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And the comments that don't quite get hidden; the Tip Jars that disappear and the diaries that vanish from the face of the earth Recent List, or never make it there in the first place.

Welcome to the Shadow World, inhabited by Trolls, Zombies, Sockpuppets, Spammers, Somewhat Trusted Users, Secret Masters of the Universe (stealing that one from SF fandom), and other variously interested people with too much time on their hands. And elfling, the Help Desk angel and general Commander of Spambots, who expects to get some sleep after about July.

This is both as a companion piece to my previous epic work on Spammers, and a sop to all the people who keep bugging me about Hide Rate Statistics.

I've noted before that one of the many things Daily Kos is, is an ongoing experiment in Community Moderation. This is one of the reasons why it tends to be hard to collect all the pertinent background information on everything in a FAQ - next Tuesday, it might change substantively. That does make it just a wee bit hard to learn everything you need to in any coherent way, so every once in a while the Administration does an Ask Me Anything posting, and from time to time various users collect bits and pieces of information to make it available to New Users.

This is intended as a primer for those proud users who have managed to survive at least their first 90 days here, and have accurately gamed, er, satisfied the algorithm that puts them up past 2 bars of MOJO. (If you've never noticed this, check the top left box on your Profile page.)

Congratulations. You've gotten your third bar (or fourth, or fifth, depending on how fast and deeply the addiction set in) of MOJO. You are now a member of an elite group of about 9,000 individuals who have Trusted User status, and who have posted within the last year. A second Radio Button - Hide - has appeared next to the Recommend button you have gotten used to, and you can set your Profile Page to Show Hidden Comments.

You now have the ability to Hide Rate comments made by other users, and to get into new and even more serious trouble than was possible before, if you're not careful. You should take the time to read the latest guidelines on Hide Rating, and it might not hurt to memorize them, or at least Bookmark the diary, before you are ever tempted to use your new-found powers.

It takes 2 Hide Ratings to originally Hide a comment with no uprates. If there are mixed opinions, it takes 3x+1 Hide Rates to counter x Recommends, so a comment can accumulate Hide Rates without ever being Hidden, or bounce between Hidden and visible to non-TUs several times over the course of a particularly hot debate.

Specifically, you may use up to 5 Hide Rates per day, on 5 different users. You may not Hide Rate a user more than once in 24 hours, and if you Hide Rate a comment and then take back the Hide Rate (by clicking a second time on Hide), it does not come back to you for re-use.

"Do I have to?"

No. You can participate in Community Moderation without ever "throwing a pastry". (Also known as Hide Rates, donuts, zero ratings, Troll Ratings, hydrates, etc..) A clear and cogent rebuttal to a comment which infringes on the site rules is every bit as admired (or scorned, depending on the company) as clicking the Hide button.

The vast majority of users on Daily Kos have never hit that second button. Out of over 3 million comments made last year, only about 10,500, or .35%, ever saw a Hide Rate. The average number of Hide Rates (HRs) per comment is between 3 and 4 (I'm going by past checking, since the Search function for comments seems to have been a casualty of the server upgrade), so my high end guess for HRs is about 42,000. Seems like a lot, right? Around 115 a day, which would mean a minimum of 23 people who care enough to give the very worst. The reality is more likely somewhere between 200 and 300 people who semi-regularly take the time and effort (and risk) of actually using the Hide button. Out of 9,000. Let that sink in for a moment.

"I keep hearing about people ganging up using HRs to get somebody banned. I wouldn't want to do that."
Good, because it's nearly impossible to manage. A spammer:
  "My sister's friend makes over $900/day from her own home..."
or a troll
   "...all you stupid limp wrists that voted for O'bummer..."
can be banned immediately, and automatically, if their very early comments are Hidden. In fact, those two rather obvious classes account for about half the Hidden comments, and the majority of the BOJO'd (banned) users.

