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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Michael Nystrom's picture

We'll address that before it happens

Somehow.

Thank you for sharing your process.

He's the man.

I'm very glad to hear that.

I'm very glad to hear that. :-)

...

Just came up with a fart joke...

Imagine a t-shirt for a new mother that says:

Poop isn't funny. I deal with the shit every day.

Maybe it would have the picture of a smiling baby on it.

"Potty like a Rockstar"

Saw that printed on a baby T-shirt once.

Or how about

..."Life is a "sh*t sandwich...the more bread you got,
...the less sh*t ya gotta eat"

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

It's your call, of course, Michael...

And as others have expressed, I appreciate your sharing your
thoughts and experiences that have led to your decision -
until this thread came along I was unaware that anything had
changed and had encouraged one or two folks to sign up
in the last few months.

From our perspective it was not so obvious what accounted for
the generally high level of civility and low level of troll activity
here - but I have more of an appreciation now that it has taken
a lot of effort on your part to keep it that way.

Early in my online career I (mid-1990's) I hung out a lot on the
Usenet group Alt.Conspiracy, where initially there were good and
constructive discussions. Some pretty wacky, of course, but many
were very prescient and warning about the exact sorts of things
that have since come to pass in the way of surveillance, mind control,
false flags and much else.

That was effectively destroyed by trolls and ultimately a sort of denial
of service type attack that involved auto-generated posts filled with
random snippets of text. It was not fun or pretty at all so I appreciate
your efforts to prevent that sort of thing here.

That said, like most folks here I wandered in out of the bleak wasteland
to your lively little oasis and am certainly glad I did so the thought of others
being excluded is a bit painful.

Creatures to evolve to adapt to isolated island environments, and as long
as they stay isolated it can work pretty well. I just worry that without new
blood and predators around we might evolve into large flightless birds.

I hope you will consider some of the workarounds that others have suggested...

Michael Nystrom's picture

Yeah, I had a site destroyed before this

That was effectively destroyed by trolls and ultimately a sort of denial of service type attack that involved auto-generated posts filled with random snippets of text. It was not fun or pretty at all so I appreciate your efforts to prevent that sort of thing here.

It was built on an old system called 'Movable Type' - an early blogging system, before Wordpress came to dominate that sector. At any rate, one morning I woke up to find the board flooded with thousands of posts linking to vilest, most disgusting pornographic sites. I think there was a total of about 6,000 comments, and there was no way that I could bulk delete them, and really no way to stop them.

I didn't want to leave it up there, so I just took it down. It was, at the time, really just soul crushing.

He's the man.
Garan's picture

We are Taking Part in an Evolution

I assume DailyPaul is set up differently then the shut-down site such that the problem of trolls and auto-posts is much more manageable.

I've often wondered about other solutions to these type of problems, ideally a scheme of peer moderation with site-manager-directed reputation seeds (a small set of trusted/flagged members with automated association of other peers) with peer judgement a core aspect of participation (something more nuanced than up-down-votes).

However, that might involve a bit of an overhaul.
There has got to be a way for a site to moderate itself.

I predict that more and more of this type of thing will become common.

I could come up with a scheme if you are interested.

Thank you Michael...

...for taking the time to to express where you're coming from!

You didn't have to, but you did, and I soo appreciate that. :)

I too, wasn't really aware of all the bothersome tedious tasks that are all part of keeping this awesome, magical place alive! Your a great person brother!

-----------------------------------------

This place, like others have stated, is one in a quadrillion! I could not even tell you how many times I check the DP in one day... haha.

This site and the people/individuals who are a part of it, have been at the forefront of this intellectual revolution, and I hope to never see it go !

Again thanks for taking the time to write this for us. Actually helps put into perspective of whats going on behind the scenes. Thanks for keeping us in "the know".

Onwards with Liberty and Love! :)

Keep your eye on the prize! - Ending legal tender laws in order for the Federal Reserve System to self-destruct is of the upmost importance.
What in the World are They Spraying https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jf0khstYDLA
http://geoengineeringwatch.org

-

-

The cheese stands alone. The proof is in the pudding.

ACinMA's picture

Glad I got here in time to make the cut :)

I agree with the folks below who suggested allowing new paying members to the site. Even if its a one time membership fee just to join the site. Lets say $5 will get you a username, and the ability to join in. Of coarse you can still have the normal memberships too, in case people would still like to show their support on a monthly basis. I cant really see too many trolls forking out 5 bucks just to come here and cause trouble.. and if they do, and are banned, i don't really see them putting in another $5 to continue. This will surely help the mods in curbing the problem with trolls, yet still allowing those who wish to join the chance to do so. And if people generally don't wont to pay, well they can just stay non members, but at least they will have to choice, and those who truly want to join wont lose out.

