How to get banned from my blog

It is quite difficult to get banned from commenting on my blog, but some – I think a grand total of about four out of a number of commenters well into the thousands over the last seven years – have managed it. With sufficient hard work and dedication, you too can join this select group.

I blog in part because I have a belief, justified by my comment volume and estimate of visitor numbers, that many people are interested in what I have to say. But I mainly do it because I enjoy writing and enjoy the stimulation and challenge of regular comment on it, including critical comment. That’s what makes blogging a good use of my time. You will not be banned for disagreeing with me, but you will be banned if you waste my time.

I repeat: You will be banned if you waste my time. You will not necessarily be wasting my time if you are critical, obnoxious, or insulting – I have plenty of regulars who are all three. You will be wasting my time if you bring no content to the discussion other than insults and advance only arguments I have heard and discounted before. Arguments I have heard before have value only if they are accompanied by new evidence, and I am strict about what constitutes new evidence.

While you will not be banned for insulting me, you may be banned for rudeness to other commenters. This blog attracts an exceptionally articulate and intelligent crowd of regulars; I prize the fact that someone once described it as the only place he’d ever seen a civilized debate over abortion, and I will not tolerate behavior that I view as damaging to that quality.

I have banned people for attempting to masquerade as other commenters. I will ban for sock-puppeting if I discover it. But I will not be more specific about the sorts of things I will or will not ban for, because I have discovered this: when I try to be open, fair, judicious, and balanced, there is a category of troll that will constantly push my limits and attempt to use my own scruples, sense of fair play, and respect for the norms of civilized debate as a weapon against me and against the health of the community around this blog. Coping with this sort of thing is a waste of my time.

Therefore, remember that this blog exists for my purposes and not anyone else’s. I reserve the right to be unfair, obnoxious, arbitrary, tyrannical, and ban people at my whim. Protesting this will get you banned, because I will interpret it as yet another attempt to jerk me around by my sense of fair play.

If you have been warned that you are trolling or that you are in danger of being banned, you can move back towards good standing in one of two ways: (a) By making me think, or (b) by making me laugh. Don’t repeat yourself, that won’t help. Flattery won’t help either, as I find fanboys nearly as annoying as haters.

Finally, I note that if you ever succeed in changing my mind about something, I will cut you large amounts of slack for a long time afterwards even for behavior that would otherwise get you banned. Not many people ever manage this, and I value the few that have accomplished it quite highly.

57 thoughts on “How to get banned from my blog

  1. Eric, that is a brilliant summary of exactly what I needed to say of the Why Clublet wiki experiment 2000-2002. The time wasters are the only ones that need this and need it they make sure they do. Mind you, I didn’t even have the sock-puppet language in those days. Older and wiser. And much refreshed by what you’ve written.

  2. The sense of entitlement people have about the comments sections on someone else’s blog is pretty astonishing. The strangest part is that it seems like people are less likely to complain about a completely closed comments section than a moderated one.

    Your policy makes the most sense to me. The biggest problem with comment sections when a blog achieves any amount of popularity is that it becomes too time consuming for most bloggers to monitor. Putting the time-wasting issue front and center is a good idea.

  3. You will be wasting my time if you bring no content to the discussion other than insults and advance only arguments I have heard and discounted before. Arguments I have heard before have value only if they are accompanied by new evidence, and I am strict about what constitutes new evidence.

    Do you have a list of arguments on global warming that you have heard before?

  4. >Do you have a list of arguments on global warming that you have heard before?

    No. You get to take your chances with everybody else.

  5. Adam,

    The problem with a moderated comment section as against a completely closed section is that the moderated one enables people to waste their time and effort writing comments that will not be posted. A no-comments or closed post doesn’t make anyone waste any time.

    When a blog invites users to respond by posting a comments section, then I think the blog does have some obligation to publish on-topic comments that users have actually spent time typing in. (Obviously, this doesn’t apply to robotic spam.)

  6. Of course a blog that said up front and ON THE COMMENTS BOX that comments will be posted at the discretion of the moderator would be a different story. Then the user is told their comment may or may not be published, and they can do as they please accordingly. However offering an unadorned comment box like this one is a promise to publish. Failing to publish a serious comment is a violation of the reader’s trust.

  7. >However offering an unadorned comment box like this one is a promise to publish.

