Update on Moderation and Banning

This post is a quick moderation update, caused by recent crap going on in the comment threads involving George “First Scientific Proof of God” Shollenberger, combined with my recent change of employment.

Before changing jobs, my old employer was kind enough to allow me to write this blog, but they did not want me to ever do anything on the blog that allowed them to be identified as my employer. The idea was that since the blog was something I did on my own time, without any oversight from them, they wanted it to be clear that the blog had no connection with them. My new employer, Google, has a different attitude towards blogs. They still want me to be explicit that what I do and say here does not represent them in any way; but they don’t make me play the silly game of trying to obscure who I work for. I’m allowed to say that I work for Google – so long as I’m perfectly clear that I’m an employee, but that GM/BM has absolutely nothing to do with them. I don’t speak for them; I don’t represent them; I don’t write for the blog on company time; this blog is entirely my space, and has nothing to do with them.

Why bring all this up? Because I’ve banned George. I hate to ban people, even when they’re complete assholes. Up to now, the only person I’ve ever banned was John Davison, and he practically begged me to ban him. But George has started using our “debate” here in the comments of GM/BM to attack Google. And I’m not going to tolerate that.

Attacking me personally is entirely acceptable; it may make me angry, or frustrated, but given the kinds of things I write on this blog, I think it would be completely inappropriate, even hypocritical, for me to say that any kind of criticism or attack aimed at me personally was out of bounds.

But this blog is something I do in my free time – my own time. It has nothing to do with my employer; what I say here is said solely by me representing myself and my personal thoughts and opinions. Taking what I say here and using it to attack my employer is completely beyond the bounds of what I consider reasonable, or what I’m willing to tolerate.

George crossed that line. So he’s gone.

0 thoughts on “Update on Moderation and Banning

  1. Blake Stacey

    I hadn’t been following the Shollenberger thread. Now that I look back over the comments there, I think he was starting to resemble Gene Ray, more than just a little.
    Which is sad in several ways, but funny in that burnt-out, detached Internet way, too.
    Somewhere, I have a Hi-8 tape with the world’s only footage of Gene Ray being taught to play Go. If YouTube had existed then, it would be everywhere.

  2. Jonathan Vos Post

    First, any host has a right to request that his guests follow the rules of the home/venue.
    Second, any guest has a right to refuse;
    Third, any host has a right to exclude guests who refuse to abide by the rules.
    Fourth, I strongly object to messing with someone’s professional workplace. I have (long story) lost a job through defamation bby someone hostile about me, which defamation was essentially believed by my employer, who did not adequately research the matter. This is especially relevant when people attack other people on the Web, not by one-to-one discourse, but by and end-run to the employer. Trolls attacked the Nielsen Haydens by trying to get the two bloggers (Making Light) fired from their editorial jobs at Tor books, even though their blog explicitly showed they they were speaking as individuals rather than as Tor representatives. Such attacks cannot be tolerated. Nor should bloggers allow themselves to be stalked — that is a Law Enforcement matter.
    Fifth: my personal preference, learned rather late in life, is to engage in friendly dialogue with anyone who is willing to meet one halfway, even 1/4 of the way. I have great respect for the digity of human kind. I do believe in turning the other cheek, giving the benefit of the doubt, and the like.
    Bottom line: I agree that boundaries must be set. I also agree that name-calling and verbal abuse, however good it makes you feel at the time, only adds noise o the signal, and degrade the channel capacity. I do not intend to buy the George Shollenberger book. I am intrigued by the attempt, however self-defeating, to apply Mathematics to Theology. The nature of the God-Human information flow is a strange and interesting blend of ancient, medieval, and modern approaches.
    I therefore thank George Shollenberger for the concept, and am sorry for the breakdown of communication.

  3. Reg Braithwaite

    On my own blog (which is far less interesting or controversial), I have this policy: my words and I are fair game at all times regardless of whether criticism has merit or not.
    The words of others that I quote are fair game as well. They’ve become my words. But other people are off topic, especially when those people have their own forums where you can rant about them.
    For example, I have quoted a certain popular NYC blogger. Someone commented on his character and lack of relevance. I considered that attack off topic: he has his own blog and even hosts forums where you can tell him whatever you like.
    Banning people is obviously your call. But whatever mechanism you use, I fully support your decision that criticizing your employer is not an acceptable use of your blog.
    With the exception of criticizing words or actions you post in your blog, everything else is simply off topic.
    p.s. I love the posts on Surreal Numbers. I had just ordered the book from Amazon when you started to discuss it.

  4. Bob Mottram

    I think I would take the opposite view. People are free to criticise any employer of mine, past or present, but if they started criticising me directly in a way which I thought was unjustified I’d have no hesitation about banning them.

  5. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    I think there’s a distinction that makes a big difference. We’re not talking about just generic criticism of Google. I don’t have any problem with people saying positive or negative things about Google in the comments here.
    What I find unacceptable is criticizing google for what I say on my blog. They have pt no pot say in what I write here, and no responsibility for it.

  6. Stephen

    My tack on John Davison was to piss him off by using his own tactics against him. He went away on his own. Send George my way. I don’t ban anyone. I just delete comments that are off topic. (My post talking about comment spam allows spam there! Not much traffic.)

  7. Troublesome Frog

    It definitely seems to me that if I gave a person a dozen eggs and he lobbed them at my manager’s car, I would not give that person any more eggs. I don’t think that it would be particularly rational of me to do otherwise. Honestly, I’m impressed by the relatively low incidence of banning on ScienceBlogs. It’s a very cool place.


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