Deleting/moderating offensive threads : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I've gotten email from a few forum participants concerning a few threads and postings they felt were far more offensive than usual. I checked, and though I normally prefer to avoid any form of censorship in this forum, these particular threads had no redeeming value at all -- so I did remove them.

As other participants have also noted, it's possible for spammers to impersonate others, because the forum software has no way of checking to ensure that the name and email address you supply are legitimate ones. I'll check with Phil Greenspun at MIT to see if there is any way to add digital signatures to message-postings in order to ensure authenticity, but it's probably not practical; many participants seem to be using relatively simple software that don't provide such a feature.

Our experience in the past has been that if we ignore spammers and their rude messages, they eventually get bored and go elsewhere; this means that it's usually most effective NOT to respond to such messages, even if you feel sorely tempted to do so.

Please feel free to let me know if you find any other messages or threads that you feel are so offensive that they should be deleted. It's very easy for me to accomplish this with the "administrator's" capabilities I have available. Unfortunately, I don't have the time available to scan and monitor each message or thread on a day-to-day basis, so I'll have to ask for your help in this area.

It's possible to password-protect the entire forum, but I would prefer to leave it "open" if at all possible. It does mean that we have to tolerate the occasional spammer, but I think it's important that we have a mechanism that invites and encourages newcomers to drop in and make their contributions.

If you have any other ideas on how we can cope with the situation, please let me know.

Ed Yourdon

-- Ed Yourdon (, December 17, 1998


Thank you, Mr. Yourdon.

It is disturbing that anybody would want to blast your Forum, which is full of information vital to understanding and survival. I do think it is good to eliminate threads and posts which are violent, abusive, worthless, and obscene. It would be sad if a newcomer were to encounter one of the bad threads/posts as their first experience and thus be turned off to the Forum or to Y2K altogether, dismissing it as the raving of creeps and lunatics. We cannot afford to lose any foot soldiers in the preparation effort.

You have my complete respect and thankfulness for this Forum.

Leska xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx x

-- Leska (, December 17, 1998.

Hey ED you Nazi bastard, how many dozen gross of "I Survived Y2K" t- shirts have you ordered so far. Who the hell are you to decide what's relevant. Well I guess when the lights go out the pranksters and jokesters will have to be rounded up so you self appointed enlightened ones can get on with bringing the human race back in a superior kind of way.

Eat me Ed. You're the biggest troll of all. You stir up this mass hysteria to make a buck. You stoke the fires just enough to sell that shit you write and raise your speaking fees. I have to admit that actually moving to New Mexico was a bit of marketing genius.

You're nothing but a huckster selling snake oil to the nuts, wackos, racists and seperatists gay bashers and all around dickheads. Face it Ed; Nobody knows what's going to happen, and you implying that the power grid is going down without any proof is close to criminal.

If people want to point out what they percieve as silly overreactive alarmism by being silly who the hell are you to decide. I knew the anarchy and free form of the internet was too good to last. Thanks Ed for protecting us from words.

Now go hang out with your marketing team, only a few more weeks to prepare for the big sales push.

-- Jimmy Bagga Doughnuts (, December 17, 1998.

That's the lowest of the trolls right there. Impersonating the well known troll of the name of Jimmy Bagga Donuts. This troll has no respect for even trolls. That's an example of the scum of this earth, folks.

Jimmy is a young man confused. This one is a self-loving scum.

-- Chris (, December 17, 1998.

Science. Facts. Training. Life experience. A knowledge of history. A study of the essence of spiritual wisdom. Receptivity to nature. Willingness to look at the big picture.

The land is variegated. Earth is molded by floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, storms, collisions. Species become extinct. History is full of documented change, wipe-outs. One can only realize that preparation is necessary and smart.

I know first-hand that paying attention to the weather, and belief in the possibility of terrain-alterating events, has saved my life and belongings already. I also have experienced frustration with computer glitches, and watched them bring down company operations. Unfortunately, I also have experience with the stuporous stupidity of man in general. Y2K problems will be real. It is criminally inhumane to deride or interfere with the sincere efforts of those trying to prepare and help others face the coming changes.

