldn’t promote total pacifism. Your post reads to me like Ghandi saying that the Nazi’s should be opposed non-violently: I do believe that there is wisdom in what you say, but that’s going much too far. The thing you have to realize is that if all the nice and reasonable people in the world go around worrying that if they fight monsters they will themselves become monsters, the monsters always win because they’re the only ones willing to fight.

My view on killing is this: The crucial issue is who is being killed and why, and what principle you are using to determine who to kill. My view on censorship is this: The crucial issue is what view is being censored and why, and what principle you are using to determine what to censor. Censoring a view just because you disagree with it is just as wrong as killing someone just because they disagree with you. Getting everybody who disagrees with me to shut up wouldn’t actually make for the kind of world I want to live in. So what views do I think should be censored? Only those ones which seem to serve no purpose other than to destroy everything that’s good and right in this world.

Imagine you are the leader of Utopialand. Everything is going swimmingly: People are working hard, people are happy, and everyone is largely free to do and say as they please. Then one day, a foreign missionary enters your country in order to start spreading his religion among the naïve and carefree people of your land. His religion states things that not strictly illegal but which are incredibly harmful: You have to believe everything it says or you will be burned to death, you have to verbally abuse your children daily to raise them properly, you must reject anyone from society who holds ideas the religion disagree with, science and critical thinking are wicked, and so on and so forth. This religion goes against everything you value and what’s worse, it seems to be catching on. What is your reaction?

1) “Well if he wants to spread ideas that destroy everything I love and cherish that’s his right as a citizen. Who am I to tell him he can’t destroy the world? I mean it’s a free country. “
2) “AAAAAAGHHH IT’S A VICTIM OF A MEMETIC PLAGUE! QUICK, ISOLATE HIM BEFORE HE INFECTS THE OTHERS.”

The way I see it, there is a war of ideas spanning across all of human history, with good and helpful ideas on the one side and horrible memetic plagues which destroy everything they touch on the other. The civilisations that have prospered so far are the ones which fought for the good ideas and won. I submit that if your reaction to the above is option 1) and not 2), you are essentially choosing to lose the war of ideas on purpose. There will be nothing left of your empire but fire and ash.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-07-06T20:01:57.084Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Your post reads to me like Ghandi saying that the Nazi’s should be opposed non-violently:

Uhm, no. I mean, this is exaggerating; we are not having any physical violence here. Worst case: poisoning of minds. (I believe Yvain handled the case of neo-reactionaries sufficiently, if that's what we are talking about here.)

Then one day, a foreign missionary enters your country in order to start spreading his religion among the naïve and carefree people of your land. His religion states things that not strictly illegal but which are incredibly harmful:

What if there are two competing religions; each one of them evil in a different way. And one missionary approaches you with an offer that if you help him establish the holy inquisition, he will rid you of those evil heretics from the other side. Is it a good idea to give him the power?

comment by Sophronius · 2014-07-07T18:32:16.346Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Uhm, no. I mean, this is exaggerating; we are not having any physical violence here. Worst case: poisoning of minds.

Yes of course it's an exaggeration, but it's the same meta-type of error: Seeing X used for evil and therefore declaring that all X is evil and anyone who says X isn't always evil is either evil or stupid themselves. It's the same mistake as the one Neoreactionaries always complain about: "Perceived differences based on race or sex have been used to excuse evil, therefore anyone who says there are differences between races or sexes is evil!"

And poisoning of minds is very, very bad. People always seem to assume that physical violence is somehow worse than mental violence, but it's just not true. Ideas can can be a lot more dangerous than guns.

(of course all of this is a bit moot since I'm not actually proposing banning democrats/republicans/race research/feminism or anything like that)

What if there are two competing religions; each one of them evil in a different way. And one missionary approaches you with an offer that if you help him establish the holy inquisition, he will rid you of those evil heretics from the other side. Is it a good idea to give him the power?

Of course not, why would I? Why are you asking this? Are you implying that in the real world, both sides to any conflict are always equally evil? Because that definitely isn't the case in my experience.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-07-07T22:50:37.231Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Are you implying that in the real world, both sides to any conflict are always equally evil?

Didn't say "equally".

Seems to me that so far we had two significant attempts at suppressing opinions on LW.

1) Eugine's one-person guerilla war of mass downvoting. Had some success for a few months, resulted in a ban.

2) Repeated suggestions that we should remove politically incorrect speech, because allegedly women don't like it. Multiple proponents, no success yet.

I'm not sure which one of these is more dangerous; I could find arguments for either side. Eugine actually did censor the site for a while. However, he was finally banned, and if someone tries to do the same thing, they will probably get banned, too (hopefully much sooner). Also, his actions didn't have popular support. On the other hand, censhorship of politically incorrect ideas is proposed repeatedly, by multiple people, openly in public. They demand that their norms become the official norms of the website, enforced by moderators.

Then I believe most people here want to have a debate without any political group dominating the website. About half of them don't want to see here any politics at all, and I guess the other half would be okay with occassional, as rational as possible, polite debate about political topics.

comment by Username · 2014-07-06T18:06:23.787Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Then one day, a foreign missionary enters your country in order to start spreading his religion among the naïve and carefree people of your land. His religion states things that not strictly illegal but which are incredibly harmful: You have to believe everything it says or you will be burned to death, you have to verbally abuse your children daily to raise them properly, you must reject anyone from society who holds ideas the religion disagree with, science and critical thinking are wicked, and so on and so forth. This religion goes against everything you value and what’s worse, it seems to be catching on.

If the religion is so obviously harmful why is it catching on? To paraphrase Kaj, why is it the place of individual people to decide that this religion needs censorship?

comment by jsteinhardt · 2014-07-06T18:48:24.013Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Farmville must be an excellent game because so many people play it.

comment by Username · 2014-07-05T19:42:07.286Z · score: 9 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Saying "Neo reactionaries are evil racists" or "Socialist regimes killed the most people!" is just as inflammatory as "black people are less intelligent than whites". And what use does it serve?

Well, two of those three statements are falsifiable statements that are useful for making predictions about the future.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-07-07T21:05:40.698Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Well. All three of them are falsifiable, barring quibbles over definition.

"Socialist regimes killed the most people!" may or may not be useful for making predictions - it's not useful for making predictions about, say, the USSR - because it doesn't exist now. But on the other hand, it created chains of cause and effect still in existence, and we would like to predict those.

"Neo reactionaries are evil racists" seems the most subjective, in that we are more confused about "evil" than "killing" or "intelligence". But as long as we taboo "evil", I don't see how it could possibly be a useless-for-prediction, impossible-to-falsify statement.

"black people are less intelligent than whites" pretty clearly has the most confounders and controversy, but it's certainly falsifiable in principle, and both sides would argue that it has already been tested, I think.

On the gripping hand, all three seem like prime candidates for political mind-killing.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-12T13:18:06.229Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"Neo reactionaries are evil racists" seems the most subjective, in that we are more confused about "evil" than "killing" or "intelligence". But as long as we taboo "evil", I don't see how it could possibly be a useless-for-prediction, impossible-to-falsify statement.

You'd have to taboo “racists” too though.

(And tabooing “evil” is an almost FAI-complete problem, anyway.)

comment by Pablo_Stafforini · 2014-07-05T16:29:25.986Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough--the value of free speech needs to be weighed against other values that might be promoted by censoring specific viewpoints. Still, I think there are good rule-utilitarian grounds for making free speech the default position and for requiring a high standard of proof for deviating from that default in a particular case. The considerations for censoring nazism probably meet that standard, whereas I don't think that standard is met in the case of anti-feminism or biorealism. (The latter, in particular, seems to consist primarily in certain factual rather than normative claims, and there are particularly strong reasons against censoring views of that sort.)

Note, too, that the karma system might in most cases allow the community to discourage certain viewpoints from being expressed without the need to resort to censorship.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-07-05T18:56:00.800Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

If I understand it correctly, the tradition of "not providing Nazis platforms for free speech" came from history when Nazis used violence against their opponents. I mean... it sounds crazy if you are polite and fair enough to invite them to a debate table, they use it to debate with you and express their beliefs... and on the way home from the debate they kill you.

So it's something like: "Don't try to cooperate with a known DefectBot".

The question is, these days, which people use extra-debate tools to silence their opponents?

comment by Sophronius · 2014-07-05T19:17:59.538Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

"Don't try to cooperate with a known DefectBot".

Yes, precisely! This is what I think should be the golden standard for censorship. Ask yourself if the other person would try to censor you if they thought they could get away with it even if you were nice to them, and if the answer is yes it is acceptable (but not necessarily desirable!) to censor them. So an honest and reasonable bio-realist should not be censored, but Eugine Nier should be. It's simply a matter of memetic self-defence.

comment by Username · 2014-07-05T19:43:31.063Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

The problem is how does one distinguish someone defecting because he's dealing with a DefectBot with someone defecting because he is a DefectBot.

comment by Sophronius · 2014-07-05T20:00:51.511Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The same way you distinguish between someone who murders a person in order to steal their money and someone who kills a person in self defence: By evaluating on a case-by-case basis to the best of your ability. It's not always easy, but it sure beats not bothering to make the distinction.

(In this case I think it's quite obvious that Eugine Nier is the DefectBot and not Kaj_Sotala.)

comment by Username · 2014-07-06T18:04:00.080Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

In this case I think it's quite obvious that Eugine Nier is the DefectBot and not Kaj_Sotala.

And it wasn't the people Eugine Nier was downvoting?

comment by pragmatist · 2014-07-06T18:14:09.164Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

No, it wasn't. Do you have any reason to think it was?

comment by Username · 2014-07-07T01:24:29.590Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Well Eugine seemed to think so.

comment by pragmatist · 2014-07-07T07:51:12.050Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

He seemed to think they were not rational enough to participate on this site. That's not the same as being a DefectBot.

comment by drethelin · 2014-07-07T23:48:01.398Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Imagine the distance to the "cooperate" button is slightly higher than the "defect" button. Someone who can't reach the cooperate button might not mean any harm. But from your point of view, they might as well be a defectbot.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-07-07T21:13:41.494Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Ask yourself if the other person would try to censor you if they thought they could get away with it even if you were nice to them, and if the answer is yes it is acceptable (but not necessarily desirable!) to censor them.

That isn't what a DefectBot is. A DefectBot is an agent that would defect in every position, including this one.

For example, the Nazis might do everything in their power to hurt you now (such as attacking you on the way home), and when they are in power (such as, well, I think we all know the canonical example of that.)

On the other hand, they might act nice now but, you suspect, defect when they find themselves in power. Or they might attack as hard as they can now, but be generous in victory. Neither of those are DefectBot.

comment by drethelin · 2014-07-07T23:41:16.038Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That's funny because I view progressives as the exact group that would instantly throw me under the bus the moment I didn't want to help them against someone else. Neoreactionaries at least propose to leave me alone.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-08T00:18:56.141Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not excited about the NR plans for gay people if they ever come to power. Moldbug is charmingly neutral on the issue, but many of the others most certainly are not.

comment by Jiro · 2014-07-08T15:26:11.855Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It is my impression that neoreactionaries want a non-democratic government. Surely this non-democratic government will make laws that you are required to obey, right?

comment by drethelin · 2014-07-08T16:59:30.925Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Most neo reactionaries I read believe in something called Exit whereby if you want you can get the hell out. Contrast this to the ussr or how America will continue to tax you for something like 10 years if you want to emigrate.

comment by Jiro · 2014-07-08T18:39:51.313Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Exiting isn't cost-free, though. Most people won't even exit by moving to a different state in the US, just because of all the direct and indirect costs of moving.

comment by drethelin · 2014-07-08T19:54:39.171Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

this is true, and one reason why I'm not a neoreactionary. But I'd still rather be deported than gulagged.

comment by pragmatist · 2014-07-10T08:18:45.475Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think you're confusing progressives with Stalinists.

comment by drethelin · 2014-07-10T13:12:05.857Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I think you're confusing "responding to a point someone is trying to make" and "making fun of someone".

Maybe the average progressive has neither the power or the inclination to put me in a gulag but the side of things that they historically have lent their power and rhetoric to sure does. I don't feel it's particularly likely to happen in the near future but I also recognize that no one seemed to have predicted the outcome ahead of time the last time.

Or to put it another way: Stalinists are on a continuum with progressives. They are not a different kind of thing.

comment by pragmatist · 2014-07-10T20:18:46.314Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think you're confusing "responding to a point someone is trying to make" and "making fun of someone".

Fair point. My comment was unnecessarily snarky.

Maybe the average progressive has neither the power or the inclination to put me in a gulag but the side of things that they historically have lent their power and rhetoric to sure does.

There have been sections of the progressive left that lent their power and rhetoric to support Soviet communism. There have also been significant sections of the progressive left that lent their power and rhetoric to vociferously oppose Soviet communism. Andrei Sakharov, Vaclav Havel, Isaiah Berlin, Albert Camus and George Orwell -- a few big names that come to mind immediately -- all had political views that would probably classify them as "progressive" in today's political climate. In addition, progressives have been at the forefront of most movements to expand civil liberties in the 20th century.

If you just focus on progressivism's criticisms of capitalism and conservatism, then yeah, it doesn't seem like a different kind of thing from Stalinism. But that ignores another prominent tendency in the history of the movement -- a strong strain of civil libertarianism (the ACLU, for instance, is regarded by many as a progressive institution) -- which is qualitatively distinct from Stalinism.

comment by V_V · 2014-07-30T22:03:33.536Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Or to put it another way: Stalinists are on a continuum with progressives. They are not a different kind of thing.

I'm not sure what you mean by "progressives", but it seems to me that "liberals" or "social-democrats" are actually closer to libertarians in terms of personal freedoms, while Soviet-style socialists are closer to fascists and theocrats on these issues.

The political spectrum has at least two dimensions: personal freedoms and economic freedoms.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-07-10T14:43:44.746Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Stalinists are on a continuum with progressives.

I would probably put it as "The more power progressives get, the more they tend to evolve towards stalinists". After all you've got to protect the people against the horrors of capitalism.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-08T18:45:41.459Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I was under the impression that "Exit" was the means by which they were going to establish their own utopia, that is, by exiting whichever one they were living in currently, rather than a fundamental right for us unlucky proles.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2014-07-06T15:14:28.981Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ask yourself if the other person would try to censor you if they thought they could get away with it even if you were nice to them,

I think you are going to run into problems here. I suspect that most adherents of many ideologies would censor opposing views if they could get away with it.

comment by Sophronius · 2014-07-05T18:32:05.370Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, that's a very reasonable position to take, and I'm leaning the same way. I see the issue as being very similar to the question of whether or not a society should condone killing people: It makes perfect sense to have a general rule that says you can't, but sometimes you have no choice. Pacifism is not the solution here.

The karma system does not solve this problem because a small number of people can have a disproportionate impact simply by voting more. And of course, extremists care more and so are more likely to vote. My post above is now at -3: Is this because the community disapproves? Or is it because 3 bio realists felt threatened by the notion that we should ban literal nazis because it might extend to them as well? I am not at all convinced it's the former.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-07T00:40:53.590Z · score: -3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

it is now unclear to me whether you are saying that having anti-feminist and biorealist views could be a valid reason for banning someone.

But the clear implication is that people having those views are "assholes".

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-07-10T19:58:56.907Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Daenerys, since there seems to be some uncertainty:

Are you saying that you would prefer if LessWrong increased the height of it's metaphorical wall, keeping out "anti-feminist or biorealist assholes"?

Or are you saying that the model of a public forum is inherently "a great way to drive off women and minorities", and thus you don't use LessWrong and don't care about the moderation policy much?

I've seen different people reading your comment different ways.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-10T21:31:22.648Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Daenerys, since there seems to be some uncertainty:

Are you saying that you would prefer if LessWrong increased the height of it's metaphorical wall, keeping out "anti-feminist or biorealist assholes"?

Or are you saying that the model of a public forum is inherently "a great way to drive off women and minorities", and thus you don't use LessWrong and don't care about the moderation policy much?

I've seen different people reading your comment different ways.

