63 votes

Why I closed the Ark Door (Part 1)

Back at the end of January, I made a somewhat cryptic (to some) post titled The Ark Door is Closed. And we've set sail.

How this little website came to be known as an "Ark" (and in later variations, an "Arc") is a story for another time. But the meaning of the post was that I closed the Daily Paul to new registrations.

I knew that if I didn't, I was going to end up wasting my time playing "Whack-a-Mole" with trolls for the rest of my life:

http://youtu.be/D0n8N98mpes
Nystrom, playing whack-a-troll

But there would be no glorious end for me, like the guy in the video. It would just go on, and on, and on. And on. Forever, until I died.

When I started the site in 2007, registration was free and open to all. This was really the early stages of Web 2.0, when this type of interactivity was starting to gain traction. For the most part, I didn't have many problems with new users. There was something about early Ron Paul supporters that made them respectful. I even left the site completely unmanned and unmoderated in mid 2007 for a full week, when I was without internet access! And everything was fine.

Later, as the 2007/08 campaign got bigger, in came the spammers, haters and trolls. It was a no brainer to ban the users who came to hock fake Rolex watches and Viagra. And because this was a pro Ron Paul site, it was a no brainer to ban the folks who came in to criticize him, or post stuff about The Newsletters or critical YouTube videos. Late 2007 was when the real police work had to begin.

To maintain a good, solid echo chamber, you need to keep opposing voices out.

And that's how the DP was through the 2012 election: Free and open to the public.

But nothing is truly free - we know that from Econ 101: No such thing as a free lunch. If you're getting a free lunch, someone, somewhere is paying for it.

To keep the nice resonance of the echo chamber going, me and the mods were doing what that guy up there in the video was doing: Playing whack-a-mole with those who would disrupt the flow.*

This can get especially tiring, especially with wide open door. Because with the wide open door, meaning free signups, as soon as you whack the mole, he comes right back! Different free gmail account, different free Daily Paul screen name, but the same (cost imposing) ill intentions. How do you like that?

Using freedom to impose costs on others! And as soon as they're banned, they reappear like ghosts, and the mods and I are in the unenviable position of boxing with those ghosts.

This is not a new problem, in general or with the Daily Paul specifically. Clay Shirky describes the phenomenon from an early bulletin board system from the 1970's called Communitree that was set up with the intention of "free access for all." And then, this is what happened.

...And who, in 1978, was hanging out in the room with the computer and the modems in it, but the boys of that high school. And the boys weren't terribly interested in sophisticated adult conversation. They were interested in fart jokes. They were interested in salacious talk. They were interested in running amok and posting four-letter words and nyah-nyah-nyah, all over the bulletin board.

And the adults who had set up Communitree were horrified, and overrun by these students. The place that was founded on open access had too much open access, too much openness. They couldn't defend themselves against their own users. The place that was founded on free speech had too much freedom. They had no way of saying "No, that's not the kind of free speech we meant."

But that was a requirement. In order to defend themselves against being overrun, that was something that they needed to have that they didn't have, and as a result, they simply shut the site down.

I originally posted the above on 10/30/2007, so this is not a new phenomenon here.

Many times, I've been ready to just simply pull the plug on the whole Daily Paul. Just yank that plug right out of the wall and walk away. Creators do tend to question their own motivations from time to time.

Well, back late last year, there was one particular troll that I was chasing around. By troll, I meant he was someone who wanted to come in and tell the DP equivalent of fart jokes. For lack of a more eloquent way of putting it, he wanted to come here to masturbate on people. He wanted to find people's buttons and push them then poke them in the eye, for kicks. There are such people like that in the world.

In his last incarnation, he came back with the username "Michael Nybanhammer." His first (and final) comment was:

Submitted by Michael Nybanhammer on Wed, 01/01/2014 - 14:15. Permalink
My new years resolution is to ban anyone I disagree with, or that looks at me funny. For liberty!

Ha ha ha. It is funny now, but at the time, I was at wits end. In my mind I was like, "Why am I wasting my life like this? GRRR!" And at that moment, realized clear as a bell, that it was never going to end. That I was staring at a life sentence of this kind of time-wasting and emotional discord for the rest of my useful life if things did not change.

If I did not change things.

That was on January 1, 2014, and but it was not the last straw.

The last straw was still to come, but I'll tell you about that next time. I didn't realize I this was going to be this long.

- - - -

*To those who complain about "censorship" on the Daily Paul (granted, an old argument we haven't seen for a while), I reiterate that the Daily Paul has always been censored.

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Today 7/7/2014

On the 7th day of the 7th month, I'm 7 days short of being 7 years on the ark.

