Idiots Per Thousand

  By Shamus   Mar 20, 2008   75 comments

There was an amusing meme floating around a while ago. It began with a question posted by a user to Yahoo! Answers. The question, without embellishment or editing, appeared thus:

HOW IS BABBY FORMEd?

HOW GIRL GET PRAGNENT

There were several informed responses to this question with links to relevant articles. But they were modded down as “unhelpful”. Instead, the following response was rated as “best answer”:

They need to do way instain mother> who kill thier babbys. becuse these babby cant frigth back? it was on the news this mroing a mother in ar who had kill her three kids. they are taking the three babby back to new york too lady to rest my pary are with the father who lost his children ; i am truley sorry for your lots

Anyone who has spent any amount of time on the internet has seen this sort of thing before – barely literate people hammering out badly spelled nonsense to each other in a futile attempt to communicate. Someone took the question and the answer and turned them into a dramatic reading, with hilarious results. Even now it’s impossible for me to read the words without hearing the voice of the two Neanderthal thespians.

But what really interests me is just how horrible and broken Yahoo! Answers manages to be. Raw, pure, information got modded down, and outright gibberish was modded up. We’re talking about a system that suppresses the signal and amplifies the noise. It’s interesting because the system of user-rated comments is supposed to do the opposite. It usually does. I’ve never seen this sort of thing happen on, say, Slashdot. This is not to say Slashdot is a pure and serene forum, a place where people may go and pit their ideas against one another in an atmosphere of intellectual curiosity and mutual respect. It has the same collection of idiots and asswipes you’ll find elsewhere on the internet, but there the mod system works well enough to drown out the noise. The comments that survive moderation are usually coherent and somewhat relevant. I’ve never seen anything as bad as the answer above make it to mod “+5 Insightful”.

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Some places on the internet – and yes when I say “places” I’m acting as if a URL represented some sort of corporeal location where one might stand, a ridiculous metaphor which we all accept without questioning or indeed, even noticing. Let’s try again: Some places on the internet are like Slashdot – rough neighborhoods where you can function if you know to steer clear of the dark alleyways and avoid eye contact with the trolls. Some places are like gaming or webcomic forums – civilized suburbs where you can make friends and enjoy a conversation. And other places are like YouTube or Yahoo! Answers – the sewer system of the internet, where likely as not you’ll drown in a septic tidal wave of idiocy and spam.

Some of the problem is scale: The bigger the community the more idiots you’re bound to have. There is some ambient level of morons that you just can’t get rid of. If you think of idiots as a contaminant, then it may be useful measure them as a portion of the whole. Say: Idiots Per Thousand. The IPT of any given site can’t go below a certain base value: The level of background idiocy on the internet. But idiots have a tendency to drive normal people away if they are allowed to run unchecked, thus increasing the saturation of IPT.

But scale can’t account for everything. Some places just suck and are overrun with illiterate vermin, to the point where to solve the problem you’d have to burn the whole thing down and begin anew. Some places operate for years and remain useful, and others spiral into a spam-infused oblivion. I wonder why. Is it subject matter? Moderation policies? Recruitment practices? (Sites that beg everyone and anyone to join do seem to be worse off than ones that require forethought to join.) Is it the age of the userbase? The perceived attitude or “voice” of the site?

Perhaps I should post the question to Yahoo! Answers: how is comunaty formed? how does wabsite get peepole

2020201575 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.


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  1. Hal says:

    Y’know, one of the things that always baffles me is why certain of those “comunatys” are so friggin’ angry. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a lot of people on forums spouting, “Yagh! DMoTR is teh suxorz! Chainmail Bikini rulz, lolz! If you disagree, I’m going to stalk your mother!” Yet I’m sure you could easily imagine half a dozen subjects where any given website or forum (etc.) is filled with vile, angry rantings (half of them as described by your post, Shamus).

    The internet is a strange place.

  2. GAZZA says:

    ROFL!!!11oneone

    Sorry. Seemed an appropriate response. ;)

  3. Luke Maciak says:

    Well, slashdot is not a good comparison here because not everyone get mod points. They are pretty much assigned randomly and only certain percentage of users will have them at any given time. Furthermore, you only get few mod points at a time and if you don’t use them you lose them.