But. Once a user has a certain minimum number of comments, the most that can be done using HRs is to put a user into a TimeOut. This takes a minimum of three hidden comments, so at least six people need to be ticked off enough, within a 24 hour period, to Hide a user's comments. At the same time (or at any time, for that matter) another user can make the case to Administration that the first user should be banned. Administration is more likely to issue a warning than ban a user, but since the comments which caused the Hide button to be used are generally the same ones which are submitted to admin, the causes of both warnings and bannings tend to seem mixed up from the outside. Thus, the notion of coordinated "gangs" colluding to Hide Rate innocent users who happen to disagree too much with the Powers That Be. These cases cover about .005% or less of comments, at a guess.

On the gripping hand, if the user thinks the TimeOut or banning was not legitimate, they can appeal directly to admin through the Help Desk, and any automatic action can be overturned by a real human being if it's felt that the Hide Rates were unwarranted.

On the fourth hand (I hate fourth hands, except in Bridge), from time to time there is what seems like a concerted effort to provoke a user into breaking one or more rules, at which time massive HRing somehow occurs. At least some of these situations are likely to be exactly what they seem - a deliberate attempt to get rid of a user. My personal guess is that this occurs in about one fiftieth, or fewer, of the cases which actually get reported up the line to admin, and that most of the time it doesn't work anyway, but it is perhaps the strongest Urban Myth that wanders the site in the wee hours of the night.
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And I would be willing to bet that a man came up with it. Either that, or someone who has no clue how easily it can be parodied to bring out all the worst of the anti-feminist stereotypes.

C'mon people, an arrow?

I'm sure there are people here with dirtier minds than I have, but dammit, all you'd have to do to start the bad jokes would be to pin a badge at a 45 degree angle.

Is there anyone on the site who has a strong enough connection to suggest that the Hillary campaign actually hire a graphic designer who is fully awake to all the bad jokes that a woman candidate is going to encounter, who can come up with something a bit more neutral, at least?

End rant.
Many thanks to eyesbright, who pointed me to the real logo.

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"A red flag is shown when there has been an accident or the track conditions are poor enough to warrant the race being stopped." Wikipedia

Otherwise known as "Cleanup in Aisle 5..."

When the explanation involves relatively new and fairly in-depth science...
When it has the potential for making major, unpredictable changes in the world we live in...
When there are large corporations involved...
When the genii won't go back into the lamp, and people are afraid it might not be friendly...
And when a few people have realized that they can start a fight simply by mentioning it, and are itching to do so...

Then we generally have a problem.

Today's Red Flag is - ahem - Genetically Manipulated Organisms.

Well, actually, it isn't. The immediate segues into pesticide and insecticide use, industrial and agricultural runoff, modern farming practices, the ignominy that should be overtaking Monsanto in a just world, food labeling, all the odd diseases and conditions that have been identified but not solved in the last fifty years that might be attributable to one or more of the previous items, scientific ethics, and a handful of even more loosely related problems and complaints, has kept any actual discussion of GMOs to a minimum.

And part of the problem is that if there are six partially related items being argued in the same comment thread, the potential for throwing an argument for or against one item up against an argument for a significantly different item, and confusing the hell out of both issues, is tremendous.

The arguments:
There are several distinct fights going on here, even if the topics are muddled together. Let's take a look at a few.

Statement: "The plural of anecdote is not data."
Counter:     "Bullshit."

Statement: "You should be able to support your case with peer-reviewed data."
Counter:    " All the scientists work for the corporations. Why should I trust them?"

Statement: "The data do not support the negative consequences you suggest."
Counter:     "We shouldn't do things until we know their long term consequences. These are all short term studies."

Statement: "You need to apply the scientific method to this problem if you want good solutions."
Counter:     "We shouldn't leave this to the scientists. They don't live in the real world."

Statement: "No individual is capable of seeing all the areas we need. Why not bring in non-scientists and let regular people have their say?"
Counter:  "We should form a committee to study the problem?"

