Meta comment (was: transmission)

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Wed 21 May 2003 - 01:48:13 GMT

  • Next message: Reed Konsler: "DS Syndrome"

    Joe, I think what we are seeing in these exchanges is "DS" syndrome (after the type case). In a number of news groups I was reading 5-10 years ago, DS would often make postings where it looked like he was *trying* to get flamed. He engaged in long running flame threads defending points generally considered out of line by the group--such as advocating government controls on a news group with a strong libertarian bent. (Anyone wanting to research this is welcome to email and ask for URLs.)

    The news group alt.religion.scientology has had perhaps a dozen or two DS cases posting there. (And that's not counting the trolls, scientology agents, and the just psychotic that drop in.)

    What I finally figured out is that people with the DS syndrome don't distinguish well between negative and positive feedback. This may partly be because all-text communication lacks verbal and non-verbal elements present in face-to-face or telephone conversations. (Some of them are completely different people in person.) It seems that either kind of attention rewards them. Since outrageous or ridiculous postings usually get more follow-ups than sensible ones, people with this bent are conditioned to take and defend nonsense or illogical positions in a voluminous correspondence.

    There isn't an effective way to deal with such people in a decentralized news group with a lot of readers. At the personal level, twit files help, but they don't keep you from seeing the postings when others (who you don't have twit filed) respond. Unfortunately low quality bickering annoys the thoughtful people you would like to be reading and posting and at some point they sign off the list or news group.

    Since mailing lists are centrally administered, there might be a way to provide counter feedback to people with "DS" syndrome. As a possibility, there could be a way for a dynamic threshold of list members complaining to automatically block a person with "DS" syndrome from being able to send to a list for a few weeks. (This would surely need tuning.)

    The reason for the block being short term is that you want behavior modification, not censorship. Some of these people can provide interesting insights, but as Richard and I discussed recently they are discouraged to do so because insightful postings often get few if any follow ups.

    Attention is the currency in which people are paid to contribute. There really needs to be a better reward feedback system.

    Keith Henson

    PS. A *lot* of meme replication is driven by attention rewards.

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