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Journal: Time for an update

Journal by mysticgoat

Time for an update on EmGee's continuing presence on Slashdot.

There's not much to say. This is after about 10 years of reading Slashdot every morning and usually again in the evening, and writing comments perhaps an average of once a week. Slashdot has been, and continues to be, one part of my data gathering strategy to stay in touch with the world. It has been an effective way to identify things I want to know more about.

Nufsed. Byenow.

User Journal

Journal: Back in view

Journal by mysticgoat

I've been lurking for more than four months. Posting anonymously provides a curious freedom of expression that I am glad I have tasted, but I don't want a steady diet of it.

Life is much the same, and if my views are now more moderate than they were, it is only because the center of the curve is shifting toward my position.

About slashdot: for a long while the slashdot community was getting more juvenile, and I was beginning to wonder if it was headed into end stage teenybopperism. However in the last four to six months it seems like the voices of those with a little more life experience have started to become clearer again. I'm wondering if much of the younger set has moved on from slashdot to more interactive things like facebook or something. In any event, it seems like the slashdot community is achieving a healthier mix of ages.

We could use a few more women though...

User Journal

Journal: Slashdot and me

Journal by mysticgoat

It has been 3 years and 11 months since I last had Mod points. I am unable to recall any reason why I have been blacklisted; apparently some editor took grievous offense at some minor infraction of some unwritten rule that I broke without intent, nor even awareness of having misbehaved.

My karma is excellent. I metamoderate around 3 times per week. I have been a slashdot subscriber and will be so again. But I have not seen any mod points.

I have been reading that slashdot will sometimes take people off the blacklist if they go fallow for a few months. So I think I'll try that.

So, ttfn. I'm going into lurk mode.

Linux Business

Journal: First entry from FF under Kubuntu

Journal by mysticgoat

This is my first session on slashdot using Firefox under Kubuntu. It is also my first session on slashdot with Kubuntu at all. In fact, at this point my total experience with Kubuntu is less than 4 hours— and half of that was just reading the noobie toots. Most of the rest has been in just looking around to see what came in the package.

I'm dual booting with WinXP Pro on a Dell 4400 with 768 MB ram and about 40 GB internal hard disk (spread across 2 drives). AIR, the CPU is rated at 1.66 GHz. This is a modest 6 year old system.

This is my fourth attempt over about 5 years at dual booting a linux (with the intent of doing a controlled migration from Win XP). The first was Red Hat, then I tried Debian, then Mandrake v9.2. These were unsuitable because the technical hurdles of getting peripherals to work and managing upgrades of applications during the early stages of system setup were too high for me. I was unwilling to spend the time to learn the sub application level stuff that those distros required.

I'm pretty sure that Kubuntu is going to work out well. I have spent a total of maybe 5 minutes in the System Settings dialog, mostly because I use an odd tablet mouse (Wacom Intuos 2) and I'm fussy about the acceleration setting. The screen came up perfectly without any fuss on my part at all! No fuss automated setup of my internet connection! Installing Firefox was almost a one-click operation with the Adept package handler! I just did the most painless upgrade of systems and applications I've ever experienced by clicking an item in the toolbar and saying that yes, I wanted the 200+ upgrades that have become available since the CD image I used for the install was created! That's it: the smoothest installation I've experienced since the golden age of DOS 3.3, Quattro Pro, and Word Perfect. And a lot neater and faster than shuffling through the piles of floppies had been.

This is all good.

Plan is to keep identical apps on WinXP and Kubuntu and swap back and forth between the OSs until I'm comfortable enough with the KDE desktop to do almost all my work in Kubuntu. Then I'll delete all but the few Win apps that I absolutely have to keep (photoquality 11x17" printing on the Canon is not something I'm willing to give up, and I've got years of experience invested in some PaintShop Pro techniques). I'll resize the Win XP partition to a minimum, and start thinking about using Wine, or maybe a VM, to replace it completely.