Statement: "Scientists have made mistakes in the past, why not now?"
Counter:    "Trust me."

Statement: "I don't want fish genes in my tomatoes."
Counter:     "They already are there. Read the literature."

Statement: "Somebody must be paying you to write this."
Counter:    "Elfling!"

Statement: "If you can't simplify something enough for me to understand it, then you are bullshitting me."
Counter:    "Luddite."
Counter:    "Troll."
Counter:    "New Ageist."
Counter:    "Sockpuppet."
Counter:    "Dingbat."
Counter:    "HR for insult."

Notice please:
None of this has anything to do with GMOs
(except for the one I added for the hell of it).
These are not science vs. anti-science arguments.
These are not authoritarian vs. anti-authoritarian arguments.
These are science vs. anti-authoritarian arguments, and I have no clue as to how to get people to either realize it or recast the questions so that they can be considered without throwing the discussion into this mode, which is pretty much non-productive no matter who's doing the arguing, or what the subject is.

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This is the 13th attempt at a monthly look at - well, it started off as an analysis of Hide Rate statistics for the site, more or less to see if I could counter some of the prevalent meme that Community Moderation was a joke.  I think I've done that, but I've also realized that it's a meme that is going to continue to blazon itself across some parts of the site, because, well, why not?

So I'm going to take a slightly different tack for a while, and see if I can find a format/theme that people are more interested in. And that doesn't keep me up until three in the morning on the first of every month, trying to make sure the statistics are "fresh".

DK was at #213 in rankings for all US sites, as of April 2nd, which puts us above Netflix, nbc, Disney, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. That's a serious audience, and it makes for serious attempts at Spam. To check the rankings for yourself, click through the stat at the top right hand of the QuantCast page - it is available at the bottom of this page under Visits and Other Stats for Advertisers

Real numbers for participation
Note: none of this counts anything on Facebook

For March 24, 2015
27,228 active users (commenting/diarying) for the year ending March 24, 2015
57,587 diaries by 6,707 diarists.

Compare to August 23, 2014: (last time I compiled the same stats)
Users who commented within the past year: 28,339
    Comments: 3,134,194
Users who diaried within the past year: 7,406
    Diaries: 61,090

Active users: down 4%
Comments: up 1.5%
Diarists: down 9.4%
Diaries: down 6%
So, the total number of users is down slightly, but overall site participation by those users has increased over that same time.

Site statistics. from Quantcast
Sept 1, 2014:
7,353,205 Unique Visitors
36,960,996 Page Views
April 1, 2015
10,229,476 Unique Visitors - up 39%
44,211,000 Page Views - up 16.4%

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For all of you that may have forgotten why we need to both walk and chew gum...

I know it's short, but it's been an earworm since about half way through Armando's and StellaRay's diaries, and I thought it was apropos.

Oops - links:

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The practical difference between ethics and morality is that to see something as moral, you need to have guilt feelings about not doing it. The converse is the same; if something is felt to be immoral, it's because you feel guilty about doing it. Ethics, you can think about, and extend as necessary to confront situations outside of your usual framing. (Did I say it was easy? No, and I won't. Ethics is vastly more complex than morality.)

Worse, of course, is the feeling that someone who crosses the bounds of your morality is somehow a lesser being than you are, but that feeling can be put down to pure inverted jealousy: Why does that person get away with doing something I'm not supposed to, without negative consequences? This applies even if you can see why the specific thing isn't a good idea (long term thinking), because what's being kicked in the stomach is the restrictions you believe you must accept to be acceptable. Here is a person who is acceptable, and yet they don't have to carry the same burdens that you do in order to warrant it. Grrr...

Morality isn't necessarily a religious phenomenon. Guilt trips of all kinds can be behind the structure. It's just that religion is most often the obvious companion for the exercise, and it's ultimately a better defender of the practice. It is easier to sort out and come to terms with prejudices your parents and friends may have tried to instill in you than it is to argue with the seeming authority of a God.

