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posted by martyb on Friday August 23 2019, @06:17AM   Printer-friendly
from the tragedy-of-the-commons dept.

I was going to post this to a particular story, but thought this might generate more attention and discussion as a general submission.

Seriously, what is going on with all these troll mods? Just because you disagree with someone, thus earning a "disagree" mod, does not mean that person is a "troll." To steal a definition from Urban Dictionary:

An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion.

Just because you disagree with someone, does not mean they are trying to do the above. Be faster on the "disagree" and slower on the "troll." Under such abuse, it is hard to have a good discussion and, in itself, is trollish behavior by "generally disrupt[ing] normal on-topic discussion." Other than people disciplining themselves, a concerted effort to police such abuses, or making moderation logs public on the bottom of a comment where the score is shown now, I'm unsure of what to do about. As it stands, it is getting increasingly ridiculous to read what discussion is here on any topic remotely controversial, and is expanding outside of even those. It is starting to drive me away from the site, and I'm somewhat confident it is doing the same for others. I'd be interested to see what others think about the depth of the problem, if they even believe it even exists at all, and what solutions you all have for it.

[Ed note. This story is published exactly as received. First off, it bears repeating that complaining about moderations in the comments often leads (rightly) to an off-topic moderation. That is a contributing factor to my decision to run this story. Secondly, moderation is something that I on occasion have found I've fat-fingered and given a different moderation than expected. Thirdly, in the grand scheme of things, a comment's moderation is — relatively speaking — small potatoes. It is NOT a measure of your IQ or value as a human being. or standing in the community. Just accept that stuff happens and that as likely as not, someone will be along to moderate it the other way. Which is a good opportunity to say: PLEASE USE YOUR MOD POINTS! Lastly, if you think a comment was moderated in error, then send the CID (Comment ID) link e.g. "(#876543)" in an email to admin (at) soylentnews (dot) org. Keep in mind however that we are all volunteers here and there most likely will be a delay between when you send out an email and when we can get around to it. --martyb]

[Updated: 20190823_111312 UTC See comment from JR who far more precisely and eloquently expressed the idea I was attempting to. I concur with his assessment. If I want people to upmod a comment of mine that I believe was unfairly downmodded, then I need to be willing to upmod other's mis-modded comments. For perspective, so far this month, anywhere from ~150-~350 mod points were used in any given day. It bears repeating: use your mod points!]

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  • (Score: 2) by martyb on Sunday August 25 2019, @03:11AM (7 children)

    by martyb (76) Subscriber Badge on Sunday August 25 2019, @03:11AM (#885051) Journal

    I said I would look into the site DB when I got back home and I have done so.

    I'm a bit rusty on the schema for the site, but persevered and worked things out and came to a few conclusions:

    I have, so far, found no evidence of any tampering or deleting of someone's journal story.

    IDs for the journals table are a key field and appear as monotonically increasing values; I found no gaps in their sequence.

    I did find a journal entry posted by AthanasiusKircher titled "test" and to which some comments were posted... one of which explained that he was testing what happens when trying to delete a journal article.

    Be aware that I am making an intended distinction between there being no untoward deleting of a journal article and there being (so far) no evidence found of such activity.

    Rest assured that I will continue to look into this and will report on anything I find. Unfortunately, I had an exhausting day at work and need to get some shuteye, and tomorrow has all the markings of being even busier at work, so don't expect anything more for a day (or more, though I will certainly make the attempt as soon as I can).

    tl;dr: So far, no impropriety has been found with the journals posted to this site, but investigations are not over and will continue; I will report back with what, if anything, I find.

    Wit is intellect, dancing.
    Starting Score:    1  point
    Karma-Bonus Modifier   +1  

    Total Score:   2  
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 25 2019, @06:14AM (6 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 25 2019, @06:14AM (#885080)

    I'm not supporting either side of this conflict, but deleting the rows with the highest values for an auto_increment field in MySQL and then committing that transaction before any other transaction issues a query against that table will just reuse the deleted values because those row values are still unused and increment. In addition, you can manually reset the starting value of the row to whatever value you want. Also worth mentioning is that the person or persons capable of doing such a change are probably in the position to change whatever logs they want on the machine as well. But that's what paranoia will do to you.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by martyb on Sunday August 25 2019, @09:54AM (5 children)

      by martyb (76) Subscriber Badge on Sunday August 25 2019, @09:54AM (#885123) Journal

      Thank you for the reply!

      If you look closely, you will note my choice of language was deliberate to allow that exact possibility (deletion of an entry and subsequent reuse of the now-available-again ID), but I was not certain of that possibility; I appreciate your confirmation!