Much closer to the latter. I am not making any policy recommendations about LW moderation. I don't really care, since I'm not on LW anymore (except for things like this where people ask me specifically something).

I said that one of the reasons I prefer Facebook is that it's a walled garden. I did NOT say that I want LessWrong to be a walled garden. I would think neo-reactionaries would support the idea of just going to the place that has the rules you like/ voting with your feet.

I do think there can be public forums that do not drive off women and minorities, which is where I disagree with your second statement.

I do not think all biorealists or antifeminists are assholes. I thought EUGINE was an asshole. He was also a biorealist. So he was a biorealist asshole. I've already made a comment about that, but people keep saying that I said that anyways. And quoting only me saying "biorealist assholes". I DO think biorealists and anitfeminists have to be especially epistemically polite (and generally polite) if they want to have any chance of people actually engaging with their ideas.

As an example:

Christian asshole: Fred Phelps
Christian not-an-asshole: Leah Libresco

Skeptic asshole: Penn Jilette
Skeptic not-an-asshole: All the CFAR people

See how I consider "assholeness" as an unrelated trait to whether or not I agree with a viewpoint. If there were prolific skeptic assholes, they would drive off religious users. If there were prolific Christian assholes they would drive of skeptic and LGBTQ users. All assholes tend to drive off all non-assholes.

This whole "OMG! daenerys says all biorealists are assholes and should be banned11!!!!!1" reaction feels like people are willfully misinterpreting me, putting words in my mouth, and using tiny quotes completely out of context (like "biorealist asshole") Especially AFTER I wrote a comment clarifying that I meant ONLY what I said an nothing else. This is another reason I don't LW. Commenting on LW is like reading the comments on a general website. Sometimes you get the impulse to do it, but as soon as you do you immediately remember why you don't. Note that I'm again, only EXPLAINING why I don't use LW, and am NOT demanding moderation changes.

ETA: Also, MugaSofer, I commend (and upvote) you for doing the Right Thing... When a discussion partner says something that you could interpret two ways, and Interpretation A is sane, but Interpretation B would cause you to get super-offended and launch a multi-comment barrage, the polite (non-asshole) thing to do is just to ask if they meant A or B, and NOT to just assume B and get offended and launch the multi-comment barrage. Especially when A is the literal interpretation and B requires quite a bit of twistiness to get to.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-07-16T10:30:28.433Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I did NOT say that I want LessWrong to be a walled garden.

[...]

I do think there can be public forums that do not drive off women and minorities, which is where I disagree with your second statement.

I do not think all biorealists or antifeminists are assholes. I thought EUGINE was an asshole. He was also a biorealist. So he was a biorealist asshole.

Excellent, I agree wholeheartedly. Thank you for clarifying.

MugaSofer, I commend (and upvote) you for doing the Right Thing... When a discussion partner says something that you could interpret two ways, and Interpretation A is sane, but Interpretation B would cause you to get super-offended and launch a multi-comment barrage, the polite (non-asshole) thing to do is just to ask if they meant A or B, and NOT to just assume B and get offended and launch the multi-comment barrage.

Now, in fairness, I wouldn't characterize people misunderstanding as willful, assholeish misunderstanding. Applying the Principle of Charity is the reason I understood you in the first place, right?

As I said, different people interpreted your phrasing in different ways; your phrasing was genuinely ambiguous regarding whether the operative word was "asshole" or "biorealist". I guess this shows our default assumptions about ... sentences?

Thanks for the Rationality Compliment, I'm flattered :)

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-07T00:26:46.005Z · score: 0 (22 votes) · LW · GW

Personally, I'm glad Eugine is gone, because even without the downvoting he was an asshole.And having anti-feminist or biorealist assholes running around

A fine example of "asshole" = "those who disagree with my values".

Should those who disagree similarly start whooping it up for banning feminists and biodenialists? Or should they just be similarly denigrating them as a matter of course?

More and more, I'm thinking they need to fight back in kind.

It's strange that the supposedly evil, nasty reactionaries are social pacifists who refuse to respond with a little tit for the incessant tat they receive.

Charming to see all the karma upvotes going to a post which denigrated a whole swath of users as "assholes" because of their beliefs. Real "friendly/humanising".

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-07-16T10:45:21.356Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

No way you could have seen this comment when you wrote this, so here's a heads up - it turns out that's not how it was meant.

The emphasis was intended on "asshole", not "biorealist", if you see what I mean - "biorealist" is the reason it drives off "women and minorities" specifically, not the reason he was an asshole.

I do not think all biorealists or antifeminists are assholes. I thought EUGINE was an asshole. He was also a biorealist. So he was a biorealist asshole. I've already made a comment about that, but people keep saying that I said that anyways. And quoting only me saying "biorealist assholes". I DO think biorealists and anitfeminists have to be especially epistemically polite (and generally polite) if they want to have any chance of people actually engaging with their ideas.

As an example:

Christian asshole: Fred Phelps Christian not-an-asshole: Leah Libresco

Skeptic asshole: Penn Jilette Skeptic not-an-asshole: All the CFAR people

See how I consider "assholeness" as an unrelated trait to whether or not I agree with a viewpoint. If there were prolific skeptic assholes, they would drive off religious users. If there were prolific Christian assholes they would drive of skeptic and LGBTQ users.

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2014-07-17T05:29:10.706Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I just realized the non-asshole examples list didn't include an attempt of naming a non-asshole biorealist. Then started wondering how it would go if you tried giving examples of non-asshole biorealists or even assert the possibility of one existing on a SJ-friendly forum.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-07-16T14:40:45.906Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The emphasis was intended on "asshole", not "biorealist"

Yes, but I get the impression that the assholiness threshold/criterion is different for biorealists and antifeminists on the one hand and SJWs on the other.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-16T21:51:35.925Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

No way you could have seen this comment when you wrote this,

I did not. I had a lot of direct replies that were taking my attention.

so here's a heads up - it turns out that's not how it was meant.

That's an inference you might make from the available data. Perhaps it is even true.

I think that by the ordinary usage of the English language, my interpretation of the text is more consistent with what was written than the interpretation you quote. If you really want to hear my close textual analysis, I would oblige, but I don't see a lot of mileage in it.

(Penn Jillette an asshole? Really? To me, he seems incredibly gracious to others, often to the point of being overly deferential.)

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-08-09T17:59:25.346Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I did not. I had a lot of direct replies that were taking my attention.

Also, it was posted three days after you wrote your comment. I can see how that might present a bit of a challenge.

That's an inference you might make from the available data. Perhaps it is even true.

I think that by the ordinary usage of the English language, my interpretation of the text is more consistent with what was written than the interpretation you quote.

I was genuinely confused to see someone interpreting it another way, if that helps your analysis - the other interpretation hadn't occurred to me.

But yes, I suppose it's definitely possible they simply leaped on a convenient excuse.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-07-07T00:38:44.444Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

It's strange that the supposedly evil, nasty reactionaries are social pacifists who refuse to respond with a little tit for the incessant tat they receive.

Not that I'm a fan of the asshole == ideological opponent mentality, but we are talking about a guy who spent probably cumulative days of his time downvoting people in a self-confessed effort to drive them away from the forum. That doesn't sound like the behavior of a social pacifist to me. Indeed, it sounds quite a bit like the behavior of an asshole.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-07T01:21:44.371Z · score: 2 (16 votes) · LW · GW

See the original quote:

because even without the downvoting he was an asshole

We're not talking about downvoting, we're talking about biorealists and antifeminists. They're the assholes.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-07-07T01:32:04.438Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

How peculiar. I could have sworn I quoted you talking about "evil, nasty reactionaries", as typified in this context by Eugine_Nier.

I'm not trying to endorse Daenerys' apparent opinion re: biorealists and antifeminists, as you may have gleaned from the fact that I directly said I disagree with it. But you're going too far in the other direction. You may, of course, make whatever assertions you please regarding the general behavior of groups he may belong to, but I feel it's somewhat disingenuous to cast any of those groups as entirely innocent of social wrongdoing ("social pacifists") when this entire friggin' thread is about social wrongdoing by a member of those groups. If you're instead going for some kind of No True Scotsman deal, it'd help to say that Eugine's not a true Scotsman.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-07T02:09:52.793Z · score: 1 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I could have sworn I quoted you talking about "evil, nasty reactionaries",

The sarcastic, not using my own voice tone didn't come through, even from the context? Did you genuinely think I was earnestly calling reactionaries evil? If not, this seems like a complete red herring.

this entire friggin' thread is about social wrongdoing by a member of those groups.

He's a member of LessWrong too. Is everyone here an asshole?

Two very different cases.

Eugine, at least by his own argument, was voting down people with a low rationality quotient. He has been widely condemned by all, including the evil reactionaries, and was banned.

daenerys called a lot of people on the list assholes based on them having opinions she disagreed with, and suggested they be banned for the same. She was widely upvoted.

cast any of those groups as entirely innocent

Generalizations are about general trends, and not absolute truths admitting of no exceptions.

Which side heaps abuse on the other, and suggests sanctions against the other? Which side defends their own? What's the broad trend?

You keep coming back to Eugine, but neither daenerys nor I were predominantly talking about Eugine.

Go to my previous comment in this thread. Currently, two downvotes for an accurate correction of your misrepresentation of her original statement. Do you want to further debate that point, or will you grant my reading? If so, isn't it odd that a couple of people on the list are downvoting a clearly accurate interpretation of the text that corrects a clearly inaccurate misinterpretation.

Upvotes for calling people assholes and suggesting they be banned for their beliefs, downvotes for accurate analysis. The voting seems to align better with ideology than truth, and is positive for one ideology, and negative for the other. Which is the trend I'm pointing out.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-07-07T19:13:36.376Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

daenerys called a lot of people on the list assholes based on them having opinions she disagreed with, and suggested they be banned for the same. She was widely upvoted.

Point of order: can you quote where they said being reactionary should be a banning offence? Because I don't see it.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-07T19:18:01.021Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

That's because it's not there.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-07T21:14:31.187Z · score: -3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Personally, I'm glad Eugine is gone, because even without the downvoting he was an asshole. And having anti-feminist or biorealist assholes running around is a great way to drive off women and minorities.

Anyways, I prefer the walled garden, and the conversational tone, and the positive emotional support that Facebook provides, so I doubt I'll come back to posting here.

She prefers that "anti-feminist or biorealist assholes" aren't here, she prefers "a walled garden". Is that a literal statement of "I want the anti-feminist or biorealist assholes through over the wall and kept out"? No, but it's not too hard to do the math.

"Will no one rid me of these turbulent assholes?" (In case the reference is too obscure, see Saint Thomas of Canterbury for details.)

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-07-10T19:56:20.277Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I get the reference. Not because I get references, as a rule, but because Blackadder used it :-)

I read that as saying that they were glad he was gone, but that it didn't matter much to them - because they had moved to the self-selected "garden" of one's Facebook feed.

But I suppose I can see how that might be read as an ideal for us to be aspiring to, now that you say it. Which ... is bad, yeah. Hmm.

comment by wedrifid · 2014-07-09T10:35:16.361Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Should those who disagree similarly start whooping it up for banning feminists and biodenialists? Or should they just be similarly denigrating them as a matter of course?

I'm not sure what 'biodenialists' are exactly but on the basis that the word ends with "ists" it's reasonably unlikely that any particular social-politically active '*ist' will be of net value, given the change such agendas have on thought.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-09T18:24:41.973Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure what 'biodenialists' are exactly

Post I was replying to used the term

biorealist assholes

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2014-07-04T19:23:23.043Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW · GW

And having anti-feminist or racist assholes running around

Heinrich Himmler is a racist. Eugene_Nier, not so much.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-04T19:47:18.732Z · score: 5 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure (but don't feel like spending time tracking down examples, so I could be wrong) that I've seen Eugine saying biorealist things.

I changed "racist" to "biorealist" in my comment, if you don't think the two should be equated.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2014-07-05T03:04:56.380Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I changed "racist" to "biorealist" in my comment

I commend you for your reasonableness, which quality seems increasingly rare in the modern world.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2014-07-05T02:11:24.052Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Non-central fallacy or focusing on disputing definitions possibly?

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-05T08:28:59.892Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Are you implying that none of EN's contributions were much more problematic than saying “Negro spirituals”?

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-07T06:30:10.200Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

“Heinrich HIMMLER,” said Himself, “was a foul, Jew-exterminating, Nazi fiend whom your grandmother’s parents and their whole generation fought a world war to defeat in order that she could sit here 70 years later and be called racist by her sanctimonious and ungrateful grandchildren. Anyone for crumble?”

My laugh for the evening.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-04T18:21:35.457Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

ETA: Another upside of posting on facebook is that it does a better job of raising the general sanity waterline than posting here. It exposes rationality ideas and conversations in a friendly/humanising way to people who would never have sought them out (all my non-rationality friends), and it allows them to participate and interact with those ideas in a much more supportive way. :)

comment by Protagoras · 2014-07-04T01:15:13.945Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure I was also a victim, if a rather recent and relatively small scale one, and I'm glad to see something was done. However much I told myself it wasn't really important, that karma's a horribly noisy measure, with a few slightly funny comments gaining me the majority of my karma while my most thoughtful contributions usually only gathered a handful, the block downvoting really did make me feel disinclined to post new comments. Banning seems like an extreme measure, and I guess I can see where people who think there should have been warnings are coming from, but I'm actually kind of surprised that it was all or nearly all one person, and given the amount of distress it seems to have caused, I think we can do without a person like that around here, even if he did sometimes contribute good comments.

comment by VAuroch · 2014-07-04T21:37:53.723Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Precisely the same situation here. I almost stopped posting entirely after the first wave of downvotes he dumped on me.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-07-03T13:47:23.497Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Well, it's unfortunate that it came to this, but thank you for resolving it.

I do think it would be useful to update the stated policy with this piece of "case law", as it were; or with the principle that the voting system is intended to express comment on the content, not the contributor.

comment by mwengler · 2014-07-04T15:31:12.450Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Unfortunately, it looks like while a ban prevents posting, it does not actually block a user from casting votes.

Is it not possible for an administrator to change the password on Eugine's account to something that would take Eugine a few decades to crack? Is it not possible for an administrator, having done that, to log on to Eugine's account and reverse the now-defined-against-the-rules votes, if not by script then by hand?

comment by shminux · 2014-07-04T17:58:36.027Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Seems like the best possible way to enact a ban, yes.

comment by Stuart_Armstrong · 2014-07-04T10:22:07.472Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I had a brief period of block down votes (it was obvious, as only old comments were being downvoted, and it was a continual, regular process), but it passed quickly.

I think the ban was justified because of the number of people targeted. Going after one person is bad, but vendettas are understandable (if not approved). But going after huge amounts of people... Well, there we have to multiply.

As for those deploring the ban, I can see your deontological position, but do you think that Less Wrong is going to become measurably worse because of this decision?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-07-04T14:30:49.477Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

As for those deploring the ban, I can see your deontological position, but do you think that Less Wrong is going to become measurably worse because of this decision?

I've been thinking of the ban as deontological-- the premise is that Eugene has shown himself to be a sufficiently bad sort of person that he just isn't worth having around.

Perhaps it's a matter of competing deontological frameworks.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-07-04T19:56:09.690Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW Surely that's virtue-ethical, not deontological?
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-07-04T20:06:37.967Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You may be right. I thought deontogical covers all "do the right thing no matter what happens" systems.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-07-07T21:19:33.935Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think the ban was justified because of the number of people targeted. Going after one person is bad, but vendettas are understandable (if not approved). But going after huge amounts of people... Well, there we have to multiply.

Why? Seriously asking. I see no evidence that we were somehow powerless to stop this without banning him.

But if that were the case I would definitely be in favor of doing so.

As for those deploring the ban, I can see your deontological position, but do you think that Less Wrong is going to become measurably worse because of this decision?

Well ... yeah. Worse by one user.

(It's not as if his contributions were terrible, remember, a troll that we're well rid of - Eugine was a high-karma user, that's how he was able to downvote so many comments.)

comment by mwengler · 2014-07-03T18:52:54.244Z · score: 9 (17 votes) · LW · GW

This decision is final and will not be changed in response to possible follow-up objections.

