Moderator no More

I’ve been pondering what to say on the subject of my hasty exit from moderating Liberty Dollar Online. Not that it’s a stunningly popular site, or that many people will notice. It’s just that events like this can be very instructional if one simply takes the time to ask “what happened here?” in the proper light.

So let’s properly light the scene.

The forum owner, the administrator and the moderator, when those hats are worn by separate people, need to act as a team on issues concerning the operation of the forum. This may seem like an obvious statement, and since teamwork is an often overlooked part of management, perhaps it is obvious in the true sense of the word. In this particular instance, all three hats were worn by different people, a fact I was unaware of until just recently, having not been informed that the owner of the site had farmed out administration duties to a third party.

In a team, the players all know who’s on the field, what their roles are, and what parts of the field are used for what purpose. In a forum this constitutes as knowing what types of posts go where, what types of member behavior is allowed (or, perhaps more easily, prohibited) and what types of moderation response is expected.

If you look at the site “Liberty Dollar Online” and think about where a post on any specific topic might go, you’ll find the first stumbling block. As a tangential issue, I’ll just touch on this here and be done with it. Where do you put a post concerning the Federal Reserve and its relationship to gold? General is where they end up. Where do you put a post concerning an offer of ELD? Those to end up in general as well. In fact, most posts went to general and then had to be moved to their proper place on the forum. Why? Because the topics of the different sub-forums are too limited, or the wording on the forum description doesn’t illuminate the expected contents of the forum. Then there is the cover all bets type threads that could just as easily be a forum (or a poll) in themselves. Heaven forbid a moderator touch one of those immortal sacred cows. The wrath of the heavens (that would be the members who created and continuously add tangents to said thread) will descend upon the moderator who does.

The lackluster forum names and the catch all threads were stumbled over and either dealt with or ignored based on who had admin rights for what and when; so basically, the team isn’t really communicating well, and no one really knows where anything needs to be. But we are giving it the old college try.

As a secondary light source, I would like to add that the forum klashistan was described to me as a place where anything goes (remember this point, there will be a test later) I liked the idea, myself. Someplace to consign threads, and the contributing members to same, that have descended into ad hominem hell. It saves the moderator from endless accusations of “you deleted” and “I’ve been wrongly banned” type bullshit.

…and it is bullshit, because moderating is an unpaid, thankless job, and most of the ingrates who use forums have no idea just how thankless it is. The next time one of you average members out there posts criticism of site moderation on a particular site, and it stays there, you should give that moderator a medal. Hell, throw him a party. Because there isn’t any reason that he had to leave it there.

That handles the lighting. Now for the play itself.

A pain-in-the-ass member from a Yahoo Group dedicated to the Liberty Dollar decided to join the Liberty Dollar Online forum; and when I say Mark Queen is a pain-in-the-ass, I have previous postings to prove it. That’s a condensed version. The thread lasted at least a month in time and spanned at least 20 posts. Definition of pain-in-the-ass.

And he wasn’t the first one. A few others joined up earlier, and finding that I was the dreaded moderator they left, letting the owner know that they were leaving because of me. Good riddance, not that I actually cared one way or the other. None of them posted much of anything to credit or damn themselves with. I’ll cherish a adversary who can put together a decent argument just as highly as I do someone who shares common cause with me. However, incompetent whiners I have no time for. It’s not my fault so few of them are up to the task.

But, Pain-in-the-ass Queen is savvy, so he posts his attacks directly to Klashistan, and refuses to elevate his discourse above the ad hominem level. When he first posted his issues with ALD, I dutifully created a poll that highlighted several of his points, in the proper forum, and invited everyone to come on in and discuss it. You could hear the crickets chirp.

Months go by. The new members come and go, not much happens, and Mark Queen is still pissing in the wind. Then he insults my dog. Well, I’m impervious to most attacks these days, but my dog was deeply offended. After pondering my response (the umpteenth response to the same question, mind you) I decided that anything goes (I said there would be a test later) meant for the moderator as well, and I locked the thread in question, giving myself the last word in the thread, as it were.

Pain-in-the-ass Queen complains to the site owner, Frank Motley. The site owner listens, his willingness to listen being only slightly affected, I’m sure, by the fact that Mark Queen has done business with him in the past, and is a friend of his. If I had known the number of relationships involved in this little fiasco (this wasn’t the first time I had a run in with a friend of the owner) I would never have volunteered to moderate in the first place. When the members can go whine to the boss directly, and he listens, then the writing is on the wall.

The site owner has the site administrator reverse my judgment. No questions of “hey, why did you do this Anthony?” No “would you mind changing this back?” Just a slap in the face by someone I’ve never met or conversed with, and a public statement of my lack of authority, albeit a feel good “he’s a great benefit to the site but has no real authority” type statement.

