News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, February 11, 2011

Troll Alert: More Reston Association Board Candidates Emerge

Troll.jpegWe now have a clearer picture of what is shaping up to be a competitive race for two seats on the RA Board.

Two current Reston Association Board of Directors members will be running for re-election for the Hunters Woods/Dogwood and at-large spots this spring.

Board members Richard Chew (at-large) and Cheryl Beamer (Hunters Woods/ Dogwood) will seek another three-year term on the RA Board. Also in the race: Jason Carlo, Sridhar Ganeshan and Andrew Sigle (all at-large).
Yes, that dulcet-toned Andy Sigle, who's hosted our favorite gonzo viral YouTube videos for years, is running. It also appears that, at least for for now, Beamer is running unopposed, though another Hunters Woods/Dogwood challenger, Victor Van Rees, is awaiting approval by the RA election committee pending petition signatures. Two others running for the at-large seats, John George and Donovan D'Souza, are pending a statement of candidacy and petition signatures, respectively, before the elections committee approves their candidacies.

Competitive elections are always good things. But it puts this filthy "web log" in a bit of a bind, as last year's elections didn't exactly bring out the best in all of our commenters -- or, it should be said, all of the candidates and their supporters out in the world beyond our earth-tone dotted domain. But it's a trend that appears to have already begun to repeat itself. As one of our commenters astutely noted, we have met the troll, and it is us.

No one's ever going to mistake this "web log" for some sort of Junior Achievement project. But it shouldn't be a dumping ground for unsubstantiated personal attacks, either. And maintaining this site anonymously doesn't exactly put us in the best position in the world to lecture anyone about civility and personal responsibility, though we actually give both a lot of thought before going ahead and posting some inane comment about RA Headquarters having child labor cubbies for the 93rd time just the same.

So we're trying to come up with an approach that will keep things from getting too ugly from now until April without having to unplug the VIC-20 that powers Restonian World Headquarters' commenting system from the Internets. Does that mean requiring registration for comments? We're sure the flood of newly registered people with names like Peter Stubig and Oliver Clothesoff would think twice before associating their good names with something inappropriate. Besides, we think the comments, 99 percent of which are posted anonymously for convenience as much as any other reason, are usually the only interesting thing to read on this "web log." So we're torn.

Let us know what you think in the comments. And be excellent to each other.

17 comments:

  1. Eddie from North PointFebruary 11, 2011 at 4:28 PM

    I really think some of the most offensive comments during the last election cycle came from the candidates themselves posting under various aliase's or multiple anons.

    In the sprit of civilty, if a candidate wants to add to the discourse here, fine....but they should at least own up to their comments, so we can really judge how sincere they are.

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  2. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonFebruary 11, 2011 at 5:27 PM

    I remember a year or more ago when some nitwit was using the comments section to post advertising. To get past that, Restonian instituted the process of using a word verification process (typing in a word) before a comment would be posted, and that seemed to solve the problem.

    Now, since this 'filthy weblog' seems under attack from a troll whose IQ might reach double digits on a particularly good day, perhaps the next step is to make it necesary for users to have some form of one-time registration to leave comments. That seems to be the way just about all commercial media outlets operate in allowing their readers to comment. I assume this can be done with Restonian in such a way as to offer commenters a choice of using a screen name or posting anonymously.

    Just my two cents.

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  3. I have already posted up my thoughts on the subject. Procedurally it is not to hard to register with a gmail account for Blogger.

    However it is done, even if people register phoney aliases, the fact that a comment is tied to a particular identity will help cut the trollism.

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  4. Leave well enough alone.

    A filthy web blog should not be one that requires tidy things like names and registrations.

    Plus, 99 percent of the fun here is seeing what the trollers have to say!

    Go to WaPo or aol's patch to see not filthy web logging There is is an awful lot of personal attacking going on at the WaPo comment section.

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  5. I agree with Sean. This has gotten...well it's uninteresting...all blather no substance. Very disappointing.

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  6. This is not the place to have an honest debate about Reston, that is for sure. It is mostly a place for staking out a position and spewing distortions or outright fabrications. Lately Restonian is also a haven for troll(s) to bait the sincere Restonians among us. Is there any evidence to back up Sean's claim that, even with phony aliases, requiring identifiers will cut down on the amount of trolls?

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  7. I stopped using my user name last year because of a different (I'm pretty sure) troll...remember the one who used the word douche bag a lot? No imagination!

    Nonetheless, it is nice to have an outlet for people who comment here.

    I can't believe you haven't commented on the WaPo article about the illegal alien SLHS student who is sad that she can't go into the military...that subject is worth debating.

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  8. Dear Restonian:

    Unlike some other other regulars here, I do not know who you actually are. (Although I am now certain you are of the male persuasion --your selection of hypothetical aliases in this post gave it away).

    It is quite fine to have people register and select an on-screen alias for posting. But of course they usually must give you their real email addresses when they register. Therefore you will know all of us. Which is fine, as long as you swear to uphold the "don't be evil with people's personal info" policy as espoused by Google.

    Unfortunately for me, the Peasant From Less Sought After South Reston has taken all the good aliases I can think of. I shall have to work on this.

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  9. Goodness. Restonian's very masculine image was posted on another semi clean web log some time ago. And, in fact, you are never more than one click away from the real deal.

    Handsome chap he is if I might say so myself. But, alas, he's married with kinder, so hands off!