How could you possibly know this?

comment by shminux · 2014-07-03T20:46:56.059Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I would interpret it as signaling the mod's resolve rather than expressing an iron-clad precommitment. Changing one's mind based on new information is certainly not a trait Kaj lacks.

comment by Error · 2014-07-03T23:16:35.798Z · score: 20 (20 votes) · LW · GW

I read it as specifically resolving not to be moved by a Clever Arguer, or even many clever arguers; i.e. precommitting not to cave to political pressure. That is exactly the position a mod should take.

Moderation doesn't have to be perfect, but it should not be fickle. Walking the line between being authoritative and being authoritarian is difficult. If a mod shrinks back from that, you get a failure mode where mod actions are reversible by pressure alone, and mod authority carries no weight. Of course, you can also have an opposite failure mode where the mod behaves dictatorially or else simply uses their power too lightly.

So far I think Kaj has handled this well, whether or not I agree with the specific punishment handed down. He's acted with both weight and care. Here's hoping that continues.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-07-04T07:49:48.960Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW · GW

I read it as specifically resolving not to be moved by a Clever Arguer, or even many clever arguers; i.e. precommitting not to cave to political pressure.

It is also a disincentive against possible hundreds of comments debating what should have been done differently, etc. I am sure Kaj does not want to spend the rest of his life debating that.

Just remember the situation with the "basilisk", where Eliezer removed a few comments, and then years later we had threads after threads debating whether Eliezer should or shouldn't have done it, what he should have done instead, etc.

We should not punish moderators for making any decision by wasting additional hours of their time debating how wrong they were. I mean, we have less than one such decision per year, so it's not like we are living under a horrible oppressive censorship. Moderators have to make decisions, and of course someone will disagree. Especially on a website full of contrarians, saying that things should have been solved differently will always be the popular thing to do.

comment by lmm · 2014-07-04T18:13:19.731Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

In fairness this seems like a sensible move, whether you agree with it or not. Whereas the basilisk handling was stupid any way I look at it.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-07-04T21:01:44.184Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Partially, I agree with you. Partially, I think it depends on how people spin it.

Many people disagreed with how the basilisk affair was handled, but I believe it was only two or three people who made an extraordinary effort to remind everyone about this incident for years, to write about it wherever Less Wrong was mentioned describing it as the most important and most characteristic event of the whole website, and maintained the hatchet job at RationalWiki.

If someone decides to invest the same amount of time and energy describing the censorship of the politically incorrect Eugine as the most important and defining moment of Less Wrong, they could also achieve impressive results. I am sure some neo-reactionary blogs will be happy to publish an article about how this totally proves their prophet Moldbug was correct, and Eugine became a victim when the always-moving-left Cthulhu swallowed the whole Less Wrong. Then the question is whether they will keep telling this to everyone for years, at every opportunity when Less Wrong will be mentioned; and whether they succeed to have as many readers as RationalWiki. It would only take one person or two.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-07-07T22:32:15.992Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Here's a thought: would such a campaign funge against the RationalWiki thing?

Because that seems important for considering the risks involved in these sort of moderator actions.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-07-07T23:00:06.252Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, maybe. Thanks for a positive thought. :)

comment by mwengler · 2014-07-04T00:00:47.108Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I think Kaj is trying to do a job he does not particularly want to do. I think that because he has said that is what is happening and even though he might be signalling, I tend to think that rationalists I respect are usually telling it straight.

I think he is acquitting himself honorably and intelligently, even if I don't particularly agree with the result.

My own values around rationality include the avoidance of stating inaccuracies in the name of signalling. They include not going "over the top" in response to "rule breaking" especially when the rules were not incredibly clear ahead of time. They include living by the consequences of the rules you do set up, so if people need to earn the right to downvote, and having earned it do something which is unpopular but was not explicitly against the rules, then going for a permanent ban AND pre-committing to hold your hands over your ears and scream (so you can't listen) if people start discussing why this might be a bad idea would seem to me to be a bad approach.

If I were the mod, and I'm not, and I will never have nearly enough popularity/karma to be tapped on the shoulder, I would ban Eugine until he agreed not to do massive downvoting anymore. If he chose to stand on principle (whatever principle that might be) and refuse, then he would be banned as long as he felt that way.

Another advantage of an approach like that is Eugine could be asked as part of staying on site to go through and reverse all of his own downvotes. It is not that hard to page through your own comments, see the ones you have downvoted, and click your downvote, cancelling it.

If he were willing to agree not to do it again, and to go through and reverse what he had done, that would seem to suggest to me he should stay around. It would also solve the problems "we" still have of 1) how do we stop him from doing it again and 2) how do we go about reversing what he has done.

comment by Error · 2014-07-04T00:28:28.571Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Another advantage of an approach like that is Eugine could be asked as part of staying on site to go through and reverse all of his own downvotes.

I have a major problem with this approach. He believes those downvotes are merited. Attempting to compell him to act against that conviction would be...well, Very Not Cool with me.

[ETA: I'm not sure how to phrase that as strongly as I mean it without also suggesting that I have a serious problem with you for suggesting it. I don't intend offense.]

I'm not sure what else I can say without getting into arguing for or against this specific act of Kaj's, which I'm trying to avoid doing.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-07-07T22:34:58.900Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm. Interesting. Why?

comment by mwengler · 2014-07-04T05:52:44.195Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Another advantage of an approach like that is Eugine could be asked as part of staying on site to go through and reverse all of his own downvotes.

I have a major problem with this approach. He believes those downvotes are merited. Attempting to compell him to act against that conviction would be...well, Very Not Cool with me.

Let me see if I have this straight. You would not want to "compel" Eugine to choose between being banned and reversing votes, but you are OK with him being compelled to not post on the site any more ever again without having a choice?

Please tell me I drastically misunderstood you.

comment by CCC · 2014-07-04T08:39:36.319Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It makes sense to me. Error is okay with preventing someone from acting when those actions have been shown to have negative consequences (driving people away from this site), but objects to the idea of someone being pressured to explicitly act against his convictions.

comment by Error · 2014-07-04T13:53:42.831Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This is the correct interpretation, yes. I have similar issues with things like forced apologies. In general I hold compulsion to a much higher bar than restraint.

comment by mwengler · 2014-07-04T15:28:40.804Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Compulsion? Restraint? Act against convictions?

Compulsion: I suggested offering Eugine the choice of leaving the site or behaving according to the finally-defined rules. I'm pretty sure it is the choice we all have.

Restraint: I have a choice of posting here and following the rules and norms or not. You have that choice also. How is it restraint if we offer the same choice to Eugine?

Act against convictions: At no point did I suggest that Eugine must agree or state he agrees that he shouldn't have downvoted people. I'll state myself without much fear of banning that I don't agree he shouldn't have downvoted people. But it is NOT against my convictions to behave in a certain way in order to participate with other people in something. It is NOT against my convictions to follow rules which are not precisely what I would have defined. I am offering the same choice to Eugine.

As things stand now, from what has been stated, Eugine has not been offered a choice, he is being compelled to not participate. If he has been offered a choice, and he has chosen to not participate, we have not been told that, and for someone such as myself, that would be a very different outcome from one as described on its face, where a previously undefined rule is used for permanent banning ex post facto.

I'll leave it at this, amazed that what seems so incredibly clear to me is the opposite of what at least 4 others (assuming no sock puppets involved in voting) on this site.

I wonder what a CEV made from the 3 of us in this conversation would wind up looking like when it comes to these values. Would it come down to majority rules?

comment by CCC · 2014-07-04T17:48:35.670Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Act against convictions: At no point did I suggest that Eugine must agree or state he agrees that he shouldn't have downvoted people.

No, but you did suggest that he might be asked to take action to explicitly reverse the effects of downvoting people:

Eugine could be asked as part of staying on site to go through and reverse all of his own downvotes.

I would agree that merely asking him to refrain from mass downvoting would not constitute pressure to act against his convictions; however, asking him to reverse his previous downvotes would.

As things stand now, from what has been stated, Eugine has not been offered a choice, he is being compelled to not participate.

Yes; he is being compelled to take the null action. The ability to post a comment on a given web site is not a right that can be fought for - it is a privilege that is extended at the whim of the administrators and moderators of the website in question. Removing that privilege from someone who has shown a pattern of abusing it does not seem unfair.

I wonder what a CEV made from the 3 of us in this conversation would wind up looking like when it comes to these values. Would it come down to majority rules?

Hmmm... it would probably be more complicated than that. I highly value the ability to express one's true opinions, and in case of trouble I prefer to minimise damage if possible. I highly disvalue social pressure to express, through words or actions, an opinion different to one's own as if it were one's own.

It seems that you highly value freedom of choice, and are willing to accept a compromise in the opinions you express as long as you have the option of choosing that compromise. It also appears that, in case of trouble, you prefer to give other actors the chance to self-modify to reduce future trouble, and highly disvalue removing the freedom of choice from someone.

I think Error's values may be closer to mine than yours; I don't see, in this conversation, any major differences between myself and him (probably mainly because we agree on the correct action in this situation)

If you put all of those together, I think you'll end up with a values function that highly values both freedom of choice and freedom of expressed opinion (both important freedoms) - but which of those two would be the most highly valued I cannot say (due to insufficient information).

comment by jsteinhardt · 2014-07-04T07:37:57.863Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think the reason he finds it Very Not Cool is that compelling Eugene to reverse the downvotes is basically trying to blackmail him into admitting that he was wrong, which he presumably doesn't believe, so you would be forcing him into lying (as well as renouncing beliefs that he presumably holds relatively strongly). I agree with the grandparent that this would be a bad thing to do.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-07-04T18:16:01.759Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Another advantage of an approach like that is Eugine could be asked as part of staying on site to go through and reverse all of his own downvotes.

If Eugine would have prefered that course of action like that he could had offered it himself in his response to Kaj. Eugine is smart enough to be able to have responded to Kaj's inquiry in a way like that if he wanted to do so. If he would have I doubt that Kaj would have banned him.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-07-04T18:50:11.994Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Considering how much mass downvoting he did, having to reverse each of the downvotes would have been a considerable punishment, though perhaps there would be some way to automate it.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-07-04T19:45:07.445Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The point is that Eugine could have responded very differently to the inquiry for his motivations if he would have wanted to avoid getting banned. Eugine isn't stupid.

Don't treat this like Kaj having the full responsibility of finding a solution that wouldn't result in Eugine not getting banned even if you would have prefered Eugine not getting banned.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-07-04T20:02:02.424Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I really like Eugine getting banned. This is a description of my emotions, not a guarantee that I will continue to think I'm correct.

I was just considering what that particular punishment would be like.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2014-07-03T18:38:14.721Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Have you guys given any thought to doing pagerankish stuff with karma?

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2014-07-05T06:35:29.240Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Have you guys given any thought to doing pagerankish stuff with karma?

Can you elaborate more? I'm guessing you mean people with more karma --> their votes count more, but it isn't obvious how you do that in this context.

comment by gwern · 2014-07-07T19:37:59.581Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Ever since https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advogato there have been a lot of proposed trust metrics. Many of them function like Pagerank: you start off with a set of 'seed' users and then propagate influence based on how well users match them.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2014-07-07T18:01:24.626Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I agree, it is not obvious. Unlike morality though, this seems like the right application area for pagerank ideas. Example: if you want to know about someone in academia, you ask the top 20 people in a field to get a sensible idea.

So it seems worthwhile to think about/experiment with. I think one would need to iterate, I don't think one can get a sensible system from the armchair.

comment by gjm · 2014-07-03T18:31:27.927Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks!

If it's easy to tell whether Eugine was mass-downvoting me for a while, I'd be interested to know. I estimate p~=0.8. (But it's not worth a lot of effort; I can't have lost more than a hundred points or so.)

I'm in favour of reversing all Eugine's votes. Reversing just the "mass" ones might be even better; I'm not sure.

I hope this will help establish a new moderatorial norm that suspected mass-downvoting incidents (if there are any more) will be investigated and publicized.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-07-05T07:00:35.584Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Your account does seem to have about a hundred downvotes from Eugine.

comment by gjm · 2014-07-05T21:32:51.202Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks. (Feeling smug about my estimation skills now.)

comment by evand · 2014-07-05T00:57:48.963Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm in favour of reversing all Eugine's votes. Reversing just the "mass" ones might be even better; I'm not sure.

What would you think of just reversing all the downvotes, but leaving the upvotes?

comment by Dentin · 2014-07-05T02:25:56.596Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

I would rather see all votes removed completely. If he's willing to downvote en-masse for political reasons, he would also be willing to upvote en-masse for political reasons. If his voting patterns are abusive or politically motivated to the extent that he can no longer be allowed to vote, then his entire history should also be considered untrusted and politically motivated and removed for that reason.

comment by hairyfigment · 2014-07-05T03:51:32.341Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Rarely do I feel so sad about upvoting.

comment by gjm · 2014-07-05T21:32:31.137Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think I agree with Dentin. More abstractly: just reversing downvotes introduces a bias, and usually that's a bad thing. But Dentin's more specific reasoning is good too.

comment by shminux · 2014-07-04T17:09:13.237Z · score: 8 (30 votes) · LW · GW

Just wanted to note that giving Eugine -20,000 karma penalty (effectively a 3-year no-voting sentence) instead of the permanent ban (a forum equivalent of the capital punishment) would have worked so much better and is probably trivial to implement. And you guys who upvote the OP for more than simply outing the perp are effectively supporting incompetence. How disappointing.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-07-04T18:05:40.448Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

And you guys who upvote the OP for more than simply outing the perp are effectively supporting incompetence.

I want to have someone at LW that moderating and who has the authority to make moderation decisions. Even if I might have done things differently, I'm very grateful that Kaj takes the role of moderating.

comment by drethelin · 2014-07-04T18:40:07.161Z · score: 11 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I think supporting mild competence is an important step on the path to supporting actual competence. This is a LOT better than the doing nothing that was going on for months even if it was the sub-optimal solution.

comment by Username · 2014-07-05T02:16:37.903Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

We all agree that mild competence is better than none at all. That doesn't explain why shminux's comment has received downvotes.

comment by hairyfigment · 2014-07-05T03:54:07.805Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Eh? The expected result of punishing/insulting people for doing something is people doing nothing.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-07-07T18:25:48.689Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

And the expected result of never pointing out when things can be done better is people doing things incompetently.

There's a difference between attacking a person and suggesting an alternative course of action for them to take.

comment by drethelin · 2014-07-07T23:30:21.442Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Shminux was suggesting a different course to Kaj but attacking people who upvoted the OP.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-07-07T18:27:45.900Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I upvoted this, but I think it's reasonable to "support" incompetence. Nobody's perfect, and Kaj seems far better than the default.

comment by kilobug · 2014-07-04T07:44:31.402Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

First, thanks Kaj for doing your best out of a complicated situation. I'm op on some IRC channels, and I also know how difficult it is to take such decisions.

I don't think the ban was a mistake as a penalty (nothing prevents Eugine from creating another account, so it's not that harsh a penalty) but I do think it doesn't solve the main problem. The most important remediation would be to undo all of Eugine's mass downvotes, and if not easily possible, all of Eugine's votes. Any chance of that to happen ?

comment by Larks · 2014-07-03T20:41:17.652Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

The Less Wrong content deletion policy contains this clause:

Harrassment of individual users.

If we determine that you're e.g. following a particular user around and leaving insulting comments to them, we reserve the right to delete those comments. (This has happened extremely rarely.)

I don't think this really helps you. As you acknowledge, this clause does not actually imply that downvoting is harassment at all. Nor does it imply that blocking users is the appropriate response!

Indeed, the fact that explicitly mentions some crimes (leaving rude comments) and punishments (deleting comments) is probably evidence against this moderation action. If the policy had been totally non-specific, it would imply a wide degree of moderator discretion. The more specific it is, the stronger the implication that things left unmentioned are not actually verbotten.

