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Every third Sunday for the next several months, the Listening Post will serve as an arena in which Daily Kos participants can discuss issues directly related to the way the site operates.

The first Listening Post - about DK rules - generated some excellent discussions. These have not been forgotten or shelved. Some of the ideas presented in that LP's comment thread will make their way into a handful new rules, the reshaping of some old rules, and the  eliminating of some rules altogether. Questions raised will be answered; clarifications will be provided. A few guidelines, such as how to post photos, are in the process of being rewritten already to provide more updated information. Late this month, we'll be introducing an experimental process via Mixedink in which it will be determined whether some rules can be democratically written or rewritten.

Listening Post is not meant to be a place to reinforce on-going grudges. Or to demand recompense for some recent or long-ago slight or to renew fighting an unresolved battle. Don't come here demanding to know why xyz HRed you and no adminstrator did anything about it. Listening Post is also not designed as a free-for-all. Each diary will have a topic of the day. Today's topic: Dealing with Trolls.

If you could generate a Word Cloud of all the diaries and all the comments at Daily Kos for a week, "troll" would probably overwhelm every other word. Some people are obsessed with trolls, and scores of commenters pepper their arguments with the term every day.

So, before getting started, let me point out something that obviously is news to some commenters: A troll is not somebody who merely expresses a different point of view than yours. Moreover, a troll is not someone who normally engages in honest and productive discussion who occasionally slips into trollish behavior because s/he is provoked, has imbibed too much or because s/he's in a bad mood. Such behavior certainly deserves to be hide rated, but such commenters or diarists should not, based on one or two instances of misbehavior, be transformed into a "hide on sight" troll.

Trolls can be obvious and aggressive, or subtle, but their goals are always the same: not to genuinely discuss a subject or a situation, but to disrupt discussion, to frustrate people who do want to discuss, to put forth fallacious arguments that provoke discussants to diverge from relevant subject matter of a diary, and to attack people - crudely or in more clever ways - to persuade discussants to side with the troll rather than the honest participants.

Drooling trolls - those who use hate speech, stalk and "out" Kossacks, or present points of view well outside the parameters the site has set forth in the FAQ - are easy marks for being banned by an administrator, or nailed by the autoban, that is, given enough HRs by community members to permanently remove them from participating at Daily Kos. But the prerequisite for being a troll is not necessarily a low level of intelligence or a middle-school mind-set. They can be doggedly clever.

Before opening the floor to discussion, let me reprint from the FAQ guidelines first created by Contributing Editor Hunter in An Exegesis for Troll Ratings ["Troll Rating" in the original has been edited into hide rating].

To hide rate something has exactly one meaning. When you hide rate something, as a trusted user, you are stating that the comment should be made invisible to all site users. You're saying that the comment is so bad -- so disruptive or damaging to the community -- that it isn't worth even a debate, but should be deleted from the discussion as being simply inflammatory, simply off-topic, or simply a lie. Remember that, because that is the only use of the hide rating. It is an editorial vote to delete a comment from the conversation. Conversely, there is one particular reason hide ratings should never be used: to express disagreement with a poster's opinion.

      1. Do not hide rate people for expressing a contrary opinion, so long as it is expressed in a civilized fashion. The exceptions are for conservative talking points or debunked or false information; this isn't a site for conservatives, they have entire swaths of the internet in which they can regale each other with their reality-impaired fantasies.

      2. Do not hide rate someone you are actively having a fight with. If you are in a heated argument with someone, you should not be judging whether or not what they say is trollworthy. Leave it to others to decide what behavior is or isn't over the line.

      3. Do not give positive ratings to people having fights in the comment threads. It is insulting to a diarist to hijack a portion of their comment threads in order to have a fistfight between two or three users. It is insulting to the rest of the community to have to scroll past a fight dozens of comments long in order to get back to the topic at hand. If the fight is off topic or otherwise egregious, it should be trollrated in order to remove it from the thread, but there are almost no circumstances in which users should be rewarded for having a fight. Behavior like that isn't worth positive mojo -- don't do it.

      4. The exception to the hide troll rating golden rule of "rate the comment, not who makes it" is for people so disruptive to the community that they need to be quickly autobanned. This is a very difficult threshold to reach, and is reserved almost entirely for freepers or other trolls here only to disrupt. "Hide rate on sight" is not intended to be used against anyone but the most obvious and egregious of trolls -- if your definition of obvious and egregious is not the definition used by the rest of the community or by the site administrators, expect your rating ability to be suspended.

      5. Hide rate a trollworthy comment, regardless of who makes it. Everyone has bad judgment from time to time. Everyone can have a bad day. Even if the person who made the offensive or inflammatory comment is someone you know and respect, you still owe it to the diarist and the community to remove the comment. You can make it up to them later.

      6. Do not give retaliatory hide ratings. If you get what you believe to be an undeserved hide rating, do not retaliate. Leave it to others to decide if the rating was abusive. It is begrudging community practice to respond to an undeserved troll rating by hide rating the ratings abuser, thus reducing their own level of "trustedness" and making them less able to abuse ratings in the future. But don't do it unless you are absolutely positive the original rating was abusive - and I mean 100% positive. And never do it if you're the one that got hide rated. I repeat: do not hide rate fights that you yourself are in.

      7. On the other hand, one hide rating does not matter. If you get hide rated by one person, know that you will continue to walk this earth. It's not the end of the world. Unless a second person rates the same comment (either with a recommend, or another hide rating), it doesn't even count. There's no point in complaining to the admins -- they already see every hide rating on the site, and do not usually yank ratings abilities based on one hide rating, or even one thread's worth of troll ratings. It's larger patterns that are more likely to require intervention.

      8. There isn't actually any site rule that says you can't quote hidden comments in order to make a point. You should still think carefully about doing it -- after all, they were hidden because we believe that they are so unrepresentative of the community as to be unworthy of display -- but there are valid reasons to bring them up, and it isn't against the rules to do so.

      9. Banned users are banned permanently -- they are not permitted to return under new names. This is true even if you are autobanned by the community, and even if it was "unfair" -- if you've garnered so much resentment during your time here that it reached that point, we're not going to bail you out. You're done. If you see a new user banned after they make only one or two comments, it's because they're users who have had previous accounts here and blew it the first time. We don't give second chances, and we check new users who seem to get into trouble. For that reason, you should consider your reputation here before getting into fights -- if people start thinking of you as someone who always gets into fights, they will begin trollrating you more and more frequently, and it will be very difficult to convince others of your goodwill. You are responsible for your behavior.

That's a lot to discuss. Items such as #9 will, I imagine, get considerable attention. Don't be shy. What would you like to see changed, beefed up, done away with? As usual in the Listening Post threads, I'll read every comment, take every serious comment seriously, but make few, if any, comments of my own.

To reiterate, this thread is NOT about grudges or complaints about specific individuals. It's not about who should be banned. If that's your concern, send me an email.

Have at it.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Sun Jul 05, 2009 at 02:07 PM PDT.

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