A quiet hurray is in order. After waiting patiently for years, finally a Linux that I can cross over to without pain has arrived. Good for Kubuntu.

User Journal

Journal: Finally ran my slashdot subscription out...

Journal by mysticgoat

It took about 3 months longer than I expected it would, but I finally burned through the minimum $5 subscription I bought 7 months ago. I've re-upped for another whopping $5.

On another issue, I've done some trolling the last couple of days and I've not been entirely happy with the result. I hooked an interesting mark (despite blatantly saying I was trolling), but I didn't have time to play him out; I had to let him get away. There was every appearance that this fellow was claiming a knowledge that he does not have, but matters at work got in the way of researching him and laying the groundwork for the verbal trouncing I believe he deserves.

User Journal

Journal: Quarterly journal entry: re slashdot subscription

Journal by mysticgoat

I actually bought a subscription to Slashdot last Christmas. I paid for the minimum 1,500 pages, thinking that with care they would last me 3 months.

It is now 4 months since that purchase, and I've used a little over 33% of the subscription, despite having liberalized my use of the ad blocking, etc. I'm on slashdot at least once and usually several times a day, I read 6-12 articles per day, I sometimes make comments, and I metamod about once per day. (I haven't seen moderation privileges for more than 2 years despite "excellent" karma).

Such a deal.

User Journal

Journal: Annual journal entry

Journal by mysticgoat

It has been 10 months since my last journal entry.

I subscribed to Slashdot today: $5 for what will be around a 3 month subscription is an inexpensive way to check out what the "plums" provide. I'm not terribly interested in the ad blocking; mostly I want to harvest some of my earlier posts for raw material for some writing. I'm also curious about whether I can spot any patterns in those old posts that were moderated up.

I haven't had mod points since June, 2003: about 30 months. It will be interesting to see if I get any now that I've subscribed. I have continued to metamod daily; I've got excellent karma. I've submitted a couple of articles that were rejected and I've got a humorous one in the "pending" category right now.

I think the slashdot demographics have stabilized. There is a large contingent of students, often with some whacked out opinions that suggest some really bizarre world views. There are a lot of posts coming from this group. There are a lot of experienced geeks who generally post less often but are more worth reading. There is an active MS astroturf contingent, and two active FOSS contingents: one of these groups is emotionally whacked out but the other offers sound experience and insight on a regular basis.

Slashdot remains a good place to get some direct information from experts in several fields, though there remains a need to filter out a lot of fools. Slashdot has become for me a good place to take the pulse of a couple of vocal no-mind groups-- MS and Linux fanboys, etc.

I've got to say that I enjoy tweaking the MS fanboys from time to time. It is fun to make them squirm by bringing up history that MS would prefer to bury.

Journal: Changes at slashdot

Journal by mysticgoat

This morning I metamodded a post that claimed slashdot was going downhill because the editors were selecting more stories that favored Microsoft and other enemies of FOSS and the emerging postcapitalist [1] economy (my words, not his). The writer wasn't sure what was happening but suggested that maybe slashdot was bowing to economic threats from its advertisers or maybe it was trying to expand readership among people who held more centrist opinions than the old slashdot core. He thought the changes were ungood. He had been modded "insightful" and I concurred, though with many reservations. I think he hit close to the nail, but not quite straight on its head.

Now I wish I had responded to his post but I continued metamodding and I signed off without opening a reply. So I lost that opportunity-- I don't even recall which discussion he was involved with.

I think what may be happening to slashdot is that the news media have come to see this place as a credible representative of the FOSS and postcapitalist movement. Many suits and others who don't read slashdot themselves are now aware of its existence. When they come across a statement in the NYT or WSJ that says "...there was lively discussion on Slashdot with the majority appearing to favor X", they take this to mean that FOSSers and postcapitalists as a group probably hold this opinion. That's okay (so long as everyone is playing by the rules of honest discourse). In fact, that's good-- it advances public discussion of issues and means that some of those non-slashdot people are going to take our viewpoints into consideration as they think about their strategies and tactics.

