PSA: Eugine_Nier evading ban?

post by Dahlen · 2014-12-07T23:23:12.678Z · score: 19 (45 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 70 comments

I know this reeks of witch-hunting, but... I have a hunch that u/Eugine_Nier is back under the guise of u/Azathoth123. Reasons:

I don't have an axe to grind against the guy, I've only spoken to him a couple of times and didn't notice any particularly large karma hits afterwards, I just really dislike it when someone skirts the rules like that. Disruptive users evading permanent bans never helped any community ever.

Obviously I'm posting this here because I think a moderator should look into the matter. Usually I would be posting a disclaimer of some sort, apologizing in advance to Azathoth123 for attacking his standing with slanderous accusations if this turned out not to be the case. Well, I won't. The more I look into the matter, the more confident I get that they're the same person. Azathoth, if you're reading this and you're not Eugine_Nier, then I strongly advise you go search for your twin brother, I think you'll get along very well. Seriously, I'm saying this in good faith. You have a suspiciously great deal of things in common.

If retributive downvoting is (still) a concern (if not, then disregard this paragraph): I'd like to request, if such a thing is possible, that a mod karma-blocks me until the issue is over, so as to not incur undeserved downvotes (it would also mean I'd get no upvotes). In turn, I promise not to abuse the system by spamming the boards with garbage without consequences, but then again given my history so far on LW I don't think that such an abuse should be expected from me. For the record, I could have made a throwaway account just to say this, and not risk being karmassassinated, but 1) a zero karma account has no credibility and 2) for signalling reasons I prefer to put my money where my mouth is.

P.S. I only made this announcement its own post because the latest open thread was about to "expire".

70 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2014-12-08T01:26:56.991Z · score: 76 (82 votes) · LW · GW

Both accounts' SSC comments come from the same IP.

comment by shminux · 2014-12-08T00:49:02.253Z · score: 18 (24 votes) · LW · GW

Eh, I don't mind someone using a different account, as long as they don't repeat the behavior that got them banned originally.

comment by Dahlen · 2014-12-08T00:53:24.287Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I'm not advocating for the new account to get banned either; it's just that as far as I'm aware most places have rules against evading bans, and LW doesn't seem to have a clear-cut policy on such situations. I just thought the community should be aware, and then it's up to mods to discuss the matter and take action if they so choose.

comment by Alejandro1 · 2014-12-08T00:18:28.804Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

You are the fourth or fifth person who has reached the same suspicion, as far I as know, independently. Which of course is moderate additional Bayesian evidence for its truth (at the very least, it means you are seeing a objective pattern even if it turns out to be coincidental, instead of being paranoid or deluded)

comment by Bugmaster · 2014-12-09T08:25:53.642Z · score: 8 (24 votes) · LW · GW

I downvoted this post not because I hate you, or because I love Eugine_Nier (o), but because I'd like to see fewer post like this one in the future. And I think that expressing my sentiment is what the "Downvote" button is for.

More specifically, I don't think that public shaming and witch hunts belong on Less Wrong, even when the person being hunted is actually a witch (oo). I think that the toxic culture such tactics create is likely to be more harmful than individual unruly posters, in the long term.

(o) I don't even remember who he is, though the name does sound familiar.
(oo) Metaphorically speaking.

comment by Ander · 2014-12-08T19:02:46.119Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I propose a new version of the Turing test: An AI is as smart as a human when it can figure out which new poster on a message board is actually the same person as an old poster who got banned. :)

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2014-12-08T20:24:08.417Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

This is an old problem, see e.g.:

https://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~russell/papers/ifsa01-identity.pdf

for special cases. Both google and facebook are very interested in versions of this problem.

comment by V_V · 2014-12-09T11:14:02.423Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think this is actually a difficult problem. Some simple machine learning on word frequencies, bigram frequencies, etc. will be probably enough to solve it.

comment by Kawoomba · 2014-12-09T12:40:43.500Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Friend of mine did it via computational complexity: using gzip (as an approximation for KC) for attributing classical latin literature to their respective authors by checking which strings add the least additional complexity (due to shared writing styles, word choice, etc.) when compressed together and then clustering. Worked like a charm.