    It most certainly is not, otherwise one would be required to redeem that promise to any spammer who happens to be a human.

  8. If Eric doesn’t want certain arguments put forth on his blog, that is his business. However, I think he will find that this policy diminishes the authenticity of his opinions for anyone who doesn’t believe him already.

  9. “The sense of entitlement people have about the comments sections on someone else’s blog is pretty astonishing. The strangest part is that it seems like people are less likely to complain about a completely closed comments section than a moderated one.”

    If the comments section is closed, where are they going to complain?

    Anyway, this is good. I’ll apply that to my own site if it ever attracts commenters. It boils down to “If I’m paying good money to host your comments, please make them worth reading.”

    “If Eric doesn’t want certain arguments put forth on his blog, that is his business. However, I think he will find that this policy diminishes the authenticity of his opinions for anyone who doesn’t believe him already.”

    How is not hosting the 10,001st repetition of “capitalism is evil!!!11!!!!” (or whatever else tends to get repeated in comments sections) going to enhance his authenticity?

  10. About 15 years ago I made a poster that I put by my door:
    “Wasting My Time Is Wasting My Life”.

    Some people will use anything they can to get someone to do things for them. I used to get manipulated through my strong sense of personal responsibility, until I started forcing myself not to do things just because my boss claimed I had agreed to.

    I think fanboys are much worse than haters, at least haters are sometimes entertaining, especially when they don’t intend to be.

  11. Elliotte has a point – make it official, put a link above the comment box “Comment Policy” or something like this, linking to this post, and then it’s clear and fair enough. You can’t really expect people who discover your blog 1 year later to read back to this post before commenting, and repeating yourself would be about the worst waste of your time.

  12. Sombody calling himself “Jon B.” writes in another thread:

    > Your position appears to be that of someone who wishes to pretend they’re allowed to say anything.
    >
    > You are not. Nor am I, nor any other individual.

    One wonders how Jon B. supposes I am to be disallowed from saying anything I please on my blog. Is Jon B. claiming that prior censorship of my blog posts is in place without my knowledge? This seems…unlikely.

    As Charles Babbage might have said, I am unable to rightly apprehend the confusion of ideas that results in such a claim. Just contemplating the level of determined stupidity required to advance it makes me a little dizzy.

  13. >Elliotte has a point – make it official, put a link above the comment box “Comment Policy” or something like this, linking to this post, and then it’s clear and fair enough.

    It’s not an intrinsically bad idea. I don’t know if I can beat WordPress into doing it, though. Are any WordPress configuration experts listening?

  14. One wonders how Jon B. supposes I am to be disallowed from saying anything I please on my blog.

    Jon B never said this.

  15. >As Charles Babbage might have said, I am unable to rightly apprehend the confusion of ideas that results in such a claim. Just contemplating the level of determined stupidity required to advance it makes me a little dizzy.

    On the off chance that you genuinely didn’t understand, I think he means that there are certain things that you might say on this blog which it would be morally wrong to say.

    If you insist on an over-literal reading of “allowed”, I imagine there are certain fraudulent or defamatory claims that you would be legally “disallowed” from making.

  16. > Sombody calling himself “Jon B.” writes in another thread:

    >> Your position appears to be that of someone who wishes to pretend they’re allowed to say anything.
    >>
    >> You are not. Nor am I, nor any other individual.

    Umm, that was John Chapman, not Jon B. What Jon B. did was gloss John C.’s statement the way I immediately read it, ie. as “allowed to say anything without taking responsibility for your words.” I’m not saying that you don’t take responsibility for what you say, but since you replied to Jon B.’s post, you must have read it, so isn’t it a bit disingenuous not to admit the possibility that his reading of John C.’s post could be the right one?

  17. >I think fanboys are much worse than haters, at least haters are sometimes entertaining, especially when they don’t intend to be.

    Yeah, fanboys annoy the crap out of everyone. Suppose a slap-happy newbie who has hastily skimmed through The Art Of Unix Programming on CatB and thinks it’s cool to thank ESR on a public forum, and passionately says “Oh, Thanks a million for all the good things…” while inserting as many conceivable happy smileys as they can. Unspeakably horrible and horribly unspeakable!