But this also means that slashdot has now become a target for groups who oppose FOSS and postcapitalism. If they can game the slashdot system so that their perspective appears to be the dominant one on slashdot, then they have scored big points. If their gaming makes it harder for NYT or WSJ to identify the FOSS and postcapitalist concerns, then they have also scored.

We've long been aware of the MS astroturfing phenomenon, and there is no reason to believe that astroturfing could not evolve into something more subtle and destructive. While I think that minds exposed for too long to the Microsoft corporate culture lose an appreciation for both elegance in software construction and basic personal ethics, I see no indication that these minds are dulled. I think it is a self-evident truth that when ethical constraints are removed (or dummied down to pre-kindergarten levels) these people become willing and able to let their cleverness shine forth in all kinds of dazzling new ways (where others would tend to rein themselves back).

To bring this back to concrete, observable reality, I think there are now some very clever posters on slashdot whose motives are to disrupt certain discussions while they push their hidden agendas. They are neither trolling nor flamebaiting nor spewing obvious FUD; they are instead using more subtle tools. More on the tools below. But I also think it is not just the Minions From Redmond; from some of the posts I've seen, I think there are persons from the Religious Right who are also sometimes attempting to steal the slashdot soapbox (or at least bust it down).

Rhetorical tools that I'm seeing used more frequently are the "cloak of authority" and "begging the question".

In the "cloak of authority", the poster suggests in an almost subliminal way that he represents a large contingent or a respected contingent of the slashdot community. He is not writing to those involved in the current discussion; his intended audience is out among the silent people who are not slashdot members but have come across the thread while googling, or researching for the WSJ article they are writing, etc. When this technique is used by a shrewd disruptor, the post is on target and is valid by all slashdot rules. It cannot be modded as flamebait or trolling: the appropriate modding would be "over-rated". The appropriate response when you see this technique used is to force the poster to clarify his authority before you reply to the points he has raised. Let it become obvious that this guy is not speaking for FOSSers or postcapitalists. There's a 3 second sound bite for this: On slashdot, you should always challenge authority before you engage in argument.

"Begging the question" is an interesting technique of misdirection. The poster presents something that he knows is going to be challenged: it may be a strawman that he knows will be defeated or it may be something legitimate. He hopes his respondents will see the red cape he is waving off to the side of his main point and charge it, and not notice that the real issue is in the poster's unstated assumptions (the part that goes begging for a reply). When things go the way he intends, the discussion that develops lends legitimacy to the beggar's main point, even though it is never actually stated. The key here is to examine all of the poster's assumptions before jumping in with a reply, and challenge those assumptions rather than engaging in argument when that is appropriate. On slashdot, make sure the underlying assumptions are acceptable to you before you engage in argument.

[1] "Postcapitalism" is a word of my own coinage, though I think it is such an obvious extension to our language that I expect I am not the first one to use it. What I mean by "postcapitalism" is an emerging and still pretty much unformed economy where the entrepreneur and venture capitalist are replaced by community efforts. Linux and Mozilla are currently the shining examples in the software world, with IBM's new business model looming in the shadows. But I'm seeing a similar thing in other venues, like Portland's Community Cycling Center, which blends a traditional bicycle shop with volunteer recycling in a way that generates a living for several employees while donating more than a 1,000 refurbished bicycles per year to disadvantaged kids.

User Journal

Journal: Slashdot usage

Journal by mysticgoat

It's been about 2 months since my last entry here.

I continue to read /. at least daily. Some of the stories and some of the commentary are interesting and valuable. The 80-80 rule seems to apply, ("After skipping the 80% that is obvious bullshit, 80% of the remaining content is also bullshit"). But that leaves one or two stories and a number of comments that are truly worthwhile.

I haven't had mod points for longer than some of the youngest slashdotters have been on line. I wonder what's up with that. I do metamoderate daily. Karma is excellent (mostly due to having been on /. for a long time, and not posting all that often).

