10 votes

(More) Growing Pains at the Daily Paul...Or, A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy

Dear Friends,

The Daily Paul is growing fast! Several weeks ago, the site ran into some technical difficulties: the amount of traffic was simply overwhelming the servers.

The new issue we are either facing, or about to face, is a social issue. This site is now drawing in excess of 30,000 visitors per day, and has close to 4,000 registered users. The potential problem is that anyone who is a registered user can post comments on any story, as well as start new topics in the Forum. I set it up this way because I found that as the site grew, the major bottleneck in the dissemination of information about the campaign was me. In the beginning, when there wasn't much info, I could cover everything in my blog in about an hour!

Soon there was so much information coming from so many different angles that I invited other bloggers to post as well.

For a variety of reasons, these postings remained relatively few. Since there is no way one person can manage all of the information out there, I simply opened it up to everyone. I made that decision with some trepidation, but to your, this has worked out really great. Give yourselves a big round of applause! You are bright, intelligent, thoughtful, and generally have good spelling and grammar. 99% of the comments/posts have not been a problem.

What started out as my little blog has morphed into a real community for the exchange of ideas.

But as the election comes closer, we may run into the larger issue of spammers, plants, trolls and turncoats. In thinking about this issue, I pulled up a great article by Clay Shirky called A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy. I hadn't read it for a few years, so it was a real refresher and eye opener. It is extremely interesting, but might be a little long for some people. As such, I am excerpting this short, very entertaining vignette to illustrate what the DP is facing:

In the Seventies, a BBS [electronic bulletin board system] called Communitree launched, one of the very early dial-up BBSes. This was launched when people didn't own computers -- institutions owned computers.

Communitree was founded on the principles of open access and free dialogue. "Communitree" -- the name just says "California in the Seventies." And the notion was, effectively, throw off structure and new and beautiful patterns will arise.

And, indeed, as anyone who has put discussion software into groups that were previously disconnected has seen, that does happen. Incredible things happen. The early days of Echo, the early days of usenet, the early days of Lucasfilms Habitat, over and over again, you see all this incredible upwelling of people who suddenly are connected in ways they weren't before.

And then, as time sets in, difficulties emerge. In this case, one of the difficulties was occasioned by the fact that one of the institutions that got hold of some modems was a high school. 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. [emphasis mine] 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.

Now you could ask whether or not the founders' inability to defend themselves from this onslaught, from being overrun, was a technical or a social problem. Did the software not allow the problem to be solved? Or was it the social configuration of the group that founded it, where they simply couldn't stomach the idea of adding censorship to protect their system. But in a way, it doesn't matter, because technical and social issues are deeply intertwined. There's no way to completely separate them.

What matters is, a group designed this and then was unable, in the context they'd set up, partly a technical and partly a social context, to save it from this attack from within. And attack from within is what matters. Communitree wasn't shut down by people trying to crash or syn-flood the server. It was shut down by people logging in and posting, which is what the system was designed to allow. [emphasis mine]

The technological pattern of normal use and attack were identical at the machine level, so there was no way to specify technologically what should and shouldn't happen. Some of the users wanted the system to continue to exist and to provide a forum for discussion. And other of the users, the high school boys, either didn't care or were actively inimical. And the system provided no way for the former group to defend itself from the latter.

If you read Shirky's entire article, you will discover that all such communities eventually reach this point - whether in the online world or in the physical world. We're too big, so either the system breaks down, or it requires some new rules. Another way of putting it is that we need a sort of government, and a Constitution!

Ironic in a way, isn't it?

Up until this point, I've been very reluctant to ban users and/or delete comments and posts unless they are very clearly disruptive. I have done it and I will continue to do it. This is not "censorship" as some have claimed when I kicked them out. They are free to speak their mind, in the physical world and online - just not here.

I appreciate everyone's help in pointing out the disruptive members. Please continue emailing me with the alerts!

I've run other forums in the past, and have seen how quickly disruptive users can take the whole thing down! I don't want that to happen with the DP. To this end, I need your help in establishing some clear cut rules. I don't want to be an arbitrary dictator.