It's possible that morality, and its associated guilt, is also the base cause of "othering", and what a number of diarists blithely refer to as "tribalism". There's nothing like a strong feeling of guilt about your own feelings and actions to produce a tendency to hang around with other people who feel the same structure of guilt, so that people who infringe on it won't make you uncomfortable.

It's all too common for people to define themselves, and others, in terms of the limitations they perceive. It's also much simpler than trying to define anyone in terms of their potential, in that it is at least a finite description, where an attempt to include all positive possibilities is doomed by the sheer size of the field, much of which is likely unknowable at any given time.

Perhaps it is thinking you have to define yourself at all that sets up the whole problem to begin with. Or perhaps it's the presumption that you can....

More below...

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Metastorm #1: If you'd asked me this time last year how I thought Daily Kos (or any media, actually) would react to a measles outbreak, even one with its epicenter at DisneyLand, I would have described a low-key matter-of-fact couple of articles that noted the situation and recommended making sure people's vaccinations were up to date.

Instead we had the messiest pie fight I've seen since the Roger killings in Isla Vista in May of 2014, with a similar influx of both long term lurkers and outside trolls, and almost as many people complaining that they were out of Hide Rates for a couple of days in a row. A quick Search on the word "vaccine" from 1/28 to 2/17 (usual caveats about Search inaccuracies) showed 249 diaries with over 17,000 comments. Who woulda thunk it?

Metastorm #2 began in January, just after the SOTU, when John Boehner invited Bibi Netanyahu to speak to Congress, but held back a bit until the vaccination fight began to slow down. Yes, there were a number of well written diaries in the first couple of weeks, but we've now seen a resurgence of the I/P (Israel/Palestine) fights, due both to that and the seeming resurgence of anti-Jewish/Israeli actions in and around Europe.

Every once in a while I'm tempted to start naming the various pie fights, in hurricane tradition. Then I think of the potential fights over which particular pie fight a comment falls into, and I back away from that possibility, not at all reluctantly.

February 24 - and now for something completely different: The Meta/Pie categories aren't just eroding, they're being squashed together and used to build meta-castles on the beach (in February? ehhhhh...). Did you ever imagine what it would look like if Israel/Palestine and roxxor/suxxor got together for a shindig? Or if there were duelling diaries over whether a situation was more racist, or more sexist? Alternate title: Purple Hair vs. Dreadlocks - the Battle of the Titans (better that than the Battle of the Titians, I guess).

In one corner, John Boehner and Bibi Netanyahu. Across from them, Barack Obama, and possibly Charlie Hebdo.... In the center, looking confused, a whole lot of regular battlers whose "sides" have gotten slightly messy lately. I'm getting almost used to seeing comments that start off "I never agree with this user, but..."

And while I'm on the subject of mixed pie (strawberry/rhubarb, anybody?) I should mention that, having found that one can't blame anti-vaxxers on the Right, or the Left, an attempt is being made to justify them with a Libertarian argument. I think. Maybe. And a diary on the intersectionality between the skin color of religious icons and racism has been productive of much of the same confusion. It's the Month of the Chimera. "It's good, though." (See the lyrics to Moose Turd Pie for that particular duck and cover phrase...)

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Just go take a look at the photo. You don't have to read the article about homophobic backlash (though it's well written).

My day will be more beautiful because of it.

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In which, having been Recently Duped, I attempt to describe the Current Perspective on Diaries and Comments which are Attempting to use the Pages of Daily Kos for their Nefarious Wiles in Subverting the Free Market and Search Engines of the Internet.
(And that's all the Regency Diarying caps pretense/style that I can manage for now.)

At the moment, I'm still kicking myself for having missed some rather sophisticated spamming that's been going on for the last nine months, and was just caught yesterday, courtesy of the diarist getting a bit too cute with Meteor Blades. (I bow to the Master.)

Spam: What is it, and why does it matter?