User Journal

Journal: Re: More on evolving slashdot usage

Journal by mysticgoat

It has been about 13 months since my last entry. Pro'ly time for an update.

Karma remains "excellent" throughout this period. I'm continuing to metamoderate once or twice each day. I haven't had moderation privileges at all during this period; I believe I was last a moderator about 18 months ago. I wonder what's up with that?

For a while, it seemed like /. was getting excessively silly, but that seems to have corrected itself. Politics on /. seem to me to be more conservative than they were a year ago (as opposed to liberal or the faux conservative "faith-based" radicals).

Last year I was thinking the average age of /. was approaching 14. Now the average age of the posts that I am reading seems much higher; but I am filtering out a lot more posts.

I'm currently reading at the 2+ level, but awarding extra points to posts labelled "insightful" or "interesting". This is working out pretty well. I'd like it if /. revised its point system: How is it that

1+ insightful
2- overrated
1+ funny

ends up as 4+?? At least that kind of thing appears to be happening.

I'm still pretty harsh about what's not really funny. I'm also getting harsh about what is not really flamebait, trolling, off topic, or redundant. I guess I'm getting more harsh about negative moderations.

In general Slashdot remains a useful data stream for me: often enough it is genuinely informative in some way. I am spending a lot less time with it though. I'm not sure whether that is because more of it is of less interest to me now, or because I'm getting better at filtering out the stuff that doesn't interest me.

That's about it for the year. Until the next post, whenever.

Journal: More drivel on evolving /. usage

Journal by mysticgoat

I'm now very likely to make the "unfunny" metamod choice. IMO the quality of discourse on /. has been sliding the last few months, partly due to an increase in sophomoric attempts to be clever. Perhaps that can be corrected. Anyway, I'm tired of the inappropriate use of

  • In Soviet Russia....
  • ... you insensitive clod
  • ... 3. profit!
  • all your [whatever] are belong to [whoever]
  • etc, etc

<bombast>I'll continue to ignore the appropriate use of these formulae most of the time, and on rare occasion I even find one of these jokes funny and metamod it so. But IMNSHO "funny" on a place like slashdot means witty, and the witless use of formulaic japes is not to be tolerated.</bombast>

Something still has to make me spray coffee out my nose onto keyboard before I'll metamod it as "funny". And generally speaking, I need to be scrubbing coffee-stained snot from the monitor before I'll use up a mod point on a "funny".

I'm now reading /. at the 2+ level most of the time, but I've also been tweaking my custom bonus points to assure that anything that has gotten a point for "insightful" or "informative" is boosted above my threshhold. My working hypothesis is that there is no good way to read slashdot, but that some variant of this approach is less bad than all other known approaches.

User Journal

Journal: Six month update

Journal by mysticgoat

It's been a little over 6 months since my last entry to this journal, so an update is in order.

I scan the slashdot offerings at least once a day, along with the NYT headlines, usually as I have my first cup of coffee. Depending on what I find and what else is going on, I may come back to slashdot a few times as the day goes on.

I almost always have metamod status now. It's a chore that can take less than 5 minutes to sometimes 15 minutes. I usually do metamodding once a day only-- there's more to my life than slashdot.

Here are some of my metamod rules:

  1. Never do "unfunny", unless it's grossly obscene. I've got a more highly developed sense of humor than most slashdotters, but it's not my job to try to upgrade the humor of geek culture.
  2. Rarely do "funny". If it hasn't made me blow my coffee out my nose, just don't rate the "funny/unfunny" at all.
  3. "Interesting" and "insightful": Judge these as I am now, then try to judge them as I would have when I was fifteen, then go with the most positive of those separate judgments. So usually I score these as "Fair" though sometimes I don't score them at all. When I score an "interesting" or "insightful" as unfair, it's usually because I see the post as a troll or flamebait. Or sometimes because it's an unthinking bleat of flock noise that only serves to help keep all the sheep together, making the same stupid sheep noises.
  4. "Troll" and "flamebait": These can require a lot of time and no little effort to metamod. Often I need to look at the post in context and read the threads that led to it.

