Monday, May 29, 2006

Comment Type #23

THE TYRANT

All blogs and comment sections are on someone's web site. You can read, comment, and even copy things off of their site at your leisure, but only because of someone's generosity. Many websites that allow commenting have some form of moderation, which allows editing or deletion of comments and posts that are too offensive, off topic, or simply violate the rules and policies of the website.

When moderation is done well, this is a great benefit to the blog or message board, preventing advertising, spamming, and dealing with trolls and other obnoxious web pests.

It also allows for mistake posts to be deleted to clean up the board, such as when lag or an error makes it appear that your clever comment didn't get posted when it actually did. Which results in duplication.

It also allows for mistake posts to be deleted to clean up the board, such as when lag or an error makes it appear that your clever comment didn't get posted when it actually did. Which results in duplication.

With moderation, this kind of effect can be cleaned up and not only save bandwidth but make the comments easier to read without wading through duplication (although it's fun sometimes to see what small editing and changes people make as they repost and rethink what they said).

However, moderation can take an unpleasant turn. Some moderators and bloggers are tyrannical, deleting anything that remotely disagrees with their ideas, banning people for the slightest hint of problem, and eliminating any real possibility of discussion. The website Democratic Underground will delete the post of and ban anyone who dares post something that does not toe the radical leftist line, for example. This kind of tyrant is distasteful and unwelcome, and will over time either create a dull echo chamber that only the most extreme zealot will appreciate, or kill off a blog entirely.

However in the context of a comment, there is another kind of tyrant, a sort of tyrannical comment. This kind of comment will demand that people do things a certain way, insisting that something not be discussed any more or that people stay on topic. The tyrant assumes control over the writing and ideas of other people, or the flow of conversation.

Tyrant Comments will command that a topic is dead, or that someone is no longer credible and ought to simply go away. A tyrant comment is the kind that tries to exert force and authority over others through rhetoric and demands. Often, these are done by someone with no authority or power whatsoever on a website. Instead of the moderator, this is often simply someone who has been at the website a long time and presumes by familiarity and seniority that their word is more potent and important than others.

Many message boards keep track of the number of posts someone has made and gives them rankings, which are sometimes used as a club to attempt to bludgeon others (rhetorically speaking) into submission. "I've been here for 3 years and seen this topic over and over, it's a dead horse, stop kicking it!"

Another kind of tyrant is the kind that presumes that everyone that posts on a site has the entire site constantly memorized, and daring to post on or ask a question that has already answered is met with contempt, mockery, and dismissal.

Don't be a tyrant. There's nothing wrong with suggesting things might not be worth talking about any more or that someone is off topic and interrupting the discussion. Noting that someone is a troll or that a question has been asked before is a valid topic, but shouldn't be done with the presumption of power or that people ought to obey them. Someone might have lost all credibility (at least with you) but this should be obvious to anyone who reads if it is true, and simply saying so about someone adds nothing but an appearance of arrogance - I should know, I've said it before and was wrong to do so. Tyranny is unwelcome everywhere, especially in the internet.

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