Well, first, it's an attempt to get advertising on the cheap. The links you see (or don't see - more later) are not so much an attempt to get you to click through and buy as they are to increase the number of live pages that search engine robotic programs, hereafter known as bots, will pick up as they roam the internet. The intensity of the effort to push a given site farther up on a Goodle search is incredible, because success translates to very hard dollars.

Once in a very long while, it is a direct attempt to write a free ad for some website or product, as well as pushing for search engine hits.

In both cases, it's something we'd rather not have cluttering up the pages of Daily Kos, or taking up space on the Recent Diaries list. It's an ongoing fight, and just about a third of the Hidden Comments, on a normal day, are spam.

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... and a love letter to tmservo433, who gave us this.

It seems we're going to have a month of calls for "The Good Old Days"TM, if the anti-vaxer trolls swarming the site are any clue. The good old days, when large families were the norm, because a) there was no way to prevent pregnancy, and b) it helped assure that there would be at least one child that survived to adulthood, between measles, mumps, chicken pox, smallpox, killing influenza, scarlet fever, polio, rheumatic fever, whooping cough, malaria, diphtheria, cholera, and tetanus.

The good old days, when all the people that counted were male, white, and Protestant, and preferably of Scots/English descent, women knew their proper place, and children were seen but not heard.

The diary went up 1:57pm on Friday, Jan 30.
So far it has 664 comments, 594 diary recommends, and 306,000 Facebook shares. The first comment that ended up hidden was #101 , at 5:08pm. The latest, so far, was on Monday, Feb 2, at 7:52pm.

33 antivax comments have been hidden in 4 diaries, 7 users have been banned for antivax trolling, and one is on a TimeOut. A large number of users have been delicately skirting the edges of the controversy, as usual. There have been at least two calls for anti-vax to get CT status, on the basis that it's less well documented than 9/11 trutherism, and more dangerous to our kids.

69 hidden comments overall, of 27,500 comments total for the period since 1/30, or .25%. Not bad, except that it's a jump of 38% over the "normal" incidence of Hiddens.

The story seemed so innocuous - a few measles cases from an outbreak traced to DisneyLand, and then a bit of a snowball rolling downhill as various politically hued commenters added a few cents here, a few cents there. And yes, other sites have been trolled by anti-vaxers. But, you know, it's really hard to troll Daily Kos, all things considered, and when the trolling gets to a certain point, it's time to check for significance, especially when so many of the comments are from people who've been here for a while.

The point I'm drawing from the comments I've been seeing is that people seem to have forgotten, or more likely never learned, the risks of having an unvaccinated population that's any larger than it has to be (can I say "in recent generations?"). One of the good/bad things about Daily Kos commenters is that they generally skew older than the population - even older than the QuantCast stats might show. We remember when the odds of losing a child to, or having one crippled by, a childhood disease were substantially higher than they are now. Some may not entirely trust the vaccination process, but we generally don't want to go back there, good old days or not.

Perhaps we need to tell more true horror stories to these people who've never seen the old reality, along with trying to present the science, rather than letting them bask in the seeming warmth of generational forgetfulness.

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Something strange happened between Christmas and New Years. For well over a week, barring blatant trolls and spam, there were almost no HRs (Hide Rates). I have this diary waiting to be published on the day when no HRs occur, declaring the coming of the End Times, or some such. Last year, the holiday season was rife with pie fights, and I was reliably informed, I thought, that it always happened that way. So, this year I was paying attention...

As I write this section, on January 10th, that pleasant respite has disappeared over the horizon, (the Hiddens are awash, and out of 45,696 comments so far this month, 151 have been HR'd. That's .33%, or a bit higher than the usual average. But I don't know if I believe that any more. 95 comments show up on the Hidden Comments list for that period, but only 70 comments show up as Hidden in Search. That's a mucking huge discrepancy for a 10 day period, and I don't see any strong pattern in terms of which comments do and don't show up in Search, although much of the spam commenting is not represented.) and we are knee deep in pie about Gods, or the lack thereof. I'm having fun playing in the meta's supreme meta field, and that's almost always a bad sign.