      Something that got edited out as I was trying to express what I had found so far (and while fighting a strong urge to got to bed and sleep) was about the test journal entry. Though I could not find the actual text of the 'test' journal entry (that would be in the journal_text table), I did see reference to such an entry in the journals table which provides an "abstraction", if you will, in which various time stamps as well as local and foreign keys exist.

      NB: DELETED can come in two forms. An actual removal from the database (DELETE * FROM ... WHERE ...) is one of them. The other is flagging an entry as to be ignored and thus making it effectively deleted (UPDATE TABLE foo SET visible = FALSE where ...) and, yes, those are general, conceptual examples and are not intended to refer to anything in our actual database.

      It is way too early for me to be up, but the upshot is that — for the test journal entry — I found references to said journal entry, and what appear to be comments made to that test journal entry, but did not see the *text* of that journal entry. Whether that is because it really doesn't exist or because I'm still getting up to speed in some respects with the schema is still open to discussion... I am making no statement or assumption one way or the other with that!

      With respect to the purported deleted journal entry, I have NOT, as yet, found any vestiges of it: neither an abstraction of it in the journals table, nor the text of it in the journal_text table, nor a comment made to such a journal entry. That one is a bit murkier to sleuth out as there is much more data to sift through. I am explicitly claiming "absence of a finding (so far)" rather than a "finding of an absence" and am remaining open to the possibility that I may just have missed something.

      That all said, to summarize I *have* found evidence to support that a test journal entry was made, comments made to it, and that that test journal entry was deleted (as the user said they had done). I have not found any evidence of a separate, non-test, journal entry being made, deleted, or any comments having been made to it.

      Related, if somewhat tangential, I have lost count of the number of times I thought I had finished processing a story submission and posted it to the site only to find that I had *previewed* the story, but had as yet not clicked the submit button, so it was still sitting in a browser tab awaiting final release. I am beginning to suspect that something like that may have happened here. It is just that, a suspicion, among all the other possibilities I am keeping open as to what may have happened.

      My comment to which you replied was made after a *long* day at work and a meeting afterwards when I would rather have just had a bite to eat and gone to bed (I was *tired*) and this comment is made way too early in the morning before I have even gotten up for the day. Today promises to be even busier than yesterday. But, the community deserves a timely, honest, and independent examination so I have posted this comment with my updated findings. NOTE: I have no illusions that a sufficiently-skilled and motivated person could hide their work to preclude discovery, but Occam's razor suggests caution with that line of thinking.

      That's it. My brain is tired and I am going back to bed. I hope this has been informative and helpful. Thanks again for your reply and for the salient information you provided.

      Wit is intellect, dancing.
      • (Score: 3, Informative) by AthanasiusKircher on Sunday August 25 2019, @02:53PM (2 children)

        by AthanasiusKircher (5291) on Sunday August 25 2019, @02:53PM (#885191) Journal

        MartyB - I will only say that I thank you for your effort. I would like to say that I of all the admins here, I put most faith in you. Though I must admit that I truly do not trust anyone here anymore. But I am willing to believe that you put in an effort to do the right thing here. As I said in my deleted journal entry, this place is too good for you. I encouraged you to find another place to volunteer your time.

        Yes, I made a test journal entry to figure out whether the system responded as I recalled it did when my journal entry went missing. Yes, it had a few comments despite the fact that I actually hit a "delete" link somewhere, which asked for confirmation for the deletion, but then didn't delete the entry. (I'm not sure why.) After I saw it started to accumulate comments, I tried another method and used the checkbox to attempt to delete it (I just wanted to get rid of an obvious "test" entry), which did work.

        As for the actual missing journal entry, I've already stated some things, but let me repeat the following facts:

        (1) I intended this journal entry at the time to be my final interaction with a site I've supported for several years. I find it highly unlikely that I would have accidentally hit "preview" and just left.

        (2) As I mentioned in the above posts, I encountered an error when I tried to post the entry with "comments disabled" (which I had never attempted before). It throws up an error that says you can't do that. I find it weird that such option appears in the drop-down list, but is apparently disabled. Since the error appears at the top of the page, I at first didn't understand why the journal wasn't posting. So, I probably hit "preview" and then attempted to "save/submit" several times (I think the journal system says "save" not "submit," but I'm not going back there now) before I even noticed the error. I was very clear on which button did what, since the "submit/save" button wasn't working for me at the time.

        (3) Once I saw the error message and figured out what the problem was, I deliberately made the change to allow all comments. Then I made an additional comment at the end of my journal entry about my annoyance that the system has an option for "comments disabled" but doesn't actually allow you to do it. (I also encouraged all the trolls I knew would show up to have at it in comments, since I didn't care anymore.) I hit "preview" then to make sure my new comment was added correctly at the bottom of my journal entry, with correct formatting (as I used either italic or bold for that latter portion of my message). I then hit submit. I remember all of these steps so clearly, because I had never encountered this particular obstacle before in posting a journal entry (or anything) on this site. And I distinctly remember the change in screen when I finally hit submit, since I had deliberately previewed the final change and then hit the submit button. And I had previously encountered (as I said) several times when it wasn't doing what I wanted to due to the "comments disabled" button, so I deliberately checked to make sure it had finally gone through correctly.

