Why I closed the Ark Door (Part 1)Submitted by Michael Nystrom on Thu, 04/03/2014 - 15:17
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:
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.
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*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.