Coincidence? I don't think so! :-)

Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you Michael for creating the ark. I joined this site way back to try and help Ron Paul get elected.

I had NO IDEA of the educational roller-coaster that I had just hopped aboard. It's been a wonderful and even sometimes depressing journey. One that I wouldn't trade for anything.

When i finally decided to join

I remember there being specific times (i think one day a month) were you could sign up. It was frustrating because I only wanted to sign up when i felt particularly inclined to comment on something but that was never the time. Eventually, I decided that I really wanted to be member and put the registration date on my calender. It seems to me, that the one day a month register made it a bigger deal to sign up and required effort. Did the trolls still come in during that policy? Did they really check back every few months and remember the day to sign up just to be annoying?

Well done man!

I love what you did Michael referring to the DP ark.

It is an honor to be part of this lovely peaceful and sound community.

Positive support for Ron Paul ideas! Support from the Restoration and Liberty Movement on http://cristianpaduraru.com

Why not an invite system?

To use the Ark as an example,

The door may be closed, but why can't the people on the ship throw a life line to those in the water worth saving?

Invite only membership solves the troll problem.

Tools of war are not always obvious. The worst weapon is an idea planted in the mind of man. Prejudices can kill, suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has an everlasting fallout all of its own.

DJP333's picture

Dear Noah...

The Idealist's photo.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=768641536502628&set=...

"It’s not pessimistic, brother, because this is the blues. We are blues people. The blues aren’t pessimistic. We’re prisoners of hope but we tell the truth and the truth is dark. That’s different."

Don't forget the unicorns! Throw the pandas overboard!

9-11 was a panda job.

As a chemical engineer, aka process engineer.

I count actions, actions take time and time is money.

I've noticed that there have been over 60,010 users registered.

At least 740 users logged in today.

If 20,000 users have been ban hammered at six minutes per ban, that's 2,000 man-hours. A full time job for a year.

The Hammer forge
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjaBFB9T3D8

The Artists forge.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqCnO2HDcNY

So I quit the police department.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IM2Ttov_zR0

Free includes debt-free!

Why do we want an echo chamber?

The goal of this site is no longer to advocate a particular political candidate, so what is the harm in having dissenting voices in our midst?

I don't think the goal is an "echo chamber"

An individual learns best when information is:

A) New
B) Believable
C) Understandable
D) Relevant

These are individual specific and subjective. (e.g. What is news to you may not be for me.)
But just because something is "new" and "true" does not make it interesting or of value to a particular person.

To paraphrase Heinlein, "You should never try to teach calculus to a pig. It wastes your time and annoys the pig."

Just being exposed to new ideas or opinions does not necessarily enrich your experience, teach you anything, or change your attitude.

All of us have closed minds to things which are so radically different from our current state that we cannot incorporate them into our models or world view.

This is why I believe that the answer is some type of collaborative filtering mechanism (see comment below) that would start to optimize each members experience based on what they find "interesting".

Echo chambers are not "interesting", they are boring; but so is a room filled with noise.

What we need is a forum filled with what Buckminster Fuller referred to as the "tantalizingly almost relevant".

******************************
The Virtual Conspiracy

Garan's picture

The "Echo Chamber" phrase stood out to me as well.

I'm guessing Michaels definition is more thoughtful than my first impressions. I'm not sure what the phrase really means.

echo chamber

is code for brainwashing.

I use Blue Wave, but don't expect one of THEIR silly taglines.

Except it's not

people *willingly* participate in echo chambers so they don't have anyone around to poke holes in their worldview. People create their own echo chambers all the time, both offline and online.

A signature used to be here!

Garan's picture

There Has To Be Some Economic Solutions

Closing paid subscriptions completely, creates an interesting vantage point for future site features.
Any newly offered methods of payment can be part of a scheme that can take all the site-owners goals and motivations into account.

One thing I wonder is if paid subscribers were much of a troll problem.

One economic idea is to allow new paid subscribers via credit card.
This would provide an identifier (the credit card number), that would make it easy to disallow repeated troll subscriptions.
A troll would be discouraged through having to open new credit card accounts and paying money in order to continue to get their kicks.

For instance, if Michael doesn't want to have troll-bopping as a job anymore, newly offered payment schemes could involve directing some of the new money to others who would be willing to receive a few dollars for performing troll-duty.

I'm guessing there are a number of members who might enjoy identifying trolls or responding to troll-alerts (from long-standing/Ark members) while spending way too much time on the DailyPaul. ;)

Michael could then turn trolls into a money making endeavor from the troll's brief existence in the DailyPaul.

A series of economically regulated pathways into the DailPaul could help bring other liberty lovers into the fold.