January 11 - it's probably worthwhile to note that one of the potentially positive results in the wake of the terrorism at Charlie Hebdo, in France, is that the concept of freedom of speech is getting some serious attention from more angles than I had ever dreamed were possible. It's a meta feast - I just wish there had been a less deadly way of preparing the table.

January 24 - SOTU has come and gone, Charlie Hebdo is down to low mutterings about who's sueing who, and the Republican candidates for 2016 are pulling most of the Beltway coverage. It's going to be a long year and a half. $arah Palin wants to run? Oooohhh...popcorn.

January 31 - I'm not sure which is getting more coverage: John Boehner inviting Netanyahu to speak to Congress, or the Superbowl. They both strike me as overhyped theater, but the ads on Sunday will almost certainly outshine the media's reporting on Bibi. And ah, yes, the anti-vaccination trolls have decided this is their week to play here.

A note on the HOS (Hide on Sight) designation

I am all for a call of HOS once a user has taken the site rules, wadded them up into a ball, and tossed them in the trash.

BUT - while this should be a reason to check their comments and hide any real garbage that's been spewed, that gentler users have let pass because it's hard to be the first person to Hide Rate a comment under most circumstances, it shouldn't be a license to hide any and all comments. We're still bound by the "Rate the individual comment" rule, and we should be. Even the worst of trolls can still write innocuous comments, and these should be the time to remember to drop a note, in Private, at the Help Desk, to make sure Admin knows about the problem, rather than drop an unnecessary and perhaps inappropriate HR. A good Troll Hunt needs clarity of vision, not hyper-enthusiasm, no matter how much more fun the second is. (Subnote: This is my personal preference for handling HOS, and should not be taken as being backed by either the Trolls group or anyone in Administration.)

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I'm a day or so late celebrating Freedom of Religion Day, but it's taken me a while to put this into readable form. For me, it means freedom to take the concept apart and see what reality might actually be behind it, if any.

You've probably all heard the story/parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant.

When I first got interested in how the human mind worked and what the framework was that it was working in (primarily in response to Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, which showed me how many more questions there were than answers), I ran across a book by S.I.Hayakawa called Language in Thought and Action (the earlier editions are better written, imo). Among the things that I took away from that was the concept of words needing solid referents before you could use them to think with or to communicate well.

In the process of trying to convert my vocabulary, I found areas where it was, seemingly, impossible to define referents well enough to trust anything that was being said or thought. These included, not surprisingly, religion, spirituality, the psychic realm, love, much of human emotion and interaction, creativity, etc., etc..

But even though there wasn't enough there to really define concepts that would make sense of the areas, there were patterns within and among the words that spoke of there actually being something, or several somethings, behind all the verbiage and feuding that was going on. And that's when I started looking for Blind Men.

The premise of the whole process is that people try to speak truthfully about what they encounter, and that they will, as much as they can, use what they already know to describe the phenomenon. It followed, I hoped, that with enough different descriptions from enough different viewpoints it might be possible to get a clear picture of what, and how many, different phenomena they were attempting to describe. In other words, put enough blind men around the elephant, and you will eventually get a pretty good description of the elephant, if you're willing to accept that multiple "truths" may all be wrong and yet accurately descriptive in toto.

Which means that from that point of view "a god" and "a delusion" could simply be two descriptors for the same phenomena, along with a huge number of other various concepts, all of which may be partial descriptions of what appear to be multi-cultural phenomena, extending over thousands of years. Which is why I find it hard to become too distraught over arguments in the area.

I have no answers yet, except for a nagging feeling that the phenomena sometimes described as god might include useful tools if all the embroidery around the concepts could somehow be gotten rid of. So this isn't anything except an invitation to think about joining me in hunting for the blind men, and what's behind all their various and sundry descriptions. Your whiplash quotient may vary.

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