I would appreciate your input as to (in no particular order):

Social Issues
- what kind of communication is acceptable, and what kind is not?
- what kind of communication should always be deleted?
- are issues tangential to the campaign acceptable topics of discussion, or should we only talk about Ron Paul and the campaign?
- under what circumstances should a user be banned?

Technical Issues
- have you seen certain technologies on other sites that you'd like to see implemented here? e.g. the ability to rate comments; the ability to rate users, etc. If so, can you provide me a link to the site?

This is just the beginning of a brainstorming session. I appreciate your help and any other general comments about the site you might have.

Thank you all!
Michael Nystrom
Editor
www.dailypaul.com




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I'll say it again, if I may, the DP should run like a motorcycle

Gang.

New members may table issues but they may not comment and certainly don't have a vote.

I saw the best minds of my generation, destroyed by pandas starving hysterical naked

-Allen Ginsberg

Respect

As long as we respect each individual opinion and leave emotion aside, there is no reason why any and all subject matter can't be discussed rationally. If things get reduced to name calling it becomes counter productive in general.

Those without emotional self-control should be and usually are disciplined.

But about myself I will not boast, except as it concerns my weaknesses (2 Cor 12:5). Let the unbelievers seek praise from each other; I wish that which is from God alone.

jrd3820's picture

I'm going to be honest here Michael.....

This article started out a little bit boring for me, but it eventually did pick up a bit because I could relate it to a few things.

The third pattern Bion identified: Religious veneration. The nomination and worship of a religious icon or a set of religious tenets. The religious pattern is, essentially, we have nominated something that's beyond critique. You can see this pattern on the Internet any day you like. Go onto a Tolkein newsgroup or discussion forum, and try saying "You know, The Two Towers is a little dull. I mean loooong. We didn't need that much description about the forest, because it's pretty much the same forest all the way."
Try having that discussion. On the door of the group it will say: "This is for discussing the works of Tolkein." Go in and try and have that discussion.

Haha....yeah... try having *that* discussion with a Tolkein fan (Tolkein/Paul/Paul/Tolkein....)

Now, in some places people say "Yes, but it needed to, because it had to convey the sense of lassitude," or whatever. But in most places you'll simply be flamed to high heaven, because you're interfering with the religious text.

Discussion CAN happen....but flamewars are more likely in groups, especially groups centered around a specific person/idea/object. If this was just a 'come talk about books in general' group, you might have an easier time having a discussion about the pros and cons of Tolkeins heavy use of adjectives, but since the group centers around Tolkein specifically, it's best to not upset the group by having a differing opinion, one that is not even necessarily negative, just different.

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.

Things that make you go hmmmm....

The second thing you have to accept: Members are different than users. A pattern will arise in which there is some group of users that cares more than average about the integrity and success of the group as a whole. And that becomes your core group, Art Kleiner's phrase for "the group within the group that matters most."
The core group on Communitree was undifferentiated from the group of random users that came in. They were separate in their own minds, because they knew what they wanted to do, but they couldn't defend themselves against the other users. But in all successful online communities that I've looked at, a core group arises that cares about and gardens effectively. Gardens the environment, to keep it growing, to keep it healthy.

That made me think of the jam session and how the regulars of the early days just seemed to care about the thread and they took care of it when I wasn't around and on the very rare and few occasions people attempted to use the thread in a manner which I don't appreciate such as arguing over music or bringing the outside threads in there, the core group stepped up and kindly explained how the thread worked. I never even had to do that for anyone, the core group just kind of took care of it.

This also relates to a few things Lanier discussed and hive mind mentality. How groups in the real world operate is one thing, but how they operate online is another. There are similarities but there are also major differences.

It's an interesting read for any of the regular posters and active commenting people here and actively participating in the group known as the dailypaul. There are often complaints about this that or the other aspect of this site. And there are all sorts of ideas from people that write books and articles about how to fix problems. Those people are smart and they have researched the issue and they have great insight.

All I can say though from reading Lanier and this article is that for me, since I'm not running the group all I can try to do is bring to the table what I like to see, keeping in mind what these people have to say about group interaction.