This closed door thing leads back to...

a debate on immigration policy. Wall off a country or let fresh blood in?

A melting pot for all, or a keep out sign?

Garan's picture

..or Something In-Between

Interesting though, to think of the DailyPaul as a micro-cosm of national policies.

Perhaps some ideals could be put to the test with the governance of DailyPaul.

Michael, I think you're

Michael,

I think you're making a mistake by closing membership.

I was once a frequent poster on a golf site (Ham n Egg, if anyone else remembers). It was a cool site, where discussion ranged from all topics concerned with golf (from equipment, to swing mechanics, to TV commentators, to the relative hotness of various LPGA players) to politics, current events, pretty much everything. The discussion was at a high level. It was a "community", in very much the same way the DP is.

In time, the site owners decided to try to capitalize on it's popularity, requiring monthly dues and closing membership to new users (unless they ponied up).

To make a long story short, the site soon died. What happened is what could happen here. People move on. People, even frequent and valued posters like emalvin, Bill3 etc... eventually move on with life. Maybe folks pony up for awhile, but in time the freshness of the site disappears because new blood is not introduced. Interest wanes, and the site shrivels up and dies.

Maybe that won't happen here, but it's a risk I think you should consider. I can appreciate that zapping trolls is a tiresome activity, but I'll bet, if you were to ask, you'd likely find volunteers in the DP community willing to share your load.

A dynamic site needs new blood now and again, IMHO.

Thanks for everything you do to keep this puppy running.

I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be. Albert Einstein

I've

seen people who's names are lined out. Every time I see a banned persons post or comment, the first thing I say to myself is dammn, that must have been one bad dude to get Nystroms mini-gun to the face.

Whenever I witness a ban or find an old banned persons comment, I'm always way too curious about what exactly it was they did wrong. I know a few names. Sometimes I'll search the dailypaul search engine for their names to see if I can find out what exactly they did to get to get their heads run over by the skull crusher. I think i'm going to start my own website, a perfect mirror of this one and call it. www.dailypaulrefugeforthebanned.com . And that way when Nystrom puts your account on a rocket and shoots it into the sun, you will have a place to go and grieve and then also try to pretend like it never happened.

And God was sick of his creation...

Weird parallel to creation, Mike. You're the man. I'm all for an "invitations only" daily paul. Almost like sending a resume, with recommendations. A secret society where we only accept work from each other...

I've always ignored the trolls or the shills, or swatted them away like the flies they are. They really don't have lives, and I feel sorry for them. Why anyone would want to just be a nuisance says a lot about their character, and points strongly to narcissism.

Close the door, and only open by invitation or recommendation.

Excellent idea, Mike.

When did common sense become a super power? –Patrick F. Holman

hmm...

also, you may consider a strike program where the offender gets 10 strikes, given by other users that are offended, in which he then goes in front of a daily paul court, and a jury of 12 peers can review the actions of said individual. The punishments can be stockade, where we DPers throw virtual tomatoes, and fruit, spit in their faces, etc.... or banishment! A weekly Daily Paul court! hahahaha.... Nah... just kick them out.

or the gang up method. If 10 of us deem someone a spammer, or a troll, we click a button on his site called "banished", and poof! B-bye. You don't have to do it, Mike! We'll be the VIGILANTES! They had them in San Francisco in the late 1800s.

When did common sense become a super power? –Patrick F. Holman

I say every so often have an

I say every so often have an open registration event, then shut it off after a few days or whatever works. Or let people request registration. Not sure if that is something you are interested, but it is the merciful alternative.

It Should Be Noted

...that "back-in-the-day", there was a place, and it was called:

ELLIS ISLAND
..and it was necessary.
Hey Mike;
A guy's gotta do what he's gotta do.
This past summer I was involved in two(2) motorcycle wrecks.
Both bikes totalled.
I escaped serious injury in the first incident, but was airlifted to a trauma center in the second incident.
Surgery, skin-grafts, followed by convalescence at home, and after my lengthy hospital stay (yeah I really needed that) I was so glad that the DAILY PAUL was still here.....it filled the hours for me.
It was a "home" that I longed for, a part of me.
Thanks for being there for me when I got home....this solitary man.
I'll leave you with this...and a big THANK YOU.

http://youtu.be/PweYu0v9_ks

"Beyond the blackened skyline, beyond the smoky rain, dreams never turned to ashes up until.........
...Everything CHANGED !!

i sold my bikes because of that...

I never dropped a bike, and i never want to so I sold them both. Hope you're doing well.

When did common sense become a super power? –Patrick F. Holman

It Isn't That I Dropped a Bike..

