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> Malwebolence: The Trolls Among Us, Feature Length NY Times Sunday Magazine Story
Moulton
post Tue 5th August 2008, 11:40am
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Malwebolence: The Trolls Among Us

By MATTATHIAS SCHWARTZ
New York Times Sunday Magazine
Published: August 3, 2008

A growing subculture has a fluid morality and a disdain for pretty much everyone else online.

Excerpts:

/b/ is the designated “random” board of 4chan.org, a group of message boards that draws more than 200 million page views a month. A post consists of an image and a few lines of text. Almost everyone posts as “anonymous.”

Measured in terms of depravity, insularity and traffic-driven turnover, the culture of /b/ has little precedent. /b/ reads like the inside of a high-school bathroom stall, or an obscene telephone party line, or a blog with no posts and all comments filled with slang that you are too old to understand.

In the late 1980s, Internet users adopted the word “troll” to denote someone who intentionally disrupts online communities. Early trolling was relatively innocuous, taking place inside of small, single-topic Usenet groups. The trolls employed what the M.I.T. professor Judith Donath calls a “pseudo-naïve” tactic, asking stupid questions and seeing who would rise to the bait. The game was to find out who would see through this stereotypical newbie behavior, and who would fall for it. As one guide to trolldom puts it, “If you don’t fall for the joke, you get to be in on it.”

“Lulz” is how trolls keep score. A corruption of “LOL” or “laugh out loud,” “lulz” means the joy of disrupting another’s emotional equilibrium. “Lulz is watching someone lose their mind at their computer 2,000 miles away while you chat with friends and laugh,” said one ex-troll who, like many people I contacted, refused to disclose his legal identity.

Another troll explained the lulz as a quasi-thermodynamic exchange between the sensitive and the cruel: “You look for someone who is full of it, a real blowhard. Then you exploit their insecurities to get an insane amount of drama, laughs and lulz. Rules would be simple: 1. Do whatever it takes to get lulz. 2. Make sure the lulz is widely distributed. This will allow for more lulz to be made. 3. The game is never over until all the lulz have been had.”

Sherrod DeGrippo, a 28-year-old Atlanta native who goes by the name Girlvinyl, runs Encyclopedia Dramatica, the online troll archive. In 2006, DeGrippo received an e-mail message from a well-known band of trolls, demanding that she edit the entry about them on the Encyclopedia Dramatica site. She refused. Within hours, the aggrieved trolls hit the phones, bombarding her apartment with taxis, pizzas, escorts and threats of rape and violent death. DeGrippo, alone and terrified, sought counsel from a powerful friend. She called Weev.

Weev, the troll who thought hacking the epilepsy site was immoral, is legendary among trolls. He is said to have jammed the cellphones of daughters of C.E.O.’s and demanded ransom from their fathers; he is also said to have trashed his enemies’ credit ratings. Better documented are his repeated assaults on LiveJournal, an online diary site where he himself maintains a personal blog. Working with a group of fellow hackers and trolls, he once obtained access to thousands of user accounts.

I first met Weev in an online chat room that I visited while staying at Fortuny’s house. “I hack, I ruin, I make piles of money,” he boasted. “I make people afraid for their lives.” On the phone that night, Weev displayed a misanthropy far harsher than Fortuny’s. “Trolling is basically Internet eugenics,” he said, his voice pitching up like a jet engine on the runway. “I want everyone off the Internet. Bloggers are filth. They need to be destroyed. Blogging gives the illusion of participation to a bunch of retards. . . . We need to put these people in the oven!”
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Moulton
post Tue 5th August 2008, 2:47pm
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Socrates vs. Pseudocrates

QUOTE(New York Times Article)
Trolls employ what M.I.T. professor Judith Donath calls a “pseudo-naïve” tactic, asking stupid questions and seeing who rises to the bait.

Socratic educators are high-functioning "trolls" by most popular definitions.

I define a troll as "someone who asks an arresting question you'd rather not have to answer."

The main reason Socratic Interlocutors ask such questions is to highlight questionable beliefs that are ripe for exposure as haphazard "flights of fancy" rather than scientifically grounded hypotheses supported by solid evidence and sound reasoning.

Unlike Donath's definition in the NY Times, the questions asked by Socratic "trolls" are not stupid questions at all.