And then, there's karma, the inexorable law of cause and effect.

xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx

-- Leska (, December 17, 1998.

I'm sorry Mr. Yourdon for adding to the flames on this perticular troll. You're absolutely right we should bite our tongue and not respond, no matter how sorely tempted we are.

I stand shastized. I ask for your forgiveness. I shall try harder next time.

-- Chris (, December 17, 1998.

Turn off the E-mail notifications that posts generate. Make the trolls work for their cause. Thank you, sir...

-- Lisa (, December 17, 1998.

Chris is wrong. that was really me and I wish she would quit psycho- analyzing me. She's about a million miles off base

Have a nice day

-- Jimmy Bagga Doughnuts (, December 17, 1998.

Alright then Jimmy, you're just confused. It's understandable, you haven't done your Y2k homework. Stop posting drivel and focus on doing your homework, do some serious research. When you're done, come back under another name. We'll never know it's you.

-- Chris (, December 17, 1998.

Those who harangue peaceful GIs preparing are saying,
"You do not have the right to life. You do not have the right to independently think for yourself, become self-reliant, stand apart and equip yourself for survival." This harassment is an assualt on self-determination and self-preservation.

Preparation cannot harm anybody. There is zero time nor money lost, in light of the fact the disturbances of all kinds do indeed happen. Should nothing happen, one simply has to do less shopping in the close future. One can use his supplies normally, while rotating them and always keeping a healthy extra supply. Prudence.

Ashton & Leska in Cascadia, who wonder why more people do not study history
xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xx

-- Leska (, December 17, 1998.

Hi Leska,

while what you say about the troll posts is essentially correct, the trolls themselves will never see that. You will notice that all of the troll posts are entirely self-centered; and tend to give evidence of the troll posters having a very low self-image/feeling of self- worth. In other words, they don't feel that they're worth much themselves, and it absolutely terrifies them to see others who are willing to work together to take care of themselves both now, and in preparation for the future.

The trolls are merely externalizing their pain - whatever it's sources, *we* aren't the cause, but because this is an electronic environment, where there is no direct person to person interaction, it's one of the few places the troll posters have enough courage to attempt to deal with their issues.

Moreover - most of them have been hurt so many times, and for so long, that they can only readily accept (and indeed expect) pain. That's why they want people to hit back at them - the pain is one of the few ways, if not the only way in which they know how to interact with other human beings.

Remember too, that such folks as these will be totally nonsurvivable should it be an 8+, so perhaps praying for them might be in order.


-- Arlin H. Adams (, December 17, 1998.

Jimmy Bagga Doughnuts! Put the guitar down and start singing the truth. I know who you really are...shame on you!!! Suspicious of U

-- suspicious (, December 17, 1998.

Perhaps apply a simple "language filter" before accepting each post?

You'd need an ASCII file of thirty-forty curse words (use = 1), and perhaps 5-10 simply stupid racist words that are only good for inciting people (use = 0) . If any thing in the "curse.lis" were used more than say, twice times, the posting would be rejected. If any in the "hate.lis" were used at all, the msg is rejected. Using a separate list allows you to edit the reference file with no extra effort as circumstances change. (No programming time.)

Thus, if a user left in a single "damn" - it would get accepted. If astericks were found, noting is registered. (People do need to vent, and can get their msg across without spelling everything.)

So: If "d**m" were found - nothing happens. If "f--k" were used (fully spelled out) once, a warning is issued. If found twice, the msg is rejected.

The logic is already in place - if a user posts without a valid email address, we get a warning msg. If a user tries to twice post the same thing, we get a warning msg.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (, December 17, 1998.

Mr. Yourdon:

Sorry about that. Most parents try to see that the kids are housebroken before they get to leave, but.......