    IMHO going (way) off-topic is yet another praise worthy technique and a good leap towards becoming a candidate to “getting banned” for wasting ESR’s time. But believe me, sometimes this can be funny as hell. If I recall correctly (and it’s in the archives anyway), in the course of a heated discussion on a tech-related thread some commenter (Jackie or sth) unexpectedly asked ESR about the number of his biological children. and even funnier: He answered her question! :-)

    P.S. As someone who has been recommended as “better-be-banned” on the previous thread, maybe I’m not eligible enough to talk about these things.

  18. >P.S. As someone who has been recommended as “better-be-banned” on the previous thread, maybe I’m not eligible enough to talk about these things.

    You are both constructive and funny. I don’t recall exactly who it was that tried to bitch-slap you about this, but I have the impression it was one of the unpleasant trollish types, and thus rather more at risk of being banned than you are.

  19. Seriously. I don’t know who you are- just read your post in someone else’s feed- The most obnoxious post ever!

    You actually sound like one of those nerds with no life and whose only mode of ‘power’ in life, is to block other web users.

    “If you have been warned that you are trolling or that you are in danger of being banned, you can move back towards good standing in one of two ways: (a) By making me think, or (b) by making me laugh. Don’t repeat yourself, that won’t help. Flattery won’t help either, as I find fanboys nearly as annoying as haters.”

    Again, Seriously, Dude get a life.

  20. >On the off chance that you genuinely didn’t understand, I think he means that there are certain things that you might say on this blog which it would be morally wrong to say.

    That’s absurd. There are no things that it is morally wrong to say. Well, other than conscious falsehoods, which I don’t take to be an issue here.

    There are speech claims it is morally wrong to act on, such as “All Jews should be gassed.” But the position that it is morally wrong to say such things would have the morally unacceptable consequence of privileging prior censorship of speech.

    Yes, that means I defend the right of anyone to say “All Jews should be gassed.” in a public place. The remedy for hateful speech is to condemn the speaker’s hate, not to censor it.

  21. >Do you have a list of arguments on global warming that you have heard before?

    The best bet is that it has been heard before. Except for occasionally relevant new information, I have seen nothing new in any environmental claims in ten years. And most of the new information, when you actually check out the information rather than the MSM’s take on the information, usually tends to support the anti-AGW position.

  22. Aren’t you confusing ethics with morals a bit? Privileging prior censorship: that’s an ethical question. Morally wrong just means it’s the signature of a bad character.

  23. Surely the fact that it is always wrong to shut somebody up, no matter what they’re saying doesn’t necessarily entail that no speech act is morally wrong, just that coercive restraint of speech is always wronger than any given speech act?

  24. Um, Phil — it isn’t always wrong to “shut someone up”, because speech rights don’t automatically trump property rights. Not only is this blog Eric’s property, but in the wider sense information can be property too, and its dissemination can be theft.

  25. Acksiom, my comment wasn’t intended as a rebuttal to the blog post generally, but to esr’s comment that no speech act is ever morally wrong. esr said that to believe “that it is morally wrong to say [certain] things would have the morally unacceptable consequence of privileging prior censorship of speech”. I think that implication isn’t true: you can believe that it is morally wrong to say “Jews should be gassed”, and still let someone say it, if you believe that stopping someone from saying “Jews should be gassed” would be morally worse.

  26. @ESR: How can you exactly say that someone is masquerading as others. Can you do geographical IP-lookup? I thought ibiblio wouldn’t expose that to it’s bloggers.

  27. > Are any WordPress configuration experts listening?

    My guess is that it is in wp-content/themes/esr-save/comments.php,
    just edit HTML around ‘h3 id=”respond”‘.

  28. Dear esr,
    Your ego is so large that I am afraid that it will reach critical mass, upon which your ego will envelop itself and form a black hole, sucking in the egos of your fawning fanboys. Please take my comments as a form of consideration, not insult.

    Thank you.

  29. > That’s absurd. There are no things that it is morally wrong to say. Well, other than conscious falsehoods, which I don’t take to be an issue here.

    (Off-topic) Are you saying that all lying is wrong or just that most lying is wrong?

  30. >Well, other than conscious falsehoods, which I don’t take to be an issue here.

    So we’re all agreed, there are things it’s morally wrong to say. Now we just have to work out where the line is. As well as conscious falsehoods I’d add bullying (e.g. if what you’re saying is true, but you’re only saying it to be mean).