    In effect people who do get to mod, are usually regular users who visit the site every day and care for it one way or another so they tend to think about how they mod, and make their contribution count.

    Also slashdot has that meta-moderation thing that can help to get rid off badly modded post like this.

    In my personal experience I noticed that both Yahoo answers and Youtube are overrun by idiots – they have always been. Part of the problem is the poor moderation system, but once you reach critical mass of idiocy at a place it becomes a self sustaining loop – reasonable people who could have moderated the place properly get outnumbered and just can’t get their message through so they leave or cease posting allowing stupidity to reign supreme. And then as you said – you have to kill it with fire, and rebuild it from scratch. :)

  4. Tacoman says:

    Thanks for the Rick Rolling. I really needed that this morning.

  5. Rebecca says:

    Have you heard “A REAL Breakup letter from a REAL person”?

  6. Callum says:

    They need to do way with teksts thats to hard too reed. than you get peepul cum and say what theys thinkin.

  7. Mari says:

    People like that are exactly the reason the internet also has the equivalent of gated communities: places where membership is restricted and potential members undergo scrutiny before being allowed to move in. Many of those gated forums are formed from core users of a large public forum where the IPT rose too high.

    One of my favourite places to visit when I just need to laugh at the stoopids is, sadly, a forum for religious mothers with small children. The stated purpose of the forum is to “support and uplift each mother.” This is apparently achieved by letting the IPT go through the roof. It’s great for a laugh but countless “gated communities” have spun off from that place because after a while there just doesn’t seem any point in swimming upstream anymore.

  8. Russ says:

    Woot! just posted an interesting link in their blog yesterday to help out all of us who are not in the internet sewers communicate with those on sites such as Youtube and Yahoo Answers:

    http://unintelligencer.com/

    And Rickrolled by Shamus…I thought it was bad enough when XKCD got me…

    edit: href isn’t working for me, but there is the link.

  9. Phlux says:

    I hope the mods on xkcd read this and take a lesson from it. They are, in my opinion, the most elitist group of forum snobs I’ve ever witnessed. It may be true that I’m not much of a forum goer, so I’m sure there’s worse, but those guys really tick me off.

    They need to learn to ACCEPT that their forum is a popular place, and that idiots will come to graze. Don’t try to “railroad” the community into neat little sandboxes…that’s not what the internet is about.

  10. Thijs says:

    Perhaps Idiots are needed to make the internet function. They might not be an unavoidable side-product, but perhaps the engine behind it all.

    p.s. thanks for the laugh :-D

  11. Binks says:

    I find it odd that Yahoo Answers is mentioned as a place full of idiots. I’ve only ever read answers which made it on google, so perhaps I haven’t seen the depths of the site, but I’ve never found the sort of things you’re talking about. Questions are often poorly worded, sometimes downright anti-gramatical, but the answers I see tend to be correct, useful, and well said.

    Guess there’s two sides to every site. Yahoo Answers looks great from the outside (and especially on the computer programming side)

  12. Avaz says:

    And I had a different approach to it. I thought it was perfectly logical to have that response tagged as “best”, simply because any intarwebz douchenozzle who posts forum drivel like that should get a similar response.

    It only makes sense.

  13. Mike says:

    Some places are like gaming or webcomic forums – civilized suburbs where you can make friends and enjoy a conversation.

    Really??? Gaming forums are civilized??? Wow…. Then again you might not be talking about IGN Vault….

  14. Dana says:

    I had never heard of “RickRolling” before reading this, but to be perfectly frank, I think it’s hilarious. I actually sat and watched the entire video because I couldn’t believe how fundamentally TERRIBLE and unwatchable it was… So much so that I find it amazingly good, paradoxically. You can attribute RickRolling to “intarw3b ideots” – I believe it to be pure comic genius. :)

    P.S. The longer I live, the more difficulty I have in believing that the 80’s ever actually happened… Even though I lived through them. Red leather tie, anyone? ;)

  15. Scourge says:

    GAZZA said:

    ROFL!!!11oneone

    Sorry. Seemed an appropriate response.

    n07 70 f0rg37 7h3 1337 sp34k sum of th0se c00l kids kn0w <.<

    makes me always cringe when I get a mail from sone asking me in leet or without punctation or right writing what to do. <.<

  16. Dana says:

    CliK on tis lInK 2 C an AWSuM VidEo!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gi2CfuqcUGE

    (p.s. NOT Rick Astley, I promise)

  17. Alexis says:

    @Phlux: I confess I don’t read XKCD forums, so I could be off base here. It sounds like you’re a ‘false negative’, ie a smart person who was repulsed by the harsh moderation. The alternatives are closing the community or letting it deteriorate though. I prescribe a thicker skin and thinking very carefully before posting.