So why do those laboring under unsustainable misconceptions and delusional beliefs rush to label such insightful and didactic Socratic questions as trollish stupid questions?

(That's not a rhetorical question. I'd really like to know.)

And is there a reliable way to distinguish Socrates from Pseudocrates?
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Dzonatas
post Tue 5th August 2008, 2:51pm
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That was educational.

I don't know about these things. Or, I didn't know until now.
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Disillusioned Lackey
post Tue 5th August 2008, 4:05pm
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Spook Alert

Judith Donal's Wikipedia Entry:
QUOTE


Judith Donath - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Judith Donath is a well-known professor at MIT's Media Lab, and heads the Lab's Sociable Media Group. She has written papers on various aspects of the ...
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_Donath - 17k - Cached - Similar pages


"Well known professor"

"various aspects"

Ahem.

These are hallmark words of "bullshit Inc."

Moulton. You work at MIT. Does this woman exist? Is she a figment of some Slimvirgin-type-person's imagination? Because I sorta doubt it.

When will they "evah" learn to NOT write dorky things about (or supposedly published by) their fake professors? "Sociable media"? Cripes.

Social networks? Yes. Analysis of Social Networks? Sure. Social media? Ok. But sociable media? Puh-leeze

If that's the benchmark standard, then I propose a peer-reviewed study group of after-church-bake-sale-network-analysis........


Finding the Critical Path to Sally Hansen's Sooper-Sekrit Bundt Cake Recipe, Donath, Judith, MIT Press, 1999, MIT Sociable Networks Quarterly, Vol IV, Chapter 8, page 233.


That's pretty much standard "I'm a spook trying to hide behind being a phoney professor, and maybe I have an ABD PhD in Philosophy from Cambridge, so I think I can fool all of the people all of the time, which means I make an ass of myself, much of the time in front of many of the people, most of the time.

Welcome to the Slimvirgin Academic Professor Factory for the New Millineum.

wink.gif

The name MATTATHIAS SCHWARTZ is also weird.

Mathias is a German name. Mattathias is NOT. Mattathias is some sort of squished up fake Italio-Germanic-pseudo nominalis figurino idio hominum bullshittius. (edit: oops. I guess it is an ancient biblical name - at least according to Wikipedia, an if it's in Wikipedia, it must be true. mellow.gif Still, it's not a common name. Given the article content, and the reference to an obvious bs professor, my bullshit detector alert remains as previously stated).

This post has been edited by Disillusioned Lackey: Tue 5th August 2008, 4:50pm
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Disillusioned Lackey
post Tue 5th August 2008, 4:40pm
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Here's another bullshit alert

http://women.animation.org/1997/Judith.html
QUOTE

There are advantages and disadvantages to being a woman in this field. In areas where there are few women, one has an easier time being recognized - people notice and remember the women because they are rare. Yet it is also the case that some people do not take women's work as seriously. In particular, I think there is still a perception that women are less technical - people often assume that the hard coding part of a project must have been done by a man.

What of my current work would I be interested in bringing to SIGGRAPH? I've been doing large scale visualizations of virtual communities, showing the various clusters of affiliations and shared interests. I'd like to do a version of this at a live venue, such as SIGGRAPH. The big challenge would be to scale up the interface, which now shows about 1,200 people, to work for 35,000. I've also been thinking about the future of portraiture - what is a portrait based on actions and behaviors, rather than on reflected light? So a SIGGRAPH Interactive Portrait Booth would be fun.


This woman doesn't know beans about SIGGRAPH. I went to two SIGGRAPHS back when I was an engineer, when I worked for one of the two most important CG companies in the United States. Look at the other women's pages. They talk about animation, being part of Lucasfilms, etc etc etc. Judith? She talks about social networks.

Social networks were a starting phenomenon in 1997 (when she supposedly wrote this). They weren't a thing to analyze prior to 2002. Bill Gates wrote about them in his book, the "Speed of ...." (I forget the exact title), but he predicted around 1997 or 1999 that communities would start to develop around web communities - before it happened, which did happen.

This fakey fakey Judith professor wasn't studying social networking back then. It didn't exist yet.

Honestly.

She's a nice looking woman though. An improvement on Durova. Not to mention the morbid Sarah.

