[iDC] Internet Tough Guys

Andreas Schiffler aschiffler at ferzkopp.net
Sun May 20 11:56:57 EDT 2007

Edward Cherlin wrote:
> The principle long known on Usenet is simply, "Please do not feed the
> troll." 
So true. Let me mention the 'cancelbot' debate on Usenet a while ago 

    "... While Scientology's reputation on the Net among anyone but
    true-believers has pretty much turned to mud, the people who have
    worked to defend Usenet's integrity find themselves caught in a
    bind--how can you criticize cultists for issuing forged cancels when
    you might be using the technique yourself? One answer may be to
    define the question as a free speech issue: you cancel people who
    are posting noise and trying to drown out discussion, you don't
    cancel people who are expressing themselves. This point of view
    still doesn't solve the moral dilemma, after all, one man's signal
    is another man's noise. The question remains open; meanwhile, the
    Scientology cancelbot wars continue. ..."

This may be not relevant anymore, as one can presume that Usenet is 
hardly 'used on the net'. Is anyone on this list still plugged into 
Usenet? As some claim, Usenet is not dead yet and point to the 'quality' 
of this medium ("The End of Usenet", 2005: http://lwn.net/Articles/161395/).

In any case, common 'Troll' solutions always seems to converge to some 
form of 'cancelbot', list moderation, or the 'benevolent dictator' forum 
admin. In some sense such an intervention is OK for the users of the 
medium since it increases SNR (signal to noise ratio). But it comes at 
the expense of some technical and human effort and of course the 
aforementioned moral dilemma.

But contrary to the general wisdom of "do not feed the troll", I suggest 
to make the following thought experiment:
What if we'd allow trolling to happen unchecked? Or at the Internet 
level, what if we would just turn off the guards on our servers, disable 
the firewalls, allow the trojans in, let the 'tough guys' do their thing 
and explore the limitless exploitation of our resources. I bet the 
system would evolve to become more 'fit' at all levels (technically and 
socially) ... at the expense of some inconveniences while the system 
adjusts ... in a much more natural way as the current state of progress 
(FUD driven user reactions, security through regulation and central 
control, tech investments that essentially maintain the status-quo). 
Certainly the limiting nature of todays asymmetric Internet broad-band 
connectivity (i.e. upload speeds that are only fractions of download 
speeds) would become immediately apparent (i.e. imagine a horde of 
trojans that 'suck up' the little upload bandwidth we have to begin with).


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