    Probably THE best theorycraft site is hosted by a guild called Elitist Jerks. Check out some of the moderation guidelines:
    http://elitistjerks.com/f31/a26-ej_posting_tips_how_not_get_trouble/
    And the shrine of fail: http://elitistjerks.com/f34/

  18. Nick Pitino says:

    Rebecca:
    Oddly enough, I was nosing around TV Tropes a little while ago, found a link to it, and thought it would be perfect for this post.

    http://youmakemetouchyourhandsforstupidreasons.ytmnd.com/

  19. onosson says:

    I think you can really just sum this up as: lowest common denominator.

  20. Mark says:

    In my experience, it’s probabilistic. The more traffic a community receives (not so much the size of the community as the frequency with which it is visited), the greater the probability that a given visitor will be an idiot.

    Other factors apply. The means whereby the community is found – the kinds of Google searches that will need to be done, versus the extent to which it needs to be found by word-of-mouth, versus the amount it advertises, versus the extent to which it is Internet common knowledge – can surely influence things, as obviously is the attitude of the users or administrators toward stupidity. Alcohol use, age, and how long the user intends to stick around are other applicable factors.

    There’s a master’s thesis in there somewhere, I know it.

  21. Dan says:

    how is comunaty formed? how does wabsite get peepole

    Nice kicker! That was not only a well-written thought piece, but a brilliant send-up. Bravo!

  22. Davesnot says:

    Simple math.. look at the bell curve.. Half of the world has an IQ less than 100.. HALF.. a whole boatload lie in that 80 or less range..

    Now the fun part.. There is a direct, statistical link to how many kids you’ll sire and your intelligence.. the lower the IQ the more kids you pop out..

    That means that the middle point for IQ (100) gets lowered as it is adjusted for the dropping IQ of the population.. .. and then.. still .. HALF are less then 100.

    .. I just can’t wait for these guys to get into space!! .. “Hey Joe, is the air ok to breathe?” “I dunno Gene, let me open up my helmet and check!” “Dude! Thanks!” “gurgle, pop, dribble” “Dude!”

  23. Phlux says:

    Alexis: I’m not sure what you mean by “false negative” but you’re pretty much right. I’m not sure it’s the actual moderation that bothers me, or if it’s their attidute ABOUT moderation.

    I certainly don’t have any problem with nuking retarded comments, but I think punishing individuals for not reading a 5 page diatribe on how you expect them to behave is ridiculous.

    Your link was amusing. A public board for infractions is hilarious.

    edit: Also I wanted to point out that I never actually post on xkcd. I have wanted to a couple of times, but have limited myself solely to lurking…usually when the comic goes over my head.

  24. MintSkittle says:

    I don’t know why, but this made me think of War of the Servers over at Lit Fuse Films.

    http://litfusefilms.com/movies/waroftheservers/

    Pretty funny even if you haven’t seen/read War of the Worlds, even better if you’ve listened to Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds.

    http://www.thewaroftheworlds.com/

    EDIT: The War of the Severs video is split in two and runs about an hour and a half.

  25. Alex says:

    A million poets working on a million typewriters for a million years could not come up with anything as pure in its stupidity as that Yahoo Answers response. The first comment is pretty disgraceful too, but it at least could be a joke by some snarky forum member somewhere, or perhaps by a child that desperately needs supervision. But the response is like some beautiful train-wreck. I think I’m actually dumber now than I was when I started reading this article.

    Sometimes I wonder if the only answer for diminishing an infestation of internet stupids involves an open volcano…

  26. There is a direct, statistical link to how many kids you’ll sire and your intelligence.. the lower the IQ the more kids you pop out..

    Only up (or down) to a certain point, thankfully.

