This weekend, I got a wave of scam trackbacks, splogs (spam blogs), and troll posts.  I spent more time than I care too editing, deleting, and banning.

Then on the way into the office, I caught this NYT article on the "World of Nasty Blogs." One of the things that surprised me in the article was this comment:

"Some online writers wonder how anyone could persuade even a fraction
of the millions of bloggers to embrace one set of standards. Others say
that the code smacks of restrictions on free speech.

Mr. Wales
and Mr. O’Reilly were inspired to act after a firestorm erupted late
last month in the insular community of dedicated technology bloggers.
In an online shouting match that was widely reported, Kathy Sierra, a
high-tech book author from Boulder County, Colo., and a friend of Mr.
O’Reilly, reported getting death threats that stemmed in part from a
dispute over whether it was acceptable to delete the impolitic comments
left by visitors to someone’s personal Web site."

That stuns me. Free speech — WTF?

No one is stopping you from starting your own blog and writing whatever you want. But to think anyone has right to come into someone else’s blog and doing whatever they want is absurd. I wouldn’t tolerate anyone coming into my house, graffiti-ing the walls or pissing on the floors — why should I tolerate that at my blog, an extension of my home?

Those newer to this blog should be sure to reread our disclosure post, but here’s the relevant excerpt:

3A. Posting Comments:

I attempt to read every comment that goes up (although that is
becoming increasingly difficult). I read all email, but make no promise
about responding.

I post comments in my own name. Anytime I edit anyone else’s posts, I clearly mark it as such (~~~ BR: like this).

On occasion I will post someone else’s email (or telephone call) as a comment in their name
or initials (because they can’t). Because my circle of friends includes
people who (due to their employers compliance policies) risk their jobs
by posting comments, I will, in my own judgement, do so on their behalf
when appropriate.

3B: Comments by Trolls and Asshats:

This may be a free country, but The Big Picture is my personal
fiefdom. I rule over all as benevolent dictator/philospher king/free
safety/utility infielder. Fear my wrath, mortals!

I will ban anyone whom I choose from posting comments — usually,
for a damned good reason, but on rare occasions, for the exact same
reason God created the platypus: because I feel like it.

I encourage a broad range of perspectives, philosophies, sexual
orientations. Dissent is good. I want to see a debate of views, a
battle in the market place of ideas. (Thomas Jefferson wasn’t so dumb
after all). You can post on nearly anything, so long as it is at least tangentially related to the topic at hand.

On occasion, I will "unpublish" a comment if I feel it is too impolite, harsh, inappropriate, or off-topic.

A few things that will get you permanently banned from The Big Picture:

– Knowingly posting false or malicious material;
– multiple postings under different names;
– generally engaging in troll-like behavior;
– misquoting your host/overlord;
– being impolite in the extreme;
ad hominem attacks;
– being an asshole.

Free speech advocates (at least those who think they are) can flame away — on your own blogs.

The full NYT article is worth reading, as is our entire disclosure post . . .


A Call for Manners in the World of Nasty Blogs
NYT, April 9, 2007

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. Daniel DiRito commented on Apr 9

    Where is my Easter Bonnet?

    While some may see the blogosphere and the behavior of its participants as a new phenomenon, it isn’t difficult to find an appropriate predecessor model. That model is found on the streets of any metropolitan area and it is called traffic and the prevalence of road rudeness…or in its extreme…road rage.

    Granted, personal attacks and snark on the internet are not likely to lead to fatalities, but if computers had wheels, it certainly would.

    Read more on the relationship between blog civility and Easter Bonnets…here:


  2. donna commented on Apr 9

    As I said on another blog, I like O Reilly and he’s done good stuff, but he needs to STFU about blogging – he doesn’t get it. And neither does the NYT. I’m sorry they feel a mite threatened by it, but oh well.

  3. Norman commented on Apr 9

    BR: Etiquette? At what point is a comment too long and thus not read? Or, what is the ideal comment length?

  4. dissent commented on Apr 9

    I’m dissent. I’m good. Cool!

  5. worth commented on Apr 9

    This world needs more philosopher kings, less utility infielders, and more “utility outfielders nearing homerun records”, e.g. Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, et al. I hate myself for it, but I actually get more enjoyment out of watching one of Sammy’s at bats with my Texas Rangers than I would an at bat of the more-capable youngster that’s not nearing 600 that he bumped down to the minors in his vainglorious “comeback”/pursuit of that hallowed ground. Does that make me a bad person?

  6. dblwyo commented on Apr 9

    Here, here.

    One thing to add – when poor Kathy was recieving multiple death threats and various blogs were posting truly gross pics of her that’d been photoshopped we exceeded IMHO any fair test of free speech and crossed the border a long ways into a lack of tolerance.

    It’s worth looking at Kathy’s blog – which is in the main concentrated on improving the user experience with technology – to see what your own opinion might be.

  7. Lauriston commented on Apr 9

    Understood, Barry. Wikipedia has a complete definition of “asshole”.