...Somebody else rear-ended me while I was stopped on the shoulder.
At high speed.....three weeks later, a deer hitched a ride with me.
A 250 foot slalom-ride with Bambi sitting on my lap.
Not exactly "dropping" a bike.....but:
Heaven doesn't want me yet.

My main point is I'm grateful: to be here...for Michael doing what he had to in protecting this site...and for the long hours recuperating at home with the DAILY PAUL as my "good companion".
I was pretty much alone.
(the visiting nurse only spent an hour/day three mornings/week).
And inasmuch as Harleys are in my blood...so is the DP.
Thanks for your wishing me well.....fired "ol Betsy" up and took a quick spin two days ago.
Guess we're all gonna be O.K.
Me, you, everybody else...and the DAILY PAUL.

"Beyond the blackened skyline, beyond the smoky rain, dreams never turned to ashes up until.........
...Everything CHANGED !!

P.S. I had bought "Ol Betsy"

...one hour before I took that fateful second ride.
She became my "extra" bike....
...and I went from owning two bikes...back to owning only one bike in an hour's timeframe.

"Beyond the blackened skyline, beyond the smoky rain, dreams never turned to ashes up until.........
...Everything CHANGED !!

Michael

I want you to know that I think closing the Ark door was an extremely effective idea, both for your peace of mind, and for the tone of the DP. Almost from the day you closed the door, the tone here changed, and has been a much calmer, more respectful, and relaxing place to be.

I think you can pat yourself on the back for realizing what had to happen in order to keep the DP going, and keep quality in your own life.

Thanks for all you do.

OMG!!!!! I just noticed that today is my 6th birthday here!!!
Thanks for 6 wonderful years!

Thomas Jefferson: “Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever."

Viva La Revolucion!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmaTNf4YhEs

Michael Nystrom's picture

Happy birthday, friend

And thanks for the years, the observations, and the words of kindness and respect.

To be mean is never excusable, but there is some merit in knowing that one is; the most irreparable of vices is to do evil out of stupidity. - C.B.

I thought it was a very tasteful move.

I remember when I arrived here at the DP, this website truly opened my eyes. Specifically in regards to the truth about history. I was completely knocked on my rear end.

I spent the next few weeks ferociously tumbling down the rabbit hole. The Daily Paul became the intellectual community I never imagined I would ever have.

The news, the insight, the media, the friendships...

it was to good to be true. I may have spent full working days, daily perusing the DP. This went on for about a month. And then word got out that you had enough. I was mortified. I couldn't imagine what I was going to replace it with. How could I replace what played such a seminal role in my awakening. It was obvious by reading the boards that I wasn't the only one who felt that way.

And it was obvious that you weren't going to shut it down. Not because you didn't want to, but because too many people depended on the daily Paul community. Since then I have known that one day the lights are going to be put out. But I had no idea how you would be able to do it. How could you turn off the DP without hurting thousands of friends, that have come to rely on this place.

When you closed the arc doors, I tipped my hat at you.

Séamusín

Michael Nystrom's picture

Thank you Séamusín

I won't tell your boss about all the time you spent here

:Q.

Seriously, thanks.

To be mean is never excusable, but there is some merit in knowing that one is; the most irreparable of vices is to do evil out of stupidity. - C.B.

You have my deepest sympathies...

Trolls, moles, shills, and spam are the bane of any open forum. For a website devoted to anything as threatening to the establishment as "liberty" or limited constitutional government, the problem is even worse given that the enemies of freedom would be highly motivated to disrupt it.

Because of the sheer volume and relentless nature of such attacks, I had long ago decided that only some type of automated system for collaborative filtering would allow a website to maintain its integrity and usefulness for the honest user.

"...collaborative filtering systems [...] generate more personalized recommendations by analyzing information from the past activity of a specific user, or the history of other users deemed to be of similar taste to a given user. These resources are used as user profiling and helps the site recommend content on a user-by-user basis. The more a given user makes use of the system, the better the recommendations become, as the system gains data to improve its model of that user." (From Wikipedia)

The predictive power for recommending an article or comment that a specific user might find interesting is very exciting. How well this works would depend on the quality of the software, how often a user gave a rating, and the total number of users. But there is no question that the longer a member participated on a forum, the "better" that forum would become for him.

But back to YOUR problem. This problem would be a no-brainer. Obvious trolls would be self-amputating. Even more sophisticated moles would eventually drop off of everyone's radar.

An administrator could still ban certain users, they just wouldn't need to.

******************************
The Virtual Conspiracy

What concerns me about no new

What concerns me about no new registrations is the possibility that over time this great community might slowly wither away without new members being able to join.

...