    But IQ testing is (despite various claims to the contrary) much more a measure of education than anything else, so it’s skewed towards more developed parts of the world, and people living in cities (that is, people who have less children anyway)

    (Oh and most people fit into the 80 – 120 range; that’s how bell curves work, so I’m not sure about that ‘boatload’ who are below 80…)

  27. Cutahlion says:

    how is comunaty formed? how does wabsite get peepole

    teh websight have pepolls buy adrtizing liek on mYSpace nad YouTube so awl kreativ da poeple and choos too the siet so. wen them goe too Myspace an youTube thay fidn God sites and tahts’ how wabsite get peepole?

  28. J Greely says:

    Dana, I’ll see your Hoff and raise you a Donny.

    As for what might be called the “from signal to noise” problem, I’ve seen two major failure patterns. The first type is when a single determined idiot is emotionally invested in dominating a forum, and no one can or will get rid of him; you can ignore/killfile the idiot, but as others get sucked in, you find yourself less and less willing to read any thread that might include his contributions, and eventually just stop reading. This was a very common pattern on Usenet once Internet access became more general, and new idiots were no longer a seasonal phenomenon.

    Phil Greenspun actually revealed his solution to a specific example of the “single determined idiot” problem in one of his web-design books: people have become conditioned to accept occasional error messages from database-backed forums, so he scanned that user’s submissions for key words related to his obsession, and put up a “temporary database failure” error page whenever they showed up. He could still post, he just couldn’t incite riot with his outrageous claims on one particular subject, and apparently he never figured out the pattern behind the errors.

    The second type is the “attractive nuisance”, where something about the forum’s subject matter attracts an endless stream of trolls, and the gates aren’t high enough to keep them under control. Often this is simply a matter of the constant emotional drain on the gatekeepers.

    -j

  29. Dave says:

    I just wanna say, anybody that didn’t link out to that Neanderthal flash animation should do so.

    It’s perfectly voiced. By the time it looped around for the fourth time, I was in tears.

    I think it’s what Neal Stephenson would have used for the brainstem virus when he wrote Snow Crash, if it had only existed at the time.

  30. chuko says:

    Non-adjusted IQ has actually been going up at a steady rate since people started measuring it. A 100 now is higher score than it was in the past.

  31. Picador says:

    Shamus, the premise of your post seems to ignore the fact that a significant percentage of people on the Internet are (1) not native English speakers, and/or (2) children. Characterizing them as “idiots” isn’t really all that helpful if you’re actually trying to theorize about what’s going on here.

    Youtube, in particular, attracts lots of semi-literate (in English) viewers because, hey, it doesn’t depend on literacy to be enjoyable or usable. These viewers often post comments in English for a number of reasons (because the other comments are in English, because English is considered “cool” by people in many non-English-speaking countries, etc), in spite of their limited command of the language.

    Also: I’m with Mike above in re game forums. Granted, a lot of people on these forums are children or teenagers, but in my experience the noise-to-signal ratio makes them useless.

  32. Doug says:

    Nice post. Thanks for stating the obvious.

    I get the feeling that if SA has something to do with the dramatic production of the posts, then they also recruited members on their site to vote the answer up as well. They are a very organized group of merry Internet pranksters.

  33. Lee from Sheboygan says:

    I don’t usually touch game forums except for ones that know how to spell. That’s my first sign right there.

  34. Viktor says:

    I recently saw a program being developed for forums that blocks idiocy. They were using user surveys to figure out patterns in the posts of idiots, then programming those patterns in so if your post was too dumb, you would get a message to that effect.

  35. Shamus says:

    Picador: When I talk about idiocy, I’m talking about more than just poor spelling. An idiot doesn’t just type poorly, they type nonsense. As in the example above, the person wasn’t even answering the question.

  36. Mark says:

    Shamus, have you had a look at StupidFilter yet? This could be a major development once it gets more off the ground.

  37. Cadamar says:

    Shamus,
    It’s a simple question of population cross section. The broader the population base the higher the IPT (I’m totally going to steal that term if you don’t mind). When you consider the entire population, half of those people will have an IQ below 100 (by definition). Depending on the target audience then you will attract a skewed distribution of those people. If your target is a subculture of people who tend to be more intelligent, higher educated, creative, and LITERITE (say like this site) then your cross section will come from the higher end of the bell curve and you will have a much lower IPT. If your target is any jackass who has access to a browser then your IPT will be much, MUCH higher. In fact, you can expect that HALF of your users will be drooling imbeciles. Then when you reach a critical mass of stupidity it will begin building upon itself. They begin to “Mod up” answers not based on relevance or the quality of the answer but because they think “Oh, yes, I heard about that. What a tragedy. I want to send my prayers too so I’ll mod this up”.
    Real world example: compare the typical populations at an upscale restaurant to, oh say, the DMV. In one you have well dressed and well mannered people having quite conversations and the other you have people getting belligerent because they can’t find the ticket machine even though it’s right inside the door with a giant, red, cardboard arrow hanging from the ceiling pointing right at it.