I’d been toying with bowing out as moderator for awhile anyway, and this had a straw that broke the camel’s back type of feeling to it, so I made my stand on principle, knowing what the outcome would be.

…If a moderator can’t moderate, then what is he? If anyone can whine to the site owner, and he’ll reverse the moderator’s judgment, then who is really the moderator?


Not surprisingly, Frank has his own spin on things:

Not that I think it matters, but I have not “chosen Mark” over Anthony or anyone else. I made myself perfectly clear above.

It does matter, and you did choose. Not one person over another perhaps, but the troublemaker with whom you identify over the office of moderator (the hat I was wearing at the time) that you despise. Perhaps despise is too strong a word, but your adversarial relationship with moderators in the past has definitely negatively colored your perception of what a moderator’s job is, and has left you with the tendency to side with the troublemakers, even on your own site.

Mark Queen may have been instrumental in Liberty Dollar circles once upon a time, but he has ceased being anything other than an agitator looking for reasons to snipe at alternative currencies. The only reason he would want to know the data he keeps demanding and stating “isn’t a problem to collect” (as long as you ignore the facts concerning validity, privacy and compensation for work performed) is so he can damn the entire system as ineffectual; because the data will look ineffectual alongside the data from the Fed that he wants to compare it to.

It is a Mark of Dumb-ass Queen’s cluelessness that he would attribute my locking the thread to my somehow losing the argument. As if mindlessly repeating the same objections for several months constitutes an argument.

Additionally, if Frank had wanted to post a response to Mark Queen’s objections (objections that had been offered several months previously) it could have been done in the appropriate forum, just like he ended up doing anyway. There was no need to unlock the thread in question, no need to post to klashistan at all, except to show the moderator just who was boss. There was never any question who was boss. The only question was “who’s the moderator?”

It was never me, apparently.


So, what was learned, what information can be taken from this little charade? With tongue in cheek, I offer the following:

  • Never volunteer for a job. Any veteran of the military can tell you that; I should have listened to one of them.
  • Know who the Boss’ friends are, and make sure you have the good dirt on them first. They’ll make up dirt about you if they have to, so you better be prepared.
  • Make sure to disappear any posts that offend your dog, rather than violate some unwritten rule that only applies to moderators.
  • Make sure that the forum headings are clear enough that people can figure out where posts should go and be flexible enough to change them when the membership still can’t figure it out.
  • Make sure the next moderator understands that “anything goes in Klashistan” applies to everybody else but him.
  • Make sure the next moderator knows how to contact the administrator directly; and let him know that it’s actually a different person, not you with a better attitude.

…and finally:

  • When a member horrifies you by childishly defacing the entire forum with blank posts, and the forum owner confides in you that the member learned that behavior from the owner himself on another forum, quit right then. Don’t wait for the other shoe to drop. You’ll thank yourself later.

I don’t know what the future holds for Liberty Dollar Online. I had great hopes for it once. The forum traffic that I had anticipated never materialized, in part because the libertydollar site itself has so far refused to direct traffic to it. There is no better place on the web to get quick answers to ALD questions, but it remains largely under utilized. So to for Frank’s other site, Liberty Auctions, which is a great auction site that allows for the use of alternative currencies…

(This is in stark contrast to eBay, a site worried about you not using dollars to pay for transactions, but apparently unconcerned when false car auctions are listed. That’s another story.)

…but is largely unknown even in alternative currency circles. Don’t ask me why, the sites work well. Perhaps it’s a marketing/exposure question. Maybe it’s just a matter of time.

No hard feelings Frank. I’d do business with you in the future. I’m just done with LDO for now.

…and with that, I return you to the regularly scheduled rant.


Editor’s note. In hindsight I’m glad this cooperative endeavor fell through. I would have hated to have to explain how I was related to the American Liberty Dollar system after the federal government started cracking down on Bernard and his business schemes. I wonder what Frank Motley thinks of all this in the rearview mirror? I haven’t heard from him since that day.

Open Source: Without Profit?

One of the arguments I’ve had with critics of Open Source software, is that they (the open source programmers) want people to use a product for which there is no profit, i.e. they are given away for free.

That’s funny. I’ve profited many times over from a lack of lost down time due to using Firefox to access the Internet and avoiding all that IE targeted malware. I’ve also profited from using Thunderbird and avoiding all those scriptkiddie re-mailers that seem to plague Outlook Express.

[BTW, Microsoft gives IE and Express away ‘free’ too]

I’ve also profited from the use of www.openoffice.org instead of MicroSoft office. I’ve saved all those profits I would have handed over to brother Bill, and given them to myself. Same for the OS’s that I test. The average Linux distro will run you 80 bucks if you want printed materials to go with the software. I’ve paid it more than once, as well as downloading them for free from the internet.

‘If’ I had a CAD package that suited my needs in Linux, I wouldn’t even look back.

Most people too narrowly define the word ‘profit’.