  8. Mousefinger commented on Apr 9

    The word “asshat” always makes my chortle and let out a cute snorting sound that attracts overweight co-workers.

    WordPress (blogging platform) has an awesome Spam plug-in called Akismet. It deals well with Spam; doesn’t filter out the asshats though.

    Keep up the good fight. Cheers from Michigan.


  9. Big Al commented on Apr 9

    It’s your bat and your ball, if they don’t like your rules let them start their own game.

  10. wunsacon commented on Apr 9


    >> A few things that will get you permanently banned from The Big Picture:
    >> – multiple postings under different names;

    What if, on occasion, someone posts with a different “name” but with a consistent email address? Not trying to hide anything. Just like to use a goofy handle now and then (e.g., like replying to eclectic after one of his GBU-related posts and then signing off as “tuco”).


    BR: Its not the multiple names per se, but the multiple false identities — especially egging each other on to foment a false mob projection.

  11. Jon H commented on Apr 9

    In the case of trolls and asshats, rather than spammers, it can be fun to just disemvowel their comments. Thus, a monument to their asshattery remains, which with a little effort can be read. But quality readers can quickly skip past them and won’t be sucked into a flamewar.

  12. cm commented on Apr 9

    Barry: Small caveat on “multiple identities” — the IP address has a high likelihood of identifying a client, but in a number of places, including corporate networks, IP masquerading is used, and several clients can externally appear under the same IP address (during the duration of a connection the IP/port combination should be unique though).

  13. Eclectic commented on Apr 10

    Jon H,

    “Asshattery” – That is too good, Jon!

    Asshatology – study of asshats

    Podexapexophobia – fear of asshats

    Podexapexohomophobia – fear of being an asshat

  14. Eclectic commented on Apr 10

    Now, wunsacon…

    You must remember that all the parables in which I have presented the character “Tuco” from “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” have always been used as metaphorical parody in d-i-r-e-c-t reference to the subject at hand, and quite artistically, if I do say so myself.

    I never post anything except as “Eclectic” and “Bondie” is my metaphorical and misunderstood child.

    I think my using the character Bondie fetched up memories of “Blondie” from GBU in (if I remember correctly) MarkM’s imagination, so I suppose we owe the GBU origins to him. If I have made an error, I wish to be corrected.

    I do however claim all other fictional character creations of mine, including but not limited to:

    Bondie, Dr. Benber N. Anke, Dr. A. Lang Reenspan, and the recently introduced Drs. F.I. Sher, Harry Goode and Nelson Friday; as well as the metaphorical canonization of: First and Second Kudlownians (“I and II Kudlownians”); and the mystical land of Kudlownia, with its capitol, Kudlowvia (also referred to as “NeverToldVille”), and its happy but misguided Says-Law-lovin’-trickling-down-supply-sidin’-Monetarist people, the Kudlownians.

    I would also claim partial title to the moniker, “Barringo” but he probably wouldn’t sit still for that.

    Any person having made comments and signed out as “Bill Carson,” “Angel Eyes,” “Arch Stanton,” or “Unkkk-unkkkk-ukkkk…” or “Unknown” as Bondie finally said, or any other GBU character… is truly not me.

    Eclectic, the one, the only, himself in the flesh

  15. Eclectic commented on Apr 10

    “…..Unkkk-unkkkk-ukkkk…” or “Unknown” as [Blondie]* finally said.

    *Not Bondie of course, because she’s still recovering from the attempted doctor’s appointment with either Dr. Goode or Dr. Friday last Good Friday.

    At present she doesn’t know whether to scratch her butt or wind her watch, but she’ll be better soon. In fact, it may not be long until Dr. Anke calls in her next prescription.

    She’s got good major medical health insurance, so I don’t expect her medicine to cost more than 4.80 or so over the next few months, possibly a lot less by Christmas, “Claus” Santa already his big assets stuck in the chimney.

  16. Francois commented on Apr 10

    All this hoola-boolah for what?

    It is rather simple: don’t behave differently on a blog that you would if you were face to face talking to someone.

    Any grandmother would know that. Everyone have/had a grandmother right?

    Maybe that is the problem:people don’t listen to them anymore?

    Tsk tsk tsk!


  17. KP commented on Apr 10

    I haven’t heard Asshat in a while. Ahhh.

  18. Kevin commented on Apr 10

    I think Francois hit the nail on the head. I’m guessing most people are fed up with people having more guts when sitting behind a keyboard fortress. It’s one thing to have an opinion and express it, as long as you own it. If you are posting on someone’s personal blog, then you are at the mercy of the moderator (even when their mod isn’t as engaged as our own).

    I like to think of a personal blog as that person’s newspaper and that person as the editor. They should have the final say on what does/doesn’t go into their newspaper. If you post something inflammatory, ridiculous, or just plain stupid under a pseudonym, you have no right to complain about free speech. That is like claiming the NYT is violating the first amendment because they didn’t want to publish your letter to the editor entitled “Why Pol Pot was Awesome” by Idiot P. Jackass.

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