As the Shirky article pointed out, groups often gravitate towards the loudest most paranoid members and let them lead the way. I don't like it when that happens so I try to avoid those cues. I don't like it when people type in all caps, so I try not to. I don't like it when people downvote solely on differing opinions, so I don't. I'll downvote over what I consider abrasive, tactless, and obnoxious behavior, but not over differing opinions...

Basically what I'm getting at is you can shape this site however you want and you can take suggestions and I know your open to them, but ultimately the group will show exactly what they want through their behaviors and their examples. The group is it's own worst enemy, yet it still is a group, and if the group wants something, they will get it through hivemind behavior. That can work both ways, if they want something more positive and constructive, the group will get it by participating in positive and constructive ways.

Michael Nystrom's picture

Wow that is profound

This part:

and if the group wants something, they will get it through hivemind behavior. That can work both ways, if they want something more positive and constructive, the group will get it by participating in positive and constructive ways.

And I came here to talk about sex talk!

The first is sex talk, what he called, in his mid-century prose, "A group met for pairing off." And what that means is, the group conceives of its purpose as the hosting of flirtatious or salacious talk or emotions passing between pairs of members.

You go on IRC and you scan the channel list, and you say "Oh, I know what that group is about, because I see the channel label." And you go into the group, you will also almost invariably find that it's about sex talk as well. Not necessarily overt. But that is always in scope in human conversations, according to Bion. That is one basic pattern that groups can always devolve into, away from the sophisticated purpose and towards one of these basic purposes.

All art is only done by the individual. The individual is all you ever have, and all schools only serve to classify their members as failures. E.H.
jrd3820's picture

You are offending my sensibilites with all this

sex talk.

Some people don't devolve into such smut easily and when they do it is simply for points on a word board and even then they can't always.

Really though; that happens here a decent amount. 'hu...she is hot, she should take off her shirt' and then everyone upvotes it. I think I see it differently from my point of view, but it does devolve into sex talk around here from time to time.

Michael Nystrom's picture

Yeah, I don't mean so much that...

I mean the "She's hot - take off the shirt." I see those more as one-off comments, but I think Shirky is talking about something more systemic, like the whole site being just an excuse for talking about sex in a veiled way.

But I think there is something Shirky missed, and that is people just being passive-aggressively mean to each other. The I'm smarter than you, and my beliefs are better than yours and let me tell you all about it.

Maybe he talked about that too, I can't remember. It has been a while since I read it.

But if that is the case, then what?

All art is only done by the individual. The individual is all you ever have, and all schools only serve to classify their members as failures. E.H.

it's a good thing some of us are immune to such things

My attempts to rise above such behavior are so pronounced that I think I am starting to sprout little angel wings.

“With laws shall our land be built up, but with lawlessness laid waste.”
-Njal Thorgeirsson

jrd3820's picture

You have come along way Ed

Especially considering one of the first comments I remember ever receiving from you was a charming video called "show them to me" :)

Which I'm sure you remember also. lol.

But you are up there with John Robb and Has and Mountaincat, and Bill3, and Chris, and others these days who primarily behave like gentlemen when I am around.

**

**

"Hell is empty, and all the devils are here" (Shakespeare)
RP 2012~ Intellectual Revolution.

Suggestion, "mark as spam" or "delete" button...

on comments, postings, even users.

If a down vote is a slap on the wrist, this would be like an atomic bomb. Users should probably only be able use this function once a week to limit total destruction, but this would allow you, Michael to see which comments/posts/users are causing problems by simply seeing which of the aforementioned have accumulated the most "bombs". I see you being able to do this in an hour, at least sorting through the b.s. The bomb button would allow Michael to censor via a community related voting system.

Thanks.

***Edit - Additional thought - Users allowed to drop a bomb have to at least have a membership, or, have greater than 2 or 3 years activity.

Markers

As well, I'd offer "report abuse" or, as in Amazon's discussion features "do you think this adds to the discussion? Yes or no?"

Michael Nystrom's picture

Monthly re-bump in honor of Const. Clayton

And his dumb thread:
http://www.dailypaul.com/312208/ron-paul-americas-most-dange...