        (4) My recollection is that I even navigated back to my journal entries and saw the new entry listed there, because I had tried doing so before when I was encountering the "comments disabled" error but hadn't realized the error message was at the top of the page yet. I will admit that whether I went through this final step or how I did it is a little hazy, but I do recall doing several steps to verify the entry had been posted, due to the previous problem I mentioned in (2) above.

        (5) Once I had verified the entry appeared to be submitted, I logged out. This is also an extraordinary step, because I almost never log out of this site. Once again, I find it unfathomable that I would have done so without making sure that my final step had been taken and posted correctly (as I recall it had).

        (6) As noted in one of my comments, TMB subsequently made a post not that long after my journal entry that took my comment about not using negative moderation for "punishment" and turned it against me. In addition to all of the above, and the fact that my journal entry went far beyond any criticism of him before, calling our editors and admins to action against him, it seems incredibly coincidental that he would appropriate my language from the missing journal entry and use it to support his point. I'll admit this is a bit more tenuous, but given TMB's pattern of taking terminology from posts he's arguing with and twisting them to make them seem like they're supporting his argument, it's really weird that he posted that particular comment in response to mine.

        Take from this what you will. I hope my thousands of good comments and contributions to this site will at least give you some pause to consider that I would not make something like this up. I also have made clear over the years that I am NOT prone to conspiratorial thinking and generally fight anything that sounds like a conspiracy theory, so I make this accusation with great hesitation and only because I have deep concern about the integrity of this site. I hope my general attention to detail displayed in my attempts to post factually correct posts will also convince you that I am unlikely to be mistaken in all of this, and that I am the sort of person to take care in an action like this (i.e., when making a final farewell post to a site). I'm not saying I'm infallible. But I have a much stronger collection of memories about this particular process of posting due to the unusual roadblocks I experienced before my post went through, so I'm very sure I saw different behavior on the site when it did finally get accepted.

        Regardless of whether this brazen act was done by TMB or another admin in support of him, I am unequivocally convinced that this site has lost its integrity and has corruption that inhabits its admins and/or editors. I am now more likely to believe Aristarchus than I am to believe most of the admins of this site, which is a very sorry state of affairs.

        • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Sunday August 25 2019, @06:05PM

          Believe what you like. That I argue vehemently against censorship in all its forms and levels (including against you in this very story) every time it's brought up should tell you that much. If not that then the fact that I never pass up a decent argument on any subject should clue you in. But whatever. Your butt is hurting because I disagree with you on censorship and you're going to write whatever mental story it takes to keep on believing that you're right.

          My rights don't end where your fear begins.
        • (Score: 2) by martyb on Monday August 26 2019, @01:57AM

          by martyb (76) Subscriber Badge on Monday August 26 2019, @01:57AM (#885469) Journal

          The additional details and steps is a big help!

          Given I have decades' experience testing software and know full-well how hard it is to provide good documentation of what happened when something unexpectedly went sideways...what you have provided is MOST helpful! I am impressed!

          In short, I am not done looking and this exceptional level of detail will definitely help guide my search!

          Thank you VERY much!

          Wit is intellect, dancing.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 25 2019, @07:24PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 25 2019, @07:24PM (#885326)

        I understand that. What I was trying to point out is that if a story was deleted by one of your sysadmins who know their way inside and out of the database and systems, that would leave no real trace to find. So your evidence of "I found nothing" won't be convincing against the evidence of their memory. Likewise, from your perspective, their possibly mistaken memory won't be convincing against the missing evidence of tampering. I was trying to temper expectations and feeling of defeat on both sides because this may be one of those situations that, absent something else happening, detente is not possible and a satisfactory outcome will remain elusive.

        • (Score: 2) by martyb on Monday August 26 2019, @01:40AM

          by martyb (76) Subscriber Badge on Monday August 26 2019, @01:40AM (#885464) Journal

          Thank you for that.

          I sincerely mean that, too!

          Imagine, hypothetically, that there was evidence, but it was not found because nobody even looked. In my mind's eye, that would be even worse... so I will continue to look until I am convinced I have left no stone unturned. Then, I can in good conscience say to the best of my ability I did look and was unable to find anything.

          It'll probably not be happening tonight or tomorrow, though. I am absolutely knackered after a VERY busy day at work, and the closing shift, at that. Add that I have the opening shift tomorrow, I need to get some sleep. But rest assured I have not yet finished my search.

          Thanks again for providing an impartial perspective on things!

          Wit is intellect, dancing.