[url=http://smg.media.mit.edu/classes/SignalsTruthDesign07]MIT COURSE
SIGNALS TRUTH AND DESIGN[/url]


Note the last lecture, where she puts herself in the same category as Turing. I guess there's a Turing machine for sociable networks. I wonder if she presented it at ROFLcon. Presumably this is the competitor for Lulzcon.

QUOTE
MAS 960 · Signals, Truth and Design · Fall 2007


Instructor: Judith Donath
Tuesday 10am - noon · room E15-483a (Reef conference room)
Credits: 0-12-0 (H)
Course secretary: Mary Heckbert




Signals, Truth & Design


Much of what we want to know about other people is not directly perceivable. Are you a nice person? Are you feeling angry? If we fell in love and got married would you be a good parent for our children? Because we cannot directly know what people are thinking or what the future will hold, we rely on signals, which are perceivable indicators of these qualities. Thus, one may interpret the stories that your friends tell about you as signals of your character; your breathing rate and facial expression as signals of your mood; how you treat your pets as a signal of how you would treat your children.

Some signals are more reliable indicators than others. Lifting a 300 pound barbell is a reliable signal of strength; wearing a T-shirt that says "I'm super strong" is also a signal of strength, but not a reliable one. What makes a signal reliable? The simple answer is that a reliable signal is one that is beneficial to produce truthfully, yet prohibitively costly to produce falsely. Understanding the types of signals and systems that satisfy this condition is the basis of signaling theory.

Signaling theory has been developed primarily in the fields of biology and economics. In this course, we will be refining and extending the theory to model human social interaction - especially online interaction. In the online world, nearly everything is signal. Your height, for instance, which is directly perceivable in the face to face world, is here represented by the (unreliable) signal of the typed words "I am six feet tall".Signaling theory can help us understand the relationship between particular interfaces or media and the social structures that emerge around them. And, it can help guide us in design the online environments of the future.

requirements
This is a reading, discussion and design seminar. There will be weekly reading and writing assignments, which will be posted on the web. Students are expected to actively participate in the discussions. There is a final project (for those whose interest is primarily in design) or major paper (for those whose interest is primarily sociological or theoretical).

This seminar is open to graduate students who are interested in the area of online identity and/or the design of sociable media.

schedule


Fulll reading list coming soon. In the meantime, please see past class syllabi (2006, 2005) to get a sense of the material that will be covered.


Sept 11 Course overview, introduction to signaling theory

costly signals, indices, conventional signals
Sept 18 Signaling theory in depth

signals of need, semiotics, and deception
Assignment due 9/17: Readings (Donath; Maynard-Smith & Harper; Grafen; Guilford & Dawkins) and essay.

Sept 25 Gossip, ratings, and reputation

What do people think of you - even if they've never met you?
Assignment due 9/24: Readings (Emler, Kollock, Resnick & Zeckhauser, Dellarocas, Friedman & Resnick) and essay
Oct 2 Social networks

Social connections, support and personal reliability
Assignment due 10/01 Readings (Wellman & Gulia, Granovetter, Feld, boyd, Donath) and essay
Oct 9 No class - Columbus Day holiday

Oct 16 Social identity and status

What do we want to know about each other? Prototypes, impression formation
Assignment due 10/15 Readings (Simmel, Holland & Skinner, Goffman, and Jacobson) and essay
Oct 23 Attraction

Why people like each other- and the deceptions used to make this happen
Assignment due 10/22 Readings (Buss, Miller, Ellison et al, Fisman et al, +more) and essay
Oct 30 Gifts

the social meaning of presents, favors and free software
Assignment due 10/29 Readings (Bergquist and Ljungberg, Camerer,Glazer and Konrad) and essay
Nov 06 Fashion and innovation

temporally varying signals in clothing, music, and ideas
Assignment due 11/5 Readings (Veblen, Rogers, Thornton, and many more...) and essay
Nov 13 Words and text

Email, chat and the architecture of trust
Assignment due 11/12 Readings (Saville-Troike, Voida et al, Tyler and Tang, Ducheneaut, Hancock et al) and essay
Nov 20 Faces

What is revealed by gaze and expression
Assignment due 11/19 Readings (Fridund, Ekman, Fernandez-Dols and Russell, Zebrowitz and Donath) and essay
Nov 27 Online representations