    Population cross section of the target audience is an important factor in designing a web user experience. If you are targeting a broad user base (like my sites *sigh*) then you have to spend a lot more time thinking about how the morons will misunderstand, get confused by, or simply completely fail to READ anything on the UI. Eventually you end up designing sites that use nothing other then flashing arrows, carefully crafted colors to draw attention, and ideograms rather then text. It’s like your trying to build a UI to train a chimp to push different colored squares to get a treat. The worst part is that the application is meant to provide information that is too complex for most of these people to really understand anyways…

  38. Solka says:

    On the other hand, websites such as Youtube and Yahoo Groups help gather the stupidity in the internet. Think for a second what would happen it those.. blister were popped and the peoples in it spread freely on the internet..

  39. Tryss says:

    Great, now I’m tempted to create a website that rates communities based on their IPT. hmmm..

    BTW: J Greely, now white and nerdy’s stuck in my head. (grins) not that I mind.. Al rocks.

  40. Gahaz says:

    Are we missing the point here? The original question was written for fun. He isn’t really a terrible speller, typer, human being as much as he is TRYING to get a reaction from people. Same way with the terrible answer, hes just trying to be funny also. And since in yahoo answers the original asker gets to choose the best answer of course the silly asker picked the silly answer. If you play alot of MMOs this is a trend, its an internet joke. When making a joke or making fun of someone you type terribly and people will laugh. Its a trend.

  41. Big Wayne says:

    Ever go into the Engineering section of Yahoo! Answers? Most of it is kids trying to get others to do their math or science homework. It takes a lot of digging to find any interesting questions.

  42. The Meal says:

    Shamus’ observation about the (inverse) relationship between size of the community and the signal-to-noise ratio is spot on. I was a member of staff of a defunct gaming community (Gone Gold) which started out as a small group of only a few hundred, and grew into something frequented by thousands. From only a few forum organizational areas, grew a multi-threaded tree of sub-fora, the most contentious of which was the splitting out of Religion & Politics.

    The site went belly-up when the guy who created front-page content faced some real-world issues and predictably the number of forum users dwindled. Instead of fresh blood coming into the mix, the folks who stuck around and maintained conversations were those who were friendly with each other (charged as those in the “popular clique” by some who lacked the same level of social graces).

    When the owner of the site/forum failed to pay his server bill, the community further fragmented (and is now found at the URL linked in my user name). The newest site doesn’t have any sort of front-page to speak of and has very little to offer up as driving content for new members to join. However, with forum numbers a small fraction of what they were in the heyday of Gone Gold’s membership, conversations are very genial (compared to many gaming forums), and discussions found in the Religion and Politics section actually contain meat to the discussions as opposed to mud-slinging and flame baiting (again, in a relative sense — this is no utopia of discourse, but compared to more populated places on the web, it may as well be).

    I’ve often contemplated sending Shamus a link to the forum as a place where he’d feel comfortable (as I think many of the things he discusses in his blog would be of general interest to users of that forum, as would our conversations be of interest to him), but regretably have not. I know I’ve (sham{us}lessly) lifted some interesting discussion topics from twenty sided to begin discussions on that forum.

    A very interesting topic (like many others here in the blog),

    ~Neal

  43. I do some moderation (not for a while now, I really should change that) at ObjectivismOnline.net, a very difficult place to moderate indeed because it’s a forum *about* philosophy (and, hence, about religion, politics, ethics, etc.).

    Discussion there is often very heated and extremely angry, however the quality remains fairly high because the site is comprised mainly of people who pride themselves on intelligent, meaningful, *correct* discourse.