ETA: These were large bodies of text, however. Probably not gonna work for a bundle of comments, except for me, due to my overuse of "obviously", obviously.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-12-09T20:43:24.228Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I thought this was pretty impressive:

We study techniques for identifying an anonymous author via linguistic stylometry, i.e., comparing the writing style against a corpus of texts of known authorship. We experimentally demonstrate the effectiveness of our techniques with as many as 100,000 candidate authors.

[...]

In experiments where we match a sample of just 3 blog posts against the rest of the posts from that blog (mixed in with 100,000 other blogs), the nearest-neighbor/RLSC combination is able to identify the correct blog in about 20% of cases; in about 35% of cases, the correct blog is one of the top 20 guesses. Via confidence estimation, we can increase precision from 20% to over 80% with a recall of 50%, which means that we identify 50% of the blogs overall compared to what we would have if we always made a guess.

The efficacy of the attack varies based on the number of labeled and anonymous posts available. Even with just a single post in the anonymous sample, we can identify the correct author about 7.5% of the time (without any confidence estimation). When the number of available posts in the sample increases to 10, we are able to achieve a 25% accuracy. Authors with relatively large amounts of content online (about 40 blog posts) fare worse: they are identified in over 30% of cases (with only 3 posts in the anonymous sample).

[...]

Further, we confirmed that our techniques work in a cross-context setting: in experiments where we match an anonymous blog against a set of 100,000 blogs, one of which is a different blog by the same author, the nearest neighbor classifier can correctly identify the blog by the same author in about 12% of cases. Finally, we also manually verified that in crosscontext matching we find pairs of blogs that are hard for humans to match based on topic or writing style; we describe three such pairs in Appendix A.

The strength of the deanonymization attack we have presented is only likely to improve over time as better techniques are developed. Our results thus call into question the viability of anonymous online speech. Even if the adversary is unable to identify the author using our methods in a fully automated fashion, he might be able to identify a few tens of candidates for manual inspection as we detail in Section III.

comment by Kawoomba · 2014-12-09T20:51:10.437Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Difference was one of scale. Much easier when just taking three dozen? pieces of classical latin literature, some of which were different parts of the same opus magnum, then see them cluster to their respective authors and to the other parts of the same piece. More of a "put the pieces into the box" as opposed to a 100,000 pieces puzzle. In the latter case, you just know most of the puzzle pieces will either show the blue sky, or the blue sea, both a similar shade of blue.

comment by gattsuru · 2014-12-09T20:33:50.565Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Commenting to 'save' this comment. That's a really clever way to handle that.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-12-09T20:22:23.543Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

KC = Kolmogorov Complexity?

comment by Kawoomba · 2014-12-09T20:25:11.105Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeap, the paper linked in my other comment explains how it works.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-12-09T19:36:37.493Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

gzip is a "crude upper bound" on KC, and afaik there is no known bound on the error.

EDIT: I'm pretty sure the following result isn't even true: If KC(x) < KC(y), then gzip(x) < gzip(y). Or even quantitatively weaker variants of the same.

comment by Kawoomba · 2014-12-09T19:43:51.386Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There can't be, since KC isn't computable (could be mistaken on that in itself precluding a (edit:) lower error bound). It's still kinda nice and works on a similar principle (and also, somewhat, in practice). Let's plug the Hutter prize while we're at it, for the 5 people reading this. Also, just saw a cool paper which kinda describes the same principle, here.

comment by gwern · 2014-12-09T20:00:48.158Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There can't be, since KC isn't computable (could be mistaken on that in itself precluding a bounded error).

KC may not be uncomputable in general, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't preclude all possible proofs or constructions*, and it seems odd to say that there is no upper bounds when we have what sure look like such things.

* I have just invented a Scheme-like programming language in which all tokens except numbers are 2 alphanumeric characters long; what is the Kolmogorov complexity of the bitstring '1'? 'Who knows, KC is uncomputable -' Bzzt! The answer is that the KC is exactly 1, since the shortest program which emits the bitstring '1' is a program consisting of the constant '1' which evaluates to '1', which as you can see, is indeed of length 1, and all other programs emitting the bitstring '1' are longer by definition.

