Reposting again. Managed to get up to 50 Karma, posted ONE pro-Troll message, and got mod-bombed. This diatribe was truer than I thought. CLiT, I shall be honored if you accept me as a member!
Visitors to the website slashdot.org will by now have surely heard of the act of Moderation. This is where a contributor's post can be 'Moderated' either positively or negatively, depending on how the Moderator perceives the value of the post. There is a sliding scale of total moderation points, from -1 to 5, along with snappy summaries of the reason for moderation, such as "Funny", "Insightful", or the ever popular "Troll". An additional benefit offered to Moderators is the ability to ban a poster from contributing, by negatively moderating enough of his postings in a 24 hour period.
In order to retain some level of fairness for the Slashdot population, the Slashdot Editors (adopting the role of 'Benevolent Dictators') have implemented a scheme whereby regular users of Slashdot, chosen essentially at random, are given the ability to act as Moderators.
This underlines an inherent flaw in the system. Psychological studies have shown that in any community, no matter how small, should a random sampling of people be given the slightest grasp of power, they will immediately abuse it. There is a primal, evolutionary desire in Man to place himself higher than his peers by whatever measurement they can muster. Slashdot Moderation provides the ideal means for which a man can prove himself more equal than others.
At the risk of invoking Godwin's Law at such an early point in my thesis, I have no choice but to compare Slashdot Moderation to the systematic genocide of the Jewish community in 1930's Germany.
A bold statement, I admit, and deliberately designed to shock, but I feel the statement is necessary. I shall now offer a more rational explanation, as well as a comparison of the parallels between Slashdot Culture, and the National Socialist regime.
First, some history. National Socialism did not spring up overnight. It grew from a feeling of national bitterness and resentment at the war reparations Germany was forced to make after World War One. Germany was a broken country, populated by desperate starving people. And to the desperate, an extreme ideology begins to seem like a rational choice.
The advent of new technology forces a paradigm shift in the way the beholders of that technology think. The Christianity Meme was made wide spread by the invention of the Gutenberg press. And the rise of National Socialism was made popular because of the invention of Cinema. Here we had a new means to control the flow of information to the populace, that they are willing to unquestioningly listen to due to the 'novelty factor' of moving pictures. It is no coincidence that some of the best Cinematography of the early 20th Century came out of the National Socialist propaganda machine.
Why is this the case? It is yet another fault of man that a new means of distributing memes is perceived, due to the 'newness' of the medium, to have a greater 'validity' than older media. Those harnessing new inventions have the power to win control of the hearts and minds of others.
With the tools in place, who should the National Socialists target? Clearly, as a counterpoint to Man's desire to hold power over others, there is also a desire to resent the success of others. If someone is successful, they reduce the self-worth of their beholders. Although times were harsh in Germany in the prelude to World War II, there were still successful inhabitants of that country. Possessing shrewd business acumen as well as the contacts in other countries needed to maintain support in such a poverty stricken and broken land, who else should deserve the wrath of the populace more than the Jews?
Fast-forward to the latter quarter of the 20th Century. Computing technology is focused in niche markets, and limited to big successful companies like IBM and Microsoft. As the markets were limited, there were also limited opportunities for employment. This gave rise to a rising number of college dropouts, seething with resentment and unable to relate to society beyond the staccato clatter of keyboards and the pallid green glow of an 80x24 text display, and lacking the basic business skills (and a smart suit) needed to secure employment at one of these companies.
At this time, a new invention was beginning to take hold in College campuses throughout the world. The Internet. As with the Gutenberg press and Cinema beforehand, this new technology would grow to spread one of the most virulent memes of the modern age - Open Source Software, created as the antithesis of successful business practise.
So, the parallels between the birth of Anti-Semetic National Socialism and the birth of Open Source Software have been made. Of course, it is easy to claim that A=B without providing further logical evidence in support. So, the next task of my thesis is to provide further parallels, and bring this discourse back to the initial focus on Slashdot Moderation.
Slashdot was conceived, in it's original 'Chips 'n' Dips' incarnation, as a vehemently anti-corporate Open Source website. Roughly 10-15 years down the line from the birth of Open Source, it has become saturated with propaganda, and now forms the centrepiece of the Open Source Development Network. An authority in it's field, Slashdot's success is in no small part due to the ability of the editors to 'pick and choose' valid news articles submitted by users, and present the same old tired "Open Source Good / Closed Source Bad" rhetoric time and time again, dabbling with anti-copyright and the right of the 'common man' to remove an artist's ability to gain compensation for the work. In essence, this is similar to the 'paring down' of artistic worth in 1930's Germany. If no-one is willing to contribute valid and vibrant art to the community, then all art shall become harsh and functional, possessing a certain intimidating aesthetic.
Which leads onto Open Source's shining achievement - Linux. This diatribe is not aimed towards Linux in particular, as it is a well-oiled, well-tuned machine. A technically adept Operating System, it is worthy of admiration by any rational man. The point of this thesis is not to attack the art produced by Open Source coders, which in itself is worthy, but to enlighten all as to the political processes behind the OSS movement.
By the same scale, it is hard to fault Mercedes for the technical excellence of the vehicles which were used by the National Socialist party. But the politics behind the party are what taint the image of Mercedes' vehicles of the era. The Swastika itself is a benign symbol, found this day in such diverse locations as Pokemon cards, but is permanently tainted with the history of the acts made under its auspice. In the same way, companies switching to Open Source solutions will begin to regard the Penguin with the same trepidation as their profits fall.
It should be worth noting at this point that IBM, previously one of the world's greatest companies, has begun reporting servere financial losses, no doubt due to its adoption of Open Source practises. This epoch-making event was NOT reported on Slashdot, even though articles were submitted.