    >Yes, that means I defend the right of anyone to say “All Jews should be gassed.” in a public place. The remedy for hateful speech is to condemn the speaker’s hate, not to censor it.

    Aren’t you condemning it because it was morally wrong to say it? Just because it’s morally wrong doesn’t require us to censor it (I assume you don’t want censorship of conscious lying).

  31. >So we’re all agreed, there are things it’s morally wrong to say.

    Stop playing silly forensic games. There are no truth claims it is morally wrong to assert, and I don’t lie on this blog. End of digression.

    >Aren’t you condemning it because it was morally wrong to say it? Just because it’s morally wrong doesn’t require us to censor it

    No, I was condemning it because it would be morally wrong to act on it. I said that the first time.

  32. >@ESR: How can you exactly say that someone is masquerading as others.

    In the particular case I’m thinking of, the impostor posted from an IP address that was not that oif the victim, who is known to me.

  33. >Aren’t you confusing ethics with morals a bit? Privileging prior censorship: that’s an ethical question. Morally wrong just means it’s the signature of a bad character.

    Er….let’s not have that discussion right now, the issue is real but (a) not relevant to this thread, and (b) requires distinctions most non-libertarians never make. I’m mildly surprised (and pleased) that you do.

  34. >There are no truth claims it is morally wrong to assert

    Now you’re playing silly word games. Using the word “assert” moves things to a dry, abstract, philosophical context, when most speech occurs in a social context.

    If person A is ugly, there’s nothing morally wrong with “asserting” that “Person A is ugly”. OTOH, telling person A “You’re ugly!” is poor moral form.

  35. >Now you’re playing silly word games. Using the word “assert” moves things to a dry, abstract, philosophical context, when most speech occurs in a social context.

    I don’t accept that the implications of that claim are relevant, which ends that discussion too as we are talking about the policy of my blog.

  36. >we are talking about the policy of my blog.

    C’mon, this thread went off-topic about (exactly?) 15 comments in!

    What’s your policy on off-topic comments? My impression is that a lot of threads go off-topic very quickly; that the off-topic discussions are the most interesting ones; and that you positively reinforce off-topic commenting (so long as you find the digression interesting).

  37. >What’s your policy on off-topic comments? My impression is that a lot of threads go off-topic very quickly; that the off-topic discussions are the most interesting ones; and that you positively reinforce off-topic commenting (so long as you find the digression interesting).

    I usually find the on-topic discussions most interesting. My policy differs depending on the topic: I’m willing to let threads about ethics and politics ramble, but not usually technical ones. Both rules are, as you say, subject to variation according to what I find interesting.

  38. > Yes, that means I defend the right of anyone to say “All Jews should be gassed.” in a public place. The
    > remedy for hateful speech is to condemn the speaker’s hate, not to censor it.

    I think this sums up the philosophy that I wrote about in my comment quite nicely. I tend to apply the spirit of it at a personal rather than political level but the same idea holds.

    For the record, my comment was specifically calling John Chapman on his comment (that ESR posted above and attributed to me), stating the philosophy that I try to live by and then (given a single assumption based on Eric’s writings which was AFAICT specifically confirmed by ESR) stating that by my philosophy i’d say that Eric has the right to express whatever opinion he likes since he’s willing to accept whatever consequence that comes from expressing his opinion. Finally i invited John Chapman to post what criteria he would apply that says differently.

    The first draft added “All of this ignores the fact that he can say whatever the bloody hell he likes since it is his blog afterall” but I deleted it because i didn’t feel it added anything.

    > One wonders how Jon B. supposes I am to be disallowed from saying anything I please on my blog.

    I personally parsed the word “allowed” in John Chapman’s post in much the same way i’d parse “right” (which gut feeling says is probably flawed in and of itself). I discarded the parsing that someone/something would remove your comments/posts as being rediculous, however that may be what was originally intended.

    > Are you saying that all lying is wrong or just that most lying is wrong?

    I’d argue that whats important is the intent. A doctor telling a terminal cancer patient that there’s a high chance of recovery is (certainly by current moral standards) in the right. Someone who tells someone that some stock is about to boom so they can pump and dump is in the wrong.

  39. As always, “Don’t Be A Dick” is the basic rule of all social spaces. This rule, “don’t be a tedious boor at your host’s expense”, is an instance.

    On my own blogs, new commenters are moderated at first but then set loose (per WordPress defaults) just to control the spam. But someone has to be a remarkable cock to get their stuff deleted or rejected.