Avatars and trust Assignment due 11/26 Readings, interface observations and essay
Dec 4 Why do we care? The ethics of human/agent interactions

Who else might be thinking?
Assignment due 12/3 Turing, Weizenbaum, Donath, Wada et al) and essay
Dec 11 Final presentations


This post has been edited by Disillusioned Lackey: Tue 5th August 2008, 4:45pm
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Moulton
post Tue 5th August 2008, 10:04pm
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QUOTE(Disillusioned Lackey @ Tue 5th August 2008, 12:05pm) *
Spook Alert

Judith Donal's Wikipedia Entry:
QUOTE
Judith Donath - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Judith Donath is a well-known professor at MIT's Media Lab, and heads the Lab's Sociable Media Group. She has written papers on various aspects of the ...
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_Donath - 17k - Cached - Similar pages

"Well known professor"

"various aspects"

Ahem.

These are hallmark words of "bullshit Inc."

Moulton. You work at MIT. Does this woman exist? Is she a figment of some Slimvirgin-type-person's imagination? Because I sorta doubt it.

When will they "evah" learn to NOT write dorky things about (or supposedly published by) their fake professors? "Sociable media"? Cripes.

Social networks? Yes. Analysis of Social Networks? Sure. Social media? Ok. But sociable media? Puh-leeze

If that's the benchmark standard, then I propose a peer-reviewed study group of after-church-bake-sale-network-analysis........

Finding the Critical Path to Sally Hansen's Sooper-Sekrit Bundt Cake Recipe, Donath, Judith, MIT Press, 1999, MIT Sociable Networks Quarterly, Vol IV, Chapter 8, page 233.

That's pretty much standard "I'm a spook trying to hide behind being a phoney professor, and maybe I have an ABD PhD in Philosophy from Cambridge, so I think I can fool all of the people all of the time, which means I make an ass of myself, much of the time in front of many of the people, most of the time.

Welcome to the Slimvirgin Academic Professor Factory for the New Millineum.

wink.gif

The name MATTATHIAS SCHWARTZ is also weird.

Mathias is a German name. Mattathias is NOT. Mattathias is some sort of squished up fake Italio-Germanic-pseudo nominalis figurino idio hominum bullshittius. (edit: oops. I guess it is an ancient biblical name - at least according to Wikipedia, an if it's in Wikipedia, it must be true. mellow.gif Still, it's not a common name. Given the article content, and the reference to an obvious bs professor, my bullshit detector alert remains as previously stated).

Yes, Judith Donath is indeed a professor here in the Sociable Media Group at the MIT Media Lab who does research on the topic at hand. I attended her talk on the subject at ID/Entity, hosted by Media Lab Fellow, John Hockenberry. Her paper appears in the same book as a paper by another colleague of mine from Case Western Reserve. You can read Communities in Cyberspace from cover to cover on Google Books.
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Moulton
post Fri 8th August 2008, 11:29am
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A colleague of mine who teaches online journalism and media ethics singles out from the NY Times Magazine article about "Uber-Trollish Malwebolence" these highlights with the most interesting questions:

"Does free speech tend to move toward the truth or away from it? When does it evolve into a better collective understanding? When does it collapse into the Babel of trolling, the pointless and eristic game of talking the other guy into crying 'uncle'? Is the effort to control what's said always a form of censorship, or might certain rules be compatible with our notions of free speech?

"One promising answer comes from the computer scientist Jon Postel, now known as 'god of the Internet' for the influence he exercised over the emerging network. In 1981, he formulated what's known as Postel's Law: 'Be conservative in what you do; be liberal in what you accept from others.'

"Originally intended to foster 'interoperability,' the ability of multiple computer systems to understand one another, Postel's Law is now recognized as having wider applications. To build a robust global network with no central authority, engineers were encouraged to write code that could 'speak' as clearly as possible yet 'listen' to the widest possible range of other speakers, including those who do not conform perfectly to the rules of the road.

"The human equivalent of this robustness is a combination of eloquence and tolerance — the spirit of good conversation. Trolls embody the opposite principle. They are liberal in what they do and conservative in what they construe as acceptable behavior from others. You, the troll says, are not worthy of my understanding; I, therefore, will do everything I can to confound you."



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