Linux Distro Chooser Quiz

Reading back issues of Linux Pipeline tonight, came across a link for the Linux Distro Chooser Quiz. (There is a 2020 version here. –ed.) It suggested I use Suse; which is kind of funny, since I’m only looking at other distros because I’m tired of fixing the missing pieces in Suse.

I want to be able to play DVD’s on a linux system without having to stand on my head tracking down different parts of a software program. I just want to install a DVD player that actually plays DVDs and I haven’t found one that I don’t have to assemble each time I upgrade the OS software. Suse comes with DVD disabled, as well as a lot of other bits and pieces missing and broken.

…and if I find it frustrating, as a confirmed software geek (if not a bonafide programmer) I can only imagine what the average user thinks.

Telemarketer Counterscript

Anyone who has called my house recently knows what an enjoyable time I have messing with telemarketers and their ilk. Just stumbled across a script for talking to telemarketers that I might just have to try:

Telemarketers make use of a telescript – a guideline for a telephone conversation. This script creates an imbalance in the conversation between the marketer and the consumer. It is this imbalance, most of all, that makes telemarketing successful. The EGBG Counterscript attempts to redress that balance.

EGBG – martijn engelbregt
EGBG – martijn engelbregt

Too funny.

Teaching People to Think

Hello, I’m Anthony. (Hi Anthony) …And I’m a Forum Addict.

This addiction started years ago with CompuServe forums and Usenet, not long after we got our first internet account back in ’94, through the local university. I started looking for people to talk with online in this new social experiment we had created with computer technology. At first the addiction seemed innocuous enough, just chatting with people who had shared interests. There was the occasional disagreement with the odd agitator who showed up just to argue, but all and all, a forum was a friendly place. I’m not quite sure when or how it happened, but as time progressed it seems that the forums became more about the disagreement, and less about the sharing of knowledge. Perhaps we are all looking for that emotional high that comes from being in a good argument.

The tendency toward forum addiction can be traced back much earlier than the internet, though. If you remember the charge you got the first time you knew something somebody else didn’t know, and you got to explain it to them, got to see their eyes light up with understanding, then you too are a potential forum addict. That’s where it starts. Then you discover the internet and how easy it is to share information. You join your first forum and you start posting. Before you know it you are spending days at a time trying to shove a few facts into another idiot’s brain, never realizing that you to are an idiot just for making the attempt.

Talk about a waste of effort.

At some point (if you are like me) you will probably also discover that you are in an adversarial relationship with everyone in your group and the one time that you can all pull together is when you are trying to single out some other agitator to get rid of. I tend to agree with a friend who observed that “it’s the nature of the medium.” For some reason the impersonal nature of text communication seems to make people more prone to misapprehend the meaning of a statement. There’s a multi-million dollar government funded study in there somewhere.

More and more often these days, that agitator turns out to be me. It seems I have this disgusting habit of making people think about things they’d rather not. Call me weird, but it’s kind of a point of pride with me. I figure if I don’t make someone go “Hmmm?” with each post, then I might as well watch the boob cube with the rest of the couch potatoes. Therein lies the rub. If you can’t impart a few simple facts to the unwilling, how on earth can you make them think?

Once again, can we say Waste of Effort? I knew that you could.

…This is why government schools don’t teach, they indoctrinate. No one wants to sit in neat little rows and listen to someone else lecture, and rote learning is boring to say the least. So we have schools full of the unwilling that can’t be taught even simple facts, much less be made to think for themselves. If it was understood that thinking for oneself was a blessing and that school was a place where this was facilitated, you might actually find children wanting to go to school just to learn instead of going just to escape from their parents.

…And that is why the Montessori method of teaching will always be superior to the typical attempt at teaching found in government schools. It stimulates the natural desire within the child to learn and to understand. This is also why you won’t find Montessori teaching in government school systems. Worse than getting children hooked on drugs is getting them to think.

The idiot that I am, I got kicked off another forum the other day (you might notice that it disappeared from my sidebar) I miscued on a post by another, who miscued on a (poor) attempt at humor on my part. The peanut gallery pounced at that point. One can rack up a lot of negative feelings when he’s trying to pound a little sense into the opposition. They offered to let me stay on if I would agree to be moderated, but I’m not interested in letting someone else second guess what I should post. So I’m outta there.

I’ve alienated friends and family members with this stupid forum addiction, this blind belief that I can somehow impart a little understanding to the (as someone else called them) “unwashed masses” by “getting the information out there.” Silly, really. Or is it?

Over time I’ve progressed (?) from knowing everything, but understanding very little (typical teenager) to knowing nothing, but understanding a great deal (hello mid-life) more than I can express in a blog entry. I wonder when I’ll learn to think…? And will it be before I hit ‘send’ the next time?