He obviously has not read your articles or he would understand the fact that you effectively gave away your books to a couple hundred thousand of us, and that you are now effectively giving away 40% of your time, which, after all, is the product you have to sell.


PS Thank you! I will admit to having been minorly nauseated by a couple of the last ones. And, before people start with the "Well ina barracks we heard worse, etc., etc., etc." There are very few experiences like spnding 16 hours a day in an ambulance with another paramedic to generate a thick skin and the ability to filter out the nonsense, or to increase your command of the idiom, as it were. Nurses and medics can out do the average Marine for creativity and force without really trying. cr

-- Chuck a night driver (, December 17, 1998.

Dear Ed,

Thanx for your speedy deletion of the obscenity that I ran across late last night. I am new to this forum, and did not know who or how to contact anyone. I am glad someone did.


-- Linda (, December 17, 1998.

Easy way to prevent impersonation would be a username/password setup. Keep it open to anyone, just make us all sign in with password, that way you know it's always the same person behind the name.

It also might be a good idea to filter out image tags, there's really not much purpose to including images in a discussion forum and a pretty offensive one showed up recently. Ignored by most subsequent posters, to their credit.

-- Shimrod (, December 17, 1998.


First, thanks for the forum. The only shortcomings are in some of the "participants." As a practicing grownup (in fact that does mean I don't have everything down pat yet so I still have to practice) I say ignore anything short of full scale spam. A tenuous degree of autonomy is a benefit for me- it's a shame some abuse it.

And thanks to the the rest of you practicing grownups (and practicing young people too) for your willingness to share your information and insights.

-- nemo... (, December 17, 1998.

Robert Cook,

Regarding your "language filter" idea -- I think that's a rotten idea.

The context of a "curse word" or "racist word" makes a lot of difference in its meaning and impact. It's the overall message conveyed that makes a posting off-topic, juvenile, or otherwise offensive.

Instead of a language filter on the posting side, a word filter on the browsing side for those people who are offended by certain words per se seems more appropriate.

-- No Spam Please (, December 17, 1998.

Thanks Ed for responding to the troll patrol requests.

It is neither fun to be one of the targets for their attacks nor read the sleazy posts. I can just imagine what one of the forum newcomers would think!

Again, thank you.


-- Diane J. Squire (, December 17, 1998.

Ed, could you re-load the pictures on a single thread for private viewing?

-- King of Spain (, December 17, 1998.


>If you have any other ideas on how we can cope with the situation, please let me know. <

I'm a systems operator for a forum on CSI. Their software allows us to "lock-out" people that are unable to control themselves. I'm not certain whether that is a viable option for internet forum software programs, but if so, it comes in quite handy.

One of the benefits with this capability is, it in itself is a good deterent and normally stops those who would post completely objectionable language or flaming type posts for the fear of not being able to participate what-so-ever.

Just a thought. Hope it helps.

Cary P.S. Btw, I've seen it all.

-- Cary Mc from Tx (, December 17, 1998.

"If you have any other ideas on how we can cope with the situation, please let me know."

Here's my input as a freedom of speech, totally free internet advocat.

I disagree with moderation and word filtering. If some posts offend some people, or even most people because of the words used, and then those posts are deleted, then that freedom is gone. Totally free means even the scum of this earth have a right to speak and be heard. Our freedom not to hear them is not taken away from us, we have the choice to NOT read it. If we start making rules and deciding on which words are ok and which are not, then we've opened up a can of worms because NOT EVERYONE will ever agree. People have different levels of tolerance for different words. It also opens up the door for a moderator to silence someone's ideas.

Total freedom of speech is sacred in a true democracy. As such, the person speaking has the right to his own mind and thinking being unviolated, which means that impersonators are violating this sacred freedom of democracy.

Therefore, I sugest a very simple moderation technique:

If you have the time and inclination Mr. Yourdon, propose to delete impersonification posts for people who email you with their real email address and request the post deleted. In other words, if Joe/Jane was the target of an impostor troll and the post offends him/her, he/she could write you and ask that you delete that post.

