Calling all trolls: you'll have to come to our forum to comment next week

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We're inviting our trolls to come out from under the bridge, join our forum, and defend your domain.

We are all very excited about our July 31 public forum on the future of the Bay Guardian and progressive journalism in the Bay Area. We’ve already received lots of great community support and input since our recent turmoil and leadership transition — and we want even more feedback as we work to rejuvenate the paper.

But there is one piece of advice that we’ve received over and over again from readers: do something about the trolls that pollute our comments section. So we’ve decided to turn that input into a little week-long experiment starting on the day of the forum. As we post next week’s Guardian here at sfbg.com, we will disable the comments on the stories and in our blog posts that week.

We always welcome reader input and we appreciate thoughtful commentary, criticism, and debate on our stories, which we’ve seen plenty of this week, particularly in our posts on the Giants labor impasse, Board President David Chiu, privatization of the Botanical Gardens, problems at SFDPH, racial profiling, and our editorial on democracy, as well as on last week’s op-eds on the Trayvon Martin aftermath.

Unfortunately, under the Guardian’s bridge live a few nasty trolls who hate everything that we and our progressive community do and are usually the quickest to comment on the things we write, often making the same pointed, off-topic criticisms, over and over again. Sometimes it’s racist, usually it’s reactionary, often it’s self-indulgent, and it always lowers the level of debate on our site.

Many of our regular readers and supporters have repeatedly told us the often toxic nature of these discussions chases them away and needlessly undermines the reporting and information that precedes it. Sometimes, we’ve seen organized misinformation campaigns from anonymous but clearly self-interested parties that post to our site, as we’ve seen in our coverage of Airbnb’s legal troubles and tax avoidance.

So in addition to all of our proud, loyal, flesh-and-blood readers, we’re hereby inviting all of our trolls -- Matlock, Lucretia Snapples, Anon, and all the rest -- to come to our forum and defend your domain. Among the many orders of business at the forum, we will consider changing our online comment policies and registration system, particularly as we redesign our website this fall.

If you want to comment next week, you’re going to have to come to our forum. Or you can always send us good, old-fashioned letters to the editor, either through email (steve@sfbg.com or marke@sfbg.com) or snail mail. Then, in our Aug. 7 issue, we’ll devote a page or two in the paper to those letters and the input that we receive at the forum.

We’ll probably just leave our comments turned off for one week — but you never know. So for now, let us know what you think as we rethink our approach at the Guardian. And please stop by our event page on Facebook and let us know that you’re coming to the event on July 31 from 6-8pm on the fourth floor of the LGBT Center, 1800 Market Street ... if you dare.  

Comments

The future of Bay Area Progressive politics is Oakland, not SF.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 12:45 pm

And look how well that's worked out for them.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 2:49 pm

I definitely sympathize with your problem being deluged with online cyberspace bullies and trolls who relentlessly attack your forum with Flame Bait stirring up flame wars.

Yes, it is horrendous....but shutting down the comments section for one week will do NOTHING to solve the problem. The trolls will come back, and exultant in the knowledge they had the power to shut down your comments section.

You can block them from posting comments. The moderator/owner of your forum who manages the comments section can monitor what is posted on the forum. If troll crap is posted to your comments section - you can block them from posting. Yeah, they can create a brand new fake screen name and start posting again. However, every troll has a specific "voice" your moderator will always be able to figure out it is the same person - since they post the same crap, in the same manner of writing.

You can determine what their ISP address is coming from and block that address. That forces them to stop posting at home on their computer - they'd have to go to community labs, the library, use a friends computer, etc....it creates a LOT of hassle for trolls, since ALL of those ISP addresses can be blocked by your moderator - since it will be easy to recognize the same troll under a fake screen name.

Shutting down your comments section for one week it does NOTHING to solve the problem. The troll gloats in satisfaction they WON and it makes it worse when you open up the comments section and they come back in full force.