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  10. For starters, you can enforce a non-local IP ban if things get too out of control. You can also ban proxies. Thus, the chances will be far less that trolls can begin posting from elsewhere. Just an idea.

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  11. I am skeptical that ranting and other forms of thoughtless and uninformed commentary would stop if unregistered anonymity were excluded through the Blogger settings; but it might be reduced. If you have to set up a membership level of security, I concur with [Anonymous February 11, 2011 11:41 PM] that [1] you, the Restonian, must publicly swear to uphold the "don't be evil with people's personal info" policy. I don't require identity parity-you've demonstrated honor.

    I'm also sympathetic with [Anonymous February 11, 2011 11:41 PM]'s plight: the Peasant From Less Sought After South Reston surely has the best alias ever, driving other cleverness straight out of my mind so that I must eschew Anonymity altogether.

    I love that linked comment from [Bob Simon's Metallic Alter Ego] - "Oh, boy. Here we go again....We have met the troll, and it is us." The effect of our behavior when we err toward anger and provocation is NOT neutral, and not constructive. But provocateurs either get that or not and go on with it anyway; it's not really about communication for them. It is at best, as someone noted above, entertainment. But it's a poor sort, the kind intended to excite and incite, like some new outlets with pulpits to pound these days.

    As long as I am speaking up, congratulations on a filthy web log that does not, ever, offend me like mainstream news outlets daily do.This is a wonderfully filthy web log, where we can be informed and amused and then, some of us, get down in the mud and roll. Oh, but I love it, untownsman, that there be but one rule, and well said: ******"let's be excellent to one another."*******

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  12. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonFebruary 12, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    I didn't know my alias was so popular; I'm flattered.

    Even if I am one of the regulars here, let me say in response to Anon 11:41 that I have not a clue as to Restonian's true identity and know only what he revealed about himself in his "15 minutes of fame" when he was profiled by Washingtonian Magazine.

    As for concerns about whether he'd safeguard our true identities if registration is required: I've been communicating with him at his restonite@gmail.com address for about two years now, and he indeed knows who I am -- and I have yet to be the victim of an extraordinary rendition whereby I'm swept off the streets by an RA special ops team in one of those white pick-ups, taken to an undisclosed location in Loudoun County, and subjected to waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques.

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  13. I second The Peasant's comments. Although I'm not a regular poster, I follow this filthy web log regularly and send him a few news tips now and then with my personal email account. IMO, your secret is safe with Restonian.

    One could require registration until the election then return to allowing anon comments?

    Badges? Yeah we need those stinkin' badges...

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  14. Personally, I think requiring at minimum a blogger acct will cut down on troll-ism. Though were full registration required, I would not mind. I too have sent the Restonian the odd scoop now and again over the past two years and besides letting everyone know I'm a secret operative, he has kept my true identity a secret.

    It seems a shame to have to go this route, but in the anarchy of anon postings, the entire discourse can be derailed quickly by those of lesser mettle.

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  15. So many shades of gray and so many times. I have no problem with posts that rub people the wrong way, as long as those same posts say something of value. If, however, those inciteful comments are posted just to get somebody's goat, that's a different story. There's a difference between curmudgeonry and trollery. A true troll spits stuff out to get a reaction without necessarily believing in what they have written.

    With that said, everybody comes from a different place on the topic of anonymity. Most of the anonymous posters are either too lazy, too stupid or too cowardly to adopt a moniker and post with it consistently. Maybe they don't want to hassle with setting up a dummy mailbox and then registering with blogger, or maybe they just aren't bright enough to figure out how to go about doing these things.

    Personally, I think that most of anonymous crowd like using the generic anonymous because they like floating their SBD messages in this crowded blog elevator without ever having worry about anyone pinning in on them as a regular passenger, or as a private person. Posting as part of the anonymous crowd is the ultimate in plausible deniability.

    But let me be clear about something. While I have probably posted enough information about me and my family that somebody really interested in finding me could probably figure out who I am in real life, I will NEVER put my real name on this blog (or any other, for that matter). Not because I'm ashamed of my opinions but because there are too many crazies (present company excepted) and identity thieves out there.

    So, while I don't mind using a moniker so that the community can unmistakeably associate my opinions with an internet entity, I won't be passing out the keys to my kingdom any day soon. That's just where my comfort zone is on the subject.

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  16. Please count another vote for requiring registration. I don't read this website to see examples of how people can subject total strangers to their personality disorders. I get enough of that in my daily commute.

    And with no disrespect meant to "One of the Few; One of the Proud", just because trolls exist in other online forums is not a reason to tolerate it in every online forum.

    Comment registration won't make the problem go away, but it will at least provide some kind of identification trail to identify the egregious trolls.

    For those who have privacy concerns, a possible, though inelegant, solution would be to set up an email account solely for use in registering as a commenter here, as the Convict mentioned in an earlier comment.

    This will probably be an unpopular suggestion, bit I would have no problem with contributing a one-time, nominal amount to Restonian ($5 or so) if the funds are needed to go towards some sort of filtering program. I have definitely gotten more than $5 worth of entertainment/information from this blog, and if throwing a small contribution on the table means that I can continue to enjoy the site vs. ending my visits due to trolling. I was fast coming to the decision that I was going to stop reading for that very reason the day before Restonian brought the issue up himself.

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