  40. >A doctor telling a terminal cancer patient that there’s a high chance of recovery is (certainly by current moral standards) in the right.

    Not by mine. If a doctor told me that, and I was in fact dying so had nothing to lose by not being courteous and law-abiding, I’d take the lying ass with me.

  41. > Not by mine. If a doctor told me that, and I was in fact dying so had nothing to lose by not being courteous and law-abiding, I’d take the lying ass with me.

    In fact, there’s a better example of justified lying and imprudent truth-telling: the classic case of the murderer inquiring about the location of a potential victim. It would be hard for a consequentialist to prefer spilling the beans to deception in this situation.

  42. Hopefully, this does not get me banned :)

    Why do your beliefs inherent more or less justification from your comment volume? I realize that diligence speaks volumes, however this is a blog. A blog is a venue to share thoughts and ideas and discuss them with interested parties.

    There will always be people who delight in arguing with vehemence and unwaivering prejudice. Bluntly, these people transform the joys of free time into the joys of slow catheterization with a rusty ice pick.

    Thanks for not throwing in the hat, this blog is one of the few really interesting reads worth reading. No, that’s not fanboyism (perhaps coining a new term?), the blog is just fun and interesting to read.

  43. >Why do your beliefs inherent more or less justification from your comment volume?

    I’m not sure what question you were trying to ask here. Clarify, please?

  44. Thomas Covello writes “In fact, there’s a better example of justified lying and imprudent truth-telling: the classic case of the murderer inquiring about the location of a potential victim. It would be hard for a consequentialist to prefer spilling the beans to deception in this situation.”

    My usual response to extreme hypotheticals like that is that to me, lying to someone seems no worse than physically attacking someone. You make it sound as though it’s absolutely clear the guy is a murderer in pursuit of his next victim. In such a case, it can easily be justifiable either to attack the guy, up through lethal force. Similarly I think lying can be justifiable, up through trickery which will leave him dead.

    The cases where people more commonly disagree about lying are those in which the liar wouldn’t be justified in achieving his ends by waiting for his target to look elsewhere, then bashing him over the head with a heavy tool.

  45. In fact, that is just about the only use of lying that is approved of in Sissela Bok’s “Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life”. That is one of the few books I have given a 5-star review on Amazon.

  46. I’ve read this blog for about 3 years, I guess. Never felt that any comment I might make would be all that contributory so I’ve just shut up and read it. But after reading this entry, I have to say that I find it immensely interesting that esr posts that it’s his blog and he will control what goes into it – gives a few parameters on what’s OK and what isn’t – and this causes endless comment over morals, values and ethics. Wow.

    Sorry if this sound fanboyish. It’s not meant to be. But I can’t see how esr’s statement of policy requires 45+ comments. It is what it is.

  47. “I reserve the right to be unfair, obnoxious, arbitrary, tyrannical, and ban people at my whim.”

    Gee Eric, you’d better not say that sort of thing up here in Canuckistan, or some clueless humorless professional “I’m aggrieved at everything” moron will complain to a ‘Human Rights Commision’ that you have hurt his *feelings*.

    PS. “Please let me know if anything I say offends you. I may want to offend you again in the future” is my email sig. You may wish to adopt it too!

  48. Re: People who know how to customize WordPress to show a comments policy

    To find out how to make WordPress show your comments policy at least *very near* your comment-submission form, I think you only need to ask one of the people whose blogs already do show such a policy.

    For example, this blog shows a comments policy:
    http://alexking.org/blog/2007/03/22/my-tumblelog

  49. Troll-fighting is hard, but sometimes you can stop the troll by *not* fighting him: very strong positive attitude can have very good results.

    As an example, I was able to kill a comp.lang.python troll with one shot. :)

    The guy really stopped trolling after this post.

  50. Offhand, I can think of at least three categories of true statements that could be considered morally wrong:
    1. Statements containing information covered by a confidentiality agreement or duty, e.g. physician-patient confidentiality.
    2. Disclosure of classified information that would endanger innocent individuals.
    3. Dissemination of someone’s home address in the context of encouraging intimidation and harrassment of that person.
    There may be many others.
    And, no, none of these are likely to be relevant to any of the posts or comments on Eric’s blog, but it was an interesting thought-exercise, so thanks.

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