There should be a sort of "instruction manual" for your nice readers at the top of the comments section - along the lines of "never feed the troll" and "do not respond to flame bait" If the troll is IGNORED by everyone they give up. What they get a sick charge from is the RESPONSE and luring, hooking people in, screwing around with them. Trolls and cyberbullies are nothing more than online stalkers. Responding to a troll is tantamount to going out on a date with your stalker.

The best way to deal with these morons of epic proportion is report them to Facebook if they are abusing that page. Facebook WILL block them permanently and has highly advanced methods of dealing with online stalkers. Report the troll to their internet service provider - their account will be shut down.....yes, they can create a brand new email address - but if folks really DO something to enforce the cyberstalking online harrassment - if a zillion of their email addresses get cancelled, eventually they may roll over and play dead.
Trolls and cyberbullies are nothing more than cowards. That is why they pollute the anonymous type of environment on the internet. They are too gutless to do this crap in public - so they hide behind the net.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 4:00 pm
Posted by guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 5:29 pm
Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 11:12 pm

Why would anyone do that?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 11:09 pm

I never do that! I never connect anything with Facebook!

Posted by Granny Gear on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 1:14 pm

I totally agree with Guest about shutting THEM down or removing their comments, blocking them over and over again. Doing it this way, they actually win, don't they?

I am unable to make your forum tomorrow due to a prior commitment, but shutting down the voice of the people online because of these idiots is not the answer!

Posted by Granny Gear on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 1:13 pm

I appreciate the fact that the Guardian reports local stories. The Chronicle and others have given up on reporting local news. What I don't like is every news story is an excuse to editorialize - in this way the Guardian is the mirror image of FOX news.
Progressive politics is another issue. I always disagree with enablers, apologists and communists.

Posted by Richmondman on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 1:03 pm
Posted by Matlock on Jul. 29, 2013 @ 6:15 pm

The more thought i give it, the more obvious it becomes: my time could be better spent doing almost anything besides spewing half clever vitriol on these comment sections.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jul. 29, 2013 @ 6:19 pm

Just love baitin them nasty liberals. And just plain 'batin' all over these comments with my angry spew.
Maybe it's time I got a life too...

Posted by Anon on Jul. 29, 2013 @ 6:34 pm

Not sure why you are turning off the comments for everyone.

If you are really concerned about the quality of the debate wouldn't it make more sense to just silence comments from those trolls who disagree with you?

Having an online forum without allowing any comments makes you seem weak. Just delete the comments that don't support the SFBG position, that's all you need to do.

Posted by Guest George on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 1:28 pm

This is only a one-week experiment, and we're going to couple it with both a community forum and expanded letters to the editor page, so there will be plenty of opportunities offer comments. But I understand what you're saying and we have no intention of retreating from our role as a forum for discussion and debate.

Posted by steven on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 1:54 pm
Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 2:24 pm

We always welcome thoughtful criticism, as I wrote, but that's different than simply enabling hateful people who abuse the forum to attack everything we do and chase away people who are interested in intelligently debating different points of view.

Posted by steven on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 2:59 pm

with the party line, they get dismissed as a troll.

IOW, when you start losing a debate, which is often, you pull out the troll card rather than engage the topic. That shows a total loss of confidence in your position.

It's like taking the ball away when you're losing the game.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 11:14 pm

Well put. Good decision.

And while we're on the subject, consider the banhammer.

Posted by generic on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 1:30 pm

criticism or tolerance>

How enlightened, how tolerant, how inclusive.

Whenever someone disagrees with the party line, dismiss them as a troll.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 2:19 pm

Or a racist...

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

These comments are not just disagreements, they are hateful and nasty and name-calling, and are NOT constructive criticism in any way!!! And they always come from the same people.

I know of a list-serv that no one uses anymore for the same reason - people using aliases to attack on one hand while they kiss that politician's butt under their own name!!