Or if you don't like that example, consider taking your favorite language and enumerating all possible programs in length order; consider the outputs of the programs you've just enumerated when evaluated up to the highest available Busy Beaver in steps (to avoid nontermination issues), and the respective lengths of outputs - have you not found the KC for those outputs? If you run gzip over the outputs to get estimated KCs, are those not upper bounds on the actual KCs you proved?

comment by V_V · 2014-12-09T20:30:50.290Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Computing upper bounds on on Kolmogorov Complexity is not very difficult: gzip and all the other compression algorithms do it. The difficulty is computing non-trivial lower bounds:
For all programming languages (with a self-terminating encoding), there is a trivial lower bound that doesn't depend on the string. This bound is at least one token.

But there is also a language-dependent constant L_max which is the maximum KC complexity and lower bound on KC complexity that you can compute for any string: L_max is the length of the shortest program for which the halting property is uncomputable ( * ) (which makes L_max is uncomputable as well).
This implies that you can compute the KC complexity only for a finite number of strings.

( * And doesn't provably emit any token)

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2014-12-11T16:01:41.100Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There is no such thing as "the shortest program for which the halting property is uncomputable". That property is computable trivially for every possible program. What's uncomputable is always the halting problem for an infinity of programs using one common algorithm.

It is also easy to make up artificial languages in which Kolmogorov complexity is computable for an infinite subset of all possible strings.

You were probably thinking of something else: that there exists a constant L, which depends on the language and a proof system T, such that it's not possible to prove in T that any string has Kolmogorov complexity larger than L. That is true. In particular, this means that there's a limit to lower bounds we can establish, although we don't know what that limit is.

comment by V_V · 2014-12-11T19:11:34.391Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

There is no such thing as "the shortest program for which the halting property is uncomputable". That property is computable trivially for every possible program.

The halting property is semi-decidable: if a program halts, then you can always trivially prove that it halts, you just need run it. If a program does not halt, then sometimes you can prove that it doesn't halt, and sometimes you can't prove anything.
For any programming language, there exist a length such that you can compute the halting property for all programs shorter than that. At length L_max, there will be program Bad_0, which:

  • Does not halt.
  • Can't be proven not to halt.
  • Doesn't emit any output symbol.
  • It can't be proven that there exist any string of output symbols that it doesn't emit.

You can never prove that any string S has Kolmogorov complexity K if K > L_max, as it would imply that you proved that Bad_0 doesn't halt, or at least doesn't emit any symbol which is not a prefix of S.

Since there are only finitely many strings with complexity up to L_max, we can only compute Kolmogorov complexity, for finitely many strings.

It is also easy to make up artificial languages in which Kolmogorov complexity is computable for an infinite subset of all possible strings.

If the language is Turing-complete I don't think this is possible. If you think that an arbitrary string S has complexity K, how can you prove that there exist no program shorter than K that computes S?

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2014-12-11T20:10:02.797Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

[retracted]

comment by Kawoomba · 2014-12-09T20:14:29.224Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yea, only talking about the general case. Even the Halting Problem is usually computable in daily life, just by running the program (ETA: and seeing it terminate).

Watch the program run

See it die before your eyes

Halting Problem? Solved!

comment by [deleted] · 2014-12-09T21:01:00.915Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There can't be, since KC isn't computable

Exactly. So why bother saying gzip is an approximation of KC? (I assume: because KC is a well-known theoretical object with good properties, and one shouldn't let the fact that none of these properties carry over to gzip ruin one's chance of getting published cheaply.)

comment by lmm · 2014-12-16T23:22:14.340Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Because gzip is being used to measure complexity. That's literally the reason they used gzip and not, I don't know, rot13. It's an explanation of the causal role that gzip is playing in the whole process.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-12-17T00:57:37.988Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

No.

"gzip is being used to measure complexity" is an explanation of the causal role that gzip is playing in this study.

