Friday, March 7, 2014

Tools to limit pollution of the blogosphere

I read various climate blogs with interest.  All suffer from what I call the "turds in the punchbowl" phenomenon: individuals who consistently make reading blogs unpleasant.

There are several kinds of turds:

1.  Obvious climate deniers.  They are pretty easy to spot:  bogus "questions" about the latest post, or outright assertions such as "climate change is a hoax".  They like to quote scholarly journals like the Wall Street Journal or What's Up With That ;-) Their experts are often dentists and such.

2. Trolls.  These are perhaps less common, but the effect is to inflame the discussion in various ways.

3. The confusers.  This is a tactic I've only recently become aware of.  You could call it a more subtle form of trolling.  It consists of making confusing statements that muddy the waters and make reading a blog more difficult.  Non-sequitors and unclear references are the stock in trade of such folk.

Responding to turds is fruitless.  Indeed, it plays right into their hands.  It's a waste of time, it's upsetting and and it generally reduces the signal-to-noise ratio of the entire blog.

If it's no use trying to deal with turds, then what is to be done?  I've thought about this for a long time.  At last a simple answer has appeared: all controversial blogs really ought to implement effective per-user blocks on other users.  For example, suppose I find the posts of Bozo Bob to be unhelpful, offensive, upsetting or just a waste of time.  I want to be able to ban Bob so that I *never* see Bob's posts or replies by Bob to other posts.

For the blogs that I like to read, this would be a very effective strategy.  There typically are just a few (or a few dozen) turds floating in the discussion.  Banning those turds would not take much time, and would make it much simpler and more enjoyable to find truly worthwhile comments.

Let us be clear.  The turds won't like this proposal.  They will call it censorship and rail about closed minded individuals.  They will be as unpleasant as possible.  That is only to be expected.  The point is to make it impossible ever to be upset by them again.


P.S.  This idea was inspired by the facilities of Accuweather climate blog:  Apparently, it was designed to do exactly what I would like.  Alas, for unknown reasons it does not work for me.  The blocks do not stick.


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