Posted by Granny Gear on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 1:17 pm

I applaud SFBG's decision to address the policies regarding comments. While I rarely agree with SFBG's positions, I'm glad that some vestiges of journalism remain in SF left to take on serious issues. However, it's appalling to read the comments that often appear below the article. Too many of them debase the whole idea of an on-line forum for public debate. I encourage you to figure out a way to include dissenting points of view but reduce or eliminate the ugly or juvenile stuff that so frequently appears. Is this possible?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

As I just said, I agree. These comments are hateful and nasty, and do NOTHING to foster a debate, nor are they constructive criticism of any kind.

Posted by Granny Gear on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 1:18 pm

and their omissions of facts in order to make their position seem stronger makes one a troll, then who's that walking over my bridge?

are there assholes on these threads? absolutely. But by eliminating them, you'd also be eliminating a lot of valid counter-arguments. But go ahead and preach only to your choir. You aren't going to be strengthening your arguments by telling a bunch of yes-men/women what they already want to hear.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 2:50 pm

The traditional definition of a troll is someone who lurks on forums just to say something volatile and cause a fight.

Tim changed it to mean anyone who strongly disagreed with what he was saying and/or pointed out key omissions and representations in his writings.

I'm not sure where the 'hateful' description came from or if it has any validity. Internet forums are not known for their civility in general. The only poster who mostly said disgusting things about other users was lilli, who would consult his thesaurus for ways to call people things like filthy maggots feasting on dog feces. But he was on the Progressive side.

The non progressives largely make their points in a manner that is consistent with other internet forums where, apparently, dissent is tolerated in a manner that the SFBG considers intolerable..

Bottom line: One of the first things Steven is doing is finding a way to silence his many critics. Which speaks volumes.

Posted by Troll on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 3:28 pm

that describes you perfectly, Troll, though I doubt I could have thought it up myself -- or that I ever posted such a thing. Linky?

Why has there never been a Letters to the Editor section in the SFBG as long as I can remember?

Posted by lillipublicans on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 9:36 pm

How many page views would you get without the "trolls?"

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 3:59 pm

Reading the blogging here you learn:

Immigration is a federal issue when it come to Arizona, It's a City issue when it comes to SF

States rights are bad in Arizona sometimes, good in California sometimes, depending on the minute.

It is good to point out that some groups get arrested more and spend more time in prison, it's bad to say that some groups commit more crime.

It's good to pitch meetings run by communist operations, even though these communist groups have a long history of being apologists for mass murdering communists in China and the USSR, the Tea party are fascists.

Catholic's should stay out of politics when it comes to gay rights, Catholic's are OK when it comes to immigration.

Religionists are brainwashed sheep when they don't agree with is, Muslims are not so bad even though 99% of then don't agree with us.

The government is bad and politicians are corrupt, the government is great and does all these great things and Tom Ammiano is Jesus.

We need to raise taxes to preserve vital services, San Francisco is visionary and needs 120 departments.

If you have an incoherent opportunist message based on convictions that change with the minute, trolling is not agreeing with this fluid message.

etc...

Posted by matlock on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 5:17 pm

Don't forget "evil real estate speculators are driving up land prices and need to be fought tooth and nail because they're hurting the character of the city. But if they want to buy a headquarters building in Potrero Hill for 6.5 million then that is just good business sense."

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 7:08 pm

Another:

Ridiculing Nevius ('WTF, Chuck') every time he writes something is good.

Doing the same thing to Redmond or Jones is bad. Hateful, in fact.

Posted by Guest George on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 10:03 pm

Tom Ammiano is a great legislator because he wants to pass a law that will make the local sit-lie law passed by the citizens of the city at the ballot box, moot at the state level.

We as a city need laws written at the behest of the womens studies crowd and enforced with zero tolerance, when one of our own gets ensnared in these laws, the harpies are out in force trying to ruin a good man.

Posted by Matlock on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 11:00 pm

Why not just use disqus for commenting? it requires a log in, and it's the system almost every other local paper is using, including the SF Weekly. It's easy to maintain, and it doesn't require a lot of maintenance and is easier for the user so they don't have to have 50,000 usernames for every publication ever.