"gzip is an approximation of KC" is either 1) flatly not true, see edit to grandparent or 2) not relevant to the study at all.

comment by Kawoomba · 2014-12-09T21:07:57.795Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

And while we're at it, why do we even care about Turing Machines, it's not like we could ever build one anyways. ;-)

goes back to tending his potato garden

comment by Unknowns · 2014-12-08T01:48:41.014Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I am fairly sure that Azathoth123 downvotes comments that he disagrees with just because he disagrees with them, even when he is responding, which seems a bit rude if you are going to engage someone.

comment by shminux · 2014-12-08T02:52:40.088Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

That's indeed rude, but not unusual. It's the mass downvoting that was the real issue.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2014-12-08T23:48:26.134Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It is something Eugine did. I think Unkown's point is that it is additional evidence that this is Eugine.

comment by shminux · 2014-12-09T00:26:05.196Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Right, that makes sense.

comment by satt · 2014-12-08T01:11:12.914Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for saving me the effort of writing a full-length "J'accuse!".

comment by peter_hurford · 2014-12-08T17:58:03.291Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I also think it was wrong / overly risky to write this up publicly, unless you've contacted moderators personally first and found them unresponsive.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-12-08T21:35:44.322Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

unless you've contacted moderators personally first and found them unresponsive

I admit that this pretty much happened, only instead of "unresponsive" it was "responded, but then did nothing". :(

See also this.

comment by peter_hurford · 2014-12-09T01:27:29.441Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough. Sorry then.

comment by Dahlen · 2014-12-08T18:22:56.381Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Alright, but

1) Overly risky for whom? I personally don't feel I have exposed myself to any risk other than vindictive downvoting, and if that happens (it hasn't yet) I trust that the resulting karma issues won't affect my participation much.

2) As far as I know LW doesn't have a well set-up report & moderation system. I even searched for the official rules of conduct and only found a page on what people should not talk about (not on how they should behave generally, or the policy for bans and banned members). I don't remember seeing a list of all the mods on LW or which of them is currently online. Even Viliam Bur said here that it might take even mods a long time to get to the bottom of such an issue.

3) Some people who have an interest in knowing this (e.g. people who have been the targets of mass downvoting) might have been duped otherwise, and I view this as an intrinsically bad thing.

comment by peter_hurford · 2014-12-09T01:26:14.734Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Overly risky for whom?

For being wrong.

-

As far as I know LW doesn't have a well set-up report & moderation system. [...] I don't remember seeing a list of all the mods on LW or which of them is currently online.

That's true, and fair.

comment by Dahlen · 2014-12-09T01:42:30.562Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

For being wrong.

That's not a person. Again, who is being put at risk?

comment by peter_hurford · 2014-12-09T02:41:40.619Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW
  • The counterfactual u/Azathoth123 in the worlds where u/Azathoth123 and Eugine_Nier are different people.
  • The entire LW community, should this turn into a witchhunt (which it didn't).
comment by Dorikka · 2014-12-08T00:28:46.733Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I would retract and contact the moderator regarding your suspicion. See http://lesswrong.com/lw/kza/meta_new_lw_moderator_viliam_bur/

comment by pragmatist · 2014-12-08T06:39:01.816Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I already contacted Viliam_Bur with this suspicion a few months ago, and I doubt I'm the first. I'm assuming Viliam either doesn't feel he has sufficient evidence to act, doesn't feel that any action is warranted, or is too busy to follow up on this at the moment.

Yvain's comment below is a new piece of (fairly conclusive) evidence. Maybe that will impact the situation if Viliam felt he had insufficient evidence previously, so it might be worth drawing his attention to this thread.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-12-08T11:21:11.563Z · score: 35 (35 votes) · LW · GW

One of the problems with moderation is that cooperation with LW admins is very slow. As in: extremely slow. Which means: even more slow than you imagine after reading this. Certainly much slower than I imagined when volunteering for this role.

Using my own moderator powers, all I have is a "Ban user" button which can ban a user. (And a corresponding "Unban user" button.) That is the whole moderator user interface as far as I know. If I am wrong, please educate me.

So, my options as this moment are: (a) ban Azathoth123 because I feel sufficiently convinced that he is a reincarnation of Eugine Nier, or (b) send an e-mail asking for more evidence, and wait literally forever, or (c) ignore the whole thing. From the outside, options "b" and "c" seem indistinguishable, and... well, how much happy would you be if I started using the option "a" as a general strategy?