Something that has occurred to me is whether discourse on slashdot would be improved if a "-1 Personal Attack" option was added to the moderation choices.

I'm getting moderator status about once a week, which is good since I don't have time for much more than that. When I'm setting out to moderate, I read at the -1 level, and that can really slow me down. But it seems to me that one of the better uses of my mod points is to correct the misuse of "flamebait", "troll", and "over-rated" by people who are pushing their own private agenda. For instance, there are people on slashdot who work in Redmond and given the opportunity will mod down any criticism of Microsoft out of a Louis L'Amour cowboy sense of "riding for the brand" infantile loyalty to their employer. And there are those whose use of mod points is too much influenced by an over reaction to the MSer's fudding around. The metamod system should weed these assholes out, over time, but correcting some of the specific damage they have done seems to me to be worth the effort.

It isn't just MSer's and the ones they have antagonized, either. There are other sharp divisions of prejudice on slashdot-- the MS thing is just the most obvious one.

Waht else? Erm, I currently read /. at the +1 level, but lately I've been wondering about whether I'd be happier using a higher level. I think I'll try the +2 level for awhile-- then maybe I can cover more ground with less frustration with the chatter. I'm not opposed to the chatter-- /. is a social phemomenon-- but I don't have all day to mosey through all the sidebars and cocktail conversations.

Well, I've finished my morning coffee and should get to work. Until next time, then...

User Journal

Journal: On excellence, fans

Journal by mysticgoat

A couple of interesting things happened in the last 24 hours:

First, I got a karma boost. From "good" to "excellent". So maybe now I won't have that nightmare about coming back as a cockroach any more. Ha ha.

Second, I acquired another fan. That makes three. But I still wonder if I should count either of the other two. One befriended me before I ever made a comment or did a journal entry or anything. I don't think he was just hitting on a newbie; I think he was clueless and fumblefingered and prolly made me his friend w/o even knowing he'd done so, or how to undo it. The other older fan prolly was hitting on me, maybe I looked succulent. No thanks, and mind the thorns.

A /. friendship seems a rather trivial thing: the rite of annulment is easily done.

My "Journal Topic" for all my journal entries to date has been "User Journal", which is dumb. I need to look into how to use this field in a relevant way, and whether I can go back to my old entries and change their topics.

Twenty years ago, I would have taken the time to learn all the ins and outs of /. usage, and done so with great gusto. But that was back in the days when I thought that learning new interfaces was an investment that would pay off in the future-- before it became obvious that the future would be mostly more new interfaces. Now my strategy is usually a minimalist one of attempting to identify the smallest subset of commands and things I need to know just to get by.

User Journal

Journal: On moderation

Journal by mysticgoat

I've just completed my seventh round of moderation since I was first given moderator points about a month ago. So I'm being tapped for this about once every 4.5 days.

I would rather it was once every 7 days.

User Journal

Journal: Tewnty-One Weeks of Slashdotting

Journal by mysticgoat

This is the 146th day of mysticgoat on slashdot.

I've now been moderator five times in the last three weeks. That rate is a bit much both in terms of the work moderation requires and the size of the pool of potential moderators, but my baseline is so short that this could be just a random fluke in a generally agreeable process.

Work of moderation, for me, involves more time on reading /. than I really want to spend. It is a chore. I feel obligated to log on more frequently and to read posts below my usual cut-off point. The hardest part is dealing with commets from an insightful troll or a piece that is bothe interesting and also full of flamebait.

If I keep getting selected for moderator duty at the current rate of more than once a week, that would be a strong indication that the moderator pool is much too small for /. to remain healthy.

My moderation has been metamoderated numerous times, and always judged "fair".

Karma still good. I still think that the current karma rating system sucks.

There is nothing so easy but that it becomes difficult when you do it reluctantly. -- Publius Terentius Afer (Terence)