And what of the other great company mentioned above? Microsoft, aka Micro$oft, Mickeysoft, Microshaft, Kro$oft, and many other derogatory and undeserved names. Throughout the previous 25 years, Microsoft has grown from strength to strength, again possessing shrewd business acumen as well as providing products that people want. This makes them the number one target for the OSS movement. Incapable of standing by their own merits, the OSS zealot would rather attack Microsoft as a priority than produce anything of worth for their community.
Slashdot Moderators, crazed with their limited new-found power, exhibit this behavior. It is a sad state of affairs that the majority of article moderations are negative. Where is the positive feedback and sense of social contribution? Nowhere to be found. Moderators are too focused on putting their peers down to make themselves appear superior, rather than doing the hard work and becoming better on their own terms.
As the National Socialists required a scapegoat, Slashdot Moderators require a constant stream of Postings to label '-1, Inferior'. Once a posting is reduced to the score of -1, it becomes invisible to the casual user. Again, this is a parallel to the Ghettoization of Germany upon the election of Hitler.
In essence this would not be so bad, were postings to be evaluated on their own terms. However, alongside the moderation of their postings, each user has a 'Karma' value, namely the sum of their worth to the Slashdot community. As a user's posts are moderated up or down, so their Karma fluctuates. As Karma becomes negative, a user's default posting score is reduced, until they are posting at a default of -1. Again, ghettoizing PEOPLE, not just their opinions.
This ghettoization is reinforced with the often fake belief that a negatively moderated post, and therefore the poster, is a "Troll". (Is it any wonder that such a name has been chosen to describe these people, invoking mental imagery of facial disfigurement and hooked noses?) As the Jews were accused of fraud, dishonesty and being subhuman animals, so too are Trolls accused of FUD, Crapflooding, and obfuscated goatse.cx links. Quite often, these 'undesirables' are capable of providing a valid insightful comment on a topic, but because it is in opposition to the Political dogma of Slashdot they are moderated back into their ghetto. The person becomes moderated, not their opinion.
This is just the thin end of the wedge. Although, as memes are transient, it is difficult to silence an opinion, it is trivial to silence a person. Upon the rise of National Socialism in Germany, the populace were motivated by propaganda into entering the Jewish Ghettos en masse with the sole purpose of causing as much damage as possible to Jewish businesses and residences. The infamous Krystalnacht. This parallels far too accurately with the Slashdot Editor's non-discouragement of the act of IP-banning. As mentioned above, this occurs when an individual user's postings are repeatedly moderated down in a short period. They then become incapable of posting any contributions themselves. In essence, they have been silenced, regardless of the worth of their postings.
Of course, the editors claim that Meta-Moderation is the panacea to solve this clear abuse of moderating privledge. But if a Meta Moderator is presented with a list of moderations that they disagree with, such as this targetted 'silencing' mentioned above, they cannot note them as such without in turn becoming an 'Undesirable' themselves, as too many Disagreements with the Moderation groupthink also result in loss of Karma.
Throughout all of this, the Editors have claimed a false level of detachment from the acts of moderation. In a same way, as the National Socialists gathered their power and began working on their Elite Political wing, The SS, they too remained detached from the civilians working in their name. Why? Because after inspiring the populace to such acts of violence through their propaganda, they could then claim that they were only giving the people what they want.
And then began the next stage of the atrocities. The Gestapo, Germany's secret police, were recruited from the best and the brightest of Germany's elite. As is the case now, the best and the brightest of society were often shunned and ostracized in society. In essence, the Gestapo were a tightly controlled 'Geek Army' of intelligent young men with a burning, seething resentment of normal society. The perfect psychological profile for the cause.
After all, give a normal man (with an active sex life) a gun and he will use it responsibly in self defence. Give a geek a gun and he will behave according to his sociopathic logic and hatred of the world he arrogantly presumes to be distant from. Ask yourself why Slashdot flat-out justified the murder of innocents at Columbine. And then ask yourself why, even for a brief moment, you almost began to sympathize with the killers after Jon Katz' manipulative and pseudo-emotive Hellmouth articles.
How this relates to Slashdot is clear. The majority of Slashdot posters are Sociopathic OSS zealots, unable through lack of social finesse or personal hygiene to mate regularly. Sexually and emotionally frustrated and with grudges to bear, incapable in their blinkered sense of self-righteousness of accepting any dissenting opinion than the OSS cause. Now give these people the opportunity to Moderate these dissenting opinions. Of course they are going to want to silence them, by any means necessary.
Now, the Slashdot Editors have admitted taking this silence of opinion into the next stage, by moderating whole swathes of 'undesirable' posts negatively. And then permanently banning anyone who moderates said posts back up from moderating EVER again! The result of this new policy? The few Moderators with any sense of fairness and decency are removed from the moderation pool, leaving the power ENTIRELY in the hands of the zealots. Clearly, positive moderation is discouraged under this regime, which is a direct parallel with the way the National Socialists moved their own sympathisers into positions of power throughout Europe.
So how does this compare to the genocide performed in Auschwitz and their ilk? I would like at this point to explain that in NO way do I wish to belittle the horrors that were performed in the name of National Socialism. The six million innocents killed were a cry of anguish from which humanity may never recover. And a vast distance in time and scope from a few banned posters on some shitty "My Favourite Links - now with comments" website. But these stories need to be retold before the horror is lost forever.
For the only thing that we learn from history is that we never learn anything from history. Time and time again, the St. Vitus dance is played out, we make the same mistakes, and we perpetually fail to see the warning signs.
So, moderators, the next time you moderate a rational, insightful post down, maybe because you disagree with it or because it's posted by a 'Known Troll', just ask yourself this...
"Am I really contributing to the Slashdot Community, or selfishly destroying it?"