Since the BG no longer runs the online division but instead is a part of a larger company it seems like this should be a no brainer.

Posted by disqus rocks on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 4:58 pm

Yes, I've argued for disqus a few times; sites that use it tend to have better comments sections.

The basic problem here (and at SFGate) is anonymity. People who use their real names, or some sort of online identity that they value, the trolling goes way down. If 90% of your messages come from someone named "Guest" you end up with primate feces-flinging behavior.

Posted by Jym Dyer on Jul. 31, 2013 @ 12:13 am

Trolls have been a part of cyber culture before there was an internet and cyberspace was in privately run BBS's and secret places on mainframes that the sysops would maintain for a select few. If you don't want to be a part of that culture maybe you should stick to print.

Yes many if not most trolls are sociopaths out to destroy other commenters. But many offensive remarks are made to get you to question authority. Starting with your own.

Free speach isn't free if it is censored to reflect only one point of view.

And I think we should have pity on the conservatives who live in the bay area. They feel as much under siege as you might if you had to live in some hell hole like texass.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 5:06 pm

One person's troll is another person's right to free speech. Granted, the trolls often produce the equivalent of graffiti... Granted, it's more annoying than not... But if a person is blocked or censored for being a troll, that gets close to suppression of the 'useful interchange' of ideas.

I follow Yahoo comments and you ain't seen trolls till you visited there. Especially when anti-religionist comment on what is wrong with 'creationism' or God. And the recent gun debate brought out the trolls en-mass making thoughtless, cruel, callous, insensitive comments about the Newtown tragedy. Click on a profile and find the troll has made only a few hundred comments that should have been in the several thousands.

Bay Guardian gets nothing like that. Most commenters here are on track, making incisive statements on the topic at hand.

Posted by StevenTorrey on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 5:26 pm

Absolutely. The 'trolls' here aren't saints but they aren't trolls either. They just think that a lot of of the stuff published here is bogus and should be challenged. They often point out inconsistencies in the posts. Steven is usually more offensive in reacting to them than they are in the first place.

Steven Jones can't handle criticism and is making it a priority to squash it.

Weak. Extremely weak.

I guess that makes me a troll now.

Posted by Guest George on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 7:04 pm

Welcome, comrade!

Troll rights!

Posted by Trolly Trollson on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 7:18 pm

SFBG suppresses free speech.
And it pretends its a progressive online newspaper.

Posted by David Sloane on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 6:07 pm

"We’ll probably just leave our comments turned off for one week — but you never know."

GOOD! FINALLY! Let the useless TRASH (trolls) go someplace else. I guess that top-poster "Guest" from Los Ángeles who pretends to live in SF---why would someone from Los Ángeles be concerned about what's going on in SF---will have to find someplace down there to putrefy on.

Turn off comments permanently.

Someone mentioned installing the Disqus system. That won't solve the rabid troll infestation at all. Many WordPress sites have turned off comments entirely even after using the Disqus system. They were not pleased with Disqus either. It too has it's problems.

Of course it’s the tired and overused signature of a troll to say that the BG is trying to silence dissent and criticism. That’s absolutely hilarious. The BG has given you years for dissent and criticism. If anything, they’re trying to silence someone who sounds like a damn broken record 24/7. Oh boo hoo. The trolls have no place to go. What will they do? Where will they go? They have dedicated their entire sad, useless and pathetic lives to this forum.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 6:43 pm

The people branded trolls come here for a laugh.

The people who think this area is a fountain of critical thought and righteous politics are serious about this non sense.

Posted by guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 7:12 pm

All power to the trolletariat!

Posted by Trolly Trollson on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 7:19 pm

Why disable all comments? Seems like the easy way out. sure some of the comments get off topic and are not meant to further the debate. But I also see very thoughtful comments from both sides. Much of your blog here seems to be complaining about people coming in and disagreeing with you. Sounds like you really just want your supporters commenting and not your critics.