All art is only done by the individual. The individual is all you ever have, and all schools only serve to classify their members as failures. E.H.
Michael Nystrom's picture

Man - those were the days!

Please read it if you haven't - the Shirky piece, I mean.

All art is only done by the individual. The individual is all you ever have, and all schools only serve to classify their members as failures. E.H.

I've deleted my own comment.

fight4liberty

Example: Slashdot

One example you might want to consider is that of Slashdot. They are one of the oldest forum sites on the web, and they have a pretty good system of moderation. They allow users to moderate other polls on a rotating basis. You only get 5 moderator points at a time (to bump a post up or down), so you use them with care. Users who post or visit the site regularly get their moderator points more often (once every few days or per week) while those who are newer or have less involvement generally get fewer. You are also not allowed to post in a subject once you have used your moderator points there so that you do not moderate your own posts or those in your discussions. Categories of moderation include +1 insightful, +1 informative, +1 funny, -1 troll, -1 overrated, and +1 underrated.

They also have a meta-moderation feature where you moderate the moderations (was the moderation of the post fair?) which further affects how often a user will get moderator points. If they moderate well, they will get their points refreshed more quickly and vice versa.

Another nice feature of Slashdot is the tree view of the forum allowing for a better conversational structure (responses to responses).

You can set the option to view only comments greater than a certain level (the maximum positive moderation is +5) or to view the latest posts.

For this site, you could have a moderation system on the forum topics themselves. The front page could display subjects sorted by moderation then by newest so only recent, highly moderated subjects stay on the homepage. The ideas I mentioned may be more than you were looking for, but hopefully they will help.

Also, I am a computer programmer, so depending on the language and platform of the website, I might be able to assist in the development effort as well.

Slash is also Open Source (free is good!)

Here's the link to find out all about "Slash" (the code that runs Slashdot, et.al.)
http://www.slashcode.com/

Slash v2.52 download link:
http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=4421&r...

Not simple, but it is very complete and time-tested.

Searching for Perfection

is not wise. Searching for a perfect system of governance over imperfect people will in its ultimate conclusion promote the exclusion of every participant if perfection is the only admitted standard. This question of "people management" on this website is a question of governance. In the privately owned and operated environment of this forum it remains governance of if not people than their only substantive contribution which are their ideas and opinions. There will be no perfect system to accomplish what it is presumed we all wish to accomplish.

I don't think it is practical for any manager to pore through comments and then decide if they stay or go. Nor is it desirable for participants to assume the role of police amongst ourselves or deputies which single out that which they find undesirable for further review with a view to possible removal (censorship).This is a clumsy and bureaucratic system of control reminiscent of the KGB. Merely a method of arbitrarily judging which statements are to live and which are to die. It is censorship no matter if it is in the private or in the governmental domain.

There is a principle of free speech out there and for good reason it is called free. It is by this free exchange that those who are in need of clarification and correction and better understanding can gain from others who see clearly the wrongheadedness of a thought. Should the wise ignore the ideas of the foolish? How then will the foolish ever be anything but fools?

The other undesirable factor is intentional vandalism, trolls or trouble makers etc.

The road of tyranny is smoothly paved for the majority to stroll along in ease but leads to a mausoleum for every spirit.

The path of freedom is rough and cluttered with many insignificant stones of vandalism but leads to an elevated spirit.

It is a question of reading the heart. Of determining which are sincere and which are not sincere. The best system does not even need to attempt such a godly feat. It won't be perfect but it will define an environment which dissuades the insincere comment without barring the sincere but foolish comment.

Trolls can pay the $10 and then you have a troll in a system with no safeguards. Banning either people or comments is anathema to freedom forever denying a reprobate the very environment within which maturity and good will can by association prevail.

We need an imperfect but acceptable system which bars none from living among we the perfect.

_______________________________

..Without the truth we have nothing

Searching for perfection is

Searching for perfection is not wise? Personally, I STRIVE for perfection, that being virtue & success. Your comment is right though; but perfection is not a prerequisite here, nor would it ever be - so I fail to see how this would be relevant when implementing a system..