Furthermore, consider that in the case mentioned in the policy (harassing comments) deleting them is a coherent response which addresses the underlying issue, without very much collateral damage. In this case, banning Eugine from posting does not actually prevent him from downvoting, so the objective is not achieved, but considerable collateral damage is inflicted, by ending his often interesting comments.

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-07-03T21:28:12.494Z · score: 23 (25 votes) · LW · GW

This is true. OTOH, dicks gonna be dicks, and trolls regard rules as playground equipment.

(I have been on communities where "don't be a dick" is an explicit rule. Guess what? Users who zoom in on this rule and try to argue it ... are pretty much all dicks.)

comment by gwillen · 2014-07-04T06:51:07.734Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

This, this, 1000 times this. If you tightly police the actions of moderators, who are constrained already to act in good faith, to follow only and exactly the letter of the rules, you will never get a good result. (Because the bad faith users can always find a way around the letter of the rules.)

comment by Error · 2014-07-04T13:43:23.127Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is a major failure mode of law in general, IMO.

comment by AlexSchell · 2014-07-05T00:23:22.970Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In practice we avoid this problem by granting a lot of discretion to judges and prosecutors (i.e. mods).

comment by pragmatist · 2014-07-03T21:17:26.184Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

The more specific it is, the stronger the implication that things left unmentioned are not actually verbotten.

The specific circumstance is explicitly offered as one particular example of a general policy (it's preceded by "e.g."), so I think there's a pretty strong implication that there are other things left unmentioned that are in fact verboten.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-07-03T22:22:09.519Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

It's pretty much always a mistake to apply legal-style reasoning to moderator actions on an Internet forum, anyway. The job of moderators is to keep the forum working, not merely to follow previously published procedures. Legal rules such as nulla poena sine lege don't apply in this context. They're supposed to wing it a bit when necessary.

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-07-03T23:54:18.264Z · score: 22 (24 votes) · LW · GW

"It's like a bar. The idea is to maintain a good time. If you are asked to cool it at a bar, and you start debating the precise details of the rules and the wording thereof and who can eject you when and so forth, the large fellow with the number on his shirt will be guiding you to the exit in short order, possibly with a humorous CLANG off the bins opposite." (from a Facebook group; doesn't quite apply to LW directly)

  1. I'm not a dick!
  2. What's the actual detailed definition of being a dick anyway?
  3. You can't prove I was being a dick.
  4. You just call people dicks so you can kick them.
  5. I wasn't even there when my account was being a dick.
  6. I'm only a dick because it's necessary to be a dick. Which I wasn't. And you can't prove it.
  7. HOW DARE YOU BLOCK ME I PROTEST
comment by Larks · 2014-07-07T00:09:00.587Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, but then they shouldn't pretend to be justified on the basis of rules that actually do no such thing. I'm happy with Eliezer's dictatorship, but it should be an epistemically honest dictatorship.

comment by Username · 2014-07-07T01:23:46.599Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Speaking of which, Eliezer has been strangely silent throughout this whole affair.

comment by Larks · 2014-07-07T01:55:40.795Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer has been silent on LW in general; I'm pretty sure it has little to do with this.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-07T01:54:44.498Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

He last commented on June 27, so it's entirely possible he hasn't seen it yet.

comment by Larks · 2014-07-07T00:07:41.165Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The specific circumstance is explicitly offered as one particular example of a general policy

Unfortunately the origional rule was not really grammatical enough to establish a general policy. If you remove the 'e.g.', as you should from a valid sentance, all we're left with is

If we determine that you're, we reserve the right to delete those comments.

Which doesn't even vaguely hint at a general policy!

comment by fortyeridania · 2014-07-07T03:33:13.363Z · score: 7 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I share the concerns voiced by buybuydandavis, Salemicus, larks, and nywracu.

This isn't necessarily to say I disagree with the banning decision. And I know it must be tough to be a mod, especially when you hadn't planned on becoming one.

But Kaj_Sotala's decision looks like a good case of mission creep. His powers as moderator were originally just for deleting spam; now he has used them for something different. And the behavior of Eugine_Nier does not appear to have clearly broken any rules; Kaj_Sotala has still tried to justify his ban under a very liberal interpretation of the anti-harassment rule. Thus Kaj_Sotala has used powers beyond their intended scope to punish someone who did not really break a rule. And the punishment was probably excessive; a massive karma penalty would probably have sufficed.

Given all this, it may still have been a good decision on net to ban Eugine_Nier. But mission creep is usually just something I read about, not witness live, and it's nice to view it from closer to the "inside."

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-07-08T12:36:40.726Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

But Kaj_Sotala's decision looks like a good case of mission creep. His powers as moderator were originally just for deleting spam; now he has used them for something different.

LW had a problem with not being moderated enough and Kaj was at a place to do something about that issue. He asked the community for feedback and then went ahead. If that's mission creep than I like mission creep.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-07-07T18:16:24.761Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting point.

(Just so you know, the formatting is broken on your comment - I think you need to put a backslash before your _ symbols in names, looks like they turned into italics.)

comment by fortyeridania · 2014-07-07T21:47:46.261Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Fixed, thanks.

comment by drethelin · 2014-07-04T06:19:47.711Z · score: 7 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not upset about the ban but I'll chime in and say in terms of comments rather than mass downvotes I think Eugine Nier was net positive.

comment by jsteinhardt · 2014-07-04T02:50:58.652Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Huge props and many thanks for doing this, Kaj!

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-04T00:48:31.685Z · score: 6 (14 votes) · LW · GW

First of all: I agree with shminux. If the point of the site is to create a community that can produce high-quality discussion, rather than one that's full of cooperatebots, banning users who make quality contributions for defecting from social norms that don't directly involve their contributions seems contrary to that point. Maximizing discussion quality requires tradeoffs: if the presence of someone who produces high-quality discussion is so opposed by others who produce same that the town isn't big enough for both of them, someone has to go. But was this the case here? -- that is, what would be the effect of Eugine_Nier's mere presence, as opposed to his ability to mass-downvote? The town isn't big enough for both Eugine_Nier's downvoting and its targets / others who see the community as having become less cooperatish due to that downvoting.

This also sets a dangerous precedent, one which I've seen play out before: the most 'elitist' (offensive/annoying to certain other members, usually of lower quality) users get banned for being 'elitist'/offensive/annoying, with no regard to the effect on quality -- so, naturally, quality goes downward. If you don't bite the noobs, you get Eternal Septembered -- but if you bite too hard, you drive off other users who make high-quality contributions. It's often hard to see which way the tradeoff should go -- on the forum where I most recently saw this dynamic play out to its Septembered conclusion, there were six bans, I only disagreed with one of them, and the most that any user I know of disagreed with was three of the six -- so my intention in pointing this out is not to suggest any hard-and-fast rule, but to call to attention the existence of this tradeoff and suggest an optimization criterion for moderation policy going forward.

I don't know what the LW consensus is on the issue of quality vs. quantity; I naturally favor quality, but I don't have any financial interest, direct or indirect, in any of the organizations/charities in the same general area as LW, so those who are affiliated with MIRI or similar, or who place a much higher priority on their ability to get as much money as possible, may have different interests. I would suggest, however, that quality has a quantity of its own -- that is, that optimizing for high-quality discussion/contributions/etc. will serve as a draw to people who want such an environment, since there aren't all that many environments for that -- and furthermore, that the people drawn in by that are more likely to be well-placed with regard to the ability to propagate the rationalist memeplex and the [concomitant?] awareness of the aforementioned organizations.

Now, another interesting question is: given that the karma system is open by its nature to abuses of this sort, what ought to be done about it? Downvote-bombing is clearly harmful; how can the potential for it be reduced/eliminated?

A few possibilities that I can think of:

  • Making it so that you can't downvote more than ten posts by one user in a day. (But this might just make it harder to notice.)

  • Automatic alerts to moderators if a user downvotes more than fifty posts by one user in a week.

  • A 'tactical nuke' option, to remove all karma from a user found to practice mass downvoting.

  • A karma lockout option, to remove a user found to practice mass downvoting from the karma system entirely: their posts would still be able to accumulate karma, but they wouldn't be able to either upvote or downvote posts.

  • As above, but only blocking downvotes.

comment by shminux · 2014-07-04T01:13:23.176Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

what ought to be done about it?

Simply knowing that you would be outed is likely to be enough of a deterrent, no need for advanced technical solutions.

comment by Salemicus · 2014-07-03T20:29:26.193Z · score: 6 (18 votes) · LW · GW

Like shminux, I am unhappy with the ban, which I consider both disproportionate and ill-advised. Eugine didn't break any specific rule, has (as far as I am aware) never been warned about his conduct by an admin, and yet you jump straight to the ultimate sanction. In my opinion, the correct moderator response is to tell him "Don't do this again." If he doesn't agree with that, or that is considered too lenient, the correct response is to remove his karma privileges. What purpose is served by banning him entirely?

Eugine is one of the highest quality posters here and the site will be poorer for his loss. I am not defending his behaviour in this instance but the punishment does not fit the crime.

comment by pragmatist · 2014-07-03T21:32:38.363Z · score: 26 (28 votes) · LW · GW

Eugine is one of the highest quality posters here and the site will be poorer for his loss. I am not defending his behaviour in this instance but the punishment does not fit the crime.

Many many people have been complaining about mass downvoting for a long time now. A couple of people have also indicated that it has contributed to them not wanting to participate on LW any more. There have been multiple threads with hundreds of comments about this. Eugine is a very frequent visitor to this site, so I'm sure he was aware of all this. Had he stepped in to one of these threads and defended his actions, or apologized for them, or even discontinued the down-voting without admitting to it, I would agree that banning is disproportionate. But he simply ignored the whole discussion and continued surreptitiously block-downvoting people, despite all the disquiet it was causing.

That shows an almost pathological disregard for the well-being of this community and the opinions of its participants. I don't think banning is an inappropriate response.

That said, I also disagree with your opinion about the general quality of Eugine's comments, and it is quite probable that this is coloring my judgment in this matter.

comment by Salemicus · 2014-07-03T22:35:14.066Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that it would have been better had Eugine defended himself, because he was obviously aware that he was making people unhappy. But from the sounds of it, he did try to justify/defend his position when contacted by the moderators. Therefore we shouldn't assume he was acting in bad faith; it is just as likely that, in the context that the downvote threads existed in, he didn't think he'd get a fair hearing or that discussion would be helpful. To be clear, I don't agree with his actions, but I don't see them as evincing a "pathological disregard" (your words) or anything like it.

To give an example: gwern has repeatedly insulted me, and recently made a subtle, but personal, jab at me in an Open thread comment. What should my response be? I don't see myself as morally obliged to respond in kind and get into an argument in hostile circumstances. I think the correct behaviour is to rise above it and ignore him . Yet that will also have the effect of confirming, in the mind of gwern and his sympathisers,that I am indeed a troll as he says. I would not like my silence (out of genuine concern for community harmony) to be used against me, particularly by a poster as(IMHO) intellectually bankrupt as gwern. But by the same token I think we shouldn't hold Eugine's public silence against him.

comment by pragmatist · 2014-07-03T23:01:13.805Z · score: 16 (18 votes) · LW · GW

There is a pretty big difference between ignoring one commenter who doesn't like you and ignoring the complaints of a large proportion of the community. This wasn't just one or two people kvetching. It was a large number of people, including many (like me) not directly targeted by the behavior. I don't think you have any obligation to respond to gwern, but if a significant segment of the community objected strongly to your allegedly trollish behavior, and some valuable contributors said they no longer felt comfortable participating on LW because of that behavior, I would consider it "pathological disregard" for you to continue what you were doing as if none of this was happening, without addressing it in any way.

Keep in mind that Eugine continued (surreptitiously) with his block-downvoting not just after a number of users expressed their dissatisfaction, but also after the administration of this site made it clear they disapproved of the behavior. First Eliezer said that he was trying to track down the block downvoter (he failed for some reason), then Kaj put up this post. And Eugine kept down-voting. I don't see how this doesn't read as disregard for the community.

Perhaps he thought he was somehow making the community better by his actions (although it's much more plausible to me that he was just ridiculously mind-killed, since virtually all of the block-downvoting appears to be motivated by political disagreement), but he was still doing it in the face of the community's express wishes, and to the evident detriment of community relations. Thinking that his behavior would make the community better/more successful is so disconnected from the reality of what was actually happening that it qualifies as pathological disregard for the community, I think. Disregard for what people think and how they feel, and disregard for the observable consequences of his behavior.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-07-04T08:36:00.557Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps he thought he was somehow making the community better by his actions (although it's much more plausible to me that he was just ridiculously mind-killed

I don't see a contradiction here. If someone is mind-killed, then from inside it seems like all people with different political opinions are idiots, and the debate would be more rational without them.

Thus in my opinion Eugine completely failed in the lessons about mindkilling and ethical injunctions, and was incompatible with the spirit of Less Wrong.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2014-07-03T13:02:10.656Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Therefore, I now announce that Eugine_Nier is permanently banned from posting on LessWrong. This decision is final and will not be changed in response to possible follow-up objections.

Unfortunately, it looks like while a ban prevents posting, it does not actually block a user from casting votes. I have asked jackk to look into the matter and find a way to actually stop the downvoting. Jack indicated earlier on that it would be technically straightforward to apply a negative karma modifier to Eugine's account, and wiping out Eugine's karma balance would prevent him from casting future downvotes. Whatever the easiest solution is, it will be applied as soon as possible.

Questions:

  1. How are you going to deal with socks?

  2. Are you going to be implementing a more systematic process for detecting karma abuses?

  3. Can those who have been negatively affected by this receive an adjustment?

    3a. If you are considering karma adjustments, could you please do them in a way that restores percentages rather then points? I, for one, don't care about my "fake internet points" very much, but the ratio of upvotes to downvotes is VERY useful to me as a barometer for the overall integrity of my thought processes. (If others who have been affected by this disagree, please speak up.)

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-07-03T13:32:18.734Z · score: 15 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Does the system keep track about individual downvotes (who downvoted what)? If yes, then it could be possible to simply revert all votes ever by Eugine. Which should solve all the problems: everyone would have the same total karma and comment karma as if this whole thing never happened.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2014-07-03T20:52:06.496Z · score: 47 (49 votes) · LW · GW

It has to - otherwise you wouldn't be able to see what YOU upvoted/downvoted.

Also, otherwise you would be able to upvote or downvote something multiple times.

So clearly, it has to track somewhere.

If you guys need a SQL guy to help do some development work to make meta-moderation easier, let me know; I'll happily volunteer a few hours a week.

EDIT: AAAUUUGH REDDIT'S DB USES KEY-VALUE PAIRS AIIEEEE IT ONLY HAS TWO TABLES OH GOD WHY WHY SAVE ME YOG-SOTHOTH I HAVE GAZED INTO THE ABYSS AAAAAAAIIIIGH okay. I'll still do it. whimper

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-07-03T21:33:11.788Z · score: 14 (18 votes) · LW · GW

GIVE THAT USER UPVOTES FOR BRAVERY. Thank you.

comment by somervta · 2014-07-03T23:31:47.855Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I was scrolling through, saw this comment and reread ialdabaoth's comment and upvoted, which I wouldn't have without yours. upvoted.

comment by Error · 2014-07-03T23:40:53.397Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe that's why volunteer dev work for LW is so hard to come by. Everybody takes one look at the DB and decides they would prefer a very long vacation in Sarlacc, Tatooine.

comment by KnaveOfAllTrades · 2014-07-04T02:07:28.021Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Didn't even get to the point of getting the DB up and running when I looked into it before I ran out of motviation (at that time). LW-hacking is not particularly accessible, though it's not clear how high making it more accessible is as a priority.

comment by jackk · 2014-07-04T04:31:48.058Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

When did you last try? You should be able to more-or-less go git checkout -> vagrant up and have everything pretty much ready to go. https://github.com/tricycle/lesswrong/wiki/Development-VM-Image

comment by Nornagest · 2014-07-03T23:59:57.144Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Well, that explains a couple of things.

comment by sketerpot · 2014-07-04T19:49:36.304Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The Reddit guys really, really dislike doing schema updates at their scale. They were getting very slow, and their replication setup was not happy about being told to, say, index a new column while people are doing lots of reads and writes at the same time. So they eventually said "to hell with it; we'll just make a document database, with no schema, and handle consistency problems by not handling them. Man, do not even ask us about joins." This seems to have made them much happier than the 'better' database design they used to use, which is important when you're a too-small team dealing with terrifying scaling issues, and you know that a lot of people are watching you because they are the ones causing the scaling issues.