My suggestion is to go to a registered handle type comments section, similar to what the Chron does on SFgate. At leas then you can lay down the ban-hammer.

Posted by Whackamole on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

"Sounds like you really just want your supporters commenting and not your critics."

A perfect example of a hateful comment, right Steven?

Posted by Guest George on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 7:48 pm

The only people who seem to be upset about this are the trolls (image that!) and some of them now using new and different names to bait/troll Steven. I guess they don't realize how transparent they are.

One of the trolls (using a new name) baited Steven---by the way, Steven does not have any problem with criticism and criticism is *not* the topic here as some of the trolls are trying to distract with---by saying that Steven is trying to squash criticism. Bull shit!
Then the troll said to Steven: "I guess that makes me a troll now." Well, it takes one to know one.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 8:46 pm

Tim always believed in free speech and would never have agreed to censor and suppress free speech here. Steven has less ability and confidence, and so needs to over-compensate by actions like this.

I suspect he was happier back in the print days, when papers wrote stuff and readers passively read it. He struggles to win debates here, knows it, and is now lashing out. thereby throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Sad and pathetic.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 11:20 pm

My, my, the trolls are really lashing out at Steven. The toddlers in adult bodies are having little temper tantrums here. Their playground is about to be closed. The swing set has been removed and the sand is being taken out of the sandbox as I write this. YES!

Is there anything remaining of a negative nature that hasn't been written about Steven here from his supposed lack of confidence and all of this psycho-babble written about him from willfully-ignorant, know-nothing trolls? One troll wrote, "sad and pathetic." Project much, troll? Those words describe the trolls themselves.

While all of you useless septic dysfunctional toddler trolls are hating on Steven, I guess it has never occurred to you (that would require critical thinking skills, wouldn't it?) that these actions/this idea may not be coming from Steven. It could be coming from other people and Steven is merely their Messenger of this information. ("Oh yeah, why didn't I think of that?" say the trolls). Steven may agree with these actions, but the decision/actions may not be coming from him. But even if they are coming directly from him, I agree with them. When I come to this site, I come to read what the BG writers have to say, usually about local politics. The comments are often unreadable. Shut it down. The comments are usually: One dysfunctional childish person arguing with another dysfunctional childish person. One person trying to score points with another. One person trying to "up" the other. One person trying to out rude the other. Oh, and that smug and arrogant right-wing "Guest" who fails at disguising themselves as a "moderate." Several trolls hating on this site 24/7 because they don't know how to use a search engine and go to a site that they like. Well-adjusted, rational and sane people don't live on sites that they hate. That's called fucked-up. This is one of the worst comment forums on the internet and I don't think installing any other comment system will change that.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 26, 2013 @ 1:46 am

dislike all the bad-tempered rants here.

So much for the much-vaunted San Francisco tolerance, I guess . .

Posted by Guest on Jul. 26, 2013 @ 2:28 am

"The traditional definition of a troll is someone who lurks on forums just to say something volatile and cause a fight. Tim changed it to mean anyone who strongly disagreed with what he was saying and/or pointed out key omissions and representations in his writings."

So true. Tim Redmond called anyone who disagreed with him a Troll.

Posted by Anony on Jul. 26, 2013 @ 8:37 am

debate an issue. While it might be the last resort in some forums, it is often the first resort here.

Funny thing is that they are now seeking to prevent anyone from posting here, so they have shut up their own supporters simply to shut off any criticism.

Effectively it's back to old school journalism, where the paper writes stuff and the sheeple passively consume it.

It will also mean a lot less page hits, thereby reducing ad revenues.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 26, 2013 @ 8:50 am

section. It's high time someone brought some order to this place.

Once you take care of these mean trolls I'm quite sure EVERYTHING will be better at the office of the Guardian. These rough few last years with a strangled cash flow and an owner who sold your offices out from under you will all seem like a bad dream.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jul. 26, 2013 @ 8:49 am