Excerpt from below: (I seem to be repeating myself; I'm not sure if this is my fault (too long winded posts), or others)

There is no disadvantage with rating [report system] the user directly, if it is automated, which it would/should be. As I mentioned in my post below, and outlined - directly about this situation. You saying: "This can open the door to either a troller or a well meaning, but mistaken, member to falsely accuse someone." - your point being if one person reports a person wrongfully, it has essentially failed... that is why COLLECTIVELY, it can't go wrong - there would actually be no need for Michael to receive evidence of the offending post etc. they just creates a whole lot of extra work he doesn't need. He doesn't need to police us. We can police ourselves! As I've said before, we are all smart and intelligent people here - one or two will and may get it wrong, but all together we won't. - It is essentially a trial by your peers. A trial by jury! That is justice right there...

Judgment of your peers is the closet you can get to a perfect system is it not.. the reason it has been an integral part of law, order and the judiciary for so many centuries, if not thousands of years? This is what you get when you implement a report system, the one i have been advocating anyway - and I'm yet to see anyone voice otherwise. I consider myself fairly philosophical, and if you persuade me by logic, I'll be the first to admit I was wrong and change my views accordingly.

Collectively it can't go

Collectively it can't go wrong? I think it has in many instances here already on the Daily Paul. I have seen people perhaps inexperienced with posting who post something and ten people cry Troll. Then after a few days everything is forgotten and the new person finds their way to make well received and substantive comments.

Collectively it can and does go wrong. Therefore I would suggest a third element. One of consistent consensus over a period of several days. We suffer more from those who would do harm but then we do not wind up banning well intentioned people. It is like an additional check or balance to make sure we get it right before we ban someone.

Its the bandwagon effect among those who wish to confirm a sense of belonging to gang up on an intruder. very primal and this can destroy the opportunity to include and make very valuable associations. Give them a couple days to see what their intention really is.

maybe they will simply get bored and go away. Maybe they will learn much here and go on to establish a very valuable website of their own some day.

Maybe they really are determined to undermine and that will be confirmed soon enough. We have to be willing to be buffeted by the malicious FOR SOME DURATION or we will most assuredly immediately embrace the chains from which we declare our freedom. every day is a new day and no judgment should be made before a new day has dawned. A malicious person will resume his malicious ways. A person whose stars are not aligned to ours will be given the chance to be seen for who they intend to be.

_______________________________

..Without the truth we have nothing

There..

Is evidence yes, that it can go wrong. Yes, my remark was essentially too generalized. But there are always going to be a few exceptions to the rule. Much like the judicial system - innocent people being convicted, even innocent people being sentenced to death row. That being the fault of evidence or whatnot. Yet, they remain - just that - a FEW exceptions.

So overwhelming, I believe we get it right. And thats why its better than any other system on the table. http://www.dailypaul.com/node/4737?page=4 being an example. LaCole & Jane [?] got called a troll, in this thread, yet people were able to jump to their defence. It was viewed as negative to start with, but can definitely be classed, imo, as what happens when collectively people with an informed viewpoint realised that it was a constructive criticism article and some of the most educational info, learning came out of that thread.

I think you tend to take the negative approach. Can you provide an example, of the person you are talking about in your first paragraph? Because I've been around here a bit, and no one comes to mind. Furthermore, when the trolls do come - and it DOES become blatantly obvious (ronpaul4life) even admitted it.. plus there is criteria that can be added / rules, that could be proposed. And which have been - the (FUD), if you get someone, continuously posting, threads that (spread Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt... then eventually all the reports add up, and as i have indicated previously - it would be secretive (no. of reports not shown) like a secret ballot.... plus there would be a threshold no. [10 reports; a day ban] [20 reports; a week] [40; ip ban] or whateva you want to set them at.

As for your third element suggestion; - sure. But this is essentially ironing out 'the devil in the detail'. The overall general proposed measure remains the best suggested so far, imo.

"Maybe they really are determined to undermine and that will be confirmed soon enough. We have to be willing to be buffeted by the malicious FOR SOME DURATION or we will most assuredly immediately embrace the chains from which we declare our freedom."