This design sure does make writing SQL queries a pain, though, and it's less than ideal for a site like Less Wrong, which doesn't do much changing the code.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2014-07-04T11:11:07.657Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Being fairly ignorant of databases... how would you have laid it out better, in a general sense?

comment by lmm · 2014-07-04T18:17:28.337Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Structured tables. One for posts, one for comments, one or more for karma and so on, with appropriately typed columns for each attribute such things have. Alternatively if the data really is unstructured then I'd use a key-value store like Cassandra or something.

(For the record many modern key-value stores didn't exist when the Reddit code was originally written).

comment by ialdabaoth · 2014-07-04T18:43:26.320Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Seconding this. A proper relational database would look something like this:

CREATE TABLE Users
(
   id INT NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT PRIMARY KEY,
   username VARCHAR(250),
   passwordHash VARCHAR(250),
   firstname VARCHAR(250),
   lastname VARCHAR(250),
   description VARCHAR(MAX),
   dateCreated DATETIME NOT NULL DEFAULT GETDATE(),
   dateLoggedIn DATETIME NOT NULL DEFAULT GETDATE(),
   active CHAR(1)
);

CREATE TABLE Themes
(
   id INT NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT PRIMARY KEY,
   name VARCHAR(250),
   description VARCHAR(MAX),
   css VARCHAR(MAX),
   dateCreated DATETIME NOT NULL DEFAULT GETDATE(),
   dateEdited DATETIME NOT NULL DEFAULT GETDATE(),
   active CHAR(1)
);

CREATE TABLE Forums
(
   id INT NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT PRIMARY KEY,
   name VARCHAR(250),
   description VARCHAR(MAX),
   users_id_owner INT NOT NULL FOREIGN KEY REFERENCES Users(id),
   themes_id INT NOT NULL FOREIGN KEY REFERENCES Themes(id),
   dateCreated DATETIME NOT NULL DEFAULT GETDATE(),
   dateEdited DATETIME NOT NULL DEFAULT GETDATE(),
   active CHAR(1)
);

CREATE TABLE Posts
(
   id INT NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT PRIMARY KEY,
   forums_id INT NOT NULL FOREIGN KEY REFERENCES Forums(id),
   posts_id_parent INT NOT NULL FOREIGN KEY REFERENCES Posts(id),
   users_id_poster INT NOT NULL FOREIGN KEY REFERENCES Users(id),
   title VARCHAR(250) NOT NULL,
   text VARCHAR(MAX) NOT NULL,
   dateCreated DATETIME NOT NULL DEFAULT GETDATE(),
   dateEdited DATETIME NOT NULL DEFAULT GETDATE(),
   active CHAR(1)
);

CREATE TABLE Votes
(
   value INT NOT NULL,
   posts_id INT NOT NULL FOREIGN KEY REFERENCES Posts(id),
   users_id_voter INT NOT NULL FOREIGN KEY REFERENCES Users(id),
   dateCreated DATETIME NOT NULL DEFAULT GETDATE()
);

-- constraint: only one vote per post per user
ALTER TABLE Votes ADD CONSTRAINT pk_Votes PRIMARY KEY (posts_id,user_id)

With that schema, all you'd have to do to see someone's effect on another person's karma is:

SELECT SUM(VALUE) FROM Votes
WHERE users_id_voter = @Voter
AND posts_id IN
(SELECT id FROM Posts WHERE users_id_poster = @User)

EDIT: Wow, formatting is a pain.

comment by Crude_Dolorium · 2014-07-16T00:40:33.664Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It's heartwarming to see off-the-cuff SQL that includes foreign key constraints.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2014-07-16T01:46:39.078Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

It's heartwarming to see off-the-cuff SQL that includes foreign key constraints.

Heartwarming enough to offer me a job? ;)

EDIT: Downvoted? Ouch...

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-07-03T13:30:07.402Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

How are you going to deal with socks?

I'm hoping that the fact that your total karma restricts the amount of downvoting that you can do would limit the usefulness of socks for this purpose. Of course there are ways to get around that, but it's an inconvenience for the downvoters. If there looks to be a problem anyway, we'll try to figure something out.

Are you going to be implementing a more systematic process for detecting karma abuses?

Would need to figure out one first. Many of the proposals I've seen so far require code changes.

Can those who have been negatively affected by this receive an adjustment?

jackk mentioned the possibility of reversing Eugine's votes by running a script to upvote the comments that he had downvoted. We can do that if the people who were targeted have an interest in it.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2014-07-03T14:09:43.884Z · score: 21 (23 votes) · LW · GW

It's better than nothing, but as mentioned before, I'd prefer something that systematically eliminates the downvotes rather than upvoting over them:

Let's say I've made 1600 comments, received +2400 "legitimate" upvotes, and -400 "legitimate" downvotes.

Thus, I should have a karma of 2000 (86% positive). But along comes Eugine, and downvotes everything, giving me another -1600. This puts my karma at 400 (55% positive). You then run a script to upvote everything he downvoted, giving me +1600 karma. This puts me at 2000 (66% positive).

As you can see, I'm STILL below the 70% positive that Eliezer mentioned as his intuitive threshold for "quality contributors", even though in reality I should be well above that threshold.

This is, in fact, what pissed me off about my karmassassination in the first place - my 'fake internet points' don't matter to me, but my ratio of upvotes to downvotes DOES, because I use it to track how likely it is that I have systematic flaws in my reasoning. This breaks down when the majority of my up- and down-voting comes from one or two concentrated sources, even if one of those sources is directly countering the other.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-07-03T14:17:58.962Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, I see. That's a reasonable request, I'll ask if there's anything that can be done about it.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2014-07-03T21:13:23.827Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Places to start looking:

I don't know how extensively this site's source code has been modified from the reddit default, but in r2/models/vote.py we have:

class VotesByAccount(tdb_cassandra.DenormalizedRelation)

class LinkVotesByAccount(VotesByAccount)

class CommentVotesByAccount(VotesByAccount)

Python isn't currently in my active language cache, so I'm a little rusty dragging through all the dependencies; I'll try to spend this weekend getting up to speed with Python and see if I can help sort out a generic "wipe out a user's full voting history" script that can be safely run.

comment by Error · 2014-07-03T14:21:00.404Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

jackk mentioned the possibility of reversing Eugine's votes by running a script to upvote the comments that he had downvoted.

Villiam's solution is better, I think. The system certainly keeps track of who downvoted what and allows reversions, because I can see and revert my own up or downvotes.

Further improvement: Remove only downvotes against users he specifically targeted. Whatever remains is probably still a valid signal. That might be a more complex script, though.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-07-03T19:04:30.599Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That might be a more complex script, though.

Find all sets of Eugine's votes on comments by particular users, filter out any sets such that there are less than ten votes within that set or the ratio of upvotes to downvotes is greater than, say, 0.2, and reverse any downvotes in the remaining sets? That sounds like it should be compactly doable with SQL, although I don't know a thing about the LW database.

comment by Error · 2014-07-03T22:29:29.998Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That's why I hedged a bit. I know SQL is capable of doing such a thing, but I don't know anything about the LW database either.

comment by Dentin · 2014-07-03T14:50:55.401Z · score: 5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Total karma won't restrict people like Eugine at all. The vast bulk of his karma seemed to come from the monthly rationality quote threads, where ten minutes of web surfing and copy/paste can get you 10-100 positive karma. You can even loot old monthly threads if you want, people will still think it's worth upvoting if they even remember it's been posted before.

IMHO the monthly quote threads (and possibly other similar types of thread) should not contribute to karma total.

comment by gwern · 2014-07-03T15:01:57.220Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

How are you going to deal with socks?

Not really a problem. To gain a lot of downvote power, short of creating a bunch of circle-upvote socks, you'd need to comment or write a lot, and longtime commenters like Eugine are generally easy to spot: everyone has idiosyncratic ideas, ways of phrasing things, writing styles, references and calculations... (without even getting into stylometrics). For example, if I were banned today and surfaced under another sock a month from now, I'd be spotted quickly - just look for the new account that uses lots of hyphens, semicolons, lists, quotations and paraphrases, etc in discussing topics like statistical & experimental methodology. Similarly, Eugine has a lot of idiosyncratic interests (global warming, the fall of the west, conservative family values and so on).

This is the same reason the worst special-interest trolls on Wikipedia didn't benefit much from socking: they had too clear a fingerprint in their arguments and writings.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2014-07-03T15:14:28.364Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

True, but in my experience, Eugine's primary karma engine was karma-mining the Rationalist Quotes page; someone could simply commit to ONLY posting there, and build a pretty substantial resource pool rather quickly.

comment by gwern · 2014-07-03T16:39:32.224Z · score: 27 (29 votes) · LW · GW

Eugine's primary karma engine was karma-mining the Rationalist Quotes page

Nah. The quotes make up <1/5th of his top-ranked comments, and you can see for yourself: load http://www.ibiblio.org/weidai/lesswrong_user.php?u=Eugine_Nier , wait for it to fetch all his comments, "sort by: points", "hide parents", copy-paste down to, say, his comments with +9 karma, and then look at the composition:

$ xclip -o | fgrep -e 'In response to' | fgrep -i -e 'quote' | wc --lines
20
$ xclip -o | fgrep -e 'In response to' | wc --lines
108

Of his comments ranked >= 9 points, 20/108 or <1/5 were on rationality quote pages. I suppose he could be getting much more karma from masses of lower-ranked comments on quotes pages, but that seems a bit unlikely and more work than I want to do at the moment.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2014-07-03T16:53:29.321Z · score: 22 (22 votes) · LW · GW

gwern: Testing our hypotheses since 2009.

Thanks for the info; I was not expecting the data to show that. It does indicate that the problem will be smaller than I feared.

comment by 9eB1 · 2014-07-03T18:54:29.752Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Even a casual inspection of his comments page will reveal that he posted a lot in threads other than quote threads, that his comments were of reasonably good quality, and that they were frequently upvoted (and occasionally downvoted). I don't think there could be any system that would have stopped him from mass downvoting people by manipulating what counts for karma, as he was basically a contributing member of comment society.

comment by gwern · 2014-07-03T19:13:21.328Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

He did have a lot of good comments, but he also had a lot of very negative comments. Hypothetically a system could look for people with a very wide range of scores and flag them for deeper inspection.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-07-03T16:20:46.114Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Now rewrite what you said as an SQL query...

:D

The serious answer is that the people who were downvoted noticed that they were downvoted. That was the whole point. At that moment, they should contact a moderator and report a suspicion. And we should make this visible somehow...

Anyway, the main damage was from knowing that someone mass-downvotes you anonymously, and you don't know who, and you can't defend. (And that it keeps happening to multiple people, for months.) This shouldn't happen again, because it would be easier to fix the next time.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2014-07-03T16:25:53.315Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Now rewrite what you said as an SQL query...

Using reddit's database schema? Challenge accepted. I'm at work right now (writing SQL queries for my college, in fact), but I'll gladly contribute something useful when I get home.

EDIT: This is a lot more difficult than anticipated. :( I'm going to have to do some serious research before I can produce something useful, given reddit's flat kvp schema.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2014-07-04T00:44:22.388Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting- I don't think percentage is a useful metric (it can easily be a metric of controversy rather than thought quality). The really concerning thing about mass downvoting is what it can do to the perception of comments when they are being initially read- retroactive adjustments will not matter as much.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2014-07-04T02:12:40.019Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I noticed a lot of that - if Eugine was the first person to get to one of my comments, it had a lot higher chance of being downvoted further, even if it was similar to other comments that got upvoted when he didn't get to them until later.

Herd mentality is scary.

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-07-03T21:26:54.173Z · score: 5 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Wow, I picked the culprit.

(I have no signed prior statement to prove this, but I certainly guessed it.)

Edit: And there's my points going up already!

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2014-07-04T15:59:15.135Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Everyone following the situation knew it was Eugine. At least one victim named him publicly. Sometimes he was referred to obliquely as "the person named in the other thread" or something like that, but the people who were following the story knew what that meant.

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-07-04T23:10:26.581Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

And I just dropped from 9800ish to 8909. But still at +269 last 30 days. What?

comment by Nornagest · 2014-07-05T00:33:07.691Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

30-day karma counts karma on comments made in the last 30 days, not the delta in your total karma over the last 30 days. It's somewhat counterintuitive, yes.

comment by gjm · 2014-07-05T21:52:31.767Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That doesn't explain what caused David to lose 900 karma points abruptly. (I don't think it can be that all Eugine's votes have been reversed because (1) I'm pretty sure my losses at his hands haven't been undone and (2) I'd be rather surprised if Eugine gave David 900 upvotes in the history of ever. Not least because that would mean 10% of David's karma is upvotes from Eugine.)

comment by Nornagest · 2014-07-05T21:55:26.299Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, I thought that went without saying -- elsewhere in the thread, several of the people that have been targeted for block downvotes have said that they've continued, so chances are David's having the same problem. I was only trying to explain the difference between the changes in his total and 30-day karma.

comment by gjm · 2014-07-05T22:27:58.297Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, I see. But the usual pattern of block-downvoting has been much less abrupt than that. (In my case it was, I think, somewhere in the range of 1-10 downvotes per day while it was happening.)

I suppose it's possible that Eugine is trying to do as much damage as he can before his ability to downvote finally goes away, but that seems obviously pointless (it's just asking to have all his votes reversed) so I'd guess it's someone else. This seems like a particularly stupid time to be engaging in obnoxious downvoting patterns, though -- much more likely to get caught, probably more likely to get slapped down hard for it.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-07-04T22:27:04.784Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I am glad to see this decision.

It is odd, though, that the effect of the banning is apparently to prevent him from doing anything on LW except the conduct for which he was banned. Everyone is a hero to himself, and there is no reason to expect him not to carry on this behaviour while he can. I hope to see a technical resolution of this in the near future. I am surprised that access to his account was not simply removed. That is what banning seems to have meant in the past.

As for his past votes, reverting every one of them would be the simplest action. The collateral damage of removing such legitimate signal as there was in his other votes is a small price to avoid exercising judgement over every individual case.

comment by Tenoke · 2014-07-04T22:49:16.538Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I am surprised that access to his account was not simply removed.

I checked my recent comments, because I was planning to say that so far he doesn't seem to have offended after the banning, however I found no evidence of that. The two comments from the last 2 days, which I had noticed did't get any downvotes initially, now had one (as do my other comments). This doesn't prove much, so I checked all the other users who were getting mass downvoted for extended periods (the list in the post) and it seems like all their recent comments had at least 1 downvote as well.

The above is not definite proof, but what I suspect might be happening is that Eugine's bot/script is still running, despite him leaving the site.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-07-07T18:20:37.370Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I can't help but feel threatening Eugine with a ban might have been better than summarily blocking him for past offenses.

I mean, this is his first time breaking the rules, right? And he can't have known this would be a banning offense before it was declared one. He might well be willing to obey the new edict if given a choice between that and punishment.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-07-07T19:11:07.484Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I am not party to the conversation that took place between Eugine and Kaj, but there was a conversation and I would be surprised if it was not clear to him that his membership of LessWrong was on the line.

"First time" is not a good description of a persistent pattern of behaviour over a substantial course of time.

He was publicly named some time ago but laid low: he knew that what he was doing was not going down well, and not just with those he was downvoting. No-one has spoken up in favour of his activity; the nearest thing to that is weak remarks about downvoting being about whatever the downvoter wants to see less of, which sounds more like obsessive adherence to an imaginary rule than any positive defence of the practice. I often see people publicly saying that this or that post is downvoteworthy, but I have never seen anyone say that this or that person is, not even the most egregious intruders that lasted no more than weeks or days before being thrown out.