What would really help me at this moment:

Someone with knowledge of Python and SQL, willing to cooperate with me for a few weeks (an hour or two every week). The task would be: reading and analyzing a few already written scripts to understand how exactly the data are stored in database (hint: it is a horrible "database implemented in a database" antipattern); and then writing a few scripts to generate reports from the database, based on a pseudocode I would provide. I could then use the reports to make decisions.

I realize I should have written this much sooner. Uhm, better now than never, I guess. (I thought I would learn some Python and do this myself, but I never put it as the highest priority, and outside view says it's unlikely to happen in a reasonable time.) So if you know Python and SQL, and are willing to do some free work for LW, please contact me.

(Note: The person writing these scripts will not get access to any private data. I will check the scripts before running them, and the intermediate reports will be anonymized.)

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2014-12-08T21:23:29.391Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I tried a negative karma award so he couldn't downvote and was told "Karma awards must be greater than zero." I don't know where a "Ban user" button is.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-12-08T21:31:57.432Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

As a moderator, when you look at someone else's comment, there should be an additional option between "Permalink" and "Get notifications" buttons. (Parent, Reply, Permalink, Ban, Notifications.) If you click it, it will change to "Unban".

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2014-12-09T22:02:56.756Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Found the correct control. For mods, the link is:

And Azathoth123 is out. It's not very good, but it's the best I can do - I encourage everyone to help Viliam make the software support better.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2014-12-09T07:09:35.013Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That only bans the comment, not the user!

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-12-09T20:35:10.965Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

http://lesswrong.com/r/lesswrong/about/banned/
http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/about/banned/

(These links only work for logged-in moderators.)

comment by pragmatist · 2014-12-08T15:08:21.236Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough. Just wanted to let you know that although my comment might have sounded judgmental it genuinely wasn't intended that way. From my perspective, all three reasons for inaction I listed are perfectly legitimate and not deserving of criticism. I'm still not sure whether any concrete action is necessary, although at this point I am virtually certain that it is a Eugine sock puppet.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-12-08T21:29:33.453Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I should have asked for help sooner. I should have updated sooner that the help will be necessary.

At this moment, I already have a few volunteers, and... uhm, I guess I will publicly ask for help again if the situation is not solved until 1.1.2015.

comment by Dahlen · 2014-12-08T00:30:52.758Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Alright, I was looking for a way to report posts or contact moderators and couldn't find any, thanks for the link.

But why retract?

comment by Dorikka · 2014-12-08T01:36:06.357Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

No problem. I would have retracted because of the significant downside if you happened to be wrong. Though it's still possible, I'm not really worried about it anymore given Yvain's comment.

comment by solipsist · 2014-12-08T00:59:05.016Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

PSA: Dahlen may be wanted in Argentina for absconding with 43 llamas. I have nothing against Dahlen, but you should guard your ungulates!

EDIT Retracted for publizing unconfirmed rumors

comment by solipsist · 2014-12-08T00:55:39.446Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

P̶S̶A̶:̶ ̶D̶a̶h̶l̶e̶n̶ ̶m̶a̶y̶ ̶b̶e̶ ̶w̶a̶n̶t̶e̶d̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶A̶r̶g̶e̶n̶t̶i̶n̶a̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶a̶b̶s̶c̶o̶n̶d̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ ̶4̶3̶ ̶l̶l̶a̶m̶a̶s̶.̶ ̶ ̶I̶ ̶h̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶n̶o̶t̶h̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶a̶g̶a̶i̶n̶s̶t̶ ̶h̶i̶m̶,̶ ̶b̶u̶t̶ ̶d̶o̶n̶'̶t̶ ̶t̶r̶u̶s̶t̶ ̶h̶i̶m̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶r̶ ̶u̶n̶g̶u̶l̶a̶t̶e̶s̶!̶

E̶D̶I̶T̶:̶ (̶c̶o̶m̶m̶e̶n̶t̶ ̶r̶e̶t̶r̶a̶c̶t̶e̶d̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶p̶o̶s̶s̶i̶b̶l̶y̶ ̶s̶t̶a̶r̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶b̶a̶s̶e̶l̶e̶s̶s̶ ̶r̶u̶m̶o̶r̶s̶)̶

comment by Dahlen · 2014-12-08T01:10:56.594Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Heh. Wouldn't know about Argentina, but newspapers in SimNation are all over it.