    We also frequently get complaints that the place is hostile to newbies. I consider this to be a good thing: if you don’t want to spend your life surrounded by trash, you have to have standards and you have to adhere to them. The difficulty has always lain in answering the question: what standards, and how do you arrive at them?

    The only way I’ve seen to arrive at standards is this: if a certain behavior contributes to communication, it should be encouraged. If it doesn’t contribute, it should be discouraged. Some people don’t understand discouragement: they take it personally or retaliate childishly. They should be booted from the site.

    That last one is a toughie (moreso because I occasionally feel the urge to behave in an impolitic manner myself), but it also has to be adhered to if you’re going to have a worthwhile community site.

  44. Dana says:

    > Dana, I’ll see your Hoff and raise you a Donny.

    I fold!

    Seriously, that was even funnier than the video itself… Which is still one of the funniest things I’ve seen anytime recently. Thanks for the link!! :)

  45. Tuck says:

    If I post here enough, will the IPT of Twentysided increase or decrease?

  46. Luckily, we have the true Internet hero Tim Henson. He’s the host of the Distorted View show, an excellent, NSFW news podcast. Anyway, one thing he has done is encourage his listeners to go to Yahoo! Answers and post blatantly offensive questions and answers, which is a good thing because offensive is better than stupid. You can find them at http://www.distortedview.com/show/news/

  47. HeadHunter says:

    It’s probably just as well that the respondent failed to answer the original question. Seriously, people that stupid shouldn’t be allowed to breed. The world would be a smarter place if reproduction required something more than “Insert Tab A into Slot B”.

    The greatest sin of mankind is that we have overcome natural selection. In the animal kingdom, stupidity of that magnitude is bred out.

  48. Jeff says:

    The Meal:

    Oh man, I haven’t been at OO for like, a year. Maybe two, heh.
    I’ve been trying to cut down on my regularly visited sites, and thus time on internet.

  49. E_net4 says:

    I certainly LOL’d at this!
    By the way, I think “How wabsite gets peepole” sounds better, heh? :)

  50. Thomas says:

    Linked on my name is the profile of the responder. This was intentional- his other responses are normal.

  51. Shamus wrote: But what really interests me is just how horrible and broken Yahoo! Answers manages to be. Raw, pure, information got modded down, and outright gibberish was modded up.

    I think this is a mistake. I doubt anyone rating that answer up (or rating the others down) thought the answer was actually any good. And clearly the guy writing it wasn’t taking it seriously (as Thomas points out, his other answers aren’t like that).

    This doesn’t invalidate your wider point about idiots on the intarwebs (the original poster of the question is clearly one of those sub-literate people who my eyes cross). But people saw humor and they went for it.

    A few years back a meme phenomenon happened where Bil Keane’s Family Circus books were being reviewed as great works of philosophical literature. It’s not that anyone actually believed these things. It’s not that the Amazon.com review system as “horribly broken”.

    It was just people participating in an opportunistic fashion.

  52. Bobcat says:

    The answer is simple: if the internet is so easy to get on, then the idiots will be able to get online.

    Before the days of Compuserve and AoL opening the ‘net to the masses, the IPT of the internet was much, much lower. You had to be a CS Major, military computer specialist, or the IT guy at a major corporation to get onto Usenet in those days. After the profit potential of the Internet was realized, it was made ‘easy’, so that morons (who still have money) could use it and buy things online.

    The smarter conversations that are had online are now taking place behind carefully-built walls of intelligence, hiding from noob, spambot, and idiot alike. To reah them, you must be someone who thinks, and are likely to be at the intelligent, possibly even technical website. AOL-speakers need not apply.

    But yes, much love for the babby-cavemens.

  53. Zaxares says:

    As others have stated, as the population of any community increases, the number of idiots will also increase. Unfortunately, the idiots of the community also tend to be the most vocal, because the more intelligent section of the community how to not look like a fool, and thus tend to hold their peace. The idiots have no such restraining impulse and will happily spew rivers of hate-filled/self-righteous/bile-inducing (and usually poorly spelled) opinions onto the online community of their choice.

    The only communities I’ve visited where such issues are no problem at all are invariably those that have a very small active population (I’m talking 30 or less). If an online community is to get bigger while retaining a semblance of civility and intelligent discourse, moderators are absolutely necessary. The best forums typically have strict rules about keeping things relevant, and the mods are quick to delete posts that are blatant flames, trolling attempts and just plain old spamming. Repeat offenders are banned. In addition, most of the regular poster base also assist the moderators, reporting bad posts and otherwise using peer pressure to mold the community into some semblance of civility.