Maybe?! 'Ronpaul4life' - who was here, early this week - was online being a pain on the boards, for 8 hrs straight! - he swayed no one, and he knows it. Yet he persisted - thats determination. There were more frequents in the coming days, yet its gone quiet again, thankfully. Hopefully they did get the point. "FOR SOME DURATION or we will most assuredly immediately embrace the chains for which we declare our freedom.." - as I still think, this system would not punish those who are in the right, only those who are breaking the (FUD - being trolls) no ones freedoms will be restricted, except those that deserve to be..

"But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.” ~ Edmund Burke

This is also helped out by the fact, that the report button wouldn't be easily clickable. Lessening the abuse factor, - so little discrepancies, those that pose little doubt about the poster will be registered - but when there is BIG doubt, people will bother to click the username, then click on the report button (or you could make another step in there, to increase the effort factor).. someones only going to REALLY bother if they KNOW for a fact they are a troll / the person is being totally unreasonable / consistently breaking the FUD etc..

Pardon my...

...bump conza88 :o)

fight4liberty

Lol :d

Thanks for the bumps. Oddly [this is a bump aswell - trying to bump about 10 posts at the same time, to get a bad one off the front page] - we really do need a system sooner rather than later...

I didn't want to touch that comment

I didn't want to touch that comment; I'm glad you did.

I don't see anything wrong with limiting the scope of discussion, creating rules, and moderating posts.
This is a private website, focusing on the Ron Paul campaign, not some general catch-all site. There is a multi-verse on the Web, dealing with every issue in the known universe. There is no need to expand Dailypaul.com to encompass the discussion of anything and everything.

"The United States can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that." — Alan Greenspan

Looking For Solutions.

Probably 50% or more of our meetup is populated with I.T. types. I will bring up the issue at our meeting tonight and see what kind of solutions we can come up with for Dailypaul. Maybe someone will volunteer. 8-)

I know there are loads of Ron Paul supporters that work in the Information Technology Industry too. Surely someone can bring real solutions to the table that will be acceptable to Manystrom and the Dailypaul community.

I know that all of us here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area enjoy the Dailypaul.com. I love the site right now, but maybe It is time to grow up a bit.

"The United States can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that." — Alan Greenspan

A donation required as membership fee

That works great. Everyone has read privileges but you have to enter a valid donation number from the site, or donate through this site. I think this is a rocking idea.

Do whatever you think is necessary to keep the campaign rolling. I'm wondering if some joker might think it's worth 10$ to wreak havoc, and if that's the case, then what'll you do? Kick them off even after paying?

Personally it would go

Personally it would go against everything I believe in to contribute to a campaign of someone who I disagree with... so that $10 would keep me from even signing up.

I know there will be some people who feel it's worth the $, but heck if we got $10 from every anti-ron spammer out there, he'd have that much more $ to advertise to open minded folks. And you can laugh at them for bashing him after they contributed to his campaign :)

Crazy idea... what if we

Crazy idea... what if we require members that wish to post to donate $10 to Ron Paul's campaign. I'm not 100% sure it's illegal, and it would unfortunately disqualify any foriegners, but you could funnel those to a PAC from what I understand.

So if someone wants to voice a dissenting view, they would have to have made a $10 donation to a campaign that they don't support.

Not bad, or donate $10 to

Not bad, or donate $10 to this website as a required membership with the understanding some lesser amount ($7?) would be forwarded to the RP campaign. That would be in accord with free enterprise at its best ; )

_______________________________

..Without the truth we have nothing

PLUS...

paying the fee online would require using your real name!

:-)

Working for US policy in the mideast that serves AMERICA's interests http://www.councilforthenationalinterest.org/

I don't think "real names" are the problem.

http://www.governmentsecurity.org/articles/THECOMINGJURISDIC...

It's now on page 2, but this essay came to mind instantly when I first read the post. The solution to security, whether here or in airports, doesn't start or stop with identity, because identity is only a small part of reputation, and reputation's what's really important. At least, to me.
JMR