Being a member of this site has literally changed my life. I can honestly say that, and it has certainly been for the better. I would be sorry to see others not being able to have the same chance.

I completely understand where your coming from Michael, in making your decisions thus far. I would be going bonkers too if i were in your position. But, you should consider the new generation of followers that could possibly have the chance to join this great community, even if it means showing a little monetary love. Keep up the good work though. I dont know what I'd do without this place.

Fall River, Bristol County, Massachusetts

ℛ[ƎVO˩]ution
"When one gets in bed with government,
one must expect the diseases it spreads."
‎"It's not like I'm a powerful person. My ideas are."

Michael Nystrom's picture

Thank you for the kind words AC

I appreciate you taking the time to share them. I'll think about some kind of workaround, eventually. I'm still kind of recovering.

He's the man.
TwelveOhOne's picture

Life-changer, for sure!

My life is so much richer than it was prior to finding this site.

Before this site, I spent a lot of time reading Slashdot. Now, I spend almost no time there. Tech for tech's sake is pretty cool and all, but liberty for liberty's sake is even cooler. (And, there's a fairly decent overlap; a lot of what I ended up grooving on here, I was partially exposed to there.)

I did want to disagree with the idea that $5 would keep most trolls out. My understanding is that this site is, due to its high value in the liberty circles, a target for disinformation campaigns run by the CIA et al. The CIA runs drugs so that they can have their own budget. I don't believe it's possible to put up a purely monetary roadblock due to this, but not everything needs to be monetary.

I really like the idea of sponsoring new members. And also of increasing the "low-level" moderators, so that (trusted, of course) others can help reduce the impact on Michael's time and sanity, by calling prospective members with a script/checklist or similar. WAHOR!

I love you. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.
http://fija.org - Fully Informed Jury Association
http://jsjinc.net - Jin Shin Jyutsu (energy healing)

Michael, is there a way to refer people?

Just curious. I have no one in mind or anything.

So what your saying is that

So what your saying is that you had to abandon the principles of free speech to save free speech. This sounds kind of familiar.

Michael Nystrom's picture

Um, no.

"OMG! He shut down new registrations to his website! He's abandoned free speech!"

Either you've learned nothing, or you're trolling to get thrown overboard too.

He's the man.

The principles of free speech

The principles of free speech pertain to prohibiting the government from interfering with your free speech. The DP is private property, which makes speech here a very different type of situation. Think of it like being invited to a barbeque at Michael's house. He can kick you out any time he wants if you get out of line with how you are talking to people.

...

This is his site foo.

Go outside in public and do your free speech. No one is sponsoring or being personally taxed by it.

That is what is nice about the ban of individuals

When I get what I think are distasteful responses I ban that individual. No problem ever again.

sovereign

Shadowbanning

I was once part of a discussion board that used shadowbanning. Trolls were still allowed to post, but their postings would not be publicly visible. Only the troll would be able to see his or her postings. In this way, to the troll everything would appear normal. Eventually, they would get bored from not getting any response and go away.

Drain the swamp!

Michael Nystrom's picture

That's pretty funny

And the troll goes on happily posting....

Funny, but... What is the point? Why not just ban them? Oh, I guess so they don't come back.

Kind of reminds me of the surprise ending in The Sixth Sense.... lol.

Anyway, thanks. I'll take it under consideration.

He's the man.
Garan's picture

"Talk to the Hand"

I can think of several reasons why shadow-banning may work well.

1. The troll expends energy, yet has no effect. This saps their energy.

2. If you accept that a troll will always persist, then you are keeping them at bay, as opposed to letting them know they need to set up a new account.

3. Typically, social groups ignore inappropriate behavior which often results in the misbehaved ceasing their unaccepted actions. This might not faze a troll, yet their behavior may be influenced.

4. Trolls get emotive kicks from disturbing others. Placing their comments in isolation robs them of their personal reinforcement.

5. Sapping a troll's effort makes the world a better place. The more the troll spends fruitless time on one site, the less they spend time on other sites. Overall, world-wide-web has less trolling.

I wonder if there is any benefit to have trolls see each other's comments. Then maybe they will get sick of being trolled as well.

It might also be funny to have an automated troll troller; posting insults or other trolls comments every time they post.
..or better yet, posting random nice things like "Puppies like sponges too!".

Let them fight a robot forever. :)

Garan's picture

Maybe all that is needed is an Eliza chat-bot

Maybe all that is needed is an Eliza chat-bot.