If this is too much work for you alone, consider enlisting a couple of volunteers, to which you would have to give the moderator password. Those volunteers could then open up a free account anonymously, and forum participants could email them the requests.

-- Chris (, December 17, 1998.

I too would certainly perfer _not_ censor anything, and would also prefer that no one would dekiberately "troll" people and thereby cause needless hurt and confusion, but experience shows it won't happen that way.

But idiots, liars and perjurors happen. They will become more frequent as more people jump in here. To remain useful, I think a simple filter - with known rules - is easiest to apply successfully.

My preference, therefore, is to apply the simplest, easiest, lowest cost solution that requires the least programming time and that will stop the grossest 'stupidity" at its source, rather that at its outlet. Granted, no solution is perfect, but doesn't it seem easier to filter out trash before the posting is accepted - acording to simple rules, rather than attempt to register posters or filter out trash as each person reads it?

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (, December 17, 1998.

Ed could easily take the "celebrities" from this bb give them passwords and have a closed system. Fact is Open = Exposure = Profit

Where's my groupie when I need him.

-- Jimmy Bagga Doughnuts (, December 17, 1998.

Chris, I disagree. Certainly everyone has the right to speak freely, but this doesn't mean he has a right to do it on Ed's forum and on Ed's dollar.

I've dealt with the issue before. I run a (free) personals page (won't say where, I don't want 'jimmy' knowing) that I try hard to keep decent as if I don't it rapidly degenerates to the point that no decent person would use it. Most of the users appreciate that, and a handful of them are married now only because that policy made the site usable. Some complain that I'm violating their freedom of speech, these I ignore. They can go elsewhere or start their own site - that's where their freedom of speech lies. The point is, having a moderator will discourage the worst abusers (if they can't get on, they'll quit trying) and the people who contribute won't be chased away by the torrents of invective.

I vote for a moderator. Ed's too busy, but I'll bet there are a couple of people here with time on their hands he'd trust with the administrator's password. I'm NOT suggesting myself.

-- Ned (, December 17, 1998.

It's pathetic the way you all suck up to Ed. It ain't like he'll be sharing his rice and beans

-- Jimmy Bagga Doughnuts (, December 17, 1998.

Jimmy, Ed has shared a lot more than rice and beans with all of us. Is your "Bagga Doughnuts" in your brain or shorts?

-- Heather (no@thanks.anyway), December 17, 1998.

> If you have any other ideas on how we can cope with the situation, please let me know.

I'm with Ned: posting here is not a right, it's a privilege, and the owner of the website most certainly has the right to edit the contents! Having internet access and being a netizen (free speech and all that) does NOT grant the right to foul up other's databases. The owner of a website can run it however they want and if some people have a problem with that then they need to go somewhere else or run their own discussion.

This discussion website may be viewed as a 'group project', with it's contents being the collection of discussion threads, each one a question with answers appended. Participants are building an informational resource which will be available for future reference. It's lifespan and how well it operates along into the future will be determined by its content value, specifically how useful, interesting, and well-organized (easy to browse) is the information.

How about assigning the cleanup chores to a pool of 2 or 3 moderators (shared duty) who are given "delete rights," being in effect volunteers for latrine duty, cleaning out the malevolent questions and answers. Ability to delete individual replies as well as entire threads may require a more advanced interface.

As for developing the user interface, it is very common for websites to request a userid (often the person's email address) and a password, before granting "add rights" (the right to add an answer or question to the message database) to the website visitor. If they are not recognized they are taken to a registration form. Most of these sites use cookies so you don't have to type in the name and password. This works on all browsers and any platform. Cookies are already in use in the discussion board to remember your name and email. People can use a fake email, and if they are really paranoid switch off cookies and login in manually each visit.

-- Jon (, December 17, 1998.

The current problems are all caused by a few sad sacks with mental and emotional problems whose messages are completely retarded and of zero value. This discussion board has no mandate to assist the clinically ill, especially when malicious intent is evidenced; they do not belong.