Postscript

Coded language. How quaint. I used the phrase government schools because that was the phrase that libertarians use to describe America’s public schools system. They aren’t really government schools, not in the way that the word indoctrination means when I apply it to public schools.

The scientific method is a valid lens through which to understand the world around us. It might well be the the only way to accurately understand the world around us. Science simply is in much the same way that existence simply is. You aren’t indoctrinated into it, you are introduced to it. If it sticks then you become an agnostic about things that you don’t know yet and then learn how to test for what is knowable about a thing. The development of the critical thinking faculty that science engages is a problem for people who want to tell you how to think and not help you discover what thinking is.

Government schools are not bad, per se. Government schools aren’t bad when they don’t indoctrinate. They aren’t bad when they impart real life skills. As long as government schools get the job done that needs to be done (teaching children to think critically) government schools are just fine.

It’s when the job they are doing is not serving the greater good, that’s when government schools, and all schools, fail. Montessori fails to educate those students with special needs, and it fails because a good portion of Montessori instruction is based on belief/ideology and not on tried and true best methods. Finding a school that teaches critical thinking based on best methods. That is the really hard part.

Blogspot archive for the month of January 2006

Professions

Started ranting with the wife about technical jobs…

Ranting with not ranting at? It’s like an argument concert. She rants, I agree and rant, she responds with a loud denouement of whatever. Life around here can be quite different, really. Quite different, when you realize that she’s the truly technical one. The hardware junky that builds things. I’m just her one and only flunky that keeps the software running.

…and what they pay these days. Most of the places that advertise computer assistance/repair services pay no better than the places where the sum total of knowledge required to do the job is to be able to say “do you want fries with that?” We’ve gotten most of our business from people who have first called a number they heard advertised; and then after *insert business name here* made the problem worse, they did some searching and found us. We’d love to be the first ones that get called; but we just don’t work that cheaply, and shouldn’t be expected to.

What’s out of sync is that we don’t charge any more than *insert business name here* (less in fact) it’s just that as sole proprietors we pocket the full hourly charge for ourselves, like any real professional would.

And then I started off on a tangent. Specialized knowledge. That’s what makes a profession what it is. Imagine what it was like back when houses first started getting electricity. You already had plumbing, most likely. But this electrical stuff was all new. Someone who understood electricity and its rules would be highly valued. What followed would be decades of hard learning for all involved, with more and more people getting experience in the field. At some point, common knowledge of the basic rules of electricity made it seem like any old idiot could go out and wire a house and fiddle with electrical current. But that isn’t the case. Electricians still exist, and some of us still rely on them. Idiots get fried every year because they think they know about electricity. This isn’t that hard is probably the last thought they had.

While you won’t kill yourself trying to do some of the more technical jobs for yourself, when you realize that you’ve just turned your very expensive computer into a paper weight, you might wish you were dead.

No, I don’t think we need the government to step in now and start setting standards for a computer profession. I haven’t noticed that it’s done anything for any of the other professions out there including architecture. I just think it’s a shame that you’d pay a plumber an hourly wage that an attorney might charge, to handle the mystical plumbing problem you’re having, but computer problems are a different matter? You want fries with that?

Sony: What do they do for the pirates?

Have you heard the wonderful things that Sony is doing for people who legitimately purchase music on disk these days? Seems they install software on your system that hijacks your hardware and attempts to prevent you from copying their disks. Unfortunately it opens the system up for other malicious uses, not to mention voiding ‘fair use’ for all intents and purposes.

Seems to me you wouldn’t want to punish the people who pay you money for your product, something I’ve meticulously done when music that I like is available on disk. You know, plan A: follow the law, reward the creative types with the money they deserve for creating the music we enjoy; doing the “right thing”. After Sony’s little fiasco, I think I’ll go with plan “B” from now on.

As someone who does computer maintenance as a sideline, I’ve seen what it takes to clean up a hijacked system like they are describing. It’s called “Fdisk, format, reinstall”. If that’s what you get for following the rules and purchasing music from the RIAA supporting music vendors, then I think I’m a rule breaker from here on out.

This is what you get for letting the corporations dictate policy for you, as the link under the RIAA above points out. Snooping bastards poking around in all the nooks and crannies on your system just to make sure you don’t have a secret copy of Bob Dylan’s version of “Watchtower” (or heaven forbid anything by Metallica) out there that you didn’t actually pay for.

Do any of us need that?

I’m thinking of digging out all my old vinyl and re-mastering the content to MP3 just for the hell of it now. All those old Barry Manilow and Earth, Wind and Fire albums in fresh new MP3 format. That’ll show ’em, right?


The Sony BMG rootkit scandal is finally winding down.

The settlement that Sony has agreed to includes a payment of 150 dollars to anyone who can show damage due to the rootkit, as well as replacement of any CD’s which contain the rootkit. I hope the rest of the media companies are paying attention to this.

Yahoo story, ARS story