It appears (but is so far unconfirmed) that he is not willing to cease the systematic downvoting of persons even after "banning". If so, how would he have been willing to stop on threat of it?

So no, he had already burned all those bridges before the axe fell.

comment by wedrifid · 2014-07-21T14:11:06.907Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It appears (but is so far unconfirmed) that he is not willing to cease the systematic downvoting of persons even after "banning". If so, how would he have been willing to stop on threat of it?

This is not a difficult question. If Eugine assigns value to not getting banned then the threat of banning represents a disincentive. If the banning has already occurred that disincentive does not exist and all spite related motivations are likely to increase and any respect for the moral authority of the powers that be obliterated. What remains is the trivial inconvenience of continuing to downvote via other mechanisms.

Not actually having the power to stop a threat is a reason to use the power that you do have wisely. Were this just about influencing Eugine's voting patterns then it would be a poor decision. But such actions are made more to establish precedent and influence others.

Disclaimer: I was largely indifferent to Eugine being banned. He certainly would have been on my block list were this forum not crippled in that regard. But the parent ask a rhetorical question with a straightforward decision-theory related answer.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-07-10T20:06:29.414Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"First time" is not a good description of a persistent pattern of behaviour over a substantial course of time.

Sorry, I meant that this was the first rule he had broken. You're right, he was not a "first offender" in the sense that leniency is often extended to first offenders.

He was publicly named some time ago but laid low: he knew that what he was doing was not going down well, and not just with those he was downvoting.

True, but there's a significant difference between "this will make me unpopular" and "this will get me permabanned".

It appears (but is so far unconfirmed) that he is not willing to cease the systematic downvoting of persons even after "banning". If so, how would he have been willing to stop on threat of it?

What possible benefit could it do him, to stop after being banned for life?

ETA:

No-one has spoken up in favour of his activity

Are you serious, or is that some sort of hyperbole?

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-07-10T21:43:09.603Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

No-one has spoken up in favour of his activity

Are you serious, or is that some sort of hyperbole?

I am serious. By his activity, I mean specifically his mass downvoting activity. It is possible I have missed someone defending this action. Show me some examples, if there are any.

I have seen people opposing the ban. I have seen people querulously quibbling, "ah, but suppose I find everything a user posts bad and I downvote each of them, is that a bannable offense and if not how are you going to tell, eh?" But I have not yet see anyone saying, Eugine was right to downvote everything that these people posted, regardless of what it was, and everyone else should do the same until they are driven away.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-07-16T09:50:07.275Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, I see. There's defending it and then there's defending it.

Some people think it's a bad idea to mass-downvote, but not banworthy. Some people think it is/was sometimes a good idea to mass-downvote - that's what I was thinking of.

But you meant more along the lines of "Eugine was right to downvote everything that these people posted, regardless of what it was, and everyone else should do the same until they are driven away"?

You're right, I haven't seen anyone who claimed that.

comment by randallsquared · 2014-07-11T03:35:50.647Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I have seen people querulously quibbling, "ah, but suppose I find everything a user posts bad and I downvote each of them, is that a bannable offense and if not how are you going to tell, eh?" But I have not yet see anyone saying, Eugine was right to downvote everything that these people posted, regardless of what it was, and everyone else should do the same until they are driven away.

Ah, but it's not clear that those are different activities, or if they are, whether there's any way in the database or logs to tell the difference. So, when people "quibble" about the first, they're implying (I think) that they believe that in the future someone might be right to downvote everything someone posts, because that person always posts terrible posts.

Part of the reason this is coming up is a lack or perceived lack of transparency as to exactly what patterns "convicted" Eugine_Nier.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-07-12T08:17:58.870Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, but it's not clear that those are different activities, or if they are, whether there's any way in the database or logs to tell the difference.

In the present case, there was enough evidence to raise a reasonable suspicion, whereupon Kaj approached Eugine, who confirmed that he "was engaged in a "weeding" of users" (quoted from original post).

Rules come from judgement, not judgement from rules.

So, when people "quibble" about the first, they're implying (I think) that they believe that in the future someone might be right to downvote everything someone posts, because that person always posts terrible posts.

Any bad post is worth downvoting. If someone writes nothing but bad posts, and there have been a few examples, every one of their posts gets downvoted. Such people are rare and they never last long. When an obvious moron or crank pops up here, I have myself on occasion systematically read their entire comment history (it's never very long) and judged every comment. But I am always voting on the individual comment, never the person. I am certainly not going to downvote a meetup announcement because the poster is a Bad Person who must be spat on wherever they show their face, let alone write a bot to do the spitting for me.

Part of the reason this is coming up is a lack or perceived lack of transparency as to exactly what patterns "convicted" Eugine_Nier.

The transparency of how this case has been handled seems sufficient to me.

comment by wedrifid · 2014-07-21T14:18:17.560Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

But I have not yet see anyone saying, Eugine was right to downvote everything that these people posted, regardless of what it was, and everyone else should do the same until they are driven away.

I wouldn't say that about all of Eugine's targets. There are some other users (or accounts) for which it would have been entirely appropriate. Particularly given that there were no moderators preventing sockpuppet abuse by trolls.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-07-06T22:10:46.848Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The no longer mysterious downvoter strikes again. An immediate downvote on this is just bizarre. We have scotch'd the snake, not killed it.

ETA: And a downvote here too! Well, what a surprise!

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-04T21:42:13.238Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

First, I'm not sure if I agree with the ban, but I would allow EN to post one last apologia at least.

Second, considering karma as a property of users rather than of comments is toxic. Let's stop it. Let's consider the sum of all comments and post that happen to be written by the same person no more meaningful than the sum of all comments and post that happen to be posted the same day.

If we must rank users, e.g. to decide whom to allow to post articles, let's have a system where users can rate each other directly (but anonymously). Maybe make higher-ranked users' ratings count more (i.e. each user's score is proportional to the component of the eigenvector of the matrix of ratings with the largest eigenvalue).

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-07-04T23:16:19.626Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I would allow EN to post one last apologia at least.

If he sends it by e-mail to Kaj, I am sure Kaj would publish it (using Kaj's account).

comment by Dentin · 2014-07-05T02:19:46.194Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It may be interesting to have comment rank be the sum of positive and negative votes, while user rank counts only the positive votes.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-06T23:56:38.153Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It may be interesting to have comment rank be the sum of positive and negative votes,

I'd personally like that, and think it's a great point.

Where we disagree is much more interesting than where we agree. That's where we can really learn something.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-07-04T22:12:37.665Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If we must rank users, e.g. to decide whom to allow to post articles, let's have a system where users can rate each other directly (but anonymously).

A game I used to work on did something like this to gate content that was considered more advanced or more susceptible to balance problems. It caused an astonishing amount of drama between users and didn't seem to work very well as a gatekeeping mechanism.

I'm against it, pending details.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-07-05T08:40:38.482Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

First, I'm not sure if I agree with the ban, but I would allow EN to post one last apologia at least.

What makes you think that Eugine has any desire to post one last apology? If that's what I would have wanted to do, he could have acted differently if Kaj would have queried him.

comment by gjm · 2014-07-05T21:34:42.582Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I think (p~=0.7) you are interpreting "apologia" to mean "saying sorry", and I think (p~=0.95) army1987 meant it in the sense "statement of self-justification".

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-06T08:15:52.944Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

and I think (p~=0.95) army1987 meant it in the sense "statement of self-justification"

I did (otherwise I would have spelt it “apology”).

comment by gjm · 2014-07-06T10:42:43.218Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yup, that's what I thought. (I'm not sure that with the "apologia" spelling it even can mean "saying sorry", but I was too lazy to check and of course for all I know you might have got it wrong, hence only p~=0.95. ... I've now checked, and I think it can in principle mean "saying sorry" but I bet it basically never does. Because every path by which people come to know the word "apologia" goes back to Newman's book where it's very clear that the meaning is "self-justification" rather than "saying sorry".)

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-07-04T22:26:03.515Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I would allow EN to post one last apologia at least.

Let him whine somewhere else on the Internet if he wants a parting shot, if he's not doing so already. He's active enough elsewhere.

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-07-05T12:35:01.885Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A google on "Eugine Nier" for the past week brings up "Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe. Learn more" Well, that's interesting.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-05T22:12:02.629Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

(In any event, that's not his real name FWIW.)

comment by Tenoke · 2014-07-05T13:55:19.949Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It says that for most (it is supposed to be all) name searches, when you are googling from Europe, except when the name is too ubiquitous

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-07-05T16:02:38.387Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Doesn't show up for "David Gerard" or "Eliezer Yudkowsky".

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-07-05T17:24:53.593Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It does for me if I include the quotes.

comment by gjm · 2014-07-05T21:37:50.384Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

And for me, with all of: my own name, "David Gerard", "Eliezer Yudkowsky", "Eugine Nier" and "Eliezer Arbuthnot" (a fake name I just made up, for which Google finds no results with the quotation marks, offers me results without them, and again gives the "data protection" warning).

So I think this is a bit like searching for "rat vomit" and getting "Buy Cheap Rat Vomit now" ads from eBay: it's just an algorithmic thing that gets inserted into certain categories of search.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-05T22:06:21.313Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It shows up for me even with "Mencius Moldbug", whether with or without the quotes.

comment by hairyfigment · 2014-07-03T18:32:20.843Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you. That's all I ask.

comment by mwengler · 2014-07-05T06:33:34.467Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I am puzzled by the technological limits suggested in this post.

Can an administrator not change the password on a user's account?

If so, a solution would be to change Eugine's password to something Eugine doesn't know. Eugine could then not log on and would not be able to either post or upvote/downvote other users.

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-07-06T12:35:04.262Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I am puzzled by the technological limits suggested in this post.

It appears to be a cross between a lack of manpower and a truly terrible codebase and data structures. (I haven't looked at either myself, for much the same reasons I've so far successfully avoided Two Girls One Cup.)

comment by shminux · 2014-07-06T23:02:23.905Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Given that mass downvoting continues, it apparently is extremely hard.

comment by mwengler · 2014-07-07T06:36:35.643Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I also meant to mention that administrators could log on to Eugine's account and revert manually all the now-officially-disliked downvotes. If years of working with coding have taught me one thing, it is that sometimes the fastest way to do something is to do it manually.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-04T03:24:14.302Z · score: 3 (37 votes) · LW · GW

Eugine admitted his guilt,

Did he admit his guilt, or his actions? From the outside, it sounds like the latter.

Although the wording does not explicitly mention downvoting, harassment by downvoting is still harassment.

Begging the question that mass downvoting amounts to harassment. Downvoting is downvoting. Votes can be positive or negative. Would he be similarly banned if he had karma bombed positive votes and it made people feel all warm and fuzzy?

Needless to say, it is not the place of individual users to unilaterally decide that someone else should be "weeded" out of the community.

I assumed it was everyone's place to decide how to cast their votes. Think globally, act locally, yada yada. Ironically, he was acting in accordance with the widely held view that some people needed to be silenced to improve the atmosphere.

Several users have indicated that they have experienced considerable emotional anguish from the harassment

People told you he "made" them feel bad. I guess "Feel Bad" negative karma votes are ok. And get a lot of action from those with power too.

The fact that Eugine remained quiet about his guilt

He remained silent about how he voted, in line with the privacy configuration for votes, which has now been explicitly violated by those with the power entrusted to them. Bad precedent.

is indicative of him realizing that he was breaking prevailing social norms.

Really? Breaking social norms is now verboten in our community of polyamorous transhumans?

Seems to me he was simply acting in accordance with one prevailing norm (one that I disagree with), by violating another (that I agree with).

Eugine's actions have worsened the atmosphere of this site

Other people were part of the causal chain of a "worsened atmosphere". Assigning him as "the cause" is a judgment. Me, I'm not enthusiastic with the prevailing culture of "I'm upset, therefore you're wrong."

I asked the community for guidance on dealing with the issue.

And the pitchforks came out. Three years, 9000+ karma. Now, banned for life. The mob is fickle.

Funny thing is, I was equally unimpressed with all the signal to noise complaints. I've turned off filtering based on karma. I'd rather filter based on vote count than vote sum.

I find an atmosphere of bad feelings and social shunning rather tiresome all the way around. Buck up and don't shun - that's my preferred atmosphere, and that goes for Eugine and the concerns about signal to noise as much as those who would ban him now for hurt feelings.

All indications are his negative votes were for people being MoreWrong, in his opinion. Having people think you're MoreWrong is unpleasant. I don't think the ideal answer is to shut up those who share that opinion with you.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-07-04T08:07:47.364Z · score: 16 (18 votes) · LW · GW

Instead of social shunning, would you perhaps prefer the situation where Eugine was allowed to single-handedly send away new users he personally didn't like? Because that's what we had here until now. (i.e. Kaj's solution may not be perfect, but it's a huge improvement.)

I consider mass-downvoting of new users to be much worse than mass-downvoting of old users. Old users usually (1) have enough karma to survive the attack, (2) understand what's going on, even if they don't know who exactly did it, and (3) if they complain, they are guaranteed to have our sympathies, and they know it. New users don't have a clue; they may believe they are disliked by the whole community.

Imagine if Ander, instead of complaining publicly, just walked away. Should we feel less sorry for him than we feel for Eugine? Also, some other users may have had the same experience and just walked away silently; we wouldn't know about this.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-04T12:07:29.051Z · score: -1 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Eugine expressed that he found certain people MoreWrong. As far as I know, that's it. Isn't something of the point of this place, to distinguish LessWrong from MoreWrong? But not if some people feel uncomfortable thereby?

Instead of social shunning

But I was incorrect.

Eugine engaged in a very weak and cowardly shunning - anonymous karma bombing.

But he hasn't really been shunned in turn, because people don't seem to have the stomach for it. He's been banished through technical means, and had his "anonymous" karma votes similarly exposed through technical means. Instead of shunning, power was used against him because people said they felt bad from being downvoted.

Is that the kind of list you'd like, people complain about their hurt feelings from someone else's evaluation of them, and he's banished?

Think you never "make" people feel bad?

If people wanted to shun him, and ignore with a public plonk, that would have been fine with me. Good, in fact. Call him out for being an ass, if you think he was one. Great. But instead, let's not actually deal with the person, let's just excommunicate him if we have the ear and sympathy of he who wields the kill switch.

Seems to me that there are some very different cultures here on the list.

We can cut each other some slack, or we can fight for control of that kill switch.

Imagine if Ander, instead of complaining publicly, just walked away.

The world is full of people who were never here in the first place. I don't lose sleep over it.

And if some guy leaves because he can't handle the thought of someone thinking him incorrect, I can live with that too, as I doubt that he has the right stuff to benefit much from this place, or benefit others here much in turn.

But note that I, softy that I am, wasn't thereby telling him or anyone to get lost, I was trying to encourage him and others to get over their dismay at being thought wrong by others, which, IMO, would be good for them personally, and good for the function of the list generally.

But apparently that suggestion makes me a horrible person in the eyes of many. Fine. People have different values. Their values aren't mine either.

Eugine was allowed to single-handedly send away new users he personally didn't like

He had no power to send people away. People who left, chose to leave. The continued formulations of this episode which portray his targets as helpless victims lacking agency are dysfunctional. They act and chose too.

New users don't have a clue; they may believe they are disliked by the whole community.

New users should have some clue on what to expect on the internet, including encountering jerks. And they should have some expectation at LessWrong that someone may express that they are MoreWrong.

But again, I'm a softy, and generally cut extra slack for newbies. I've already expressed that I disapprove of karma bombing. I disapprove of plenty in this thread as well. But I haven't seen anything that would have me reaching for the kill switch.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-07-04T15:04:16.298Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Eugine expressed that he found certain people MoreWrong.

And the proper way to expose the fallacies in someone's opinions is downvoting all their comments, both those that contain the fallacies, and those that don't? Even including, if I remember correctly, meetup announcements?