Once again: posting on a public or private board is not a right, it is a privilege. It comes with a certain responsibility to conduct oneself with civility and consideration. To make an obvious analogy, just buying a car does not confer the right to drive on public roads, one must be licensed. The info highway is no different. We are in a community here to discussion a serious problem (y2k), and filthy posting must not be permitted. It would be as if vandals were to come in to a public library and spray paint graffiti all over the place. The amount of time wasted by participants having to pick their way around the rotting garbage is going to increase unless some sanitary measures are taken.

This unfortunate trend is inevitable as the population of website visitors increases, in fact the trend has happened on other boards too and is a well-known problem. The board will lose participants and content will be degraded further if an end is not put to the vandalism problem. In this case we need to work within the technical limitations of the online BBS software system. Other boards have more advanced interfaces which may or may not be advantageous. An example is the where one may edit one's post afterwards. This newer generation discussion software uses cookies so the visitor does not need to log in on return visits. Until exclusionary provisions are available, someone will have to get out the super-duper pooper scooper and clean up after the animals and disturbed ones who still need potty-training.

-- Jon (, December 18, 1998.

Mr. Doughnuts has left the building.

Before leaving he asked me to clear up a few things regarding his open post to Ed. He said he meant the Nazi slur as generic and not literal. In New Jersey they think even mens room attendants are Nazis'and he forgot he wasn't in his living room. Well actually he was in his living room but he didn't realize how crowded it was.

Jimmy most regrets the following which seems to have made a few readers go bonkers.

"You're nothing but a huckster selling snake oil to the nuts, wackos, racists and seperatists gay bashers and all around dickheads"

Jimmy said he was just using a little poetic license and he knows that most of the posters and readers of Ed's forum and buyers of Ed's stuff are just concerned about a problem that is indeed real and could impact their lives and families although to what degree Jimmy would like to debate anytime anyplace.

I wanted to start a thread with this post to make it easy to find but Jimmy said no it would just be flamed and Ed would have to remove it.

In closing Jimmy wanted me to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday and Jimmy hopes to return soon with a list of compliant bakeries in Northern New Jersey.

-- Almond Danish (, December 19, 1998.

Up until recently, this forum ran on "Living Room Rules"

eg: I could show my other half ANYTHING posted here. 99.9% was either "On Topic" or "Useful to all". As the volume increases, i fully understand that the signal:noise ratio hasn't changed. I think I pointed this out earlier on an other thread. However, this unchanged ratio means we have to sort out the tripe from the crepes. this is both non-productive and anti-productive (the def'ns are different!). If we don't do SOMETHING, this, which is truly the best compendium of hints, tricks, factoids, and HELP on the net, will whither away and become just another, spam and troll filled DOOMBROOD (tm) home away from home. One that I will be forced to CEASE referring new GI's and new ALMOST GI's to. Given how many folks I have told about this place, all of whom are serious thinkers if you get their eyes open, this could make a serious difference in your OWN preparation, as you don't know what someone is going to know that you need. (Like the guy who spent 3 seasons in Antarctica for his Gov't in the "Research" station) Y'all have NO idea who is lurking here, who can offer assistance. And who we are turning away by the noise.

I would address the "Free Speech" issue but it has been ably covered by noticing that this is private board, open to all who have opinions facts and questions on the topic. Perhaps Ed needs to address this, with Phil, in a "Charter" similar to the "Charter" (yup, I know it's unofficial) on csy2K.

"Freedom of Speech" simply means you may acquire a forum, not that you may use any forum for what you have to say.

Beside, my freedom of action (to strike) ends at the tip of your nose.

So, Mr. Yourdon, if you are looking for stupi----- er ---- volunteers, you have my e-mail address attached....(OUCH Cable tow tugging!!) de N8NLL Chuck Rienzo

(the rest is in the book as they say........)

-- Chuck a night driver (, December 19, 1998.

PS Almond Danish/Jimmy Bagga...