I just tried it out. Here is a sample:

> Hello. My name is Eliza. How may I help you?
* You are an idiot
> Does it please you to believe I am an idiot?
* I am pleased to know that I can't be as stupid as you.
> How do you know you can't be as stupid as me?
* Because I am not dumb as your sorry ass.
> How long have you been not dumb as my sorry ass?
* for all of your useless life
> Why are you concerned about my useless life?"

..and on and on forever. LOL.

Maybe the automated psychotherapy will work wonders for the troll.

..as the saying goes, acid will eat itself.

DO IT

It drives them absolutely crazy, because they're never sure if they're banned or if people all just simultaneously decided to ignore them.

A signature used to be here!

wolfe's picture

That is already an option here... sorta.

The block option does almost exactly that on a per user basis. I have never used it.

The Philosophy Of Liberty -
http://www.thephilosophyofliberty.com/

wolfe's picture

Someone below mentioned allowing new paid members...

If you had an option for a single payment of $1 to sign up for new members, this wouldn't stop most real people from joining, if you explained it as a validation step. But it would stop all trolls, dupes, etc. because even if they were willing to spend the few bucks, you would have their real name.

When I first signed up as a paid member and you sent a thank you card to my real address/name, it was cool... (Thank you, by the way, it was a very nice gesture).

At that amount it wouldn't help support the DP either, so they would still technically be free members and I would leave them classified as free, unless they signed up under one of the standard options.

Technically, pretty easy to achieve, and it might let you open the doors again.

The Philosophy Of Liberty -
http://www.thephilosophyofliberty.com/

Michael Nystrom's picture

It is a thought

My counter thought:

Why set the price so low? Isn't it worth more than $1?

The low price seems to point the idea that it should be as widely accessible as possible. But why is it necessarily a "good" that more is better?

Just trying to get you to challenge your underlying (and probably unseen to yourself) assumption.

What would the difference be in charging, say $100, instead?

Another question is - does money solve all problems? Should I tolerate a guy who pays $100, even if he's a jerk? If not, then should I refund his money?

If the price were $100, then I'd say people should agree to a set of rules, and a non-refundable entry fee.

That way I can feel at ease to throw them overboard and take their money :D

Anyway, just thinking out load here. Thanks for the suggestion.

He's the man.
wolfe's picture

What I was thinking was more along the lines of...

a validation step. It's not so much the money that is important as the exchange of information. For instance, and please forgive the reference, but many "free" adult sites require some form of credit card transaction for age validation.

In the case of the DP, it would give you a real name, without effort so if they kept signing up, it would have the same name (barring credit card theft), they could be immediately banned. In my mind, it wouldn't qualify them for anything beyond the current (or less) free access.

And in answer to whether to tolerate the guy who pays $100. Absolutely not, and no he doesn't deserve a refund... :) The "I'm a paying member so do X" in the ModBox has always annoyed me. I am pretty sure I've paid in excess of that amount over the years but I do not believe I am owed anything, nor should any of us who have done so expect any special treatment. And that includes a "ban pass". If I ever upset you enough to ban me, I would expect to be banned... :)

But your question brings something else to mind for me. Why do I like the Daily Paul? For instance, I had been asked to write for a few places based on some of my writing here in the past, but I had no interest in that.

And the answer has different parts. At a moments notice I can write (or read, or comment on) whatever article I happen to want to, on just about any random subject. It doesn't have to be flawless or well edited as long it is coherent and respectful. Every article becomes a conversation between the readers and the writer.

These elements are lacking in pretty much every other blog mechanism or website.

And generally everyone here has a respect for the same things I have a respect for, which makes the conversation interesting even during disagreements.

I do not have the skill or interest to be a professional writer. I have been published in print a very long time ago, and it just isn't my thing. I like the informal "conversation" that occurs here.

So even after politics, even after Ron Paul, even after all the old reasons to come here have gone. I still come back, and will probably never stop. Going on 7 years.

Edit: Oh crap. This is the longest relationship I have ever had. roflmao.

The Philosophy Of Liberty -
http://www.thephilosophyofliberty.com/

Okay no problem

If this site doesn't last due to some policy change we will just make another to meet at , as much as I don't like this policy I now trust that Michael has a better idea on how to run this site then I do, I made a post about this a while back and pissed a lot of people off including Micheal mostly because it was in all caps . I'm still learning this computer etiquette

.

Great Post.

In these microcosm of our lives I seems to always come down to those two Scientific Laws/Natural Laws/Universal Laws. Do all you agree to do, and don't encroach on another person or their property. The majesty of the original Constitution was that balance of Laws that protect but don't altogether forbid innovation and success. Is good to hear of ways that individuals solve those encroachments without encroaching on others. Sounds like its time to donate again ;)