And if perchance I disagree with Eugine's opinion about a user X, the proper way to express my disagreement would be to upvote all their comments, both those smart and those not smart; because otherwise my vote has smaller value than Eugine's? And then if we all adopt this norm, we will keep upvoting and downvoting comments according to the users' popularity, regardless of the merits of specific comments? Why not simplify the whole system and upvote and downvote users directly? -- Do you have the same political opinion as I do? Upvoted. The opposite opinion? Downvoted. Certainly there is a lesson somewhere about how this would lead to increased rationality.

You know, in the political debates I often had a similar position like Eugine. But I didn't mass-downvote my opponents, and as far as I know, none of them mass-downvoted me. Something like implicit cooperation in a prisonners' dilemma. Which allowed the debates to be much more civilized than most of the internet. Which I enjoyed. I partially blame Eugine for destroying this possibility of having civilized political debates on LW. It's hard to have a respectful debate, when one of participants is systematically downvoted regardless of whether they made a smart or stupid comment, whether they made a fallacy or exposed their opponent's fallacy. How are people supposed to learn and change their minds in such a debate? Isn't that one of the purposes of Less Wrong?

In the past I have explicitly objected against trying to bring new members based on their political opinion, to create a "balance". But removing new members based on their political opinion, that's even worse. At least the former contributes to the growth of the community, and there is a chance that those people might changed their opinions when exposed to intelligent arguments against. The latter just promotes one view; and if someone would update in the wrong direction, well, they might suddenly find their karma disappearing miraculously.

But he hasn't really been shunned in turn, because people don't seem to have the stomach for it. He's been banished through technical means, and had his "anonymous" karma votes similarly exposed through technical means. Instead of shunning, power was used against him because people said they felt bad from being downvoted.

Which I believe is a great thing! Eugine's actions did not start an arms race of mutual mass-downvoting. Not even on a website where many people have the ability to write a script for doing it, so such warfare wouldn't cost them too much energy. (For example, I probably would be able to writte one. I have previously used Perl scripts to scrape content from some websites; maybe it would be relatively easy to customize them for LW. I didn't try.)

Is that the kind of list you'd like, people complain about their hurt feelings from someone else's evaluation of them, and he's banished? Think you never "make" people feel bad?

Here you use too general terms. There are many ways to make people "feel bad"; but we are talking specifically about mass-downvoting here. People were making each other feel bad by posting comments the other side didn't agree with, politically, pretty often. No one was ever banned for that.

Call him out for being an ass, if you think he was one. Great.

We had a few threads complaining about the mass-downvoting (although the identity of the downvoter wasn't confirmed then), so it kinda happened.

Seems to me that there are some very different cultures here on the list. We can cut each other some slack, or we can fight for control of that kill switch.

Just to be sure how deep is the cultural difference: does mass-downvoting of new users belong to the "cut each other some slack" category? Should we aim for a balance of "I will mass-downvote the new users who seem to be on your side, and in turn you can mass-downvote the new users who seem to be on my side, and perhaps we can try destroying each other by downvoting scripts, but no one will call the moderator to intervene"?

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-05T00:15:36.046Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

And the proper way to expose the fallacies in someone's opinions is downvoting all their comments, both those that contain the fallacies, and those that don't?

No, that would communicate a more general evaluation on a person's body of work.

the proper way to express my disagreement would be to upvote all their comments

Perhaps not all their comments, but have you never sought to right some karma wrong with compensatory votes of your own to bring more balance to the Force? I occasionally do.

according to the users' popularity, regardless of the merits of specific comments?

I've never said karma vote according to popularity, Eugine didn't, and your scenario didn't either.

MoreWrong +1.

Why not simplify the whole system and upvote and downvote users directly?

Karma votes can certainly be interpreted that way, or voted that way. That's apparently how Eugine was voting.

People were making each other feel bad by posting comments the other side didn't agree with, politically, pretty often. No one was ever banned for that.

Not yet that I am aware. But you (or I) would certainly be in the running to be the first. I think I'd be in the lead today, but I'm sure you'll take the lead on other days.

I think Eugine is still on the list if his downvotes had been upvotes. The horrific consequence of his downvoting was "people felt bad and so stopped posting". That can happen from any expressed opinion. Likely many of yours. And mine. And I believe some people had expressed that many opinions I believe you and I hold are simply beyond the pale and should not be "tolerated".

"First they came for Eugine, and I thought he was a dick, so I did not speak out..."

Somebody I can't recall ever having heard of thinks I "insulted" them - I'm guessing for my comment on dysfunction, though they weren't specific. Let's not talk about winning or losing anymore, what is functional and dysfunctional, because someone might feel insulted if the shoe fits.

It's hard to have a respectful debate, when one of participants is systematically downvoted regardless of whether they made a smart or stupid comment, whether they made a fallacy or exposed their opponent's fallacy.

No it's not.

Better to light a candle than curse the darkness. If you saw that happening, you could have rectified the horror of Karma -1 with your own vote. We're talking about a single karma point here, per post, which needn't have put someone in a tizzy in the first place.

Life isn't so difficult, even when people disagree with you.

I will mass-downvote the new users who seem to be on your side,

Mischaracteriztion. He is reported to have said:

users who he did not think displayed sufficient rationality.

No talk of "sides" here, just rationality.

MoreWrong +1

does mass-downvoting of new users belong to the "cut each other some slack" category?

MoreWrong +1. I've frequently said I'm opposed to mass downvoting.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-07-05T00:44:30.418Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

No one was ever banned for that.

Not yet that I am aware. But you (or I) would certainly be in the running to be the first.

I don't care about the conditional probability P( me gets banned for my opinions | someone gets banned for their opinion ) if the probability P( someone gets banned for their opinion ) is extremely low, which I believe it is. Actually, I don't even believe the conditional probability is so high for me; though it could be a bit higher for you, but anyway...

I believe the probability of either of us getting banned on LW during the next five years, assuming we continue writing our comments more or less the same way we do now (which I intend to) and don't participate in any activity such as mass-downvoting; and assuming that MIRI and CFAR will continue to exist and be connected with LW... is less than 2%.

And I believe some people had expressed that many opinions I believe you and I hold are simply beyond the pale and should not be "tolerated".

I agree with you in this. I just believe those people don't have enough power to enforce their threats here, and they are more likely to leave this web disappointed than remain here long enough to gain that power. Also, contrarianism works against them.

He is reported to have said:

users who he did not think displayed sufficient rationality.

No talk of "sides" here, just rationality.

My model of him says that he detected "insufficient rationality" when people disagreed with him politically. What you quoted is how it felt to him from inside. (I admit I cannot prove this.)

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-05T01:20:44.699Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I just believe those people don't have enough power to enforce their threats here,

Today. But it's rather telling that the threats were made and discussed seriously.

You're not from the US, right?

Things have been pretty wacky here in the last year, with numerous high profile cases of people losing their jobs/status/property for Thoughtcrime. I would have considered these highly unlikely just a year ago.

My model of him ...

My prior would put that as fairly likely. Without going through the posts of the people involved, and I won't, it's hard to know. I have a vague "reasonable guy" tag in my head for him. Could be for similar reasons.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-07-05T14:00:59.394Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

No, I'm not from US. But I read internet, so I am probably aware of some things.

it's rather telling that the threats were made and discussed seriously.

And they achieved zero success. Because this is Sparta... ahem, Less Wrong.

And if they tried the same thing next time, there even wouldn't be so much drama again, because we are already inoculated. "There are more nerd boys than nerd girls, therefore nerds are sexists!" Yeah, already heard it, not impressed.

numerous high profile cases of people losing their jobs/status/property for Thoughtcrime

This deserves a longer debate (and LW is probably not the right place to have it) about specific details. I would guess that in most of these cases, those people were thrown overboard by their colleagues, in an effort to protect money from government or wide public. Less Wrong does not take government money, and our public supporters are mostly contrarians by nature. In other words, we are not a university, and we cannot be destroyed by a Twitter campaign.

Most importantly, I don't believe Eliezer would jump on a political correctness bandwagon. Also, there are already many "shocking" news about LW (basilisk, polyamory, etc.); it would be too late to try a PR coverup.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-06T01:49:10.052Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I would guess that in most of these cases, those people were thrown overboard by their colleagues, in an effort to protect money from government or wide public.

Yes. People cave. Much easier for everyone to throw someone to the mob than to fight. That's the magic of people who mean it. Small groups of motivated people who mean it can easily cow larger groups who don't want a fight.

Most importantly, I don't believe Eliezer would jump on a political correctness bandwagon.

If he has meant at all what he has said about UFAI, he'll turn over the keys of LessWrong to the Thought Police in a second if it further the efforts for FAI, for much the same reasons that everyone else caves.

I began to weigh those who followed me, balancing them one against another, asking who I would risk, and who I would sacrifice, to what end. It was strange how many fewer pieces I lost, once I knew what they were worth.

Even a small, motivated group can destroy value. Everyone caves, unless they're equally looney.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-05T21:56:49.892Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Most importantly, I don't believe Eliezer would jump on a political correctness bandwagon.

Well...

(I agree with the rest of your comment.)

comment by JoshuaZ · 2014-07-08T02:59:46.326Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think many would not characterize that action as jumping on the political correctness bandwagon.

comment by Stuart_Armstrong · 2014-07-04T13:14:13.379Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I see your points, but...

But what if shunning didn't work?

I have 12 500 or so Karma. That gives me around 50 000 downvotes. That's enough to zero out tens if not hundreds of contributors, especially if I concentrated on newbies. I could literally zero them out - keep them at zero, whatever they posted (and prevent them from posting top level comments), and either break them or the Karma system. Then once they'd left, I could reverse all my downvotes, and apply them to someone else.

If I was that cruel, and willing to ignore people's opinions, then shunning would have no effect on me, nor would it reduce my power to cause destruction. At some point, something other that social means would be needed to stop me.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-04T23:13:46.949Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I see your points, but...

Thank you for listening to them.

At some point,

Exactly. "At some point." We were a good ways away from the hypothetical you described. Social response should be commensurate with the social problem.

The example given is some guy who lost like 40 points? Let's say that was the scale of the issue for a dozen people. This is a trivial problem for any individual, save for their propensity to curl up in a fetal position when someone on the internet expresses through those 40 points that he thinks their posts aren't up to snuff.

I think I've lost more karma responding to this nonsense, and spent much time responding as well, because I find the response a little out of proportion, a little unfair, and worst of all, an empowering of the "you hurt my feelings, shut up" principle.

The social problem he was responding to was a perceived worsening of the signal to noise ratio, and a sizable chunk of the list seemed to share that opinion, and share that karma feedback was an appropriate response for the desired end state of shutting some people up, though I think that individual karma bombing has limited support.

I believe the solution I had suggested was for the moderators to contact the karma bomber and tell him "hey, you're causing a problem, can you knock it off?"

That might have ended it without further escalation, and we could have all go on our merry way.

I don't know the details of the discussion between Kaj and Eugine. Maybe that was it.

Solution if he won't knock it off?

I'm torn. Which is the bigger problem - people taking action to protect their tender ears from the "noise" of posts they don't like, or people taking action to protect their tender feelings from being hurt when someone expresses disapproval? Both are quite disruptive and tiresome, IMO.

First, there should be pretty easy technical countermeasures that would limit the power of any karma bombing campaign. Limiting all votes to your karma limit would be a nice start, particularly compelling to the signal to noise enthusiasts.

Second, often these "I've been karma bombed" threads provoke a karma telethon, where the target gets karma back and "validation" from interested parties. User affirmed, gets karma back, and widespread condemnation of karma bombing educates users on the problem of karma bombing and the general disapproval of it. Probably a necessary price to pay periodically.

Third, if the list wants to make an explicit policy against karma bombing, fine, let them do it, but applying it retroactively is bad form, IMO. The policy could be made after a thread inviting opinions on the policy, where people could discuss the general issue of policy somewhat divorced from their interest in a particular instance. This is a price I'd hope we could have avoided.

Fourth - I think there is widespread disapproval of karma bombing, even from the signal to noise purifiers. If the behavior continues in the face of explicit policy, then you can kick him off while mitigating any backlash and mollifying people with more concern for due process.

comment by Stuart_Armstrong · 2014-07-05T08:18:11.943Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You make some valid points. And possibly I'd have done things differently, were I a moderator. Possibly.

But this kind of phrasing isn't helpful:

people taking action to protect their tender ears from the "noise" of posts they don't like, or people taking action to protect their tender feelings from being hurt when someone expresses disapproval?

Either the overall Karma system does its job (by using feelings, or reputation, or whatever), or it doesn't. It doesn't, no one would care. Clearly, they do care, so it is doing some of its job. Yay!

Eugine exploited a technical and social loophole, and threatened to destroy the whole system. Hyperbole? Do you really want to see competitive karma bombing, rushing to nuke your opponent's score before they can do it to you? Reducing this level of misbehaviour to "feelings were hurt" is entirely misleading. Eugine cheated (exploited what was self evidently a difficult to close loophole), people got angry at being cheated (a useful evolutionary response) and the cheating could have irreparably damaged the website.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-05T11:32:15.328Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

But this kind of phrasing isn't helpful:

Yeah, I get that a lot.

Then again, I think a lot of other people's phrasing isn't helpful. I think many of their ideas are positively harmful. But in any group, I don't always expect to get my way.

It's funny that all the people bemoaning his karma bombing of others where he perceives their irrationality, have little compunction about karma bombing my posts here so that I have to spend karma to not be rude and leave people hanging who took the time and effort to respond to me.

I've made arguments all the way through here. Anyone here saying I'm simply irrational? Not making any points? Can't put an argument together?

Not that I've seen. It's all tone. It's all about hurt feelings. It's all about having different values. If I were karma voting on those terms, I'd get carpal tunnel syndrome in a week. Click click click click click.

Look upthread at my -6, followed by your 100% +9. So, in your estimate, is that an accurate evaluation of our comparative rationality in those two posts? I was abysmally irrational, and you're pristinely rational and insightful?

Looking at the pattern of votes, I think it's unlikely that even the majority of my downvotes came from people who actually read each of my posts. A lot of people are just signaling disapproval. Like Eugine was doing.

Eugine is at least downvoting people on his perception of their rationality quotient.

Who's really cheating here?

But is there anyone sharpening the tines of their pitchforks for these new cheaters? Strange how the pitchforks magically align to ideological north, instead of cheating north.

Reducing this level of misbehaviour to "feelings were hurt" is entirely misleading.

Hurt feelings are the crux of the matter. The "cheating" business is a minor transgression serving as rationalization for the picthforks, and as we've seen, a rationalization hardly consistently applied.

Turn all of Eugine's downvotes to upvotes. Still "cheating". Should provoke the same outrage, if the outrage was really about cheating. Do you maintain upvotes would have provoked the same outrage?

I think, people would have disapproved a little, but there would have nowhere near the level of stink about it, and he would not have been banned.

Hyperbole?

Yep. He was a minor annoyance that people blew up into major drama that was much more destructive.

Meanwhile, he was also a poster with 9000 karma. Seems like he was producing a good deal of value for some people. Not anymore.

As to what I'd really want - to be God Emperor, of course, but the Universe shows no sign of obliging any time soon. So I'm putting those plans on hold for the near future, and likewise don't expect a list with a lot of people with very different values and preferences than mine to conform themselves to what I really want. Or even kind of want.

And that's the difference. Live and let live. Even with assholes, who largely are just people with different values. I thought Eugine was being a dick, but . The world is an imperfect place. Other people are being karma dicks here, but . I'd rather we kept our powder dry for things that really mattered.

I do see a problem with that strategy, but I don't know that you're going to like the solution. Basically, people who give others slack are great when they get together. They have a nice buffer from real conflict. Throw in a few random slack takers, and they're annoying, but the preponderance of slackers can easily mitigate the damage and dissuade the assholes through numbers, if not intensity.

But when with enough slack takers, and particularly those pulling in the same direction, slack givers are just giving out more and more slack until the slack takers hang them with it. A few random slack takers like Eugine aren't a problem, but a large contingent of slack takers pulling in the same direction are. Against them, slack givers may have to hold the line on slack.