In all seriousness though, my claim is a) supported by arguments; b) somewhat relevant to the community; c) not an accusation tantamount to calumny (having a sock is neither illegal nor morally outrageous). The cases aren't even remotely comparable. Also, there are at least a few people who might be interested in knowing this, if true, and few people who would be interested in covering up the whole business. If not true, then at the very most the "two" of them might "find a valuable conversation partner" in "each other". (Scare-quoted because I highly doubt that is the case.)

comment by Kawoomba · 2014-12-08T10:35:03.802Z · score: -6 (26 votes) · LW · GW

I know this reeks of witch-hunting, but

But nothing. Bring your concerns to a moderator.

Disruptive users evading permanent bans never helped any community ever.

Queue the public spectacle associated with "are you Eugine Nier?". It's trivially easy to get a new IP address and to avoid, say, "exceeding the quote limits per rationality thread". So what then? You know the evil rule-skirter is still around. It could be nearly anyone. Such community navel-gazing, the internal drama, usually does more damage than a banned user trying to fly under the radar with a new account. But drama, it's so sweet, so hard to resist, I know[,] right!

I just really dislike it when someone skirts the rules like that

Life is about skirting rules. Most optimizing comes from skirting rules, in the sense of interpreting them most favorably vis-a-vis your goals.

comment by Dahlen · 2014-12-13T22:50:52.498Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

You know what, you're putting it as if I'm doing this for my personal gratification and to the detriment of LW as a whole, when it's exactly the reverse. I could have saved loads of karma just by not posting this, which I did in fact anticipate (to be honest, I anticipated a score hovering around zero karma or 50%). It's not my fault that moderation doesn't seem to be enough of a concern around here for the website to have a well set up infrastructure for reporting, communicating with mods, displaying mod status etc., and when somebody intends to solve such a problem, one has to do it publicly. It's not easy, or pleasant, and it draws undue attention upon myself rather than the situation. I'm not expecting congratulations, but do you image I like getting flak for pointing out all the shit someone else does?

But I don't think anything would have gotten done otherwise. Not only because the problem might not register as important unless there's public support; but also because, when the situation is uncertain and it takes a third party intervention to just check out who downvotes who, the key to the problem might need to be crowdsourced (for instance, the fact that Yvain bothered to check the IPs).

Besides, the user in question never came here to defend himself. Only an intervention from him, proving that he was in fact being harmed in some way by what I said in the post, might have made me retract it; it doesn't even matter if he was lying. Not doing so translates to implicit confession of guilt, and to cowardly troll behaviour. Good riddance, then.

To anyone who's worried this sets a bad precedent for dealing with such cases, either you people make LW a Report Post/User button, or increase your resilience to public methods of dealing with rule-breakers. Or face floods of undesirables. Many internet communities have had worse and came out just fine out of the situation.

It's trivially easy to get a new IP address and to avoid, say, "exceeding the quote limits per rationality thread". So what then? You know the evil rule-skirter is still around. It could be nearly anyone.

And mass downvoting, and posting exclusively NRx propaganda, and... mission accomplished!

Life is about skirting rules. Most optimizing comes from skirting rules, in the sense of interpreting them most favorably vis-a-vis your goals.

Go tell that to a mod on any functional, actively moderated community. Or to a judge, for that matter. See how that would fly there.

comment by Kawoomba · 2014-12-13T23:32:18.500Z · score: -10 (14 votes) · LW · GW

I get it, someone's gotta be the martyr, for the common good. Watched The Dark Knight too recently?

Since the moderation is too hands-off, we gotta do all this publicly to generate pressure on the mods! In a forum with around 5 threads per day, on a good day. That's the kind of content conducive to rationality discussions, identifying who may skirt a rule then create a public outcry for blood until the mods have to step in. You do understand he was banned for mass-downvoting, which is something his new account isn't suspected of? That he contributed a significant number of upvoted comments otherwise?

It's not easy, or pleasant, and it draws undue attention upon myself rather than the situation.