  54. Zerotime says:

    wildweasel: Actually, it’s only proof of the theory if the OP and the rated reply were posted by a normal person. The theory doesn’t hold for things like (Anonymity + Audience) – Total Fuckwad = Normal Person.

    Mark: I ran the “They need to do way instain mother” paragraph by it, and it passed it through as unlikely to be stupid. More testing, IMO. :)

  55. Gabriel says:

    For those who have not yet seen it, may I recommend: Idiocracy

    Amusing Movie. First 15 minutes are totally the best part

  56. Silkenray says:

    I think that’s a little harsh, HeadHunter.

    Since basic reproduction is covered in middle school health class, the poster is probably no more than 12 or 13. Most people are kind of idiotic when they’re young. That doesn’t mean they can’t grow out of it.

  57. AJ Beamish says:

    Humorous observation. Not so long ago we only had to listen to the rantings of local village idiots, thanks to Al Gore (you know, the village idiot that invented the interweb thingy) we are now plagued with the harangues of the global village idiot consortium.

    It’s possible the Yahoo posters are at that age when every innocent comment can be considered “funny” though it is more than likely they are just yahoo’s to begin with.

  58. Haviland says:

    Dana,

    Red leather ties are out? When did this happen?

    Is black still ok?

    Ah, the 80’s – truly the decade that taste forgot.

    White boots, red jeans, yellow t-shirt, green shirt.

    I used to get salutes from tourists in Edinburgh who thought I was a national flag…

    Actually, looking at the original question, I can only assume that people were gaming the system to get a wholly incomprehensible answer to number one.

    Surely that has to be the reason?

  59. HeadHunter says:

    Silkenray: I think spelling is covered in middle school too – but it’s obvious that the poster didn’t grasp that, either.

    So our options are: He’s younger than middle school, or he’s an idiot. Either way, his parents are ultimately to blame for this abomination of a post that he made. Likewise for the respondent.

  60. scragar says:

    responce about earlier regarding the IQ it’s average is 100 as stated, but the SD is only 15, meaning that assuming that an IQ is a natural distribution of data(which it’s not quite) only 15% of people have IQ’s under 85. on a different note the standard deviation is an important measure of the level of intelegence, someone with an IQ of 100 is on a whole different level to someone at 85, despite the fact that numericaly it does not sound significant(by the same logic someone with an IQ of 115 is much smarter than an average person at 100).

  61. JungianYoung says:

    Only 15% of ‘sub-85′ IQ’s at (a very conservative estimate) 200 million English speaking Internet users is still 30 million. Of course they’ll be flocking to YouTube and Yahoo forums just because they’re popular sites.

    Of course, what’s lost in this discussion of IQ is that ‘intelligence’ or ‘education’ isn’t a measure of civilized values. You can find enough jerks in any advanced high school or college class.

    (Yes I’m coming from a background of remedial education, and I find plenty of nice kids who could charm your socks off in conversation about things they care about, like sports or TV, just don’t expect Faulkner.)

    Elitism is cliquism is exclusion no matter how you slice it. There are always people who are below your social/educational/whatever status just as there are those above you. There are people on the internet this very minute who consider videogames and RPG’s a complete waste of time fit only for the dumb masses (i.e., IQ’s less than 115.) Yes, they think about YOU the same way you think about those guys who post inanities on YouTube. Oh noes!

    And you know what? That’s okay. The internet is a great big place. There are places to go for rational discussion of anything (like this one), and sites for irrational discussion and flamewars, and sites for stupid funny stuff (and really, your stupid is somebody’s funny just as your funny is someone else’s stupid.)

    So how about more videogame and RPG criticism and less doom and gloom about the death of the Internet?

  62. Oleyo says:

    Ouch, those guys aren’t being ironic when they call themselves elitist jerks. I am all for having standards, but they overshoot the mark to the point where they seem to troll their threads for the slightest misstep, and to gleefully respond with a snarky infraction message. It took me a while to realize that the moderators responses weren’t the infractions themselves!

    I think there needs to be some balance, thats why I like Shamus’ little “place” on the net. :)

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