Again, not what I really want, but maybe what I should be doing.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2014-07-04T13:26:41.194Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

He had no power to send people away. People who left, chose to leave. The continued formulations of this episode which portray his targets as helpless victims lacking agency are dysfunctional. They act and chose too.

Karma is supposed to influence behaviour.

comment by pragmatist · 2014-07-04T21:59:30.335Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

And if some guy leaves because he can't handle the thought of someone thinking him incorrect, I can live with that too, as I doubt that he has the right stuff to benefit much from this place, or benefit others here much in turn.

But note that I, softy that I am, wasn't thereby telling him or anyone to get lost, I was trying to encourage him and others to get over their dismay at being thought wrong by others, which, IMO, would be good for them personally, and good for the function of the list generally.

You do realize that karma is more than just a feel-good point system, right? If your karma is low enough, it materially hinders your ability to participate on this site. You can't make discussion posts, or top-level comments, and you have a limited ability to reply to comments. All of this actively discourages low-karma users from participating, not just by making them feel bad, but by actually making participation a hassle.

So a newbie who has been karma-bombed may not be leaving simply because he can't handle the heat; he may be leaving because, with the ability to meaningfully accrue karma denied to him, he faces numerous annoying technical obstacles to participation (and certain modes of participation are effectively closed off to him).

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-05T00:23:00.002Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You do realize that karma is more than just a feel-good point system, right? ...

Yes.

So a newbie who has been karma-bombed may not be leaving simply because he can't handle the heat;

True, but that was how it was expressed (not exactly in those terms, of course).

comment by drethelin · 2014-07-04T06:08:23.395Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

It's extra important to police the social norms of a community that's about breaking the prevailing social norms, if you want to have a community at all. The norms you police are the borders of your community.

comment by shminux · 2014-07-04T06:27:19.604Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Did he admit his guilt, or his actions? From the outside, it sounds like the latter.

Given that the downvoting continues unabated (just got a couple of dozen drop), he clearly does not think he did anything wrong.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-04T12:19:38.764Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

What a weird system, that he is banned but can still vote.

But maybe someone else took up his sword?

(And no, it wouldn't be me.)

But back to the issue of his guilt, per the OP, he was confronted and gave his reason. Sounds like he meant it in the first place, and considered it a public service.

comment by Stuart_Armstrong · 2014-07-04T12:43:56.130Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

From OP:

Unfortunately, it looks like while a ban prevents posting, it does not actually block a user from casting votes. I have asked jackk to look into the matter and find a way to actually stop the downvoting. Jack indicated earlier on that it would be technically straightforward to apply a negative karma modifier to Eugine's account, and wiping out Eugine's karma balance would prevent him from casting future downvotes. Whatever the easiest solution is, it will be applied as soon as possible.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-07-04T12:00:52.860Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Begging the question that mass downvoting amounts to harassment.

He did it with the intention of driving away people from the community. Doing things with the intention of weeding out people is well described as harassment.

Eugine would have had the possibility to respond to Kaj with an apology and a promise to not engage in this activity again in the future. From Kaj summary it looks like he didn't. While I would have prefered a solution where he could have stayed, I think strong moderation is valuable and I therefore support Kaj's decision.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2014-07-04T14:55:27.629Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

He did it with the intention of driving away people from the community. Doing things with the intention of weeding out people is well described as harassment.

It's good for the forum to drive some people out. The question is in correctness of particular decisions about driving people out and in acceptability of means of doing so. Applying the concept of harassment is misleading (noncentral), as it suggests incorrect conclusions (e.g. driving people out is undesirable in general), even if some of the other conclusions happen to be correct (e.g. disapproval of Eugine's behavior).

(One currently accepted method of deciding to drive a user out is to see if most of their comments are significantly downvoted by many users, and if they keep posting similar stuff regardless. If that's the case, their comments start getting deleted, which is a means of driving them out or motivating them to reduce active participation.)

comment by CCC · 2014-07-04T17:23:23.614Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

It's good for the forum to drive some people out.

That is likely to be true, but I'd argue that it's not good for the forum if a single self-selected mostly-anonymous person is the only one deciding who gets driven out.

'Single' implies that consensus among the community is not required; 'self-selected' implies that anyone with an end goal different to that of the site can attempt to force their goal on the community; mostly-anonymous implies a lack of accountability for their decisions. These are all red flags.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-04T23:23:39.783Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I believe even the signal to noise crowd is generally opposed to individual karma bombing.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-04T12:29:28.948Z · score: -1 (11 votes) · LW · GW

He did it with the intention of driving away people from the community. Doing things with the intention of weeding out people is well described as harassment.

Some people describe that as improving the signal to noise ratio. A good many, I believe.

Eugine would have had the possibility to respond to Kaj with an apology

Likely he's the hero of his own story, and believes he has nothing to apologize for. Never had that lesson in losing against those with power over you.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-07-04T14:25:21.408Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Votes can be positive or negative. Would he be similarly banned if he had karma bombed positive votes and it made people feel all warm and fuzzy?

Karmacampaigning is an interesting case-- it doesn't seem likely to cause damage in the same way that karmabombing does.

Sometimes I'll find my karma going up, and it's hard to find out which comment or post is attracting karma. A karma dif option (probably with a time frame) would be nice, but I don't know how hard it would be to add.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-05T00:25:35.639Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'd like that too.

comment by Username · 2014-07-05T02:23:58.743Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps differences between eugine's and kaj's political views caused a harsher punishment.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-05T06:09:45.104Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Kaj's political views likely played a part in how he saw this, as would anyone's, but I don't get the sense of "I'm gonna stick it to the other team" from Kaj here.

EDIT: BUT, I think political views likely played a part in the more general reaction, and thereby the resulting punishment.

EDIT2: see http://lesswrong.com/lw/kfq/moderator_action_eugine_nier_is_now_banned_for/b2gp

Personally, I'm glad Eugine is gone, because even without the downvoting he was an asshole. And having anti-feminist or biorealist assholes running around is a great way to drive off women and minorities.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-06T12:35:12.781Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

differences between eugine's and kaj's political views

That's something that irked me as well: I would have preferred the ban to be performed by somebody other than a self-identified feminist.

OTOH, I have seen no evidence that Kaj's political views had anything to do with his decision (I just have a sizeable prior for it because he's human), and I can't even recall him ever talking about politics on LW off the top of my head (I only know about his political views from his comments on Slate Star Codex, and the idea of holding people accountable for things they've said in a different venue, well..., it reminds me of something.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-07-06T12:54:07.396Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That's something that irked me as well: I would have preferred the ban to be performed by somebody other than a self-identified feminist.

Then why didn't you speak up when Kaj asked the community how to deal with the issue?

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-06T13:34:35.704Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I wasn't watching the issue that closely back then.

comment by Emile · 2014-07-04T16:19:56.460Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Great job Kaj and Jackk, congrats!

I hope this sets a good enough precedent that this won't be needed again; Eugine had plenty of warning both that this was frowned upon by pretty much everybody, and that he could be identified.

comment by wedrifid · 2014-07-09T10:13:52.827Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I asked Jack to compile reports on several other users who mentioned having been mass-downvoted, and it turned out that Eugine was also overwhelmingly the biggest downvoter of users David_Gerard, daenarys, falenas108, ialdabaoth, shminux, and Tenoke.

Is this a criticism of Eugine or a criticism of others for neglecting their duty? I don't know all of those users but in some cases the only way Eugine could have been "overwhelmingly" the biggest downvoter is if all the people with decent standards realised they had better things to do than fix people wrong on the internet.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-07-09T10:46:20.396Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Or if no-one else thought that botvoting of people was a good idea. Or did Eugine manually perform all those downvotes himself? Where were his standards when he downvoted the good and neutral as well as the bad?

comment by wedrifid · 2014-07-09T10:59:18.951Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Or did Eugine manually perform all those downvotes himself?

I had presumed so. When I was active I read every comment and a vote is a single click so 'botting' would change little. Eugine was fairly active so is more likely than not to have applied the votes manually. Not that it particularly matters.

Where were his standards when he downvoted the good and neutral as well as the bad?

I have no idea, Eugine was an assclown. But even assuming every voting decision he ever made was based on dickishness I can still conclude that it is impossible to have been 'overwhelmingly' the biggest downvoter of some users based on some suitable definition of 'whelm', comparison with the proportion of quality posts and the realisation that "100%" is the upper bound on how many of another user's comments a single account could have possibly made.

Eugine, his actions and his psychological motives are actually irrelevant for the purpose of the reasoning in the grandparent.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-07-08T19:40:15.565Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

With all the karma talk, all sorts of interesting analyses pop into my head.

What are the karma stats when A replies to B? Upvotes, downvotes, totals, percentage upvote, and how do the karma stats of the initial posts correlate with the replies? And that's all just using anonymous karma votes.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-07-08T16:18:42.859Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

So, I am curious about the new legal regime on LW :-/

It seems that the rule "karma vote the post, not the user" has been made explicit and the breaking of it is a bannable offence now. Is that so?

Let's say I think user X is a troll, and idiot, and a disgrace and so should be encouraged to remove himself from LW. Can I use karma voting to express my attitude? Let's say it's a new user who posts a lot, so at pretty much every post of his I facepalm and downvote. Is that fine? In a couple of months it will look like I mass-downvoted him (and under some definitions of "mass-downvoting" I did).

Now, I'm far to lazy to downvote all posts I don't like (or to write a script to do it). But it's conceivable that one day someone will annoy me enough to downvote a bunch of his posts. Is it a bannable offence now?

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-07-09T19:45:15.652Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Downvoting someone's all posts because all of the posts are genuinely bad is fine; downvoting them all (even the good ones) because the person just happens to annoy you in general is not.

Of course telling the two cases apart can be difficult, so in practice people won't be banned unless it looks particularly obvious that they are engaging in indiscriminate mass-downvoting.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-07-09T20:41:17.648Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

the posts are genuinely bad

I don't know what that means.

As an example, consider this recent spat.

because the person just happens to annoy you in general

The reason the (far away over the internet) person annoys me is because his posts annoy me. Can I downvote them? In large numbers? The great majority of that user's posts?

In grading terms, you're thinking in terms of grading on a curve and I'm thinking in terms of grading on an absolute basis.

By the way, making it so that no one can downvote a post more than a couple of months old (but can upvote it) is one way to solve or at least mitigate the karmassasination issue.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-07-11T11:59:28.970Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

the posts are genuinely bad

I don't know what that means.

I guess a simple test would be: "if I saw this post and didn't know who had written it, would I still downvote it?". If yes, then it's fine, even if you did do the downvoting in large numbers. Because you'd be making your decision based on the quality of the specific comment rather than e.g. a general dislike of the person's other comments.

(This heuristic isn't quite perfect, given that knowing the writer of a comment does sometimes provide information that helps evaluate the comment better - e.g. if there's someone who I know to have a background in physics and they tell me that I'm wrong about a question of physics, I have more reason to take that seriously than if the comment came from the Time Cube guy. But the rough idea should be helpful anyway, I hope.)

As for the question of "how do I tell whether someone really has applied that test"... well, I have some thoughts about that, but I'm not sure whether it's a good idea to give a detailed explanation of the methodology, since that would allow people to game whatever tests I have in mind.

comment by Larks · 2014-07-03T20:32:08.436Z · score: 1 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Needless to say, it is not the place of individual users to unilaterally decide that someone else should be "weeded" out of the community.

I don't think this actually makes sense. Generally the way a group comes to a decision something is for a few individuals to come to believe it, and then they convince others. If individuals are not allowed to decide, it's unclear how any weeding can ever be decided upon. Indeed, it's unclear if this rule would even allow you Kaj to ban Eugine!

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-07-04T08:17:31.672Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

If individuals are not allowed to decide, it's unclear how any weeding can ever be decided upon.

Pattern A: Someone writes a stupid comment. I downvote the comment, you downvote the comment, Eugine downvotes the comment. The comment now has -3 karma, and the user lost 3 karma. If they continue writing stupid comments, their karma will drop to zero.

Pattern B: Someone writes a stupid comment, I go berserk and downvote all their 30 comments and 2 articles. The user lost 50 karma.

The difference is that in Pattern A, it was individuals making the decision, but it took more than one individual to sent a strong signal. Also, the signals were connected to comments: if the user wrote ten smart comments and ten stupid comments, they would see the difference. Thus, they can learn.

Indeed, it's unclear if this rule would even allow you Kaj to ban Eugine!

Having more rights than an average user is pretty much the definition of a moderator.

comment by Jiro · 2014-07-18T15:43:30.959Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How bad does downvoting have to be before it's not allowed?

There's a thread where everything I say has been downvoted. This amounts to a loss of 14 karma. Because of the pattern of downvotes, it appears it's all from one person. I highly doubt that that I'm saying things ten times as worse in this thread than I am anywhere else, so it seems that I've been downvoted for expressing an unpopular view.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2014-07-04T19:17:53.303Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This solution does not seem scalable: it is going to require an amount of moderator effort proportional to the number of crazy people the site attracts.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-07-04T20:00:56.099Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

We're a growing site, but we're not growing that fast, especially in the last year or so. Historically we seem to have attracted a crank every few months or so, which should be handleable by a mod staff of any size so long as it actually, you know, moderates stuff. At linear growth rates that should hold for years, longer if the mods are willing to name new mods from time to time.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-07-04T20:05:21.820Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Tracking excessive downvoting seems like something that can be pretty well automated.

comment by wedrifid · 2014-07-09T10:23:34.547Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Tracking excessive downvoting seems like something that can be pretty well automated.

Or, if the rule for how much you are allowed to downvote (something like 1:4 on karma?) isn't the right rule, change it to something else explicit.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-07-05T08:44:59.767Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Part of this solution is that it has a deterrence effect. That doesn't need much moderator effort. That said, if the forum grows there isn't much of a problem with recruiting additional moderators.

comment by Jiro · 2014-08-06T09:00:24.752Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How about also making a rule that you can't downvote something that you've replied to?

comment by Nornagest · 2014-08-07T21:21:32.690Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's often convenient to be able to write a post explaining a downvote. I'd be okay with barring people from downvoting replies to their own posts, though, which also prevents downvote duels in long threads but preserves the ability to explain a vote.

(It'd likely be marginally easier to implement, too, since the presence of a post is stabler than the direction of a vote.)

comment by Will_Newsome · 2014-07-07T04:11:14.335Z · score: -1 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Fuck, I think that guy was one of my biggest upvoters. You'll pay for this.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-07-07T10:59:31.456Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I wish I could be sure you were kidding.

What happened to " Harry Yudkowsky and the Methods of Postrationality: Chapter One: Em Dashes Colons and Ellipses, Littérateurs Go Wild"? It was funny, it got karma, and it seems as though there was a flawed effort to move it to Main.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2014-07-08T02:16:28.495Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer deleted it presumably.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-07-08T02:28:20.450Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Why delete it with a fake move to Main rather than actually deleting it?

comment by Will_Newsome · 2014-07-08T02:38:06.537Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Oh I didn't know about the attempted move to Main. Maybe a mod was feeling trolly and tried to move it to Main and then another mod was like "this isn't main material" and hid it? When I go to edit it from my Overview page it still says "Less Wrong discussion" in the dropdown thingy.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-07-08T14:21:34.323Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know that there was an attempted move to Main-- that's my deduction.

What I actually see is that if I go to the article from your name page and click on the title, I get Main with a notification that the article doesn't exist.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2014-07-08T02:45:42.675Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I guess I could try pressing the 'submit' button from the edit page again and seeing what happens. ETA: Nope, still "does not exist". ETA2: I submitted a new version. For the lulz.

comment by curi · 2014-07-06T05:08:29.132Z · score: -3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I also reviewed previous discussions about mass downvoting and looked for other people who mentioned being the victims of it.

I believe I was a victim of mass downvoting. You could review my history too.

comment by shminux · 2014-07-06T23:00:29.173Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Looking by your history, it's more likely that you were downvoted by many people separately because you wrote truly awful posts and comments.