The hero we deserve. /s

So anyone who isn't willing to fight/engage a public accusation and step in the ring is implicitly guilty. That's the kind of community that's fun to be a part of.

Well, if I accused you of being a poopy head, and you didn't step in to defend yourself ... I guess that would mean, yea exactly: You're it!

Go tell that to a mod on any functional, actively moderated community. Or to a judge, for that matter. See how that would fly there.

It's how the world works, not how the world professes to work. There's a difference. The statement you so vehemently disagree with is mostly a corollary of taking "agents are goal-oriented" as an axiom. It's so close to a tautology as to be somewhat vacuous.

But we seem to live on different planets. I'm on the planet where corporations use every loophole they can to lower their tax burden. Where political donations use whatever route is just legal enough to achieve their goals. Where close to noone ever has refused, say, a severance package based on "I don't deserve this and just got it on a technicality". What are these phenomena like in Dahlen-land, and which xkcd strips are they based on? I apologize: I know I said planet, not land.

As counter-intuitive as it seems, meta-threads which (even inadvertently) fit the "drama bait" label generally increase overall drama, regardless of their actual intent. Drama bait such as this topic is click-bait and attention-bait, unfortunately. If you want to reduce drama, trolls need to be discussed/removed with the least amount of noise possible, not to thundering applause to wake up the mods. People applaud the loudest in the arena, with blood on the sand. That's not what I want this community to be. In forums I care less about, I'd upvote this topic, just to see shit go down.

(I'm being nice by phrasing this comment so antagonistically. Gives you the option to tap out on that basis. It's not like you'd want to feed the drama, selflessly promoting publicly identifying rule-breakers. Or rule-skirters, undesirables in any case!)

comment by Jiro · 2014-12-14T00:22:34.231Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That's the kind of content conducive to rationality discussions, identifying who may skirt a rule then create a public outcry for blood until the mods have to step in.

Skirting rules is already not conducive to rationality discussions. Identifying who's skirting the rules is just a way to mitigate some of the damage, given that the rule makes sense at all. (If skirting rules didn't cause damage, why would we even have the rule?)

Furthermore, it's not so much a public outcry for blood as it is a public outcry for something that only moderators can do. Itr's not the users' fault that moderators have made examining the evidence of abuse exclusive to themselves and then refuse to actually examine it.

comment by Dahlen · 2014-12-14T00:35:28.434Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Itr's not the users' fault that moderators have made examining the evidence of abuse exclusive to themselves and then refuse to actually examine it.

Now. Viliam and Eliezer did the best they could in this situation.

comment by Kawoomba · 2014-12-14T00:39:12.363Z · score: -6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Skirting a rule is not breaking a rule. There isn't even a rule about creating a new account which is not blatantly identifiable as an old banned account and which does not display any behavior which the old account was banned for. Let alone "calling someone out" for skirting a rule which doesn't even exist?

Furthermore, it's not so much a public outcry for blood as it is a public outcry for something that only moderators can do. Itr's not the users' fault that moderators have made examining the evidence of abuse exclusive to themselves and then refuse to actually examine it.

If I want to contact one person and I have their number I don't do an advert in a newspaper they read, especially if it involves naming and shaming a third party based on personal judgment. Creating a "public pressure on mods" scenario to get them to act, by starting your own witchhunt, in a forum which sees little activity anyways, is (choose one based on your level of charitability: not the best course of action; ill-advised; idiotic).

Jiro, are you Eugine Nier?

comment by Username · 2014-12-14T22:56:49.798Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The person who used to post under the handle Eugine_Nier was banned from Less Wrong. Returning with a new account is a violation of that ban.

comment by Jiro · 2014-12-14T08:50:42.238Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Jiro, are you Eugine Nier?

No, I was his victim, and since you could have figured this out without resort to further moderator actions, it fails a basic sanity check.