Thank you.


i suspected there was an ample supply of class somewhere there.

Thanks for proving me correct.

Chuck, Who Can (contrary to popular belief) Recognize a Class Act.

-- Chuck a night driver (, December 19, 1998.

Well, I guess if we're gonna have dictators, they might as well be benevolent dictators. (I still say we're doomed)

I hereby cast my vote for the honerable Sir Charles. (If, by Jeeves, he has the time to do it right-o, and only deletes the most heinous of posts)

-- Uncle Deedah (, December 19, 1998.

Sorry about the speling, I misses Gayla, she kould ceep me in lyin mour than most others kud. Shoer wish sheed stuk arowend. Gayla, kom bake sune pleeze.

-- UnKel Deedha (, December 19, 1998.

Hi Ed, It's a hard job to moderate all these message boards for offensive and foul language. I am sure you have bigger fish to fry or dehydrate than just do make sure everyone behaves themself. So here is my offer - I will screen your message boards for the next 12 months for one gold coin a month. Let me know what your specifications are as far as what goes and what stays and I will be your servant. It takes the heat off you and allows you more time to work on information for us. Sign me up and give me the power to eliminate and execute these people's post that obviously have a limited vocabulary. Calling you a "bastard" as one individual did on this board is uncalled for. I am sure you have a known mother and father. People have problems expressing themself and have to use words that don't even fit. I mean we each of us are entitled to our individual opinion but we are suppose to be adults at the same time.


-- Duane (, December 19, 1998.

Here's my proposal: Anonymous user login, so everybody has consistent screen name and can't be impersonated. Second, everybody gets to moderate the threads they start. You've got free speech, cause anybody can start a thread, but since you can see who started it you have an idea whether the thread will be worthwhile. Nobody gets stuck with the work/power/complaints of doing all the editing.

I recently programmed something like this using similar tools to what Phil uses, and I'm a much lighter-weight geek, so I know it wouldn't be too tough to do. It would take some time, and I also know Phil is very busy. Also, this is an untested concept...I changed jobs before it was all online. I've been tempted to host a forum myself, but the $200 a month is going to other things right now...

-- Shimrod (, December 23, 1998.

shimrodd you fucking NIMROD!!!!

-- Ed Yourdon (ed@yourdon.copm), December 23, 1998.

Buddy makes a good point (in the Stash, etc. thread) which is instructive to review for its y2k relevance.

The inappropriate post problem is referring to the prevalence of immaturity and malice among the behavior of the discussants, as represented by the posted questions and answers. The real problem is with people and their behavior, just as with the y2k-problem.

There are actually two points of failure in evidence with both the inappropriate post problem and the y2k problem. The first is the primary failure that leads to the offensive post (system malfunction) and the secondary failure is the irrational, emotional, and sometimes violent human reaction. Of these two the secondary effect is of greater concern because it can be an order of magnitude or more greater in its net impact.

The Y2k-Troll Analogy

Y2K Problem

Troll Problem

Primary Failure
(realization of a logical error)

Software-caused hardware problems, cascading to create various outages and shortages

Culturally induced offensive behavioral anomalies triggering inappropriate post.

Secondary Failure
(secondary effect of error is inappropriate reaction, based on fear)

Food and energy shortages cause people flipping out, with escalation of crime and violence.

Multiple replies which are even more inappropriate.


Interesting aspects of the secondary failure:

  1. It is based on fear.
  2. It is self-propagating: fear begets fear, rudeness begets rudeness, violence begets violence.
  3. The secondary events take the form of a flare-up/die-down curve.

The solution is to facilitate the dissolution of the inappropriate post prevalence by ignoring them and not responding. This has several benefits:

  1. Hostile threads will tend to sink into ignored oblivion, which is their provenance and their rightful resting place.
  2. All threads will have less invective among their contents.
  3. Trouble-makers will get bored and eventually find something better to do if they get no response.
  4. Less time is wasted on distraction.

-- Jon (, December 31, 1998.

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