Nobody is suggesting that the moderators should be required to do things that fail a basic sanity check, so that's a strawman.

comment by Kawoomba · 2014-12-14T09:03:33.026Z · score: -4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

(It was a rhetorical question. Recognizing it as such could also be called a basic sanity check, but I'll assume your reply was simply a rhetorical response one level up. The problem is that I trust "the moderators", even if I don't always agree: That's the whole point, that I do not trust just anyone to level accusions publicly (the allure of drama is too damn high), even if they all turned out to be true and warranted. Even in that hypothetical, the public aspect of it -- not any moderator action -- would be toxic. I trust you see the distinction. It is no viable workaround to "but the mooods don't respond to PMMMMs".)

comment by Jiro · 2014-12-14T09:09:59.289Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The public aspect is toxic. But so is moderators not doing things, and so is people getting away with causing trouble because moderators are not doing things. It's a tradeoff.

comment by Kawoomba · 2014-12-14T09:26:02.129Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I agree.

On this specific case: Now that some clear rules (well, at least comparatively, in the UK "case law" sense) have been established, mass downvoting is a bannable offense. However, the new account (even though it was identified as the same poster) didn't show any signs of "causing trouble" in the "bannable offense" direction. No justice was served. It was a veteran, probably someone whom LW means a lot to, trying to keep that aspect of his life somewhat intact. I have no special bond to the guy, but he did contribute a number of quality comments over the years, that much I remember. There is no indication he hadn't learned his lesson (about mass downvotes).

This is a decision for a mod to make. It's not a cry for help because something obviously bad has happened and urgent action is needed. I disagree with public shaming on principle, but in a muddy case like this, it's especially abominable, in my opinion. It's a sort of vague justice porn by someone who "really dislikes people skirting the rules". Skirting, not even breaking! Queue the denunciation! Coming close to Godwin'ing myself, here.

As you say, it can all be seen as a tradeoff. The scales would be weighed differently if this community weren't so small, and the frequency of new topics so low.

comment by gjm · 2014-12-15T00:06:23.822Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

There is no indication he hadn't learned his lesson (about mass downvotes).

Apart from the fact that there's some (albeit weak; no one's done the database-diving to get strong evidence either way) evidence that Azathoth123 has been engaging in mass-downvoting.

(In particular, I saw some weak evidence that he did it to me -- though not on quite the scale that Eugine_Nier did before.)

comment by Kawoomba · 2014-12-15T00:20:03.702Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Fair point, that would certainly change my assessment of the guy and the warranted mod action, albeit not of the public aspect of this. As Jiro mentioned up the comment chain, it certainly is a trade-off. Maybe noone would have put the clues together otherwise (or see their suspicions mirrored by others), and yours is important indeed.

I guess the whole "single someone out publicly in a negative way" is my personal ugh-field (who woulda thunk, right?), which may be why I seem to fall on the other side of the trade-off than apparently most other LW'ers.

comment by Dahlen · 2014-12-14T00:17:18.779Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I avoided replying to the grandparent comment out of expectations of hostility; then I thought I didn't have a sufficient basis for that impression; now I find that my initial impression was justified.

So your end goal as far as this discussion is concerned is for me to get so irritated with you as to lose patience to engage in any further discussion.

My end goal was to maybe sort of manage to get along with you.

What's it gonna be?

comment by Kawoomba · 2014-12-14T00:30:59.925Z · score: -3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Phrasing doesn't equal content, a misinterpreted aside at the end in brackets doesn't equal my "end goal". That inference is, the PC term is questionable, but I'd really like to say ridiculous.

Fighting against pyromaniacs is usually a losing battle, the lightshow as the house burns down is just too damn enticing for the onlookers and one often gets burned either way. I'm tapping out and hoping that people of the "yay public persecution" persuasion don't manage to further detract from my LW experience.

comment by Dahlen · 2014-12-14T00:43:19.193Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"tapping out on the basis of your antagonism" = "me getting so irritated with you that I lose patience to engage in any further discussion"

  • "tapping out" = "refusing to engage in any further discussion"
  • "antagonism" = "the reason why I am irritated and lose patience"
  • "I'm doing X to give you the option to" = "I'd really like you to"

It's not magic.

comment by Kawoomba · 2014-12-14T00:55:50.318Z · score: -10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

More like giving the higher kyu player in Go handicap stones. Which of course, according to you, means the better Go player really wants to lose as his/her end goal.

Giving someone an option != "would really like you to do that" != (with emphasis!) someone's 'end goal'

Spelling it out for you, to save you from potential future embarrassments.